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New Scientist Weekly
36 minutes | 2 days ago
#44: When we’ll get the vaccine; fast-expanding universe; lunar missions
Vaccine scientist Katrina Pollock answers some of the biggest questions about covid-19 vaccines: when are we going to get one, and when will life go back to normal? A clinician at Imperial College London, Katrina is working on both the Imperial mRNA vaccine trials, and the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine trials. She discusses vaccine safety, and the finding in trials that a low-dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine caused a bigger immune response. Also on the podcast, science writer Stuart Clark explains why the unusually fast expansion of our universe might require a rethink of Einstein’s general theory of relativity. We discuss China’s Chang’e 5 mission to bring back samples of moon rocks for the first time in over 40 years. We also hear about the startling finding that nematodes produce ‘milk’ for their young, and explain why president-elect Joe Biden is providing renewed hope for tackling the climate crisis. On the pod this week are Rowan Hooper, Cat de Lange, Leah Crane and Donna Lu. To read more about the stories, subscribe at newscientist.com/podcasts.
30 minutes | 9 days ago
#43: How the covid RNA vaccine works; systemic racism; origin of humans
Even as covid-19 cases keep going up, we’ve had some good news about possible vaccines for coronavirus. Two of the promising vaccines are mRNA vaccines, and on this week’s show Anna Blakney, an RNA bioengineer at Imperial College London, explains all about this new technology. Also on the podcast: we highlight research into systemic racism and the role it plays in socioeconomic disparity, healthcare outcomes, and even technology. We explore the controversy around the species thought to be the earliest member of the human family. And then there’s a look at the brain-upgrading power of living electrodes, and news about a very, very hangry caterpillar. On the pod this week are New Scientist journalists Rowan Hooper, Tiffany O’Callaghan and Layal Liverpool, and science writer Mike Marshall. Sign up to Mike’s newsletter about the evolution and prehistory of the human species here. To read more about the stories, subscribe at newscientist.com/podcasts.
28 minutes | 16 days ago
#42: Vaccine for covid-19; origin of animals; overpopulation
There are exciting results in trials of two coronavirus vaccines. But just how excited should we be? We discuss the latest findings, the strength of these potential vaccines, and how likely it is they’ll be rolled out before the end of the year. Also on the show, the team discusses the controversial issue of overpopulation, debates which animal group was the first to evolve on Earth, examines the female-led mating habits of mongoose, and explores new possibilities for space gardening. On the pod this week are New Scientist journalists Rowan Hooper, Tiffany O’Callaghan, Graham Lawton and Richard Webb. To find out more, subscribe at newscientist.com/podcasts.
26 minutes | 23 days ago
#41: The function of dreams
On this week’s election-distraction special, we hear about a new hypothesis which could explain an age-old mystery. Dreams could be a way of freeing our brains from the limits of normal life. Also on the pod, the team discusses the discovery of the source of a fast radio burst, sent out by a neutron star in our galaxy. They also explore a method to create a temporary vaccine for covid-19, until a long-term solution is found. Also on the agenda: the news that octopuses taste with their arms, and an ancient squid shaped like a giant paperclip. We also have a debrief of what it means now the US has officially withdrawn from the Paris climate agreement. All this, plus dreamy new music from Oneohtrix Point Never, and a song from space to mark the 20th anniversary of the continuous occupancy of the International Space Station. On the pod this week are Rowan Hooper, Tiffany O’Callaghan, Graham Lawton and Beth Ackerley. If you have had covid-19 and would like to donate plasma, please visit www.nhsbt.nhs.uk (to find UK sites); www.thefightisinus.org (US); or www.lifeblood.com.au/convalescent-plasma (Aus). To find out more, subscribe at newscientist.com/podcasts.
