Science On Top



The Australian podcast about science, health and technology news. Join Ed Brown and his panel of co-hosts each week as we talk about the latest and coolest research and discoveries in the world of science. We're joined by special guests from all over the science field: doctors, professors, nurses, teachers and more.


  • SoT 355: E-mouse-icons!

    30/04/2020 Duration: 22min

    Hosts: Ed Brown, Penny Dumsday, Lucas Randall 00:00:40 Researchers at the Max Planck Institute in Germany have used a machine-learning algorithm to finally answer one of science's most confounding puzzles: Is that mouse over there happy? Or afraid? Or disgusted? 00:07:54 Astrophysicists from the University of Florida and Columbia University have figured out that a violent collision of two neutron stars released many of the heavier atoms that went on to form our solar system. This episode contains traces of Greg Milam, US correspondent for Sky News, on the Pentagon's release of videos showing unidentified flying objects.

  • SoT 354: They Smacked It With A Shovel

    19/04/2020 Duration: 36min

    Hosts: Ed Brown, Penny Dumsday, Lucas Randall, Dr. Helen Maynard-Casely 00:03:36 NASA's Mars InSight probe has finally managed to drill into the Martian rock and soil - thanks to a traditional repair technique! 00:13:04 The idea that glass is a liquid that flows is largely a myth.... sort of. It's an amorphous solid, so it does flow but very very slowly. Now an analysis of amber has shed some light on the disordered molecules that make glass a "liquid in suspended animation". 00:26:36 When our fishy ancestors slithered onto land nearly 400 million years ago, they had hands and feet. But fingers and toes took a little longer to develop. The discovery of a complete skeleton of a fish from around that time gives some clues about the evolution of fingers. Dr. Helen Maynard-Casely is a planetary scientist working at ANSTO, Australia’s Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation. She is the co-author of the children's book I Love Pluto. This episode contains traces of the panel on Have I Got News For You disc

  • SoT 353: Crazy Finds A Way

    13/04/2020 Duration: 24min

    Hosts: Ed Brown, Penny Dumsday, Lucas Randall 00:00:35 Professor Maria Croyle from the University of Texas in Austin has been working on alternative delivery mechanisms for vaccines without giant needles. And one promising method she's developed is a lot more palatable! 00:08:15 The formation of our moon is something of a mystery to astronomers. But now new research into the moon's composition further strengthens the most widely accepted theory. This episode contains traces of the SARS-COV-2 virus translated into "surprisingly beautiful" music.

  • SoT 352: Noodle-Fingered Hugs

    30/03/2020 Duration: 47min

    Hosts: Ed Brown, Penny Dumsday, Lucas Randall 00:00:27 How do you study wibbly wobbly jellyfish, without damaging them or stressing them out? You give them a noodly hug, of course! 00:08:27 When a satellite runs out of fuel, it's sent up into a graveyard orbit where it can pose a threat to any spacecraft leaving Earth. But a recent test of the Mission Extension Vehicle could mean satellites can be refuelled, extending their lifespan significantly. 00:21:25 People are attaching sensors to plants, and translating the electrical conductivity of the plants into "music". It's not very good music, but the idea is to change how people think about plants as living organisms. 00:29:45 Astronomers have found a new planet outside our solar system, with a new technique. They looked for the radio signals from aurorae on the exoplanet! This episode contains traces of ABC science journalist Tegan Taylor and physician Dr. Norman Swan answering children's coronavirus questions on Coronacast.

  • SoT 351: Air Sea'n'Sea

    20/03/2020 Duration: 31min

    Hosts: Ed Brown, Penny Dumsday, Lucas Randall 00:00:28 An Australian research team has come up with a luxurious plan to save endangered seahorses. 00:04:54 A more precise method of determining the methane produced by human activities draws a timeline of industrialisation. 00:15:07 Remains dating back 65,000 years ago demonstrate that the earliest Australians enjoyed slow-cooking. 00:20:28 Have you thought about the environmental impact your death and burial or cremation will have? There could be more planet-friendly options when it comes to 'deathcare'. This episode contains traces of Bill Gates, speaking to Vox four years ago, about his greatest fear.

