Transcript-TWIS.ORG Nov 11, 2008

Synopsis: Women have more Cooties, City Ants Avoid Traffic, Bacterial Brilliance, Memory Storage, Half A Bird Brain, Diamonds From tequila, Robot Domination of Sorts, and Dark Matters the muon anomaly.

Justin: Disclaimer! Disclaimer! Disclaimer!

It’s a new day in America. A new day with new hope! A revived spirit! Mounting expectations! Change has come at last and while long overdue it could not have come at any other time.

Common sense is being left behind on this new journey into the future of human potential. And uncommon ability to reason thoroughly will now guide our course.

The final preparations for the climactic transition to the coming age of the big “O” still on the way. The pursuit of knowledge awaits its new hero, who it is expected will throw open the cell doors of stem research. And give light to a thousand underfunded scientific programs.

Scientific programs that seek to ignite our future with new energy. It will power the economy of change with real dollars. Dollars born of invention, industry and technological insight as opposed to the coin of fossilize fright consolidated bright and physical slight of hand.

And while anticipation of the big “O” much like the anticipation of the following hour programming does not necessarily represent the views or opinions of University of California, at Davis, KDVS or its sponsors. The world of science seems soothed by the promise of a better tomorrow.

Be it in the bended ear of an attentive world leader or simply in the promise of another episode of This Week in Science, coming up next.

Justin: Kirsten via New York for the last time.

Right this is the last phone call from New York City. I’ll be back in little Davis, yet again full of culture shock next Tuesday. In the mean time I’ve got lots of New York science going on.

Justin: Good morning, Kirsten.

Good morning Justin. Add to it. Oh, dear this is going to be one interesting show. Disclaimer! Disclaimer! Disclaimer! Justin has not slept in a week.

Justin: I haven’t slept a wink in a week. The last time I went to sleep with my guy as president elect I woke up in reversy world and hadn’t – didn’t get a goodnight sleep for the next eight hours. So, it’s all kind of academic. I haven’t slept for eight years. I didn’t sleep for eight years after that.

So, this last week, I mean just for the jinx reducing quality of it all, it’s really little sacrifice to give up this week. I think we don’t have to make it to January 10th, 19th something like that.


Justin: I can do it.

You can do it.

Justin: I can do it people.

You can make it. You can make it. In the background we have Johnny Brickhouse who has actually moved on to newer projects I think in the last couple of years. It’s been the National pool. Johnny yo! What’s up? What are doing out there?

Justin: Yeah we haven’t gotten a song from him anymore.

We haven’t heard for you in a while.

Justin: Yeah.

Yeah this is from the 2006?

Justin: 2005, 2006?

I have it right here, wait. What year was this?

Justin: Yeah but curse words forming on my lips to say. I don’t know what year it’s from.

2006 Music Compilation people. That’s right, it was…

Justin: Wow!

…a good year. That’s right. TWIS yo! We are here this morning with science news and that’s all we have today. Science news, science news.

Justin: No annoying guests.

Science new. Yes no guests to get in the way of all the science news. It’s science all hour long. I brought stories about dark matter, how memories are made, city ants and traffic congestion…

Justin: Oh.

…and diamonds from tequila.

Justin: Nice!

What do you have Justin?

Justin: I’ve got cooties.


Justin: And I…

Somehow I can believe it.

Justin: Bacteria, I’ve got some interesting global ideas. Some icy cold ideas, some rock hard ideas. I’ve got a plethora of variety pack, story for an hour.

A (platera), a veritable cornucopia.

Last week was election madness. Out of control and a few of you wrote in after it was all said and done. And minions thought Tony Steel had this to say good news from the state of Michigan after the said election.

“We have created legislation for the use of medical marijuana, which will allow doctors to prescribe it and permit registered individuals to grow it, which may actually create some new industry.” Too early to tell though.

Justin: It didn’t really create a new industry in California.

In California.

Justin: Kind of just…

That’s interesting.

Justin: …kind of just gave another outlet for a very long history of industry in California.

Yeah, California well-known for its marijuana growth. And we have expanded the use of human embryos for stem cell research with legislation that will prohibit the state and local laws from preventing, restricting or discouraging the research. We progress that’s what he says. Yeah, I mean I think it’s awesome Michigan.

Moving on, moving on. (Scott Bishop) said, “I was listening to the podcast today, after election day. Tell Justin, “Yeah we won! Whoa, whoa, whoa!” That was you last week.

Justin: Yeah. I kind of – well I’ve been wanting that for Christmas since last Christmas and I got it.

You got your wish. You got your wish. So, I know that this has been a very exciting election for many people out there. Other people not so, who were not so excited about some things that have happened but, you know, that’s what happens with elections and the public vote.

Justin: Oh, I’m furious with the state of California.

I am kind of too.

Justin: Yeah.


Justin: It’s tainted my love of my home state.

Yeah I wrote a – there’s a new blog I’m writing for called Skeptic Blog. And, yeah, I said a thing or two about how I feel about (unintelligible) yeah.

Justin: I’ve got a rant all keyed up but I’ve been told.

It’s not very (scientifiky).

And what else was I going to say about the – oh yeah I just wanted to say that I think, you know, maybe this is time to turn over a new leaf. Let’s let bygones be bygones. Let’s start a new phase of politics in America. Let’s start working together to achieve the greatness that America working as a team, everyone together.

Justin: Technically Kirsten…

One big purple America.

