17 February, 2021 – Episode 812 – Fungus February Fun!


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What is in the This Week in Science Podcast?

Perseverence On Mars, Silent Caterpillar Killers, Meat For Cats, Looking Out, Dog Shows, Fish Tracks, Interview with Dr. Ivan Liachko of Phase Genomics, Cockroach Wings, Spider Legs, COVID Protection Genes?, Not So Rare SNPs, Less Is More, Avian Insulation, And Much More…

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Disclaimer, Disclaimer, Disclaimer!!!
As a cold snap grips much of Texas,
And millions are without power as temperatures drop below zero,
Some strange news is coming from the fossil fuel industry
Via the Texas governor and Fox news…
That wind turbines are to blame for the power outages!
Yes the green new deal, so alive and well in Texas,
Is the reason for the power outages according to Fox news and Governor Abbot.
A few fun facts…
Denmark gets 41% of its electricity from wind
Germany 21%
Canada and Sweden have hundreds of dedicated wind farms generating power.
And they all work in the cold weather which those countries are all too familiar with.
The state of Iowa gets 40% of its energy from wind, the most in the United States.
Now western Iowa is seeing rolling blackouts from this winter cold snap as well…
But that’s because 50% of its gas powered generators went off line!
Texas on the other hand gets only 10% of its energy from wind,
and has had similar issues with generators freezing.
Not wind turbines,
but gas generators…

The point is,
government officials pointing fingers out of political convenience
While ignoring the real issues is soooo 2020.
It does nothing to solve the actual problems because it ignores the actual cause.
And, it is just the sort of dangerous thinking that led us to bring you
This Week in Science,
Coming Up Next…

Let’s start with the science news

Perseverence On Mars
One day until the NASA Perseverence Mars rover lands on Mars with the Ingenuity Mars helicopter. As discussed previously on TWIS, with this mission we will collect new evidence for past microbial life on Mars with its core-drilling system, the MOXIE instrument will test conversion of CO2 in the atmosphere to oxygen, and we may just get the first audio from Mars from its microphones.

But, as we discuss exploring Mars and hoping to travel there one day, questions arise about the potential for habitability. This week researchers published a proof-of-concept study showing that nitrogen-fixing, oxygen-producing cyanobacteria can grow at low Martian temperatures and pressures on simulated Martian soil. Could this help in our terraforming attempts?

Caterpillars kill in silence
They muffle the cries for help from their plant victims.

Cats killing wildlife may be your fault
A new study indicates you may be able to prevent quite a few feline caused fatalities with some meat and some games…

Looking Out
A new study of 14 trans-Neptunian Objects published in the Planetary Science Journal suggests that previous analyses of these distant solar-system objects might be biased by where and when our telescopes are observing space, and NOT actually seeing evidence of a Planet 9.

Dogs are putting on a show
They may love to play, or they may just love the look on your face when they do…

Fish Tracks
Oregon State University researchers have developed a method for using eDNA to track fish in waterways without having to go fishing.


And, now for our Interview!

Dr. Ivan Liachko is the founder and CEO/CSO of Phase Genomics and one of the inventors of their core technology, applying proximity ligation data to different facets of genomics.

He received his B.S. at Brandeis University in 2001, his Ph.D. at Cornell in 2007, and went on to do his postdoctoral work in the Department of Genome Sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle. He has authored more than 40 academic papers and a number of patents in the field of genomics and synthetic biology. He founded Phase Genomics in 2015 and leads the organization in an executive as well as technical role.


It’s time for Blair’s Animal Corner!

Do you love me enough to chew my wings off?
This Valentines Day, show her you love her by chewing her wings off, and then asking her to do the same. It’s a classic but oh so lovely.

Spider legs have a mind of their own
No, really. And that’s the story.

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What science news did Justin bring this week?

Neanderthal genes can reduce COVID-19 symptoms
If you have the right ones.

Not all the SNPs in your personal genome are correct
Watch out for the rare variants! At least if you are basing your knowledge on data collected and created by personal genomics companies.

Let’s finish TWIS strong with science from Dr. Kiki!

Less Is More
Reduced levels of localized oxygen in the brain as a result of neural effort, called “functional hypoxia”, stimulates the release of a molecule that triggers synaptic growth and connectivity.

Avian Insulation
How do tiny birds survive frigid temperatures? A new look at birds from the the Himalayas suggests those at higher elevations have thicker down jackets.

This Week in Science Questions!

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

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Want to see what we were talking about at this time last year? Check out this episode of TWIS from 2020 when we talked with Amy Shira Teitel about her book Fighting For Space. (It seems appropriate for a week of Mars history-making)

You might also enjoy our interview with Mars Geologist Fred Calef III in which we discussed the Perseverence mission plans.

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