It’s time for the Fun Kids Science Weekly, the weekly podcast that opens your minds to the most amazing things in the universe!
It’s been hidden in plain sight for 100 years, but what could this discovery be?
We hear from Connie Gray, Young Scientist of the Year who conducted research on bird feathers…
And staying on the bird theme in Dangerous Dan, we hear about a common UK bird gone rogue internationally.
We answer your questions, this week its on why does hair turn grey?
And we hear from our friend Professor Hallux about the bugs hiding in your mouth, and Techno Mum who is taking on the Techno Triva quiz, this week its all on Cost!
Here’s the episode below:
Dan: Hello. It’s lovely to see you there. Welcome along. It’s a brand new episode of the Fun Kids Science Weekly. My name is Dan. Thank you so much for listening, for following, for telling everyone you know about about the smartest show in the history of podcasting. And podcasts have been around since the dawn of time. I’m fairly certain the Tyrannosaurus Rex used to listen to one to get off to sleep at night.
Now, this week, we’re catching up with the world’s most brilliant tech genius Techno Mum. And she’s hosting a quiz show this week, learning about the most amazing new discoveries around. This week, it’s all about cost.
Host: Today’s category is…Cost!
Your time starts now. Your first question why is cost important in technology?
Techno Mum: Well, how much things cost is important to pretty much everyone. If you get pocket money, you’ll be used to thinking about cost. Things like…
Dan: Also, you can hear from the young Scientist of the year, who has been looking at why birds have different feathers.
Connie Gray: It looks like barbed wire sort of and don’t really know why. There’s no explanation out there. But it was really cool. A lot of my science teachers freaked out about it.
Dan: And I’ve got your questions to answer. As always. This week, they are on hair and birds. And why can some of them not fly? Interesting. We’ll find out more with our guest this week. It’s a brand new episode of the Fun Kids Science Weekly.
Science in the News: World’s largest species of lily discovered (Victoria Boliviana), Virgin Orbit to fly from Britain, Using hair to clean up oil
Dan: We’ll start things off with this week’s Science in the News. A giant new species of lily has been discovered. You know lily pads on the lake? It’s one of those, it’s been hiding in plain sight for 177 years. It’s a huge plant that has been floating on the water in Kew Gardens, which is in London.
Experts thought it was the same as a lot of other water lilies, but they’ve discovered that actually, it’s something completely new. They didn’t know about it. It’s a species that science has just discovered. It’s been named Victoria Boliviana, after Bolivia, where the water lily grows in the wild. Now it’s a world record holder, too. It’s the largest lily with leaves growing more than three metres wide.
Also Virgin Orbit, which is a spacecraft that puts normal people into orbit. It’s coming to the UK. The mission has had four successful flights and they’re looking to move it to Britain and fly people into space this September from Cornwall.
And staying in the UK, this is amazing. A hairdresser from Wales is using human hair to fight oil spills. You know when you go to get your hair cut and all of it goes on the floor when you get a trim? Well, one hairdresser is using that hair, that used hair, to make nets and mats to soak up oil that is spilled into oceans. Otherwise that oil could be hugely damaging to the local ecosystem.
Professor Hallux’s Dental Depository – Why do we have bacteria in our mouths and what type of bacteria live there?
Dan: It’s time to catch up with Professor Hallux, then. He’s one of our favourite geniuses on the show. He knows everything about your body, what’s going on inside it, and the different bacteria that are trying to get in and make you sick. Now, in this series, he’s looking inside your mouth. It’s his dental depository. It’s an oral help desk, if you like, figuring out everything that’s going on between your teeth, around your gums, under your tongue and around your lips. This week, he’s figuring out what’s going on with all the different bugs and bacteria that lives inside your mouth.
Narrator: Great Uncle Halitosis, dentist extraordinaire. On the occasion of his 100th birthday, Professor Hallux is creating a popup digital dental depository, an oral health help desk. He’s going to see how many questions all about teeth he can answer against the clock.
Professor Hallux: Give us a hand, will you, Nanobot? The turbine needs winding. Here you go. You can ask the questions today. They’re all about the bugs in our mouths.
Nurse: Bugs in our mouths? What on earth do you mean by bugs?
