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    podcast science

    The Weekly Science Talk Radio Program

     With listeners in over 60 countries worldwide
    Tuesday, April 27, 2010
    Fundraising week at KDVS!

    This Week: Recantations, Bubbling Tar Microbes, Nervous Nerves, Dark Matters, Brainy Science, The Skinny, Migrating Genes, and More!

    Listen to it all Here!

    Donate now:



    Donate to KDVS and get the 2010 TWIS Science Music Compilation!

    Retraction: Boob Benefits Not Yet Scientifically Proven
    A story from last week about the health benefits of staring at woman’s breasts turns out to be a hoax. Thanks to the minions who helped to unearth it. Check out snopes.com to learn about other such hoaxes.

    Microbes: Masters of Living Anywhere
    Scientists have discovered microbial life in pools of asphalt in hydrocarbon tar-pits, opening up our minds to the possibility of life on other planets with similar conditions which we previously thought were unlivable.

    Nervous Nerves
    Scientists studying the causes of epilepsy have found that nerve cells can theoretically alter specific channels to control their own excitability.

    Researchers found the temperature sensitive domain of a certain temperature receptor by inducing mutations of individual amino acids to see which were needed for temperature sensitivity.

    Masses of Dark Matter Seen Loitering Around Galaxies and Clumping into Cigar Shapes
    Scientists are creating maps of dark matter distribution using gravitational lensing. Dark matter is invisible to all forms of our instrumentation so far and is only detectable through its gravitational pull on regular matter.

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    TWIS Book Club has a new book for April: Collider - The Search for the World's Smallest Particles by Paul Halpern. Get your copy here:



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    Climate Change leading to Migratory Change for Birds
    Scientists are looking at how birds adapt to changes in migratory cues a study showed the actual genetic changes were taking place through this adaptation. Within two generations, researchers were able to completely selectively breed out migratory behavior in study birds.

    The Skinny on Smarts
    Gene variant that helps us gain weight may shrink our brains as well.

    Brainy Genes
    Scientists have found certain genes influence your brainwave patterns and that the slow wave activation of your brain is different if you are an alcoholic.

    Music this week was by Unbalanced Wheel, Justin Jackson, and The Gifted Apes.

    Check Out A Book By Justin Jackson:



    Donate to TWIS! We thank you for your support:




    Let us know what you think and follow us on Twitter:
    @jacksonfly and @drkiki

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    Tuesday, April 20, 2010
    Fundraising week at KDVS!

    This Week: Beneficial Breasts, Multitudes of Microbes, Cyber-Security, DARPA loves Cats, Brainy Fibers, NASA’s Moon Mission, Electrified Space, Chicken or Egg, Messing With Mitochondria, and Much More!

    Listen to it all Here!

    Donate now:



    Donate to KDVS and get the 2010 TWIS Science Music Compilation!

    Staring at Women's Breasts Is Good for Men's Health

    Just ten minutes of staring at cleavage is roughly equivalent to a 30 minute workout, according to a new study. Since sexual desire is linked to better blood circulation, it can lower blood pressure and provide all the benefits of a healthier heart.

    Multitudes of Microbes
    In 2004 an international census of marine microbes was kicked off wherein a maximum of 600,000 species were predicted. Now they are announcing a new estimate of at least 20 million species, all of which could potentially work together and be very interdependent.

    To Be or Not to Be...Cancerous?
    The human produced protein alpha-lactalbumin, or HAMLET, is a compound found in breast milk, which is lethal to cancer cells. Laboratory tests have shown it to kill over 40 different kinds of cancers while NOT killing normal human cells. It doesn't seem to spontaneously form in breast milk, but rather in the acidic environment of the stomach.

    Microbes as a Carbon Sink
    Researchers looking at which species of microbes are actually carbon fixers, found that 44% of microbial carbon fixation is done by tiny, previously dismissed eukaryotic phytoplankton.

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    TWIS Book Club has a new book for April: Collider - The Search for the World's Smallest Particles by Paul Halpern. Get your copy here:



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    DARPA Loves Cats
    With the development of artificial biological-like synapses that keep memory even after the charge is gone, DARPA is funding the creation of a super computer that is as fast as a cat's brain.

    International Cyber Security
    How do we defend ourselves against cyber terrorism? The government thinks we need to go on the OFFENSIVE.

    Dissolving into the Brain
    Scientists have developed silk fibers which can be used as bio-integrated electrodes and dissolved into the surface of the brain to record information with more accuracy than any previous brain-computer-interface.

