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Science on Top
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The podcast putting science on top of the agenda!
The podcast putting science on top of the agenda!

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SoT 251: The Stellarator At Wolfenstein
http://scienceontop.com/251

By looking at astronomical records from 720 BC to AD 2015, researchers have found a small inaccuracy in modern calculations of the Earth's rotational speed. The Earth's spin is slowing down slightly slower than we thought.
A small section of a dinosaur's tail has been found in a piece of amber for sale in a market in Myanmar. The tail is amazingly well preserved - and feathered!
Nuclear fusion - as opposed to our current nuclear reactors, which use nuclear fission - is the 'holy grail' of physics research. It could provide near limitless energy, without toxic by-products. Now the Wendelstein 7-X project in Germany appears to be making progress, successfully trapping plasma in a magnetic cage.
A small study at Johns Hopkins University could give cancer patients suffering from depression and anxiety some hope. It suggests that just a single dose of magic mushrooms can improve their mental health for months.

This episode contains traces of the Today Show talking about a Christmas tree.

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SoT 250: Pet Platypuses
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For a long time, vision problems have been a known side-effect of spending a long time in space. We are now a big step closer to understanding why, thanks to some MRI scans done before and after trips to the International Space Station.
The male of the duck-billed platypus has a venomous spurr on its leg. But that venom contains a hormone that could be useful for treating diabetes.
A new study by researchers at Caltech suggests that we could be looking for the cause of Parkinson's Disease in the wrong place. Instead of being a brain issue, it could be related to gut irritation.

This episode contains traces of Wil Anderson talking with journalist Mark Colvin.

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SoT 248: Through The Melon
http://scienceontop.com/248

Narwhals are whales with two teeth, and on the males one of those teeth is a really long tusk. A new study looks at how they use high-resolution echolocation to navigate under sea ice in the Arctic.
A new paper points out a potential new reservoir for finding antibiotics - the human gut.
Using data from the New Horizons probe, scientists have determined there is likely to be a large ocean deep below the heart shape on Pluto.

This episode contains traces of Stephen Hawking cautioning against being sedentary.

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SoT 246: Nobel Prizes 2016
http://scienceontop.com/246

The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to Yoshinori Ohsumi "for his discoveries of mechanisms for autophagy".
The Nobel Prize in Physics was divided, one half awarded to David J. Thouless, the other half jointly to F. Duncan M. Haldane and J. Michael Kosterlitz "for theoretical discoveries of topological phase transitions and topological phases of matter".
The Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded jointly to Jean-Pierre Sauvage, Sir J. Fraser Stoddart and Bernard L. Feringa "for the design and synthesis of molecular machines".

This episode may contain traces of Nobel Committee member Thor Hans Hansson explaining topology with his lunch.

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SoT 245: The 2016 Ig Nobel Prizes
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The Ig Nobel Prizes honour achievements that first make us laugh, then make us think. We take a look at this year’s winners: from rats in pants to collecting flies!

REPRODUCTION PRIZE was posthumously awarded to Ahmed Shafik, from Egypt, "for studying the effects of wearing polyester, cotton, or wool trousers on the sex life of rats, and for conducting similar tests with human males".
ECONOMICS PRIZE went to two researchers from New Zealand and one from the UK "for assessing the perceived personalities of rocks, from a sales and marketing perspective".
PHYSICS PRIZE was presented to scientists from Hungary, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland "for discovering why white-haired horses are the most horsefly-proof horses, and for discovering why dragonflies are fatally attracted to black tombstones".
CHEMISTRY PRIZE was given to Volkswagen, "for solving the problem of excessive automobile pollution emissions by automatically, electromechanically producing fewer emissions whenever the cars are being tested".
PEACE PRIZE was given to a team from Canada and the USA "for their scholarly study called 'On the Reception and Detection of Pseudo-Profound Bullshit'".
MEDICINE PRIZE — five German scientists "for discovering that if you have an itch on the left side of your body, you can relieve it by looking into a mirror and scratching the right side of your body (and vice versa)".
PSYCHOLOGY PRIZE went to scientists from Belgium, The Netherlands, Germany, Canada, and the USA "for asking a thousand liars how often they lie, and for deciding whether to believe those answers".
BIOLOGY PRIZE was awarded jointly to: Charles Foster, for living in the wild as, at different times, a badger, an otter, a deer, a fox, and a bird; and to Thomas Thwaites, for creating prosthetic extensions of his limbs that allowed him to move in the manner of, and spend time roaming hills in the company of, goats.
LITERATURE PRIZE went to Fredrik Sjöberg, from Sweden, "for his three-volume autobiographical work about the pleasures of collecting flies that are dead, and flies that are not yet dead".
PERCEPTION PRIZE was picked up by Atsuki Higashiyama and Kohei Adachi, for investigating whether things look different when you bend over and view them between your legs.

