Host Sarah Crespi talks with Staff Writer Adrian Cho about a new measurement of the magnetism of the muon—an unstable cousin of the electron. This latest measurement and an earlier one both differ from predictions based on the standard model of particle physics. The increased certainty that there is a muon magnetism mismatch could be a field day for theoretical physicists looking to add new particles or forces to the standard model.
Also on this week’s show, Charles Marshall, director of the University of California Museum of Paleontology and professor of integrative biology, joins Sarah to talk about his team’s calculation for the total number of Tyrannosaurus rex that ever lived. In a sponsored segment from the Science/AAAS Custom Publishing Office, Sean Sanders interviews Imre Berger, professor of biochemistry at the University of Bristol, about his Science paper on finding a druggable pocket on the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 and how the work was accelerated by intensive cloud computing. This segment is sponsored by Oracle for Research.
Watch how we installed STAN — one of the most complete T. rex skeletons ever found.
Unearthed in 1987, less than a century after the existence of Tyrannosaurus rex had first become known, STAN — named after his discoverer Stan Sacrison — represents one of the most complete fossil skeletons of the most famous dinosaur species ever to have lived.
Each individual fossil from STAN’s skeleton had to be prised carefully from the rock, then stored and recorded. Following more than 30,000 hours of labour, STAN was erected on a custom mount to reflect his former glory. He was given a public unveiling on Hill City’s Main Street in South Dakota, followed by his global ‘debut’ as the centrepiece of Japan’s T. rex World Exposition in 1995.
With advancements in technology and access to areas once considered unreachable, the field of paleontology is experiencing a golden age of discovery. Roughly 50 new dinosaur species are found each year, giving us a closer look at their prehistoric world like never before. Our previous understandings of how dinosaurs looked and evolved are being revolutionized, especially in regards to evidence that modern birds descended from dinosaurs. But while it’s exciting to see how incredibly far paleontology has come from the previous generations, it’s equally as thrilling to imagine what new discoveries lie just ahead.
August 26, 2020: Protecting delicate quantum bits from radiation, convalescent plasma for serious Covid-19 patients and a competition to replicate findings from ancient computer code.
In this episode:
01:04 Quantum computers vs ionizing radiation
The quantum bits, or ‘qubits’, central to the operation of quantum computers are notoriously sensitive. Now, researchers have assessed the damaging effects that ionizing radiation can have on these qubits and what can be done about it. Research Article: Vepsäläinen et al.
We discuss the US Food and Drug Administration’s decision to authorize convalescent plasma for emergency use in COVID-19 patients. As accusations of political interference fly, what might this mean for the future of the US coronavirus response?
20:39 Research Highlights
Finding new populations of a long-lost elephant shrew, and the hunting method of ancient ichthyosaurs. Research Highlight: An elephant-nosed creature ‘lost to science’ was living just next door; Research Highlight: An extinct reptile’s last meal shows it was a grip-and-tear killer
22:34 The reproducibility of computer code
Many scientists have published papers based on code. Recently though, a gauntlet was thrown down for researchers to try to replicate their code, 10 years or more after they wrote it. Tech Feature: Challenge to scientists: does your ten-year-old code still run?
28:06 Briefing Chat
We take a look at some highlights from the Nature Briefing. This time we discuss a cancer diagnosis in a dinosaur, and how to brew yourself a career outside of academia. Science: Doctors diagnose advanced cancer—in a dinosaur; Nature Careers Feature: The brews and bakes that forged career paths outside academia
Should anyone be able to dig up and sell dinosaur fossils? It’s a question that’s increasingly being asked as the commercial fossil market booms. WSJ met with fossil hunters and scientists to learn more about this niche market and the big bucks at stake.
A tiny new species of bird-like dinosaur has been discovered, preserved in a lump of 99-million-year-old amber. The tooth-filled skull is only 7.1mm long, suggesting that this ancient creature would have been the size of a hummingbird – far smaller than other dinosaurs known from that time. Unusual features include large, side-facing eyes and a large number of sharp teeth suggesting a predatory lifestyle. The species has been named Oculudentavis khaungraae and is evidence of previously unimagined biodiversity in the Mesozoic era.