Transcript:TWIS.ORG Sept 9, 2008

Justin: Disclaimer! Disclaimer! Disclaimer!

While political campaigns heat up and tropical storms gather strength, while major cities evacuate their populations and other cities inundate with delegations, while the focus of a nation is deeply engaged in witnessing the coming change in direction that is but a few months away, the changes of an altered climate have already set new courses for us all.

And while changes in any form under any banner or backdrop including that of the following hour of our programming do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of the University of California at Davis, KDVS or its sponsors. Change will come to those who wait. It also happens to come to those who do not wait but rather participate.

In the latter case, the change is often more predictable and much more beneficial. In no other spectrum of participation, can the changes in future events be more lasting, more impacting and more crucial to the health and prosperity of the nation than the changes science seeks to make in every facet of our knowledge.

The economy, health, security and mental acuity of any nation are best assured by advances in science and the dedication to learning. Science is the rope society must climb to lift itself above the suffering of selection, be it social, economic, or genetic in nature – science and science alone.

So, the super host delegates of this show would like to nominate Science as our candidate in the following election. And offer each event reported here as a tribute in testimony to its character and resolve.

Minions and gentle listeners, please welcome the next president of future knowledge here on This Week in Science, coming up next.

Justin: Good morning, Kirsten.

Kirsten: Good morning, Justin. We’re here again. It’s Tuesday morning.

Justin: Another Tuesday morning.

Kirsten: Yeah! And of course we’ve got tons and tons of science news ahead. There are some world robot domination. There’s some large hadron collider.

Justin: LHC.

Kirsten: Yeah.

Justin: Yeah, they’re going to flip the switch tomorrow.

Kirsten: I’m so excited about it. I’m so excited. What else do we have? We’ve got some genetics stories, talking about Junk DNA. I’ve got some research unto girls, and Science and Math. And also, water bears.

Justin: Water bears?

Kirsten: In outer space.

Justin: Yeah.

Kirsten: Water bears in space.

Justin: I read a little of that and I got confused. What do I have? I’ve got super bugs and some cool science-y things that re going on in other parts of – I’ve got some Canadian stuff too.

Kirsten: Canadian stuff, I like Canadian stuff.

Justin: Canadian science. Canadian science is big this week. There’s actually, I don’t know for what reason but somehow or another, I tracked or looked through or read about seven different stories originating from Canada this week. It was a big week for the Canadians. They made up – they made a science-y push this week.

Kirsten: Go Canada! And in the second half of the show, I know last week that I told everyone that Mike Stebbins would be here. He’s not going to be here again. He’s canceled for the second show.

Justin: However, I do actually have some good political science news.

Kirsten: Okay. But he told me that he’d pick it up for me big time.

Justin: Whoa!

Kirsten: Yes. So, I just have to think of some way for him to make it up to me while he’s off, wherever he is, gallivanting around and working hard for our country and the science that goes on in it.

Justin: Yeah. The big science news is – we were talking about this a while ago, Science Debate 2008. There are group that got together and started lobbying. They try to put together a debate between the presidential nominees to talk science for a little while, you know.

Kirsten: Yup.

Justin: That hasn’t managed to work out quite. However, what they did get was they put together a list of 14 important questions, their top 14 questions. I like the way they didn’t say top 10 and stick with that. They’re like put four more. Why not?

Kirsten: Right.

Justin: And Barack Obama has responded in a very lengthy, very awesome, I mean, you know. It’s very Pro-science. But you can go to Science Debate 2008. Go Google that up and you can look at Obama’s answers to the 14 questions.

McCain has also agreed. He has a – he’s statement – he’s answers to the questions aren’t out yet.

Kirsten: But he’s going to be getting them out there.

Justin: Yes.

Kirsten: Sounds great.

Justin: He’s also there which is awesome because that’s a, you know…

Kirsten: It would be good to see what the two candidates believe on the different science issues.

Justin: Right.

Kirsten: And what they’re going to be promoting or not promoting during their tenure.

Justin: And I, you know, I hate to not be partisan, you know, in any way, at any time in my life.

Kirsten: Yeah, whatever.

Justin: However, I think it’s going to be an improvement for science regardless.

Kirsten: Oh yeah. Yeah, to get both of them out there and – I mean the fact that they’re thinking about it and that it has become a large enough issue for both candidates.

And, you know, it’s not just the presidential candidates, there are gubernatorial, senatorial candidates, representatives all around the country who have started answering these questions.

Justin: Yeah.

Kirsten: It’s become – Science has become something that’s on the political map. And so, we know that it’s something that’s driving policy in this country. And it’s good that candidates are responding. This is positive.

Justin: We should have like that. We should out together like a thousand scientists march. I mean we’re not going to get a million, people are busy. We could probably going to look – well, maybe 400.

A 400 scientist march and I wonder like if that would start to get some political traction, you know. You got a bunch of PhDs out there, you know, marching or, you know.

Kirsten: Maybe.

Justin: Maybe caravanning.

Kirsten: Right.

Justin: Get some golf cards and caravan together.

Kirsten: Oh my Gosh. So, let’s see. On last week’s show we talked about a study that was published in Nature Geosciences that used analysis of the Laurentide Ice Sheet retreat to estimate the retreat of the Greenland ice sheets.

And so, they ended up doubling to tripling the estimated rise in sea level over the next 50 to 100 hundreds, I believe. So that – last week there was a study and it said, “Hey, sea level is going to arise more than we think it is because we did the study. And this is what it looks like.”

Justin: More so than the IPCC, CC, PCC.

Kirsten: Right. This week, however, we’re told by a study in Science magazine that the IPCC sea level estimates are OVER ESTIMATED. And who we are supposed to believe?

Justin: Well, here’s the thing. I mean from what I’ve gathered from it the, IPPC…

Kirsten: IPCC.

