Skip to content.
22 May - 12:06 am NZ
with Alison Ballance, Ruth Beran & Veronika Meduna
Thursdays 9-10pm, repeated at 1:05am Sundays. Two features play at 3:35pm on Mondays and Thursdays.
Congratulations to the joint NIWA and University of Otago Centre for Chemical and Physical Oceanography, which last week was awarded the 2011 Prime Minister’s Science Prize. The team won the $500,000 award for their work in understanding how the ocean absorbs carbon dioxide, and for carrying out some of the largest experiments ever undertaken on the planet to better understand the role the ocean plays in influencing climate.
The winning team was led by Philip Boyd, and the other team members are Evelyn Armstrong, Robert Strzepek, Cliff Law, Kim Currie, Russell Frew, Rob Murdoch, Keith Hunter and Sylvia Sander.
Alison Ballance catches up with three of the team – Philip Boyd, Evelyn Armstrong and Kim Currie – to find out about their research and the value of inter-disciplinary research.
Philip Boyd and Cliff Law have featured on Our Changing World before, talking about geo-engineering and the iron fertilisation experiments they have been involved in. They were also part of the Our Changing World special feature on ocean acidification.
Nuan-Ting, or Nina, Huang, who has just finished her final year at Auckland's Diocesan School for Girls, is the winner of the Prime Minister’s Future Scientist Prize for her exploration of the link between concentration and pupil size. Her research project also won her the Supreme award for the annual Genesis Energy Realise the Dream Awards.
Nina investigated the effects of high-level concentration on pupil size and whether different types of mental tasks could result in the early development of short-sightedness. Her results showed that tasks that required more thinking (cognitive tasks, such as solving maths problems) resulted in a descrease in pupil size, while easier tasks (such as reading a simple sentence) resulted in larger pupil size. The research project led her to meet University of Auckland lecturers and she has been inspired by their passion for research. Nina intends to study bio-medical science next year.
Sabre-toothed tigers and woolly mammoths are long-gone, but it’s still possible to find their ancient frozen remains in places like Siberia. Recent research by an international team that included Kiwi Alan Cooper, now Director of the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA at the University of Adelaide, has managed to take a real-life mammoth blood sample using DNA that was between 25 and 43 thousand years old.
Alison Ballance caught up with Alan at the recent Geosciences Society Conference in Nelson to hear about the ground-breaking work.
Rene Descartes' famous phrase 'cogito ergo sum' (I think, therefore I am) is arguably the best-known example of recursion, the process of embedding ideas within ideas. Humans are masters of recursion, and this ability may well be one of the dividing lines between us and our primate ancestors.
Michael Corballis argues that recursion is an essential part of being human in his latest book, The Recursive Mind: The Origins of Human Language, Thought and Civilization (Princeton University Press). Corballis is professor emeritus in psychology at the University of Auckland, where his research focuses on cognitive neuroscience and the evolution of language. He is also the author of several other books, among them From Hand to Mouth: The Origins of Language (Princeton University Press, 2002), in which he suggested that spoken language has evolved from gestures. In The Recursive Mind, he takes this argument further to explore the links between language and thought, and theory of mind to ask what makes us human.
In addition, Corballis also published Pieces of Mind (Auckland University Press) this year. This collection of essays explores the intricacies of the human mind, answering questions such as why we remember faces but not names, why some people can't tell between left and right, and whether we really use only 10 percent of our brain.
Rachel, left, and Sarah Wilcox coordinated the nation-wide knit-along of the periodic table. (all images: Victoria University)
To celebrate the 2011 International Year of Chemistry in a very New Zealand way, knitters throughout the country and some from overseas joined forces and needles to create a fibre version of the periodic table of elements. The project, led by mother and daughter team Sarah and Rachel Wilcox, combined tradition and innovation by incorporating hand-spun wool coloured with gold nanoparticles. One knitter chose to knit carbon because she worked in a radiocarbon dating laboratory in the 1960s. Another chose calcium after being impressed by the many beautiful and amazing forms of the element he found in bird bones while working on his PhD.
Once the squares for each element and blank had been knitted, they had to be stitched together in the right order.
The knitted table will be on display at various science organisations throughout 2012. To find out where, follow the project's Facebook page.
Since this project was completed, the names for two new elements have been proposed. The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry, the scientific body that keeps the list of elements, announced earlier this month that flerovium and livermorium will be added to the periodic table – if the names are confirmed after a five-month comment period open to anyone.
Summer science, featuring highlights from Our Changing World’s 2011 season, kicks off with extremophile microbes on Antarctica’s Mount Erebus, the Martin jetpack, and a seismic survey of tectonic plates in the Wairarapa.
Not all audio is available due to copyright restrictions.
The winning team this year is NIWA and the University of Otago's Centre for Chemical and Physical Oceanography (17′36″)
Nina Huang from Auckland's Diocesan School for Girls wins the PM's Future Scientist Prize (5′33″)
An international team re-created woolly mammoth haemoglobin from ancient DNA, and discovered it had some remarkable properties (8′29″)
Michael Corballis explores the intricacies of the human brain and asks what makes us human (12′53″)
A nation-wide knit-along of the periodic table marks the end of the Year of Chemistry (9′40″)
Produced and presented by Veronika Meduna, Ruth Beran & Alison Ballance
Each week Our Changing World features an eclectic mix of sound-rich stories about science, the environment and medical research, recorded around New Zealand in labs and in the field.
Phone: (04) 4741910
To join the email preview of our programme, send a blank email with an empty subject line to email@example.com and respond to our confirmation email.
To unsubscribe, send a blank email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Follow RNZ_Science on Twitter
The link(s) below can be pasted into your podcasting software.
For more podcasts and the conditions of use, please see our podcast page.
Audio is categorised based on the frequency of the programme it was heard in. Click on the headings below to access the programmes. For the most recently published audio, go to the latest audio page.
Streams are in Windows Media format. Mac and Linux users may need to install additional software. Get help with audio
A selection of music interviews, reviews, videos, concerts, sessions, and performances.
Downloads and podcasts are available for selected programmes. Our podcast page has a complete list of feeds.
Help on using online audio: formats, software, podcasts, downloading, and troubleshooting.