Fri, 21 October 2016
Hosts: Ed Brown, Dr. Shayne Joseph and Lucas Randall.
00:01:12 The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to Yoshinori Ohsumi "for his discoveries of mechanisms for autophagy".
00:06:43 The Nobel Prize in Physics was divided, one half awarded to David J. Thouless, the other half jointly to F. Duncan M. Haldane and J. Michael Kosterlitz "for theoretical discoveries of topological phase transitions and topological phases of matter".
00:11:06 The Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded jointly to Jean-Pierre Sauvage, Sir J. Fraser Stoddart and Bernard L. Feringa "for the design and synthesis of molecular machines".
This episode may contain traces of Nobel Committee member Thor Hans Hansson explaining topology with his lunch.
Sun, 16 October 2016
Hosts: Ed Brown, Dr. Shayne Joseph, Penny Dumsday, and Lucas Randall.
The Ig Nobel Prizes honour achievements that first make us laugh, then make us think. We take a look at this year’s winners: from rats in pants to collecting flies!
You can watch the award ceremony here.
00:01:28 REPRODUCTION PRIZE was posthumously awarded to Ahmed Shafik, from Egypt, "for studying the effects of wearing polyester, cotton, or wool trousers on the sex life of rats, and for conducting similar tests with human males".
00:10:18 ECONOMICS PRIZE went to two researchers from New Zealand and one from the UK "for assessing the perceived personalities of rocks, from a sales and marketing perspective".
00:19:27 PHYSICS PRIZE was presented to scientists from Hungary, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland "for discovering why white-haired horses are the most horsefly-proof horses, and for discovering why dragonflies are fatally attracted to black tombstones".
00:28:19 CHEMISTRY PRIZE was given to Volkswagen, "for solving the problem of excessive automobile pollution emissions by automatically, electromechanically producing fewer emissions whenever the cars are being tested".
00:31:54 PEACE PRIZE was given to a team from Canada and the USA "for their scholarly study called 'On the Reception and Detection of Pseudo-Profound Bullshit'".
00:38:25 MEDICINE PRIZE — five German scientists "for discovering that if you have an itch on the left side of your body, you can relieve it by looking into a mirror and scratching the right side of your body (and vice versa)".
00:42:37 PSYCHOLOGY PRIZE went to scientists from Belgium, The Netherlands, Germany, Canada, and the USA "for asking a thousand liars how often they lie, and for deciding whether to believe those answers".
00:44:36 BIOLOGY PRIZE was awarded jointly to: Charles Foster, for living in the wild as, at different times, a badger, an otter, a deer, a fox, and a bird; and to Thomas Thwaites, for creating prosthetic extensions of his limbs that allowed him to move in the manner of, and spend time roaming hills in the company of, goats.
00:51:42 LITERATURE PRIZE went to Fredrik Sjöberg, from Sweden, "for his three-volume autobiographical work about the pleasures of collecting flies that are dead, and flies that are not yet dead".
00:54:30 PERCEPTION PRIZE was picked up by Atsuki Higashiyama and Kohei Adachi, for investigating whether things look different when you bend over and view them between your legs.
Sun, 9 October 2016
Hosts: Ed Brown, Penny Dumsday, Jo Benhamu.
00:01:00 The rattle of the rattlesnake's tail has long been something of a mystery for evolutionary biologists, because there's no 'half-shake'. Well a study by David Pfennig at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill may suggest they started off shaking their silent tails, but over time developed a rattle as a signal to predators.
00:06:54 The long awaited results of a 10 year prostate cancer trial were published last week in the New England Journal of Medicine. The study looked at 1,643 men diagnosed with early prostate cancer, and found that those who actively monitored their cancer instead of immediately starting treatment had the same minuscule risk of death as men who had either radiation therapy or surgery straight away.
00:21:05 Shu Lam, a 24 year old PhD student at Melbourne University has developed a star-shaped protein that can rip apart the walls of antibiotic-resistant bacteria – and kill them.
Jo Benhamu is a clinical trials coordinator in radiation oncology.
This episode may contain traces of Blue Origin's successful test of a crew escape module.
Mon, 3 October 2016
Hosts: Ed Brown, Dr. Shayne Joseph, Penny Dumsday, Lucas Randall.
00:00:52 A new study has found that as well as affecting the tides, the gravitational pull from the moon and the sun can affect Earthquakes.
00:06:47 A genetic study of giraffes has found that there isn't just one species, as previously thought. In fact there are four distinct species, some as different as polar bears are to brown bears.
00:15:40 A video showing the evolution of bacteria to resist antibiotics has gone viral, because it is such a clear demonstration. It is unlikely to change the minds of evolution deniers, though.
00:20:54 The Gaia space telescope has released the first catalogue of more than a billion stars. This is the largest all-sky survey of celestial objects to date.
00:33:34 Long-term studies of Ebola survivors have revealed that the virus lasts a lot longer in victims' bodies than previously suspected. And in some people, it can last for up to 18 months after all symptoms have cleared.
This episode may contain traces of Stephen Colbert talking about Giraffes.
Fri, 23 September 2016
Hosts: Ed Brown, Penny Dumsday, Lucas Randall.
00:00:37 The FDA has decreed that triclosan and triclocarban must be removed from all antibacterial soap products by late 2017. This is not because they're dangerous, but because they're ineffective.
00:07:38 The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft has launched "perfectly". If successful, this ambitious mission will be the first time NASA has retrieved samples of an asteroid.
00:23:37 A new study of Lucy - the bones of a human ancestor from 3.2 million years ago - suggests she may have died from falling from a tree.
00:30:22 The Juno probe in orbit around Jupiter has taken some extraordinary photographs - the first ever photos of Jupiter's polar regions.
This episode may contain traces of astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson describing a Tim Tam Slam.
Thu, 15 September 2016
Hosts: Ed Brown, Dr. Shayne Joseph, Penny Dumsday, Lucas Randall.
00:00:51 A genetic analysis of the leather coat and fur hat worn by Otzi the iceman has not only revealed what animals he was wearing, but also why.
00:07:07 Zebra finch mothers sing weather reports to their eggs, and the embryos alter the speed of their development accordingly.
00:12:16 Tasmanian devils, nearly wiped out by a devastating facial tumour disease, may be showing signs of resistance to the cancer. This could have a dramatic impact on conservation efforts.
00:20:07 Traces of supernova ash has been discovered in fossils created by bacteria on Earth, which could explain an extinction event 2 million years ago.
00:23:04 Russian scientists have detected an unusually strong spike in radio signals from the vicinity of a nearby star. The internet says it's aliens. Actual scientists say it probably isn't.
00:30:46 The "EM Drive" - a space drive that appears to break the laws of physics - has "passed peer review". But what does that actually mean, and does it mean the drive could be the engine of future spacecraft? Answers: Not much, probably not.
This episode contains traces of SETI astronomer Jill Tarter on Science channel's "Through the Wormhole", describing the first small steps in the search for alien intelligence.
Wed, 7 September 2016
00:00:38 A planet-that-in-some-respects-probably-resembles-Earth-a-little-bit has been found orbiting the closest star outside our solar system, Proxima Centauri. Astronomer and astrobiologist Dr. Jonti Horner gives us the details about our nearest distant neighbour, Proxima Centauri b.