Justin: …IPCC report completely left out glacial melt off of like Greenland itself. And the reason I did it is because they didn’t have enough data on how that was going to happen. How quickly? What the impact would be? So, their results are – it’s almost separate at this point.

Kirsten: Mm hmm.

Justin: And to the work that’s being done on the glaziers is in constantly being adding back tot the IPCC.

Kirsten: IPCC report.

Justin: I’m not going to remember. Leave me alone. To keep adding it back to that report. So, if the original report is saying they’ve overestimated, even if they knock their number down, the other reports coming out of the glaciers are so much higher, it’s probably not can be a big difference.

Kirsten: No, but these new study that came out this week, what they’re saying they’ve – the Nature Geoscience’s paper last week, they were like estimating. They were looking at the length of time that rocks were exposed to cosmic rays or something.

Justin: And that’s one of the – some things…

Kirsten: The Laurentide ice sheet.

Justin: Yeah.

Kirsten: And so, they’re using this weird measure like okay, these rocks were exposed, you know, and not buried under ice for X number of years…

Justin: Correct.

Kirsten: …based on this radiation measure that we’ve taken a look at.

Justin: And then if they used tree rings, it can go back even another 300 years.

Kirsten: Right. So, the most recent study though is looking at like current melt rates and was estimating what the maximum melt rate might be over any given length of time.

And what they’ve said is like it’s not physical – this current story in Science says it’s not physically possible for the ice sheet to melt fast enough to even reach half of what the IPCC estimates currently are.

And the second study that came out this week, it seems to be more on par with other studies than last week’s studies. So, you know, it’s good to take a look at all the data and all of it pulled together will maybe give us some measure over time.

And maybe, you know, we need to look at all these different pieces of data, you know, it’s one study looking at on piece of data, another study looking at another.

Justin: It does seem though that – well, I guess it depends on how you – see they keep having to isolate and talk about small portions of the effects of global warming. And as you add them up they start turning to the bigger pool.

I think part of the argument for the increased sea level isn’t just that the ice sheets melts and that’s how the sea moves up.

Kirsten: Mm hmm.

Justin: It’s also the more moisture in the air, different weather patterns, more rain, more moisture in the air, more, you know, adds to it as well. So, it…

Kirsten: And there’s also thermal expansion. So, as the – your eyes say like, “what?”

Justin: Thermal expansion?

Kirsten: Thermal expansion, yes. So, as the Earth heats up and the water heats up, the molecules themselves expand. So, things they’re not as tightly packed the molecules and the ocean won’t be as tightly pact. And so, this expansion will actually add to the volume of the ocean. Yes.

Also last week, Justin questioned, “How many times New Orleans would have to be evacuated due to pending flooding before they’ve just raised elevation 20 feet?”

Minion Roy wrote in to say, “The comment reminded me of another story from somewhere about past large scale civilization in the Northern Amazon, where the whole area floods during the rainy season for at least several months. And it drains and becomes relatively airy at the rest of the year.

The story went that the Earth in many large areas have been raised above flood level providing year-round habitable space that remained above the flooding. Somewhere, there should be a lesson in history or perhaps before we had planes, trains and automobiles, people were just smarter about preparing for what they knew is coming. Think global warming and rising sea level, storms and droughts.”

Justin: Yeah.

Kirsten: We also had an interesting interview regarding animal research and animal rights activism. And Minion Phil Brown wrote in to say, “Last week’s show is troubling and that it highlighted the worst aspects of a small minority of those people who take an ideology and take it to an extreme.

For example, there are those who would take a scientific breakthrough like fission or nanotechnology and use it as a weapon or people that would use defense of the United States of America as a reason to invade other countries.

I don’t think you’d give those scientists time on your show. I would ask that you bring on someone that could speak to all of the great and completely legal work that is being done to reduce animal testing and to exemplify all of the completely unnecessary animal testing that occurs all over the country.

In other words we are reaching a point now where we have the luxury of not having to perform much of the animal testing that does occur. Finally, I’m interested in Justin’s opinion of animal testing involving higher primates which are more or less genetically identical to humans. I feel the same pain, et cetera.”


Justin: Okay. I’m for it. But no, I think I’m not pro for any lack of compassion for apes and monkeys and things, you know, I’m pro of not hurting things generally speaking.

Kirsten: Yeah.

Justin: I have watched my mother submit to a physical, mental deterioration before dying of a metastasized breast cancer. I watched an uncle suffer from HIV aids with very much the same deterioration.

So, I don’t make very many exceptions for my compassion in terms of their life forms. But I do in this case and I don’t make any excuses for it, whatsoever, you know?

Kirsten: Mm hmm.

Justin: I think it’s too important. And yes I do value human life and detest the suffering of it above all else.

Kirsten: All right then. All right.

Justin: Yeah. Actually, I really loved the way he started that letter. He says, “I’m a 41 year old lawyer who spends almost none of his time getting stone.”

Kirsten: That’s right.

Justin: Where it’s – I think it’s great because I spend almost very little of my time in the bathroom. And yet I use the bathroom daily, multiple times in fact. So I don’t – maybe that’s a lawyer talk, almost none of my time getting. It’s the active getting…

Kirsten: Active getting.

Justin: …not being , could be being all day even. So, I kind of…

Kirsten: Oh dear. (Richard Geliko) wrote in. He said, “Interesting question to have asked the interviewed authors if they themselves own any pets. It would be interesting to see if animal researchers have pets.”

Justin: Didn’t that come up?

Kirsten: I would bet they do as one has nothing to do with the other. And again, were any animals injured or endangered by the fire bombings? And I don’t…

Justin: I think they mentioned that there’s a lot of researchers have pets.

Kirsten: Yeah.

Justin: But that not necessarily that either one of them did specifically.

Kirsten: Yeah, I don’t remember that. And I don’t with the Santa Cruz – who’s Santa Cruz, does Santa Cruz fire bombings that occurred just this last month. But I don’t remember whether or not there are any animals injured in that.

