SciTech Now Episode 26

Episode twenty-six of SciTech Now brings you the latest breakthroughs in science, technology and innovation. Meet the scientists who may have found a cause of autism and discover the technology being used in Antarctica to keep tabs on penguins.

TRANSCRIPT

COMING UP, SCIENTISTS COMBA SEASONS OF SMOKE

WE'RE TRYING TO CONCENTRATE THE GROWTH ON A FEW TREES SO THESE FEW TREES WILL GET LARGE AND BECOME MORE FIRE-RESISTANT AND BETTER WILDLIFE HABITAT OVER TIME

THE STUDY OF GENETICS AND AUTISM

NOT ALL OF YOUR GENES ARE INHERITED FROM YOUR MOTHER AND YOUR FATHER, BUT THERE COULD ACTUALLY BE NEW GENETI MUTATIONS THAT MIGHT ARISE I THAT CHILD, AND THAT MIGHT B THE CAUSE OF AUTISM.

EXPLORING ANTARCTICA FROM THOUSANDS OF MILES AWAY.

WE GET OCEANOGRAPHIC DATA THAT ACTUALLY HELPS US IMPROVE FORECAST MODELS, WHICH THEN HELP ATMOSPHERIC FORECAST MODELS.

AND HEARING THE ECHOES OF THE BIG BANG

WHAT THE BIG BANG THEORY IS CLAIMING IS THAT THE ENTIR UNIVERSE WAS ONCE THAT BRIGHT.

IF SO, WHERE IS ALL THAT LIGHT

IT'S ALL AHEAD.

FUNDING FOR THIS PROGRAM IS MADE POSSIBLE BY CONTRIBUTIONS TO THIS STATION.

HELLO I'M HARI SREENIVASAN WELCOME TO 'SciTech NOW,' OU WEEKLY PROGRAM BRINGING YOU TH LATEST BREAKTHROUGHS IN SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, AND INNOVATION LET'S GET STARTED.

TODAY, LARGE WILDFIRES ARE BURNING ACROSS THE U.S. SEVE TIMES MORE OFTEN THAN THEY WER ALMOST A HALF-CENTURY AGO.

AND IN THE COMING DECADES, RESEARCHERS EXPECT THAT FREQUENT MEGA-FIRES WILL BECOME THE NORM.

TO HELP PREVENT THES LARGE-SCALE FIRES, ECOLOGISTS IN WASHINGTON STATE ARE TRYING TO MAKE FORESTS MORE RESILIENT TO COMBAT THIS GROWING TREND.

HERE'S THE STORY

SNOW BLANKETS THE LANDSCAPE IN NORTH-CENTRAL WASHINGTON.

WHAT YOU CAN'T SEE IS TH SCORCHED EARTH LEFT FROM LAS SUMMER'S CARLTON COMPLEX WILDFIRE SUSAN PRICHARD IS A FIRE ECOLOGIST FO THE UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON EVEN THROUGH THE SNOW, SHE CAN SEE THE DAMAGE SHE CAN ALSO SEE SIGNS O RECOVERY

ASPEN AND COTTONWOOD AN WILLOW SPECIES ARE ALL VERY FIRE ADAPTED AND DISTURBANCE ADAPTE IN THAT THEY'RE SPROUTERS.

AND WE'VE ALREADY SEEN JUS AMAZING SPROUTING BY THE ASPEN IN PARTICULAR.

THE FIRE THIS SUMMER DAMAGE OTHER AREAS FAR MORE SEVERELY.

THE CARLTON COMPLEX FIRE BURNE MORE THAN 250,000 ACRES, MOST OF IT IN LESS THAN TWO DAYS 30-MILE-PER-HOUR WINDS PUSHE HOT SMOKE AND EMBERS THROUGH OKANOGAN COUNTY.

FIRE SWEPT ACROSS SHRUB LAND AND BLAZED THROUGH FORESTS PRICHARD SAYS IT COULD TAKE HALF A CENTURY OR MORE FOR THIS ARE TO RECOVER BUT SHE SAYS THERE ARE WAYS TO SLOW FUTURE WILDFIRES.

WE CAN ACTUALLY CHANGE TH NATURE OF A LOT OF THE FIRE THAT COMES.

WE KNOW FIRE IS GOING TO REOCCUR.

THESE ARE FIRE-DEPENDENT ECOSYSTEMS SO IT'S NOT A QUESTION ABOUT FIRE IS GOING TO RETURN BUT HO IT'S GOING TO RETURN AND HOW MUCH IT'S GOING TO BURN AND HO MUCH IT'S GOING TO ALLOW T SURVIVE.

PRICHARD SAYS THE BEST WAY TO HELP FORESTS IN THE LONG RUN I THROUGH THINNING AND CONTROLLE BURNS.

