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501: Water Worlds Revisited

501: Water Worlds Revisited Astronomy Cast 501: Water Worlds Revisited by Fraser Cain & Dr. Pamela Gay

Odd new particles may be tunneling through the planet, and how the flu operates differently in big and small towns

Hoping to spot subatomic particles called neutrinos smashing into Earth, the balloon-borne Antarctic Impulsive Transient Antenna (ANITA) detector has circled the South Pole four times. ANITA has yet to detect those particles, but it has twice seen oddball radio signals that could be evidence of something even weirder: some heavier particle unknown to physicists’ standard model, burrowing up through Earth. Science writer Adrian Cho joins host Sarah Crespi to discuss the possibility that this reading could lead to a big change in physics. Next, host Meagan Cantwell asks researcher Ben Dalziel what makes a bad—or good—flu year. Traditionally, research has focused on two factors: climate, which impacts how long the virus stays active after a sneeze or cough, and changes in the virus itself, which can influence its infectiousness. But these factors don’t explain every pattern. Dalziel, a population biologist in the Departments of Integrative Biology and Mathematics at Oregon State University in Corvallis, explains how humidity and community size shape the way influenza spreads. This week’s episode was edited by Podigy. Download a transcript of this episode (PDF) Listen to previous podcasts. About the Science Podcast [Image: Stuart Rankin/Flickr; Music: Jeffrey Cook]

04 October 2018: Latent HIV, bird personalities and the Hyabusa2 mission

This week, targeting latent HIV, the breeding behaviour of bold birds, and an update on a near-Earth asteroid mission.

The future of PCB-laden orca whales, and doing genomics work with Indigenous people

Science has often treated Indigenous people as resources for research—especially when it comes to genomics. Now, Indigenous people are exploring how this type of study can be conducted in a way that respects their people and traditions. Meagan Cantwell talks with contributing correspondent Lizzie Wade about a summer workshop for Indigenous scientists that aims to start a new chapter in genomics. We’ve known for decades that PCBs—polychlorinated biphenyls—are toxic and carcinogenic. In the 1970s and 1980s, these compounds were phased out of use in industrial and electronic applications, worldwide. But they are still in the environment—in soil and air—and in animal tissues, particularly those of killer whales. These toxic compounds start out at minute levels in tiny organisms, but as the small are eaten by the slightly larger, the PCB concentration increases—from plankton, to fish, to seals—until you are at killer whales with PCB-packed blubber. Ailsa Hall, director of the Sea Mammal Research Unit at St. Andrews University in the United Kingdom, talks with host Sarah Crespi about her group’s work measuring PCB levels in different killer whale populations and calculating the effect of PCBs on those populations 100 years from now. In this month’s book segment, Jen Golbeck interviews Damon Centola about his book How Behavior Spreads: The Science of Complex Contagions. You can listen to more books segment and read more reviews on our books blog, Books et al.  This week’s episode was edited by Podigy. Download a transcript of this episode (PDF) Listen to previous podcasts About the Science Podcast [Image: Public domain; Music: Jeffrey Cook] 

27 September 2018: A wearable biosensor and a mechanical metamaterial.

This week, an ultra-thin, wearable biosensor and a multi-shape, mechanical metamaterial.

Metaresearchers take on meta-analyses, and hoary old myths about science

Meta-analyses—structured analyses of many studies on the same topic—were once seen as objective and definitive projects that helped sort out conflicts amongst smaller studies. These days, thousands of meta-analyses are published every year—many either redundant or contrary to earlier metaworks. Host Sarah Crespi talks to freelance science journalist Jop de Vrieze about ongoing meta-analysis wars in which opposing research teams churn out conflicting metastudies around important public health questions such as links between violent video games and school shootings and the effects of antidepressants. They also talk about what clues to look for when trying to evaluate the quality of a meta-analysis. Sarah also talked with three other contributors to our “Research on Research” special issue. Pierre Azoulay of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Ben Jones of Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, and MIT’s Heidi Williams discuss the evidence for some hoary old scientific home truths. See whether you can guess who originally made these claims and how right or wrong they were: Do scientists make great contributions after age 30? How important is it to stand on the shoulders of giants? Does the truth win, or do its opponents just eventually die out? Read the rest of the package on science under scrutiny here. This week’s episode was edited by Podigy. Download a transcript of this episode (PDF) Listen to previous podcasts. About the Science Podcast [Image: Davide Bonazzi/@SalzmanArt; Show music: Jeffrey Cook; additional music: Nguyen Khoi Nguyen]

20 September 2018: Negative emissions and swarms under strain

This week, the ethics of sucking carbon-dioxide out of the atmosphere and bee swarms under strain.

500: Live Celebration!

