147 episodes

Science Vs

Gimlet Media Science
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Oct 21, 2016

DNA and the Smell of Death

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In these cases, emerging DNA evidence and the smell of death (yes, really) pushed the boundaries of what was technologically possible. But how reliable are they? To find out, we go to a body farm and talk to Assoc. Prof. Joan Bytheway, Asst. Prof. Sheree Hughes-Stamm, Matt Young, Dr. Arpad Vass, and Asst. Prof. Donovan Haines. Our Sponsors Lenovo – See how Lenovo is revolutionizing data center technology. Modcloth - Enter promo code SCIENCEVS at checkout to get $20 off an order of $100 or more! Squarespace – The easiest way to create a beautiful website, portfolio or online store. Use the offer code “SCIENCE VS” to get 10% off your first purchase. Wealthsimple – Investing made easy. Get your first $10,000 managed for free. Credits This episode has been produced by Wendy Zukerman, Shruti Ravindran, Diane Wu,and Heather Rogers. Our senior producer is Kaitlyn Sawrey. Edited by Annie-Rose Strasser and Caitlin Kenney. Fact checking by Michelle Harris. Thanks to Joseph Lavelle Wilson, Will Doolan and Beth McMullen. Sound design and music production by Matthew Boll, mixed by Martin Peralta and Matthew Boll Music written by Bobby Lord. Selected References 2009 National Academy of Sciences and 2016 President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology reports on forensic science. How DNA is transferred in trace evidence. Report on error rates in DNA forensic analysis. Study that showed dogs could pick up the smell of a corpse 667 days later. Call to arms on improving forensic science: editorial. Scent of death - Belgian paper that found three out of four of Dr Arpad Vass' “human specific markers” in other animals.
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Oct 07, 2016

Forensic Science

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There are a slew of scientific techniques that forensic experts use to solve crimes. But how reliable are they? We’re putting forensic evidence under the microscope. To help us crack the case, we talk to Assoc. Prof. Sibyl Bucheli, attorney Chris Fabricant, former crime lab director Barry Fisher, Dr. Itiel Dror, and Assoc. Prof. Patrick Buzzini. Our Sponsors Hello Fresh – To get $35 off your first week of deliveries visit hellofresh.com and enter promo code “ScienceVS”. Frank & Oak – Go to frankandoak.com/science to get your first outfit for $79 (a pair of pants and a shirt). Wealthsimple – Investing made easy. Get your first $10,000 managed for free. Credits This episode has been produced by Wendy Zukerman, Shruti Ravindran, Diane Wu, Austin Mitchell and Heather Rogers. Our senior producer is Kaitlyn Sawrey. Edited by Annie-Rose Strasser and Caitlin Kenney. Fact checking by Michelle Harris. Sound design and music production by Matthew Boll, mixed by Martin Peralta and Bobby Lord. Music written by Bobby Lord. Selected References 2009 National Academy of Sciences and 2016 President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology reports on forensic science Overview of forensic entomology Amendt et al, “Forensic entomology,” Naturwissenschaften, 2004 Study modeling precision of dating time of death from flies Faris et al, “Forensic Entomology: Evaluating Uncertainty Associated With Postmortem Interval (PMI) Estimates With Ecological Models,” Journal of Medical Entomology 2016. Review paper on bite mark analysis Clement et al, “Is current bite mark analysis a misnomer?” Department of Justice review of Brandon Mayfield case Context can change how fingerprints are read Dror et al, “Contextual information renders experts vulnerable to making erroneous identifications,” Forensic Science International, 2006. Hair microscopy can lead to incorrect matches Houck et al, “Correlation of microscopic and mitochondrial DNA hair comparisons,” Journal of Forensic Science, 2002.
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Sep 30, 2016