Justin: …the California life shut down a lot of by – never mind, never mind. I’m trying to make it light but I can’t.

To start with let’s start – I know it.

Justin: I can’t do it.

There’s no making like light of it. Anyways — science.

Justin: There has been a debate raging in the academic community that has persisted since the first day of the very first kindergarten. And thanks to science, has finally been answered. The question: “Who has more cooties, boys or girls?” The answer…

I thought you’re going to start with a completely different story.

Justin: To answer the question and science investigated the hands of both men and women. Results of the study, we all have cooties — bacteria.

Yehey! School kids are right all along.

Justin: Yeah. Both sides are right. Both sides have cooties and much greater variety than anyone had suspected before the hands we’re actually studied. One thing that is astonishing in this, is the variability between individuals and also between hands on the same individual.

So says University of Colorado Biochemistry assistant Professor Rob Knight who co-authored the study, which kind of make sense and they kind of go into this little further which is your left hand, right hand you have a dominant hand.


Justin: One you used more often. That one tends to have quite different variety bacteria on it than the off hand.

Because it’s probably interacting with different objects more often.

Justin: It’s touching more things.


Justin: Touching more stuff that gets out there in the world that explores. It touches everything that everybody else touched.

Oh, I just touched my face with my hand.

Justin: Well, now you know. You should be a little worried because it turns out women have much greater variety.

Right. Not necessarily more in numbers but variety.

Justin: Not only because they couldn’t count in numbers. This was based – this study they couldn’t tell the quantity…


Justin: …but they could just tell the variety…


Justin: …through DNA testing. It wasn’t going after trying to quantify how much bacteria. But chances are that it might not be. Maybe there’s a chance that if you have greater variety, you also might have more quantity. Part of the reason…

Possibly, possibly not.

Justin: Don’t defend it. You’ve got cooties just deal, all right.

So do you.

Justin: Yeah but not as many. You’ve got – girls have way more cooties.

The question is though, why would women have more cooties than men?

Justin: And there’s a few different answers possibly.


Justin: There’s obviously perhaps propensity for women do used more lotions, more cosmetic things, that sort of thing. The other one is the acidity of the skin. Men have more acidic skin…


Justin: …so it might be that bacteria are adverse to that. So, there’s a couple of reason.

One of the things I’ve thought was very fascinating in this, is they identified 4,742 different species of bacteria overall in their study.

Mm hmm.

Justin: And this was only 51 people, which if your 51 people – if you’re playing along at home that’s 102 hands. Four thousand seven hundred and forty-two species, only five of which were on every single hand.

Oh, dear.

Justin: So, it’s not that we’re all sharing this much.


Justin: I thought there’ll be a great deal more commonality.

It’s interesting that there are completely different bacterial species on each hand.

Justin: From hand to hand.

From your right hand to left hand that there are only – that there are different – five of which were on every hand across the board. And it – so, from your right hand to left hand there are different species. From your right hand to the right hand of somebody else there are different species. It’s a great variety of bacteria species.

Justin: Yeah, left hand to right hand only shared about 17% of the same bacteria type according to study.

Which is fascinating!

Justin: I know, like people don’t clap anymore. Nobody is happy.

I wonder how this, you know — this would be really interesting to look into across cultures that have different practices. Like in Japan they don’t shake hands. They bow to each other. How much is shared, you know…

Justin: Right. They’re good enough…

…Western culture versus Eastern culture.

Justin: We’re going to start doing some international…


Justin: …because also the — I think it’s the Indian culture?

Mm hmm.

Justin: I could be totally wrong.

And that using one hand to eat for eating, and other for wiping.

Justin: That was – yeah. And so it’s true I wasn’t just comparing that.


Justin: That was also because I was – and you have to know which hand to shake with when you go there…


Justin: …because if you just offered the wrong hand it’s like, “Yehey!” (Unintelligible).

Right. Yeah and culturally, there’s a very important procedures to pay attention to. And it’s been that way because they’re aware of cleanliness, you know, because people are aware of cleanliness and the way that it affects your life. So, you know, there are cultural means the way that things work in cultures, there’s reasoning behind them.

However it’s really interesting to start, at this point, identifying some of the interesting science that has never been studied that underlies those cultural facets. It’s fascinating.

Justin: Asked point blank if guys should worry about holding hands with girls?


Justin: Where (I might have) responded – I guess it depends on which girl. He didn’t laugh a little too loud at his own joke apparently. And there was an uncomfortable silence that followed.

That’s hilarious. Yeah I wonder also, you know, if the diversity of bacteria of women’s hands. If women washed their hands more often than men. So, maybe…

Justin: Which we have a previous study did prove.

Right. So, maybe because the bacteria maybe survived longer on the male hands. They have a chance to fight it out and develop, you know, kills them off, develop different colony.

Justin: Which could lead to my next bacterial story…

Mm hmm.

Justin: …which I will get to later. But there is, yeah, there is the resource competition.

Resource competition on hands.

Justin: Wow.

That’s so interesting. It’s a silly, silly the way that it’s been brought up is very silly, you know, because kids love, you know, this is something like you said since kindergarten. “Oh you’ve got cooties.”

Justin: Since the first kindergarten.

Since the first kindergarten.

Justin: The very first kindergarten this came up.


Justin: It’s been with us ever since.

Yeah. What can we learn from ants?

Justin: Huh?

We could learn how to drive.

Justin: How to drive?

