05 August, 2020 – Episode 785 – Why Are Lemurs???

August 6th, 2020
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What is in the This Week in Science Podcast?

Martian Ice Sheets, Athletic Potential, Happier Cows, Sperm Spins, Juno Sparks, Toxic Spider Webs, INTERVIEW w/ Dr. Lydia Greene about Lemurs, COVID Update, Reversing Alzheimer’s, MS Holy Grail, Brain Limits, Bad Pandas, Beetle Butts, And Much More…

Support us on Patreon!

Check it out the full episode on our YouTube channel. You can do that here.

Disclaimer, Disclaimer, Disclaimer!!!

The following program might be considered politically biased because it is almost entirely science based…
We have not taken time to include the “other side” of the arguments.

We will often refer to the world as round knowing full well that there is still a robust argument
amongst a few individuals somewhere around the world,
who have a different view of how the universe works.

We will talk as if global warming is real and man made and getting worse,
despite the politicians with ties to the fossil fuel industry not being convinced.

We will talk about extinct life forms, ancient DNA, and evolution
without explaining that most of the world still entertains cartoonish children’s stories as its origin.

And we will talk about the very real threat from a pandemic virus…
We will not allow anyone here to call it a hoax.

Not when there is now 1 American death every 80 seconds from covid-19.
Wear a mask…
Wash your hands…
Stay home…
or better yet
Head for the hills, and don’t ever plan on coming back…

What ever you decide
Remember that if we all took the drastic step of doing nothing together
For just three weeks,
We would be done with it.
Instead, we are just beginning another episode of
This Week in Science,
Coming Up Next…

Let’s start with some quick science news stories…

Martian Ice Sheets
Using an algorithm taking into account erosion processes, researchers at the University of British Columbia and collaborators analyzed over 10,000 Martian valleys and compared them to subglacial channels in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. They found similarities that led them to a new hypothesis that there were never free-lowing rivers on Mars, but instead river-like channels on the Martian surface were formed by meltwaters beneath ice sheets like those the used to cover much of Earth. The idea would be even more supportive of life on Mars, as thick sheets of ice would protect any microbial life from solar radiation and provide a more constant environment for growth.

3D Body scan can tell your athletic potential?
Maybe? Or, it might be good for helping you buy clothes that fit.

Happier cows
Cows perform social grooming, and studying that could help us make happier cows, healthier cows, and better milk and meat.

Sperm Spins
Apparently, sperm don’t swim. They spin. A new investigation of sperm motion determined that what we saw as a side-to-side beating motion under the microscope was actually an optical illusion based on 2D viewing. Sperm use 3-dimensional movement to drill, spinning their way to the egg like a top with the sperm body doing the spinning as the tail wiggles asymmetrically to one side.

Juno sparks new questions about Jupiter
How does that lightning spark?

Toxic Spider Webs
Orb weaver spider webs might contain neurotoxins! Christie Wilcox reports on a paper this week that reports neurtoxin-like compounds in the silk glands of banana spiders, which might allow them to weave webs of doom for their prey.

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Who did we interview this week?

This episode we are joined by… Dr. Lydia Greene
Dr. Greene is a NSF Postdoctoral Fellow in Biology in the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University working at the Duke Lemur Center studying the ecology of Madagascar’s lemurs by looking at their poop. You can follow Dr. Greene on her Instagram where she shares many pictures of cute lemurs.

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Now for the weekly COVID-19 Update!

COVID Update
According to the Johns Hopkins COVID Trackers, the US remains #7 in terms of per capita daily incidence and #1 in terms of total daily incidence. India is poised to surpass the US should we begin to decline. Also, the WHO data suggests a global plateau for daily incidence is emerging. If you are interested in judging the riskiness of attending public events in your area, check out this calculator!

Kids Got Virus
Although they don’t present with symptoms as often as adults, a study looking at the viral load in various age groups with mild to moderate symptoms found that young kids often have as much if not more virus than adults. This doesn’t say anything about their ability to actually transmit the virus. Additionally, a separate study found that 10-20 year olds transmit virus as readily as adults. So, the picture of kids as viral petri dishes still holds.

Modelling School
Two studies modeled different scenarios for returning kids to school – one in the Lancet found that in the UK a substantial proportion of the symptomatic population would have to be tested regularly, and contact tracing and isolation implemented and strictly followed if schools are to reopen and not trigger a second wave. The second study in JAMA looked at college age students, and concluded that all students would have to be rigorously tested every two days to ensure safe campus re-openings at a cost of $470 per student per semester.

Complement Gone Awry
Lurking in our immune systems is an ancient power that today is understood as a a functional bridge between innate and adaptive immune responses that allows an integrated host defense to pathogenic challenges. While the proteins that comprise the Complement cascade are nominally part of the innate immune system, they can be recruited into action by antibodies. And, according to a recent study, this is potentially how the SARS-CoV2 virus is taking advantage of our immune systems – a survey of viruses discovered that coronaviruses tend to be mimics of complement and coagulation proteins. Another study published this week in Nature Medicine reports that people with age-related macular degeneration, who have an over-active complement system, are at increased risk of developing severe COVID-19. The finding suggests that drugs that work to inhibit complement proteins could have use in treating the disease.

LET US KNOW WHAT QUESTIONS OR CONCERNS YOU HAVE ABOUT COVID-19, OR INFORM US ON ANY REGIONAL UPDATES, BY EMAILING KIRSTEN@THISWEEKINSCIENCE.COM.

