13 February, 2019 – Episode 708 – This Week in Science Podcast (TWIS)

February 14th, 2019

What is in This Week in Science?

Interview w/ Dr. Brian Keating, Bug-pocalypse, Heart-Shaped Tail, Sandy Footprints, Slimy Rocks, Love is for Losers, Emotional Alterations, Valentine’s Drinking Plans, Ultima Pancake, Mars Of Lost Loves, And Much More…

Want to listen to a particular story from the This Week in Science podcast? You can do that here. Just look for the time-code link in the description.


According to Wikipedia:
An adventure is an exciting experience that is typically a bold, sometimes risky, undertaking. Adventures may be activities with some potential for physical danger such as traveling, exploring, skydiving, mountain climbing, scuba diving, river rafting or participating in extreme sports.
And while risking life and limb may seem adventurous to some…
There is another form of adventure that requires less limblessness…
Every question posed
Every experiment run
Every data set examined
Is an adventure into the unknown
An adventure into unexplored territory
An intellectual sky dive into a world we often learn we just barely know
And while getting to know the one world we are living on
There are (understatement) many more places beyond our world that we have yet to explore
So if adventure is your thing
Pack your bags and get ready to take on anything that comes your way here on
This Week in Science,
Coming Up Next…

An Interview with Dr. Brian Keating

Dr. Brian Keating is a Professor of physics at the Center for Astrophysics & Space Sciences in the Department of Physics at the University of California, San Diego where he leads the Ax Center For Experimental Cosmology. He is also Associate Director of the Arthur Clarke Center for Human
Imagination. He authored “Losing the Nobel Prize: A Story of Cosmology, Ambition, and the Perils of
Science’s Highest Honor”. In 2016, Keating was named Director of the Simons Observatory in northern Chile, which when completed in 2022 will be the world’s highest altitude and most sensitive instrument ever designed to study the origins of the
Universe. ”

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This Week in What Has Science Done for me Lately?!?

“What has Science done for me lately?
Science has allowed me the luxury of contemplation. Science has allowed me the knowledge of my world to be able to see the beauty of it all through the details of it all. Science has allowed me to be able to sit on a beach mesmerized by the awesomeness of the ocean knowing full well that there are more water molecules in a glass of water than there are glasses of water in the ocean. Science has allowed me to hold the sand in my hand and know that the sand does not actually touch me nor do the grains of sand touch each other but that we are all are held slightly apart, suspended by the interactions of the electrons filling the surface. Science allows me to contemplate that even though I sit on the beach I am mostly empty space and if that space were removed I would be reduced to the size of the grains of sand that stick to my skin. I can gaze at a beautiful sunset knowing that the gorgeous sight is made visible by the light streaming into my eyes after a 93 million mile journey from a ball of plasma and that it only took it 8 minutes to get to me, but that doesn’t diminish the beauty of the moment it heightens it! It makes the moment that much more awe inspiring because while I – a small bag of atoms – sit on this one beach on this one small planet in this ordinary system in this average arm of this common galaxy in this vast universe. I am here and I am alive and I can appreciate it for what it really is. All because men and women striving for truth, striving to know this place and our place in it have made it possible. Science has given me perspective and gratitude and for that I am truly and forever grateful.
-Minion Dale Moore-
(Last submission Oct 2017 wrote in as a technophile.
Love the show, love you, Twitter: @thegooglefan)”

Some Science News From This Week in Science

Here is what you need to know about the global decline of insects.

Heart-Shaped Tail
Just in time for Valentine’s, a dinosaur discovered with a heart-shaped tail.

Neandertal footprints in the sand
Apparently, footprints preserved in sand are thought to be Neandertal in nature.

Quicker start to life on earth
Did scientists really find 2.1 billion year old ameboid slime trails in rock?

Blair’s Animal Corner!… with Blair!

Love is for losers
The more “sensitive” crickets, or rather, those that can’t stand up for themselves, tend to do better with the ladies. So take that, Brad!

Oral Contraceptives may alter emotional intelligence
Women on the pill had a harder time recognizing facial cues of certain subtle emotions. But does it make them worse than men?

And Some Quick Science News Stories To End The Show

Valentine’s Drinking Plans
The order doesn’t matter, according to a scientific study in which scientists got people drunk.

Ultima Pancake
Ultima Thule apparently looks more like my pancakes than a snowman.

Mars Of Lost Loves
Mars One is going bankrupt.
In a sad turn of events, Opportunity rover did not respond today after 15 years exploring over 45 kilometers of the red planet’s surface in a mission that was to last only 90 days. A dust storm last year is thought to have disrupted it’s solar panels leading to its demise.

If You love TWIS, please consider making a donation to This Week in Science below.


06 February, 2019 – Episode 707 – This Week in Science Podcast (TWIS)

February 8th, 2019

What is in This Week in Science?

Evolution Thru Natural Selection, Melting Ice, Climate Forecasting, Bees Count!, Panda Past, Cuckoo Fish, 100 New Species, Killing Guns, fMRI And Consciousness, Sperm Counts!, Flying Pink Squirrels, Sleep Learning, Fidget Science, and Much More…

Want to listen to a particular story from the This Week in Science podcast? You can do that here. Just look for the time-code link in the description.


