Why do we have WEIRD cravings?

It’s time for the Fun Kids Science Weekly, the weekly podcast that opens your minds to the most amazing things in the universe!

In this weeks Science Weekly we hear about a humungous hurricane season and why NASA are listening to Marsquakes.

We also answer the questions Why is Water See-through and Why do We Yawn?

In Dangerous Dan this week its about one of the fieriest and deadliest mushrooms around – he’s not a fungi!

We learn about broken bones with Professor Hallux and Nurse Nanobot and its all about earth fluids when we go OUT OF THIS WORLD with Deep Space High! 

MOBILE: Fun Kids Science Weekly

The science podcast for kids with Dan exploring the weirdest and coolest stuff in science!

Here’s the episode below:

Dan: Hello and welcome. It’s a brand new episode of the Fun Kids Science Weekly. My name is Dan. Thank you for being there. Now, whether you’ve meant to or not, somehow you’ve stumbled across the smartest show in the universe. If there is anything sciencey rattling around your brain, we will figure it out in this episode. I promise. This week, we’ll take a look inside your body, at your gut and why you have cravings by chatting to Dr. Brian Trevelline from a University in America.

Dr. Brian: There are literally microbes everywhere. All over us, all over our houses, our animals, our family, our friends. We are literally swimming in the sea of microbes. And those microbes are now just beginning to come into.

Dan: Also, we’ll head to the smartest school in the solar system, Deep Space High, to see how fluids affect the Earth.

Professor Pulsar: The Earth’s atmosphere, oceans and core are fluids. You’re breathing fluids as well as drinking them. The movement of fluids is responsible for all sorts of cool things on and around Earth.

Sam: Wow…the fluid’s getting quite strong now.

Dan: And I’ve got your questions to answer, as always. This week they are on water and eye rubbing. It’s all on the way in a brand new episode of your Fun Kids Science Weekly.

Science in the News: Very Active Hurricane Season, Birds Voting When to Fly, Monitoring for Marsquakes

Dan: Let’s crack on with this week’s science in the news. Scientists are predicting a very active Hurricane season. Now, weather patterns for the last couple of years have been influenced by a phenomenon called La Niña. This is when winter temperatures are warm in the south but cold in the north, which means winds move around the Earth at different speeds. And that can make more Hurricanes around pretty volatile places on this planet.

Also, experts have found that Jackdaw birds use voting to decide when to fly. Together, they found out that the birds call when one wants to leave. And then they’ll wait for another to join in. And another and another and another. If a loads of birds start squawking away, all the jackdaws take to the air, fly and leave the roost.

And finally, a seismometer on a probe in Mars will keep listening for Marsquakes. The other systems on this robot are being turned off. It’s losing power. It’s not getting enough from the sun. But this size monitor will still look out for Marsquakes to see what the planet feels like and how it works under the surface.

Professor Hallux’s Map of Medicine – Episode 17: Bones & X-Rays

Dan: Let’s catch up with Professor Hallux now, he’s been here for the last few weeks with his sidekick and Nurse Nanobot, taking us through his Map of Medicine series. Looking inside your body, looking at what goes wrong, why you get sick, and then who makes you better and what medicine they can use. This week, it’s all about bones and X rays. Have you ever wondered what happens if you break a bone while they’re looking today about how they’re fixed and the doctors that specialise in mending bones.

Professor Hallux: Oh, hello. Just writing some notes for my amazing map of medicine. It’s a mine of information about medical people and places. Just let me finish this little bit. Stethoscopes! I’ve broken my pencil. Nurse, have we got any more pencils?

Nurse: Stop your scribbling Prof, we’ve got a call!

Professor Hallux: Ready for action! Hallux’s happy health desk…

Patient: I fell off my bike and broke my arm and had to have an X-ray at the hospital. Will the X-ray give me superpowers like the Incredible Hulk? If so, well, because my little brother is annoying me quite a lot today.

