Transcript:TWIS.ORG Dec 08, 2009

Justin: Disclaimer! Disclaimer! Disclaimer!

The following hour of programming contains language of a scientific nature, which may be considered offensive to some people. If you believe that evolution is an attempt to undermine your creation; if you are sure that the moon landing was a government hoax; if you are certain of the age of the earth and that it is less than 10,000 years; if you know global warming is fake because of an email you have never read; if you think developing cures to human disease from ten-cell blastocysts shatters human dignity – then you are listening to the right show.

And while offending, undermining, hoaxing and faking and shattering the world views of certain minded people — much like the following hour of programming — does not represent the views or opinions of the University of California at Davis, KDVS or its sponsors, if you listen, you will gain knowledge and will become powerful because knowledge is intellectual power.

If you listen long enough, that power will corrupt you. Once corrupted, you will realize that you are still as good or rotten a person as you were before having been corrupted by a powerful intellectual content; that knowledge in fact does not corrupt people but that it is people that can corrupt knowledge; that the same can be said of truth, money, power and This Week in Science, coming up next.

Good morning Kirsten.

Kirsten: Ha! Good morning Justin. Huh! It’s another day of science. It is.

Justin: Welcome to Tuesday.

Kirsten: Welcome to Tuesday, everyone out there. This is This Week in Science. And for the next hour, we will be talking all about the goings on in science, the world of science around the world. That’s right.

This week is the – it’s currently time for the Copenhagen conference on climate change.

Justin: There’s no such city in the world right now Kirsten.

Kirsten: I know, because right now it’s known as Hopenhagen.

Justin: It’s so cheesy.

Kirsten: Oh, yeah. So today, we have a show filled with hope that comes in the form of science. Yeah, yeah.

Justin: Yeah, yeah.

Kirsten: And I’ve got lots of news as usual probably too much to fill an hour. I have stories about, well, cows and climate change, outer space minerals…

Justin: Hmm.

Kirsten: …what else do we have out there? Maybe a little bit of bashing the boys.

Justin: Wow.

Kirsten: Yeah.

Justin: Boy bashing.

Kirsten: Boy bashing and…

Justin: Get ready with nasty emails, people.

Kirsten: Go girls! Rock on. And the minion mailbag because we have quite a few emails to get to.

Justin: Wow. Let’s see. I have got a sixth sense.

Kirsten: You do?

Justin: Yeah.

Kirsten: When did that happen?

Justin: In fact, we all have it.

Kirsten: Whoa.

Justin: It’s one that we didn’t even know we had. And it’s been discovered only now, many millennia into our existence on the planet.

Kirsten: Only now.

Justin: There’s a mystery twinkling going on in the stars.

Kirsten: Twinkle, twinkle, little star.
Justin: There has been an application that has been made for the brain chip. So…

Kirsten: Really?

Justin: Yeah.

Kirsten: Already?

Justin: It’s all ready.

Kirsten: All ready an app for the Intel brain chip?

Justin: Yeah. I don’t know if they did it on the Intel chip but…

Kirsten: Whichever chip it happens to be?

Justin: Whatever chip comes up first. This one, I’m sure is going to be first in line.

Kirsten: I love it.

Justin: Yeah.

Kirsten: I love it.

Justin: And there was something else about something that – oh, in the new way of scoring drugs.

Kirsten: Oh?

Justin: Yeah.

Kirsten: Oh, okay, that’s always something I’m in the lookout for.

Justin: Mm hmm.

Kirsten: Yeah, yeah.

Justin: Oh my.

Kirsten: Sorry, I got one of the worst night sleep last night. I’m in – I’m in a mood.

Justin: Oh, you slept? You slept?

Kirsten: I’m in a mood. Not really, not really. I don’t know. Not much sleep. Anyway, I’m here, I’m here.

And Copenhagen is the big news of the week, right?

Justin: There’s no such city.

Kirsten: Right, Hopenhagen, sorry, excuse me, is the big news of the week. But, you know, really the event is more about politics than it is about science right now.

Justin: Ahh.

Kirsten: There’s just a lot of politicking going on. So, I am going to refrain from really reporting on what’s happening in Hopenhagen until, you know, here’s something really science-y from the land of hope.

Justin: Mm hmm.

Kirsten: And in the meantime, we have a request from (Mike). It might result in a donation depending on how we deal with it. So…

Justin: Oh, yeah. All right, we’ll do it.

Kirsten: I know, right.

Justin: Yes. It’s agreed.

Kirsten: Oh, geez. He writes, “TWIS masters, I beseech thee! Do not forsake me but I am lost. I pray at the altar of the scientific method. I know I have been told to have faith. I have heard the word of the profit,” misspelling – profit – intentional. “Gore, the debate is over.”

“If you should read this on the radio, you should say this part with a snotty elitist inflection and a Gulfstream idling in the background.”

“But masters, the deniers. Oh, the deniers. They say our leaders are distorting the truth – deleting data from the record, strong-arming the peer review process, isolating dissenting opinion, et cetera, while pursuing grant money over the truth.”

“They say that the ERBE data indicates that the CO2 is leaving the atmosphere, that most of the evidence that we should cannibalize our world economy for the sake of the environment is not scripture.”

Justin: Mm hmm.

Kirsten: “Oh, the humanity. What my ears have heard, forgive me! I have heard that Gore announced vegetarianism. He raises little methane factories and devours their flesh. I have seen his footprint. It is large, TWIS Masters, it is large.”

“I also hear that he keeps his Oscar airborne at all times, to keep away from the Oscar committee, restore my faith, knowledgeable ones!”

Justin: Oh.

Kirsten: “Being told to trust the scientist doesn’t work for me. I’m a thinking man if not an educated one. I have been warming up to the challenge of understanding climate change by diligently listening to podcasts, reading and contemplating, less texture and new launched theories that scientists have explained to my satisfaction.”

