Science On Top (general)
The Australian Podcast putting Science on Top of the agenda

Hosts: Ed Brown, Penny Dumsday, Lucas Randall, Peter Miller

00:01:00 Surprisingly, a lot of plants in the tropics tend to have large leaves. A team of scientists at Macquarie University in Sydney may have worked out why: and it's a balancing act.

00:08:42 After 13 years, the Cassini mission is coming to a fiery end. It's been one of NASA's most successful - and beautiful - missions.

00:19:36 Data from the Juno spacecraft finds that Jupiter's powerful auroras aren't powered the same way that Earth's are.

00:30:28 Coffee County Soil Conservation District, in Tennessee, has found a new use for new underwear: testing soil. The degradation of the cotton underwear illustrates the abundance or shortage of microbes in the soil.

 

This episode contains traces of "NASA's Cassini Spacecraft: A Journey's End" video produced by NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Direct download: Sot_0277_Ed.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:33am AEST

Hosts: Ed Brown, Penny Dumsday, Lucas Randall.

00:01:06 Another plate tectonics mystery could be solved: how thick is a continental plate? According to a study published in the journal Science, pretty thick - between 130 and 190km!

00:10:57 Mars' "bow shock" - where charged particles from the Sun interact with the red planet's atmosphere - has been studied by a team of European scientists. They found that the bow shock's location changes over several Martian years, for a variety of reasons.

00:14:43 Artificial organs don't have to be full sized and they don't have to be for transplants. Researchers around the world are building "mini-organs" - sometimes as small as a pencil point - for everything from neurological research to medication and drug tests.

00:35:37 A Saturn-like ringed planet, orbiting close to the star and at a sharp angle, could explain the strange dimming and brightening pattern of "Tabby's Star", according to a new theory proposed by a team at the University of Antioquia.

 

This episode contains traces of Elon Musk frankly discussing the challenges of the upcomning Falcon Heavy rocket launch.

Direct download: SoT_0276.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:09pm AEST

Hosts: Ed Brown, Penny Dumsday, Lucas Randall.

00:01:12 Four years after a groundbreaking peanut-allergy study, researchers in Melbourne have followed up on the original patients. The results are promising, and could lead to a potential cure for one of the most common - and deadly - allergies.

00:16:59 A new study has discovered 91 new volcanoes beneath the Antarctic Ice Sheet, making it one of the densest clusters of volcanoes in the world.

00:22:21 After more than a hundred years, a fruitcake from the famous Robert Scott expedition to the South Pole has been found in Antarctica's old building. And it's definitely probably maybe edible...

 

This episode contains traces of Fox News Channel host Shepard Smith being underwhelmed by the 2017 Solar Eclipse.

Direct download: SoT_0275.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:14pm AEST

Hosts: Ed Brown, Penny Dumsday, Lucas Randall.

00:01:21 The largest dinosaur ever discovered, found in Argentina in 2013, is now officially known as the Patagotitan mayorum.

00:11:35 An amazingly well preserved dinosaur fossil found by Canadian miners is already giving lots of information about skin pigmentation, camouflage and even its last meal. Also it looks like a wingless dragon.

00:17:16 We're all made of star stuff, but not necessarily local star stuff. A new study based on supercomputer simulations shows that up to half of the atoms in our bodies came from galaxies outside our own.

00:23:49 How bees fly has long been considered a mystery to science. But now a mathematical analysis suggests their wings can maintain a higher angle of attack without stalling, thanks to leading edge vortices generated in front of the wings.

 

This episode contains traces of the Today Show hosts discussing a 9-year old boy's letter to NASA.

Direct download: SoT_0274.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:53pm AEST

Hosts: Ed Brown, Penny Dumsday, Lucas Randall.

00:01:15 Just weeks after the really big iceberg split from the Antarctic ice shelf, a new rift has formed. And the giant iceberg has already begun breaking up.

00:07:14 A new study into the migration of early humans to Australia dates their arrival back to 65,000 years ago. And it also finds they were more sophisticated in their use of tools than we previously thought.

00:15:06 Rare fossilised footprints of Tasmanian tigers and devils, as well as those of giant megafauna and flightless birds, have been discovered on Kangaroo Island, in South Australia. The footprints date back as far as 200,000 years ago.

 

This episode contains a brief exchange between Fox News host Tucker Carlson and Gasland filmmaker Josh Fox. The interview went downhill very quickly.

Direct download: Ed.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:56pm AEST

00:03:41 An enormous iceberg breaks off from Antarctica. But did climate change cause it, like many news outlets claimed?

00:13:34 Plants don't turn caterpillars into cannibals. But hungry caterpillars will turn cannibal if the plant doesn't taste nice.

