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

SoT Special 17: Dr. Karl Kruszelnicki

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'.

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

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 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 and click the download link!

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

Some of our best science stories from 2014. Comet landings, Ebola outbreaks, retracted stem cell studies, faecal transplant capsules and more!

Climate Change and Australian science policy
Retracted STAP study
Comet landing
Direct download: SoT_0173.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:24pm AEST

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 AEST

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 AEST

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 AEST

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 AEST

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 AEST

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 AEST

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 AEST

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 AEST

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 AEST

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 AEST

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!

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

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

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

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

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?

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

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

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

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

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 AEST

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 AEST

The Common Octopus, or Octopus Vulgaris, is the most studied of all octopus species. But all that studying has found so many differences between some, which could mean the Common Octopus is possibly as many as ten different species.
Why coffee has caffeine: An international team of scientists has sequenced the genome of Coffea canephora, one of the main sources of coffee beans. By analysing its genes, they were able to reconstruct how coffee evolved to make caffeine.
The availability of camera-phones and an increased mainstream interest in photography has led to the discovery of new insect species and behaviours. And the metadata stored with digital photographs provides a wealth of information for modern naturalists.
Engineers at Hong Kong Polytechnic University have created a fabric knitted with electronic circuits that can be worn, washed, stretched, and even shot!

Direct download: SoT_0161.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:34pm AEST

Sean Elliott joins us to talk about the origins of life and his upcoming Melbourne Fringe show, Rough Science: Life.
Cobi Smith joins us from CERN to talk about her Melbourne Fringe show, Delusions of Slander.
The mystery of the ‘Wandering Stones’ of Death Valley may no longer be a mystery. Researchers have used video cameras, GPS units and a weather station to document and track how these large rocks move along the dry lake bed.
Researchers at the University of Ottawa have done a really cool experiment with bichirs – a kind of fish that has gills and lungs. Bichirs have been known on occasion to walk on land – although somewhat awkwardly. But these researcherswere looking into the evolution of walking limbs. Essentially how our ancestors first crawled out of the ocean and became land-dwellers
Russia’s infamous ‘space sex geckos’ did not survive their microgravity mating experiment. It is believed the heating equipment failed and the lizards froze to death.

Direct download: SoT_0160.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:27pm AEST

About ten years ago an entomologist at the University of Colorado found 250 forgotten boxes in a storage cupboard. Inside were 13,000 grasshopper specimens collected more than 40 years ago, which provide a fascinating insight into climate and other environmental changes in that time.

A chance observation has led to the discovery that the blood of certain abalone has antiviral properties, which could lead to better treatments for the herpes simplex virus.

The vitamin K injection at birth helps prevent newborn babies from severe intestinal or cerebral bleeding. A small but growing number of parents are declining the shot, and the anti-vaccination movement seems largely to blame.

Drilling through 800m of ice has enabled scientists to find the first solid evidence on life in a subglacial lake. Yes, there’s bacteria there too.

Giant panda Ai Hin has possibly demonstrated a learned behaviour - she pretended to be pregnant in order to get special treatment!

Direct download: SoT_0159.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:11pm AEST

Mother turtles and their newly hatched babies talk to each other underwater, and scientists in Brazil have managed to record them.

Taking antibiotics to kill ‘bad’ bacteria can be a good idea, but such disruptions to the gut microbiome can have long-term consequences for our health, and could even be making us fat.

The widely held belief that magpies steal shiny objects seems to be myth-busted. Instead, they seem to avoid new objects regardless of shininess.

Analysis of bones from King Richard the Third reveal that the last King of England to die in battle lived the good life. The samples indicate the King drank up to a bottle of wine each day.

Direct download: SoT_0158.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:40pm AEST

The Rosetta space probe has finally arrived and is currently in orbit around the comet 67P Churyumov-Gerasimenko! Rosetta is now officially the first spacecraft to rendezvous with a comet.
previously unknown tribe of humans has emerged from the rainforest in Brazil and made contact with a settled indigenous community. They are believed to have fled illegal loggers and drug traffickers, but some have already contracted influenza.
Newly discovered crAssphage could be the most common virus in your body. Nobody has ever seen it, and we didn’t even know about it until just recently.
Grizzly bears will eat an extraordinary amount of food before going into hibernation. In humans, this would be a recipe for diabetes but it isn’t for the bears. Turns out there’s a protein called PTEN that’s responsible – and the trick is reducing its expression only in fat cells.
What do you get when two scientists sequence their gut microbiome for a whole year? An amazingly detailed dataset that documents the changes our bodies go through during illness, travel and dietary changes.
Being strangled during sex might be unfortunate, but being eaten by your mate afterwards would also be weird. Another reason to be glad you’re not an octopus.