“Things like, our universe maybe large, rapidly expanding, donut-shaped object that we can only barely begin to understand the surface of. And we know this because light travels in parallel lines.”

“That someday earthlings will only be able to see the local galaxies and we know this in part because of the red shifting of light. That dark matter might be the gravitational influence of mass in another dimension. And we think this could be so because our galaxy is clumped together. If I can grasp at these concepts, am I not ready to try and understand climate change?”

“I’m not a scientist. I’m a hick from Nor Cal who likes science. I have no TV, no clothes dryer and I own and insure two cars at my personal expense so I can drive the more economical one whenever possible.”

Justin: Mm hmm.

Kirsten: “I recycle. If Uncle Sam wants me to cough up a big energy tax and embrace a treaty that erodes American sovereignty to boot, I need and deserve more convincing.”

Justin: That’s true.

Kirsten: “For my benefit, could you pretty please go over the evidence as you understand it on the air in a bullet point fashion?”

Justin: Whoa, throw out the “pretty please” now, we like got to do it.

Kirsten: I know. “No one has done that for me. If I can contemplate the cosmological constant without all the icky math, I should be able to do the same with climate change. Don’t you think?”

Justin: Yeah, yeah.

Kirsten: Yeah, I know.

Justin: That’s a good point. Actually I have – first thing – my first reaction is my biggest thing I like about Gore is that he’s not a skinny cat living off of like sprouts in a cabin that’s only heated when the sun is out.

Kirsten: I know.

Justin: Like, I actually like his take on, you know, being able to massively consume and still try to fix the problem. That’s kind of where we all need to be because the rest of the country isn’t going to be on board for not doing that.

Kirsten: Yeah, part of it does come down to, you know, are we really going to have to limit our consumption? Do we have to go back from what we are doing now and give up things? Do we have to be ascetic – acidic? Is that the word? Yeah.

Justin: We have to reduce? What?

Kirsten: Willing to give up what we have and not have so much – consume so much. Do we have to do that? Are people willing to do that? Do we have to do it? It’s a question. But…

Justin: I don’t think it will help. I don’t think that helps. I think, if everybody conserves, the amount of energy used will still be there. And we won’t use less energy. The energy that we were using to heat our home when we got more efficient…

Kirsten: Yeah.

Justin: …that energy goes somewhere else in the grid cheaper than it would have before and it gets used up.

Kirsten: Yeah.

Justin: That’s not going to be the issue, what we need is a new way of generating the energy.

Kirsten: That’s what I think – use science and technology to generate it better.

Justin: Yeah.

Kirsten: But in the meantime, I think that there are more (Mike’s) in our audience.

Justin: And there’s probably a bunch of them in the world, yes.

Kirsten: Yeah. So, what I’d like to do, Justin, is put together that bullet list, that bullet point list of “the evidence as we see it.”

Justin: Is there any?

Kirsten: Yeah. I think there’s a bit out there. And what I’d like to try to do is make it our gift – the bullet point list as our gift to people.

Justin: For TWISmas?

Kirsten: For TWISmas.

Justin: Oh, that’s sweet.

Kirsten: Yeah. Thanks.

Justin: Although – and then don’t ask – I’m glad he didn’t ask us about redshift.

Kirsten: Yeah, don’t ask us about the redshift.

Justin: Because I don’t believe in any of that.

Kirsten: All right. We have a caller.

Justin: I’m going against it. Oh, we have a caller calling in from…

Kirsten: We have a caller, yeah. Let’s see if we can bring this person on the line.

Justin: Good morning TWIS minion. You are on the air with This Week in Science.

(Bradley): Hi, good morning. This is TWIS minion Bradley from the Midwest on Madison.

Kirsten: Hi, Bradley.

(Bradley): I want to say hello.

Kirsten: Hello!

Justin: Good morning.

(Bradley): Yeah, we have extra belts for your furnace for snow this morning. So, I have to be a little jealous of you, I must say.

Kirsten: I don’t know. We’re at the – my thermometer said it was 30 degrees and there has been – there were snowflakes falling in the Central Valley yesterday.

(Bradley): I thought…

Kirsten: I don’t know about this morning. Clear, crystal clear…

Justin: And I set my heater all the way down to 66 last night.

(Bradley): Wow, wow.

Justin: So I could – yeah.

(Bradley): Well, we’re looking at ten inches by midnight so we’re going to hang on. But anyhow just something to….

Kirsten: Sledding!

Justin: I don’t know how people live in places that snow. It just makes no sense. There’s other places.

(Bradley): No, but you see it’s not so much about making sense, it’s about the aesthetics. Most of the people that grew up in the Midwest, in the region or geography or in a place where there is a weather pattern often have a very emotional connection to it.

I, for one, grew up in the Midwest and I have learned to appreciate well-defined seasons – summer, fall, winter and spring – and they’re extreme. And some people just tend to gravitate towards that. Some people just want to be warm or cold, you know…

Justin: Mm hmm.

(Bradley): …and that, you know, and that’s everybody’s choice. But…

Justin: My comparison would be…

(Bradley): We love it here.

Justin: My comparison though would be like, I’m sure the Inuits are very used to these six months of darkness that they endure. And it’s a seasonal thing for them and it probably – maybe it does bring a warm feeling to the heart to not see the sun for six months. But it just seems like a massive inconvenience to me. So…

(Bradley): It certainly is. I mean, winter is a real pain here. You now, it can be, for sure.

Kirsten: Yey! Winter!

(Bradley): Yey! Hoohoo! But anyhow just real quick about your point about, you know, what we may be willing to give up as a generation and then the coming recipient – a couple of generations as far as the society as a trade off to lessen our global footprint in general.

You know, are we going to be willing to give up certain luxuries? You know, how much are we really legitimately going to be able to give up…

Justin: Mm hmm.

(Bradley): …with the exponential, you know, growth of technology?

