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Science Today is a daily radio feature produced by the University of California for the CBS Radio Network. From breakthroughs in medicine, agriculture and the environment to insights into the world around us, Science Today covers it all.

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Astronomers observe a supernovae within hours of the explosion

For the first time ever, scientists have gathered direct evidence of a rare Wolf-Rayet star being linked to a specific type of stellar explosion known as a Type IIb supernova. Peter Nugent of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory talks to us about this star:

We never had a nearby example where we could say, ‘oh this star became this supernova.’ So this was the first time we can directly point to it and say because we heated up this wind and because we could see the wind that looks just like a Wolf-Rayet star, we know that the Wolf-Rayet star blew up and then became this type of supernova.

Nugent says they caught this star – a whopping 360 million light years away – just a few hours after it exploded. 

If you’re one of the nation’s experts on spiders and the properties of their silk, you best not have a hint of arachnophobia. Fortunately for us UC Riverside’s evolutionary biologist Cheryl Hayashi does not have this problem. 
We had the pleasure of interviewing Hayashi in the past and she told us then that one of the spider silk proteins they genetically sequenced dated back about 250 million years.

That’s a really long period of time. I mean, we’re going back to the Mesozoic, when dinosaurs are walking around. And so this is a long time for these sequences to be conserved. And to us, that argues that these regions of the sequence are probably very important for the functioning of spider silks.

Hayashi explained that there’s lots of interest in creating synthetic spider silks.

Spider silk is very strong and very tough. It actually surpasses a lot of the common man-made materials. It’s stronger than high tensile steel and has a toughness that is greater than Kevlar. So there’s a lot of interest in being able to mass produce spider silk.

If you’re one of the nation’s experts on spiders and the properties of their silk, you best not have a hint of arachnophobia. Fortunately for us UC Riverside’s evolutionary biologist Cheryl Hayashi does not have this problem.

We had the pleasure of interviewing Hayashi in the past and she told us then that one of the spider silk proteins they genetically sequenced dated back about 250 million years.

That’s a really long period of time. I mean, we’re going back to the Mesozoic, when dinosaurs are walking around. And so this is a long time for these sequences to be conserved. And to us, that argues that these regions of the sequence are probably very important for the functioning of spider silks.

Hayashi explained that there’s lots of interest in creating synthetic spider silks.

Spider silk is very strong and very tough. It actually surpasses a lot of the common man-made materials. It’s stronger than high tensile steel and has a toughness that is greater than Kevlar. So there’s a lot of interest in being able to mass produce spider silk.