Transcipt: June 24, 2008

Justin: Disclaimer! Disclaimer! Disclaimer!

The contents of this show will self destruct within the next half millennium. Britain’s Principia Mathematica changed physics in 1687. Einstein’s theory of general relativity changed it again in 1915. And someone will surely replace Einstein’s theory in the next 400 years or so.

On this show, we hope to learn something new every week. That hope is the one constant in science. And while the statements made on this show the not necessarily represent the views of University of California, Davis, KDVS or its sponsors. We can be assured of this much: as new discoveries in science change what we knew last week and what we learn next week overturns what we learn that change – what we thought was settled last week.

It’s nonetheless certain that the only way you can keep up with the changing state of knowledge and physics, biology, psychology and any other field of science (unintelligible) is by listening to what is being now newly known on This Week in Science, coming up next.

Good morning, Kirsten.

Kirsten: Good morning, Justin. You’re tired today, huh?

Justin: Wow! Crazy. I don’t know why. I normally would at first thing, alarm goes off in the morning and like – “Oh, brand new day! Let’s go. Woohoo!” This morning, I was like. “Oh, really? Oh, I got to get up!”

Hey, quick shout out to…

Kirsten: Isn’t it amazing? Just thinking about the differences in day to day, how tired you are, what you’ve done with another one week.

Justin: It’s – and I get plenty of sleep. It wasn’t a sleep issue.

Kirsten: Yes.

Justin: Shout out to minion (Sherman Dorn) of Tampa, Florida who wrote today’s disclaimer. Thank you very much.

Kirsten: Yes, that’s awesome.

Justin: Save me a couple of winks but it didn’t do any good apparently.

Kirsten: It didn’t help you out a bit. You’re listening to This Week in Science with Kirsten and Justin. We are here for the next hour to talk all about science news. We’re going to be chittering and chattering. We have no guests today.

Justin: What?

Kirsten: No guests. Not even Dr. Michael Stebbins.

Justin: You see, this is – I never asked ahead of time, all right. Because I never want to know whether or not we have a guest or who the guest is. Because I find that I do much better in those interviews if I’m not prepared at all. They’re much better than the ones I’ve gone. I’ve read their book. I’ve researched what they’ve done in the past.

Kirsten: Right.

Justin: And then I’m just like asking questions that are just kind of annoying to me. But if I know nothing, I can actually find a way to ask something insightful. So I have no idea ahead of time. But yet I brought I think enough stories to fill two hours of programming let alone the one, tiny one that we’ve got to work with. So, no problem.

Kirsten: Well, that’s what we do most weeks. This week, I’ve got some questions from listeners. And we’ve also – what do we have? I’ve got birds. I’ve got bacteria. I’ve got space, obesity or diets. We’ve also got theoretical physics that’s not so theoretical in the near future.

Justin: I’ve got Neanderthals. I’ve got sex. I’ve got this week in the end of the world. I’ve got mental retardation. Please don’t take that out of context and make that one of the (coaches). A little promo for the show.

Kirsten: Oh, it will be. It absolutely will be.

Justin: And I’ve also got – there’s a lot of news. There’s a bizarre frogs stuff. Gosh, it’s all kind of…

Kirsten: And crocodiles.

Justin: Crocodiles too? I didn’t see the crocodiles.

Kirsten: Yes. If anyone like to call this morning, the phone number, the radio station is 5307522777. We’re happy to take your calls. I don’t know about questions. Justin’s a little tired. His brain is not working fast enough today.

Justin: I can still answer questions on any subject. Just don’t Google it afterwards for correctness. Actually, you should Google. What is (unintelligible)? I keep forgetting. Prince Rupert’s drop. It’s going to be in one of the stories. I’m going to refer to it.

Kirsten: Prince Rupert’s drop.

Justin: Prince Rupert’s drop. There’s tons of YouTubes on it. It’s also – there’s a link to it under news under the form of our website But go look at that. It’s very unintuitive weird thing that’s not really into one of these stories that I’ve got but it can relate sideways.

Kirsten: Interesting. I’m going to have to…

Justin: Very cool, regardless.

Kirsten: I’m going to have to go check out the forms myself and see what you’re talking about.

Justin: Yes.

Kirsten: Yes. Well, the earth is not going to be swallowed up by a black hole.

Justin: Really?

Kirsten: Yes, no.

Justin: Can you promise me that? Because…

Kirsten: Well, not a manmade black hole.

Justin: Oh, not the Large Hadron Collider created black hole.

Kirsten: Not the large Large Hadron Collider created black hole that was predicted by…

Justin: Oh, gosh.

Kirsten: …some rogue scientists who are kind of, I don’t know, they’re worried that theoretical physics that’s actually being put into experimental physics by things like the Large Hadron Collider and everything, it’s the linear – I can’t remember.

But there’s another one over in New York that’s actually a Linear Collider that when they tried to get that going, they also, this group in Hawaii also put forward a request to stop it because it was a danger to the world as we know it.

Anyway, a report by the European organization for nuclear research says there is no conceivable danger of a strangelet soup being formed by the Large Hadron Collider when it comes online and they actually start throwing atoms at each other.

The concern is that when atoms or nuclei of atoms smash into each other that the pressure or the impact of the collision could actually cause these very small particles that are within the nuclei called quarks to kind of burst apart where normally they hold everything. Everything is held together and we have a nice little structure that goes from quarks to neutrons to nuclei to atoms.

And you have it all worked out in this beautiful structure that grows and builds on itself. Well, because of the impact, it would all start coming apart. And the quarks, the strangelets that make up the quarks could come apart and start grabbing on to other atoms in the nearby space and causing them to tear apart. And thus, you would have this hot terrible mass of what used to be the earth that is now a black hole.

Yes. But the – it’s not really going to happen. Maybe it’s the – what’s going to happen that they say if microscopic black holes were to be singly produced by colliding the quarks and gluons inside protons, they would also be able to decay into the same types of particles that produce them.