Now, with computers, with electronics with – I mean, just in general, you know, there’s going to be more manufacturing. It’s going to require more science, it’s, you know, whether it be manufacturing materials, plastics, pharmaceuticals or even (fill) sources. You know, as Justin remarked.

You know, I think that there’s going to have to be a halfway point where we meet as a society. But the scientist is going to be forced just as it is to improve upon ability of – its ability to generate fuel in a more green, more environmentally friendly fashion through enzymatic production of ethanol, for example, or just doing chemistry in general.

They’re going to have to go about doing it in a much more environmentally friendly way. Even generating pharmaceuticals – active in a pharmaceutical ingredient that can be manufactured by enzymatic means with a genetically-modified yeast versus using tons and tons of nasty chemicals.

You know, these are the types of things that are going to have to be done on the science end. But I just don’t think that the generation is coming up behind us are going to be willing to give up the luxuries that right now, unfortunately, are a necessity in some cases to buy us the time to develop the science.

Kirsten: Oh, we’ll see.

(Bradley): So I think there’s a real time balance there.

Kirsten: Yeah, I think you’re right. There is going to be a balance. There’s always a balance that has to be reached but…

Justin: I think something – something else that you mentioned about all the manufacturing. I wonder if – I wonder if we took all the manufacturing that American companies are doing overseas where there aren’t environmental standards and brought them back here where there are environmental standards, I wonder what of a kind of dent that would put in the carbon output as well as the increase in US economy.

(Bradley): Well, if you speak from experience having been the chief scientist tech officer for a CRO that did pharmaceutical research and development and manufacturing – process manufacturing would work not only in research and development process optimization but have worked with companies domestically as well as in India and in China – which in the intellectual property world as well as the science world – are still kind of known as the wild west.

Justin: Mm hmm.

(Bradley): Because in some places, they don’t recognize certain intellectual property and they also get away with very loose environmental standards.

Justin: Mm hmm.

(Bradley): And that does ultimately trickle down economically like you said to, you know, our bottom line. We have seen major, big pharma companies outsourcing to these countries because they can buy the stuff for obvious reasons.

Kirsten: Right.

(Bradley): They pay their employees less and you know and their environmental protection agency just looks the other way or they have a higher threshold of standard.

Justin: And in some cases…

Kirsten: Yeah.

(Bradley): But you’re right, exactly right.

Justin: Yeah, in some cases, they’re getting tax free. They’re being brought there just to create the jobs and aren’t paying taxes for like getting ten years of no tax contracts from these countries. It’s…

Kirsten: Yeah, okay. Well, this is getting too much into policy and taxes and politics and we have a lot of science to cover. So, we’re going to keep looking forward.

Justin: Thank you for calling in.

Kirsten: Thank you so much for the call.

(Bradley): Yeah, definitely. Have a great day. Keep it up.

Kirsten: Yeah. Thanks for calling, Bradley.

(Bradley): Bye bye.

Kirsten: Bye.

Justin: All right.

Kirsten: I’d like to take a moment for a quick message. You’re listening to This Week in Science on KDVS. And I just want to let you all know that in the second half of the show we’re going to give you little – we’re doing a TWISmas giveaway.

Justin: Mm hmm.

Kirsten: Yeah. So, we’ll give you a little bit more information. Stay tuned, we’ve got a giveaway coming up. Well, the information about the contest for the giveaway, coming up in the second half of the show.

Justin: Are we taking a break already?

Kirsten: No, it’s your turn for a story.

Justin: Okay. I have removed my shins from the proximity of Kirsten’s feet.

Kirsten: He has. They’re up on a chair.

Justin: There is something under your skin that has the ability to feel. Something that you may not be aware of, something that science wasn’t aware of, something under your skin.

Researchers at Albany Medical College, University of Liverpool and Cambridge University report, the human body has an entirely unique and separate sensory system that is aside from the nerves that gives most of us the ability to feel and touch.

Huh? Surprisingly, the sensory network is located throughout our blood vessels and sweat glands, and for most people completely imperceptible.

So, the human sensory experience is far more complex and nuanced than previously thought. According to this, “It’s almost like hearing the subtle sound of a single instrument in the midst of a symphony,” says senior author Frank Rice, PhD, a Neuroscience Professor at Albany Medical College, who is the leading authority on the nerve supply to the skin.

“It is only when we shift focus away from the nerve endings associated with normal skin sensation that we can appreciate the sensation hidden in the background.”

Hmm. All right.

Kirsten: Hmm.

Justin: So, the research team discovered this hidden sensory system by studying two unique patients who were diagnosed with a previously unknown abnormality by I believe author David Bowsher, honorary research fellow at the University of Liverpool’s Pain Research Institute. These patients had an extremely rare condition called Congenital Insensitivity to Pain – meaning that they were born with very little ability to feel pain.

Sort of that really hard to…

Kirsten: Right.

Justin: …teach people not to touch hot things as children because they don’t experience…

Kirsten: They don’t recognize it in the same way…

Justin: Right.

Kirsten: ..that everyone else does.

Justin: Mm hmm. “So, other rare individuals with this condition have excessively dry skin, often mutilate themselves accidentally and can have severe mental handicaps that go along with it.”

“Although they have a few accidents over their lifetimes, what made these two patients unique was that they led normal lives. Excessive sweating brought them to the clinic, where we discovered their severe lack of pain sensation.”

“Curiously, our conventional tests with sensitive instruments revealed that all their skin sensation was severely impaired, including their response to different temperatures and mechanical contact. But, for all intents and purposes, they had adequate sensation for daily living and could tell what is warm and cold, what is touching them, and what is rough and smooth.”

So, this is – I mean, this is an – truly an amazing – to find different types – they’ve detected different types of nerve endings on tiny blood vessels and sweat glands, which we assumed were just there to, you know, do blood flow and sweat.

Kirsten: Control the blood flow and the sweat, right, that are part of the autonomic nervous system, not just control, helpings or…

Justin: We did not think they contribute at all to the conscious sensation system.