Professor Hallux: Very sorry, but the short answer is no and the long answer is…noooooo. Having an X-ray does not turn you into the Incredible Hulk or Wonderpants Boy or any other imaginary superhero. Sorry about that, but radiologists and radiographers are the superheroes who give you the X-ray. And I’ve got some great info about them in the Map of Medicine. I’ll load it up whilst you tell us about the broken bones. Nurse. So best get cracking. Get it? Oh, never mind…

Nurse: That’s terrible! Broken bones are no laughing matter…

Professor Hallux: Whoops. With over 200 bones in your body, it’s not surprising that during your life, you might end up breaking a few. Breaks to bones are called fractures. And there are different types of fractures. Some are like this.

Nurse: This is where the fracture is clean or simple, with a break down the middle. These can be fixed up with casts and splints. Others are more like this. Compound fractures mean the bones are broken into little bits. These are a bit more complicated and you might need an operation to reset the bones, sometimes using metal pins and supports.

person holding white and black box

Professor Hallux: So you might not be a superhero, but you might be a bit more of a robot than when you started. And how can they tell what sort of break you have? X-rays, although they don’t make that sound. Just trying to jazz things up a bit there. X-rays are used to see exactly where the breaks are. Let’s find out more about these clever diagnostic radiologists in the Map of Medicine.

Right, so you’ve broken your arm and that means you’re going to need to go to hospital. I know a bit scary, but it’s either that or having a wobbly arm for the rest of your life. Fun, but could be a bit tricky. X-rays help doctors see precisely what’s broken.

To get an X-ray, you’ll be sent to the radiology department. That sounds like it should be full of radios, all playing cool tunes. But it isn’t. It’s just the name given to that part of the hospital. There will be a waiting area near to the rooms where the Xrays are taken, so you can have a sit down whilst you wait your turn, but hopefully not too long. And then you’ll go into one of the radiology suites. The radiologist will ask you to lie, stand or rest the part of the body that needs X-raying on a special surface. Sometimes the X-ray machine moves around so that it can be angled at the right part. It sounds like it needs oiling.

Now, whilst this all sounds a bit complicated, it only takes a few minutes. And although your broken arm might be hurting, the X-ray itself won’t hurt you at all. So how does it work? X-ray radiation can pass through the body, but not through bones or certain tissues. So by passing X-rays through your body and capturing them on a special film, the radiologist gets a black and white image of what’s inside. It’s like a photo of your insides.

Nurse: And once they know what the damage is, they and the doctors can work out the best way to fix it up. So here’s a good question for you, Prof. Why do the radiologists wear loads of protective equipment? What do they know that we don’t?

grayscale photo of man wearing goggles

Professor Hallux: If you have lots and lots of X-rays, it can damage some of the cells in your body. This is why the radiologists wear special protective clothing, like heavy aprons, which might look a bit weird or might leave the room briefly when the X-rays being taken. It’s because they’re there all day, whereas you’ll be in and out in no time. Talking of time, let’s have a quick, disgusting detail, nurse. It’s just time before we go.

Nurse: Splinting means strapping something straight and stiff to a broken bone. It’s a great way to fix simple fractures and a method that’s been used for thousands of years, even since the Stone Age. But thank goodness we live in modern times when more serious fractures can be put right with surgery. If you lived over 100 years ago, it would be a different matter. Open wounds caused by broken bones poking through the skin often got infected, leading to gangrene. And that means rotting flesh. And there was only one cure for gangrene and that was cutting off the broken limb altogether. If you were lucky, that would cure you. Not sure you’d feel very lucky, though.

Professor Hallux: Nasty. No need for any of that these days, thanks to those brilliant radiologists. Time for us to go. But before you join us again, why not explore Map of Medicine for yourself?

Answering Your Questions: Why is water see through? & Why do we rub our eyes when we’re tired and why do we yawn when we’re tired too?

Dan: Question time on the Science Weekly then, I love this part when I turn into like, a science Sherlock, a detective digging through books, digging through the Internet, answering your science questions. I love doing it. And I’d love to see yours as a review on Apple podcasts. That’s where you let me know what you want figured out. First off, this week, it’s from Ammer’s W, who wants to know why is water see through?

