24 August, 2016 – Episode 581 – This Week in Science Podcast (TWIS)


Interview w/ NASA Scientist Walt Meier, Plan-et B!, Getting There, Cool Your Buffer Gas, Gay Termites, Acid Sperm, Patent Settlement, Possum Panic, Octobot!!, And Much More…

Take our audience survey!!!

Disclaimer, disclaimer, disclaimer!
Historic perspective is against us!!!
And I don’t mean to suggest that people of bygone olden ages would judge us harshly…
It’s possible they would…
We wear revealing clothes, rarely kill wild animals with tools we made ourselves,
and spend far too little time sacrificing sheep…
But when we introduce them to the little things our modern ways have contributed to the day to day being on the planet…
Like Indoor light, the mobile phone, the dishwasher and toilet paper…
It’s likely they’d give up whatever god of hunting gathering and dishwashing they had invented and would be overjoyed even with single ply…
What I do mean to suggest is that at no point of looking backwards do we see a time in which people looking forward really knew what the future would bring…
We humans are eternally optimistic and pessimistic, hopeful and apathetic…
But the lesson from the ages is that regardless of what we think we know,
time will transform our understanding…
and one day the day will come where much of what we believe about the future will turn out not to be the future…
So a Historic perspective should make us leery of any concrete belief in things to come,
having seen so many of them crumble…
However… there are exceptions…
despite the fact that the historic perspective is against us,
one thread of history has weaved through the ages to connect observations to experimentation to a kind of knowledge that seems to tie the past to the present in a natural progression…
Yes science changes too, but It broadens, becomes more complex and comprehensive, it strengthens…
And while the predictions we make now may defy history…
There will likely be things to come we still cannot imagine…
In fact the only thing we can be absolutely certain of is
This Week in Science…
Coming up next!

Interview with Walt Meier
Walt Meier is a research scientist at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Cryospheric Sciences Laboratory. His research focuses on remote sensing of sea ice, development of new sea ice products and sea ice climate data records, and analyzing changes in the Arctic sea ice cover.

Ice-free Northwest Passage
A southern route between Amundsen and Boffin Bays is almost clear, allowing cruise liners to make expeditions along the Northwest Passage.

Monitoring Sea Ice
As the ice in the Arctic decreases, NASA is using new methods to track the extent of the loos and make better predictions.

Ice Flows Game
A game to teach how ice sheet melt is affected by various factors… and it has penguins!!!

Support us on Patreon!

Plan-et B!
If we destroy this planet, maybe there’s a Plan B for humanity! The ESO reported finding an exoplanet within the habitable zone around Proxima Centauri… the closest star to Earth aside from the sun.

Getting There
An analysis of the physical dangers to the StarShot campaign suggests that craft planning to accelerate to 20% the speed of light require special shielding and design considerations since they will even be damaged by impacts with atoms.

Huge find in buffer-gas cooling
It’s not the thermodynamic equilibrium we thought it was.

Gay Termites
Playing house protects the unmated males.

Acidified sperm play by different rules
Urchin sperm behaves differently at different pHs. This could have major implications for sea ecosystems as ocean acidification increases.

Patent Settlement
Nanopore gene sequencing is a new technology that will revolutionize the sequencing of DNA making it faster and cheaper, but its future has been uncertainly wrapped up in a patent dispute between Oxford Nonopore Technologies and Illumina, Inc. However, the companies recently came to an agreement based on the specifics of their patented nanopore designs that will allow both companies to continue offering their products to researchers.

Possums can flee in their sleep
But they can only wake up to run if it is warm enough outside.

Harvard engineers have created a soft bodied robotic octopus from silicone that relies on chemical reactions within pneumatic chambers to flex its many arms rather than wires and batteries.

If You love TWIS, please consider making a donation below.
Don’t forget to tell a friend about TWIS, and to check out our Patreon page!


About the Author

I'm the host of this little science show.