Kirsten: Huh. That’s really – that’s fascinating. Yeah, we’re constantly learning new things like this. I’ll be interested to see where the research goes and, you know, what we’re able to discover about the limits of these sensations and what these nerve endings are specifically really good at or bad at or…

Justin: These patients that could feel warm and cold and rough and smooth, they lacked all the nerve endings that we normally associate with skin sensation.

Kirsten: Mm hmm.

Justin: Huh. I mean, they didn’t have that system.

Kirsten: So – yeah.

Justin: They only have the other one.

Kirsten: They don’t have the proprioceptive system.

Justin: Yeah.

Kirsten: What we call it. That’s fascinating. That’s really interesting.

Justin: Mm hmm.

Kirsten: Mm hmm. Don’t blame cows for climate change.

Justin: I don’t think I’ve ever blamed a cow for much other than indigestion.

Kirsten: Well, a lot of people have blamed cows for climate change. There’s this what they call – it’s a United Nation’s report from 2006 called “Livestock’s Long Shadow” that actually said that, “The livestock sector is a major player responsible for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions…”

Justin: What?

Kirsten: “…measured in carbon dioxide equivalents. This is a higher share than transport.” So, this actually came from the United Nation’s Report from 2006.

Justin: Was this including like the clear cutting that goes on in some places to make room for the cattle? I mean, was it the full comprehensive…

Kirsten: Rights.

Justin: …footprint or was it just the cows themselves?

Kirsten: Right. Well, in the report, what they (end up doing) – so, UC Davis Associate Professor and Air Quality Specialist Frank Mitloehner says that, “Science has been ignored with a recent campaign, a European campaign called ‘Less Meat = Less Heat’.”

And the launch of the campaign came with the Copenhagen…

Justin: There’s no such city.

Kirsten: Hopenhagen thing-a-ma jigger bobber and – so what he’s saying is that it’s not true that consuming less meat and dairy products is going to help stop climate change, which is a little bit controversial. A lot of people are saying, “Hey, meat, the growing of cattle, all of the stuff that goes into it is really energy demanding and uses a lot of carbon dioxide in the entire – the carbon footprint of the entire process is really big.”

Justin: The water footprint of it’s…

Kirsten: The water…

Justin: …been on this – but I don’t – yeah.

Kirsten: The water footprint is really large. So, what these researchers…

Justin: Are they counting the barbecues? What are they doing?

Kirsten: Right. So, Mitloehner says, “This lopsided analysis is a classical apples-and-oranges analogy that has confused the issue,” because they’ve produced the numbers for the livestock sector by totaling emissions from what they call farm-to-table.

Justin: Mm hmm.

Kirsten: So, it includes gases produced by growing animal feed, animals’ digestive emissions and processing meat and milk into foods. But then when they compared it to the transportation sector, they did not add up what they call the well-to-wheel emissions. So, they didn’t do a similar analysis, they only considered only the fossil fuels from driving…

Justin: Mm hmm.

Kirsten: …the actual consumption of fuels while vehicles are driving.

Justin: Mm hmm.

Kirsten: As opposed to producing the vehicles’ tires, blah, blah, blah, all the other stuff that goes into it.

Justin: I live out in the farm country and I can tell you, I’ve never seen one tomato whack itself to this door.

Kirsten: Mm hmm.

Justin: And I don’t see many tractors out there plowing the cow pastures. It’s like they do that…

Kirsten: Right. And that’s…

Justin: …they need it side by side here.

Kirsten: Exactly, and that’s what Mitloehner is saying. He’s saying that, “So far, analyses have not been completely comparable and the actual accounting for cattle and pigs for food adds up to only about three percent of all greenhouse gas emissions, while transportation creates an estimated 26.”

So, I don’t know if Mitloehner is doing – I’m guessing that since he’s saying the original analysis in this United Nation’s report was not comparable, that he’s doing a comparable report. So, I’m assuming this in his numbers but…

Justin: Or he just noticed that there was a flaw to the study. And he’s like, “Well…”

Kirsten: Yeah. Numbers, numbers, numbers.

Justin: Yeah. Well, I’m glad…

Kirsten: But anyway, you know, they’re scientists, don’t blame the cows. Don’t blame the cows.

Justin: I mean, there’s other reasons to be a vegetarian but I don’t think that global warming is one of them. Yeah.

Kirsten: There you go. Another story?

Justin: Oh, is it for me? My turn, I get to go again.

Kirsten: Mm hmm. Moving on.

Justin: There’s a mystery twinkling in the stars that has continued to keep astronomers in the dark for the past 80 years.

Kirsten: Why?

Justin: Extensive study was made by ESO’s very large telescope. And it deepens a long-standing mystery that is the – in the study of stars that are similar to our Sun — except the older versions of our Sun — unusual year-long variations in the brightness of about a third of all sun-like stars during the later stages of their lives.

Over the past few decades, the astronomers have offered many possible explanations but painstaking as it may be, all their observations can have contradicted all the theories of why there might be sort of twinkling out there.

Kirsten: Mm hmm.

Justin: And this search for a suitable interpretation is on. So, if you’re listening, here’s your chance to do some science and figure out why these things are happening.

“Astronomers are left in the dark, and for once, we do not enjoy it,” says Christine Nicholls of Mount Stromlo Observatory, Australia, lead author of the paper reporting the study. “We have obtained the most comprehensive set of observations to date for this class of star or sun-like stars, and they clearly show that all the possible explanations for the unusual behavior just fail.”

So here’s what it is. The mystery investigated by this team started – they’ve noticed this first like in the 1930s — and it affects about a third of these sun-like stars in our Milky Way galaxy. So, these are stars – masses similar to our Sun, towards the end of their lives, they go red, they cool, they become extremely large, they expand…

Kirsten: Mm hmm.

Justin: …just before they retire as white dwarfs – they are known as these red giants. These elderly stars exhibit very strong periodic variations in their luminosity over time scales of up to ten years.

