On Science – Carrying the Olympic Torch to Space

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 9,721
    11-7-13: On this episode of On Science, the Olympic Torch takes a walk in space, a rare microbe is found in two NASA clean rooms, and the interesting mating behavior of the eastern fence lizard.

    Just how far will the Olympic Torch go?


    What are some unwelcome passengers aboard spacecraft?


    Good news or bad news first? You pick!


    And love, lies, and lizards?   Coming up today… On Science!


    Hello and welcome to On Science. I’m Emerald Robinson.


    It’s almost that time again.  The time when athletes from all over the world come together to pit their preparation and prowess against one another in hopes of a gold medal—and subsequently the time that the Torch is carried to space.  You heard me right.  A three man, multi-national crew carrying the Olympic Torch arrived at the International Space Station this morning.   And tomorrow astronauts Oleg Kotov and Sergey Ryazansky will take the torch outside the ISS for its first ever spacewalk in honor of the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. Did anyone else question how it stays lit in space?  Well, it doesn’t.  The torch remains unlit during its space journey until it returns to Earth and continues on its journey to Sochi.


    And the Olympic Torch isn’t the only thing heading into space.  Microbes from Earth may be hitching a ride too.  NASA discovered a rare microbe in two spacecraft clean rooms—one in Florida and one in South America.  If scientists were to discover life in space, they would have to examine it against known Earthly microbes to make sure the find isn’t simply contamination.  NASA says that microbes found inside these clean rooms can withstand major stressors like drying, chemical cleaning, ultraviolet treatment and lack of nutrients.  The interesting thing is that this rare new microbe hasn’t been detected anywhere else on Earth except in the two NASA clean rooms.  Wait, does that mean they’re possibly from another planet? Nah, says one scientist who added that they find a lot of bugs in these cleaning rooms because they’re looking so hard to find them.  Well, darnit, I was excited about some alien bugs.


    So do you wanna hear the good news or the bad news first?  (Group—bad news.)  Are you sure?  I think I should tell you the good news first.  Researchers at the University of California-Riverside looked into how people decide if they want to get the good or bad news first.  They found that recipients of bad news overwhelmingly want to hear the negative news first, but the messenger wants to give the good news first.  But researchers say it depends on the situation.  If the desired outcome is a change in behavior, give the good-then-bad sandwich so that the intended message isn’t lost in the good news and the recipient can improve.  If it’s the doctor giving a unchangeable diagnosis, offer the bad-then-good news sandwich so that the patient is left on a high note.   So instead of just delaying the unpleasant news, if you’re unlucky enough to be the bearer, really consider the situation.


    And here’s some bad news for lady lizards with blue beards, the man-lizards just don’t find you as attractive.  But on a positive note the male-lizards really aren’t that attractive either.  Researchers from Penn State say that the relationship status of fence lizards is just complicated.  Males get their courtship on with ornamental blue “badges” linked to testosterone on their throats and abdomens.  But the majority of the females too have blue badges on their necks. Observations revealed that males showed preference for ladies without the blue strip.  However, the bearded ladies make up 76% of the population suggesting that they are thriving and surviving.  Researchers say it may be because the bearded ladies have been noted to be more sexually aggressive so in the end, they still get their man.  Persistence pays off!


    And Flickr’s at it again-helping scientists learn a little more about our world.  Scientists are measuring the impact of superstorm Sandy via the social networking site Flickr.  Thirty-two million pics were posted of the storm, most of which were pictures were taken in the first moments of the storm.  They were able to determine atmospheric pressure drops in relation to the storm through the photos.  When the atmospheric pressure fell more photos were taken.  When it increased, less were taken.  They said in a case like Sandy where no external sensors are available, Flickr photos can be considered a system of large-scale real-time sensors and help governments measure the impact of future disasters.


    And that’s today On Science. See you tomorrow!