  • SoT Special 28 – Coronavirus with Gideon Meyerowitz-Katz

    13/03/2020 Duration: 42min

    As the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 sweeps the world, the only thing spreading quicker is panic and misinformation. So we caught up with Gideon Meyerowitz-Katz, an epidemiologist, writer and podcaster to find out what's really going on with COVID-19. For more information, we recommend: Australian Department of Health World Health Organisation Centers For Disease Control This Week In Virology podcast Coronacast podcast   And you can follow Gideon on Twitter.

  • SoT 350: Rocks Were Never Not Great

    27/02/2020 Duration: 40min

    Hosts: Ed Brown, Penny Dumsday, Lucas Randall 00:01:14 A team at Howard Hughes Medical Institute has been working with Google, and has just announced that they have mapped the “connectome” in the central region of brain of a fruit fly. That's means they've worked out the precise meanderings of 25,000 neurons and their 20 million connections. 00:15:14 About 2 billion years ago, a giant meteorite smacked into the thick glaciers that then were covering Western Australia. The result could have been the end of a 'snowball event' and the beginning of complex life! 00:24:15 Parkinson's Disease affects more than 10 million people worldwide, yet we know so little about it. But we do know that a build of a protein, alpha-synuclein makes it worse. Now researchers in the US claim to have developed a compound that can target and reduce the levels of alpha-synuclein. 00:28:40 Usually one of the top ten brightest stars in the night sky, the orange giant Betelgeuse has been dimming a lot in the last few months. So is it,

  • SoT Bites 001 - Hot Drinks In Hot Weather

    07/02/2020 Duration: 08min

    Here's a little taste of the sort of thing to expect when Science on Top returns very soon - on hot days are you better off drinking hot or cold drinks?

  • SoT Bites 001 - Cuttlefish Watching 3D Movies

    29/01/2020 Duration: 07min

    Have you missed us? Looking forward to another season of Science on Top? Here's something to whet your appetite - a story of cute cephalopods, curious scientists and 3D glasses!

  • SoT 349: Our Favourite Science Stories of 2019

    17/12/2019 Duration: 44min

    Hosts: Ed Brown, Penny Dumsday, Lucas Randall, Ass/Prof Mick Vagg 00:00:48 The switch to agricultural societies 12,000 years ago may have changed how we talk, introducing the 'f' and 'v' sounds. 00:04:58 The cane toad is an introduced pest in Australia, with no real natural predators. Until recently, when a small group of water rats learned how to eviscerate them with surgical precision! 00:06:38 The search for Planet Nine continued this year, and a new hypothesis was proposed: it might not be a planet, but a tiny primordial black hole. 00:11:28 The first ever image of a black hole's accretion disk was revealed this year. 00:15:30 NASA's InSight lander has been trying to drill a heat probe into the Martian surface, but it's been a heartbreaking story of progress and setbacks. 00:19:38 DNA testing has found that the same variety of grapes used 9,000 years ago to make wine are still being used today by some winemakers in France. 00:25:29 Researchers painted cows to look like zebras to find out if they wer

  • SoT 348: Massive Stars Are Fluffy!

    13/12/2019 Duration: 34min

    Hosts: Ed Brown, Penny Dumsday, Lucas Randall 00:00:56 As unprecedented bushfires ravage Australia, Forbes published an article declaring koalas are "functionally extinct". And while they do face considerable threats, the situation is not quite that dire. 00:11:38 Chinese scientists have discovered a black hole that, according to our current understanding of black-hole formation, is so large it shouldn’t exist. Called LB-1, the black hole has a mass 70 times that of our sun, three times more massive than previously thought possible. 00:25:11 Parked in space and deactivated since 2017, the LISA Pathfinder spacecraft has long finished it's scientific mission. But it's still making discoveries, detecting dozens of tiny impacts on the spacecraft and giving valuable data about cosmic dust. This episode contains traces of the cast and creators of The Expanse, now on Jeff Bezos' Amazon Prime, talking with engineers from Jeff Bezos' space company, Blue Origin.

