Transcipt: Mar 18, 2008 Part 1

Justin: Disclaimer. Disclaimer. Disclaimer.

Now is not the moment to panic. Yes, there’s a war waging in the far off land. Yes, the economy tethering on the brink of an untold turmoil. Yes, the waging and the tether are taking native focus off the impending collapse of our fluctuating climate.

Yes, the content of the following hour of programming does not necessarily represent the views of University of California Davis, yes, the same goes for KDVS and its sponsors.

Yes, This Week in Science is in potential danger of becoming an evening commute, rather than morning drive time broadcast, but for Douglas Adam’s sake people, don’t panic.

The fact that we live at the bottom of the deep gravity well, on the surface of a gas covered planet, going around the nuclear fire ball 90 million miles away, and think these to be normal and not worth panicking about is obviously some indication of how skewed our perspective tends to be.

And should allow some level of comfort that things really are much stranger than This Week in Science, coming up next.

(Music Playing)

Justin: Good morning, Kirsten.

FH Good morning, Justin.

Welcome, welcome, welcome to This Week in Science.

Justin: Wow. There’s so much science going on in the world.

Kirsten: I know.

Justin: Each week –

Kirsten: Every week it seems like there’s more and more and more – which actually is a – I think it’s a wonderful thing that we’re seeing so much science out there.

Justin: Yes.

Kirsten: I mean, I know we’re like constantly on the prowl, looking for science but –

Justin: Yes, we kind of – we do kind of look for it, don’t we?

Kirsten: We do kind of look for it, but it’s great that there is so much for us to find out there. Fantastico! You are all listening to This Week in Science.

We are here for – oh goodness, we are here for the next hour and we’re going to be talking all about science news. Without further ado.

Justin: Huge breaking story.

Kirsten: OK.

Justin: Huge, huge, huge breaking story – right – where did I put it? I don’t remember what it’s about, but it was huge.

Kirsten: I don’t know – [laughs]

Justin: Huge, tremendously – ginormorse-ly [sic] –

Kirsten: Gigantic but – it’s huge but it doesn’t really stand out from these pile of papers.

Justin: OK, here it is – so, this is actually a little over a week ago.

The anthropologists, looking at the Homo Floresiensis – the little three foot tall people, have come up with the idea that perhaps, another – further down the road of narrowing it down, that they were in fact “Dwarf Cretins”.

Kirsten: Dwarf Cretins?

Justin: That’s the way this was put. I’m not sure what a cretins means. I was sent that meant you’re kind of a creep?

Kirsten: [laughs] You’re a cretin.

Justin: Yes.

Kirsten: Yes.

Justin: But, the Dwarf –

Kirsten: This is different from the nutritional group, that came – the group that came actually – it was nutrition last week.

Justin: This is actually the same. Yes.

Kirsten: Oh, just the same.

Justin: Dwarf cretinism is the result of severe iodine deficiency in pregnancy, in combination with other environmental factors.

They believe that it was the isolation and the poor nutrition that caused the Homo Florienses to have developed -and again these fossils they found are round 18,000 years ago, the most recent fossils that they’ve found –

Kirsten: Wow.

Justin: On the island of “Flores” – Flores. Although there is the interesting thing of the natives having tales of an ancestors called, “Ebu Gogo”, who lived in caved, and were short, roughly built, hairy, pot-bellied and stupid.

Kirsten: [laughs]

Justin: Who stole food and could not cook and had an imperfect language. Which is all consistent with the conditions of the fossils that they’ve found. Now –

Kirsten: Interesting –

Justin: New breaking story.

Kirsten: New , new, new –

Justin: Breaking, right now it’s breaking. A teams of scientists have discovered fossils of another hobbit people.

Kirsten: Oh.

Justin: On an island of Pacific ocean. Where they lived 3,000 years ago.

Kirsten: Huh? So – much more recent.

Justin: So, much, much more recent

Kirsten: Yes.

Justin: Wow. The discovery was initially made by a South African paleoanthropologist, Lee Berger, while holidaying in a Micronesian Island of Palau.


So, it’s right now it’s up in the Scientific Journal Online of PLoS One – P-L-O-S and then the word, one. Which is – I can spell it for you but I’ve – be embarrassed for both of us.

Some have argued that they were formerly unknown human species again of the original Homo Floresiensis .

But now, this new Palauan fossils are exhibiting a surprising number of traits that were originally used to describe the Homo Florienses as unique species. Which includes the small body size, with the large teeth, small faces and reduced chin.

So, it’s interesting. Now, is that we’re finding – this isn’t something that we’re segmented to this one island. I don’t know if these changes the scenario at all. But that’s very fascinating. Statement also said that these are also cave dwellers.

Kirsten: Huh?

Justin: Yes. They also were found– or at least they found the – maybe it’s just that the bones are easier to preserve in a cave, maybe they only went in there once in a while like – “let’s go check out – let’s go spelunking.” And the one’s that didn’t make it out, because they don’t have lights.

Kirsten: Yes, I will live in a cave. If, you know – that was all that was available.

Justin: Yes.

Kirsten: Caves are good. They’re –

Justin: Caves, house with the curtains shut – what’s really the difference anyway?

Kirsten: Exactly. Keeps you out of the rain, gives you a nice little opening that you can use spears in to protect yourself from mean creatures coming to get you.

