Justin: Disclaimer! Disclaimer! Disclaimer! The following hour of programming does not necessarily represent the views or opinions at the University of California, Davis KDVS or its sponsors.
While it is not intended to incite writer evolution, it may technically constitute a call to action. You may find yourself feeling the anticipation of conflict. The readiness of spirit that allows you to face great obstacles.
The sentimental preparations were warrior about to enter battle. And you do well to prepare for the enemy draws near. – the enemy of reason, the enemy of logic, the enemy of science. The enemy has shown itself my minions. The enemy’s here! The enemy is ignorance! The enemy is fear!
March forth brave minions and defeat this vial foe with the science-y tidbits you’ve learned on the show. Get out there and make interesting small talk at parties. The free world is counting on you. And the moment on which you can do is now! What are you waiting for? March forth brave minions! It’s This week in Science coming up next.
Justin: Good morning Kirsten.
Kirsten: Good Morning Justin. Welcome to wait, what day is it?
Justin: It’s March fourth!
Kirsten: [Laugh] That’s right and you are listening to This Week in Science. I’m Kirsten and sitting across from me with the very loud set of lungs…
Justin: Loud lungs?
Kirsten: Loud lungs… [laugh]… Is the wonderful Justin Jackson.
Justin: The wonderful – I like that a lot.
Kirsten: [laugh] The inspiring, the insightful, the opinionated.
Justin: Wow. My goodness I get all kinds of tags today.
Kirsten: [laugh] That’s right. We are here for the next hour talking all about science which we love so very, very, very much. I love the science. I do.
Justin: It’s so nice. I like that too.
Kirsten: And today we have an interview with Ted Breaux.
Justin: Breaux is going to talk about some…
Kirsten: What’s up Breaux? What’s up?
Justin: … some interesting stuff. He’s an absinthe-minded professor.
Kirsten: He is that definitely. Absinthe is on his mind. And it is not the wiles of – I guess it might be the wiles of the green fairy that he’s been chasing down for a little while now. But he’s been using science to go back into history and actually help a liqueur come back into favor here in United States.
Kirsten: Yes. So we’ll be talking with him about absinthe at 9 o’clock.
Kirsten: Yes. It’s going to be very, very exciting. You’ll be going to learn all sorts of stuff about the green liquor.
Justin: It’s very fascinating.
Kirsten: Very fascinating. And let’s see. What do we have in terms of news today?
Justin: Robot domination update.
Kirsten: Robot domination? Oh, we definitely need that. We’ve got a six legged octopus and…
Justin: That’s not an octopus anymore.
Kirsten: Doc – Oh it’s not. I guess it would be a hexapus?
Justin: Sexapus. “Sex” as in “sex”.
Kirsten: Sexapus. A sexapus, that’s right. Sex.
Justin: I don’t know if you can say that on the radio. Just be careful.
Kirsten: [laugh] Be careful and–
Justin: Turns out boys and girls are different.
Kirsten: And Darwin was wrong … about chickens.
Justin: Oh yes.
Kirsten: [laugh] We’ll be talking about all these fun things and probably more. And as much as we can get to while we are here on the air.
If you would like information on any of the stories that we talked about on the show, I provide links at our website www.twis.org or thisweekinscience.com.
Justin: And our emails respectively are Justin or Kirsten @thisweekinscience.com. And you’ve got to put the TWIS somewhere in the subject line otherwise you will be spam filtered into oblivion.
Kirsten: Actually if you put TWIS in the subject heading you go into a special TWIS mail box in my mail box. [laugh] Yes, bring it.
Justin: In the land of the blind the one eyed man is king. In the land of Ireland, they are crowning the blind.
Kirsten: Yes. What?
Justin: An Irishman blinded by an explosion two years ago has had his sight restored after doctors inserted a tooth into his eye!
Kirsten: What? That usually is a really bad idea.
Justin: Exactly. The way you go blind is not-
Kirsten: That’s the kind of thing you hear about. Yes, like at a hockey match or something you know. I don’t know. [laugh]
Justin: [laugh] Tom McNichol, an Irishman, lost his Iris sight in a freak accident when red-hot liquid aluminum exploded at the re-cycling center in 2005. So a little more than two years ago. After doctors in Ireland said there was nothing more they can do. McNichol-
Kirsten: Except put a tooth in your eye. [laugh]
Justin: McNichol looked into or rather heard about an operation called “Osteo-odonto-keratoprostheis (OOKP)” being performed by Dr. Christopher Liu at Sussex Eye Hospital in Brighton England.
The technique actually pioneered in Italy in the 1960’s involves creating a support for an artificial cornea from the patient’s tooth and the surrounding bone and some tissue from that tooth.
