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The Germ Guy: Confessions of a Mercurial Microbiologist

Speaking In Scientific Tongues

Last week, on the Super Awesome Science Show, we discussed the realm of quackery. This week, we’re going to head to the other end of the communication spectrum by taking a look at how science is made available to you.

If you haven’t subscribed on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or your favorite podcast platform, you can listen to the show here: https://omny.fm/shows/super-awesome-science-show/translating-science while you read.

If you’ve looked at a scientific article or sat in on a scientific presentation or even listened to…

(The Smartest Man In The World…)

You might find the information is a little well…

(Confusing…)

Don’t worry. It’s supposed to be. As you’ll learn, the language of science has evolved over centuries and for several good reasons. The drawback of course is that if you want to understand what is being said, you need…

(It’s not that easy…)

Sadly, these buttons do not exist but there are people out there who are working hard to make the science understandable to you. They are the science translators and we have the chance to talk with three people from three very different areas of the field.

Our first guest is…

(Dr. Maureen Dobbins)

She is a Professor at McMaster University and has been working to improve health policy in Canada. She’s been going deep into the research and pulling out evidence that matters to you. She’s worked in all areas of health and you can even find one of her projects known as the…

(Click here to visit: https://www.mcmasteroptimalaging.org/)

Her perspective is fascinating as she reveals just how much work is needed to give you the right advice for your health. Not to mention, with so many topics ranging from exercise to nutrition to consumer protection (like avoiding quacks), you can imagine just how hard that job happens to be.

We next speak to someone who is also working on an incredibly difficult task. He is…

(Dr. James Heilman)

He’s better known as the Wiki Doc because he has been working for years to improve the reputation of the most well-known resource for information on the internet…


(Always the first choice on Google it seems…)

You can imagine how much work is needed just to keep English sites accurate. But he’s also working to improve the service in all languages. He’s even working to help people without internet access have the opportunity to search Wikipedia. It is a form of translation that many of us don’t realize exists but is absolutely necessary to keep us informed and safe.

For the SASS Class, we are happy to welcome someone I’ve known for years. She is a science communication expert – in fact, she has her doctorate in it – and is our guest teacher. She is…

(Dr. Paige Jarreau)

She is probably the best person on Earth to talk about science communication in the information age. With the internet, there are more options to share science than ever and she has seen them all. You will love listening to her and may even be inspired to get into scicomm yourself.

We have been getting some great feedback from you and a few of the ideas suggested are now on the slate for episodes.

If you have a burning question or idea for an episode, let me know in the comments below or by sending me an Email at: thegermguy@gmail.com. I’m so happy you are all liking the show and hope we can make you even more excited going forward.

 

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The Lure of The Quack

Have you ever encountered someone trying to sell you health or medical advice and products based on belief rather than evidence? These people are fairly common and tend to use flashy gimmicks to get you to forget that science is the basis for health. In the scientific and medical world, these people are generally known as…

(Not AFLAC…Quacks)

On this week’s show, we’re going to dig into the history of quacks and how they have evolved over the centuries. We’ll also reveal how they manage to deviate from science and evidence and make you believe they have the moral or even technological high ground.

As much as I try to quash quacks, I am only one person. Thankfully, there are others who are working hard to keep science and evidence at the forefront of health and medicine. By listening to them, you can prevent negative consequences both to your health and wallet.

Our first guest is a science communicator at the Office of Science and Society at McGill University. It’s the only sponsored quackbusting organization in Canada and is known for its informative and humourous web series…

(Cracked Science…)

The host is a man who is on a mission to ensure that myths are busted, pseudoscience is purged, and you are left laughing while you learn. He is…

(Jonathan Jarry)

We have a great discussion about the climate that exists and how the anti-science movement appears to be greater than ever. I won’t give away the reason but I’m sure you can figure it out…

(Bet you thought I was going to say Goop…)

We also explore the mission of the Office of Science and Society and how their small complement of people is doing their best to combat the giant waves of bad information and sketchy Pseudovangelists.

