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12 minutes | Jun 11, 2021
Coronapod: Counting the cost of long COVID
The global burden of COVID-19 has predominantly been measured using metrics like case numbers, hospitalisations and deaths. But the long term health impacts are more difficult to capture. In this episode of Coronapod we discuss one way that public health experts are trying to get to grips with the problem using metrics such as disability adjusted life years (DALYs) and quality adjusted life years (QALYs).As new data suggests that COVID could leave millions with lasting disability or ill-health, we ask how changing the lens through which we asses the impacts of COVID could change public health policies, the perception of risk and even the behaviour of individuals.News Feature: The four most urgent questions about long COVIDComment: Count the cost of disability caused by COVID-19Subscribe to Nature Briefing, an unmissable daily round-up of science news, opinion and analysis free in your inbox every weekday. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
26 minutes | Jun 9, 2021
Google AI beats humans at designing computer chips
An AI that designs computer chips in hours, and zooming in on DNA’s complex 3D structures.In this episode:00:46 An AI computer microchip designerWorking out where to place the billions of components that a modern computer chip needs can take human designers months and, despite decades of research, has defied automation. This week, however, a team from Google report a new machine learning algorithm that does the job in a fraction of the time, and is already helping design their next generation of AI processors.Research Article: Mirhoseini et al.News and Views: AI system outperforms humans in designing floorplans for microchipsEditorial: Google is using AI to speed up microchip design — a welcome advance that must be handled with care07:00 Research HighlightsThe blood proteins that may help assess cardiovascular fitness, and how the rock-hard teeth of a mollusc could inspire stronger 3D-printed materials.Research Highlight: How fit can you get? These blood proteins hold a clueResearch Highlight: The surprise hidden in the teeth of the ‘wandering meatloaf’09:47 Zooming in on the 3D structure of DNAIn order to switch genes on, DNA often needs to twist up into complex 3D shapes, bringing distant parts of a genome together. Understanding precisely which sections come into contact has been difficult, but now a new technique is helping to reveal them at an individual base-pair level.Research paper: Hua et al.15:22 Briefing ChatWe discuss some highlights from the Nature Briefing. This time, the missing sections from the human genome sequence that have now been filled, and NASA announces two missions to Venus.Stat: Researchers claim they have sequenced the entirety of the human genome — including the missing partsNational Geographic: NASA will head to Venus for first time in roughly 30 yearsSubscribe to Nature Briefing, an unmissable daily round-up of science news, opinion and analysis free in your inbox... See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
16 minutes | Jun 4, 2021
Coronapod: Uncertainty and the COVID 'lab-leak' theory
Since the beginning of the pandemic, there have been allegations that SARS-CoV-2 could have originated in a Chinese lab. A phase one WHO investigation concluded that a 'lab-leak' was "extremely unlikely" and yet, the theory has seen a resurgence in recent weeks with several scientists wading into the debate.In this episode of Coronapod, we delve into what scientists have been saying and ask how and why the 'lab-leak' hypothesis has gained so much traction. We ask if the way we communicate complex and nuanced science could be fuelling division, and what the fallout could be for international collaboration on ending the pandemic.News: Divisive COVID ‘lab leak’ debate prompts dire warnings from researchersScience: Investigate the origins of COVID-19Subscribe to Nature Briefing, an unmissable daily round-up of science news, opinion and analysis free in your inbox every weekday. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
18 minutes | Jun 2, 2021
On the origin of numbers
The cross-discipline effort to work our how ancient humans learned to count.In this episode:00:45 Number originsAround the world, archaeologists, linguists and a host of other researchers are trying to answer some big questions – when, and how, did humans learn to count? We speak to some of the scientists at the forefront of this effort.News Feature: How did Neanderthals and other ancient humans learn to count?07:47 Research HighlightsHow sea anemones influence clownfish stripes, and how skin-to-skin contact can improve survival rates for high-risk newborns.Research Highlight: How the clownfish gets its stripesResearch Highlight: Nestling skin-to-skin right after birth saves fragile babies’ lives09:48 Briefing ChatWe discuss some highlights from the Nature Briefing. This time, an upper limit for human ageing, and could tardigrades survive a collision with the moon?Scientific American: Humans Could Live up to 150 Years, New Research SuggestsScience: Hardy water bears survive bullet impacts—up to a pointSubscribe to Nature Briefing, an unmissable daily round-up of science news, opinion and analysis free in your inbox every weekday. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
