Thu, 7 December 2017
This week, three papers came out describing new approaches to folding DNA into large complex shapes—20 times bigger than previous DNA sculptures. Staff Writer Bob Service talks with Sarah Crespi about building microscopic teddy bears, doughnuts, and more from genetic material, and using these techniques to push forward fields from materials science to drug delivery.
Sarah also interviews Philip Cook of Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, about his Policy Forum on gun regulation research. It’s long been hard to collect data on gun violence in the United States, and Cook talks about how some researchers are getting funding and hard data. He also discusses some strong early results on open-carry laws and links between gun control and intimate partner homicide.
[Image: : K.WAGENBAUER, ET. AL., NATURE, VOL. 551, 2017; Music: Jeffrey Cook]
Thu, 30 November 2017
The abominable snowman, the yeti, bigfoot, and sasquatch—these long-lived myths of giant, hairy hominids depend on dropping elusive clues to stay in the popular imagination—a blurry photo here, a big footprint there—but what happens when scientists try to pin that evidence down? Online News Editor David Grimm talks with Sarah Crespi about the latest attempts to verify the yeti’s existence using DNA analysis of bones and hair and how this research has led to more than the debunking of a mythic creature.
Sarah also interviews Alison Macintosh of the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom about her investigation of bone, muscle, and behavior in prehistory female farmers—what can a new database of modern women’s bones—athletes and regular folks—tell us about the labor of women as humans took up farming?
[Image: TK; Music: Jeffrey Cook]
Thu, 23 November 2017
About 8000 years ago, people were drawing dogs with leashes, according to a series of newly described stone carvings from Saudi Arabia. Online News Editor David Grimm talks with Sarah Crespi about reporting on this story and what it says about the history of dog domestication.
Sarah also interviews physicist Brad Marston of Brown University on surprising findings that bring together planetary science and quantum physics. It turns out that Earth’s rotation and the presence of oceans and atmosphere on its surface mean it can be described as a “topological insulator”—a term usually reserved for quantum phenomena. Insights from the study of these effects at the quantum level may help us understand weather and currents at the planetary level—including insights into climate change and exoplanets.
[Image: Guagnin et al., J. Anthropol. Archaeol, 2017; Music: Jeffrey Cook]
Authors: Sarah Crespi; David Grimm
Thu, 16 November 2017
How has written language changed over time? Do the way we read and the way our eyes work influence how scripts look? This week we hear a story on changes in legibility in written texts with Online News Editor Catherine Matacic.
Sarah Crespi also interviews Staff Writer Jennifer Couzin-Frankel on her story about detecting signs of psychosis in kids and teens, recruiting at-risk individuals for trials, and searching for anything that can stop the progression.
[Image: Procsilas Moscas/Flickr; Music: Jeffrey Cook]
Authors: Sarah Crespi; Catherine Matacic; Jennifer Couzin-Frankel
Thu, 9 November 2017
Randomizing the news for science, transplanting genetically engineered skin, and the ethics of experimental brain implants
This week we hear stories on what to do with experimental brain implants after a study is over, how gene therapy gave a second skin to a boy with a rare epidermal disease, and how bone markings thought to be evidence for early hominid tool use may have been crocodile bites instead, with Online News Editor Catherine Matacic.
Sarah Crespi interviews Gary King about his new experiment to bring fresh data to the age-old question of how the news media influences the public. Are journalists setting the agenda or following the crowd? How can you know if a news story makes a ripple in a sea of online information? In a powerful study, King’s group was able to publish randomized stories on 48 small and medium sized news sites in the United States and then track the results.
[Image: Chad Sparkes/Flickr; Music: Jeffrey Cook]
Authors: Sarah Crespi; Catherine Matacic
Thu, 2 November 2017
How Earth’s rotation could predict giant quakes, gene therapy’s new hope, and how carbon monoxide helps deep-diving seals
This week we hear stories on how the sloshing of Earth’s core may spike major earthquakes, carbon monoxide’s role in keeping deep diving elephant seals oxygenated, and a festival celebrating heavily researched yet completely nonsensical theories with Online News Editor David Grimm.
Sarah Crespi interviews staff writer Jocelyn Kaiser about the status of gene therapy, including a newly tested gene-delivering virus that may give scientists a new way to treat devastating spinal and brain diseases.
[Image: Robert Schwemmer, CINMS, NOAA; Music: Jeffrey Cook]
Thu, 26 October 2017
This week we hear stories on sunlight pushing Mars’s flock of asteroids around, approximately 400-million-year-old trees that grew by splitting their guts, and why fighting poverty might also mean worsening climate change with Online News Editor David Grimm.
For our monthly books segment, Jen Golbeck reviews astronaut Scott Kelly’s book Endurance: A Year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery.
[Image: NASA/Goddard; Music: Jeffrey Cook]
Thu, 19 October 2017
LIGO spots merging neutron stars, scholarly questions about a new Bible museum, and why wolves are better team players than dogs
This week we hear stories about the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory’s (LIGO) latest hit, why wolves are better team players than dogs, and volcanic eruptions that may have triggered riots in ancient Egypt, with Online News Editor Catherine Matacic.
Sarah Crespi interviews contrinbuting correspondent Lizzie Wade about the soon-to-open Museum of the Bible in Washington D.C. Can it recover from early accusations of forgeries and illicitly obtained artifacts?
[Image: Public Domain; Music: Jeffrey Cook]
Thu, 12 October 2017
This week we hear stories about a new brain imaging technique for newborns, recently uncovered evidence on rice domestication on three continents, and why Canada geese might be migrating into cities, with Online News Editor David Grimm.
Sarah Crespi interviews Sarah Tishkoff of University of Pennsylvania about the age and diversity of genes related to skin pigment in African genomes.
[Image:Danny Chapman/Flickr; Music: Jeffrey Cook]
Thu, 5 October 2017
Putting rescue robots to the test, an ancient Scottish village buried in sand, and why costly drugs may have more side effects
This week we hear stories about putting rescue bots to the test after the Mexico earthquake, why a Scottish village was buried in sand during the Little Ice Age, and efforts by the U.S. military to predict post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) with Online News Editor David Grimm.
Andrew Wagner interviews Alexandra Tinnermann of the University Medical Center of Hamburg, Germany, about the nocebo effect. Unlike the placebo effect, in which you get positive side effects with no treatment, in the nocebo effect you get negative side effects with no treatment. It turns out both nocebo and placebo effects get stronger with a drug perceived as more expensive.
[Image: Chris Burns/Science; Music: Jeffrey Cook]