Welcome to STEMology – Show Notes

Season 1, Episode 22

Beer mats, thieving birds, magnetic contraception and space art

In today’s episode of STEMology…

Sophie and David are talking about physicists who worked out the maths of beer mats being used as a frisbee, scientists have discovered something new and surprising about birds that steal hair from mammals, the use of magnets in a male contraceptive and art goes into space.

Beer Mats turned into frisbees

they have discovered scientifically why throwing a beer mat into a hat is so difficult or basically just throwing a beer mat straight

Thieving birds

they went to trusty the old YouTube and they found that people for ages have been uploading videos of these birds, these specific birds theiving mammal hair

Reversible male contraceptive

inspired by skinny jeans and budgie smugglers, researchers have explored this systematically by intense heating of nano materials, injected into the balls

Art in space

I love the idea that someone is finger painting on a rocket, and then that’s going to be sent into space.

This is a “kind of, sort of, vaguely close” copy of the words that David & Sophie speak in this episode.

IT IS NOT 100% accurate.  We are very sorry if we have spelt something completely incorrectly.  If it means a lot to you to have it corrected, email us at stemology@ramaley.media

STEMology s1e22

David: [00:00:00] Welcome to episode 22 of STEMology,

[00:00:02]  Sophie: [00:00:04] a podcast sharing some of the interesting fun, and sometimes just patently bizarre news in science, technology, engineering, or maths.

[00:00:13]David: [00:00:13] Your hosts are Dr. David Farmer and Dr. Sophie Callabretto

[00:00:16]Sophie: [00:00:16] In today’s episode of stem ecology, we’ll be chatting about beer mat Frisbees, hair, thieving, birds,

[00:00:23]David: [00:00:23] Warmed, nanoparticle, contraception, and space art.

Beer Mats

[00:00:28]Sophie: [00:00:28] beer mat Dave.

[00:00:29] David: [00:00:29] This is one of the better written papers and better written press releases that I think we’ve had on the show.

[00:00:35] I think it’s true. Yeah.

[00:00:37]It’s willingness to state the obvious in a beautiful way. So the paper starts a beer mat also known as a drinks coaster. Thanks guys is a commodity. Most elegantly used the rest of glass  on in order to protect the table surface. Beer mats, protect tables from unsightly condensation rings. However, They are sometimes also misused as projectiles.

[00:00:57] Sophie: [00:00:57] They are. And so what we have is one of, I don’t want to say the craziest things I’ve ever seen, but it’s certainly odd. So we have a bunch of physicists from the university of bond, but these seem like real physicists. So we have so physicists at the home Hodes Institute of radiation and nuclear physics and at the AGA Lander Institute for astronomy.

[00:01:17] David: [00:01:17] People who sound like they should have more important things to do.

[00:01:20] Sophie: [00:01:20] That’s what I mean, like when I say real physicists, I don’t mean to insult physicists who don’t work specifically in those fields, but like these sound

[00:01:26] David: [00:01:26] yeah, it’s like.

[00:01:27] the, is there an Institute for like the Helmholtz Institute for beer mat flipping and frippery?

[00:01:33] Sophie: [00:01:33] Right. And so, yeah, the, um, what they basically did is they have discovered scientifically why throwing a beer mat into a hat is so difficult or basically just throwing a beer mat straight. So apparently, this idea arose during an excursion by the physics show team, from the university of bond to Munich and participants went to a bar together, and then while they’re at the bar and I presume drinking, they wondered why flying beer mats behave the way that they do.

[00:02:03] And so what they did was they didn’t just ponder this, Dave they went back and they did some like actual analysis and they built a beer mat throwing machine and then analyzed like the trajectory of beer mats and the behavior and the forces and everything is so they could work out literally why you can’t throw a beer mat straight.

[00:02:22] David: [00:02:22] This was another lovely thing at the end of the abstract, where they’re kind of, you know, the abstracts where we summarize the scientific paper in a one. And at the end of it, it says our theoretical results are confronted with experimental results obtained using a beer mat shooting apparatus and a high-speed camera.

[00:02:36] Very good agreement was found. So then they’ve gone and made fancy mathematical models, which I’m going to ask you to explain to me in a moment. And then they actually made a beer mat, chucking bit of kit.

[00:02:49] Sophie: [00:02:49] Yeah. And did you watch the video?

[00:02:50] David: [00:02:50] I did.

[00:02:51]Sophie: [00:02:51] It was beautiful. So it almost looks like it’s like a little kind of such, it’s like a flat thing. And then you kind of slip their beer mat into one end and are almost kind of like ass suctions it out and then just like throws it into the air.

[00:03:03] David: [00:03:03] Well, I thought it was like, it was two it’s two treadmills. It’s two treadmills. I think. So the two treadmills, the way they interpreted that was because they could have them running side by side at different speeds. They could induce the amount of side-spin that they wanted, because I think they go on to say so.

[00:03:18] So basically they say in the theoretical bit of the paper that when you Chuck a beer mat in A gravity-less environment,   and it’s spinning, the angular momentum of it, stabilizes the spin. and all the other axes. And also it will move through the air with the least resistance, which means it will stay edge on to the direction that it’s traveling.

[00:03:38] So it should work like a Frisbee, but if you introduce gravity, that’s no longer the case.

[00:03:44] Sophie: [00:03:44] Exactly. So gravity is the issue to essentially what you have now is this interaction between like gravity and lift and then the conservation of angular momentum. And they’re all kind of like working against each other. So the idea is when you have gravity in the system, and yet you sort of spin this thing out, so you throw it like a Frisbee or the machine has thrown it very accurately, like a Frisbee, the mat tips backwards.

