Spy Balloons, Cost of Cancer Care, Seaweed, Chocolate Mouthfeel. Feb 17, 2023, Part 2
Manage episode 355731203 series 3381328
This month, the news cycle has been dominated by updates about suspicious objects being detected in the stratosphere. This bonanza started with a balloon from China, and escalated as four more objects—not all confirmed as balloons—have been shot down from the sky.
Although this might sound like a new problem, there are probably thousands of balloons floating above us—some for spying, others for exploring near space, or studying weather patterns.
Dr. David Stupples, professor of electronic and radio engineering and director of electronic warfare research at City University of London, joins Ira to talk about the science behind modern balloons: how they work, what they do, and just how common they are.
Low Income Patients Hit Hardest By Cancer Treatment Costs
Being told you have cancer is not only terrifying, it’s expensive. In the year following a diagnosis, the average cost of cancer treatment is about $42,000, according to the National Cancer Institute.
Some of the newer cutting-edge treatments may cost $1 million or more. While insurance may cover some or all of that cost, many people are uninsured or under-insured. And the bills add up. A quarter of patients with medical debt have declared bankruptcy or lost their home, according to an analysis conducted by KHN and NPR.
While there’s been remarkable progress in treating cancers in the past several decades, less attention has been paid to just how astronomical the price tags can be.
Researchers at Augusta University wanted to track the results of the financial burden after patients’ treatment was complete. They found that poorer patients were hit harder financially—which not only resulted in more bills, but also worse health outcomes.
Ira talks with Dr. Jorge Cortes, co-author of this study and director of the Georgia Cancer Center at Augusta University, about the importance of making cost part of the discussion in developing new cancer therapies.
The Unseen World Of Seaweeds
Chances are you don’t give much thought to seaweed unless you’re at the beach, or perhaps when you’re considering a dinner menu. But the thousands of seaweed species around the world are a key part of our coastal ecosystems.
Seaweeds photosynthesize, provide food and shelter for marine animals, stabilize the coastlines, and even contribute to making your ice cream creamier (through an ingredient called carrageenans, extracted from red seaweeds in the Rhodophyceae family). Increasingly, they’re also being investigated as a source of biofuels and as biological factories, due to their fast-growing nature.
Dr. John Bothwell, a phycologist at Durham University in the UK, has written a book in praise of seaweeds. In Seaweeds of the World: A Guide To Every Order, he highlights beautiful, unusual, and important species from each of the three seaweed lineages—green, red, and brown. In this segment, he talks with SciFri’s Charles Bergquist about some of his favorite species, where the seaweeds fit into the web of life, and the importance of seaweeds to the global ecosystem.
Why It Feels So Good To Eat Chocolate
When you eat a piece of good chocolate, chances are you don’t just bite down and chew away. There’s a good chance you hold the chocolate in your mouth for a moment, feeling the silkiness as it softens, melting into a molten mass and mixing with your saliva. That gradual phase change process—as fats in the chocolate melt from solid to liquid—is a big part of the chocolate mouthfeel experience.
Researchers at Leeds University in the UK have constructed an artificial tongue that doesn’t focus on the taste of a food, but rather its texture, and how that texture changes over time. Using the artificial tongue, they explored the textures of materials that can change phase in the mouth, such as chocolate, butter, and ice cream.
They reported their findings recently in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces. The researchers found that in dark chocolate, the sensation in the mouth is governed largely by the fat content, as the surface of the chocolate begins to soften. A few moments later, as the chocolate melts completely and mixes with saliva, the fat content of the treat is less important to the mouthfeel experience.
Dr. Anwesha Sarkar, an author of the report, joins Ira to talk about the research, the challenge of designing a lower-fat chocolate that might exploit these findings, and the importance of learning about textures to determine why people like—and don’t like—certain foods.
Transcripts for each segment will be available the week after the show airs on sciencefriday.com.