21 minutes | May 26, 2021
New hope for vaccine against a devastating livestock disease
A vaccine candidate for a neglected tropical disease, and calls to extend the 14-day limit on embryo research.In this episode:00:46 A vaccine candidate for an important livestock diseaseAfrican animal trypanosomiasis is a parasitic disease that kills millions of cattle each year, affecting livelihoods and causing significant economic costs in many sub-Saharan countries. Developing a vaccine against the disease has proved difficult as the parasite has a wealth of tricks to evade the immune system. This week however, a team of researchers have created a vaccine candidate that shows early promise in mice.Research Article: Autheman et al.08:27 Research HighlightsA tapeworm infection helps worker ants live longer (at a cost), and how humanity’s shift to farming influenced plant-life in pre-industrial times.Research Highlight: Tapeworm infestation gives lowly ants long lifeResearch Highlight: Our radical changes to Earth’s greenery began long ago — with farms, not factories11:21 New guidelines for stem cell researchFor the first time since 2016, the International Society for Stem Cell Research has updated its guidelines for biomedical research involving human embryos. We discuss the rapid advances in the field over the past five years, and how the new guidelines have had to change to keep pace with them.News: 14-day limit on growing human embryos in lab dropped by advisory bodySubscribe to Nature Briefing, an unmissable daily round-up of science news, opinion and analysis free in your inbox every weekday. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
22 minutes | May 24, 2021
Audio long-read: How harmful are microplastics?
Pervasive plastic specks are of great concern to scientists – but are they really harmful?Wherever they look – from the bottom of oceans to the top of mountains – researchers are uncovering tiny specks of plastic, known as microplastics.Scientists are trying to understand the potential impacts of ingesting these pervasive plastics but early results are ambiguous, as some experiments might not reflect the diversity of microplastics that exist in the real world.This is an audio version of our feature: Microplastics are everywhere — but are they harmful? See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
17 minutes | May 19, 2021
The 'zombie' fires that keep burning under snow-covered forests
Smouldering fires lay dormant before bursting back into flame in spring.In this episode:00:56 The mysterious overwintering forest firesResearchers have shown that fires can smoulder under snow in frozen northern forests before flaring up the following spring. Understanding how these so-called ‘zombie’ fires start and spread is vital in the fight against climate change.Research Article: Scholten et al.07:39 Research HighlightsAesthetic bias means pretty plants receive the most research attention, and ancient tooth gunk reveals the evolution of the mouth microbiome.Research Highlight: Flashy plants draw outsize share of scientists’ attentionResearch Highlight: Microbes in Neanderthals’ mouths reveal their carb-laden diet10:04 Briefing ChatWe discuss some highlights from the Nature Briefing. This time, Voyager 1 detects a faint interstellar ‘hum’, and a trove of Neanderthal bones found in an Italian cave.Reuters: Faraway NASA probe detects the eerie hum of interstellar spaceThe Guardian: Remains of nine Neanderthals found in cave south of RomeVideo: Hawaii’s surprise volcanic eruption: Lessons from Kilauea 2018 See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
9 minutes | May 14, 2021
Coronapod: The variant blamed for India's catastrophic second wave
Over the past few weeks, India has been experiencing a devastating second wave of COVID-19, recording hundreds of thousands of new cases a day.Evidence is growing that a new variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus known as B.1.617, first detected in India in October, may be driving this wave.On this week’s Coronapod we talk about the race to learn more about B.1.617, with early results suggesting it may be more transmissible and could cause more severe disease.News: Coronavirus variants are spreading in India — what scientists know so far See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
26 minutes | May 12, 2021
The brain implant that turns thoughts into text
