Science On Top
The Australian Podcast putting Science on Top of the agenda

Hosts: Ed Brown, Dr. Shayne Joseph, Penny Dumsday, Lucas Randall.

00:01:17 Have scientists really discovered a new continent under New Zealand? Well, sort of!

00:07:24 Bad body odour could be treated by a bacteria transplant from someone with less offensive armpits!

00:12:07 The malaria parasite could be making your blood attractive to mosquitoes.

00:15:11 By combining multiple datasets, astronomers have developed a more accurate idea about how fast our sun orbits the centre of our galaxy. It's pretty fast.

00:22:21 Many animals use echolocation to navigate, but the Vietnamese pygmy dormouse could be the first tree-climbing mammal that does.

 

This episode contains traces of TVNZ's news report about the continent Zealandia.

 

Direct download: SoT_0255.mp3
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Hosts: Ed Brown, Penny Dumsday, Lucas Randall.

00:01:06 New research has uncovered how and why frog tongues have developed to be extremely soft and super-sticky.

00:10:57 By studying the globular cluster 47 Tucanae, researchers have found more evidence of a hypothetical category of black holes. Smaller than supermassive black holes, but more massive than stellar black holes, intermediate-mass black holes have a mass between 100 and 10,000 times the mass of our sun.

00:14:43 When a baby-food company asked child psychologist Caspar Addyman to develop a song to make babies laugh and be happy, he took a scientific approach. Most music made for babies, he says, "sounds frankly deranged".

00:35:37 The Gaia spacecraft has found a 'bridge of stars' between the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds. The stream of stars connects the two dwarf galaxies and is over 43,000 light years long.

 

This episode contains traces of Professor Hans Rosling talking about world population growth. The Swedish academic and statistician died on 7 February 2017 of pancreatic cancer.

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Robin Ince is a celebrated writer and comedian best known for co-hosting The Infinite Monkey Cage, alongside Professor Brian Cox.

And he's touring Australia - with a number of fantastic UK scientists and comedians - in March and April 2017. Cosmic Shambles LIVE is a variety show that celebrates curiosity and reason, an explosion of science, comedy, music and general wonder, with a great sense of fun.

Part proceeds from the show will be going to charities like Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders).

Cosmic Shambles LIVE will be showing in:

Sydney: Tuesday 28th March 2017, 7:00pm
Enmore Theatre
118-132 Enmore Road, Newtown

Melbourne: Saturday 1st April, 7:00pm
Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre
1 Convention Centre Place, South Wharf

Perth: Thursday 13th April 2017, 7:00pm
Octagon Theatre, The University of Western Australia
35 Stirling Highway, Crawley

Head to http://atheistfoundation.org.au/cosmicshambleslive/ to book your tickets now!

Direct download: SoT_Special_020_Robin_Ince.mp3
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Hosts: Ed Brown, Dr. Shayne Joseph, Penny Dumsday, Lucas Randall.

00:00:45 Help support the show!

00:01:58 Another theory for Tabby's Star - still not aliens.

00:15:47 The bacteria in babies' guts may end up the same no matter how they were delivered.

00:21:21 Could a brief spike of oxygen in Earth's atmosphere 2.3 billion years ago have been a "false start" for complex life?

00:26:47 DNA is usually made up of G, A, T and C. But scientists in the US have modified bacteria to use two new molecules - X and Y!

 

This episode contains traces of Colin Jost announcing the results of a study into sleeping patterns, on Saturday Night Live's Weekend Update, February 04 2017.

Direct download: SoT_0253_Ed.mp3
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Hosts: Ed Brown, Dr. Shayne Joseph, Lucas Randall, Jo Benhamu

00:02:28 Explainer: gravitational waves and why their discovery is such a big deal

00:07:42 One Year Ago Today, Pluto Became a World.

00:12:19 The Most Mysterious Star in the Galaxy

00:18:01 One drug is 'new hope' for three killer infections

00:21:37 FDA bans antibacterial soaps containing triclosan

00:25:48 Using a Dyson hand dryer is like setting off a viral bomb in a bathroom

00:32:42 A Blood Test To Determine When Antibiotics Are Warranted

00:37:13 Clones no more as a secret population of Tasmanian devils discovered

00:39:58 Tasmanian devils are evolving rapidly to fight their deadly cancer

 

Jo Benhamu is a clinical trials coordinator in radiation oncology.

