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It’s Hot. But How Hot? | Canine Cancer Vaccine Shows Promising Results
3d ago
It’s Hot. But How Hot? | Canine Cancer Vaccine Shows Promising Results
Researchers say the Wet Bulb Globe Temperature is a better indicator of heat stress. Also, cancer is the leading cause of death in dogs. A new vaccine has increased survival rates in clinical trials, offering hope for dogs and humans.Yes, It’s Hot. But How Hot?Much of the country has been enduring a heat wave this week, with millions sweating from Maine to the Midwest. But describing exactly how hot it is—and when temperatures become hazardous—can be challenging. Beyond the basic temperature, there’s the heat index, invented in 1978, which incorporates humidity measurements and is supposed to give a better indication of how a person might feel outside. Some health researchers are calling for more attention to a different type of temperature measurement known as the wet bulb globe temperature. It tracks temperature, humidity, and sunlight, and improves upon the heat index standard.Umair Irfan, senior correspondent at Vox, joins SciFri’s Kathleen Davis to talk about measuring temperatures and protecting yourself from extreme heat. Plus, they discuss other stories from the week in science, including advances in tornado prediction, a delay in a return flight from the International Space Station, and a newly-described horned dinosaur that once roamed the US.A Canine Cancer Vaccine Shows Promising ResultsDogs are by far the most popular pet in the United States: 62 million households have at least one. They are humans’ best friends, after all. Sadly, cancer is the leading cause of death in domestic dogs. And when a pet gets sick, it can be devastating for the entire family.Lucky for dogs (and their people), there may soon be a breakthrough in treating canine cancer: a vaccine that can slow and even stop the spread of tumors. Clinical trial results are quite promising so far, increasing 12-month survival rates in dogs with some cancers from 35% to 60%. The research team also reports that in many dogs the vaccine shrinks tumors.Joining guest host Kathleen Davis to talk about this novel therapy is Dr. Mark Mamula, professor of medicine at the Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut. Mamula discusses this important breakthrough, and possible future applications for human cancer therapies.Transcripts for each segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
Mannequins Help Teach People How To Spot Ticks | Protecting A Flickering Symbol Of Summer Nights
4d ago
Mannequins Help Teach People How To Spot Ticks | Protecting A Flickering Symbol Of Summer Nights
Two mannequins walk into a science lab, and one’s got a big tick problem. She can teach humans how to check for ticks. Also, researchers used citizen science observations and machine learning to understand where fireflies are and what they need to thrive.In Wisconsin, Mannequins Help Teach People How To Spot TicksNationwide, Wisconsin is a hot spot for Lyme disease. And cases are rising, as climate change and development alter how humans interact with the ticks that transmit this disease. In Wisconsin, cases reported annually have more than doubled in the last two decades.With tick season underway, tick checks are one of the most important ways you can prevent infection. I recently visited the Midwest Center of Excellence for Vector-borne Disease, which is housed at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where researchers are using a new tool to teach people how to do tick checks — mannequins.Read the rest at sciencefriday.comProtecting A Flickering Symbol Of Summer NightsWhen people talk about watching fireflies, a common comment is “You know, I don’t see as many fireflies as I used to.” Researchers are trying to figure out whether that impression is actually accurate, and which of the over 2,000 firefly species might be affected—and to do so, they need a lot more data. A recent paper published in the journal Science of the Total Environment used over 24,000 citizen science observations as well as machine learning models to try to better identify where certain species of fireflies can be found, and what types of habitat and climate they need to thrive.Dr. Sarah Lower, a firefly researcher at Bucknell University and a co-author of the study, joins guest host Annie Minoff to talk about some ways to protect fireflies near you, including preserving darkness and providing moist, permeable, natural soils for firefly larvae.Transcripts for each segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
Elephants Seem To Use Names For Each Other | Kids Discover Rare T. Rex Fossil
Jun 14 2024
Elephants Seem To Use Names For Each Other | Kids Discover Rare T. Rex Fossil