Procedure used on McNichol actually used his son Robert’s tooth which was I think willingly donated. It used part of its root and part of the jaw. McNichol’s right eye socket was rebuilt, part of the tooth inserted. A lens inserted in a hole drilled through the tooth. And he now has enough sight to get around and even watch television.
“I have come out of complete darkness and I’m able to do simple things,” says McNichol.
So this is a very bizarre form of surgery like why do they need this than any other? I got really quick steps on the surgery here. Okay.
Kirsten: Oh great. That’s wonderful.
Justin: 1. Opening up the eye and removing the entire inner surface of the eyelid – the corneal surface and all scar tissue from the previous eye injury.
2. Remove the inner muscular lining of the cheek and transplanting it into the new surface of the eye.
3. Removing a canine tooth oddly also known as the “eye tooth” and part of the adjacent bone attached ligaments from the jaw.
4. Fastening a bolt shape structure from the tooth bone complex to receive a plastic optical cylinder which is cemented into place.
5. Implanting the tooth bone cylinder complex into the cheek to grow new blood supply. So now you have this – is in the tooth.
And then the second phase is a few months later, the cheek muscular lining over the eye will be opened. A circular opening made in the cornea to receive the implant. The inner contents of the eye will be removed at this time.
Secondly, the living tooth bone cylinder complex will be removed from the cheek, placed within the eye and the muscular cheek lining will be replaced over the implant.
Kirsten: It’s quite involved.
Justin: The end of the procedure light can now enter through the plastic cylinder and the patient will be able to see through this cylinder with some limited vision. Wow. Yes.
Kirsten: It’s amazing. I just want to know who came up with that whole idea.
Justin: You know I don’t have that here. But some Italian. They call it the “eye tooth” and they figured out the…
Kirsten: Yes. Some- why not? Yes, use is it for the eye.
Justin: It’s so bizarre though.
Kirsten: It’s very bizarre. A Canada-US research team has solved a major mystery related to HIV.
Kirsten: Basically, some people don’t get HIV and the question has been “why?”
Justin: Lack of sex. That’s – or contraception. One or the other. Usually …
Kirsten: [laugh] Aside from that. Aside from that. There is a protein called “Fox 03-A” and it shields human body against the HIV attack. And they are hoping…
Justin: Like a genetic Jimmy Hat.
Kirsten: Exactly. You could say that. And anyway they are hoping that it will be able to help in the development of a vaccine so if they can take advantage of this protein, maybe kick it into gear in people who don’t have it naturally occurring maybe throwing a little RNA like something – throw something, use a virus get it in there-
Justin: Usher in a new era of free love, bring it. Come and see what science is working on people? See what it’s trying to get us to? Trying to bring back free love.
Kirsten: Yes. So basically in HIV, the T-cells which are memory cells within the immune system and allow lifelong protection against viruses. They decline – the HIV, the Human Immuno-deficiency Virus slowly just batters away at those cells and kills them off…
Justin: Civil war.
Kirsten: So yes, virus versus cell. That’s right. And this FOX 03-A actually helps the survival of these memory cells. And keeps them from becoming defective within the HIV infected individuals.
Justin: The wolverines.
Kirsten: They’ve studied three groups of men, one was HIV-negative and HIV-positive group who’s infection was controlled through Tri-therapy. And a third group who had HIV but did not show any symptoms.
The third group was able to fend off infection without any kind of treatment whatsoever, because they were able to maintain those T-cells. Because the FOX 03-A protein was being regulated within their bodies and others.
They had what the researchers says – Dr. Haddad says that they had perfect resistance to HIV infection. These elite controllers represents the ideal study group to examine how proteins are responsible for the maintenance of an immune system with good anti-viral memory.
This is the first study to examine in people rather than animals and that’s the key, key point here. That this is a human study so we’re seeing exactly how the human body works. We don’t have to do any transfer of anything from animals, animal medicine to people.
This is the first study to examine what shields the bodies’ immune system from infection and to pinpoint the fundamental role of FOX 03-A in defending the body. That’s going to enable scientists to develop appropriate therapies for other viral diseases that weaken the immune system. And that includes cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, hepatitis C, organ bone marrow transplant rejection like-
Justin: Huge – huge.
Kirsten: Huge. You know this is not – so this protein you know, it just helps out these T-cells that become compromised in all sorts of immuno-deficient diseases. Yes, so this is great – great – great news.
Kirsten: I have a couple of-
Justin: Write to it. Throw them in.
Kirsten: Write to it? Throw them in? Alright. We have a couple of twis-tributors that-
Justin: You missed last week but we’re getting this week.