Professor Hallux: What I mean by bugs is microorganisms such as bacteria, tiny living things which make a home in all sorts of places on earth. And that includes mouths. Bacteria collect everywhere in the mouth, and not just on the teeth and gums. They often cover parts of the cheeks and the back of the throat. They can also live in between all the bumps and ridges found on the tongue.
Nurse: Mmm, not keen on that. So bacteria, horrible germs which make us sick. True or false?
Professor Hallux: False. Most bacteria are harmless and many are even helpful to us. Only a small proportion of bacteria make us poorly. There are typically over 70 different types of bacteria in the mouth. Most of them occur naturally, doing you no harm at all. There are, however, some bacteria that can damage our teeth and gums and cause problems like bad breath.
Nurse: You’re doing great. Next up, how do these bugs cause damage?
Professor Hallux: It’s all because of plaque, a plaque attack. If you don’t brush your teeth, millions of bacteria can collect in a sticky substance called plaque. That’s the yellow coating you sometimes see on your teeth. If you run your tongue around your teeth before you brush your teeth, you might be able to feel it.
Some bacteria love to digest the sugar in our mouth. As they eat, they increase in number and produce acids that break down the surface of your teeth. If not removed, plaque can completely destroy the outside of the tooth and expose the nerves inside. And that’s tooth ache.
The more plaque you have, the more of these harmful substances are in contact with your teeth and gums.
Nurse: Oh. Better hurry. What’s the best way to see off plaque attack and keep the harmful bugs at bay?
Professor Hallux: Proper brushing, flossing and using antibacterial mouthwashes can reduce the number of bacteria that build up in specific areas between the teeth and along the gum line. They’ll reduce the plaque and help keep your teeth and gums safe and strong.
Nurse: And finally, for a bonus point, what about tongue brush?
Professor Hallux: Well, as we’ve seen, bacteria are all over our mouths and there’s no point just focusing on getting rid of those on our teeth and gums. Using a tongue brush helps remove those lurking in the ridges on your tongue.
Nurse: That’s correct. And time’s up. Brilliant, professor. Very respectable score there. And lots of data for our digital dental depository.
Answering your questions: Why does hair turn grey? & Why can some birds not fly?
Dan: Let’s get to your questions, then. If you’ve got anything sciencey that you want answered on the show, let me do all the work, let me do the digging, let me learn all about it, so I can tell you in a nice, easy, understandable way. All you need to do is get to Apple podcasts, find the Fun Kids Science Weekly on there. There’s a little comment box where you leave a review. That’s where you chuck your question.
First up this week, it’s from Ella in London, who wants to know, why does hair turn grey? Now, what gives our hair colour, Ella, are things called pigment cells. You’ve got pigment cells all over your body. They’re always to do with colour. Now, in those pigment cells is something called melanin. That’s really important. We’ll come to that in a second.
Now, in your DNA, which is all the information and the data that makes you who you are, there’s stuff in there about how tall you are, what sports you’re good at, and also whether you’ve got brown hair, blonde hair, red hair, black hair, that DNA tells those pigment cells to fire off melanin.
Now, the more melanin you have, the darker your hair gets. And what happens as you get older or if you get very stressed, you stop making melanin, so your hair gets clearer and greyer and then whiter, and that’s why your hair goes grey, Ella, because of melanin. Thank you for the question.
Also this week is from Marley and Mozambique. Marley, I love the questions that you’re always sending to me on Apple podcasts. Thank you so much. This one’s really interesting because our guest a bit later on the show, the Young Scientist of the Year, she will tell us more. Marley wants to know, why can some birds not fly? It’s all to do with evolution.
They don’t really need to fly. If you look at a penguin where they live on the South Pole, there aren’t really any predators around that want to eat them, so they don’t need to fly to get away. Now, what they do need is thick, blubbery fat to keep them warm and it helps them dive down into the ocean to get food. Now, with all of that, with all that thick fat on them, their wings aren’t strong enough to get them off the ground, so that’s why they can’t fly.
Also, there are creatures like emus and ostriches, which can’t fly either because they’ve got strong muscles and thick bones, they need to fight off other animals. Their small wings are just too weak to get them into the sky either. What’s quite interesting is that many of these birds could fly way back, but evolution over thousands and millions of years has made them lose that ability because they didn’t need it.
Thank you for the question as always, Marley. We’ll cover more about why some birds can’t fly a little later on the show. And if you’ve got any questions, anything sciencey to you at all that you want answered right here, leave it as a review for the Fun Kids Science Weekly on Apple podcasts.
