24 June, 2015 – Episode 520 – This Week in Science (TWIS)


Heading to Europa!, Parrot Mimicry Core, Counting Crows, Moth Tricks, Monkeys Wolfing Around, Hopping Lefties, Olfactory Fingerprinting, Baby ERV’s, And Much More…

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The following hour of science broadcasting will be delivered solely by female voices this evening. The good doctor and I are aware of stereotypes for females in our field, and we ask you to check them at the door. Not only for women of science, but for those in the media.

You may find yourself upset by our “uptalk,” use of “vocal fry,” colloquialisms like “like,” or distracted by our hair, makeup, or our “valley girl laugh.” You may jump to the conclusion that when we get passionate about a topic, we are “uppety” or “mouthy,” and confuse confidence for rudeness. You might find us #distractinglysexy. Even worse, you may think we are quite articulate and smart, for women.

Then again, you may just see us as scientists, as passionate advocates for the scientific method, truth, and debate. You may see us as hosts of your weekly dose of science, who do hours of research to bring you objective information, with a bit of opinion tacked on at the end. Even better, you may see us as intelligent, quick-witted, entertaining, and maybe even a little bit funny.

And so, TWIS listeners, we make an oath to you today, to check our preconceived notions about your possible presumptions at the door, if you in turn check your stereotypes, assumptions, and categories there, too. For after-all, we’ve come here tonight to discuss the news. The science news. So join us now, won’t you?

For This Week in Science! Coming up next…

Heading to Europa!
NASA has laid out its plan for a mission to the Jovian moon Europa, which might be the most likely location to support life in the solar system aside from Earth. Expect a launch sometime in the 2020’s.

Parrot Mimicry Core
Bird researchers have found a previously unidentified region in the song-production system that is correlated to the incredible mimicry abilities of parrots.

Counting Crows
Crows neurons work just like ours when numbers of objects are involved, suggesting that the ancestor of birds and mammals could count, too.

Ethiopian wolves collaborate with gelada monkeys to catch rodents
Gelada monkeys could easily be attacked by wolves, and should thus scamper off when they are nearby, but the two species have learned to coexists for reciprocal gain.

Finally, the key to pigeon navigation has been found! …In a worm…
Researchers have discovered a sensor responsible for detection of the Earth’s magnetic field for the very first time, in a roundworm. However, since it was found in such a “basal” creature, it may be the key to most navigation of this type in the animal kingdom!

Museum tricks moths into homosexual behavior
London’s Natural History Museum has decided to use a rather unconventional form of pesticide to rid their collections of moths. Wax with female moth pheromones once rubbed onto males cause mating behaviors to be aimed at the wrong sex, hopefully ridding the space of these pests within a few generations.

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Olfactory Fingerprinting
Turns out that people who describe odors in a similar way have similar genetic profiles.

Kangaroos are lefties
The discovery of “handedness” in kangaroos and wallabies show us that most of these animals prefer their left hand (or paw), despite lacking the neural circuit that links the left and right hemispheres in their brain.

Baby ERVs
Endogenous retroviruses incorporated into our genomes throughout evolution are activated during developmental stages in the human embryo. What these elements do is still unknown.

Camo Tech Update
Researchers at the University of Central Florida have developed an ultra-thin flexible full-color microdisplay that has major implications for mobile devices and fashion.

Weed Labeling
Your weed is probably mis-labeled.

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I'm the host of this little science show.