Tiny Matters

Tiny Matters

From molecules to microbes, Tiny Matters is a science podcast about the little things that have a big impact on our world. Every other Wednesday, join hosts and former scientists Sam Jones and Deboki Chakravarti as they answer questions like, 'what is a memory?', 'is sugar actually addictive?' and 'are we alone in the universe?'


May 15, 2024 31 mins

A week ago, the Metropolitan Museum of Art held its 2024 Met Gala — a yearly event to raise money for the Costume Institute. The gala also marks the opening of the Costume Institute's annual show, which this year is called "Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion." The idea behind this exhibit is to showcase pieces from the museum's collection that are too delicate to show on mannequins. Instead, the exhibit will...

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Every year, tuberculosis claims over a million lives despite being curable. Tuberculosis or TB is an infectious disease caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis. About 5–10% of people infected with TB will eventually get symptoms. In the early stages a TB infection might cause chest pain, a cough, night sweats, and loss of appetite. But eventually it could create holes in the lungs and cause you to cough up blood. And of course, TB can...

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Deboki and Sam put out a survey last month asking Tiny Matters listeners for feedback and were overwhelmed by the number of people who asked for more Tiny Matters episodes! At Tiny Matters, we like to give the people what they want, so we're going to begin releasing bonus episodes soon. But to do that, we need your help.

If you're a regular Tiny Matters listener you are well aware of something called the Tiny Sh...

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At the beginning of the 1900s, New York City was in turmoil. Prohibition loomed, outbreaks of typhoid and an influenza pandemic had people on edge, and the city was steeped in corruption. One of the many consequences of that corruption was a completely inept coroners office.

Instead of having trained medical examiners work out the causes of sudden and suspicious deaths, New York City coroners were politically appointed. A...

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On July 25th, 1978, in the northwest of England, a baby was born. On its surface, that’s not a big statement — babies are born every single day. But this birth attracted media attention from around the world. The baby’s name was Louise Brown, and she was the first baby born from in vitro fertilization, or IVF.

In this episode of Tiny Matters, Sam and Deboki answer a question that came from a listener who asked, “How on ear...

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Tiny Matters listeners are THE BEST and we want to bring you more of what you like! Head to bit.ly/tinypodsurvey to give us feedback and help us make Tiny Matters even better. 

The survey should take no more than 5-10 minutes to fill out. Your motivation? Filling out the survey will enter you into a Tiny Matters mug raffle! 

Thank you in advance <air hug>

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This week, Sam and Deboki are joined by Trace Dominguez and Julian Huguet, the hosts of That’s Absurd Please Elaborate, a podcast where they do serious research to answer silly questions like, "What if the world had more sheep than people?" and "What would happen if you filled a volcano with concrete?"

In this episode of Tiny Matters, Trace and Julian answer the question, "Who invented the lawn?&qu...

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Although we look very different from many of the other creatures on this planet, we’re more connected than you might think. Our evolutionary history means we share many of the same genes and physiology, and that’s not just cool to think about — it’s useful. Because it means that, to learn about the things we lack or wish we could do better, we can study the exceptional abilities of other animals.

In today's episode, S...

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It's happening again! A Tiny Matters Q&A and mug giveaway! Sam and Deboki answer listener questions about science, like, ‘Is it true that when we think of a memory we are actually remembering the last time we thought of the memory?,’ ‘Why do differently colored cats have such differing personalities,’ and ‘What is quantum entanglement?,’ plus questions about methanol poisoning, sea foam, science podcasting, and what Sam an...

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Love is everywhere: In friendships, in romance, in the songs we listen to, books we read, and movies we see. So whether you love love, hate love, or are somewhere in between, you’re still hearing about it all the time. And that means you’ve probably learned about a molecule called oxytocin, aka the ‘love hormone’ or ‘love drug.’

Oxytocin was at first considered a hormone strictly for childbirth and nursing. But, starting a...

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In the winter of 1829, Dutch-Belgian anthropologist Philippe-Charles Schmerling discovered a fossil in a cave in Engis, Belgium — what looked like the partial skull of a small child. Schmerling is often called the father of paleontology, but even he had no idea what he had stumbled upon. Decades later, as other similar fossils came to light, the significance of Schmerling’s finding became clear: it was the skull of a child Neandert...

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Last fall Sam and Deboki did a Q&A/mug giveaway episode and it was a hit. Round 2 it is! Anyone living within the U.S. is eligible.

Entering the raffle is easy. Just send your question(s) to tinymatters@acs.org.

Questions can be about a previous episode, some science thing you're dying to know the answer to, a question about podcasting, a question about science communication (scicomm) more broadly ... the sky’s th...

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Today, Sam and Deboki are taking a look back at a handful of their favorite episode moments from the second year of Tiny Matters. And it just so happens to also be episode 50! Asteroid updates, atom-sized transistors, a world without photosynthesis, and more!

Have suggestions for topics for 2024? Email us! tinymatters@acs.org. Pick up a Tiny Matters mug here! All Tiny Matters transcripts are available here.

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A warning to listeners — this episode contains sensitive material surrounding homicide and assault.

On November 29th, 2012, a group of men broke into the Silicon Valley mansion of 66 year old investor Raveesh Kumra. The men attacked and tied up both Raveesh and his ex-wife who was living there, and then ransacked the home for cash and jewelry. By the time the paramedics arrived, Raveesh — who had also been gagged with tape...

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The FDA drug approval process is known to be a lengthy and rigorous one. But the FDA-approved ingredient phenylephrine — found in common cold medicines like Sudafed, Mucinex, and NyQuil — was recently found to be no better than a placebo. Phenylephrine has been on store shelves for nearly 90 years. How could that happen?

In this episode of Tiny Matters, Sam and Deboki are joined by none other than Deboki's dad, Deb Ch...

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In 2021, 80,411 people in the United States died of an overdose involving opioids, making up 75% of all drug overdose deaths that year. That’s also 10 times as many opioid overdose deaths as in 1999. How did we get here?

In this episode, Sam and Deboki trace the origins of opioids, from opium and morphine to fentanyl, and scrutinize the significant role pharmaceutical companies played in kick starting the opioid crisis in ...

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We often hear that dogs help lower our blood pressure, decrease our allergy risk, and even alert us to disease. But is there science behind those claims? In this episode of Tiny Matters, Sam and Deboki unpack some dog domestication history and fascinating research with Jen Golbeck and Stacey Colino, authors of the new book, The Purest Bond: Understanding the Human-Canine Connection. Links to the Tiny Show & Tell stories are her...

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Happy spooky season, Tiny Matters listeners! In today’s episode, Sam and Deboki tackle two Halloween themed topics: The Salem witch trials and mummies. 

In 1692 and 1693 a series of hearings and trials took place in Salem, Massachusetts, leading to 19 people being executed, marking the last executions for witchcraft in the United States. Sam and Deboki speak with a researcher who has spent over a decade piecing together wh...

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A couple weeks ago, NASA did something they’d never done before: they collected material from an asteroid and brought it back to Earth. These samples — harvested as part of the OSIRIS-REx mission — could tell us more about our planet's beginnings and even reveal information about the origins of life.

But collecting samples from space doesn't come without risk. In this episode, we delve into the heated debates am...

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Why do we need an influenza vaccine every year when there are many vaccines we only need to get once every few decades? In this episode, Deboki and Sam kick things off by covering the different strains of influenza that are most likely to cause, or already caused, pandemics. They also chat with experts about the new, more deadly strain of avian influenza — H5N1 — that has been making its rounds in the United States since January 20...

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