Welcome to STEMology – Show Notes

Season 1, Episode 24

Dragons IRL, Pi, Dreaming Retinas & Angry bees

In today’s episode of STEMology…

Sophie & Dave are discussing about dragons that are found to be living in Queensland many years ago, the new world record of decimal places in π, how mammals’ brains are primed to function before they’re even born and higher protein found in the venom of angry bees…..

Dragons IRL

This particular new pterosaur had the wingspan of about seven meters. I will add that that’s an estimate because they obviously only had the skull


So the exact number of digits that pie has been calculated to is 62, 831, 853,071,750 digits.

Dreaming retinas

What they notice is that almost as soon as these animals can open their eyes, they’re able to navigate world. So because the visual system needs so much training in order to work, like so much of the rebrain needs so much training, you need to like have these networks primed to do what their function is.

Watch Retinal Waves of Neonatal Mice Here 

Angry Bees

So the idea is that the more proteins found in the venom, the higher potential quality and effect of the venom …. It was the angry bees that reacted intensively to stimulating devices who produced a richer and more protein, dense bee venom.

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 s1e24

[00:00:00] Sophie: Welcome to episode 24 of STEMology

[00:00:03] David: A podcast sharing some of the interesting fun, and sometimes just patently bizarre news in science, technology, engineering, or maths.

[00:00:11] Sophie: Your hosts are Dr. David Farmer and Dr. Sophie Bretto. In today’s episode of STEMology. We’ll be chatting about

[00:00:18] David: dragons IRL, PI

[00:00:20] Sophie: dreaming retinas, and angry bees

Dragon IRL

[00:00:24] David: Ever seen a dragon, Sophie?

[00:00:25] Sophie: Um, I have in Game of Thrones.

[00:00:28] David: Yeah. Have you ever seen one in Queensland?

[00:00:30] Sophie: Queensland yeah,

[00:00:31] David: Yeah.

[00:00:33] Sophie: Move over Daenarys Targaryen Maybe the mother of dragons was actually from Queensland. What?

[00:00:38] David: How about that?

[00:00:39] Sophie: How about that?

[00:00:40] David: So UQ researchers have found Australia’s largest flying reptiles

[00:00:45] A pterosaur with an estimated seven meter wingspan that soared like a dragon over outback Queensland, 60 something million years ago

[00:00:53] Sophie: yeah. Was a while ago. So apparently so according, so we’ve got PhD candidate, Tim Richards from, as you said, University of Queensland, but their [00:01:00] dinosaur lab, which I didn’t know they had, so that’s quite exciting.

[00:01:03] David: Quite an exciting place to say that you’re from

[00:01:05] Sophie: He says, it’s the closest thing we have to a real life, dragon, Dave.

[00:01:10] David: Yes. there’s a picture of the skull and it looks made up Like, it looks like someone drew it, but to look like a dragon.

[00:01:16] Sophie: It does look like someone went well, I wonder what a dragon skull like let’s 3D print this. Yes, I agree. And, so this new pterosaur, as you said, now, I’m going to try not to, mess up the name here, but it’s called the Thapunngaka Shawi. So I think let’s go, um, first into the name and then I don’t ever have to say it again because, I feel bad when I mess it up.

[00:01:37] So it honors the first nations people of the Richmond area where the fossil was found. So that’s the Wanamara nation. And so they’ve incorporated words from the Wanamara language. So Thapun mean spear and ngaka means mouth. So Thapunngaka means spear mouth, and then make this the species name Shawi honors the fossils discoverer Len [00:02:00] Shaw. So the name means Shaw spear mouth.

[00:02:03] David: it’s a really cool name. I got to reading about, so this is the fourth pterosaur type dinosaur from Australia that’s ever been discovered and they’ve all got pretty cool name

[00:02:12] Sophie: I have a problem with one of the names but you keep going

[00:02:14] David: okay. Now tell me the problematic one first,

[00:02:16] Sophie: so we’ve got our three. So this particular one is the third species of the, I don’t know how to say this word Anhanguerian Pterosaur

[00:02:23] David: So it’s, it’s confusing. It’s the third of fourth

[00:02:26] Sophie: yeah. Yeah. So when it started, just to say yes, so Anhanguerian this one. We’ve got methanga, which I love. We’ve got Fairy Draco, which I love Uh, iron dragon

[00:02:35] David: No. Steel dragon

[00:02:36] Sophie: Okay. Steel dragon. That’s good. The one I hate Dave is Ozzy Draco.

[00:02:42] David: I love Aussie dragon.

[00:02:44] Sophie: I like try harder, Um, so Ozzie Draco is a genus, all that, and now I feel like people have been stealing things. So it’s, Tagaaerian draconian pterodactyl pterosaur. So Tagaaerian has something to do with dinosaurs.[00:03:00]

[00:03:00] Yeah anyway, let’s see. Yeah. So they found this, skull in a quarry, just Northwest of Richmond in June, 2011. And as I said, it was Len Shaw who found it. And I think the press release is a little bit dismissive. They refer to him as a local fossicker who had been scratching around in the area for decades. It’s like, okay. But like that scratching around meant that he discovered the skull of Australia’s largest pterosaur and flying reptile. Dave, let’s talk about pterosaurs a little bit though.

