Fri, 27 December 2013
Ed, Shayne, Lucas and Dyani look back on the big science stories from 2013. From pubic lice to meteor impacts, crowd-funding to HIV cures, we revisit some of our favourite news items.
For all the stories we mention, check out the show notes for this episode at scienceontop.com/130
Tue, 17 December 2013
Comet ISON was billed as the "Comet of a Lifetime", but was more fizzle than sizzle. But even though it burned up in the sun, it's mysterious approach could give astronomers valuable insights into comet behaviour.
An amazing result from a mice experiment in Atlanta suggests mice can 'inherit' memories from their fathers, and even their grandfathers.
Researchers have successfully sequenced the oldest known human DNA - 400,000 years old - and uncovered further mystery about human ancestory.
The male contraceptive pill could be a step closer thanks to an unusual approach taken by Australian scientists. Instead of looking at hormonally controlling sperm production, they are looking at controlling the release of sperm at orgasm.
China has launched Chang'E 3, a probe with a rover set to land on the Moon. If successful, China will be the third country ever to land a craft on the moon.
Fri, 13 December 2013
Jo Benhamu joins us to talk about a new trial she's conducting to improve radiotherapy for prostate cancer.
More progress resurrecting the extinct gastric brooding frog.
Scientists in Spain have received funding to test whether an extinct mountain goat can be cloned from preserved cells.
The temperature of the lab could potentially skew results of mice-studies. The mouse immune system is stronger at warmer temperatures than most labs are kept at.
NASA has plans to send plants to the moon, to grow in a 3D printed miniature greenhouse.
We pay tribute to Frederick Sanger, a two-time Nobel Prize winner and the 'father of genomics'.
Direct download: SoT_0128.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 9:16pm AEDT
Sun, 8 December 2013
Launch of the MAVEN probe to Mars, to investigate what happened to the red planet's atmosphere.
Richard Lenski's long-term evolution experiment shows no sign of stopping. One of the longest continously-running scientific experiments demonstrates that bacteria evolves and at an increasing rate.
The 'clean-rooms' where spacecraft are built are the most sterile places we can make. But a new species of bacteria has been found in two such clean-rooms - not exactly thriving, but not dead either...
It's well established that modern dogs are an evolutionary off-shoot of wolves, but there's a lot of debate about when and where they branched off. With theories suggesting China, Europe and the Middle East as being the sites of the separation, it's an ongoing question.
Mon, 25 November 2013
Blinky the crab is a mutant freak. It has three eyes instead of two, and an antenna-like structure on its head. But the reasons for Blinky's deformities are a bit of a mystery.
Researchers have linked specific human actions to changes in global warming. They found warming slowed down in the nineties, which they believe can be partly explained by the 1987 ban on CFCs. They also found that warming slowed during the Great Depression.
New-born babies deliberately suppress their own immune systems to allow beneficial microbes to colonise their gut.
Asteroids 'dead' rocks in space. But recent images have shown one to have tails - six of them!
A fossil of a 'coupling' 165m years ago shows two insects loving each other in a very special way. The fossil seems to indicate that the genitals of modern froghoppers are the same as their ancestors', but their favourite sexual position may have changed.
Tue, 19 November 2013
The RAVE (Radial Velocity Experiment) study finds that our galaxy, the Milky Way, is fluttering like a flag. Sort of wobbling.
From the 1960s to the 1990s, adult elphants were culled extensively in South Africa. It was feared that if there were too many elephants they would destroy the habitat. A recent study of the young elephants that were spared shows substantial social and psychological trauma, decades later.
Astronomers have crunched some heavy maths and statistically, there could be as many as 20 billion Earth-like exoplanets in our galaxy.
A study of tail-wagging dogs finds that a dog's heart rate and anxiety levels increase when it sees another dog wagging its tail to the left.
With India's successful launch of the Mangalyaan probe to Mars, some people are suggesting this could be the beginning of an India-China 'Asian space race'. Others are criticising the AU$77m project in light of India's widespread poverty.
