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Ep. 508: 2018 Holiday Gift Guide

508: 2018 Holiday Gift Guide Astronomy Cast 508: 2018 Holiday Gift Guide by Fraser Cain & Dr. Pamela Gay

The universe’s star formation history and a powerful new helper for evolution

In a fast-changing environment, evolution can be slow—sometimes so slow that an organism dies out before the right mutation comes along. Host Sarah Crespi speaks with Staff Writer Elizabeth Pennisi about how plastic traits—traits that can alter in response to environmental conditions—could help life catch up. Also on this week’s show, host Meagan Cantwell talks with Marco Ajello a professor of physics and astronomy at Clemson University in South Carolina about his team’s method to determine the universe’s star formation history. By looking at 739 blazars, supermassive black holes at the center of galaxies, Ajello and his team were able to model the history of stars since the big bang. Finally, in this month’s book segment, Jen Golbeck interviews Christine Du Bois about her book Story of Soy. You can listen to more book segments and read more reviews on our books blog, Books et al. This week’s episode was edited by Podigy. Read a transcript (PDF) Listen to previous podcasts. About the Science Podcast [Image: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Conceptual Image Lab; Music: Jeffrey Cook]

29 November 2018: Atomic clock accuracy and wind farm worries

This week, measuring gravity’s strength with clocks, and worries over wind farms’ wakes.

507: From Fiction to Fact: Ion Drive

507: From Fiction to Fact: Ion Drive Astronomy Cast 507: > From Fiction to Fact: Ion Drive by Fraser Cain & Dr. Pamela Gay

Exploding the Cambrian and building a DNA database for forensics

First, we hear from science writer Joshua Sokol about his trip to the Cambrian—well not quite. He talks with host Megan Cantwell about his travels to a remote site in the mountains of British Columbia where some of Earth’s first animals—including a mysterious, alien-looking creature—are spilling out of Canadian rocks.   Also on this week’s show, host Sarah Crespi talks with James Hazel a postdoctoral research fellow at the Center for Genetic Privacy and Identity in Community Settings at Vanderbilt University in Nashville about a proposal for creating a universal forensic DNA database. He and his co-authors argue that current, invasive practices such as law enforcement subpoenaing medical records, commercial genetic profiles, and other sets of extremely detailed genetic information during criminal investigations, would be curtailed if a forensics-use-only universal database were created.     This week’s episode was edited by Podigy.   Read a transcript (PDF) Listen to previous podcasts.   About the Science Podcast  

22 November 2018: An ion-drive aeroplane, and DNA rearrangement.

This week, a solid-state plane engine with no moving parts, and ‘mosaicism’ in brain cells.

506: It’s not Aliens, Unless it’s Aliens

506: It’s not Aliens, Unless it’s Aliens Astronomy Cast 506: It’s not Aliens, Unless it’s Aliens by Fraser Cain & Dr. Pamela Gay

The worst year ever and the effects of fasting

When was the worst year to be alive? Contributing Correspondent Ann Gibbons talks to host Sarah Crespi about a contender year that features a volcanic eruption, extended darkness, cold summer, and a plague. Also on this week’s show, host Meagan Cantwell talks with Andrea Di Francesco of the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Aging in Baltimore, Maryland, about his review of current wisdom on fasting and metabolism. Should we start fasting—if not to extend our lives maybe to at least to give ourselves a healthy old age?  In a special segment from our policy desk, Deputy Editor David Malakoff discusses the results of the recent U.S. election with Senior Correspondent Jeffrey Mervis and we learn what happened to the many scientist candidates that ran and some implications for science policy. This week’s episode was edited by Podigy. Download a transcript (PDF) Listen to previous podcasts. About the Science Podcast [Photo: Scott Suchman; Styling: Nichole Bryant; Music: Jeffrey Cook]   

15 November 2018: Barnard’s Star, and clinical trials

This week, evidence of a nearby exoplanet, and clinical trials in a social media world.

505: Seismology

505: Seismology Astronomy Cast 505: Seismology by Fraser Cain & Dr. Pamela Gay

A big increase in monkey research and an overhaul for the metric system

A new report suggests a big increase in the use of monkeys in laboratory experiments in the United States in 2017. Online News Editor David Grimm joins host Sarah Crespi to discuss which areas of research are experiencing this rise and the possible reasons behind it. Also this week, host Meagan Cantwell talks with staff writer Adrian Cho about a final push to affix the metric system’s measures to physical constants instead of physical objects. That means the perfectly formed 1-kilogram cylinder known as Le Grand K is no more; it also means that the meter, the ampere, and other units of measure are now derived using complex calculations and experiments.  This week’s episode was edited by Podigy. Download a transcript (PDF) Listen to previous podcasts. About the Science Podcast [Image: Peter Nijenhuis/Flickr; Music: Jeffrey Cook] 