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Tell us a story Justin!

Reversing Alzheimer’s
New drug targets in a mouse model lead to reversal of cognitive deficits. Will it work in humans?

Dr. Kiki’s got some science for you!

Natural Protection
In MS, the myelin sheath that protects nerves deteriorates and reduces nerve function. Scientists at the University of Edinburgh discovered a natural mechanism they are calling ARMD that protects myelin from damage when MS isn’t involved. That discovery led them to find a readily available diabetes drug that protects nerves from the damage of MS by enhancing ARMD.

Brain Limits
Could our brains ever be ramped up like in the movie Limitless? According to a study in the Journal of Neuroscience, the answer is no… unless we can figure out how to boost cellular metabolism.

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It’s time for Blair’s Animal Corner!

Pandas are the worst
Carnivores in trouble in panda habitat don’t seem to be benefiting from their conservation efforts. Jerks can’t share I guess…

Beetles crawling out of a frog’s you-know-what
Now that’s survival of the fittest!

This Week in Science Questions!

Kurt Larsen writes:
“Hope you folks are staying safe over there, both physically and mentally. We haven’t had a case in our state for a couple of weeks now, so fingers crossed!

My question for TWIS is that for the last six months there’s been a large increase in personal hygiene. From social distancing, to hand washing, to the use of sanitizer, or just staying home we’ve been exposed to less pathogens, and the drop in “”common”” diseases like influenza have been quite marked and measurable. And people are still having babies. Maaaybe more than usual later in the year. Hey, lockdown was boring right!

As you know the Hygiene Hypothesis is the idea that a decrease in exposure to microorganisms, particularly in children, leads to greater problems with allergies and immune diseases. I know time will tell, but do you think will we see more problems in the upcoming months and years, or will this be a worldwide experiment to disprove the theory?”

Listen to the podcast to hear our discussion!

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

Leave us a message on our Facebook page, OR email Dr. Kiki!

If You love TWIS, and all the science news we bring you each week, please consider making a donation to the This Week in Science podcast.

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29 July, 2020 – Episode 784 – How To Know A Narcissist

July 30th, 2020
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What is in the This Week in Science Podcast?

NASA Perseveres, Bacterial Survivalists, Anxiety Animals, Alzheimer’s Blood, Death Star Magnatar, AI For Bird ID, Narcissists Know Best, COVID Update, Poop Problem, Lighting Up Hearing, Dream Manipulation, Viking Virus, Stunting Growth, Thumb Necessity, Mosquito Bites, And Much More…

Support us on Patreon!

Check it out the full episode on our YouTube channel. You can do that here.

Disclaimer, Disclaimer, Disclaimer!!!

The world is a really big place.
Wherever you go…
The longer you are gone…
The stronger the longing is to go home again.
As a little girl with a dog once said,
“There’s no place like home.
There’s no place like home.
There’s no place like home.”
And yet…
In the aftermath of pandemic stay at home orders
Many are clicking their heels in hopes of being able to go
Anyplace but home.
Anyplace but home.
Anyplace but home.
But as long as flying monkeys and virulent viruses are still in the air
We must stay put until the epidemic passes.
Meanwhile we treat you to an assortment of interesting discoveries
Found behind the curtain of…
This Week in Science,
Coming Up Next…

Let’s start with some quick science news stories…

NASA Perseveres
NASA is heading back to Mars with the Perseverence rover and its hitchhiking helicopter, Ingenuity. If you remember our interview with NASA JPL geologist, Fred Calef, Perseverence is the smaple collecting mission that will poop out sample packages for a future mission to return to Earth. The launch is scheduled for launch between 7:50-9:50am ET on Thursday, July 30th, 2020 with projected Mars arrival on February 18th, 2021.

100 million year old microbes rising from a watery grave
How did these ancient bacteria survive?

Furry anti anxiety treatment
PTSD service dogs do the most good in preventing or interrupting anxiety bouts.

Alzheimer’s Blood
A study in JAMA this week suggests that a simple blood test could predict Alzheimer’s disease as much as 20 years before the onset of disease. The test would measure levels of one of the Tau proteins commonly found in Alzheimer’s brain tangles called phospho-tau217 (p-tau217). While not yet ready for clinical use, the researchers are optimistic about its potential.

Death star magnatar and it’s unusual emanations
What did we just see?

Alan, is that you??
First AI capable of recognizing individual birds

Narcissists Know Best
Publishing in the Journal of Management, researchers at Oregon State University found that narcissists don’t learn from mistakes because they don’t admit to making any.

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Now for the weekly COVID-19 Update!

COVID Origin Story
An international team of researchers reconstructed the evolutionary history of SARS-CoV2, and determined that the viral lineage has been circulating in bats for decades. The researchers see no need for a pangolin intermediary, although the spike protein may be adapted to infect both human and pangolin respiratory cells. They also found no evidence of lab origin or accidental release.

School Closures
As back-to-school season begins again many are wondering whether closing schools in response the the pandemic was a good idea in the first place. A new analysis in JAMA this week suggests that it was. Closing schools was associated with a significant decrease in incidence and mortality.

Longevity
The CDC reported this week that Even among young adults aged 18–34 years with no chronic medical conditions, nearly one in five reported that they had not returned to their usual state of health 14–21 days after testing.

