02 September, 2015 – Episode 530 – This Week in Science (TWIS)


Psychology Studies Repeated, Drop CO2 Cuz It’s Hot, CO@ Gas?, Wyoming Crocs?, Seahorse Mommy-Daddy, Self- Medicating Bees, Visualizing Echolocation, Radioactive Coal Ash, Runner’s No-Fat High, Fat And Guts, Bronze Age Brass, Biological Potential, Get Some Sleep!, And Much More…

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It’s time for a dose of reality. For millennia, humans have searched for the answers to life’s eternal questions, and I have one of them right here. Why are humans different from other forms of life on this planet?

The answers have been varied over the centuries; some philosophers pointed to our creation and appreciation of art, others our conscience, and yet more said it was our use of language, or our superior intellect.

And time and time again, science has shined a light on the natural world, and then back at humankind, and shown how perhaps we are not so superior; perhaps we are not so different. Art? elephants can create artwork, and show preference for some pieces over others. Conscience? Many social animals protect each other and act selflessly; rats will rescue friends in peril, while monkeys will share food when they receive no reward. Language? Birds build songs just as we use words, and one african grey had a larger lexicon than most of us. The last bastion was our intellect – we, certainly have greater brain power than the beasts that roam the wild!

But, as we discovered last week, certain monkeys can master fractions, better than many of us ever will. Fractions, people! So what is it? What do we have that the others do not? What makes us special? Are we even special? One thing stands between us and the wild. One thing has brought us our modern conveniences, our technologies, our complex societies, our medicines, and even our view of ourselves – the same thing that has also been used to prove we are not so dissimilar – SCIENCE. Science has taught us how much the same we all are, and in turn has set us apart. We do science, we live science, and we talk science… On This Week in Science, coming up next!!

Psychology Studies Repeated
In the Center for Open Science’s massive effort to replicate 100 psychology experiments, the results are in… and fewer than half of the studies could be repeated successfully. The results suggest that replication should be more of a focus in science, and that no single study should be taken as the last word on anything.

Drop CO2 Cuz It’s Hot
A new estimate of future temperatures and CO2 levels using more complicated computer climate models than were utilized for the IPCC report (i.e. taking more variables into account) suggests that climate will continue to warm longer than expected even if we reduce CO2 emissions as prescribed.

Tracking crocodiles in Wyoming and Canada
Yes, crocodiles. Yes, that kind of crocodile. Yes, Wyoming and Canada… yes that Canada… all thanks to a potential blanket of clouds.

CO2 into natural gas?
A new cheap and efficient method of turning waste CO2 into natural gas using solar energy looks promising for long-term energy needs.

Seahorses and humans have something in common, and it’s pregnancy
New research shows that what male seahorses and female humans provide for their babies during pregnancy is actually very similar, adding something new to the list of “convergent traits.”

Self-medicating bees
Bees infected with parasites favor a certain compound found in some of their favorite flowers, essentially self-administering medicine.

Echolocation seen clearly
Bats have given us a little bit of a better idea on how echolocation works – they play to their strengths, and avoid the areas they’re not great at “seeing.”

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Coal might make you glow
Radioactive coal ash is currently unregulated, and a new study suggests that those coal ash waste ponds might be even more dangerous than we thought.

Runner’s No-Fat High
Turns out low levels of leptin, which is produced by fat cells, might be the driving force behind the Runner’s High. It’s not a high, your body just wants you to go find food.

Fat And Guts
Mice fed a lard-based diet gained more weight than controls fed a fish oil diet, and showed signs of inflammation and metabolic disease. Microbes seem to hold the key to this metabolic disaster.

Bronze age brass gets 3-d printering job
No butts about it… the irish were musical folks.

Blueberry Beats Biofilm
An analysis of blueberry extract as a therapeutic agent against periodontal disease causing bacteria demonstrated significant antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects.

Wasps Against Cancer
Wasp venom contains a compound that is a potent destroyer of tumor cells. Turns out that the effect depends on a strange conformation of the tumor cell membrane that differentiates them from normal cells.

Pthalate Association
While only an association, scientists have detected a correlation between pthalate blood levels and risk of miscarriage.

We’re in the wrong galaxy…
Ellipticals are probably better for fostering life.

Jurassic National Park
We are for it!

Timing of sleep just as important as the amount
Mice who got plenty of sleep, but at an unusual time, had more trouble fighting off illness. Yet another reason to pay shift workers more…

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I'm the host of this little science show.