29 May, 2019 – Episode 723 – The Surprising Science of Sex


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What is in the This Week in Science Podcast?

Interview w/ Dr. Melissa Wilson, Dirt That Helps, Fingering Variation, Coral Acid Trip, Food For Sex, Fish Skins!, More Planets, Not Neptune, Cracking Tortoises, Neander News, And Much More…

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It’s that thing your parents did that made it possible
for you not to want to think about your parents having sex…
But they did it.
And did it in such a way that made you possible.
And that is the only reason you exist.
But that’s not the end of the story.
Turns out your grandparents also had sex.
If not for them having sex,
your parents would not have been able to swap chromosomal chemistry in the first place.
Which means that at some point,
your great grandparents,
all eight of them,
needed to get busy in just the right way
to set in motion the sexual behaviors of offspring that again,
no matter how you choose to,
or choose not to,
picture it…
is how you got here.
Sex is the reason just about every person who you could ever meet is meetable in the first place.
And with all of this sex is a coming together of more than just two individuals…
It is a merging of genetic information of tens of thousands of generations of hominins
With in-fluxing and out-moding of genes
With specialization, mutation, and epigenetic adaptation.
To put it most bluntly!
The simple act of parents having sex is the thing upon which most of life, love, and evolution is based…
That and
This week in science
Coming up next…

First up, an interview about sex!

Interview w/ Dr. Melissa WilsonAssociate Faculty, Biodesign Center for Mechanisms of EvolutionAssistant Professor, School of Life Sciences at Arizona State University. Her research interests include sex-biased biology. She studies the evolution of sex chromosomes (X and Y in mammals), why mutation rates differ between males and females, and how changes in population history affect the sex chromosomes differently than the non-sex chromosomes.

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

“Hi all,

I got turned onto TWIS in my undergrad as a biochemistry student hearing my professor mention this week in virology (I think it was) and so I went looking for the broader science version. Now nearly 6 years later, through teaching ESL in Taiwan, 2 years of teachers college and moving to England to teach secondary school science, listening to TWIS on long walks or trips is the one constant that’s has stuck with me.

Listening to a recent episode something clicked in my brain as to what TWIS has done for me this past year.

The school I’m teaching in has had a large turnover of science teachers over the past couple years, so when I arrived in September most of the science lessons most of my students had received had been delivered by non-science specialists, who didn’t have the same passion for science as their own subjects. This had lead to my students being highly unenthusiastic about their science lessons, and very close minded about science potentially being any fun.

Through September and October getting the students to engage with the lesson was like trying to pull my own teeth out, “I can’t do this” “I’m no good at science anyway” “There’s no point of trying” were things I would hear every day. I could see why a lot of their teachers had left after short periods of time, it was taking my excitement for science with it.

However, I had a half hour walk to school every morning, during which I would listen to TWIS and hear some new exciting thing happening in science (I had a bit of a backlog to work through, so it was a never ending stream for me). This meant that every day I would have some new cool science thing to hold onto and keep that ember of science joy alive in my soul.

Just before Christmas I realized that my toughest group of students were no longer the dread of my day, because they were hopping onto the science train, enjoying the experiments, and making connections between what we were learning in class and the world around them. In February I had a student comment “Miss, your brain is so full of science isn’t it? I bet if your head exploded all kinds of science stuff would come out!” Last month I had a student tell me “Boring?!? Organic chemistry was fun!” after being told that a lot of people struggle with it because they find it’s less interesting than other topics. And finally just today I had a student ask me “Miss, do you think I could be a person who does science when they grow up?”

Listening to TWIS has kept my passion for science alive through some really rough days, and it has allowed me to spread it onto a new generation of students, who may have otherwise fallen through the cracks and would never have known all the things science does for them every day.
–Joyce Berkers”

Let’s continue with Some Science News From This Week in Science

Dirt That Helps
A lipid molecule in soil bacteria might explain how some microbes might benefit mental health.

Fingering Variation
A new look at transcription factors discovered greater variation between DNA sequences and their potential ability to influence gene transcription and variation between species.

Coral acid trip
Acclimatization to climate change isn’t working out so well for corals.

And, now it’s time for Blair’s Animal Corner!… with Blair!

Dinner, Netflix, and chill.
Bats appear to trade food for sex. Proving once again that we were not the first to do anything.

Cod fish skin for dogs!
No, it isn’t the latest Purina flavor, cod fish skin helped one very burned pup find another chance at survival!

And, finally, Some Quick Science News Stories To End The Show

More Planets
A new way of analysing Kepler transit data found 18 mmore planets in our galaxy, one of which could be habitable.

Not Neptune
A nearly Neptune-sized planet has been found in close orbit around a star contrary to popular opinion on where we should find these objects.

Another reason chimps give me the willies.
They crack open tortoises to eat them. Ugh. And they most likely learned from cracking open hard shelled fruit. Too much…

Neander News

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