I do know that it does happen, you know, that labs are broken into and animals are released. And most often, those animals go on to die because they are lab animals and they are not prepared for living outside of a laboratory.

Additionally, they’re released into environments that are not their native environments. So, they maybe cannot find a niche in which to survive. And maybe they’ve got a bunch of drugs in their system and they’re – they just not – can not – not meant to – they’re not going to make it.

Justin: And I think, you know, we should always try to keep separate the, you know, the issues of whether or not we should eat animals, you know?

Kirsten: Mm hmm.

Justin: Animal cruelty, how animals are kept as livestock whether or not – I mean I know researchers who’ve had pets who worked with animals – work on animals, you know.

I mean, I think they’re very separate issues. And I think what is it is there’s something else going on in animal research that has – like I was saying I think of bigger value than the animal that’s involved.

Kirsten: Yeah.

Justin: And that’s why researchers are doing it.

Kirsten: That’s why, yeah.

Justin: They’re looking beyond that and they’re looking at humans as protecting and, you know, serving humanity.

Kirsten: And that’s something that needs to be considered as well, is the idea of humans as animals. And what happens in life is that, animals want to preserve their life and that of their kin. And so, loving life doesn’t mean – and I read this in a book I’m reading recently and it just kind of was poignant at after last week’s interview.

“Loving life does not mean being soft”. So, we can’t, you know, doing animal research is not necessarily a bad thing if we’re doing it for the purpose of our own survival. So, you know, these are things that, you know, that we need to consider.

You know, would you injure somebody, kill somebody? And, you know, if your child were being threatened or attacked or…

Justin: I really hate those.

Kirsten: …you know.

Justin: I really hate those ones.

Kirsten: Right.

Justin: But I would put it the other way around.

Kirsten: Mm hmm.

Justin: I would say that if the monkey’s chance of survival was greater if it ate YOU, would it try to? And I think the answer is yes.

Kirsten: Yes! The answer is yes. Okay. So, (Richard Geliko) goes on to say, “Now has to Justin and cats, bring your pets…”

Justin: I like this. This is terrible.

Kirsten: “…bring your pets to a taping and force them upon Justin’s lap.”

Justin: What’s sort of sadistic bizarreness is this?

Kirsten: “Force him to repeat what he said about the value of cats with them with inclined distance of his reproductive attributes. I want to see him squirm for disrespecting cats.”

Justin: Wow.

Kirsten: “But with Justin just being Justin, he needs to squirm just for general purposes and for the entertainment and experimental value.”

Justin: Nice.

Kirsten: “But once the bleeding is controlled, pat him on the head in a manner that a human like pat a pet for the wonderful disclaimers.”

Justin: Oh, okay. I get it. I’ll take the bleeding. It’s only the complement at the end.

Kirsten: Yeah. And finally, for (Mark Hall), the US Air Force talking about a bummer –am deployed at Manas air base in Kyrgyzstan and I’m having a tough time downloading TWIS podcast.”

“Bandwidth is at a premium here on a small commercial satellite service. Viewing your site is easy but downloading is really tough. I can download a small chunk of each show before my connection times out. But you guys rock so, I tried to get as much as I can.

In any case I was on your site just to check things out and I figured I’d let you know I love your show. I missed my home in Reno, right up the road from you.”

Justin: Oh yeah.

Kirsten: “And I missed your broadcasts. Take care. Look me up if you end up in Bishkek.”

Justin: Thank you for your service and thank you for listening.

Kirsten: Yeah. Thanks a lot for listening and thanks for getting in touch from all the way around the globe. That’s really awesome.

Unto the Science News, you’re listening to This Week in Science. And that’s what this is about. What do we want to talk about first?

Justin: Okay. I just – I’m going to talk about this story not because it’s the most important.

Kirsten: Ah, mosquito! Yeah.

Justin: How in the world did mosquito got in here?

Kirsten: Why is it attacking my screen?

Justin: That’s like three different thresholds of improbability before it get through doors into this small little studio.

Kirsten: I know.

Justin: That’s insane. So, I’m just going to take this story because it’s the first I’m stack here. It’s from the University de Montreal, Psychiatry Professor Kieron O’Connor, who has been studying obsessions people have with their own features.

So, look in the mirror thinking that your nose is too big or that your waistband is too loose. Or that people will notice you’re partially formed twin’s face in the side of your head. Who hasn’t at some point focused on a small detail?

Kirsten: That’s what I worry about all the time. Somebody’s going to see the nose.

Justin: So, okay. Who hasn’t focused right? –on some detail of their parents wondering is it or is it not perfect? Actually, it says over which is the more perfect feature upon my…

Kirsten: Yeah. Why does that not surprise me?

Justin: But when these implications take over our thoughts or exist more – even more prominently in our heads than they do in reality, it may be a sign that such obsessing has crossed over into the land of a mental disorder.

According to this, about 350,000 Canadians suffers such a phobia. “Well, the prevalence is higher among those already experiencing some form of anxiety suffers or convinced that a part of their body is abnormal even if it’s not the case” says a psychologist who works at the – also works at the Ferdinand Seguin Research Center.

And they have a difficulty at this point separating what is real from what is not. And it’s not a vanity thing we’re saying here. It’s not a vanity thing. It’s more like being a hypochondriac, where people are convinced they are sick, or that they might get sick. And that adds to this certain weird poor body image that’s mark of it.

People suffering form this phobia will focus on the physical attribute they consider flood, constantly viewing it in the mirror asking the opinion of others. They may go to obsessive lengths to fix the problem, even surgery.

It says here that skin, which is I think interesting, skin receives most attention from suffers at 73%.

Kirsten: Wow.

Justin: Yeah, that the chest is the least. And you have the hair, nose and stomach are very popular. They are towards the top of the list there as well. And the consequences can even be suicidal.