THE QUESTION IS HOW MUCH LAN NEEDS TO BE TREATED TO MAKE DIFFERENCE

OKAY. HERE WE GO.

OUTSIDE OF YAKIMA, WHERE TH SNOW HASN'T FALLEN YET, TH NATURE CONSERVANCY IS THINNING FORESTS.

[ CHAINSAW BUZZING ] CREWS CREATE GAPS IN THE DENSE FOREST BY CUTTING DOWN SMALLER TREES.

THESE BRUSH PILES HAVE BEE DRYING OUT FOR MORE THAN A YEAR.

NOW IT'S TIME TO SET THEM ON FIRE THAT'S MATT DAHLGREEN'S JOB.

HE'S WORKED TO THIN THES FORESTS FOR MOST OF HIS CAREER

IT'S JUST NOT A REA SOPHISTICATED THING.

YOU JUST, YOU KNOW, GO TO TH BOTTOM SIDE OF THE PILE AND TR TO FIND A DRY AREA AND LIGHT IT.

THIS REDUCES THE AMOUNT O FUEL FIRES HAVE TO BURN.

FEWER SMALL TREES COULD HELP PREVENT EXPLOSIVE WILDFIRES.

WE'RE TRYING TO CONCENTRATE THE GROWTH ON A FEW TREES.

SO, THESE FEW TREES WILL GET LARGE AND BECOME MOR FIRE-RESISTANT AND BETTE WILDLIFE HABITAT OVER TIME WE'RE DOWN AT THE BOTTOM, SO WE'LL LIGHT A FEW ON THE BOTTO AND THEN WORK, SORT OF, UP AND SIDE HILL A LITTLE BIT

REESE LOLLEY WORKS WITH THE NATURE CONSERVANCY I EASTERN WASHINGTON HE SAYS WE'VE DONE SUCH A GOOD JOB SUPPRESSING FIRES THAT WE'VE ACTUALLY CREATED THE CONDITION THAT LEAD TO EVEN WORSE FIRES.

THE CURRENT CONDITION OF OU FORESTS, WITH TREES THAT ARE SMALLER AND AT A HIGHER DENSITY, CREATES SITUATIONS WHERE NOW THE FOREST IS LESS RESILIENT

LOLLEY SAYS, TO STRENGTHE FORESTS, SOME FIRES NEED TO BE ALLOWED TO BURN.

THAT'S BECAUSE SMALLER FIRES REDUCE FIRE FUEL, ULTIMATELY CREATE HABITAT, AND HELP REGENERATE TREES

THESE FORESTS WERE BORN I FIRE, AND AS WE MOVE INTO CHANGING CLIMATE, WE'RE GONN SEE MORE AND MORE FIRE

DAVE PETERSON IS A RESEARCH BIOLOGIST WITH THE U.S. FOREST SERVICE.

HE STUDIES THE RELATIONSHI BETWEEN WILDFIRES AND CLIMAT CHANGE

FIRE IS NOT NECESSARILY A ENEMY, BUT IT IS A FORCE O NATURE THAT WE CAN LIVE WITH I WE PLAN FOR IT

AS THE CLIMATE CHANGES, THA FORCE OF NATURE IS EXPECTED TO BURN EVEN MORE OF THE WEST'S LANDSCAPE.

SINCE THE 1970s, LARGE WILDFIRES ARE BURNING ACROSS THE U.S SEVEN TIMES MORE OFTEN AND IN THE COMING DECADES, RESEARCHERS EXPECT FREQUEN MEGA-FIRES WILL BECOME THE NORM.

WE'RE GOING TO HAVE FIRES WE JUST CANNOT STOP FIRES.

BUT WE CAN REDUCE THEI INTENSITY.

AND THE BEST WAY TO DO THAT IS TO REDUCE THE FUELS THAT ARE ALREADY OUT THERE ON THE GROUND.

HEY, MORRIS.

HEY, DAVE. HOW YOU DOING?

YOU GOT SOME TIME TO, UH, LOOK AT THAT CARLTON COMPLEX MAP?

SURE.

MORRIS JOHNSON ANALYZES LANDSCAPES AFTER WILDFIRES STRIKE

SO, THE FIRE BASICALLY MADE THE PROGRESSION HERE, AND THEN IT CAME INTO THESE TREATMENT AREAS.

HE TRIES TO MEASURE THE EFFECTIVENESS OF FOREST-THINNING AND PROSCRIBED BURNS

DO YOU THINK THAT'S KIND OF THE MINIMUM SIZE THE TREATMENT NEED TO BE

I THINK IT'S A LOT BETTER THAN THESE TREATMENTS HERE

YEAH.

