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 weeks episode we find out how some coral has been able to regrow, some evil seagulls terrorising a town and the discovery of the biggest collection of bird fossils!
Author and scientist Nicola Morgan tells us all about your brilliant brain and how we can take care of it, and we answer your science questions, this week its on your voice box.
As always, Techno Mum and Professor Hallux join us, this week they chat sports complexes and whats going on inside your mouth!
Here’s the episode below:
Dan: Ahoy, hello and welcome to a brand new episode of the Fun Kids Science Weekly. My name is Dan, thank you for being there. You’ve stumbled across the smartest show in the history of the solar system. Look at you. Well done. This is where we unpack all the science secrets that are lurking around the universe. And this week, we will look inside your brain chatting to the brilliant scientist Nicola Morgan, all about why our minds are amazing.
Nicola Morgan: And that is the thing. The lump of matter, it’s not even flesh inside your head, which is responsible for everything that you do, every physical action. So from the tiniest movement of your little finger when you’re doing something very intricate, to…
Dan: And we’ll catch up with Techno Mum about how sports stadiums are changing into the future.
Techno Mum: Online gaming again? That reminds me of something that’s going to change the way we attend sporting events.
Sam: What, video games?
Techno Mum: No, the internet. Or rather the internet of things.
Dan: And I’ve got your questions, as always. This week, they are on voice boxes and viruses. It’s all on the way in a brand new Fun Kids Science Weekly.
Science in the News: Coral Regrown in Record Levels, Annoying Somerset Seagulls, and 55 Million-Year-Old Fossils Given to National Museums Scotland
Dan: Let’s start with this week’s Science in the News. Some good news and bad news. To start, coral has regrown in record levels down under in the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. The north and central bits of the reef have the highest amount of coral there’s been for 40 years. But the amount of coral in the south part is going down because of storms, bleaching and overfishing. So there’s good news, but still some bad news. A way to go for the ocean.
People in a coastal town in Somerset in the UK say they are being driven around the bend by seagulls. Locals say that they can’t use their gardens because the birds dive bomb them, looking for food first thing in the morning. They also squawk very early and the flat roofs are the perfect breeding spots there for the gulls, which is drawing lots of them in to keep annoying people.
And finally, more than 700 bird fossils from 55 million years ago have been given to the National Museums Scotland. The collection is believed to include many species new to science, with one being like a falcon, another being like a diver, too. It shows the early evolution of modern birds. And now experts are going to pour over them to find something new.
Professor Hallux’s Dental Depository:
Professor Hallux is finding out about teeth and how they work in this podcast series!
Answering Your Questions: How does your voice box make a sound? & What do viruses eat?
Dan: Let’s get to your questions, then. And I’ve got a very special announcement, brilliant news about how you can star in the Science Weekly in the future. And get your questions on the podcast. First up this week from Ezra in Bedfordshire, who sent this in as a review over on Apple podcasts. They want to know, how does your voice box make a sound?
Well, it works a little bit like a guitar string. You know that when you pluck it and it wobbles and vibrates, that vibrations move the air, which makes a noise. Your voice box is very similar. It’s made of cartilage, which are small bands of tissues. They’re clumped together, they run up and down your throat and you can make them longer or shorter. Now, when you push air through it, up from your lungs, it makes the bands vibrate like a guitar string that moves the air and that makes the sound. If you tighten the cartilage, if you pull it, it will make a higher pitch noise. If you make it longer and slacker, you get a deeper noise. That’s how your voice box works, Ezra.
Also this week from Rowan in Scotland, who wants to know, what do viruses eat? Well, viruses work by being a parasite, really. When you get infected by a virus, it goes straight for cells. It wants to hurt your cells and it feeds off it too.
Now, there’s something called ATP, adenosine triphosphate. It’s a compound that gives your cell’s energy to grow, to double, to multiply and to move. And what happens when the virus gets stuck onto those cells? They use that energy, they use that ATP to make themselves grow. So it’s a parasite they are feeding off the organism, off the cell that they’re attaching themselves to. Rowan, thank you for the question.
Now, if you’ve got a question that you’d like to send in to get answered on the show, here is something very exciting, a way that you can star in this podcast. You can get your own voice played. All you need to is find this page on there. Find the Fun Kids Science Weekly. Then you scroll down and you’ll see a little microphone. That is where you ask your question. So you record it as a voice message on your phone. Use your mum or dads, whatever it is, and ask your question. Say your name, say how old you are, where you live, and then ask me your question. Send it over to this podcast page at funkidslive.com so I can find it, I can do the digging and answer and you might be the star of this part of the show next week, it’s funkidslive.com.