    "I heard NASA was cancelled..."
    Its not really... just the 20 year moon based landing plans, which were goals of a previous administration. NASA's plan had actually been Mars and it got derailed for awhile while working on going to the moon. Now NASA is back to having Mars as the main goal.

    Electrified Moon
    Solar wind is causing the moon's craters to become electrified.

    Lighting on Saturn
    For the first time we are able to undoubtedly observe powerful lightning storms on Saturn. Scientists have captured the visible lighting flash and even a soundtrack that features the crackle of radio waves when thunder strikes.

    Playing Chicken with H1N1
    Most of our vaccinations are created in chicken eggs, and now scientists have discovered that eggs laid by hens vaccinated by the H1N1 virus have immunity to the virus.

    Mitochondrial Mix-up
    Scientists have created a "proof of principle" that we can potentially cure mitochondrial diseases: basically by swapping in healthy mitochondria from a donor, but still using the mothers nucleus.

    Music this week was by Unbalanced Wheel, Devo Spice, and The Gifted Apes. Buy it HERE.

    Check Out A Book By Justin Jackson:



    Donate to TWIS! We thank you for your support:




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    @jacksonfly and @drkiki

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    Tuesday, April 13, 2010
    TWIS on TWIT: Take 1

    This Week: Deep Black Smokers, World Robot Domination, Cooperating Neurons, Surfer’s Theory Sinks, Autistic Genes, Supertaskers Among Us, Banning Old Drivers, Australopi Missing Link, Memristors Return, Empathy Versus Violence, Demoting Fruit Flies, Japanese Gut Bacteria, And Much More…

    Listen to it all Here!

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    Deep Black Smokers
    Researchers have found organisms living in extremely deep, extremely hot sea vents where it was previously thought no life could exist.


    Is Manual Folding of Clothes Obsolete?

    Scientists at UC Berkeley have developed a robot that can fold clothes which you can have at home for around 50,000 dollars. One step closer to world robot domination?


    How do Neurons Get Their Say?
    It takes a little coordination. Researchers modeled neuronal activation, and determined that it takes only 30 active synapses to trigger a reaction in a neuron.

    Is Autism Reversible?
    Scientists have found a new way to detect the disease using blood, and that differences in methylation (DNA tagging) for certain genes may contribute to the development of autism. Blocking the chemical tagging of certain genes MAY actually reverse some of the symptoms of autism.


    Limits on Everything...

    New guidelines have been published that any new "theory of everything" must follow.

    Brainstorming = Bad?

    A study shows brainstorming in a group that may be counter-productive, can lead to fixation on only one idea or possibility, leading eventually to conformity on this idea... or group-think. Thinking about ideas in groups can lead people to subconsciously suggest ideas that mimic their coworkers ideas.


    Supertaskers Walk Among Us
    A study looked at the ability to multitask, and whereas the majority of people fail miserably, they found 1 in 40 people is a supertasker, someone who retains memory and attention while multitasking. They are now looking at whether people of certain abilities self select for certain occupations.

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    TWIS Book Club has a new book for April: Collider - The Search for the World's Smallest Particles by Paul Halpern. Get your copy here:



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    Are You Ready for a New Species?

    Australopithecus sebida estimated around 2 millions year old and could possibly be the missing link between more ape-like species and modern humans.


    Memristers are Finally Here...

    ...and they can...'perform a full set of logic operations at the same time as they function as non volatile memory'. What? Basically, you could use a memrister in your computer that would act as memory that would not be affected by you turning off the computer, so they could be instant off, instant on.


    Are You Violently Empathetic?

    Scientists have found that the cerebral circuits for both empathy and violence are similar. Possibly one blocks out the other? An empathic person may not develop the violence pathways as much nor vice versa.

    Poor Fruit Fly: Drosophila Dropping Out
    Drosophila melanogaster, a cornerstone species of modern behavioral and genetic studies is potentially losing its status in the Drosophila genus after closer examination.



    Music this week was by Unbalanced Wheel, funky49, Jake Mann, and The Gifted Apes. Buy it HERE.

    Check Out A Book By Justin Jackson:



    Donate to TWIS! We thank you for your support:




    Let us know what you think and follow us on Twitter:
    @jacksonfly and @drkiki

    Help Get The Word Out About TWIS!
    Listen to the Broadcast - Link to TWIS - Write an iTunes Review - Get a TWIS Sig

    Ali Takes The Stage For Climate Change

    This Week: Science News and the Decade of Climate Change in Review!

    Listen to it all Here!

    Donate now:


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    Decade In Science: Climate Change

    By A. Depsky

    Polar bears are losing their homes, frogs are getting sick, flowers are losing their smell and humans might be next. As ice caps melt, sea levels rise and local precipitation and temperatures are shifting. Many species cannot deal with the changes. Scientists warn that if we do not act soon humans will be forced to deal with a changing climate that will alter agriculture, and displace cities.