Justin: Right.

Kirsten: The expected lifetime of a mini black hole would be very short.

And on the issue of this production of strangelets, the report according to the BBC says that these particles are even less likely to be produced at the Large Hadron Collider than in a lower energy, here it is, relativistic heavy ion collider in New York which has been operating since 2000.

So what they’re doing in New York obviously would be more likely than the Large Hadron Collider to produce the strangelet soup.

Justin: And the thing is too that you should probably pay attention to the fact that it’s not the leading physicists of the world who are afraid of…

Kirsten: Concerned.

Justin: And it’s not that the top physicists are like, “It’s worth the risk of creating – I’d actually like to see the black hole. It’s worth the risk (at the whole point)”. No, it’s because they understand the science, we’re like, “Oh, that’s not going to happen at us.” That’s not what we’re trying to do.

Kirsten: Right. it’s a fair enough question. I mean if you’re concerned that we’re going to destroy the only planet we’ve got and the solar system we live in by creating – I mean it’s a fair enough question to raise but at the same time, it’s not being raised necessarily by the people who are on the cutting edge of this research.

Justin: Right. Or even people who aren’t on the cutting edge but know enough about it aren’t up in arms. So it’s kind of – it’s like Tesla once said that if he could get the right frequencies going, he could split the earth in half. And he made people nervous by that. But then I think probably was it Aristotle or Plato? I don’t remember which one said if they had a long enough lever, they could lift the planet.

And it’s like went – it was like “No, you can’t allow them to make a long lever.” Because it’s really short of nonsensical.

Speaking of nonsensical…

Kirsten: What are you having? What are you bringing?

Justin: New news on northern Neanderthal negates narrow niche of Neander knowledge.

Tools found at the site are technologically advanced and potential older than tools in Britain belong to our own species Homo sapiens says Dr. Matthew Pope of Archeology Southeast based in UCL Institute of Archeology.

It’s exciting to think that there’s a real possibility that these were left by some of the last Neanderthal hunting groups to occupy northern Europe. The impression they give is of a population in complete command of both landscape and natural raw materials with a flourishing technology, not a people on the edge of extinction.

Kirsten: Right. I think that’s one of the most interesting is there’s this idea that as Neanderthals would pushed north through competition with Homo sapiens and also with climate change that they were just getting into this smaller and smaller area of land and they were just struggling to survive.

And this is the story that’s been told for so long. But, what’s coming out of this is as, hey, there were a lot of them. And their tools were…

Justin: There was a lot – and their tools were very advanced.

Kirsten: Their tools are advanced. They were doing – it looks like they were doing great.

Justin: And again, like they said perhaps more advanced than the Homo Sapiens tools of that time.

Kirsten: Right.

Justin: Which means that sort of starts to match with the technological balance at least at that point. Now, we still get a couple thousand years and people might be just that much smarter or smart that then we didn’t invent the spear. They were like, “Oh, that’s pretty cool. Like I totally want one of those.” Yes, let’s go back to the cave and get one.

Kirsten: If you have the ability to copy and see and learn from other individuals…

Justin: We may have back engineered from a very bright species of ourselves.

Kirsten: Dude, I bet that the carjackings were going way back when…

Justin: Cart jackings?

Kirsten: Carjackings. Go up and they just steal the car. Back then it was like run up, steal a spear.

Justin: Maybe they were slick. I won’t mess with them though.

Kirsten: Am I reaching here?

Justin: Yes. I don’t think I would mess with the Neanderthal. They look pretty rough. there’s a lot of stuff you can mess with. I don’t think I would want to…

Kirsten: Maybe – oh, the scavenging. I would steal a spear from a dead Neanderthal.

Justin: Oh, sure.

Kirsten: Yes.

Justin: Yes, all day long.

Kirsten: Yes.

Justin: So, this discovery was actually made in year 1900 during the construction of a house known as Beedings. I don’t know why the British always name houses. But they all have names apparently.

Kirsten: Mm hmm.

Justin: About 2300 stone tools were discovered while digging trenches around the foundation in these niches. Of the 2300 tools they found, only 200 or so are still in the hands of museums today.

So, well this is over 100 years ago. And they really recognized the importance of the find at the time.

Kirsten: Right.

Justin: It was cool but they weren’t – they thought it was just early men, maybe they didn’t realized how old.

Kirsten: And I think there were some people who actually thought it was a hoax of some kind. It was like, “Oh, hahaha.”

Justin: Yes. Well, they didn’t think it was Neanderthal. They didn’t think it could be that old. They thought there’s no way these are, you know. These was gosh, I think these were between 35,000 and 42,000 years old. Right? And where they were being found.

And so, there was a lot of doubt like, yes maybe, the guys who were digging it dig it up to a high level. I don’t know how alibied it. But they didn’t really believe it the time.

Now, there’s some clear evidence that this is a very important site and that it is linked to Neanderthal. The exceptional collection of tools appears to represent sophisticated hunting kit of Neanderthal populations that were only a couple of thousand years from disappearing.

Unlike earlier more typical Neanderthal tools, these are made with long straight blades, blades which were turned into a variety of bone and high processing implements as well as lethal spear points.

So they also discovered more of the typical older style Neanderthal tools deeper in the dirt around there. So now, what they’re doing is they’re going to – they think this might not be a completely unique site.

Kirsten: Mm hmm.

Justin: Because there have been some other smaller finds and similar or this is sort of like on this hill, all right. And so, they’re going to start searching this region a little bit more thoroughly. See if they can find some more.

Kirsten: Great.

Justin: Some more Neanderthal. And get…

Kirsten: Great, great.

Justin: Where did those 23 – like what are the other 2100 Neanderthal tools doing that didn’t make it to the museum?

Kirsten: I think they were thrown away.

Justin: You think they were thrown away or do you think they’re like bookends?

Kirsten: It might be bookends somewhere.

Justin: Sold farm tool, you know. It’s like, “What is this?” “I don’t know” it came with a flesh.