THIS PHOTO SHOWS HOW THINNE FOREST HELPED STOP A FIRE BEFORE IT REACHED HOMES

WENT FROM AN ACTIVE CROWN FIRE DOWN TO PASSIVE CROWN FIRE, AND THEN, BASICALLY, IT REALLY ALLOWED THE FIREFIGHTERS T BASICALLY PROTECT THESE HOMES BY DOING SPOT PROTECTION.

BECAUSE THE CARLTON COMPLEX WAS SO EXTREME, ALMOST HALF TH PREVIOUSLY THINNED AREAS BURNE COMPLETELY BUT IN SOME CRITICAL AREAS RESEARCHERS FOUND IT DID MAKE DIFFERENCE BACK NEAR YAKIMA, REESE LOLLEY IS HOPING THE WORK THEY'RE DOING WILL KEEP WILDFIRES FROM COMPLETELY DEVASTATING THIS AREA SOMEDAY.

WE NEED TO THINK DIFFERENTL ON HOW WE'RE MANAGING THES FORESTS AND HOW WE CAN LIVE WITH FIRE IN A WAY THAT IT CA BENEFIT FORESTS, BENEFIT PEOPLE, WATER, AND WILDLIFE.

FOR NOW, THAT MEANS MOR THINNING AND CONTROLLED BURN AND MORE WORK TO BE DONE

TO LEARN MORE AND TO EXPLOR AN INTERACTIVE MAP SHOWING TWO DECADES OF WILDFIRES ACROSS TH U.S., CHECK OUT THE LINK ON OU WEBSITE.

FROM 2000 TO 2010, THE NUMBER OF CHILDREN DIAGNOSED WITH AUTISM IN THE UNITED STATES MORE THAN DOUBLED, MAKING IT THE FASTEST GROWING DEVELOPMENTA DISABILITY BUT THERE'S STILL A LOT WE DON'T KNOW ABOUT THE DISORDER.

DR. WENDY CHUNG IS THE PRINCIPLE INVESTIGATOR AT TH SIMONS VARIATION PROJECT WHERE SHE STUDIES THE ROLE OF GENETICS IN AUTISM-SPECTRUM DISORDERS SO, WHAT ARE THE ROLE OF GENETICS I MEAN, THERE'S THIS QUESTION OF NATURE VERSUS NURTURE ON HOW AUTISM HAPPENS

SURE.

SO, AS YOU CORRECTLY POINTED OUT, WE DON'T EVERYTHING THA CAUSES AUTISM.

HOWEVER, THE PLACE WHERE WE'VE MADE THE GREATEST INROADS TO UNDERSTANDING THIS HAS BEEN IN THE AREA OF GENETICS AND THAT'S LARGELY BECAUSE OUR TOOLS HAVE BECOME MUCH SHARPER MUCH MORE ROBUST IN TERMS OF BEING ABLE TO DETERMINE THIS WORK THAT MANY INDIVIDUALS HAV DONE -- A VERY LARGE COMMUNITY OF RESEARCH SCIENTISTS HAV LOOKED, IN PARTICULAR, TO SE WHAT THE ROLE OF NEW GENETIC MISTAKES MIGHT BE IN AUTISM.

AND THIS IS KIND OF A NOVE CONCEPT -- THE IDEA THAT NOT ALL OF YOUR GENES ARE INHERITED FROM YOUR MOTHER AND YOUR FATHER BU THERE COULD ACTUALLY BE NE GENETIC MUTATIONS THAT MIGHT ARISE IN THAT CHILD, AND THA MIGHT BE THE CAUSE OF AUTISM AND, IN FACT, WHEN WE STAR LOOKING AT THAT, ALL TOLD, ABOUT 25% OF INDIVIDUALS PROBABLY HAVE THEIR AUTISM BECAUSE OF GENETIC -- NEW GENETIC MISTAKE AND SO IT'S SORT OF A NE CONCEPT THAT'S OUT THERE

WHEN YOU THINK ABOUT AN ABSOLUTELY NEW GENE, THAT'S -- THAT'S LIKE ONE-IN-A-BILLION ONE-IN-A-- I DON'T KNOW WHAT THE NUMBER IS -- CHANCE, RIGHT

SO, YOU WOULD THINK, BU ACTUALLY, NOW THAT WE HAVE THE DATA, WHICH WE DIDN'T HAVE BEFORE, IF I LOOK AT ANY CHILD -- ANY MOTHER, FATHER, AND CHILD COMBINATION, IN FACT, AL OF US HAVE NEW GENETIC CHANGES THIS IS NOT, IN AND OF ITSELF, ALL THAT NOVEL ALL OF US HAVE, IN OUR GENETIC INFORMATION, LITERALLY AT LEAS 100 PLACES THAT ARE DIFFEREN FROM OUR MOMS OR OUR DADS -- NEW PLACES WHERE THERE ARE ESSENTIALLY, SORT OF PROOFREADING MISTAKES THAT HAPPENED THE ISSUE IS, IS THAT FOR MOST OF US, WE GOT OFF LUCKY.