Well, a beam of light has all of the colours of the spectrum in it. A single beam of light from the sun has every single colour there is in it. Now, when we see something that has colour to it, maybe like a red jumper, for instance. It’s because all the electrons that are in the atom that make that jumper absorb all of the other colours that are in light and they reflect back the red light, which is why it looks red. Now, water is transparent because it’s colourless. So all of the colours in the light, when they hit the electrons in the atoms in water, they all bounce back. So that means we can see what’s through. Ammer’s W, thanks for the question.

bubbles going upwards on a body of water

Lastly, this week, it’s from Leo, who wants to know, why do we rub our eyes when we’re tired and why do we yawn when we’re tired too? Now, when you’re tired, exhausted, the muscles in the skin around the eyes get dehydrated. They lose water, which makes them kind of slack and kind of baggy so they can’t work properly. Now you rub your eyes to make them water a bit and that greases the muscles in the skin to help you use them. And you yawn because your lungs haven’t got enough oxygen in them. Maybe this is because you’re sat down in class, you’re in a funny kind of seat. Strange angle. Your lung can’t get all the oxygen and your breathing has become a bit slow. That’s why you’ll take a big lawn. It’s the same when you’re tired, just because you’re quite exhausted to breathe properly really, Leo, thank you for the question. If there’s something you would like answered on The Fun Kids Science Weekly next week, you need to leave it as a review for me over on Apple podcasts.

Interview with Dr. Brian Trevelline

Dan: It’s the Fun Kids Science Weekly. Now this week we are looking at your gut and why sometimes, and you know those times, you just crave certain foods and sometimes they’re a bit strange, it’s all to do with something called your microbiome. Dr. Brian Treviline is from the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania and joins us now. Brian, thank you for being there.

Dr. Brian: Thanks for having me!

Dan: No, please, just quickly, let’s start things off. Cover for us what the microbiome is?

Dr. Brian: Well, the microbiome is a complex community of many different microorganisms. And by microorganisms, I mean everything ranging from viruses to small eukaryotic cells called produce and even fungi and of course, bacteria, which we all know very well. Now, these microbes and these microorganisms in our gut, they do a lot of things that they need to do to survive, so they eat, they reproduce and they need nutrients to do that, and they get a lot of those nutrients from the food that we eat. And now we’re just beginning to understand that the byproducts that these microbes make while they’re eating could influence our mood, our behaviour and even our eating habits.

Dan: So, where’s this bacteria, this fungi, where is the microbiome living?

Dr. Brian: It’s mostly living in our digestive tract or the ones that could potentially control aspects of our eating behaviour, for instance. But there are literally microbes everywhere, all over us, all over our houses, our animals, our family, our friends, we are literally swimming in the sea of microbes. And those microbes are now just beginning to come into focus as important aspects of our daily lives.

Dan: So before we talk about how we get cravings and why that might happen, how much do we know about how the microbiome affects how we’re feeling, how happy we are or how sad we are?

white and blue round decor

Dr. Brian: We don’t know too much about that, at least not in humans. Trying to ascribe certain functions or roles of microbes in our daily lives is really actually very hard because like I said, it’s a new science, it’s a new field. And with any new field, there are always challenges.

That being said, there have been many animal studies that have shown that animals with certain microbes behave in certain ways and that’s sort of where we are in the whole field in general. And we’re just now starting to understand what the implications those might be for animal behaviour and animal life, but then also humans in our daily lives and social interactions.

Dan: So how might we have cravings then? Sometimes you wake up and you really want something salty or something fatty. What’s going on there with our gut, with all of these bacteria? Why might that happen?

Dr. Brian: Yeah, that’s a great question. And that’s been sort of an open question for a long time, is why do we get cravings? And there’s likely many reasons why we might get a craving. For instance, it might be something like, oh, I needed to eat more protein or more veggies and I haven’t done that in a while. And now I have this sort of deficiency and my body is trying to tell me you need to eat more of this to maintain what we call as scientist, homeostasis, or sort of natural day to day basic needs have been fulfilled.

Now with microbes, it can be a little bit more different. So remember how I mentioned that microbes in our gut, they make lots of different compounds and those compounds are recognised by the human body and indeed animal bodies as neurotransmitters, for instance, or these molecules that actually influence our brain chemistry. Or, it could, they make compounds that are nutrients that we would normally get from our diet. So, for instance, if you’re not eating your veggies and you have a microbe that is making those same compounds that your body recognises as veggies, then you may not get that craving in the same way.

