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The places where HIV shows no sign of ending, and the parts of the human brain that are bigger—in bigger brains

Nigeria, Russia, and Florida seem like an odd set, but they all have one thing in common: growing caseloads of HIV. Science Staff Writer Jon Cohen joins host Sarah Crespi to talk about this week’s big read on how the fight against HIV/AIDS is evolving in these diverse locations. Sarah also talks with Armin Raznahan of the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, Maryland, about his group’s work measuring which parts of the human brain are bigger in bigger brains. Adult human brains can vary as much as two times in size—and until now this expansion was thought to be evenly distributed. However, the team found that highly integrative regions are overrepresented in bigger brains, whereas regions related to processing incoming sensory information such as sight and sound tend to be underrepresented.  This week’s episode was edited by Podigy. Listen to previous podcasts. [Image: Misha Friedman; Music: Jeffrey Cook]

14 June 2018: Baobab tree death, zebrafish stem cells, and ice in Antarctica

This week, the mysterious death of African baobab trees, Antarctica’s past, present, and future, and how zebrafish protect their stem cells.

Science books for summer, and a blood test for predicting preterm birth

What book are you taking to the beach or the field this summer? Science’s books editor Valerie Thompson and host Sarah Crespi discuss a selection of science books that will have you catching comets and swimming with the fishes. Sarah also talks with Mira Moufarrej of Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, about her team’s work on a new blood test that analyzes RNA from maternal blood to determine the gestational age of a fetus. This new approach may also help predict the risk of preterm birth. This week’s episode was edited by Podigy. Listen to previous podcasts. [Image: William Warby/Flickr; Music: Jeffrey Cook]
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07 June 2018: Magnetic animal migration, cold enzymes, and mouse memory

This week, making enzymes work better in the cold, short-term memory production in mice, and magnetic detection in animals.

Ep. 494: Icy Moons Update 2018

Thanks to Cassini and other spacecraft, we've learned a tremendous amount about the icy worlds in the Solar System, from Jupiter's Europa to Saturn's Enceladus, to Pluto's Charon. Geysers, food for bacteria, potential oceans under the ice and more. What new things have we learned about these places?

The first midsize black holes, and the environmental impact of global food production

Astronomers have been able to detect supermassive black holes and teeny-weeny black holes but the midsize ones have been elusive. Now, researchers have scanned through archives looking for middle-size galaxies and found traces of these missing middlers. Host Sarah Crespi and Staff Writer Daniel Clery discuss why they were so hard to find in the first place, and what it means for our understanding of black hole formation. Farming animals and plants for human consumption is a massive operation with a big effect on the planet. A new research project that calculated the environmental impact of global food production shows highly variable results for different foods—and for the same foods grown in different locations. Sarah talks with one of the researchers—Joseph Poore of the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom—about how understanding this diversity can help cut down food production’s environmental footprint and help consumers make better choices. This week’s episode was edited by Podigy. Listen to previous podcasts. [Image: Miltos Gikas/Flickr; Music: Jeffrey Cook]

31 May 2018: Boosting diversity in physics, and life after an asteroid impact

This week, boosting diversity in physics graduate programs, and life’s recovery after a massive asteroid impact.

Ep. 493: Mars Update 2018

If there's one place we've learned more about in the last 10 years, it's Mars. Thanks to all those rovers, orbiters, landers which are flying overhead, crawling around the surface, and digging into the rich Martian regolith. What have we learned about Elon Musk's future home?

Sketching suspects with DNA, and using light to find Zika-infected mosquitoes

DNA fingerprinting has been used to link people to crimes for decades, by matching DNA from a crime scene to DNA extracted from a suspect. Now, investigators are using other parts of the genome—such as markers for hair and eye color—to help rule people in and out as suspects. Staff Writer Gretchen Vogel talks with Sarah Crespi about whether science supports this approach and how different countries are dealing with this new type of evidence. Sarah also talks with Jill Fernandes of the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, about her Science Advances paper on a light-based technique for detecting Zika in mosquitoes. Instead of grinding up the bug and extracting Zika DNA, her group shines near-infrared light through the body. Mosquitoes carrying Zika transmit this light differently from uninfected ones. If it’s successful in larger trials, this technique could make large-scale surveillance of infected mosquitoes quicker and less expensive. In our monthly books segment, Jen Golbeck talks with author Sarah-Jayne Blakemore about her new work: Inventing Ourselves: The Secret Life of the Teenage Brain. You can check out more book reviews and share your thoughts on the Books et al. blog. This week’s episode was edited by Podigy. Listen to previous podcasts. [Image: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health; Music: Jeffrey Cook]

24 May 2018: Climate costs, cleverer cab journeys, and peering through matter with muons

This week, estimating the economic cost of climate change, a new solution to the Minimum Fleet Problem, and the flourishing field of muography.

