It’s time for the Fun Kids Science Weekly, the weekly podcast that opens your minds to the most amazing things in the universe!
Professor, astronomer and award winning author Raman Prinja joins us to talk all about the Wonders of the Night Sky, what amazing things we can learn from looking up at the stars and how we can do this from our own home.
In Science In The News we find out about a fossilised Dino leg that may have been created during one of the meteorite crashes and a new cure to stop the ageing process!
We answer your questions about the brain including does our brain grow?
We also catch up with Professor Hallux and Nurse Nanobot in their Map of Medicine this week its on feet, and in our NEW Deep Space High Series we learn all about the structure of our earth!
Here’s the episode below:
Dan: This week, we’re taking a trip to the smartest school in the solar system… heading to Deep Space High, and learning about what the earth is made of.
Professor Raman Prinja: All stars don’t have the same destiny. Some stars will end up with very bizarre objects like black holes and neutron stars. And that would be their tombstones. That’s how they would demise. That will be the ultimate state of the Earth.
Dan: Also, we’ll look up at the night sky, with the expert astronomer Raman Prinja, who can tell us what stars we can see from our own garden.
Professor Pulsar: This crust bit more than you get on a loaf of breadth. Some planets have thick crusts, others have thin ones. Where we hit the next level, things start getting interesting.
Dan: And I’ve got your questions, as always. This week, they are both on what’s happening in your brain. That’s coming up. Stay there. It’s a brand new episode of the Fun Kids Science Weekly.
Science In The News: A Perfectly Preserved Dinosaur, The First Space Tourists, and De-Aging somebody by 30 years!
Dan: Let’s start things off, as we always do with taking a look at the science in the news.
Scientists have found a perfectly preserved leg of a dinosaur. It was found, complete with skin, in the US state of North Dakota.
This is a big deal, because it’s thought this creature was buried on the actual day the asteroid struck earth which killed off the dinosaurs!
Very little is actually known of the impact at the actual time, so this is a big find.
The first space tourists have travelled to the ISS. Their capsule Endeavour landed on Saturday, and entrepreneurs and investors from around the world are spending 8 days on the ISS, helping with science research.
They’ve had to pay a lot of money to get there, and it’s thought that this will lead to more space tourists in the future.
Experts have made a 53 year old woman look like she’s 23. They’ve de-aged and rejuvenated her skin cells, and they hope they can do the same with other things in her body
And the end goal is to use this method to treat age related diseases like diabetes and heart disease. Who knows? We might get to live forever.
It’s time to check in with Professor Hallux. Now, he’s one of our favourite geniuses on the show. This is from his Map of Medicine series that we’ve been listening to for the last few weeks. It’s where he and nurse Nanobot look at what can make you sick and then who can make you better?
Now, so far, we’ve looked at your teeth, we’ve looked at your gut and at your digestion this week rather him than me. I’d say he’s looking at your feet and sharing the disgusting details of verrucas.
Professor Hallux’s Map Of Medicine: Verrucas & Podiatrists
Nurse: Professor Hallux is still fiddling with that game of his. He’s been playing with it all day.
Professor Hallux: Not playing nurse, working. It’s my Map of Medicine and it’s full of stacks of medical places and people, but there’s so many to fit in. I’m having to massively multiply the memory banks. Certainly a squeeze in there.
Nurse: Well, that’s great, but it’s not good to be stuck inside all day. You should go and get some exercise. Why don’t you take Body to have a swim?
Professor Hallux: Funny you should say that, but we have a little problem. Come here, Body. Show Nanabot your foot.
Nurse: Why is he hopping?
Professor Hallux: Show her, Body.
Nurse: Yes, he’s got a verruca. That’s a whopper. It’s as big as a dinner plate. So let me guess, you might want a podiatrist to have a look at that.
Professor Hallux: Spot on. And that’s the bit I’m just finishing off on my Map of Medicine. So why don’t you give us the verse on verrucas whilst I finish it off?
Nurse: No problem. Feet are very hardworking parts of your body. As we all know. They need to be kept clean or they can smell worse than cheese. But even the cleanest feet can pick up some pesky conditions. And verrucas are one of these. They’re not normally as big as Body’s. They’re tiny lumps, normally on the soles of feet, and sometimes they have little black dots in them.
Professor Hallux: Verrucas are caused by a viral infection that’s similar to warts and are often picked up in swimming pools where everyone has bare feet and so gets passed about easily. They’re the most common foot condition for children, so you might even be the proud owner of one yourself.
