Justin: Disclaimer! Disclaimer! Disclaimer! The following hour of programming has been prerecorded for your pleasure. While the voices you will hear are those of real people speaking their own thoughts while reporting news of scientific interest, the radio station that is sending you those voices – university in which the radio station is located and the sponsors who support the radio station located within said university are not real!
And therefore, have no thoughts or opinions. At least not any that will necessary be representative – which you are about to hear. On the other hand, if you’re podcasting today’s show, please keep in mind – your computer, or mp3 player agrees with us completely.
And we’ll plot against you, if you show even the slightest disagreement with This Week In Science, coming up next.
Justin: Good morning, Kirsten.
Kirsten: Good morning, Justin.
Justin: Although that’s a complete lie because this is once again a pre-recorded in that funky studio down at the KDV where we are live.
Kirsten: Having a funky time.
Justin: We’re live but we’re last night actually. This is Tuesday morning; that would make today, what? Like Thursday afternoon – Monday night. It’s Monday night.
Kirsten: It’s Monday night. Really, it was a cold and rainy night.
Justin: Yes. It’s freezing.
Kirsten: It’s totally freezing here. I don’t know – the coldest cold snap in a while and I here news of impending snow in the bay area. It’s all odd. It’s very odd.
Justin: It’s cold temperature like we normally experience. I guess it’s winter. I guess maybe it’s the right time of the year for that.
Kirsten: Maybe? Maybe you get cold and snow in the winter?
Justin: I hope I survive the cold, cold night. Like, what if – this will be so eerie if like, between recording the show and the show airing live, like I died?
But then, nobody would know because they heard me on the radio? I guess maybe that’s – I hope that’s not the separate –
Kirsten: Is this going to be one of those weird loopy from Japan or something?
Justin: I hope this is not a self-profiling prophecy kind of thing. That will be so annoying. Why did I say that? What in the world possessed me? Anyway we’re here, we got science –
Kirsten: I don’t know.
Justin: Science in news.
Kirsten: Yes. We have lot of science-y news. We’ve got an hour of science-y news coming up. I’ve got a stack of stories here, everything from genetics, lupus in women, being deconstructed genetically, dog speak. This week in world robot domination is definitely coming up this hour.
FM: And there’s some really amazing cloning news on the horizon as well.
Justin: Very cool.
Kirsten: That is just a brief smattering of all the stories that I have in my hands right here.
Justin: I have the smattering. I have a computer too. This is really weird. I don’t have actually paper in front of me.
Justin: I don’t know if I can deal with this.
Kirsten: The strangest thing is that, I’m having to stand off to the side of our control board right here, because the studio that we’re in right now is not really built for two people who look at each other and have a show. So I am looking –
Justin: Kirsten staring at the back of my head.
Kirsten: I am – Justin, hi! Hello!
Justin: How you doing?
Justin: Did I miss any gray back there? Am I good?
Kirsten: Yes – no. It’s all dyed nicely.
Kirsten: [Laughs] Should we get off to the science news This Week In Science?
Justin: Bring it. Bring it!
Kirsten: Thisweekinscience.com, you can check out things on our website if you’re interested. And I’m not going to give you a phone number today because if you try to call it, we won’t be here.
Justin: Somebody’s going to be here. Who’s going to be here? Who is pushing these buttons? Who’s putting us on air?
Kirsten: I’m pushing all the buttons.
Justin: So you can call just to talk to Kirsten off the air.
Kirsten: That’s right – you can.
Justin: For the whole hour, really. She’s going to be bored.
Kirsten: I will! I will be sitting and reading or something and …
Justin: Actually, you’re doing THAT right now.
Kirsten: I am.
Justin: Wow. This is weird.
Kirsten: So strange.
Kirsten: We pre-recorded double speak.
Genes linked to two lupus have been identified in women. Researchers looked at a large number of 720 women of European descent with lupus and 2,337 women without lupus, looking at the genome, to look for single nucleotide polymorphisms or mutation, differences within the genetic code that might be link to lupus symptoms.
And they might also differentiate lupus from related diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis. So, there are four genes – I think it’s four genes that have been identified as result of the studies that happened there. There are four different studies actually that have been published as a result of this one.
I believe there is one in the New England Journal of Medicine and there are three others in some other journal somewhere out there. But there’s a large number of studies that was very diverse – very wide open study that happened and they are finding associations with multiple single nucleotide polymorphisms in three genes: ITGAM, KIAA1542, and PXK.
Justin: Oh, those ones.
Kirsten: And there’s also single nucleotide polymorphisms at SMPRS10798269.
Justin: That’s a complicated one.
Kirsten: Yes. It’s not inside any known gene. So, it’s there but they don’t know what the actual gene is or if it is actually a gene there. It’s some other kind of co-informational coding that’s going on there.
So, ITGAM is important for adherence of immune cells and for cleaning up of pathogens. The KIAA1542 gene is important for translating the DNA code into proteins and PXK encodes a molecule that transmit signals and controls complex processes in cells.
The story that I’m reading from right now is from Sciencedaily.com – it’s great website full of wonderful science stories. So, all of these genes are really important for the basic processes that go on our cells and also are tied to the immune cells.
But one of the interesting things about these studies is that research used to go on in the areas of the blood vessels and other – where symptoms were actually taking place in lupus.
But in a last 40 years, research has gone much more in the direction of the immune system. And people have been focusing on the immune system because the immune system kind of goes crazy and the body starts attacking itself for no reason.
So, they’re trying to figure out what that reason is and the immune system is the culprit. So, that’s where research has been. But now, these genes are suggesting that it’s not just the immune system. And there are other basic processes that really need to be looked at.
Kirsten: Yes. One of the other things though, there have been a few comments by researchers in the field also saying that even though this is a really great study and we’re finally getting some targets where research can be directed – the problem with this study is that they’re looking only at women of European descent.
And that’s one of the smallest groups that are affected by lupus. And the people who are more strongly affected by the disease are people of African–American descent, Asian descent, and – there is one more group that I’m not remembering off the top of my head.
