Dr. Kiki: This is Twis. This Week in Science episode number 653 recorded on Wednesday, January 10th, 2018. The 2018 prediction show.
Hey, everyone, I’m Dr. Kiki and tonight, on This Week in Science, we are going to fill your heads with predictions from last year, predictions for this year and yeah, actually, some science news. But first, TWIS is supported by listeners like you. We thank you for your support. We really couldn’t do it without you.
Justin: Disclaimer! Disclaimer! Disclaimer!
Those who can not remember the past, it has been said, are condemned to repeat it. As if the past were only a thing to avoid. Many good things have come from the past. Every good thing, in fact, has its origins in the past. Much of it worth repeating. So, it’s just as well to point out, those who don’t remember the past will have a hard time replicating the positive results that they’ve received at some point before.
In any case, knowing the past will help you make good decisions about the future and in some cases, that knowledge can even allow you to predict the events that will come before they even happen. Like a local weather forecast. More than just a premonition, a prognostication. With the right knowledge, you, too, can be a soothsaying fortune-telling, crystal-balling, tea-leaves-scattering, flight of bird-watching, climate-halogen buoyant oracle of the future.
And on today’s show, we will show you just how easy it is. As we ring in the new year with our prognostications for science in 2018, here on This Week in Science!
Coming up next!
Justin: Good science to Kiki and Blair!
Dr. Kiki: And a good science to you, too, Justin, Blair and everyone out there. Welcome to another episode of This Week in Science. We are back again. I’m back again. It was a crazy week off there. But, I’m back. Did you miss me?
Blair: We miss you so much.
A little, I guess.
Dr. Kiki: Thank you so much for taking care of the show last week. I’m glad to be back fit as a fiddle once again. I don’t plan to be or hope not to be taken down by any more of those crazy stomach viruses again. Oh, dear. That’s my prognostication. I will not get a stomach flu again for the next 24 hours. There you go.
Blair: Hello, yikes.
Dr. Kiki: You’re really daring to dream there. There you go.
Blair: You set a low bar there.
Dr. Kiki: Right. But today is our prediction show, so I’m really excited to be here. We do this show once a year, at the beginning of the year, kind of recapping all of our predictions from the previous year and kind of checking to see if we got anything right. Sometimes we do actually get things right. We got this occasionally. I remember once, Justin made a winning prediction about football.
Blair: Oh, one time huh.
Dr. Kiki: Yeah, he was verging on Nostradamus there.
Justin: Just so it’s clear, yeah. Even the … how exactly the game ended. But it turns out, I am 100% accurate with my super bowl predictions every single year that I have picked the New Orleans Saints to win the super bowl. So, I think as we haven’t won since, I’m again predicting this year that the Saints will win the super bowl. Just to see if logic holds every time I predict the Saints win, they win. I just thought I should predict them this year and therefore, I will be back on my winning streak again.
Dr. Kiki: There you go. Yeah. If it worked before, that’s great human lack of logic there for you, yeah. All right. So, we’re going to see how we’re going to do – how we did last year. We have predictions for this year, as well. Lots of things that we can predict that will happen in 2018. We’ve got some science also. We’ve got some fun science stories for the second half of the show. CRISPR alert!
We’ve also got something to do with anaesthesia and some other stories. You guys have any fun stories in the docket?
Justin: I’ve got another sort of human originy or people moving migrationy thing human history story and beneficial microbroccoli.
Dr. Kiki: Ok. I like broccoli. Let’s talk about microbroccoli.
Dr. Kiki: Yeah. We could work on this one a little bit.
Blair, what did you bring for the science?
Blair: Oh, I brought some news from the deep blue sea. I brought some news from freezing ponds. And I brought some news from an 8th grade science classroom.
Dr. Kiki: Digging into the depths there.
Awesome. Awesome. Awesome, there. Some great, great science discussion up ahead. But, we`ve got our predictions coming first.
And I just want to respond to Whiz Mike, who said, `So, Kiki had no flu shot.`
The stomach flu is really not the flu. The flu virus is a respiratory virus and so will affect your respiratory system and that is no joke and please consider getting your flu shot. The flu shot will not keep you from getting the flu but it will reduce your chances by a – depending on the vaccine for the particular year. It reduces your chances of getting it proportionately. And also, hopefully, if you do get it, can reduce the duration and how terrible and ravaging the flu make you feel. So, the flu shot can be very helpful, is very helpful. Also saves lives.
Blair: Yeah. It could legitimately keep you out of the hospital. It`s a good thing to do.
Dr. Kiki: It’s a great thing. It can keep you out of the hospital for certain – What I had was something along the line of an oral virus or something. This is something that gets into your guts. A virus that doesn’t play nice with the gastric system, very different, very different. And we say stomach flu but that’s just the common phrase. It is not actually the flu. It`s a very different family of viruses. Very different. And they’re a pain in the gut.
Blair: Aha! Good one.
Dr. Kiki: Haha. So moving forward, let’s jump, jump, jump into the show and remind everyone that you can subscribe to The Twis podcast on Itunes, in the google play podcast portal in Stutures, spreaker and tune in. You can find us on Youtube and facebook. Just search for This Week in Science and you can always just visit Twis.org, where you can find a link to take a look at our Twis 2018 Blair`s animal corner coloring calendar, which there are just a couple left now, I believe and so snatch them up while you can before they’re completely gone for the rest of the year. Because once they’re gone, they`re gone. No more.
And additionally, over on facebook, there is information about the SF sketch fest event, which is next Thursday, January 18th, we’re going to be in San Fransisco at the Cal Academy of Sciences, at their night life event. It is an adults-only event but we will be doing our podcast from there on Thursday and we do hope that if you’re in the bay area, you will join us and we hope that you will join us online if we are able to get the event streaming, if we are able to get the podcast streaming. We had issues last year, but we did what we could.
Ok. It’s time. It`s time now for the predictions from the previous year 2017, how did we do?
All right. I predicted things related to about climate 2017. I said it was going to be cooler and drier because of La Niña in the west and then I said when the La Niña was going to go away and then the west could expect heatwaves, drought. Well, it was wet for months because of a really long El Niño, but then the La Niña came and the heat and the dry returned and then yeah, then fires. Then the west was on fire for months and months and months and now California and the west have a lower than normal snow pack, which doesn`t bode well leading into the spring in summer of 2018. So, maybe you should just already be rationing your water if you live in the western states.
I also said that CRISPR and gene editing, I said the Chinese would report positive results for their cancer tests, haemophilia treatment will begin clinical trials. I said treatment for gene-linked blindness will start clinical trials and another would receive FDA approval.
I said Zika and Malaria would see successful vaccine trials and the patent ruling for CRISPR would go to UC Berkley. There’s no results yet on those Chinese CRISPR cancer trials but they have begun. The UK haemophilia gene therapy trial had positive results and is being extended globally so there might be more of that gene therapy on the way even in the United States.
There is a gene therapy for retinitis pigmentosa called Lacsterna that did receive FDA approval in December and therapy for a different gene related to retinitis pigmentosa also got underway as well as a stem cell therapy trial for the same disorder.
Zika vaccine trials have been promising. There were a lot of vaccines kind of talked about being in development in 2017 but nothing has really come to the forefront and now with Zika cases subsiding, they`re worrying that they`re reaching a saturation of immunity in the populations where Zika and the anopheles mosquitoes are and so they`re questioning whether or not actually developing whether the market is going to be there for the development of these vaccines, even though, we might need them. So, there are lot of stuff happening there.
Malaria vaccine trials were successful enough to expand to pilot programmes across Africa. So, there is Malaria vaccine that is really making strides.
And the patent ruling did not go to Berkley. It went to the Broad Institute. But they’re still fighting it because, you know, that’s what you do when you have lawyers and buckets of money.
I said optogenetics, we will have trials of optogenetics in the eyes and promising results in early human studies for the treatment of Alzheimers with optogenetics.
Well, an optogenetics trial began in 2017 for retinitis pigmentosa, with no patients having negative reactions to the treatment but there was no success with optogenetics to treating Alzheimers. However, there is a company call Cognito Therapeutics, who is working on a trial, studying the effects of 40 hertz entrainment on Alzheimers disease. And basically, they’ve got goggles and headphones that blast 40 hertz light and sound at people in early stage Alzheimers to see if it keeps the Alzheimers at bay. And they’ve been working with a few subjects so far. We will see how that study continues, if it continues.
From space 2017, I said, Cassini will make an unexpected discovery as it passes through the rings of Saturn to its death. Well, that happened. Cassini unexpectedly discovered various chemicals, water, methane and others that haven’t really been identified yet as it passed through the rings. And it suggests, the findings suggest that the rings are shedding material onto the planet. And there was a study today, I think, that came out, talking about the rings of Saturn potentially being so young, that if the dinosaurs have had a telescope to look at Saturn, there wouldn’t have been any rings for them to look at. Isn’t that cool?