So, they’re trying to figure out why it is that they have these changing luminosities over one year, five years, ten years – they’ll become brighter for a while and then less bright.

Kirsten: Right.

Justin: So, such variations are thought to be caused by stellar pulsations. Roughly speaking, the giant star swells, shrinks, becomes brighter and dimmer in a regular pattern. However, one third of these stars show an unexplained additional periodic variation, on even larger time scales.

In order to find out the origin of this secondary nature, astronomers monitored 58 stars in our galactic neighborhood, the Large Magellanic Cloud. And over two and a half years, they acquired spectra data using high resolution FLAMES/GIRAFFE spectrograph.

Who names it? That’s so fun – the FLAMES/GIRAFFE spectrograph – on ESO’s very large telescope and combined them with images from other telescopes achieving an impressive collection of properties of variable stars. Oh, so many data points. Now, certainly we’ll be able to figure this out.

The observations, it turns out are incompatible with all the previously conceived models and re-opened the issue.

Kirsten: Interesting.

Justin: Thanks to the study…

Kirsten: Wow!

Justin: …astronomers are now aware of their own ignorance…

Kirsten: I love that.

Justin: …which is – I love this here – a genuine driver of the knowledge-seeking process is the awareness of your ignorance, which is absolutely like the motto of Greek philosopher Socrates.

Kirsten: Yeah, when you know that you don’t know.

Justin: “The newly gathered data show that pulsations are an extremely unlikely explanation for the additional variation,” says the team leader Peter Wood. “Another possible mechanism for producing luminosity variations in a star is to have the star itself move into a binary system. However, our observations are strongly incompatible with this hypothesis, too.”

I love not knowing. That’s awesome.

Kirsten: Yeah, it is, it’s really awesome. It’s – we’re incompatible…

Justin: Yeah.

Kirsten: …we need to start over, this is good.

Researchers are finding the universe in the universe.

Justin: That’s where I would look.

Kirsten: I know. Right, let’s look in the universe for the universe. Using the Suzaku Orbiting X-ray Observatory, and it’s being jointly operated by NASA and the Japanese Space Agency.

Justin: I tried to use your thing and then it turned into a phone. What was that?

Kirsten: Yeah, you hit a button.

Justin: Oh.

Kirsten: So, jointly operated by NASA and the Japanese Space Agency looking for reservoirs of metals, rare metals in the universe. So, if we put our x-ray observatories, we put our astronomers’ eyes to the universe looking out, we see gases – lots of gases – there’s hydrogen, helium.

You know, all these low atomic weight gases that we see but the metals passed iron like they’re really rare in the universe because they can only be created by processes that are as dynamic and as hot and full of pressure as in stars or at least, that’s what we think, you know.

Justin: Mm hmm.

Kirsten: What they have previously found, they’ve previously seen metals. The researcher says – his name is Takayuki Tamura, he’s an astrophysicist at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency – says, “Previously, these metals were detected only from stars in the Milky Way or from other galaxies. And this is the first detection in intergalactic space.

So, just looking out into space, they’re seeing these clusters of hot gas. And so it’s not necessarily right around the star but actually in these areas where there’s this gas that’s building up – these areas…

Justin: Mm hmm.

Kirsten: …full of gas that things are going on, there’s pressure, there’s heat, there’s…

Justin: Mm hmm.

Kirsten: Yeah. And so, they’ve found chromium and manganese – let’s see if I’m going to speak, observing the central region of the Perseus galaxy cluster. And so, they’re part of the intergalactic medium and this is the first time that we found these rare metals in these intergalactic medium as opposed to elsewhere…

Justin: Hmm?

Kirsten: …around stars. Yeah. It’s pretty cool.

Justin: I want a ring made out of that…

Kirsten: Yeah.

Justin: …chromium.

Kirsten: Exactly. We have to go to a break, it is that time now.

Justin: And then we will be back with more of This Week in Science as well as details of the amazing thingamadilly giveaway.

Kirsten: Yes, thingamadilly contest.

Justin: Wait. Do you have one here? Can I see one?

Kirsten: Oh, I forgot them.

Justin: You didn’t bring them?

Kirsten: I left my box at home.

Justin: You can’t have one today.

Kirsten: You cannot have one today.

Justin: Because Kirsten forgot them.

Kirsten: I did. All right, we will be back in just a few with more This Week in Science.

Justin: Thank you for listening to TWIS. If you rely on this show for weekly science-y updates, please understand that we rely on your support to keep bringing those to you. Donate. Keep the science-y goodness on the air. We’ve made it very easy for you, go to our website, Click on the button that will allow you to donate $2, $5, $10 or if you like, you can donate any amount of money you choose, as many times as you like.

Again, just go to and donate today. We need your support and we thank you in advance for it.

Kirsten: Science! Science! Science! Merry TWISmas! In the name of TWISmas for a limited time, TWIS has teamed up with Evolvems to bring you a special TWISmas deal.

Evolvems are the cutest, cuddliest evolving plush toys out there. And Evolvems are offering all TWIS minions a ten percent discount on orders of the little plush toys until December 25th. You can see a Coelacanth evolve into an Ichthyostega. A Cynognathus derived from a Dimetrodon; a Styracosaurus from a Yinlong.

These cute evolving creatures make gifts that are great for kids and adults and helps spread science through play, which is something that we at TWIS always love to do.

Justin: Woohoo!

Kirsten: For your ten percent discount, go to to get your hands on some of the cutest science-y toys ever.

Justin: And we’re back with more of This Week in Science.

Kirsten: We are. Welcome everyone. You’re listening to science. And next week, we’re going to be giving away the first…

Justin: Giving away!

Kirsten: …giving away the first…

Justin: Giving away!

Kirsten: …of our cute TWISmas gifts to you.

Justin: And they are absolutely stinking adorable.

Kirsten: They are. We have stuffed evolution-based toys.