[00:03:30] Just really quickly

[00:03:31] David: Let’s Let’s because I know you love the dinosaurs

[00:03:32] Sophie: Oh boy.I do, I love the dinosaurs. pterosaurus are flying dinosaurs. we just need to clear something up, cause I know that there’s often confusion between a pterodactyl and a pterosaur. Right. So pterodactyl is just a specific type of pterosaur. So pterodactyle is actually pterodactylus antiquus .So it’s a specific type of pterosaur. I just want to excise this for a second cause as you said, this particular new pterosaur had the wingspan of about seven meters. I will add that that’s an estimate because they obviously only had the [00:04:00] skull. And so what they actually did is, they estimated it from comparisons with closely related pterosaurs with known mandibular symphysial lengths and wingspan. So basically they looked at its skull and bits of its skull. And when there are other pterosaurs with skulls and these bits of the skulls that we know the estimated wingspans of, and they kind of, they compared it like that. So it was like, it was a wingspan estimate based on skull features. But the biggest pterosaurs are actually like the draft size, but the wingspans are not that bigger. So the two biggest pterosaurs that we know about there’s the Quetzalcoatlus and the Hatzegopteryx and their wingspans are thought to be sort of 10 to 12 meters. And so this is like like seven meter wingspan. Like it’s not, I guess it’s about half, but it’s still pretty big

[00:04:45] David: it’s huge, right?

[00:04:46] Sophie: I say pretty big relative to the size of a very large Pterosaur. is huge compared to us and anything else.

[00:04:53] David: Yeah. So it’s, it’s massive. These wingspans are as massive as the time that Tim Richards of The Dinosaur [00:05:00] Lab seems to be having a time as love. I can’t, that’s

[00:05:04] Sophie: No, but I know what you mean. And I loved, I felt like you were so enthusiastic. The words just didn’t flow in a sensible order, but like I got,

[00:05:12] David: No, they didn’t. So, Mr. Tim Richards from the dinosaur lab is having a lovely time as evidenced by this press release where he says some things that are, I mean, not scientific, but it’s just clear that he’s having a lovely time. So he says first, “It was essentially just a skull with a long neck bolted on a pair of long wings”, which is You know, it might be true, but it’s not like beautiful anatomical language or anything. And then he gets into the good stuff he started saying “this thing would have been quite savage. It would have cast a great shadow over some quivering little dinosaur that wouldn’t have heard it until it was too late.”

[00:05:42] I mean, that’s just conjecture, but, I’m glad he’s having a nice time. I’m glad that he’s having a lovely time.

[00:05:48] Sophie: But, Dave, you know, maybe as evidence to that, particular outrageous claim is that, the skull was just over one meter long and contained around 40 teeth. So that’s that’s a lot of teeth.

[00:05:59] David: and the skull was [00:06:00] a meter long so you’ve got a meter along skull and forty teeth.

[00:06:03] Sophie: And so it says those 40 teeth would be perfectly suited to grasping the many fish known to inhabit Queensland no longer existence Eromanga sea. It’s apparently there was like a vast, very inland sea that used to be in Queensland Um, and that’s where this dragon used to hunt.

[00:06:18] So there you go. We had dragons in Australia, Dave, specifically in Queensland

[00:06:23] David: and then we get straight back into conjecture where he says “it’s tempted to think it may have swooped like a magpie during mating season making your local magpie suite look pretty trivial. No amount of zip ties would have saved you”

[00:06:34] Sophie: I thought that was probably the most interesting of the things he said. I went, okay. Let’s compare it to a thing that has like, yeah. True. Do you know what can’t compete with a dragon? Zip ties agreed.

[00:06:44] Also like some magpies don’t care about your zip ties either. I feel like some magpies are like, they’ve gone above those zip ties. They’re like, we know what you’re doing to your helmet. I’m still going to swoop you mate.

[00:06:53] David: I mean, when confronting dragons, it’s more traditional to take sort of like a suit of armor shield, sword approach, [00:07:00] but that’s difficult to like wear on a bike. So, you know, that’s presumably why people default upon zip ties. It’s not your first choice of defense is just one that’s compatible with your mode of transport

[00:07:10] Sophie: but, uh, there you go, dragon Australia

[00:07:12] David: Dragons queensland


[00:07:14] David: PI, not just a reasonably disturbing debut film by Darren Aronofsky. it’s also a very important mathematical concept.

[00:07:30] Sophie: It is Dave. And, we do this thing as people where we get very excited about PI, which is, you know, it’s fine for many reasons, but we’d love to try to calculate all the decimal places of pi. and there are a couple of reasons. That’s a problem. One they’re probably infinite and two, they take a lot of compute power, but the Swiss.