For our SASS Class, we explore how you can determine whether the information you are hearing is solidly based in evidence or is really just a bunch of bunk. We talk with one of the hosts of a show that boasts it was podcasting since podcasting was cool…

(Or TRC if you’re into the acronyms of the aughts)

They have been correcting misinformation for over a decade using their style of comedy, research, and of course, camaraderie. I mean, how can you not after over 500 episodes. Our guest teacher has been with the show almost since the beginning and doesn’t seem to have any interest in stopping. He’s…

(Darren McKee)

I hope this episode will help you understand the motivation of quacks and also how they work. You should be able to figure out how to identify them and hopefully avoid them so you don’t end up paying both with money and health.

If you have a question, comment or idea for the show, let me know in the comments below or by sending me an Email at: thegermguy@gmail.com. We’re filling our slate for the year and we have already taken several suggestions and put them on the grid. If you have a burning question for science, let me know and maybe it’ll end up being a theme for a future show.

A Dream Come True Thanks To Awesome Science Superheroines

The last few weeks have been unbelievable for me and the show. I honestly didn’t think we could top winning the Canadian Podcast Award for Outstanding Science and Medicine Series. But as you’ll hear this week, it was just the beginning.

I don’t want to delay giving you the chance to listen to the show so I will put the link to the show here: https://omny.fm/shows/super-awesome-science-show/playlists/podcast/embed?style=cover

It all started with an idea to feature women in science. International Women’s Day is on Friday and also this week will see the release of…

(A fictitious superheroine…)

I wanted to feature a few real science superheroines and had quite a long list. But at the top was a name every Canadian should know…

(Her Excellency The Right Honourable Julie Payette)

She is truly Canada’s science superheroine. An engineer, astronaut, executive and now, the Governor General of Canada.

We had a fascinating discussion and I was so thankful for her grace and passion for science. You will remember this interview for a long time.

But we weren’t done. If you look at the list of some of the best scientists in Canada, one person would surely top the list.

(Dr. Molly Shoichet)

As Robbie Burns might say, she has a resume as laing as me arm! She has done it all in the scientific world. But what makes her a superheroine for the rest of us is her commitment to promoting science to the rest of us. You’ll hear about her journey from the lab to the big screen. It’s incredibly inspiring.

I won’t give away anything more because this is one episode I want you to hear for yourselves. I was honoured to have the chance to put it together and I hope you can appreciate how awesome these two women are.

If you like the show, please rate and review the show and subscribe as well on whichever platform you get your podcasts. I want to reach as many people as possible.

If you have a question, comment or idea for the show, let me know in the comments below or by sending me an Email at: thegermguy@gmail.com. We’re filling our slate for the year and we have already taken several suggestions and put them on the grid. If you have a burning question for science, let me know and maybe it’ll end up being a theme for a future show.

Phaging Out The Resistance…

Before I get to this week’s podcast, I want to give a HUGE thanks to everyone who has supported the show. Here’s why…

(I’m completely shocked…)

We feel we are just getting started and this award just gives us reason to believe we are doing something right by showin’ that SASS.

Now, let’s get on with this week’s show.

We’re taking a different approach this week as we’re going to be talking about something that scientifically is awesome but for human health, it’s exactly the opposite…

(Antibiotic resistance…)

I’m sure you have heard about it…I’ve been talking about it for over a decade in the public forum. I’m hoping you know it’s a crisis and that more people are going to die unless we find new options.

But on this week’s show, we’re taking a different approach to this rather difficult dilemma. You can listen to it on your favorite podcast platform or listen to it here while you read: https://omny.fm/shows/super-awesome-science-show/phaging-out-the-resistance

How many of us know someone who has suffered from one of these infections? How many of us have witnessed these infections take over people leaving them helplessly dying? How many of us really understand what happens when we finally recover?

After listening to this show, you’ll be able to name one:  my first guest…

(Dr. Tom Patterson)

He is a researcher at the University of California San Diego and has had a very successful career. But in 2015, his life took a turn for the worst and he almost ended up dying of an antibiotic resistant infection.