But so, research needs to go back, they need to spread out the search. Maybe look at these genes in other genetic groups of people to see whether or not the same genes are affected.
Justin: I just wonder if it’s because they’ve maybe mapped the white women better. Is that like they have more things to compare with already that they based that on or…?
Kirsten: Yes. I think it was just that – I don’t know what their reasoning was – to only look at people of European descent. If only to make it simpler?
Justin: Yes, because part of that actually is – when you go into like saying African – American, you’re actually dealing with a much more diverse genetic code also.
Then you are like European descent is a pretty limited gene pool. I mean it’s the point of Africa that settled in one area for really long time versus anything African is still with a lot more variation – 12 times the variation, something like that in Africa than there is in Europe?
Kirsten: Right. And I think, additionally – if you start putting multiple genetic groups of people into one study, you have to reach out to a much larger study population. So, they used 720 women of European descent just within the group that have lupus.
And so, if they wanted to do the same study with a high statistical power to be able to actually get like a really strong result, they’d have to been looking at probably 10,000 individuals to be able to …
Justin: But it seems like, once they …
Kirsten: It goes up exponentially.
Justin: But it seems like, once they identify which genes are in play, they should be able to seek those out in any group. Right?
Kirsten: Yes. Right. So now, they can – they can go and look at those genes in other groups of people and see if the same genes seems to be target. If these same three genes have the single nucleotide polymorphisms in these other group as well or if this is specific to the European women. That’s one of the next questions they should be move into.
Justin: I’m nodding in agreement to the wall.
Kirsten: [Laughs] No.
Justin: Yes Kirsten. You’re right, you can’t see I’m nodding profusely so you know I’ve been…
Kirsten: Just nod and say yes, Justin.
Justin: Yes Kirsten. From the University of Chicago, new study sheds like on the lonely hearted lifestyle. New research from the University of Chicago is finding evidence for a clever way that people manage to alleviate the pain of loneliness.
Kirsten: What do you do when you’re lonely? How do you alleviate it?
Justin: You make-ity make up fake people to keep you company.
Kirsten: Imaginary friends?
Justin: It’s one step removed from the insanity of the actual invisible friend. But this is the – according to Nicholas Epley, Assistant Professor of Behavioral Science at University of Chicago, biological reproduction is not a very efficient way to alleviate one’s loneliness, which is interesting.
I guess that means that having a child won’t make you feel less lonely. Though I would definitely argue that, at least in my own experience, the act of practicing consummation puts a nice dent in the lonesome-ness
Kirsten: Loneliness. Right. Right. Yes, maybe.
Justin: So, it’s just kind of weird because if you have a kid, it won’t make you less lonely. You were less lonely at one point during that whole process. But anyhow it goes on. You can make up people when you’re motivated to do so.
But, when people lack – Oh I better do my quote voice – when people lack a sense of connection with other people, they are more likely to see their pets, gadgets or gods as human-like. So, social scientists call this tendency anthropomorphisms –
Justin: Or something like that. They have a different- it’s a dialect thing. As a research topic, the phenomenon carries important therapeutic societal implications. The authors will publish their findings on anthropomorphism in the February issue of Journal of Psychological Science. The behaviors they describe in the paper are not limited to the lonely.
But they are well known to the casual observer from the stereotypes. And the ones they quote here are the woman who lives alone, surrounded by the menagerie of cats.
Kirsten: Of cats? Right.
Justin: And the portrayal of a tropical island “Castaway”. Now the Tom Hanks movie is best friends – the volley ball named Wilson – anthropomorphism of the lonely mind. Right?
Justin: Cat lady – crazy cat lady, I’m kind of sticking to toxoplasma gondii persidic infestation of the brain.
Kirsten: [Laughs] Perfect.
Justin: …more so than you know – but there is a lot of the anthropomorphizing going on with the personalities of each cat being so distinct and different. And really giving them names and communicating to them like they are your family.
Researchers designed three experiments to test their expectation that lonely people are more likely to make up for their lack of social connection – like creating the human-ish connection with the gadgets, pets and gods.
One experiment team found the correlation between how lonely people felt and their tendency to describe the gadget in terms of human-like mental states.
Justin: Yes. My iPod’s been all bummed out today. Like, I don’t know how that works. I just made my iPod really happy. I fed it lots of songs. I mean, I’ve heard like – you know –
Kirsten: Have you heard people say that?
Justin: Yes. There’s people who will actually – I mean, even think about how people talk to their cars.
Kirsten: Well, sometimes I did get a new laptop recently. And I cradled it like a child, every once in a while. I’d rock it very gently. I wouldn’t say that I’m very lonely though – I don’t know.
Justin: Another experiment that the team made people feel lonely in the laboratory. That’s like putting them in the corner and ignore them for awhile. I don’t know how exactly they did that. Those people are more likely to talk about believing in super natural – in gods, angels, miracles than the people who were being socially interacted with.
Kirsten: Right. Maybe there’s coping mechanism for loneliness but I would – or maybe it’s not loneliness. Maybe, it’s just – this is how they deal with life. So, they don’t get lonely at all. Because they have –
Justin: Well, that’s the thing. It is actually –
Kirsten: Its kind of catch 22 because unless you’re like – okay, are you lonely? And they are like, “No, I talked to my friends all the time”. [Laughs]
Justin: I’m very happy. I’m very, very, very happy. Am extremely happy right now, because I’m not lonely.
Kirsten: Extremely happy.
Justin: I have friends. Yes, loneliness is both painful and potentially deadly phenomenon.
Kirsten: Right. Yes.
Kirsten: Aren’t there studies that have come out – that lonely people are – they’re more prone to depression, more prone to death –
Justin: Greater risk for morbidity or mortality. Even more so than smoking – cigarette smokers.
Justin: Yes. You heard – if you’re lonely, you need to start smoking socially because that will actually increase your life span. Like just go smoke with some smokers when they are out there in the rain, like, “Oh so you’re smokers too huh?”
