07 October, 2015 – Episode 535 – This Week in Science Podcast (TWIS)


Nobel Prizes!, Giraffe Necks. Naledi Feet, The Cone Zone, Poop Mimicry, Nuptial Gifts, Chernobyl Cheer, Interview on Octopuses w/ Dr. Richard Ross, Psychic Robots, Stimulating Sex, And Much More…

Disclaimer Disclaimer Disclaimer!
It has happened again.
Another campus, another mass shooting, another group of families grieving,
while we suffer another round of political chest pounding and promises
to do something, or vows to do nothing…
That it so often takes place while people are seeking education,
performing the act of learning.
An act that propagates knowledge from the past into the future.
The act of learning that preserves our understanding of the
world and maintains all of our collective history.
Education is birthright.
Without it we lose our science, our medicine, our technology,
our history, and our humanity.
It is the one right we share that truly keeps us safe,
and should be defended above all others.
And, if there is any more sacred place on this planet than a classroom,
I’ve not seen it.
Hopefully we won’t end this latest lesson with yet another
moment of silence…
Too much is at stake to make that mistake again.
This week in science…
Coming up next

Nobel Prizes!
The Nobel Prize in Chemistry goes to Thomas Lindahl, Aziz Sancar, and Paul Modrich for their work in elucidating DNA repair mechanisms. The Nobel Prize in Physics goes to Takaaki Kajita and Arthur B. McDonald for the discovery of neutrino oscillations, which show that neutrinos have mass. And, the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to William C. Campbell and Satoshi Omura for their work on a treatment for roundworm infections, and to Youyu Tou for her discoveries about a malaria treatment.

Giraffe Necks
Elongation of the giraffe’s neck didn’t happen all at once, but rather in stages over evolutionary time.

Homo naledi feet telling us much about it’s strut
Feet and hands of an ancient human ancestor suggest that standing and walking upright was normal, but so was climbing trees.

Speeding up in the cone zone
Researchers have succeed in producing photoreceptors from human embryonic stem cells. When will we be able to fix blindness that results from macular degeneration?

Dung beetles: the ruse of false refuse
Plants have managed to make their seeds appear to be dung, thereby using beetles to disperse and plant their progeny.

That ain’t no box o chocolates
Decorator crickets give a special “nuptial gift” to females before sperm transfer, and it turns out that gift may alter key chemical processes in the female, even making her less likely to mate with others – now THAT is an aphrodisiac!

Chernobyl less disruptive than humans
Wildlife is thriving at the site of Chernobyl, despite radiation issues. It appears that the presence of humans is worse than a massive nuclear disaster…

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Interview with Dr. Richard Ross, Senior Biologist at the Steinhart Aquarium in the California Academy of Sciences in honor of World Octopus Day, which was celebrated on October 8th (Get it? Octopus… October? 8 legs… the 8th?). We talked about cephalopods in general, but specifically discussed the mating habits of the Larger Pacific striped octopus. Interesting stuff!

And, more science news…

Cactus: the new panda
Cacti are among the largest groups of endangered species, and people need to know.

Psychic Robots!
Researchers are developing algorithms that can determine your intentions, and act on them.

Raven Cooperation
They do cooperate, but not with everyone.

Sex Is Stimulating!
Two studies investigating the effect of sexual activity on the female immune system found that women who engage in sexual activity have specific changes to immune system protein and antibodies that are not seen in abstinent women.

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I'm the host of this little science show.