Yeah. We should learn how to. Why ants have lower insurance rates? Traffic jams recently were studied by a group out of Dresden University of Technology in Germany in light of ant traffic patterns.

So, ants go down these pathways. And they split up and they have their single file progression very much like vehicles on a road move forward. And they’ve very rarely come up against traffic jams. And how is it that the ants never get piled up but cars do. What is it about the way that they work that is different?

Justin: Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh!


Justin: Because ants can climb over each other if they need to like…

Yeah that’s kind of it.

That’s kind of what it comes down to but it’s – the key is communication. And this group in Germany, they basically set up roadways for ants to travel down and then analyze what happened. They gave them short cuts and observed what happens. And the ants do end up finding the shortest, quickest, most efficient path to whatever food source they’re after and then back to their ant hive, nest? What it’ll be? Nest?

Justin: Hill? I don’t know.

Anyway to their home, little ant home.

Justin: I think hive. Huh?

But all the ants going that one direction eventually is going to get all clogged up. And what ends up happening is the ants coming home with food. As they come home, they actually push ants that are going out to get food. They push them off the track.

Justin: Priority.

Priority. I’m coming home. They push him off the track and on to a lesser used path.

And so, the ants end up communicating basically – this way is crowded, bump, go that way. And they push them off and then the ants end up going a different path and it completely undoes any congestion that could occur.

Now we can’t necessarily have cars go crashing into each other in order to, you know, it’s not like bumper cars out there. You can’t be like, “Okay it’s crowded over here. Bump, go that way.” And you can’t just push cars out of the way.

Justin: No.

It doesn’t work so well, cars get dented.

Justin: I just spent six hours on the I5 traversing our once great state.

Great state.

Justin: Yesterday I had that urge many times.

Right. Yeah you can’t do that. So, this group out of Germany is suggesting that we start getting communicating cars. So, if we put sensors and ways for cars to communicate with each others, they will then be able to tell each other based on what they’ve seen and where they’ve been.

How many cars are there, how fast they’re driving and can allow – would potentially allow cars to make decisions that would suggest to their drivers, “Maybe we should go this way instead of this way, it’s crowded up ahead.”

And already in Germany there are some engineers not based on ants but they already have a car of this kind in progress. And they’re developing a software program that will work to help coordinate car’s movements.

Thomas Batz, who developed the software with his colleagues at Fraunhofer Institute for Information and Data Processing in Karlsruhe University said that, “ In dangerous situation, the cars can independently perform coordinated maneuvers without their drivers having to intervene.” And so they have sensors that are cameras, GPS, radar and communicate between the cars within a group.

And dangers can be communicated throughout the entire group. So, on a road if a ball or if there’s an accident in front of you or a child runs out or there’s something in front of you and you have to stop suddenly, not only do you step on your breaks to avoid the accident. Your car simultaneously transmits information to all the other cars that…

Justin: Wow.

…would be behind you to get them to stop and avoid a pile up.

Justin: I may have already told the story before on the air. I’m not sure.

Yeah. Smart cars, that’s why it was sent it by (John Sodipe) and David Eckard sent in the ant story. The ants are available on, that’s where you can find the ant story. And I don’t know where it is this other software story (unintelligible).

Justin: I may or may not have already told this story before…


Justin: …but I was coming to work one day or driving to – that was to work or the show, who knows. I’m driving along and the radio traffic update that which is out of a different city pointed out that there was a door in the right lane of the 113 Highway I was driving down at the time.


Justin: And right as they told me that, I looked ahead…

And there was a door.

Justin: … and saw the door in the road. It was just like I got the info and I was the first car – I had to be the first car to the door because it was right – I mean it was just for me. And just so I couldn’t wait that accident right there on the spot.

That’s awesome.

Justin: If that happen continually that would be brilliant.

Right. And what if you’re not listening to the appropriate radio station? What if you’re not tuned in?

Justin: It was a fluke.

Exactly it was total fluke. So…

Justin: I don’t know when was the last time I’ve had it like, you know, last minute dodge a door in the road. It hasn’t happened.


Justin: And that one time that it did happen, the radio was there and let me know.

You’re listening to This Week in Science.

Justin: If you happen to be driving right now, watch out ahead of you.

Watch out!

Justin: Because maybe I might get lucky for somebody.

I think, I mean the idea of smart cars that communicate…

Justin: Yeah.

…we’ve already got people who are starting to use GPS information of traffic.

Justin: Oh yeah.

You know, I know that there’s lots of downloadable – Google Maps has the traffic aspect to their mapping program and in some areas you can find out whether or not it’s heavy traffic or light traffic there or what’s going on. You know, there are also phone numbers in various other 511 or something like that.

Justin: Mm hmm. Mm hmm.

There is a website that allows you to look real time at the California Transit System…

Justin: Cool.

…in any area of California to see exactly what is there. And it’s updated fairly consistently. So, these are all the beginnings of a system that will allow our cars, you know, so that we don’t necessarily have to be the one’s who are trying to stay constantly up linked and informed. And that if our cars…

Justin: Oh we wouldn’t even have to drive at that point.

Right. If our cars know about it why, you know, we don’t need to pay attention to all that stuff. We don’t have to have our limited amount of attention diverted to so many different piece of information.

Justin: Here’s the downside I see to the future of cars driving themselves. And this is just how I would immediately employ it to, you know, ruin my life a little bit.

Instead of getting that cup of coffee and getting all ready for work and then getting in the car, you get into the car and you take that extra 20 minutes sleep while it drives you there.