A new study used machine learning to analyze elephant vocalizations and identified “contact rumbles” that appear to function as names. Also, on a hike in the Badlands, a family found a dinosaur bone sticking out of a rock. It joined the few teenage T. rex fossils ever discovered.Elephants Seem To Use Names For Each OtherScientists have long known that elephants exhibit some advanced social behaviors that we humans find familiar, including tool use and funerals.And a new study from Colorado State a university offers compelling evidence that African savannah elephants might engage in another human social behavior: having names for each other. Researchers applied machine learning to a database of 600 elephant vocalizations, which included “contact rumbles,” vocalizations that researchers observed that other elephants responded to. The algorithm identified repeated sections of those recordings that might represent names.When the researchers played these possible “name” sections of audio to pairs of elephants—one of which was the suspected owner of the name—the appropriate elephant responded at a rate significantly better than random chance.Guest host Annie Minoff is joined by Tim Revell, deputy editor at New Scientist, to talk about this and other science stories from the week, including the possible effects a freezing interstellar cloud had on Earth a few million years ago, the biological effects of short term spaceflight on private citizen passengers on SpaceX flights, and a new species of pterosaur found in the Australian outback with a killer tongue.Kids Discover Extremely Rare T. Rex FossilFor one family, a summer hike in the badlands of North Dakota turned into the discovery of a lifetime when they spotted a fossil jutting out of a rock. Two brothers, their dad, and a cousin found the fossil, and with the help of some dinosaur experts, they eventually learned it was a T. rex.The fossil wasn’t just of any T. rex, but a teenage one. These fossils are incredibly rare—there are only a handful of them in the world.Guest host Annie Minoff discusses this dino discovery and what it means for science with 12-year-old Jessin Fisher, a budding paleontologist and one of the brothers who discovered the fossil, as well as Dr. Tyler Lyson, curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science in Colorado who helped excavate the fossil.Transcripts for each segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
Metal-Absorbing Plants Could Make Mining Greener | A Tiny Fern's Gigantic Genome
Jun 12 2024
Metal-Absorbing Plants Could Make Mining Greener | A Tiny Fern's Gigantic Genome
Plants called “hyperaccumulators” have evolved to absorb high levels of metals. Scientists want to harness them for greener metal mining. And, a little fern from New Caledonia is just a few inches tall, but its genome has 160.45 billion base pairs—50 times more DNA than a human.How Metal-Absorbing Plants Could Make Mining GreenerScientists are exploring a somewhat unusual green energy solution: mining metals from the earth using plants.Typically, if soil has high levels of metal, plants will either die or do everything they can to avoid it. But, one group has taken a different path: evolve to be able to safely absorb large amounts of the metals. These special plants are called hyperaccumulators. And their ability to suck metals like nickel from the earth is called phytomining.The Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy announced in March up to $10 million in funding for phytomining research.Ira talks with Dr. David McNear, professor of plant and soil sciences at the University of Kentucky, about these fascinating flora and their promise as a greener option to metal mining.A Tiny Fern Has The Largest Genome Ever DiscoveredScientists just discovered the largest genome of any living thing on Earth, and it belongs to a small, unassuming fern called Tmesipteris oblanceolata. If you were to split open one of its cells and unwind the DNA that’s coiled up in the nucleus, it would stretch out more than 300 feet—taller than the Statue of Liberty.Scientists reported the finding last week in the journal iScience. The fern is only a few inches tall and is found on the island of New Caledonia in the Southwest Pacific. Its DNA is made up of 160.45 billion base pairs—50 times more than the human genome.This finding has left scientists scratching their heads, wondering how and why a fern ended up with so much DNA. Ira Flatow talks with co-lead author of this study Dr. Jaume Pellicer, evolutionary biologist at the Botanical Institute of Barcelona, about this research and why this fern’s DNA is so puzzling.Transcripts for each segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