[00:07:48] So the Swiss researchers have a calculated the mathematical constant pi to a new world record level of exactitude hitting 62.8 trillion figures

[00:07:59] David: I have the [00:08:00] exact number of digits. Would you like it?

[00:08:01] Sophie: Tell me about it.

[00:08:01] David: So the exact number of digits that pi has been calculated to is 62 trillion, 831 billion, 853,071,750

[00:08:12] digits.

[00:08:12] Sophie: 50 that’s nice

[00:08:13] David: last, yeah, it is nice. and round. the last ten known digits are 7 8 1 7 9 2 4 2 6 4

[00:08:19] Sophie: But did you hear why they’ve only released those last digits? Cause they’re still getting the Guinness Guinness book of world records to certify their feed. And until it’s certified as the new world record, they’re not going to share them off.

[00:08:29] David: It’s like, yeah, we’re not in it for the glory, but

[00:08:32] Sophie: But we want the glory. And so this is just, yeah. So Dave said that really big numbers. So just remember that a trillion is 10 to the power of 12, it’s 10 with 12 zeros after it.

[00:08:40] It’s a big number. And so apparently they use a, a big supercomputer, which you’d need to. I think if you tried to do this on your desktop, it would take awhile.

[00:08:48] And the calculation took 108 days and nine hours. And apparently was, oh, that’s almost twice as fast as the record Google set using its cloud in 2019 and [00:09:00] 3.5 times as fast as the previous world record in 2020. So they calculated more and they did it very fast, but apparently Dave, so right now, like we’re not right now, they’ve already fixed this, but the way that it worked is it calculated them in hexadecimal notation.

[00:09:15] So what they actually had to do, so they, so a hexadecimal is base 16 whereas we work in decimal notation, which is base 10.

[00:09:22] So the idea is they first save it in hexadecimal notation then they need another thing to convert it to decimal notation. So we can actually read it in a sensible way. And then what I do really like is the final step, is they got a program that uses a special mathematical algorithm to check the correctness of the number to ensure that no errors have crept in during the month long calculation, which I like the rigor of that. That’s quite important.

[00:09:44] we should say that this has come from the center of Data Analytics, Visualization, and Simulation, or DAVIS from the University of Applied Sciences in Graubuenden. And, yeah, it’s, a good word. But apparently Dave, the Swiss team say that the [00:10:00] experience they built calculating PI could be applied in other areas, such as RNA analysis, simulations of fluid dynamics and textual analysis.

[00:10:07] But then, they don’t elaborate and I couldn’t find any more information on it. And do they just mean computing something really big? Cause I guess all of those things require you to compute something very big.

[00:10:17] David: I think that that is correct. So RNA is kind of like DNA, which means it’s very long and complicated and you’ll know all about flow simulations. And you’ve told me all about the supercomputers

[00:10:26] Sophie: you just need big computers.

[00:10:28] David: And text analysis. I presume that’s for like, recurrent network to look at, well, not necessarily recurrent networks, but networks that look at predictive text. So basically deciding which word comes next by looking at all the other, the position

[00:10:40] Sophie: Okay, well, that needs to be better. Cause I don’t know if you found this, but I find that my phone, these days, it does predictive texts as in it will change a word based on context. So it means that I’ve written something and it decides three words ago that I meant a different word and it will change it after I’ve written the correct word.

[00:10:58] So if I write something and send the [00:11:00] text really quickly, I often send nonsensical things because my phone has got my call Sophie didn’t mean to say catchy obviously meant to say cheese. And then I send this like strange message to people. So I would love it if they sorted this predictive texting acts. I think my phones trying to think for me too hard.

[00:11:15] David: all I know is I am never, ever, ever trying to type the word ducking.

[00:11:18] Sophie: and that’s one that it won’t save. Like it will save others. Did I tell you that one time I accidentally wrote Mugabe instead of maybe, and now every time I write, maybe my phone tries to change it to Mugabe But should we talk about PI Dave, why people are interested in pi.

[00:11:31] David: Let’s talk about, you know, let’s talk pi. So one of the reasons it’s important to do these calculations is that it it’s a benchmark, right? So you mentioned that it’s important for these other areas of applications, like RNA analysis, et cetera.

[00:11:42] And so basically in trying to do this really, really difficult thing, which is calculate PI to some ridiculous level of precision, we’re saying, look how well optimized our computer hardware and software is look how good our processes are. Therefore we can have confidence that we can tackle these other quite important problems.

[00:11:57] So that’s one good reason to do this, right? [00:12:00] and the other is that pi crops up everywhere in physics and math. So I didn’t realize this, but it pops up in general relativity for example

[00:12:06] somewhere

[00:12:06] Sophie: oh, yeah. PI is everywhere. I think the thing that is crazy about PI and, you know, I, I often talk about the fact that I’m interested in the utility of maths. I don’t get sort of brought into this whole, like isn’t maths like beautiful and elegant and whatever. I do have a tattoo of Euler’s identity on my arm, which does actually include Pi. Pi is crazy.

