What Tim's talking about on radio – 28 July

Tim’s blog

This week Tim Thwaites has been talking on radio about the wiggly universe, baby’s breath, champagne, blind mice, fish sex, fat marmots, the Arctic Ocean, belly flopping frogs and more.

1. It’s a wiggly, wiggly universe—An Australian survey, known as WiggleZ, now close to completion, is generating a map of the universe as it existed six billion years. The project aims to paint a picture of the how the universe is accelerating, and it may provide new insights into the physics of dark energy.—Australasian Science.

The Australasian Science story on this can be found at http://www.australasianscience.com.au/article/issue-july-august-2010/it%E2%80%99s-wiggly-wiggly-universe.html

2. Single gene could be the key to a baby’s first breathIt’s long been a mystery how newborn mammals draw their first breath after life in a fluid-filled womb. More importantly, why does the mechanism for doing this fatally fail in some individuals? A single gene is now providing some answers, French researchers say, leading to a better understanding of such conditions as SIDS and sleep apnoea.—Neuroscience

A New Scientist report can be found at http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn19218-single-gene-could-be-key-to-a-babys-first-breath.html

3. Champagne fizzles out if served with a splash—If you want to enjoy champagne to the full, pour it like a beer, down the side of the flute. French researchers have found that pouring champagne into a tilted glass helps retain the dissolved gas vital to its lively taste.—Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry

A Nature report can be found at http://www.nature.com/news/2010/100721/full/news.2010.365.html

4. Seeing how blind mice run It turns out that blind mice can identify objects in their path using receptors in their eyes that were previously thought to have no role in forming images. Humans possess the same receptors, and US researchers think the findings could point the way to giving blind people some ability to see.—Neuron

A New Scientist report can be found at http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20727703.200-sleep-control-cells-allow-blind-mice-to-see.html

5. Fishing skews sex ratios in many speciesPopulation crashes in reef fishes could be linked to an excess of males brought about by fishing, a Townsville marine biologist says. And imposing quotas won’t help, he says.—The American Naturalist

A New Scientist report can be found at http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20727702.000-fishing-skews-sex-ratios-in-fish.html

6. Ageing cells lose protein pumpsA family of proteins than pump molecules across the cell membrane may help explain why yeast cells, and perhaps many others, are not able to reproduce forever. The same proteins may also help us understand how stem and cancer cells keep dividing, according to American medical researchers—Nature Cell Biology

A Nature report can be found at http://www.nature.com/news/2010/100725/full/news.2010.373.html

7. Speeding star was born on the runBlack holes are picky eaters, US astronomers have found. They swallow up some stars and spit others out—at least that’s what is suggested by the recent mapping of the path taken by a star now speeding across our galaxy.—The Astrophysical Journal Letters

A New Scientist report can be found at http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn19212-speeding-star-traced-back-to-milky-ways-heart.html

8. Micro plane perches to feed on power linesMiniature surveillance aircraft would never need to return to base if they could perch on overhead power lines like birds to recharge their batteries. US engineers are now close to perfecting this trick.—New Scientist

A New Scientist report can be found at http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn19210-micro-plane-perches-to-feed-on-power-lines.html

9. Marmots fatten up on climate changeIn Colorado, the large ground squirrels known as marmots are thriving, thanks to climate change. Their numbers have tripled in 10 years. US researchers have linked this population growth to the increasing size of their bellies—because longer summers gives them more time to grow, and this improves their ability to survive the winter.—Nature

A Nature report can be found at http://www.nature.com/news/2010/100721/full/news.2010.366.html

10. Arctic Ocean full up with carbon dioxide—Climate scientists once thought that the water exposed by the shrinking ice cover of the Arctic Ocean could soak up large amounts of CO2. Disappointingly, the latest measurements suggest that the carbon levels of the ocean have almost reached their limit.—Science

A Nature report can be found at http://www.nature.com/news/2010/100722/full/news.2010.372.html

11. We humans can mind-meld tooThere’s now scientific backing for the old adage that when two people “click”, they have a “meeting of minds”. American researchers found brain patterns in some people that matched, and at times, preceded those of the person they were listening to.—Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

A Science report can be found at http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2010/07/mind-meld-enables-good-conversat.html

12. Bellyflopping frogs shed light on evolution—The most primitive living frogs crash-land rather than touch down gracefully after leaping. The finding says something about how jumping evolved in frogs.—Naturwissenshaften

A New Scientist report can be found at http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn19221-bellyflopping-frogs-shed-light-on-evolution.html