A Week Of Milestones For Spaceflight | Mexico Has Elected A Scientist President
Jun 7 2024
A Week Of Milestones For Spaceflight | Mexico Has Elected A Scientist President
A Week Of Milestones For SpaceflightThis has been a week of milestones for human spaceflight. After years of delays, Boeing’s Starliner capsule, carrying astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams, successfully launched Wednesday on the United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V rocket. On Thursday, it docked with the International Space Station.Also on Thursday, SpaceX’s Starship rocket made its first successful launch and reentry after three previous attempts (the massive rocket burned up in the atmosphere on the last launch). And on a more sobering note, NASA announced that its famous 34-year-old Hubble Space Telescope is experiencing issues with its gyroscopes and is opting to only use one for the time being. The agency says Hubble can still do science, but less efficiently than it once could.Maggie Koerth, science writer and editorial lead for Carbon Plan, joins Ira to discuss those and other top stories in science this week, including why the viral Joro spider you may have seen online does not pose a threat to humans, how a virus that’s spreading due to deforestation in South America could overwhelm local healthcare, and why the FDA voted against the medical use of MDMA.Mexico Has Elected A Scientist President. What Will That Mean?This week, Mexico elected a historic president: Claudia Sheinbaum Pardo, who will be the first woman to lead the nation, and was also an environmental engineer before entering politics.Despite the president-elect’s scientific past, Sheinbaum Pardo has committed to following the lead of her predecessor, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, whose science policies were deeply unpopular with many researchers in the country.Mexico’s scientific community is split on how this election will impact science and research in the country. Rodrigo Pérez Ortega, a reporter at Science Magazine, joins Ira to talk through the complexities of this election and how scientists are reacting.Transcripts for each segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
The Organ That Gives Birds Their Voices | Common Loons Are Pop Music Icons
Jun 6 2024
The Organ That Gives Birds Their Voices | Common Loons Are Pop Music Icons
Scientists are studying birds’ unique vocal organ, the syrinx, to better understand its evolutionary history. Also, the eerie calls of the common loon have been heard in songs by Michael Jackson, Lady Gaga, Lana Del Rey, and more.The Organ That Gives Birds Their VoicesHave you ever wondered how a bird sings? Or made some of their less melodic vocalizations, like squawks, trills, or chirps? It all happens in the syrinx, a vocal organ unique to birds. Reptiles, amphibians, and mammals, including humans, use their larynx to produce sounds.The syrinx varies widely between bird species and there’s still a lot that scientists don’t understand about how it works and its evolutionary history. Better understanding the syrinx of living birds can help scientists get closer to figuring out what dinosaurs sounded like. (No, the dinosaur sounds in “Jurassic Park” are not scientifically accurate.)Guest host Arielle Duhaime-Ross talks with Dr. Julia Clarke, professor of vertebrate paleontology at the Jackson School of Geosciences at the University of Texas, Austin, about her recent research studying the syrinxes of ostriches and hummingbirds.Common Loons Are Pop Music IconsFor decades now, one music star has managed to show up on tracks spanning multiple genres and appear alongside many famous artists—while also remaining bafflingly under-recognized. Any guesses?Of course, we’re talking about none other than the common loon—a waterbird with striking red eyes and black-and-white checkerboard plumage. This bird’s calls have been used in songs by artists like Michael Jackson, Nicki Minaj, Lady Gaga, Doja Cat, and Lana Del Rey. They’ve also been used as a sound effect in Hollywood blockbusters like “Harry Potter” and the TV show “Game of Thrones.”So how did this bird’s call become a regular in everything from hip hop and EDM to pop music? A story in Audubon Magazine dove into this, and guest host Arielle Duhaime-Ross talks with author Maddie Burakoff, an associate editor at Audubon.Transcripts for each segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
Indigenous Nations Are Fighting To Take Back Their Data
Jun 5 2024
Indigenous Nations Are Fighting To Take Back Their Data