00:45:33 Thanks to continental drift, Australia's moving Northward by 7cm every year. As a result, it's now more than a meter from where the maps say it is. And when your self-driving car relies on GPS, that could be a big problem.
Dr. Jonti Horner is an astronomer and astrobiologist based at the University of Southern Queensland. On Saturday, 24 September 2016 he will be giving a talk, "Exoplanets & Life Elsewhere", at the Melbourne Planetarium.
This episode may contain traces of Shepard Smith announcing the discovery of Proxima Centauri b.
Sun, 28 August 2016
00:00:42 106 Million years ago, supervolcanoes in Australia hurled rocks more than 2,250km away. Such eruptions would have been among the biggest ever on Earth.
00:03:47 These volcanoes are part of a previously unknown trail created by a hotspot underneath Australia, which formed new volcanoes as the continent moved over it.
00:10:49 The long-standing view that life first began in "primordial soup" that was struck by lightening may be about to be overturned. The theory that the first living cells were born deep in the ocean in warm, hydrothermal vents is now gaining traction.
00:18:17 The Europa Clipper is NASA's ambitious mission to send a probe to Jupiter's sixth-closest moon, Europa. Europa is one of the best candidates for life in the solar system, but the mission is now facing serious possible budget cuts.
Mon, 22 August 2016
00:10:30 Promising animal trials suggest Chagas disease, leishmaniasis and sleeping sickness could all be treated and possibly even cured, with one relatively safe drug.
00:13:53 An international team of scientists have discovered that the liquid found in the brood sacks of a particular type of cockroach is a highly nutritious source of protein. One day we might be feeding our babies cockroach milk!
00:18:26 Headlice are becoming resistant to the common insecticides we usually use. But a simple, 3,000 year old treatment could be the solution.
This episode may contain traces of Peter Alexander talking about cupping on NBC News.
Sun, 14 August 2016
00:00:53 Jupiter's moon Io, the fourth largest moon in the solar system, has a volcanic atmosphere that collapses every day.
00:09:07 A survey of fifty houses in North Carolina as found a correlation between household income and biodiversity. The wealthier the household, the greater the variety of insects found inside.
00:13:46 Data from the Dawn spacecraft reveals that Ceres, the largest asteroid in the main asteroid belt, is not the dead lump of rock we thought it would be. In fact, it may have a still warm radioactive interior.
Wed, 10 August 2016
00:00:49 One of the bigger mysteries about the surface of Mars concerns the formation of some of the gullies. They look very similar to gullies created by flowing water on Earth, only they don't seem to be caused by water at all.
00:10:48 Modern chemotherapy drugs are improving all the time, but they still have really nasty side-effects. But a study published this week shows some promise of being able to deliver the drugs directly into a tumour, thanks to some genetically modified salmonella bacteria.
00:17:01 At first glance, it seems obvious that turtles have evolved their shells as a form of protection. But a new paper published in Current Biology suggests it initially evolved to help turtle ancestors burrow.
This episode may contain traces of Professor Brian Cox.
Tue, 2 August 2016
00:02:35 It's been a year since New Horizons flew past Pluto, and now all the data is in. We take a look at some of the big things we've leared about Pluto and its moons.
00:19:57 The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced last week that the bacteria that causes gonorrhea may be developing resistance to the only two antibiotics left that can cure it.
00:25:12 While all the major planets in the solar system orbit the sun in a fairly tight plane, that orbital plane isn't aligned with the Sun's equator. Which means either the sun has been tilted, or something has influenced the orbits of all the planets. Two independent scientific papers published last week point to the second option - and Planet Nine could be the culprit.
Wed, 27 July 2016
00:00:39 A decade ago, the Great Southern Reef stretched for 8,000km off the coast of Western Australia. Now, a long-term study shows how decades of ocean warming combined with a marine heatwave has devastated the kelp forest. We caught up with Dr Scott Bennett from the Spanish National Research Council, one of the primary investigators on the study.
00:20:04 A new study has found that capuchin monkeys in Brazil have been using stones as tools to prepare their cashew feasts for more than 700 years.
00:24:49 Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine have made a major discovery that could determine whether a patient has a bacterial infection or a viral infection by through a simple blood test.
00:31:26 The European Space Agency has announced an ambitious plan to catch a derelict satellite in a net, and burn it up in Earth's atmosphere.
Dr. Scott Bennett is a Marie Curie Fellow at the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), and Research Associate in Marine Ecology at Curtin University.
This episode contains traces of Paul Barry on Media Watch investigating The Australian’s Great Barrier Reef coverage.
Thu, 14 July 2016
00:01:29 713 Trillion gallons of water found deep underneath California. But we can't touch it... yet.
00:09:48 A pair of wings found encased in 99 million year old amber suggest that the plumage of modern birds has remained almost unchanged from some of their dinosaur-era ancestors.
00:13:58 Thirty eight rare hazel dormice have been released into the Yorkshire Dales National Park in England in a conservation effort. But the declining dormouse population raises other issues about how changing land use is affecting the wildlife.
00:18:45 A three-year study of a reef in the Florida Keys has shed light on how microbes are crucial to keeping coral reefs healthy Overfishing, pollution and climate change can destabilise the coral's natural defence and disrupt ecological communities.
This episode may contain traces of Rick Nybakken, Project Manager for the Juno mission at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Thu, 7 July 2016
00:00:55 Fish that spend part of the time on land - such as mudskippers, American eels, and sea scorpions - may have evolved that ability separately more than 30 times!
00:07:08 Tabby's Star, also known as Where's The Flux, has been described as "the most mysterious star in the universe". It's the star with the strange dimming patterns that caused some speculation that it might be an alien megastructure. Well it almost certainly isn't an alien megastructure, but the story behind its discovery and the plans to study it closer are just as cool!
00:18:00 A new study finds links between low-fibre diets and peanut allergies.
This episode may contain traces of Tabetha Boyajian's TED Talk, The most mysterious star in the universe.
Sun, 26 June 2016
00:01:05 For the second time, physicists have detected gravitational waves, proving that gravitational wave detection is a viable new form of astronomy. It also opens the way for theories about space-time having a memory, and possible explanations for dark matter.
00:30:38 A long awaited WHO report says that not only is coffee not carcinogenic, but it may even prevent some cancers. It's not so good news, however, if you like your coffee hot.
00:42:58 NASA's Juno spacecraft is set to enter orbit around Jupiter on July 4th, and NASA has released a Hollywood-style trailer for it.
Dr. Katie Mack is a theoretical astrophysicist at the University of Melbourne. She is a co-host of Pint in the Sky, a vodcast about astrophysics and beer. She also writes on her blog and tweets at @AstroKatie.
Sat, 18 June 2016
00:00:52 Michelle Franklin joins us to discuss invasive species control - from giving herpes to carp, to the moth that nearly wiped out the prickly pear.
00:16:57 Scientists have trained archerfish to recognise - and spit at - specific human faces.
00:22:46 A woman in Pennsylvania recently tested positive to an E. coli "superbug" that's resistant to most antibiotics. That's scary enough, but it also points to a worrisome lack of testing and reporting with urinary tract infections.
Michelle Franklin is a wildlife biologist and a founder of the Darwin Skeptics.
Phil Kent is an aquaculture specialist and secretary of the Brisbane Skeptics. Brisbane Skeptics have a Skepticamp coming up. Phil can be found on Facebook, Twitter and at the Brisbane Skeptics' Facebook page.
