28 October, 2010 – This Week in Science


A Fifth Of Verts, Liberal Genes, The Tongue In Your Lung, The Madness of Smoking, Portable Breast Scanners, TWiWorld Robot Domination, An Interview w/ Tucker Hiatt re: Wonderfest, And Much More!!!

Show Notes:
Species Threatened
A global study by 3000 scientists in 38 countries has revealed that up to a fifth of all vertebrate species are threatened by extinction. The main threat of loss of species comes from South East Asia due to habitat loss and unsustainable hunting. But all is not bad, the report suggests that conservation is playing a great role in protecting many species. Without such conservation efforts, 20% of species would already have disappeared.

New genetic test to replace voting
Genetics could play a large role in people’s political leanings. Scientists conclude that ideology is affected by social factors as well as a gene called DRD4, a dopamine receptor. The researchers studied 2000 subjects in which they compared their genetic information with their social networks. The subjects were more likely to have liberal leanings if they had this DRD4 gene and an active social life combined.

Taste Receptors in Lungs
Scientists have discovered that human lung tissue has taste buds. Bitter compounds relaxed the lung tissue tremendously and opened the air ways better than any known substance. The researchers say that this could have huge implications for people who suffer from asthma.

Smoking in Midlife may cause Dementia.
Smoking is known for it’s adverse effects on the human body. Now researchers have added dementia and Alzheimer’s disease to that list. They found that people who smoked more than two packs of cigarettes a day during mid-life had a greater chance of developing these diseases later on in life.

Replacing Mammograms
Scientists have created a portable breast scanning device which uses radio frequency technology to scan for tumors present in the breast. These scanners can be used at a GP’s office or at home and deliver real time video images to a computer. It is a quicker and less invasive way to look for tumors and because of it’s speed and efficiency and size, could dramatically cut down waiting times for x-rays and save more lives.

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Saved by Emily, The Robotic Lifeguard
It may not be as eye catching as Pamela Anderson in a red bathing suit, but EMILY, Emergency Integrated Lifesaving Lanyard, may just save your life. It is a remote controlled robotic device especially designed to search for swimmers in distress. It can travel at 28 miles per hour through the surf, and gives a platform for swimmers to hang on to while EMILY races back to shore and to rescue.

Coffee in the Hand
Engineers have bypassed the traditional methods of creating a robotic hand grip and have created a unique device that utilizes balloons and coffee. This robotic hand is a latex balloon filled with ground coffee, which can conform to the shape of many objects by vacuuming the air out of the balloon, solidifying the grip on the object.

Robot Pancakes
Two robots, James and Rosie, have learned how to make pancakes from scratch. One robot fetches the ingredients and the other cooks and flips it.

Ostriches on the Run
Researchers conducted studies on ostriches to learn how they run efficiently. They discovered that the tendons in ostrich legs hold twice as much power from the recoil of energy stored there as compared to humans. The research could provide insights into the evolution of bipedalism, or even new directions in prosthetics.

Artificial Intelligence Fools Judge
The Loebner prize is an annual chatterbot competition that judges algorithms for text chat bots for their similarity to humans. Judges ask a series of questions to a human and a computer program. Then they must decide which is which.

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I'm the host of this little science show.