Zika

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Since 2015 there have been Zika outbreaks reported in sixty countries. So, where did Zika come from? What happens when you get infected? How worried should you be?And why has Zika has become such a problem recently? To find out, we speak to Assoc. Prof. Desiree LaBeaud, Dr Cathy Spong, Dr Andrew Haddow, and New York Times health reporter Donald McNeil Jr. Credits This episode has been produced by Diane Wu, Wendy Zukerman, Heather Rogers, Caitlin Kenney, and Shruti Ravindran. Our senior producer is Kaitlyn Sawrey. Edited by Annie-Rose Strasser. Sound design and music production by Matthew Boll, mixed by Martin Peralta. Music written by Martin Peralta and Bobby Lord. Our Sponsors Prudential – Download the MapMyRun app and join the Prudential 4.01K challenge. When you do, pledge to save at least 1% or more of your annual income for retirement and run and log 4.01K to be eligible to win a prize. Squarespace – The easiest way to create a beautiful website, portfolio or online store. Use the offer code “SCIENCE VS” to get 10% off your first purchase. Wealthsimple – Investing made easy. Get your first $10,000 managed for free. Selected ReferencesFirst case of Zika reported in Nigerian girl N. McNamara, Trans R Soc Trop Med Hyg, 1954.Donald McNeil Jr’s recent book on Zika epidemic McNeil, DG “Zika: The emerging epidemic,” W. W. Norton and Co, 2016Interactive history of Zika from the World Health OrganizationZika virus may linger in the vagina Prisant, N et al “Zika virus in the female genital tract,” The Lancet 2016Estimated risk of microcephaly if you get zika when pregnant is between one and 13% Johansson, M et al “Zika and the Risk of Microcephaly,” New England Journal of Medicine, 2016First report that Zika can be spread through sex (confirming Andrew Haddow's hunch over a beer in Senegal) Foy, BD et al “Probable Non–Vector-borne Transmission of Zika Virus, Colorado, USA,” Emerging Infectious Diseases, 2011U.S. Centers for Disease Control recommendations on ZikaWorld Health Organization recommendations on Zika
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Sep 23, 2016

Hypnosis

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This week, we explore the science of hypnosis, and take Science Vs to the edge of consciousness. In the service of journalism, Wendy tries to get hypnotized at a comedy club and in a doctor’s office. We talk to comedian Jim Spinnato, Prof. Philip Muskin, Prof. Amanda Barnier, and Prof. Amir Raz. Credits: This episode has been produced by Heather Rogers, Wendy Zukerman, Caitlin Kenney, Austin Mitchell, Dr. Diane Wu, and Shruti Ravindran. Our senior producer is Kaitlyn Sawrey. Edited by Annie-Rose Strasser. Fact Checking by Michelle Harris. Sound design and music production by Matthew Boll, mixed by Martin Peralta. Music written by Martin Peralta and Bobby Lord. Thanks to Alex Blumberg for being the man that spoke pretty often in the end… and Jonathan Goldstein for being our CIA agent… and if you like his CIA agent you’ll love his new show Heavyweight. It’s out next week and you can subscribe now. Selected References2013 paper reviewing 100 journal articles on hypnosis Kihlstrom, JF, “Neuro-Hypnotism: Prospects for Hypnosis and Neuroscience,” Cortex, 2013.Is hypnotizability a genetic trait? Maybe, but it’s complicated Raz, A, et al. “Neuroimaging and genetic associations of attentional and hypnotic processes,” Journal of Physiology, 2006.Script for the Stanford test of hypnotizability Weitzenhoffer, AM and Hilgard, ER. “Stanford hypnotic susceptibility scale, Form C.” 1962.Highly hypnotizable people can be hypnotized to not recognize their own reflections Connors, MH et al. “Using hypnosis to disrupt face processing: Mirrored-self misidentification delusion and different visual media,” Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 2014.There's more to hypnosis than expectation Lifshitz, M et al. “Can expectation enhance response to suggestion? De-automatization illuminates a conundrum,” Consciousness and Cognition, 2012.Brain study of a hypnotized man responding to suggestion that his leg is paralyzed Halligan, PW et al. “Imaging hypnotic paralysis: implications for conversion hysteria,” The Lancet, 2000.1955 CIA memo on hypnosis, 1960 CIA report on hypnosis
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Sep 02, 2016