Direct download: SoT_0157.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:52pm AEST

At our 150th episode celebration earlier this year, we were fortunate to have Dr. Krystal Evans address the audience to talk about science in Australia. Dr. Evans is a medical researcher at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute where she is working on Malaria treatment and developing a vaccine. She is a leading advocate for science and technology, and was a founding member and Chair of the Australian Academy of Science’s Early and Mid Career Researcher Forum. In this talk she looks at how Australia stacks up against the rest of the world - both in scientific accomplishments and in investment. She talks about ways to motivate scientists to engage with the public, and also how to encourage the public to take an interest in science. And she answers that burning question: just how much is Australian politics like going on a date with a homeopath?

Direct download: SoT_Special__014.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:29pm AEST

Steve Nerlich from the Cheap Astronomy podcast gives us an update on the roller-coaster life of the ISEE-3 space probe. It was alive, then it died, then it was resurrected then it seemed dead but now it may be still alive again!

Paleontologists have discovered the fossilised remains of one of the world's first known predators that lived in the sea around 520 million years ago. The fossils were detailed enough to show some of the brain structures.

Researchers at UCLA have found eight types of electric bacteria - bacteria that eat and excrete electrons.

The Rosetta spacecraft is approaching its target, comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, and its latest photos reveal the comet to be, well, rubber-duckie shaped. The comet could be two bodies joined together, and this could make the planned deployment of a lander a bit complicated.

A well-preserved, complete fossil skeleton of the largest known microraptorine - a flying non-avian dinosaur - has been found in China. Called Changyuraptor yangi, the dinosaur was about 1.3 metres long and weighed 4kg. And it had four wings!

Scientists at Dartmouth College are looking at a parasite commonly found in cat poo, Toxoplasma gondii, in an attempt to develop a cancer vaccine. When infected by 'Toxo', the human body produces cytotoxic T cells that cancer would normally shut down.

And what happens when you put snakes in microgravity? In the ultimate Snakes On A Plane experiment, scientists found snakes either attack themselves or tie themselves in knots.

Direct download: SoT_0156.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:46pm AEST

Twenty-seven months ago the "Mississippi Baby" stopped HIV treatment and was believed to be free of the virus. Unfortunately, that changed this month when test showed the virus is back. It had gone into hiding and the now four-year-old girl will face years, possibly her whole life, on antiretroviral therapy.

A scientist at a CDC research centre found a cardboard box containing six vials of the smallpox virus in a storage room. The vials are believed to have been left there since the 1950s, and there is always a possibility that there are other long-forgotten samples of the virus elsewhere.

A study of mice that attempted to replicate the Dutch Winter Hunger have found that stresses on a mother can have epigenetic effects, altering gene expressions across multiple generations.

When experimental stem cell therapies go wrong: an 18 year old paraplegic had stem cells from her nose placed in her spine as part of a trial. Eight years later, the cells had grown into a mass of nasal tissue containing a thick, mucous-like substance.

Neonicotinoids are a controversial class of insecticides widely used in agriculture, that have been linked to declining bee populations. A new study reveals that they may be doing more widespread harm than just bees, and insect-eating birds could be affected by the disruption in the food-chain.

Giant pandas, while technically belonging to the order Carnivora, almost exclusively eat bamboo. Bamboo is so nutritionally poor that researchers wondered how they survive. Turns out, they move around to different areas and eat bamboo in different stages of development.

Direct download: SoT_0155.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:12pm AEST

We’re not comfortable being bored, according to a study published in the journal Science. The paper suggestedpeople would rather give themselves electric shocks than be left alone with their thoughts.

Where humans detect colours via three receptors in our eyes, the mantis shrimp have twelve. And a new study indicates six of those detect five different wavelengths of ultraviolet light. The mantis shrimp has adapted “nature’s sunscreens’ – mycosporine-like amino acids – and turned them into ultraviolet detectors.

Despite not having ears, plants can ‘hear’ the chomp of nearby caterpillars. Two researchers from University of Missouri noticed plants produced a pesticide chemical when they heard the sound of hungry, hungry caterpillars.

