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

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
Category:general -- posted at: 6:21pm AEDT

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