Heart Marks
Two German studies found evidence of heart damage in COVID patients. The first, which looked at a sample of pople with average age of 49 who recovered at home, found structural changes similar to results from heart attacks. Ad, the other found high levels of the virus in autopsied heart tissues of people who averaged around 85 years old.

Hydroxychloroquine Fails… Again.
Another study, this time published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found no benefit of hydroxychlorquine when used with or without azithromyacin on mild to moderate symptom COVID-19 patients compared to standard care.

LET US KNOW WHAT QUESTIONS OR CONCERNS YOU HAVE ABOUT COVID-19, OR INFORM US ON ANY REGIONAL UPDATES, BY EMAILING KIRSTEN@THISWEEKINSCIENCE.COM.

Support us on Patreon!

Dr. Kiki’s got some science for you!

Poop Problem
A bacterial species found more often in the feces of older individuals caused cognitive impairment and colitis when transferred to healthy mice.

Lighting Up Hearing
Researchers restored hearing in rats using optogenetics and LED cochlear implants. Could light pave the way to future hearing?

Dream Manipulation
Would you manipulate your dreams if it made you more creative?

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Tell us a story Justin!

Did Viking longboats spread small pox?
Maybe? But, more importantly, old small pox strains suggest we’ve been pestered by the virus for thousands of years.

Stunted growth and the microbiome
A malnourished microbiome leads to deficits in nutrition and growth.

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It’s time for Blair’s Animal Corner!

It’s not enough to have thumbs
You also need to know how to use them!! It takes great brain power to handle dexterity, and for humans, it comes much later.

Why do mosquitoes bite?
It has to do with populations, climate, and genes. And he future doesn’t look good for us humans.

This Week in Science Questions!

Ed Dyer asks: “What are the best steps that can be taken to get, young school aged girls, especially in minorities, interested in pursuing science as a career. Also to provide the support they need to do so?”

Listen to the podcast to hear our discussion!

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

Leave us a message on our Facebook page, OR email Dr. Kiki!

If You love TWIS, and all the science news we bring you each week, please consider making a donation to the This Week in Science podcast.

Support us on Patreon!

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22 July, 2020 – Episode 783 – Why the Earth Isn’t Flat

July 24th, 2020
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What is in the This Week in Science Podcast?

Batting 1000, Nanostars!!!, Pig Vs. Dog, Hot In Here, Gonzalo Breaks Record, Creature Connectivity Correlation, Baby Picture!, COVID Update, Human Arrival, Good Plants, Brain Benefits, Feelings, Voice Matters, Outfox The Ferrets, Cube Earth, And Much More…

Support us on Patreon!

Check it out the full episode on our YouTube channel. You can do that here.

Disclaimer, Disclaimer, Disclaimer!!!
I’m about to give you some advice…

The following advice is just a bunch of words being said by someone who
Very rarely gives good advice and seldom if ever has followed any.

And yet, somehow there remains a desire to do one thing above all else.
And that is,
Not Look Like An Idiot.
At least not in public
And especially not in a recorded format like this
where people can watch you be an idiot over and over again…
Believe me, I’ve done it, I know…

Three things you can do to avoid looking like an idiot in public
1 – Know what you are talking about.
Know at least the basic facts…
and more is better.
It may require reading or even listening to others,
but the more you know about a thing that you are talking about,
the less of an idiot you will seem.

2 – If you say some stuff that you say might not, or for pretty sures, definitely isn’t true
Do not ask to be fact checked on the spot!!!
Unless you genuinely want to know the truth.

C – When faced with facts
that you yourself asked for
that refute what you previously said…
Remember that most of the people watching are not on your payroll.
And if you stick to the, now proven very wrong, thing that you said…
They will all openly and mercilessly mock you for being an idiot

And 4 – Do not base the credibility of your intellect
on a test designed to look for cognitive impairment.
Smart people never brag about being smart,
especially after taking a cognitive impairment test…
that’s what idiots do.

And remember, while not being an idiot isn’t everything,
It is something you’ll be able to achieve simply by listening to
This Week in Science,
Coming Up Next…

Let’s start with some quick science news stories…

Batting 1000
As part of an effort called Bat1k, the genomes of 6 bat species were sequenced and compared with other species. The results suggest that bats as a group might share a common ancestor with horses and whales, AND that they have always had an amazing immune system. Remains of viruses found in their genomes indicate infections that were thought to only affect birds. They have replications of many antiviral genes, and unique mutations in others that might explain the strength of the bat immune system. The researchers hope to be able to sequence 27 more genomes next year.

Silver Coated Golden Nanostars!!!
They might predict your health future.

That pig is less dependent than your dog
Pigs and dogs both solicited interaction from humans, but when it comes to problem solving, pigs tried substantially longer without asking for help.

Hot In Here
A new analysis of climate sensitivity, the measure of just how much the climate will heat up with a doubling of CO2, updated the previous estimate calculated back in 1979. Weaving together three separate lines of evidence, an international team of climate scientists produced a 66% confidence interval of 2.6-3.9 degrees C. The 90% confidence interval is 2.3-4.7 degrees C. This means there is virtually no chance we can keep warming below 2 degrees. Good job, people!

Record breaking tropical storm
The first of many?

Mouse brain? Human brain? What’s the difference??
A study on 130 species of mammalian brains shows equal connectivity and information travel efficiency. So size, nor species, appear to matter here.