Wed, 13 November 2013
Name The Virus is a crowdfunding initiative to develop new viral vectors to help understand the brain and its disease.
A species of South African dung beetle has given up the ability to fly to instead gallop across the sand grasping bits of poo.
Why do some people have blue eyes, or big noses, or wide mouths? Some regions of the genome previously thought of as 'junk DNA' control the activity of genes for facial features.
The practice of recording bird calls and replaying them to lure birds into view is frowned upon by many bird-watchers, but some people still do it. A new study shows that it can stress birds out and harm them.
The strains of human papillomavirus that most commonly affect black women are different from those targeted by the HPV vaccine.
Tue, 5 November 2013
A new study shows that while the brain is asleep, it washes away buildups of wastes and toxins.
In the early 90s, about 60,000 jellyfish were born in space. When they came back to Earth, things didn't quite work out.
A test of alleged yeti samples uncovers an extinct polar bear/brown bear hybrid.
A new law of biology: all mammals pee for about 21 seconds. Yes, a team of scientists walked around a zoo with a stopwatch.
A new strain of Clostridium botulinum, the bacteria that produces one of the deadliest neurotoxins we know of, has been discovered. Researchers have taken the unusual precaution of whithholding key details of the bacteria's genome.
Sun, 27 October 2013
The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2013 was awarded jointly to James E. Rothman, Randy W. Schekman and Thomas C. Südhof ”for their discoveries of machinery regulating vesicle traffic, a major transport system in our cells”.
The Nobel Prize in Physics 2013 was awarded jointly to François Englert and Peter W. Higgs “for the theoretical discovery of a mechanism that contributes to our understanding of the origin of mass of subatomic particles, and which recently was confirmed through the discovery of the predicted fundamental particle, by the ATLAS and CMS experiments at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider”.
The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2013 was awarded jointly to Martin Karplus, Michael Levitt and Arieh Warshel ”for the development of multiscale models for complex chemical systems”.
A new study shows that even without training, elephants can understand pointing.
A protein found in the venom of the Chinese red headed centipede could be a total painkiller.
Mon, 21 October 2013
In rutting season, stags roar a lot. Deep roars - the deeper the better for warding off competition. And that could have something to do with the human larynx, which is lower than most other animals. It could also explain why Barry White's voice is so popular with women.
New research from the UK shows that diesel fumes are confusing bees and preventing them from finding flowers. But the fumes aren't affecting the bees directly, rather they change the smell of flowers.
A study of ballerinas suggests that with extensive training they change their brains to allow them to spin without being sick.
South Korean scientists have engineered bacteria that produce short-chain alkanes, key components of gasoline.
Thu, 10 October 2013
Researchers have discovered the mechanism behind the link between blue-green algae and ALS, a type of motor neuron disease also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. Dr. Rachael Dunlop is lead author of the paper, and she joins us to talk algae, Guam, fruit bats and General "Stormin' Norman" Schwarzkopf.
The foramen magnum is the hole in the base of your skull that the spinal cord passes through on its way to the brain. But it's position can tell a lot about how you - and your ancestors - walked.
Bacteria can absorb fragments of DNA from the environment around them. This ability could be a previously ignored mechanism of evolution.
A company in the UK has developed a plant that produces both tomatoes AND potatoes. So of course, they’ve called it the "TomTato".
Tue, 1 October 2013
A new form of exposure therapy could treat people's phobias - while they sleep.
Can pasta make you drunk? A case study of a man with auto-brewery syndrome.
Curiosity rover finds much less methane than expected, crushing hopes of finding life on Mars.
A British team claims to have found evidence of extra-terrestrial life. They haven't.
The life story of a blue whale has been mapped, with information from an unlikely source.