AND SO THOSE NEW GENETIC CHANGES DIDN'T HAPPEN TO FALL WITHIN CRITICAL GENES OR CRITICAL PARTS OF GENES THAT HAVE TO DO WIT THE WAY THE BRAIN DEVELOPS O THE WAY THE BRAIN FUNCTIONS.

HOWEVER, FOR A SMALL SEGMENT O KIDS -- AND OBVIOUSLY, AS YO CORRECTLY POINTED OUT, IT' SMALL BUT IT'S NOT TOO SMALL - THAT ACTUALLY LANDS JUST SMACK DAB IN A GENE THAT HAPPENS TO BE REALLY CRITICAL TO THE WAY THE BRAIN FORMS, IT DEVELOPS, AN THE WAY IT FUNCTIONS AND, IN FACT, THAT'S WHAT' LEADING TO A LOT OF AUTISM THA WE SEE TODAY

YOU KNOW, THAT NUMBER HAS INCREASED SO DRAMATICALLY, AND I WANT TO ASK -- WHY IS THAT IS THAT BECAUSE WE'RE NOW MORE AWARE OF IT?

WE'RE HAVING THIS CONVERSATION OR THAT WE'RE DIAGNOSING MORE OF IT BECAUSE WE'RE MORE AWARE?

I MEAN, IT'S SORT OF A CHICKEN-AND-EGG HERE

SO, IN FACT, IT'S A LITTL BIT OF BOTH IN THE SENSE THAT, NUMBER ONE, IN A VERY, VERY GOOD WAY, ALL SORTS OF PEOPLE ARE NOW MORE AWARE OF THIS - PEDIATRICIANS, EDUCATORS THERAPISTS -- AND, YOU KNOW, THEY'RE AWARE OF WHAT TH DIAGNOSIS IS AND THEY'RE MAKIN THAT DIAGNOSIS IN A GOOD WAY, THAT MEANS THAT KIDS ARE ACTUALLY GETTING TH TREATMENT THAT THEY NEED THE OTHER PART OF IT -- AND I' NOT BEING CRITICAL ABOUT THIS, BUT PEOPLE ALSO USE THE TERM SOMEWHAT LOOSELY AND THEY'RE USING IT TO TRY AN COMMUNICATE THAT THE IDEA HAS -- A CHILD HAS SOME SORT OF NEURODEVELOPMENTAL DISABILITY, BUT TO BE HONEST, IT MAY NOT B EXACTLY AUTISM IT'S CLEARLY A CHILD WHO HAS CHALLENGES, WHO MAY NEED SPECIAL SERVICES, BUT PEOPLE USE THE TERM RATHER LOOSELY.

AND BECAUSE, IN A GOOD WAY, THAT SERVICES OFTENTIMES ARE TIED T A DIAGNOSIS OF AUTISM, SOM PEOPLE USE IT TO THEIR ADVANTAGE.

AND SO, YOU KNOW, IT'S BEEN, I THINK, INCREASING IN PREVALENC IN PART DUE TO THAT, BUT I DON'T THINK THAT'S THE WHOLE REASON.

I DO THINK THERE ARE ISSUES THAT WE HAVE TO THINK ABOUT IN TERM OF WHAT ARE THE RISK FACTORS FOR AUTISM, WHAT REALLY CAUSES IT IN THE FIRST PLACE, AND THERE REALLY, TRULY MAY BE AN INCREASE OVER TIME.

AND THAT AUTISM ISN'T ONE SPECIFIC THING THERE'S A SPECTRUM, RIGHT?

ABSOLUTELY.

ABSOLUTELY SO, YOU KNOW, YOU CAN SORT OF, IN YOU THINK BACK IN TERMS O YOUR OWN EXPERIENCE, THA SPECTRUM OF AUTISM IS EXTREMEL LARGE.

SO, THERE'S EVERYTHING FROM KIDS WHO ARE NON-VERBAL, WHO AR SEVERELY IMPAIRED, WHO MAY EVE BE HAVING SELF-INJURIOUS BEHAVIORS, SEIZURES, YOU KNOW, OTHER SIGNIFICAN NEURODEVELOPMENTAL DISORDERS, TO THERE ARE SOME KIDS WHO, QUITE HONESTLY, ARE JUST REMARKABL GIFTED IN TERMS OF THEIR TALENTS BUT IN TERMS OF SOME OF TH RIGIDITY THAT THEY HAVE, SOME OF THE ABILITY TO INTERACT WITH OTHER FOLKS, SOME OF THEIR NEE FOR BEING ABLE TO HAVE THING JUST SO, YOU KNOW, THAT'S STIL THE SAME DIAGNOSIS OF AUTISM BUT AT THE COMPLETELY OTHER END OF THAT SPECTRUM.