Kirsten: Well, talking about new technologies, story sent in by Ed Dyer who sent in story from this week’s world robot domination.

Disco dancing with robots, does it sound like fun?

Justin: I think it could be. Yes.

Kirsten: I think it could be really fun. So Sega and Hasbro have just unveiled a new two wheeled dancing robot that has a stereo sound system. And it has what they call remote control AMP or automated music personality.

And you can put any kind of an mp3 player into its back. And it’ll roll around and play tunes and bob its head up and down. And it’s supposed to have some amount of interactivity as well so that it’ll interact with you.

And I think the story that really is the most hilarious – the part of the story that’s most hilarious to me where one of the researcher says the A.M.P. bot has a real presence in the home by allowing interaction with the owner. The owner can also enjoy being chased around the house by the robot.

I think yes, that’s just what I want. “Oh, chase me, robot. Chase me.”

Justin: Yes, let’s play robot domination at home first. We’ll all get used to it.

Kirsten: Yes. Anyway, I don’t know if they’re on the ball exactly with that level of interactivity. I don’t think there are that many people who want to be chased by their robots yet but dancing is good. I think the dancing is good. The…

Justin: Then on the other hand, if you have like a dog or a cat in the house that could be fun and the robot chase them around.

Kirsten: Yes, the robot is going to sell in Japan initially for about $745 or 80,000 yen. We’ll see when and if it makes it over here to the US of A. But disco robot. Disco robot.

Justin: I’m starting to get on defensive about robots.

Kirsten: Disco robot.

Justin: I’m starting to think…

Kirsten: Disco robot.

Justin: Robot dance partner, if you will, might not be the worst kind of relationship for me at this point in my life. And also I keep thinking if I had a robot boss that was immune to the (kissety up) effect of other employees, that just looks at your hard numbers and that’s it, I think I can handle a robot boss.

Kirsten: Yes.

Justin: When it’s just – it’s totally fair, totally mechanical. I mean we already get, any kind of job you have these days, they rate you on all these like computer generated matrices anyway. So, why not? Why not go all the way? My goodness.

Oh, global warming. Oh, this week in the end of the world.

Kirsten: Oh, yes. Bring it.

Justin: Global warming. Is it really so bad? Well, this is a quote. “We’re toast”.

Kirsten: What?

Justin: Says top NASA scientist James Hansen.

Kirsten: Oh, Hansen. Yes.

Justin: Director of the Goddard Institute for Space Sciences in regards to the global warming. Exactly 20 years after, this is actually a story via Seth Borenstein of Associated Press, exactly 20 years after warning America about the global warming, James Hansen told congress again that the world has long passed the dangerous level for greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

And that the earth’s atmosphere can only stay this loaded with carbon dioxide for a couple more decades without changes such as mass extinction, eco system collapse and dramatic sea levels. “We’re toast” if we don’t get on a very different path. This is the last chance.

Kirsten: Last chance, huh?

Justin: Last chance he said.

Kirsten: On that note, we have a caller.

Justin: We’ve got a caller.

Kirsten: Well, let’s see what they have to say about the last chance.

Justin: Good morning, TWIS-minion you’re on the air with This Week In Science.

Jonathan: Hey!

Kirsten: Hey!

Jonathan: I’m very glad to be here.

Justin: Welcome.

Kirsten: Fantastic.

Jonathan: I’m Jonathan, I’m calling from San Francisco.

Kirsten: Hey. Thanks for calling from San Francisco. You listening to us online right now?

Jonathan: Yes, I am.

Kirsten: Great.

Jonathan: I’m listening tight. I’ve been listening to you for years, it seems like. (unintelligible)…

Kirsten: It does seem like a long time when you listen to us, right.

Justin: It’s only been since 8:30 in the morning, (okay). Come on.

Jonathan: Yes, it’s been the first time that I’m able to get my butt out of bed to actually hear you live. Because I wanted to tell you about a conference that is happening this weekend in Los Angeles and it’s being – it’s called the Aging 08 and it is being held by the (Sanders) foundation.

Kirsten: Okay.

Justin: Not familiar.

Jonathan: It’s basically the society for the engineering of negligible senescence…

Kirsten: Nice.

Jonathan: …which is meant to find ways to prevent human aging.

Kirsten: Yes, so it’s going to – so it’s basically longevity researchers before…

Justin: Is that a good idea?

Kirsten: That’s a good question.

Justin: Right? It’s like – I mean longevity, it’s I think – I want to live forever. Don’t get me wrong. I want to be here forever and then some. But I don’t know if I want everybody else to be. I don’t think that’s a little on the fancy bit on that one.

Kirsten: Yes, so it’s this weekend in Los Angeles.

Jonathan: This weekend in Los Angeles. And the – it’s at UCLA. And the first, the Friday, the Friday evening portion is open to the public. So if there’s anyone else like me who’s been listening to your show online in the LA area and they’re interested in these new technologies, they should check it out.

Kirsten: That should be very interesting. Thanks for the update. Yes.

Justin: And if anybody does go, they could give us a TWIStributor.

Kirsten: Yes, be a TWIStributor.

Justin: We’ll send anything. You tell a little bit about what went on down there. That would be excellent.

Kirsten: That would be really great.

Jonathan: Yes, yes. Cool.

Kirsten: Cool.

Jonathan: Okay, thank you very much. Have a great day.

Justin: Thank you very much for the heads up.

Jonathan: Yes. Bye.

Kirsten: Bye.

Justin: Yes, living forever. Because there’s a whole, I mean there’s one thing which is like we’re on a planet that’s going to double its population every 25 years or so. Do we really want to keep people around there longer?

Kirsten: Well, there are a lot that – there are a few different ways to think about it. I mean part of the, negligible senescence is that you don’t go through the – basically we don’t start the period of our lives in which our body starts to fall apart.

The population getting bigger and bigger and having an aging population, one that’s starting to have more and more health problems.

Justin: Mm hmm.