A common lichen in South America turns out to actually be 126 distinct species – and maybe more than 400. This highlights the difficulties involved in classifying and categorizing life, and the advances that modern gene technologies are bringing to taxonomy.

After a comprehensive study of the world’s oceans, oceanographers “can’t account for 99 percent of the plastic that we have in the ocean“. There are a few hypotheses to explain the missing plastic, but none are very conclusive. Also Illinois has now banned the sale of cosmetics containing plastic microbeads, which are too small to be filtered from waste-water and end up released into oceans and other large bodies of water.

Plucky Ukrainian astronomers have ‘adopted’ a star and given it a name that’s, well, somewhat insulting to Vladimir Putin.

Direct download: SoT_0154.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:59pm AEST

The announcement earlier this year that the BICEP2 team had discovered gravitational waves is now mired in controversy. Dr. Alan Duffy joins us to explain why 'the biggest announcement' is now probably meaningless.

In 2012, Facebook manipulated the newsfeed of 689,003 users as part of a psychological experiment. The company claims it was able to alter the moods of some users, but the study's methodology and ethical concerns have drawn widespread criticism.

The electric eel - described by one researchers as "a 6-inch fish attached to a 5-1/2-foot cattle prod" - can deliver a powerful electric shock. Now, a study of its genome reveals this ability has evolved six separate times, in a remarkable example of convergent evolution.

According to the World Health Organisation, the current outbreak of Ebola virus has killed 467, making it the most severe in recorded history.

Italy is about to send its first female astronaut to the International Space Station, and she'll be taking a special zero-gravity coffee machine with her.

Direct download: SoT_0153.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:59am AEST

Koalas will cuddle specific tree types during summer heatwaves to cool down. Hugging the right tree can reduce a koala's body temperature by almost 70 per cent.

Researchers have sequenced the genome of Eucalyptus grandis, a common type of gum tree. And this genetic blueprint, according to the researchers, could help design more powerful and efficient jet fuels. The project took five years and involved 80 scientists from 18 countries.

A 36 year-old space probe, mothballed by NASA, has just been resurrected by a crowdfunded group of volunteers calling themselves the ISEE-3 Reboot Project. The team raised $159,502 on Kickstarter to cover the costs of writing the software to communicate with the probe, searching through the NASA archives for the information needed to control the spacecraft, and buying time on the dish antennas.

60 years after the suicide of one of the greatest mathematicians, Alan Turing, the test he gave his name to has allegedly been passed. The Turing Test is where a computer program tries to fool a human into thinking they're conversing with real human being.  A Russian chatbot sort of did that, by pretending it was a 13 year old Ukrainian boy who likes Eminem. But it's not the breakthrough that some people have claimed.

A study on Bangladeshi children has found that the gut microbiome of malnourished children is less developed than that of healthy children. This suggests that food alone might not be enough to combat malnutrition, as the gut bacteria may need a boost as well.

The National Collection of Yeast Cultures (NCYC) is giant collection of yeast cultures, holding over 4000 strains collected over 65 years. While a lot of its cultures are stored for medical research purposes, it also acts as a kind of insurance agency for many pubs around the UK in case their unique strain of brewer's yeast is lost.

Direct download: SoT_0152.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:43pm AEST

A study suggests hurricanes with 'female' names have killed more people than 'male' names. But it's MUCH more complicated than that.

Men are more likely than women to report severe pain after major surgery. But Women are more likely to complain after minor surgery. Because reasons.

A tiny tick trapped in a droplet of amber more than 15 million years ago appears to have been infected with a bacteria similar to the one that causes Lyme disease in humans.

The oldest known pair of trousers has been found in China, and their low-crotch design may have been for horseriding.

A new study of marmosets gives some clues as to what causes stillbirth. It's not always the mother's fault, so lay off on the guilt-tripping, ok?

The lead author of the controversial STAP papers, Dr. Haruko Obokata, has agreed to retract one (Update: now both) of the disputed papers.

Direct download: SoT_0151.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:37am AEST

Greenland is more vulnerable to melting than we thought, and the West Antarctic ice shelf is melting much faster and is now 'unstoppable'.

The Great Red Spot on Jupiter is shrinking and changing shape.

The top 10 new species of 2013 have been announced. Some of them are cute.

The first farm to supply insects for human consumption has opened, but faces regulatory, engineering and cultural hurdles.

Jupiter's moon Ganymede has layers of ice and water beneath its surface. NASA calls it a 'moonwich' but nobody else does.