Justin: What are they called again?

Justin: Evolvo…

Kirsten: Evolvems.

Justin: Evolvems.

Kirsten: Evolvems. Yeah, they’re very cute and we’ll be giving them away to – we have a few that we are to be giving away to you.

Justin: And we’d show you but Kirsten forgot to bring them and it’s radio so they’ll be hard to see.

Kirsten: That’s right. But you – to enter the giveaway, you have to enter our contest. So, we’re having a TWISmas contest. First, what do you have to do?

Justin: I have no idea. You’re looking at me like I know. You have to come up with – oh, that’s right, a TWISmas song, a TWISmas story. Something like a new TWISmas tale like – something like the – what is it, the pumpkin. A Charlie Brown pumpkin thing.

Kirsten: Yeah, a TWISmas story, a TWISmas tale, a TWISmas song that involves the idea of evolution – the theory of evolution. It involves TWISmas and the spirit of science.

Justin: Hmm.

Kirsten: Hmm. Yes, that is our contest. And next week will be the first week that we will give away a prize. One of these cute little stuff animals…

Justin: Rag!

Kirsten: Yeah. To you!

Justin: It’s a stuffed animal that you start with – looks like a primitive stuffed animal looking – and then you can – and it transforms into a different stuffed animal that’s a more evolved form than the…

Kirsten: The derived form.

Justin: Yeah.

Kirsten: Yes.

Justin: It’s really cleaver.

Kirsten: They’re very cleaver. Very science-y and really cute. So, that will be our – that is our contest. If you have any questions or if you just want to send us your contest submissions, email and Put…

Justin: Like you email Kirsten if you want to really good chance of winning because I sometimes don’t read my email.

Kirsten: You have to put TWISmas in the header.

Justin: Will that make it to the filters? Yeah, it should. That should still do it. All right.

Kirsten: Yeah, but will have TWIS in it. Put TWISmas in the subject line.

Moving on to science.

Justin: Science!

Kirsten: Oh, it’s right. There’s all sorts of science. Researchers Manabu Kawahara and Tomohiro Kono at the – in Saga University, Japan – in Tokyo University in Japan – Tokyo, Japan. They have done a study – this is where I get into boy bashing…

Justin: Mm hmm.

Kirsten: …about longevity. How long do you live? Well, in this case it’s not you, it’s a mouse who had no father.

Justin: Mm hmm.

Kirsten: Yes. The background where this came from is the idea that women often live longer than men. This happens in many different mammalian species. Cross…

Justin: Yes.

Kirsten: …pretty much across the board, women live longer than men. Why does this happen? What’s going on? So, since men don’t live so long, researchers were like, “Maybe the men have something to do with it. Maybe the sperm has something to do with it. Maybe the genetic instructions that are carried in the sperm somehow, impact longevity.”

Justin: How it – in the what?

Kirsten: Well, the XX – well, in mammals, you have XX and XY chromosomes. The Y chromosome is the male chromosome, right.

Justin: Woohoo! We have a winner!

Kirsten: So, if you have a Y chromosome, you’re a man. If you have two X chromosomes, you’re a woman. You got no Y. Yes, and so if you’re lucky and – maybe that Y chromosome impacts longevity somehow.

Justin: Okay.

Kirsten: Maybe, maybe, maybe, maybe. Maybe there are other chromosomal instructions – genetic instructions that are carried. They don’t exactly where or how. But the idea is if they could create what they call bi-maternal mice.

Basically, taking the genetic information from the nucleus of one egg and the nucleus of another egg, putting them together in an egg, making a XX based on two women – two female genomes that they could have, what they say, an opportunity to analyze the longevity of animals lacking paternal genomes.

So, that’s what they did. They took some mice, made all female genomes and they took a look at how long they lived, how well they did. They found that the bi-maternal genotype shifted the entire survival curve to the right.

Justin: Hmm?

Kirsten: Suggesting a delay in the expression of all causes of mortality. Mortality delayed when the Y chromosome – when the male genetic material is taken out of the picture.

They say that these findings demonstrate, the maternal genome may play a role in the ontogenetic longevity. So, where the genetics come from – where your genes come from. And that these sex differences originate at the genome level and that the sperm genome is detrimental to human – mammalian – mammalian in general – longevity.

Whether or not – the question now is whether or not this can be applied to humans. Is our interaction with the environment more complicated than that? Is our genome more complicated than would be suggested by this mouse study? What are the factors that go into this? Is it really possible that one or two genes might control the issue of longevity? Is it really down to that? That’s the – where the question lies.

So, there’s a lot more research that needs to be done. Now, this study was sent in to me by Rob Rogers and Ed Dyer.

Another story was sent in by (Scott Hicks) from Purdue University. And this study is – while, not the same – not exactly the same – is really interesting in that it suggests that women should keep their ovaries to live longer.

Looking at women who have hysterectomies, animals that have their ovaries removed, life expectancy is reduced in those individuals. So, there are other factors related to the estrogen release, the – what they’re called “ovary sensitive processes” that are involved in aging.

And so the question is whether or not, you know, is it something that’s at the basic level of the genome? Is it something that is, you know, more structural and has to do with more physiological systematic processes that take place once you’re alive and living and older?

Really interesting couple of studies that kind of tie in nicely together there. But, you know, talk to your doctor.

Justin: Huh?

Kirsten: If you’re a man, don’t just go out and say, “I want ovaries.”

Justin: Yes, you know, that’s such a great dose of bargain. “Well, I can give you another 20 years of – tuck 20 years on to your life.” “Oh really, great! Sign me up!” “Let me finish.”

Kirsten: That’s right.

Justin: You have to give me something in return.

Kirsten: That’s right.

Justin: Neuroscientists at the Mayo Clinic Campus in Jacksonville – no relation – Florida, have demonstrated how brain waves can be used to type alphanumerical characters on a computer screen.

Let me repeat that.