Kirsten: I don’t really want to get them in.
Justin: Get them out dadadada! Hit the mic!
Kirsten: Here they go. So without any further a do, twis-tributors attack!
Rob Hessler: Science leaders calling for presidential debate.
According to an article by Franklin Institute, president and CEO Dennis Wint that appeared in Philadelphia Inquirer on February 19, 2008. A debate is being proposed among the major presidential candidates to take place April 18th in Philadelphia.
Wint calls it a milestone in the movement to bring science to the forefront as an important issue in the 2008 presidential election. The article goes on to list some of the key questions such a debate would seek to explore.
How do we develop a thoughtful science policy that provide support for research in promising areas of science such as stem cells? And deals with the ethical and moral issues raised by those initiatives?
How can we improve public education in science and technology to ensure that the United States remains a world leader in science, technology and innovation? How will we pursue research and development of the necessary alternative energy technologies to address the growing issue of global of climate change?
What level of funding is needed to maintain and expand the United States’ scientific and technological leadership?
TWIS-minions can add their names to the burgeoning list of concerned citizens who want to see the candidates called on the carpet about their science policies at sciencedebate2008.com.
There you will be joining Nobel Laureates, members of congress from both parties, heads of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the National Academy of Science and other major scientific and engineering organizations and writers and editors of major US science and technology publications.
This is Rob Hessler reporting from Philadelphia.
Ian Shafer: Okay the reason that wool garment shrink is because wool fibers have scales on them. The wool fibers themselves won’t shrink, they’re actually a reasonably elastic fiber but they will not shrink of their own accord.
The reason that wool yarn shrinks and hence wool garment shrink is because wool fibers have tiny little scales on them.
Now if you were to look at one fiber under a microscope, it will look like a growing stem of asparagus with all those tiny little scales on them.
Now what happens in commercial processing is that we end up at with some fibers running in one direction and some fibers running in the opposite direction. And what happens when they are in the yarn and you washed that yarn or that garment made from that yarn, is that the individual fibers will be just like scale fish swimming past each other.
They’ll move past each other easily head-to-head. The scales will glide over. But they cannot back up. And so we’ve end up with a ratchet-type process occurring within the yarn.
And as those fibers align and go past, the yarn is getting shorter and thicker. And that’s what causes the shrinkage in wool garments. And what’s being done to overcome that to create super washable garments is that the scales are removed.
They removed using caustic soda and the scales are burned off and so we end up with a dead smooth fiber. No ability to ratchet. Therefore we get machine wash and tumble dry in many instances.
Woman: Thank you. And you want to plug this yarn?
Ian Shafer: And come to Jumbuck Australiana right here on Kangaroo Island in Australia and you will be able to have the experience of your life with the wool industry and learn a lot about the Australian wool industry. Thank you.
Kirsten: And that was from Jessica Spalding, the first one from Rob Hessler.
Justin: Yarn. He’s talking about yarn.
Kirsten: Wool. Why wool shrinks? He was talking about yarn.
Justin: I was picturing some sort of small…
Kirsten: Why wool yarns?
Justin: Wow. What’s a little wool yarn? What’s a wool yarn? I don’t even know what that looks like.
Kirsten: So the interview was with Ian Shafer, owner of Jumbuck Australiana. A sheep farm in South Australia says Jessica Spalding.
Caustic soda is lye and yar is yarn. [laugh] She says it took her a while to catch on that. [laugh]
Justin: Is she still living in the van down by the river?
Kirsten: I believe she is still living in the van down by the river. Maybe you can get a van and park next door?
Justin: I think I need moving to the van down by the river. Very soon. Very soon.
Kirsten: In a van down by the river! Yes. We have more science. What else we have to talk about today? You are listening to This Week in Science. Did you have a story? You’ve got paper if you’re ready.
Justin: Intelligent machines deployed on battle fields around the world.
Kirsten: Oh no!
Justin: From mobile grenade launchers to rocket firing drones. They can already identify and lock in to targets without the aid of human beings.
Kirsten: That’s scary.
Justin: There are more than 4,000 US military robots on the ground in Iraq. As well as unmanned aircraft that of clock – hundreds of thousands of flight hours but according to this, the first three armed combat robots fitted with large caliber of machine guns deployed to Iraq last summer manufacture by US arm maker proved to be so successful that there’s another 80 more on order.
Up to now, humans have always been required to push a button, pull a trigger, but if we’re not careful this maybe changing.
Kirsten: Yes. Robots choosing their targets.
Justin: Military leaders are quite clear that what they want is autonomous robots as soon as possible. Because they are cost-effective and give a risk-free war. Which is an interesting…
Kirsten: Yes. And there’s no conscience to it either, “Oops, shot you. Sorry you weren’t an enemy combat.”