An elaborate experiment shows that fruit flies need to stop and think before making decisions. Also, fruit flies have decisions to make.

Direct download: SoT_0150.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:12pm AEST

The Australian researcher who provided the best evidence for non-celiac gluten sensitivity has now done more extensive research. He now believes gluten may not be the culprit after all.

Polar bears, the largest land predators alive, have many genetic tricks they have developed to help them survive on an extremely high-fat diet.

Ratites - flightless birds like emus, ostriches and rheas - have long been thought to have evolved from a single flightless ancestor. But now new research made with the largest genetic dataset of ratites suggests that they each lost the ability to fly independently.

Paleontologists in Argentina may have unearthed many fossils of a new species of Titanosaur, which could be the largest animal ever to walk the Earth. However, its size is an estimate based on one bone, and similar estimates in the past have turned out to be wildly inaccurate.

Direct download: SoT_0149.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:44pm AEST

Man-made electromagnetic noise is affecting migratory birds. But it's not wi-fi, microwaves or any of the usual culprits - just good old fashioned AM radio.

US scientists have developed artificial DNA - X and Y base pairs - which then replicated with the normal G, A, T and C molecules when the cell divides. This could pave the way for new methods of developing drugs and other chemicals. Or Godzilla.

A study with mice involving exercise, electric shocks and drugs have given new insights into how memories are formed, and why you can't remember being a baby.

When bacteria can't sense other bacteria around them, they begin to mutate faster. If we could trick them into thinking they're not alone, we could slow down the development of antibacterial resistance.

Four months after India was declared polio-free, the World Health Organisation has declared the resurgence of polio a "public health emergency of international concern."

Direct download: SoT_0148.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:53pm AEST

Microbes from lakes in the French Pyrenees thrive on the fungus that has been linked to a dramatic decline in amphibian populations.

A new spider species has been found in the Namibian desert, and it does cartwheels to escape predators.

Rats and mice show increased stress levels when handled by male researchers rather than women, potentially skewing study results.

The average height of British soldiers fighting in the First World War was 168cm. Today the average height for men of the same age is 178cm. A new study suggests that height change was not because of diet, but rather urbanisation.

Sea turtle hatchlings, trying to find their way to the ocean have been confused by well-lit resorts and apartment buildings. A new project, funded in part by fines from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, aims to fix this problem with new LED lights.

After being first discovered in 2010 by a team in Russia, super-heavy element 117 (Ununseptium) was found again by researchers in Germany. The confirmation means Ununseptium could shortly find its way onto the periodic table as the heaviest element ever made.

Direct download: SoT_0147.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:46pm AEST

Evolutionary biologist and author of Sex, Genes & Rock 'n' Roll Professor Rob Brooks joins us to talk beards, monogamy and evolution.

Beards seem to be popular now, but we may be approaching 'peak beard', where beards are so common they lose their novelty appeal.

Do babies cry at night to stop their parents having more babies? Evolutionary biologist David Haig thinks they may be unintentionally sabotaging their parents' sex lives.

A ten year, worldwide project has finally sequenced the Tsetse fly genome. The findings from this massive effort could help in the fight against sleeping sickness, which kills nearly 10,000 people a year.

Some dolphins use sea spongers as tools to help forage for food, and it appears to be affecting their diet.

The US Food and Drug Administration has approved a new test for human papillomavirus, but while it could one day replace a pap smear, it still requires a cervical sample.

Direct download: SoT_0146.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:58pm AEST

The world's longest continuously running lab experiment, The Pitch Drop, finally drops for the ninth time.

Cephalotes ants can glide to nearby trees when they find themselves skydiving. Also they use their heads as shields.

The most Earth-like exoplanet yet has been discovered, just 10% bigger than our planet.

We all know malaria is spread by mosquitoes, but in 1995 in Taiwan there was an outbreak that spread throughout a hospital without any mosquito assistance.

Direct download: SoT_0145.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:22pm AEST

Continental drift could have been started by a massive meteorite impact 3 billion years ago.

Fossilised daddy longlegs reveal the arachnids had an extra pair of eyes 305 million years ago. And weren't cute then, either.

A new study suggests that even if there was liquid water on the surface of Mars billions of years ago, there wasn't enough atmospheric pressure to keep it liquid for long.

The UK Government has stockpiled over £500m worth of the antiviral drug Tamiflu. A study now finds that the drug would have little to know effect on the spread of influenza or the duration of flu symptoms. According to medical journalist Ben Goldacre, this finding is symbolic of substantial transparency issues within the pharmaceutical industry.