08 November 2018: Designer cells, and a Breakthrough researcher

This week, building a cell from the bottom up, and a Breakthough Prize winner

504: Radar, Lidar & Sonar

504: Radar, Lidar & Sonar Astronomy Cast 504: Radar, Lidar & Sonar by Fraser Cain & Dr. Pamela Gay

How the appendix could hold the keys to Parkinson’s disease, and materials scientists mimic nature

For a long time, Parkinson’s disease was thought to be merely a disorder of the nervous system. But in the past decade researchers have started to look elsewhere in the body for clues to this debilitating disease—particularly in the gut. Host Meagan Cantwell talks with Viviane Labrie of the Van Andel Institute in Grand Rapids, Michigan, about new research suggesting people without their appendixes have a reduced risk of Parkinson’s. Labrie also describes the possible mechanism behind this connection. And host Sarah Crespi talks with Peter Fratzl of the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces in Potsdam, Germany, about what materials scientists can learn from nature. The natural world might not produce innovations like carbon nanotubes, but evolution has forged innumerable materials from very limited resources—mostly sugars, proteins, and minerals. Fratzl discusses how plants make time-release seedpods that are triggered by nothing but fire and rain, the amazing suckerin protein that comprises squid teeth, and how cicadas make their transparent, self-cleaning wings from simple building blocks. Fratzl’s review is part of a special section in Science on composite materials. Read the whole package, including a review on using renewables like coconut fiber for building cars and incorporating carbon nanotubes and graphene into composites. This week’s episode was edited by Podigy. Download the transcript (PDF) Listen to previous podcasts. About the Science Podcast [Image: Roger Smith/Flickr; Music: Jeffrey Cook]

01 November 2018: Mood forecasting technology, and where are the WIMPs?

This week, the role that mood forecasting technology may play in suicide prevention, and a 'crisis' in dark matter research.

503: Gravity Mapping

503: Gravity Mapping Astronomy Cast 503: Gravity Mapping by Fraser Cain & Dr. Pamela Gay

Children sue the U.S. government over climate change, and how mice inherit their gut microbes

A group of children is suing the U.S. government—claiming their rights to life, liberty, and property are under threat from climate change thanks to government policies that have encouraged the use and extraction of fossil fuels. Host Meagan Cantwell interviews news writer Julia Rosen on the ins and outs of the suit and what it could mean if the kids win the day.    Also this week, host Sarah Crespi talks with Andrew Moeller of Cornell University about his work tracing the gut microbes inherited through 10 generations of mice. It turns out the fidelity is quite high—you can still tell mice lineages apart by their gut microbes after 10 generations. And horizontally transmitted microbes, those that jump from one mouse line to another through exposure to common spaces or handlers, were more likely than inherited bacteria to be pathogenic and were often linked to illnesses in people. This week’s episode was edited by Podigy. Download a transcript of this episode (PDF) Listen to previous podcasts. About the Science Podcast [Image: Bob Dass/Flickr; Music: Jeffrey Cook] 

502: No Touching: Determining Composition of Worlds Remotely

502: No Touching: Determining Composition of Worlds Remotely Astronomy Cast 502: No Touching: Determining Composition of Worlds Remotely by Fraser Cain & Dr. Pamela Gay

Mutant cells in the esophagus, and protecting farmers from dangerous pesticide exposure

As you age, your cells divide over and over again, leading to minute changes in their genomes. New research reveals that in the lining of the esophagus, mutant cells run rampant, fighting for dominance over normal cells. But they do this without causing any detectable damage or cancer. Host Sarah Crespi talks to Phil Jones, a professor of cancer development at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, about what these genome changes can tell us about aging and cancer, and how some of the mutations might be good for you. Most Western farmers apply their pesticides using drones and machinery, but in less developed countries, organophosphate pesticides are applied by hand, resulting in myriad health issues from direct exposure to these neurotoxic chemicals. Host Meagan Cantwell speaks with Praveen Vemula, a research investigator at the Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine in Bengaluru, India, about his latest solution—a cost-effective gel that can be applied to the skin to limit pesticide-related toxicity and mortality. This week’s episode was edited by Podigy. Download a transcript of this episode (PDF) Listen to previous podcasts. About the Science Podcast [Image:Navid Folpour/Flickr; Music: Jeffrey Cook]

18 October 2018: Cannabis horticulture and the Sun's place in history

This week, how science can help Canadian cannabis growers and a potted history of the Sun.

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