SO REALLY, THIS UMBRELLA TER THAT WE USE FOR AUTISM I PROBABLY MORE LIKE HUNDREDS OF DIFFERENT DISORDERS ALL JUMBLE TOGETHER

SO, WHAT DO YOU WANT TO D WITH THE PROJECT THAT YOU'RE WORKING ON HOW DO YOU KIND OF INCREASE TH DATA SET AND GET MORE PEOPLE AND MORE GENES THAT YOU CAN TAKE A LOOK AT?

RIGHT, SO, THAT'S A GREAT QUESTION, AND THAT'S REALLY WHAT WE'RE ALL ABOUT.

I THINK WE INCREASINGLY REALIZ THAT THIS ISN'T ONE DISORDER AND THERE'S NOT GONNA BE ONE TREATMENT, ONE ANSWER, ONE WAY OF SUPPORTING THESE INDIVIDUALS.

AND SO WE'RE REALLY GONNA NEED TO BE ABLE TO INCREASE OUR NUMBERS.

PREVIOUS STUDIES OF AUTISM HAV INCLUDED THINGS LIKE HUNDREDS, MAYBE EVEN A FEW THOUSAN INDIVIDUALS.

WE'RE GETTING PRETTY RADICAL A THE SIMONS FOUNDATION.

AND WE'RE THINKING THAT WE ACTUALLY NEED BIG DATA SETS TO BE ABLE TO SOLVE WHAT REALLY ARE A MYRIAD OF DIFFERENT DISORDERS.

SO, WE WANT TO DO THIS, BUT WE WANT TO DO THIS VERY MUCH IN COLLABORATION WITH THE INDIVIDUALS WHO ARE ACTUALLY AFFECTED WITH THIS - INDIVIDUALS WITH AUTISM, THEIR PARENTS, THEIR FAMILIES.

WE REALIZE WE'VE GOT TO COME TOGETHER AS A COMMUNITY BECAUS THOSE FAMILIES, THOS INDIVIDUALS -- THEY HAVE ENORMOUS INSIGHT THAT I DON' ALWAYS HAVE AS JUST RESEARCHER SO WE'RE BUILDING THESE BRIDGES, WE'RE BUILDING THESE PARTNERSHIPS, AND WE'R LITERALLY THINKING ABOUT, FO INSTANCE, NEEDING 50,000 INDIVIDUALS -- A LARGE NUMBER TO BE ABLE TO PUT TOGETHER -- AND BEING ABLE TO INCLUDE, WITHI THAT, STUDIES OF THE GENES T KNOW WHICH INDIVIDUALS HAV GENETIC ANSWERS, AND MANY PEOPLE WON'T, BUT WHICH ONES DO, WHAT ARE THE GENES THAT ARE INVOLVE IN THIS, AND THEN TO START T UNDERSTAND, FOR EACH DIFFERENT GENETIC FLAVOR OF THIS, WHAT ARE THE SPECIFIC THINGS THAT WE CA DO WITH THE HOPE THAT THERE AR GONNA BE ACTUALLY GENE-SPECIFI TREATMENTS THAT WE'RE GONNA BE ABLE TO DEVELOP TO HELP THES FOLKS.

AND SO -

SO, THAT MIGHT MEAN PHARMACEUTICAL DRUGS DESIGNE FOR THE GENE OR DIFFERENT TYPE OF GENE THERAPIES?

ABSOLUTELY.

SO, I THINK WE'RE KEEPIN EVERYTHING ON THE TABLE.

THERE ARE SOME -- I KNOW THIS IS RADICAL, BUT THERE ARE SOM WHERE THERE'S ACTUALLY GONNA B A FIX IN TERMS OF A DIETAR INTERVENTION -- A VERY SPECIFI EITHER VITAMIN COFACTOR THAT'S DEFICIENT OR A PARTICULA RESTRICTION WE NEED TO MAKE IN THE DIET THERE ARE OTHER INDIVIDUAL THAT, CORRECTLY, AS YOU SAID, IT MAY BE A SPECIFIC PHARMACEUTICAL AGENT THAT'S GOING TO -- OR DRUG OR A PILL THAT'S GOING TO BE ABLE TO BE MOST EFFICACIOUS AND OTHER INDIVIDUALS, WE MA NEED TO THINK ABOUT WITH MOR SORT OF ROOT CAUSE IN TERMS OF GENE THERAPY WITH ALL OF THESE, THOUGH, I BET YOU THERE ARE GONNA BE OTHER STRATEGIES WE CAN USE IN TERMS OF EDUCATIONAL AND BEHAVIORA STRATEGIES THAT'LL PROBABL SERVE A LARGE PORTION OF THE COMMUNITY, AS WELL

DR. WENDY CHUNG, TH PRINCIPLE INVESTIGATOR AT TH SIMONS VARIATION IN INDIVIDUAL PROJECT.