Direct download: SoT_0252_-_Ed.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:03pm AEDT

Hosts: Ed Brown, Dr. Shayne Joseph, Penny Dumsday, Lucas Randall.

00:00:58 By looking at astronomical records from 720 BC to AD 2015, researchers have found a small inaccuracy in modern calculations of the Earth's rotational speed. The Earth's spin is slowing down slightly slower than we thought.

00:11:44 A small section of a dinosaur's tail has been found in a piece of amber for sale in a market in Myanmar. The tail is amazingly well preserved - and feathered!

00:17:31 Nuclear fusion - as opposed to our current nuclear reactors, which use nuclear fission - is the 'holy grail' of physics research. It could provide near limitless energy, without toxic by-products. Now the Wendelstein 7-X project in Germany appears to be making progress, successfully trapping plasma in a magnetic cage.

00:29:39 A small study at Johns Hopkins University could give cancer patients suffering from depression and anxiety some hope. It suggests that just a single dose of magic mushrooms can improve their mental health for months.

 

This episode contains traces of the Today Show talking about a Christmas tree.

Direct download: SoT_0251.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:39pm AEDT

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

00:00:50 For a long time, vision problems have been a known side-effect of spending a long time in space. We are now a big step closer to understanding why, thanks to some MRI scans done before and after trips to the International Space Station.

00:08:15 The male of the duck-billed platypus has a venomous spurr on its leg. But that venom contains a hormone that could be useful for treating diabetes.

00:13:42 A new study by researchers at Caltech suggests that we could be looking for the cause of Parkinson's Disease in the wrong place. Instead of being a brain issue, it could be related to gut irritation.

 

This episode contains traces of Wil Anderson talking with journalist Mark Colvin.

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Hosts: Ed Brown, Penny Dumsday, Lucas Randall

00:00:51 Scientists have drilled into the impact site of the meteor that wiped out the dinosaurs. The core samples have revealed the impact caused a temporary mountain range the size of the Himalayas.

00:11:16 At a time when the coconut market is booming, the world's coconut trees could be facing extinction. And saving them presents a number of difficult challenges.

00:14:58 Researchers using NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter have determined that frozen beneath a particular region of Mars's surface lies about as much water as what's in Lake Superior, largest of the Great Lakes in North America.

00:19:56 Most snail shells coil on the right-hand side of the snail. But Jeremy the Snail is 1 in 100,000 - his shell coils to the left. For snails, it's hard to find love when you're a lefty.

 

This episode contains archive material of astronaut John Glenn's historic first orbit around the Earth.

Direct download: SoT_0249.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:45am AEDT

Hosts: Ed Brown, Dr. Shayne Joseph, Penny Dumsday, Lucas Randall

00:01:03 Narwhals are whales with two teeth, and on the males one of those teeth is a really long tusk. A new study looks at how they use high-resolution echolocation to navigate under sea ice in the Arctic.

00:05:25 A new paper points out a potential new reservoir for finding antibiotics - the human gut.

00:11:59 Using data from the New Horizons probe, scientists have determined there is likely to be a large ocean deep below the heart shape on Pluto.

 

This episode contains traces of Stephen Hawking cautioning against being sedentary.

Direct download: SoT_0248.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:25am AEDT

Hosts: Ed Brown, Penny Dumsday, Lucas Randall.

00:01:28 An extensive series of experiments over 17 years has led to the development of a new genetic map of yeast. Essentially, it's a reference guide for how to chart genetic interactions within a cell.

00:07:33 A new study of the Hubble Space Telescope observations has increased the estimated number of galaxies in the universe. The new count stands at two trillion - almost ten times the previous estimate of 120 billion!

00:15:02 NASA has announced that the successor to the Hubble, the James Webb Space Telescope, has been built. This marks the beginning of two years of intense stressing and testing, before launch in October 2018.

00:18:32 A new study suggests that Britain's Beagle 2 Mars lander may have landed successfully, but a subsequent failure made it unable to communicate with Earth.

00:19:41 A team at University of California, San Diego say they've discovered a previously unknown way that bacteria causes acne. They have shown that fatty acids produced by the bacteria inflame the skin cells.

00:23:12 Last week's 'supermoon' received a lot of excited press coverage around the world. Lucas thinks it may have been a bit overhyped.

