22 October, 2014 – Episode 486 – This Week in Science


Dark Matters, In The Light, The Fermi Signal, Olive Oil Update, Bendy Feathers, Skin Cells Brain Cells, Shrinking Goats, Latrines For Lemurs, Best. Experiment. Ever., Interview w/ Rob Manning From NASA JPL, And Much More…

Disclaimer disclaimer disclaimer!
If you are listening to the sound of my voice, you are alive…
And what’s more, you are not alone…
No matter where on earth you find yourself, life is all
around you…
Running, flapping, swimming and wriggling about…
Eating, getting eaten, causing traffic jams…
And while the planet you are standing on may be teeming with
The universe itself is not so crowded
Hundreds of billions of Galaxies… each with hundreds of
billions of stars…
And yet for all we know, we are the only life anywhere in
the universe…
The possibilities are plenty, the probabilities abound,
and yet on the only planet that we know supports life
has done so only once in its 4 billion year history…
We are searching the surface of another planet tonight…
looking for clues of life beyond our little blue rock… and perhaps planning for
a second home amongst the stars
A home not unlike the home we have found here…
On This Week in Science… coming up next

Dark Matters
A group of scientists report that strange fluctuations in X-rays emitted by the sun could be the result of axions, a particle hypothesized to be the source of dark matter.

In The Light
German researchers are repurposing a telescopic mirror to search for photonic evidence of dark matter in the fabulously named FUNK experiment.

The Fermi Signal
NASA’s Fermi space telescope has evidence of photon emissions from the black hole at the center of the Milky Way, which could be related to dark matter collisions. However, the signal is too weak to correspond to the predicted quantity of dark matter that should encircle the black hole had it formed according to the standard model of black hole formation. So, either dark matter theory is wrong, or we need to go back to the drawing board with our ideas about our black hole.

Olive oil update
Turns out that olive oil holds up better under scrutiny… er, heat… than other seed oils.

Bendy feathers
Feather structure is more complicated than thought, and very specific depending on the species.

Star wars
Scientists film a laser pulse, and determine that the movies have gotten them all wrong.

Brains cells
Completely bypassing the pluripotent state, researchers programmed skin cells to become brain cells without any intervening steps.

Climate Change is Shrinking Goats
A rise in climate of 4 degrees celcius over the past 30 years has caused chamois goats to shrink by a whopping 25%, but it appears to be due to a change in behavior, rather than resources…

Latrines: Facebook for Lemurs
Lemurs use latrine trees to communicate with each other through their urine – so the next time you think your partner’s addiction to social media is disruptive, be glad they aren’t lemurs!

Best. Experiment. Ever.
By terrifying squirrels with remote controlled cats and hawks, a researcher learned that they use vocal cues and physical signals to communicate with other squirrels, as well as predators.

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We spoke with Rob Manning about his book – Mars Rover Curiosity: An Inside Account from Curiosity’s Chief Engineer – and learned all sorts of things about the one ton robot crawling across the face of Mars.

Rob Manning has worked at NASA and Caltech’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory for more than 30 years. He now leads the engineering for the Mars Program Office and is chief engineer on a project to develop technologies for landing even larger robotic vehicles on Mars with hopes of eventually landing future astronauts and scientists on Mars.

More science!!!
Oldest sex is older than we thought
Placoderms are now the oldest vertebrate to show internal fertilization appendages, pushing sex’s origin back to 385 MYA.

Fish just want to have fun
Chiclid fish have been shown to exhibit “play” – proving fish have a lot more going on in their noggin than we like to believe.

The Coldest Meter
An experimental cryostat in the Gran Sasso laboratory in Italy has officially become the coldest square meter in the known universe. The CUORE experiment, otherwise known as the Cryogenic Underground Observatory for Rare Events, cooled a copper vessel with a one meter volume to 6 milliKelvin, or -273.144 degrees Celsius, which is not far from absolute zero, 0 Kelvin, or 273.15 degrees celsius.

Feeling SAD
A new unpublished study finds that people with SAD experience a 5% increase in levels of a serotonin transporter protein called SERT compared to normal controls.

Myelin For Memory
Using mice genetically engineered to lack the gene for creating myelin, scientists discovered that myelin is necessary for muscle memory to form.

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I'm the host of this little science show.