01 May, 2019 – Episode 719 – What Makes A Superhero?


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What is in the This Week in Science Podcast?

Wobbly Jets, Alzheimer’s Prions, Dating Denisovans, Snake Life, DEET Legs, Super Unhealthy?, Geomagnetic Jerks, Danish Unicorn Diversity, Space Water, Toxo Heart Drug, Ban The Bags, Snoot Booping Canines, And Much More…

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Everything you could have ever hoped for is closer than you think…
Cures for diseases, energy and environmental sustainability…
Mental health and economic stability…
Prolonged longevity and an end to food insecurity…
The end of many menial tasks and the taking on of tasks once thought to be intimidating too tame…
Are all closer than you think.
In fact…
Peace, prosperity, good health, and human happiness on a global scale are not just idealistic goals…
They are achievable benchmarks in our evolution.
We have developed a knowledge base through science that makes all of these accomplishments…
highly likely,
if not entirely inevitable…
The path set by research over the last hundred years has birthed much positive change to our existence so far…
And is poised to do so again with cumulative magnitudes of magnificent results in the millennia to come
For it to do so we need only protect the foundations upon which our scientific principles are founded.
To follow facts were they lead us…
and, by fostering future findings through the funding of fledgling ideas…
Science is at the very heart of everything we humans have done to improve our lives.
And nothing else we do is nearly as important to our survival as a species…
Except perhaps for
This Week in Science,
Coming Up Next…

First up, the top science news stories of the week!

Wobbly Jets
Using the Very Long Baseline Array, researchers at the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research were able to determine that a variable binary system black hole called V404 Cygni isn’t lined up quite right, and is spinning at 60% the speed of light, which has led it to express a wobbly jet.

Alzheimer’s Prions
For years we have known that amyloid beta plaques and tau tangles are involved in Alzheimer’s disease. But, now, thanks to new bioassays developed at UCSF, we know that AB and tau are self-propogating prions, and that we may have been focusing on the wrong stage of disease development. Clearing out the plaques and tangles is action taken too late for the brain. Researchers are now looking at treatments that can address the prions themselves or mechanisms to help the brain clear the rogue proteins from cells more effectively.

[Watch our interview with Dr. Donnelly on his work to understand ALS and fronto-temporal dementia here!]

New Denisovan Discovery
An old jawbone found in a 40 year old archaeological collection was determined to belong to a Denisovan, placing the ancient people on the Tibetan plateau about 160,000 years ago.

And, now it’s time for Blair’s Animal Corner!… with Blair!

Why do women live longer?
The answer is in males’ tendency to punch each other…

Why is DEET so effective?
It’s surprisingly, all in their gams.

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This Week in What Has Science Done for me Lately?!?

“Well, since I don’t think I have a good definition of what exactly “lately” means, I’m going to try to tell what science has been doing for me for the last 14 plus years. I guess this period will include “lately” as well. -:) I think I had an interest to science as far back as I can remember, but since I began listening to your show I believe my interest became more organized.

In my life, like in all our lives, there are ups and downs. I have these moments when I’m exhausted, depressed, jaded. Turning your TWIS episode on works like the best anti-depressant I can think of. It allows me to jump out the train of these negative emotions that you feel when you’re depressed.

Speaking of depression, it’s one of the emotional states that, thanks to science, I realize the chemistry of hormones is partly responsible for. Realizing why I feel this way or another helps me to get back on track and calm down. It’s not bullet proof; the more ancient part of the brain that’s responsible for emotions is still there in my skull -:) but. at least with my neural-cortex I can think it through and “fix” myself.

Again, I wouldn’t have a slightest idea of what’s going on if not your show that I’ve been listening to since 2005, and which set me towards reading a lot of great books about science. Like “Consciousness Explained”, “From Bacteria to Bach and Back”, “A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived”, “Grooming, Gossip and Evolution of Human Language” and many more.

I’ve just finished reading yet another one – “Mistakes were made – but not by me”. Well, I’m not sure how much I can actually follow the authors suggestions, given that so many people around me don’t and won’t follow these. But I will try to factor them in anyway to enhance my communication abilities and just be a better human being -:)

I heard Neil Degrass Tyson once said that science is first of all the way of thinking and then the rest is what people usually associate with it. This is what I value about science the most – how this way of thinking helps me process the world and make sense of it. Or when it’s about some “brutal fact” that doesn’t provide an answer on the question “how come?” and it’s just the way it is, without explanation we all are always looking for everything around us, I just accept it as such thing.

So, even though I’m not a scientist, and my current work as a content editor for an online publication has nothing to do with a degree in Methodology I got in the university back in late 90s – science has a huge role in my life. For me this is the way to make through this life with issues that it throws at me.

Sometimes when I listen to you talking on the podcast about something very enthusiastically I wonder that perhaps you may have some issue in your life at the moment too but talking about science for you is the best way to get over it, it’s like an anchor. So I’m with you, this is my cure too.
–Minion Artyom”

Let’s continue with Some Science News From This Week in Science

The real super power of super heroes
Why are comic book superheroes drawn they way they are? It has to do with being supernormal! And, not necessarily healthy representations of the human form.

Geomagnetic Jerks
Based on data from the ESA’s SWARM satellites, researchers are modeling the Earth’s magnetic field in the hopes of being able to predict future changes.

Narwhal Diversity
The unicorns of the sea are surprisingly homogeneous when it comes to their DNA.

Water From Space
analysis of samples from asteroid Itokawa were unexpectedly rich in water , suggeting that half of all water on Earth could have come from asteroid impacts.

Titan’s Ice
A new analysis of imagery data of Titan’s surface revealed a vast stretch of exposed bedrock water ice that do far defies explanation.

And, finally, Some Quick Science News Stories To End The Show

Drug For Toxo?
Could an old drug for high blood pressure reduce symptoms of Toxoplasmosis infection in people?

Despite their label, biodegradable bags failed to break down after 3 years in soil or water. So just bring your canvas bags already!

Wolves vs Dogs
On the question of which is more pro social, wolves win.

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