There’s stuff to learn. We need another Cassini, at Saturn.
Juno, I said, would not find anything unexpected on Jupiter. Boy, was I wrong.
There was, again, another story. I just read it today. I think it’s on Space.com and there’s a Bolden, one of the – I think his name is Bolden, where the head – the leaders on the Juno mission, he went to a conference and he said, `Everything was wrong that we thought. Everything astronomers thought we knew about — and planetary scientists thought we knew about Jupiter, totally wrong.` They thought it had a little tiny core. Now we think it has a weird, fuzzy big core and we didn’t know anything.
So, Juno, fun and lots of unexpected stuff. Boy, was I wrong.
Justin: The planet Jupiter is best known for it`s large, fuzzy core.
Dr. Kiki: That’s right. Large, fuzzy core.
The Changi 5 Lunar mission, I said, which is the Chinese lunar return mission. They want to send a rover to the moon and then come back with moon rocks. Well, I said, it would work. That it would return samples to earth from the moon reinvigorating the space race. Well, yeah, no, the Changi 5 launch was postponed by rocket failure in 2017 and it`s probably not going to get launched again until 2019, although the Changi 4 might get launched in 2017, so, we`ve got to stay tuned on that thing.
The space race, it`s still coming though. The space race is coming. And I have more – I`ll talk about my predictions for that later.
The event horizon telescope will successfully photograph the event horizon of the black hole at the center of our galaxy, I said. And, we did that. The event horizon telescope collected data. We just haven’t gotten any of the results back yet. They’re still processing it. And so, I have predictions about it now for 2018.
Blair: Oh, good.
Justin: They haven’t published it. Where is it at? Is it in a thumbdrive in NASA somewhere in there. Oh yeah, just set it down, we’re all going to look for it. It’s probably in the couch.
Blair: Oh, it’s just in somebody`s inbox.
Dr. Kiki: Yeah.
Blair: So the thumbdrive is in somebody`s inbox waiting.
Dr. Kiki: I want to see a black hole everybody.
Justin: Get on this.
Dr. Kiki: Get on it. Yes. AI, I said, self-driving trucks will begin to be used regularly with no accidents reported other than lots of lost jobs for truck drivers. Well, self-driving trucks aren’t a regular thing but there are self-driving trucks running refrigerators between Texas and California. Did you know that?
Justin: I do not.
Dr. Kiki: Yeah. There’s a regular autonomous truck route for refrigerators.
Also the Tesla semis were big news this year. And people are still only worried about the AI inflicted job loss at this point. Not so many jobs lost.
Microbes, I said, we will discover more specifically how microbes are tied to various human diseases, like, diabetes. And we discovered all sorts of things like that. Lots of connection to disease for microbes. So, I’m going to count that as a win. Plus one for me.
Blair: Why do you even bother keeping track? You always clean up every year.
Dr. Kiki: Calm. I`m not all right though.
Physics will remain standard, I said, and that’s right. No threats to the standard model came up in 2017. Everything is part of the standard model course.
Justin: Anything, a few of the ultimate ideas were shot down.
Dr. Kiki: That’s right.
I said, results will corroborate dark matter particles existing in the galactic halo but axioms will not explain dark matter in 2017. And that seems to have happened. That seems to have happened. This last year, we’ve looked – we were able to classify dark matter as being in the galactic halo.
I said, there will not be a major graviton discovery either. Yup and nope. No major graviton discovery.
I said, Ligo and Virgo in Italy will detect, at least, a dozen gravitational wave events in 2017 and begin pinpointing location of origin and while I was right about Ligo Virgo pinpointing origin of galactic waves, they did not – I did not expect the new trans armor discovery and I really over estimated the number of events that would be detected because, at this point, it’s still only at like 6. Like half a dozen. So, I was way low on that.
Synthetic biology. There`s a programme called yeast 2.0 that was trying to create a synthetic yeast and I said it would miss it’s 2017 goal of doing that and it did not create a yeast in 2017. It’s only achieved 30% synthetic gene replacement in the yeast so, they’re still a long way to go.
And then, finally, astronomy, I thought Twis would travel to Central Oregon to watch the Solar eclipse. And we travelled. At least, Blair and I did. But it was to Independence, Oregon and I don’t think that`s central to anything.
Blair: It was a very nice time. It was very fun.
Dr.Kiki: It was Central Oregon, if you think of Central as just a large, like, belt.
Blair: Which the eclipse went through “Central Oregon”. So, the fact that it was dark where we were means we were in the path of the eclipse. One can say.
Dr. Kiki: One could say.
All right. So, I did pretty well, I think. I made a lot of good predictions. Missed a lot, as well.
Justin: You pretty much nailed it.
Blair: Yeah. The specificity of your predictions are really what – if it weren`t for science, I would assume you were a witch.
That darn science people is proving magic just time and time again.
Dr. Kiki: Yeah, that’s right. I can prognosticate and I do a darn good job because of science. That`s right.
All right, Justin, what did you predict? How did you do?
Justin: The sun will go completely dark during the day in America. If it stays this way, God or perhaps gods, many gods will show up in person to explain everything to humanity.
Science, as usual, folks. It’s just an eclipse.
Dr. Kiki: You predicted an eclipse. Good job there.
Justin: It turns out. Yeah. It was – I said there would be—
Dr. Kiki: Bravo. Bravo.
Justin: No new proof of dark matter despite multiple new tests scheduled for 2017. Didn’t really hear a lot of dark matter evidence this year.
Dr. Kiki: Yeah. No proof. No, I mean it was a lot of like, well, I think dark matters over there and we think we’ve got this mass over here and we`re figuring that out. But it still – I don’t know where it is.
Justin: Yeah. In fact, they said earlier soon it might exist will fall down under further scrutiny. I haven’t exactly fallen down. But they still have other work ahead of them.
Microbial influence on human health becomes so understood that fast food joints begin asking which kind of bacteria you would like on your meal. Didn’t quite get there yet but we really are. Like actually, one of the stories for the second half, it has to do with bacteria and food and –
Blair: But that’s the 2018 story, Justin.
Justin: I know. I missed it. I was ahead. I’m always way ahead of my depth.
All of my predictions will come true.
Blair: You’re a man ahead of your own time.
Justin: It’s hard to remember back and from the future. It’s hard to remember back.
Gene-editing will go public. No, we’re not really public yet but it’s showing up like everywhere with this CRISPR. It’s definitely in the public consciousness now.
Dr. Kiki: Yeah, I think it is. Yeah. And I mean, there have been some human trials or guinea pigs.
Justin: I did predict only a few people would do anything useful with it. That was wrong. There were lots of great uses for gene-editing this year, of course, but once that application of gene-editing, that will be applied by a mad citizen scientist would alter the cognitive ability of atomium ants. And that by the end of 2017, mysterious hedge fund would spend billions to fund a global ad campaign encouraging people to picnic more often.
I predicted change ivory trade will come to a slow incomplete stop. But meanwhile elephants might begin trading in human teeth.
I think that’s where bitcoin is. I’m pretty sure that’s just out of fence.
Trade in human teeth. I like the sound of that.
Blair: Unfortunately, the ivory trade has not come to a slow – but it is incomplete. I will give you that. So –
Justin: All right, this I finally got it right thought. Home robotics will have a major breakthrough with engineers will finally realize that people don`t actually care about artificial intelligence. But really want artificial personality. Sales of both (unintelligible) bot and eco chamber 500 out so all other planets is in 2017.
I kind of like – this is sideways, because this isn`t really tech show but all those devices that you can talk to and tell it like – they’re all like listening to you all the time and playing what you want to listen.
Blair: Alexa, am I pretty?
Justin: She didn’t say anything.
AI will make progress as pre-recorded robo calls are now placed by wide robots who go door to door. And knock on your door to ask you questions.
Nasa will be given the directive to focus only on space exploration. That happened.
I said the affordable care act would be repealed. Pretty much. Right?
Dr. Kiki: Pretty close.
Justin: Although, I also predicted it would be replaced with something. I don’t think it’s been replaced with anything. But, I predicted it will be replaced with a reality tv show resembling the hunger games only instead of energetic young people running violet gauntlets, it’s tired old sick people running a violet gauntlet.
But I’ve got like one maybe. And that was the eclipse, which I think, pretty well (unintelligible)
Blair: But what about your football – oh that hasn’t happened yet.
Justin: No, that one’s later.
Ok. No, I got that football – well, I didn’t say the Saints. I think that’s it. Every time I picked the Saints, they’ve won. So, this year, that’s my prediction is that they’re going to win, the Saints.
Blair: Ok. Well, we haven’t gotten to that yet.
Dr. Kiki: All right. So, you didn’t win the super bowl prediction for the last year so maybe this is the year. Maybe this is the year for you.