The fast pace of current day life…
Life in the information age, where we are surrounded by so much knowledge…
An age where we stand on the shoulders of giants, those thinkers and tinkerers of the past…
An age where we advance science beyond and above…
and other wise further away from where science woke up that morning.
And yet, if we look at how we got here.
The things that actually lead to a bigger brain…
Or more importantly the massively increased blood flow to the brain,
The running, and hunting, and more running, and keen eyed foraging, and more running,
and the sniffing out dangers, and the still more running,
and the careful listening in the night and the really just constant running…
We must take pause and contemplate how differently most of us who don’t run constantly living are from the creatures that proceeded us.
Yes we have big brains and we rely on them still for survival…
But there is a distinct possibility that the brains of current humans represent peak human intelligence!
In which case, we should use them as much as possible now before evolutionary atrophy can set in.
And how better to apply a brain of peak intelligence that by listening to
This Week In Science,
Coming Up Next…

Some Science News From This Week in Science

Evolution Thru Natural Selection

A lab experiment went wild, putting wild mice in outdoor pens with differently colored soils to see how animal coloration changed over generations.

Melting Ice

As Antarctica and Greenland melt faster and faster into the seas, it’s important to have an idea of what to expect. And, we can not only expect higher sea levels, but also changes in weather as ocean circulation patterns are altered.

Global warming forecast..

it ain’t great. In fact, it’s going to get worse.

For the love of Bees…

Let them count!

Blair’s Animal Corner!… with Blair!

Ancient pandas were not just “pandas”

Panda is the Nepalese word ‘nigalya ponya’, which means ‘eater of bamboo’. It turns out that ancient pandas were doing much more than that!

Fish daddies would rather be cuckolded by a brother

Being cuckolded by a relative is much preferred in fish – which makes sense if you don’t think about it too hard…

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This Week in What Has Science Done for me Lately?!?

“Hello TWiS!
I was listening to the most recent episode of the show and I was bummed when you had run out of listener submissions. I love that segment!

We had emailed in April 2018 about how my then three year old son had been diagnosed with a craniopharyngioma, a really rare type of brain tumor that mostly impacts kids. It can have lasting and severe impacts for the rest for their lives, everything from sight and neurological deficits, to hormone deficiencies and more.

I’m not sure if you wanted to share my update, but I figured I’d give you guys one just in case. 🙂

My son is doing great! He’s a happy and healthy five year old! We’ve started getting ready for his leaving preschool and graduating into kindergarten. We’ve started human growth hormones over the summer since his tumor calcified his pituitary and he’s shot up. He’s gone from being one of the smallest kids in his class to one of the tallest.

He’s still on a number of medications several times a day that help us maintain all of the different hormones in his body that regulate everything from thirst, to growth, to parts of his immune system. But it astounds me that modern medical science can not only do this, but do it so well. He’s still a completely normal kid. No one knows anything is different about him unless we tell them.

It’s all due to modern medical science. If this had happened a hundred years ago I wouldn’t have him in my life. But because of medical science and a huge team of people who dedicated themselves to making kids well, he’s thriving and excited about going to big kid school.

We’ve had four monitoring MRIs since I emailed you last year. We’ve seen some small (expected) tumor regrowth and we have another surgery somewhere on the horizon months or years from now, but our neurosurgeon and neuro-oncologist aren’t concerned about future complications. The diagnosis is good. We shouldn’t even need another craniotomy – we should be able to just do a endoscopic transsphenoidal operation (through the nose) to remove the growth.

The whole ordeal has left him with a huge appreciation for science. Lately we’ve been doing science experiments at home that involve the cold weather we’ve been having in New England. He really got a kick out of learning all about dry ice with me (very safely – don’t worry) and the water cycle.

Keep up the good work guys. 🙂 I hope more listeners share their own stories too.
Ed Godbois”

And, Some MORE Science News From This Week in Science

What girls like to do…

(it’s science!)

100 New Species

Of gut bacteria!

Guns don’t kill people, but people with guns do kill people…

with guns.

fMRI And Consciousness

Two studies this week in science used fMRI brain scanning to look at patterns of functioning in the brain: the conscious and unconscious, and the effects of LSD.

Sperm’s Up!

Is it thanks to marijuana, testosterone, or good old honesty?

Holy pink flying squirrels, Batman!

Flying squirrels fluoresce bright pink – there, that’s a thing you know now. No, we don’t know why yet, Karen, WHY DO YOU HAVE TO RUIN THIS FOR ME?!

Sleep Learning

Researchers showed the hippocampus is responsible for allowing memory formation and recognition of words from another language heard during deep sleep.

Fidget Science

Researchers used a fidget spinner to separate blood showing these readily available toys to actually have a function other than annoying teachers.

If You love TWIS, please consider making a donation to This Week in Science below.


30 January, 2019 – Episode 706 – This Week in Science Podcast (TWIS)

January 31st, 2019

Interview w/ Dr. Rebecca Helm On Jellyfish, Eyes From Skies, Think And Say, Dating Old Man, Rising Tides, Artsy Bees, Mice-olation, Baby Talk, Sequencing Axolotl, Church Science, and Much More…

Want to listen to a particular story from the show? You can do that here. Just look for the time-code link in the description.