Nurse: Although they’re not normally serious, they are contagious and that means you should keep your foot covered, especially at the pool. The good news is that they normally go away on their own and they only need treating if they’re causing pain. If they do need treatment, often it’s just some drops of a special chemical to freeze the verruca away.
Professor Hallux: Chilling stuff. Right, I’ve all loaded up. Let’s find out more about our foot expert, the podiatrists. Our funny old feet are fantastically important. Imagine what would happen if your feet disappeared right now. Yep, you’d fall right on your bum. Ouch. And you’d have trouble getting up again. You certainly wouldn’t be kicking a football or tap dancing. Now, your feet aren’t likely to actually disappear anytime soon, but maybe you have pain in them or problems walking. And that’s where podiatrist can help.
Did you know there are 26 bones in each of your feet? All the bones and muscles enable us to walk and do cool things like dance and balance. But they don’t always work as they should. Sometimes children have problems with the shape of their feet or the way they walk. That’s called your gait. No, not that sort of gate. G-A-I-T.
Even if the problem is not enough to slow you down, now, expert help is important because your feet grow so fast and a small problem now could be a big one later. So what happens if you visit a podiatrist or chat to your parents and you about what you were like as a baby? How are you crawled and when you started to walk? Now we know you aren’t a baby anymore. But this all helps the podiatrist understand if a problem is an old or new one.
They’ll also have a good look at your feet and legs and may manipulate them with their hands. That’s moving your joints and seeing how bendy you are might tickle a bit. Then they might watch you walking. No, not watching tap dancing. You’re not putting on a show. They’ll just ask you to walk normally to check your gait and they may take prints of your feet. They’re looking for symmetry that’s both legs and feet working equally together and for the bones and muscles to be properly in place.
Now because you’re a kid and your feet are still growing, It’s quite easy to fix a lot of problems with stretching exercises or with splints and insoles, things you wear or put in your shoe. If you need a bit more help, they might suggest an operation so you’ll be flashing your fancy footwork again in no time. Let’s have a quick disgusting detail. Nurse. There’s just time before we go.
Nurse: These days we only treat verrucas if they’re causing pain. But in the past, raw meat was thought to cure them. So you’d get your lump of meat and rub it over the verruca and then bury the meat in the garden.
Professor Hallux: Barking mad. Sounds like a waste of steak to me! Right, I’m off to the podiatrist with Body hope to see you again next time as we explore the map of medicine.
Answering Your Questions: Why do we twitch and flinch by accident? And Does your brain grow as you get older?
Dan: Let’s get to your questions then. If there’s something sciencey that you want to know that you need answered because you can’t sleep at night, let me know. I’ll do all the work for you. Leave it as a review for me on Apple podcasts.
That’s what Charlie has done. He’s in Kent. Charlie wants to know what happens when you twitch or you flinch. Not on purpose. Why does that happen when you move normally, like your legs and your arms move?
Because your brain releases neurotransmitters to the nerves that talk to your muscles. So your brain saying, right, I want to take a step forward. Fires off that neurotransmitter that lets your leg muscles know they need to work. Now, sometimes when you’re stressed or you have too much caffeine, maybe in fizzy drinks, or you’re not eating too well or you’re really tired, those neurotransmitters fire on their own without you telling them to. That’s why you twitch or you flinch because they’re working without your brain really knowing about it. Do you have this? My eyelid will twitch when I’m a bit tired. It kind of flutters like a butterfly. It’s a good thing, actually. It lets me know that I need more sleep. Thank you for the question, Charlie.
Also, this is from Ava, who is 9, who wants to know, does your brain grow when you get older? Well, it does, Ava, up to a point. You see, the brain will keep growing when you’re young. But when you reach just two years old, your brain is about 80% of the size it will be when you’re fully grown up.
Now, when you’re born as well, your brain will have almost as many neurons that you ever need. They’re always there. Now, how your brain grows when you’re alive is in a different way. It’s by making you smarter. It’s by making new pathways connecting the neurons in your mind, which helps you learn new things and new skills. And you tend to create those pathways, those links between neurons, by having new experiences and doing different things. That’s why it’s always worth seeing what’s out there. Ava, thank you for the question.
If you would like something answered on the Science Weekly next week, leave it as a review for us on Apple podcasts. Leave your name there’s, a little comment box at the bottom, and give us five stars so I can see it. It’s the Fun Kids Science Weekly.
Interview with Professor Raman Prinja:
Dan: Our guest this week wants to help you stare into space and see something amazing. Raman Prinja is a physics and astronomy professor and joins us now. He’s got a brand new book out called Wonders of the Night Sky. Ramen, thank you for being there.