This episode contains traces of Stephen Colbert talking about a new study of frog sex positions.
Mon, 13 June 2016
00:01:03 Researchers from Johannes Gutenberg University have described the development of a potential universal cancer vaccine. But it's still very early days.
00:10:57 Scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have found a giant sponge - the largest on record and one of the oldest living creatures in the world.
00:14:43 A large rat study shows that exposing rats to large doses of mobile phone radiation over two years can cause a higher rate of some cancers. But it's a long way away from showing any clear link in humans.
00:35:37 Australia's Olympic athletes will be protected from sexual transmission of the Zika virus by specially developed anti-Zika condoms. Also, all condoms protect against the sexual spread of Zika virus. Because that's what condoms do.
This episode contains traces of Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson and Bill Maher.
Jo Benhamu is a clinical trials coordinator in radiation oncology.
Wed, 8 June 2016
Researchers have just published a study that for the first time shows physical changes in trees that in some ways correspond to day-night cycles.
Newly discovered evidence of a previously unknown population of Tasmanian devils could provide the genetic diversity that may be crucial to saving the devils from a deadly facial cancer.
Dating a rock formation deep in a cave in France reveals Neanderthals were much more advanced than previously thought.
Two Armenian physicists have published a study looking at a possible link between dark energy and the direction of time. Dark energy could, they suggest, be the reason why time goes forwards but cannot go backwards.
Listener Chris sent us some interesting information as a follow up to our story about Mt. St Helens.
This episode contains traces of Professor Brian Cox talking about the eventual end of the universe.
Wed, 1 June 2016
A Canadian teenager may have found a lost Mayan city. Or, it might just be a marijuana plantation. Either way, he deserves credit for coming up with a hypothesis and testing it - with help from the Canadian Space Agency!
There's a parasite that's turning Alaskan king crabs into zombies. The parasite castrates the males, takes over their bodies and makes them raise its offspring. But the good news is the crab's legs are still edible!
A new study finds a link between folate and autism. But it's not so simple - and there's no reason pregnant women should stop taking folate supplements if their doctor advises.
We respond to some feedback from Michelle Franklin about biological controls in Australia. Not all attempts to control pests with other organisms have been failures, some have been quite successful.
This episode contains traces of Paul Barry on Media Watch.
Mon, 23 May 2016
A further 1,284 more exoplanets have been confirmed by NASA's Kepler mission. This puts the total number confirmed planets outside our solar system to 3,268!
Does the increase in small earthquakes below Mount St. Helens signify an imminent eruption? Not quite, but that hasn't stopped the media from panicking.
For a long time, climate change scientists have been warning that as sea levels rise, some countries could be lost underwater. This week, new research shows that at least five reef islands in the Solomon Islands have been lost completely to sea-level rise.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has a boat sitting above the Marianas Trench, and it's live-streaming video from a remotely operated vehicle. One of the many amazing finds they've looked at is a beautiful jellyfish with brightly coloured gonads!
This episode contains traces of John Oliver ranting about bad media reporting of science.
Sat, 14 May 2016
Chiropractors in Australia are coming under fire after a shocking video of manipulation of a baby goes viral. Dr. Mick Vagg gives us an in-depth look at the controversial industry. You can watch parts of the video here.
Scientists are about to unleash "Carpageddon" - a radical form of biological control that aims to eradicate carp from an Australian river system. Watch out carp, herpes is coming!
Mysterious gullies on Mars may be formed by water 'boiling'. Water in low pressure, such as at the surface of Mars, has been found to boil rapidly and 'pop' the surrounding sand.
The Large Hadron Collider came to an abrupt halt recently. Not because of a fault, as such, but because a weasel got in and started chewing on things it shouldn't have!
Dr. Mick Vagg is a pain specialist, and author of the Medicandus column on The Conversation.
This episode contains traces of radio broadcaster Jon Faine interviewing Deputy President of the Chiropractors' Association of Australia (CAA), Andrew Lawrence.
Sat, 7 May 2016
SpaceX plans to send uncrewed Dragon capsules to Mars... as early as 2018. And they might even be able to do it!
Study of a rare fossil of a baby titanosaur shows that some dinosaurs were left to fend for themselves immediately after hatching.
The bittersweet nightshade plant has an ancient defense mechanism - it recruits armies of ants to ward off slugs and predators.
Astronomers have discovered that Makemake, the second brightest dwarf planet in the Kuiper belt, has a moon. Surprisingly, it's much darker than Makemake - and about 1,300 times fainter.
This episode contains traces of ABC News' in-depth coverage of the SpaceX announcement.
Sat, 30 April 2016
A new study looks at the vocal talents of Queen frontman Freddie Mercury, and reveals what we already knew: he had an extraordinary voice!
A study of bats shows that when hunting insects, they don't plan one kill at a time. Instead they choose flight paths that take them to two victims in quick succession.
A study looking at high powered hand dryers - in particular the Dyson Airblades - has found they can spread a lot of virus particles. But that's only a problem if you don't wash your hands properly. And you probably don't.
Peter Miller is a professional sound designer and music composer who has worked in the film & music business for nearly 40 years. He writes at Hummadruz about various audio phenomena and pseudo-science.
This episode contains traces of Stephen Colbert and Dr. Manny Alvarez describing correct hand-washing technique.
Mon, 25 April 2016
Penguins need to be counted, and scientists need your help counting them! PenguinWatch blends citizen science with cute penguins!
Stephen Hawking and Yuri Milner team up again to fund an extremely ambitious $100m research program to send probes to Alpha Centauri.
A new chemical test could reveal whether fossilised bones were from pregnant – and therefore female – dinosaurs.
This episode contains traces of Stephen Hawking announcing the "Starshot" Breakthrough Initiative.
Mon, 18 April 2016
Scientists at the University of New South Wales could soon be able to regrow homan bone and tissue in the body, with stem cells.
In the quest for better data to protect endangered vultures, conservationists are turning to 3D printing eggs.
Korean researchers have discovered that Skuas - mid-sized Antarctic seabirds - can recognise individual humans.
Hope is running out for the troubled Japanese space telescope, Hitomi.
Mon, 11 April 2016
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.
This episode may contain traces of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.
Mon, 28 March 2016
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.
Sun, 20 March 2016
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.
Sun, 13 March 2016
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.
Sun, 6 March 2016
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.
Sun, 28 February 2016
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.
Tue, 23 February 2016
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.
Sat, 13 February 2016
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.
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).
Mon, 8 February 2016
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.
Tue, 26 January 2016
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.
Sat, 23 January 2016
Just a note to let you know that our 2015 bloopers episode is now out! It's a lot of fun, so you should definitely listen!
To do that you'll have to download it from http://scienceontop.com/bloopers2015 or listen to it on our website, YouTube or Soundcloud.
Thu, 24 December 2015
Our top stories of the year.
Tue, 15 December 2015
Fast Radio Bursts are sudden, very short but very intense blasts of radio waves that have so far defied explanation. But now the most detailed study so far has provided some clues to the origins of FRBs - they MIGHT come from starquakes. Probably not aliens.
While bees are certainly the most efficient pollinators, a new study suggests that other insects - like flies, wasps, beetles and butterflies - are just as important for the success of the world's crops. It's like having a backup plan for bees.
There are around 900 species of tarantula, and most of them are the usual black or brown colour. But there's more than a few of them have vibrant blue colourings - and we don't really know why.