Interview with Nicola Morgan, Author of Ten Ways To Build a Brilliant Brain
Dan: It’s the Fun Kids Science Weekly. This week, we are having a look at perhaps the most important thing in the world. What’s going on inside your head. There’s a brand new book out. It’s called Ten Ways to Build a Brilliant Brain. It’s been written by Nicola Morgan, who joins us now. Nicola, thank you for being there.
Nicola: Hello, thank you very much for having me.
Dan: So all we really know about the brain is what it looks like, it seems like a grey, squidgy, wet mess. How important is the brain for us? I know that sounds very obvious, but really, what’s going on?
Nicola: You’re right, it is a grey, soft, squidgy mess and also very vulnerable. If we didn’t have our skull to protect it, it would really be very vulnerable. And when I do a talk in school, I always start off by, well, firstly I warn them that I’m about to do this, but then I show them an actual photo of a brain that’s just come out of a skull, which is not something you normally see.
Normally we see more diagrammatic pictures and then I say, look at that, talk about how wet it is. And that is the thing, the lump of matter, it’s not even flesh inside your head, which is responsible for everything that you do, every physical action. So from the tiniest movement of your little finger when you’re doing something very intricate to running, and all of the physical skills you have.
But also every mental activity. Everything you know. Everything that’s happened to you. Every memory. But also every mental skill. Your ability to add numbers together and read all of those things. And your ability to have your emotions and your thoughts and your dreams and your hopes and you’re looking ahead at the future and looking back at the past. All of that happens in that squidgy soft mess of matter in your head. And that just blows my mind.
Dan: So what’s actually going on in your brain as much as we know? So when I’m thinking something, like you said, if I wanted to lift my little finger, what’s going on in that grey squidgy mass up there?
Nicola: Electricity, in a word. So, electrical reactions are going on, messages are being passed super fast through vast networks of links between your brain cells. But those links, those networks, you’ve created them all. So when you’re a baby, when you’re born, when you’re newborn, you have basically almost all of the neurons that you’re ever going to have. In fact, in some ways you have more than you’re going to have later on, but they’re not, or most of them are not connected up.
So a newborn baby can’t do very much. And it’s really interesting if any listeners have got a baby brother or sister or if they know any family that’s got a small baby, get to know that baby and watch them learning. So as they try to do things, they are physically growing those connections in their brain. So every time we try to do things, every time we have a thought about something, every time we mentally revisit a memory of something we did, we’re using the connections that we’ve already made by doing that thing before and every time we do it we’re making those connections, those pathways and networks stronger and more efficient. Which is why people say practise makes perfect. It doesn’t usually make perfect, if only but practise hugely makes us get better at things, that’s all that makes us get better at things. There’s no magic wand.
So all the time in our brain we’re doing stuff. We’re never not doing something in our brain, even when we’re asleep, our brain is working and what it’s doing is building connections and filtering memories and establishing longer memories and having ideas and having thoughts and putting them all together.
Dan: How come we don’t get tired by that then? So if I’m running, running, running, my legs they’ll get exhausted. If I’m thinking all day what’s happening in my brain that’s keeping it going?
Nicola: Yeah, well, we do get tired and our brain uses an enormous amount of energy our brain actually uses for the size that it is as a proportion of our body, it uses more energy, more fuel, in other words, more food than any other equivalent sized part of the body. So our brain does get very tired and if we didn’t sleep then that would be a huge problem.
While we sleep, as I said, our brain is still being active, but it’s being active in different ways. There are parts of our brain that have effectively switched off and are properly resting and during sleep. Our brain. Some cells in our brain, called glial cells, do a very important job of cleaning everything up. Removing debris. Getting rid of old cells. Getting rid of broken connections. So things that we were struggling with during the day and that we were getting wrong. Maybe then the glial cells will clean that up during the night. And there are various other chemical things going on in our brains and our bodies while we sleep, which allow us then to wake up in the morning refreshed and ready to do another day of loads and loads of activity.
But also I would say that you get more tired if you carry on doing the same thing over and over again. It’s good to break it up. So if you’ve been doing some work at the screen, it’s good to break that up then with going and doing something else, going and kicking a ball around or chatting with your friends or something. So varying the activities also helps us not get tired. So one part of our brain can be having a rest while another part of our brain is working.