Kirsten: Because that’s the thing. We’re getting older right now but as we’re getting older, we’re also having more and more health issues that are having to be dealt with by our medical system.

And probably, if people are living longer and longer, the number of children that they’re going to have isn’t necessarily going to increase. I mean as we’re looking at populations on the planet getting older and older, I mean there are countries that have negative population increases right now like Italy.

I think a couple of us can one…

Justin: Japan, Sweden.

Kirsten: Sweden, yes. I was kind of thinking of one of those Scandinavian countries.

Justin: I don’t know. Sweden – I think Sweden has an emigration problem. I think people are just bailing Sweden. I don’t know that they’re not having babies. I think they’re just travelers.

Kirsten: I don’t know about that but I…

Justin: Is that Viking urge to leave and go conquer some other foreign land…

Kirsten: Yes, as we get into I think as cultures in society on the planet changes from less of an agrarian population where you don’t know how many of your children are going to survive.

I mean part of the reason where historically have had so many kids is like the death rate is huge. Mortality – infant mortality, child mortality is huge. And so, only a small number of your kids actually end up living to adulthood to reproductive age to start their own families and so on.

And now it’s just not that necessary. I mean to have more than a replaceable number of children. I mean what I mean replaceable, I mean like replacing yourself and your spouse.

Anyway, it’s an interesting question. And hopefully by the time we figure out how to get ourselves to live forever we’re going to be going off planet anyway. So, it won’t matter.

Justin: My father’s parent had one child who tragically died about the age of 16. And they consoled the priest and the priest told them, “Look, here’s what you need to do. You need to have three more kids. That way, if something goes wrong…” no, like literally what you’re just saying, that was the priest’s advice to the family is you just have to have enough so that this can’t happen completely again.

Kirsten: Wow! Good advice. Good advice.

Justin: Which is good because my father was the third of the next three and the last. So otherwise, I wouldn’t be here, you know.

Kirsten: That’s fascinating. The earth…

Justin: I guess I owe uncle Frankie for jumping up that – jumping off the bridge thinking there was enough water in the river to… woo! Thanks, uncle Frankie.

Kirsten: Thanks, uncle Frankie. Oh, my goodness. Researchers looking at minerals of the compound lithium in some zircon grains that were found in Australia in a remote part of western Australia have determined that the date of liquid water when it may have been on this planet, they’ve pushed it back to 4.3 billion years ago.- which looking at the fact that there’s zircon and earth bound lithium, the stuff that’s from the planet that there were rocks on the planet that formed.

Okay, so, Earth was really hot at one point, molten everything. No water, too hot to have water on the planet. Then at some point, it cooled and water could form. And so, then we could see more of these rocks and different structures forming as the earth aged and cooled down and more and more water came along.

And so, the – it’s been suggested that water was not on the planet really as long back as that. So about 4.2 billion years ago and now they’re pushing it back another 100 billion years.

Justin: No.

Kirsten: Hundred million years.

Justin: Yes.

Kirsten: Yes, hundred million years, yes. Yes. So anyway, it’s changing the date that water and potentially life may have existed on this planet to pushing it back, pushing it back.

Justin: I got to back to – I left Seth Borenstein’s story on James Hansen.

Kirsten: Oh, yes.

Justin: I got to jump back to it for a second, because he’s talking about something pretty cool here. He explained along in 1988, it’s when he initially went before the senate. And he was like Global warming has started and, he was (saint) that’s coming up, bringing that at the forefront.

Twenty years later while still some in the senate are denying its existence, he’s sensed then that was – and 1988 was the hottest summer on record…

Kirsten: Mm hmm.

Justin: …in DC. There’s been 14 other record breakers since in the last 20 years. So it’s — we’re tracking that direction.

To cut emissions, Hansen said that coal fired power plants that don’t capture carbon dioxide emissions shouldn’t be used at all in the United States after the year 2025 and hopefully eliminated from rest of the world by 2030. And that the carbon capture technology that’s still being developed is not yet cost efficient for the power plants but that it needs to be.

Burning fossil fuels like coals, the chief cause of manmade greenhouse gases. Wow! Not your car, coal.

Kirsten: Mm hmm.

Justin: Hansen said the earth’s atmosphere has got to get back to 350 parts of carbon dioxide per million which last month it was 10% higher than that at 386.7 part for million.

He’s going to testify in behalf of some British protesters. This is where I really like what Hansen’s starting to get into now. They’re protesting against the new coal fired power plant and protesters have chained themselves to the gates and to the equipment at the site and have been preventing the construction.

Hansen says that the thing that I think is most important is to block coal fired power plants. I’m not yet at the point of chaining myself but we may somehow have to draw attention to this.

Why doesn’t he? I think he should. I think that would be brilliant. But I think we’ve lost a lot of that sort of will within our people to like actually go out and chain yourself to a bulldozer.

Kirsten: Well, some people. Some people will. I mean it depends on what is really important to you. And one other thing that people in areas where coal isn’t the only means of income, sure we can have it. We think that coal is not something that we want but if you were relying on coal to feed your family, I mean you would be fighting that with everything.

So it depends on where you’re coming from and what you’re doing. I mean I think…

Justin: I don’t know. I think if I was a DDT salesman, I wouldn’t be fighting for my children to have DDT put out into the farm land. I mean I think there’s a certain point when even people in the industry are like, “Yes, maybe we should…”

Kirsten: Have we gotten to that point yet? That’s the question.

Justin: I think Hansen says in the next five to ten years, the arctic will be free of sea ice in the summer. That’s huge. That’s crazy.

Long time global warming — there’s another side of the story. Long time global warming skeptics Senator James Inhofe, Republican-Oklahoma, once claimed that global warming was a hoax and that it was being used by the weather channel to drum up more viewers.

Kirsten: Yes, I’ve heard that before.

Justin: Oh, he actually added very little to the hearing as his head is still deeply lodged up his big lobbyist opinion hole. Wait what?