[00:12:23] So it’s just the ratio of a circle. circumference to its diameter. So if you just conceptualize that and my favorite way to conceptualize is that like you’ve got, so you’ve got a tin of Milo and you get your piece of string and right measure the circumference of your tin of Milo. Right? And now you’ve hold your finger on this a conference.

[00:12:39] So you’ve got a piece of string. If you then lay that piece of string across the diameter of your tin of Milo, it will span three and a bit times right? And so it doesn’t matter, whatever circle you have that will always be three and a bit diameters in the circumference is essentially what the ratio of a circle circumference to its diameter means.

[00:12:59] And, you know, the [00:13:00] bit is like, 0.1, 4, 1, 5, 9 2, et cetera. Right? So you like that is like a very specific thing and crops up in all of these different mathematical concepts. And also, I don’t know, like PI is interesting because it’s one of these. So it’s both irrational and transcendental, which people get quite excited about.

[00:13:15] So irrational is not super excited. It means you just can’t express it as a fraction, right? So like, I, you can’t take two integers. So it, you know, integer is a whole number and you can’t write a fraction of two whole numbers that equals PI. So I think the closest one is like 22 on 7. And that means you get Pi accurate to a couple of decimal places.

[00:13:34] And so people have pi approximation day which is the 22nd of July, which, you know, whatever. And,

[00:13:40] David: Surely it should be the 14th of March.

[00:13:42] Sophie: So that’s, American pi approximation day.

[00:13:44] David: Oh, okay. I got ya.

[00:13:45] Sophie: which. Yeah, no, a hundred percent. Like they both exist depending on how you express the date in your country. so it’s a rational number.

[00:13:54] And so then the idea is that, it means that you have, cause you can have a decimal representation that never [00:14:00] ends of a rational number. So irrational means you can’t do it as a common fraction. Rational means that you can. So if you think about one on three as a third,

[00:14:09] David: Yeah. that’s the 0.3, 3, 3, 3, 3

[00:14:11] Sophie: So you have, you have an infinite decimal representation, but you have this repeating pattern.

[00:14:16] So the idea with PI is you have an infinite numbers of decimal places, but there was no repeating pattern. And then it’s also a thing called a transcendental number, which is like slightly more hefty in terms of, mathematical words. But basically it means that it’s not algebraic, which means that it’s not a solution to any non-constant polynomial equation with rational coefficients.

[00:14:36] So like very quickly. Dave. X squared, take two is a polynomial. Right? So a polynomial is like X to the power of something.

[00:14:44] And then, you know, so X the power of two is like a second order, polynomial X to the power of three as a third, et cetera. So if you have X squared, take two is equal to zero Right.

[00:14:52] So that now I have a non-constant polynomial equation and a rational coefficient. Again, rational is just, I can express it as like a nice fraction. [00:15:00] So my coefficiency would be, I’ve got one on my X squared and I’ve got like negative two on my constant. Right. This is a nice thing. And then, so let’s say X squared take two is equal to zero.

[00:15:10] Add two to both besides we’re doing some like high school maths here. So, and then I’m going to get X squared is equal to two. Right now I take square root of both sides. So I have X is equal to plus or minus the square root of two. Now square root of two is irrational. Right? I can’t express the square root of two is a nice fraction, but.

[00:15:28] The square root of plus or minus square root of two is a solution to that polynomial equation right? So it means that like square root two is irrational, but it’s not transcendental. So,transcendental is this like extra level like craziness. So like E the constant, E is another example of a transcendental number.

[00:15:45] So it’s got all these like crazy properties, as you said, it pops up everywhere for our purposes, or even for like an engineer’s purpose. Like you probably don’t need to know Pi to trillions of decimal places.

[00:15:57] David: trillion.

[00:15:58] Sophie: it is like, you know, it is an [00:16:00] interesting, I guess exercise, as you said, in sort of, computing and those kinds of things.

[00:16:04] And I don’t know, I think it’s kind of fun. And then I was sort of interested into how you’d actually calculate it. And it turned out that often they just do these as these like mathematical series. so there’s quite a famous one called the Leibniz formula. So it’s for Pion four.

[00:16:16] So basically Pi on four is equal to one, take a third plus a fifth, take a seven plus a ninth forever. Right? You follow that pattern of one over the odd number plus or minus. And so like the longer your series goes for. Like the more, decimal places you’ll be able to calculate.. So often they use things like that.

[00:16:33] So I couldn’t find any details about how they did this one in particular. And the reason that we know that is because basically pion four is equal to octet of one. And then if you do the integral definition of Arc Tan, so Octan is inverse Tan. The integral definition is just like the integral from zero to one.