And then – you know, that’s not medical advice exactly but according to this, it could save your life or add a few years –
Kirsten: You won’t be lonely because you’re hanging out with other smokers?
Kirsten: Is that what you’re saying?
Justin: I think that’s what – yes. No, I think that might be the solution for the lonely hearted. If cigarettes are less deadly than loneliness, go find some smoking buddies. I mean, you’re all going to die but you’ll live a little bit longer than you would otherwise.
Kirsten: You were interesting one Justin.
Justin: So there is something –
Kirsten: How bout morbidity from parasites?
Justin: Morbidity? Wait, hang on. There’s –
Kirsten: You have more to say –
Justin: There’s a little bit more of kicker on this –
Kirsten: All right, fine.
Justin: So, yes. Non human connection can be powerful. So, even like robots or like your computer. Brains are not that sensitive to whether it’s a real person or not. It sometimes has a lot of traits associated to what it means to be human than it actually can alleviate loneliness.
So, imagine a robot that you can interact with or television I guess geez. Study also provides insight into the flip side of anthropomorphism, de-humanization.
People who enjoy a strong sense of social connection are less likely to perceive human-like mental states in people who seem different from them. Okay? Let me say that again.
Kirsten: What does that mean exactly?
Justin: Yes. It means that basically you’re more likely to be desensitized towards and dehumanized and objectify people who are different from you, if you have very strong sense of social connection. Like classic example of this can occur in times of war.
According to this, in which there is a strong sense of nationalism or group identity. You start to think less of the other side. And it maybe that strong in group identity is one of the things that facilitates that de-humanizing of (outside).
So, if really popular people seem like jerks? It might be because they really are?
Kirsten: [Laughs] All right. Maybe so.
Justin: Maybe they were. Maybe it isn’t me. Maybe it’s just – I’m not jealous, they are jerks!
Kirsten: Oh my goodness what was I going to go on to ? Death by parasites. Another …
Justin: Morbidity and death mortality.
Kirsten: This week in parasites.
Justin: Parasitic mortality.
Kirsten: Yes. Newly discovered parasites known as – where did it go – totally lost the name–
Justin: Oh, where did it go? That’s an interesting – that is seem like a classic scientific name, “The oh where did it go” – Oh no. But those are parasite here seconds ago. I was – studying it, oh where did it go?
Kirsten: Shhh.. look at you – you’re totally maxing out the recording here. Shush – you’re so difficult sometimes. [Laughs] A newly discovered parasite described by naturalist Robert Dudley, professor of Integrative Biology at University of California, Berkeley. He published an article that is coming out this spring in the American Naturalist.
It’s this parasite that gets into red ants. And what it does when it gets into the red ants is it causes their abdomens to swell up and turn bright red and look like a berry. And then –
Justin: Oh, that’s awesome.
Kirsten: And then birds come flying down, eat the ant and then –
Justin: Continue the cycle.
Kirsten: Continue the cycle.
Justin: That rocks.
Kirsten: Spreading the parasite wherever the parasite needs to go.
Justin: That absolutely rocks.
Kirsten: Yes. So he came across the infected ants in the Amazon. They are studying the gliding ability of an ant known as cephalotes atratus, which is common in the tropical forest canopy. And they were looking at the mid air maneuvers and seeing how it can glide toward the trunk and be able to grab on to the trunk and then climb back up. And never hit the forest floor which is a very dangerous place to be for an insect.
Kirsten: While they are looking into that they found this downed three, in Panama’s Barro Colorado Island and some of the members of the colony had these red bellies.
And so he, took him back to the lab, open them up and found nematode eggs all stuffed in the belly, turning the belly and causing the belly to turn in bright red. They thought it was another species of the cephalotes but then, they made the bet over beers- the researchers did.
Justin: Much good science is done this way.
Kirsten: Yes. And one of the researchers opened up one of the eggs under the microscope, and nematodes not ant eggs.
Kirsten: Yes. So, it looks a lot like red berries. It attracts birds and – yes. It’s going to be enough. Yes. Here it is, what they’ve name it, “I found it! I found it!” Myrmeconema neotropicum.
Justin: Which I believe is Latin-ish for “Oh where did it go”.
Kirsten: Yes. It’s a new species of tetradonematid nematode. Don’t you love that? I love scientific classification. These names have a wonderful Latin basis.
Justin: I got you.
Kirsten: They all mean something very important. It means some things the ama – no – nemo from the neotropics [laughs]
Justin: That was very good example of scientific knowledge that –
Kirsten: I know.
Justin: You know, one day I think they’re going to find the two separate infestation of parasite that have dominated at least the American culture. That of republicanism?
Kirsten: Shh..No. Hush. Hush.
Justin: And of liberalism. I think there is a liberal parasite out there too.
Justin: I think it’s both. It’s a war but it’s all being played out on the big human scale. But it’s all parasites fighting for territory.
Kirsten: Its all gondii. Serious. It’s all talks of plasma. That makes you feel guilty – it make you all this different things that leads to political…
Justin: Politics. All of our ideaology is based on –
Kirsten: Which based on parasites?
Justin: …which particular subset of parasites is infested your brain.
Kirsten: Wait a moment. And we actually don’t know this, so I hope you don’t – take this serious –
Justin: No. This is a Justin-type hypothesis.
Kirsten: It’s totally.
Justin: Opinion-o-thesis, guess-to-mothesis.
Kirsten: I have no idea.
Justin: No idea.
Kirsten: There is another crazy parasite that causes diarrhea and gastrointestinal problems – collitis in humans around the world. And it affects approximately 50 million people every year causing a 100,000 deaths.
Justin: Can you get it from drinking cheap beer too late into the night?
Kirsten: I don’t know if it will come from the beer. I don’t exactly know where it comes from, but it’s called entamoeba histolytica. It causes inflammation of the colon and sometimes the disease is also called Amoebiasis. –
Justin: Hista. But that sounds vaguely…
Kirsten: Tissue histolytica. It’s a tissue (lices or lytica lices) are breaking up. So – what it does, is it gets into the intestine and –
Justin: Isn’t hista like female-ish?