An international team of scientists has found that the development of agriculture in Europe - around 8,500 years ago - signalled the start of some significant changes in the DNA of modern humans. There were changes in height, digestion, immune system and skin colour and a host of other evolutionary steps.
Thu, 10 December 2015
Chinese scientists have found bacteria that are resistant to one the 'last resort' antibiotics. The gene for this resistance has been found in 15 percent of meat samples and can spread to other bacteria very easily.
Biologists at Tufts University have induced flatworms to grow the heads and brains of other flatworm species, without altering the worm's genome.
Researchers have sequenced the genome of the tardigrade, or 'water bear'. This tiny but nearly indestructible creature has the most foreign genes of any animal studied so far - roughly one sixth of it's genome comes from other species.
Wed, 2 December 2015
For the first time, neurosurgeons at in Canada claim to have found a way to deliver chemotherapy drugs directly to the brain, crossing the famed blood brain barrier.
Women infected with hookworms seem to have decreased fertility, while women with roundworms seem to be more fertile. Because parasitic worms are weird.
There's some growing evidence that suggest repeated vaccination against different flu strains might diminish the flu vaccine’s effectiveness. You should still get the shot, though.
Compass is a clinical trial comparing 2.5 -yearly Pap test screening with 5- yearly Human Papillomavirus (HPV) screening. It is the first large scale clinical trial internationally to assess these screening tests in an HPV vaccinated population.
Wed, 25 November 2015
A study of 345 women by The University of Essex concludes that no woman is"totally straight". Well, it's a bit more complicated than that.
In Australia, forty volunteers are about to have hookworms injected into their bodies to see if a radical treatment can alleviate some of the symptoms of coeliac disease.
Two possible ice volcanoes have been identified on the surface of Pluto thanks to New Horizons' study of the minor dwarf planet. Instead of molten rock, these volcanoes would eject slushies of water ice and nitrogen, ammonia or methane.
Scientists may have solved a long-standing mystery about moon rocks, and why they have a lot less volatile elements like potassium, sodium, and zinc than rocks on the Earth.
Dr. Cassandra Perryman is a psychologist at University of Queensland, and you can follow her on Facebook here.
Tue, 17 November 2015
The first case of a human falling ill from cancer cells contracted from a parasitic tapeworm has been reported in Columbia.
And in an unrelated story, a Californian man has had a live tapeworm removed from his brain in a potentially life-saving operation.
The Rosetta probe orbiting 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko has surprised everyone by detecting large amounts of molecular oxygen on the comet. The finding suggests molecular oxygen was present when the comet was formed soon after the birth of the solar system, 4.6 billion years ago.
Stanford University researchers have discovered how jellyfish actually swim – and it's not how previously thought. They make a region of low pressure ahead of themselves, essentially sucking themselves forward. Lucas mentions Smarter Every Day's video of a balloon in a car.
Sat, 14 November 2015
The World Health Organisation has officially classified processed meat as "carcinogenic", and red meat as "probably carcinogenic". However, this doesn't really tell you anything about the level of risk associated with meat. You're probably fine.
Electric eels can deliver a strong shock, but they can deliver twice the shock by curling around and trapping their victim between head and tail.
The US Food and Drug Administration has approved an impressive new kind of treatment to help combat skin cancer: herpes. That's right, herpes.
Sat, 7 November 2015
Researchers have found neurons in nematode worms that help them learn when to prioritise mating over eating. This does not necessarily have anything to do with humans.
A large team of scientists have published a paper about a strange star, KIC 8462852, which has an unusual pattern of dimming and brightening. One possible - though remote - explanation they have proposed is a Dyson's sphere.
Thanks again to some zircon cyrstals, researchers may have found evidence of ancient microorganisms that lived at least 4.1 billion years ago. If confirmed, the discovery suggests that life originated on Earth 300 million years earlier than previously thought.
Sun, 1 November 2015
The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2015 was awarded jointly to Tomas Lindahl, Paul Modrich and Aziz Sancar "for mechanistic studies of DNA repair".
The Nobel Prize in Physics 2015 was awarded jointly to Takaaki Kajita and Arthur B. McDonald "for the discovery of neutrino oscillations, which shows that neutrinos have mass".
The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2015 was awarded with one half jointly to William C. Campbell and Satoshi ?mura for their discoveries concerning a novel therapy against infections caused by roundworm parasites and the other half to Youyou Tu for her discoveries concerning a novel therapy against Malaria.
Scientists diving near the Solomon Islands have discovered the first biofluorescent reptile ever recorded.
Biological engineers at MIT have developed a new mix-and-match system to genetically engineer viruses that target specific bacteria. This use of bacteriophages could be an important weapon in the fight against antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Advanced multi-layer CT scanning technology has enabled researchers to examine the remains of people found at Pompeii, and led to some surprising discoveries about their health and how they died.
Strange bright spots on the dwarf planet Ceres had mystified astronomers since they were first seen earlier this year. But new spectroscopy studies suggest they are probably salt deposits, not ice as previously speculated.
Note: We had lots of technical difficulties with this episode. Most of Mick's contributions needed to be re-recorded separately, and there was a slight hum at times. We've done the best we could, but the audio might be a little dodgy in parts. It's not particularly noticeable, and doesn't really affect the experience. Please forgive us!
Fri, 16 October 2015
Dark streaks seen on the surface of Mars are likely to be periodic flows of liquid water – something previously though almost impossible.
The tongues of the long-tongued bumblebees in Colorado are shorter than archived long-tongued bumblebees from forty years ago. This appears to be an adaptation to climate change and while it's good news for the bees, it could be bad news for the flowers they feed on.
Four kinds of gut bacteria have been found to havea strong preventative link to asthma. But there's a catch - it's only significant in the first three months after birth.
We're fairly certain that a massive asteroid collision with Earth wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. But another theory suggests extensive volcanic action was already doing that, and maybe the asteroid just helped things along.
Helen and Lucas have been to see the blockbuster film The Martian, and they liked it!
Wed, 7 October 2015
The Ig Nobel Prizes honour achievements that first make us laugh, then make us think. We take a look at this year’s winners: from unboiled eggs to painful bee stings!
You can watch the award ceremony here.
The Chemistry prize was awarded to a team from Australia and the USA "for inventing a chemical recipe to partially un-boil an egg".
The Physics prize went to scientists from the USA and Taiwan "for testing the biological principle that nearly all mammals empty their bladders in about 21 seconds (plus or minus 13 seconds)".
The Literature prize was awarded to linguists from The Netherlands, USA, Belgium and Australia "for discovering that the word "[huh?" (or its equivalent) seems to exist in every human language — and for not being quite sure why".
The Management prize was given to three business school professors, "for discovering that many business leaders developed in childhood a fondness for risk-taking, when they experienced natural disasters (such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, and wildfires) that — for them — had no dire personal consequences".
The Economics prize went to the Bangkok Metropolitan Police, "for offering to pay policemen extra cash if the policemen refuse to take bribes".
The Medicine prize was awarded jointly to two groups, "for experiments to study the biomedical benefits or biomedical consequences of intense kissing (and other intimate, interpersonal activities)".
The Mathematics prize was given to Elisabeth Oberzaucher and Karl Grammer, "for trying to use mathematical techniques to determine whether and how Moulay Ismael the Bloodthirsty, the Sharifian Emperor of Morocco, managed, during the years from 1697 through 1727, to father 888 children".