Dan: I often think about where we imagine things, like the cinema screen in our head, because if you close your eyes and try and remember something that’s happened, it’s not really happening on a big screen, it’s happening everywhere. What’s happening there, Nicola? With our ability to make pictures in our brain, where is it happening?
Nicola: Well, some people find that a lot harder than others. Some people say the first thing to say, actually, is that we can’t really tell very clearly what’s in somebody else’s mind, we can only know what’s in our own mind and we can look at some physical things that go on on brain scanning machines, but that still doesn’t really tell us what’s happening in someone’s mind. But some people say that they can’t do that thing that you’ve just said of visualising, that they can’t pull up mental pictures.
But when we do do that, we’re using various parts of our brain, including our visual centres. We couldn’t pull up in our minds a visual picture of something that we’ve seen or that we’ve experienced if we weren’t using the visual centres of our mind. So that’s happening. But then when we’re doing anything, we’re almost never using only one part of the brain, we’ll be using other parts as well.
So, in that scenario that you’ve just described, we’re probably also using a part of the brain called the prefrontal cortex, which is terrifically important in humans. It allows us to do a whole load of the activities that we believe are mostly or completely only human things. And one of those things is imagining and visualising. So those are at least two parts of the brain that we would be using when we’re doing that activity.
Dan: Now, in the new book, It’s Ten Ways To Build A Brilliant Brain, it covers ten different things that happen in your head and around your body with what helps out up there. So let’s just cover, I guess, diet for now. We’re hearing a lot more at the moment about what we eat and how that really affects the way we think about things. Can you just tell us more about what goes into our gut?
Nicola: Yes. So I think the most important thing to remember about that, and when I say the most important thing, I’m always thinking, oh, but there are lots of important things, how am I going to pick the most important one? I think the most important thing is not to try to focus on any one type of food, because you’ll read lots of things to say, for example, blueberries or nuts do amazing jobs with helping your brain work well. And those two things are probably, yes, very good for your brain, and they probably do have a good effect. But if you then think, oh, well, I just need to fill my stomach with blueberries and nuts and I’m going to have a brilliant brain, that’s not going to work.
What we need to have most of all is the most varied, widest type of diet possible. That’s the only effective way of getting all of the nutrients that we need to feed our brain. But our brain also needs energy, and energy comes from calories. So again, we can’t expect our brains to work very well if we just eat celery or cucumber, which they’re very good for you, but they don’t have a lot of calories, so we have to fuel our brain. Our brain needs energy, but it also needs lots of nutrients to not just learn and remember and concentrate.
Remember, concentration is really important for learning, and we can’t concentrate very well if we haven’t had the right kind of food inside us. But we also need to make sure that we’ve got enough water, we need to have enough protein, because our brains are also made of protein. And so we’ve got to repair the cells throughout our body and in our blood and everything.
So we need to make sure that we have enough. So don’t starve yourself, don’t restrict your food when you’re wanting your brain to work well and have enough of a variety so that we can make sure that we get all of the nutrients that we need.
Dan: That’s just one little snippet of what’s in the book. It’s called Ten Ways to Build a Brilliant Brain. Nicola Morgan, thank you so much for joining us.
Nicola:Thank you very much. And may your brains all become more brilliant!
Dangerous Dan:Reticulated Python
Dan: For this week’s Dangerous Dan, where we speak about the most mean, cruel and deadly things in the world. Let’s have a look at the longest snake in the world. The Reticulated python makes its home around Asia, through Indonesia and down to the Philippines. They can grow to a whopping ten metres long. Now, they’re quite slender, too, and they’re pretty much made of muscle, because when they grip, when it constricts, they grip, they constrict and they don’t let go.
Now, they look stunning. They are green brown with black and yellow diamonds all over normally. And they’re incredible climbers. They race up and down trees, squeezing themselves around branches and getting ready to attack. Now, the way that they climb and get higher is amazing. They hold onto one branch and then they kind of launch themselves upwards. They throw their neck through the sky to wrap around another branch. Higher up, they’re kind of fishing up the tree.
Now, normally, they eat monkeys and apes, they try to stay away from humans. But like so many dangerous creatures we’ve heard about here, if you get too close, if they feel frightened, they will leap out and they’ll wrap around anyone. They will squeeze and they will squeeze. And with the world’s longest snake, they’ve got quite a lot of body to squeeze with. Which is why the Reticulated Python goes straight onto our Dangerous Dan list.
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