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Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of science... the thrill of discovery... and the agony of failed experiments... the human drama of scientific advancement... This is the Blue Streak Science Podcast!

Oct 21, 2016

Black Widow Spider - Latrodectus mactans
Black Widow Spider - Latrodectus mactans

It was one of those weeks in science; an embarrassment of riches. And talk about abundance, our universe may contain upwards of 2 trillion galaxies! You know, a trillion here, a trillion there and soon we're talking big numbers here. Okay, follow along with me. A virus that incorporates a gene from a spider. First, that's cool because it's a virus using the DNA of a complex organism. The gene happens to be a gene that codes for black widow venom. That's right. Black widow venom. Now this virus, a bacteriophage, uses that gene to poke holes in bacteria. Whoah! Then we talk about 5,000 to 19,000 year old human footprints, lots of 'em, in volcanic sediment. These footprints tell numerous stories about ancestors and it is just so fascinating. It's so easy to visualize them and imagine who they were, and what they were doing. 

What The Hell Was That?

We reveal the answer to last week's terrifying and disturbing sound. No, no listener or host got the correct answer, but some were close.

This week's sound is a good one. Sounds somewhat like me snoring while suffering from a bad cold, after eating lots of cabbage. Lovely.

Blue Streak Science News Roundup

These are summaries of our discussions on the podcast. For the full conversation please listen to this episode of the Blue Streak Science Podcast.

There are 10 times more galaxies in our universe than we'd estimated

Pretty galaxy. Seems there's loads of 'em.
Pretty galaxy. Seems there's loads of 'em.

Astronomers led by Christopher Conselice at the University of Nottingham converted “pencil beam” images of deep space into 3-dimensional maps, allowing them to calculate the density of galaxies in that volume.

Using mathematical models to infer yet to be observed galaxies they concluded that the universe contains at least 2 trillion galaxies

They combined data from many ground- and space-based telescopes to look at how the number of galaxies in a typical volume of the universe has changed over much of cosmic history.

Virus steals black widow poison gene to help it attack
A type of virus that only infects bacteria, a bacteriophage, has apparently nicked the DNA of black widow spiders to attack bacteria. This virus is actually using the genes that code for the spider’s venom! It is the first time we’ve seen a virus take genes from such a complex organism.

Treasure Trove of Ancient Human Footprints Found Near Volcano
A massive set of more than 400 human footprints found by geologists is thought to date back to between 10,000 and 19,000 years ago.

It was previously thought that the footprints dated back as far as 120,000 years, and that they had been preserved by ash falling from the sky, following the eruption of a nearby volcano.

But the research team has now been able to date them more accurately after discovering that a muddy flow of debris and ash from the volcano's sides was responsible.

Says Who?!

Sophie answers correctly! The choices were Carl Sagan, Leonard Nimoy, Ray Bradbury, and Isaac Asimov.

Oh, you haven't heard the quote? Well, you're just going to have to listen to the podcast for that!

I'm a mean s.o.b., ain't I?

Shout-outs and Acknowledgments

The Science Cafe'

Blue Streak Science has a new show! It’s called Science Cafe’ and our first show will be on Halloween.

The Cafe’ opens every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 7am (Pacific time) on the Smiletime live streaming platform as well as Facebook Live.

Hosting the show with JD will be Nevena Hristozova broadcasting from Brussels, Belgium.

We’re gonna talk about the very latest science news, the Blue Streak Science Podcast and play the What The Hell Was That game, too.

The best part is that you can join in the fun with us. You can make sarcastic comments from the text chat on the side. But we will also bring you right into the show.

Don't miss it!

This episode of Blue Streak Science Podcast comes to you from Santa Rosa, California; Cambridge, England; Sydney, Australia, and Washington, D.C.