All right, Blair. What predictions did you have? How’d you do?
Blair: So, first, I said that there’d be more exciting news about slime moulds. 2016 was kind of the year of the slime mould. There was stuff cropping about all the time about them.
There was only really one fascinating about slime mould last year, but it was pretty cool. That was back in March. There was that flashing lights that have been shown to confuse humans in trials, actually, focus slime moulds and make them make decisions faster. So, it’s all as if they`re irritated and they`re saying sshh, let me just make this decision. So, slime mould, check.
Next, I said, successful replacement of bodily organs with 3D printed. Once in a human. I said that for like 3 years in a row.
Dr. Kiki: You’re just winning. You know it’s going to here.
Blair: We’re so close. Especially, after our time in Philadelphia when we met the people who had the 3D printer for stents in hearts and things like that. I thought, for sure, this was in the bag. That was all the way back in June but, no.
Tartar grades will continue to be the gifts that keeps on giving. Yeah, absolutely. An amazing story this year from – also from March, that tartar grades make their own proteins that are not structure specific and are unseen in other life. So, more on tartar grades later in my predictions for 2018. But yeah, they really are the gifts that keeps on giving.
I predicted that in 2017, it would be a very wet year in California. I never would forget about the drought and water crisis. Yup. That definitely happened.
Dr. Kiki: Yeah, absolutely. Until the fires.
Blair: Right. In fact, California was one of the – it was one of the wettest years ever. Of course, rain years go from October to September. So, the October 2016 to September 2017 was one of the wettest in the history of recorded records in California. So, definitely was very, very wet and the reservoirs were full well beyond their normal capacity at the end of that rain year.
But right at the end of that rain year, in October, it all came screeching to a halt and now, we`re officially on drought watch again.
Dr. Kiki: Back to it, everybody.
Blair: So, if we can all just kind of a little bit more long term – anyway.
Next prediction was that an AI written tv show will premiere on a streaming network and gain popularity.
Dr. Kiki: Did it happen?
Blair: No. But it was close. There were more AI written films produced. There was one – So, of course, Sun Spring was the famous one from 2016 with Thomas Middleditch in it and that was written by a script writing AI machine air program. But then they had a new one made in 2017 with David Hasselholf called It`s No Game. And it’s an alternative reality where in the midst of heated writer strike in Hollywood, AI scriptwriters have gradually begun to replace humans. So, it’s an AI written script about AI writing—script writing (unintelligible)
Justin: I think that already happened.
Blair: Yeah, yeah. And there was also an exact average “episode of scrubs” written by an AI in October of last year. So, we’re getting pretty close, but not exactly.
Justin: Whether it’s a human or a machine, it’s artificial intelligence if you somehow have to have a car chase in every genre of movie that you make. That there’s some point where there’s just like, oh, this is the car chase scene. Whether it’s running dinosaurs or it`s actual cars. It doesn’t really matter, there’s always a car chase now in artificial intelligence movies. That’s how you can tell.
Blair: Yeah. Absolutely.
I’ve also predicted that Trump would withdraw from his plan to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. Unfortunately, no.
Justin: No. Actually, that’s very timely. They’re now talking about today, the possibility if they could get a better deal, but it doesn’t matter though.
Dr. Kiki: But it wasn’t during 2017.
Blair: It wasn’t during 2017, that was wishful thinking.
I also predicted that self-driving cars would enter the roads in full force, start working for ride-sharing apps without a driver or wheel. And there would be some mishaps. Thank goodness that did not come to pass.
A new political party will surface with their main platform being the cessation of blue states along the west coast.
Dr. Kiki: I think that definitely can still happen.
Blair: Not yet.
Dr. Kiki: Not yet though. Not 2017.
I think that prediction is in 2020.
Blair: Yeah. I think 2020 will do that.
Citizen led climate action will increase with marches and demonstrations on the rise. Yeah.
Dr. Kiki: Absolutely. Yes. It was big.
Blair: Yeah. Everybody felt like a citizen all of a sudden. Very important.
I also predicted that restored vision test will run and work in a primate species. So close. I got a mouse.
They were able to reverse retinal degeneration in mice with tested functionality of the new retina but just mice, unfortunately.
The tools have arrived for 2-parents of the same sex to have a child together. That is genetic reflection of just them. So close. But not quite. We have these sperm packets. We were able to manipulate DNA in many ways. I think we’re right on the precipice of it but not yet.
And then very last, I predicted that Twis would smash them dead at SF sketch fest and I would say that’s a big fat yes. We had standing room only in the tent.
Dr. Kiki: I think it was great. Yes. It was a fabulous show. We`re going to do it again.
Blair: We’re going to do it again?
Dr. Kiki: That’s my prediction to do that again. That’s right.
If you just tuned in, this is This Week in Science and we are covering our predictions from 2017. We’ve just wrapped up our 2017 predictions and how we did.
It is time now for us to discuss our predictions for 2018. What do we think is going to happen this year, within the next 11 and a half months? 11 and two-thirds months.
Who’s first? Who’s first? Blair? Justin?
Blair: Sure. I’ll go first.
Justin: Ok. I’ll go first.
Blair: Ok. Justin, go first.
Justin: All right.
Blair: I predict that Justin will go first.
Justin: And your first prediction will be correct as I am predicting a large unguided man-made object, who will re-enter the atmosphere and crash to earth. While it is most likely to crash in the ocean, it could make landfall. Even so, it’ll be highly unlikely to crash in your country or your state or your county or your town. And if it did crash in your – land in your town, chances of you being under the spot where it lands at the moment it has landing, is so unfathomably remote as to attempting to calculate the chances of such an event occurring.
And yet, because that chance is not zero. It just might happen. In fact, the chance of an object from space landing on your head this year is just about the same as it landing any place else. So, keep looking up this year, especially, around the late March. You never know.
Japanese space agency will return to space with high boost 2 mission to land on an asteroid. This time when their eventual landing will go off without a hitch, and it will be found that the asteroid is covered in tartar grade.
Dr. Kiki: I like it.
Justin: And every time I predicted the Saints to win the super bowl, they won the super bowl. So, this year an earnest desire to be correct again, I’m saying the Saints will win the super bowl and that’s not really a sciency one, it’s a football one.
A discovery in San Diego that appears to be evidence of early humans hunting mammoths 130,000 years ago will be found to be true and correct. Although, it will actually get turned on its head when the researchers discover that it wasn’t us hunting mammoths. It was the mammoths hunting us.
Blair: They’re hunting us.
Justin: Mammoths hunting humans to extinction 130,000 years ago in the United States.
Microbial continue to reveal the way it works to scientists eventually the cure to most illness will be addressed not with drugs but with bugs.
Fecal transplants will be so commonplace and the benefits so well-known that people will stop washing their hands.
Blair: Grow up.
Justin: Turns out, turns out this will not be a very good idea as stomach viruses replace irritable bowel syndrome cases.
And my final prediction 2017, ah well, 2018, and it might even happen in 2018. It might not be the very next year but this is somewhere in the foreseeable future. The majority of Floridians will continue to vote for candidates who oppose climate science. Despite the fact the state of Florida is now only slightly larger than Delaware.
Blair: Shots fired.
Dr. Kiki: Yeah, go swimming. Those are good. I like it. I like it. I like it a lot. I think you might be on to something there, Justin.
Justin: And which? All of them?
Dr. Kiki: Yeah, that’s right. On all of them. We will see what will happen in 2018. Blair, what are your predictions?
Blair: Oh, just a few.
My first is that sperm aka the new time release capsule for, you know, your down under will begin clinical trials for cancer treatment. I’m really excited for that.
We will discover a new kind of shuffle pod this year.
Dr. Kiki: Whoa. That would be cool.
Blair: Tartar grade is much like Justin`s – will be different – will be discovered out in space. And this will prove them to be the original alien as I’ve been saying all along.
Justin: Why won’t you listen, people!
Justin: Yeah, we did it.
Blair: Yeah. Yeah. They`re really good.
Coffee will be proven good and then bad and then good again.
Dr. Kiki: This is the way that science works. It`s what science has been showing for years. Coffee is great for you. No, it`s not. Yes, it is. Oh, good.
Blair: But it will end the year on top. That`s important.
Dr. Kiki: Yes. Good.
Blair: Here’s my largest cop-out of the year.
2018 will be warmest year on record.
White nose syndrome treatment will begin in the wild saving the world`s bat population.
Dr. Kiki: Yay. That`s what we want.
Blair: I’m really excited with this UV situation from last week that we talked about, actually.
A scientist will run for congress in 2018 and win.
Dr. Kiki: Just one?
Blair: Just one. I`m keeping my expectations low.
Dr. Kiki: I want more, more.
Blair: More or greater than or equal to one scientist. What about that?
I will spend another year on Twis and will once again find myself astounded at what a coffee shop interview for an internship at late 2011 became.
