Friday, 14 October, 2022

Floods again; a billion dollar fine for disinformation; a lab-brain that plays video games; and which dog are you?



Squiz Kids shortcut to: La Niña:
Nikon Small World photo competition:
ABC quiz on the micrography photos:
Which dog are you? 






There are major flood warnings in place—and actual flooding in progress—in three different Australian states today, with rain bucketing down in Tasmania, Victoria, and regional New South Wales. 


October rainfall records have already been broken in many parts of Victoria, and the wild weather is expected to continue for weeks. Yesterday, the power went out in tens of thousands of Victorian homes, and the state’s Emergency Service responded to more than 800 calls for help. In the town of Echuca, storm water got into the drinking water, so residents are having to boil their water to kill any bacteria that’s snuck in. Bleuch. 


Rescuers have also been busy in Tasmania. Evacuation centres have been set up on the island, and many roads closed. And over in regional New South Wales, communities living near dozens of rivers are under flood watch, or dealing with flood waters. 


Pictures of submerged cars and flooded streets have been all too common in Australia lately, as the weather event known as La Niña wreaks havoc on us for the third time in a row. (If you’re curious about what exactly La Niña is, our most recent Squiz Kids Shortcut will get you up to speed – I’ll put a link in your episode notes.) Stay safe out there, people. 




Each day we give the world globe a spin and find a news story from wherever we land … and today we’ve landed in America, where a media personality called Alex Jones has been fined one-and-a-half billion dollars – yes, that’s billion with a B – for spreading disinformation. As Squiz-E the Newshound has taught us before, misinformation is untrue, but spread by someone who believes it and doesn’t mean to hurt anyone. Disinformation, on the other hand, is spread by someone who knows it’s a lie, and spreads it anyway. In the case of Alex Jones, he spread lies about children who had been killed in a terrible tragedy. Now, he’s been ordered to pay their families $1.5 billion dollars. Of course, that won’t bring the kids back, or make their families feel better about the lies—but hopefully it will make other people think twice before spreading false information.   





There’s some sad dog news out of Greenland, which is a country all the way up in the Arctic Circle. Greenland is home to a unique breed of sled dog that looks a bit like a husky… but the number of Greenlandic sled dogs is dropping dramatically, due in part to climate change. Traditionally, Greenlanders took dog sleds out to hunt, fish, and of course show tourists the sights. But with warmer temperatures, there’s so much less snow and ice that travelling by dog sled often isn’t possible… so there are fewer dogs bred and bought. Boo. 


In happier dog news, new research from England has found that people often choose pooches that they think have similar personalities to their own. The Kennel Club asked 1,500 owners of 16 popular dog breeds about how outgoing they were, as well as other questions about their personality. They found that people tended to own dogs that they thought were like them—for example, owners of Jack Russell terriers were, like their pooches, loyal and faithful. People with Golden Retrievers saw themselves as positive and happy. I’ll put a link to the quiz in your episode notes, so you can see what dog breed you’re most like. Apparently, I’m a Staffordshire bull terrier: “Everyone’s best friend, fun to be around, and never tire of playing.” I like it!




Hands up if you like to play video games? Now, keep your hands up if you’ve ever played Pong. I’m guessing there aren’t a lot of hands left up! Pong is one of the first ever video games, released in 1972. I’ll put a link in your episode notes, but be warned – it’s really boring. It’s an extremely basic, two dimensional game with a ball and two straight lines to represent the paddles. You hit the ball, and try to keep it in the court… just like Ping Pong, which is where the video game got its name. 


So why on earth am I talking about a 50-year-old video game? Because yesterday, scientists announced that the 800,000 brain cells they had grown in a lab have learned to play Pong, after they connected the mini-brain to the video game with electric wires.


The mini-brain learned to play Pong in five minutes. The researchers stress that the mini-brain doesn’t have feelings, or even understand that it’s playing a game… but it could one day be used to test treatments for brain diseases. Which is much more important than video games, after all. 




This is the part of the podcast where you get to test how well you’ve been listening …

  1. The population of sled dogs is dropping in which Arctic country? 
  2. American media personality Alex Jones was fined for spreading what? 
  3. What’s the name of the video game that a lab-grown brain has learned to play? 





It’s October 14 … and the Nikon Small World Micrography Photo Competition winners have been announced. Yes, that’s a mouthful, but wait until you see these photos. Slime mould has never looked so beautiful! I’ve put a link in your episode notes to the competition itself, as well as a great quiz that challenges you to figure out what some photos are of. 


It’s also a Friday – and you know what that means .. lots of birthday shout outs for today and the coming weekend … for which we’re going to need the ol’ birthday reggae tune … hit it … 


And it’s a happy birthday to these Squiz Kids celebrating a birthday today… Kaiser from Perth, Adam from Sydney, Eddie from Forest Lake, Terrence from Minto, Madeleine from Geelong, Piper from Jerilderie, Adam from St Ives, Grace from Bondi Junction and Mackenzie from Junee.


Belated birthday shout outs go to …Alika, Chad, Louie and Maya from Helensvale and Jax and Twiggy from Randwick. 


Not forgetting the Squiz Kids who are celebrating a birthday over the coming weekend … Peyton from Walpole, Kaitlyn from Greystanes, Hudson from Cannon Hill, Josh from Adelaide, Masoud from Macquarie Park, Jazlyn from Woongarrah, Quinn from Wattle Grove, Krystal from Craigburn, Georgie and Hunter from Mount Eliza and 

Ayin listening in Vietnam and Yosef listening in Brunei.


A special classroom shout out goes to class 3/4 at Exeter Public School and their teacher Mrs Wilson – who celebrates her birthday over the weekend. 


The S’Quiz Answers:

  1. Greenland
  2. Disinformation
  3. Pong