49 episodes

Point of Discovery takes you on a journey behind the front lines of science, where you'll meet the brilliant, quirky scientists who make the magic happen. Our stories are driven by curiosity. How much of our DNA do we share with yeast? How do our brains block out noise at a party so that we can focus on just one person speaking? How do you study a terrible disease-causing bacteria that turns mild-mannered in the lab? Come discover the answers with us.

Music by: Podington Bear.

Learn more at: http://pointofdiscovery.org

DISCLAIMER
Point of Discovery is part of the Texas Podcast Network, which is brought to you by The University of Texas at Austin. Podcasts are produced by faculty members and staffers at UT Austin who work with University Communications to craft content that adheres to journalistic best practices. The University of Texas at Austin offers these podcasts at no charge. Podcasts appearing on the network and this webpage represent the views of the hosts, not of The University of Texas at Austin.

Point of Discover‪y‬ The University of Texas at Austin

    • Science
    • 5.0 • 18 Ratings

Point of Discovery takes you on a journey behind the front lines of science, where you'll meet the brilliant, quirky scientists who make the magic happen. Our stories are driven by curiosity. How much of our DNA do we share with yeast? How do our brains block out noise at a party so that we can focus on just one person speaking? How do you study a terrible disease-causing bacteria that turns mild-mannered in the lab? Come discover the answers with us.

Music by: Podington Bear.

Learn more at: http://pointofdiscovery.org

DISCLAIMER
Point of Discovery is part of the Texas Podcast Network, which is brought to you by The University of Texas at Austin. Podcasts are produced by faculty members and staffers at UT Austin who work with University Communications to craft content that adheres to journalistic best practices. The University of Texas at Austin offers these podcasts at no charge. Podcasts appearing on the network and this webpage represent the views of the hosts, not of The University of Texas at Austin.

    Do Sick Animals Socially Distance?

    Do Sick Animals Socially Distance?

    When we get sick, we change our social interactions—we keep away from others and we don’t share food. It turns out, humans aren’t the only species to do it.

    According to a new review in the journal Science, when highly social animals — such as ants, mice and bats — get sick, their social interactions change, too. For example, sick vampire bats groom each other less, move less and call out less, and this may help reduce the spread of disease. It’s not active social distancing, but rather more like the way we humans are less active when we’re feeling lousy. Ants on the other hand are more proactive: when sick, they will actively self-isolate in a way that helps protect the rest of the colony.

    By studying how social behavior changes in various animals, scientists are hoping to better understand the effectiveness of different strategies humans use, like social distancing, to combat the spread of diseases like COVID-19.

    Today on the show we’ll meet Sebastian Stockmaier, a recently minted PhD scientist at the University of Texas at Austin, who has spent seven years studying vampire bats and how their social behaviors change when they feel sick.

    Watch a video of a vampire bat tricked into feeling sick: https://youtu.be/lCr52sn76Wg

    Watch a video of vampire bats “contact calling”: https://youtu.be/p9NcOGy8kJY

    A collection of vampire bat videos: https://socialbat.org/videos/

    Read the new review paper in the journal Science, “Infectious diseases and social distancing in nature”: https://science.sciencemag.org/content/371/6533/eabc8881

    Music for today’s show was produced by:
    • Podington Bear - https://www.podingtonbear.com/

    Photo credit: Josh Moore, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.

    • 11 min
    Artificial Intelligence Revs Up Evolution’s Clock

    Artificial Intelligence Revs Up Evolution’s Clock

    Evolutionary biologists never have enough time. Some of the most mysterious behaviors in the animal kingdom—like parenting—evolved over thousands of years, if not longer. Human lifespans are just too short to sit and observe such complex behaviors evolve. But computer scientists are beginning to offer clues by using artificial intelligence to simulate the life and death of thousands of generations of animals in a matter of hours or days. It’s called computational evolution.

    One behavior that’s long baffled biologists is called mobbing, in which a gang of hyenas team up to steal prey from much more powerful lions. When UT Austin computer scientists Risto Miikkulainen and Padmini Rajagopalan simulated hyenas and lions on a virtual African savannah, they found something surprising.

