It’s time for the Fun Kids Science Weekly, the weekly podcast that opens your minds to the most amazing things in the universe!
We want to hear YOUR Voices! Send in your science questions for Dan to answer, click here to record your own questions to be played on the show!
In this episode we’re wondering…would you drink sewage water?
In Science in the News we look at scientists making toilet water safe to drink and what singing whales mean for climate change.
We answer your questions on how do bubbles work and why don’t atoms touch?
And we are joined by Professor Hallux as we take a dive inside your mouth and we look at prosthetic blades with Techno Mum! In our Dangerous Dan this week its all about the Amazon’s deadly vampire fish!
Here’s The Episode Below:
Dan: Hello, ahoy, and welcome to a brand new episode of the Fun Kids Science Weekly. My name is Dan. Thank you so much for joining in as we journey around the universe searching out all the science secrets that are lurking around the solar system. Now, I can say our award entry for this year’s Greatest Podcast in the History of The Universe Award has been sent up. It’s on its way. I’ve not heard anything yet. I will update you as soon as I know whether we’ve been shortlisted or not. So keep your fingers, your tentacles or your horns crossed, if you can.
Now, this week, we’ll dive under the ocean. We’ll look at sea sponges. You see they’re strange. They’ve got no nerves, no muscles, no central nervous system, but somehow they can sneeze. You can find out why with the marine expert Niklas Kornder.
Niklas Kornder: Any freshwater or marine water body you have on this planet, you will find sponges. So they are incredibly successful at conquering habitats and they also are some of the oldest animals that we actually know and developed over 600 million years ago. So that’s quite old, preceding the dinosaurs and basically all multicellular animals that we know.
Dan: Also, we’re looking at the Summer of Sports this year with Techno Mum. We’ve been on this for a few weeks. We’re finding out how gadgets make sports better. Today, it’s all about Paralympians.
Sam: Those blades must be super strong. I mean, imagine if they snapped.
Techno Mum: Oh, they are. They’re often made of carbon fibre, which is light and tough. Over 80 layers of carbon fibre are glued together, then heated to bond them together. The exact length and shape and even the design depends on the athlete.
Sam: Isn’t carbon fibre kind of bad for the environment?
Dan: And I’ve got your questions, as always, this week, they are on atoms and bubbles. It’s all on the way in a brand new Fun Kids Science Weekly.
Science in The News: Avocados Growing in the UK, Drinking Recycled Toilet Water, and Tracking Whales in Scotland
Dan: Let’s kick things off with your Science in the News. Record breaking hot and dry weather in the UK this summer has meant more exotic plants have grown in the country. Gardeners have seen a rise of figs and avocados grow in this baking weather. Now, this is interesting, because the world getting hotter is not a good sign for the climate crisis. But a lot of people eat exotic foods, avocados, things like that. And the carbon footprint to move them all around the world is absolutely huge. So if they’re growing closer to where people are eating them, that’s a slight positive. With everything getting hotter, I think.
Also, people need to be less squeamish about drinking water taken from sewage plants. That’s what the Environment Agency in the UK has said, because they’re planning water recycling where they’re collecting sewage water, which is taken from toilet waste, they’re treating it and then they’re putting it into taps. Now, there has been a huge drought, so we need water, but is this really the best option? Do you want to take a nice refreshing drink of something that was once in your toilet?! I guess you have to trust the scientists don’t you and that they’ll make this old poo water safe to drink.
And finally this week, the sound of whales have been recorded off the coast of Scotland. For a whole year, for the very first time, underwater microphones were used off the Outer Hebrides, a group of islands at the top of Scotland, to listen to what they sing. More than twelve terabytes of data has been gathered from the mics that are placed around 100 metres deep. They’ve done this to track the effects of climate change, to see which species are moving around the sea as the different parts of the ocean gets hotter. And I always think that tracking the effects of climate change is a brilliant thing and to do it by listening to whale song is a very innovative idea. So I really like that.
Let’s check in with Professor Hallux, now. For the last few weeks we’ve been hearing his series all about your mouth. You see, Hallux is a genius about bodies. He knows what’s going wrong with your arms, your legs, your feet, your lungs, your heart, your ears, your eyes. This time out, it’s all about your gums. What’s going on? In his oral health help desk, this is the Digital Dental Depository. Now this week it’s all about which toothbrush is best.
Professor Hallux’s Dental Depository: What was the first type of toothbrush? Manual v Electronic, which type of toothbrush should I use?
Answering Your Questions: How are Bubbles Made? & Why do Atoms Never Touch Each Other?