Ep. 492: Comets, Asteroids and KBO's

Another topic with plenty of updates. Since we started Astronomy Cast we’ve visited many smaller objects in the Solar System up close, from Ceres and Vesta to Pluto, not to mention a comet. What have we learned?

Tracking ancient Rome’s rise using Greenland’s ice, and fighting fungicide resistance

Two thousand years ago, ancient Romans were pumping lead into the air as they smelted ores to make the silvery coin of the realm. Online News Editor David Grimm talks to Sarah Crespi about how the pollution of ice in Greenland from this process provides a detailed 1900-year record of Roman history. This week is also resistance week at Science—where researchers explore the global challenges of antibiotic resistance, pesticide resistance, herbicide resistance, and fungicide resistance. Sarah talks with Sarah Gurr of the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom about her group’s work on the spread of antifungal resistance and what it means for crops and in the clinic. And in a bonus books segment, staff writer Jennifer Couzin-Frankel talks about medicine and fraud in her review of Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou. This week’s episode was edited by Podigy. Listen to previous podcasts. [Image: Wheat rust/Oregon State University; Music: Jeffrey Cook]

17 May 2018: Probing the proton, research misconduct, and making sense of mystery genes

This week, peering inside the proton, identifying the pitfalls of research misconduct, and identifying what bacterial genes of unknown function actually do.

Ep 491: Exoplanet Update 2018

Finally, a big update. Have there been news in the realm of exoplanets? More news that we can possibly cover. But we’ll try our best.

Ancient DNA is helping find the first horse tamers, and a single gene is spawning a fierce debate in salmon conservation

Who were the first horse tamers? Online News Editor Catherine Matacic talks to Sarah Crespi about a new study that brings genomics to bear on the question. The hunt for the original equine domesticators has focused on Bronze Age people living on the Eurasian steppe. Now, an ancient DNA analysis bolsters the idea that a small group of hunter-gatherers, called the Botai, were likely the first to harness horses, not the famous Yamnaya pastoralists often thought to be the originators of the Indo-European language family. Sarah also talks with News Intern Katie Langin about her feature story on a single salmon gene that may separate spring- and fall-run salmon. Conservationists, regulators, and citizens are fiercely debating the role such a small bit of DNA plays in defining distinct populations. Is the spring run distinct enough to warrant protection? This week’s episode was edited by Podigy. Listen to previous podcasts. [Image: Jessica Piispanen/USFWS; Music: Jeffrey Cook] 

10 May 2018: AI neuroscience, liquid crystals, and depression in academia

This week, artificial intelligence recreates our sense of place, liquid crystals deliver cargo, and experiencing depression in academia.

Ep 490: What's New with Supernovae

Time for another update, this time we're going to look at what's new with supernovae. And once again, we've got good news, lots of new stuff to report.

The twins climbing Mount Everest for science, and the fractal nature of human bone

To study the biological differences brought on by space travel, NASA sent one twin into space and kept another on Earth in 2015. Now, researchers from that project are trying to replicate that work planet-side to see whether the differences in gene expression were due to extreme stress or were specific to being in space. Sarah Crespi talks with Online News Editor Catherine Matacic about a “control” study using what might be a comparably stressful experience here on Earth: climbing Mount Everest. Catherine also shares a recent study that confirmed what one reddit user posted 5 years ago: A single path stretching from southern Pakistan to northeastern Russia will take you on the longest straight-line journey on Earth, via the ocean. Finally, Sarah talks with Roland Kröger of the University of York in the United Kingdom about his group’s study published this week in Science. Using a combination of techniques usually reserved for materials science, the group explored the nanoscale arrangement of mineral in bone, looking for an explanation of the tissue’s contradictory combination of toughness and hardness. This week’s episode was edited by Podigy. Listen to previous podcasts. [Image: Human bone (20X) by Berkshire Community College Bioscience Image Library; Music: Jeffrey Cook]

03 May 2018: Building early embryos, the fear response in mice, and ancient rhino remains

This week, constructing early embryos, how mice react to danger, and what an ancient butchered rhino is telling us about hominin migration.

Ep 489: Black Hole Update

Another update episode, this time we look at what’s new and changed in the research of black holes. And it’s here that we find a lot of substantial new discoveries in the field, so much has been discovered since we first covered black holes a decade ago.
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