05 August, 2020 – Episode 785 – Why Are Lemurs???


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What is in the This Week in Science Podcast?

Martian Ice Sheets, Athletic Potential, Happier Cows, Sperm Spins, Juno Sparks, Toxic Spider Webs, INTERVIEW w/ Dr. Lydia Greene about Lemurs, COVID Update, Reversing Alzheimer’s, MS Holy Grail, Brain Limits, Bad Pandas, Beetle Butts, And Much More…

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Check it out the full episode on our YouTube channel. You can do that here.

Disclaimer, Disclaimer, Disclaimer!!!

The following program might be considered politically biased because it is almost entirely science based…
We have not taken time to include the “other side” of the arguments.

We will often refer to the world as round knowing full well that there is still a robust argument
amongst a few individuals somewhere around the world,
who have a different view of how the universe works.

We will talk as if global warming is real and man made and getting worse,
despite the politicians with ties to the fossil fuel industry not being convinced.

We will talk about extinct life forms, ancient DNA, and evolution
without explaining that most of the world still entertains cartoonish children’s stories as its origin.

And we will talk about the very real threat from a pandemic virus…
We will not allow anyone here to call it a hoax.

Not when there is now 1 American death every 80 seconds from covid-19.
Wear a mask…
Wash your hands…
Stay home…
or better yet
Head for the hills, and don’t ever plan on coming back…

What ever you decide
Remember that if we all took the drastic step of doing nothing together
For just three weeks,
We would be done with it.
Instead, we are just beginning another episode of
This Week in Science,
Coming Up Next…

Let’s start with some quick science news stories…

Martian Ice Sheets
Using an algorithm taking into account erosion processes, researchers at the University of British Columbia and collaborators analyzed over 10,000 Martian valleys and compared them to subglacial channels in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. They found similarities that led them to a new hypothesis that there were never free-lowing rivers on Mars, but instead river-like channels on the Martian surface were formed by meltwaters beneath ice sheets like those the used to cover much of Earth. The idea would be even more supportive of life on Mars, as thick sheets of ice would protect any microbial life from solar radiation and provide a more constant environment for growth.

3D Body scan can tell your athletic potential?
Maybe? Or, it might be good for helping you buy clothes that fit.

Happier cows
Cows perform social grooming, and studying that could help us make happier cows, healthier cows, and better milk and meat.

Sperm Spins
Apparently, sperm don’t swim. They spin. A new investigation of sperm motion determined that what we saw as a side-to-side beating motion under the microscope was actually an optical illusion based on 2D viewing. Sperm use 3-dimensional movement to drill, spinning their way to the egg like a top with the sperm body doing the spinning as the tail wiggles asymmetrically to one side.

Juno sparks new questions about Jupiter
How does that lightning spark?

Toxic Spider Webs
Orb weaver spider webs might contain neurotoxins! Christie Wilcox reports on a paper this week that reports neurtoxin-like compounds in the silk glands of banana spiders, which might allow them to weave webs of doom for their prey.


Who did we interview this week?

This episode we are joined by… Dr. Lydia Greene
Dr. Greene is a NSF Postdoctoral Fellow in Biology in the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University working at the Duke Lemur Center studying the ecology of Madagascar’s lemurs by looking at their poop. You can follow Dr. Greene on her Instagram where she shares many pictures of cute lemurs.

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Now for the weekly COVID-19 Update!

COVID Update
According to the Johns Hopkins COVID Trackers, the US remains #7 in terms of per capita daily incidence and #1 in terms of total daily incidence. India is poised to surpass the US should we begin to decline. Also, the WHO data suggests a global plateau for daily incidence is emerging. If you are interested in judging the riskiness of attending public events in your area, check out this calculator!

Kids Got Virus
Although they don’t present with symptoms as often as adults, a study looking at the viral load in various age groups with mild to moderate symptoms found that young kids often have as much if not more virus than adults. This doesn’t say anything about their ability to actually transmit the virus. Additionally, a separate study found that 10-20 year olds transmit virus as readily as adults. So, the picture of kids as viral petri dishes still holds.

Modelling School
Two studies modeled different scenarios for returning kids to school – one in the Lancet found that in the UK a substantial proportion of the symptomatic population would have to be tested regularly, and contact tracing and isolation implemented and strictly followed if schools are to reopen and not trigger a second wave. The second study in JAMA looked at college age students, and concluded that all students would have to be rigorously tested every two days to ensure safe campus re-openings at a cost of $470 per student per semester.

Complement Gone Awry
Lurking in our immune systems is an ancient power that today is understood as a a functional bridge between innate and adaptive immune responses that allows an integrated host defense to pathogenic challenges. While the proteins that comprise the Complement cascade are nominally part of the innate immune system, they can be recruited into action by antibodies. And, according to a recent study, this is potentially how the SARS-CoV2 virus is taking advantage of our immune systems – a survey of viruses discovered that coronaviruses tend to be mimics of complement and coagulation proteins. Another study published this week in Nature Medicine reports that people with age-related macular degeneration, who have an over-active complement system, are at increased risk of developing severe COVID-19. The finding suggests that drugs that work to inhibit complement proteins could have use in treating the disease.



Tell us a story Justin!

Reversing Alzheimer’s
New drug targets in a mouse model lead to reversal of cognitive deficits. Will it work in humans?

Dr. Kiki’s got some science for you!

Natural Protection
In MS, the myelin sheath that protects nerves deteriorates and reduces nerve function. Scientists at the University of Edinburgh discovered a natural mechanism they are calling ARMD that protects myelin from damage when MS isn’t involved. That discovery led them to find a readily available diabetes drug that protects nerves from the damage of MS by enhancing ARMD.

Brain Limits
Could our brains ever be ramped up like in the movie Limitless? According to a study in the Journal of Neuroscience, the answer is no… unless we can figure out how to boost cellular metabolism.


It’s time for Blair’s Animal Corner!

Pandas are the worst
Carnivores in trouble in panda habitat don’t seem to be benefiting from their conservation efforts. Jerks can’t share I guess…

Beetles crawling out of a frog’s you-know-what
Now that’s survival of the fittest!

This Week in Science Questions!

Kurt Larsen writes:
“Hope you folks are staying safe over there, both physically and mentally. We haven’t had a case in our state for a couple of weeks now, so fingers crossed!

My question for TWIS is that for the last six months there’s been a large increase in personal hygiene. From social distancing, to hand washing, to the use of sanitizer, or just staying home we’ve been exposed to less pathogens, and the drop in “”common”” diseases like influenza have been quite marked and measurable. And people are still having babies. Maaaybe more than usual later in the year. Hey, lockdown was boring right!

As you know the Hygiene Hypothesis is the idea that a decrease in exposure to microorganisms, particularly in children, leads to greater problems with allergies and immune diseases. I know time will tell, but do you think will we see more problems in the upcoming months and years, or will this be a worldwide experiment to disprove the theory?”

Listen to the podcast to hear our discussion!

Do you have questions that you want us to answer? Send us your questions! We will do our best to have answers!

Leave us a message on our Facebook page, OR email Dr. Kiki!

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