[00:16:51] Okay. One over one plus X squared DX, and then you can actually express like that particular integral as like a summation of, and it turns into [00:17:00] like an infinite series. So there’s like, I dunno, would go to like quite maths-y there, but yeah, so they did a thing and they, uh, they, I think the last world record was 50 trillion figures.

[00:17:09] So this is 62.8

[00:17:10] David: Yes, substantial improvement. And also, Yeah, I did notice that they didn’t, they didn’t really tell you how they did it. They just kind of, there’s a blog on their website where they just kind of say we did it.

[00:17:20] Sophie: Yeah, exactly.

[00:17:21] David: that’s, that’s kind of all the information that they give. We did it, you guys, and as we said, it’s because they’re waiting for verification from Guinness that, um, scientific

[00:17:31] Sophie: that’s right. I do like that. Like, we’ll tell you the last 10 digits, but not the rest of them because we want our world record look, Dave, if I know anything, it’s that mathematicians love a world record.

Dreaming retinas

[00:17:40] Sophie: Dave, did you know, there’s a new Yale study that suggests that mammals dream about the world they’re about to experience before they’re even born?

[00:17:59] David: Oh, my [00:18:00] goodness. Yes. So This is some research from Yale University, led by Michael Crair. I, this guy sounds like the most impressive guy in the world. He may or may not be, I don’t know, but he sounds like he is because he’s the William Ziegler III, professor of neuroscience and professor of ophthalmology and visual science, which sounds very important.

[00:18:16] Sophie: It sounds very important. And I think even just like, when you look, you talking about like ophthalmology compared to optometry, it just sounds like a fancy upgrade, even though it’s just something a bit different

[00:18:24] David: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah,

[00:18:25] Absolutely. it’s astronomy to astrology, except it’s not because, you know, optometry is obviously much more than astrology. Yeah. Because it is a science of any kind with any bearing what happened the real world. So this is pretty cool, right?

[00:18:38] this is some mad neuroscience that came about because this group were interested in something really fundamental. they noticed that so you’ve got mice and rats, and these are animals that developed very quickly. So they’re born hairless and they’re sightless and they can’t hear. And very quickly, like in the space of 30 days, they go to from like being this helpless little pink thing to [00:19:00] being these basically fully formed small versions rats and

[00:19:02] Sophie: That’s pretty quick. Rapid is the scientific term.

[00:19:05] David: Absolutely rapid. So what they notice is that almost as soon as these animals can open their eyes, they’re able to navigate world. So because the visual system needs so much training, in order to work like so much of the brain needs so much training, you need to like have these networks primed to do what their function is.

[00:19:22] They asked this really simple question, which is, well, how do these animals know how to see as soon as they open up

[00:19:27] Sophie: Yeah, that’s actually a very good question because as you said, if they can navigate and they can do things and obviously like they know what their eyes know what to do, and it’s like, how, how Dave?

[00:19:36] David: Yes. So they asked that question and basically it’s also known that if you look at the activity of cells in the retina, so the retina is the layer of cells back of your eye that are receptive to light. So light comes into the eye hits the retina and translated

[00:19:48] Sophie: Is that where the rods and cones live?

[00:19:49] David: And is translated. That’s where the rods and cones are and this information is sent into the brain and that’s interpreted in that’s you see.

[00:19:55] And it’s actually very, very complicated. And just to kind of wrap home the importance of this, the [00:20:00] visual system is a really cool bit of neuroscience to study because it’s an area of neuroscience where we can control the input well, because we can control what’s going into the animal’s eye by shining light onto it, et cetera, or exposing the animal to some kind of particular site, a movie, for example. so basically what they find is when you look at the, not the retina, but when you look in the superior colliculus, which is an area that receives a lot of, projection from the retina. basically you’ve got your retina that’s light sensitive, and the cells in the retina have these long legs called axons that send the information to other places.

[00:20:30] One of the places they send them to is the superior colliculus. And when you look at the superior colliculus, which is an area in the brain, what you see when the animal moves through the environment, is that the activity propagates like a wave from one end to the other. The reason that’s happening is that if you imagine that you’re a mouse moving along the forest floor, the foreground is moving into the background and is from the center of your vision to the sight of your vision as you through it. And so if you image the activity of the brain, when the animal is doing that, that’s what you see is waves [00:21:00] of activity going from one site to the other So what these guys noticed is that in a particular level in development in mice, so from postnatal day 8 to 11, I think, you see the same pattern of activity happening spontaneously without the animal opening its eyes.

[00:21:17] Sophie: happening in the brain.

[00:21:18] David: Yes. it’s happening in the brain. So they reckon that maybe this pattern of activity is actually just training the retinal cells. And what’s really cool about this. This is not happening in the brain. It’s happening in the eye and therefore in the parts of the brain that receive input from the eye, you’re seeing this pattern of activity that is, they think training the brain.

[00:21:37] to get ready for this very stereotyped sorts of inputs, which is moving through the environment.