Dan: Let’s get to your questions, then. If you’ve got something that you want answered, you need to let me know and I will do the digging for you. Tilly has done that. She is nine years old. She’s left this as a review on Apple podcasts, which you can do, too. She wants to know how bubbles are made. Tilly I guess you mean bubbles that you make in the bowl. Then you dip that little hoop on a stick in and then you blow it out and they float through the air, right. Well, it’s all to do with the soap, the very strong soap that’s in the water. It’s strong enough to wrap around a little pocket of air to stop those little pockets escaping to loads more of them. Now, it stretches all around it and it keeps that surface tension, it keeps it bound quite taut, which traps that air in. Then it rises and it floats through the air. But they can burst, don’t they? Well, they burst because soap is drawn towards soap. So that means bubbles in the air will try and merge together and when they touch, they pop. Also, when the water that’s making that bubble gets too hot. When it finally evaporates, the gas escapes. It’s not there and it pops Tilly, thank you for the question.
Ethan: Hi, I’m Ethan from Melbourne, Australia, and my question is, why do atoms never touch each other?
Dan: Lovely to hear from you down under. Thank you for taking the time to send in this question. Atoms can’t touch because the outer part of an atom is made of electrons. An electron is a tiny subatomic particle. They surround the atom and electrons work a bit like a magnet. They repel other electrons. So when two atoms get too close, they push and force each other away. They can meet and they create a bond, which is when two atoms join together to make something new. But they’re not properly touching. They’re kind of linking their webs together. They’re sharing electrons without properly touching, that’s why they can’t touch, because of electrons. Thank you for the question.
Interview with Niklas A. Kornder (Sneezing Sponges)
Dan: It’s the Fun Kids Science Weekly. Now, this week we’re looking at sponges, sponges under the sea, sponges who don’t have nerves, muscles or even a central nervous system. But it turns out, for some reason, they can sneeze. And we’ll find out why today with Niklas Kornder from the University of Amsterdam, who is good enough to join us. Niklas, thank you so much for being there.
Niklas: Thank you for having me, Dan. Great to be here.
Dan: Just first, take us under the ocean. What are these sponges and where might we find them?
Niklas: Well, basically, sea sponges are wherever you find water, so to say. Of course, you have some very extreme environments like hydrothermal vents where multicellular animals cannot survive. But any freshwater or marine water body you have on this planet, you will find sponges. So they are incredibly successful at conquering habitats and they also are some of the oldest animals that we actually know and developed over 600 million years ago. So that’s quite old, preceding the dinosaurs and basically all multicellular animals that we know.
Dan: So, without getting too deep into evolution, why have these sea sponges developed hundreds of millions of years ago? And then that’s all they do. They don’t have any muscles, they don’t have a central nervous system. Why do they just stay there? What’s the point in them, I guess?
Niklas: That’s a good question. Well, in nature, at least, as I understand, things that work out usually persist. And sponges are incredibly adaptive. They can survive in very low food environments, they can survive in waters that are incredibly murky, and they just have a very high tolerance against ecological stress. So from that perspective, why would they change, evolutionarily, if things just work the way they act with their very simply structured bodies.
Dan: Where do they fit into the animal kingdom, are they a fish? Are they some strange mammal or a crustacean?
Niklas: Well, sponges belong to the porifera, which are among the earliest animals in the whole animal kingdom. We have other very primitive organisms like jellyfish, corals, and there are some debates on who are the actual earliest and things that we call sister clades, where it’s not always sure how organisms diverged, especially when you go very much back in time.
Yeah, sponges are the earliest or among the earliest animals we know, and they’re their own group of animals, so to say. And all of them have a very simply shaped body in which water is moving. They have tiny little holes on the outside through which they suck in the water in which they live, and then it travels through the sponge body, passes specialised cells that can take up the nutrients and the energy from the water, and then the water exits the sponge through larger holes that we call oscula. And the whole research around what sponsors take up and what they release has always revolved around this water flow.
So that’s probably one of the reasons why we’re just now discovering that there’s also a flow of mucous. And when we looked at that closer, we realised that, as you mentioned, despite not having nerves or muscles, for some reason, they are actually able to produce mucus, move it on their surface and then eject it with a contraction in a very similar way than we humans do that.
Dan: So when we humans sneeze, it’s normally because something has irritated our airways or our nose, and it’s our way of getting it out. That’s what the mucus is, everything sticking to it. Why would this be the same or very similar, do you think, for a sea sponge?
Niklas: Essentially because the same thing is happening in the sponge body that we see in our bodies. What you said is exactly right. We produce mucus, which is a cost for us, but it’s beneficial because it lines our airways and it collects all of the particles that we breathe in like dust, and it transported this material upwards into our sinuses, where we can then eject it with a good old sneeze.
And a sponge, as I mentioned, has this unidirectional water flow where water comes in on the outside through tiny little holes, it travels through the sponge and then it exits it through larger holes. And what’s happening is that when the sponge sucks in the water, there’s stuff in it, there’s sediments, there’s other particles that the sponge body doesn’t want that would clog up the water channels inside. And in order to prevent that. And this is now our speculation. They essentially do a slow motion sneeze.