A new neural interface lets people type with their mind, and a crafting journey into materials science.In this episode:00:45 A brain interface to type out thoughtsResearchers have developed a brain-computer interface that is able to read brain signals from people thinking about handwriting, and translate them into on-screen text. The team hope this technology could be used to help people with paralysis to communicate quicker than before.Research Article: Willett et al.News and Views: Neural interface translates thoughts into typeVideo: The BCI handwriting system in action07:37 Research HighlightsLight-sensitive cells help headless worms ‘see’ with their bodies, and a wearable device that monitors itchiness.Research Highlight: How headless worms see the light to steerResearch Highlight: How itchy are you? A new device knows precisely10:26 The science of everyday materialsMaterials scientist Anna Ploszajski joins us to talk about her new book Handmade, which details how her journey into craft helped shape her materials research.Book review: From spoons to semiconductors — we are what we make18:26 Briefing ChatWe discuss some highlights from the Nature Briefing. This time, the genomes of some viruses that contain a very unusual DNA nucleobase, and the smouldering nuclear reactions that remain in the wreckage of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant.Nature: Weird viral DNA spills secrets to biologistsScience: ‘It’s like the embers in a barbecue pit.’ Nuclear reactions are smoldering again at Chernobyl See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
21 minutes | May 7, 2021
Coronapod: Waiving vaccine patents and coronavirus genome data disputes
In surprise news this week, the US government announced its support for waiving patent protections for COVID-19 vaccines, in an effort to boost supplies around the world.As fewer than 1% of people living in low-income countries have received COVID-19 vaccines, it is hoped that this move is a major step towards addressing this inequity by allowing manufacturers to legally produce generic versions of vaccines. We discuss the next steps that need to be taken to make this a reality, and why there is opposition to the plan.Also on the podcast, we look at another aspect of coronavirus inequity: the sharing of genomic data. Around the world, researchers are racing to upload SARS-CoV-2 genome sequences to repositories, to help in the fight against the pandemic. One popular data repository, GISAID, requires users to sign in and acknowledge those whose data they analyse. Although a growing faction of scientists from wealthy nations are calling for the removal of gatekeeping requirements, scientists in the global south are pushing back, arguing that this will deprive them of credit and chances to participate in big-data analyses.News: In shock move, US backs waiving patents on COVID vaccinesNews: Why some researchers oppose unrestricted sharing of coronavirus genome dataNews: Scientists call for fully open sharing of coronavirus genome dataScience: Coronavirus sequence trove sparks frustrationNew York Times: Pfizer Reaps Hundreds of Millions in Profits From Covid VaccineWashington Post: Poor countries may not be vaccinated until 2024. Here’s how to prevent that. Subscribe to Nature Briefing, an unmissable daily round-up of science news, opinion and analysis free in your inbox every weekday. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
20 minutes | May 5, 2021
Oldest African burial site uncovers Stone Age relationship with death
The earliest evidence of deliberate human burial in Africa, and a metal-free rechargeable battery.Listen to our mini-series ‘Stick to the Science’: when science gets political and vote for the show in this year’s Webby Awards.In this episode:00:44 Human burial practices in Stone Age AfricaThe discovery of the burial site of a young child in a Kenyan cave dated to around 78 thousand years ago sheds new light on how Stone Age populations treated their dead.Research Article: Martinón-Torres et al.News and Views: A child’s grave is the earliest known burial site in Africa09:15 Research HighlightsHow warming seas led to a record low in Northwestern Pacific typhoons, and the Arctic bird that maintains a circadian rhythm despite 24 hour sunlight.Research Highlight: Warming seas brought an eerie calm to a stormy regionResearch Highlight: The world’s northernmost bird is a clock-watcher11:35 A metal-free rechargeable batteryLithium-ion batteries have revolutionised portable electronics, but there are significant issues surrounding their recyclability and the mining of the metals within them. To address these problems, a team of researchers have developed a metal-free rechargeable battery that breaks down to its component parts on demand.Research Article: Nguyen et al. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
27 minutes | Apr 30, 2021
Coronapod special: The inequality at the heart of the pandemic
For more than a century, public health researchers have demonstrated how poverty and discrimination drive disease and the coronavirus pandemic has only reinforced this.In a Coronapod special, Nature reporter Amy Maxmen takes us with her through eight months of reporting in the San Joaquin valley, a part of rural California where COVID's unequal toll has proven deadly.News: Inequality's deadly tollThis piece was supported by grants from the Pulitzer Center and the MIT Knight Science Journalism fellowship.Subscribe to Nature Briefing, an unmissable daily round-up of science news, opinion and analysis free in your inbox every weekday. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