Kirsten: Well, I think, it’s not – we shouldn’t listen to senators saying…

Justin: Any.

Kirsten: …whether or not, I mean when Senators weigh in who are not scientists, senators weigh in on scientific issues, they’re doing it from a political stance. I mean we should listen to people who are actually studying it and involved in it.

I mean within the community, James Hansen has been a very vocal proponent of the climate change and global warming – human caused anthropogenic global warming.

Justin: He also went after the administration for trying to silence NASA.

Kirsten: Yes, I mean he’s a very vocal individual. So, he’s on…

Justin: Like hero.

Kirsten: He’s great. And he knows what he’s talking about but at the same time, he’s also on one extreme end of it. While there are scientists on the other extreme end of it, we have to put all of the story together and I’ll put all the pieces together.

Justin: I trust the guy that’s looking at the data though.

Kirsten: Mm hmm, yes.

Justin: More so than I trust the — other humans never even bother to read it or look at it.

Kirsten: Absolutely.

Justin: Inhofe who is adamantly against it claims never to have watched any of the movies or read any of the literature on global warming because it’s not true.

Kirsten: Exactly.

Justin: Why read it? Why…

Kirsten: Right. In other end of the world news, birds are arriving earlier each spring along the east coast of the United States as temperatures get warmer and warmer and warmer.

Justin: The question is, are they getting there now before their food source is available?

Kirsten: No, they’re getting there AS their food source is becoming available. The study actually of Boston University in Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences was looking at the timing of the migrations of 32 species of birds along the Eastern Coast of Massachusetts since 1970.

They’ve been gathering this data through (missnet) capture bands on legs and then releasing the birds. This study published in Global Change Biology shows that eight out of the 32 species passed by Cape Cod significantly earlier than they were 38 years ago. And it does match the change in temperature.

It’s interesting however, that long distance migrants are not changing as – with the temperature as rapidly as short distance migrants. And so, what the research also suggests is that birds that migrate on a shorter distance scale are more likely to keep track of the temperature changes and maybe even what they’re doing is possibly following their food source…

Justin: Right.

Kirsten: …from one location to another, whereas birds that migrate longer distances say from, South America, all the way up to Canada or something like that, they don’t know necessarily where their food source is going to be or what it’s going to be like when they get there. So they’re standing by what their intrinsic instinct tells them when it’s time to feed.

Justin: In their travel book.

Kirsten: So they’re traveling by, changes in day length and they’re not being affected as greatly by the changes in temperature.

Justin: So then the…

Kirsten: It’s an interesting question.

Justin: So then the question would be then which one is going to handle a more drastic change better? Sounds like…

Kirsten: Well, that’s the…

Justin: …the short migrators…

Kirsten: Yes. And that’s…

Justin: …are going to be like, “Oh, we’re not going back there yet. It’s a little too early” or…

Kirsten: Mm hmm.

Justin: … “No, we’re going to get there early this year.”

Kirsten: Right.

Justin: And then they keep up with it.

Kirsten: Yes. And that’s the implication is that birds that travel these shorter distances might be better capable to keep up with this.

Justin: Yes, because if you go all the way from the transglobal migration track to go to your feeding ground and the peak of the feeding ground turned to out to have happened the month before you got there, yes, that would be pretty devastating.

Kirsten: It would be very devastating and you’d see populations of birds decreasing because they’re not going to have food supplies for their breeding season. Birds, babies aren’t going to survive as well, not as many birds are going to make it back for the next year. It could have grave implications for the bird world.

But if this is part of how, I mean this could be how different species have ended up doing what they’re doing for years. And it could be that the short distance migrants are just better and they’ve always been this way in terms of their behavioral strategy.

And maybe they just kind of started this little behavior of, “Oh, I’m going to go over here and follow the food” instead of just staying in one location. Maybe they’ll go this way and maybe there were nomads first and I know this was kind of my graduate thesis so…

Justin: Oh, okay. (Carry on).

Kirsten: It was kind of part of my graduate thesis a little bit. But anyway, we’ve to take a break.

Justin: We do?

Kirsten: We do have to take a break.

Justin: Why?

Kirsten: Because it’s time.

Justin: I don’t want to stop. I want to keep on going.

Kirsten: We’ll be back.

Justin: Oh, okay.

Kirsten: Yes. So, just stay tuned. We’ll be back after these brief public messages.


Kirsten: I like that song. Chuck Lee Bramlet off of our This Week in Science 2008 Music Compilation. Before the break, I thought I saw Elvis by William Grant Preston and we came in to the show with Robot High School by…

Justin: Which is…

Kirsten: …My Robot Friend.

Justin: …now my son’s favorite song.

Kirsten: It’s a great song.

Justin: Next row we’ll have (Andy) perpetual motion machine.

Kirsten: Yes.

Justin: He’s been singing it longer.

Kirsten: I bet you all. It’s great. It’s great. Great music on the 2008 Compilation CD this year. It was a premium during the fund raiser. And I hope those of you that…

Justin: And again, this song I wrote didn’t make it. I don’t understand how every year I write a song and…

Kirsten: Liar. He didn’t write a song. You didn’t.

Justin: Or you didn’t get the email.

Kirsten: You didn’t get it to me.

Justin: I know. I know. Yes, “I never got your email Justin. I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Kirsten: I wanted to respond to (Ted Chivales) who wrote in saying, “Can you please explain the difference between silicon and silicone on the air?”

Justin: Mm hmm.

Kirsten: And so, we’re doing that on the air. We’re explaining the difference. Silicone is…

Justin: Makes for squishy breast implants, augmentations.

Kirsten: Yes. And window caulking. It’s…

Justin: Yes. And silicon makes for much firmer breast modifications.

Kirsten: Shatteringly so. Thanks Justin.

Justin: Like, is it clear now? Are we clear?

Kirsten: Oh, clear as glass. Silicone is a rubber-like compound. It’s very flexible. Silicon is like glass. It’s very firm. And it’s superconducting, which is why silicon is used in computer chips and also, in solar panels.