Ten world-class violinists tested expensive 'Old Italians' - Stradivarius and del Gesu violins - against modern, much cheaper instruments. The modern instruments were overwhelmingly preferred.

Direct download: SoT_0144.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:16pm AEST

We have six basic facial expressions, but computer software has shown we combine them to display hybrid emotions, like 'happily surprised' or 'angrily surprised'.

Scientists have long suspected that Saturn's sixth largest moon, Enceladus, held large amounts of water beneath its icy surface. But now gravity measurements have found a large ocean below the southern polar region.

Genetic modification could allow us to grow plants that are more easily broken down to make biofuels and paper.

Contrary to a lot of media reporting, rats might not be completely off the hook when it comes to spreading the Black Death.

On April 21st, NASA plans to crash a recent lunar probe, LADEE, into the moon.

Direct download: SoT_0143.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:53pm AEST

A woman with a bone disorder has had her cranium replaced with a 3D printed one, and shows no sign of rejection.

Skeletons unearthed last year from a burial ground in London may suggest that the Black Death plague was spread via the air, not tick bites from rats.

The rubber hand illusion is an old trick where your brain is fooled into thinking a rubber hand is your own. Psychologists in Italy have now made people believe the hands were made of marble. Because Italy.

Could the Permian extinction, the largest mass-extinction on Earth, have been caused by the farts of single-celled microbes?

Obakata, lead researcher in the STAP papers, found guilty of fabricating data. And an acupuncture trial gets undue media attention.

Direct download: SoT_0142.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:27pm AEST

Giant pythons in Florida's everglades can navigate vast distances, and we're not sure how.

For the first time ever, an asteroid in our solar system has been discovered with a ring system.

Dark chocolate is good for you, but it's the bacteria in your gut that make it so.

Astronomers have discovered an icy body with an orbit so big it never gets closer than 12 billion kilometers from the Sun!

Direct download: SoT_0141.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:18pm AEST

The most comprehensive infrared search of our skies has found no trace of "Planet X", the mythical giant planet on the edge of our solar system.

The troublesome Western Corn Rootworm is developing a resistance to the genetically modified corn designed to thwart it.

British archaeologists have found what they say is the world's oldest complete example of a human being with metastatic cancer.

Tracing human migration across the pacific 3,000 years ago is tricky, but tracing the chickens they brought with them might be a better method.

Climate For Change is a exciting grass-roots activism movement starting up in Melbourne, Australia. Katerina Gaita joins us to explain what they're doing and how you can be part of it.

Direct download: SoT_0140.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:49am AEST

Last Monday, astronomers announced what has been described as "the biggest thing since dark energy" - detection of gravitational waves from the afterglow of the big bang. We got astronomer Dr. Alan Duffy from Swinburne University on to tell us what that means, and what it says about the very early stages of our Universe.

Direct download: SoT_Special_013.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:46pm AEST

More controversy over stress-induced stem cells, as co-authors call for the retractions of the papers.

An aluminium suit could enable divers to travel to depths of 305 meters, move around and collect samples.

A giant virus has been discovered in 30,000 year old Siberian permafrost. It's big and it eats amoebas.

An Australian team is working on a project to clear space junk with a powerful ground-based laser.

A study of how men and women perceive each other's mathematics skills suggests that both men and women unconsciously - and wrongly - believe women are 'bad' at maths.

Direct download: SoT_0139.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:57pm AEST

More studies finding no evidence of 'wind turbine syndrome', plus a discussion on dealing with climate change deniers.

Could enough wind turbines reduce the force of hurricanes? Maybe, but it would need A LOT of turbines.

In 2011 a 6 - 9 million year old whale graveyard was discovered at Cerro Ballena (Whale Hill) in Chile. But with time running out, researchers turned to a digital method of preserving the environmental context in 3D.

A thin, stretchy, electric membrane moulded to a patient's heart could be the next stage in health monitoring.

Direct download: SoT_0138.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:29am AEST

Vaccines might not need to be kept cold to the extent previously thought. This could make vaccinations in third world countries cheaper and easier.

The oldest crystal on Earth has been dated and found to be 4.4 billion years old. This means the Earth had developed a crust very early on, perhaps only a few hundred million years after formation.

What's the best way to count whale populations? It could be from space.