The Biology prize was presented to scientists from Chile and the USA, "for observing that when you attach a weighted stick to the rear end of a chicken, the chicken then walks in a manner similar to that in which dinosaurs are thought to have walked".
The Diagnostic Medicine prize went to researchers from the University of Oxford and Stoke Mandeville Hospital, "for determining that acute appendicitis can be accurately diagnosed by the amount of pain evident when the patient is driven over speed bumps".
The Physiology and Entomology prize was jointly awarded to two individuals. Justin Schmidt got the gong "for painstakingly creating the Schmidt Sting Pain Index, which rates the relative pain people feel when stung by various insects". Michael L. Smith was granted the prize "for carefully arranging for honey bees to sting him repeatedly on 25 different locations on his body, to learn which locations are the least painful (the skull, middle toe tip, and upper arm) and which are the most painful (the nostril, upper lip, and penis shaft)".
Wed, 23 September 2015
Neurologist and acclaimed author Dr. Oliver Sacks died after complications with cancer at age 82. He was an extraordinary man who humanised the sufferers of mental disorders and introduced the general public to the world of neuroscience. Read his books. We highly recommend them!
Nobody is surprised, but we finally have good experimental data that shows a lack of sleep makes you more susceptible to illness. Less than 5 hours of sleep makes you four times more likely to get sick, and volunteers where locked in a hotel and given colds to prove it.
Climate change will cause many problems, but a new study potentially adds one more to the list: changes to nitrogen fixating bacteria that could dramatically effect nearly all sea life.
After its successful fly-by of Pluto, New Horizons has a new target: 2014 MU69. This 'cold classical' Kuiper belt object will be 43.4 AU from the sun when New Horizons arrives on January 1, 2019.
Sun, 20 September 2015
A new theory about our solar system's history proposes that there was a fifth giant planet early on that influenced Neptune's orbit and was flung out into interstellar space.
Two independent teams have manipulated a piece of viral protein so it can teach immune systems to fight whole groups of viruses, rather than a single strain. This could be the first step towards a universal flu vaccine and could eventually eradicate influenza altogether.
Over the last three years Professor Brian Nosek from the University of Virginia has managed to get a lot of psychologists from around the world to repeat 100 published psychology experiments. In a lot of cases, the new results were considerably different from the original experiment's results.
A psychologist in Italy got study participants to stare into each other's eyes for ten minutes and describe what they felt. Weird things happened!
Mon, 14 September 2015
Dr. Miranda Ween is investigating the potential health effects of e-cigarettes.
Nasa has awarded a $200,000 per year grant to researchers to investigate ways to turn poop into food.
Scientists at the American Fisheries Society annual meeting have called for changes to how decisions are made in fisheries. Unprecedented conditions like the North Pacific blob demonstrate a need for ecosystem-based modelling instead of the more common species-based modelling.
Can smelling vomit make you sick? The answer is yes, but to prove it virologists had to build a machine that vomits.
Wed, 2 September 2015
Dr. Krystal is now working at the BioMelbourne Network, the peak industry body for life sciences in Melbourne, Australia.
In an important step forward for human space exploration, astronauts on the ISS have eaten lettuce grown on the station. They liked it.
Despite having only a 36% success rate, the new malaria vaccine called 'Mosquirix' has been endorsed for young African children. The hope is that the vaccine, when combined with other existing defenses, can still greatly reduce the incidence of severe malaria.
New research studying almost 20,000 galaxies in one small section of the sky shows the universe has long passed its peak and is slowly dying. Which is a gloomy way of saying that the rate of new stars being born is decreasing.
We all know that no vaccine is ever truly 100% effective, yet that's exactly what early stages of a new Ebola vaccine seems to suggest.
The humble octopus has an exceptionally complicated genome, which goes part way to explaining the complexity of these incredible sea creatures.
Sun, 23 August 2015
In 2011 a tornado ripped through Joplin, Missouri, killing 158 people. It also brought with it a rare flesh-eating fungus that killed another five.
The first two species of 'venomous' frogs have been discovered - the hard way - in the Caatinga forests of Brazil. And you really don't want them to headbutt you.
There's a parasitic wasp that uses mind control on spiders to force them to spin cocoons. Because nature is like that.
We mention this David Attenborough video about the Cordyceps fungi that zombifies ants.
We also mention spider webs produced by spiders on drugs.
Shayne recommends the XKCD webcomic about the bee orchid.
Ed recommends watching Ed Yong's TED talk about mind controlling parasites.
Simon Chapman is Professor in Public Health at the University of Sydney, and was called upon to give evidence before the Select Committee on Wind Turbines. They asked his opinion, and he well and truly delivered it!
Sun, 9 August 2015
A special episode all about Pluto and the New Horizons mission. We're joined by Dr. Mike Goldsmith, a science writer with a PhD in astrophysics who's currently writing a book about Pluto. Keep an eye on Amazon for New Horizons To Pluto to be published in the next month or so.
Tue, 4 August 2015
One study suggests a dip in solar activity in 15 years. Mainstream media gets it so very wrong.
The world's first malaria vaccine gets regulatory approval, but it's not the panacea you might think.
Billionaire Yuri Milner funds US$100 million dollar search for extra terrestrial life. Which is awesome!
A 14,000 year old tooth shows signs of early dentistry. Early PAINFUL dentistry.
NASA announces thousands of newly discovered exoplanets, including one that might possibly be a bit like Earth only different.
Album art: David McClenaghan / CSIRO (CC BY 3.0)
Thu, 30 July 2015
Researchers at the University of York and GlaxoSmithKline have figured out all the steps needed to genetically engineer yeast to essentially produce opiates like morphine.
A pitcher plant in the jungles of Borneo - a flesh-eating plant that’s terrible at eating flesh - has through evolution developed a system of luring bats, and then feasting on their poop.
A growing body of research suggests that males and females process pain differently. It also opens promising new fields of further study.
Wed, 8 July 2015
A single-celled organism has no brain and no nervous system, so you wouldn't think it could have an eye. But the dinoflagellate Erythropsidinium is able to "see" polarised light, and aim its piston accordingly.
The iconic 3D holographic computer interfaces from the Iron Man movies and Minority Report might be not far off, as researchers in Japan have developed a way to suspend light in mid-air and make it safe to interact with.
Approximately 2.1 billion years ago saw the emergence of multicellular organisms. New research suggests that the leap from single-celled life to multicellular creatures may have been fairly simple, and there may have been more than one way it happened.
Researchers at the University of Bristol have developed a system for self-healing aeroplane wings. The material, which uses a liquid carbon-based "healing agent" could also be used for bicycle frames and wind turbines.
A dramatic increase in raven population in the Mojave Desert is threatening a rare desert tortoise. Some conservationists have turned to technology to ward off the ravens - they're shooting them with lasers.
Sun, 28 June 2015
More communication with the recently awoken Philae probe on Comet 67P.
New techniques to treat depression, and Sean's fascinating story of being part of a clinical trial.
Tech startup OneWeb has announced that Airbus will be manufacturing 900 communications satellites to launch in 2018 in what will be the largest satellite internet network by far.
A new blood test can determine all the viruses that we know of that a patient has ever been exposed to.
The holes in Swiss cheese – called 'eyes' – are made by “carbon-dioxide-burping microbes”.