  • SoT 347: Carbonite

    04/12/2019 Duration: 43min

    Hosts: Ed Brown, Penny Dumsday, Lucas Randall 00:01:24 For the first time, doctors at the University of Maryland School of Medicine have purposefully put at least one human patient in suspended animation. This could be a great help to surgeons dealing with traumatic emergencies such as gunshot or stab wounds. 00:10:06 The first geomorphologic map of Saturn's moon Titan has been released. Showing lakes (of liquid methane), dunes (of organic molecule particles) and exposed icy bedrock. 00:12:49 NASA’s Curiosity rover has been analysing the air above Mars’ Gale Crater and found unexpected, and fluctuating, levels of oxygen. 00:20:10 An international team of astronomers have announced the direct detection of water vapor in the atmosphere of Jupiter's fourth largest moon Europa for the first time. This is the strongest evidence yet that liquid water exists beneath the Europa's surface. 00:26:46 Molecular astrophysicist Clara Sousa-Silva has written an article in Scientific American calling for more research i

  • SoT 346: Guinea Pig Guinea Pigs

    26/11/2019 Duration: 35min

    Hosts: Ed Brown, Penny Dumsday, Lucas Randall 00:01:23 Danuvius guggenmosi was a great ape that lived 11.6 million years ago in southern Germany and it has just been formally described in the journal Nature. But the really interesting thing about this discovery is what it could suggest about bipedalism - our ancestors were walking upright much earlier than previously thought. 00:10:19 Spaceflight is a dangerous endeavour. Astronauts risk muscle atrophy, bone weakness, cardiovascular issues, eyesight disorders, and a host of other ailments. But now, researchers have found another serious health risk: stagnant or backwards blood flow in the internal jugular vein. 00:19:16 Some people who don't like vegetables may have a genetic reason to avoid their greens. (But some people are also just fussy!) 00:25:52 Researchers in Sweden have created a molecule that they claim can trap solar energy and store it for decades. But there isn't a lot of information available about it. This episode contains traces of an ABC

  • SoT 345: Daisy

    15/11/2019 Duration: 34min

    Hosts: Ed Brown, Penny Dumsday, Lucas Randall 00:00:35 Researchers at the University of Richmond taught a group of 17 rats how to drive tiny little plastic cars. The rats found driving to be relaxing! 00:11:28 Why do we like music? It's a question that neuroscientists have wondered about for decades. A paper in the Journal of Neuroscience suggests it's related to learning. 00:18:37 Cows can not only recognise other cows, but they form friendships and bonds that don't align with the social hierarchy of the herd. 00:26:28 Ornithologists in the Amazon have recorded the world’s loudest bird. It's mating call can reach 125 decibels - louder than front row at a rock concert. This episode contains traces of the Have I Got News For You panel discussing the discovery of the world's loudest bird.

  • SoT 344: Teeny-Tiny Black Holes

    07/11/2019 Duration: 33min

    Hosts: Ed Brown, Penny Dumsday, Lucas Randall 00:00:32 A zebra's stripes seem to reduce the number of flies that they attract, so what would happen if you painted a cow like a zebra? Japanese researchers did exactly that, and found a similar result. 00:08:10 An intriguing new hypothesis for Planet Nine is not a planet at all. Two astrophysicists have speculated it might actually be a very small black hole in our galaxy. 00:25:43 By analysing cut marks on bones left by humans between 200,000 and 400,000 years ago, archaeologists have determined that the bones were kept for later consumption. Weeks after the flesh of the animal was eaten, it's believed, the marrow in the bones was still nutritious. This episode contains traces of Boeing Communications' Jessica Landa and NASA Public Affairs' Dan Huot immediately after the successful Pad Abort Test of Boeing's Starliner Spacecraft.

  • SoT 343: More Water Rats!