[00:04:05] So you sort of as like the nose ends up sort of tilting up. So you’ve got this angle of attack and they’ve described it as like a landing aircraft. But I think people get confused based on emojis, how an aircraft does land. So when, uh, when a plane takes off, that is the same position as when it lands, it lands like backwards first and then nose not as the emoji suggests it doesn’t face plant into the ground.

[00:04:28] So we have it pointing up.

[00:04:29] David: [00:04:29] I had a good thing.

[00:04:31] Sophie: [00:04:31] yeah. And then, so yeah, that, and then you’ve got this angle of attack, so it sort of pointed slightly up and then that creates lift, but it doesn’t create lift in the center. It creates it at the lifted, like the lifted nose of I’m going to say the nose of the Frisbee as it were.

[00:04:46] David: [00:04:46] Yeah. And they described that as being, because that’s breaking the airflow, right? So it’s, it’s something to do with, because it’s drifting down due to gravity and moving forwards. It’s the front of the disc, the spinning disc that’s breaking the airflow and therefore is subject to a disproportionate amount of the force compared

[00:05:03] Sophie: [00:05:03] Yeah, exactly. And now, and then the idea is if this was just traveling straight forward then because you’ve got the lifted nose and you’ve got gravity working on the but, like it would just actually flip backwards, but you have that rotation, which then kind of stabilizes it. And then when you add these things together, what you actually kind of get it’s like, I, it reminded me of like a banking, like Millennium Falkan, but basically the noses up.

[00:05:24] And then you sort of get it, it rotates onto like a vertical access, but then the way that it, with all the forces acting as it rotates from the vertical axis, you kind of get backspin. And that will also depend on like the way that it, it banks up will depend on the original direction that you’re as if you’re spinning it counterclockwise or clockwise.

[00:05:44] And then in the very beginning, when you flip it out of the machines, I think the idea is if it’s rotating, counterclockwise, this thing will kind of drift to the right. And if you’ve got it clockwise, it’s going to drift to the left. And so then basically what you have is this like it’s vertically aligned, traveling forward, spinning backwards. And then it just gets like super unstable and then like, it will lose height and fall to the ground.

[00:06:06] David: [00:06:06] Yes. Well, this is when it starts to backspin right?

[00:06:08] Sophie: [00:06:08] Yeah. So when it flips up vertically, then it’s yeah. It’s back

[00:06:12] David: [00:06:12] It starts back spinning and everyone like anyone has chucked the beer mat knows this. And also CDs though. I think CDs can go a bit further, presumably because they’re a bit more massive.

[00:06:20] Sophie: [00:06:20] Yeah. So it says that, the drift for A beer mat that begins after 0.4 or five seconds at most, playing cards. Only last 0.2, four seconds, but CDs 0.8 seconds. So almost double the amount. And I would say that’s just because it’s like a little bit more robust and, um, it’s got a bit more mass behind it and it’s probably a bit more rigid as well.

[00:06:40] The CD I would assume.

[00:06:41]David: [00:06:41] So what they say in the paper, and again, I think your understanding is more in depth than mine, but they say the backspin behavior seems to be kind of inevitable. And once it enters a backspin, it stays in a backspin no matter what. So basically what they’re saying is the Frisbee, like behavior of the beer mat is temporary and unstable.

[00:07:00] Whereas the backspin behavior is stable. So if you Chuck a beer mat with backspin, it immediately enters the backspin state and stay that

[00:07:07] Sophie: [00:07:07] It’s going to stay

[00:07:08] there.

[00:07:09] David: [00:07:09] the ground.

[00:07:10] And so basically what they’ve done in this paper is formalized that mathematically and physically, and then tested it with this machine, which has treadmills to throw it very precisely over and over again, to

[00:07:21] Sophie: [00:07:21] Yeah, exactly. So, and they did some good analysis of basically the analysis. It’s like, it’s good, but it’s like, it’s just like simple. It’s good, simple physics. It’s basically, they looked at all the forces acting on these disks and they just like looked at the equations of motion and they balanced everything.

[00:07:33] So you’ve got. Forces due to acceleration, drag and gravity, and what you get once you sort of stakehold these different forces for these specific beers mats is you get a set of four nonlinear, couple of differential equations. And then you can actually make some nice, like harmonic approximations to solve them analytically.

[00:07:49] So you can actually write down a mathematical solution to the behavior, which. Isn’t approximation, but it’s quite a good approximation here. So these are, I’m very happy with the maths that they’ve done. I don’t know if you can tell Dave I’m like, it’s solid, it’s good. They’ve known it. And then they also solved it numerically.

[00:08:03] So they solved the full equations numerically without those approximations. And then they compared it with the experiments. And as they said, the agreement was very good. And in maths and physics, very good read, like quite excellent.

[00:08:16] David: [00:08:16] Okay. Like unbelievably good.

[00:08:18] Sophie: [00:08:18] If you say it’s very good, like it’s, it’s pretty D you know, like, I don’t know if you looked at the graphs in the papers, but like those in the paper, those like lines matched up

[00:08:27] David: [00:08:27] the lines were very close together. I did appreciate, I didn’t, I couldn’t appreciate the maths, but I could appreciate That the lines were very,

[00:08:32] close

[00:08:33] Sophie: [00:08:33] And if they’re very close together, that is very good agreement.

[00:08:35] David: [00:08:35] Okay.

[00:08:36] So again, once again, what we’re discussing here is the behavior of beer mat Frisbees as investigated by the physicist at the helm Holt institutes of radiation and nuclear physics, and the ag lender Institute for astronomy and the university of bond.

[00:08:52] Ridiculous.