So, you show up at work blurry eyed, un-tucked, having forgotten the important documents you’re supposed to bring that day or whatever else it was. You’re shaving as you step out of the car.

Mm hmm.

Justin: That or the late night out where you’re like, you know, “I would but I’ve got, you know, to drive later.” You have no, you know, you lose that inhibition and so you go out and you stay all night and it doesn’t matter because the car is going to take you to the next place and the next place anyway. And so, there’s a lot of ways, this can really unlock some…

Backfire into society.

Justin: And maybe just for me I would just probably use it wrong. Or I could just catch up on some reading on the way to work. Yeah, whatever.

Cars will take over the world.

Justin: Science has stolen all my ideas, Kirsten.


Justin: It’s an idea I arrived at a long time ago after following many scientific ideas and research that was coming out. So, it might not be really an idea that it was stolen from me so much as an idea that was on its way and I just, you know.

Picked up on it.

Justin: Yeah. Either way it doesn’t matter. I’m very excited.

All right.

Justin: Here’s a new use of probiotics that is being implemented specifically the benign bacterium lactobacillus plantarum 299.


Justin: Has been used – it’s a benign bacteria that has been used out-compete in more dangerous bacteria…

That’s cool.

Justin: …that causes respiratory illness in ventilated patients. So, the idea of our competing is you have this – it’s pretty should be somewhat obvious. You have this bacteria that’s dangerous, that’s harmful. And it’s in an area and it spreads. And you have this other bacteria that out-competes it, that can take over more the resources and more space. So, that other bacteria can’t form there.


Justin: And that bacteria that takes up that space is benign. It does not harm you in any way. Very simple, very brilliant.

And it ends up helping you because it gets rid of the harmful bacteria or…

Justin: Prevents it from taking place. Right.

…prevents the harmful bacteria from taking over.

Justin: And in this specific case, what they’re looking at is a bacteria that allows, which is called the VAP or Ventilator Associated Pneumonia okay. So, the bacteria takes up in the mouth while you’re on ventilation.

And then that bacteria, because usually when somebody’s on a ventilator they’re unconscious, the bacteria works its way in the lungs and pneumonia starts and the patient, unconscious, cannot tell anybody that they’re having these symptoms or feeling these, you know, these pneumonia-like symptoms.

Mm hmm.

Justin: What is really amazing is this actually using this bacteria versus using where is it, the antiseptic chlorhexidine, which is normally what’s used to sanitize the mouth.


Justin: It has benefits beyond that. It worked just as well as the sanitation from preventing, but the antiseptic has some other side effects. It discolors teeth which is, you know, somewhat of a minor – that ones, you know.

It’s a little minor. But some people are allergic to it. Yeah.

Justin: Right. Other people do have allergic reactions to it. So, the fact that it can actually get rid of some of those side effects from what they’re normally been using.

As well as be equally preventive, just amazing, just brilliant. That’s something very clear. It’s already – they’re using bacteria. It’s already present in saliva and has no known side effects. It’s found in fermented food products like pickles.

I love pickles.

Justin: Pickles are good. So, I kind of like this idea of instead of using the antiseptic soap…

Mm hmm.

Justin: …you know, and save. When we go instead of washing our hands to get rid of what we now know is these many, many, many diverse species of cooties that we have on our hands.

So, many species. Yeah.

Justin: If instead of washing our hands in something antiseptic, antibacterial. If instead we put on a benign bacteria. We just spray on or squirt on this really benign bacteria. Just one strain that just takes over but doesn’t allow anything nasty to form. And we get that bacteria all good in every things like, “Oh did you miss a spot? Do you have bacteria on your elbow? Get bacteria behind your ear.” You know, you want to make sure you get that bacteria everywhere so that you’re safe.

Well yeah, there are pros and there are cons. I mean bacteria — being able to use bacteria to our benefit. We’ve evolved with bacteria, with antiseptics…

Justin: Right.

…and antibacterial agents. We have to develop new ones as bacteria become resistant. The bacteria that…

Justin: Right, which is actually…

And the bacteria that we used and have evolved with for, you know, hundreds of thousands of years, those bacteria may do just as good a job of maintaining their place in our human body ecosystem. As, you know, at better job than us trying to come up with new drugs and new antiseptics.

Justin: Actually one of the other problems with chlorhexidine that the antiseptic that they were using on the mouth is that, if it’s diluted too much by the saliva of the patient. It can actually allow the bacteria to become resistant to it, the harmful bacteria…


Justin: …to become resistant, which does not happen, is not possible when you use the benign probiotic.

Well it’s cool. That’s a neat study. Where and how do memory survive in your brain?

Justin: Oh, they just don’t. That’s right, they don’t. But I’d like to know how.

Yes, they do. Yes they do.

Justin: I’d like to know how.

Yes they do. A study published in science magazine suggests that memories in our brain get shifted from one area where they’re formed to another area for storage.

Justin: Mm hmm.

Yeah, researchers have studying for the past, you know, 10-15 years have developed a hypothesis that the Hippocampus, which is an area near the medulla it’s all in the midbrain region.

The Hippocampus is essential for short term memory formations. So that as things are happening around you and you’re seeing them and you’re having to pay attention to what’s happening in your world, that information is coming in and being shunted through the Hippocampus. And that is where memories are first formed.

Justin: It’s all about now and being hipped therefore.

Being hipped that’s right the hippocampus.

Justin: The hippocampus that’s how you keep track of the brain areas.