I mean this is a serious, you know, a very serious condition not really the laughing matter I’m making it. But they carry on like internal conversation all the time with themselves about the body part to the point where they, you know, going out in public to feel the need to cover up or not go out at all.

So, if they’re working – he’s working with this condition and trying to find out solutions for going back and finding out the sources of it (unintelligible).

I just thought it was really interesting that, you know, in the whole universe…

Kirsten: Mm hmm.

Justin: …because I was thinking in terms of universe. That’s how I put perspective on my day to day life.

Kirsten: That’s a good way to do it.

Justin: Yeah. It’s an entirely gigantic at enormous universe out there.

Kirsten: Right.

Justin: I have a wart. Well, I mean I don’t. But I mean if I had a wart, I’d be, “I have a wart.” And so?

Kirsten: Right.

Justin: You know – who cares?

Kirsten: Yeah.

Justin: If I had a hump or something or maybe, I don’t know.

Kirsten: But that’s for, you know, it’s sometimes when you’re in your – psychologically sometimes it’s, you know, it’s hard to put yourself in the perspective of the universe. And for many people it’s, you know, psychologically difficult or they have, you know, pre disposition to focusing on the minutiae of daily life.

Justin: Yeah.

Kirsten: And then you start focusing on it and become a feedback loop where you don’t like it and then you noticed it’s worst. And so you noticed it more and then you don’t like it more. And then it used continually or cycling about it. And how do you stop it?

Justin: But maybe if you’re guarded against it, if you know it ahead of time, if you’re very aware that that’s something that could happen, maybe if you already started to do it, hey if you’re out there listening you’ve been focusing a little bit too much on the drooping earlobe or something, whatever it is. You know, you know. And maybe you know what give it a nickname and call it something cute.

Kirsten: Yeah. You know, one thing I’ve also heard that’s a great way to get yourself away from it is to start looking at the things that you do like about yourself, you know. And try when you start focusing on the negative train your brain to focus on the positive. I mean there’s a lot of just – you’re making new neural connections.

Justin: Yeah.

Kirsten: So, there’s part of it where…

Justin: Retraining the brain.

Kirsten: Yeah. And part of it, you know, psychologically, you’re giving yourself positive feedback. You enjoy that kind of negative feeling. And it becomes – it is psychologically a weird positive…

Justin: Addiction.

Kirsten: Yeah, it’s like an addiction. And so, to stop it you have to start training your brain in other direction. So, you noticed that you’re saying, “Oh God, I hate how I look in these pants, you know, oh my little spare tire” whatever, you’re going to start talking negatively about I looked awful blah, blah, blah. Say oh, you know, and stop yourself like physically stop yourself and then say something nice. “Gosh, I really like the color of my eyes.”

Justin: Actually, I have the opposite problem.

Kirsten: “This shirt is beautiful. It really brings out.” And wear something that makes you feel happy about yourself, you know. Change your behavior.

Justin: I’m so narcissistic.

Kirsten: That’s what I do.

Justin: I’m so narcissistic. I can even make eye contact with myself in a mirror anymore because it’s embarrassing.

Kirsten: Oh dear.

Justin: There’s just too much love coming from those eyes. I mean just like,
“Oh, hey”

Kirsten: I love myself too much.

Justin: That’s just – I’m going to get it all.

Kirsten: Anyway, our fancy hand with our thumb that allows us to do so much grasping and work and maybe has…

Justin: It’s incredible.

Kirsten: …given us that difference which makes us human. Maybe it’s all about the thumb. And researchers have just discovered that maybe our thumb came from junk. Yeah.

Justin: Junk?

Kirsten: Junk, that’s right. Yale scientists have been looking at junk DNA, areas of the genome that will once thought not to have any function at all. They’re non-coding regions.

So they don’t turn into proteins. They don’t make anything. But more and more researchers finding that these non-coding regions actually contain elements that help to control coding regions of the genomes. So, they’re like control segments.

And so, they don’t seemed like much when you look at them but these researchers comparing a bunch of DNA from human, chimpanzee, rhesus macaque and other genomes. They published in Science magazine that they found an area of 16 base pairs that looks like it maybe the thing that gave us our thumb.

Justin: And we’ve got a caller calling in.

Kirsten: Yup, let’s see if we can take this from the phone.

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

Man: Hey how is it going?

Kirsten: Great!

Man: I was just hearing you guys talk about what about thinking positive.

Justin: Yes.

Kirsten: Yes.

Man: Yeah, yeah. And I came across this cool little thing that’s kind of specifically has put some things in perspective with me in thinking positive in the world.

Kirsten: Mm hmm.

Man: And kind of looking in particularly at, you know, being American and statistically how rare that is. I’ve got it from some friend of mine who are chiropractors and they put out this thing called optimum health and they throw it – just throw it in there the short little blurb. And I thought it would be great to share.

Justin: Yes.

Kirsten: Please do.

Man: Okay. It’s called, “Did you know?” And it says, “If we could shrink the Earth’s population to a village of precisely 100 people with all the existing human ratios remaining the same, it would look something like the following: there would be 57 Asian, 21 Europeans, 14 from the Western Hemisphere, 8 Africans; 52 would be female, 48 would be male; 70 would be non-white, 30 would be white; 70 would be non-Christian, 30 would be Christian; six would possess 59% of the entire world’s wealth…

Kirsten: Six.

Man: …and all six would be from the USA.

Kirsten: Wow.

Man: It gets a little better. It’s not much longer than this. Eighty would live in substandard housing, 70 would be unable to read, 50 would suffer from malnutrition, one would be near death, one would be near birth and one, yes only one, would have a college education and only one would own a computer.

Kirsten: Yeah.

Man: Okay?

Justin: That is some dang old perspective right there. Yes.