So, January – I’m not sure exactly when it is but sometime in January might be the prediction show is my very first show I was ever present for. So, this is my 5th anniversary, no, 6th anniversary.
I really should know how many years.
Dr. Kiki: Happy anniversary. Happy Twissaversary, Blair.
Blair: And last, Twis will cross another state off of our live show map.
Dr. Kiki: Oh, we need to do that. We definitely need to do that.
How about Arizona?
Blair: Sure. I’m up for whatever.
Dr. Kiki: I don’t know. Just picking a state. We will see.
Justin: That’s the state you picked. You can pick any state. There’s a whole bunch of state you can pick, you picked Arizona?
Blair: Arizona’s fine. All the people, all the states need a science.
Dr. Kiki: Just the top of my mind right now. How about Texas?
Justin: I don’t drive to Texas.
Dr. Kiki: It’s Texas, come on. There’s a lot of places. Go some place else.
Justin: I draw the line once in a while.
Dr. Kiki: Just go places, people.
Blair: Yeah. Let’s go places.
Dr. Kiki: Yes. And what about Washington? We can go to Washington state and you know what, even though I’m here in Oregon, we’ve never done a live show in Oregon.
Blair: Yeah. There you go.
Dr. Kiki: I like these ideas. Let’s sort these things together. Ok.
My predictions for 2018.
Climate. I’m going to start with the worst first. No rest for the wicked. More extreme storms and flooding of low-lying regions. The arctic will melt. Drought and fires in the western United States. More bad news about coral reefs.
We’re going to see the conversations about states’ water rights heat up this year, I think.
I am a total pessimist about climate in 2018, but I am an optimist that people are starting to learn more about these issues will begin to act to make a difference. Basically, there’s going to be less debate. Debate, I’m going to put in quotation marks, because there is no debate at this point.
Blair: Yeah. Just disagreements.
Dr. Kiki: And there will be more action. So, that’s what I predict for climate.
CRISPR and gene are getting therapy stuff, so the guy, who trialled a gene therapy for hunter syndrome, he will report a successful recovery. Just want to be optimistic about this.
We will see more development of CRISPR-based car T type therapies for cancer and for HIV.
We’re also going to see Chinese CRISPR trials for human papilloma virus treatment and they’re going to report success before the end of the year.
Blair: Good. That’s great.
Dr. Kiki: That’s what I’m predicting.
Space. The Juno mission, which is supposed to crash into Jupiter after like something 20th orbit. I think the mission is going to be extended by NASA because it’s bringing in such amazing, unexpected information about the planet. And it’s not being as compromised by the magnetosphere of Jupiter as they thought it would be.
It’s a little wonderful, sturdy ship out there in space.
There is a new telescope, space telescope that is going to launch the test mission, is going to launch successfully. It’s going to replace Kepler and begin to elucidate us about neighbouring exo-planets before the end of the year.
The insight mission to Mars, which is supposed to look beneath the surface of Mars is not going to find little green men living in tunnels underneath the planet surface. I predict that.
Blair: What about tartar grade?
Dr. Kiki: Tartar grades, right. But it will get to Mars in one piece before the year ends. That’s going to happen.
And then someone, I don’t know exactly who it’s going to be, who’s going to do it first, someone’s going to launch a successful mission to the moon before the end of the year.
Well, actually, — ok. I’m going to put my prediction, make it more specific.
India is going to send a lander and/or rover to the moon and drive a little remote-controlled car around on the surface of the moon. That’s what I think is going to happen before the end of 2018.
And I do think that the event horizon telescope and the data that we`re waiting for it to come back, instead of showing just a fuzzy, weird image, which is kind of what we have now, it`s going to show us beautiful, crystal picture of the event horizon of a black hole. We`re going to see a black hole this year.
Guys, I’m excited. This is going to happen. I predict.
AI in 2018, there is going to be a lot of talk continuing about the pros and cons of AI, but we`re not going to see, actually see out here in the real world much more than chat bots continuing to take over twitter and robots inhabiting the uncanny valley. That’s pretty much it.
Although, I think self-driving vehicle numbers are going to increase in 2018. Not so much the people are going to lose their jobs yet, but they like start increasing.
Microbes. I think there’s going to be a report this year of a new antibiotic class. I think that’s going to happen this year.
And microbes, additionally, are going to continue to be successfully paired with the immune system to treat disease. I think.
And based on data from tribal people in Africa, a new fad diet will hit the public consciousness that involves root vegetables from Africa and seasonal meats.
I might write the book myself. I don’t know.
And a rogue scientist is going to develop a way to control politicians using microbes.
Microbial mind control.
Blair: A good mad scientist or a bad mad scientist?
Dr. Kiki: It depends on your political views, really.
Blair: But what I’m asking is will his lab coat be white or like red or like black or like green?
Dr. Kiki: I don’t know.
Blair: Because that’s how we figure these things out.
Dr. Kiki: It’s going to be a technicolor dream coat, I don’t know.
Blair: A rainbow-colored lab coat, I would never have thought of that.
Dr. Kiki: That’s right.
Physics, this year, again, I predict there will be no challenge to the standard model.
Standard model is going to just stand up as a standard model. And any new particles that are reported are only going to serve to add resolution to our understanding of the standard model, not any weird alternative physics. There’s not going to be anything ground-breaking on the dark matter front. There will not be a graviton. And we still will not understand why our universe is made of matter by the end of the year.
I also – synthetic biology, I do not think that yeast 2.0 is going to make a synthetic bacteria – synthetic yeast before the end of 2018. No synthetic yeast.
And Twis will continue to bring you amazing weekly shows and at least 2 live shows, the first starting with SF sketch fest next Thursday in San Francisco.
Got some good ones in there, right? Get them in there.
AI, it’s going to be a whole bunch of talk. And I’ve got a link that I will share on our show notes from UC Davis. UC Davis asked experts, which is my alma mater, they asked experts what they predicted for 2018 and one of our favourite micro-biologists, Jonathan Eisen is in there as giving predictions for microbes and there are other people talking about their scientific predictions.
There’s political predictions and other things as well. But, it’s a great list of predictions from the UC Davis scientists.
And I will put that in our show notes.
But, right now, is it time for us to take a break?
Blair: It’s time for a break?
Dr. Kiki: Are we tired of this prognosticating?
Blair: Yes, let’s talk about some real stuff.
Dr. Kiki: Ok. Now, it’s time for –
Justin: I wonder what`s going on right now.
Dr. Kiki: What is happening right now.
Blair: Different tone into the science news pool booth before the day is out.
Dr. Kiki: Yeah. So let`s take a quick break so everyone can take a quick breather and change gears a little bit so we can get into that right here, right now. Science news is about to begin.
This is This Week In Science. We will be back in just a few moments. Stay tuned.
Dr. Kiki: Hi, everyone. Thank you so much for joining us for This Week in Science. Once again, we are here every week. Every once in while we do miss a week but pretty much 52 weeks a year, we are pretty much here.
And we thank you for being here with us, for listening to the show, for bringing us in to be a part of your lives week after week.
I do want to let you know if you are – the various ways that you can help This Week in Science to keep going to maintain its schedule and to maybe even grow to be more than we are currently.
So, right now, if you head over to Twis.org, T W I S. o r g, that is our website and you can find all sorts of things twissy there and walk you through it.
First out there are our 2018 Blair`s animal corner coloring calendars. There are a few still available. I`ve got them in a little box right next to me. But like I said earlier in the show, when they are gone, they are gone. So head to Twis.org and click on the black and white toad calendar image to order your coloring calendar for 2018 now and to help support Twis.
Additionally, we have other ways that you can help us out. One of them is, if you`re interested in buying Twis-related things, you can head to our Sazzle stores. You click on that sazzle link and it takes you to sazzle.com/thisweekinscience and you`ll be able to find all sorts of fun items. Some of them just with a Twis logo, others with art from previous Blair`s animal corner calendars. All sorts of neat things from wrapping paper to baby`s onesies to lumbar pillows and cellphone covers. Just peruse and find items that you might enjoy or that family members or friends might enjoy if they love Twis as well.
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If you`re not into stuff, that`s where donations come into play. If you scroll on down, there is a donate button on the right hand side of the Twis webpage, so donate, you click on that, that will take you to a paypal interface to be able to donate an amount of your choice.
If you would like to have a recurring payment monthly, where you support us in an ongoing fashion, one way you can do that is that every show page, every episode page, you scroll all the way to the bottom to the show notes, there are these little pink buttons and there are 3 of them. Each one of them is $2 a month, another is $5 a month and another is $10 a month. And these are specifically through paypal.
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So, patreon or paypal, these two different ways of helping us through donations.
If you are not able to help us financially, if you don`t want to buy things, you`re doing minimalism and you are not into commercial stuff or if your budget is tight and you can`t afford to help out, something like that, I totally get it. We are trying to keep Twis free for everyone.
