Brain Donation, Meat And Human Evolution, Bird Song, Space Station Retirement. Feb 4, 2022, Part 1

Brain Donation, Meat And Human Evolution, Bird Song, Space Station Retirement. Feb 4, 2022, Part 1

By Science Friday and WNYC Studios

Science Friday

Friday, 4 February

Date Set For International Space Station’s Burial At Sea

The International Space Station was never going to last forever. And its expiration date had already been moved from 2024 to 2030. But NASA finally released the plan for what happens after the end of United States support for the orbiting research lab.

In a report released this week, NASA announced the station, once decommissioned, would orbit into the ocean in 2031. More specifically, it would end at a place between New Zealand and the southern tip of South America called “Point Nemo”—a final resting place for other spacecraft chosen because it is the place on Earth farthest from land masses.

Science journalist Maggie Koerth joins Ira to explain the end of the ISS and other stories, including two black holes that may or may not exist and may or may not collide, the U.S. Geological Survey’s effort to monitor a sleeping volcano, what we’re learning from COVID-19 “challenge” trials and a centuries-old act of resistance against colonial forces.

 

Why Should You Donate Your Brain To Science?

Ever wonder what happens after you donate your brain to science? If you have a disease or disorder like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, autism, traumatic brain injuries, depression, it can be used to help researchers better understand the condition and potentially lead to new treatments. But scientists also need to study the brains of people unaffected by any type of disease.

Ira is joined by Dr. Bill Scott, executive director of the University of Miami’s Brain Endowment Bank, based in Miami, Florida, and Tish Hevel, CEO of the Brain Donor Project, based in Naples, Florida, to discuss what scientists can learn from studying human brains and how to donate your brain to science after you’re gone.

 

Eating Meat May Not Have Spurred Human Evolution

Scientists have long theorized that meat is what made us human. The idea was that about two million years ago, an early human ancestor emerged. Homo erectus had a bigger brain, longer legs, and a smaller gut than modern humans, but they were more like us than apes. The cause of these big evolutionary changes, researchers hypothesized, was eating more meat.

Now, after re-analyzing fossil records, some are beginning to question the assertion that meat-eating was the primary driver of changes during this pivotal point in human evolution.

Ira is joined by the study’s co-author, Briana Pobiner, a paleoanthropologist at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, based in Washington, DC.

 

The World According To Sound: How Do Songbirds Sing Two Notes At Once?

Humans can talk because of their larynx, an organ shared by all mammals. Birds also have a larynx, but they use a different organ to vocalize: a syrinx.

The syrinx is a complex and powerful voice-box. Unlike the larynx, it allows birds to do things like sing two different notes at the same time. That’s how some song birds can sing an ascending line and descending line simultaneously.

Even with all the possibilities of their syrinx, some birds have adapted other ways to “sing.” The Ruffed Grouse, for instance, uses its wings. The Wilson’s Snipe makes a song with its wings and tail. The Palm Cockatoo holds a stick in its beak and bangs it on a tree. The Magnificent Frigatebird inflates its throat sacs and beats them with its long beak. The Sage Grouse makes its song with special chest sacs.

 

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