We talk to him about his journey and more importantly…

(His recovery…)

His story will make you think about how bad antibiotic resistance really can be and how many people are not as lucky as him. As to why he recovered, i’s because he had a superheroine fighting for his life every step of the way. Her name is…

(Dr. Steffanie Strathdee)

She’s also a researcher at the University of California San Diego. Her expertise in HIV epidemiology has won her numerous accolades and awards. It would make sense that she would do her best to save a colleague. But, she is much more than that to him…

(She’s the love of his life…)

You’ll hear her story as she tried her best to help Tom fight off the disease. But she wasn’t alone in her efforts. She had a secret weapon that helped fight off the infection and bring Tom to a point where he could recover…

(Bacteriophages…)

These tiny viruses of bacteria have been known to be excellent killers and when used in the right concentration, can leave a bacterium…

(Doomed…)

You’ll hear about her struggles to bring Tom back from the brink of death and how this experience has sparked her to promote this type of therapy aimed at phaging out the resistance.

If you want to know more about their journey and how phages may represent the future of medicine, you can pick up the book they wrote together and is hitting store shelves today…

(It’s an awesome if not heartbreaking read…)

But we’re not done yet. In our SASS Class, you’ll hear about another use for phages that may make your own life better. We talk with a researcher who has been putting these little viruses to use in our livestock and even wildlife communities hoping to reduce the threat from contaminated meat…

(Dr. Lawrence Goodridge)

We explore how viruses may help to reduce those foodborne pathogens we tend to hear about like Salmonella, Listeria, and E. coli and how the use of phages may soon be the way to keep our food safe…

(From Farm to Fork…)

I hope you enjoy this week’s SASScast as it was meaningful to me in many ways. I’ve been involved in this type of research for decades and this was the first time I had a chance to share a relatively unheard side of the story. I want to thank Tom and Steffanie for being so gracious with their time and for sharing all they did with me.

If you liked this show, please rate and review the show and subscribe as well on whichever platform you get your podcasts.

If you have a question, comment or idea for the show, let me know in the comments below or by sending me an Email at: thegermguy@gmail.com. We’re filling our slate for the year and we have already taken several suggestions and put them on the grid. If you have a burning question for science, let me know and maybe it’ll end up being a theme for a future show.

Thank you again to everyone who has made this little show a success. I can’t wait for what is to come…and believe me, it is going to be AWESOME.

 

The Evolution of Music…

You might not think music is really a science. After all, it’s a bunch of sounds that have been calibrated into a collection of…

(84 notes)

It’s more like 120 notes when you think about the upper and lower limits of hearing. Yet, only thirty-six are used to produce most of the music we hear unless you happen to be…

(That’s Mariah, not Miley…)

But when it comes to how many different types of music we can make with just those few dozen notes, the answer is well, awesome.

Over two thousand five hundred!

If you don’t believe me, head on over to the website, Every Noise At Once to go through the list. You can even hear examples of each genre. Just be sure to give yourself lots and lots and lots of time…and do it AFTER you listen to this week’s SASScast, to which you can listen while you read: https://omny.fm/shows/super-awesome-science-show/evolving-rhythms

On this show, we focus on how these genres came to be. It turns out that there are two major reasons. One is societal evolution – or maybe revolution – and technology.

When it comes to the development of new music, there is no better expert than…

(Alan Cross)

He’s been the host of The Ongoing History of New Music for over twenty-five years and his anthology of how music and society have changed is a wonder to be had…and heard.

We first talk about technology and how the evolution over the last hundred years has allowed musicians to create new and sometimes unheard types of compositions. From the electric guitar to the synthesizer to the ability of having hundreds of tracks on a single song,  Alan gives us a glimpse into how those 2,500 genres have come to exist…including…

(How we listen to them…)

We then get into society and let me tell you, it was a great discussion. We’ve heard for some time that music has been the reason for changes in human culture. But is that true? Alan has been not just observing but has been involved in understanding the culture of different music genres. His insight is simply awesome. We get into some of the major players in music’s effect on society and learn about how one advancement in music lead to a unbelievable backlash from the community…

(The Waltz…)

In our SASS Class, we head into the realm of using music to improve your workout. Music is almost a given in any exercise routine these days but research has been trying to decide which may be the perfect playlist to maximize your effort. Which is why we reach out to Associate Professor Of Exercise Science And Sport Studies and the Director For Sport And Exercise Psychology at Springfield College in Massachusetts,

(Dr. Jasmin Hutchinson)

She has been looking at the effect of music on our ability to perform and her results have given us significant insight into what works best and what might not be so useful. You’ll learn quite a bit but I’ll give away one thing here…if you remember these…

(Anyone still have theirs?)