[00:08:53] Sophie: [00:08:53] I thought that was some funny things in here just to add. So, so apparently if the beer mats will travel most stable and hence the furthest, if they rotate very quickly, but Dave, did you know that this was a trick that has already been mastered by the world’s best playing card thrower? Rick Smith Jr. Who holds the

[00:09:09] record for.

[00:09:10] David: [00:09:10] his name.

[00:09:10] Sophie: [00:09:10] His name and I did not, I did not look him up, but if that is not an American man, I will. My hat Rick Smith,

[00:09:17] David: [00:09:17] As in, as in someone who crafts, Rex,

[00:09:20] Sophie: [00:09:20] Yeah, his is a Smith of Rick’s, but he’s the, he’s the smaller one. He’s the junior version. And, um, he’s his record? Throwing distance is over 60 meters for a playing card.

[00:09:32] David: [00:09:32] that’s ridiculous into a hat or just distance.

[00:09:35] Sophie: [00:09:35] I, think just distance, I don’t know if we’re talking about accuracy there, but yeah.

[00:09:37] So to apparently throw these things really far, as you said, just start them in that vertical position. So start them in that, you know, the position that they want to get to would their backspin and then you’re more likely if you do that really, really fast and really, really hard, it’s going to go further.

[00:09:50] The thing that makes me like sad and about this a little bit was. As a researcher in Australia. And I know that you’ve worked in research true. It is. It’s very hard to get funding in this country for things. This study was supported with funds from the German research foundation and the national natural science foundation of China.

[00:10:12] Like we can’t get funding to do fundamental science in Australia. And this has been double funded for beer mats.

[00:10:18]David: [00:10:18] It’s very upsetting.

[00:10:20]I say I should qualify that it’s upsetting. Not that it was funded. It’s upsetting. Cause we’ve done that, that this research has been done. And they’ve come up with this theoretical framework that describes the behavior of this very well. We have no idea what the application of it is, and it might that being something really important.

[00:10:34] And that’s the reason why you should fund things like this.

[00:10:37] Sophie: [00:10:37] Although, I have to say my favorite bit in the press release was a quote from professor Dr. Carson or back from the homo Institute of radiation and nuclear physics. And he says there is no application for this project. However, the problem is clear for lay people and physicists alike, and it wonderfully illustrates the entire process by which the natural sciences acquire knowledge from the observation to the, to the theory.

[00:11:02] And it’s experimental testing right through to the adjustment and further development, which I think is lovely. But also I think it’s quite condescending that here at first in non physicist as late.

[00:11:11] David: [00:11:11] Yeah. and I guess, um, that makes it sound like they had fun writing the paper and, and when you read the paper.

[00:11:19] Sophie: [00:11:19] It’s a nice paper.

[00:11:20] David: [00:11:20] It is a fun paper.

[00:11:21] to read, for the reasons that we illustrated at the start of the podcast. Although I will say so. Yeah, they, they say the aim of this paper is threefold. It will give a quality to the explanation of the observed behavior in the following section, from this section understanding the phenomenon should be possible without much expert knowledge, but it was pretty difficult to understand, to be

[00:11:40] Sophie: [00:11:40] Yeah, I think, yeah, it was like, if you wanted to get into the maths, probably not for the lay person to use their wording, but yeah, it was, um, it was joyous paper. So that’s what if you at the pub and you’ve had a couple of drinks and you’re having a beer mat throwing competition, try and throw it vertically very hard with backspin and you might just win.

[00:12:00] David: [00:12:00] And rest easy in the knowledge that there is a very well-defined theoretical explanation for why that, so,

Hair stealing

[00:12:06]  From Rick Smith to titmicewho absolutely bloody love hair. Dozens of online videos, documented an unusual behavior among tufted titmice and their closest bird kin a bird will landed an unsuspecting mammal and cautiously and stealthily pluck out some of its hair. What?

[00:12:26]Sophie: [00:12:26] I don’t know, Dave. Yeah. So this is this, we’ve got a new paper that documents the phenomenon of klepto tricky, clipped up tricky. How do I say that? Where do I put my

[00:12:36] David: [00:12:36] depends where you did put the emphasis on the apple.

[00:12:39] Sophie: [00:12:39] Klepto tricky. So Greek roots for theft and hair. So basically, yeah, these are hair, thieving birds, but from mammals.

[00:12:46]I also like the impetus for the study came from a chance sighting. So we have, uh, two of the coauthors thing. It was the main author and a co-author first observed this behavior while there were on a spring. Bird count in central Illinois. So this comes from the university of Illinois and they basically saw this bird theiving a mammal was hair and they went, what?

[00:13:08] And so they went and they looked it up  In like publications in journals or whatever. And apparently there is only now let me find it nine. So there’s only nine studies that documented 11 instances of this behavior, but then Dave, as you suggest, they went to trusty the old YouTube and they found that people for ages have been uploading videos of these birds, these specific birds theiving mammal hair.

[00:13:32] So the interesting bit comes in. I’ve just got before I get into the interesting bit, I’ve just got a fun fact about a tufted titmouse

[00:13:38] Dave, the song of the tufted Titmouse is usually described as a whistled, Peter, Peter, Peter, although this song can vary in approximately 20 notable ways. Thank you, Wikipedia.

[00:13:50] David: [00:13:50] Excellent.

[00:13:51] Sophie: [00:13:51] maybe it’ll be like this, but possibly 19 other variations. Um,

[00:13:55] David: [00:13:55] That are not this very specific way of speaking.