Kirsten: No. Histo is tissue.
Justin: It’s not female breaking up in this, causes diarrhea?
Justin: Because that’s happened too. I’ve had nasty break up or two. It just affected me in ways I didn’t expect.
Kirsten: You ran on it the mouth with the little too much maybe?
Justin: Oh no, Kirsten are you breaking up with me? Oh no. Wait, you’re my – never mind.
Kirsten: Anyway, the Entamoeba histolytica gets into the intestine, gets into the guts. And it starts eating cells inside the intestine immediately. When it eats and the cells that it eats are immune cells. And then, instead of just like biting them and letting the cells kind of blow up and leaving the immune cell to breed a carnage behind them, inside the intestine. It actually eats the corpses of the cells that they have been killing.
So, it leaves no trace of its – except for itself. It leaves no trace that it’s been in the intestine. And in doing so, it can cause a lot of damage. The immune system doesn’t have the correct response, because normally it would find bits and pieces of debris that would stimulate the immune system to go in the action. But since it is kind of cleaning things up as it goes, there is not enough or not the right kind of the immune cell response.
Justin: The perfect crime.
Kirsten: The perfect crime, exactly. So, these researchers lead by Dr. William Petri or Petri – depending on how you pronounce it have looked at the surface of the amoeba and found the kinase called PATMK. And using a technique known as RNA interference, they were able to inhibit the actions of this kinase.
And stop it from being able to eat the dead cells. And when they stopped the dead cells from being eaten, they also stopped or reduced the ability of this bacteria – this parasite to come in and actually infect and cause colitis.
Justin: So, but you don’t know where we pick up this parasite from? It’s not in there?
Kirsten: I don’t know where it actually comes from. If somebody knows that…?
Justin: If could be in anything. Could be in what you had for breakfast commonly? I mean, there is no – we have no …?
Kirsten: I’m sure it’s not in what – I mean. No, it’s probably not so much here in the United States and first world countries as much as in other places where sanitation is not the best. So, you know, I just want to make sure things are washed.
Justin: Yes. Washed everything.
Kirsten: And if you live in the place where the water isn’t so good, maybe bleach in the water when you wash.
Justin: Yes. And –
Kirsten: 10% bleach solution…
Justin: And maybe –
Kirsten: …knock things out of that –
Justin: How do you wash an intestine? I want to wash mine, just in case.
Kirsten: I think I did that and killed my liver on Saturday. Yes. I can give you a process if you need one. I’ve got a procedure. I’ll let you know.
Yes. They are able to find this kinase and so by inhibiting it, they actually able to stop the action and hopefully, they might be able to create a vaccine or something that could be given to people that would stop the infection by these parasites.
So, it gives us as more direction now in terms of research, which is pretty darn cool.
Justin: Giant guinea pig. Big as a modern day bull galloped Uruguayan plains 4 million years ago. Recently uncovered fossil evidence for the biggest species of rodent ever found has been found again! Fossil was originally discovered in 1987, was donated to Uruguay’s National History and Anthropology Museum where it sat on the box, collecting dust, until a curious curator taking careful inventory of the archive opened it. And to his amazement, rediscovered the creature previously unknown to science.
Named Jospehoartigasia monesi -ish – something like – the possibly 2,000 pound– and I’m calling it a guinea pig – it’s been reported as rat but apparently it’s more closely related to guinea pig – kind of looks like the giant guinea pig.
And they are not completely sure about the weight but it’s definitely the biggest rodent they’ve ever found. And it was possibly about 2,000 pounds guinea pig on steroids, boasted a skull larger than a cow’s.
Justin: It ate plants. It was a herbivore therefore, right? And was very likely dined upon by saber toothed cats.
Kirsten: Yummy little snacks.
Justin: So, giant rodent being devoured by giant cats, proving that the more things change, the smaller they get.
Kirsten: Yes. Really true. I think this also is another of the most amazing find in terms of paleontological finds, bones, things, organisms are made in the basements of museums and university.
It’s like people find things, put them in the basement, “Oh, I’ll get to that at some point”, you know, but they’re grads students, so then they like go off someplace else and don’t tell anybody what they left in the basements. And then, somebody goes through and they find it, “What is this? Oh, it doesn’t have a tag on it. Let me see.”
Justin: Right. And there’s actually so much material that gets sent in, and depending on who looks at it – it can be misidentified; it cannot be actually valued to look at because maybe somebody is looking for specific – right, you have somebody who’s looking in a specific region, it didn’t came from that region, so, they don’t look at it and it can sit and sit and sit. I mean we’ve had cases were we’ve reported on them discovering things that have been hidden for 50 to 60 years!
Justin: …that are new to science. Like that ancient shark.
Justin: They had that in the basements somewhere for like 70 years. Right? It was just – it’s just great. And there’s so much of the stuff to discover that’s all ready in the box, somewhere. That I don’t know. We have a lot to learn. I’m actually very fascinated with the sort of large mammal period. I’ve got –
Justin: Like the giant – I mean –
Kirsten: When mammals were bigger than they’ve ever been.
Justin: And some of it did over lap pretty extensively with man here in North America.
Justin: The – we had the giant sloth. I can’t remember the – was it the brown ground sloth somewhere, just like the size of two elephants, I mean.
Kirsten: Yes. The majority though I mean, we had some pretty big marsupials – do we haven’t – the big marsupials over here? Most of them where …?
Justin: That’s on Australia.
Kirsten: Australia, yes.
Justin: And they’re saying – yes, old Australian what they’re calling the – like kangaroo lion. I can’t remember his name –
Justin: He said was more ferocious than the modern day lion.
Kirsten: Right. Isn’t there a study? There’s a report that just came out that it could beat a modern day lion, hands down –
Justin: Of course these were Australian researchers. You know, sometimes there are little bit like, “Oh yeah” –
Kirsten: So, we’ll see who – if we have another couple of countries, each do the grudge match analysis on their own and then we’ll maybe like average the three results.
Justin: Yes. Totally. I’m going with the –
Kirsten: Modern day lion versus kangaroo lion.