 

This episode may contain traces of Senator Bernie Sanders talking Trump and climate change on The View, 14 November 2016.

Direct download: SoT_0247.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:20pm AEDT

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.

Direct download: SoT_0246.mp3
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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.

Direct download: SoT_0245.mp3
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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.

Direct download: SoT_0244.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:09pm AEDT

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.

Direct download: SoT_0243.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:06pm AEDT

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.

Direct download: SoT_0242.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:02am AEDT

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.

 

Direct download: SoT_0241.mp3
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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.

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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.

  

This episode may contain traces of veteran newsreader Lee Lin Chin opining on the lack of Facebook love for Australia's premier scientific organisation, the CSIRO.

Direct download: SoT_0239.mp3
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00:00:50 Olympic athletes are using suction cups to suck their skin up into a cup. But is there any science to cupping? (Spoiler: not much, but some. Well, sort of.)

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.

Direct download: SoT_0238.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:50pm AEDT

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.

 

This episode may contain traces of newly elected Australian Senator Malcolm Roberts and his thoughts on carbon dioxide.

Direct download: SoT_0237.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:46am AEDT

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.

Direct download: SoT_0236.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:07am AEDT

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.

 

This episode contains traces of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton discussing climate change.

Direct download: SoT_0235.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:35pm AEDT

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.

 

Direct download: SoT_0234.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:14pm AEDT

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.

 

Direct download: SoT_0233.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:39pm AEDT

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.

 

Direct download: SoT_0232.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:04pm AEDT

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.

 

Direct download: SoT_0231.mp3
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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.

 

Direct download: SoT_0230.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:43pm AEDT

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.

Direct download: SoT_0229.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:01pm AEDT

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.

Direct download: SoT_0228.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:17pm AEDT

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.

Direct download: SoT_0227.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:41pm AEDT

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.

Direct download: SoT_0226.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:30pm AEDT

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.

Direct download: SoT_0225.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:37pm AEDT

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.

Direct download: SoT_0224.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:17pm AEDT

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.

Direct download: SoT_0223.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:56pm AEDT

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.

Direct download: SoT_0222.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:49pm AEDT

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.

Direct download: SoT_0221.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:08pm AEDT

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 AEDT

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 AEDT

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 AEDT

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 AEDT

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 AEDT

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 AEDT

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 AEDT

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 AEDT

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 AEDT

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 AEDT

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.

Direct download: Blooeprs_2015_Announce.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:19pm AEDT

Our top stories of the year.

Good science:

Eighty children get chickenpox at Brunswick North West Primary, a school that calls for 'tolerance' of vaccine dodgers

The Vaccine Lunacy - Disneyland, Measles and Madness

NASA is now "pretty sure" those weird white patches on Ceres are salt

Earth Stole Water and More from the Young Moon

New Horizons: Pluto may have ice volcanoes

Stem cell treatment halts MS progression in 91% of patients

A Vomiting Machine Shows How Viruses Spread in Puke

Children exposed to 4 key bacteria are less likely to develop asthma, study finds

Viruses join fight against harmful bacteria

Bad science:

No woman 'totally straight', study says

No need for men to get flush-faced about faeces in beards

So processed meat has been classified as carcinogenic. Here’s what you need to know.

Flawed study overstates link between fluoride and ill health: experts

Direct download: SoT_0211.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:54pm AEDT

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.

Direct download: SoT_0210.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:47pm AEDT

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.

Direct download: SoT_0209.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:34am AEDT

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

Direct download: SoT_0208.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:57pm AEDT

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.

Direct download: SoT_0207.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:05am AEDT

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.

Direct download: SoT_0206.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:41pm AEDT

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.

 

Direct download: SoT_0205.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:33pm AEDT

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.

Direct download: SoT_0204.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:50pm AEDT

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!

Direct download: SoT_0203.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:50pm AEDT

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!

Direct download: SoT_0202.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:22am AEDT

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)".

Direct download: SoT_0201.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:22pm AEDT

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.

Direct download: SoT_0200.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:52pm AEDT

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!

Direct download: SoT_0199.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:06pm AEDT

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.

Direct download: SoT_0198.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:39pm AEDT

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.

Direct download: SoT_0197.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:48pm AEDT

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!

Direct download: SoT_0196.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:42pm AEDT

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.