18 minutes | Apr 28, 2021
What fruit flies could teach scientists about brain imaging
Ultra-precise measurements connect brain activity and energy use in individual fruit-fly neurons.Vote for our mini-series ‘Stick to the Science’: when science gets political in this year’s Webby Awards.In this episode:00:45 How brain cells use energyA team of researchers have looked in individual fruit-fly neurons to better understand how energy use and information processing are linked – which may have important implications for future fMRI studies in humans.Research Article: Mann et al.07:04 Research HighlightsA tough but flexible material inspired by lobster underbellies, and research reveals that red meat consumption hasn't dropped since the 1960s.Research Highlight: Material mimicking lobster belly cracks the code for toughnessResearch Highlight: Meat lovers worldwide pay climate little heed10:15 Briefing ChatWe discuss some highlights from the Nature Briefing. This time, early results for a new malaria vaccine look positive, and researchers unearth the latest chapter in a long-running plant experiment.Nature News: Malaria vaccine shows promise — now come tougher trialsBBC News: Malaria vaccine hailed as potential breakthroughNew York Times: One of the World’s Oldest Science Experiments Comes Up From the DirtSubscribe to Nature Briefing, an unmissable daily round-up of science news, opinion and analysis free in your inbox every weekday. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
19 minutes | Apr 26, 2021
Audio long-read: How drugmakers can be better prepared for the next pandemic
Despite warnings, and a number of close calls, drugmakers failed to develop and stockpile drugs to fight a viral pandemic. Now, in the wake of SARS-CoV-2, they are pledging not to make the same mistake again.Around the world, researchers are racing to develop drugs to target COVID-19, but also broad-spectrum antivirals that could be used to treat future viral threats.This is an audio version of our feature: The race for antiviral drugs to beat COVID — and the next pandemic See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
16 minutes | Apr 23, 2021
Coronapod: Kids and COVID vaccines
As COVID-19 vaccine roll-outs continue, attentions are turning to one group: children. While research suggests that children rarely develop severe forms of COVID-19, scientists still believe they could play a key role in transmission and a plan needs to be in place for the longer term. But clinical trials in children are more complicated than those in adults as different ethical and practical concerns need to be taken into account.In this episode of Coronapod, we discuss the ongoing clinical trials to test vaccines in young children, and ask what scientists want to know about safety, and how effective these vaccines might be at preventing disease and transmission.News: COVID vaccines and kids: five questions as trials begin See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
26 minutes | Apr 21, 2021
Meet the inflatable, origami-inspired structures
The self-supporting structures that snap into place, and how a ban on fossil-fuel funding could entrench poverty in sub-Saharan Africa.In this episode:00:45 Self-supporting, foldable structuresDrawing inspiration from the art of origami, a team of researchers have demonstrated a way to design self-supporting structures that lock into place after being inflated. The team hope that this technique could be used to create arches and emergency shelters that can be quickly unfolded from flat with minimal input.Research Article: Melancon et al.News and Views: Large-scale origami locks into place under pressureVideo: Origami-inspired structures could be deployed in disaster zones07:32 Research HighlightsNocturnal fluctuations cause scientists to underestimate rivers’ carbon emissions, and the ‘island rule’ of animal size-change is seen around the world.Research Highlight: Rivers give off stealth carbon at nightResearch Highlight: Animals around the world follow the ‘island rule’ to a curious fate09:55 Banning fossil-fuel funding will not alleviate povertyA ban by wealthy nations on the funding of overseas fossil-fuel projects would do little to reduce the world’s climate emissions and much to entrench poverty in sub-Saharan Africa, argues economist Vijaya Ramachandran.World View: Blanket bans on fossil-fuel funds will entrench poverty17:17 Briefing ChatWe discuss some highlights from the Nature Briefing. This time, the first powered flight on another world, and estimating how many Tyrannosaurus rex ever lived.News: Lift off! First flight on Mars launches new way to explore worldsVideo: Flying a helicopter on Mars: NASA’s IngenuityNews: How many T. rex ever existed? Calculation of dinosaur’s abundance offers an answerSubscribe to Nature Briefing, an unmissable daily round-up of science news, opinion and analysis free in... See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