Justin: I guess we should take the grizzly bear, because we got one – that’s a huge powerful. You don’t want to mess with a grizzly bear.
Kirsten: Don’t mess with the grizzly.
Justin: And then, there’s a – but there’s also like, this is also the same period of South America with the giant, giant, giant predator birds. Used to swoop down and – I think, I reported eight people but I guess that, we might not have been on this –
Kirsten: No, probably not. We have to take a break.
Justin: Why do we have to take a break? Let’s just pretend to take a break.
Kirsten: Nope, we’ve got to take a break.
Justin: Cant we pretend to take a break while the real Kirsten who is actually in the studio live takes the break. And we just kind and keep going. No, I guess we need to –
Kirsten: We have to stop and I’m going to put some music on. And you know, it’s going to be –
Justin: I’m not you it’s that other Kirsten. Make her do it.
Kirsten: Right, okay. I’m going to make the other Kirsten do it but –
Justin: Obey the commands of your ancestors Kirsten. Ancestor of 12 hours to go, what was it?
Kirsten: And we’re done.
Kirsten: And we’re back with more This Week In Science. That was the – who is that band? Who is that band? It’s lost in space and it’s a local Sacramento band, totally blanking on the name.
Justin: I can’t believe you forgot about the four eyes.
Kirsten: The four eyes, that’s right. Great band. And before that – before we left for the break, Jake man with first assumptions were correct. Another song written specifically for the 2006 CD compilation album.
Justin: That was years ago.
Kirsten: Yes. Two years ago. We are going to have a third, This Week In Science music compilation and if you are a musician, if you have a band, if you know a friend who is a musician or has a band, contact me and write us a song. Make a science inspired song for this year’s science music compilation.
We are going to be actually producing it, probably the end of March, because our fund raiser this year is going to be in April. And so, we have to get the CD together before the fund raiser. If you want information about this, just contact me firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know that you’re interested and ask me any questions you want to ask about the compilation.
Justin: And ask me any question. I will answer.
Kirsten: Yes. Justin will answer any question.
Justin: I don’t know what it’ll be correct.
Alex Turiano e-mailed us. He says he’s currently listening to the 12-26 show in which we wrapped up the story about people who were tone deaf?
Justin: Like how they just have no way of really like associating music with anything melodic. It’s just a lot of white noise and irritating.
Justin: But he is saying, I’m a musician and I’ve encountered a few people who could be considered tone deaf. What I encounter more often though is people who have no sense of rhythm. For example, one who can’t tap and time with the metronome or can’t even move to the beat or tempo of a song. So, just as tone deaf people can’t distinguish different tones, is it likely that rhythm dumb” – I would have said rhythm deaf.
Justin: Rhythm deaf people can’t anticipate when the next beat will hit or even when it’s always the same distance from the previous and all other beats in the song. Hmm minion Alex is writing in.
Kirsten: It’s an interesting question.
Kirsten: If anybody out there has access to any research talking about rhythm deafness, as opposed to tone deafness. Let us know!
Justin: And Alex if you are a musician, then, maybe consider a twis-tribution to the, you know– ?
Kirsten: That’s right. Maybe he is inspired by science, maybe he can write us a song about rhythm deafness.
Justin: I have a hard time – like, I’ve tried to keep like the multi-rhythms, like I can like 1, 2, 3, 4, like no problem – like, bluesy rhythm.
Kirsten: Yes. The four-four.
Justin: Even get the – you know, past paced punk rock rhythm because it’s all just beat, beat, beat, beat. But when you get into like the, you know, alternating beat stuff, I’m trying to concentrate too much and anticipate, and then I can’t do it. I can’t maintain any sort of complicated rhythm.
Kirsten: Yes. The more complicated rhythms are much more – they take a lot more concentration and it’s really advanced musicians who are able to maintain those rhythms indefinitely – it’s amazing to listen to a good musician that could do that.
Justin: And I have a friend who is a great base player, and he would see me trying to count out and think it, it’s like –
Kirsten: It’s like stop it.
Justin: “No, stop man – you should like let go and just have it happen.” It’s like, “No…
Kirsten: You’ve got to let go. Let go Justin.
Justin: “You got to let go and have it happen, it would have been happening. But I can’t let go and it can’t happen. Leave me alone!” So, I might be one of those rhythm dumb people after all.
Kirsten: Well, if it’s not for rhythm but how about advances in sight and vision? There is an awesome study out –
Justin: Is that Greg Ian?
Kirsten: Yes. This study is – this is specifically going out, shout out to Greg Ian.
Justin: The goggles have arrived but in a different form.
Kirsten: In your eyes. Picture a virtual display that you can see over laid on everything that you look at. Are you wearing glasses? No. There’s nothing in front of your eyes, there’s something sitting on your eyes. It’s a contact lens with imprinted electronic circuits and possibly solar cells to power it, some kind of ability to get energy from radio frequencies, it’s a new platform possibly for super human vision.
Justin: Bionic eye.
Kirsten: The bionic woman.
Justin: I mean, never mind – I mean, those –
Kirsten: You too could be the six dollar man and the bionic woman.
Justin: Or the terminator. You know –
Kirsten: Or the terminator.
Justin: You could slap in a little bit of infrared vision sensing in there, all sorts of information over line. Like, a GPS up in your eye?
Kirsten: Yes. Could you imagine – if you’re a gamer but you want to play a game over laid over real streets as you run around?
Justin: Oh no. Wow. Nice.
Kirsten: I can feel a bit – that involves exercise, sorry.
Justin: There comes a point when it’s just like – I possibly have to run around. But then I’m just using my imagination tonight.
Kirsten: Yes. So, a prototype has been created by University of Washington engineers. They’ve created a contact lens that has electrical components and electrical circuits as well as red light emitting diodes although it does not yet light up. These lenses were tested on rabbits for up to 20 minutes and the animals showed no adverse effects whatsoever.
So, this suggests safety in the eyes — like generally contacts are pretty safe in the eyes — suggests this could be something that could be worn by people comfortably on a regular basis without having to sit at a computer.