The way it works is like this…
You have a question
You ask that question
Or more likely you google that question
And you get an answer
Sometimes that’s all it takes to satisfy a curiosity.
All it takes to acquire new knowledge
Other times the questions we ask lack sufficient grammar and past knowledge to be answered simply
Requiring more questions to be asked
On occasion the questions don’t even have answers yet
This is where the curious minded questions we come up with can take us in many directions
They can propel us out of ignorance
They can pull us towards knowledge
And perhaps most importantly of all
They can lead us to
This Week in Science
Coming Up Next!

Interview w/ Dr. Rebecca Helm, assistant professor at the University of North Carolina, Asheville, specializing in the evolution and development of jellyfish. She wrote an insightful article for The Atlantic that describes the neuston and its inhabitants. Follow her on Twitter for great ocean conservation and jellyfish information.

Support us on Patreon!

This Week in What Has Science Done for me Lately?!?
None this week… we need you to keep this part of the show going! Send us a message on Facebook or send an email to Kirsten (at) thisweekinscience dot com.

Now, back to the regularly scheduled science…
Fire Prediction
Looking down on the planet can help us look ahead.

Speaking Brains
Using neural network and Vocoder technology trained to recognize brain patterns related to listening to speech, scientists were able to create a brain to speech interface that can be understood about 75% of the time, which is better than anything else created to date.

Ancient hominid cave reveals more secrets of the past
Clarifying dates and relations.

Expected sea rise is… on the rise
seas may be rising faster than thought

This bee isn’t sure about your art
Bees have been shown to be able to discern art styles of two different artists after a short experiment. Does that mean all our art looks like flowers? Or do bees actually have an opinion on the fine arts?

Mice of a feather do or do not flock together, depending…
Socialized, or “friendly” mice group together quickly when regrouped in the lab, but those who were kept inside during their childhood did not play well with others. What’s more, if you mixed the two, the friendly mice were quite good at getting the quiet individuals to come out of their shell! Mice aren’t so different, are they? *squeak!*

Baby Talk
Babies who are exposed to two languages at home see early development of the attentional system, which underlies all of cognition, providing an explanation for how early language learning provides life-long benefits.

First the axolotl genome, then THE WORLD!
If anyone wanted to make an x-man, we might be one step closer. Oh, or heal spinal injuries and brains. That, too!

Church turns to…
science to save it from the natural world

If You love TWIS, please consider making a donation below.


23 January, 2019 – Episode 705 – This Week in Science (TWIS) Podcast

January 24th, 2019

Is Planet 9 Real?, Cloned Edited Monkeys, Listening Leaves, Crow Considerations, Budgie Boyfriends, Can Cure Cancer?, Check Your Gums, Reversing Alzheimer’s, Sediba Stories, Neander News, Little Dead Frozen Things, Go Go Gadget Gene Drive, Exercise Is Mental, Jesus Geckos, And Much More…

Want to listen to a particular story from the show? You can do that here. Just look for the time-code link in the description.

The wonderful thing about wondering about things
is the wonderful places that wondering can take you
No matter how far back in current human history you go
There is evidence of wondering about the unknown…
And one of the wonderful places that wonder often leads…
Is discovery.
Discovery can be the destination of wonder…
But it can also be the journey itself,
with many discoveries whooshing by…
And along that wandering journey of wondering
The many discoveries unwound from the unknown
will undoubtedly wheel us towards more wondering
Until one wonderful day when we discover what it is we’ve all been wanting…
Another episode of
This Week in Science!
Coming Up Next…

Is Planet 9 Real?
Maybe not, say some researchers who came up with a model and didn’t do any observation.
But, a brand new paper by Brown and Batygin lends heavy credibility to the idea of a planet out there.

Cloned Edited Monkeys
Chinese research has crossed a new threshold with the publication of two papers describing the CRISPR editing of macaque monkey embryos and the production of clones based on fibroblast cells taken from the embryos using somatic nuclear transfer.

Listening Leaves
Plants respond to specific vibrations in the environment.

Crows are smart. Again…
This time, it looks like they can infer how heavy an object is, by seeing how the wind might blow it around.

Intelligence is sexy. No really! Science says so!
…If you are a budgie… Being able to solve a puzzle makes unappealing males suddenly the life of the avian party. So take that, bullies!