Man: Yeah. There’s one little short paragraph after this. The following is also something to ponder. If you woke up this morning with more health than illness, you’re more blessed than the million who will not survive this week.

Justin: Mm hmm.

Kirsten: Mm hmm.

Man: If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of torture, the pain, the starvation, you’re ahead of 50 million in the world.

If you can attend the church meeting without fear of harassment, arrest towards your death, you are more blessed than 3 billion people in the world.

If you have food in the refrigerator, clothes on your back, of roof overhead, and a place to sleep, you’re richer than 75% of this world. If you have money in the bank, in your wallet and a spare change dished some place, you are among the top 8% of the world’s wealthy.

If your parents are still alive and still married, you are very rare even in the US and in Canada.

Kirsten: That’s something to ponder.

Man: Yeah, yeah. It’s like…

Kirsten: Put yourself in perspective.

Man: Yeah, you said think in positively where I just thought…

Kirsten: Yeah.

Man: …you know, there’s so many things to be thankful for.

Justin: That’s right. It’s a step above thinking positive. That right there is putting yourself in the world’s shoes and realizing, “Oh man, I do live in like one of the most developed nations on the planet and my gripes are sissy gripes.” That should really buck up and enjoy this wealth.

Man: Yeah.

Justin: I always think about that. When you hear about like this is kind of rendezvous, when you hear about the kingdoms of old, you know…

Man: Mm hmm.

Justin: …and these great leaders who ruled vast empires, and you think about what was their actually like living situation, like no heat, kind of cold, no, you know, they had, yeah, lots of people like candles for them but they live in a smoky, little, dungeony, cold, (castley) room, like their standard of living probably wasn’t very good compared to ours.

Even, you know, even like some of the poorest Americans, they can have an air conditioner running. You know, anyway, I’m taking time. Kirsten is giving me the finger, not that one the other finger. The one that tells me it’s time to wind up so we can head to the break.

Man: Okay, thank you.

Justin: Thank you so much for the call.

Man: You’re welcome. Bye-bye.

Kirsten: Thanks for calling and have a great day.

Man: Okay, you too. Bye.

Kirsten: Bye.

And it is time for us to take a break. You’re listening to This Week in Science. And we will back in just a few moments with more science news.

Justin: Use your brain.

Kirsten: Yeah. Welcome back to This Week in Science. And as you’re using your brain, let’s think about the Large Hadron Collider.

Justin: It’s huge.

Kirsten: It’s huge and it’s coming online…

Justin: Tomorrow.

Kirsten: …tomorrow.

Justin: Tomorrow they’re going to turn it on for the first time. Flip – I think it’s a big red lever. I don’t know.

Kirsten: Big red – and go!

Justin: And it’s kind of off and on and then it shrieked.

Kirsten: Yeah. Well, the thing about the Large Hadron Collider is that they’ve already actually fired it up a little bit. They’ve been doing test runs putting particles, you know, further and further around the circumference of the Hadron Collider. Tomorrow is the first time.

Justin: The first protons.

Kirsten: The first protons that they are going to shoot try and get them all the way around the circumference. However they are not…

Justin: It serves as a practice lab.

Kirsten: It’s a practice lab. You know, running at a nice speed going all the way around, just to make sure everything is working right. They’re not actually firing it up at full capacity.

And the story goes that they are not actually going to be firing it up at full capacity until sometime in the spring. They’re actually like they’re getting it going but it’s not really like full bore, like it’s not doing the full smash.

Justin: Full Niels bohr and not yet.

Kirsten: Yeah. That was pretty funny.

Justin: IQ only.

Kirsten: Oh dear.

Justin: Yeah. It’s pretty amazing what this is going to be able to do. It’s going to accelerate hydrogen proton…

Kirsten: Mm hmm.

Justin: …or lead ions to more than 99.9999% of the speed of light…

Kirsten: Yehey!

Justin: …which is really, really fast. It will – takes place in a 16.9 mile long circle. That’s I think about – it says here, 568 feet below the ground.

Kirsten: Yeah.

Justin: Pretty neat.

Kirsten: Tunnel built deep below the ground.

Justin: The cost so far, it’s a lot of nations that have put in – put up the bucks.

Kirsten: $9 billion.

Justin: No it’s less. It’s $6 billion.

Kirsten: $6 billion.

Justin: Yeah.

Kirsten: I got it upside down.

Justin: Well, it’s $3 billion difference. It’s, you know, you can almost build two.

Kirsten: Yeah. You could, yeah.

Justin: It’s a little bit longer.

Kirsten: $6 billion dollars but that’s a lot of money. So, there are a lot of nations have put in, ante up the cash and there’s a big investment in it. And one of the big questions right now is, okay, so they’re looking for the God particle I mean they’re looking for a lot of other things as well.

Justin: The Higgs Boson.

Kirsten: The Higgs Boson. They’re looking for the particle that might explain a lot of things.

Justin: Right. Higgs Boson is thought to be the particle that could explain why other particles have mass.

Kirsten: Yes.

Justin: Confirming it would create – this is from the AFP where I’m getting all these info from via – I actually pulled it off of, a website that – I’ve been finding out a lot of the science stories that I’ve been using lately until our website gets back up on board again.

So, the Higgs Boson, it would explain why other particles have mass. And they’ve been lacking. The only thing they’re lacking is the machine capable of generating collisions powerful enough to confirm whether or not this particle really does exist. Okay?

Another thing is they’re trying to investigate a little further the mystery of matter and antimatter, so that when energy turns into matter it produces a particle and its mirror image called antiparticle. So, they’re hoping to be able to get some information there.

They’re replicating some of the earliest moments after the Big Bang that created the universe. For those who fear the black holes and the new Big Bang that destroys the Earth…

Kirsten: Yeah.

Justin: …it was point it out that throughout our universe there are natural phenomena, cosmic phenomena, in which the accelerations that are taking place happened already. So, it’d be as if there were thousands, upon thousands of Large Hadron Colliders in space that have yet to destroy the universe.