THANKS SO MUCH

THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME AND IF ANYONE WANTS TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THIS, THEY CAN GO T THE INTERACTIVE AUTISM NETWORK ONLINE AND READ MORE ABOUT THI PROJECT.

AS THE COLDEST, WINDIEST, AND EMPTIEST PLACE ON EARTH, ANTARCTICA HAS FASCINATE SCIENTISTS FOR HUNDREDS OF YEARS.

BUT 99% OF ANTARCTICA IS COVERED BY ICE, MAKING IT A DIFFICUL REGION TO ACCESS AND EXPLORE IN ORDER TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THE CREATURES THAT INHABIT THI ANTARCTIC TUNDRA, SCIENTISTS HAVE DEVELOPED A NEW, INNOVATIVE TECHNOLOGY TO GO WHERE SCIENTISTS CAN'T REPORTED LAUREN WANKO HAS TH STORY.

AT A LAB IN NEW BRUNSWICK, TEAM OF RUTGERS UNIVERSITY RESEARCHERS COLLECTS DATA FROM ANTARCTICA IN REAL TIME.

And I can easily ring you out to them.

THE INFORMATION COMES FRO GLIDERS LIKE THIS ONE.

THE UNDERWATER ROBOTS ARE PART OF A PROJECT TO DETERMINE HO WATER PROPERTIES AND SURFACE CURRENTS CAN AFFECT PENGUI FORAGING AT PALMER STATION

PENGUINS ARE IMPORTANT DOWN THERE BECAUSE THEY'RE A MAJO PART OF THE FOOD WEB THEY FEED ON KRILL, AND THEY'R FED UPON BY OTHER ORGANISMS LIKE LEOPARD SEALS.

AND IN RECENT YEARS, IN RECENT DECADES, THE ADELIE PENGUINS HAVE ACTUALLY DECREASED IN THE PALMER REGION.

RUTGERS, ALONG WITH OTHER UNIVERSITIES, DEPLOYED FIV GLIDERS AROUND PALMER STATION, ONE OF THE COUNTRY'S RESEARC STATIONS IN ANTARCTICA THE GLIDERS MOVE SLOWL UNDERWATER, CONSTANTLY COLLECTING DATA LIKE TEMPERATURE AND SALINITY

THEY'RE MADE TO BE BALLASTE NEUTRALLY BUOYANT IN THE WATER THEY SUCK IN A LITTLE BIT OF WATER IN THE NOSE, AND THA ACTUALLY MAKES THEM SINK THROUGH THE WATER COLUMN, COLLECT AL ITS DATA, AND THEN IT PUSHES THAT WATER BACK OUT WITH A PUMP, AND THEN IT RISES BACK THROUGH THE WATER COLUMN THERE'S A SATELLITE PHONE AN GPS ANTENNA IN THE TAIL.

WHEN IT HITS THE SURFACE, TH GLIDER, WHICH IS OPERATE REMOTELY BY THE NEW JERSEY TEAM, CALLS INTO RUTGERS WITH TH DATA, WHICH WILL ULTIMATELY HELP THE TEAM DETERMINE THE IDE WATER PROPERTIES PENGUINS NEED TO THRIVE IN THE AREA.

RUTGERS AND OTHER UNIVERSITIES ALSO DEPLOY THE GLIDERS ALON THE EAST COAST, INCLUDIN NEW JERSEY, WHERE THE TEAM SAMPLES UNDERNEATH STORMS.

SO, PLACES YOU CAN'T TAKE BOATS, PLACES YOU CAN'T GE DATA, AND WE GET OCEANOGRAPHIC DATA THAT ACTUALLY HELPS U IMPROVE FORECAST MODELS, S OCEANOGRAPHIC FORECAST MODELS, WHICH THEN HELP ATMOSPHERI FORECAST MODELS.

THE GLIDERS ARE ONLY ON ASPECT OF THE PROJECT.

IN THE RUTGERS UNIVERSIT COASTAL OCEAN OBSERVATION LAB OR 'COOL' ROOM, RESEARCH PROJEC MANAGER HUGH ROARTY MONITORS SURFACE-CURRENTS DATA FROM RADARS STATIONED IN ANTARCTICA SCIENTISTS DUG THROUGH ABOUT THREE FEET OF SNOW AND ICE JUS TO SET UP A STABLE FOUNDATIO FOR THE INSTRUMENT THE TEAM INSTALLED THREE HIGH-FREQUENCY RADARS.