The G-spot

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Join us on a hunt for the elusive G-spot. Our guides: Prof. Beverly Whipple, who introduced America to the G-spot in the 1980s, and Prof. Helen O’Connell, a urologist and expert on female sexual anatomy. CreditsThis episode has been produced by Wendy Zukerman, Heather Rogers, Caitlin Kenney, Austin Mitchell, and Kaitlyn Sawrey. Edited by Annie-Rose Strasser and Alex Blumberg. Fact Checking by Michelle Harris.Production Assistance by Dr Diane Wu & Shruti Ravindran. Extra thanks to Lola Pellegrino, Andres Montoya Castillo, Rose Reid, Radio National’s Science Show -- they make a podcast. It’s great. Sound design and music production by Matthew Boll, mixed by Martin Peralta. Music written by Bobby Lord.And be sure to check out our producer Austin Mitchell’s podcast Profiles:NYC. Selected References1981 study identifying G-spot in 47 women . . . but not confirming that it leads to orgasm Perry and Whipple, “Pelvic Muscle Strength of Female Ejaculators: Evidence in Support of a New Theory of Orgasm,” The Journal of Sex Research, 1981. Note: not freely available. Report of the first modern dissection of the clitoris O’Connell et al, “Anatomical relationship between urethra and clitoris,” Journal of Urology, 1998.Everything besides the clitoris is just a shade of gray in the MRI O’Connell et al, “Clitoral anatomy in nulliparous, healthy, premenopausal volunteers using unenhanced magnetic resonance imaging,” Journal of Urology, 2005. Comprehensive account of clitoris anatomy O’Connell et al, “Anatomy of the clitoris,” Journal of Urology, 2005.Review of research on the G-Spot and cliteralurethrovaginal complex Jannini et al, “Beyond the G-Spot: clitourethrovaginal complex anatomy in female orgasm,” Nature Reviews Urology, 2014. Note: not freely available. 
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Aug 26, 2016

Organic Food

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People are going bonkers for organic, but what are you really getting when you buy them? Better taste? Fewer toxic chemicals? A cleaner environment? Farmers Mark, Andy, and Brian Reeves, nutritional epidemiologist Dr. Kathryn Bradbury, Ass. Prof. Cynthia Curl, and Prof. Navin Ramankutty help us sort it all out. Credits: This episode has been produced by Wendy Zukerman, Heather Rogers, Lynn Levy, Caitlin Kenney, Austin Mitchell, and Kaitlyn Sawrey. Editing by Annie-Rose Strasser and Alex Blumberg. Fact checking by Michelle Harris. Production Assistance by Diane Wu and Shruti Ravindran. Special thanks to Stevie Lane and Joseph Lavelle Wilson. Sound design and music production by Matthew Boll, mixing by Martin Peralta, Austin Thompson and Haley Shaw. Music written by Bobby Lord. Selected Resources:Organic vs conventional tomato taste test Johansson et al, “Preference for tomatoes, affected by sensory attributes and information about growth conditions,” Food Quality and Preference, 1999Nutritional analysis of organic vs organic food Smith-Spangler et al, “Are Organic Foods Safer or Healthier Than Conventional Alternatives?: A Systematic Review,” Annals of Internal Medicine, 2012.2012 USDA report on pesticide residues in organic produceLargest (620,000 women) long-term (9 year) study of how eating organic food affects human health -- focusing on cancer Bradbury et al, “Organic food consumption and the incidence of cancer in a large prospective study of women in the United Kingdom”, British Journal of Cancer, 2014Biodiversity is higher on organic farms “Tuck et al, “Land-use intensity and the effects of organic farming on biodiversity: a hierarchical meta-analysis,” The Journal of Applied Ecology, 2014.Nitrogen leaching is higher per unit product on organic farms Tuomisto et al, “Does organic farming reduce environmental impacts? – A meta-analysis of European research”Crop yield on organic farms is on average 75% that of conventional farms Seufert et al, “Comparing the yields of organic and conventional agriculture,” Nature 2012If we want to feed the world without cutting down more forests, we’re going to need more vegetarians Erb et al, “Exploring the biophysical option space for feeding the world without deforestation,” Nature Communications, 2016On combining organic and conventional farming techniques Letourneau et al, “Crop protection in organic agriculture,” Chapter 4 of Organic agriculture: a global perspective, 2006.
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Aug 12, 2016

Gun Control (Pt 2)

