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Podcasts, webcasts, online video and audio on science and engineering topics.
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Podcasts, webcasts, online video and audio on science and engineering topics.

Capuchin Monkeys Using Stone Tools

This BBC documentary “Clever Monkeys”, narrated by David Attenborough, shows Capuchin monkeys in Brazil using heavy stones to break open aged palm nuts.

Related: Chimps Used Stone HammersBird Using Bait to FishOrangutan Attempts to Hunt Fish with SpearDolphins Using Tools to Hunt

Sumatran Tiger and Cubs Filmed by Remote Wildlife Monitoring Cameras

Video cameras installed in the Sumatran jungle in Indonesia have captured close-up footage of a tiger and two cubs. This is the first time that the World Wildlife Fund has recorded evidence of tiger breeding in central Sumatra in what should be prime tiger habitat.

The Sumatran Tiger is the smallest of all surviving tiger subspecies. Male Sumatran tigers average 204 cm (6 feet, 8 inches) in length from head to tail and weigh about 136 kg (300 lb).

Analysis of DNA is consistent with the hypothesis that the Sumatran Tigers have been isolated after a rise in sea level at the Pleistocene to Holocene border (about 12,000-6,000 years ago) from other tiger populations. The Sumatran Tiger is genetically isolated from all living mainland tigers.

Wouldn’t it be nice to see the photos those tigers could take with the awesome cat cam?

Related: Bukit Tiga Puluh National ParkUsing Cameras Monitoring To Aid Conservation EffortsRare Saharan Cheetahs PhotographedJaguars Back in the Southwest USA

10 Simple Science Tricks for Parties

Fun video by Richard Wiseman on his top 10 science stunts for Christmas parties.

Related: How a Microwave HeatsNinja ProfessorsScience Toys You Can Make With Your Kids

Protein Synthesis: 1971 Video

The above webcast shows protein synthesis, from a 1971 Stanford University video with Paul Berg (Nobel Laureate – 1980 Nobel Prize for Chemistry and National Medal of Science in 1983). The film does not exactly present the traditional scientist stereotype. It does pretty much present the typical California 1970’s hippie stereotype though.

Related: Friday Fun – CERN VersionRoger Tsien Lecture On Green Florescent Protein

Ants Counting Their Step

Ants That Count!

Most ants get around by leaving smell trails on the forest floor that show other ants how to get home or to food. They squeeze the glands that cover their bodies; those glands release a scent, and the scents in combination create trails the other ants can follow.

That works in the forest, but it doesn’t work in a desert. Deserts are sandy and when the wind blows, smells scatter.

It’s already known that ants use celestial clues to establish the general direction home, but how do they know exactly the number of steps to take that will lead them right to the entrance of their nest?

Wolf and Whittlinger trained a bunch of ants to walk across a patch of desert to some food. When the ants began eating, the scientists trapped them and divided them into three groups. They left the first group alone. With the second group, they used superglue to attach pre-cut pig bristles to each of their six legs, essentially putting them on stilts.

The regular ants walked right to the nest and went inside. The ants on stilts walked right past the nest, stopped and looked around for their home…

I posted about this back in 2006: Ants on Stilts for Science, but the webcast by NPR is worth a new post.

Related: E.O. Wilson: Lord of the AntsHuge Ant Nestposts showing the scientific method of learning in action

Volkswagen Fun Theory: Piano Staircase

Volkswagen built this piano stairway in Stockholm, Sweden as part of their fun theory project, which aims to change people’s behavior for the better through fun. That is a great strategy.

Related: Water Pump – the Protein Folding GameEngineers Should Follow Their HeartsUsing Capitalism to Make a Better WorldToyota Robots

Dennis Bray Podcast on Microbes As Computers

Carl Zimmer interviews Dennis Bray in an interesting podcast:

Dennis Bray is an active professor emeritus in both the Department of Physiology and Department of Neuroscience at the University of Cambridge. He studies the behavior of microbes–how they “decide” where to swim, when to divide, and how best to manage the millions of chemical reactions taking place inside their membranes. For Bray, microbes are tiny, living computers, with genes and proteins serving the roles of microprocessors.