Thu, 18 June 2015
The New Horizons spacecraft is one month away from Pluto, but it's already giving us some fuzzy photos.
And new findings from the Hubble telescope give some insights into the complex orbits and interactions of Pluto's moons.
In the last month around 120,000 Saiga antelopes have died in Kazakhstan, and nobody knows why.
Breaking news while we recorded this show - the Philae lander has awoken on Comet 67P after a seven month sleep.
The first stage of The Planetary Society's LightSail project has been successfully completed. The small craft unfurled its large solar sail, which uses sunlight for propulsion.
Tue, 9 June 2015
The International Institute for Species Exploration has selected it's "Top 10 New Species" from the approximately 18,000 new species named during 2014. The list includes cartwheeling spiders, feathered dinosaurs and strange multicellular organisms that could be an entirely new phylum - a new branch on the tree of life.
Two separate studies have explored how octopuses and squid change their skin colour to rapidly camouflage themselves. They found that the skin (on squid and cuttlefish) and tiny hairs called cilia (on octopuses) have cells that are used in vision.
In 2013 some research suggested that the blood from young mice can rejuvenate older mice. Well new findings cast doubt on those results, and things are a little more complicated.
British and US scientists have published the first comprehensive map of genetic mutations linked to different strains of prostate cancer. They describe the map as "prostate cancer’s Rosetta stone" and say it will guide future treatments and trials.
Wed, 3 June 2015
The Opah, or moonfish, is the only warm-blooded fish that we know of. And it looks like "a big startled frisbee, with thin red fins stuck on as an afterthought."
A new epidemiological study suggests the measles vaccine does more than just protect you from measles, but also a number of other infections for up to five years.
Scientists have discovered a new state of matter, called 'Jahn-Teller metals', that could be the first step towards one of the biggest goals in physics - high-temperature superconductors.
A group of scientists investigating the evolution of the beak now report they have found a way to turn the beaks of chicken embryos back into dinosaur-like snouts.
This year the Australian Skeptics' National Convention will be held in Brisbane, with a host of interesting speakers including Nobel prize winner Brian Schmidt.
Mon, 25 May 2015
Dr. Alice Gorman is a Space Archaeologist. She explains what that means, and why cable ties can be more significant than you might think.
NASA has ended the MESSENGER space probe's mission by crashing it into the planet Mercury. Initially only expected to orbit Mercury for one year, MESSENGER has provided a wealth of new information in it's four year study of the closest planet to the Sun.
A team of Chinese scientists claim to have built a farm that maintains the high crop yields we expect from conventional farms while decreasing greenhouse gas emissions. And they've done that largely by replacing traditional chemical fertilizers with cow manure.
The United Nations has named 2015 the Year of the Soil, which is perhaps fitting given the growing amount of research looking at ways soil bacteria could help mitigate the effects of climate change.
A small TV news segment from a local network in New Mexico sparked an international media frenzy when it claimed that some beards contain more faecal bacteria than a toilet. Unsurprisingly, there's more crap in those claims than there is in most beards.
Wed, 20 May 2015
Audi claims to have produced clean, synthetic diesel fuel by using electrolysis to turn air and water into hydrocarbons. When using green electricity the process can be 100% renewable and the fuel works in existing diesel engines.
An international project to sequence the complete genome of the woolly mammoth has been successfully completed. So once again the idea of 'de-extinction' - bringing the mammoth back - is a hot topic.
For the first time, scientists have been able to monitor an underwater volcano eruption in real time, thanks to sensors placed around the Axial Seamount.
Rotoroa is a tiny, 82-hectare island off the coast of New Zealand. And for the last few years, it's been the site of an extraordinary conservation experiment. This project isn't about recreating an ecosystem, rather it's creating a brand new one.
Wed, 13 May 2015
A controversial paper published by Chinese researchers in the online journal Protein & Cell marks the first time scientists have reported manipulating the genetic material of human embryos.
A new study has looked at the role of the hormone oxytocin in the dog and owner relationship. And it involved dogs and owners staring longingly into each other's eyes.
Chimpanzees in the wild have been observed crafting sharp spears to stab their prey. Hunting is rare among chimpanzees, but even more interesting in this case is it's the females that use the spears.
Bacteria that normally live in the urinary tract and cause no harm have been implicated in a number of deaths in organ transplant patients.
Seismologists at the University of Utah have found a huge reservoir of partially molten rock underneath the Yellowstone Caldera, the largest supervolcano in North America.
25 Years ago the Hubble Space Telescope was launched from the Kennedy Space Centre. And despite a number of significant obstacles and challenges, it has become one of the most successful and iconic telescopes ever built.
Fri, 8 May 2015
After more than a hundred years, Brontosaurus is a dinosaur again. And once again, taxonomy is hard.
The Dutch are the tallest people on the planet, but it wasn't always so. The average adult height in the Netherlands has increased by 20 centimetres in the past 150 years, and a new study looks at the possible reasons why.
A one thousand-year-old Anglo-Saxon recipe for a treatment for an infected eyelash follicle has been found to be surprisingly effective against the superbug MRSA.
The remarkably complete skeleton of an Australopithecus afarensis, known as "Lucy" is probably the world's most famous early human fossil. But a new look at the skeleton has found that the skeleton isn't all Lucy - one bone seems to be from a baboon.
Thu, 30 April 2015
Two major reports have highlighted the impending dangers of antibiotic resistance. In the UK a government report estimated that an outbreak of a drug-resistant infection in Britain could cause up to 80,000 deaths, while in the US the CDC issued an alert about a new strain of the common Shigella bacteria that is resistant to the usual antibiotics used to treat it.
Sat, 18 April 2015
A new study has been published in the Lancet which suggests babies who were breastfeed were more likely to have higher IQs, spend more time in school, and end up in higher-paying jobs.
A study by researchers at the University of Notre Dame looked at baboon social structure and how that affected variation in gut microbiota.
A team based in Oxford has published a detailed genetic ancestry map of Great Britain - essentially a country-wide family tree. And that analysis demonstrated waves of migration by different populations into the United Kingdom throughout history.
A serendipitous discovery by scientists at Stanford has found a way to convert leukemia cells into cancer-fighting immune cells.
NASA is taking suggestions to name geologic features on Pluto and Charon when the New Horizons spacecraft flies past in July.
Sat, 4 April 2015
For the first time, a salty subsurface ocean on Jupiter's largest moon Ganymede has been detected through the use of auroras. The idea of a subsurface ocean isn't new, but auroras have never before been used as a detection mechanism.
In an elegant experiment, scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology have found that bacteria can share nutrients between each other through tiny feeding tubes.
Researchers in France have modified memories in sleeping mice. My electrically stimulating parts of the brain they were able to associate certain locations with rewards.
A team of scientists at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel were testing the theory that people sniff their hands after handshakes. They secretly filmed 153 volunteers and discovered that handshakes could be responsible for transmitting chemical biosignals between people.
There are 17 regions on Comet 67P that have material that appears to be moving. And now scientists may have figured out how these "wind tails" may be occurring.
Tue, 24 March 2015
Astronomers using the Hubble Space telescope have found large methane storms raging on the planet Uranus.
Only three animals go through menopause: humans, short-finned pilot whales, and killer whales. The leading theory behind this is known as the 'Grandmother hypothesis', but it doesn't explain other long-lived familial animals like elephants.