Justin: Robots was malfunctioning.
Justin: So they said it was nothing. The thing about it though is, I mean I’m all for this.
Kirsten: This is never – robots can’t be at fault. They are robot. They have-
Justin: No. But I’m all for this in a certain point. There is a certain point when you get to the test (low) level. Where the other side has robots too. And you just send your robot to fight their robots. And it becomes like DARPA prevent.
Kirsten: Great. But that’s not.
Justin: But that’s not with these things.
Kirsten: But that’s not going to happen right away though. Although, I guess there was – I did read something like a week ago saying that robotics is getting to the point where it’s becoming so common that people with without advanced technology can build robots and have them go out and do their bidding.
Justin: And there’s some technicalities that still need to be work out. Like how to distinguish a civilian from military combat in a military aspect? But you’re right. Once people – I think we’ve talk about this before– once people can have their own robots. I mean you could have terrorist robots, suicide exploding robots and you can have bank robbing robots. Which would we be great because-?
Kirsten: Just go down to RadioShack.
Justin: Yes. You go down to RadioShack. You put in a couple of hundred bucks. Just hang out in a garage over the summer and then that winter you got your bank robber robot out there committing crimes for you. And if you do the money drop right there they might never track it back to you.
Kirsten: We can only hope that eventually when the robot uprising takes place the robots just band together and there are no sides. I mean, that’ll be the best thing – the robots will just be unlike this whole side thing. Get rid of the humans, make them do our bidding. We are the overlords and life is better. [laugh] No, no.
Justin: Autonomous robots that are totally and completely like, independent. They go out to the battle field and they make the call.
Kirsten: I don’t like that so much.
Justin: They’re working on it.
Kirsten: So Darwin was wrong.
Justin: Yes. Well, sorry about all that evolution stuff we were talking about. Yes we were completely 100% wrong.
Kirsten: That’s so sure. Yes, no. It’s not natural selection that he was wrong about it was the chicken. He had an idea that-
Justin: He thought it came before the egg?
Kirsten: [laugh] No. That the domesticated chicken – he had a lot of ideas about the descent of species. And one of them was the domesticated chicken and he thought that all domesticated – THE domesticated chicken came from the red jungle fowl.
But there’s a new study that’s come out of Uppsala University that chickens were a little been more complex. Very complex animals.
Yellow skinned chickens have a different version for the skin color than do their white skinned cousins. And that gene does not come- it’s not a mutation – from the red jungle fowl. It comes from a different species, the gray jungle fowl.
Kirsten: And so through genetic analysis their studies have shown that the gray jungle fowl was likely crossed with an early form of the domesticated chicken. And the genes for yellow skin spread among the billions of chickens around the world.
Kirsten: Yes. So the researcher Gregor Larson, says that what’s ironic is that Darwin thought that more than one wild species had contributed to the development of the dog. But that the chicken came from only one wild species, the red jungle fowl. Now it turns out, it’s just the other way around.
Justin: That doesn’t really throw out all of evolution now. S0-
Kirsten: Oh no – no – no – no.
Justin: I can keep my fish with feet decals on the back of my car.
Kirsten: Absolutely. Absolutely. It was just – he happened, I mean not having the technology to be able to do genetic analysis. He was looking at the traits and physical characteristics of animals and trying to determine their lineages. And you know-
Justin: Kind of tough without the genetics thing.
Kirsten: It is kind of tough. And so he was making a best guess based on the information that he had at hand. But now we’re just seeing that those colors are a little bit different.
Scientists believe that this gene may also explain the pink color of the flamingo, the yellow leg color of many birds of prey, and the reddish meat of the salmon. Yes.
So it also, because in the – yellow color is influenced by what are called “caratonoids” which are colored pigments that become brighter when you eat food with particular colors. And it might also influence the skin color of humans to a small extent. Yes. So it’s very interesting.
Justin: And speaking of DNA and spread of species, new genetic analysis of people from all around the world has added further confirmation to the African origin of humanity. Study of genetic details from 938 individuals from 51 populations provides evidence of how people are related and different.
Research led by Richard M. Myers of Stanford University reported this in the Journal of Science took at – the team looked at variations in 650,000 sections of each of the DNA samples. Providing a view of the similarities and differences between people in greater detail that had been possible before.
Scientists have long believed that modern humans first developed in Africa and from there went out to populate the rest of the world. A theory that is strongly supported by not just all the archeology in previous DNA evidence but of course supported by this new analysis.