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SoT 240: Fat Kids On A Seesaw
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A planet-that-in-some-respects-probably-resembles-Earth-a-little-bit has been found orbiting the closest star outside our solar system, Proxima Centauri. Astronomer and astrobiologist Dr. Jonti Horner gives us the details about our nearest distant neighbour, Proxima Centauri b.
Thanks to continental drift, Australia's moving Northward by 7cm every year. As a result, it's now more than a meter from where the maps say it is. And when your self-driving car relies on GPS, that could be a big problem.

Dr. Jonti Horner is an astronomer and astrobiologist based at the University of Southern Queensland. On Saturday, 24 September 2016 he will be giving a talk, "Exoplanets & Life Elsewhere", at the Melbourne Planetarium.

This episode may contain traces of Shepard Smith announcing the discovery of Proxima Centauri b.

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SoT 234: Rock Lobster
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A decade ago, the Great Southern Reef stretched for 8,000km off the coast of Western Australia. Now, a long-term study shows how decades of ocean warming combined with a marine heatwave has devastated the kelp forest. We caught up with Dr Scott Bennett from the Spanish National Research Council, one of the primary investigators on the study.
A new study has found that capuchin monkeys in Brazil have been using stones as tools to prepare their cashew feasts for more than 700 years.
Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine have made a major discovery that could determine whether a patient has a bacterial infection or a viral infection by through a simple blood test.
The European Space Agency has announced an ambitious plan to catch a derelict satellite in a net, and burn it up in Earth's atmosphere.

Dr. Scott Bennett is a Marie Curie Fellow at the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), and Research Associate in Marine Ecology at Curtin University.

This episode contains traces of Paul Barry on Media Watch investigating The Australian’s Great Barrier Reef coverage.

http://scienceontop.com/234
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SoT 233: Growth Mindset
http://scienceontop.com/233

713 Trillion gallons of water found deep underneath California. But we can't touch it... yet.
A pair of wings found encased in 99 million year old amber suggest that the plumage of modern birds has remained almost unchanged from some of their dinosaur-era ancestors.
Thirty eight rare hazel dormice have been released into the Yorkshire Dales National Park in England in a conservation effort. But the declining dormouse population raises other issues about how changing land use is affecting the wildlife.
A three-year study of a reef in the Florida Keys has shed light on how microbes are crucial to keeping coral reefs healthy Overfishing, pollution and climate change can destabilise the coral's natural defence and disrupt ecological communities.

This episode may contain traces of Rick Nybakken, Project Manager for the Juno mission at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

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SoT 232: Peanut Butter Makes Everything Better
http://scienceontop.com/232

Fish that spend part of the time on land - such as mudskippers, American eels, and sea scorpions - may have evolved that ability separately more than 30 times!
Tabby's Star, also known as Where's The Flux, has been described as "the most mysterious star in the universe". It's the star with the strange dimming patterns that caused some speculation that it might be an alien megastructure. Well it almost certainly isn't an alien megastructure, but the story behind its discovery and the plans to study it closer are just as cool!
A new study finds links between low-fibre diets and peanut allergies.

This episode may contain traces of Tabetha Boyajian's TED Talk, "The most mysterious star in the universe".

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SoT 231: Smoking Pigs
http://scienceontop.com/231

For the second time, physicists have detected gravitational waves, proving that gravitational wave detection is a viable new form of astronomy. It also opens the way for theories about space-time having a memory, and possible explanations for dark matter.
A long awaited WHO report says that not only is coffee not carcinogenic, but it may even prevent some cancers. It's not so good news, however, if you like your coffee hot.
NASA's Juno spacecraft is set to enter orbit around Jupiter on July 4th, and NASA has released a Hollywood-style trailer for it.

Dr. Katie Mack is a theoretical astrophysicist at the University of Melbourne. Follow her on Twitter at @AstroKatie.

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