You could do stuff all over the place, maybe you could be shopping. What if this could be somehow like linked up to information on your PDA or like –
Justin: It’ll be the –
Kirsten: Like your cell phone, the Internet.
Justin: You’ll have the Internet in your eye.
Kirsten: Can you imagine walking around and wanting to know like where something is on the street and having the street level Google maps and how they have the street level thing where you can go and actually see the pictures that have been taken. But instead of being street level pictures, you’re actually looking at it but it has arrows on your display that show you which way to go to get home.
Justin: Holograms telling you what’s on sale. Oh no.
Kirsten: It so, this is so futuristic. I love it.
Justin: People getting hit by cars while checking their e-mail. Like in their eye.
Kirsten: Yes, this could be really interesting. The way that they created these contact lenses, they use a few inorganic materials to create the electrical circuits themselves.
But, then they’re built from layers of metal only a few nanometers thick and they constructed light emitting diodes, 1/3 of a millimeter across.
This is really, really small components. They sprinkled grayish – the grayish powder of electrical components on to a sheet of flexible plastic. And then, each component dictates which piece it can attach to and so it self-assembles itself. So, it’s –
Kirsten: Yes. Its assembly micro fabrication of self assembly is what it’s called. It’s just a fascinating way – they use capillary forces to actually pull the pieces into position. So, the actual movement – the pull of one water molecule on another – you know, that’s the way that plants move water up their stems, that’s capillary force.
And they using those forces to move these things into position and then the plastic sheeting ends up popping around that and creating the contact lens itself.
Justin: Sweet. I’d use mine for texting a lot.
Kirsten: I am so – as soon as these come out, I’m going to buy the first pair. Serious. I’m on the list! I’m going to get them! Well, they’re probably still years off but it’s so neat.
Justin: They have a version that is basically- has kind of a really basic, you know, like pixelated like ancient Atari display on it. But they think they’re going to have like more fully functional models available and pretty soon I think.
Kirsten: Wonderful. I’m waiting. I’m waiting I can’t wait to see.
Justin: I wonder if like, I guess they couldn’t mount the camera in there so you’d – like if you wanted to just take it – like send a text using your eyes to, you know, write out the text. Right. You wouldn’t have to fiddle with the phone. It will be kind of convenient to have like a camera mounted on your forehead, kind of like a third eye.
Kirsten: Instead of the little cameras that they have on the tops of laptops now, it’s just in your forehead.
Justin: It’s just that, it’ll be your third eye that can actually take pictures. Yes. That would rock.
Kirsten: Great idea. Oh, the future is going to be a very interesting place.
Justin: Yes. But not if you’re a monkey.
Justin: On an island that suddenly has large cats that prey on it.
Kirsten: Why would I be a monkey in the future?
Justin: I don’t know why. But I had no segue way so I just – but yes. Monkeys living on an island without big cat predators apparently did not show any particular alarm when the recorded tiger growls are played at them. This is a UC Davis graduate student. Yey.
Kirsten: Yey. We like UC Davis grad students.
Justin: They say, the Pig-tailed Langurs however. I guess that’s the monkey in question, flee in a hurry from the sounds of human voices. Hmmm. This –
Kirsten: Wouldn’t you if you were, you know, potentially food.
Justin: I guess we – and that’s the thing. They actually – the monkeys are hunted by the locals as a tasty treat. So, this contributes to a growing literature on how animal behavior changes under relaxed selection pressures, says Jessica Yorzinski, a graduate student in animal behavior at UC Davis who authored the study with Thomas Ziegler of the German Primate Center in Göttingen, Germany. That’s not how you say Göttingen. But it’s German, so who cares.
Pig-tailed Langurs are medium sized monkeys who spend most of the day sitting in trees in small groups eating leaves. They are close relatives on the main land of Indonesia, are prey for tigers and leopards. But on these Mentawai islands, the monkeys have been isolated from the big cats for about a million years. So, no recognition of, you know, you can – if you run a lawn mower versus a tiger, no difference, they just don’t care. But the human voice, the human voice –
Kirsten: They’re specifically not happy with.
Justin: Other noises they tried, pigs, other birds and stuff, no – nothing. Just – it’s just the people that really, really create the alarm. Even an elephant, an elephant was like no big deal.
Kirsten: I don’t know, if you sit in trees, you’re not really worried about an elephant stepping on you or something.
Justin: Especially if you’ve never heard of an elephant – heard an elephant before. If anything, that will be kind of scary, like a tiger is pretty intimidating. I would think even if you never heard a tiger growl before. That’s a pretty like weird sound.
Kirsten: Yes. I don’t know, I wonder. I mean, there’s so many things that we naturally – many people, even though they may have never seen a snake before or even heard of a snake, but if they come across a snake, they’ll be afraid of it.
Or, maybe spiders, even if you don’t live in an area where there are lots of poisonous spiders, there are lots of people who are afraid spiders. There are things that we are afraid of –
Justin: I’m afraid of sharks and I’ve never seen one in the wild.
Kirsten: Sometimes we’ve never coming – right. I mean, I never find –
Justin: I’m terrified of sharks.
Justin: I won’t go into the swimming pool. All right, it’s not that bad –
Kirsten: Maybe that’s not true.
Justin: But no. I’ve – I am – I’m not – I’ve no longer – we can’t go into the ocean because I got paranoid of sharks in Hawaii – somebody basically told me that I may have well been swimming with sharks –
Kirsten: It didn’t make you very happy and now you’ll never go to Hawaii again.
Justin: I don’t want to be devoured by something, especially not something in the water.
Kirsten: Well, if you want to devour something, make sure it’s protein, if you’re watching your weight.
Justin: Nice segue.
Kirsten: Oh yes.
Justin: Wait. I’m protein.
Kirsten: That’s right. That’s why the sharks –
Justin: Perfect tiger food.
Kirsten: That’s why sharks like –
Justin: Perfect shark food.