Further information:

Mike's New Horizons To Pluto blog

New Pluto Images Reveal a Planet That's Stunningly Alive

New Horizons Close-Up of Charon’s ‘Mountain in a Moat’

Charon’s Surprising, Youthful and Varied Terrain

Pluto's heart named 'Tombaugh Regio' in celebration of dwarf planet's discovery

New Horizons Reveals Pluto’s Extended Atmosphere00:35:12 First maps of Charon and Pluto

First maps of Charon and Pluto

Direct download: SoT_0195.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:17pm AEDT

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)

Direct download: SoT_0194.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:21pm AEDT

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.

Direct download: SoT_0193.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:02pm AEDT

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.

Direct download: SoT_0192.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:11pm AEDT

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”.

Direct download: SoT_0191.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:45pm AEDT

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.

Direct download: SoT_0190.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:18am AEDT

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.

Direct download: SoT_0189.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:23pm AEDT

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.

Direct download: SoT_0188.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:03pm AEDT

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.

Direct download: SoT_0187.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:03am AEDT

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.

Direct download: SoT_0186.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:19am AEDT

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.

Direct download: SoT_0185.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:17pm AEDT

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.

Direct download: SoT_0184.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:13am AEDT

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.


New observations suggest that while the universe is still expanding, and that expansion is accelerating, it might not be accelerating as fast as previously thought.


The Large Hadron Collider has been restarted after numerous upgrades have been installed.


Many people use paracetamol, or acetaminophen, as a painkiller for chronic lower back pain. But new research indicates it's ineffective for back pain or osteoarthritis. And it could be doing more harm than good.


A new analysis of photographs of Jupiter's moon Ganymede has found a 'bulge' on the largest moon in the solar system. The bulge is 3km high and hundreds of kilometres wide!

Direct download: SoT_0183.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:53am AEDT

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.

Direct download: SoT_0182.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:18am AEDT

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.

Direct download: SoT_0181.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:24am AEDT

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.

Direct download: SoT_0180.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:03am AEDT

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.

Direct download: SoT_0179.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:05am AEDT

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.

Direct download: SoT_0178.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:29pm AEDT

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.

Direct download: SoT_0177.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:40am AEDT

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?

Direct download: SoT_0176.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:21am AEDT

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.
Scientists from the University of California, Los Angeles, have discovered fossilised remains of bacteria from 1.8 billion years ago that, when compared to modern bacteria, doesn't appear to have evolved in that time.
Many creatures can sever part of their tails, or their legs or other body parts when in danger. Some scorpions can break off part of their tails, but that creates some significant problems.
Scientists in New Zealand have found a 'slippery zone' - a transition zone between the tectonic plates and the upper mantle. This discovery could provide new clues into the mechanics of plate tectonics.
Halting the spread of Australia's notorious cane toad could be as simple as fencing-off water dams, according to a paper published in the Journal of Applied Ecology.

Direct download: SoT_0175.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:45am AEDT

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.

Direct download: SoT_0174.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:59pm AEDT

SoT Special 17: Dr. Karl Kruszelnicki
http://scienceontop.com/Special17

Dr. Karl is one of Australia's best known science communicators. He is the author of 36 popular science books, appears regularly on radio in Australia and the UK, and he is the Julius Sumner Miller Fellow in the Science Foundation for Physics at the University of Sydney.
Ed sat down with Dr. Karl in December, shortly after the National Skeptics Convention where Karl was a speaker. Together they discussed climate change, science coverage in the media, dealing with denialists on Twitter, a man who can hear what you say before he sees your lips moving, a rare cure for cancer, Alan Turing and the Apple logo, and the origins of the term 'selfie'.

http://scienceontop.com/Special17

Direct download: SoT_Special_017_-_Dr_Karl.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:43pm AEDT

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!

Direct download: 2014_Bloopers_Announce.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:15pm AEDT

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
Microbiology
Retracted STAP study
Comet landing
Viruses
Other
Direct download: SoT_0173.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:24pm AEDT

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.
One of the most common minerals on our planet finally has a name. We've known Brigmanite exists for a long time, but it was a surprising source that gave scientists the opportunity to study it up close.
The New Horizons spacecraft has just been successfully woken up, and is on track to giving us our first up-close look at Dwarf Planet Pluto next year.
And the Dawn space probe has just taken its first low quality photo of minor planet Ceres, the largest object in the main asteroid belt. Dawn is expected to arrive at Ceres in early 2015.
Traditional forensic DNA tests can't tell the difference between identical twins, but a new test may change that. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for early next year to determine whether evidence from the test is admissible in US Courts.
A three-year-old child died and several young children fell ill in Victoria, Australia after drinking raw milk. We discuss why unpasteurised milk is legally sold in Australia as 'bath milk' and why some people choose to drink it.