Baby Picture!
For the first time, we have taken a picture of planets orbiting a star. Very much like our sun, the 17 million year old star called TYC 8998-760-1 and its two gas giants (6 and 14 times the mass of Jupiter) exist about 300 light years away, and were observed using the SPHERE instrument on the VLT from the southern hemisphere. The two planets orbit extremely far from the star, 320 and 160 astronomical units out.

IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN A TWIS SHIRT OR MUG OR OTHER ITEM OF TWIS MERCHANDISE CLICK ON THE ZAZZLE LINK TO BROWSE OUR STORE.

Now for the weekly COVID-19 Update!

COVID Update
Globally, total numbers of cases are increasing at an accelerating rate, indicating a lack of overall control of the situation. The US is number 4 is per capita daily incidence behind Brazil, Bahrain, and Oman. Goldman Sachs estimates that a national US mask mandate would increase mask use in public by 15%, which could reduce the need for more restrictive social distancing measures, and save the economy $1trillion dollars.

This Week in Science Questions!
“If a vaccine is just dead virus then why is it so hard to create a covid 19 vaccine?” – Paul Riley from our Facebook messages

Vaccine Progress
Multiple vaccines have stimulated immune responses, and are heading toward Phase 3 clinical trials. The U.S. has agreed to pay Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE nearly $2 billion to secure 100 million doses of their experimental Covid-19 vaccine to provide to Americans free of charge. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine and the National Academy of Medicine (NAM) have formed a committee that will develop an overarching framework to assist policymakers in the U.S. and global health communities in planning for equitable allocation of vaccines against COVID-19.

HCQ Doesn’t Work
Another study adds to the evidence that hydroxychloroquine doesn’t work.

LET US KNOW WHAT QUESTIONS OR CONCERNS YOU HAVE, OR INFORM US ON ANY REGIONAL UPDATES, BY EMAILING KIRSTEN@THISWEEKINSCIENCE.COM.

Support us on Patreon!

Tell us a story Justin!

Native Americans arrival into the Americas has been pushed back to 30,000 years!
… again

Plants are good for waterways
In many, many ways, natural vegetation benefits waterways and surrounding ecosystems.

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Dr. Kiki’s got some science for you!

Brain Benefits
Exercise is good for the brain… of another old mouse, according to this study recently published in Science.

Feelings
Using spinal stimulators, researchers are trying to simulate sensation in a prosthetic arm.

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It’s time for Blair’s Animal Corner!

The loudest voice isn’t always the most agreeable.
Being “assertive” or having a “strong voice” might be good for leadership, but not so much for bringing consensus.

Out-foxing a ferret
Invasive ferrets and hedgehogs smell their way to disaster, and new research on how they categorize smell could help us save those native prey animals from a grizzly fate.

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!

Leave us a message on our Facebook page, OR email Dr. Kiki!

If You love TWIS, and all the science news we bring you each week, please consider making a donation to the This Week in Science podcast.

Support us on Patreon!

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15 July, 2020 – Episode 782 – Why Friendliness is Fabulous

July 17th, 2020
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What is in the This Week in Science Podcast?

Cosmological Agreement, CAR-T Cure?, Daddy Mommas, Getting Gassy, Pigs Save Lungs, Interview w/ Dr. Brian Hare on The Survival of the Friendliest, COVID Update, Pickled Brains, Seeing Eye To Eye, Placental DNA Twist, Rat Rescuers, Lucky Handedness, And Much More…

Support us on Patreon!

Just a quick note: This week’s podcast interview was 2 hours long, and amazing all the way through. It was edited significantly to make the podcast episode a more palatable length (and, it’s still a 2-hour show!). For the FULL interview, we highly suggest you check it out on our YouTube channel. You can do that here.

Disclaimer, Disclaimer, Disclaimer!!!

The information you are hearing from your religious, business and/or political leaders
about the deadly viral pandemic
may or may not represent the actual evidence based understanding
of scientists and medical researchers who…
Know what the expletive they are talking about.

If viruses could be prayed away,
the pandemic would be over by now
If political will, sticking to your guns against popular opinion could persuade a virus
The pandemic would be over by now
If pool parties, getting back into the office and reopened restaurants was intimidating to a virus
The pandemic would be over by now

If we just took science seriously, if we just acted a little sooner or waited at home a little longer
The pandemic could be over by now

But instead
we may as well await the ringing of a bell and the voice from the street calling out…
Bring out your dead… bring out your dead
The only thing that may yet save us from the fate of death by ignorant and powers that be?

This Week in Science,
Coming Up Next…

Let’s start with some quick science news stories…

Cosmological Agreement
Data is in from the Atacama Cosmology Telescope, which mapped the cosmic microwave background radiation of a large portion of the sky, and agrees with previous results from the European Space Agency’s Planck Survey determining the Hubble Constant – a measure of how fast the universe is expanding. This is great news for validation of the CMB as a credible measurement method, but does not solve the the discrepancy between measurements made using the CMB versus those based on other methods. This Hubble tension could indicate a problem with the Standard model of physics.

Cancer cures that work
Study shows that CAR T cells could perhaps act as vaccines by exposing cancer proteins to the patient’s immune system.

Seahorse dads have a strong connection to their babies. Literally.
Researchers have discovered that male seahorses transfer nutrients, oxygen, and provide immune modulation to their babies while in the father’s pouch, and they think it is through a placenta!