[00:21:42] Sophie: Yeah. And so Dave correct me if I’m wrong, but this suggestion also is that human babies are also able to immediately detect objects and identify motion such as, you know, when a baby is born and you move your finger in front of its face and its eyes follow. And that suggests that maybe our visual systems are primed before birth too.

[00:21:59] David: That seems [00:22:00] to be the case as well. I can’t speak to that. I mean, Maybe we wouldn’t have the same. I mean, I wonder why I wondered about this is, you know, when you’re on it, you know, that treadmill thing that happens to you when you run treadmill for a substantial period of time, and then you come off and you still feel like you’re still moving

[00:22:13] Sophie: Exactly. And that happens like a lot of like, anything about like, you know, if you’re on boat and you’re going up and down and then like you come off the you’re still going up and down in your head.

[00:22:21] David: You missed the motion. And so I wonder if that kind of inputs, those kinds of inputs are priming the brain for this kind of activity. And it’s that kind of thing. So basically this paper is in science and I think the reason that people are very excited about it is that they worked out how this wave propagates across the eye.

[00:22:37] And basically the way that it happens is that it’s on an, it’s a property of the cells on the eye itself and the way they work, that out was really clever. they looked in the eyes of these mice. So they were imaging and the superior colliculus

[00:22:50] Sophie: My eye just jump in now sounds a bit like a Roman emperor. all I hear is you saying Caligula every time you say superior colliculus. Caligula was like a [00:23:00] problem. Anyway. Sorry.

[00:23:01] David: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And he was very inferior. Caligula was very jealous of him. So we’ve got em, what they did was they wanted to know how this pattern of activity was propagating across the retina right? So they said it could be one of two things. It can either be that some property of the cell transmits the signal in one direction, or it could just be that the signal tends to start in one spot and therefore it propagates in all directions, but because it goes, starts at the site, it propagates to the other site. And they they did a really beautiful experiment, which was, they just looked in the eye, imaged in the colliculus and shone a light in a spot that’s not the sight. And found when they shine the light into the eye, no matter where you started it, it would still propagate in the same direction. It would always go in the same direction, which is similar to the direction you would see when the animals moving through the environment. So they said it’s an intrinsic part of the network.

[00:23:53] And then next thing they did, which I don’t want to go into too much, it was, they looked at it star burst amacrine which are cells that are important [00:24:00] in detecting movement and adult rats and show that these ones were the ones responsible.

[00:24:04] Sophie: And didn’t they show, that if they actually blocked the function of the cells, then it impaired that particular development in the mouse’s ability.

[00:24:11] David: They didn’t show that. showed that it impaired the movement of the wave.

[00:24:15] Sophie: And then the assumption is that would development of the ability.

[00:24:18] David: Yeah. So it’s, known that these cells are important in detecting motion in adult animals. So they imply that these are going to be important, but they say more experiment needed to be conducted.

[00:24:27] Sophie: Cause as you can see that I did look at this paper, Dave, but it was really written in a language I didn’t understand, even though was crazy, but, I had a few takeaways, you know, I get interested in how they do these things to the mice. and just this two sentences, which, just sort of, it just like filled my heart with joy.

[00:24:43] So apparently, 500 nanoliters of something called AAV 2 1 Hyacinth G Camp, 6 S was pressure injected into each ocular vitreous through a glass micropipette using in nano jet and a nano jet is a drum in scientific brands [00:25:00] micropipet but this bit after injection mouse pups were allowed to recover from anesthesia on a heating pad and they were then returned to their mothers and I went, Aw, isn’t that sweet?

[00:25:10] that’s my takeaway from this. And then my second takeaway Dave, was this paper had like a lot of great visuals that I didn’t really understand, but there’s all of these videos, of the imaging that they did. And you know, all I’m saying, Dave, is that the retinal wave in neonatal mice just look like real, crazy lava lamps.

[00:25:27] That’s all I got was like, I’m watching bunch of lava lamps that are strange shapes again and again. So I just watched probably like minutes and minutes of my life watching them lava lamp videos, which are actually, um, mouse retinas.

[00:25:37] David: apparently it’s hard to make a lava lamp. Apparently the makeup of them is proprietary and nobody really knows how to make them except the makers of lava lamp.

[00:25:44] Sophie: Oh, well, I always really wanted one as a kid, but then I remember like friends having cheap versions that like, that ended up getting burnt on and stuff that he took, like, as could turn it on for a bit. And then eventually when it warmed up enough to actually make like, whatever, move around, like if you touch like the metal base, like it was Fred hot.

[00:25:59] [00:26:00] And, so it seems like irresponsible to have one in your bedroom, but yeah. I thought it was cool from what I understood the implications are very cool. But as I said, I didn’t understand not even the nitty-gritty just really anything beyond,I think you’ve think explained it really nicely though, Dave.

