Tiny Matters

Tiny Matters

Tiny Matters is a science podcast about the little things that make the big things in our world—both good and bad—possible. Every other Wednesday, join hosts Sam Jones and Deboki Chakravarti as they answer questions like, 'what is a memory?', 'is sugar actually addictive?' and 'what happened to Zika virus?'

Episodes

March 22, 2023 28 min

For millennia, humans have looked to the sea to find medicine. Today, medical treatments that come from the ocean have been clinically approved for pain, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease, and over a dozen more are in clinical trials. In this episode of Tiny Matters, Sam and Deboki are tackling marine natural products—things like proteins, fats, and other molecules that aquatic organisms produce—that humans are hoping to...

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If you’ve been watching HBO’s The Last of Us, you might have some questions about fungus zombies and maybe fungi in general. In this bonus episode, Sam calls up field mycologist Giuliana Furci for a little fungi 101 and to talk fungi fact vs. fiction in the show. We promise there will be no jump scares!

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Around 400 million tons of plastic are produced annually, which is the estimated weight of all of humanity! Plastic-covered beaches and litter on the side of the road is gross and depressing, but it turns out that stuff is just the visible tip of the iceberg. Plastic breaks down into tiny, tiny pieces that have now been found in almost every ecosystem on the planet—from the bottom of the ocean to mountain ranges in Eur...

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In this episode of Tiny Matters, Sam and Deboki go on a detection dog deep dive. These are dogs who can sniff out basically anything, from explosives to invasive pythons to diseases like cancer and COVID-19. How are they trained? Are certain breeds better at recognizing certain odors? And, come to think of it, how do any of us smell things? Links to the Tiny Show & Tell stories: https://www.washingtonpost.com/science/...

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Maybe you know Hank Green from Vlogbrothers or CrashCourse. Maybe he taught you something on TikTok. Maybe you’ve read one of his books. Or maybe you know him from about a dozen other things. Hank does a lot, so Sam and Deboki were psyched to get a chance to chat with him. Even more about Hank at https://hankgreen.com/ 

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February 8, 2023 27 min

For centuries, scientists have looked through microscopes to witness the worlds of tiny creatures and cells that exist all around us. In this episode, Sam and Deboki learn what it takes to hunt down a rare microbe and why it matters for how we understand evolution and the connections between species today. Links to the Tiny Show & Tell stories: https://defector.com/an-oral-history-of-the-time-six-do...

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Over the last year we've talked about the microbiome, the evolution of lactose intolerance, why we've only eradicated one infectious disease, if sugar is actually addictive, vampire science, and so, so much more. There are lots of tiny things out there that have a big impact. So what do YOU want to hear about? What science questions are on your mind? Let us know! tinymatters@acs.org 

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Today, we're taking a look back at a handful of our favorite episode moments from the first year of Tiny Matters. Want to tell us your favorite? Have suggestions for topics for 2023? Email us! tinymatters@acs.org. Here's the article in The Conversation that Deboki mentions: https://theconversation.com/what-causes-asthma-clues-from-londons-great-smog-with-implications-for-air-pollution-today-62468 

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In the final episode of Tiny Matters for 2022, Sam and Deboki chat with Latif Nasser about his experience as the co-host and director of research at Radiolab, his love of science history and telling surprising stories about everyday things, and much, much more. 

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The Ig Nobel Prize celebrates discoveries and inventions that are unusual and imaginative. Think of it as the younger, more fun sibling of the revered Nobel Prize. Ig Nobel Prize winners are often recognized for research that might not make it into a more traditional science journal—one that doesn’t publish studies about levitating frogs or constipated scorpions. You’re in for a fun one. Links to the...

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November 30, 2022 27 min

The ‘microbiome’ is very trendy right now. Maybe you’ve seen supplements marketed on social media or on store shelves that supposedly “support a healthy gut microbiome.” But what exactly is a microbiome? What does it have to do with your health? And is your gut microbiome actually connected to your brain?! Links to the Tiny Show & Tell stories: https://www.pop...

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Sam and Deboki went on vacations to Greece and Norway and (not so shockingly) found science along the way. Get ready to hear all about the northern lights, ancient skull surgery, lava bombs, and more!

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What is aging, exactly? Is it days on a calendar? The number of wrinkle lines on your forehead? And what causes aging? In this episode of Tiny Matters, Sam and Deboki tackle those questions plus if any of those ‘fountain of youth’ products on your newsfeed will actually keep you from aging, and if there will ever be a day...

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Halloween is right around the corner, and what’s Halloween without the undead?! In this episode, Sam and Deboki cover the mythology surrounding vampires and the possible scientific and medical connections to that mythology. Plus: how you could use chemistry to survive a zombie apocalypse. Check out Monstrum: Dracula, the first modern vampire

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Sam was an avid eater of greasy, cheesy pizza until her early 20s. Now, dairy has her running to the bathroom (tmi). Why is that the case for so many people all over the world? This week’s episode covers what causes lactose intolerance, why it’s not the same thing as a dairy allergy, and what might have caused a rapid shift in humans’ ability to digest lactose. Links to the Tiny Show & Tell stories: ...

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A recent study looking at sleeping spiders left Sam and Deboki with a lot of questions, namely, “Do spiders dream? And why do we humans dream?” In this episode of Tiny Matters, you’ll hear all about dreaming and its connection to sleep, and learn what big questions the field is still trying to answer. Links to the Tiny Show & Tell stories: https://www.science.org/content/article/world-s-oldest-amput...

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September 7, 2022 26 min

When you wash your dishes, take a shower, or flush a toilet you send a bunch of waste into your local sewer. But wastewater isn’t just filled with things like food scraps, soap, and feces—it also contains microbes, like viruses. During the pandemic, scientists realized how powerful a tool wastewater is for tracking many diseases, including COVID-19. Links to the Tiny Show & Tell stories: https://www...

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August 24, 2022 46 min

Sam and Deboki chat with astrophysicist and folklorist Moiya McTier about her new book, The Milky Way: An Autobiography of Our Galaxy. It’s a fascinating read about our galaxy’s past and future, what scientists have uncovered about it, and what people have been inspired to create by studying it. Pick up a copy online or on...

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Regeneration is a hot topic in the sciences, and for good reason. We humans are not known for being great at regenerating, but if we could understand how other organisms do it so easily we might be able to heal a spinal cord injury or damaged organs and limbs. Or we could even slow the aging process and not suffer from diseases like Alzheimer’s. Links to the Tiny Show & Tell stories: https://www.qua...

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Humans have been finding ways of preserving food for thousands of years—long before the invention of silica gel packs that absorb moisture or chemicals that keep away bacteria and mold. This week’s Tiny Matters is about the evolution of food preservation and the regulations that came about to keep us safe from the more dangerous food additives we came up with (ahem, arsenic candy). Links to the Tiny ...

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