Then you were probably doing it right.

If you have a question, comment or idea for the show, let me know in the comments below or by sending me an Email at: thegermguy@gmail.com. We’re filling our slate for the year and we have already taken several suggestions and put them on the grid. If you have a burning question for science, let me know and maybe it’ll end up being a theme for a future show.

Have a great week, enjoy some of that Valentine’s Day spirit, and as always, keep playin’ that SASS!

WHAT IS LOVE?

When we first came up with the idea of the Super Awesome Science Show, one of the first topics suggested was whether love was real or just a collection of chemicals rushing through the brain.

As far as I was concerned, there was only one person who could give us the answer…

(Dr. Helen Fisher)

Since 1975, she has been changing our perception of love and has taken it from a subject of art and philosophy to one that includes biology, neuroscience, and psychology.

Because of the incredible amount of work she has done over the years, we devote the entire show to her. When you listen to it, you’ll appreciate why. You can find the show on your favorite podcast platform or you can listen to it now while you read. Just click here and scroll down.
https://curiouscast.ca/podcast/321/super-awesome-science-show-sass/

In the first segment of our interview, we learn about what sparked Dr. Fisher to venture into this subject, which for the record is probably just as complicated as immunology. We also dive into her book…

(A fascinating read…)

It was first released in 1994 but was reissued in 2016 after an almost complete rewrite. Thanks to Dr. Fisher’s work over the years and the advancement of technology capable of looking into the brain, our understanding of the biology of love has expanded exponentially. It’s encapsulated here in a way only she can offer.

We next get into how to find the right person for you. The term ‘chemistry’ has been used for ages to describe what happens when two people just seem to match. Now, Dr. Fisher has been able to prove that chemistry really is what happens. She has developed a means to understand how the chemicals circulating in your body and brain can give you a personality type. Dr. Fisher even has a way to measure it. It’s called…

(The Fisher Temperament Inventory)

You can read the paper yourself by clicking here.

https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0078734

If you would rather know what her test offers, she has been gracious enough to translate all of her findings into this much simpler table…

(What colours are you?)

Once you happen to know your colour, you can then figure out what kind of person you happen to be based on your chemistry…

(What is your mix?)

At this point, you might be able to improve your ability to find a match. You will even get to hear what I happen to be (hint, it kinda matches how I live my life…just DO)

Of course, if you want a much better explanation, you can pick up Dr. Fisher’s book on how matches happen…

(Again, another wonderful read)

For our SASS Class, we take a 180 degree turn and head away from love and straight into another aspect of love that many of us experience…

(Rejection…)

Dr. Fisher has gone deep into the brain to explore what happens when a relationship ends. The results are eye-opening and may give you some appreciation of why moving on after losing a love is so painful.

Thankfully, Dr. Fisher also provides us with some tips on how to get over the sadness. Although I won’t tell you here, what I can offer is this…you might be tempted to watch…

(And maybe partake in some pecaaaaan pie…)

But you might be better off being around your…

(You get the idea…)

This show was important for me as I have been wanting to talk with Dr. Fisher for years. This show gave me that opportunity. I want to thank every person who chooses to listen to this show and am grateful for those who have subscribed and listen in each week.

If you have a question, comment or idea for the show, let me know in the comments below or by sending me an Email at: thegermguy@gmail.com. We’re starting to fill our slate for the year and we have already taken several suggestions and put them on the grid. If you have a burning question for science, let me know and maybe it’ll end up being a theme for a future show.

Have a great week, enjoy some of that Valentine’s Day spirit, and as always, keep showin’ your love for SASS.