    31/10/2019 Duration: 27min

    Hosts: Ed Brown, Penny Dumsday, Lucas Randall 00:00:34 Snails are a French delicacy that has led to the near extinction, and now revival, of tiny culturally and scientifically important snails in French Polynesia. 00:06:45 3.5 million years ago, something in our galaxy exploded. As more evidence comes in, it's looking like the black hole in the centre of the Milky Way gobbled up some young stars. 00:16:04 The scourge of cane toads continues to spread across Australia. But could a native rodent have learned how to slaughter and eat them? Yes, and they have. This episode contains traces of 12-year-old Tai Poole, host of popular podcast Tai Asks Why, talking with Natasha Mitchell about the importance of curiosity in school.

  • SoT 342: Grumpy, Hungry, Wanting Chocolate

    21/10/2019 Duration: 39min

    Hosts: Ed Brown, Penny Dumsday, Lucas Randall 00:00:29 A new hypothesis in the quest to explain the bizarre dimming patterns of Tabby's Star: could it be a moon getting shredded? 00:18:36 It's a belief that's been widely held since 1971: women who live together sync their periods together. But many attempts to replicate the original study have failed, so why is it still such a prevalent belief? 00:28:13 Take a computer algorithm, teach it to read scientific papers, feed it thousands of journals, and watch it predict future discoveries. This could be a new field of scientific endeavour. This episode contains traces of The President of the United States talking with astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir while they participated in NASA's first ever all-female spacewalk.

  • SoT 341: The 2019 Ig Nobel Prizes

    09/10/2019 Duration: 57min

    Hosts: Ed Brown, Penny Dumsday, Lucas Randall, Peter Miller The Ig Nobel Prizes honour achievements that first make us laugh, then make us think. We take a look at this year’s winners: from the benefits of pizza to the temperature of French postal packages! You can watch the award ceremony here. 00:01:16 MEDICINE PRIZE which was awarded to Silvano Gallus, for collecting evidence that pizza might protect against illness and death, if the pizza is made and eaten in Italy. 00:08:26 MEDICAL EDUCATION PRIZE was won by Karen Pryor and Theresa McKeon, for using a simple animal-training technique — called “clicker training” — to train surgeons to per[form orthopedic surgery. 00:13:54 BIOLOGY PRIZE went to a team with members from Singapore, China, Germany, Australia, Poland, USA, and Bulgaria for discovering that dead magnetized cockroaches behave differently than living magnetized cockroaches. 00:19:20 ANATOMY PRIZE was award to two Frenchmen for measuring scrotal temperature asymmetry in naked and clothed post

  • SoT 340: They Look Snarly

    29/09/2019 Duration: 25min

    Hosts: Ed Brown, Penny Dumsday, Lucas Randall 00:00:33 The large holes in T-Rex's skull might not have been for muscles, but thermoregulating blood vessels according to a paper published in the Anatomical Record. 00:06:13 An Australian team has developed a flu vaccine they believe could be the first human drug to be completely designed by artificial intelligence. 00:18:49 A team at Howard Hughes Medical Institute is painstakingly building a detailed map of a mouse brain - one neuron at a time. This episode contains traces of Andrew Lund for 9News Australia, reporting on the naming of RRS Sir David Attenborough.  

  • SoT 339: Sauce Is Key

    16/09/2019 Duration: 44min

    Hosts: Ed Brown, Penny Dumsday, Lucas Randall 00:00:47 After a British teenager went blind, media reports came thick and fast about the dangers of a junk food diet. But was he just a fussy eater, or was there a lot more to it than the headlines suggested? 00:07:50 Is climate change making spiders more aggressive? Well, yes - but only one species was studied and not aggressive in way that you'd expect. 00:20:39 After a spectacular wall collapse last year, a crater on Hawaii's Kīlauea volcano was left empty. And now it's starting to refill, but not with lava. 00:27:31 Could the search for extra-terrestrial life be easier if the aliens glowed? Under the right circumstances, bioluminescence could help us find life on other worlds. This episode contains traces of KHON2 News' Brigette Namata and Justin Cruz discussing the teenager who went blind from junk food.

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