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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 AEST

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 AEST

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 AEST

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 AEST

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 AEST

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 AEST