Related: E. Coli IndividualityWetware: A Computer in Every Living Cell by Dennis Bray – Programing BacteriaMicro-robots to ‘swim’ Through Veins

William Kamkwamba on the Daily Show

Pointy haired bosses removed the video. Argh!

William Kamkwamba on the Daily show. I first posted about William’s great work in 2007 – Home Engineering: Windmill for Electricity. What a great example of what can be done by sharing scientific and engineering ideas with those who will make the effort to create workable solutions.

William has written a book on his life: The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind.

Related: Inspirational EngineerMake the World Betterposts on engineersposts on Africa

Test it Out, Experiment by They Might Be Giants

Put It to the Test is one of the songs on the great new Album and animated DVD from They Might Be Giants: Here Comes Science.

Are you sure that thing is true, or did someone just tell it to you.
Come up with a test. Test it out.
Find a way to show what would happen if you were incorrect. Test it out.
A fact is just a fantasy unless it can be checked.
Make a test. Test it out.

A fun song on fundamentals of experimenting to the scientific method.

Related: Here Comes Science by They Might Be Giantsposts on experimentingMythBuster: 3 Ways to Fix USA Science EducationScience Toys You Can Make With Your KidsCorrelation is Not Causation

Friday Fun: Hammer and Feather Drop on Moon

Gravity acts in the same way on a feather and hammer. The reason the hammer falls faster on earth is due to air resistance (well and if you try outside – wind could blow the feather too).

At the end of the last Apollo 15 moon walk, Commander David Scott performed a live demonstration for the television cameras. He held out a geologic hammer and a feather and dropped them at the same time. Because they were essentially in a vacuum, there was no air resistance and the feather fell at the same rate as the hammer, as Galileo had concluded hundreds of years before – all objects released together fall at the same rate regardless of mass. Mission Controller Joe Allen described the demonstration in the “Apollo 15 Preliminary Science Report”:

During the final minutes of the third extravehicular activity, a short demonstration experiment was conducted. A heavy object (a 1.32-kg aluminum geological hammer) and a light object (a 0.03-kg falcon feather) were released simultaneously from approximately the same height (approximately 1.6 m) and were allowed to fall to the surface. Within the accuracy of the simultaneous release, the objects were observed to undergo the same acceleration and strike the lunar surface simultaneously, which was a result predicted by well-established theory, but a result nonetheless reassuring considering both the number of viewers that witnessed the experiment and the fact that the homeward journey was based critically on the validity of the particular theory being tested.

Related: posts on physicsPhun PhysicsLearning About the MoonWhat Are Flowers For?

Engineer Tried to Save His Sister and Invented a Breakthrough Medical Device

Here is another remarkable example of the great benefit engineers provide society.

How a software engineer tried to save his sister and invented a breakthrough medical device

I wanted to help my sister as much as I could. I went to Medline, where there are hundreds of thousands of documents describing clinical studies, to see what I could find.

There are billions of dollars spent every year on clinical studies. I was surprised to discover that there were sometimes clinical studies of treatments for which there were no clinical applications. The trials would show successful results but no clinical applications.

I found a 1987 Italian funded set of clinical studies that showed successful treatment of tumors by the application of chemotherapy directly into the tumors. But I could find nothing since then.

It took us two years to do the engineering. And it has taken the FDA seven years and two months to approve the product for sale. We were able to shorten the FDA process a little by saying that it was similar to other devices that had already been approved.

Great stuff.

Related: Cardiac Cath Lab: Innovation on SiteSurgeon-engineer advances high-tech healingHome Engineering: Dialysis machineStoryCorps: Passion for Mechanical EngineeringEngineers Should Follow Their Hearts

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