So, one way that you can help out is just tell people about Twis. Help us advertise. Help us get the word out.
And send them to Twis, where we have this awesome big subscribe button now on the front page. If you go to Twis.org or any of the episode pages, we now have this wonderful subscribe button that takes you to all the utunes or youtube or itunes or google play to help people subscribe more easily.
So, if you`re trying to tell people to check out Twis, something you can do is just go to Twis.org and say, hey, just click on the subscribe button and then you might find whatever way works for you really easily, whether or not it`s itunes or the youtube video programme or google play and it will help us out because we will get more subscribers.
So, tell people about that subscribe button. Share the word about Twis. Tell people that there`s awesome podcast that makes funny predictions every year that you`d love your friends to listen to. And we hope that you do.
Everyone out there, thank you so much for listening to us. Thank you for listening to this whole spiel that I do in the middle of every show and thank you for your support, honestly. We really could not do this without you.
Justin: And we`re back with more of This Week in Science.
Dr. Kiki: Yes, we are. We are back, back, back. And we`ve got all sorts of science news. You guys ready for the news?
Justin: But first…
Dr. Kiki: But first, that`s right. Oh my gosh. I`m getting ahead of myself. It`s time for this week in what has science done for me, lately?
Our letter today comes from Tim Wagner. Tim writes in and says, I love the gps in my phone and I have an outboard gps for my car and I spend a part of my career working on gps navigation for the space shuttle.
What an awesome job. Oh my goodness.
There, ok. That was my side note.
Tim goes on to say, of course, an enormous amount of science was needed to build the gps system, from the electronics of the gps satellites to the rockets that launched the satellites. But what interests me is that gps wouldn`t work without relativity.
The fact that`s not obvious at first glance. The gps satellites travel at 14,000 kilometers per hour, which is a small fraction of the speed of light, so one might think adjusting for relativistic effects would be unnecessary.
The calculation of your position is accomplished by triangulating the distances to at least 4 satellites computed by computing distances to the satellites derived from the difference between the broadcast times of the precision clocks in the satellites with the time of the clock in your receiver.
The receiver then solves 4 equations with 4 unknowns. The X, Y and Z of your position plus how much your receiver’s clock is fast or slow.
The distances to the satellites are so great that it turns out ignoring relativistic adjustments renders the calculation useless, because extraordinary precision is required.
The clock ticks of the gps satellite clocks must be known to 20 to 30 nano second accuracy. There are 2 opposite relativistic effects that can not be ignored. The apparent slow down of the gps clocks due to the satellites’ speed relative to us and the apparent speed up of the satellite clocks due to our relative closeness to the earth’s gravitational field.
These errors combined is 38 microseconds or 38,000 nano seconds, which is way more than the 20 to 30 nano seconds accuracy required of the receiver’s knowledge of the gps clocks.
Your gps’ calculation of your position would be seriously off in just a couple of minutes and the error would grow to 10 kilometers each day. But with relativistic adjustments, if you have a good view of the sky, you gps can calculate your position within 5 or 10 meters.
So, what has relativity theory done for me lately? It helps my phone tell me where I am to within a few meters.
And he has a link to notes that we will put in the show notes that you can actually link the source of his information there. And, oh my goodness, if you google top 4 reasons why gps doesn`t need Einstein’s relativity, according to Tim, you will see that there is such a thing as relativity denial.
I guess there is denial for everything.
Blair: I can’t say I was surprised.
Dr. Kiki: Yeah. But oh, my goodness, relativity denial, Einstein would be turning in his grave.
Tim, thank you so much for this. I really enjoyed reading this and thinking a bit about this technology that we, maybe, take for granted now, is we use our apps to navigate around our environments and we don have to use a compass or old fashioned paper maps to figure out where we are.
Now, gps is a wonder of modern technology and relativity. Thank you. That was great.
Blair. I can’t exactly say I understood all of it, but I understood some of it.
Dr. Kiki: I mean, the basic idea. It’s a fast thing that I read it quickly and it’s a thing that you have to pay attention to follow. We’ll put it on the show notes so you could read it again if you want. But, the big message is, you know, this is happening and we have to use relativity.
Blair: Yeah. We’re not in a vacuum. There’s all these kinds of factors affecting all of us all the time, which means these factors are also affecting satellites, which means they’re affecting our technology. And it makes nothing but sense.
Dr. Kiki: And relativity. Oh my goodness.
Where I am relative to you. Am I sitting still in a moving car or am I moving? You know.
Dr. Kiki: Are you sitting – are you standing still? Are you moving? What`s happening? You know, all these things. How is time passing? The mind bendingness of relativity and it’s important for science.
Everyone, we need you to write in to let us know what science has done for you lately. What does it do for you everyday?
I want to know. Blair wants to know. She wants it in sonnet form.
Blair: I actually got a sonnet this week. So, I’ll have to send that to you and we`ll throw that in the show notes for a future episode.
Dr. Kiki: Yay. That’s wonderful. Awesome. Somebody`s listening. So, we’ve got a sonnet. Haikus are great, too, or a letter of your own experiences, an observation. I don’t know what Justin wants to know. He wants to know what you love–
Blair: Pictographs are good. Comic strips.
Dr. Kiki: It’s hard to share pictographs and comic strips, infographs, it’s – in show notes but it`s hard to share them visually over the podcast.
Blair: We’ll just do it interpretive reading. We’ll describe what we see.
Dr. Kiki: Anyway, everyone, leave me a message on our facebook page. Facebook.com/thisweekinscience. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for reals.
We want to keep filling the segment of the show with things for you. We started this segment on earth day last year. And I want to keep it going at least until earth day of this year. If we can keep it going longer, I want to keep these things coming, because, come on, you guys, science is inspiring. What does it to do for you everyday? Let me know, please.
The time for the science now.
Blair: Science, science, science.
Dr. Kiki: Okay. CRISPR. You know I love the CRISPR, right? Did you guys talk about the troubles with CRISPR last week?
Dr. Kiki: No? Well, yeah, they`ve run into a potential problem with using CRISPR in human therapies.
Now, the paper that has brought up this issue has not yet been peer reviewed. It was only published on a pre-print server, kind of like the archive.org for physics but this is for biology. So, it has not yet been peer reviewed. So, there`s still a lot of commentary and the scientific publishing process that still needs to happen to make it a really good paper and to make sure that there are not any errors in what they are putting out to the public and to the rest of the scientific community.
So, the idea though, Standford researchers published of this pre-print, the highlights, the problem that – if we`re using CRISPR in the human body and trying to get it in to chop up genes and put new genes in and do this editing process, it has to be able to get there. It has to be able to get into the cells. And now anything you inject into the human body, put in the human body, we have this thing called the immune system that fights it off. And well, CRISPR comes from bacteria, and the CRISPR cas 9 systems specifically, there are a couple of them, one comes from a staphacocus bacteria and one comes from a strep bacteria. These are bacteria that live on and in people and have for ages. And so, these are bacteria that we, very likely, have antibodies for. And so, if we have antibodies for the bacteria, we, very likely, have antibodies for the CRISPR cas 9 system on which it is based.
So, they did a test in this study. They took these CRISPR cas 9 system and they tested people for antibodies among – this is a small study, among 34 people they tested, 79% had antibodies against the staph cas 9 and 65% had antibodies against the strep cas 9. And if you`ve got antibodies, that means your body is going to do what, you guys?
That`s right. It`s going to fight off the invader. These antibodies are a quick alert system. It makes it easy to identify something that has been seen by the body before. And so, it`s like, I know what you are, I`m going to attack you. We`re going to get rid of you.
Yes, and so then, they love to see iff T-cells from the immune system can recognize cas 9 proteins. And they studied T-cells from 13 healthy adults. 46% reacted to the staph cas 9, but none of them did against the strep cas 9. We don’t know exactly why that difference is, but it’s still a very small sample number that we’re looking at in the study.
They only tested for pre-existing immunity against cast 9 but if there’s any kind of large bacterial protein that’s put into the human body, it’s very likely because of bacteria and our bodies are like, we’ve got to fight off the bacteria. It probably is going to elicit an immune response.
Blair: So, let’s circle this conversation back to sperm packets. What about that? Use the sperm. Or no….
Dr. Kiki: Oh, right, right, right. So, I get what you’re talking about. Yes. What does the sperm do that they don’t get attacked by the immune system.
Maybe we can use that term. We can use sperm packets to deliver to CRISPR.
Blair: Yeah. Sperm delivery service. Hello. Knock knock.
But here’s my other question.
Why are we using human bacteria instead of using bacteria from other species that our body wouldn’t care about?
Justin: Well, it’s not so much that they wouldn’t care about them, though.
Dr. Kiki: It’`s just that they’re common and that they’re probably that they`re accessible and that’s where they were able to easily get these protein system.