Justin: Can’t be warm metal like in class.

Kirsten: It has some great electrical properties, yes. So, we’re back. I hope that did answer your question (Ted), I hope, I hope. (Kelly Daza) sent in a story that a hormone called leptin might help dieters keep weight off.

Some researchers at Columbia University Medical Center in New York published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation about a group of patients that they put on a diet in a hospital – so they couldn’t cheat probably – so that the patients lost 10% of their body weight.

And then, they presented them, or they put them in a – I think it’s MRI scans actually. Yes, functional magnetic resonance imaging, MRI scans, that shows blood activity in the brain. They were able – and they showed them pictures of food and non-food items and then checked to see how the brain responded.

And they also measured a compound – levels of this hormone called leptin. And the patients who had a very low leptin level respond – their brain responded like crazy to food.

And so, what they’re suggesting is that after weight loss, the areas in the brain responsible for regulating food intake were less active when people were shown food images, areas in the brain responsible for emotion were more active.

And when the researchers restored leptin to the levels that the patients had before they started to diet, the changes were completely reversed.

Justin: Wow!

Kirsten: So, the area of the brain that controls your craving for food is affected by your leptin levels. And so, what might be happening is when you diet, your leptin goes down and down and down and so, you’re less able to control your cravings.

And so, this suggests that they could potentially use leptin as a tool to help people who have gone through dieting for weight loss be able to control their cravings after dieting.

Justin: Awesome!

Kirsten: Yes. Kind of a neat thing. We’ll see if, they have to get into bigger human studies to see if this is something, I mean right now I don’t know if there’s a leptin pill. I don’t think there’s a leptin pill. I think it’s probably something – it’s a hormone so they’re probably injecting it or (unintelligible).

Justin: But very soon.

Kirsten: Yes.

Justin: Very soon you can get your own home leptin injection kip for your…

Kirsten: Yes.

Justin: …post-dieting requirements.

Kirsten: Yes. And leptin, there’s been a lot of research into obesity and leptin levels. People who lack leptin completely are – they cannot control their cravings and they’re genetically obese because they just always want to eat. And they don’t have the control signal, which is the leptin to tell them to stop.

Justin: Mm hmm.

Kirsten: Yes. And (there’s) a striking difference in lab mice. They have these mice that are leptin-free mice and they are just…

Justin: Rather large, rounded…

Kirsten: They have these little legs coming out of it’s really – it’s kind of sad.

Justin: I think how much…

Kirsten: Poor. Poor.

Justin: I wish – see this is why we still want…

Kirsten: And then when they give them leptin, they’re able to skinny down to a normal mouse size.

Justin: I still want the bathroom mirror that can analyze me completely with a built-in MRI and everything else – a saliva swab, a little blood check right there that can give me a full analysis of everything going on in my system every morning.

Kirsten: Right. What do you need? What do you need?

Justin: Because I have a feeling I have got extremely high leptin perhaps because…

Kirsten: Right.

Justin: …I never remembered to eat until my stomach is like grrrrrr and I’m like, “Oh, yes. My stomach seems to be trying to tell me that it’s time for food. Let’s go down and have…”

Kirsten: Right.

Justin: Like I don’t have food cravings. I’m never really like, I’ve never gotten like – I don’t even cook because it’s like it’s not… I hear so many people talking about food so much and I just – for me I just don’t get it. I love to it. It’s not like I don’t like food. It’s like I don’t get cravings for anything in particular.

Kirsten: Right.

Justin: Except maybe the Deli Rye Triscuit, that’s the one thing.

Kirsten: Oh, that’s good.

Justin: Now, that’s the one I’m like, “I got to get me some Deli Rye Triscuits” but that’s about it.

From the ever-so-lovely University of Alberta comes a (squirrelly) tale of sex in the park.

Kirsten: Excuse me?

Justin: Yes, we saved this one for the second half because it’s, like all the kids have gone to bed.

Kirsten: Yes.

Justin: Researchers from the University of Alberta in Edmonton – Alberta which is in Canada has this story in case we didn’t know, and the University of Sheffield in England have found that female red squirrels showed high levels of multi-male mating and would even mate with males they had similar genetic relatedness. So even with not-so-distant family.

The study studied a population of red squirrels over a period of three years near (Clen) – gosh, I don’t know, a national park in Southwest Yukon. While males mating with multiple females is actually common in the animal kingdom, females that multi-mate is much harder to explain from the whole like why-did-they-do-it perspective. Maybe possibly also, this has been going on but the females just don’t brag about it as much, is that possible?

And during their observations, it was noted that when female red squirrels choose a mate to hook up with, yes, genetic relatedness was not a factor at all.

In males, the benefits of multi-female mating, well-established. In females, the benefits of having many offspring is limited making the reason for multi-male mating a little bit more puzzling says, (Jeffrey Lang) who conducted the study while obtaining his PhD at the University of Alberta.

Researchers also found the relatedness had no effects on the neonatal mass or growth rate of the offspring and seemed to have no effect on the rate of which the offspring survived the first year of life.

I guess that’s interesting. I guess – especially when we were talking about sheep last week and how, you have many, many female sheep and you only need a couple of males to…

Kirsten: Right.

Justin: …to push things along because they can, take care of a whole pack.

Kirsten: Mm hmm.

Justin: So yes, why is it Kirsten? Why are these female squirrels running around the park just, you know…?

Kirsten: I don’t know I mean it’s one of the big questions trying to understand, the mating systems of any organism, trying to figure out why some organisms do it one way and others do it another. And it’s…

Justin: I guess it could be the same reason that typically, they think males would have, I mean for males I guess it’s just because it’s easy and you can have many offspring. Females being selective maybe they are…

Kirsten: They’re supposed to be the choosy sex, yes.

Justin: Yes, maybe it’s still being – ensuring the genes by being random selective like, “I’m not going to go with the same mate each time.”