18 minutes | Apr 16, 2021
Coronapod: could COVID vaccines cause blood clots? Here's what the science says
Reports of rare and unusual blood clots have resulted in several vaccine roll outs being paused while scientists scramble to work out if the vaccines are responsible and if so how.The unusual combination of symptoms, including a low platelet count and clots focussed in the abdomen or brain, seems similar to a rare side effect from treatment with the drug blood thinning drug Heparin - however it is not clear how the vaccines could cause the syndrome.In this episode of Coronapod we discuss the latest theories and ask how scientists are trying to get to the bottom of this important question. Medical regulators maintain that the benefits of these vaccines significantly outweigh the risks. But as uncertainty spreads, we ponder the wider implications of these reports, including the public perception of risk.News: How could a COVID vaccine cause blood clots? Scientists race to investigateCoronapod: How to define rare COVID vaccine side effectsSubscribe to Nature Briefing, an unmissable daily round-up of science news, opinion and analysis free in your inbox every weekday. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
19 minutes | Apr 14, 2021
The sanitation crisis making rural America ill
The lack of adequate sanitation in parts of the rural US, and physicists reassess muons’ magnetism.In this episode:00:45 How failing sanitation infrastructure is causing a US public health crisisIn the US, huge numbers of people live without access to adequate sanitation. Environmental-health advocate Catherine Coleman Flowers tells us about her new book looking at the roots and consequences of this crisis, focusing on Lowndes County, Alabama, an area inhabited largely by poor Black people, where an estimated 90% of households have failing or inadequate waste-water systems.Book review: Toilets – what will it take to fix them?07:56 Research HighlightsWhy adding new members to the team can spark ideas, and how manta rays remember the best spots for pampering.Research Highlight: Want fresh results? Analysis of thousands of papers suggests trying new teammatesResearch Highlight: What manta rays remember: the best spots to get spruced up10:13 Reassessing muons’ magnetic momentA decade ago, physicists measured the ‘magnetic moment’ of the subatomic muon, and found their value did not match what theory suggested. This puzzled researchers, and hinted at the existence of new physics. Now, a team has used a different method to recalculate the theoretical result and see if this discrepancy remains.Research Article: Fodor et al.News: Is the standard model broken? Physicists cheer major muon resultSubscribe to Nature Briefing, an unmissable daily round-up of science news, opinion and analysis free in your inbox every weekday. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
22 minutes | Apr 9, 2021
Coronapod: A whistle-blower’s quest to take politics out of coronavirus surveillance
Rick Bright exposed former president Trump's political meddling in the US COVID response. Now he is championing a new privately funded initiative to track viral spread and combat new variants. We discuss the challenges of collecting data on a rapidly spreading virus, from transmission dynamics to genomic surveillance. We also ask why a veteran government scientist like Bright, the ex-director of the US Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, would take a new path in the private sector.News Q&A: Pandemic whistle-blower: we need a non-political way to track virusesNews: Why US coronavirus tracking can’t keep up with concerning variantsSubscribe to Nature Briefing, an unmissable daily round-up of science news, opinion and analysis free in your inbox every weekday. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
24 minutes | Apr 6, 2021
Audio long-read: Rise of the robo-writers
In 2020, the artificial intelligence (AI) GPT-3 wowed the world with its ability to write fluent streams of text. Trained on billions of words from books, articles and websites, GPT-3 was the latest in a series of ‘large language model’ AIs that are used by companies around the world to improve search results, answer questions, or propose computer code.However, these large language model are not without their issues. Their training is based on the statistical relationships between the words and phrases, which can lead to them generating toxic or dangerous outputs.Preventing responses like these is a huge challenge for researchers, who are attempting to do so by addressing biases in training data, or by instilling these AIs with common-sense and moral judgement.This is an audio version of our feature: Robo-writers: the rise and risks of language-generating AI See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
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