In addition they noted that residents in Middle East can trace their ancestry to both Africa AND Europe. Yes. So it’s not just the (atavist) coming back to you know.
Justin: Because you always go back once you – which is they say the logical sense in the region form the late bridge of movement back and forth between the areas. They also found a close relationship between the Yakut population of Siberia and Native Americans who are believed to have migrated through the Siberian land bridge at the time – ice and low sea level.
Kirsten: Very interesting. That’s cool. I love seeing we’re finding out the pasts of humanity.
Justin: So yes. From now on I’m checking African-American on every survey and every identifier.
Kirsten: [laugh] Exactly. And well, it’s like James Watson who – he thought he was so far removed and it turns out that they didn’t – he was one of the first people to allow his entire genome to be sequenced and it turns out he was a very significant portion of African descent.
Justin: Yes. Absolutely.
Kirsten: As he should be because we all are.
Justin: We all are from Africa. We just moved.
Kirsten: We just moved. That’s it! Hello? The six legged octopus has arrived.
Justin: It’s not an octopus. We should not call it octopus if it’s not an octopus any more.
Kirsten: Says the spokeswoman for the Blackpool Sea Life Center in Northwest England. “He’s a lovely little thing. And he is going to go on display to the public later this month.”
Kirsten: Yes. He has two limbs fewer. He’s missing some arms. Why? They think he’s a – I think it is birth defect and not a new species. So it just happens to be – I guess it’s “sextapus” that they found.
Justin: And you’re calling it a sextapus? It’s a hexapus. This is hexa– I don’t-
Kirsten: Hexapus. I like sextapus. [laugh]
Justin: Oh my! You can’t say that on the air. Shhh. Boys and girls are different in the manner of speaking.
Kirsten: “No one has ever heard of another case of a six-legged octopus,” says Carey Duckhouse.
Henry is the name of the octopus. They’ve dubbed him Henry. And he was discovered in a lobster pot off the North Whales Coast two weeks ago. One of eight creatures that the staff of the Sea Life Center picked up from a local marine zoo. And they didn’t notice that he was missing any legs. I guess he does pretty well without them.
Justin: I do pretty well without even six.
Kirsten: I know. Two legs. They do okay.
Kirsten: Yes. There would be, I mean there’s probably a reason that there aren’t more six-legged octopuses being found…
Justin: Because there’s no such thing as a six-legged octopus.
Kirsten: Okay fine. [laugh]
Justin: I’m just trying to point out the obvious. That’s all.
Kirsten: Oh my goodness.
Justin: Boys and girls are different in a manner of speaking and yet until now, we didn’t know why.
Kirsten: I might be able to hazard a guess. [laugh] Maybe? Well, aside from the sex characteristics you know, why should we be that different? Well, probably everything.
Justin: We are. We are biologically different. Now researches on Northwestern University and the University of Haifa show that both the areas of the brain associated with language work harder in girls than in boys during language tests.
So the areas of the brain associated with language are much more active and working in the girls. Also they found that boys and girls are relying on different parts of the brain when performing tasks of language.
Findings which suggest that language processing is more sensory in the boys and more abstract in girls could have major implications for teaching children. And even provides support for people advocating single sex classrooms. Which as much I would have been against the idea as a young a man having single sex classrooms- it might been a lot less destructing, might have learned something in school.
Kirsten: Absolutely. [laugh]
Justin: Using functional magnetic resonance imaging FMRI researchers measured brain activity in 31 boys and 31 girls aged 9-15 as they performed spelling and writing language tasks.
So the task were delivered in two different modalities; visual and auditory. Visually presented, the children write certain words without hearing them presented in auditory mode. They heard the words but did not see them.
Researchers found that the girls show significantly greater activation in language areas of the brain than boys. The information in the task got through to the girls’ language areas to the brain in either mode.
Now this is what was kind of strange. In the case of the boys, the boys’ accurate performance depended – when reading the words on how hard the visual areas of the brain were working. And in hearing words, the boy’s performance depended on how hard the auditory areas of the brain work. So the pattern extends the language processing that occurs in classrooms, it could create a more efficient teaching and testing methods.
Because boys, it’s all about how you’re hearing it or how you’re seeing it. So for instance, they’re thinking maybe this means that boys will learn language skills better or just in general learn better on written material and on hearing it versus girls who wouldn’t matter which one of the other you were using. They’re going to get because it’s just the abstract information that’s being processed.
Kirsten: Interesting. That is very interesting. Well, that’s it for the first half of our show; we will be back in just a few moments. Stay tuned for more This Week in Science and lots of absinthe-
Kirsten: After this short break.
Justin: Did we bring some down here?
Kirsten: [laugh] unfortunately no.