Professor Raman Prinja: Thank you very much for inviting me. I’m very glad to be here. Dan, thank you.
Dan: How much do you remember about the very first time you ever looked at the stars?
Raman: You’re taking me back for many years. I think what I can remember when I was a child. I mean, we’re talking about ten years or so, was stunned essentially, by seeing a very dark, starry night sky for the first time. Having been growing up in London, that’s not something you see very often. But when I travelled away once, I think I read that really hit me hard. I really was amazed at the sky that was glittering with stars. And I think I do remember that distinctly. And it was a big hook for me. Fantastic hook for me.
Dan: Now what’s amazing is that there are so many stars out there, but maybe we don’t know where to start, where to look, what we’re looking at. So what advice would you give us for the very first time we’re ever trying to spot some stars that we might know in the sky?
Raman: I think the key thing here would be to pick on one or two really well known constellations that have bright stars in them. Orion, the constellation Orion is a very good example for those in the Northern hemisphere.
You can easily recognise Orion and it’s packed full of such amazing objects and stories and myths behind it and you can come back to it again and again. So I think picking two or three really bright constellations is a beautiful way of starting to identify stars.
But also like we try and describe in this book to try and learn about them, just to try and learn what’s going on. Why do you have slightly different colours in the stars of Orion? So you can really get deeper and deeper, and I think that’s the best way to try and chart the sky a little bit.
Dan: It’s interesting, you said stories that these stars can tell us about. Surely a star is just a big ball of gas and plasma kind of mixing together. How can they tell a story?
Raman: That’s because not all stars are the same, and that’s the remarkable science that’s out there in the night sky waiting for you to uncover for free. The fact that you have such an incredible variety of stars in the night sky, different colours, different brightnesses, it’s because these stars are not all the same, they are at different life paths in their sort of destiny, if you like. Some stars are very young and recently born, other stars are sort of middle aged and others are ageing and heading towards a demise in explosive end, perhaps. And so you have this whole life story of stars up there in the sky to uncover. And that’s a great detective work that you can do.
Dan: Now take us through the book, then. It’s called Wonders of The Night Sky. It says slap bang on the front cover: Astronomy starts with just looking up. Raman, how does your book help us do that?
Raman: What I try with this book is to take you through some of the amazing objects that you can explore in the night sky, some of these constellations, the objects that are there behind them, but also then to tell you some of the details to understand why do we have stars that have some different colours? What is this Milky Way band that people talk about? You might get very lucky and see some time. Why does this moon have craters and how did the moon even get there?
So the book takes these great wonders of the night sky and tries to also explain and does explain some of the knowledge that we have about them to try and get you to understand a little bit more about what you’re looking at. So you can then go and read more and talk more about them. So going through the exploring the sky in terms of the stars and constellations, looking at what planets we can look at and how we can tell the planet, how do you explore the moon? It’s a beautiful object, the moon, actually, it’s really underrated. Sometimes I think it would just take you too much for granted.
It’s just a beautiful object to explore, to see where the astronauts landed, and to look at things. The Aurora, to look at eclipses just take you to the whole great variety of objects out in the night sky, and that’s what we do. But what I’m also trying to do, as I said, is trying to give some understanding of what it is you’re looking at. What is that thing that you’re looking at?
Dan: You, as a stargazer, as someone who studies the different things in our night sky, what’s the rarest thing to find, I guess, in the star gazing group? If objects in the sky were Pokemon cards, what would be the rarest one that you could find, for instance, that when everyone else hears that you’ve seen it, they are so jealous.
Raman: Well, if you’re really fortunate ,and you’d have to be very fortunate, but if you’re really fortunate and people have been, you could spot a supernova. That takes a little bit of equipment to do that. We have had astronomers in the past or observers in the past. We’ve got very lucky. And we don’t see supernovae, exploding stars in our own Galaxy. It’s very rare. That would be absolutely the prize to see something like that happening, and it doesn’t happen very often. That will be truly remarkable object to see.
Dan: Now, it’s interesting because these stars, they’ve been around for millions and millions and millions of years. What are we still learning about the night sky? Why do we still look up into space? What is it telling us still?
Raman: When we look up in the night sky, what we’re seeing there is a snapshot of stars, as I said, who are at different times in their life. So there’s still a lot to uncover in terms of what they end up as. All stars don’t have the same destiny. Some stars will end up with very bizarre objects like black holes and neutron stars, and that would be their tombstones. That’s how they would demise. That will be the ultimate state of the end. So why do stars follow different paths is something that we are really trying to uncover.