    HOW IT WORKS

    The “greenhouse effect” is a good thing, we need it to live. Without it, earth would be an ice cube. When sunlight hits the earth much of it is reflected back to space. Due to gases in the atmosphere known as “greenhouse gases” some of this thermal energy is prevented from escaping and is trapped in the atmosphere. But, it becomes a problem when humans inject the atmosphere with unusually high levels of greenhouse gases including carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and halocarbons (gases once used widely as refrigerants and spray propellants), and effectively enhance the greenhouse effect.

    The atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide remained roughly stable for nearly 10,000 years, but have rapidly increased within the last 200 years. Reports place Co2 levels at about 35 percent higher than preindustrial levels, methane around two and a half times higher, and nitrous oxide levels around 20 percent higher. Extensive studies have shown that atmospheric carbon dioxide is rising by 2 ppm every year and that the global temperature has increased by about 1.1 degrees Fahrenheit over the past century.


    HISTORY

    Many people are under the impression that scientists have thought about climate change only very recently, but, in fact, scientists have been warning about the possibility of human activities altering the climate for fifty years, and have had knowledge of the "greenhouse effect" for far longer.

    As early as 1863 an Irish scientist named John Tyndall published a paper describing how water vapor can be a greenhouse gas. And, in the 1890's a Swedish scientist known as Svante Arrhenius and an American called P C Chamberlain independently considered the possibility of global warming due to build up of CO2 in the atmosphere, though neither one suspected that this may have already begun to happen. Arrhenius even thought that it might be an improvement for future generations to live "under a milder sky."

    In 1957, US oceanographer Roger Revelle warned people that humans are unintentionally conducting a "large-scale geophysical experiment" by releasing huge quantities of greenhouse gases, and in that same year, his colleague, David Keeling, set up continuous monitoring of CO2 levels in the atmosphere, which soon revealed a yearly increase that has continued to this day.

    In 1979, the first World Climate Conference was held in Genevaand led to the establishment of the World Climate Programme, an "international scientific programme whose goals are to improve understanding of the climate system and to apply that understanding for the benefit of societies coping with climate variability and change."

    In 1985, scientists at the World Climate Program in Austria predicted that increased CO2 will lead to a significant rise in earth's temperature, and that same year, a hole in the ozone layer was discovered over Antarctica.

    Due to increasing concern, The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change or (IPCC) was set up in 1988 to provide reports on the knowledge and viewpoints within the scientific community. (This institution has since been accused both of being too conservative in its reports as well as too exaggeratory.)

    In June of this year, Dr James Hansen of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies delivered a testimony to the U.S. Senate in which he stated that based on computer models and temperature measurements, he was 99% certain that human-caused greenhouse effects are already changing the climate.

    LAST TEN YEARS
    Within the last decade evidence to support this claim has amassed rapidly, coming from many diverse fields of science due to the wide reaching effects of climate change. Political response, however, has occurred at an much slower rate.


    In 2000 a series of major floods around the world reinforced public concern about the possibility of global warming raising the risk of extreme weather events. That year IPCC scientists issued an assessment of future emissions warning that the earth could rise in temperature by 6 degrees C within a century. Talks held in The Hague to finalise the "Kyoto rule book" failed to reach an agreement after the EU and the US backed out.


    In May of 2001, the Kyoto Protocol was finalized despite the refusal by George W. Bush to allow the US to join out of fear of harming the US economy. The third official report by the IPCC concluded that it was "likely," or more than 66% probable that most of the recent warming was caused by humans.


    In 2002 a piece of the Larsen Ice Shelf roughly the size of Rhode Island on the northernmost part of the mainland of Antarctica broke up. This was also the hottest year on record.


    2003 followed as the third hottest year on record, but for Europe it was the hottest summer in at least 500 years and it was estimated that 30,000 people died as a result. Researchers later came to the conclusion that climate change can at least DOUBLE the likely-hood of a heatwave occurring. 2003 also showed an abrupt increase in the rate and accumulation of greenhouse gases, which confused scientists.


    In November of 2004 Russia agreed to back the Kyoto protocol, giving it enough participation to become a legally binding treaty by 2005, though Australia and the US still refuse to join.


    2005 was the second warmest year on record and researchers linked the warmer climate to a record US hurricane season, as well as acceleration of the melting of Artic sea ice and Siberian permafrost. Some scientists gave warnings that the Antarctic ice sheet was starting to collapse, and others reported polar bear drownings because they have to swim farther to reach solid ice.