You might’ve heard this phrase before: data equals power. Because when you have data, you can decide how they’re used and who gets to use them.The history of research on Indigenous communities in the United States is full of stories of exploitation, power imbalances, and stolen knowledge. Be it through the iodine experiments of the 1950s in Alaska, the racist and pseudoscientific conclusions drawn by American anthropologists in the 20th century, or through more recent examples in which genetic data from communities were used in studies without their consent— these practices have caused lasting mistrust and harm.The growing field of Indigenous data sovereignty demands that Native communities maintain the right to decide how data about their people are collected, owned, and used.Guest host Arielle Duhaime-Ross talks with two people at the forefront of this movement: Dr. Stephanie Carroll is the director of the Collaboratory for Indigenous Data Governance and an associate professor of public health at the University of Arizona in Tucson. She is also Ahtna and a citizen of the Native Village of Kluti-Kaah in Alaska. Dr. Krystal Tsosie is a co-founder of the Native BioData Consortium and an assistant professor and geneticist-bioethicist at Arizona State University in Tempe. She’s a member of Navajo Nation. They discuss how data on Indigenous Peoples has been used and abused, why data sovereignty is more important than ever, and what solutions look like.Transcripts for each segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
Starliner Crewed Test Flight Rescheduled | Slugs And Snails Like Cities
May 31 2024
Starliner Crewed Test Flight Rescheduled | Slugs And Snails Like Cities
The much-delayed crewed test flight is back on the calendar, despite a helium leak. Also, researchers used data from the crowd-sourcing nature observation app iNaturalist to rank animals’ tolerance of urban environments.Starliner Crewed Test Flight Rescheduled For This WeekendA long-delayed test flight of Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft is back on the calendar for Saturday, June 1, carrying astronauts to the International Space Station. It’s a demonstration flight as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew program, intended to show that the new spacecraft design can be a practical and safe way to get people into space. If the flight is successful, NASA can then consider using the Boeing Starliner system for crewed flights to the ISS, joining the current fleet of craft from SpaceX and the Russian Soyuz program.The Starliner launch has been delayed numerous times. Its most recent launch attempt, on May 6, was scrubbed when systems flagged a bad valve in a rocket booster. That booster valve was replaced, but engineers then detected a small leak in the spacecraft’s helium thruster system, which led to still further delays. They have now determined that the flight can proceed even with the leaky system, allowing the upcoming launch attempt.Science Friday senior producer Charles Bergquist joins guest host Arielle Duhaime-Ross to talk about the upcoming launch, and about other stories from the week in science, including the return of an active solar region responsible for recent fantastic aurora displays, research into how the brain decodes the meaning of “not,” and the announcement of two new giant pandas headed to the National Zoo.Which Animals Like Cities Most? Slugs And Snails Top The List.If you live in an urban environment, it might seem like the animals you see every day—birds, bugs, squirrels—have adapted perfectly fine to city life.But according to a new study in PLOS ONE, that isn’t always the case. Urbanization is directly linked to biodiversity loss, but researchers at UCLA, including Joey Curti and Dr. Morgan Tingley, wanted to find out specifically which animals thrive and which struggle in urban environments. So they turned to iNaturalist, a crowd-sourcing app where users upload photos of flora and fauna they see, along with information like location and date.The team combed through years of iNaturalist data in the Los Angeles metro area and developed an “urban tolerance score” for 511 animal species. This score, which incorporated data such as light and noise pollution from different sections of the city, was a factor tied to those species’ level of tolerance to the local environment.They found that snails and slugs love urban environments, likely thanks to increased moisture from local landscaping. But most other animals, including native species, and especially bugs like butterflies and moths, were not as tolerant to the region.Joey Curti, a PhD candidate in ecology and evolutionary biology at UCLA and a co-author on that study, sits down with guest host Arielle Duhaime-Ross to discuss the results of the study and what cities can learn from this kind of research to encourage healthy biodiversity.Transcripts for each segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
High-Speed Rail Gets A Boost In The U.S.