And also, many of these stars have planets around them. So most of these stars have their own planetary systems around them as well. So there’s a huge amount to learn there because the stars, just like they do in the solar system, the Sun, really determines a lot of what’s happening on the planets in our solar system, the same way these stars are going to influence what’s happening on the planets around them.
And that’s another great wonder out there because you do have to stand out there and imagine what could be around those planets, right? I mean, there are water worlds out there. Could there be life out there? So all of these things are also going to depend on what the host star is doing. So ultimately, this big Detective game of trying to figure out what these stars are and how they connected up in their life parts.
Dan: Amazing. Well, listen, if you enjoy looking at the night sky, you want to learn more about the stars. This is the book for you. It’s called Wonders of the Night Sky. It’s by Professor Raman Prinja, thank you so much for being there.
Raman: Thank you very much. And pleasure to talk to you. Fantastic. Thank you.
Dangerous Dan: Tasmanian Devil
Dan: This week’s Dangerous Dan is all about one of the most fearsome beasts from down under.
You’ll find the Tasmanian Devil on the island of Tasmania, just off Australia. They’re a marsupial, like Koalas and Kangaroos.
They’re quite smallish, and grow to under a metre, but they’re stocky, thick creatures, with jet-black fur.
They have strong jaws and sharp teeth, they’re a scavenger, so they normally eat food that is already dead.
They’ve got devil in their name, because they can be extremely mean. They’re possessive, and if something gets between them and their family, or their food, they’ve got an awful temper. They fly into a rage, they snarl, they bite, they punch, they charge. They can be incredibly dangerous, for something so small, that’s how they got their infamous name. And it’s why the Tasmanian Devil is going straight onto our Dangerous Dan list.
It’s time to travel into space right now with a series that we’ll listen to for the next few weeks called Deep Space High. In every episode, you can hear from Professor Pulsar, who teaches at the Smartest school in the solar system. Now he’s looking down on Earth this week and letting us know how it’s made, why it looks like it does and why it does what it does. This time out, it’s all about structure. And he’s teaching us what our planet is made of.
Deep Space High Earth Watch: Structure
Sam: Why are we in a field with some sheep?
Pulsar: These are the Yorkshire Moors. God’s own country, Sam. No finer place in the universe, in my opinion.
Sam: If you say so.
Pulsar: If you want to learn about planets, the best place to start is with the one you’re standing on. We can check out what planets are made of by looking right under our feet. Any ideas?
Sam: Grass, mud…and sheep poo?
Pulsar: I was thinking a little bit further under than that. 60 kilometres thick, this crust. Bit more than you get on a loaf of bread. Some planets have thick crusts, others have thin ones. Where we hit the next level, things start getting interesting.
This is the mantle, nearly 3,000 kilometres thick, a big gloopy mass of molten rock. Where it pushes against the crust, you can get moving layers called tectonic plates. And where you have moving tectonic plates, up on the surface, you can get volcanoes.
That’s right. Now, I don’t suggest you get too near to an erupting one, but if you watch a video of a volcano erupting, that fiery molten rock has come from the mantle. It’s the insides of the planet.
Sam: That’s so cool. So all this stuff down here is lava?
Pulsar: Same stuff. Although we call it magma when it’s under the crust. Hold on. We’re getting near the core, made of iron and nickel. It’s a bubble in 5,000 degrees celsius.
Sam: So even on a wintery day, deep under our feet, it’s hot enough to melt rocks?
Pulsar: Exactly. We think all planets have a core. Again, some will be big, others much smaller. But probably all are made of similar stuff, we think.
Sam: But how do we know all of the planets are made out of the same stuff? They could be made of – I don’t know, jam or cats?
Pulsar: I agree that’s theoretically possible, but look at it this way. Thousands of meteorites have landed on Earth and none of them have had jam or cats in them. They’re mostly made of the exact same compounds inside the Earth.
Sam: Hey, you can see real meteorites in museums. Sometimes you can even hold them.
Pulsar: These days, you can even buy them for a few pounds.
Sam: Great idea for a birthday present. Hey, Pulsar, how do you organise a party in space? You plan it, get it?
Pulsar: This expedition is going to seem longer than the orbit of Jupiter if you keep telling jokes like that.
Dan: And that’s it for another brand new, fantastic Fun Kids Science Weekly thank you for listening. If there’s something sciencey that you would like answered on the show leave it as a review for us – Apple podcasts give us your name, give us five stars. There’s a comment box, write it there. I’ll see it and I’ll do all the digging for you.
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