Actually it’s shaped a little bit like a seahorse.

Justin: Huh?

Seahorse scientific name is hippocampi.

Justin: Really?


Justin: They named that part of the brain because it…

Looks like a seahorse.

Justin: … it kind of looks like a seahorse.


Justin: Why would they be named after that? That’s kind of funny.

Yeah. Little bit tidbit of trivia there.

However, looking at the brains of rats, they found – researchers found that when they got rid of the hippocampus, they destroyed the hippocampus after like one day. So, they had these rats and they trained them on this shock response where the rats get shocked and they blinked. And then they get – they learned that if they go in this particular region that’s associated with the shock, they’re going to blink. And even if they don’t get a shock, then they learn to blink.

Justin: (Used to) blink.

(Used to) blink, right. So, one day after the learning experience if you get rid of their hippocampus, they don’t remember to blink.

Justin: Wow.

So, the memory one day later is still in the hippocampus. That’s where that neuron activation is taking place. However, removing that region four weeks later or removing the hippocampus four weeks after the training session…

Justin: Aha!

…they blink.

Justin: They blink again.

Yes. So that means that the memory is no longer in the hippocampus.

Justin: It was there. They know it was there and now it’s gone.

Now it’s gone. Where did it go?

Justin: But if it’s not gone, it’s somewhere.

Somewhere else. And they found that when they remove an area of the brain called the medial prefrontal cortex four weeks later, the blink response was gone. But if they remove the medial prefrontal cortex one day, the blink is still there.

Justin: Okay.


Justin: So, it wasn’t that they remove the part of the brain that allows them to blink.

No. Well that was not it.

Justin: Because I will be like…

This is an area of the brain that is associated with associative memory.

Justin: Associated with associative – it’s in tangent. It’s how you can sub-reference.

Yeah. So, recently they looked at neuronal activity within the media prefrontal cortex. They took little electrodes and stock them in the back part of the brain to actually see what was happening with the activation of these neurons.

Do they increase in activity over the time, over a particular time period? And they found that over the course of two months the rats heard the tone in these different contacts. And by two weeks they’d learned to blink where they would expect a shock to happen and not where there is no shock.

And when they – at the same time, so two weeks into the training period about a quarter of the rats’ PFC, medial prefrontal cortex neurons fired at a higher rate when there was a tone sounding that would normally elicit a shock.

And so, this firing it developed really gradually over two weeks and then persisted. And so, it went up, up, up to a particular level and then stayed at that particular level of activation.

So, what they suggest is that long-term storage occurs over a time period and if you have repeated associations that will strengthen the memory up to a point where it is a consistent long-term memory that is remembered.

Justin: Mm hmm!

Yeah, by the neurons. It is actual physical effect in the brain. It’s very exciting.

Justin: Awesome.

I think that’s very, very exciting. Finding out where memories are stored in the brain – it’s the holy grail – finding memories’ trace. Where is it in the brain? We don’t know. The hippo – it’s just fascinating to study this kind of stuff. And look at the neurons changing activation and yeah.

But the prefrontal cortex is not the only area of the brain where memories are stored. This is just one area with a – also that is associated with this particular kind of response, behavioral response to particular sensory inputs. And, you know, there are probably different locations in the brain that are associated with different kinds of memories.

Justin: And I guarantee you, if you put me under one of those brain scanners and see what areas my brain are active and which one’s totally burned out. The one that’s stores in it – you can tell what you can locate the part of the brain that stores names? Once you’ve heard a name that stores them and remembers them. Whatever part of my brain isn’t functioning? That’s where it’s stored right there. That’s where the names go, because I don’t have that.

Maybe you have it.

Justin: I have a name, it’s gone.

Maybe you have some kind of…

Justin: Right as soon as I hear it.

…selective forgetting.

Justin: No!

…that actually when you hear a name you have an area of the brain that activates because it’s actively erasing it.

Justin: It maybe. It maybe doing something completely else. It maybe active doing other tasks and it’s just prevented from that.


Justin: But I know whenever somebody asks like, “Who’s the person from that movie?” I’d right away answer, “Don’t even bother.”

Don’t – I have no idea.

Justin: I don’t know your name. I know we’ve been sitting here talking for an hour I already forgot your name. I’ve known you for like a year. I have no idea what your name is.

Mm hmm yeah, like a year. Okay, we’re going to a break now so that I can – maybe do electric shock therapy I’m thinking during the break. We’ll be back in just a few minutes. This is This Week in Science.

Justin: With Justin and Karen.

Oh my gosh!

And we’re back. This is This Week in Science.

Justin: With Kirsten and Jason.

I’m glad you’re paying attention this morning. Oh, did you drink too much tequila last night?

Justin: No. I should have though.

You should have, you might be rich.

Justin: Huh?

No. A story out of, wonderful website of science news, talks about I think it was another one’s published out of – where these people publishing at – anyway I think it was published out of Nuevo Leon’s Autonomous University, the National Autonomous University of Mexico.

Researchers looking at how to develop industrial diamonds they found that if they have a vapor that contains some kind of acetone or alcohol and water, they are able to coat various surfaces in an industrial diamond.

Justin: Aha!

However, they’re looking at the mix – these researchers, this one researcher specifically who’s – I’ll see if I can find the name – yeah, Javier Morales.