Getting Gassy
Driven by increases in agriculture and natural gas, methane emissions have increased 10% over the past two decades, reaching 596 million tonnes in 2017. Increased consumption of red meat can be tied to the agricultural emissions in most places except Europe where cattle ranching has decreased and efforts have been made to reduce landfill emissions.

Pigs Save Lungs
Apparently, hooking damaged human lungs up to a swine’s circulatory system can heal the lungs… enough to potentially revive them for transplantation.

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Who is up for an interview?

This week we are joined by… Dr. Brian Hare
Dr. Brian Hare is a core member of the Center of Cognitive Neuroscience, a Professor in Evolutionary Anthropology, and Psychology and Neuroscience at Duke University. With his wife Vanessa Woods, he wrote ‘The Genius of Dogs’, and now “Survival of the Friendliest’.

Support us on Patreon!

Now for the weekly COVID-19 Update!

COVID Update
The US numbers keep climbing. The WHO suggests the public needs to be engaged in public health through individual behaviors that help others, and that the government should provide strong leadership and consistent messaging. And, there are now three vaccines entering Phase 3 clinical trials.

COVID Calling Card
A report in Science indicates that interferon response deficiency and exacerbated inflammation could be indicative of severe cases of COVID-19, and could guide treatment.

Reducing Inflammaton
Additionally, Tocilizumab, a rheumatoid arthritis drug has been used fairly successfully in a couple of recent studies leading to marked improvements in outcomes for the most ill with the virus.

Salon Safety
The CDC published a report finding that the use of masks by stylists at a hair salon likely influenced the reduced the transmission of SARS-CoV2 from infected stylists to clients.

Let’s answer a question about COVID and kids:
“Dear TWIS – Kiki, Blair, and Justin,
I have two very important questions I hope you will answer:
Has anyone ever actually sent you a haiku?
What evidence is there regarding how infectious children are with COVID-19? I teach high school biology, so I will soon be in close contact with a lot of teenagers. I recently heard a claim that children harbor less viral load than adults, which makes them less contagious – but I am dubious about this claim. (The information for the video that made this claim is at the end of this email.)
I am a recent fan of your podcast, but I found Kiki several years ago when I started teaching high school biology – I show your fermentation video to my class every year. It’s hard to tell if my students find it as amusing as I do, but you still crack me up every time!
P.S. I love your theme music! It never gets old.
Thank you so much for your response, and for spreading the good word about science each week.
Christin Shorma
Powell, Wyoming”

Canid COVID crapola!
Dogs can’t get COVID, the story you may have seen this past spring was hooey.

LET US KNOW WHAT QUESTIONS OR CONCERNS YOU HAVE, OR INFORM US ON ANY REGIONAL UPDATES, BY EMAILING KIRSTEN@THISWEEKINSCIENCE.COM.

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Tell us a story Justin!

Pickled Brains
Capers contain quercetin, a bioavailable polyphenol found in many plants that is known to have many healthful effects, acts directly on potassium ion channels and might influence heart and brain activity.

Tyrants And Parents
Dysfunctional families during childhood lead people to prefer tyrranical leaders as adults.

Dr. Kiki’s got some science for you!

Placental DNA Twist
When the placenta begins to form, the DNA in its cells gets twisted until it breaks into single strands instead of its normal double stranded form. The interactions that occur next determine its fate.

Seeing Eye To Eye
It doesn’t happen. We have perceptual variation that makes our view on the world unique.

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It’s time for Blair’s Animal Corner!

Rats can be good samaritans, or passive rubber-neckers, just like humans.
And it turns out, we operate with the same influences, pressures, and biases as they do!

Lefties and righties aren’t so different after all.
Four eyed fishes of the genus Anableps have left-leaning or right-leaning genitalia. What we assumed was a genetic trait turns out to be just… luck??

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!

Leave us a message on our Facebook page, OR email Dr. Kiki!

If You love TWIS, and all the science news we bring you each week, please consider making a donation to the This Week in Science podcast.

Support us on Patreon!

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08 July, 2020 – Episode 781 – How to Test for COVID

July 9th, 2020
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What is in the This Week in Science Podcast?

Neandertal Gene, Perky Ears, Coconut Killer, Carbon Source, Dog Years, Date Whoever, Mitochondrial Editing, Interview re: CRISPR + COVID w/ Dr. Enrique Lin Shiao, COVID Update, Missing Monster, Hummingbird Counters?, Caecilian Fangs, ALAN!, And Much More…

Support us on Patreon!

Want to watch this on YouTube? You can do that here.

Disclaimer, Disclaimer, Disclaimer!!!
Don’t gather round people, wherever you roam
And admit that the virus around you has grown
Accept that for now you’ll be celebrating alone
If your time is worth saving
Then you better start masking or just chill out at home
For the cases they are a spreadin’…

Prophetic lyrics from Bob Dylan,
a man so far ahead of his time
that even he may not have understood all the words to his songs…

And while misquotes from folk singers
Can be just as reliable a source of information on the epidemic
as the white house coronavirus task force

There is real information being looked at by scientists
Scientists attempting to save the world from a fate worse than death…
What’s a fate worse than death you ask?
Being too sick to tune into another episode of
This Week in Science,
Coming Up Next…

Let’s start with some quick science news stories…

Neandertal Gene
Do Neandertal genes predict COVID-19 disease severity? No, but a recent pre-print in the BioArchiv describes a genome association study finding that a stretch of DNA in people who tend to have more severe outcomes probably came from Neandertals. What does the gene do? How is it involved in the viral process? No one knows yet. But, hey! If you want to limit the spread of the disease, social distance, wash your hands, and wear a mask!