Interview with Connie Gray (UK Young Scientist of the Year)
Dan: It’s the Fun Kids Science Weekly this week, very excited. We are chatting to the UK Young Scientist of the Year. Their name is Connie Gray and they’ve been looking at why some birds can’t fly. Connie, thank you for being there.
Connie: Thank you for having me.
Dan: So just tell us, Connie, why did you start looking at this? What inspired you to look at birds and why some can’t fly?
Connie: So I started looking at bed feathers of my own pet budgie, looking at all the feathers that he shed and wondered if I could do an experiment.
Dan: And there was something about you reading, like, one of the most famous science books ever by Charles Darwin on the Origin Of Species. How did you get your hands on that?
Connie: My dad likes to look around, like, antique shops and things like that, and he saw it. He was like Connie would like this. It’s very old. It’s like 100 odd years old.
Dan: How much of it did you read? Because it’s quite an impressive weighty book, right?
Connie: Yeah. It’s not really something like a novel that you read through. I just sort of read the sections that interested me.
Dan: So you saw your budgie, whose wings were dropping and you wanted to do an experiment. What did you do?
Connie: So I looked at feathers and different types of birds under different microscopes and compared the structures of them. So I looked at pigeon, budgie, peacock, a few others I can’t remember now. I was starting to collect more and more.
Dan: Strange question, how do you get your hands on feathers?
Connie: A lot of my friends and family know about it, so they’ll see a feather on the floor and they’re like, ‘Oooh Connie will like this,’ and I get handed them. One example is I was out camping with Scouts and I found a feather on the floor. So I just tried to identify what it was and it added to the collection.
Dan: So, away from the experiment that you did quickly, why birds for you, Connie, what amazes you about birds and their wings? Why do you have the collection?
Connie: I’m interested in biology and I want to be a vet in conservation when I’m older. So I just thought it would be a fitting subject to try and research.
Dan: So, you’re there, you’ve got the wings of the pigeon and the magpie and your budgie. What have you learned when you’re looking through the microscope?
Connie: So I learned that the structure of the bird’s feathers changes based on where they’ve evolved from. So the pigeons is more like tightly close together and the budgies is more spread apart so the air can flow through. So the budgies use evolved in warmer climates in the pigeon, colder.
Dan: And has this been discovered before?
Connie: I don’t think it’s really been researched before, but, yeah, it’s sort of based on Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, based around it.
Dan: So some birds can’t fly because they’ve got gaps to let the air through because they grow up in a hot climate?
Connie: No, they still can fly, but it’s just because it’s a hotter climate, the gaps are in there to allow them to breathe, just like how we wear, like, shorts and t-shirts in the summer and big coats in the winter.
Dan: Amazing. I’m so fascinated to find this out. And you’ve won this prize, the UK Young Scientist of the Year with the Big Bang competition that we’ve talked about on the show before. What does it mean to you? You want to be a vet in conservation. How will this help you get there, Connie?
Connie: I think it will just help a lot with future careers, like when I can put it on a CV and it’s like, oh, you’ve got this award out of when you are this young. So I just think I’ve got so many more years until I do go to university. There are so many more things I can collect and just add to my knowledge.
Dan: So you’ve been looking at bird’s wings. What’s your next big experiment, do you think?
Connie: Well, it’s not really over, to be honest. I’ve still started collecting a lot more senses and things like that. So, yes, when I get the equipment back that I need to, like a scanning electron microscope it’s called, I’m just going to continue the research, see if I can build a database.
Dan: And lastly, of all the feathers that you’ve looked at through your magnifying glass, the microscope, was there one that as soon as you saw it, just blew your mind? It was so completely different to anything that you were expecting.
Connie: I think the one that did was a seagull feather. So really up close, the seagull feather, it looks like barb wire, short of I don’t really know why there’s no explanation out there, but it was really cool. A lot of my science teachers freaked out about it.
Dan: Amazing. Well, I’m so pleased that you’ve joined us from the science lab. You’re in school right now. It’s been a real, real treat. Connie Gray, the UK Young Scientist of the Year. Thank you for joining us.
Connie: Thank you for having me as well.