    Watch a video of real-life hyenas mobbing (courtesy of Michigan State U.): https://youtu.be/Rs7AXFa4sN0

    Read more: Evolution of Complex Coordinated Behavior (July 2020)
    https://www.cs.utexas.edu/users/ai-lab/downloadPublication.php?filename=http://nn.cs.utexas.edu/downloads/papers/rajagopalan.cec2020.pdf&pubid=127822

    Music for today’s show was produced by:
    • Podington Bear - https://www.podingtonbear.com/
    • Pogmothoin (a.k.a. Tom Griffin) - https://freesound.org/people/pogmothoin/

    Photo credit: Stephanie Dloniak.

    About Point of Discovery

    Point of Discovery is a production of the University of Texas at Austin's College of Natural Sciences. You can listen to all our episodes at @point-of-discovery .

    Questions or comments about this episode, or our series in general? Email Marc Airhart at mairhart[AT]austin.utexas.edu

    • 10 min
    Ask the COVID-19 Experts

    Ask the COVID-19 Experts

    We asked you, dear listeners, to send us your most burning questions about COVID-19. And you didn’t disappoint. You asked: When will it be safe for my 12-week-old baby to meet her grandparents? Can you catch it twice? Is the virus mutating and will that make it harder to develop vaccines?

    In today’s episode, our three experts get to the bottom of these questions, and more. Meet our experts:

    Professor Lauren Ancel Meyers is an epidemiologist and leader of the UT COVID-19 Modeling Consortium. Her team recently found that the virus was circulating in China and in Seattle, Washington weeks earlier than previously thought. (Read more: https://cns.utexas.edu/news/early-spread-of-covid-19-appears-far-greater-than-initially-reported )

    Greg Ippolito is a research assistant professor of molecular biosciences and an expert on how our immune systems respond to pathogens. He is working with doctors at Houston Methodist Hospital to test the efficacy of a potential COVID-19 treatment called convalescent plasma therapy. (Read more: https://cns.utexas.edu/news/covid-19-convalescent-plasma-therapy-is-safe-with-76-of-patients-improving )

    Jason McLellan is an associate professor of molecular biosciences whose team created a critical component in several COVID-19 vaccines currently in clinical trials. (Read more: https://cns.utexas.edu/news/covid-19-vaccine-with-ut-ties-arrived-quickly-after-years-in-the-making ) He and his team is also developing a therapy for COVID-19 based on special antibodies from llamas. (Read more: https://cns.utexas.edu/news/antibodies-from-llamas-could-help-in-fight-against-covid-19 )

    Music for today’s show was produced by:
    Podington Bear - https://www.podingtonbear.com/

    About Point of Discovery

    Point of Discovery is a production of the University of Texas at Austin's College of Natural Sciences. You can listen to all our episodes at @point-of-discovery .

    Questions or comments about this episode, or our series in general? Email Marc Airhart at mairhart[AT]austin.utexas.edu

    • 12 min
    The Next 50 Years: Anybody Out There?

    The Next 50 Years: Anybody Out There?

    In these next few decades, will humans finally find life in space? We asked University of Texas at Austin astronomer Caroline Morley and her answer just might surprise you. Morley shares her vision for the future in this latest episode of our miniseries, The Next 50 Years.

    Check out more podcasts and essays in the Next 50 Years series: https://cns.utexas.edu/news/tags/the-next-50-years

    Scientists from across UT Austin are joining forces in the hunt for life on other planets. Astronomers, geoscientists, chemists, biologists and aerospace engineers have pooled resources to form the UT Center for Planetary Systems Habitability, a cross-campus, interdisciplinary research unit. Learn more: https://cns.utexas.edu/news/university-welcomes-new-center-for-planetary-habitability

    Have a question about COVID-19? We have experts on all aspects of the pandemic and the virus that causes it. Record your question and email it to us here: utexasscience@gmail.com Please keep your recordings to 20 seconds or less if you can. We’ll answer as many as we can on the next Point of Discovery podcast.