Justin: Yes. Well, the apparently the Homo Floresiensis on the island of Flores, when they were around, there was lizards out there that were like bigger than them. They were like six feet long, several hundred pounds –

Kirsten: Oh, man.

Justin: Because when – they obviously have – apparently when mammals are left on an island with enough time they tend to shrink because of the lack of resources.

Kirsten: Right.

Justin: Reptiles on the other hand, because of the lack of competitive predators –

Kirsten: Grow and grow and grow.

Justin: Yes, keep getting bigger. Yes.

Kirsten: Hmm. OK. Note to self, don’t live on an island. [laughs] Unless, it’s a big island.

Justin: Yes. Over that of volcano.

Kirsten: Like Australia. I don’t know. I could live on this island.

Justin: I got an Australia story.

Kirsten: Researchers in Germany have potentially discovered a new kind of hemoglobin.

Justin: Hmm?

Kirsten: Yes. Hemoglobin is the molecule –

Justin: Blood right?

Kirsten: It’s in your blood. Yes. It’s the oxygen carrying molecule in the blood.

Hemoglobin consists of an iron heme group that has a capacity to grab on the four oxygen atoms and it’s a basically trades oxygen for carbon dioxide, as it travels through your bloodstream, to your muscles, and back to your lungs, where it gives off the carbon dioxide, and grabs up new oxygen and then makes the circuit again.

Justin: Kind of globs on.

Kirsten: Yes.

Justin: Is this really suppose to pronounce, hemoglobin thing?

Kirsten: Hemoglobin.

Justin: Globin? Because it “globs” on to things?

Kirsten: You can pretend that that’s what it is just for yourself.

Justin: I’m looking for scientific word of the word. I think it’s globin – means to give – it grabs on the things.

Kirsten: Globular.

Hemoglobin, so anyway they were looking at this four year old boy and his 41 year old father and both of them had low oxygen saturation in their blood which normally is a sign of a cardiac defect.

And it’s assumed that if you have low oxygen saturation that you might have a septal defect that lets blood leak from the de-oxygenated side of the heart to the oxygenated side of the heart. Therefore, decreasing the amount of oxygenated blood that’s going out to the body.

Justin: Wow.

Kirsten: And so, they were taking a look at this little boy and his father and they have been treating them for basically low oxygenation and septal defect – cardiac defect problems.

But then, they decided, “OK, let’s use an oximeter” – a pulse oximeter, they put it in on the finger, and it uses infrared radiation to basically take a picture of the blood and get an idea of what it looks like.

And, hemoglobin in its normal form, absorbs infrared light in the absence of oxygen. And the lower the content of the oxygen in the blood, they say, the less light penetrates the finger and reaches the sensor of the oximeter.

So, in this new form that they found in this little boy and his father, it absorbs a little bit more infrared light than normal oxygen saturated hemoglobin, even when hemoglobin is combined with oxygen.

So, they didn’t really understand it at first what was going on –

Justin: Mutants.

Kirsten: Yes. So, it’s so neat that maybe we’re finding – there something new about the human body that they’re – why not? Why aren’t they? Why couldn’t there be multiple forms of hemoglobin that carry oxygen at better or worse carrying capacities? Maybe there’s a bell curve or for the formation of these molecules.

Anyway, it’s a very interesting research at the University of Bonn – Germany. Maybe, there’s this new form that part – you know, definitely more researches that going to go into it, to investigate the actual oxygen carrying capacity and whether or not it is a problem for these people, or whether that’s just the way it is.

You know, does it impair their quality of life? Or do they function normally with just a little bit different oxygen carrying capacity?

Justin: I think you would want more. But I’m not even –

Kirsten: You would want more. Yes.

Justin: But maybe you age faster. Are they, young looking?

Kirsten: Oh, I don’t know about that.

But another interesting – I mean the point about that you bring up there – I mean there a lot of cyclist, runners, all sorts of people who take blood doping drugs, that basically increase the oxygen carrying capacity of the blood.

So that it can carry more oxygen out to the muscles to allow the muscles to really perform at their optimum level. We just flood the muscles with oxygen, and oxygen is not a limiting factor in their performance, maybe they’ll do a lot better and like keep running stronger for longer. Well until they ran out of glucose.

Justin: Like having an extra lung.

Kirsten: Maybe.

Justin: Yes. Which will be helpful in athletics.

Kirsten: I just took a lung and I attached it to my back. Forget about all these drugs. Got a lung coming out of my ear. [laughs].

Justin: I would have been more subtle. I think you should finish it off so that it looks more seamless than that, but – this Justin, Australia bashing stories officially banned from TWIS programming.

Kirsten: What’s – what?

Justin: Yes. This –

Kirsten: Aussie – did you say Aussie bashing stories, banned?

Justin: Officially banned. Banned I tell you.

Kirsten: What?

Justin: This, after Japanese news agencies, citing unnamed “fishery officials and Japanese fish authorities”, believed their whaling mission in Antarctic will kill little more than a half of the intended goal, due to harassment by environmentalists, as well as public protest by the Australian government.

Yehey. [clapping].

Kirsten: Good.

Justin: The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is the environmentalists – they’ve engaged the Japanese fleet in series of high seas clashes? Which I really didn’t even hear about that too much. But –

Kirsten: High seas clashes. It’s exciting.

Justin: The group said its campaign – despite international condemnation of its tactics, they like throw rotten meat upon to the decks and some weird other stuff that was a little –

Kirsten: Eww.