He was driving to work one day and he was like, “I wonder if this mix is like 40% ethanol and 60% water.” That’s almost exactly the same as what’s used in tequila. And so he bought a pocket-sized bottle of cheap white tequila on his way into the lab one day. And he did some tests. And so, they were wondering, you know, okay tequila has got to hold bunch of other compounds in it. Is the tequila going to be too impure to be able to create diamonds?

However they did their tests, and they found that it’s not true. The results same as with ethanol and water all they obtained almost spherical shaped diamonds of nanometric size. There is no doubt tequila has the exact proportion of carbon hydrogen and oxygen atoms necessarily to form diamonds.

Justin: I think that was just a brilliant coincidence in stroke of luck. I don’t think that was the first time he brought that pocket-sized flask to work. I think it’s just the first time to fell out of his pocket when he was reaching for the lab coat and had to come out with an excused. He’s happy it worked out for him.

Yeah. So, the scientists are using a specific technique called pulsed liquid injection chemical vapor deposition.

Justin: Wow.

Yes special technique.

They heat the liquid tequila to 536 degrees Fahrenheit. I’m just saying Fahrenheit because we are in America here. Two hundred eighty degrees Celsius, for those of you who are on other parts of the world. To transform it they vaporized it and so it becomes a gas. It goes into the air, it becomes a gas. And then they heat that gas even more. So, it’s super hot 800 degrees Celsius over 1400 degrees Fahrenheit. And it gets – the molecular structure and because of heating becomes unstable…

Justin: I can’t see your hand motions.

…and it breaks down.

Justin: I can’t see your hand motions.

Breaks down. And as it breaks down it results in a solid diamond crystals of about 100-400 nanometers.

Justin: Wow.

And those fall on to a silicon or a stainless steel tray or surface that they want to put it on and accumulate in a very thin uniform film.

Justin: Nice.

And so, they’re are able – the high temperatures end up – what they say is the high temperatures actually, because they break everything down it’s such a high temperature it removes some of the impurities that are in tequila in the first place. That’s just really neat. So the use of this is to make a very heat resistant, hard, durable surface for coatings, for, you know, things that you want something like diamond to coat. A cutting surface.

Justin: Yeah.

Maybe high power semiconductors, radiation ejectors, (unintelligible).

Justin: That slices, it dices.

It slices, it dices, yeah.

Justin: Somewhere else cut where I can see the commercials now.

Yeah. And the scientists are starting to look at different – the kinds of tequilas…

Justin: Nice.

…and every types tequilas to find the best tequila with which to produce diamonds.

Justin: Oh that’s going to be some mighty hard research going on there. Very nice.

I’m sure they’re going to find a tequila sponsor for their research.

Justin: Oh is that what they’re shopping for?

Yeah. Anyway it’s just fascinating. You look in places for different sources of materials and out of tequila come diamonds.

Justin: Nice.

It’s amazing. I love this story.

Justin: Moment of silence. NASA yesterday declared an end to the Phoenix mission officially.


Justin: Yeah, goodbye.

Justin: Only five months then.

It’s the Phoenix though. Maybe it will rise from the ashes.

Justin: It would be if there was ash, yeah. It’s if they’re saying that even though it’s currently just not in contact because of dust storms covering the silver panels of firing down. The Arctic winters likely is going to freeze to death.


Justin: Yeah.

So sad.

Justin: Kind of ironic that the Phoenix is going to not have the ashes to arise from…


Justin: …but will submit to the cold frost, the tundra of the Arctic Mars.

It’s done such good works so far though.

Justin: Yup they’re still analyzing data that was sent back from the melty icy soil thing that, you know, landed in one of its instruments. Still you know, it’s no Rover. I think our expectation’s little skewed by the three-month project that’s gone five years.


Justin: Yeah.

It’s kind of lot. They’ll all last forever, don’t they?

Justin: Yeah.

They either disappear or they last forever.

Justin: It has been five years late. Maybe I’ve got that wrong. I really don’t know how long is that?

It’s not five so far. I don’t know it’s been a long time.

Justin: Three?

Three years maybe. What good is a half of brain?

Justin: Well I didn’t have to be a co-host to battle in sciency topic show.

That’s right. Well half a brain is good enough for not just for marine mammals like dolphins but for migrating birds as well.

Researchers looking at migrating birds out of the University of Southern Mississippi Harrisburg, they put birds in a room allowing them to have light and dark cycles, automatic lights that approximated natural light cycles that a bird might undergo during migration in the fall. And then they also looked at the neural activity of these birds’ brains.

They found that these birds, they used swings and thrushes, they’re active in the day and then migrate at night. And so, in a cage, in a room with this false lighting they’re doing their normal behavior and then they have migratory behavior. They try and fly in the cage all night long.

And then during the day, they’re looking at them and they’re like the birds like would just kind of droop and seem a little sleepy.

And then when they are watching these birds they realized that the birds would maybe close one eye but not both eyes. And previous research has shown that there is a link that goes across the central divide of the brain in birds.

So, and this is similar in humans, the left eye is linked to the right hemisphere and the right eye is linked to the left hemisphere. And so, we know that each eye is kind of controlled and also works with ½ of the brain. So, they’re like well maybe if they’re closing one eye, maybe we should look at what’s happening in the associated half of the brain.

And they found out that while they actually – they saw that the brain activity they published in Biology letters that the birds were resting half of their brains at a time. And they suggest that it’s to catch up on sleep while at the same time allowing them to remain alert and, you know, it’s to avoid predators.

Justin: Yeah.

And but this is, you know, other people are saying like, “I don’t know.”