Direct download: SoT_0172.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:04pm AEDT

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.
NASA's test launch and flight of the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle was a success. This was an important step in an ambitious plan to send astronauts to an asteroid and then perhaps send astronauts to Mars.
Biologists at Santa Fe College in Florida have found that our desire to drink alcohol, and our ability to break down the ethanol, dates back about 10 million years.
Blood plasma from Ebola survivors contains antibodies that might trigger an immune system response in patients, a bit like a vaccine. This week the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced that early next year it plans to begin clinical trials in Guinea to test if such blood transfusions are effective.
Researchers from North Dakota State University have used Fructose to make a new type of plastic that breaks down completely after just three hours of UV light exposure. It can then be fully recycled.

Direct download: SoT_0171.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:37pm AEDT

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.

Direct download: SoT_Special_015_-_Curiosity_Show.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:51am AEDT

More details on Philae's rough landings, and the future of the first probe to land on a cometProfessor Monica Grady's reaction to the landing, the sound of the landing, and the comet 'sings'.
When a pair of scientists found their experiment contaminated from the DNA Isolation kits they were using, they set out to see if other experiments were similarly contaminated.
Researchers at Australia's James Cook University have discovered tiny zircon crystals on Vanuatu. But surprisingly, they seem to have originally come from Australia.
Scientists have descended into one of the three mysterious craters that have formed this year in Siberia, onto a frozen lake. The most likely explanation for the craters is a "catastrophic destabilization of Arctic methane stores due to human-caused warming".

Direct download: SoT_0170.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:07pm AEDT

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.
Scientists from University of Bern in Switzerland have developed a new approach to the treatment of severe bacterial infections without the use of antibiotics.
The prestigious Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books has been awarded to Mark Miodownik, author of Stuff Matters. The book is an enthralling account of Mark's love of material science, and the extraordinary properties of the materials in our everyday lives.
Cornell University’s Ruth Ley and her colleagues have identified one bacterial taxon, the family Christensenellaceae, as the most highly heritable group of microbes in the human gut.
And for the first time ever, humans have landed a probe on a comet moving at 50,000kph.

Direct download: SoT_0169.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:04pm AEDT

A team of bioengineers is trying to make artificial milk in a lab and without animals. They call it "Muufri".
In order to study penguins up close, without disturbing them, researchers from Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique used small baby-penguin sized rovers. The rover - cleverly disguised as a penguin - was able to monitor penguins and even quick-tempered elephant seals without alarming the animals.
A man who had brain surgery for a serious medical condition unexpectedly found his arachnophobia cured.
It was a bad week for commercial spaceflight, after Orbital Sciences' Antares rocket exploded seconds after launch and then Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo broke apart during a test flight.

Direct download: SoT_0168.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:20am AEDT

Virologist Dr. Grant Hill-Cawthorne joins us to discuss Ebola. Everything you need to know about the current outbreak.
Researchers in Florida have noticed than in just fifteen years a particular species of lizard has grown larger, stickier feet as an evolutionary response to an invading Cuban lizard.
In the lead up to the attempted landing of Philae on a comet in a few weeks, the Rosetta probe has taken some readings. And now we know what a comet smells like, and it's not pretty.
A man with a completely severed spinal cord can now walk again, thanks to a revolutionary surgery using stem cells taken from his nose.

Direct download: SoT_0167.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:33pm AEDT

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.
The microbes in our guts have their own body clocks, and they too get messed up when we get jetlagged.
The giant kangaroos that used to roam the Australian continent were three times the size of their modern descendants. And new research shows they used to walk, rather than hop.
NASA's Messenger spacecraft has provided the first optical images of ice on the planet Mercury.
Mimas, one of the smaller moons of Saturn, may have an ocean of liquid water beneath its surface, after pictures taken by Cassini show an extra wobble in its rotation.

Direct download: SoT_0166-01.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:55pm AEDT

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.