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This Week in What Has Science Done for me Lately?!?
“Hi Dr Kiki, this is probably too long for you to read on the show… I unfortunately talk a lot, this gets transferred into me typing a lot. this is my What has Science done for me lately story.
Hi, my name is Ash and I’m a High School Science Teacher in Sydney Australia. I have been wanting to contribute to ‘what has science done for me lately?’ for a long time. However, not being able to quantify what lately actually means, nothing has really stood out, as I try and communicate science to whoever will listen, even beyond my time at school. Blair’s 700th episode note inspired me to write in as it made me think about the way I teach.
When I get a new grade of year 7 students (First year of High School in Australia) I always ask the class to draw a scientist for homework at the end of their first lesson. Rest assured 90% of the time their image is Einstein esq. sometimes there is the odd girl or Professor Frink from the Simpsons. After they’re finished, similar to Dr Kiki did for Blair, I ask student’s if they have ever asked “why?” about anything, solved a problem for themselves, worked out how to fix something, even tried different strategies to pass a really hard level on a video game. If so, they have engaged with at least part of the scientific method and they themselves are scientists. As they progress through high school they are going to learn the skills to be even better, more informed scientists, of which they are extremely enthusiastic about and eager to learn more. They repeat the activity drawing themselves as scientists and everyone is keen as beans to get learning. Unfortunately, there is some correlation between puberty and a demise in this enthusiasm, which I think kicks in when teenagers realise they know everything, fortunately for most their enthusiasm is rekindled in about grade 10 when they start thinking about their future.
BUT what has science done for me lately? In 2017 myself and 3 other teachers were selected by the Australian Science Teachers Association to go on Bush Blitz. A program funded by the Australian Government and various private organisations to send about 20 specialist taxonomists into the field of remote areas of Australia for two weeks with the goal of discovering new species and recording range extensions for known species. As a biologist this was a really amazing experience because the only fieldwork I did in my undergraduate degree was collecting rocks for one of my lecturers research. There were a few new plant and some animal species found as well as apparent new spider genus, but I haven’t seen a paper published on it yet so that may have fallen through. To sit around a table with all these specialists in their field, enthusiastically talking about their discoveries of the day over dinner was incredible and I wanted to spend as much time with all the scientists absorbing all the knowledge that I could.
This experience inspired me to be a more involved citizen scientist, using various app based technology to help with the recording of species within my local area. Furthermore it increased the cache of skills I have to teach my students, and has helped me engage them with their local environment. Giving me the necessary skills to head outside and confidently teach how to record abiotic and biotic data, catching and identifying spiders, insects and record sightings of larger animals with the aim of creating long term surveys, monitoring the health of our local ecosystem as we have an airport opening up 6km from us in 2026.
The experience also inspired me to return to university, and I am currently doing my Masters in Zoology (entomology) part time while working. I am loving all the skills I am learning and have come up with some research that I may look to undertake in regard to ecological education in the future.
Communicating Science is my life and I am a better educator because of TWIS. My students love hearing all the things that I have learnt from your show often diverging into a rabbit hole of tangents that have nothing to do with the curriculum. Some stories have even helped me improve my results, because you direct me to extremely current research in my assignments that my lecturers want to then discuss with me. Maybe when Uni is all done I’ll be able to collaborate with Blair as a colleague if I’m lucky enough to score a job as an educator at the Taronga Zoo in Sydney.
In summary, Science… It has made me who I am. Science, hockey and music are all I really talk about and whenever conversations hit a lull I start a sentence with “so have you heard about…” and will start talking about something that I have read or learnt from this show. It keeps dinners gatherings with my relatively conservative family interesting. I know this isn’t what you usually read out in the segment but I just wanted to contribute to the show. Good Science to you all.
(If you want to see my students loving Science check out @ashsix4 or #sciencewithmulcahy on instagram)”

Another cure for cancer…

Check Your Gums
A bacteria might act as one cause of Alzheimer’s Disease, and researrchers might be onto a treatment

Reversing Alzheimer’s
A team from University of Buffalo has reversed cognitive effects of Alzheimer’s disease in a mouse model. Great news for mice!

Australopithecus sediba
Acool walking skeletal animation, and more evidence of the braided stream.

Neander news
Long-term cohabitation was a thing.

Little Dead Frozen Things
found beneath the Antarctic ice.

Go Go Gadget Gene Drive
Researchers are looking at new techniques to improve gene drive results in mice.

Study links exercise to good mental health

Running on water – not just for saviors
Geckos have been recorded running on water – using a combination of surface tension, hydro[hoib skin, and slapping motions.

If You love TWIS, please consider making a donation below.


16 January, 2019 – Episode 704 – This Week in Science (TWIS) Podcast

January 17th, 2019

MS Advances, Mystery Species, Tantalizing Teeth, Slimesplosion, Sex And Shells, Humans-Hounds-Hares, Fat Cancer, Predator Whales, Blood Vessel Organoids, Science Footsies, Broad Virus Protection?, Space-biotics, Surfs Up, And Much More…

Want to listen to a particular story from the show? You can do that here. Just look for the time-code link in the description.

Amazed by it or not…
The scientific world never ceases
Asleep at the wheel is no problem at all…
The scientific world is keeping a good grip.
Too busy to bother with the details?
The scientific world already has them neatly laid out.
Don’t have time to get sick?
The scientific world is on it.
It covers peoples mouths when they cough,
it washes their hands,
and it even wipes their bottoms.
And just in case you were wondering…
The scientific world wants you to know.
Where ever you are…
whenever you are…
whatever you are doing…
The scientific world has you covered,
has your back, front and side to side.
The scientific world is looking out,
not just for you but your children’s children’s children…
and all your ancestors too.
The scientific world never sleeps,
never takes a day off not even on its own birthday,
which you missed again this year,
but it’s ok…
Because the scientific world never complains,
never holds a grudge,
never needs winding, ironing, charging,
or hard to find replacement parts from a supplier with a confounding website.
And above all,
the scientific world is listening
To this week in Science
Coming Up Next…

MS Immune Replacement
Is chemotherapy and stem cell replacement worth the risk for MS treatment? Research suggests it might be for 15-20% of MS sufferers.

MS Protection
A compound called Sephin1 showed promise in protecting mice from myelin damage by protecting oligodendrocytes, the cells that create the myelin sheath.

Mystery species in the human genome… hint, it’s not aliens.
Deep learning technique provides insights into human evolution

Tantalizing teeth
Ancient human teeth.

How Hagfish Slime Slimes
Apparently, it unravels.