    In 2006, the "Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change," by economist Nicholas Stern was commissioned by the UK government. It basically said that the cost of preventing climate change is far less than the cost of dealing with it later.


    It states, "our actions over the coming few decades could create risks of major disruption to economic and social activity, later in this century and in the next, on a scale similar to those associated with the great wars and the economic depression of the first half of the 20th century. And it will be difficult or impossible to reverse these changes. Tackling climate change is the pro-growth strategy for the longer term and it can be done in a way that does not cap the aspirations for growth of rich or poor countries"


    This was the same year that Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth was released and became a box office hit, CO2 emissions were reported to be rising faster than in the 1990’s, wildfires hit a record for a season with nearly 100,000 fires reported, and severe heatwaves in North America left at least 225 people dead.


    By 2007, 175 countries had ratified the Kyoto Treaty including, now, Australia. Arctic sea ice covered an all time record low in area, and it was reported that within the last 30 years an area the size of Norway, Sweden and Denmark has disappeared. The fourth official IPCC report was released this year, and it now claimed 90% certainty that global warming is caused by humans. The report included a number of observed consequences from the changing climate including: decreased snowfall, rise in sea level due to both heating expanse and ice melting, and changes in large scale patterns of precipitation. It also included a reconstruction of past climate from tree rings and other proxies which indicated that the warmth of the last fifty years is unusual at least within the last 1,300 years. Measurements were published this year that showed a decline in solar activity since the 1980’s, debunking the theory that increased solar activity could be the reason for global warming.


    In 2008 the polar bear became listed as an endangered species because of its current and predicted habitat loss due to climate change, and 160 miles of the “Wilkens Shelf” broke off from the Antarctic coast. At the annual UN climate summit, representatives from around the world agreed to a timetable to create a post 2012 replacement for the Kyoto Protocol.


    In 2009 Indigenous peoples from around the world gathered in Anchorage, AK to come to a united consensus about climate change, and demanded a greater voice in the global decision making process and in the Kyoto replacement. In September of this year the World Bank Issued a statement on the social and economic state of climate change which insisted that developing countries can shift to lower-carbon paths while still reducing poverty and continuing to develop, but that it will require financial and technological assistance from rich countries.


    According to the World Bank Chief Economist, Justin Lin, “Developing countries face 75-80 percent of the potential damage from climate change. They urgently need help to prepare for drought, floods, and rising sea levels. They also need to intensify agricultural productivity, contain malnutrition and disease, and build climate-resilient infrastructure,” Developing countries will be the most impacted by climate change not only because of their lack of financial and infrastructural resources, but also their reliance on direct agriculture and animals in their lifestyles, their physically exposed locations.


    In December 2009 the United Nation Climate Change Conference, or Copenhagen Summit, produced disappointing results. Shortly thereafter United Nation's top climate official, Yvo de Boer, announced his resignation after the conference failed “to agree to more than vague promises to limit carbon dioxide emissions”.


    CONTROVERSY

    Much of the stagnation in climate change policy-making stems from the controversy surrounding the issue. The complexity and uncertainty inherent in the science makes it an easy target for manipulation and dispute. Recently in November of 2009, a series of emails between scientists were leaked from a hacked server used by the Climate Research Unit. The emails contained comments that could be interpreted as conspiring to manipulate the data, though this has been denied. Skeptics jumped on this incident, calling it “Climategate.”


    The Great Global Warming Swindle” was released in 2006 and argues against the science behind anthropogenic global warming, asserting that it is “the biggest scam of modern times.” The original working title was “Apocalypse my arse.” The documentary points to a number of political reasons for the “scam” such as increased funding for climate science and global warming research, influence of vested interest groups who are making a living off the theory, influence and support of the theory by those with political ideologies against capitalism, globalization, etc, and the film goes so far as to even claim the theory was invented by Margaret Thatcher to promote nuclear power and lessen the blow of striking coal miners. There are many denial websites out there that discuss the “global warming hoax” such as globalwarminghoax.com, where they claim, “Only the Truth Heats Up.”


    Conversely, many people counter that climate change denial is a finely crafted “scam” to keep industries safe from regulation. In a report, titled "Dealing in Doubt: The Climate Denial Industry and Climate Science," Greenpeace outlines a history of the war waged by polluting industries against climate change science, the IPCC, and individual scientists, focusing especially on ExxonMobil, which is known to have invested over $23 million since 1998 to fund anti-climate change think-tanks and non-profits.


