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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!

Sep 23, 2015

Conversation with William S. Shafer, Ph.D. Host Kellie Vinal discusses antibiotic resistance, its history, current state and future implications with Dr. William Shafer of Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.

William Shafer received his PhD degree in Microbiology from Kansas State University in 1979 where he studied the genetics of enterotoxin synthesis by Staphylococcus aureus. After postdoctoral studies with P.F. Sparling  at the University of North Carolina where he studied the genetics of antibiotic resistance expressed by Neisseria gonorrhoeae, he moved to Emory University School of Medicine where he now Full Professor. He is also a Senior Research Career Scientist at the Atlanta VA Medical Center. He has been continually funded by the NIH and VA since 1984, has published over 115 manuscripts, serves on multiple Editorial Boards and served on several NIH, VA and international study sections.

For more information about Dr. Shafer please visit his faculty page at the Emory University Department of Microbiology and Immunology.

Dr. Shafer's publications.

Blue Streak Science News

Hidden Superchain of volcanoes discovered in Australia

Making 3-D objects disappear

Dramatic Rise seen in Antibiotic Use

My, what big claws you have

Huge relative of first fish to crawl on land has a lung

A vaccine to shield threatened honeybees from disease

The Jackass of the Week

Our Jackass of the Week is Volkswagen

Volkswagen and Audi are brands that have sold many Americans on the idea that “clean diesel” is a viable alternative to other green technologies such as hybrid engines.

Consequently, Volkswagen, who owns Audi, has taken the lion’s share of the market in the U.S. for diesel cars.

For the owners of these cars I have some bad news.

They have been pumping 40x the legal amount of nitrogen oxide into our atmosphere. This is all because of software that Volkswagen installed in these cars to intentionally cheat on emissions tests.

VW will have to recall all the vehicles and modify the emissions systems at its own expense, regulators said. Additionally it could face a fine of about $18 billion, or $37,500 per car, according to environmental officials.

Nitrogen oxide is nasty stuff. It’s one of the primary components of photochemical smog.

Smog is not just something that ruins the view of the city. Smog is deadly, and deadly in a big way. It’s particularly harmful for the elderly, children, and people with heart and lung conditions such as asthma. Photochemical smog has been linked to greatly increased rates of low birth weight babies, birth defects, various cancers and the overall death rate.

In the province of Ontario, according to the Ontario Medical Association smog is responsible for an estimated 9,500 premature deaths in the province every year.

It’s bad stuff, that is bad for all of us.

But Volkswagen thought they could get away with cheating their customers and the rest of us into have their pollution machines running right under our noses.

Here’s what VW did:

They rigged the car’s on board computer and sensors to detect the exact conditions of when an emissions test is occurring. Then the computer changed the performance of the car to behave itself during the test and not be spewing pollution as it does in normal operation.

Volkswagen is already on record admitting that the cars had “defeat devices”. But this was only after the EPA and California air regulators demanded an explanation.

For deceiving your customers, regulators, and wantonly harming the health of millions of people, Volkswagen, you are the Blue Streak Science Jackass of the Week.

Shout-outs and Acknowledgments

SAGE Initiative (Science in Australia Gender Equity ) is a program that recently launched involving decreasing gender inequality in the Research sector in Australia.