Kirsten: That’s possible. Mm hmm.

Justin: “I’m going to be very random about who it is just that way we have a good selection of everything.”

Kirsten: Good sampling.

Justin: Yes, it makes perfect sense. I should write the paper. Where is the…

Kirsten: That’s funny. last week – was it last week or two weeks ago we were talking about the – what was it? I don’t remember what I was talking about. We’re talking about some organism that inside its eggs it could watch stuff outside and like figure out its feeding preference. I think it was a…

Justin: It was something in the water.

Kirsten: It’s a fish or something like that. Yes, that ends up liking to…

Justin: Squids? No.

Kirsten: Oh, a squid.

Justin: Was it squid? Baby squid.

Kirsten: Yes, it was squid. Baby squid. Well, this story has to do with unborn crocodiles. And research out of Jean Monnet University in Saint-Etienne, France has been listening to the sounds made by baby Nile crocodiles before they hatch.

They recorded the sounds of pre-hatching crocodiles and played them to other little crocodiles that were still in the egg and then listened to see what happen. And they crocodiles in the eggs responded to the sounds of the crocodiles that were played to them. And what they think is that these crocodile babies, it actually synchronizes their hatching so that they all hatch together.

An in addition to responding with vocalizations, to the sounds, the eggs kind of started rocking back and forth like the baby crocodiles inside the eggs were like, “Opp, I’m excited. Time to get out. Time to go do something.”

Justin: Yes.

Kirsten: And so, (Nicholas Matefan) he is taking a look at this. He also looked at – what did they also look at? They also looked at whether the crocodile moms were sensitive to the sounds of their babies. And so, the hid speakers underneath the nest area where the eggs used to be and then played them and the moms came running and dig.

Justin: Wow!

Kirsten: They’re digging in the sand for their eggs until they unearthed the speakers.

Kirsten: Wow!

Kirsten: And so…

Justin: And then they were angry.

Kirsten: And then they were mad. No. And so, one of the researchers on the project says, it was very surprising to see the mothers come over so quickly and dig out the speakers. Usually, crocodiles are very motionless and it’s really difficult to get them to move.

And another crocodile specialist Adam Britton at Big Gecko Wildlife Consultancy in Australia, he says that they’ve used the calls of these unborn babies as a trick to get females to the nest when they’re filming crocodile hatchings.

And so, it’s a trick they’ve been using and so kind of experimentally, it was neat to see it confirmed that the vocalizations of these babies is something that the moms…

Justin: Actually gets her going.

Kirsten: Yes, the moms are paying attention to it. It probably helps them if the moms know that their babies are hatching, because, I mean if they’re just eggs and mom has to go off and eat or whatever and they’re buried in the sand and they’re not doing anything and they’re not making any noise, they’re not vulnerable to predators.

But once they start making noise, they’re all going to hatch together, which is going to keep them together in a group as they get out of their eggs. And then, the mom comes over and is there to protect all of them at the same time. And she doesn’t have to wait for that many egg…

Justin: Right.

Kirsten: …stragglers. because some like birds sometimes they hatch over periods of a week where like one bird will hatch and then another egg will hatch later and so, the parents have to kind of keep track of all that.

And so, it’s interesting that this timing actually might work to the crocodile advantage.

Justin: Yes, now that’s brilliant.

Kirsten: Brilliant baby crocodiles, brilliant.

Justin: And it also shows that, crocodiles make good moms, you know?

Kirsten: Yes, I love you mommy crocodile.

Justin: Oh, where are at? Biologists at Harvard University determined that some African frogs have concealed weapons. This is very interesting. Yes, when threatened, these species puncture their own skin with sharp bones in their toes even, not on but in.

Kirsten: Oh, yes. I’ve seen this before. This is crazy.

Justin: So they use bone – so, it’s these little sharp bones that are underneath the skin.

Kirsten: And they’re kind of held back under the skin by a ligament or…

Justin: Yes.

Kirsten: There’s something that’s holding them back.

Justin: Yes. There’s a little – they call it a node in here, little, yes, collagen node, right? So, what’s really bizarre about this is it’s basically it’s a sharp, little claw-like feature on the toes, but it has to puncture through the skin to be enacted.

Kirsten: It’s so Wolverine.

Justin: Yes. It just comes like – and it’s not like, it’s not like a cat where it’s going to reset. It’s supposed to be out, you know. It actually does quite a bit of damage to the frog to have all these claws like puncture out through its skin.

Kirsten: Less damage than getting eaten.

Justin: Yes. Well, that’s the thing. Actually the guy who discovered this – discovered, you always have to discover. This was found in the nation of Cameroon where the Cameroonians have known about this for quite some time and…

Kirsten: Right.

Justin: …take a caution when hunting frog. But the researcher had no idea, picked one up and got scratched…

Kirsten: Ouch!

Justin: …and he’s like, “Huh? What?”

Kirsten: Well, how did they scratched by a frog?

Justin: I don’t understand. So, he’s going back and going to do a little bit more research to see sort of how the wounds heal themselves back up again, you know.

Kirsten: Yes. Well, something else about them is that after the claws come out – like they stay out for a while but they eventually get pulled back in. So, there is some kind of it’s like either a tendon or a muscle or something. There’s something attached that pulls them back in so that they’re ready to be shot out again.

Justin: And since these nodules are closely connected to the surrounding skin by dense networks of collagen. It appears they hold the skin in place relative to these claw-like bones such that when the frog flexes a certain muscle in the foot, a sharp bone separates from the nodule and bursts through the skin. And let’s see, Blackburn. Who is Blackburn? David Blackburn from Harvard University. Wow! Very cool.

Kirsten: Cool. Chemical news, chemists in Ohio have discovered – here we go, this is from, discovered that half of all of the known chemical compounds in the world share only 143 basic molecular shapes.

So, this limits the number of molecular building blocks that chemists deploy or use in their efforts to develop new drugs and other products. Knowing that certain features of molecules are similar, you can class different compounds into families, groups and know maybe their properties, how they’re going to act in certain solutions or in certain mixtures and how the bonds between them work together.

