On Science – ISON Melts Away

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 10,070
    12-3-13: On this episode of On Science, the Comet of the Century fizzles out, scientists discover a new organ in male koalas, and energy drinks are bad for your heart.

    Our comet hopes have finally fizzled…

    What do koalas say to get their mate?

    What makes your heart race?

    And watch out for space debris!  Coming up today!  On Science!  

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

    It’s kind of a sad day in astronomy.  The comet that had kept us all guessing has officially fizzled out.  Comet ISON did not survive its perihelion encounter with the sun after all.  Making its final approach on November 28 at about 1:40 pm, some still had a glimmer of a hope but that glimmer has faded to just a ghostly tail of what once was.  Having earlier been thought to be the comet of the century, scientists at NASA’s Goddard Space Center have confirmed the comet has fizzled. So disappointing but at least the back and forth is over!  Astronomers say it will take months to piece together exactly what happened during perihelion.  Alas, Comet ISON you were only just a dream. 

    Koalas might look cute and cuddly but they mean business when it comes to finding a koala woman.  Researchers in the UK are studying the mating sounds of male koala bears that defy their size and cuteness.  It’s a low pitch bellow of sorts.  It’s thanks to a newly discovered organ that looks and acts like another set of vocal chords outside of the larynx. The male koala exhales with gusto making a sound that resembles belching.  But men you couldn’t make that sound if you tried… This organ has never before been seen in land-dwelling animals, and allows the koala to produce a pitch 20 times lower than expected for their size so they can impress the ladies.  However, to our male viewers, I wouldn’t advise bellowing at the human females.


    And here’s another interesting story of adaptation in science.  A team of scientists form the University of Colorado School of Medicine have discovered a number of rapidly evolving genes in snakes.  They say that from changes in metabolism to changes on the molecular level, snakes have evolved more than other species.  They found that snakes carry large numbers of proteins with signatures for positive selection in their ancestors.  This means that snakes uses genes we all have to do things no other vertebrates can do.  For example when a Burmese python eats, they have a massive change in gene expression that majorly increases their heart, small intestine, liver and kidneys for digestion.  It’s like a horse going from standing to running and the snake hasn’t moved.  Snakes are master adapters obviously!

    They try to say this stuff if bad for you.  It can’t be bad for you.  I feel great. Woah, my heart is flying!   The University of Bonn in Germany says that energy drinks can have a disruptive effect on heart function.  That’s not really surprising with almost three times the caffeine than coffee, but then add taurine into the mix.  Before and after MRI scans showed significant increases in heart strain in the left ventricle of the heart after energy drink consumption.  This region of the heart takes in oxygen from the lungs and sends it through the aorta to the rest of the body.   Researchers say that don’t know how this strain impacts daily activities of athletic performance but they intend to find out.  (toss can) Kicking the can to that one.

    Rick Dees is doing a little more than bringing you the week’s top billboard hits!   Australian astronomers are using Top-40 mixes over FM airwaves to help locate space junk orbiting around Earth.  As your favorite pop hits and talk radio shows play, they bounce off thousands of objects orbiting the Earth which allows the team track the debris, with the help of the Murchison Widefield Array.  Astronomers say they can detect about 10 pieces of junk simultaneously.  Finding this space junk early on will help prevent collisions with communication satellites and such which means what?  Saving money!  You got it!  If you’ve seen the movie Gravity you know that space junk is no bueno.

    And that’s all for today On Science.  Woah!  That was close!