Shell Me A Story
A survey of multiple hermit crab species supports the hypothesis that hermit crab penis size is related to shell theft.

Support us on Patreon!

This Week in What Has Science Done for me Lately?!?
“Listening to podcast 690 convinced me to stop using plastic altogether. With the new and expanding research on the affects plastic has on wildlife I believe that each person even making a small slow step to eliminate plastic usage could benefit the world. I have also convinced my family and we are trying to spread the word to family and friends to, slowly but surely, limit our uses of plastic throughout our daily life. This is how science has benefited me lately.
Now I have a question that I have been trying to figure out and would like a second opinion on it. In Neil deGrasse Tyson’s podcast with Joe Rogan he explains that it is difficult to view some quantum particles. He explains that when you can’t see something it could be anywhere, but when you turn on the light you can view it. Which makes sense to me. He later says that when scientist try to view some subatomic particles that photons themself move the particle meaning that it cannot be viewed. I was thinking of ways to figure out ways to due this.
So my question to you, Justin and Blaire is : Could we use acoustic levitation yo suspend subatomic particles in place to view them? Now I know you may not know the exact answer to this question but I would like to hear how you brainiacs would go about solving this problem. Thank you for TWIS! It always keeps my brain thinking and my curiosity wondering. Keep up the good work.
–Damien Brodbeck”

Humans, hounds and hares
Hunting help might have led to human-hound cohabitation.

Fat Cancer
Using two FDA approved drugs, researchers induced human cancer cells in mice to turn into fat cells.

Apex predator whales of Egypt
They came for the babies.

Blood Vessel Organoids
Grown from stem cells in a dish, and successfully transplanted into mice, human blood vessel organoids have the potential to uncover causes of vasculature diseases and lead to new treatments.

Science Footsies
Small internal muscles of the foot that were thought to support the arch were instead found to be important for propulsion.

Broad Virus Protection?
A compound has been discovered that seems to act against SARS, MERS, ZIKA, an enterovirus, and various influenza viruses by interrupting lipid membrane processes.

Don’t use antibiotics in space.

Surfs Up
And, keeps getting stronger.

If You love TWIS, please consider making a donation below.


09 January, 2019 – Episode 703 – This Week in Science (TWIS) Podcast

January 10th, 2019

Magnetic Movement, Crystal Stars, Repeating FRB FTW!, Human Desire, Ebola Cure, Primate Disease, Whale DJs, Immune Systems, Early Autism Changes, Anger Stimulation, Cricket Culprits, Freaking Eye Beams, And Much More…

Want to listen to a particular story from the show? You can do that here. Just look for the time-code link in the description.

Robots are everywhere!
And robots are great, because robots do a lot of work faster, better and tirelessly.
Yes, robots work!
Until they don’t.
And when they don’t work, that’s where humans can help!
And humans helping robots get back on task…
While having nothing to do with the following program
Is exactly how I began and ended my day at work today.
Which is why this disclaimer is all about robots, and not
This week in Science,
Coming Up Next…

Magnetic Movement
Thanks to the US government shutdown, not only are thousands of people working without pay or furloughed, but the is FDA significantly reducing agricultural inspections, and it looks like global navigation will continue to be affected by a misaligned magnetic field.

Crystal Stars
There are diamond stars all around us.

Repeating FRB FTW!
The second repeating fast radio burst discovery in history was reported this week in Nature.

Human sexual desire…
is linked to relationship forming. Who knew?

Ebola cure
Has one been found?

You might take more than a photo home after snapping a selfie with a monkey…
Humans and monkeys in Cameroon interact in a lot of ways, but new research tells us that any contact, even having monkey on the menu, might get humans very, very sick.

Whale songs go in and out of style, just like those CRAZY PANTS, KAREN!
Humpback whales trade, incorporate, and together abandon elements of their songs, alongside other humpback populations, despite limited contact. Must be really catchy!

Support us on Patreon!

This Week in What Has Science Done for me Lately?!?
“Hi folks,
I’ve been a fan of the show for years now. And like many of your listeners, I have much to thank medical science for. Perhaps I’ll get back to you later about that. For today, though, I have to thank science for entertainment. Science is mostly the slow accumulation of facts and refinement of ideas, but I’ve always been fascinated by the breakthroughs that have added to the storehouse of knowledge, or in some cases by scientific events that were just spectacular. I’ve seen the arrival of Black Holes, quasars, the Cosmic Background Radiation, smallpox eradication, quarks, lasers, high-temperature superconductors, computing from vacuum tubes to qubits, space exploration from Sputnik to Major Tom in a Tesla, the Higgs boson, plate tectonics, graphene, Lucy, Denisovans, dark matter and dark energy, CRISPR and the list goes on. The Anthropocene and mass extinction, I could do without. But I find science and the power it has to lift the veil of ignorance to be immense fun and a great source of hope at the same time.

Lately? Well, lately, I have been given new entertainment by a subject that some folks thought was old hat when I was a kid, namely relativity. And it largely started with a TWIS episode. Let me explain.