[00:14:00] Sophie: [00:14:00] Um, but yeah. So the idea is that the birds are taking these hairs for their nests.  But what they previously thought was that they were like taking these hairs from like caucuses and stuff. Right. So it’s just like they got the hairs and they thought they were just collecting them possibly from dead animals, possibly from the environment.

[00:14:20] But now they’ve realized that at immense danger to themselves. They are taking them from live mammals. So think about this. You’ve got like a real angry raccoon and a tiny little bird. And for some reason, the benefits of plucking of like a piece of hair from that angry raccoon possibly outweighs the danger to the bird.

[00:14:41] So this, like, this is the really interesting part of this

[00:14:43] David: [00:14:43] Yes, absolutely. So, and in fact, that was exactly what they saw on the chance sighting that inspired  the systematic review. So they saw a tit mouse plucking hair from a raccoon. And they’re saying, this is bizarre because like you can get eaten and it’s like, it’s fine. Great. Your nest will be a bit warmer maybe, but why on earth are they doing this?

[00:15:04] So they then get into some quite interesting postulations about why it might be that they are stealing the hair. So one is that it keeps the nest warmer, but they don’t really like that idea because they say this is seen in temperate locations where it’s probably not necessary. So one really interesting idea is that it’s the older of the mammal that they’re stealing it from may actually did tear nest predators like snakes and other birds. That will be scared of, for example, raccoons. So you steal the hair of the raccoon,  you make your house out of it.

[00:15:38] And then now no longer will you be bothered by snakes and other birds

[00:15:41] who want to

[00:15:42] Sophie: [00:15:42] you’ve just, you’re essentially like lighting raccoon, incense in your house. And then everyone’s like, oh, raccoons, that’s scary. I don’t want to go near that house.

[00:15:49] David: [00:15:49] Yeah.

[00:15:50] And they, they point out some, there are some other species where this behavior has been documented, Which is rad. So the great Crested fly catcher apparently puts shed snake skins into its nest.

[00:16:01] Sophie: [00:16:01] Which is gross. Like that’s like old skin.

[00:16:05] David: [00:16:05] Yes. But topping that is, there are apparently finches in Africa that put mammalian poop on top of their nests to confuse and scare predators away. And so this isn’t even the weirdest of it. It’s stealing hair. Isn’t even the weirdest stuff. It.

[00:16:21] Sophie: [00:16:21] No. And, um, I do like that. So in the paper they’ve gone to they’ve, they’ve gone through all the YouTube videos and then like quantified everything. So just we’ve got yeah. The nine papers, but in the videos, they’re all there. Except in one case we have a black cap, chickadee plucking hairs from 47 humans, 45 dogs, three cats, three raccoons in one porcupine, which I thought was interesting.

[00:16:43] Cause I’m thinking porcupine quills. I felt like porcupines are quite soft compared to like eccidnas. Right?

[00:16:49] David: [00:16:49] I haven’t poked either. So I couldn’t tell you,

[00:16:53]Sophie: [00:16:53] and then I was gonna say that the other potential reason that they could be taking these stinky mammal hairs is they think that their hair could possibly repel nest or nestling parasites, which are also, which are a common threat to chick survival, especially in these kinds of birds, the birds that create these kinds of cavity nests, I presume.

[00:17:13] Cause they can kind of hang out in the walls and just like festive as poor little chicks. But, um,

[00:17:20] David: [00:17:20] I’ll tell you. Can I tell you what I really like about this little paper? And I really like, so this is a little paper that’s, it’s basically a report of a single observation.

[00:17:29] Sophie: [00:17:29] Yeah,

[00:17:30] David: [00:17:30] that, they thought, wow, that’s weird. Kind of like the beer mat thing where they’re like, why is this happening?

[00:17:34] They saw one thing and they’re like, wow, that’s weird. So they went and did something really sensibly, did a wee systematic review to look for other reports in the scientific literature of this thing. They didn’t really find very many. They found some, but not a whole

[00:17:47] lot

[00:17:48] you go and search pub med for COVID 19, you’ll already get like 2 million papers or

[00:17:52] something. it’ll be something it’ll be a huge number of papers. So nine is nothing. But this is the thing like, so they’ve already done one of the hardest things in science.

[00:18:01] which is to have an idea that nobody’s had before.

[00:18:03] So like you have an idea in science as a researcher and quite often. That’s the end of it. Like if you had an idea, that’s great, but somebody probably already had it, but they’ve had an idea that nobody’s had yet. They’ve A find something. They did the literature search found evidence that nobody has really investigated this properly before and now they can do the next really exciting thing, which is do some proper experiments.

[00:18:23]Sophie: [00:18:23] Like, as they release birds at people to pluck their hair.

[00:18:26] David: [00:18:26] I don’t know. Well, presumably you could have a situation where you have. Like nesting titmice in a, in the same enclosure as like raccoons and you set up some cameras

[00:18:37] Sophie: [00:18:37] Yeah.

[00:18:38] David: [00:18:38] um, I don’t know what you could do. Maybe you could have several different animals

[00:18:42] Sophie: [00:18:42] I was gonna say, yeah, put one of each like a little, kind of like a Noah’s Ark kind of thing in a big enclosure and see what is the preferred, uh, hair for the tip mice to pluck?

[00:18:52] David: [00:18:52] Yes. And then maybe you could take the nests and present them to potential predators and show that the predators are dissuaded from attacking those nests versus other nests.