00:21:53 Gene modification tool CRISPR has been used to encode an animated gif in the genes of live bacteria. DNA could be the digital storage device of the future!

00:34:03 Ravens are smart - they can use tools, and solve puzzles - and they may even be able to plan for the future.

 

This episode contains traces of Congressman Dana Rohrabacher and Mars 2020 Project Scientist Ken Farley during a hearing of the U.S. House of Representatives' Committee on Science, Space and Technology's Space Subcommittee.

Direct download: SoT_0272.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:46pm AEST

Hosts: Ed Brown, Penny Dumsday, Lucas Randall.

00:01:03 The Ancient Romans built sea walls with concrete that is still standing in many places today. What made their concrete so much stronger than modern concrete?

00:08:24 The chances of finding life on Mars grew even slimmer after a study found chemicals in the Martian soil are highly toxic.

00:15:54 Animals that use tools aren't uncommon, and neither are animals that make sounds to attract mates. But the Palm cockatoo could be the first non-human animal to do both - they use tools to make music.

00:28:47 In 1977 the Voyager spacecraft were launched carrying the Golden Records - gold-plated copper records containing images, sounds and music from Earth. And in one small segment of the record there's the sound of a man laughing. Adrienne LaFrance at The Atlantic wrote about her intensive investigation to track down who that man was and why his laughter is on a billion-year time capsule.

 

This episode contains traces of Al Gore talking about climate change on Triple J radio's Hack.

Direct download: SoT_0271.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30pm AEST

Hosts: Ed Brown, Dr. Shayne Joseph, Penny Dumsday, Sean Elliott

00:00:48 Sean talks about his Roughbot project, a programmable robot kit that introduces students to coding and robotics.

00:04:47 Every year, 1.2 million blue wildebeest migrate across East Africa, accompanied by around 200,000 zebra and antelope. At one point in their mass migration, however, they have to cross the mighty Mara River. Those that don't survive the crossing end up being crucial to the surrounding ecosystem.

00:11:13 Chinese researchers have for the first time ever sent entangled photons from space to ground stations on Earth. This record-breaking achievement could be the first step of a revolution in communications and encryption.

00:23:49 Scientists in Uganda have noticed that the hunting behaviour of chimpanzees has changed since humans began studying them.

00:34:17 Two researchers from Princeton and Harvard universities have come up with a theory to explain the different shapes of eggs from different bird species. It's all about aerodynamics!

 

This episode contains traces of Arnold Schwarzenegger talking to senior US Navy officials about climate change.

Direct download: SoT_0270.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:04pm AEST

Hosts: Ed Brown, Penny Dumsday, Lucas Randall

00:00:40 We welcome Lucas back to the show, and discuss his battles with depression. Lucas recently blogged about dealing with mental health in the workplace, and how different managers respond to cases of depression.

00:10:34 After three detections of gravitational waves by the ground-based LIGO detector, the European Space Agency has given the go-ahead for the LISA space-based detector.

00:15:42 A data visualisation takes a deep look at the statistics of human birth. And while we tend to think of it as being a random process, there's a large spike in births at 8am.

00:19:42 The New Horizons spacecraft has a new target - Kuiper Belt Object MU69 - which recently came between Earth and a distant star. This caused a huge (and highly successful) global effort to view it with ground-based telescopes.

 

This episode contains traces of banter between former astronaut Buzz Aldrin and former bankrupt casino-owner President Donald Trump.

Direct download: SoT_0269.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am AEST

Hosts: Ed Brown, Penny Dumsday, Jo Benhamu.

00:00:40 An archaeological site in a Moroccan cave has long been known to have specimens of early humans. But an recent study has dated some of these bones to over 300,000 years old. If correct, that would make them the oldest fossilised remains of modern humans ever found - and it would change our understanding of the spread of humans out of Africa. For books to help explain evolution to young children, we recommend Grandmother Fish by Jonathan Tweet and Evolution: How We and All Living Things Came To Be by Daniel Loxton.

00:10:34 In the latest send-animals-to-space experiment, flatworms were studied on the International Space Station. And things got weird - especially with one worm that grew two heads!

00:15:42 Recently a lot of scientists have been suggesting that we're currently in the midst of a sixth mass extinction - and we humans are the prime cause of it. But Smithsonian paleontologist Doug Erwin argues that we're not there yet. Things are bad but to call it a mass extinction isn't really accurate.

00:19:42 And are humans hard-wired to look at faces? A study shines a light on what babies see in the womb.

 

This episode contains traces of John Oliver talking about vaccines on Last Week Tonight.

Direct download: SoT_0268.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:18am AEST