To learn about how humans and dogs process sounds and emotions, researchers had to train dogs to lie still in an fMRI machine. Which is amazingly cute.

The fourth new species of an Australian marsupial with bizarre sexual behaviour has been discovered. These rodent-like animals actually disintegrate during their marathon sex-fests.

Direct download: SoT_0137.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:22am AEST

A thorough investigation of the 'jelly doughnut shaped rock', known by NASA as Pinnacle Island, confirms it isn't an alien fungus, it isn't a meteorite fragment, it's just a chipped bit of rock.

Doubts have emerged about the radical stem cell breakthrough that suggested acid or other stress could turn mature cells into stem cells. The jury's still out on this.

Scientists have developed a detailed model of curly hair, which could give insights into the behaviours of all curved rods. Most importantly, headphone cables.

An artificial hand wired directly into the nerves of an amputee gives the sensation of touch. The recipient could tell if objects were hard or soft, and even their shapes.

A trace fossil gives clues how dinosaurs peed. We don't know which dinosaur, but we do know it was a lot of pee.

The Burgess Shale is famous for its large collection of varied soft-tissue fossils, and another similar site has been found nearby.

A 248 million year old fossil of a dinosaur giving birth has been found and raises questions about whether ancient sea monsters gave birth on land.

Direct download: SoT_0136.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:44pm AEST

Stephen Hawking has some new thoughts on black holes, but he's not saying they don't exist.

For a few weeks, weather uncovered the footprints of five prehistoric humans. And then washed them away again.

There's a leech that can survive being submerged in liquid nitrogen for 24 hours.

Astronomers have discovered what could be one of the oldest stars, formed from the exploded remains of one of the first stars.

The crippled Kepler Space Telescope has been resurrected, with an ingenious solution that restores part of its function.

Direct download: SoT_0135.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:50am AEST

A new method of turning adult cells into pluripotent stem cells is discovered. According to the paper, simply bathing cells in acid could be cause mature cells to revert to stem cells that could become any cell in the body.

Heart researchers in the UK have managed to turn stem cells into heart cells, that actually beat in petri dishes.

NASA plans to create the coldest spot in the universe on board the International Space Station. They're talking 100 pico-Kelvin, which is one ten billionth of a degree above absolute zero.

Antioxidants may worsen lung cancer. Swedish scientists have determined why two antioxidants speed up the development of tumours.

By training wallabies to 'play the pokies', an Australian team has discovered that wallabies see colours more like dogs than fellow marsupials.

Direct download: SoT_0134.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:07pm AEST

Jelly donut shaped rock surprises NASA, then gets them sued.

Tracking dogs by GPS may give clues to pack structure, but probably not.

West Australia's shark cull begins, the same week that a report finds 1/4 of sharks and rays are threatened with extinction.

Men supposedly forget more than women do, but the study has big issues.

Direct download: SoT_0133.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:36pm AEST

After nearly 11 years, the Rosetta comet-chasing spacecraft has awoken and is preparing for an ambitious mission.

A new hypothesis for 'lactose persistence' - why most humans can still drink milk into adulthood.

Why do sloths climb down from their trees to poo on the ground? It could be because of moths.

China is getting into genetic modification and cloning on an 'industrial scale'. That's a lot of pigs.

Biotechnology company Illumina has announced a machine that can sequence the human genome for under US$1,000.

Personal genetics company 23andMe has run afoul of the FDA, but are they really that bad?

Direct download: SoT_0132.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:51pm AEST

2013 was Australia's hottest year on record, and the sixth hottest globally. Plus the 'polar vortex' hitting North America, and one of Australia's "most significant heatwaves". And the effect of "C2O" on jumping sea snails.

Physics professors have searched the internet for evidence of time travel, and didn't find any.

Are dolphins getting high on a toxin secreted by puffer fish? Truth is we really don't know.

A new Staph vaccine shows promise in rabbits, but might not work as well in humans.

A species of sea anemone has been found on the underside of Antarctica's ice sheets. They are the only marine animals known to live embedded in the ice, and no one is sure how they survive.

When seven-year-old Sophie wrote a letter to CSIRO, Australia's peak governmental science organisation, she wanted to know what research was being done on dragons. The CSIRO responded beautifully, first apologising for the lack of dragon-research and then making her a titanium dragon with a 3D printer.