Thu, 26 September 2013
JOINT PRIZE IN BIOLOGY AND ASTRONOMY
SAFETY ENGINEERING PRIZE
PUBLIC HEALTH PRIZE
Sat, 21 September 2013
On Friday 13 September 2013, Dr. Pamela Gay gave a talk at Swinburne University in Melbourne, Australia about CosmoQuest.org and the need for citizen science. There were also some questions about black holes and supernovae.
Our thanks to Swinburne University for hosting this lecture, and our apologies for the audio quality.
Wed, 11 September 2013
Fish expert Phil Kent joins us to talk more about the pacu, the alleged testicle-eating fish allegedly found off the alleged coast of Denmark.
University of Washington researchers have sent a signal from one scientist's brain over the internet to control the hand motions of another researcher. The NSA is paying close attention.
NASA has discovered one of the largest canyons in the world underneath the ice sheet that covers most of Greenland. The ice sheet is 3km thick in some parts, and scientists are surprised it hasn't worn away the canyon that was carved out four million years ago.
The conventional understanding that babies are born sterile is being overturned in the face of growing evidence that mothers 'seed' their fetuses with bacteria from early on in the pregnancy.
Babies can learn words while in the womb, and can remember those words after being born. By monitoring the brain waves of newborns, scientists have discovered the babies recognised 'pseudowords' they heard in the womb.
A fish experiment suggests that leadership is an innate quality. 'Leader' fish could be taught to follow other fish, but 'follower' fish struggled to become leaders. Fish have more personality than you might think.
Thu, 5 September 2013
In a town with no previously recorded earthquakes, more than a hundred were recorded in one year. It's thought they were triggered by the disposal of waste water from fracking.
A new world record has been set for the smallest sequenced genome, and it belongs to a symbiotic bacteria living in leafhoppers.
Mother gibbons teach their daughters to sing, using a kind of 'baby talk'.
And ancient 'bog body' has been found with the skin intact. The body may be that of a king, killed in a ritual sacrifice. Because axes.
'Chronic excreters' could be the big obstacle preventing the global eradication of Polio.
A scientist jokes about a testicle-eating fish, and cable news anchors panic. And giggle.
Mon, 26 August 2013
Mighty Maggots v Flesh Nom Bugs was a Pozible campaign that raised $9,970 for a trial. The trial aims to assess the ability of maggots to improve the rate of healing for people with Bairnsdale Ulcer lesions.
A new malaria vaccine has a 100% success rate in a small study. While promising, there are a lot of obstacles that need to be dealt with before this could be a viable Real World treatment.
The Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) has admitted that radioactive water has been leaking from the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant into the Pacific Ocean.
A material inspired by the cactus plant cleans tiny particles of oil from water.
100,000 adventurous people have signed up for a one-way trip to Mars. But did they read the timeline before signing on the dotted line?
Sun, 18 August 2013
Scientists have made "teeth-like structures" from stem cells generated from urine.
Mark Post, a Dutch researcher has made a hamburger from cow muscle grown in a lab. The Cultured Beef was cooked at a PR event in London and tastes "close to meat".
Brochosomes are tiny 'soccer-ball' structures secreted by leafhoppers that protect them from rain, spider silk and... their own waste.
A new technique developed by the CSIRO uses X-Rays to find gold in ore samples.
Fewer boys than girls were born in the months after the huge earthquake struck Japan in March 2011.
Sun, 11 August 2013
Dr. Pamela Gay is an astronomer and assistant research professor at Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville. She is the co-host of AstronomyCast, one of the longest running astronomy podcasts and Project Director for CosmoQuest.org. CosmoQuest is a non-profit organisation trying to engage people in both learning and doing science.
In this conversation we talk about her research on variable stars, as well as her involvement in citizen science and amateur astronomy. We discuss science education and funding, how AstronomyCast began and Pamela's inspirations.