May 29 2024
High-Speed Rail Gets A Boost In The U.S.
While the US was known for its railroads in the 1800s, we’ve fallen behind places like Japan, China, and Europe, which have invested in trains that go upwards of 200 miles per hour. There are economic, environmental, and practical benefits of electrified high-speed rail. But for generations, the US decreased passenger rail service and invested instead in highways and car-centric infrastructure.But it appears we’re hitting a turning point. After decades in development, major sections of California’s high-speed rail project, which aims to connect Los Angeles to San Francisco, have been completed. And the project recently received a $3.1 billion federal grant to aid in further construction. Additionally, Amtrak is expanding service and increasing the speed of its trains. And private industry is also stepping in to fill the void—a rail company called Brightline has been operating in Florida since 2018. It now provides service between Miami and Orlando, and just broke ground on a high-speed route between Los Angeles and Las Vegas.But it’s not just California and Florida where growth is happening. Multiple regions in the US, including Texas and the Pacific Northwest, are actively planning high-speed rail lines between cities that are generally too long to drive between, but too close to justify air travel. (France recently banned short-hop flights over those kinds of distances to reduce carbon emissions and encourage people to take existing passenger rail.)Rod Diridon Sr., co-chair for the US High Speed Rail Association, fills Ira in on the current state of faster passenger rail in the US, what challenges it still faces, and why he thinks there’s been a shift in public opinion about expanded train service.Transcripts for each segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.
Jelly Creatures That Swim In Corkscrews | Keeping Wind Turbines Safe For Birds
May 27 2024
Jelly Creatures That Swim In Corkscrews | Keeping Wind Turbines Safe For Birds
For the first time, scientists have recorded how salps form chains and swim in corkscrews to reach the ocean’s surface each night. Also, a wind utility company in Wyoming is trying to make wind turbines more visible to birds by painting just one blade black.The Small Jelly Creatures That Link Up And Swim in CorkscrewsSalps are small, transparent barrel-shaped jelly creatures. They are sometimes confused with jellyfish, but they are so much more complex. Salps have nervous, circulatory, and digestive systems that include a brain, heart, and intestines.Salps are known to link themselves together in long chains. And each night they journey from the depths of the ocean to the surface to feast on algae. New research shows that the key to their efficiency is swimming in corkscrews.Ira talks with Dr. Kelly Sutherland, associate professor of biology at the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology at the University of Oregon, about her work studying salp swimming patterns.Painting Wind Turbine Blades To Prevent Bird CollisionsWind energy is expected to be a big part of the transition away from fossil fuels. But that comes with consequences, including the potential for more deadly collisions between turbines and birds and bats. One experiment underway in Wyoming is studying a potentially game-changing—and simple—solution to this problem.In the Mountain West, large and iconic avian species—such as owls, turkey vultures and golden eagles—are consistently colliding with the human world. At the Teton Raptor Center in Wilson, Wyo., veterinarians, avian scientists and volunteers often treat birds for lead poisoning, crashes into infrastructure, gunshot wounds or other injuries.For the center’s conservation director, Bryan Bedrosian, his work is about preserving the wildlife that makes Wyoming special.“We should be proud of the fact that we in Wyoming have some of the best wild natural spaces and some of the best wildlife populations,” he said. I think, unfortunately, it comes with a higher degree of responsibility.”Wyoming is a critical habitat area for many species, especially golden eagles. Tens of thousands live here year-round and the state is also a huge migration corridor between Alaska and Mexico. Unlike its cousin the bald eagle, the golden eagle population is stable at best and could potentially decline in parts of the U.S. Bedrosian said wind energy growth is a threat for a species that has always been “at the top of the food chain.”Read the full story at sciencefriday.com.Transcripts for each segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com. Subscribe to this podcast. Plus, to stay updated on all things science, sign up for Science Friday's newsletters.