You might have heard about a recently published paper that featured on Nature News: Deep Sequencing of Plant and Animal DNA Contained within Traditional Chinese Medicines Reveals Legality Issues and Health Safety Concerns. I got to speak to one of the scientists involved, Dr Mike Bunce of Murdoch University’s Ancient DNA Research Laboratory!
From Nature News:
When the medicines have been ground up, it is very difficult to tell what they are made of. In the past, researchers have examined herbal medicines by running assays for toxic compounds and using DNA tests to determine whether a specific plant or animal is present. But mislabelling is rampant, so researchers do not always know what to look for and conventional approaches will miss many of the species that are present, says Bunce.
His team turned instead to next-generation DNA sequencers, which can rapidly read thousands of DNA strands. The researchers can then check the genetic sequences against databases to learn which plants or animals they come from. This ‘deep sequencing’ technique has been used to characterize mixtures of microbes living in environments such as oceans and animal guts.
You can hear the interview featured on the Token Skeptic podcast at Episode One Hundred And Sixteen – On The Hidden Ingredients Of Chinese Medicine – Interview With Dr Mike Bunce.
Plus – der skeptische podcast!
Alexa and Alexander of Hoaxilla deal with modern and urban legends, media, culture and science from the skeptical perspective, without taking themselves too seriously. Past episodes include investigations into Titanic, Bigfoot, The Philadelphia Experiment, Mothman, chemtrails, vampires, subliminal messages and much more.
That interview features at Episode One Hundred And Seventeen – On Hoaxilla – The Skeptical Podcast From Germany. Many thanks to everyone I’ve interviewed for the shows!
Finally – a huge thanks to all the listeners, especially those who have recently given me a shout-out on Twitter. I just checked the stats for the podcast after wondering “just how many of you are there??” and discovered that over the past twelve months the show has got an average of around 10,000 listeners per month.
…Okay, that’s not anywhere in the same GALAXY as a Dr Karl or the latest Ricky Gervais comedy podcast or any of the more established skeptical podcasts, but I’m very happy to know that people are checking out the content and the wonderful people I talk to!
Downloads per month:
April 2012 – 10,846 – Myths and Makeup (I had no free time in April – this episode took months to create!);
March 2012 – 8,895 – Chris Stedman, Michael McRae and Chris Cormick, Tanya Smith and Gia Milinovich And Sonya Pemberton;
February 2012 – 12,639 – Shaun Tan lecture, Rhys Morgan And Lyz Liddell, Justin Weinstein And Tyler Measom of “An Honest Liar”;
December 2011 – 13,872 – ten episodes. Phew.
November 2011 – 11,143 – six episodes – also phew.
October 2011 – 9,157 – Hayley Stevens and Liz Lutgendorff and some Dragon*Con lectures;
September 2011 – 10,121 – mostly videos? And an interview I sent in for the 365 Days of Astronomy, with Nicole Gugliucci.
August 2011 – 5,108 – if you’re reading this, I’m clearly exhausted around here.
July 2011 – 7,430 – just one episode! But it was popular!
June 2011 – 9,073 – this was the month I met Lawrence Leung!
May 2011 – 11,429 – this was a great month – Bookclub in Melbourne, Dr Indre Viskontas and everyone’s favourite episode with Dr Karen Stollznow, Matthew Baxter And Bryan Bonner.
That’s a total of 121 399 – divided by 12 – around 10,116 listeners? I think some people are going back and checking out earlier episodes too, so I can’t say that’s every new episode that you’re catching as it comes out.
In all, I was surprised by how many episodes I could put out in a month, especially during the holiday season. I can’t say thanks enough to Dragon*Con and Skeptically Speaking for allowing me to use their content over that time and I hope you consider donating to the Dragon*Con Skeptrack and Abrupt Media this year – I’ll make another call-out to support them closer to August.