Dangerous Dan: Australian Magpie
Dan: It’s a bit of a bird special this week because for Dangerous Dan, where we look at the most mean and wild things in the world. We’re learning about one of the most deadly birds on the planet. Now, in the UK, where I am, magpies are regular birds, really, kind of annoying, usually steel food that you might leave out for other birds. But if you travel to the other side of the world, they’re incredibly dangerous.
They’re a medium sized bird. You find the Australian magpie in Australia and New Guinea. They’re quite thick, they’ve got black and white feathers, gold brown eyes and a blue white tail. The thing is, even though they’re called magpies, they’re different birds to the ones we have in the UK. Now they make beautiful noises and calls, which are one of the best, most loud in amongst all the Australian songbirds. They normally eat slugs and the worms, and that’s not the problem.
The issue comes when they have young magpies to protect. When they’ve got babies, they enter into what’s called the swooping season, where to protect a nest, they fly high and they swoop down on someone nearby. They really come at speed. They get their thick, sharp talons out and they go for it. They show no mercy. To protect their family, they dive down through the air and they attack, ready to strike and scrape. And they’re incredibly dangerous. They’re very mean and deadly, which is why the Australian magpie goes straight onto our Dangerous Dan list.
Techno Mum Tech Trivia: Cost
Dan: It’s time to catch up with the world’s smartest technological genius, Techno Mum. She’s back on the show for another series. It’s her Tech Trivia. She is hosting a brand new game show, testing her knowledge about some of the most brilliant new discoveries that have been found. This week, it’s all about cost.
Host: Welcome back to Tech Trivia, the game shows that tests the technical talents of our tremendous contestants. And playing this week is Techno Mum.
Techno Mum: Good to be back, I’m raring to go!
Host: Now, you got a record score last time. Let’s see if you can top that today. So come on and spin the wheel. Today’s category is…Cost!
Your time starts now! Your first question, why is cost important in technology?
Techno Mum: Well, how much things cost is important to pretty much everyone. If you get pocket money, you’ll be used to thinking about cost. Things like, have I got enough pennies? Is what I want cheaper in a different shop. The point is, making things uses resources that’s, well, stuff and stuff costs…you got it, money. And the more it costs to make, the higher the prices will be in the shop.
And when you’re shopping and there are two similar items, chances are you’ll go for the cheaper one. So if you’re making a new product, you need to make sure the price isn’t going to put people off. But you also need to remember that products have a job to do. Scrimp on your materials and it could all go wrong if your product breaks. Cost can be a problem if you only want to make a small amount of anything, or if you want to make each one unique.
Whilst you can buy a poster of your favourite footballer or a pop star fairly cheaply, they print large batches out at any one time. If you wanted someone to paint you a portrait, well, that’s going to take longer and cost a lot more. And this causes a lot of headaches for people who make prototypes.
Prototypes are like the first samples of a new product. They’re normally completely unique and that means more costly. But without prototypes, you may find that products aren’t made at all.
Host: Budget busting answers there. Techno mum. Okay, next question. Name a cool innovation that’s helped engineers keep costs down?
Techno Mum: Oh, yes, the 3D printer. These can help make one off unique items extremely cheaply. And you don’t need a lab. You can even get them for your home. It’s a way of making three dimensional objects from a digital computer file. Layers of a special plastic are laid down to create the object. They’re now being used in medicine and space exploration.
Host: Last question. Name a cool career that’s all about cost?
Techno Mum: Oh, gosh. Well, what about a materials engineer? They check out different materials to see how well they’ll do the job. And the coolest thing of all is that they might even invent something totally new. Materials engineers are super important in getting the best, most cost effective materials for new inventions.
Host: I have to stop you there. Priceless performance. You’re through to the next round Techno Mum!
Techno Mum: Great. Although I think I need to spend a penny now.
Dan: And that is it for this week’s Fun Kids Science Weekly. Thank you so much for listening to the show and for following us on your favourite podcast platform. You can get this on the free FunKids Out, by the way. And at funkidslive.com we’re also on Apple, Google, Spotify. If you’re on there, you’ll find loads more of the brilliant podcast series that we do about every amazing topic to blow your mind. Now, if you’ve got a question, best place to leave it is in the review section for our show on Apple podcasts. Leave us five stars so I can see it, your name as well, so I can say hello. I might see it by next week and give you a shout out on the show. In the meantime, you can listen to Fun Kids, we are a children’s radio station in the UK. You can find us all around the country on your digital radio and over at funkidslive.com.Add a comment