Ant Socialization, Smoky Skies, Dust Storm, Mars Lake. July 27, 2018, Part 2 | WBEZ
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Science Friday

Ant Socialization, Smoky Skies, Dust Storm, Mars Lake. July 27, 2018, Part 2

Many ant species have a queen, the member of the colony that lays eggs. The rest of the ants are divided into different roles that support the queen and the colony. So what ants become queens versus workers? Scientists found that the gene ilp2 that regulates insulin played a role in determining what ant becomes the queen. Biologist Ingrid Fetter-Pruneda talks to John Dankosky about how this gene works in determining a queen.

The Rocky Fire and the Jerusalem Fire scorched nearly 100,000 acres in northern California in July and August of 2015… and when the prevailing winds were right, smoke drifted all the way down into the San Francisco Bay Area. That’s when locals began tweeting their observations. Now, scientists at the U.S. Forest Service have analyzed 39,000 tweets like these from the 2015 wildfire season, and found that social media data can be a reliable way to augment existing air quality monitoring data in predicting the extent—and the public health effects—of wildfire smoke. Sonya Sachdeva joins Science Friday to talk about how tweets can be a useful tool in tracking wildfires.

Plus: Earlier this month, a cloud of dust rolled into the atmosphere above Texas and the Gulf Coast. It was a remnant of a storm blown over from the Saharan desert. But, according to a new study, that Saharan dust also brings with it a silver lining—it suppresses the formation of major storms. Bowen Pan joins John Dankosky to explain why a dusty atmosphere could mean a less severe hurricane season.

Researchers have been scouring Mars for water since the early 1970s. Since then, they’ve found frozen water in the poles of Mars as well as trace amounts locked up in Martian soil, but nothing liquid—until this past week. A team of scientists from Italy’s National Institute of Astrophysics announced in Science they found liquid water underneath the glaciers of the planet’s south pole. Angel Abbud-Madrid joins John to talk about how the researchers found the liquid water and what this discovery means for future Martian water research, and Bonnie Meinke tells SciFri the best ways to see Mars as it will be the closest it’s been to Earth in 15 years.


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