Direct download: SoT_0131.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:47am AEST

The turn of the millennium has brought a new dimension to the Space Age - one that was undreamed of only a few years ago. Thanks to a combination of visionary entrepreneurs and an ailing Russian spaceflight programme, space tourism is now a reality that is set to take off dramatically in the near future. In this entertaining and fully-illustrated talk, Professor Fred Watson outlines what we might see as space tourism evolves into a mainstream branch of the industry. He argues that the new venture is not merely an expensive diversion for the very rich, but a necessary step in humankind's emergence as a space-faring species.

Direct download: SoT_Special_012_Space_Tourism.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:00pm AEST

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

Direct download: SoT_0130.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:51pm AEST

Dr. David Hawkes' Name The Virus crowdfunding project is a huge success - and it got him a spot on national TV. But is crowdfunding just a passing fad?

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.

Direct download: SoT_0129.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:26pm AEST

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 AEST

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.

Direct download: SoT_0127.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:54pm AEST

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. 

Direct download: SoT_0126.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:38pm AEST

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.

Direct download: SoT_0125.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:54pm AEST

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.

Direct download: SoT_0124.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:14pm AEST

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.

Direct download: SoT_0123.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:58pm AEST

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.

Direct download: SoT_0122.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:21pm AEST

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.

Direct download: SoT_0121.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:40pm AEST

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 devastating earthquake in Pakistan created a new 'island', exciting geologists around the world. And it's already been littered with trash.

A company in the UK has developed a plant that produces both tomatoes AND potatoes. So of course, they’ve called it the "TomTato".

Direct download: SoT_0120.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:01am AEST

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.

Direct download: SoT_0119.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:01pm AEST

The Ig Nobel Prizes honour achievements that first make us laugh, then make us think. We take a look atthis year’s winners: from dung beetles to penis amputations!

A team of scientists from Japan, China and the UK for assessing the effect of listening to opera, on heart transplant patients who are mice.
Classical music affects heart transplants

Scientists from France, the USA, UK, The Netherlands, and Poland for confirming, by experiment, that people who think they are drunk also think they are attractive.
“Beauty in the eyes of the beer holder” – people who think they’re drunk, think they’re hot

A team from Australia, Sweden, Germany, South Africa and the UK for discovering that when dung beetles get lost, they can navigate their way home by looking at the Milky Way.
Dung Beetles Watch the Galaxy (That’s How They Roll)

Americans Brian Crandall and Peter Stahl, for parboiling a dead shrew, and then swallowing the shrew without chewing, and then carefully examining everything excreted during subsequent days — all so they could see which bones would dissolve inside the human digestive system, and which bones would not.
Missing morsels – chewing over the results of eating a shrew

The late Gustano Pizzo for inventing an electro-mechanical system to trap airplane hijackers — the system drops a hijacker through trap doors, seals him into a package, then drops the encapsulated hijacker through the airplane’s specially-installed bomb bay doors, whence he parachutes to earth, where police, having been alerted by radio, await his arrival.
IgNobels, 2013: The Safety Engineering Prize!

Scientists from Italy, UK, Denmark, Switzerland, Russia, and France for discovering that some people would be physically capable of running across the surface of a pond — if those people and that pond were on the moon.
Could humans run on water?

A team of Japanese scientists for for discovering that the biochemical process by which onions make people cry is even more complicated than scientists previously realised.
GM could hold back the tears

Alexander Lukashenko, president of Belarus, for making it illegal to applaud in public, AND to the Belarus State Police, for arresting a one-armed man for applauding.
What is the sound of one hand clapping?

Scientists from the UK, the Netherlands and Canada for making two related discoveries: First, that the longer a cow has been lying down, the more likely that cow will soon stand up; and Second, that once a cow stands up, you cannot easily predict how soon that cow will lie down again.
Why do cows have their ups and downs?

Seven doctors in Thailand for the medical techniques described in their report “Surgical Management of an Epidemic of Penile Amputations in Siam” — techniques which they recommend, except in cases where the amputated penis had been partially eaten by a duck.
Reattachment of the penis. Unless it was first eaten by a duck.

Direct download: SoT_0118.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:34pm AEST

On Friday 13 September 2013, Dr. Pamela Gay gave a talk at Swinburne University in Melbourne, Australia about 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.

Direct download: SoT_Special_010.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:10pm AEST

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.

Direct download: SoT_0117.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:07am AEST

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.

Direct download: SoT_0116.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:20am AEST

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?

Direct download: SoT_0115.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:19pm AEST

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.