500: Live Celebration! Astronomy Cast 500: Live Celebration! by Fraser Cain & Dr. Pamela Gay

The youngest sex chromosomes on the block, and how to test a Zika vaccine without Zika cases

Strawberries had both male and female parts, like most plants, until several million years ago. This may seem like a long time ago, but it actually means strawberries have some of the youngest sex chromosomes around. What are the advantages of splitting a species into two sexes? Host Sarah Crespi interviews freelance journalist Carol Cruzan Morton about her story on scientists’ journey to understanding the strawberry’s sexual awakening. In 2016, experimental Zika vaccines were swiftly developed in response to the emergence of serious birth defects in the babies of infected woman. Two years after the height of Zika cases, there’s so little spread of the virus in the Americas that it has stymied vaccine trials. Researchers hope to overcome this hurdle with “human challenge experiments”—vaccinating people, then intentionally infecting them with Zika to see whether they’re protected from the virus. Meagan Cantwell talks with staff writer Jon Cohen about his news story that highlights the risks and rewards of human challenge experiments. This week’s episode was edited by Podigy. Download a transcript of this episode (PDF) Listen to previous podcasts. About the Science Podcast [Image: Public domain; Music: Jeffrey Cook]

13 September 2018: The oldest drawing and the energy of data

This week, the oldest drawing ever found, and the hidden energy costs of data.

499: What is the proposed Hubble-Lemaitre Law?

499: What is the proposed Hubble-Lemaitre Law? Astronomy Cast 499: What is the proposed Hubble-Lemaitre Law? by Fraser Cain & Dr. Pamela Gay

Should we prioritize which endangered species to save, and why were chemists baffled by soot for so long?

We are in the middle of what some scientists are calling the sixth mass extinction and not all at-risk species can be saved. That’s causing some conservationists to say we need to start thinking about “species triage.” Meagan Cantwell interviews freelance journalist Warren Cornwall about his story on weighing the costs of saving Canada’s endangered caribou and the debate among conservationists on new approaches to conservation. And host Sarah Crespi interviews Hope Michelsen, a staff scientist at Sandia National Laboratories in Livermore, California, about mysterious origins of soot. The black dust has been around since fire itself, but researchers never knew how the high-energy environment of a flame can produce it—until now. Michelsen walks Sarah through the radical chemistry of soot formation—including its formation of free radicals—and discusses soot’s many roles in industry, the environment, and even interstellar space. Check out this useful graphic describing the soot inception process in the related commentary article. This week’s episode was edited by Podigy. Download a transcript of this episode (PDF) Listen to previous podcasts. About the Science Podcast [Image: Darren Bertram/Flickr; Music: Jeffrey Cook]

6 September 2018: Space junk, and a physicist’s perspective on life

This week, keeping an eye on space junk, and how a physicist changed our understanding of life.

Science and Nature get their social science studies replicated—or not, the mechanisms behind human-induced earthquakes, and the taboo of claiming causality in science

A new project out of the Center for Open Science in Charlottesville, Virginia, found that of all the experimental social science papers published in Science and Nature from 2010–15, 62% successfully replicated, even when larger sample sizes were used. What does this say about peer review? Host Sarah Crespi talks with Staff Writer Kelly Servick about how this project stacks up against similar replication efforts, and whether we can achieve similar results by merely asking people to guess whether a study can be replicated. Podcast producer Meagan Cantwell interviews Emily Brodsky of the University of California, Santa Cruz, about her research report examining why earthquakes occur as far as 10 kilometers from wastewater injection and fracking sites. Emily discusses why the well-established mechanism for human-induced earthquakes doesn’t explain this distance, and how these findings may influence where we place injection wells in the future. In this month’s book podcast, Jen Golbeck interviews Judea Pearl and Dana McKenzie, authors of The Book of Why: The New Science of Cause and Effect. They propose that researchers have for too long shied away from claiming causality and provide a road map for bringing cause and effect back into science. This week’s episode was edited by Podigy. Download a transcript of this episode (PDF) Listen to previous podcasts. About the Science Podcast [Image: Jens Lambert, Shutterstock; Music: Jeffrey Cook]

30 August 2018: Gravity’s big G and the evolution of babies

This week, an early mammal relative’s babies, and new attempts to pin down the strength of gravity.

Backchat August 2018: Audio reporting, audience feedback, and Brexit

In this month’s roundtable, audio vs print reporting, returning to Brexit, and finding out about our audience.

Sending flocks of tiny satellites out past Earth orbit and solving the irrigation efficiency paradox

Small satellites—about the size of a briefcase—have been hitching rides on rockets to lower Earth orbit for decades. Now, because of their low cost and ease of launching, governments and private companies are looking to expand the range of these “sate-lites” deeper into space. Host Sarah Crespi talks with Deputy News Editor Eric Hand about the mods and missions in store for so-called CubeSats. And our newest podcast producer Meagan Cantwell interviews Quentin Grafton of Australian National University in Canberra and Brad Udall of Colorado State University in Fort Collins about something called the “irrigation efficiency paradox.” As freshwater supplies dry up around the world, policymakers and farmers have been quick to try to make up the difference by improving irrigation, a notorious water waster. It turns out that both human behavior and the difficulty of water measurement are plaguing water conservation efforts in agriculture. For example, when farms find they are using less water, they tend to plant ever-more-water-intensive crops. Now, researchers are trying to get the message out about the behavioral component of this issue and tackle the measurement problem, using cheap remote-sensing technology, but with water scarcity looming ahead, we have to act soon. This week’s episode was edited by Podigy. Download a transcript of this episode (PDF) Listen to previous podcasts. About the Science Podcast [Image: John A. Kelley, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service; Music: Jeffrey Cook]

23 August 2018: Quantum computers and labour division in ants

This week, colony size and labour division in ants, and simulating a quantum system on a quantum computer.

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