Perky ears
They want to move to the music…

Coconut: the silent killer…
Of animal species! Forget palm oil, this is the real thing…

Carbon Source
Using the Keck Observatory to observe the spectra of white dwarfs in open star clusters in the Milky Way, UC Santa Cruz astrophysicists determined that the lower limit for stars to be able to form carbon – the element responsible for organic life here on Earth – is 1.5 solar masses. So, sorry Sun, you’re out.

How old is your dog?
Mine is just about a year old, and that’s acutally closer to 30 than to 7…

Date Whoever
You don’t really know what you want.

Mitochondrial Editing
For the first time, researchers have developed a system for gene-editing that might be able to cross the mitochondrial membranes to enable single-base changes, a C to a T, to a single strand of mitochondrial DNA. The system uses a bacterial toxin called DddA that is broken into two pieces and linked to a DNA targeting sequence called TALE. If it is proven effective and non-toxic, it might lead to treatment of mitochondrial-linked genetic diseases.

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Who is up for an interview?

Tonight we are joined by… Dr. Enrique Lin Shiao.
Dr. Lin Shiao is a postdoctoral fellow in the Doudna Lab at UC Berkeley developing novel methods for CRISPR gene editing, a technical co-lead for the team developing the Innovative Genomics Institute’s COVID-19 testing lab process, and the co-founder of CaminosenCiencia, a Latinx science podcast.

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Now for the weekly COVID-19 Update!

COVID Update
A study out in JAMA reports that the total number of deaths due to COVID should be at least 28% higher.

COVID Brain
SARS-CoV2 doesn’t cross the blood-brain barrier according to a recent study, but it doesn somehow lead to a number of neurological complications including, delirium, brain inflammation, stroke and nerve damage, and might be linked to an increase in encephalitis cases.

Silent COVID
Asympotomatic and pre-symptomatic individuals might be responsible for a majority of all infections suggesting that even if all symptomatic individuals are isolated, widespread outbreaks could still occur. They write: “Our results indicate that symptom-based isolation must be supplemented by rapid contact tracing and testing that identifies asymptomatic and presymptomatic cases, in order to safely lift current restrictions and minimize the risk of resurgence.”

LET US KNOW WHAT QUESTIONS OR CONCERNS YOU HAVE, OR INFORM US ON ANY REGIONAL UPDATES, BY EMAILING KIRSTEN@THISWEEKINSCIENCE.COM.

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Tell us a story Justin!

Monster star goes missing
Was it a quiet retreat to darkness, or did we just happen upon it in its last throes of life?

Dr. Kiki’s got some brainy science for you!

Hummingbird Counters?
Do hummingbirds have a number sense? A new study suggests they might.

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It’s time for Blair’s Animal Corner!

Fangs for checking in
Amphibians have venom glands in their mouth, proving that you don’t have to pick between venom and poison, you can have both, i guess?

Have a light?
Cane toads could benefit from porch lights and be even more of a menace, so TURN THAT DANG THING OFF, KAREN!

This Week in Science Questions!

“I have a question for your new segment. It’s been reported that COVID-19 has a higher mortality rate rate in men. This seems to be a fairly common occurrence where illnesses and medications affect one sex more than the other.
While I’m sure the mechanism differs based on what we are talking about, has there ever been any research on why these differences exist?
– Ashlynn Antrobus”

Listen to the episode for our reply!

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

Leave us a message on our Facebook page, OR email Dr. Kiki!

If You love TWIS, and all the science news we bring you each week, please consider making a donation to the This Week in Science podcast.

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01 July, 2020 – Episode 780 – We’re Halfway There, and Living on Science

July 2nd, 2020
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What is in the This Week in Science Podcast?

New Flu?, Down Under Water, North American Penguinish, Absentee Voters, Bad Recycling News, Jello Jellyfish, Chicken Source, COVID Update, Got Stress?, Clearing Out The Old, Old Australian Plant, Long-tailed Tit Life, Flying Snakes, And Much More…

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Want to watch this on YouTube? You can do that here.

Disclaimer, Disclaimer, Disclaimer!!!

Just when you thought it was safe to gather in public…
You remembered that there is a growing pandemic
that has claimed the lives of over half a million humans in the past 6 months.

And, so you put on your mask, and socially distance yourself as much as possible.

Yes…
we all want things to go back to normal.
But like any problem,
Ignoring it seldom results in the problem just going away.

Things have been tough.
They are going to get tougher.
Political will, the eagerness of businesses to reboot, the willing workers in need of income…
Will not change the reality of our situation.
And cannot alter the course of events to come.

And, while we can eventually look at this as a stress test of our healthcare systems, our economies and our trust in politicians to handle crisis.

The more immediate requirements to survive the situation will come from science.

Which, is always finding new ways to fill our heads, our futures and our fortunes with…

This Week in Science,
Coming Up Next…

Let’s start with some quick science news stories…

New Flu?
Discovered by a project looking for viruses with pandemic potential in China, a new swine flu strain celled the G4 variant of the H1N1 influenza virus is circulating in pigs that researchers think has the traits to allow it to jump between humans and infect airway epithelia. Antibodies against G4 viruses were found in 10% of farm workers tested suggesting that infection can and has occured, but whether this will become a larger worry is still unknown.