You can find Pamela at her blog, StarStryder.com
You can learn more about CosmoQuest at CosmoQuest.org
You can listen to AstronomyCast at AstronomyCast.com
Wed, 7 August 2013
It was thought that the many eyes on a peacock's tail feathers were what impressed peahens. But a new - and really cool! - study suggests that when it comes to wooing peahens, size does matter. It's not the number of the eyes, but the width of the tail.
Do dolphins use names? Well, sort of. They may use names to refer to themselves, but we don't know if they use names to refer to each other.
Scientists at MIT have developed a technique to insert false memories into mice.
Three new studies have uncovered the genetic mechanism which controls regeneration in flatworms.
Researchers at the University of Tokyo say they have created electronics thin and flexible enough to be considered “imperceptible.” Their first prototype, a touch sensor, is 30 times lighter than printer paper and one-fifth the thickness of sandwich wrap.
Wed, 31 July 2013
The iKnife knows when it's cutting through healthy tissue or cancerous tissue during surgery. In 91 tests, it correctly identified the tissue every time, and in less than a second.
Chimpanzees and orangutans can use 'autobiographical memory' - previously thought to be unique to humans. In a series of tests, the apes were able to accurately recall an event that happened three years prior.
Genetecists may have found a way to switch off the rogue chromosome that causes Down's syndrome.
The discovery of two giant viruses could mean an entirely new kingdom of life. More than 93% of their genes are unknown and not on any existing database.
Robert Hooke's Micrographia is available as a free e-book thanks to Project Gutenberg. Also check the Wikipedia page.
The 2013 NZ Skeptics Conference will be held in Wellington from the 6th to the 8th of September. Great speakers like astronomer Dr. Pamela Gay, climate scientist Professor Martin Manning, microbiologist Dr. Siouxsie Wiles and many more.
Tue, 23 July 2013
The Kepler spacecraft has found 134 confirmed planets outside our solar system and another 3,277 unconfirmed candidates. But has its time run out? NASA scientists are planning one last ditch effort to rescue the space telescope.
Meanwhile Hubble has analysed a planet 63 light years away and found it's a deep blue colour! Also, it's big and moving really really fast.
Lucas has found a gravity simulator that lets you build solar systems and watch as objects of different mass interact. It's mesmerising!
A look back at some old Hubble photographs led planetary astronomer Mike Showalter to discover a new moon orbiting Neptune.
The planarian is a simple flatworm, which can regrow its head after decapitation. But a recent experiment suggests they might be able to keep their memories from before the decapitation!
Wed, 17 July 2013
Human head transplants - technically maybe, but not really.
Did scientists create a human liver from stem cells? Sort of, but not really.
A bone marrow transplant cures two men of HIV - actually yes, but don't get your hopes up.
Beware the toad with the weaponised moustache!
Guillemot eggs clean themselves.
Pluto's moons get official names, snubbing Stephen Colbert.
Wed, 10 July 2013
Shockwave from Russian meteor circled the globe twice
Russian rocket crashes shortly after launch
Global warming could be helping the spread of brain-eating amoebas
Why routine autopsies should be the norm, not the exception
A corn-eating pest thwarts farmers, but the bacteria makes them do it
Scientists have sequenced the genome of an ancient horse
Dopamine: why chocolate brownies are like cocaine
Torch that runs on body heat invented by 15-year-old
Mon, 1 July 2013
Why naked mole rats don’t get cancer
Thinking of home makes it harder to learn a foreign language
Your vegetables are 'alive' up to a week after harvest
Being bitten by a komodo dragon: not as bad as you thought, but still pretty bad
Unlocking the parasitic secrets of 822 year old poo
Unsurprisingly, 1 billion-year-old water tastes "terrible"
Wed, 26 June 2013
Temperatures on Mars rise and fall twice a day
New phylum of bacteria discovered
Ancient armoured fish had abs
Leprosy from medieval knights is much the same as modern-day leprosy
Supreme Court rules on human-gene patents
Tue, 18 June 2013
Australian Bird Moves Like Jagger and Sounds Like Space Invaders
Comet Lovejoy flies into Sun to reveal solar secrets
Australian squid eat sperm for better bodies and babies
Growing Left, Growing Right- why your left is different to your right
Sun, 9 June 2013
400 Year old frozen plants get thawed out and revived. A Russian scientist claims to have found liquid blood in a 10,000 year old woolly mammoth carcass. The iron in beads worn by pre-Iron Age Egyptians came from meteorites. 1 in 13 museum visitors have 'ape-like' feet. An old theory about the evolution of the turtle's shell gets some supporting evidence. And a new therapy for schizophrenics shows promise.