Kirsten: Hmm?

Justin: How brain waves can be used to type alphanumerical characters onto a computer screen.

Kirsten: Is this new?

Justin: Yes.

Kirsten: People are doing this though.

Justin: Not like this.

Kirsten: Okay.

Justin: Not to this level. By merely focusing on the “q” in a matrix of letters, that “q” will appear on the monitor.

Kirsten: Okay.

Justin: That’s incredible. That’s it. That means, the application for your brain chip, means hands-free typing, right there.

Kirsten: Oh, this is the brain chip app.

Justin: Mm hmm.

Kirsten: Got it.

Justin: Mm hmm. Researchers say these findings presented at the 2009 Annual Meeting of the American Epilepsy Society represent concrete progress toward a mind-machine interface that may, one day, help people with a variety of disorders control devices, such as prosthetics arms and legs, yada, yada – spinal cord injuries and issue in the age of the human cyborg.

Kirsten: Absolutely. I’m waiting for it, I’m ready.

Justin: They don’t really go into that part. “But over two million people in the United States may benefit from some form of assistive device controlled by brain-computer interface,” says the study’s lead investigator, neurologist Jerry Shih. Study constitutes a baby step on the road toward that future, but it represents tangible progress as well in using brain waves to do certain tasks.

You know, they were looking for the mind-machine interface for these patients because they hypothesized that feedback from electrodes placed directly on the brain would be much more specific than data collected from the EEGs on the outside and it looks like they were right.

Getting in there – now, the downside I guess, this to really be functional in people, this would require some form of, at this point, electrodes be implanted.

Kirsten: Mm hmm.

Justin: But they can see the – they can see a point in the future where they could have those electrodes connected to a small chip somewhere in that brain underneath so you could, you know, crack it open, sew it up…

Kirsten: Well, it still have to go a through a process to have the chip implanted in your brain, which means, probably going in through some kind of opening foramen that’s already there or…

Justin: This is drill baby, drill.

Kirsten: Yeah.

Justin: Drill baby, drill!

Kirsten: We have a phone call.

Justin: We got a caller going in on the telephone. Good morning TWIS minion, you are on the air with This Week in Science.

Bradley: Hey, good morning. This is TWIS minion (Brad), calling back. Real quick, just to say with regards to your prosthetics and the neurointerface – let’s just hope their technology is not relying upon (wan there) or bluetooth that…

Justin: That’s right.

Bradley: …so they can be hacked.

Justin: That’s it. Imagine, somebody hacking your legs?

Bradley: Well, I’m actually paralyzed below the arms. I’m in an electric wheelchair so I…

Justin: Oh, wow.

Bradley: …I’m a candidate and actually working with some neuroscientists on neural interface.

Justin: That’s what.

Bradley: So, it’s a – it’s a reality.

Kirsten: It is a reality and it also – the security issues are also a concern.

Bradley: Mm hmm.

Kirsten: Yeah.

Bradley: You’re at the phone now with my hearing implants.

Justin: Yes.

Bradley: You have to hear me right. But then you have a great story. I’m, you know, I love to hear these kinds of stories and this research is going on and they have been going on and – yeah, I’m glad to hear you guys are talking about it.

Kirsten: Well, thank you. Thanks for calling in and I hope the technology continues to assist you.

Bradley: Thank you.

Kirsten: Thanks.

Bradley: Great.

Kirsten: Yeah, I think it’s amazing the way that technology is advancing right now. It just is – you know, it’s so amazing the thing that we are able to do currently and that by in just a year or two, ten years from now, what we will be able to do.

That ship is not so far away. And having apps that you can download to that chip, not a crazy idea.

Justin: And right now – right now the apps are all sort of working backwards in a sense. They’re – I mean, these applications, these ways of using brain waves or, you know, communicating to the brain are relying on sort of general descriptions of what’s going on in the brain…

Kirsten: Mm hmm.

Justin: …to motivate them. I can see a point when – if you can imagine when one of these chips is in there for a period of ten years, let’s say. Five years, ten years, probably, won’t even take that long. That the brain itself begins to learn how to manipulate towards the end being that chip.

Kirsten: Mm hmm.

Justin: To start to use it as a limb, to start to use it as a part of the body so that instead of meeting it – having a chip that’s sort of doing a general description of what’s going on in the brain to translate some really basic task, that the brain itself could actually learn to manipulate the chip directly as it would if you were to put on like as it does on a prosthetic limb or anything else where the new neuro pathways learn to do these small operations.

Kirsten: Right. Yeah, there would be operations that would be learned at the interface level between the electrodes that are in chip – the actual chip itself and where the neurons attach.

Justin: Right.

Kirsten: There will be at some amount.

Justin: So, right now the technology is eavesdropping sort of on the brain to get its function.

Kirsten: Yeah.

Justin: But I can see, I can see that – I can see the brain as nimble as it is…

Kirsten: Yeah.

Justin: …learning to manipulate the chip back.

Kirsten: Well, it – yeah, there would have…

Justin: It could really be the…

Kirsten: They’re would have to – yeah, maybe.

Justin: Maybe?

Kirsten: We’ll see about that. I mean, yeah, I don’t know. We’ll see. It would be responding to electrical signals. And if electrical signals occurred in a way that were relevant to the chip, then – yeah, then it would, yeah.

Well, we have to move on, we’re a few minutes left on the show. Listen to your mailbag, minion mailbag. We’ve got a ton of mail about our CO2 and water solubility comments from last week.

We thought an experiment would be a great idea, and so did Ritchie Smith. Ritchie Smith wrote in, he’s from Manchester UK, he said, “Hearing Justin quibbling about cold and warm Coke last week got me thinking and I set up a little experiment in the lab while the boss wasn’t looking.”

“The stuff in the beakers is artificial cerebro-spinal fluid.” And he sent me a picture with this liquid in little beakers that’s pink colored. So, it’s artificial cerebro-spinal fluid with some indicator in it to check the ph.