Down under under water archeology
Aboriginal artifacts found under the sea.

Giant penlings in North America
Need I say more?

Early Absentee Later Disengaged
A study found that kids who were absent from school more often between K-8th grades were less likely to vote, reported having greater economic difficulties and had poorer educational outcomes as adults. These results have implications for how parents should prioritize school attendance for their children, especially as we move forward during the current pandemic.

A reason not to recycle
14% of european plastic recycling gets deposited in the ocean instead…

Those jellyfish sure seem nutritious
…but they are not…

Chicken Source
The entire genome of the chicken has been analyzed, and apparently humans in South East Asia or southern China domesticated the chicken from a pheasant-like bird approximately 7500 years ago. The closest ancestor is a red jungle fowl subspecies called Gallus gallus spadiceus.

Now for the weekly COVID-19 Update!

COVID Update
We are 6 months into this pandemic now, and the WHO reports 10.19 million cases and 503,862 deaths. The US CDC reported 2.58 million total cases (35,664 new) and 126,739 deaths (370 new). According to Johns Hopkins COVID tracker, The United States’ epidemic is currently following a similar trajectory to what was observed leading up to its first peak. And the NYTimes estimates 35 states are reporting increasing incidence over the past 2 weeks, and at least half appear to have set records for daily incidence over that period.

T Cell Immunity?
A pre-print on the BioArxiv suggests that immunity to COVID-19 might be more widespread than antibody testing estimates thanks to T-cells that seem to be present even after antibodies have waned.

Poking Feet
Cells infected with SARS-CoV2 grow filament-like protrusions called filopodia that contain viral particles, and might be used to poke and infect neighboring cells.

LET US KNOW WHAT QUESTIONS OR CONCERNS YOU HAVE, OR INFORM US ON ANY REGIONAL UPDATES, BY EMAILING KIRSTEN@THISWEEKINSCIENCE.COM.

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Dr. Kiki’s got some brainy science for you!

Got Stress?
Why does stress lead to increased inflammation? Researchers might have finally answered the question.

Clearing Out The Old
For the first time, researchers have recorded the process of glial cells cleaning up dead neurons in the brains of living mice.

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Tell us a story Justin!

A really old plant found in Australia…
was discovered after being stored in a box for 50 years.

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It’s time for Blair’s Animal Corner!

Long-tailed tits know what’s real is family.
Whether by a minute or a mile, winning is winning, and not mating with your mom is winning.

Flying Snakes
They bob and weave in the air! For a longer flight! FLYING SNAKES, GUYS! AHHHH!

This Week in Science Questions!

“People often talk about having a “strong” or “weak” immunity. What determines the strength of an immune system? Can people who have been exposed to more viral load on a regular basis (like those who live in crowded slums as an example) expect to have better chances of surviving COVID-19 because their immune systems are “stronger”?

Fan of the show. Thanks!
–Gaurav Sharma”

Listen to the episode for our reply!

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

Leave us a message on our Facebook page, OR email Dr. Kiki!

If You love TWIS, and all the science news we bring you each week, please consider making a donation to the This Week in Science podcast.

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24 June, 2020 – Episode 779 – No Sleep, Just Science

June 25th, 2020
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What is in the This Week in Science Podcast?

COVID Update, Viral Combat, Bipedal Crocs, Fashionable Parasites, Australia Canada Connection, NOT Neandertal Brains, Fungi Biofilm, Follow Your Nose, Migratory Poop, Aqua-fi, Imbalanced Merger, VIral Hijack, Avocado Gate, And Much More…

Support us on Patreon!

Want to watch this on YouTube? You can do that here.

Disclaimer, Disclaimer, Disclaimer!!!
The following program is brought to you courtesy of
The people from the future
Reminding you that what we do today
Effects the world that they will live in tomorrow
And
The people from the past
Reminding you that the world you are living in now
Didn’t just happen… It took hard work and investments in science

And also from the people of today
Who are impatiently waiting for another episode of

This Week in Science,
Coming Up Next…

Let’s start with a COVID-19 Update!

COVID Update
Stat News has a nice new COVID-19 tracker in caase you are interested in following the uptick in cases across the country and around the globe. Case incidence is up globally as the rate of increase is increasing – it took only 6 days to go from 8-9 million, whereas it took 8 days to increase from 7-8 million. This could be related to increased testing, so look at hospitalization and death rates for a better indicator, although deaths trail new cases by quite a bit. What this also means is that the death totals today are indicative of infections from several weeks ago, and that we will see deaths increase from the new upticks in places like Texas, Arizona, and Florida several weeks from now.

Light Damage
A new study suggests that 222nm far-UVC light could inactivate SARS-CoV2 in public spaces. However, the study didn’t actually look at SARS-CoV2, so we don’t really know for sure.

Immunity Questions
A study published in Nature this week has people wondering again whether we will be able to develop immunity to COVID-19 after infection. Just a note that although there was a reduction in antibodies over time: 1) the study was incredibly small with only 37 individuals in either group, 2) asymptomatic individuals showed this decrease at a much higher rate than symptomatic, & 3) the study only followed people for 8 weeks.

Don’t Stress
A Lancet report found that among people admitted to the hospital with COVID-19, higher cortisol levels (specifically above 744nmol/ml) were correlated with higher mortality.

