096: Greta Thunberg Brings the Heat!

On This Week’s Show

  • Good news for those who like to sleep
  • Good news for those who like to eat
  • Good news for those who like to shit
  • Good news for those who like to brush their teeth
  • The Climate Lounge: Greta Thunberg Drops the Mic
  • Pub Quiz

Science News with Chris MacAlister and JD Goodwin

Rocking puts adults to sleep faster and makes slumber deeper

JD Goodwin

This is one of those findings in research that may seem obvious, but so often what appears to be obvious just ain’t so. This study seems to confirm…the obvious.

I’m talking about sleep. Sweet sleep.

This study from the 4 February issue of Current Biology confirms that being rocked to sleep, even for adults, seems to do the trick.

According to Aurore Perrault of the University of Geneva a rocking bed could provide a benefit to people suffering from sleeping disorders, as well as older people.

This wasn’t a huge study, so the results should be considered preliminary. The subjects were 18 men and women with an average age of 23.

The test subjects spent three nights sawing logs in the lab.

Their rocking beds were suspended from each corner and were pushed 10 cm back and forth every 4 seconds. The subjects reported that it was a pleasant sensation.

As a result they fell asleep faster and reported sleeping better. Tests indicate they spent more time in deep sleep and didn’t wake up as often during the night.

This sounds like my kind of lab test!

Okay, they did have to memorize word pairs before going off to dreamland. Not surprisingly, they did better in memory tests in the morning after their rocking slumbers.

Like I mentioned, this is an early study. Aurore Perrault said that their next step is to do these sleeping tests over a longer period of time.

Science News, New Scientist, Science,

Finally a genetic link to weight loss?

Chris MacAlister

So we’re waving bye-bye to January, the most depressing day of the year (Blue Monday) has already been and gone, and it probably wasn’t made any better if you still haven’t managed to shake those extra pounds that are still hanging around from the festive season.

If this sounds familiar then I may have a bit of reassurance for you. It’s not your fault. Well, stuffing your face like an aspiring diabetic over Christmas was, but your struggle to lose that weight is not.

A large, joint study of some 14,000 people in the UK has found that there are numerous genetic factors that appear to have a high correlation to whether people are overweight or underweight (but in a healthy way, so we’re not talking eating disorders).

This study adds to the growing weight of evidence that it’s our genes, and not just our behaviour, that decide our weight.

This would go a long way to explain why some people can eat whatever they like without gaining any weight. It would also explain middle aged spread when you consider that different genes often get activated at different times of life.

But aside from taking some guilt away, there are more practical outcomes from this study. Once we start to understand the physical processes at play here, this then opens the possibilities for new treatments.

Science Daily

Fecal Transplants Benefit From Super Donors

JD Goodwin

Over the past couple of years we’ve covered several stories on fecal transplants.

But…in case you missed those stories, let me give you a review on what a fecal transplant is. Don’t want anyone falling behind.

In particular, persons who are infected with Clostridium difficile can be helped, sometimes dramatically by a fecal transplant. Often, people get infected with C. diff when they’ve been taking antibiotics. The antibiotics can do their work, but often leave a person’s intestinal flora devastated. C. diff can then proliferate and the patient can wind up with some awful intestinal distress that can be maddeningly persistent.

However, for some other types of gut infections the results have been inconclusive.

In a new review published in Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Biology researchers taken a new look at this therapy and found something quite interesting.


It seems that some people’s poop have a high success rate in helping restore normal function for people with ailments like inflammatory bowel disease.

And as we’ve learned over the years our digestive systems is not only for digesting food. We’re discovering more and more that our digestive system affects, and even moderate other things like our immune systems.

“The last two decades have seen a growing list of medical conditions associated with changes in the microbiome — bacteria, viruses and fungi, especially in the gut,” says senior author Dr Justin O’Sullivan of the University of Auckland.

According to senior author Dr Justin O’Sullivan of the University of Auckland, “We know already that changes to the gut microbiome can contribute to disease, based on studies in germ-free mice as well as clinical improvement in human patients following restoration of the gut microbiome by transplanting stool from a healthy donor.”

The typical success rate for recurrent diarrheal infections is over 90% with fecal transplants, but for things like inflammatory bowel disease the results are closer to 20%.

But that’s with average donors.

Super donors have been shown to have double that success rate.

O’Sullivan and his team reviewed fecal transplantation trials for clues to the origin of super-donors, or more specifically, why they are super donors.

In particular, super donor stool tends to have high levels of  ‘keystone species’. These are bacteria which produce chemicals whose lack in the host gut contributes to disease.

Also, the balance of other species seems to have an effect the retention of keystone species.

Ultimately, O’Sullivan and colleagues acknowledge that super-donors may not fully account for successful fecal transplantation.

Dietary intake, viruses, and the disposition of the subject’s immune system likely all play a role in the success of fecal transplants.

Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology, Science Blog

Gum disease–causing bacteria could spur Alzheimer’s

Chris MacAlister

I’m going to head right back to guilt again now because, for me, there is no health care professional who inspires a greater sense of guilt than the dentist. Sitting in that chair to the repeating chorus of “You should be flossing more!”

Well, now they could be about to get even worse!

Whilst poor oral health has long been associated with Alzheimer’s disease, it’s been hard to work out whether this cause or effect. After all, I don’t have Alzheimer’s and even I forget to floss every once in a while.

Now whilst I have heard of the gum disease gingivitis, it was only when researching this story that I heard about the bacteria that causes it, Porphyromonas gingivalis.

This story is that the evidence is now shifting towards poor oral health being a cause now that gingivalis has been discovered in the brains of deceased Alzheimer’s sufferers. Some argue that the characteristic plaques that form in brains during Alzheimer’s are signs of an immune response to an bacterial infection in the brain.

Whilst people are sceptical that this is the sole factor that contributes to Alzheimer’s it is becoming increasing accepted that the disease does have a microbial element.

So just be warned that dentists will now have another thing to make you feel awful about. After all, I don’t have Alzheimer’s and even I forget to floss every once in a while.

Science, Science Advances

The Climate Lounge

Greta Thunberg Brings the Heat!

Tom Di Liberto

I love kids. I have two of ‘em. And most people after meeting me say that I have the humor of one.

One of the greatest things about kids is that they don’t take shit from anyone and they say what’s on their mind. In the US, it’s kids leading a massive movement for gun control Marching For Our Lives. Globally, it’s a youth movement to force action on climate change. And in my house, it’s a courageous stand against the tyranny of using the potty

I could talk about any of these burgeoning movements (and I will in the future) but for this Climate Lounge I want to talk about the bravest, and most badass woman who is crushing things recently. Sixteen year old Swede Greta Thunberg. Greta became world famous after going on strike in her native Sweden every day during school hours, standing on the steps to Parliament demanding the government take radical action to deal with climate change. And forgive me for a second for saying radical because for the youth of this world, there is nothing radical about it since it’s that climate changed world they are inheriting. Radical is sensible.

Since then she’s been everywhere (but not by plane as she refuses to fly). She’s given TED talks, and has been to the major climate conferences. And She calls bullshit OUT!

She called out the common argument in Sweden that says “listen guys, everyone here agrees that climate change is a big problem which is why it’s not a political issue”.  

She literally explained how Sweden is no role model, “When you think about ‘the future’ today, you don’t think beyond the year 2050. By then I will, in the best case, not even have lived half my life. What happens next?”

“The year 2078 I will celebrate my 75th anniversary. If I have children and grandchildren they may want to celebrate that day with me. Maybe I will tell them about you? How do you want to be remembered?”


Fast forward to the meetings of the global elites, err, i mean egotistical billionaires, err I mean World Economic Forum. This is a place where 1,500 planes flew to Davos, Switzerland so a bunch of super-rich can talk about, among other things, how to deal with climate change. Sigh.

Greta was in attendance and gave, according to CNN, an impromptu speech during a lunch panel that included Bono and Will.I.AM, for some Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, former Goldman Sachs head Gary Cohn, and numerous other bankers, investors, and grossly rich people. And she brought pure FIRE.  

I quote: “Some people say that the climate crisis is something that we will have created, but that is not true, because if everyone is guilty then no one is to blame. And someone is to blame,” Thunberg said “Some people, some companies, some decision-makers in particular, have known exactly what priceless values they have been sacrificing to continue making unimaginable amounts of money. And I think many of you here today belong to that group of people.”

She said this TO THEIR FACES. At the same time in Brussels 35,000 students marched for climate, in no small part due to Greta’s example.

The next day she participated in a formal panel on climate disruption and continued to drop truth bombs. I really have nothing to add to what she already said so let me end by simply repeating the end to her speech.

“We must change almost everything in our current societies. The bigger your carbon footprint, the bigger your moral duty. The bigger your platform, the bigger your responsibility.

“Adults keep saying ‘We owe it to the young people to give them hope.’ But I don’t what your hope. I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.”

“I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if your house in on fire. Because it is”

The Guardian  CNN  New Yorker

Pub Quiz

The latest science news in quiz form. Can you beat the Blue Streak team?

In Closing

That concludes this episode of the Blue Streak Science Podcast.

If you have any suggestions or comments email us at podcast@bluestreakscience.com

You can subscribe to our show on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and any number of podcast directories.

If you have an iOS device like an iPhone or an iPad you can get the Blue Streak Science app from the App Store.

This show is produced by the Blue Streak Science team, and edited by Pro Podcast Solutions.

Our hosts today were Chris MacAlister and Tom Di Liberto.

I’m JD Goodwin.  

Thank you for joining us.

And remember…follow the science!

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