 

It’s The LEGO Episode…

Imagine back to 1932 in Billund, Denmark, when Ole Kirk Kristiansen, a Danish carpenter, came up with the idea to make toys like…

(The original LEGO duck…)

and of course, the product you all probably know better…

(What a perfect design…)

Could you even conceive that this company, LEGO, which is a merger of the Danish phrase, Leg Godt, or play well, would become the international legend it is today? Probably not. Yet, despite all of its successes, the company has maintained its philosophy of providing healthy hours of development, imagination and creativity, all while playing.

On this week’s show, we are taking a look at what LEGO can do to improve education with some of the world leaders in this realm. You can find this episode at our home location, The Curiouscast website.

We get things started with one of the champions for LEGO as an educational resource…

(Dr. Chris Rogers)

By day, he is the Chair of Mechanical Engineering at Tufts but by afternoon, he’s all about the LEGO with that University’s Center for Engineering Education and Outreach. He has developed programs that span the educational realm – including teachers – giving everyone a chance to enjoy LEGO. You could almost say LEGO is in his…

(DNA…to scale by the way)

We next talk with one of the people helping to enable students to take part in LEGO based education. He’s been doing this for years in New Hampshire but his work has inspired people in countries as far away as Ghana. He’s the Executive Director for White Mountain Science Inc. (otherwise known as “Whimsy”) and is a true LEGO champion…

(William Church)

He has been going around the state putting together camps and even has his own mobile lab so he can take LEGO to you. The best part, no experience needed. All you have to do is have an open mind and you too may be able to put a project together that will amaze and inspire others…kinda like this…

(A legend indeed…)

In our SASS class, we learn how you can get involved in LEGO based educational activities with one of the most interesting people you’ll ever get to know…

(Barbara Bratzel)

She’s a science teacher by trade but she has also become a LEGOvangelist! She’s not only working to improve education using LEGO but she also wants everyone out there to learn how. You don’t have to meet her in person to make it happen either. All you need to do is…

(Pick up one of her books)

I had so much fun making this episode and I hope you all enjoy it. If you do, please head over to Apple Podcasts or Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts and give us a rating and maybe a kind review. We’re working on episodes for the year and I guarantee you are going to love every one of them.

Also, if you happen to be heading to the theatres this weekend, don’t forget to catch…

(The inspiration for this epsiode)

If you have a question, comment or idea for the show, let me know in the comments below or by sending me an Email at: thegermguy@gmail.com. I’ve enjoyed virtually meeting some of you and am thankful you are liking the show. I hope maybe one day we’ll all get to know each other and collectively, show some SASS.

The SASS on Sharing Stress…

Have you ever found yourself having one of those days when everything seems to be going right and then out of nowhere, someone who is having a far worse day enters your realm and before you know it…

(You get the idea…)

Believe it or not, we can share stress with one another in a number of ways and on this episode, we learn a little more about how and why this happens and explore ways to reduce the chances of being “infected” with stress.

You can listen to the show on your favorite podcast platform or you can click here to listen to it right now: https://omny.fm/shows/super-awesome-science-show/stress – although the entire show is awesome, you’re going to want to listen to the first three and a half minutes.

Our first guest has been looking at why we tend to share another person’s stress, especially if we happen to be close to that individual. She is an ecological neuroscience professor at the University of Michigan…

(Dr. Stephanie Preston)

As you’ll find out, the cause may due to an emotion we all express although usually it’s not associated with stress…

(Empathy)

When you care about someone, you naturally attempt to feel what they are experiencing. If that person happens to be troubled, you begin to adopt those same sensations. It’s a fascinating and necessary part of our social biology.

Feeling for another person isn’t the only way we can share stress. As our next guest has revealed – in mice – we may be able to smell a person’s stress. He’s a professor at the University of Calgary and performs what he likes to call, stressynomics…

(Dr. Jaideep Bains)

His tests have revealed that mice exude a particular chemical that he calls an “alert pheromone.” In mice, it comes from the rear end but in humans, if it does exist, it most likely comes from…

(Even more reason to use deodorant perhaps…)

In our SASS class, we learn how stress is really like an infectious disease. Our guest teacher has been studying how emotions are contagious and depending on your mood, one or more people may end up being inoculated. He’s an Assistant Professor at the University of Toronto Mississauga…

(Dr. Loren Martin)

He’s done some incredible work on how stress is shared and most importantly how to keep yourself from being overly affected. Although I won’t give away the answer, what I will tell you is that this particular method will not work…

(But you already knew that, right?)