Blair: I just wonder because there’s a lot of diseases and bacteria that other species carry that are not – do not make us sick. So, it’s why I would have to wear a mask when I was near a sick primate but I wouldn’t have to wear a mask when I was near a sick rhinoceros.
Dr. Kiki: How interesting.
Blair: So, what if we use non-human related strains?
Justin: I don’t know that that necessarily would be a good idea or a bad idea. I just don’t know why it had to – I mean, is there a way to do this with a virus instead of a bacteria?
Dr. Kiki: There are viral gene editors that are being used. The issue with viruses is that we don’t want viruses, which can potentially go in and survive and infect and you know, maybe retroact – maybe put themselves, their DNA into the cells and have a negative response. We have a lot of research with viral vectors that are used to infect cells on a regular basis. But the problem is, we just – we have to be careful with them because you don`t want that infection of cells to go on to be a systematic — a systemic infection. Right? You don`t want the treatment to become the problem.
So, researches, you know, we don’t know if it’s going to be a huge problem. The crazy thing is this news came out on this pre-print and people are just talking about this now. But it led to a huge crash in the biotech stock market.
Blair: Oh no.
Dr. Kiki: So, all the companies that have been building stuff up related to CRISPR, a bunch of people are like, pulled their money out.
Blair: Oh, man. What did they think was going to happen using strep and staph?
Dr. Kiki: But it will – we don’t know though. That’s the thing we haven’t done the tests yet and there are – there are ongoing human trials that are going to be starting, so we will see what will happen. We will see.
The other thing is that there are other CRISPR cas systems. Like last year I talked about a CRISPR cas 13 system that does much more efficient point mutation cuts. So, instead of cutting whole genes, it just cuts out little base pairs. And so, it’s like, it can a much more efficient machine and it might be — it is potentially from a different bacteria that would not be as reactive.
There’s also CRISPR that acts on RNA, that again, is the result of looking at different systems from different bacteria, different CRISPR cas systems from different bacteria that may not be as reactive to the immune system.
So, there are a bunch of things that are on the list and maybe we’ll find that CRISPR is going to be good for some therapies, like the Chinese human papilloma virus trials that’s ongoing. That’s actually going to be, like, a gel that is put on the surface. It’s not going to be something that`’ injected into your body. It’s going to be like a topical cream or CRISPR ointment.
Blair: That’s pretty cool.
I like that. That’s neat.
Dr. Kiki: Yeah, so there are ways that researchers will probably look at getting around this issue. This does not mean the end of CRISPR. One pre-print does not mean the end of CRISPR. This is still a very promising tool.
Justin: And also – a lot of uses of this tool don’t have to be direct on human DNA. I mean, we’re – this is a large amount of what is done is to engineer the thing that goes in there and creates the cure. Not so much direct editing, so —
Dr. Kiki: Yeah, like the car T stuff where you can take the immune cells out, use CRISPR outside of the body to do the editing and then put the cells back in the body and cure cancer.
Justin: Yeah, and which they do in a hallowed out HIV virus. That’s how they’re being introduced.
Dr. Kiki: Yeah. There’s interesting stuff going on and I think there’s a lot of promise. And just as a genetic research tool beyond the biotech, it’s going to affect people aspect. If it’s just as a research tool, it is amazing and still has massive application.
Justin: Even though, its legal fate is still unknown.
Dr. Kiki: Still up in the air. Yeah.
So, again, another – moving on from this study, another really cool study having to do with the immune system, researchers talking at a conference, this last week. They were talking about a study that has been done, where they’re looking at pregnancy. How does pregnancy happen and what are (unintelligible)
Justin: Are they really trying to figure this one out? Because I’ve got that one.
Dr. Kiki: No one knows. Well, it’s more, not the fertilization but the implantation part of pregnancy. How does – what happens from the egg laying history of mammals into the evolution of marsupials into placental mammals, where we hold our young in our body, how did all of that happen? What genes became activated? What evolutionary processes allowed pregnancy, where the young is held within the body to succeed? How did that actually happen?
Well, the researchers have discovered looking at armadillo genes and rabbit genes, they’ve found out a whole bunch of information about all the genes that are in play. And they found that it all has to do with the timing of inflammation. The researcher and evolutionary biologist at Yale University Arun Shavan, presented his finds at the Society for Integrated Comparative Biology SICBI in San Francisco and he said, implantation looks like inflammation because it came from inflammation. And we did the study to learn how it became an implantation process instead.
So, Shavan and his team, last July, reported that a sweep of inflammatory gene turn on in the opossum, so the opossum fetus leaves the egg and clings to the uterine lining but there’s a bunch of inflammatory gene that gets turned on as that leaving of the egg, at the leaving of the egg happens.
And then there is an immune response as well in placental mammals when the embryo latches on to the uterus.
But there’s not like, in marsupials, where the young climbs out and then kind of clings to – in the pockets outside of the body. That’s not what placental embryos do. Placental embryos have to actually implant, burrow their way into the placental lining to get in there and to be surrounded by that healthy tissue. And so, in order to do that, it has to actually destroy the uterine lining to bury itself. And in that, it triggers inflammation.
And so, normally, inflammation would try to repair the wound, but that’s not exactly what the embryo wants to happen. But, some studies are suggesting that this inflammation is actually necessary at this very early stage for the embryo. In fact, there are studies that show woman who take anti-inflammatory drugs during their earliest days of their pregnancy suffer a higher rate of miscarriages.
Dr. Kiki: And so, it’s because the uterus doesn’t successfully – the embryo doesn’t implant itself.
Blair: This is really important information.
Dr. Kiki: Yeah. And so, there’s this implantation process that takes place, where inflammation has to actually – has to happen. It’s very important. And so, the researchers have tried to figure out how mammals, placental mammals can actually deal with all the inflammatory protein that come in and try and heal the wound in the uterus. And they looked at the inflammatory response in the rabbit, in the armadillo, and in the ten rack), which according to this article, in nature by any (maxman) is a hedgehog like animal (econopstell) ferry.
Anyway, they looked at interlucan 17. It has been present in high levels in the opossum and it was inactive in the placental mammals. And so, Shavan says it’s probably important to shut those down. These things that destroy invaders before they can damage the embryo. So, the placental mammals are acting different than the marsupial ones when it comes to turning on this inflammatory protein.
He also found that cells that line the uterus of placental mammals suppress production of interlucan 17, but then, there’s other parts. So, there’s this inflammatory response that takes place in the very beginning. But then, he’s found that inflammatory response changes over the course of pregnancy, so that the inflammation goes down to kind of keep the pregnancy in place.
Another researcher at Yale and a senior investigator on the studies, Gunther Wagner, says, mammals have figured out a way to keep some aspects of the inflammatory process that are favourable to the fetus but stop the destructive parts of the response.
So, the end result of all of these is that if they can figure out what genes for inflammation get turned on and off at different points in pregnancy. Maybe, they can help to reduce miscarriage rates and maybe help to also reduce the rates of inflammation related disease and late-term miscarriages that occur.
Yeah. All thanks to looking at opossums, armadillos and rabbits and ten racks.
It’s kind of neat to look across the spectrum. You look at the evolutionary aspect of it to kind of answer the question of how did this come into play and why is it here. And placental mammals, we’re weird.
Blair: Well, the armadillo that they chose, the (unintelligible) armadillo is the species they used and they always have identical quadruplets. Every time.
So, I am very curious as to why they chose them.
Maybe, they were like this is a very remarkable pregnancy. This is something to look at.
Dr. Kiki: Remarkable. Yes.
And then my final study here has to do with anaesthesia. We talked a little bit about anaesthesia every once in a while. (unintelligible) use anaesthesia and we know, it makes people go to sleep, right? And then, you know, you wake up and you feel, not just drowsy, as if you’d taken a sleeping pill but your brain doesn’t work quite right. You wake up and there’s a mental fog for a little while.
And researchers really had no idea. Don’t know how anaesthetics work, right? Like, they know that they work. They have a general idea of what they do, but they really don’t know the specifics. But, there’s a new really interesting study that just was published in cel reports by a team at the University of Queensland in Australia. And they looked at an anaesthetic that’s commonly used called propofol and this is used during surgery all the time. It puts people to sleep very nicely and easily and – but, again, how does it work?
So, they teamed up with some people, researchers who do like nano scale imaging and they actually looked at synapsis. The connections between nerve cells in the brain within the (gabaergic) system of the brain to see what was happening. They actually looked. They took a microscope and got really deep in there and said, what’s breaking? We want to know what is stopping here. Is there actually a stoppage of communication between nerve cells when we give propofol? And there is. It breaks the system that physically moves neurotransmitters out of the pre-synaptic terminal.
