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Deciphering talking drums, and squeezing more juice out of solar panels

Researchers have found new clues to how the “talking drums” of one Amazonian tribe convey their messages. Sarah Crespi talks with Online News Editor Catherine Matacic about the role of tone and rhythm in this form of communication. Getting poked with a needle will probably get you moving. Apparently, it also gets charges moving in certain semiconductive materials. Sarah interviews Marin Alexe of The University of Warwick in Coventry, U.K., about this newfound flexo-photovoltaic effect. Alexe’s group found that prodding or denting certain semiconductors with tiny needles causes them to suddenly produce current in response to light. That discovery could enhance the efficiency of current of solar cell technologies. Finally, in our books segment, Jen Golbeck interviews Lucy Cooke about her new book The Truth About Animals: Stoned Sloths, Lovelorn Hippos, and Other Tales from the Wild Side of Wildlife. This week’s episode was edited by Podigy. Listen to previous podcasts. [Image: Adam Levine/Flickr; Music: Jeffrey Cook]

26 April 2018: Mini brains, and an updated enzyme image

This week, the ethical questions raised by model minds, and an updated view on an enzyme that keeps chromosomes protected.

Ep 488: Dark Energy: 2018 Edition

The updates continue. Last week we talked about dark matter, and this week we continue with its partner dark energy. Of course, they’re not really partners, unless you consider mysteriousness to be an attribute. Dark energy, that force that’s accelerating the expansion of the Universe. What have we learned?

Backchat April 2018: Sexual harassment, social media, and celebrity scientists

In this month’s roundtable, we discuss celebrity scientists, sexual harassment in research, and the science behind a social media scandal.

Drug use in the ancient world, and what will happen to plants as carbon dioxide levels increase

Armed with new data, archaeologists are revealing that mind-altering drugs were present at the dawn of the first complex societies some 5000 years ago in the ancient Middle East. Contributing writer Andrew Lawler joins Sarah Crespi to discuss the evidence for these drugs and how they might have impacted early societies and beliefs. Sarah also interviews Sarah Hobbie of the University of Minnesota about the fate of plants under climate change. Will all that extra carbon dioxide in the air be good for certain types of flora? A 20-year long study published this week in Science suggests theoretical predictions have been off the mark. This week’s episode was edited by Podigy. Listen to previous podcasts. [Image: Public domain Music: Jeffrey Cook]

19 April 2018: Synchronised shrimp, supernova science, and spring books.

This week, tiny sea creatures with potentially big effects, the science of a supernova, and a roundup of spring books.

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Why Did Two Sexes Evolve?
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Top 10 climate change myths (find the answer to your favorite)
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Ep 487: Dark Matter: 2018 Edition

Last week, we gave you an update in particle physics. This week it’s time to see what’s new in the world of dark matter. Spoiler alert, we still have no idea what it is, but maybe a few more ideas for what it isn’t.

How DNA is revealing Latin America’s lost histories, and how to make a molecule from just two atoms

Geneticists and anthropologists studying historical records and modern-day genomes are finding traces of previously unknown migrants to Latin America in the 16th and 17th centuries, when Asians, Africans, and Europeans first met indigenous Latin Americans. Sarah Crespi talks with contributing correspondent Lizzie Wade about what she learned on the topic at the American Association of Physical Anthropologists’s annual meeting in Austin. Sarah also interviews Kang-Keun Ni about her research using optical tweezers to bring two atoms—one cesium and one sodium—together into a single molecule. Such precise control of molecule formation is allowing new observations of these basic processes and is opening the door to creating new molecules for quantum computing. This week’s episode was edited by Podigy. Listen to previous podcasts. [Image: Juan Fernando Ibarra; Music: Jeffrey Cook] 

12 April 2018: The power of remote sensing, and watching a neutron star glitch

This week, looking for glitchy signals from neutron stars, and using remote sensing in research.

Ep 486: Particle Physics Update

It’s time for a news update. This time from the field of particle physics. It turns out there have been all kinds of new and interesting particles discovered by the Large Hadron Collider and others. Let’s get an update from Pamela.

Legendary Viking crystals, and how to put an octopus to sleep

A millennium ago, Viking navigators may have used crystals known as “sunstones” to navigate between Norway and Greenland. Sarah Crespi talks with Online News Editor David Grimm about how one might use a crystal to figure out where they are. Sarah also interviews freelancer Danna Staaf about her piece on sedating cephalopods. Until recently, researchers working with octopuses and squids faced the dilemma of not knowing whether the animals were truly sedated or whether only their ability to respond had been suppressed. This week’s episode was edited by Podigy. Listen to previous podcasts. [Image:  Nicholas Roerich, Guests from Overseas; Music: Jeffrey Cook]   

05 April 2018: Human's influence on the Mississippi and 'dirty' mice

This week, dissecting human influence on the Mississippi's floods, and getting 'dirty' mice into the lab.

Ep 485: Docking, Refueling, and Transferring

It’s one thing to get to space. But once you’ve made it there, what do you want to do? You’ll probably want to dock with another space ship, deliver cargo, refuel. Today we’ll talk about how all that happens.

Chimpanzee retirement gains momentum, and x-ray ‘ghost images’ could cut radiation doses

Two of the world’s most famous research chimpanzees have finally retired. Hercules and Leo arrived at a chimp sanctuary in Georgia last week. Sarah Crespi checks in with Online News Editor David Grimm on the increasing momentum for research chimp retirement since the primates were labeled endangered species in 2015. Sarah also interviews freelancer Sophia Chen about her piece on x-ray ghost imaging—a technique that may lead to safer medical imaging done with cheap, single-pixel cameras. David Malakoff joins Sarah to talk about the big boost in U.S. science funding signed into law over the weekend. Finally, Jen Golbeck interviews author Stephanie Elizabeth Mohr on her book First in Fly: Drosophila Research and Biological Discovery for our monthly books segment. This week’s episode was edited by Podigy. Listen to previous podcasts. [Image: Crystal Alba/Project Chimps; Music: Jeffrey Cook]

29 March 2018: AI in chemistry, and liquid droplets in living cells.

This week, testing a neural network's chemistry skills, and what the physics of droplets is teaching us about the biology of cells.

Ep 484: Transfer Orbits and Gravitational Assists

If you want to get around in the Solar System, you’ll want to take advantage of natural gravitational speed boosts and transfer orbits. Whether you’re heading to the outer Solar System or you want to visit the Sun itself, the planets themselves can help you in your journey.

A possible cause for severe morning sickness, and linking mouse moms’ caretaking to brain changes in baby mice

Researchers are converging on which genes are linked to morning sickness—the nausea and vomiting associated with pregnancy—and the more severe form: hyperemesis gravidarum (HG). And once we know what those genes are—can we help pregnant women feel better? News intern Roni Dengler joins Sarah Crespi to talk about a new study that suggests a protein already flagged for its role in cancer-related nausea may also be behind HG. In a second segment, Tracy Bedrosian of the Neurotechnology Innovations Translator talks about how the amount of time spent being licked by mom might be linked to changes in the genetic code of hippocampal neurons in mice pups. Could these types of genomic changes be a new type of plasticity in the brain? This week’s episode was edited by Podigy. Listen to previous podcasts. [Image: Jacob Bøtter/Flickr; Music: Jeffrey Cook]

22 March 2018: Mexican cavefish, the gut microbiome, and a wearable brain scanner.

This week, glucose metabolism in Mexican cavefish, the effect of non-antibiotic drugs on gut microbes, and a wearable brain scanner.

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