LIGO and its companion detectors have opened up a whole new field of gravitational astronomy for us. Their detection of gravity waves has been covered extensively on TWIS, and as I am drafting this text I see four more events announced. As a byproduct, just over a year ago two papers came out almost on top of each other, and generated a classic moment of unintended comedy. On TWIS episode 643, Justin Jackson, with great enthusiasm, explained how the authors of the first paper, using LIGO measurements from black hole collisions, had been able to place upper and lower bounds on the speed of gravity, at roughly the speed of light plus or minus 45%. So far so good. He then immediately went on to describe the findings of the second paper, issued only 2 days later, which compared the newest matching gravity and gamma ray detector results for a neutron star collision. These findings proved that the speeds of gravity and light are the same to within a minuscule fraction above or below, expressed in scientific notation as numbers times ten to the minus 15th or 16th power. Unfortunately, in reading out the numbers, Justin kept leaving out the minus sign in the exponents, thereby effectively changing the accuracy to plus or minus about a billion light years per second, rather than fractions of a micron. He tried valiantly to explain why what he was reading out was an improvement. The look on Dr. Kiki’s face as she sought to contain the resulting confusion was priceless.

The whole occurrence inspired me to order a bunch of books from the library about Einstein and his work on relativity, which gave me many hours of educational entertainment, and deepened my respect for a great man’s genius. In appreciation, I offer the following limerick to the TWIS crew:
Although Justin could not say it quite,
The detectors show Einstein was right:
Their dataset proves
That gravity moves
At precisely the same speed as light.
–Rod Hagglund
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada”

Your genes are part of your immune system
Your microbiome is part of your immune system

Early Autism Changes
Using stem cells, scientists pinpointed the stage where neuronal development in autistic brains might start to differ from normal.

Anger Stimulation
Researcher used tDCS to modulate an area of the brain involved in impulse control to determine if anger-responses could be reduced… and they were.

Cricket Culprits
While crickets certainly weren’t the cause of concussion-like symptoms reported in relation to a strange illness affecting people on the US Cuban military base, their songs were part of the story.

Freaking Eye Beams
We all have imaginary beams coming out of our eyes.

Using plastic tarps and garbage to make our agricultural system more sustainable??
What is considered waste in agricultural industry, paired with some good, old-fashioned tarps, could make chemical pesticides unnecessary!

If You love TWIS, please consider making a donation below.


02 January, 2019 – Episode 702 – This Week in Science (TWIS) Podcast

January 3rd, 2019

2018 Predictions Review, 2019 Predictions, Drinkable Brain Juice, Dating Africa, Dinosaur Noses, Cuteness Aggression, Dimensional Bubble, New Horizons Snowman, Asimov Predicts, And Much More…

Want to listen to a particular story from the show? You can do that here. Just look for the time-code link in the description.

It’s a brand new year,
A mere babe in the chronological woods
And with a new year come new hopes,
Which are usually old hopes, dusted off, ironed out and given a bit of polish
In the hope that in the new year the old hopes will finally be realized
And with each new year, that sense of hopefulness is often framed by a winter landscapes
And a twinge of uncertainty
With these first cold shuffling steps into the unknown future
It is can be comforting to trace your steps ahead and plan for what’s to come
And as with any forward looking plan,
to do so successfully you must do that thing that you can only do whilst looking forward…
Predict how the future will unfold!
So on the following episode, we will do just that, prognosticate the path of science yet to come…
Right here on This Week in Science
Coming up next!

Predictions from 2018 – How did we do?
“- Climate was on everybody’s mind this year, and although there was much to get depressed about, efforts for positive action were apparent.
– The Hunter therapy was successful in that there werent any negative responses , but there wasn’t a reliable positive response either.There was movement in the CRISPR CART field that is very promising: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/03/180306115721.htm. And, afaik, there aren’t any results for the Chinese HPV trial, but we know what other unsanctioned tests have been successful.
– Juno is still going strong, the first data from TESS became available in December of last year, so we should be hearing lots more from TESS in the coming year, INSIGHT landed without a ticker tape prade from little green men, China’s Chang’e 4 launched in December to attempt a landing on the far side of the moon THAT IS HAPPENING TOMORROW, no Indian lander… yet, and we are tantalkizingly close to imaging the event horizon of our Milky Way’s black hole.
– Self-driving cars and accidents were up, AND AI started to make some scary gains
– I’m still waiting for the microbial mind control, but I think we learned that it might actually be possible.
– As exciting as Physics was this past year, I don’t think that we really broke the mold… just reinforced it, really.
– There were a couple of snybio advancements, but it wasn’t a game-changer kind of year.
– And, we got one live show in last year. I hope we do another in 2019!”

??? There were lots of words spoken here, but nothing written down.

“-Sperm: the new time-release capsule for your down-under, will begin clinical trials for cancer treatment!
-We will discover a new kind of cephalopod!
-Tardigrades will be discovered out in space, proving them to be the original alien.
-Coffee will be proven good, and then bad, and then good again.
Coffee helps teams work together
…and reduces risk of type 2 diabetes
But climate change is creating new stress for the bean, and people are split on how to fix it
-2018 will be the warmest year on record…
NO, 4th hottest
-White nose syndrome treatment will begin in the wild, saving some of the world’s bat populations!
Not yet, but a contender arrived! UV light!
-A scientists will run for congress in 2018 AND WIN.
YAS! 7! 3 engineers, 2 medical experts, a biochemist, and a software engineer!
-I will spend another amazing year on TWIS, and will once again find myself astounded at what a coffee shop interview for an internship in late 2011 became…
-TWIS will cross another state off our live show map!
No :(”