Justin: Hmm.

Kirsten: “Before use, we bubble it with a mix of oxygen and carbon dioxide. The oxygen, to keep the cells live and the carbon dioxide to keep the ph balance as the carbonic acid in it forms in solution and works as a buffer.”

“The indicator let’s you check how gassed the aCSF is just by looking at it. So, the color varies, from delicious cranberry juice red, when it’s fully gassed, fading to bright pink when all of the CO2 has escaped.”

Justin: Oh, it’s awesome.

Kirsten: So, it’s really neat indication of how much CO2 is in the fluid.

So, he started with two beakers full of fully gassed — I can’t believe it’s not brain juice. Left open to the air so that the gases can exchange with the atmosphere, with the air. He put one beaker in the fridge at four degree Celsius and then he put the other one in the water bath at 37 degree Celsius and left them for three hours.

And then he has in the picture – which didn’t come out really well on, you know, his own saying, which I don’t have here – but on the right hand side of the picture, there was a cool aCF to four degree – aCSF, and it’s very pretty – pretty cranberry colored, indicating that it was still holding most of its CO2.

And then on the other beaker, it’s a nice pink color in which you can realize that it has lost most of its CO2, affecting the acidity and the temperature dependence of gas solubility.

Justin: So, the analogy from last week is correct. Warmer does release…

Kirsten: It releases…

Justin: …more…

Kirsten: …is not – CO2 is not – but we have – we have more…

Justin: And I – I should have known this because I’ve been to breweries, I understand that they carbonate the beer in the cold room. And it goes – it’s all in the cold room when that happens and it makes total sense why it’s being done there, because it’s going to hold the maximum amount of carbonation…

Kirsten: Yes.

Justin: …in that cold state.

Kirsten: Yeah. (Duncan Lee) writes in…

Justin: I just forgot to think of beer.

Kirsten: Oh, I’m thinking, Ritchie, that’s an awesome little – it’s a simple experiment…

Justin: That’s great.

Kirsten: …great indication. I’ll see if I can put the picture on our website although, you know, admittedly the pink colors are not as good as they could be because it was a little camera phone.

(Duncan Lee) writes in, “My kids and I did the soda and Mentos experiment with both warm and cold soda. And the warm soda made a much larger fountain than the cold. The conclusion we reached was that Daddy got a lot wetter with the warm soda.”

Justin: Oh, yeah. And use – always use the sugar-free.

Kirsten: That’s right.

Justin: Because otherwise they clean up sticky.

Kirsten: (Andrew Laus) from Perth, Western Australia writes, “Good day guys. You’ve probably reached – received around 50 millions comments.” No, it’s 49, that’s all. But here is a nice graph and he has a link to a graph that I will put on our website It’s about halfway down the page, which isn’t very long, showing that solubility of gases in liquids, CO2 and O2 and water in this case, decreases as temperature increases.

Therefore, Justin is incorrect. Sorry dude.

Justin: It’s all right.

Kirsten: And the warm soda should have less CO2 in it because it will leak out as the temperature goes up. Because the liquid will become less able to hold onto it unless, of course, it’s sealed up in the bottle in which case the CO2 has nowhere to go and can’t come out of solution except into the tiny area of air just underneath the bottle cap, I suppose.

And in the – case of the oceans, the bottle cap I guess is our atmosphere, you know, so it’s going to – it not – it’s just going to go back into the air. The double whammy indicated by the graph is the O2 if temperatures go up, less O2 can be dissolved in the oceans. And so, there will be less for fish to extract through their gills.

Justin: Mm hmm.

Kirsten: More CO2 for us, less O2 for the fishes. Smoke them if you got them people. That’s the end of the world, that’s right. This week in the end of the world.

Thanks for listening to the show, (Andrew). Just a reminder for next week, we’re going to be giving away the first of our cute TWISmas gifts to you if you enter our contest. Remember to email us with your TWISmas story, song or tale, whatever it happens to be, regale us with TWISmas.

We will choose one lucky winner to get our giveaway for next week, the Evolvems stuffed animal.

Shout-outs to Chris Lauf who cycles around the streets of Jakarta, Indonesia, trying his best to avoid the tottering towers, the chicken strapped to the back of motorbikes. He works at the Indonesian National Science and Technology Center PPIPTEK, which I’m not going to try and pronounce because I can’t even read it.

And if you’re ever in town, you should check it out. He sent in a story about The Speech Music Connection, which is really interesting.

David Eckard made me sad with a story about butterflies in space – can’t fly in space, it’s really sad.

Justin: What?

Kirsten: Butterflies can’t fly in micro-gravity.

Justin: Mm hmm.

Kirsten: Tony Steele, our TWIS 2009 album artist sent in a story about scientists accidentally discovering a perfect blue pigment. Accidental discoveries, I love stuff like that.

Justin: Perfect blue?

Kirsten: Perfect blue pigment.

Justin: Perfect blue? Really?

Kirsten: Yes. Yes. Artists love the blue pigment. Artyom sent in a story about the evolution/religion debate in Alexandria, Egypt. Thanks a lot, guys, for sending in stories and for writing in, we appreciate it.

Justin: Yes, thanks for joining the show. TWIS is also available via podcast. If you haven’t discovered it yet, you can find it on the iTunes, This Week in Science. Just look it up there. Or you can go to our website and we have a way of subscribing to it there somewhere on a link.

Kirsten: Yeah. And for more information on anything you’ve heard here today, show notes will be available on our website, with lots of links that I’ve mentioned during the story, during the show, telling stories. And we want to hear from you, for our contest as well as for other reasons. So, send us some email at or

Justin: Put TWIS somewhere in the subject or you will get spam filtered.

Kirsten: Yeah. We will be back here on KDVS next Tuesday at 8:30 AM, Pacific Time. We hope you’ll join us again for more great science news.

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

Kirsten: It’s all in your head.