Spectroscopy analysis may have revealed how chameleons change colour. Intricate latices of tiny photonic crystals reflect light differently depending on how they are aligned and the spaces between them.
The microbes in a city's sewage could give an indication of the rate of obesity in the city, according to an American study.
Tue, 17 March 2015
The Dawn probe arrives at dwarf planet Ceres, and finds mysterious bright spots.
An ecological study has found that large predators - lions, wolves, hyenas etc - regulate their population numbers, mainly through infanticide or social limitations on breeding.
And we talk about #TheDress, and some explanations as to why people see it differently.
Chemical engineers and astronomers at Cornell University suggest that Titan, Saturn's largest moon, could harbour life - but not as we know it.
Tue, 10 March 2015
70,000 Years ago, a small star passed within a light-year of Earth - within the Oort cloud on the edge of our solar system.
New research suggests the sun can continue doing damage to our skin even when we go inside or cover up.
A flawed study into the health effects of fluoride gets far too much media attention.
Medical marijuana is not very effective for pain relief, and the industry is poorly regulated according to pain specialist Dr. Mick Vagg.
A study of Europe's climate between the 14th and 18th century indicates that the Black Plague may have been spread more by gerbils, than rats.
Fri, 27 February 2015
Scientists are 'baffled' by strange cloud-like plumes spotted 250km above the surface of Mars.
Genetic analysis shows penguins can only taste salty and sour things, and they lost the other taste receptors a long time ago.
Drinking three cups of coffee could reduce DNA strand breakages, which could lead to a lower risk of cancer and other illnesses.
A NASA animation shows a high-tech submarine concept that could one day explore the liquid methane oceans on Saturn's moon Titan. One day in the very distant future. Maybe.
A new study suggests that sugary soft-drinks could be part of the reason girls are starting their periods at a slightly earlier age.
Mon, 23 February 2015
The UK parliament has voted to allow so-called 'three-person babies", a controversial method of IVF using with DNA from two women and one man.
Scientists at a US conference have said it is time to actively try to contact intelligent life on other worlds.
Researchers at the University of Illinois and colleagues at Nanjing University in China have found that the Earth’s inner core has an inner core inside it. An inner core in an inner core.
The Conservation Canines program at the University of Washington trains dogs to sniff for the poop of endangered animals. More than forty dogs have been trained to sniff out up to 12 species each: wolverines, tapirs, iguanas, and even orcas.
And high-speed cameras have answered a question we’ve always wanted to know: how does popcorn pop?
Thu, 19 February 2015
The President's 2016 budget proposal has some big news for NASA - finally a mission to Europa! We look at some of the good and bad (but mostly good!) proposals made in NASA's FY2016 Budget Request.
Mon, 9 February 2015
Visitors to Disneyland left with something more than just exhaustion and overpriced souvenirs this month. The Happiest Place on Earth has been identified as ground zero for an outbreak of Measles that has so far infected more than 84 people.
Scientists drilling in the Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica have been surprised to find translucent fish and other aquatic animals living in perpetual darkness and cold, beneath a roof of ice 740 metres thick.
There's a promising new stem cell treatment for the most common form of Multiple Sclerosis. After three years, 86 percent of trial patients have had no relapses, and 91 percent are showing no signs of MS development.
In 2003, the Mars lander Beagle 2 was lost during its landing on Mars. Eleven years later the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has found it - intact but only partially deployed.
The 79AD eruption of Mount Vesuvius is famous for burying - and preserving - the city of Pompeii. But it also preserved another nearby town, Herculaneum. A new X-Ray technique is helping archaeologists read scrolls found there without opening and damaging them.
Sun, 18 January 2015
SoT Special 17: Dr. Karl Kruszelnicki
Sun, 11 January 2015
Our end of year 'bloopers' episode is online! For all the funny, interesting and weird bits that didn't quite make the show in 2014, download the show from our website, at scienceontop.com/bloopers14. This show is NOT on our feed, to listen you will HAVE to download it manually from the website or listen on SoundCloud
It does contain swearing and content that might not be suitable for children.
So go to scienceontop.com/bloopers14 and click the download link!
Tue, 30 December 2014
Some of our best science stories from 2014. Comet landings, Ebola outbreaks, retracted stem cell studies, faecal transplant capsules and more!
Climate Change and Australian science policy
Retracted STAP study
Tue, 23 December 2014
Rosetta has analysed the water found on comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko and found significant differences compared to water on Earth. This may weaken the theory that comets brought water to an early Earth.
Mon, 15 December 2014
Is HIV evolving in to a milder, less deadly virus? A new study suggests it's taking longer for HIV infections to cause AIDS and that this is the result of mutations in the virus.
Fri, 5 December 2014
Professor Rob Morrison and Dr Deane Hutton are Australian science communication heroes. Together they hosted the children's science TV show Curiosity Show, which ran for 18 consecutive years from 1972 to 1990. Ed and Lucas caught up with them at TEDxCanberra to talk about the show and its recent new episode, what they've done since then, and their views on science communication and education.
Rob mentions Duck Quacks Don't Echo (UK) as an example of good current science television.
Thu, 27 November 2014
More details on Philae's rough landings, and the future of the first probe to land on a comet. Professor Monica Grady's reaction to the landing, the sound of the landing, and the comet 'sings'.
Thu, 20 November 2014
Shayne and Ed are joined by Dr. George Aranda, curator of the Science Book A Day blog and co-host of the Big Ideas Book Club in Melbourne. George is running a Pozible crowdfunding campaign to investigate the use of 3D Printers in school education.
Sun, 16 November 2014
A team of bioengineers is trying to make artificial milk in a lab and without animals. They call it "Muufri".
Wed, 5 November 2014
Virologist Dr. Grant Hill-Cawthorne joins us to discuss Ebola. Everything you need to know about the current outbreak.
Sat, 1 November 2014
Defence giant Lockheed Martin has announced it wants to build a truck-sized nuclear fusion power-plant in the next ten years. They just don't appear to have a plan.
Sun, 26 October 2014
More artifacts have been recovered from the Antikythera wreck, the 1st century BC shipwreck discovered in 1900 off the coast of the Greek island Antikythera. None of the newly found artifacts, however, appear to be related to the mysterious Antikythera Mechanism, widely known as the first analog computer.
It had long been thought that volcanic activity on the moon stopped around a billion years ago. Now high-resolution images from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) suggest there was activity as geologically recently as 50 million years ago.
The next stage in fecal transplants could be a simple oral pill. Researchers from the Massachusetts General Hospital have managed to put frozen fecal matter into capsules that can be taken orally. These capsules have a similar 90% success rate against Clostridium difficile infection.
In order to study energy trade-offs in voles, scientists had to shave 120 rodents before re-releasing the furry mammals back into the wild. And then they had to recapture them!
There's a symbiotic relationship that's developed over millions of years between brewer's yeast and fruit flies. Understanding this relationship could give brewers more techniques for making distinctive beers.
Sun, 19 October 2014
The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2014 was awarded with one half to John O'Keefe and the other half jointly to May-Britt Moser and Edvard I. Moser "for their discoveries of cells that constitute a positioning system in the brain".
Wed, 8 October 2014
PUBLIC HEALTH PRIZE
ARCTIC SCIENCE PRIZE
Wed, 24 September 2014
Professor Stephen Hawking has written a preface to a book, and his comments have gotten a little misinterpreted. Katie explains why the Higgs boson is absolutely not in any danger of destroying the world.