[00:19:00] Sophie: [00:19:00] all right. So I’m the researchers from university of Illinois. We’ve got some ideas, we could probably coauthor this paper, if you

[00:19:05] want to

[00:19:06] David: [00:19:06] we’ve. Yeah. Yeah. Now that we’ve waited hot, candid into your area of expertise, I’m sure we could make it very meaningful Contribution,

[00:19:12] Sophie: [00:19:12] Just stick us in the useless author position. It’s fine. We don’t mind. But I loved, yeah. I also liked that they just, they went to the internet and they were less like, yeah, people would love to film stuff and put it on the net and it is so much better of a documented on YouTube than in the literature.

[00:19:27] I also really enjoyed that.

reversible magnetic, nanoparticle contraception for men

[00:19:32]I know that every single STEMology episode, I always make claims like this is my favorite thing in science ever. But Dave, I think I have finally found my favorite thing in science ever. And I’ve written myself a little title and it says reversible magnetic, nanoparticle contraception for men,

[00:19:52] David: [00:19:52] question

[00:19:53] Sophie: [00:19:53] question mark.

[00:19:54] David: [00:19:54] Yeah, if someone said to me, put these magnets in your balls so I can heat them up. So you don’t have kids. I might not be too wild about the notion, but that’s exactly what researchers at the American chemical society are proposing.

[00:20:04] Sophie: [00:20:04] Boy how’d he did that. I love this. Cause it’s like starts off in this pressure that it’s like women have several choices for long lasting reversible contraceptives, but Dave, as we always send science, what about the men? We’ve been focusing on women for far too long. Um, and you know, and the problem is if you look at options for men and they are fairly limiting, so often they’re single use options for contraception, like a condom, or they could be difficult to reverse something like a vasectomy.

[00:20:29] David: [00:20:29] Well, there’s also, there’s an argument to be made for looking at this for men, because it takes some of the burden of contraception off of women where traditionally it has lane, right? Like with long-term contraception. Is that,

[00:20:39] Sophie: [00:20:39] No, like a hundred percent. Yeah. And then it’s all down hill from there, Dave. So in a step towards safe, long lasting reversible male contraceptive, researchers have developed a magnetic biodegradable nanomaterial that reduces the likelihood of mice fathering pups for at least 30 days.

[00:20:56] And so this is all based on the idea of, so it’s a hyperthermia not hypothermia. So the elevated temperature. Yeah. Can decrease sperm count in men. And some men do this accidentally to themselves just by wearing like too tight pants or undies. They just warm that little section and they can reduce sperm counts often, you know?

[00:21:15] David: [00:21:15] inspired by skinny jeans and budgie smugglers research have explored this systematically by  intense heating of nano materials, injected into the balls

[00:21:23] as, as

[00:21:24] Sophie: [00:21:24] so

[00:21:24] David: [00:21:24] male birth control.

[00:21:25] Sophie: [00:21:25] isn’t this out. So I was like, researchers have explored more intense heating of nanomaterials injected into the testes as a form of male birth control, but Dave injections can be painful.

[00:21:35] Heating

[00:21:36] David: [00:21:36] there really? Thanks science.

[00:21:38] Sophie: [00:21:38] And then I love this. Like most nanomaterials tested so far and not biodegradable.

[00:21:42] So essentially we have like burnt your skin in a, like in a really painful way previously, because we injected these into your testes. And now you’ve got these, like, non-biodegradable, nanomaterials just floating around in your junk and they’ve gone. This isn’t good, but maybe we can do this in a slightly more responsible, effective way.

[00:22:00] David: [00:22:00] Yeah, gold nano rods was the one that stuck out to me. We previously important that in-situ testicular injection of gold nano rods with near infrared radiation achieved the controllable male contraception. That sounds like the evil scheme of a James Bond

[00:22:14] Sophie: [00:22:14] It really does, but

[00:22:15] David: [00:22:15] a very small scale.

[00:22:17] Sophie: [00:22:17] we’ll scout, but we’ve got with sensible now, so what we’re doing now, Dave is we’re created a magnetic thermal approach to male contraception that I know you’ll be pleased, does not need to meet directly injected into your testes.

[00:22:31] David: [00:22:31] my testes specifically,

[00:22:32] Sophie: [00:22:32] yours or anyone’s the idea is that it doesn’t have to go.

[00:22:35] It doesn’t have to go into the test. You just go into the bloodstream. First, they tested two forms of iron oxide, nanoparticles, and  the reason behind using these iron oxide nanoparticles is that they’re both biodegradable and they can be guided and heated with a magnetic fields. Which I love. Um, but then the problem was, um, so yeah, the two types, we had a nanoparticle coated with polyethylene glycol, which is peg.

[00:22:58] And then the other one was Coda Dave with citric acid. And it turns out that the peg nanoparticle in this case is actually the loser because, although it can be heated to high temperatures than our citric acid particles, it’s not as easily manipulated by magnets.

[00:23:12] David: [00:23:12] Yes. So the idea is that you can inject, I think they did. This is in mice and they did an injection of nanoparticles into the tail vein, I think. And then they did something that sounds really fancy, which is magnetic targeting of iron oxide nanoparticles.

[00:23:27] Sophie: [00:23:27] But did you look it up? They did it.

[00:23:28] David: [00:23:28] Yeah, how they did it is they just placed the permanent magnet by the balls for four hours after injecting the nanoparticles.

[00:23:35] Sophie: [00:23:35] I did the same thing cause I was like, oh, how did they do that? And then I went to the paper and I was like, oh, literally just put a magnet next to their junk..

[00:23:42] For a long time.

[00:23:44] David: [00:23:44] it.

[00:23:44] Sophie: [00:23:44] Yeah. So they injected did the repeated doses of our citric acid coded nanoparticles, as you said, into the tail vein.

