Up & Atom

September 6th 2016


Up & Atom | Podcast

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Up and Atom brings you the latest breakthroughs and discoveries in the ever-changing world of science.

Sometimes weird, sometimes confronting, always informative, come learn about the world around. Hosted by Dr Alice Williamson (@all_isee), University of Sydney lecturer and researcher for Open Source Malaria, each week on Up For It with Lucy Smith.


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Are Old Violins Actually Any Good? & Where To Drink And Science This Week

Lucy and Alice went classical this week, because it turns out super famous old violins aren't as shit hot as we once thought. In a recent series of double-blind tests, a number of Stradivarius violins, which are hundreds of years old and often worth millions of dollars, were played by blindfolded violinists to blindfolded audience members alongside a series of top quality modern violins. The modern violins were thought to be better sounding nearly every time. Listen back to the podcast to find out why, as well as to hear all about some of Alice's upcoming events - Pint of Science and Two Up.

Breathalysing Dolphins & The Science Of Laughter

Lucy and Alice talked all about breathalysers today, but no, not the kind you'd see at an RBT. Scientists have been able to use a special kind of breathalyser to get insights into the health of dolphins exposed to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and the results mean that they now have biomarkers for assessing the health of wild dolphins in a non-invasive way. In the spirit of the Sydney Comedy Festival, which is going down right now, they also delved into the science of laughter!

Treating Depression With Ayahuasca & Growing Lambs In Artificial Wombs

Alice and Lucy dove head first into some far-out medical science today, starting with the ancient hallucinogen ayahuasca and its potential as a treatment for depression. The psychedelic drug is legal in parts of South America, where it has been drunk for centuries as part of religious rituals, and tourists are increasingly giving it a go while holidaying there. The world's first randomised clinical trial of ayahuasca for treating depression has just been completed, and has found that it can rapidly improve mood over a short period, especially among people with depression that is resistant to antidepressants. Then they looked into something a little more futuristic - the incredible news that two lambs have been successfully grown in an artificial womb that could one day be used to help human babies that are born prematurely. It looks like a plastic bag filled with fluid, and it mimics a mother's uterus, allowing the foetus to continue breathing oxygen-filled liquid just as it would in a real womb. The team at the Centre for Foetal Research in Philadelphia tested their prototype on two lambs, and hope to have the technology available for humans in less than two years. This would be a huge step forward in the care of babies born prematurely, who suffer from a very high mortality rate and very high rates of illness. Alice also told Lucy all about her brand new podcast, Dear Science!

Engineering Chicken Dinosuars & The Rise of Prejudice Robots

Today's Up and Atom sees our two ladies of science traverse timelines. Travelling to the past to talk about dinosaurs or rather chicken dinosaurs, and then heading to a future which could be populated by racist and gender bias robots. The beak is considered one of the most prominent features which make up the anatomy of the chicken. But, the current beak wasn't always as sharp and pointed as it is now. Realising the chicken needs two different genes to develop their beak, they suppressed one. The result.... some interesting effects on the embryo's beak, or should we say, snout! The two then power forward to a future of prejudice artificial intelligence. A recent AI tool used to revolutionise computers has been found to have some striking discriminations against certain genders and races, and of course, it's all the fault of us humans. Could these machines be absorbing deeply ingrained biases concealed within the patterns of our own language? Lucy and Alice discuss.

The Dinosaur Special: A Restructure of the Dinosaur Family Tree & The T-Rex Shows Its Sensitive Side

Lucy and Alice discuss recent news regarding our Prehistoric predecessors. Over a century of dinosaur classification has just been turned on its head with some new research and scientists are now debating the origins of prehistoric beasts, with a small cat-sized creature from Scotland being the frontrunner. Also, It turns out the T-Rex isn't just the vicious monster we thought. Researchers now think T-Rex used to rub their snouts together as a form of courtship, and that their snouts were as sensitive to touch as human fingertips. Got to make up for those arms somehow.

Spider Venom To Help Stop The Effects Of Strokes & 12 New Clouds Added To The Cloud Atlas

From watching the ground to watching the skies, Lucy and Alice talk about spiders and clouds (Note: Unrelated topics just in case you're imagining spiders falling from the sky). Following up last week's venture into the use of Funnel Web spider venom as an insecticide. Now researchers think they might be able to create a drug from the deadly venom to ward off brain damage caused by strokes. The two science aficionados then let their heads drift off to the clouds as they discuss the twelve new cloud formations which have been added to the official Cloud Atlas. Their inclusion is all thanks to the Cloud Appreciation Society, which you can become a member of right now!

A Chimpanzee Mortuary-Like Ritual & A Spider Venom Insecticide

A Chimpanzee has recently filmed cleaning the teeth of a deceased chimp of their group in a mortuary-like practice. What insight does this give in terms of evolutionary practices and the compassion of animals? Lucy and Alice dive right into that question! The pair also bravely chat about spider venom and the possibility of using a Blue Mountain Funnel Webs venom as an insecticide. Don't be scared, have a listen!

New Planets Announced & Genius Bumblebees

Lucy and Alice dive into the mystery that is the alien solar system discovered which could support other life. We may not be alone! They also discuss the mad ball skills of Bumblebees who have learned to complete tasks, including manoeuvring balls into a hole for a tasty treat.

The New Continent Of Zealandia & A Hydrogel That Could Lead To Non-Surgical Vasectomies

Lucy and Alice get down to business today, talking about the newest prospective continent Zealandia (You get one guess as to who this might be). They also chat about monkey semen and the role it has to play in a hydrogel that could lead to a non-surgical vasectomy.

Do You Love The Smell Of Roses? Scientists Find Out Why Some Smell Sweeter Than Others

Scientists have discovered that some roses smell sweeter than others and as a result may have figured out a way to make the Valentine Day flower smell even sweeter.

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