So, there’s one – the pre-synapsis and post-sysnapsis neurotransmitters get released in these little bubbles. They get blooped out into the synaptic space and there are motor proteins that are involved in actually moving the neurotransmitters out.
They found that one of these proteins was specifically involved. This protein syntaxin 1A. It’s required at the synapsis of all neurons. And it just went, yup, you’re not going to work anymore. Propofol took that syntaxin A and just it stopped it working.
And so, no neurotransmitters were getting released from the pre-synaptic neurons, so nothing was getting picked up by the post-synaptic neurons. So, it’s not that propofol “puts you to sleep”, it stops your neurons from talking to each other. It disconnects the neurons in your brain.
And so, that mental fuzziness that’s going on there, that’s because your brain has – your neurons have to start talking to each other again and there’s a lot of neurons in there to start talking.
Blair: So, you’re less unconscious and you’re more like temporarily a vegetable.
Is that – I’m trying to understand really what that would mean if these synapsis aren’t tied to each other, you feel like you’re asleep. Like you lose consciousness.
Dr. Kiki: You do lose consciousness. So, you are unconscious. Yes.
Blair: Yeah. It’s more like you’re –
Dr. Kiki: But it’s not an unconsciousness of sleep, where your brain is still working in rhythmic fashion and where everything is still connected. It’s actually disconnecting the wires.
Justin: You’re still conscious. You’re just no longer aware that you’re conscious.
Dr. Kiki: Mind blown. Literally.
Blair: Literally. Yeah.
Justin: Like a circuit. It’s blown. Like a blown circuit.
Dr. Kiki: Yes. Yeah. And so understanding stuff like this is really important, specially, we know that there are certain populations of people, who are, like, older individuals who are vulnerable to going under anaesthesia and so, if we can figure out how to protect people like that and still be able to put them under, but in a safer way, you know, it would be – surgery would become a breeze. You wouldn’t be, you know, — would give you less to be worried about in those situations.
This is really great research. Very important.
That’s all I’ve got.
My brain is broken. No it’s not.
Justin, what do you have? Tell me some stories.
Justin: I’ve got a story of probioroccoli.
Dr. Kiki: You’ve been working on this for the whole show.
Blair: You’re just going probro – no, probio – no, microbroco – no.
Justin: So, actually, it’s a colorectal cancer story. Research team of National University of Singapore, medicine lab of associate professor Matthew Cheng, has found a way to turn a cocktail of bacteria in vegetables into a targeted system that seeks out and kills cancer cells. A study which was led by Dr. Chung Lung Ho will be published, actually, in a current issue of Nature Biomedical engineering.
So, the basis of this is that they’ve got this cancer-targeting system and an engineered form of E-coli. (unintelligible) a type of bacteria that’s normally found in the gut. The team engineered the bacteria into a probiotic that attach to the surface of colorectal cancer cells and then secretes an enzyme to convert a substance that’s already found in vegetables like broccoli into a potent anti-cancer agent.
The idea was for the cancer cells in the vicinity to take up this anti-cancer agent and die.
So, normal cells aren’t affected by this toxin. So, if they can it in there, get it in the general vicinity, it just attacks the cancer cells and that’s what happens.
A mixture of engineered probiotics with the broccoli extract containing the dietary (unintelligible) has killed more than 95% of colorectal cancer cells in a dish. This is in a lab setting still.
The mixture had no effect on cells from other types of cancer such as breast or stomach cancer. This is pretty targeted there as well.
(Unintelligible) probiotic vegi-combination reduced tumor numbers by 75% in mice, this is out of the lab. Also, the tumors that were detected in these mice were 3 times smaller than those in controlled mice, which were not (unintelligible) the mixture.
Dr. Ho and associate professor Cheng, along with cancer specialist Dr. Yung Wee Peng, at National University Hospital, envisioned that these probiotics could be used as a prevention. Like, yeah, take your shot of probiotic anti-cancer broccoli juice, put it into your jamba.
(Unintelligible) clean up, cancer cells remaining after surgery. So, surgery goes in, they remove the big chunks and then this is used as a follow up cleaning method.
So, associate professor Cheng puts it, what exciting aspect of our strategy is that it just capitalizes on our lifestyle potentially transforming our normal diet into a sustainable low-cost therapeutic regimen. We hope that our strategy can be useful, complement to current cancer therapies and then Dr. Ho, mothers are right after all. Eating vegetable is important. So, yes, listen to your mothers.
Dr. Kiki: Listen to your mother. Eat your vegetables. Eat your broccoli.
Justin: Last week, we brought you the news that the first people in the new world arrived all at once and over 20,000 years ago in one migration. That populated the native nation from Alaska to the southern tip of South America.
Now, new news, out of Scandinavia, finds that not one but two separate routes of migrations were taken to populate the land of ice and snow.
New genomic data suggests that the first human settlement in the Scandinavian peninsula followed two distinct migration routes. This is published in the Open Access Journal (Lowes) biology and it`s led by researchers from Upsola University with an international team of collaborators.
It, also, indicates that the resulting mixed population genetically adapted itself to the extreme environmental conditions of being somewhere so far north and so far cold.
There’s consistent evidence of a human presence in Scandinavian peninsula from around 11,700 years ago. They found tools, artifacts in Scandinavia, that were also seen in Western Europe and Eastern Europe, suggesting that several groups may have migrated into the area when the ice retreated. Migration routes and genetic makeup of the first Scandinavians have been though kind of unknown.
By sequencing the genes of 700 gatherers excavated across Scandinavia and the range of about 6,095 years old. They found that the migrations into the Scandinavian peninsula most likely followed two routes.
One, through central Europe and one, from the north east along the Norwegian Atlantic coast known best for its award winning fiords.
The two groups met up in Scandinavia and in an almost futile attempt to stay warm created a genetically diverse population.
Dr. Kiki: and superior. No.
Justin: No, that’s further South.
Dr. Kiki: You`’e talking about my people.
Justin: That’s further south.
Dr. Kiki: Sorry, I`m –
Justin: Right, it’s obviously the Italians. Is that what you meant?
Dr. Kiki: No.
Justin: Many of the genetic variants and the Jews and the Portuguese and the Native Americans. I’m a – I’ve got everything. It’s the Irish. You know, it’s the Irish.
Many of those genetic variants that they found though were not passed down to modern day Europeans. So, this is some of what they have found that were sort of diverse. Maybe not everywhere yet.
The research team also discovered that several genetic variants in the hunter gatherers were linked to genes associated with physical performance, which they have (unintelligible) size could be – apparently, because, you know, it gets cold and you have to keep moving or you die.
The hunters gatherers also –
Dr. Kiki: I like this. I’ve read about that, that’s why I was kind of alluding to, with my comment earlier, is that the idea that these genes – that these two groups coming together, that these were the hardiest individuals, basically coming through into the coldest area and so –
Justin: Two directions, yeah.
Dr. Kiki: Two directions. These people have to be – these are going to be the genes for being strong, for being cold-tolerant, for being hardy in, I don’t know, high stressed situations, for being resilient. You know, there are going to be aspects of these people that surviving in the cold north.
Justin: And also, stubborn, because they’re not people who question the fact (unintelligible)
Dr. Kiki: What are we doing?
Justin: No, we keep going. All right. Why am I always the only one that’s suggesting that, like, well, it’s getting colder. No, it’s not getting warmer. It’s getting colder the further we go.
Hunter-gatherers also had high frequency of genetic variants linked to reduced skin pigmentation, which is a known adaptation to being in low UV radiation and high altitude.
They say, we use cutting edge genetic purchase to investigate hypothesis about early colonization of northern Europe after the ice sheet of west glaciation retracted. It is really great to see how evidence from different disciplines can be combined to understand these complex past demographic processes, says population geneticist, Torsten Gunther (unintelligible). Our findings are important for human genetics, archaeology, anthropology and it would be interesting to see what similar approaches can tell us about the post-glacial population dynamics in other parts of Europe and the rest of the world.
But, again, this is all pretty recent history. This is, you know 6,000 and 95 hundred years ago, total time estimated right now 11,700. Nothing like the 20,000 years of –
Dr. Kiki: Barren geneans, right?
But also, foolish people. I mean, they basically lived just north of a glacier. They were north of two giant glaciers for like thousands of years.
Well, at some point, people need to listen to the meal to where they must have been where they`re going. Just turn around.
Dr. Kiki: You know, there’s still people living next to glaciers in the cold. I mean, you know, we have high tech fabrics and all that kind of stuff, but, yeah, get out of the cold.
Justin: How did these people live? How did they do it?
Dr. Kiki: We’ve just gotten soft with our urban culture and our indoor heating and plumbing. We`re just mentally soft now, Justin.
Justin: I’m still convinced that the driving force in human exploration has always been to get away from other people. It’s just people who are irritated by the larger population of people. The mass intellect, that they’re just like, I don’t care how cold it is. I don’t care if I’m going to living next to a glacier for a thousand years, as long as those people aren’t around. Peace and quiet and don’t get bugged by my neighbors, that’s where I want to be.
