Migration, Salary Transparency, SpaceThe Morning Show
- Aug 18, 2014
GENETICS OF BIRD MIGRATION (This conversation starts at 1:10 in the show audio.) Scientists have known the migratory routes of songbirds are largely coded in their genes. A team at the University of British Columbia wondered what would happen to the offspring of birds with different migratory patterns. Two subspecies of the Swainson’s Thrush songbird migrate along different paths – they overlap in Canada and then diverge: One takes a more Western path down the coast of North America; the other takes a more inland route. Their offspring turn out to be pretty confused when it comes to migration, explains University of British Columbia zoology PhD candidate Kira Delmore. The team uses a net to catch the thrush and then strap a very lightweight harness on its back containing a geolocator about the size of a fingernail. “We’re there in July to put the geolocator on them then wish them luck and hope they come back into our nets a year later,” says Delmore. Most songbirds migrate at night and on their own. They probably use the sun, stars and a magnetic compass to find their way, says Delmore. But the preferred path is clearly coded in their DNA, as evidenced by the confused route taken by hybrid thrushes whose parents take different migration paths. The trouble for these hybrid thrushes is that they often take a route down the middle – between that of their two parents – which is treacherous for lack of water and feeding spots, says Delmore. THE CASE FOR SALARY TRANSPARENCY (This conversation starts at 25:58 in the show audio.) In the business world it’s generally verboten to disclose salaries – if not poor form at the very least. But Dane Atkinson, CEO of a New York startup SumAll says there’s a cost to keeping salary information secret. “In my experience, salary information leaks and causes people to be disgruntled, leading to churn in the workforce,” says Atkinson. “Transparency leads to less evil. Sunlight disinfects all: you can’t hire women for less or pay minorities less when you make all salary information open to the company.” Opting to publish all SumAll salaries on an internal website has resulted in less employee turnover, says Atkinson. But he says it’s also not easy. Management has to spend a lot of time having difficult conversations with employees about their “value.” Choosing to be transparent has also forced Atkinson to make strategic, honest decisions in hiring. Atkinson says rarely do people come to him saying, “I want to make less,” but they often will say “I think other people in my team need to make more.” The trouble of salary transparency is worth it, insists Atkinson. “I’ll never go back. There are just way too many benefits. You really do end up with a more efficient business.” SumAll is lucky to have started with transparent salaries from its founded. The transition to it “is very difficult,” says Kristen DeTienne, BYU Marriott School of Management professor of organizational behavior and strategy. The transition can lead to dissatisfaction if it brings disparities to light. “Fairness is huge – it’s very important to people,” says DeTienne. She notes that many businesses have embraced an intermediate step toward transparency: they create salary “bands” within which employees know they’re being paid comparably. DeTienne doubts many big Fortune 500 companies will move to salary transparency: “It’s just a big can of worms they don’t want to deal with.” BACTERIA HUNTING (This conversation starts at 51:24 in the show audio.) Detecting the presence of bacteria is critical to the diagnosis of diseases that can be devastating: tuberculosis, botulism, etc. BYU operates a Biosafety Level Three lab working on a system to detect bacteria more quickly and cost-effectively. BYU microbiology professor Richard Robison is working on a way to identify the genetic signatures of multiple bacteria in a single tube. HARNESSING THE POWER OF YOUR BRAIN (This conversation starts at 1:06:17 in the show audio.) How often do you suppose you use your brain to its maximum potential? Not nearly as often as you could be, is the argument David DiSalvo makes in his new book Brain Changer. DiSalvo is a science writer who – according to one review of the book – “has boiled down decades of actual research from psychological laboratories while giving us proven, scientist-approved tips on how to easily harness our maximum brainpower." How? Energy, sleep and attention, says DiSalvo. “Our brains are energy hogs, and specifically, the brain feeds on blood glucose.” He says you can boost your brain power by eating the right foods at the right time. “You can trick your brain into an energy boost without imbibing extra calories. One way is to take real lemonade – with real sugar – and swish it around your mouth. That short boost of glucose through the lining in your mouth can give your brain extra energy to enhance your mental attention and acuity.” Sleep is another key way to boost your brain power. “Shorting ourselves of sleep has the effect of burning out our cerebral circuits,” says DiSalvo. The average adult needs 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night to give the brain enough time to recover sufficiently. Attention is the third area. “Research has conclusively revealed that multi-tasking is a myth. Our brains are built to focus attention on one thing at a time.” We can task shift, says DiSalvo, but we can’t do multiple things at one time and do them well. HARVEY UNGA’S WILD RIDE (This conversation starts at 1:12:41 in the show audio.) BYU Sports Nation host Spencer Linton says a wild weekend plane ride for former BYU Running Back Harvey Unga landed him at a tryout with the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars and he got signed by the team. Co-host Jarom Jordan says Unga has struggled with his NFL career and this is a big break. “He’s probably the second best running back BYU’s ever had,” but he’s met with little success in the NFL. Very few BYU Cougars have had long-term success in the pro arena. Jordan says the underlying question/concern for BYU sports fans is, “Can BYU produce big-time, long-term NFL guys?” SEARCH FOR OTHER EARTHS (This conversation starts at 1:21:22 in the show audio.) “Can you imagine any greater discovery than to find life on other planets?” asks BYU astronomy professor Denise Stephens when asked why she and thousands of other scientists are focused on finding earth-like planets in space. The NASA-funded Kepler Project kicked off the effort with a focus on a narrow stretch of sky inside the Summer Triangle constellation, says Stephens. The project identified over 2,000 candidates for planets, based on a patient tracking of a slight “dimming” in a star as a planet passes in front of it. To be a “habitable planet” like Earth, Stephens says it would need to be in just the right zone: not too close or too far from its sun (hence the nickname Goldilocks zone). That would enable a temperature where water could exist in its liquid, gas and ice states. The planet would also need an atmosphere and a magnetosphere, says Stephens. We currently do not have a way to determine whether “planet candidates” identified by the Kepler project have the features of Earth. What would it take? Stephens says billions of dollars and a several highly-advanced telescopes launched into space and working together. Another alternative would be to send a signal to a planet we think might be habitable and see if the inhabitants respond with a signal of their own. Conspiracy theorists would say that’s already happened. While Stephens disagrees, she does think there is some form of life on other planets: “There are just too many planets out there not to have life on them.” Show More...