[00:23:50] So they did that for two days and then they guided our nano materials to the testes with magnets, I E placed your permanent magnet next to the balls. And then day we apply an alternating magnetic field, the area for 15 minutes. And that’s just with an output currency of thirty amps and it was applied to the testes for 15 minutes.

[00:24:09]David: [00:24:09] How does that work? How does that make heat?

[00:24:12]Sophie: [00:24:12] So I think it’s the, the nanomaterial itself gets heated by the magnetic field. I think. So it’s got, so it would have a lot to do with its movement, right. He just, just always caused by like movement of things. And if you apply a magnetic field to a magnet,

[00:24:27] So that’s, I don’t know.

[00:24:27] I didn’t look into the specifics because I was just loving the pictures in this paper. I’ve written some notes that of things that I really enjoyed in the paper, but the idea was Dave, at most they could heat the testes to a temperature of 39 degrees Celsius, shrinking them in inhibiting spermatogenesis

[00:24:48] David: [00:24:48] And the polls really did shrink. There’s a figure where they show the balls at day one day seven and day 60, I think. And the balls are shrunken.

[00:24:56] Sophie: [00:24:56] they’re super shrunken. And they think that in addition to inhibiting spermatogenesis this testicular hypothermia can also lead to DNA damage in the sperm and reduced sperm counts.

[00:25:07] David: [00:25:07] but That’s a good thing,

[00:25:09] Sophie: [00:25:09] That’s a good thing, depending on the extent and duration of heating so that, you know, cause the whole idea is, you know,  ladies born with eggs, men produce sperm their entire lives.

[00:25:17] So if you’re just like damaging a bunch for like the purpose of not getting pregnant right now, like that’s literally fine. The guys like you will bounce back and your sperm will like, they’ll come back as they do in this. So apparently the mice  couldn’t father any pop seven days after treatment, which is good, but they were back to fathering about 12 pups per pregnant female at day 60.

[00:25:38] So there’s this thing like a hundred percent. Let’s like, we can stop you fathering. Now, once we stop injecting you with nanoparticles and like aiming magnets and magnetic fields that your junk, you can come back and father pups.

[00:25:51] David: [00:25:51] yes. And that step that we were so happily making fun of where they place the magnet next to the junk that turned out to be absolutely essential.

[00:26:01] For the efficacy of this. So if, if they just did the alternating magnetic field without this, without putting the magnet near the junk for four hours, they got.

[00:26:09] almost no effect.

[00:26:10] And then as soon as they introduced this magnet stage, they got no pups.

[00:26:15] Like none,

[00:26:16] Sophie: [00:26:16] exactly. So I think, yeah, so this is really important, like yeah. Step of actually drawing all those nanoparticles down to the junk, but then I was thinking, Dave, you know that, you know, we’ve got all this technology with that, you know, you can get like period undies now and stuff you could have magnet like undies on these for men. So the holidays you get injected with this. And then, cause you know, like we did a story where they turned, they put an led screen into fabric. It’s like, if you can put an led screen into fabric, you can make like a very comfortable like magnetic material underwear surely. And so you just get your shot of nanoparticles, you put on your magnet undies.

[00:26:49]And I haven’t thought about the practicalities of applying a magnetic field. Uh, but

[00:26:54] David: [00:26:54] Well, presumably let’s just

[00:26:55] Sophie: [00:26:55] just walk in front of a microwave.

[00:26:57] David: [00:26:57] Yeah. Let’s just plug in, plug in magnetic undies with a, It’s just a spinning magnet, right? Isn’t that?

[00:27:02] What an alternating, but it’s just A spinning magnet. So I’m imagining like a pair of pants with like a little magnet. And an electric motor dangling below them and it just kind of spins and that temporarily sterilizes you and your partner’s like, thanks for doing that.

[00:27:17] no,

[00:27:18] Sophie: [00:27:18] no, but I thought this was great. So yeah, nanoparticles were non toxic to the cells. They were gradually eliminated from the body. This is offering new possibilities for male contraception, but I’ve got highlight of paper for Sophie thermal infrared images of mouse testes. It was like a kaleidoscope.

[00:27:34] It was just this like collage of like different colored mouse balls, which I just really, I just loved in a way that I never thought I’d say that sentence out.

[00:27:44] David: [00:27:44] I just love my spells. I just love it. I love it. When they’re dark blue. I love it when they’re bright, yellow, just as long as there’s most balls. And as long as they’re sterile, I’m all about

[00:27:53] Sophie: [00:27:53] Like I’m all about it, but yeah, this was a, this is great. I know. I think, yeah, I laughed a lot when I read this. Cause I was like, then they did what then they did what? But like super effective non-toxic and like worked. So I don’t know why. When in, in science state, when we use animals, what’s the next animal to test.

[00:28:11] We’ve done mice.

[00:28:12] David: [00:28:12] I guess, I guess you might try it in a large animal model. Yeah.

[00:28:15] Pigs or sheep maybe. Um, I don’t know. It might depend, there might be a standardized animal model for this kind of research, like for fertility research. So for example, the sheep is a good one for the cardiovascular system compared to humans because they’re kind of approximately the same size.

[00:28:30] Um, But, I don’t, I have absolutely no idea. Like what animals have the same sized. On average as a, as a human and whether they be a good model. So the answer is I’ve got no idea. But whatever animal it is, there’s a possibility that we could have a version of that animal without all the troublesome fertility.

[00:28:47]So I’m all for that


Space art

[00:28:54] Sophie: [00:28:54] from testicles to space,

[00:28:57] David: [00:28:57] space, art to tiny rockets to actual rocket sized rockets.

[00:29:02] Sophie: [00:29:02] Rocket size rockets going into space with super cool art on it, which will change both literally and figuratively through re-entry creating a unique record of the flight. Dave, tell us about this. Like very cool idea.