Kirsten: Researchers publishing in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism have looked at the way that different nutrients affect the levels of a hormone that’s called ghrelin. Ghrelin is secreted by the stomach and intestines, and it stimulates appetite.
So, they gave people, their research subjects, they gave them three different beverages that had varying levels of carbohydrates or fats or proteins. And then they looked at the blood of these people to look at the hormone ghrelin to see specifically which combination of beverage make up stimulated ghrelin the least or the most.
And then they looked to see exactly how hungry the people were also and how it affected their entire diet. And they found that protein is the best at reducing the levels of ghrelin. Carbohydrates actually inhibit ghrelin levels – they do a really – actually they do the best job of inhibiting ghrelin levels.
But then, the ghrelin bounces back up again after a period of time to levels above where it was before actually, making people hungrier than they were before they ate. So, you might – the carbohydrates might acted – decrease your appetite a bit but it’s going to come back in force, which is maybe why, you know, even though – the carbohydrates, if you eat them in the morning by lunch time, you’re ravenous. You know, maybe getting really tired, however, it works out.
I know that I personally, if I’m eating breakfast, I have to and I have something important I have to do during the day. I have to make sure I get an egg in there somewhere. I need some protein or else.
Justin: Eggs actually maintain your blood sugar level at a higher, more consistent rate throughout the day than any other breakfast food.
Kirsten: Why, thank you.
Justin: You’re welcome – something I’d thought I share.
Kirsten: Thanks for sharing. Yes. They help me out, quite a lot. I did an experiment on myself this last week at Mac world. One day – the first day I was there running around and trying to interview people at Mac world, I only had a little like croissant thing – it was like straight up carbohydrates and in two hours, I was – my other questions I was asking were ridiculous. I had no energy, I didn’t know – I was like, “I need to eat some food, I’m going crazy”.
Justin: So, is this some sort of like –
Kirsten: And the next day –
Justin: Slayer convention where all the Macs hang out? Were you all just like spinning game on each other the whole time? Like what’s going on?
Kirsten: That’s right. Mac players. It was a cool conference last week. It was crazy though. It was huge. I never – I’ve never been before and I was not aware of the enormity of the Mac fandom world. I mean, I don’t know, may –
Justin: You go to so many conventions, come on.
Kirsten: I like the conventions, some of them are big, some of them are small. This one was pretty big. It was big. It was good. I interviewed people for science based stuff. So, I saw some really neat things there. There’s a company that has some astronomy software for the Mac that you – it’s also for PC as well.
But they released some stuff for the Mac and allows you to, either control if you have a telescope at home, it helps you control the telescope, so that, you can use it to track objects in the sky. Maybe take long exposure pictures of objects in the sky. And it can also – if you just want to look at constellations, if you want to look at stars or planets, galaxies, and find out information about them. It has a lot of cataloging of information about all the stuff in the night sky. It’s really –
Kirsten: It’s a really neat program. I’m excited about it. I got myself a copy. It was pretty good. I’m pretty happy with it. Yes. So, I want to thank – Kalidasa from – I think he’s in Los Angeles for sending in this story about ghrelin. Very good story. Made me happy, made me hungry.
Justin: Speaking of hungry – no I have nothing. I’m like seque-less today.
Kirsten: Usually you’re really good.
Justin: I know, I don’t know where my seques went. This is a great –
Kirsten: Someone drove off with it.
Justin: Somebody stole my seque. No. This is– I like the way this is written – this story. This is slightly un-science-why in a way but this is by a (Paul Jay Webber). I can’t tell, I thinks he’s AP – I don’t know. Who cares. But he wrote this. And he wrote it well so, I’m just going to read it.
A Texas museum that teaches creationism is counting on the auction of a prehistoric Mastodon skull to stave off extinction. Founder and curator of Mt. Blanco Fossil Museum which rejects evolution — it’s a fossil museum that rejects evolution and claims that man and dinosaurs co-existed — said it will close unless the Volkswagen-sized skull finds a generous bidder. If it sells, well, then we can come another day.
Kirsten: Wouldn’t it just be the funniest thing. So, this giant skull will probably be bought by somebody who’s going to put it in a museum that supports evolution. And it’s going to support the non-evolution – believing –
Justin: It’s such an interesting coalition like, most people who don’t believe in evolution…
Kirsten: This is making my brain hurt.
Justin: …aren’t going to put down the projected $160,000. Like, you know, it’s not going to – there’s not a lot of churches that are going to buy a $160,000…
Justin: …Mastodon skull and display it anywhere. There’s museums that very likely will that will be – so, I wonder if they are going to vet who gets the skull, do they care? I don’t know. I just thought that it was kind of interesting that –
Kirsten: What if it’s an auction or if they’re just trying to sell it.
Justin: Mt. Blanco fossil museum, that’s very curious that they – yes, they actually, where is it, where did it go? They claim – claims on the museum’s website include that Noah took dinosaurs aboard the ark.
Kirsten: No. He didn’t.
Justin: Prevailing scientific wisdom is that, it was – like, tens of millions of years in between the last dinosaur and mankind. But the – I kind of like the idea of dinosaurs on the ark because, we know that there are thousands of species – thousands of variation of dinosaurs, many, many of which were very like larger than any man made structure of the day.
Kirsten: All I can do is just to hear – I’m just nodding –
Justin: Floating pyramid? I don’t know. Where could you fit an apatosaurus or two apatosaurs? Maybe that was a problem with the dinosaurs. They could only fit one of each and that’s how come they’re gone.
Kirsten: That’s why they died out. There you go.
Justin: The mystery has finally been solved. Did we eat them all, like what then – then what’s the – no, I don’t know, like then what’s the – really, yes. They all – we coexisted and then only they all died out because – oh, I know, it’s like the ending of that horrible movie that I saw. I am legend?
Kirsten: No, I haven’t seen that yet.
Justin: It’s okay. Science basically kills everybody on the planet by genetically modifying something.
Kirsten: Is it going to be like, for people who haven’t seen it, are you going to ruin it?
Justin: Yes. Spoiler Alert.