    SCIENCE AND SOLUTIONS

    Despite the debating public, the climate change science continues… A recent study attributes the lowered activity of some pollinators to a dryer climate which causes “The aroma producing chemical compounds in flowers [to] dry up faster now compared with before." The State of the Birds: 2010 Report on Climate Change, follows a comprehensive report released a year ago showing that that nearly a third of the nation's 800 bird species are endangered, threatened or in significant decline:


    Dr. Kenneth Rosenberg, director of Conservation Science at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology says, “For well over a century, migratory birds have faced stresses such as commercial hunting, loss of forests, the use of DDT and other pesticides, a loss of wetlands and other key habitat, the introduction of invasive species, and other impacts of human development,” Salazar said. “Now they are facing a new threat--climate change--that could dramatically alter their habitat and food supply and push many species towards extinction.” “Birds are excellent indicators of the health of our environment, and right now they are telling us an important story about climate change. Many species of conservation concern will face heightened threats, giving us an increased sense of urgency to protect and conserve vital bird habitat.”


    And now, innovative solutions are rolling in, ranging from commonsensical to outlandish. Some of the more creative ideas include:


    wrapping Greenland in white blankets to replace the reflective surfaces lost from ice sheets melting,


    artificially feeding a greater population of plankton because they are important carbon sinks,


    shooting huge mirrors into space to reflect some of the sun’s rays,


    adding extra clouds consistently via ocean patrol boats spraying sea water high into the sky,


    feeding cows garlic because it is known to kill the methane-producing stomach bacteria,


    pumping sulfur dioxide into the upper atmosphere to block sunlight,


    and planting fake trees that contain proprietary absorbent materials that remove carbon dioxide from the air and store it, possibly to be sold to soda companies for carbonation.


    And that soda could be sold in a vending machine that itself fights climate change. This is not just an idea, but a reality, “Coke, Pepsi, Ben & Jerry's and GE are phasing out the use of ozone-depleting refrigerants, turning instead to carbon dioxide and hydrocarbons”. Most vending machines rely on a hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), for their refrigerant that although it is a highly effective air coolant, is also 1,430 times more harmful to the climate than CO2.


    “We talk about fighting fire with fire,” said Bryan Jacob, director of energy and climate protection for Coke, who says CO2 is nonflammable, nontoxic, comparatively inexpensive and readily available. “In the right application, CO2 can be a solution to climate change.”


    FUTURE

    With the complexity of the science, the predictions for the future vary widely, but even the lowest predicted changes could lead to disruption of food and water supplies, increasingly flooded coastlines, and the extinction of many species.


    Using computer models based on supposed future emissions, scientists predict that the global temperature will increase at an average rate of about 0.2 degree C per decade. However, long-term warming is very much dependent on the future rate of emissions.


    Scientists warn governments that short term financial hardships should not stop them from taking action. Climate change will have far more devastating effects if no action is taken now.


    Rosina Bierbaum, WDR co-director and Dean of the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources and Environment says,“Grappling with climate shocks that are already hampering development will not be easy. But promising new energy technologies can vastly reduce future greenhouse gas emissions and prevent catastrophic climate change.


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    TWIS Book Club has a new book for April: Collider - The Search for the World's Smallest Particles by Paul Halpern. Get your copy here:





    Music this week was by Unbalanced Wheel, and The Gifted Apes. Buy it HERE.

    Check Out A Book By Justin Jackson:



    Donate to TWIS! We thank you for your support:




    Let us know what you think and follow us on Twitter:
    @jacksonfly and @drkiki

    Help Get The Word Out About TWIS!
    Listen to the Broadcast - Link to TWIS - Write an iTunes Review - Get a TWIS Sig

    Thursday, April 01, 2010
    Dear TWIS Minions,

    This Week in Science is making a few changes.

    After 10 years of broadcasting live just about every Tuesday morning from KDVS 90.3 FM in Davis, CA, TWIS is making a move.

    As of 8:00 pm PT on Monday, April 12th, 2010, TWIS will broadcast live on Leo Laporte's This Week in Tech Network.

    It only seems natural that the TWI's join forces as many people have been confused by the separate worlds of TWIS and TWIT for years anyway.

    So, from April 12th onward TWIS will be live in video format on TWIT every Monday night at 8pm PT.

    TWIS will continue to exist on KDVS, but as a pre-recorded show only.

    You will also be able to continue to subscribe to and download TWIS as an audio rss feed without making any changes. We are keeping the feed address the same.

    We think that the new format and platform will work together to make TWIS better than ever, and we'll keep bringing you quality science infotainment.

    Thanks for listening. We look forward to seeing you at live.twit.tv on Monday nights.

    It's all in your head,
    --kirsten and Justin

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