Direct download: SoT_0114.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:49pm AEST

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 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,

You can learn more about CosmoQuest at

You can listen to AstronomyCast at

Direct download: SoT_Special_009_-_Dr._Pamela_Gay.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:22pm AEST

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.

Direct download: SoT_0113.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:02pm AEST

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.

Direct download: SoT_0112.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:33pm AEST

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!

Direct download: SoT_0111.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:27pm AEST

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.

Direct download: SoT_0110.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:28am AEST

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

Direct download: SoT_0109.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:54am AEST

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"

Direct download: SoT_0108.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:29pm AEST

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

Direct download: SoT_0107.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:49am AEST

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

Direct download: SoT_0106.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:50am AEST

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.

Direct download: SoT_0105.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:26pm AEST

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

Direct download: SoT_0104.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:44pm AEST

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

Direct download: SoT_0103.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:45am AEST

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

Direct download: SoT_0102.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:31am AEST

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.

Direct download: SoT_0101.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:54am AEST

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.

Direct download: SoT_0100.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:49am AEST

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.

Direct download: SoT_0099.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00pm AEST

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?

Direct download: SoT_0098.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:32am AEST

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.

Direct download: SoT_0097.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:18pm AEST

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?

Direct download: SoT_0096.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:25pm AEST

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.

Direct download: SoT_0095.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:06pm AEST

Bizarre, extinct frog set to spawn again

The Promise and Pitfalls of Resurrection Ecology

Bringing Them Back to Life

‘We Have a Limited Window of Opportunity’: CDC Warns of Resistance ‘Nightmare’

'Nightmare' superbug alarm at Dandenong Hospital

The “Nightmare Bacteria”: An Explainer

Windfarm sickness spreads by word of mouth, Australian study finds

Devil cancer's evasive trick revealed

Ancient Mars Had Conditions Suitable for Life

Direct download: SoT_0094.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:55pm AEST

SoT 93: An Extremely Large Telescope

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.

Direct download: SoT_0093.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:25pm AEST

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.

Direct download: SoT_0092.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:51pm AEST

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.

Direct download: SoT_0091.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:06pm AEST

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.

Direct download: SoT_0090.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:49pm AEST

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.

Direct download: SoT_0089.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:00pm AEST

Hosts: Ed Brown, Dr. Shayne Joseph, Lucas Randall, Dr. Simon O’Toole.

Topics covered:

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!

Direct download: SoT_0088.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:55am AEST

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

Topics covered:

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.

Direct download: SoT_0087.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:13pm AEST

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

Topics covered:

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.

Direct download: SoT_0086.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:33pm AEST

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 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 and click the download link!

Direct download: 2012_Bloopers_Announce.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:59pm AEST

Hosts: Ed Brown, Dr. Shayne Joseph, Dr. Mick Vagg, Upulie Divisekera, Lucas Randall.

Ed, Shayne, Upulie, Mick and Lucas take a look back at the big stories in science from 2012. From feathered dinosaurs to robot hands, the Higgs boson to Mars colonies, the panel relives their favorite news items.

For all the stories we mention, check out the website for this episode, at

Direct download: SoT_0085.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:49pm AEST

Hosts: Ed Brown, Dr. Shayne Joseph, Dr. Helen Maynard-Casely, Lucas Randall.

Topics covered:

James Cameron releases results from his deep dive. How maggots heal wounds. NASA plans to send Curiosity twin to Mars in 2020. Golden Spike plans to send people to the moon for $750 million. The data from the GRAIL probes mapping the gravity of the moon is released. A retrovirus marks an evolutionary point for Koalas. RIP Sir Patrick Moore, 1923-2012.

Direct download: SoT_0084.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:48pm AEST

Hosts: Ed Brown, Dr. Shayne Joseph, Penny Dumsday, Dr. Kevin Orrman-Rositer.

Topics covered:

The Mars Curiosity rover's discovery is announced.

Bacteria found in an underground Antarctic lake demonstrates the resilience of life

German scientists are developing a new vaccine strategy using mRNA that could make flu shots cheaper, safer, and easier to produce.

A blood test that can detect cancers very early on is being developed - but it's a long way away.

New research suggests birth weight is not solely determined by maternal nutrition, but it’s also partly genetic.

NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft has detected evidence of water ice on Mercury.

SpaceX founder and entrepreneur Elon Musk has a grand plan to start a colony on Mars, seeding it with 80,000 settlers per year.

Direct download: SoT_0083.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:55pm AEST