Friday, January 18th 2013

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On today's Mooney, presented by Olan McGowan,

We talk about new research which demonstrates that crustaceans actually feel pain - and more research proving that fish don't! Eanna ni Lamhna talks about the place of Barnacle geese in Irish legend and culture. And we learn how spider silk, one of the most amazing materials known to man, could be used to manufacture violin strings and bullet-proof vests!

Oscar Merne, RIP

Our panel of Richard Collins, Eanna ni Lamhna, Terry Flanagan and Ken Whelan pay tribute to Oscar Merne, the Irish conservationist who passed away yesterday.

Star Snot!

During the week, we received this e-mail from two of our listeners, Tim and Eileen:

Dear Derek,

We have spotted what looks like huge frog spawn (about 20mm in diameter) on the ground in our garden in Cork. I attach a photo with a €2 coin to show the size of the spawn.

Best wishes, Tim and Eileen Cooper

The mystery substance with a €2 coin as a size guide
The mystery substance with a €2 coin as a size guide

So is it frog spawn? Well actually it's something that is intriguingly called star snot! Eanna ni Lamhna is in studio to tell us all about it!

NASA To Design Warp Drive?

The voyages of the Star Trek's Starship Enterprise would never have been possible without the achievement of warp drive. Warp speed is, of course, the stuff of fiction. The idea that we could travel across space and time to distant galaxies is strictly explored in the imaginations of science fiction writers!

Or is it? Incredibly, NASA have actually assigned a team now to investigate the possibilities of actually developing a real, workable warp drive: a gadget that would allow spaceships to travel faster than light, and to transport a spacecraft to the most distant stars in a matter of weeks.

We contacted well-known physicist Dr Cormac O'Raifeartaigh at Waterford Institute of Technology to get his opinion on the story...

K Club Wedding Competition

About 22,000 couples get married in Ireland every year – and here on Mooney we’re going to make 2013 lucky for some with a fantastic wedding competition we’re going to be running in January in conjunction with the RTÉ Guide and The K Club! To find out more, tune in, get a copy of the RTÉ Guide TODAY or click here!!! And for more information on all the wedding packages and facilities available at the K Club, click here!

Experiment: How To Measure Iron In Cereal!

Most breakfast cereals are now advertised as containing iron, or fortified iron. But how do we know how much iron is really inside? Mooney Goes Wild reporter and science teacher Terry Flanagan is in studio with a simple method to extract the iron from the cereal with just a magnet and some warm water - click here to find out how!

Spider Silk and Silk Worms

The simple action of running a bow over a string, and creating a musical note, has been known to mankind for many centuries. But strangely, the material used in making both strings and bows on violins has hardly changed at all! They are both made from horse hair!

HOWEVER... All that might change with new developments from various universities in the United States. They have been experimenting with spider silk, and they feel that their research may lead to this incredible material being used in all kinds of innovative applications. Violin strings. Bullet-proof vests. Various manufacturing utilities.

It's a truly remarkable material, spider silk. Stronger than steel, and yet able to stretch up to 30% its own length. But in terms of making it practically useful for our purposes, there was always one insurmountable problem! Quite simply: how do we produce enough of it?

Olan is joined on the line today by Malcolm J. Fraser, Professor of Biological Sciences at University of Notre Dame in Indiana, USA - he's one of a team of researchers who might just have cracked this problem!

App Article: Barnacle Geese: The Priest’s Fish and other stories (by Eanna ni Lamhna)

We tend to think of winter as a time when some of our birds have flown off to Africa as there is no insect food for them here at this time of year. But Ireland is south for birds that breed further north and so we get winter visitors – birds that come here to spend the winter – yes that’s right – Ireland is a much warmer place than Iceland, Greenland or Arctic Canada at this time of year. And of course they leave again in April to travel north again. On the face of it you would wonder why. Haven’t we got loads of grass here all summer that they could eat? Why risk the arduous journey over the ocean?

To find out more, download the Mooney app, for iPhone and Android phones, to read the rest of Eanna's article, and much more!

The Island Landscape

RTÉ Television, in association with Mooney, is currently producing a major new documentary series on the history of the Irish landscape. The series will tell the story of how our landscape was created after the last major climatic event – the end of the last Ice Age, over ten thousand years ago.  And we want your help! Would you like to contribute video towards the TV series? Click here to find out what we're looking for!

Today's Podcasts - To Follow