Kirsten: So, if you don’t want to hear the ending of the movie, spoiler alert, spoiler alert.
Justin: But it’s a good one because you don’t want to see the movie. At the end of it, Will Smith – I like Will Smith movies, I mean it’s always worth the – you know, 20 – 30 bucks or whatever they take – you know, take out to the movie theater. The movie ends – after all the build up and how’s it going to end and some interesting stuff going along there and – sort of waiting and waiting and then at the end, it’s God’s will.
Justin: Wait, no, no, no – how do you wrap it up? Oh, it’s God’s will. No, seriously, you’ve got to give me a plot twist or resolution. It’s God’s will. All right. That was my – great movie. Oh, and I love the morlocks, yes. That was done like a hundred years ago.
Kirsten: Well, we better learn how to –
Justin: First movie ever.
Kirsten: Maybe, I’m just going to read the book Usually –
Justin: Science bad.
Kirsten: Somebody had a t-shirt that I really, really, really, love. It’s like movies, ruining good books since 19 whatever –
Justin: 19 whatever?
Kirsten: 18 whatever. I don’t – it was the first –
Justin: First movie.
Kirsten: I don’t know the date of the first movie that was based on the book. I can’t tell you that.
Justin: The bible. They’ve done it – I think –
Kirsten: We have to learn –
Justin: The bible movie was like the early talky –
Kirsten: Well, let’s just not worry about vampires or whatever they are. Our big threat right now, robots – robots, listener, Eric –
Justin: Stay on target. Stay on target. Robots. Robots.
Kirsten: Robots. World robot domination is on the way folks. Eric Grezlak – Grizlak, am I totally mispronouncing your last name, I’m sorry, from Buffalo, New York, sent in this story –
Justin: Make it quick because we are out of time.
Kirsten: We are out of time.
Justin: We’re running late.
Kirsten: Oh my goodness.
Justin: And it’s not even –
Kirsten: Not even on the air yet.
Justin: We still have like 24 hours.
Kirsten: So, robots designed at the laboratory of intelligent systems at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology have outfitted robots with sensors and rings of blue light and puts them into these habitats that have foods sources. And the robots are programmed to learn of the environment and they learn where – how to find the food sources.
And they also learn that some food sources are poisonous and other food sources are good. So, they have also – they gave them the ability to communicate or actually, what they did is they put this into an artificial habitat. They lgave them certain rules – algorithmic rules of how they were going to interact with each other. By the 50th generation, the robots have learned how to communicate.
And so, they light up in some of the colonies, they would light up to alert other robots when they had found food or poison so that, other robots would avoid food or come to the – or if it’s poisonous or come to the food if it’s supposed to be good for them.
Justin: Probably not unlike very early human communication.
Kirsten: Here’s the big kicker, however. One colony, out of four colonies that they created, lied and cheated. So, they would signal that food was poisoned when it was in fact good and then sit there and suck up the resources for themselves.
Justin: Not unlike all of human communication sense – wow.
Kirsten: Yes. This is great. So, these robots actually evolved and learned communication and in doing so, they learned cheating. And some robots, however, so even though you do have the cheaters, some robots are at the complete opposite of the spectrum and would die eating the poison only to be able to warn others. So, you have the martyr robot as well.
Kirsten: Cheaters and martyrs and then the rest of them in the middle.
Justin: See you know, the robots are I think going to be very well unite, in installing this world robot domination, they’re going to work together first. But it looks like, yes, the end results and they’re going to create a world after the revolution, looks a lot like the one today only mechanical.
Kirsten: Yes. And additionally, new news in the Duke University Scientists Team that have been implanting sensors into the monkey brain to allow it to be able to operate a robotic arm.
They have now gotten the monkey to the point where it was able to – over the Internet with under a half second of delay, they had the monkey on a treadmill – wires from the monkey’s brain reading, sensing the neural activity that was going on. The monkey was looking at a video of a robot in Japan – in Tokyo, I believe is where – where it was all going on.
And the monkey had to make the robot walk by walking itself. And so, when the monkey was walking on the treadmill, it would see the robot in Japan start walking, because some of the sensors in the brain were actually recording the activation of the muscle – the neurons that go to the muscles.
So, the monkey starting to walk, that would send a signal to the robot and make the robot walk. Okay, they stopped the treadmill. The monkey kept staring at the robot. The robot kept walking. The robot was controlling the walking. It learned how to – it had learned basically how to control that robot with its mind.
Justin: With its mirror neurons.
Kirsten: With its neurons. So, it’s really – it’s really amazing. This research is really stepping up and the next step that they’re actually doing, this team is going to – let me see if I can find where they’re going to be doing it – they are going to be in – I think Italy. I can’t find where they’re going to be working.
But they’re going to be doing research on humans very soon where they’re actually going to get people who have been paralyzed or have their limbs removed and have them actually learn how to control robots.
Justin: Human time.
Kirsten: Yes. It’s human time. So, we’re moving up – we’re moving up and it’s going to be an amazing advancement for people who have lost limbs or are paralyzed. This is cool but at the same time, danger, Robinson.
Justin: Well, you know – I think maybe, you know, being – if you are cybernetically inclined at some point, maybe it confuses the robots. Maybe they don’t know if you’re friend or foe. Maybe you’d get the gray area to pass.
Kirsten: Maybe, I don’t know. Who knows.
Justin: And to everybody out there, we have heard the condors’ song, the humans are dead. They world robot domination –
Kirsten: Yes. Flight of the concords.
Justin: Flight of the concords. That’s what it is. We can’t play it because they got dirty words.
Kirsten: They do. Yes. I’d love to play it but we can’t. Darn! But – yes, I’d like to thank Ted Chivalis for sending in that story. Great story, I love it. There’s way more science out there but we’re out of time. So, we’re going to have to come back next week.
Justin: We’re way over time, we did like two shows.
Kirsten: Yes. Well, I’ll cut it down tomorrow somehow.
Justin: Yes. If you learned anything from today’s – tomorrow’s show – today’s show. This show.
Kirsten: It’s all in your head.