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Each week, Charlie and James read the research papers behind headline science news and give you the details you can't get in the stories.

Each week, Charlie and James read the research papers behind headline science news and give you the details you can't get in the stories.
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Each week, Charlie and James read the research papers behind headline science news and give you the details you can't get in the stories.




Why does pain hurt?

When you touch a hot stove, you reflexively pull your hand away in an instant. If you get burned (and you're like us), you'll grunt and whine about the pain for hours. Both of these are "painful," but why do they feel so different? It turns out there there are entirely different neurons dedicated to each feeling, and that means it might be possible to turn off certain pains. James brings in a paper that does testing on mutant rats to get to the bottom of the question: why is pain, well,...


Is Titan's organic atmosphere coming from inside?

Titan is the only moon in the solar system that has an atmosphere, and its origin is still a hotly studied mystery. However, ESA's Rosetta mission that landed on Comet 67P made some startling discoveries that made scientists rethink how Titan could be generating its nitrogen-rich atmosphere. In this episode of Paper Boys, Charlie dives into the journal paper behind these new revelations and goes off on science headlines that conjour up the imagery of "cooked organics." Read the paper and...


How did tardigrades become immortal?

It seems every few months, a news article pops up talking about the indestructible Tardigrade - otherwise known as the "water bear" or "moss piglet." These resilient little animals can survive radiation in space, freezing for 30 years, and completely drying out their bodies. So how exactly are they able to do this? James brings in a recent paper diving into the details of Tardigrades' little survival hacks. Read the paper and news articles here.


Are female brains really "more youthful?"

Some clues have indicated that female brains may stave off aging better than male brains, such as better cognitive ability later in life and longer life expectancies. However, the reason behind these observations remains a mystery. Scientists at the Washington University in St. Louis have applied machine learning to uncover yet another clue in the slowly developing picture of sex difference in the brain - that male brains appear older than their female counterparts of the same physical age....


Can you understand talking brain waves?

Brain-computer interfaces promise to change everything about our lives in the future, but are still in their early infancy technology-wise. However, you may be closer than you think to being able to talk without moving your mouth at all...James brings in a paper on converting brain waves to speech, and tests Charlie on his robot-listening comprehension while he's at it. Read the paper, listen to the music, and test yourself here.


How did the Curiosity rover weigh a mountain on Mars?

The Curiosity rover on Mars has some pretty amazing experiments aboard, but curiously enough never had a gravimeter, a device used for measuring the gravitational pull of buried rocks. So how then did scientists manage to weigh a mountain on Mars using years-old data taken by Curiosity? Charlie brings in a paper that reads like a data analysis version of a MacGyver episode. Read the paper and news stories here.


How can 3D printed filters improve chemotherapy?

Even though it's our best way of fighting cancer today, chemotherapy can be extremely damaging to the human body. The drugs spread through your entire bloodstream just to target one small tumor. Scientists may have cracked this problem though by inventing a tiny filter injected into your veins. James brings in a paper detailing this amazing breakthrough. Read the paper and news articles here.


Why is the giant ice disk in Maine spinning?

There's a giant ice disk hanging out in the Presumpscot River in Westbrook, Maine that's garnered international attention, and rightfully so - it's an extremely rare phenomenon and this is one of the biggest ever recorded. Crazily, the ice disk is spinning completely on its own. Charlie brings in a paper that discovered just how ice disks like this can spontaneously rotate - and let's just say it's cooler than being cool. Read the paper and see the drone video here.


Can an LED control your nervous system?

Optogenetics is a breakthrough technology that you may not have heard of. So what exactly is it and how might it change our future? James brings in a paper about rat incontinence that could spell great advances for future humans. Read the paper and news articles here.


Did Leonardo da Vinci have strabismus?

When you look at Da Vinci's art, it's not hard to see why he's hailed as a genius. But he may have had a little trick up his sleeve that helped him see the world a little differently than most people, in the form of an eye disorder shared by Picasso, Rembrandt, and even Ryan Gosling. Charlie brings in a paper that tries to determine if Da Vinci had a condition known as strabismus. Read the paper and news articles here.


How often did humans breed with Neanderthals?

It's long been known that many modern humans have around 2% Neanderthal in their DNA. However, scientists don't have an exact answer for how it got there. James brings in a paper that gets closer to an answer by suggesting our ancestors got it on with Neanderthals more often than we thought. Read the paper and news articles here.


Does negative mass explain dark matter?

Cosmologists claim that all the matter we can see in the universe really only accounts for 5% of everything that's out there - the other 95% is so-called "dark matter" and "dark energy." Figuring out exactly what these are has puzzled scientists for decades, and troubling results have popped up time after time. Now, an Oxford physicist claims one theory could end up resolving all the missing pieces in cosmology. Charlie brings in a paper that could change physics just by changing the sign....


How does an "ion plane" actually fly?

Airplanes are responsible for 10% of the carbon footprint of the US. Recently the news reported on a new "ion plane" that could revolutionize the industry...but can it actually? James brings in a paper from MIT researchers detailing their new propulsion system and we get to the bottom of the real science. Read the paper here.


Did climate change cause the "Great Dying?"

The worst mass extinction in known history happened 250 million years ago, wiping out an astonishing 96% of all marine life. Scientists have offered many theories on how this could have happened, from meteors to volcanoes--but a research team may have finally cracked the code, and it doesn't bode well for our own future. Charlie brings in a paper that takes a grim dive into the world's most lethal time period. Read the paper and news articles here.


Could you prove you're human in one word?

Hypothetical scenario: you and a robot are before a judge who cannot see you. You each must pick one word from the english dictionary to give to the judge. Based on these two words, the judge will decide who is human, and who is the robot. The catch--the one deemed a robot is executed. What one word do you choose? James brings in a fascinating paper on the Turing Test (a famous computer science thought experiment) and a completely new paradigm for thinking of artificial intelligence. Read...


How hard was the InSight Mars landing?

It seems everyone and their mother watched the InSight lander touching down on Mars this past monday, and it was impossible to turn on the TV without hearing that the landing phase is a big challenge. But while the news did a good job telling us that it's a daunting problem, they didn't impress just how hard it was to actually solve. Charlie brings in a conference paper by the NASA engineers who made the Mars magic happen. Read the paper, check the news, and play the videogame here.


Is paralysis a thing of the past?

Most paralysis patients are told that if they can't regain the ability to walk in 6 months they will never walk again. Then how did three research teams get paralyzed patients walking after several years in the wheelchair? James brings in a paper on spinal stimulation that makes you feel like we are living in the future.


Is Oumuamua an alien spacecraft?

Last year, astronomers discovered a bizarre rock from outside our solar system zipping past Earth. This year, two researchers have made the extroardinary claim that this rock could actually be alien technology...but is the evidence extroardinary enough to support it? Charlie brings in their paper and gets to the bottom of a story that has been covered in controversy, misinformation, and extraterrestrial inspiration. Read the paper here.


Does cloud seeding work?

What does a phytoplankton virus have to do with the annual snowfall at a ski resort? It turns out they're more related than you think! James brings in two papers on cloud seeding that explore the ways scientists have been changing the weather since the 1940s. Read the paper here.


How many faces do you know?

How many different people could you recognize if you passed them on the street? As it turns out, this is a question science had never answered until now. Charlie brings in a paper with ingenious methods that open up a whole new world of questioning in facial recognition science. Read the paper here.