So, it’s kind of interesting. So those of you who are working on the Fold It…

Justin: Oh, yes.

Kirsten: …site, maybe you’ll start thinking these forms. Maybe they’re shared and they’re very similar at certain ways.

Justin: Yes. Yes.

Kirsten: I don’t know. Try to link it together.

Justin: Oh no, no, no. The FoldIt crew out there understand what’s going on, then Foldit crew is way ahead of you. FoldIt crew has seen the patterns within the network.

Kirsten: Yes. And so, this was published in the American Chemical Society’s Journal of Organic Chemistry. And the scientists analyzed the chemical frameworks of more than 24 million organic substances found in the ACS, Chemical Abstract Service Registry, the most comprehensive database of disclosed molecules.

That’s a lot I mean and so, when I’m saying half of all of these substances that they looked at, I mean this is like 12 million organic substances share 143 shapes.

Justin: Wow!

Kirsten: Pretty similar. It’s kind of neat and neat. I like it.

Justin: Science loves lists.

Kirsten: Go Chemistry.

Justin: All right. And we’re getting near the end here and I still think I got to do – what impresses you more Kirsten, a plane made out of glass or a – like an airplane made out of glass or a drug that reverses mental retardation?

That’s kind of Wonder Woman’s invisible jet…

Kirsten: I know or…

Justin: …versus a better co-host? Which one would you choose?

Kirsten: I think – I’m not going to say it. You just pick one. You pick one. I’m not going to say anything. I might get myself in trouble here.

Justin: All right. Well, one is a UCLA’s – look we got a genetic disorder and actually it’s called tuberous sclerosis complex or TSC and it apparently is linked to the autism and some severe mental retardation.

They found that there’s a drug that’s already FDA approved for use on organ rejection…

Kirsten: Wow!

Justin: …that has reversed the effects in mice. And what they think is going on is that there’s a non-limiter to the memory that’s going on so that these mice that have the TSC are remembering everything even completely useless information and it’s sort of overloading the memory system so there’s lot of noise in there.

And what this does is it sort of quiets down the system and allows them to be more selective in their memory and therefore function better and learn things and learn skills that they couldn’t before.

Kirsten: Amazing.

Justin: And doing so not by genetically modifying the mice ahead of time.

Kirsten: Right.

Justin: It’s not the next generational thing. It’s not a prenatal thing. It’s real-time.

Kirsten: In real-time, yes.

Justin: In fact, after only three days of treatment, the TSC mice learned as quickly as the healthy mice.

Kirsten: Wow!

Justin: Huge.

Kirsten: And this is a drug that’s already approved and so…

Justin: For completely different use say have…

Kirsten: …they’re probably going to start human trials very soon.

Justin: Why not? There’s no reason not to because…

Kirsten: Yes.

Justin: …they already know what if any effects are out there.

Kirsten: I’m figuring that the routes of study are going to be, let’s do some human trials and see if this works in people. And then also, let’s figure how it’s doing this.

Justin: Figure out how it’s doing it. And this isn’t for all, this is for the TSC, which is a genetic disorder to begin with that can be linked to again the mental retardation and autism, but it can reverse the effects of a bunch of that stuff real-time. Real-time, not next generation, not early…

Kirsten: That’s great.

Justin: …not have to get to a first – real-time. Beautiful.

Kirsten: That’s pretty amazing. Researchers looking at black holes safer to galaxies or a type of galaxy known as active galactic nuclei. And it’s thought that in their centers they have super massive black holes but they’re not as active as quasars and blasars.

Anyway, it’s been a guess for a while that the reason that these things they gobble up – they have like these feeding frenzies where they just gobble up their neighboring galaxies. You know sucking down solar systems right and left.

Anyway, they took a look at the very large array telescope to photograph these objects and they found that there are galactic collisions taking place. That these safer galaxies are running into their neighbors and that’s causing the lunch effect.

So, they were able to study it using the galaxy’s hydrogen gas – looking at hydrogen gas in the galaxies by observing the radio waves emitted by hydrogen atoms. And this is one of the first times that they’ve done this. So, it was able to confirm some suspicions about how these galaxies get hungry. Yum, I’m going to get hungry.

Justin: But it won’t happen from large hydrogen collider . It won’t happen.

Kirsten: It won’t happen from the large hydrogen collider at all. I’d like to thank (Kelly Daza), (Steven Torizi), (Ted Shivalas), (Byron Web). We’ll get to the global warming issue you brought up in good time.

And actually, I suggest the you – (Byron Web) wanted us to address issues in all sides of the subject of global warming with arguments based on Science only.

I’d like to suggest that you go back in our archives. We had a couple of interviews with a climatologist who answered a lot of questions with scientific evidence.

I don’t remember what episodes they were but it was from around this time last year, I think actually. So, I suggest you go back and take a look at our climatology episodes. There were two of them.

(Ed Dire) and (John Donavan) thanks for writing in. And everyone else who’s been listening and thinking about us, thanks so much.

Justin: Thanks for the love. I’m going to tease out a story. Metallic glasses could create a whole new range of products. They’re on the horizon. Think of aircraft wings, golf clubs, engine parts made up of this new metallic glass. Why I don’t trust it? Prince Rupert’s drop go Google it. And if you learn anything from today’s show, please remember…

Kirsten: It’s all in your head. And I’m not going to be here in person next week.

Justin: Oh, no. That’s right. You’ll be here in spirit and…

Kirsten: I’ll be here in spirit.

Justin: …through the (phone internet).

Kirsten: Yes, it’s going to be exciting. I’m going on a trip, adventure to Russia.

Justin: You’re going to Russia and I’ve got to push buttons.

Kirsten: That’s right it’s going to…

Justin: It’s going to be wild.

Kirsten: It’s going to be an exciting month. Stay tuned everybody.

Listen to the audio here.