Justin: I don’t know. (Unintelligible) I think that’s the lab parrot it’s making.

Yeah the love parrot. Not so sure about the results says a researcher at Cornell University says, “We maybe need to figure out exactly what sleep is in these birds so that they have exact quantitative signal that they know is sleep activity.” Because maybe it’s not actually asleep it maybe some other kind of activity that’s still less alert than normal activation.

Justin: Sleep, conservation of energy.

It could be conservation of energy too.

Justin: Speaking of words that always escape me. The words for whales and dolphins that is not crustation or creatine. What’s that…


Justin: …for whales and dolphins there. What kind of?


Justin: Cetacean that’s the word. They can do it – the cetaceans can do it too.


Justin: They actually can do the one-eyed half brain swimming…


Justin: …for a long parts of their migration. So, interesting that is into very large, very different migrate…

Very different species.

Justin: Well its migration, very different species.

They suggest…

Justin: I’m just glad that we can’t do that because that would – we would have like the endless work week if that took place. If we could really get away with that, actually it might be kind of cool. I don’t know I’m torn.

I’m sure the military is working on it.

Justin: You can pay for your pursuits because then it’s like, “Okay I’m going to go to sleep, so I ‘m going to wake up to tomorrow. But, you know, I got all this stuff I want to do, you could still do it.” What would be the quality? There’s always question.

Yeah the researchers do say that this is an interesting point in that there seems to be a convergent solution to this problem of losing sleep over migration. And so…

Justin: Wow!

…very interesting.

Justin: Yeah.

Give me a story dude.

Justin: Oh no I was got to into your story. I didn’t bring one up. There is this very interesting story that I don’t have completely — my brain wrapped around because I haven’t read it all.

But they did some studies with water and ice. Freezing it to extremely cold, cold, cold temperatures trying to get – basically trying to recreate ice in space. What happens to free floating water in the super cold regions of space where it’s only a few degrees above absolute zero, which is where most of moisture in our universe exists. And it’s extremely cold, cold climate and looking to that for some clues to life formation.

Mm hmm.

Justin: Just sort of the one interesting things that they were looking at was what they’re calling biometric forms. So, forms that look like things that we would recognize as life.

Yeah, okay.

Justin: These strange patterns that form in the crystals in the ice formations. Some of which it can be as, you know, advanced sort of looking as like a palm leaf or something, which is totally ridiculous because it’s the way a leaf develops is to revolution something completely separate from just the formations.

Mm hmm.

Justin: But it also when you get down to the very small level, they’re seeing things that look like bacterium that if you just have like snap shot and were asked to identify you might say it’s species of bacteria.


Justin: But it’s actually these crystal formations. And they’re wondering perhaps if some of the structures of life aren’t based on this. It’s very sort of reaching.

Right. That if these structures would form naturally under particular conditions, then maybe they contribute to the formation of more complex…

Justin: Yeah.

…life structures. I mean I don’t see any reason why there wouldn’t be repeating of patterns that work, you know, structurally whether or not it’s a physical material. Or whether it’s – life is physical it’s all, you know, it’s all I don’t know.

Justin: Yeah. The question is, is it obeying a structural principle…


Justin: …of that size?

Yeah, yeah.

Justin: Meaning that, yeah and that size these structures one that will be maintained. And not on purpose it’s just because that’s how the universe sort of when you throw out structures the one’s that sort of stick — this is them.

Mm hmm.

Justin: And so if ice is creating the structures that looked like bacteria, then we understand it’s a natural formation…


Justin: …for bacteria regardless of what it’s made of to create this sort of a structure. So they’re sort of looking into through ice, sort of looking at what the reasons for the basic structures that did turn into life at some point. Very fascinating!

Interesting. It’s a different way of looking at the question.

Justin: Completely something.

It’s different thing. Yeah.

Justin: It’s one of those I wouldn’t have thought of it.


Justin: Like I like to think like most – a lot of times I hear stories and like, yeah you know, given enough time, throw enough papers at me, a couple of textbooks I might come with that. I wouldn’t even thought to look.

Well another place that is hard to look is into dark matter. Yeah and there’s some really interesting news…

Justin: Oh yeah.

…that was published and archived online on Halloween ghosts at the Fermilab detector. Ghosts in Physics, they’re not really ghosts but the researchers don’t really know where little muons that they’re detecting have come from.

Physicists at the Tavetron Collider at the Fermilab in United States which is the US’s strongest collider. And there’s a detector that they’re using called the CDF experiment.

So, the Tavetron has two particle detectors and one of them is called the CDF detector. And in the CDF detector researchers — they’ve had this data and they’ve been analyzing it and looking at it since early in the summer but they just got around to publishing it.

And they kind of been like well, you know, “Should we publish it? Should we not publish it?” And one of the interesting things about this paper is that like a third of the people who were involved on it have taken their names out of the paper. Because they aren’t even sure that like this is something like is real.

Justin: Mm hmm!

They don’t know like this…

Justin: I thought you’re going to say a third of the people who are involved with it died of mysterious copy. Sort of like opening their crypt like the mummies cursed, the muon’s cursed.

The muon’s cursed. Yeah almost a third of the collaborators not put their names on the paper because they think that it’s too early for it to be published.

Justin: Mm hmm.

Even though they’ve been analyzing this data from months of months of months and it’s taking a long time to actually put this paper together.

But the researchers who did put it out there, they’re like, “Okay let’s get it out there because other people need to look at it”…

Justin: Yeah!