Direct download: SoT_0165.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:39am AEDT

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".
The Nobel Prize in Physics 2014 was awarded jointly to Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano and Shuji Nakamura "for the invention of efficient blue light-emitting diodes which has enabled bright and energy-saving white light sources".
The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2014 was awarded jointly to Eric Betzig, Stefan W. Hell and William E. Moerner "for the development of super-resolved fluorescence microscopy".
A team of scientists took soil samples at 596 sites across New York’s Central Park. They analysed the soil samples an discovered 167,000 different kinds of microbes, the vast majority of which were unknown to science.
The characteristics of a previous mate can affect the attributes of a fruit fly's offspring. Even if the previous mate is not the genetic father of the offspring.
Researchers at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina are developing artificial penises developed from a patient's own cells. The team is hoping to receive approval from the US FDA to begin human testing the lab-grown penises within five years.

Direct download: SoT_0164.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:39pm AEDT

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 banana peels to people dressed as polar bears!

PHYSICS PRIZE
A team from Japan for measuring the amount of friction between a shoe and a banana skin, and between a banana skin and the floor, when a person steps on a banana skin that's on the floor.
Banana peel slipperiness wins IgNobel prize in physics

NEUROSCIENCE PRIZE
Scientists from China and Canada for trying to understand what happens in the brains of people who see the face of Jesus in a piece of toast.
University Of Toronto Researchers Find ‘Seeing Jesus In Toast’ Phenomenon Perfectly Normal

PSYCHOLOGY PRIZE
A team from Australia, the UK and the US for amassing evidence that people who habitually stay up late are, on average, more self-admiring, more manipulative, and more psychopathic than people who habitually arise early in the morning.
THE DARK TRIAD: People Who Love The Night Have Psychopathic Traits

PUBLIC HEALTH PRIZE
A number of scientists from the Czech Republic, Japan, the USA and India for investigating whether it is mentally hazardous for a human being to own a cat. Turns out it can be, if you get infected with our old friend Toxoplasma Gondii.
Parasite makes men dumb, women sexy

BIOLOGY PRIZE
A team from the Czech Republic, Germany and Zambia for carefully documenting that when dogs defecate and urinate, they prefer to align their body axis with Earth's north-south geomagnetic field lines.
Dogs align their bodies along a North-South axis when they poop
Do Dogs Line Themselves Up With the Earth’s Magnetic Field to Poop?

ART PRIZE
Three scientists from Italy, for measuring the relative pain people suffer while looking at an ugly painting, rather than a pretty painting, while being shot [in the hand] by a powerful laser beam.
ITALY: Beautiful art eases pain

ECONOMICS PRIZE
ISTAT — the Italian government's National Institute of Statistics, for proudly taking the lead in fulfilling the European Union mandate for each country to increase the official size of its national economy by including revenues from prostitution, illegal drug sales, smuggling, and all other unlawful financial transactions between willing participants.
In Italy, prostitutes and illegal drugs could shrink the deficit

MEDICINE PRIZE
A team from the USA and India for treating "uncontrollable" nosebleeds, using the method of nasal-packing-with-strips-of-cured-pork.
The Bacon Tampon: Doctors Find Salt Pork Stops Nosebleeds

ARCTIC SCIENCE PRIZE
Scientists from Norway, Germany, USA and Canada for testing how reindeer react to seeing humans who are disguised as polar bears.
Svalbard Reindeer: Thriving Again on the Tundra

NUTRITION PRIZE
Scientists in Spain for their study titled "Characterization of Lactic Acid Bacteria Isolated from Infant Faeces as Potential Probiotic Starter Cultures for Fermented Sausages."
Pooperoni? Baby-Poop Bacteria Help Make Healthy Sausages

Direct download: SoT_0163.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:24pm AEDT

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.
A study of Spinosaurus bones has determined the sail-backed dinosaur had adaptations to make it better suited to swimming than running. This study suggests that Spinosaurus may have been the only known swimming dinosaur. And plesiosaurs and icthyosaurs were technically not dinosaurs. Neither were pterodactyls. In fact Everything You Were Taught As a Child About Dinosaurs Is Wrong.
A very small number of people who get the flu vaccine still get the flu. And while there are a number of factors that could be responsible for this, a team of immunologists suggests one important factor could be the gut microbiome.
The standard medical advice for patients with back pain wanting to have sex is to try spooning. But the first ever scientific experiment on the matter has shown that advice could be very wrong.

Direct download: SoT_0162.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:34am AEDT