Tue, 4 June 2013
Vitamin C kills tuberculosis in an accidental discovery. Why penguins can swim but not fly. A Neanderthal tooth gives a clue about the history of breastfeeding. The pathogen that caused the Irish Famine gets its genome sequenced. Our guts are full of bacteria, and even more viruses. The 'top ten' new species discovered in 2012. Cockroaches are evolving to avoid our traps.
More show notes at http://scienceontop.com/104
Wed, 29 May 2013
UN says insects are the food of the future. Underground water reservoir untouched for over a billion years. Stem cells created with cloning technique. Plan to monitor endangered ecosystems, not just animals. Egyptians got it on more in Summer, and the co-evolution of humans and dogs.
More show notes at http://scienceontop.com/103
Tue, 21 May 2013
One third of all US honeybee colonies died last Winter. A protein in breast milk can help fight antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Plants talk to each other through a fungus. Some words may have survived with little changes for 15,000 years.
More show notes at http://scienceontop.com/102
Wed, 15 May 2013
Solar powered plane completes the first leg of its trans-American trip. A Russian scientist claims to have found meterorites from the Tunguska event of 1908. A blood test could determine if you're going to get Alzheimer's disease - but would you want to know? Newly developed nanosheets soak up oil spills. And the 6" skeleton named Ata isn't as alien as it looks.
Tue, 7 May 2013
The unborn sharks that eat their brothers and sisters. A fish that uses gestures. The ambiguity of language and the seven misused science words. AquAdvantage salmon, the first transgenic animal created for consumption, being tested by the FDA. Traces of supernovae found in ocean bacteria.
Sat, 4 May 2013
Can we innoculate babies with 'good' bacteria to ward of bad bacteria? An ugly, unpalatable living fossil fish gives clues about the origins of limbs. A 'nano-suit' could protect living specimens in scanning electron microscopes. At what point does a baby become conscious? And more evidence suggests island dwarfism is behind the 'hobbit' remains discovered on the island of Flores in Indonesia.
Fri, 26 April 2013
Data collected on the ISS gives clues about dark matter. New analysis fo data from a soviet balloon probe suggests it encountered a rain shower on Venus. Iceman Otzi had bad teeth. How eating red meat could lead to heart attacks. And can a new take on an Old Wive's Tale be the answer to bed bug infestations?
Tue, 16 April 2013
Obama announces brain-mapping plan. Scientists decode dreams with brain scans. The active ingredient in magic mushrooms could treat severe depression, but conducting trials is a legal nightmare. A turtle believed extinct for decades never really existed. How nerve cells generate energy. Buzz Aldrin's toothbrush, and other space memorabillia, up for auction. And a new species of giant tarantula has been discovered and is "pretty", venomous, and the size of your face.
Mon, 8 April 2013
Henrietta Lacks's immortal cancer cells, and the ethical controversy surrounding them.
An unusual virus could be the source of a mysterious form of hepatitis that causes liver failure in most horses.
If you thought mating in humans was complicated, spare a thought for the protozoan Tetrahymena thermophila, with its seven sexes!
Could the mysterious 'fairy circles' in Africa be the result of termites, rather than alien landing pads?
Tue, 2 April 2013
Voyager 1 has left the solar system. Or has it? Yes. And No. Sort of.