    Music for today’s show was produced by:
    Podington Bear - https://www.podingtonbear.com/
    Chuzausen - https://freemusicarchive.org/music/Chuzausen

    About Point of Discovery

    Point of Discovery is a production of the University of Texas at Austin's College of Natural Sciences. You can listen to all our episodes at @point-of-discovery .

    Questions or comments about this episode, or our series in general? Email Marc Airhart at mairhart[AT]austin.utexas.edu

    • 12 min
    The Next 50 Years: A Model of Life on the Atomic Scale

    The Next 50 Years: A Model of Life on the Atomic Scale

    Can we simulate life — in all its messy complexity and at the scale of each individual atom — in a computer? Even the most powerful supercomputers today can only simulate a tiny portion of a single living cell for a few nanoseconds. Carlos Baiz is a biochemist at the University of Texas at Austin who says it might someday be possible to simulate an entire living cell for hours or longer. But he says there are two big catches. Baiz shares his vision for the future in this latest episode of our miniseries, The Next 50 Years.

    Check out more podcasts and essays in this series: https://cns.utexas.edu/news/tags/the-next-50-years

    Music for today’s show was produced by:
    Podington Bear - https://www.podingtonbear.com/
    Chuzausen - https://freemusicarchive.org/music/Chuzausen

    About Point of Discovery

    Point of Discovery is a production of the University of Texas at Austin's College of Natural Sciences. You can listen to all our episodes at @point-of-discovery .

    Questions or comments about this episode, or our series in general? Email Marc Airhart at mairhart[AT]austin.utexas.edu

    • 10 min
    Science Amid the Social Distance

    Science Amid the Social Distance

    Daily life has changed for many of us due to the coronavirus pandemic. During this unusual time, when it’s harder to connect physically with important people in our lives, it can be helpful to step back and spend a little time thinking about the things that still bind us together, like the wonder of the natural world and the hope that scientists offer us as we take on societal challenges.

    We’ve put together a compilation from our previous episodes that we hope will help you find some solace right now: in rediscovering life, the people we're closest with and the universe.

    To listen to the full episodes that we drew these excerpts from, or to read the transcripts, visit the links below.

    Beauty and the Yeast: https://cns.utexas.edu/news/beauty-and-the-yeast
    The Science of Relationships: https://cns.utexas.edu/news/the-science-of-relationships
    Can Sound Save a Fish?: https://cns.utexas.edu/news/can-sound-save-a-fish
    Eyewitness to a Cosmic Car Wreck: https://cns.utexas.edu/news/eyewitness-to-a-cosmic-car-wreck
    A Love Letter from Texas Scientists to the Periodic Table: https://cns.utexas.edu/news/a-love-letter-from-texas-scientists-to-the-periodic-table

    Music for today’s show was produced by:
    Podington Bear - https://www.podingtonbear.com/

    About Point of Discovery

    Point of Discovery is a production of the University of Texas at Austin's College of Natural Sciences. You can listen to all our episodes at @point-of-discovery .

    Questions or comments about this episode, or our series in general? Email Marc Airhart at mairhart[AT]austin.utexas.edu

    • 27 min

Customer Reviews

5.0 out of 5
18 Ratings

18 Ratings

Jeanne Stewart ,

Saving the Bees

Thought this podcast was very interesting, fun, and informative. Relevant to issues in today’s world. Am forwarding to friends in Denver!

Jennnna L ,

Great science podcast!

This show takes an interesting approach in focusing on the specific researchers and their work, instead of just explaining a general science topic on it’s own. It’s science driven but people focused. Looking forward to more episodes!

Reluctant_apper ,

Accessible science!

I love how every episode of this podcast breaks down complicated topics into something everyone can understand. I really enjoy listening with my family - we all learn something new every time!

Top Podcasts In Science

Listeners Also Subscribed To

More by The University of Texas at Austin