Alright, what do we think will happen in 2019?
“1) 2019 will bring waves of news about synthetic biological circuits…
While at first only used in convenient applications to allow biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies to quickly offer a smorgasbord of revolutionary products and cures…
Synthetic biological circuits will eventually replace all conventional electronics allowing everyone to remain completely unplugged all the time as the devices run on enzymes and not electricity.
However you will have to share your lunch with your phone…
2) A solar system will be discovered made up entirely of black holes,
Complete with an anchoring super massive black hole where the sun would be, smaller orbiting black holes and even moon like satellites, though much bigger than a moon, in orbit around those….
The stunning part of this discovery? It will be spotted not by a cosmologist with a telescopic array, but by a cosmetologist with really good set of teeth…
3) In 2019 Time Travel is Discovered!
Not that we discover how to time travel in 2019 but that we uncover the ancient tomb of a woman who is verifiably and undeniably of this century.
Awkwardly, the discovery comes five years before Lisa Randall even conceives of a theory by which she might actually be able to build such a device…
4) Despite all of the evidence to the contrary thus far 2019 is the year we learn that ALL sharks are primarily vegetarians… they just eat a bit of fish on the side…
Pescetarians everywhere are emboldened by this news and there is a noticeable up-tick in shark tattoos on people who have never been at sea.”

“-Tardigrades in space! Either on Mars, or somewhere else. We will not be sure if it is from contamination, or if they started out there. Yet…
-Dinosaurs will be reclassified as warm-blooded
-A national state of emergency will be declared in regards to climate change. Just not in the US…
-Tesla semi-trucks will go to market and start popping up across the country.
-Spiders will do something, or be discovered doing something, crazy and unexpected.
-Humans will invent a new (or overblown) food allergy.
-A CGI (human) character will star in a film alongside real actors, and we won’t be able to tell the difference. -Foldable smartphones will hit the shelves, and be short-lived…
-TWIS will do an amazing live show somewhere NEW in the world, with a great audience.”

“- the Chinese mission to the moon will be successful, and stoke the fire of the race back to the moon and onto Mars for the US
– the Indian moon mission will also launch successfully… because I am an optimist, and it would suck for the mission to fail after so many delays..
– LIGO/VIRGO will discover many more black hole mergers from big ones to little ones.
– we will see a successful SpaceX test of its crew capsule and docking with the ISS
– stem cell therapy companies will make a lot of noise as the FDA regulations kick in and cause some growing pains for the treatment industry
– There will be a kerfuffle between China and the rest of the world regarding CRISPR use in humans
– mosquitos with gene drive to limit reproduction will be released in the wild, mass hysteria will ensue
– CO2 capture will see a major development, and excite more people about helping reduce our greenhouse gas emissions
– another great year for TWIS!”

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“Predictions 2019 from Ed Dyer
The Event Horizon Telescope will create the first actual detailed picture of the black hole at the center of the Milky Way.

Cell based vaccines will lead to a universal flue vaccine.

A genetically modified horse will be born that will be faster and stronger than its counterparts. Scientist in Argentina rewrote the genome of cloned horses and the first foals are expected in 2019.

The flow of pollutants into our rivers, lakes, and oceans will increase and record breaking algae blooms, and fish die-offs will occur.

Humans will become increasingly relent on AI computer models doing research, and AI technology in our homes. An AI will emerge that begins to act solely on its own, A first step towards World Robot Domination!

Rose colored glasses sales will plummet. Tin Foil hat sales will skyrocket.

Dr Obi-Wan Kiki, Jackson Skywalker, Imperial Princess Blair, save me TWIS team. Save me! Your my only hope!
-Ed Dyer”

Brain Cocktail Hour
Scientists at Yale created a drinkable chemical cocktail that reverses prion-related brain degeneration and restores memories in mice.

The 20,000 year pulse of African emigration
New data sheds light on the movements of early hominids.

Dinosaurs getting “nosey”
…and just like that, one of my predictions may have come true…

Cute aggression is a real thing
And it makes me wanna bite that puppy’s cute wittle face off!

An Expanding Bubble
According to string theorists, our universe is on the surface of an expanding bubble in an additional dimension, and so our 4 dimensions are an emergent property of that situation.

Ultima Snowman
The New Horizons mission successfully rendezvoused with Ultima Thule on New Years Day, and sent back an image of a reddish space snowman.

Asimov Predicted 2019
And, he did pretty well…

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26 December, 2018 – Episode 701 – This Week in Science (TWIS) Podcast

December 27th, 2018

Top 11 of 2018!!!, And Much More…

Want to listen to a particular story from the show? You can do that here. Just look for the time-code link in the description.

What a year it’s been!
Of course I’m not talking about the things covered in the regular human news cycle
Yes there were wonderful
/ mundane /
painstakingly tragic human tragedies and triumphs this year…
But as a dedicated science news junkie,
nearly none of the news that exists beyond the pale of
Propelling our knowledge of the world at large really matters…
Yes I know it matters, yes everything matters…
But what separates science news from the rest of human the noise
Is that when we expand our knowledge in science
When we expand our understanding of the planet upon which we live
The solar system our planet resides within
The universe our solar system was born from…
That knowledge is firmly passed on to generations to come
To scientists and laymen alike
When we build upon the past, we build towards the future.
And as we build towards the future we can correct courses
That may have been poorly navigated in the past…
Nowhere else the trajectory of human progress and prosperity more firmly asserted
Then right here on
This Week in Science
Coming Up Next!