Cook Your Mask
The Department of Homeland Security has a way for you to sterilize your masks if you have an Instant Pot.

LET US KNOW WHAT QUESTIONS OR CONCERNS YOU HAVE, OR INFORM US ON ANY REGIONAL UPDATES, BY EMAILING KIRSTEN@THISWEEKINSCIENCE.COM.

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Good virus / bad virus
Can we use a bacteriophage to help our bodies fight COVID?

It’s time for Blair’s Animal Corner!

Bipedal crocs
I’m not sure why this is hurting my brain like it is, but for some reason this is really baking my bread…

Parasites determine fashion
At least for barn swallows, their appearance and success with the ladies is related to their parasite load. Try smooth talking your way out of that one!

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This Week in Science Questions!

Bert Latamore wrote in this week with a question about COVID: “A couple of weeks ago I heard … that the first symptom of Covid infection in many if not all cases is the loss of the sense of smell. This happens even before the patient’s body temperature changes. So why are we not urging everyone to test their sense of smell daily? …

Of course, this will not catch all cases. Some people do not have a sense of smell, and an unknown number of people who catch Covid, and may spread it, have no symptoms at all. But then the swab tests that are being used are not 100% accurate either. But this is easy, cheap, and quick and gives instant results. If everyone worldwide did this daily and immediately self-isolated if they suddenly lost their normal sense of smell it cloud reduce the spread of Covid a great deal. People still should wear masks and wash their hands all the time, of course.”

Listen to the episode for our reply!

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

Leave us a message on our Facebook page, OR email Dr. Kiki!

What science news does the second half of the show hold???

Canadians and Australians used to be the same
Or, based on a new insect fossil find, the countries were connected somehow.

NOT Neandertal Brains
Misleading headline of the week! Researchers are using a stem cell bank to show a proof of concept for studying Neandertal genes present in the human genome. They aren’t trying to make Neandertal brains.

Fungi biofilm
Biological warfare might make our surfaces cleaner.

Follow Your Nose
Our noses sub-consciously guide navigation.

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Time for the last quick news…

Migration can be crappy
Bird poop could be the key to finding fish in isolated waterways.

Aqua-fi
Have you ever wanted to watch Netflix while scuba diving? Now you can!!

Imbalanced Merger
LIGO has detected a merger between a large object and smaller one that indicates something we have never seen before, and no one is sure whether it is a small black hole or a big neutron star.

Viral Hijack
Viruses can steal our genes to create hybrid proteins that help them out.

Avocado Gate
What is in that oil?

If You love TWIS, and all the science news we bring you each week, please consider making a donation to the This Week in Science podcast.

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17 June, 2020 – Episode 778 – How to Catch a Lizard

June 18th, 2020
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What is in the This Week in Science Podcast?

COVID Update, Interview w/ Earyn McGee about #FindThatLizard, Bubble Bees, Lizard Fears, Santa Stories, Animal Beliefs, Earth Can Haz Friends?, Science Tweets?, And Much More…

Support us on Patreon!

Want to watch this on YouTube? You can do that here.

Disclaimer, Disclaimer, Disclaimer!!!
With keen eyes and quick reflexes
you might just be able to find and catch
that lizard in your garden.
Be gentle enough,
and maybe it won’t drop its tail.
But, if it does, you haven’t failed.
You’ve seen the magic of biology
as generations of adaptation and evolution
have led it to a survival strategy
that works more often than not.
Just like weeding through that podcast directory
has brought you to
This Week in Science,
coming up next…

Let’s start with a COVID-19 Update!

COVID Update
Global COVID-19 cases are over 8 million with nearly 450,000 deaths, of which the US contribution amounts to approximately a quarter.

Promising Treatment?
A steroid called dexamethasone showed promise in treating COVID-19 patients on ventilators according to a press release, which has already led to the implementation of health policies even without the release of the actual data or a peer-reviewed paper.

Not Much Promise
The WHO stopped its trial investigating the efficacy of hydroxychloroqhine due to a lack of evidence of beneficial effects for patients. This comes after the FDA revoked its emergency approval of the drug for use treating COVID-19.

Nanosponge Protection?
Nanoscale “sponges” seeded with human lung epithlial cells or macrophage immune cells were successful in inhibiting viral infection in laboratory tests on mice. This technique could be promising for a broad spectrum of infectious diseases.

LET US KNOW WHAT QUESTIONS OR CONCERNS YOU HAVE, OR INFORM US ON ANY REGIONAL UPDATES, BY EMAILING KIRSTEN@THISWEEKINSCIENCE.COM.

Now for an interview!

Our guest host for this episode is Earyn McGill. Earyn is a PhD canditate at the University of Arizona, a AAAS/ IfThen Ambassador, a AAAS mass media fellow, and she loves lizards…

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Support us on Patreon!

What science news does the second half of the show hold???

Bubble Bees
Could soap bubbles replace or supplement waning honeybee populations as pollinators?

Fear no colors?
Observer clothing color influences lizard escape behavior.

Santa Stories
How do children learn what to believe?

Animal Beliefs
What aspects of cognition can tell us about animal’s beliefs?

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Time for the last quick news…

Earth Can Haz Friends?
The Milky Way galaxy could contain around 30 civilizations capable of communication according to a new analysis.

Science Tweets?
You bet!

If You love TWIS, and all the science news we bring you each week, please consider making a donation to the This Week in Science podcast.

Support us on Patreon!

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