THE RADAR'S ABOUT THE SIZE OF TELEPHONE BOOTH WITH ONE ANTENNA THAT TRANSMITS AND RECEIVES TH SIGNAL FROM THE BEACH.

SO, IT'S A REMOTE SENSING DEVICE, AND IT TRANSMITS A RADIO SIGNAL BETWEEN THE A.M. AND F.M.

RADIO BAND AND IT'S VERY SIMILAR TO A DOPPLER RADAR THAT POLICE MIGH USE.

BASED ON THE DOPPLER SHIFT O THE RETURN SIGNAL, YOU CAN SENSE THE CURRENT IN THE AREA.

IF RESEARCHERS KNOW THE SURFACE CURRENTS AROUND PALMER STATION, THEY CAN PREDICT HO CONCENTRATED THE PENGUIN FOO WILL BE IN THE AREA.

AND THAT AFFECTS HOW FAR THE HAVE TO GO TO FORAGE THIS HIGH-FREQUENCY RADAR IS ALSO CALLED AN OVER-THE-HORIZO TECHNOLOGY

WITH THIS TECHNOLOGY, THE SIGNAL HUGS THE SURFACE OF THE OCEAN, AND SO YOU CAN GO WEL BEYOND THE HORIZON TO MAKE YOU MEASUREMENTS

RUTGERS HAS 12 HIGH-FREQUENCY RADAR STATIONS ALONG THE JERSE COAST, TOO, FROM SANDY HOOK DOWN TO CAPE MAY -- VALUABLE DATA THAT'S SENT TO THE U.S. COAST GUARD ROARTY SAYS THE RADAR WILL ACTUALLY REDUCE TH COAST GUARD'S SEARCH AREA FOR MISSING PERSON, AND THAT'S BECAUSE IT TRACKS THE CURRENTS AND EVERYTHING DRIFTING ALON WITH THEM.

WORKING WITH THE COAST GUARD, THEY SURMISE THAT WE COULD SAV 50 ADDITIONAL LIVES PER YEAR USING THE SURFACE-CURRENT DATA

THE HIGH-FREQUENCY RADARS WILL REMAIN IN ANTARCTIC THROUGHOUT THE YEAR.

AS FOR THE GLIDERS, THEY'LL BE SHIPPED BACK TO THE LAB IN FEBRUARY

DID YOU KNOW THAT BY USING AN ANTENNA, YOU CAN HEAR ECHOES O THE BIG BANG RIGHT HERE ON EARTH?

WE VISIT AN EXPERT AT TH AMERICAN MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY TO LISTEN IN

MY NAME I MORDECAI-MARK MAC LOW.

AND MY POSITION IS CURATOR O ASTROPHYSICS SO, BIG BANG THEORY SUGGESTS THAT THE UNIVERSE WAS ONCE HOTTER THAN THE SURFACE OF THE SUN.

WELL, IF THERE'S ONE THING W KNOW ABOUT THE SURFACE OF TH SUN, IT'S THAT IT EMITS LIGHT.

WHAT THE BIG BANG THEORY I CLAIMING IS THAT THE ENTIR UNIVERSE WAS ONCE THAT BRIGHT.

IF SO, WHERE IS ALL THAT LIGHT WELL, IT TURNS OUT THAT IT'S RIGHT HERE, PERVADING TH UNIVERSE BUT BECAUSE THE UNIVERSE WAS EXPANDING, THE LIGHT GOT STRETCHED TO LONGER AND LONGER AND LONGER WAVELENGTHS AND, ALTHOUGH IT WAS EMITTED RATHER COINCIDENTALLY, A VISIBLE LIGHT, IT GOT STRETCHE FROM VISIBLE YELLOW LIGHT TO INFRARED TO MICROWAVES, RADI WAVES.

AND THOSE RADIO WAVES PERVADIN THE UNIVERSE CAN BE DETECTED WITH A MICROWAVE ANTENNA HECK, THEY CAN BE DETECTED WIT A TV ANTENNA AN OLD-STYLE, ON-THE-AIR TV -- A FEW PERCENT OF THE NOISE THA YOU GET WHEN YOU TUNE TO A EMPTY CHANNEL WAS FROM THE EARLY UNIVERSE THOSE RADIO WAVES ARE WHAT W CALL THE COSMIC MICROWAV BACKGROUND -- SO, THE BACKGROUND OF MICROWAVES THAT PERVADES TH UNIVERSE BECAUSE THEY WERE EMITTED DURING THE EARLY EXPANSION OF THE UNIVERSE AN HAVE BEEN TRAVELING AND GETTIN STRETCHED OUT EVER SINCE THE IDEA THAT THERE OUGHT TO B BACKGROUND RADIATION WAS ACTUALLY FIRST UNDERSTOOD IN THE 1940s WITH THE IDEA THAT THERE MUST BE A HOT, DENSE BEGINNING TO THE UNIVERSE.

