04 December, 2019 – Episode 749 – Did It Really Start With A Bang?


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What is in the This Week in Science Podcast?

Interview w/ Dr. Ethan Siegel, Shrinking Brains, Domesticated People, Questionable Domestication, Evasive Bacteria, Bird Breaks, Galapagos Finch Fear, Shrinking Birds, Listening Dogs, Frozen Pup, Foggy Findings, EPA Transparency Troubles, And Much More…

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The universe is a very big place
Partly due to the fact that we only know of one universe
And compared to anything in it,
the universe is always substantially larger.

So when pondering the universe,
the first question that confronts a potential ponderer is:
just where to begin one’s pondering?

There are more than several logical pondering places to begin.
However, it’s always recommendable to begin in a place immediately relevant to the ponderer.

Being that you are most likely a mostly hairless ape,
you might start with pondering how a mostly hairless ape
with such pondering powers came to be in the first place.

And like loose threads of a tightly knitted sweater,
this starting point will begin to unravel the recent development of human evolution on earth.

If you can avoid the detailed rabbit hole of human history…
all the gnashing of teeth, flag waving, and near constant battles over this or that square measure of dirt…
Then you might get on to pondering all life on earth…
And, even the earth itself.

Pointing your pondering beyond this planet will provide you with many more world to explore.
The solar system…
Beyond that, as if that were not enough,
billions more solar systems are waiting to be explored in just this one tiny galaxy!
And there are billions more beyond this one.
And, with all galaxies in all the universe confidently in our pondering path,
We must consider that matter makes up but less then 4% of the stuff that is in our universe.

And since the practice of pondering can propagate itself prolifically,
it is probably more practical to simply apply that recommendation of
Pondering the immediately relevant.
And there has never been anything more immediately relevant than
This Week In Science,
Coming Up Next…

Let’s start with an interview!

Interview with Dr. Ethan Siegel –
Ethan Siegel is an astrophysicist and science writer. He writes regularly on the Forbes site, Starts With a Bang, and has authored two books, ‘Beyond the Galaxy: How Humanity Looked Beyond Our Milky Way and Discovered the Entire Universe’ and ‘Treknology: The Science of Star Trek from Tricorders to Warp Drive’. He’s currently working on a third.

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

“This email is long overdue! I’ve listened for years and have had comments that go as far back as KDVS, the revolving door of interns, and the near crossover with This Week in Tech.

While this trip down memory lane is brought to us by my hippocampus, science has helped me remember those small tasks that are often forgotten…but not anymore!

Science has given us computing, and modern usage has given us digital assistants. With a wee babe on my hip I have mastered the art of remembering tasks when inappropriate, like remembering to buy donuts…after dinner when the shops are closed. But now when I remember something at a bad time I can tell my watch to remind me, and I have now fooled people into thinking that I actually remember more than I do.

Thanks to science, I can say “”Hey digital assistant, remind me to buy donuts tomorrow at 7am”” or “”Remind me to email Kiki tonight at 10pm.”” What a difference one sentence can make when I can actually respond to my own calls to action!

Thank you science, for helping me be a responsible adult.
Thank you Kirsten, Justin, and Shouty Blair for being my long-distance friends. Apologies for being in the shadows for so long – I would only remember to write in when I was driving, and thus unable to write. Le sigh.


Let us know what science has done for you lately, and we will read it on the show!

Now, let’s continue with SCIENCE NEWS!…

Shrinking Brains
The brains of Antarctic researchers shrank while they were there.

Human Domestication?
Did a gene analysis just suggest that humans domesticated themselves? Perhaps.

No Domestication Syndrome?
But, a new study argues that the idea of a domestication syndrome might be flawed to begin with.

Bacteria communicate and coordinate
It appears that bacteria are able to communicate to avoid things that would cause them harm.

Finally, it’s time for Blair’s Animal Corner!

Bird bones get a lifeline from mammals
Mammal bones could be used to patch or support broken bird bones, meaning a broken wing might not be the end of the line, afterall!

Galapagos scaredy-cats
Or rather, scared-of-cats, in the case of Darwin’s finches.

Let’s end with some quick SCIENCE NEWS stories!…

Shrinking Birds
As the climate warms, birds are shrinking. But, their wings are getting longer.

Dogs Get Language
Apparently, dogs can understand words across a variety of dialects, which was something previously only known to be done by humans.

Ancient Dog…or?
18,000 year old dog found in ice only raises more questions about the origin of our best friends.

It’s Foggy
A BAD Fog?
It’s Bad at the EPA

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