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

Dr. Brad McKay tells us about his time as a host on a medical reality TV show.

Most Australian doctors agree that nobody has contracted Lyme Disease from a tick in Australia, but many victims feel they have. Dr. McKay weighs in on the science behind Lyme Disease.

The anus was a pretty important evolutionary step that meant animals no longer had to poop out their mouths. But recent videos of gelatinous sea creatures called comb jellies shed new light on the evolution of the so-called through-gut.

A newly discovered Kuiper Belt Object adds more evidence to the "Planet Nine" theory of a distant ninth planet in our solar system.

Amateur astronomers have captured video of a probable asteroid crashing into Jupiter.

Japan's newly launched US$270 million x-ray space telescope appears to be out of control. However, some signals have been received giving officials hope that it may yet be saved.

The discovery of a fossil skull in Kazakhstan suggest that the 'Siberian unicorn" - more of a rhinoceros, really - may have gone extinct only 29,000 years ago. Previous estimates were that it died out 350,000 years ago.

 

Dr Brad McKay is a General Practitioner and TV Presenter. You can follow him on Twitter here or contact him via his website.

 

This episode may contain traces of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

Direct download: SoT_0220.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:49pm AEST

PET is the most common kind of plastic, and most of it ends up in landfills and waterways. But now a team of Japanese researchers have discovered a plastic-eating bacterium that could be the key to a new approach to recycling and waste disposal.

A newly discovered horse-sized dinosaur reveals how Tyrannosaurus Rex and its close relatives evolved into the top predators of their time.

New research in mice has found that the food parents eat before their kids are born can affect their children's health later in life.

A study of a supermassive black hole has revealed some incredible numbers. Not only is it 18 billion times the mass of our sun, but it rotates at about one-third the speed of light.

Astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope have identified nine giant stars with masses over 100 times the mass of the sun in a star cluster in the Tarantula Nebula. This makes it the largest sample of very massive stars identified to date.

 

This episode may contain traces of Neil deGrasse Tyson on The Late Show With Jon Stewart.

Direct download: SoT_0219.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:59pm AEST

The American Statistical Association has issued a warning over the misuse of P values. The group says P values cannot determine whether a hypothesis or true of if results are important.

In April scientists will begin drilling into the Chicxulub crater, site of the meteorite impact that led to the extinction of the dinosaurs. They hope to examine how life rebounded after the mass extinction and to learn more about the formation of 'peak ring craters'.

The tiny jellyfish-like Hydra have no mouth, instead they rip their whole face open whenever they eat. And now a team from the University of California, San Diego, have worked out how. Now they just want to know the why.

 

Dr. Cassandra Perryman is a psychologist at University of Queensland, and you can follow her on Facebook here.

This episode may contain traces of Professor Tamara Davis on ABC Q&A.

Direct download: SoT_0218.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:44pm AEST

Some giant viruses, called mimiviruses, have immune systems that fight intruders in a manner similar to the CRISPR mechanism that microbiologists use to edit genomes.

NASA has announced the development of a next generation space telescope. Using donated mirrors, the WFIRST telescope will have the same resolution as the Hubble Space Telescope, but a hundred times greater field of view.

Recent headlines have suggested that eating chocolate will improve brain function, but the actual study they're based on had very different conclusions.

New images sent back from the New Horizons probe after its flyby of Pluto show possible clouds in the dwarf planet's atmosphere.

 

Direct download: SoT_0217.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:41pm AEST

A team of astronomers have traced the origins of a Fast Radio Burst - a sudden, high energy blast or radio waves - to a galaxy 6 billion light years away. This has helped them find 'regular' matter (not dark matter or dark energy) that was previously missing.

An experiment in Antarctica set out to see how a penguin's walk - or waddle - changes with variations in body mass. To do this it was necessary to put the penguins on treadmills. For science!

A new study has found that Lyme Disease can be caused, rarely, by a different bacterial species to the one that usually gets all the blame. And this new species could cause more serious symptoms, from vomiting to neurological issues.

Some bacteria have a mechanism for releasing extra long spears to puncture cellular membranes and release molecules on demand. They get eaten by other bacteria, then puncture the cell wall and release poison. Now a team at the Wyss Institute have developed a technique to activate these spears, and could one day use them to deliver drugs and beneficial molecules.

Direct download: SoT_0216.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:28pm AEST

A brain parasite may make chimpanzees less cautious and fearful of leopards. Maybe.

For over 60 years, fruit flies have been trapped in the dark in one of the longest ongoing scientific experiments. 1,500 generations later, some evolutionary effects are being revealed.

A new technique of using modified cancer cells to fight cancer is showing some impressive results in mice, but it’s early days yet.

The Australian town of Wangaratta is being swamped by tumbleweeds. And it’s all one person’s fault.

Direct download: SoT_0215.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:24am AEST

Astrophysicist Dr. Katie Mack joins us to explain "one of the most groundbreaking physics discoveries of the past 100 years" - the detection of gravitational waves. In September last year the aLIGO experiment detected the ripple in spacetime caused by the merger of two black holes. We talk with Dr. Mack about the implications this has for a new type of astronomy.

Dr. Katie Mack is a theoretical astrophysicist at Melbourne University. Her work focuses on finding new ways to learn about the early universe and fundamental physics using astronomical observations, probing the building blocks of nature by examining the cosmos on the largest scales. Follow her on Twitter here.

Direct download: SoT_0214.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:19am AEST

Medical entomologist Dr. Cameron Webb joins the team to talk about the Zika virus and mosquitoes. Everything you need to know about the current outbreak - baggage Zika, insect repellents, mosquito eradication, sexual transmission, and the link between Zika and microencephaly.
Also, beer could make you a target for mosquitoes. Possibly.

Dr Cameron Webb is a Clinical Lecturer with the University of Sydney and Principal Hospital Scientist with the Department of Medical Entomology at Pathology West - ICPMR Westmead (NSW Health Pathology & Westmead Hospital).

Direct download: SoT_0213.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:54pm AEST

The seventh period on the periodic table is now complete, after four new elements have been officially verified. Elements with atomic numbers 113, 115, atomic numbers 113, 115, 117 and 118 have been confirmed and will get permanent names soon.

The irukandji jellyfish - actually a number of species of jellyfish - are the most venomous box jellyfish in the world. A leading researcher has now warned that the jellyfish, usually found in the warmer northern waters of Australia, are being found further and further south. He says that as climate change continues to warm the waters, they will become common place on southern Queensland beaches within a decade.

Two leading astronomers have presented evidence that the solar system may have a ninth planet - and it's definitely not Pluto! Caltech astronomers Mike Brown and Konstatin Batygin believe the planet may be nearly as big as Neptune and never comes closer than 29 billion kilometers to the sun!

We have a lot more respect for Venus flytraps now that we've learnt they can count!

KIC 8462852, the strange star with bizarre random dips in brightness that some have suggested could be an alien megastructure just got a little weirder. The most likely explanation was a huge family of comets orbiting the star, but a new study of thousands of observations makes that less likely still.

Direct download: SoT_0212.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:56pm AEST

Robin Ince is a celebrated British comedian. He has built his career mixing science and comedy, on television, radio, podcasts and in his stand-up routines. He's perhaps most famous as a co-host with astrophysicist Brian Cox on BBC4's Infinite Monkey Cage radio show and podcast.
Ed managed to sit down with Robin in April last year, to discuss all things comedy and science. From raising sceptical and scientifically literate children, to whether science can bring happiness!

Direct download: SoT_Special_019_-_Robin_Ince.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:32pm AEST