02 December, 2015 – Episode 543 – This Week in Science Podcast (TWIS)


Changing Climate, Power Over Temperature, Evidence Pouring In, Death From Suffocation, Coal World, Dino Vessels, Cuttle Tactics, Finch Fights, Planty Free Will, Beast Brain Genes, Grandmother Protection, Genetic Ethics, Sticky Webs, And Much More!

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Disclaimer, Disclaimer, Disclaimer!
The world is much older than mankind…
and for most of our human academic history
we have looked back through the history that preceded us and deemed it unsentient…
Life has evolved through chance and natural selection
and we humans are the first to have the power of will,
the advanced knowledge of cause and effect necessary to
impart our will upon the planet…
We make choices that benefit our survival,
while the rest of nature merely reacts…
But what if that isn’t entirely true?
What if other life forms have been doing this subtly throughout time?
We know now that epigenetics is an active partner in evolution…
Things encountered in one generation can have effects on future generations…
Like plant studies involving drought in one generation
leading to early blooming in future generations,
or how mice who encounter a smell associated with a shock in one generation,
heightens responses to that smell in future generations…
As though acting on cause and effect knowledge,
epigenetic memory is doing that thing we humans thought was reserved for us, and us alone…
This ability to strategize…
To make choices…
To take actions now, that can only benefit us later on…
And while this could mean that humanity isn’t entirely
unnatural in its ability to make choices based on previous knowledge…
It is quite natural that this ability has led you back here
for yet another episode of
This Week in Science…
Coming up Next…

Changing Climate
As the COP21 conference moves along in France, a poll reported by the BBC shows declining support for drastic efforts to curb carbon emissions globally. It’s thought that economic concerns have taken priority over climate in people’s minds.

Power Over Temperature
An analysis reported this week at COP21 in Paris calculates that should all plans for building coal-fired power plants proceed, there will be a 400% increase in carbon emissions that will force temerature to increase more than the agreed upon 2 degrees Celsius by 2030.

Evidence Pouring In
Glacial lakes are expanding on Mt. Everest as the glacier receeds and melts as a result of global warming, causing concerns about safety for populated areas that could be impacted if the lakes burst.

Death From Suffocation
Oh, and if rising temperatures and flooding aren’t enough, researchers think that increasing ocean temperatures will reduce oxygen production by phytoplankton, which means death by suffocation might be a more likely future for life on Earth.

Keep coal where it is…
Burning it really isn’t a good idea.

80 Million year old blood vessels
A new techniques lets scientists peer further back into the soft tissues of dinosaurs.

Cuttlefish are masters of disguise
Not only can they change colors to disappear, but they can also alter their posture to reduce their electromagnetic signiature, becoming invisible to sharks and their sixth sense to boot. Your move, sharks!

Finches quarrel over parental chores
Finches actually discuss why they got home late, and explanations actually have a great effect on whether their spouse decides to slight them for it or not. These birds may have a thing or two to teach us about relationships!

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Free Will in plants?
Well… plants making choices that effect their environement anyway…

Genes For Delay
The breast cancer gene BRAC1, which is also involved in DNA repair, was linked to Alzheimer’s disease in a recent study that looked at the brains of people with Alzheimer’s. The levels of the protein produced by the gene was up to 75% lower in diseased brains compared to controls.

Delaying Disease
The genes you have influence the age of Alzheimer’s onset, according to a recent study that looked at a population of individuals that unusually succumb to the disease earlier than average.

Grandmother Hypothesis
A gene variant of CD33 could explain why grandmothers keep their wits about them as they age.

A Global Discussion
To edit or not to edit? Experts from around the world are meeting in Washington DC this week to discuss the future of genetic editing technologies.

Editing The Editor
CAS-9 has been altered by MIT scientists to make it more efficient in its editing functions.

Sticky webs hold more than meats the eye
Black widow spider webs held genetic information not only for the spider, but also for their prey, for up to 10 days! There are so many webs out there, it’s a treasure trove of genetic data just waiting to be walked into by you first thing in the morning!

An Anniversary
100 years of relativity explained by David Tennant!

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I'm the host of this little science show.