So we can observe that the mucus is coming out of these tiny little holes where water is going in. And we can observe how it aggregates into little clumps and we observe how the sponge then periodically contracts. Which removes these clumps from the surface where the water is going in. So we have a flow of mucus lining, not airways but waterways, in the sponge travelling against the direction of the water flow and this way moving out particles that would otherwise clog the system. And that’s the analogy to a human sneeze.
Dan: Niklas, if they have no muscles, how are they forcibly throwing this mucus out, do we know?
Niklas: Well, the sponge sneeze is not as forceful as a human sneeze. In fact it takes about 20 to 50 minutes according to our observations, for a sneeze to run through the sponge body or through parts of the sponge body. So what we see is a very slow contraction. And yes, the sponge doesn’t have muscles, but it has other ways to increase or decrease the volume of its individual cells. And if the volume of a bunch of cells together decreases, you essentially have a contraction. How this contraction is actually leading to the dislodging of these mucus clumps that build up on the surface that we don’t know yet. So that we would have to run other analysis.
Dan: Now in the mucus that we sneeze out, it might be pollen or dust that we’ve kind of sucked in accidentally. What’s making up the mucus that these sponges sneeze out in the sea?
Niklas: What we observed in it are things like limestone chips. So when you have a coral reef forming, the corals are essentially taking out minerals from the water and they’re precipitating it into crystallised form, which is the coral skeleton. And that happening a lot, essentially builds the entire reframework. Now you have things like fish, parrot fish and other like sea urchins, grazers that they go for the algae that grows on this reef bottom, on this crystallised bottom, but they also take up some of the actual pieces of rock and this then turned into sediments.
So this is basically how all the beaches in the world are formed. So you have a whole bunch of fish swimming above the reef and dropping sediments with their faeces. So these sediments would end up in the sponge body and it would be very difficult for the sponge to release them with the water flow because gravity puts them down. It would have to really pump hard in order to rid itself of these limestone chips and other sediments. And that’s why we think it has developed this other mechanism to remove them out in the other direction.
We also know that there are undigested parts of algae which belong to the diet of sponges. Some of the sponge cells, the specialised cells I mentioned that sponges have to take up nutrients from the water. They need to be replaced quite quickly actually. So the mucus also contains some of these older cells that have been rejuvenated and replaced with new cells that the sponge is now ejecting into the environment.
Dan: And there you go! That’s why sponges sort of do a very slow sneeze. Niklas Kornder, thank you so much for joining us.
Niklas: Thank you very much for having me.
Dangerous Dan: Candiru
Dan: It’s time for this week’s Dangerous Dan, where we look at the most mean and wicked things in the universe. This week we’re headed to the Amazon River in South America. It’s the home of the Candiru, otherwise known as the vampire fish. Now, it’s not a big creature, this fish. It grows to a couple of inches long. It looks sleek, a bit like an eel, but it’s a catfish. It’s a parasitic catfish and it feasts on blood. It lurks around the bottom of the riverbed, waiting for another fish to swim by, and then it will creep towards them and almost nestles amongst their gills. Those are the flappy bits on the side of their face that they breathe through. Now, when it’s in there snug and in position, it feasts. It’s a parasite, which means it lives off another creature.
So it sucks blood from the other fish to make itself strong. And when it’s eaten, sometimes it grows plump and bloated and gets stuffed chock full of blood. And it doesn’t just stick to other fish. The Candiru has been known to attack humans, to climb into bodies through cuts and other holes, to suck out all the human blood, too. And that is why this strange Candiru, the vampire fish of the Amazon, goes straight onto our Dangerous Dan list.
Techno Mum’s Sports Technology:
Dan: Let’s check in with Techno Mum now, she is our gadget genius. For the last few weeks, she’s been running us through the Summer of Sports, teaching us what’s happening with tech in games, how our gadgets improving the sports that maybe you’ve been watching over the last few weeks. Now, this week it’s all about paralympians and how they use running blades to push themselves along the track.
Dan: And that’s it for this week’s Fun Kids Science Weekly. If you’ve got something sciencey that you want answered on the show, leave it as a voicemail for me. You can star in our podcast on the free Fun Kids App or at funkidslive.com. Now, we’ve got loads of brilliant shows that you can hear. You’ve heard some today. We’ve got tonnes more on Apple, Google, Spotify. Wherever you hear your shows, they’re on that free Fun Kids App or at funkidslive.com too. And Fun Kids we are a children’s radio station. Listen to us all over the country on your dab digital radio and on the Fun Kids website. I’ll see you next week. Bye.Add a comment