[00:26:15] David: Oh, thank you. I was surprised they hadn’t actually done the experiment in the adult mice cause the press release kind of made it sound like they’d shown that these same cells for propagating the thing are responsible in the mice and that these parents of activity are responsible for priming the visual system of the mice, but they didn’t actually did’t do the experiment

[00:26:30] Sophie: Yeah, I think therein lay my, um, slight confusion as to the conclusions that they draw. But there you go. Dreaming retinas,

[00:26:38] David: They’re literally dreaming retinas.

[00:26:40] Angry Bees

[00:26:40] David: From docile mice to not so docile bees

[00:26:53] Sophie: Yeah, Dave, so this is a story that’s come out of Curtin University and I’ve got, so let, me just tell you what the press [00:27:00] release starts with and then the few issues that I already have. So researchers have revealed how behavioral and ecological factors influence the quality of bee venom. Fine. Great. product widely known for its effective treatment of degenerative and infectious diseases, such as Parkinson’s and osteoarthritis let’s at the end. I think we need to come back to that particular claim about the medical use of bee venom.

[00:27:25] So apparently they’ve sort of analyzed for the first time ever the protein diversity in bee venom produced by the Western honeybee in the, I think marri ecosystem in Southern Western Australia. So marri, which is M A double R I is a basically, it’s a type of, tree.

[00:27:43] And so they’ve, it’s the flowering system of the Corymbia calophylla, which is marri. And, the bee that they’re talking about as the apis mellifera lingustica, which is apparently italian bee, It’s an Italian sub species of the [00:28:00] Western honeybee. Dave, it may have survived the last ice age in Italy.

[00:28:05] That’s pretty amazing. And then, bees are the same. To me, I’m a little bit scared of bees, but there are lots of different bees. So I just looked into this bee in particular, and I found a terrifying amount of information on it.

[00:28:13] So apparently it was introduced to Australia on the 9th of December 1862 into Victoria, aboard the steam ship Alhambra. However, there’s strong evidence that this introduction failed as the emerging Italian Virgin Queens hybridized with the english black bee and then the next official knowledge about its introduction was from Wilhelm Abraham brought several Queens from Italy to Sydney in December, 1880, but it’s probable that like someone else snuck one in previous to that. Now David, I just want to tell you about some so there’s apparently this, this guy who was still alive, who has made this like insane book about all the different honeybees and like their traits and all this kind of stuff. And there’s a list of strengths and weaknesses of this particular type of honeybee. And I’ve just picked some of my [00:29:00] favorites to share with the listener, if you’ll indulge me for a second, Dave. so apparently this particular bee, uh, one of its strengths is it shows strong disposition to breeding and is very prolific.

[00:29:09] It’s also, one of its strengths is its cleanliness. and the fact that it’s an excellent housekeeper, which some scientists think might be a factor in disease resistance. It’s also an excellent forager. One of its strength. It’s a superb comb builder and covers the honey with brilliant white cappings.

[00:29:24] It’s also known for its industry and gentleness and its tendency to collect flower honey rather than honey dew, which is only a value in countries where the color of the honey determines the price. Some of my favorite weaknesses, it lacks vitality, but then it’s also it’s susceptible to disease.

[00:29:42] David: This is sounding more and more like an RPG. Like it.

[00:29:46] Sophie: And then listen to this. it’s more prone to drifting and robbing than the other principal of Europe, but I couldn’t find out what drifting and robbing means in the context of a bee

[00:29:58] David: Robbing

[00:29:59] Sophie: means anyway, sorry, Dave. [00:30:00] I’ve I’ve taken us well off track. Uh, bee venom we’re interested in the proteins. They did some analysis. They found that there are 99 bee venom proteins,

[00:30:09] David: Apparently sorry. Apparently robbing is bees that go into other hives and steal honey.

[00:30:13] Sophie: Oh, okay. Well you found that very easily. I don’t know what’s wrong with my research this week. Um, so they found that there are 99 bee venom proteins, of which about a third have been formally identified.

[00:30:25] So the idea is that the more proteins found in the venom, the higher potential quality and effect of the venom when used in this medical way that we might, get back to in. The close future, but what they do is I looked at a range of factors and the reason that we brought up sort of the angriness of the bees is that apparently they discovered the angry bees.

[00:30:45] It was the angry bees that reacted intensively to stimulating devices who produced a richer and more protein, dense bee venom.

[00:30:53] David: Which make sense right?

[00:30:54] Sophie: But did, did you look at the stimulating devices?

[00:30:56] David: I did. Did we look? Cause I got interested in this question of, [00:31:00] Okay well, how do you milk a bee? How do you bee to deposit its venom? And apparently it’s these kind of electronic devices that have a glass plate that they pulse in some way. And that encourages a bee to spray it with pheromone and get off.