Kirsten: Right. Yeah. It hasn’t happened yet. So, it’s not going to happen on Earth. And there’s also the, you know, the size of these mini-black holes that have been proposed by some are estimated to be only a billionth of a billionth of a meter across which is called an atometer.

And the black hole would exist for a bit more than a few billion, billion, billionths of a second. And it would evaporate. And the question is, you know, would they evaporate or not?

And there’s actually a report in Physical Review D in which Steve Giddings of the University of California at Santa Barbara and Michaelangelo Mangano of CERN are looking at what would happen.

And this is where they kind of look at the idea, okay we’ve got white dwarfs and we’ve got these big dense stars, neutron stars of the right types that could potentially span really fast devour – you know, really hungry black holes that would devour things really fast and grow in size incredibly quickly.

And we’re not seeing that out in space. So, probably we’re not going to see it here starting from such a tiny, tiny, tiny mini black hole.

Justin: Yeah. They – usually black holes form with a lot of mass and that’s how they become massive and, you know, universally (sky). This is kind of interesting because I kind of – this is like one of the things that had been unclear to me when hearing about, you know, colliders in the past. It’s like, wow, that’s, you know, it’s like shooting a bullet with a bullet kind of a scenario…

Kirsten: Right.

Justin: …but really it’s small. In top gear, the LHC will generate merely a billion collisions per second. Okay?

Kirsten: Nice.

Justin: So, it’s not so much that’s like okay…

Kirsten: They’re not descending like one particle over – against one particle.

Justin: Right. And then just going to – just hit them perfect and then, because I always seem like wow, that’s pretty wild. But I guess, that’s kind of what – but it’s over and over and over again until they get the good collisions.

Kirsten: Yeah.

Justin: And then they’re going to, you know, pick out a few from those billions…

Kirsten: Right.

Justin: …that look like they have the biggest splash, I supposed. And send them around to…

Kirsten: The biggest signal and see what they’ve got.

Justin: Send them around to the institutions and universities around the world, let them analyze. I mean, there’s going to be so many eyes on this project. It’s going to be absolutely stunning. And I still – my favorite prediction, which I pulled from Sean Carroll from his website

Kirsten: We like Sean Carroll. Yes.

Justin: Was the 50% chance of finding something that we hadn’t predicted to finding at all, something completely new. Something out of it just…

Kirsten: Right, just random. Well, I mean we aren’t continually finding new things, I mean there was a particle that was recently found – I mean, I don’t know if it was predicted.

I don’t remember whether or not it was predicted but I mean new particle found recently like it just happens all the time. And now with this giant collision that’s going to produce.

Justin: Yeah.

Kirsten: You know, it’s taking an analogy. I read it was like, okay, so you take two cars, race cars and you drive them around the track and they crash into each other.

And all the parts of the car go flying out. And maybe there’s like some nuts and bolts that you didn’t know were in there but all of a sudden you’re like, “Oh that’s a neat shaped nut or bolt. Wow that’s interesting.”

Justin: Find at cup holder.

Kirsten: Wow, and you can kind of figure out what was in the cars to begin with.

Justin: Right now there’s a lot – the biggest one is the Higgs Boson. That’s the one that they’re talking about like 95% chance. I’ve even heard it guaranteed.

Kirsten: Really?

Justin: Yeah.

Kirsten: Wow. They’re pretty convinced.

Justin: I think it was Higgs who guaranteed that it would be found.

Kirsten: Yeah.

Justin: And I mean, if it’s not found it’s almost more exciting.

Kirsten: Yeah.

Justin: I mean everything in science so far that they’ve got around this, around the particle of Physics says the Higgs Boson should be there. But how much more exciting will it be if it’s not.

Kirsten: If it’s not.

Justin: If it’s not.

Kirsten: And then they find something completely different or multitude of particles that maybe there are lots of different particles that make up the properties of what we expected “Higgs Boson” to be.

Justin: Oh, turtles all the way down Kirsten. You’re always about turtles all the way down.

Kirsten: Turtles all the way down. I am. I am. I love that turtles all the way down. Anyway, yeah I’m excited. I’m going to a party tomorrow night, a Large Hadron Collider party put on by some Swiss organization in San Francisco.

Justin: Wow.

Kirsten: Yeah.

Justin: You get to go to all the good party.

Kirsten: So, I’ll be smooching with the physicists. It’s awesome I’m excited. So, hopefully next week I’ll have a nice report about the Large Hadron Collider party.

Justin: Nice.

Kirsten: Yeah. I’m going to go take some pictures and post on the website.

Justin: I don’t know. I’ve seen some footage from some hot Large Hadron Collider parties. They are a little wild.

Kirsten: Kind of crazy especially with those physicists being trained in comedy these days. Did you hear it?

Justin: That’s about it.

Kirsten: Yeah.

Justin: They’re doing like some improve-comedy this time.

Kirsten: Yeah. It’s a neat idea actually, learning, getting trained in improve-comedy to help their communication skills to come up with new ways to describe what they do to the public. And, you know, I mean that’s not politic.

Justin: I don’t know if that’s so much healthy. All right, I’m going to give you an analogy for what just took place. I would like somebody can give me an occupation. And somebody over here think of something you could buy at the grocery store. Give me these objects and I’m come up with an analogy for what we just witnessed in the live chat.

Thank you.

Kirsten: Thank you very much. All right, moving on in science news what else do we have? I had some really interesting news, a study that was looking at girls’ interests in Science and Math and trying to figure what parents and teachers can do to help make it better.

Get girls into it a little bit more because somewhere around middle school in high school girls kind of lose the fancy for Science. Not so excited anymore. It’s more about lipstick and boys and I got to be pretty.

Justin: Yeah. I’m glad to hear doing this before. I was totally seixsts device saying all these one.