Top 11 Countdown…
Number 11
Diamond Earth
A new analysis of the crust and upper mantle of Earth using sound waves estimates that there are up to a quadrillion tons of diamonds hiding below the surface.
It came from space!
And landed in Greenland.
Deep Life
The Deep Carbon Observatory, which has been assessing the carbon inside our planet, recently reported that there’s a lot of life down there.

Number 10
Black holes
Milky Way’s Black Hole
It exists!
Speaking of Holes
Astronomers reported discovering black hole mergers in multiple galaxies.
The black hole mergers list grows

Number 9
Water On Mars
A massive underground aquifer has been detected on Mars. The hypothesis s that it is full of liquid water.
Mars Insights Coming
After its months long journey to Mars, the Insight lander successfully landed in Elysium Planitia on the surface of Mars, sent back some images, and is getting to work on science preparations. We should begin to see results within the next month as it will be drilling into the surface of the red planet taking temperature and seismic readings.

Number 8
Gene Drive
Driving Genes
A research team from UCSD reported the first demonstration of successful gene drive in mammals.
Genie In The Lab
A CRISPR-based gene drive to destroy reproductive ability in female mosquitoes was successful in the lab.

Number 7
Active Mini-Brains
Scientists turned stem cells into brain cells, and then into mini-brains, which spontaneously began connecting and communicating thru electrical signals that were eventually comparable to the brain activity of preterm babies.
Brains In Brains
Researchers showed that mini human brains implanted into mouse brains survived and functionally integrated into the host tissue.

Number 6
There is a battlefield beneath your feet…
Fungi vs. bacteria
The Sixth Sense
Just like our other senses, there is a fast-acting sensory system in the gut that communicates with the brain by way of the vagus nerve.
Create the blood you need
Stomach bacteria could turn donor blood into whatever type you need.

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Number 5
Turtle Missing Link
We’re getting close to finding where turtles belong in the evolutionary tree!
Oldest animals
Cholesterol molecules allowed identification of earliest animals.
Viruses – Alive?
Giant viruses have the ability to make synthesize protein – should we reclassify them and allow them into our “alive” club?
Ancient Viruses
Date back to the beginning of vertebrates, at least.

Number 4
Secret Head Tunnels
Your brain and skull might have conversations about health. According to a new NIH-funded study, immune cells are more likely to travel to the damaged brain from the skull’s bone marrow than from other parts of the body. And, the cells move through special channels that connect the skull to the brain’s meninges.
Keeping your brain longer
Lymphatic vessels key to proper brain aging
Sexy Brain Cells
Microglia look and act differently in the male and female mouse brains.
Fixing Alzheimer’s
Using human cells, researchers at the Gladstone Institute in San Francisco confirmed that the presence of a protein called ApoE4 leads to damage that potentially causes Alzheimer’s. Additionally, using a “structure corrector”, they were able to fix the mutant protein and reverse its cellular effects.
Viral Memory
An unexpected discovery found that a protein important for memory formation, called Arc, acts like a virus in that it shuttles between neurons. Understanding why and how it does this will help in the understanding of information transmission within the nervous system, and could also be a new way to get gene therapy into cells without using viruses themselves.
Memories can be transferred between organisms

Number 3
Baby Clone Monkeys
The first primate clones have been produced in China – two cutie-pie rhesus macaques.
You, Me, Uterus!
The Lancet reports the first instance of a live birth from a transplanted uterus from a deceased donor.
A Chinese researcher has been using CRISPR to edit embryos for HIV resistance. Apparently, twin girls have been born from this process. Independent analysis of the results is still pending, although the international community is in an uproar.
My Two Dads
An effort to create embryos from stem cells taken from two male mice was unsuccessful, but teaches us much.

Number 2
Climate Change
The Bad News
The IPCC issued a report this week recommending world governments take a drastic and unprecedented change of tack to meet a highly conservative global warming goal of only 1.5 degree Celsius in part through yearly reductions of more than 1 billion metric tons of CO2 emissions globally over the next decade, and ending all coal-power by 2050.
Climate Assessment
The US government’s fourth climate assessment was released last week on Black Friday, and concludes that the US will sufffer major economic impacts if we stay the course on climate.
Shrinking Birds
Higher global temps could shrink species (not just in number)
Damaging Male Fertility
Climate Change damages sperm in insects

Number 1
Neanderthal art
Finger Bone Finding
One finger bone is helping tell the story of human migration out of Africa.
Homo naledi’s brain
African origins were a multi cultural affair
Ancient human DNA O’plenty
New Neander News
A dou of Denisovan
Hobbit folk have mostly neanderthal DNA
Neanderthals made sculpture
Primitive human cave art not so primative… also not human
Compassionate Neanderthals
Neanderthal DNA conferred virus resistance to out of africanus humanus

And, honorable mentions go to…
They can be vegetarian and have fertilizing poop.

They give milk to their babies, even into middle age. They watch the stars to know when to take flight. And take the air on electrical fields, not wind. And, Zombie spiders tell us they live in colonies and work together.

And, New Caledonian crows for being so smart.

Also, we live in the future…
Car… In… Space
3D printed corneas
Contacts as Doctors

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