[00:31:16] And then the other bees will come and sting this glass surface. And apparently because it’s glass, as opposed to biological, it means the stinger come off and the bees don’t die, but they deposit their toxin off

[00:31:25] Sophie: So it’s like, it sounds very clever, but yeah, the idea is it’s like an electrified wire provoking, a low voltage minimal shock that the bees respond to. And I’m like, I don’t know about you, but if like someone was doing that near me, I’d probably get like a little bit riled up.

[00:31:37] David: Yeah. yeah. A little bit riled up. I think my venom would become a little bit more concentrated.

[00:31:40] Sophie: And so, and they found that. Yeah, so they looked at lots of like lots of different factors. and they found that. basically the angry ones have like a better quality venom. And they also looked at kind of temperature stuff. They looked at geographical location. and how that affected the composition of bee venom, as well as like the stages of the flowers, that we use, you know, when the bees consumed their goods, what stage of [00:32:00] the flowers were, how that impacted.

[00:32:01] and the whole idea is that, you know, this research They would help beekeepers collect a standardized quality of venom to meet growing demand in clinical and therapeutic fields

[00:32:11] David: because apparently a fetch is $300 a gram

[00:32:14] Sophie: Yeah, but then Dave. Okay. And so then I ended, I was like, okay, this is interesting. I’ve not heard about this. So apparently they use of bee venom for medical purposes is called like apitherapy, apitherapy. So, you know, from a plus pi currently not accepted as a viable medical treatment for any condition or disease, because the risk of allergic reaction and anaphylaxis outweighs any benefit.

[00:32:37] But so the people have done studies. Apparently the medicinal use of bee venom actually dates back to ancient Egypt, and it reported in the history of European Asia and Hippocrates use bee venom to treat joint pain and arthritis.

[00:32:49] David: and Hippocrates was the basis of Western medicine until something like. 1850. I mean like the Greek philosophy about informed medicine for a long, long, time. It [00:33:00] doesn’t really anymore. Cause it was, you know, about humors and all that

[00:33:03] Sophie: But then, apparently there’s like super conflicting evidence as to the use of bee venom like how useful bee venom is in medical therapies. So there’s been like, for example, a bunch of small, randomized trials, was using bee venom to treat multiple sclerosis.

[00:33:18] And in fact, they showed no effectiveness for treating MS symptoms and in fact could actually make them worse, but then there’s like, it’d be another trial where they found that a bee venom can be used to treat arthritis and other things, but yeah, apparently all of the available. So the evidence supporting this practice is either anecdotal on either animal studies, preliminary evidence.

[00:33:38] and most of these apparently have very poor methodology. And so this is like, it’s not actually viable. And yet, like there’s a bunch of people that say that they can be used to treat chronic conditions like bursitis and tendonitis things like hay fever or removal of scar tissue, gout, shingles, burns.

[00:33:53] Like this is all over the net, but like there’s absolutely no evidence for it. And the only thing that they can think is that maybe using bee venom [00:34:00] sort of just jolts the body into some kind of immune reaction to the bee venom that can prove beneficial in like certain circumstances. But it’s this, I just thought it was interesting that like the, I don’t know, I know it was like the press release that sold this as like we’re learning about bee venom cause bee venom is like really useful in medicine. But like, from what I can tell, that’s not actually been like clinically proven in a peer reviewed way.

[00:34:24] David: I guess the difficulty is the difficulty with any kind of an inverted commas, natural treatment, right? I mean like aspirin comes from tree bark. But the reason we take aspirin instead of tree bark is if you take tree bark instead, you’re just taking an unknown cocktail. Compounds of unknown concentration.

[00:34:42] Like don’t do it when you can take aspirin, which is like we’ve isolated the active ingredient and we can dose it in a known way and isolation without all this other stuff that comes in the tree bark, which may or may not be helpful or So same with the bee venom. if it contains all these proteins that some of which have not been like the majority of which in [00:35:00] fact have

[00:35:00] Sophie: Yeah. Apparently it’s like, it’s very, very, very complicated in terms of its structure.

[00:35:05] David: Yes. So it would seem to make more sense, like by all means, because I know we talked recently on the show about taking components of snake venom and using them as clotting agents. And they’ve been used as IMT hypertensives, but that’s different. That’s looking at active ingredients of these venoms in isolation and then looking at theirclinical effects or their pharmacological effects, which is probably what we want to shoot for if we’re going to be science in our work.

[00:35:30] Sophie: Well, yeah, cause apparently like the main ingredients of be venomous or something called mellitin which just causes pain. And then you’ve got histamine and other, biogenic, like aimings. Is that how I say that chemical word?

[00:35:42] David: Yeah.

[00:35:43] Sophie: but they, one of the things that mainly like contribute to sort of pain and itching,, but then as I said, this is like complex, like there’s like 99 proteins or something, and they haven’t looked at all of them in great detail, but anyway, so it turns out angry bees have the most protein rich venom, but whether or not you should using that venom [00:36:00] for anything is maybe like checking in at a further date and we’ll let you know if you should eat it.