Kirsten: I can say it. I went through it myself. It’s the thing. It’s something that happened.

Justin: How did you survived?

Kirsten: I don’t know. I think I had a family who were – they liked helping me to do get ahead. And so, you know, they promoted my interests in Science. And, you know, my Dad always asked questions and there was always discussion about stuff. And we watched a lot of like public television, lots of Nova growing up. Yeah.

Carl Sagan.

Justin: Yes of course.

Kirsten: He is my idol growing up. Yeah. Now a research team of some vocational Psychologist at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee have found that it’s really self-confidence that is instilled by parents and teachers that is most important as opposed to making Science and Math the girls’ first interest.

So, it’s less about depth in interest in Science and Math and more about making them self-confident and able to, you know, say I can do these. You know, as opposed to hearing, “Oh girls don’t do Math” and being like, “Oh maybe I don’t.” Have the self-confidence to be able to say, “I can do Math. I can do whatever I want.”

Justin: Yeah.

Kirsten: And so, that’s what is about. And so, Nadya Fouad, who is in charge of the study found that more attention should be given to building confidence. And this was a three-year long study aimed at identifying support some various steer girls toward or away from Science and Math. And the relationship between confidence and interest is close. If they feel they can do it, it feeds their interest.

So, the study looked at girls and boys in middle school, high school and their sophomore year in college in Milwaukee and Phoenix and try to figure out where the barriers for girls are.

Self-efficacy is not the only important factor. They also found very complicated issue. Math and Science cannot be lumped together when designing interventions because the disciplines are not the same and they have different barriers.

The researcher, Fouad, says there were also differences at each developmental level and differences between the genders. That means that interventions would need to be tailored for each specific subgroup.

Overall, it all comes down to parents and teachers really providing girls with that fodder to just drive their self-esteem and their self-confidence telling them they can do it giving them, you know, that boost.

Having a teacher who makes you strive, who believes in you, having a teacher that believes in you and makes you want to work harder is something that’s very, very important.

Justin: Yeah but in the end result there still is at least one huge difference between men who do Science and women who do science.

Kirsten: Yeah.

Justin: Lipstick.

Kirsten: Maybe. Yeah, I think though that, you know, it is something…

Justin: Yeah. I guess maybe there are some real scientists who wear lipstick (unintelligible).

Kirsten: But that’s part of it also and it’s something that, you know, girls need to see. I can dress up. I can be pretty. I can wear lipstick. I can be a girl.

Justin: Yeah. It is like – there’s no reason.

Kirsten: I can be beautiful and I can do Science.

Justin: Science has been – the scientific community has been dying to get mini skirts into the lab. They’re ready. They’ve seen prototype lab coats that are catch – you can dress actually in This Science if that’s what you want to do. You don’t have to be an either or, I mean it’s totally – there’s a caller for it.

Kirsten: You don’t have to be an either or. You can do it all. Girls, you could do whatever you want. Yes?

Justin: Okay. This is the wrong story. Here it is, here it is. I’m wavering impatiently the wrong story.

Okay. So, here’s the story that caught my eye. When being admitted to the hospital, a lot of fears may crossed the mind of prospective patient. Is the physician competent?

Have they told me everything about my condition or just told me about the part my health plan covers? Is the hospital clean? Or will I get some strange illness just by being there. Should I pack a lunch? Many, many questions arise but the one fear that is most often overlooked, rattlesnakes.

Kirsten: What?

Justin: Rattlesnakes or rather a toxin protein similar to one found in rattlesnake venom that has been found to be being created by colonies of super bugs.

Kirsten: Really?

Justin: Yes. Scientists have discovered that colonies of bacteria Pseudomonos Aeruginosa can produce a protein which their analysis suggest is similar to one of the active ingredients in rattlesnake venom, that science such a strange cross called (phenomenon).

Kirsten: Yeah.

Justin: In the case of rattlesnake venom, the protein causes the host cell to commit suicide and die, which is one of the reasons why rattlesnake bites are so dangerous. If it wasn’t for the venom, it would just be, you know, scary bite.

Kirsten: Right.

Justin: The research team is currently studying the protein to see if it functions actually in the same way as the venom. But there are some other interesting discoveries in this which is – they’re really strength in numbers as it is in human society so it is in the bacterial world.

The colonies of super bug bacteria, which they called biofilms can be a thousand times more resistant to antibiotics than the individual bacteria alone. And what they’re finding also is that the biofilm colonies can create different proteins and different toxins as a group than any of the individuals can create.

So, there’s some strange sort of collaboration that takes place when they gather together in this biofilm in this colony…

Kirsten: Yeah.

Justin: …where they can really manufacture a toxin together that they couldn’t do separately. That to me is by itself just an amazing factoid.

So, part of these is they’ve been successfully treating – they’ve been assuming for a long time. You can have a biofilm in your colony, in your bacteria. And the assumption has been that it’s if little separation, small bacteria blooms separate from those that what cause the toxins. Those are what are dangerous. And those are what are usually addressed.

In a chronic condition, it is the biofilm but it’s very slow, it’s not so aggressive. So what the researcher is discovering though is that it’s not just the little escaping bacterias that can create toxins.

Kirsten: Right.

Justin: But there’s a whole different group of toxins that are being created in the colony itself. And the colony itself can have different resistances even than the separate.

Kirsten: Yeah.

Justin: So, it’s giving them – giving science a better picture of how to address a lot of chronic illnesses, a lot of chronic bacterial infections.

Kirsten: It’s pretty cool.

Justin: Yeah.

Kirsten: That’s very cool. Researchers from the European Space Agency dehydrated little tiny invertebrates that are called water bears.

Justin: Water bear, oh.

Kirsten: Water bears. They are also known as tardigrades.

Justin: I like water bears.

