Monday, January 20, 2014 - Overview of exoplanets, and new tools for their discovery


Exoplanets are planets around stars other than the sun.  We now know about thousands of exoplanets or candidate exoplanets, owing to advances in technology and space telescopes.  The main space telescope used for discovery of exoplanets is the NASA Kepler satellite, which can indirectly detect the presence of exoplanets orbiting stellar systems through the transit technique.  There is building evidence that most stars have planets.  A new class of instruments employing "extreme adaptive optics" are emerging, and we highlight the Gemini Planet Imager's first light in November 2013.  Astronomer and guest DJ Timber helps elucidate the challenge of exoplanet detection, and what it all means.


Monday, January 13, 2014 - Dr. Roz Eggo, Texas viruses and epidemics in general


Dr. Roz Eggo joins us on the show to explain influenza (flu) pandemics, and how immunity works.  What to the H and the N mean in the flu strains, like H1N1?  What characterizes a flu pandemic?  What is the difference between a pandemic and just a bad flu season?  How do we predict what strains will be dominant for a coming flu season?  Herd immunity helps to slow down transmission in everyone, not just those people who have been vaccinated.  Roz's research involves how hospitalizations in Texas are related to infectious disease circulation.  She uses population level models to inform the hospitalization rates.  A key factor is the contact rate of students in- and out- of school, where students get colds more easily from others.  Roz sorts out the sources of data and answers all our questions about viruses.