…“and let’s compare against existing theories.”

Justin: Holy yes.

“And let’s let the Physics community start checking the data and start checking what’s not.”

Justin: Crumple it up or tear it down but you got to put it up.

Yeah and so they put it out there.

Justin: I don’t throw the word carrot around too often but it’s on the tip of my tongue.

Right. And so, what happen is basically they were looking at a subset of proton antiproton collisions. And in these collisions where the proton and an antiproton collide they annihilate each other and you have other smaller particles that come out of it. And normally – they have B mesons and antimesons which end up flying out and decaying into pairs of what are called muons.

And muons can be tracked by the detector – the CDF detector. There are various rings within the detector that detect different particles. And so, they’re like okay we’re going to look at this. But when they’re looking at it they realized that they have way, way, way more muons outside of the place where they normally detect muons. So, somehow muons were being formed after they should have been formed. And so what they think is that there are some other particle that they’re not detecting that was being formed.

Justin: Wow.

What is that particle? And how is it surviving and what’s going on? And this paper has opened up this box of worms and everybody’s got a new idea. There’s a String theorists who actually think that this is evidence of the Metaverse (unintelligible) with additional brains.

So, our universe is on this membrane that’s next to other membrane and they’re like seven dimensions of these brains all next to each other. And somehow they’re — the String theorists are like, “Oh yes this is evidence but these other brains are interacting with our brain and pulling on the little strings of our universe.” Well that’s what some String theorists are saying.

Other people are like, “Oh, this might be evidence for, you know, some other kind of particle. Maybe it’s related to the Higgs Boson” And last week I talked about the PAMELA satellite that’s detecting dark matter and how it has a whole bunch of an excess of muons that it has been detecting.

Actually an excess of positrons that’s been detecting from cosmic rays.

Justin: Mm hmm.

And so, there are some other researchers that were looking at that and they came up with an explanation for why PAMELA has been detecting more positrons.

And now researchers are like, “Oh maybe that explanation fits with what’s happening at Fermilab.” And these all sorts of stuff everywhere and I am…

Justin: I thought physics was all figured out. Wait a sec, new stuff?

Heck no. Yeah so, people this is maybe new Physics somehow they’re going to be taking a new detector and checking out the data using the D-Zero detector which has another muon detection system and to cross check the data and that’s the next step in this. And also people are hoping that when the LHC comes back online, this will be something that it will be able to investigate.

Justin: Yeah. Well it totally fits with my crackpot theory. I’m not sure how yet but I’ll work at it somehow.

You’re working it.

Justin: I’m working it later.

I suggest…

Justin: I wait for more data before I …

Yeah, if Peter Voit has – he’s a physicist who has a blog called, “Not Even Wrong” It’s – I don’t want to give the – I’ll put the link on our website And he has a great run down of everything that’s happening in relation to this what they’re calling the multi-muon anomaly.

Justin: Mm hmm.

Yeah. It’s pretty exciting stuff and, you know, maybe it has to do with other brains attacking ours. Maybe it just has to do with other particles that we have been looking for that have been postulated but not found. Or maybe even particles that had not been postulated but are now something that we should be looking for.

Justin: Wow.

All sorts of different explanations out there. It’s really exciting.

Justin: Yeah. Poor Large Hadron Collider like maybe Large Hadron Collider could have already figure this out. But, oh no!

Oh no. Do you know what?

Justin: Are we really? Oh my goodness.

At the end of our show already.

Justin: Oh my goodness.

Yeah I actually got through all of my stories today.

Justin: Awesome. I think have got a bunch left but there’s another week coming next week. And I just hope you enjoyed today’s show.

Yeah. Next week, we will be back with Michael Stebbins I believe. I believe he will be back next week and hopefully we’ll have a run down of things that are going on since the election in Washington D.C.

In the meantime consider checking out the TWIS Book Club. This month we are reading “Parallel Worlds” by Michio Kaku.

Justin: Oh, I actually got that book. It’s a good one.

Yeah we’re going to read it. We’re going to read it.

Shout-outs to (Jessica Nelson), Tony Steel, (John Sodipe), (Dave Morgan) in Berkley, (Scott Bishop), (Kalidasa), (VC Wade) (Andy Wong) in Vancouver, British Columbia, David Eckard, (Eric Grislack) in Buffalo, New York. (Logan Waterman), (Jeff) in Mountain House, California, (Franky).

Justin: I didn’t know there was a Mountain House, California. I thought I knew all of the Californians.

I didn’t know then. No. (Luke Carter), (Glenn) in Vancouver and (Jordan Kay) in West Virginia. Thanks for writing in and sending in stories and comments and other fun things for us to check out. I very much appreciate it.

Justin: And I do truly hope you’ve enjoyed today’s show. TWIS is also available as a podcast. Yes, if you didn’t know.


Justin: Go to our website and click on to subscribe to the TWIS science podcast. For information on how to subscribe or just go search This Week in Science in iTunes.

Yeah. Thanks for listening for more information on anything you’ve heard on today’s show. Notes will be on our website We also want to hear from you so, email us at kirsten or

Justin: Put TWIS somewhere on the subject line or you will automatically be launched into the spamosphere.

Yeah. What else? I don’t think I have anything else to say. We’ll be back here next Tuesday at 8:30 am Pacific time. We hope you’ll join us again for more great science news.

Justin: If you’ve learned anything from today’s show, remember…

It’s all in your head.

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