BUT SAD TO SAY THAT PREDICTION WAS MORE OR LESS IGNORED FOR MANY YEARS AND IT WASN'T UNTIL THE '60s THAT PEEBLES AND DICKE A PRINCETON UNIVERSITY SAID, 'WE OUGHT TO TRY AND CHECK THI PREDICTION,' AND SET OUT TO DO SO WELL, BY THE '60s, TECHNOLOG HAD ADVANCED, THE SPACE RACE HAD STARTED.

PEOPLE WERE BUILDING MICROWAVE ANTENNAE NOT TO LOOK FOR SOM CRAZY IDEA OF SOME PHYSICIST SITTING IN A LAB SOMEWHERE BUT TO FOLLOW COMMUNICATIO SATELLITES

AND A COUPLE OF ELECTRICA ENGINEERS BY THE NAME OF PENZIAS AND WILSON GOT AHOLD OF ONE OF THESE ANTENNAE THAT HAD BEEN USED TO FOLLOW THE ECH COMMUNICATION SATELLITE AN THOUGHT TO THEMSELVES, 'WE COULD DO ASTRONOMY WITH THIS.'

AND SO THEY STARTED USING IT T TRY TO DETECT EMISSION FROM GA IN THE MILKY WAY GALAXY.

NOW, THEY WERE RATHER GOOD ENGINEERS, AND SO THE FIRS THING THEY DID WAS POINT THEIR ANTENNA AT AN EMPTY PATCH OF SKY SO THEY WOULD BE ABLE TO MEASURE ITS NOISE LEVEL.

AND, 'DARN IT ALL, THERE'S SOMETHING WRONG IN THE SYSTEM.

THEY HAD TOO MUCH NOISE.

THAT IS, THEIR ANTENNA WAS DETECTING A SIGNAL WHICH THE INTERPRETED AS NOISE THAT WA MORE THAN THEY EXPECTED.

SO THEY STARTED DEBUGGING THEI CIRCUIT AND CHECKING ALL THE CONNECTIONS, AND AT ONE POINT, THEY EVEN SUSPECTED PIGEON POO IN THE ANTENNA OF EMITTING ENOUGH MICROWAVES TO THROW OFF THEIR SENSITIVE DETECTORS, S THEY CHASED ALL THE PIGEONS OU AND CLEANED IT OFF AND THEY STILL HAD THIS NOIS WHEN THEY POINTED IT AT AN EMPTY PATCH OF SKY THEY FINALLY CONVINCED THEMSELVES THAT THEY HAD DETECTED COSMIC RADIATION.

SO, THEY WENT TO A CONFERENC AND SAID, 'UH, GUYS, THERE SEEMS TO BE SOME SORT OF COSMI RADIATION PERVADING EVER DIRECTION WE LOOK.

AND SOME PHYSICIST SAID, 'THAT'S INTERESTING.

YOU OUGHT TO GO TALK TO PEEBLE AND DICKE DOWN THE ROAD AT PRINCETON.

SO, THEY DID, AND DICKE TURNS TO HIS LAB AND SAYS, 'BOYS, WE'VE BEEN SCOOPED.'

BECAUSE THE VERY THING THAT THEY WERE LOOKING FOR, THE ECHO O THE BIG BANG, THE BABY PICTURE OF THE UNIVERSE, HAD BEE DISCOVERED BY THES COMMUNICATIONS ENGINEERS 20 MILES DOWN THE ROAD PEEBLES AND DICKE AND PENZIA AND WILSON PUBLISHED PAPER BACK-TO-BACK -- A THEORETICA PAPER SAYING, 'THIS IS WHAT WE PREDICT,' AND THE OBSERVATIONA PAPER SAYING, 'THIS IS WHAT WE SAW.

BUT ONLY THE OBSERVERS GOT THE NOBEL PRIZE.

[ CHUCKLES ]

FOR MORE FROM THE AMERICA MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY, CHECK OUT THE LINK ON OUR WEBSITE.

AND THAT WRAPS IT UP FOR THI TIME FOR MORE ON SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, AND INNOVATION, VISIT OU WEBSITE.

YOU CAN ALSO CHECK US OUT ON FACEBOOK AND JOIN TH CONVERSATION ON TWITTER.

UNTIL NEXT TIME, I'M HARI SREENIVASAN THANKS FOR WATCHING.

FUNDING FOR THIS PROGRAM WA MADE POSSIBLE BY CONTRIBUTIONS TO THIS STATION.