Dan: But sometimes we get cravings for just like really strange things. I understand that maybe a microbiome wants to tell you you need more fruits, you need more vitamin C, more minerals. But why sometimes do you crave, I don’t know, like a pickled onion or something like that?

Dr. Brian: That’s a really good question. I think that these sorts of compounds that microbes make, it really just depends on what compounds they’re making. So, for instance, there is an amino acid that is very common in turkey. And if you’ve ever had a big turkey dinner, you know that it kind of makes you sleepy. I’m from the United States, so we have Thanksgiving, and it’s a big thing. And after you eat, you just sort of pass out on the couch and take a nice nap.

The reason why that happens is because turkey meat is very rich in a particular amino acid, and that amino acid goes to your brain and turns into melatonin, the hormone that actually lets you drift off to sleep and get a good night’s sleep. So it really depends on what the food is.

And so with those compounds that I’m talking about, they’re sometimes very specific to certain food types. So there’s certainly some, like you said, pickled onions. Maybe there’s a unique thing, unique microbe or unique compound in that that your body is recognising in some way? Again, this is all new science, and we’re really just beginning to understand it.

kid sitting beside round cake close-up photography

Dan: Does our brain know that? When your gut is saying, oh, maybe you need this bit of salt, then you can get it from this food? Does your brain know that’s what’s going on, do we think?

Dr. Brian: I don’t know necessarily that our brain knows that, but our body certainly does. The body has an amazing array of nutrient sensing mechanisms. And I’ll give you some examples. For instance, there are lots of different parts of the gut that can absorb certain nutrients. And once those nutrients get into circulation and they start going around your body and they make it to your liver and they make it to your kidneys and they make it to your brain.

That’s really where the regulation comes in, where some of these organ systems are just ready to receive those signals, and they transmit that information to actions. And they may not be conscious. We may not be thinking that we’re having a craving, but yet there’s something about that food on the table that looks really good. Right? And so there’s this weird interplay between our subconscious and our conscious and what’s going on in our gut and the nutritional state of us as a whole.

Dan: Now, some of the foods that we eat at the moment may be fast foods or quite heavily processed foods, like doughnuts, for instance, or pizza. And how much does this affect what our microbiome knows about what it wants? I guess, can it be a bit confused because there’s so many different chemicals going on with these foods that it doesn’t really know what it wants?

Dr. Brian: Yeah, I think that’s probably an accurate representation. I think that with heavily processed foods in particular, there’s lots of fats, lots of oils. And those fats and oils can affect the nutritional state of our bodies. For one thing is, the amount of fat that you have in your diet actually slows down how fast the food moves through your body. And so that can, in effect, in essence, that sort of change could actually increase the time that microbes have to interact with those compounds. And so it very well could influence the way that the microbiome could influence your behaviour just by virtue of what the chemical composition of that food happens to be.

But certainly there have been lots of studies in the microbiome, in particular with respect to fatty foods. And we know that the microbiome responds very quickly to changes in fat intake. So we know that fatty foods, processed foods, affect our microbiome. And now what we’re just trying to understand is how those changes in the microbiome can therefore influence our feeding behaviour.

Dan: Amazing, so much is going on that we don’t really know. And it’s amazing that it’s in us all the time. But listen, Dr. Brian Trevelline from the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania, thank you for joining us.

Dr. Brian: Thanks. Pleasure is all mine.

Dangerous Dan: Poison Fire Coral (Podostroma cornu-damae)

Dan: It’s time for this week’s Dangerous Dan, where we look at the most mean and deadly things in the world. This time out, it’s all about a mushroom, and it’s got one of the most amazing names I’ve ever heard in the wild. It’s called the Poison Fire Coral. Now, its science name is Podostroma cornu-damae. But to you and me, we’re mates. We can call it the Poison Fire Coral. You’ll find it in the east, across Korea, Japan, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Australia.