[00:29:17] David: [00:29:17] So this is an organization called uplift aerospace who

[00:29:21] Sophie: [00:29:21] Which I will need to talk to you about later on, because I’m not quite sure what they do

[00:29:25] David: [00:29:25] I had a lot of looking for their website and I didn’t fully understand what they were all about either.  But they’ve announced the partnership with blue origin who are Jeff Bezos’s of Amazon’s, uh, you know, space company.

[00:29:36] Sophie: [00:29:36] Space travel company for rich people.

[00:29:38] David: [00:29:38] And they have announced this initiative and it’s, it’s basically, they ran an art competition to get an artist’s work into space by painting it on the top of a blue origin rocket.

[00:29:49] And the artist that’s been chosen is, and I want to mask the name. I’m sure I’m, OCO boastful.

[00:29:55] Sophie: [00:29:55] Yeah, I think that’s about it.

[00:29:56] David: [00:29:56] Who is this stellar up and coming artist who does a lot of cool finger because it.

[00:30:02] really interesting  uh, finger painting style.

[00:30:05] Sophie: [00:30:05] Yeah. So as a 37 year old Ghanaian figurative painter, and yet he does this thing where he combines kind of brushwork with, as you said, that sort of finger and hand painting to sort of capture the mood of his subject. So he is subject to apparently normally creative friends and other members of his social circle who inspire him.

[00:30:24] And, um, he sort of is quite outcoming to the point where. Done very well for him. So very quickly. So his portraits, which are celebrated for his approach to shaping the black form have gone from being almost unheard of to selling for more than a million dollars at Christie’s in only a few years. And apparently like the Guggenheim and stuff have recently purchased some of his artwork.

[00:30:42] David: [00:30:42] Yeah.

[00:30:43] And I had to look this up Christie’s is a British auction house, which I didn’t know presumably it was, but that’s, that’s what it is. I looked up, it was founded by James Christie apparently.  so this is really cool. So I really like about this is. The particular, the finger painting aspect of it. I love the idea that someone is finger painting on a rocket, and then that’s going to be  sent into space.

[00:31:03] And there’s this really cool notion about the artwork that by, by virtue of the fact that we’re going to paint on a rocket and then send it into space, it’s going to survive being sent into space and then reentry, it’s going to be physically changed by that. And then presumably exhibited. And that is all part of the art process.

[00:31:19] Sophie: [00:31:19] Yeah, so that’s really cool. So the idea is that the painting is going to its uplift aerospace’s first sub-orbital triptych. So a triptych just being yeah, three panel painting or you know, or three piece painting.

[00:31:31]David: [00:31:31] The trip. That’s going to be on the three panels that hose, the parachutes

[00:31:35]Sophie: [00:31:35] Yeah, so applied to the three carbon fiber panels that will cover the parachutes use to return the blue origin space capsule to the ground. So  the idea is this is like kind of the same setup as the flight.

[00:31:45] Recently went and sent like Jeff Bezos and then brother mark was the captain. But then what I didn’t realize. So you, so you’ve got your first paying customer, Oliver Damon, but yeah, I also took, um, the mercury 13 pilot, Wally funk, like, do you know the story of mercury 13?

[00:32:01] David: [00:32:01] Now tell me.

[00:32:02] Sophie: [00:32:02] So there’s GM project mercury, which was basically like the U S just,  human space flight program.

[00:32:10] Program. And then you have like mercury seven, who are the seven male astronauts who were picked to be part of project mercury. I say male, because there’s also this thing. There’s a great documentary about it called mercury 13 or 13 American women who successfully underwent the same physiological screening tests as the astronauts.

[00:32:29] Who was selected by NASA, the idea, this was like a privately funded project and they got a bunch of women and they put them through all the tests and 13 of them passed. So it’s this weird enter it, but like they never went to space. A lot of them never met each other and they literally just went through the selection process.

[00:32:45]The same one that the, as the men anyway. And so what they did is in this flight , the new Shepard flat that liked Jeff Bezos and stuff around. They took wildly funk and she was one of the pilots in inverted commas because they never went anywhere.

[00:32:58] She was one of the mercury 13 parts. I think she was the youngest ones. I think the ages range from she was 23. And I think the oldest person was in their forties and like a mother. Yeah. I dunno, like a bunch of children and they all pass this thing, but yeah, they never went to space. They would never actually part of any NASA program.

[00:33:14] It was just as privately funded thing. Anyway. So I found that out, you know, looking up the new shepherd information and I was like, that’s great. Like, do think whatever you want about Jeff Bezos, which is like, not often great things,

[00:33:26] David: [00:33:26] Well, so this seems to be part of uplifts things. So their, their, their kind of mission statement seems to be that as humanity moves into space, and as it seems to be private companies that are no going to be taking part in this industry that other goods, parts of humanity go with it like art.

[00:33:44] And so this is actually a charitable venture. This whole thing is a charitable venture. So they’re going to raise awareness for a variety of

[00:33:51] Sophie: [00:33:51] Yeah. and

[00:33:53] then some actual, like direct funds for stuff as well. Right. So the idea is that we’ll make a charitable contribution to like a nonprofit, but part of it is like raising awareness about these nonprofits with a focus on supporting conservation and health care for all.  but Dave this brings.

[00:34:08] Interesting questions about paint in space though, because my understanding is if you have like a spacecraft, it’s pretty specific, it’s been designed in a fairly specific way in terms of like heat and things and re-entry, and you’re thinking that, and so I don’t know if you got into it, but I tried to learn about paint in space

[00:34:27] David: [00:34:27] I D I didn’t get into, I did wonder because yeah, you’re right. Like, you’d think there, there are obviously a lot of things that can go wrong. On a rocket and, have historically gone wrong.

