Electric Fish Communication, Science Crimes, Lighting Cave Art. August 13, 2021, Part 1

Electric Fish Communication, Science Crimes, Lighting Cave Art. August 13, 2021, Part 1

By Science Friday and WNYC Studios

Science Friday

Friday, 13 August

This Fish Is The Master Of The Poignant Pause

When listening to a well-practiced speaker, like during a lecture, a political event or during a favorite public radio show, you may notice they use pauses for dramatic effect.  This type of nuance in communication may seem distinctly human, but we’re not the only species that takes advantage of pauses in speech to make a point.

Enter the electric fish: It discharges electric pulses nearly constantly, which tells other fish basic identifying information. But when they want to alert other fish to something of high importance, they pause.

These fish and their unique mode of communication has inspired researcher Bruce Carlson to study them for decades. This latest breakthrough in communication pauses sheds more light on the world of non-human communication, he tells SciFri producer Kathleen Davis.


Science Crimes: From Grave Robbers To An Icepick Surgeon

Imagine a novel full of true crime thrillers, with just one twist: every crime in it was committed in the name of science. This is the premise of the new book The Icepick Surgeon, which covers the biggest scientific crimes in history, starting all the way back in Ancient Egypt.

From Cleopatra to Thomas Edison, scientists have been responsible for some dastardly crimes throughout history. We’re talking grave robbing, torture, murder, espionage, and more.

All of these crimes were committed in the name of research. So how do scientists lose sight of their humanity as they conduct their experiments? And what science crimes may be in our future? Author Sam Kean joins Ira to talk about the book.



Lighting Design For Your Paleolithic Cave

In the modern world, you have dozens of options for illuminating your home. There’s floor lamps, table lamps, chandeliers, not to mention an overwhelming number of choices in light-bulbs. But in paleolithic times, once the sun went down, there were about three options for cave lighting—a fireplace, torches, and stone lamps that burned animal grease.

In an article published in the academic journal PLOS One, a group of researchers described exploring a cave using reproductions of each type of flame. The goal was to collect data on the advantages, disadvantages, and optical properties of each type of light—both to better understand how cave artists may have worked, and to develop a 3D computer model that would let modern viewers experience cave paintings in a manner closer to that intended by ancient artists.

Iñaki Intxaurbe, a student in the department of geology at the University of the Basque Country in Spain, talks about the research with SciFri’s Charles Bergquist, explaining what researchers are learning about Paleolithic cave paintings.


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