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In last week’s episode, we learned that around 30,000 Americans die each year from guns. This week, we examine possible solutions. Do better background checks, buybacks, and gun registration lead to fewer shooting deaths? What happened in Australia after they got rid of all the guns? To find out, we talk to gun shop owner Bob Kostaras, former ATF special agent Mark Jones, Prof. Philip Alpers, and Prof. Peter Squires. Credits: This episode has been produced by Wendy Zukerman, Heather Rogers, Caitlin Kenney, Austin Mitchell, and Kaitlyn Sawrey. Editing by Annie Rose Strasser and Alex Blumberg. Production Assistance by Diane Wu, and Shruti Ravindran. Fact checking by Michelle Harris. Sound design and music production by Matthew Boll, mixing by Martin Peralta and Haley Shaw. Music written by Bobby Lord. Crisis Hotlines:US National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (2755)US Crisis Text Line Text “GO” to 741741Australia: Lifeline 13 11 14Canadian Association for Suicide PreventionUK & Ireland: Samaritans 116 123 Selected References:Background Checks for Firearms Transfers, US Bureau of Justice, 2009 Including details on federal gun purchase regulationsIssues with the current US background check system, plus recommendations for improvement Wintemute, “Background checks for firearm transfers: Assessment and recommendations.” Violence Prevention Research Program, UC Davis. 2013. States with more comprehensive background checks, including better reporting, have lower rates of gun homicide Ruddel and Mays, “State background checks and firearms homicides,” Journal of Criminal Justice, 2005. Most prisoners incarcerated for a gun-related offense did not buy their gun from a licensed dealer Harlow, C. “Firearm use by offenders”, Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report, 2001. How much of violent crime in Sweden can be attributed to people with severe mental illness? About 5% Fazel and Grann. “The Population Impact of Severe Mental Illness on Violent Crime.” Am J Psychiatry, 2006A study of how gun laws in Australia changed gun homicide rates Chapman et al, “Association Between Gun Law Reforms and Intentional Firearm Deaths in Australia, 1979-2013”, Journal of the American Medical Association, 2016. 
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Aug 04, 2016

Guns

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We find out how many times a year guns are used in self-defense, how many times they’re used to murder someone, and what impact guns have on the crime rate. In this episode we speak with Prof. David Hemenway, Prof. Helen Christensen, Prof. Gary Kleck and New Jersey gun-range owner Anthony Colandro. Credits: This episode has been produced by Wendy Zukerman, Caitlin Kenney, Heather Rogers and Kaitlyn Sawrey. Edited by Annie Rose Strasser and Alex Blumberg. Production Assistance by Austin Mitchell. Sound design and music production by Martin Peralta and Matthew Boll, music written by Bobby Lord Crisis hotlines:US National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (2755). Online chat available.US Crisis Text Line - text “GO” to 741741Lifeline 13 11 14 (Australia). Online chat available.Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention - see link for phone numbers listed by provinceSamaritans 116 123 (UK and ROI)Selected References:2013 US Mortality Statistics - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (published 2016)Gary Kleck’s defensive gun use survey Kleck & Gertz, “Armed Resistance to Crime: The Prevalence and Nature of Self-Defense with a Gun”, Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, 1995Survey of virgin births in the US Herring et al, “Like a virgin (mother): analysis of data from a longitudinal, US population representative sample survey”, BMJ, 2013David Hemenway’s defensive gun use analysis using National Crime Victimization Survey Hemenway & Solnick, “The epidemiology of self-defense gun use: Evidence from the National Crime Victimization Surveys 2007-2011”, Preventive Medicine, 2015Analysis of suicide rates and methods in Australia Large & Nielssen, “Suicide in Australia: meta-analysis of rates and methods of suicide between 1988 and 2007”, The Medical Journal of Australia, 2010John Lott’s study on right-to-carry laws and crime rates Lott & Mustard, “Crime, Deterrence, and Right-to-Carry Concealed Handguns”, Coase-Sandor Institute for Law & Economics, 1996National Research Academies Panel which found guns don’t increase or decrease crime Wellford, Pepper, and Petrie, editors, “Firearms and Violence: A Critical Review”, The National Academies Press, 2005US Crime statistics, 1990-2009 (US Dept of Justice, FBI)
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There are a lot of fads, blogs and strong opinions, but then there’s SCIENCE. Science Vs is the show from Gimlet that finds out what’s fact, what’s not, and what’s somewhere in between. We do the hard work of sifting through all the science so you don’t have to and cover everything from 5G and Pandemics, to Vaping and Fasting Diets.