Just think of it, outstide of, you know, the early days as being attacked by lions. People have got to be the biggest threat.
Dr. Kiki: Yeah. People have always been the biggest threat. For sure.
Constant specific competition and violence. I think, you know what that brings us to?
Dr. Kiki: Blair’s animal corner.
Justin: What do you got, Blair?
Blair: Well, speaking of the icy cold and how kind of sensitive us humans and warm blooded animals can get, I want to start with a brief, brief public service announcement in relation to these alligators that were all over the internet this week.
I don’t know if you guys saw these?
Justin: The frozen ones?
Blair: Yeah. It’s the frozen alligators.
Everyone was very concerned because these alligators, they were left outside in this wildlife preserve and they were frozen and how dare they? Why don’t they bring in those alligators?
Well, let me tell you something. Speaking of hardiness, crocodilians have been on this planet for hundreds of millions of years.
The last ice age was a mere two-ish million years ago. These guys have dealt with this before and remembering we’re squishy warm blooded mammals and they’re not. And they have a lot of abilities to deal with different temperatures.
Reptiles – some reptiles go through something called brumation, which is kind of similar to hibernation but it’s in cold blooded animals and they don’t sleep the entire time. They actually move. Occasionally, they’ll drink. Their oxygen use goes way down and their temperature – their body temperature goes way down, but otherwise, it’s not a true hibernation, it’s brumation but this is what these alligators are doing.
So, read the whole articles, look at the videos, recognize that if you play the video, you could actually see the water around their snouts are kind of moving. That’s because they’re actually moving water in and out of their mouths and they’re totally fine. They’re going to wake up when it thaws. This is how they have survived for hundreds of millions of years in a varying temperature. So, they’re ok.
Dr. Kiki: But what about the sharks? Frozen sharks.
Blair: That’s not good.
Dr. Kiki: That`s not good.
No. Sharks are being frozen because the water where the sharks are, is getting cold.
Blair: That’s more about – yeah, I didn’t bring a full story on that. But yeah, the sharks are washing up frozen and this is partially because – this is – there’s seasonal changes, which is this alligator thing is about and then there’s jurrastic sudden changes to ocean currents – and jurrastic sudden changes to ocean currents can create (unintelligible) current, it’s cold.
So, when that happens as a result of climate change, then it’s a sudden change that animals then, how do they find warm water. They can’t. They’re done so.
So, that is a very different situation. Also, a lot of sharks have adapted over hundreds of millions of years to being in very specific areas because there’s so many kinds of sharks on the planet, that they’ve become highly specialized after these hundreds of millions of years of evolution.
Alligators and crocodiles, pretty much unchanged. They have not changed a whole lot since they came to town, as it were.
So, that was my quick psa about the alligators in the snow. So, yes, you go inside, you can’t handle the ice and snow, but the alligators turns out they can.
Moving on to the deep blue sea, I have a very exciting story about deep sea crustaceans. And a team of scientists at the tech school of medicine at USC. They have found a way to use deep sea crustaceans to help fight cancer.
They’ve actually been able to harness the power of enzymes that give these marine animals bioluminescence in order to create a test that makes it easy for them to see where a therapy is having its intended effect. So, they can track, kill the cancer cells, harnessing the bioluminescence of crustaceans.
Let’s see, Prit Shidari, md, phd, is a professor (unintelligible) tech school and one of the lead researchers. And they say, one of the most promising areas in cancer research is immuno-therapy, including chimeric antigen receptor t-cells, which are (unintelligible) t-cells.
It’s also one of the most difficult because the methods for testing immune-therapies are not ideal.
Radio-active chromium release ASA is the gold standard for testing whether an immuno-therapy kills cancer cells. This method is expensive, complicated, and requires special disposal practices.
Other available methods also suffer from limitations and don’t allow scientists to rapidly screen immune-therapeutic to find the best candidates.
But these crustaceans with their bioluminescence, they are something – they are part of something now called the matador ASA. And they get trapped inside cells and then they leak out of cells when they die, which causes a glow. So, the level of luminescence can be measured with an illuminometer to see the percentage of dead cells.
Yeah. And so the ASA was so sensitive they could actually detect the death of a single cell. A level of sensitivity (unintelligible) existing ASAs.
So, the lab has since developed more than 75 cancer cell lines expressing the marine (lucipherasis) so the bioluminescence enzymes and use them successfully in the matador ASA to develop the next generation of cart t-cells.
They continue to say in our hands, the matador ASA can detect cell death in as little as 30 minutes, which can ultimately translate to more expedient treatments more patients getting cellular immuno-therapy such as cart t-cells.
So, these little marine crustaceans could actually hold the key to much more effective and targeted cancer treatment.
Dr. Kiki: That is cool. Thanks, shrimps.
Blair: Thanks, shrimps.
Another reason for me to push my agenda of deep sea exploration. There’s cancer treatments down there. We don’t even know. We don’t even know.
And last, I will end on a very nice kind of feel good story, to start out 2018.
And that is about an 8th grade science class. And this science class actually has helped an 8th month old Indian runner duck named Peg Quackagain.
They used their class 3D printer to create a prosthetic leg after this little duck, Peg, was hatched.
Dr. Kiki: Peg as in peg leg?
So, the teacher, Patti Smith, told a nearby television station, that when she found the bird, a turtle had chewed off his foot. Poor Peg. And the leg became irritated as Peg grew. Obviously, Peg was hopping up down, up down.
And so, they took about 30 tries in the school laboratory with the 3D printer. These 3 students, and eventually came up with an appropriate leg.
Peg is now walking and running like a normal duck.
Dr. Kiki: Like a runner duck.
Blair: Yeah. So, I bring this up now just because it’s kind of a very silly local news puff piece story, but really, what this gets to you is that 3D printers are more and more accessible and they’re showing up in our schools and they’re going to be a normal piece of lab equipment soon, which means there’s going to be a huge hosts of opportunities to use 3D printing for everything.
And as the next generation of scientists grow up and they are all well-versed in these new technologies, I can not wait to see what comes of it all.
Dr. Kiki: Yeah. Oh, I think I need this kind of a part, nobody makes anything – oh, I’ll just make it myself.
Blair: Yeah. Absolutely.
Dr. Kiki: Oh, I see a solution. And I can fix that. I can make that. Yes, there we go. Let’s just do that. Yes.
The makers and the scientists.
Blair: And I think about so many things, even with little things like this, like animal injuries that we say that are – you can’t fix. Bird bones or something that are really – you can’t put a cast on a bird bum. But imagine if you could heal a broken wing with a 3D printed bone.
Dr. Kiki: Yeah. You can 3D print – you can definitely 3D print a hallow structure.
Blair: Yeah. There’s a world of treatment options. There’s a world of science to be discovered with the new tools of technologies that we have. And I think it’s so exciting that they’re accessible to 8th grade students. And yeah, I can’t wait to see what happens.
Dr. Kiki: Me, neither. Thank you for that. That is a feel good story.
I think we will leave it at that for our show for the week. Predictions galore. Some wonderful science and some feel good making science news for ducks.
Blair: Science make me feel good.
Dr. Kiki: 3D printed legs. That make me feel good. That’s right. Now, I`ll stop singing now.
Everyone out there, thank you so much for joining us tonight for This Week in Science. We really appreciate you being here with us today.
And once again, our This Week in Science Blair`s animal corner calendars are available and you can find information, a link at our website Twis.org.
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Blair: And bring your Twis shag and we’ll all sign it.
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(Unintelligible) thank you for recording the show for me.
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On next week’s show, we’re only going to be doing the live show at the Cal Academy of Science on Thursday, January 18, so hopefully, we’ll be able to live stream it. We’re really going to work on that so we are online streaming live for you as usual.
No show on Wednesday, just letting you know ahead of time for next week. It’s Thursday. The show’s Thursday next week.
But once again, we’re going to really try to be broadcasting online at whatever time the show starts because I don’t know that yet.
Blair: Stay tuned. Watch social media for that.
Dr. Kiki: Stay tuned on social media. We will try to be live on Twis.org/live where you can watch and join our chatroom as well as youtube and facebook.
But, you know, if you can’t make it, if it doesn’t work out, you will be able to find the episode along with other past episodes at Twis.org.
Justin: Thank you for enjoying the show. Twis is also available as a podcast. Just google This Week in Science in your itunes directory or if you have a mobile type device. We are Twis the number 4 (unintelligible) app in the android market place or simply This Week in Science in any apple market place.
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Blair: We’ll be back here next week on Thursday live, Cal Academy of Sciences. And we hope you’ll join us again for more great science news.
Justin: And if you learn anything from the show, remember…
Dr. Kiki: It’s all in your head.