I hope you enjoy this episode of the Super Awesome Science Show and would love it if you shared it with your friends, family, and even strangers! Just tell them to subscribe on your favorite podcast platform. We’re on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, and pretty much every other platform.

Also, if you happen to have a podcast, can you head over to the Canadian Podcast Awards website and give our little show a boost by voting for us here…

(Link: https://awards.podcamptoronto.com/)

If you have a question, comment or idea for the show, let me know in the comments below or by sending me an Email at: thegermguy@gmail.com. Your Emails have been awesome we’re already taking some of your suggestions and turning them into future episodes. I couldn’t be more grateful and truly am happy that you’re showin’ some SASS.

Beans and Genes…

This week on The Super Awesome Science Show, we tackle one of my favorite subjects…

(Joe, Java, Mud, etc)

But we take a very different look at this beloved beverage. Instead of focusing on how to make the perfect cup, we take a look at a factor that is of utmost importance even if it doesn’t get much attention…

(Genetics)

If you haven’t already subscribed to the SASScast on your favorite podcast platform, you can always listen to it here: https://omny.fm/shows/super-awesome-science-show/sass-ep9-coffee-rough-version-2

I’ve talked about coffee before in the media and on the blog in the context of health as it continues to be a hotly debated topic. Depending on which studies you might read, coffee may be the best thing for you or it could lead to an early death. There seems to be no consensus.

As this episode reveals, genetics may be the reason behind the lack of agreement. It has to do with minor changes in our DNA known as…

(Polymorphisms)

Our first guest is an Assistant Professor at Northwestern University who is a polymorphism expert. Her name is…

(Dr. Marilyn Cornelis)

She’s been studying the links between our genes and the effect of coffee on a variety of different bodily functions. But the reason I wanted to talk to her was that she learned that small changes in our genetic code could lead us to find coffee well…

(You get the idea…)

It’s a fascinating discussion that will open your eyes to what your tongue is telling you and how that could relate to your health.

Another area of the coffee realm upon which people cannot agree is which coffee is best. There are dozens of different types from all over the world and each one has its own taste.

While climate and soil are important for a particular coffee’s taste, there is one contributor few discuss…

(Yeast…)

That’s right. Before your coffee bean reaches store shelves, it is fermented. I explain the process on the program and reveal that the yeasts used to give coffee its flavour are as diverse as the coffees themselves.

How this great diversity occurred is a rather fascinating tale that can be traced through history using genetics and my next guest has examined this with incredible depth. She’s an Investigator with the Pacific Northwest Research Institute and a yeast genetics expert. She is…

(Dr. Aimee Dudley)

Her account of what has happened to coffee over the generations as a result of her studies in yeast will captivate you as well as make you realize how much coffee has been a part of our civilization.

For our SASS Class, I wanted to take a look at how genetics may be useful in helping us to sustain our coffee addictions. Although you may not know it, coffee plants are in trouble as a result of a nasty enemy…

(Coffee Leaf Rust)

It’s a fungus that slowly destroys the plant making it difficult to produce fruit. The fungus has been causing serious damage in some regions of the world and may spread to affect regions you value the most. To discuss how genetics – and ecology – can help to stop the spread of this disease, I reached out to University of Michigan Professor…

(Dr. John Vandermeer)

He’s been studying the fungus and its impact on the coffee plant. We learn how bad it has gotten and how different strategies including genetics may offer some hope for a better future.

I hope you enjoy this caffeinated episode of the Super Awesome Science Show. If you do, please subscribe on your favorite podcast platform. We’re on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, and pretty much every other platform.

Also, if you happen to have a podcast, can you head over to the Canadian Podcast Awards website and give our little show a boost by voting for us here…

(Link: https://awards.podcamptoronto.com/)

If you have a question, comment or idea for the show, let me know in the comments below or by sending me an Email at: thegermguy@gmail.com. Your Emails have been awesome and I look forward to hearing from you about how you are showin’ some SASS.

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