Kirsten: Yeah. They look like little – if you look at microscopic pictures of them, they look like this little round, you got little legs and their head – they look like little bears.

Justin: Wow.

Kirsten: Yeah. So, they’re called water bears. And so, they are some of the most indestructible. Yes, they’re hard to distruct.

Justin: I think most was, yeah. That was fine.

Kirsten: They’re hardy, hardy, hardy creatures. And so, to test their indestructibility, the European Space Agency sent them into space. Some Swedish researchers put them on a rocket that was shot up from Kazakhstan in September of 2007.

And it went into space they were exposed to the solar radiation. They were exposed to ultra-violet radiation from the sun charged particles called cosmic rays. They were, you know, they’re in the airless vacuum of space. They were exposed to this just harsh, cold, terrible environmental…

Justin: And they all died.

Kirsten: No!

Justin: What?

Kirsten: They did not. Yes. So, the researchers brought them back to Earth. And so, they dehydrated them, sent them into space and then look to see what they brought them back. And then rehydrated them and check to see how many of them were still alive and could still reproduce.

Sixty-eight percent of their specimens that were shielded from high energy radiation from the sun were revived within 30 minutes of being rehydrated.

Justin: Wow, that’s a hardy species.

Kirsten: Yeah. And they went on to reproduce very easily. So, if they were shielded from the sun’s radiation, the ultra-violet radiation, they did okay. However, if they were not shielded and they were actually in the full exposure of UV light, a few of – the majority of them did die. But a few of them did survive.

Justin: Wow.

Kirsten: So, there’s a handful of them that were able to live through this really, really harsh extreme space environment.

And one researcher, a Developmental Biologist named Bob Goldstein was quoted of saying, “No animal has survived open space before. The finding that animals survived rehydration after ten days in open space and then produce viable embryos as well is really remarkable.”

And so, this might be important when we consider the habitability of other bodies in our solar system or beyond, says Astrobiologist, Gerda Horneck, of the German Aerospace Center. So, they have to now…

Justin: So wish they’d called them water pigs instead of – because then you can have pigs fly.

Kirsten: I know (any) of the pigs in space.

Justin: And you’ve got pigs in space.

Kirsten: We have bears in space.

Justin: That’s not the same.

Kirsten: No, it’s not. But anyway, now the goal is to figure out what it is about these tardigrades that allows them to survive in this extremely harsh environmental space.

Justin: And to trained them as astronauts. That’s going to be real harder, I think.

Kirsten: That’s going to be really hard.

Justin: That’s going to be the difficult daunting task that science has before it.

Kirsten: We’re almost out of time. We’ve got like three minutes left. There are so many more stories.

Justin: The real quick of this factoring in how much carbon can be stored by forests. One Minnesota forest can store 62% of the surrounding regions’ carbon emissions, which is equivalent about taking out 225,000 cars per year. So, I’m going to bring the story next week. It’s pretty interesting in depth look at the ability of forests to capture and store carbons from the atmosphere.

Kirsten: Carbons?

Justin: It maybe – yeah, car bombs.

Kirsten: Carbon

Justin: Carbon.

Kirsten: Carbon.

Justin: It may be a good adage to the global warming fight is planting lots of trees. Who knows?

Kirsten: Sweet. That could be it. And in This Week in world robot domination, scientists at Stanford University have developed an artificial intelligence system for flying helicopters. They made the helicopters able to observe the flights of helicopters that were being controlled by the virtually professional helicopter stunt people.

So, they took remote controlled helicopters and a guy who’s really good at making them do tricks, flew them around, did like a helicopter stunt show, an air show. And they have this AI helicopters, watch a few repetitions of the show and then they set them lose. And the helicopters that watched actually did perform to the maneuvers better than the human remote controlled operator.

Justin: And I’ve seen some…

Kirsten: This is amazing.

Justin: I’ve seen some of this helicopter stunt stuff, this remote controlled helicopter. It’s not just flying around…

Kirsten: No.

Justin: …and, you know, making it look like a helicopter.

Kirsten: It’s not.

Justin: It’s doing tricks.

Kirsten: Doing crazy tricks that take a lot of skill and take an understanding.

Justin: Yeah. And probably take a lot of having had to put remote controlled helicopters back together after they crashed and flew into 100 pieces…

Kirsten: Out, yeah probably.

Justin: …like upside down, like float (unintelligible). This is like crazy tricks that can be done with those things.

Kirsten: Yeah.

Justin: That’s an amazing accomplishment.

Kirsten: That’s a really amazing story. Next week we’ll be interviewing Paleontologist Doug Erwin about the Permian Mass Extinction that nearly wiped out life on Earth about 250 million years ago.

Shoutouts to (Doug Perry) and (Dan Kroger) in Texas, (David Graphgram) in the UK, (David Morgan) in Berkley, Minion (Andrew) of Mid-Michigan, (Roy Priers), (Steve Neilson), (Eric Cooper), (Logan Waterman), (Kelly Duff). (Richard Geliko), (Teresa Sokorski), (Jordan Crayson), (Elgeige Ven Vegnum), (Linda Coarsen), (Phil Brown) and as usual, (Ed Dyer).

Thank you for your letters, your stories, everything that you sent in over the week. We appreciate all of your input. Don’t forget to pay attention to Large Hadron Collider news this week as it official fires up tomorrow. And hopefully the majority physicist are right and we’ll be back next week.

Hope you enjoy the show. TWIS is also available as a podcast which you can find at our website thisweekinscience or or in iTunes. Thanks for listening. Email us if you have any questions, comments, stories at kirsten or

Justin: Put the TWIS in the subject or it will go to the spam filter.

Kirsten: Spam filter.

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

Kirsten: It’s all in your head.

Tags: Body Obsession and Being Positive, Junk to Thumbs, Hello LHC!, Girls and Science, Bacteria and Rattlesnakes, Water Bears in Space, and Watchful Helicopters


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