Now, it doesn’t look like any mushroom you’ll have seen before, I promise. It’s like a bright red stick sticking out of the ground, like something from the bottom of the sea, really. That’s why they call it the poison fire coral. It looks a little bit like a red hot chilli poking out of the ground. Now, there are hundreds of poisonous mushrooms.

Most of them are only toxic if you eat them. But for this one, you can’t even touch it. The poison can be absorbed through the skin. It makes your skin start to peel, you’ll lose your hair, you’ll start getting stomach aches, you’ll start to be sick. It even starts to shrink your brain. And then eventually it’s all over and you can even die. That’s why this amazingly named terror, the Poison Fire Coral from Asia, is going straight onto our Dangerous Dan list.

Deep Space High Earth Watch – Episode 7: Fluid Dynamics

Dan: We’re headed to Deep Space High right now, it’s the smartest school in the solar system. The best thing about being up at Deep Space High, it’s got this huge panoramic window which looks right down here onto planet Earth. Now, in this series, we’re watching Earth from afar, looking at different things on this planet and learning about how it’s made. This week, Professor Pulsar is here with Sam to teach us all about fluids, where we can find them and what they do on Earth.

Sam: On a lovely, calm day like today, it’s hard to think that the Earth is spinning at 1,000 miles an hour.

Professor Pulsar: You’re right there Sam. Planets are rarely calm. They’re full of masses of movement, most of which you lot don’t even notice. Have a really good look around. What movement can you see?

Sam: Well, I can see the waves and feel the wind. They both move, don’t they?

Professor Pulsar: That’s right. Funnily enough, both water and wind are types of fluid.

Sam: Hang on. That’s got to be wrong. A fluid is like something you drink.

Professor Pulsar: Nope. A fluid is anything that flows when it’s pushed. That means gases are fluids, too. The Earth’s atmosphere, oceans, and core are fluids. You’re breathing fluids as well as drinking them. The movement of fluids is responsible for all sorts of cool things on and around Earth.

Sam: Wow. The fluid is getting quite strong now.

Professor Pulsar: Oh, you’re not wrong. As well as movement up here, there’s plenty going on under our feet. Just look at these tectonic plates.

Sam: Well, they don’t look like they’re moving much. And they’re not fluids, aren’t they?

Professor Pulsar: No, they’re massive chunks of rock that make up the Earth’s surface. And yes, they are pretty slow. Only move about a centimetre a year. But that movement has created the continents we know today.

Sam: So what’s making them move?

Professor Pulsar: Have a guess. I’ll give you a clue. It’s something to do with fluids.

Sam: The waves in the ocean.

Professor Pulsar: Very good, Sam. I’m impressed. There are stacks of theories about what causes the continental drift and tidal forces are certainly part of it. There’s something else, too. It’s down in the mantle. The next layer on Earth.

Sam: Sure is hot here. All this magma flowing around right under our feet. So does this make the continents move?

Professor Pulsar: Yes. Although exactly how? It’s still something scientists argue about. And then right at the Earth’s core, there’s one more type of movement going on that has a very cool effect here in the core, the flow of liquid iron generates electric currents, which in turn creates magnetic fields.

Sam: Like magents? So magnets work because of the core spinning?

Professor Pulsar: Not just magnets like the ones on your fridge. The magnetic field around the Earth keeps us safe from some of the solar energy from the sun.

Sam: Just goes to show it doesn’t pay to stand still. It’s seriously hot down here. Let’s get moving ourselves

Professor Pulsar: For once I agree with you, come on!

Dan: That’s it for this week’s Fun Kids Science Weekly. Thank you so much for listening and being there. If there’s something sciencey that you want answered next week on the show, you’ve got to leave it as a review for me on Apple Podcasts. All right. It’s dead easy to find the show. Just give us a search. There’s a little comment box at the bottom. That’s where you leave your question. Five stars helps me see it and leave your name so I can say hello, while you’re on Apple, it’s a brilliant place that you can hear loads more podcasts that we do. You can also get them on Google, Spotify and on the free Fun Kids app and Fun Kids we are a children’s radio station from the UK – you can listen to us all around the country on your dab digital radio on that free Fun Kids app and at funkidslive.com.

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