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Paper Boys

Paper Boys

Author: Paper Boys

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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.
48 Episodes
Recent research has sparked popular news headlines about the brain “seeing what’s around the corner.” Can your brain actually look around corners? Well, not quite...however, fascinating research from the University of Glasgow has shown that the parts of your brain responsible for vision actually try to predict what you’ll see next--even faster than the time it takes to move your eyes side to side! Join us this week as James breaks down this fascinating neuroscience paper. (Big shout out to Dennis Bontempi for the paper recommendation!)Find the paper, news, and more at Bonus episodes and eternal love from James and Charlie at
In the early 20th century, Einstein, Hubble, and other scientists confirmed the universe was expanding. With the exception of a few nearby galaxies, nearly all galaxies are moving away from us. Scientists have long been tempted by the challenging problem that arises from trying to measure how fast these galaxies are moving away, resulting in some fascinating findings. It turns out that by measuring the gravitational waves from colliding neutron stars, we might just find a better answer! Join us this week as Charlie dives into new research that improves humanity’s (and the Paper Boys’) understanding of our ever-expanding universe.Check out the CRAZY paper, old journal papers, news articles, and more at this episode? Want more? Go to!
Most people don’t need an excuse to drink caffeine in the morning. Pick your poison: whether it’s coffee, tea, or an extra large Red Bull, caffeine’s psychoactive effects are evident. But could that same drug be kickstarting your body to burn more calories than you would be otherwise? Join us this week as James looks at new research studying the effects of caffeine on “brown fat,” the fat we have that helps regulate our body temps and keep us healthy (as opposed to “white fat” that stores energy).
Researchers have long been puzzled about how human language evolved. Humans’ ability to create complex, flexible, spoken language stands out in the animal kingdom, but little is known about how language developed, and particularly, how animals evolved to repeatedly create novel recognizable sounds (“formant modification” as it’s called in the study). Could any other animals learn to manipulate sounds in a similar matter and associate these sounds with meaning? Join us this week as Charlie brings in a fascinating paper (and several adorable videos) about new research seeking to understand if seals could learn to create human-like sounds.Watch the seal singing videos, read the paper, and more at Check out our bonus episodes at!
In the 1980s, neuroscientists put forth the Critical Brain Hypothesis, which suggests our brain operates on a teetering edge between different "phases" of operation. These phase changes characterize the way we think and the way our brain functions. However, our brains have to sit right near the critical point that lies between these phases - just like the thin line between water and ice, for example. Obviously, this hypothesis has been incredibly difficult to prove true - but a new experiment takes us the furthest we've ever been in understanding this dynamic. James dives into the paper to find out what your brain may have in common with avalanches.Check out the paper, news articles, and more at Support the show at
Humans love to test their limits. Some people run marathons, race triathlons, or climb the world’s highest peaks. All of these endeavors are challenging, but can we quantitatively compare how each undertaking pushes the human body? Join us this week as Charlie dives into new research that seeks to determine a ‘hard limit’ on human energy expenditure, both in relatively short duration tasks like running a marathon as well as long duration tasks like running 6 marathons a week for 20 weeks or even being pregnant!Check out the awesome plot showing the human endurance limit, the paper, news articles, and more at
Recent science news has been covering a paper drawing a connection between supernovae and the advent of human ancestors walking upright. The new headlines went viral, but their short titles made it hard to understand the actual findings of the research. Was this due to radiation causing genetic mutations? Did the supernovae impart some magical powers on our ancient ancestors? Or was it more circuitous than that? This week, James dives into the real research behind the headlines to uncover what findings were actually published in the paper.
Nuclear weapons have obviously had a big impact on the world since their development more than 70 years ago. But new research on the diets of small crustaceans in the Mariana Trench--the deepest known point in the world at more than 36,000 feet below sea level--indicates that elevated levels of the radioactive isotope Carbon-14 created by nuclear weapons testing can still be found in these remote, isolated creatures. This week Charlie dives into this interesting research that reveals new insights about the carbon cycles of our oceans as well as the measurable impact of human activities on the environment.Check out the paper, news articles, and disgusting picture of a Hadal amphipod at
A huge breakthrough of the last few decades is our ability to sequence genomes - pulling out the order of bases in our DNA to understand exactly what makes organisms tick. However, a new field takes it a step further by creating synthetic genomes that are built from scratch to produce custom DNA. Scientists even hope to re-code pieces of DNA that are redundant to perform more tasks. This technique promises to revolutionize many industries, with the most imminent advancements in the production of super bacteria that can resist viruses and save billions of dollars. James dives into a paper about synthetic DNA that sounds more like sci-fi than anything.Read the paper, check out our merch, and watch a compilation of Jeff Goldblum quotes at
When people think of the moon, they often envision it as a cold, static body. However, when the Apollo moon missions landed on the moon’s surface, they were actually able to record seismic activity dubbed “moonquakes.” These findings suggested our cold, dusty neighbor was more geologically active than expected, but it was only recently that scientists were able to link these past seismic recordings to actual fault lines observed by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter since its launch in 2009. This week, Charlie dives into new research about the moon to discuss the interesting science as well as the recent media reports about Jeff Bezos, NASA, and SpaceIL’s intents to return us to the lunar surface.Read the paper, news articles, and support the show at
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