The Great Roller Derby Bacteria Swap
Three-person IVF could prevent mitochondrial disorders
The bacteria that kills itself to spare the rest of the colony from infection
The most detailed map of the Universe shows it's a little older than we previously thought.
Tue, 26 March 2013
Tue, 19 March 2013
Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space.
A baby has been cured of HIV.
Sub-glacial Lake Vostok has life! No wait, it doesn't.
60 Second Science - a video competition with $10,000 in prizes up for grabs!
The next crop of telescopes are enormous.
Diamonds may originate from life on the sea floor.
Mon, 11 March 2013
The winning names for two new moons of Pluto are "Vulcan" and "Cerberus". Wiring the brain of Rat A to the brain of Rat B and watching them communicate. The genetic effect of lack of sleep. An old space tourist thinks sending old people to Mars is a good idea. And the deepest undersea vents are discovered, with some freaky life nearby.
Tue, 5 March 2013
Hosts: Ed Brown, Dr. Shayne Joseph, Penny Dumsday, Lucas Randall and Dr. Simon O'Toole.
The discovery of the smallest planet ever found, and why we should care. Flowers use electric fields to communicate with bees. Could the flu virus have an Achilles' heel? And why are scientists dropping dead mice from helicopters in Guam? Mosquitoes could be developing a resistance to Deet, internet entrepreneurs announce Nobel-like prizes, and January 2013 was quite hot.
Mon, 25 February 2013
Hosts: Ed Brown, Dr. Shayne Joseph, Penny Dumsday, Lucas Randall.
The toilet habits of a small mammal gives climate scientists 55,000 years of data. The humble appendix might not be so useless. An experiment gives some clues about how to repel Earthquakes. The bacterial mechanism behind melamine contaminated milk is discovered. Brushing your teeth might be doing more harm than good. Why is the human body so poorly 'designed', and Captain Kirk weighs in on the name for a Plutonian moon.
Mon, 18 February 2013
Hosts: Ed Brown, Penny Dumsday, Lucas Randall.
Huge meteor blazes across the sky in Russia. A computation of what the last common ancestor of placental mammals looked like. A robot with artificial but transplantable organs goes on display. Why insects constantly clean their antennae. The self-assembling molecules that give clues to the origins of life. France moves to curb light pollution. Thousands of spiders crawling across the Brazilian sky.
Tue, 12 February 2013
Hosts: Ed Brown, Dr. Shayne Joseph, Lucas Randall, Dr. Simon O’Toole.
TW Hydrae is a star that should be too old to have a proto-planetary disc, but has one. The skeletal remains of King Richard III are found under a car park in Leicester, the secret to owls rotating their heads, and Iran launches a monkey into space. Plus the strange things taught as science in some schools, and lots more!
Sun, 3 February 2013
Hosts: Ed Brown, Dr. Shayne Joseph, Penny Dumsday.
A recap of what we talked about last week, in the episode that disappeared. Leprosy bacteria induces stem cells in the host body, dung beetles use the sky to navigate, and a Harvard Professor that doesn't plan to clone Neanderthals. Scientists watched naked babies falling over and we look at some of the best White House petitions.
Mon, 21 January 2013
Hosts: Ed Brown, Dr. Shayne Joseph, Penny Dumsday, Lucas Randall, Steve Nerlich.
Genetic expression differs between belly fat and thigh fat, and a breath test that could detect bacterial infections almost immediately. Why Mars colonists could get fat and lazy, and the selection criteria for the Mars One reality show. Plus the defensive mechanisms of shark fetuses, and millions cry out in terror as plans to build a Death Star are scrapped.
Sat, 5 January 2013
Our end of year 'bloopers' episode is online! For all the funny, interesting and weird bits that didn't quite make the show in 2012, download the show from our website, at scienceontop.com/2012. This show is NOT on our feed, to listen you will HAVE to download it manually from the website. It does contain swearing and content that might not be suitable for children.
So go to scienceontop.com/2012 and click the download link!