[00:34:38] Like if you look at the total number of rocket launches versus the number of accidents, I would think that ratio will be much higher than it is for say aircraft or

[00:34:45] trains.

[00:34:46] Sophie: [00:34:46] and I, yeah. And apparently, so the main issues are terms of painting space, so they basically, they choose specific. Pigments for various properties. So you’ve got white pigments for your low solar absorbance and high immitants. Aluminium  flakes for your medium and then carbon black for your highest.

[00:35:03] So depending on where you are on the space craft, you want like different amounts of like absorption and like reflection. But the issue is so vacuum exposure to paints results in something called outgassing which I had not heard of. And it’s basically when, if you have any gases trapped in your paint that you’ve painted on, they basically get like sucked out of the, like the vacuum sucks, tiny pockets of any gas.

[00:35:26] And we can talk about  you know, gas that you can’t see. Like literally tiny gases will get sucked out of your paint and that’s a problem because it just makes the paint quite brittle. And everything. Is basically, it’s just going to be a risk in contamination of optics and electronics in the vicinity.

[00:35:40] So anything bad that happens to paint is going to mess with the stuff around it. Radiation is also super problematic cause you’ve got this, like you UV making your paint sort of very, very brittle. High temperatures, also degrade pain, and you can actually get certain paints smoking under certain conditions.

[00:35:55] And I think something that’s smoking on the outside of like a returning aircraft is probably like not great. And then thermal cycling can also deteriorate. So when it goes like to hot to cold to hot again. and then even atomic oxygen in low earth orbit attacks paints too. So even though he’s painting on these plates, on this capsule, there could be some like pretty gnarly regulations, right?

[00:36:14] Like you can use these paints and only this amount and only in this thickness or, or maybe, cause I dunno, it’s like the parachute bit wait Dave one, but then when they come back, the panels are going to be ejected.

[00:36:26] David: [00:36:26] I dunno if they’re rejected or if they just open, maybe

[00:36:29] Sophie: [00:36:29] Um, maybe they are okay. That’s good because otherwise I’m sure they’ve thought of this way. He’s freaked out. Like we’ve lost the art in the ocean.

[00:36:36] Maybe they just flip up.

[00:36:37] David: [00:36:37] unless it, unless like the destruction of it is like part of the artwork, like Banksy style, where he like shredded that painting and now

[00:36:45] Sophie: [00:36:45] yeah.

[00:36:47] David: [00:36:47] worth even more because the destruction of the artwork was part of the artwork itself.

[00:36:51] Sophie: [00:36:51] Maybe, maybe that, but yeah, I think this is.

[00:36:54] David: [00:36:54] by suspect not, I suspect they’ve got a recovery plan

[00:36:57] Sophie: [00:36:57] Yeah, or that’s still attached and I’ve just freaked out about nothing. Cause obviously I’m not an engineer on this spacecraft.

[00:37:02] David: [00:37:02] I suspect that the very least they’re not leaving this to chance, but I suspect there’s a plan of some kinds for the rocket.

[00:37:08]Sophie: [00:37:08] And I just really quickly, just before we go, just touch on this uplift aerospace, Dave. So if you look on the website, which is very pretty, it says uplift is pioneering advanced technologies for a multiplanetary economy that will revolutionize humanity’s connection with space and promote the conservation of earth.

[00:37:24]Which I didn’t really know what that meant. And then they go into their philosophy, vision, brand values and company values. That philosophy is unrelenting commitment to quality, vision multiplanetary economy, brand values, which I think a great quality craftsmanship, design attention to detail, uniqueness, and authenticity.

[00:37:41] I’m like I’m on bold. Their company values deliberately ensure our actions provide a net positive impact on the earth, which I think all of these things are great, but I think some of them are nonsense words.

[00:37:52] David: [00:37:52] I think there could have been a bit more specific. They could increase the resolution of the things that they’re saying a little bit so that we can actually tell what they’re talking about. However, in this instance, it seems like maybe they’re doing a good thing.

[00:38:05] Sophie: [00:38:05] Yeah. This is this, I think this is super cool. And I look forward to seeing the art before and after,

[00:38:13] David: [00:38:13] Yes. and, if you’d like to see some, you can see some of  work. You can see some on his Instagram, which is his name, and we’ll put it in the show notes.

[00:38:22] Sophie: [00:38:22] we’ll stick in the show notes or head to the show notes for all your art information. But yeah, I thought that was it’s. It’s lovely. I feel like we often ignore the creative side of science and it’s nice to of bring some actual art into it as well. I think

[00:38:34] David: [00:38:34] Space art

[00:38:35] Sophie: [00:38:35] space art


[00:38:37]David: [00:38:37] And thank you for listening to another fun episode of STEMology. Be sure to check out all the links to these great stories on our show notes.

[00:38:42] Go visit www.stemology.com.au.

[00:38:46]Sophie: [00:38:46] If you have any news that you think is STEM ology worthy, drop us an email stemology@ramaley.media. We would love to give you a mention, if you give us some good ideas,

[00:38:55]David: [00:38:55] Your hosts have been Dr. Sophie calabretto and Dr. David Farmer.

[00:38:59]Sophie: [00:38:59] This is a podcast from Ramaley Media.

[00:39:01]David: [00:39:01] Be sure to hit subscribe on your favorite listening app, so you never miss our episodes.

[00:39:05] We look forward to sharing the latest in all things, science, technology, engineering, and maths with you next week, and be sure to bring your friends.