Sat, 20 September 2014
The Common Octopus, or Octopus Vulgaris, is the most studied of all octopus species. But all that studying has found so many differences between some, which could mean the Common Octopus is possibly as many as ten different species.
Thu, 11 September 2014
Sean Elliott joins us to talk about the origins of life and his upcoming Melbourne Fringe show, Rough Science: Life.
Wed, 3 September 2014
About ten years ago an entomologist at the University of Colorado found 250 forgotten boxes in a storage cupboard. Inside were 13,000 grasshopper specimens collected more than 40 years ago, which provide a fascinating insight into climate and other environmental changes in that time.
A chance observation has led to the discovery that the blood of certain abalone has antiviral properties, which could lead to better treatments for the herpes simplex virus.
The vitamin K injection at birth helps prevent newborn babies from severe intestinal or cerebral bleeding. A small but growing number of parents are declining the shot, and the anti-vaccination movement seems largely to blame.
Drilling through 800m of ice has enabled scientists to find the first solid evidence on life in a subglacial lake. Yes, there’s bacteria there too.
Giant panda Ai Hin has possibly demonstrated a learned behaviour - she pretended to be pregnant in order to get special treatment!
Sat, 30 August 2014
Mother turtles and their newly hatched babies talk to each other underwater, and scientists in Brazil have managed to record them.
Taking antibiotics to kill ‘bad’ bacteria can be a good idea, but such disruptions to the gut microbiome can have long-term consequences for our health, and could even be making us fat.
The widely held belief that magpies steal shiny objects seems to be myth-busted. Instead, they seem to avoid new objects regardless of shininess.
Analysis of bones from King Richard the Third reveal that the last King of England to die in battle lived the good life. The samples indicate the King drank up to a bottle of wine each day.
Fri, 22 August 2014
The Rosetta space probe has finally arrived and is currently in orbit around the comet 67P Churyumov-Gerasimenko! Rosetta is now officially the first spacecraft to rendezvous with a comet.
Sun, 10 August 2014
At our 150th episode celebration earlier this year, we were fortunate to have Dr. Krystal Evans address the audience to talk about science in Australia. Dr. Evans is a medical researcher at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute where she is working on Malaria treatment and developing a vaccine. She is a leading advocate for science and technology, and was a founding member and Chair of the Australian Academy of Science’s Early and Mid Career Researcher Forum. In this talk she looks at how Australia stacks up against the rest of the world - both in scientific accomplishments and in investment. She talks about ways to motivate scientists to engage with the public, and also how to encourage the public to take an interest in science. And she answers that burning question: just how much is Australian politics like going on a date with a homeopath?
Thu, 31 July 2014
Steve Nerlich from the Cheap Astronomy podcast gives us an update on the roller-coaster life of the ISEE-3 space probe. It was alive, then it died, then it was resurrected then it seemed dead but now it may be still alive again!
Paleontologists have discovered the fossilised remains of one of the world's first known predators that lived in the sea around 520 million years ago. The fossils were detailed enough to show some of the brain structures.
Researchers at UCLA have found eight types of electric bacteria - bacteria that eat and excrete electrons.
The Rosetta spacecraft is approaching its target, comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, and its latest photos reveal the comet to be, well, rubber-duckie shaped. The comet could be two bodies joined together, and this could make the planned deployment of a lander a bit complicated.
A well-preserved, complete fossil skeleton of the largest known microraptorine - a flying non-avian dinosaur - has been found in China. Called Changyuraptor yangi, the dinosaur was about 1.3 metres long and weighed 4kg. And it had four wings!
Scientists at Dartmouth College are looking at a parasite commonly found in cat poo, Toxoplasma gondii, in an attempt to develop a cancer vaccine. When infected by 'Toxo', the human body produces cytotoxic T cells that cancer would normally shut down.
And what happens when you put snakes in microgravity? In the ultimate Snakes On A Plane experiment, scientists found snakes either attack themselves or tie themselves in knots.
Sat, 26 July 2014
Twenty-seven months ago the "Mississippi Baby" stopped HIV treatment and was believed to be free of the virus. Unfortunately, that changed this month when test showed the virus is back. It had gone into hiding and the now four-year-old girl will face years, possibly her whole life, on antiretroviral therapy.
A scientist at a CDC research centre found a cardboard box containing six vials of the smallpox virus in a storage room. The vials are believed to have been left there since the 1950s, and there is always a possibility that there are other long-forgotten samples of the virus elsewhere.
A study of mice that attempted to replicate the Dutch Winter Hunger have found that stresses on a mother can have epigenetic effects, altering gene expressions across multiple generations.
When experimental stem cell therapies go wrong: an 18 year old paraplegic had stem cells from her nose placed in her spine as part of a trial. Eight years later, the cells had grown into a mass of nasal tissue containing a thick, mucous-like substance.
Neonicotinoids are a controversial class of insecticides widely used in agriculture, that have been linked to declining bee populations. A new study reveals that they may be doing more widespread harm than just bees, and insect-eating birds could be affected by the disruption in the food-chain.
Giant pandas, while technically belonging to the order Carnivora, almost exclusively eat bamboo. Bamboo is so nutritionally poor that researchers wondered how they survive. Turns out, they move around to different areas and eat bamboo in different stages of development.
Wed, 16 July 2014
We’re not comfortable being bored, according to a study published in the journal Science. The paper suggestedpeople would rather give themselves electric shocks than be left alone with their thoughts.
Where humans detect colours via three receptors in our eyes, the mantis shrimp have twelve. And a new study indicates six of those detect five different wavelengths of ultraviolet light. The mantis shrimp has adapted “nature’s sunscreens’ – mycosporine-like amino acids – and turned them into ultraviolet detectors.
Despite not having ears, plants can ‘hear’ the chomp of nearby caterpillars. Two researchers from University of Missouri noticed plants produced a pesticide chemical when they heard the sound of hungry, hungry caterpillars.
A common lichen in South America turns out to actually be 126 distinct species – and maybe more than 400. This highlights the difficulties involved in classifying and categorizing life, and the advances that modern gene technologies are bringing to taxonomy.
After a comprehensive study of the world’s oceans, oceanographers “can’t account for 99 percent of the plastic that we have in the ocean“. There are a few hypotheses to explain the missing plastic, but none are very conclusive. Also Illinois has now banned the sale of cosmetics containing plastic microbeads, which are too small to be filtered from waste-water and end up released into oceans and other large bodies of water.
Plucky Ukrainian astronomers have ‘adopted’ a star and given it a name that’s, well, somewhat insulting to Vladimir Putin.
Fri, 11 July 2014
The announcement earlier this year that the BICEP2 team had discovered gravitational waves is now mired in controversy. Dr. Alan Duffy joins us to explain why 'the biggest announcement' is now probably meaningless.
In 2012, Facebook manipulated the newsfeed of 689,003 users as part of a psychological experiment. The company claims it was able to alter the moods of some users, but the study's methodology and ethical concerns have drawn widespread criticism.
The electric eel - described by one researchers as "a 6-inch fish attached to a 5-1/2-foot cattle prod" - can deliver a powerful electric shock. Now, a study of its genome reveals this ability has evolved six separate times, in a remarkable example of convergent evolution.
Italy is about to send its first female astronaut to the International Space Station, and she'll be taking a special zero-gravity coffee machine with her.