29 minutes | a month ago
#40: Halloween special: real-life vampires, the science of ghosts, deep-sea zombies, monster black holes
What price would you pay for eternal youth? Some real-life vampires in California took part in a trial where they infused themselves with the blood plasma of young people, in an attempt to rejuvenate their brains and extend their lives.For this Halloween special we gathered journalists from the dungeons at New Scientist towers: Rowan Hooper, Cat de Lange, Beth Ackerley, Sam Wong, Layal Liverpool, Leah Crane and Chelsea Whyte.The team get their teeth stuck into the vampire experiments in Silicon Valley, and explain why blood plasma is thought to have regenerative properties. They also uncover the mystery of ghosts by exploring what’s going on in the brain when we see an apparition or have a near-death experience. They dive into a truly monstrous and destructive force in the universe - black holes! And they discuss zombie microbes and vampire squid.If you want to start your own podcast, and support our show, sign up to Buzzsprout using this link: https://www.buzzsprout.com/?referrer_id=751731
28 minutes | a month ago
#39: Social lives of viruses; CRISPR to fight antibiotic resistance; dealing with risk; George RR Martin and the moon
When we think about the way a virus operates, we tend to think of it as a lone assassin. But it turns out viruses have surprisingly rich social lives - perhaps richer than many human social lives at the moment. In the pod this week are New Scientist journalists Rowan Hooper, Tiffany O'Callaghan and Graham Lawton.The team sets out to change the way we see viruses, by explaining how different viruses cooperate to improve their chances of spreading - and how this understanding can help in the fight against covid-19. They also explain how CRISPR gene editing can help combat antibiotic resistance, one of humanity’s greatest threats. They explore why events like the coronavirus pandemic can have a detrimental impact on how we perceive risk, and what we can do about that. The pod also hears that the Moon once had a magnetic field, and celebrates an incredibly tough insect, the diabolical ironclad beetle.If you want to start your own podcast, and support our show, sign up to Buzzsprout using this link: https://www.buzzsprout.com/?referrer_id=751731
33 minutes | a month ago
#38: Tackling the climate crisis; essential, like, filler words of, um, language; mystery of the human penis; your covid questions answered
2020 was meant to be a pivotal year in the fight against climate change, but a rather pressing issue has knocked us off course. But there are still ways that the covid-19 crisis could trigger the changes we need to see.In the pod this week are New Scientist journalists Rowan Hooper, Tiffany O'Callaghan and Adam Vaughan, and science writer David Robson.The team discusses how the pandemic response has shown us possible routes to tackling climate change - particularly if working from home becomes a lasting result of the crisis. They, like, also, um, hear about the importance of, um, filler words and what they say about the evolution of language. They answer your covid-related questions, and explore the possibilities of asteroid mining. Oh and they find out why men don’t have penis bones, even though most other male mammals do… and how this bizarrely links to the Biblical story of Adam and Eve. If you want to start your own podcast, and support our show, sign up to Buzzsprout using this link: https://www.buzzsprout.com/?referrer_id=751731
31 minutes | 2 months ago
#37: Black holes and CRISPR gene editing spring Nobel surprises; climate change and indigenous people in the Arctic; symptom clusters identified for covid-19
This year’s Nobel prize season has been the most thrilling in ages. Not only are we celebrating fascinating scientific breakthroughs, but this is also only the fourth time a woman has won a physics prize in 117 years.In the pod this week are New Scientist journalists Rowan Hooper, Cat de Lange and Tim Revell.The team chats about the physics and chemistry Nobel prizes, awarded for work on black holes and CRISPR gene editing. CRISPR is on the agenda twice as the team discusses the creation of a new type of gene-edited cow. They also share the cultural pleasures they’ve been enjoying, and hear the latest news about how people fall into different ‘symptom clusters’ of covid-19.There’s also a special report from the British Museum’s Arctic: culture and climate exhibition, exploring the history and resilience of indigenous Arctic people. It opens on the 22nd October, and you can find out more here.If you want to start your own podcast, and support our show, sign up to Buzzsprout using this link: https://www.buzzsprout.com/?referrer_id=751731
33 minutes | 2 months ago
#36: Hunt for life on Venus and Mars; how the paleo diet affects your age; strategy for the second wave of coronavirus; species extinction crisis
Hopes of discovering life on Venus have been dampened somewhat as the sheer scale of the task becomes clear. But don’t get in a slump just yet, because Mars has come out fighting...In the pod this week are New Scientist journalists Rowan Hooper, Cat de Lange, Leah Crane and Graham Lawton.The team explains how scientists have confirmed the existence of a huge underground lake of liquid water on Mars. Surrounded by smaller ponds, this news has reinvigorated those eager to find signs of alien life on the Red Planet. Also, the team assesses the impact of different diets on your biological age, with the news that going paleo - eating like a caveman or cavewoman - may make you older than your years. And, as we all become increasingly aware of the extinction crisis, the team reveals the identity of the world’s most endangered group of animals. They also discuss herd immunity and the latest coronavirus news, and share news of an exoplanet discovered in a galaxy far, far away.To find out more, subscribe at newscientist.com/podcasts.
33 minutes | 2 months ago
#35: The first woman on the moon; evolution special; purpose of sleep and dreams; deep water mystery
We’ve all wondered why we dream, or even why we sleep. We know it’s good for you, but we don’t really know what’s going on in the brain while you’re tucked up under the covers.In the pod this week are New Scientist journalists Rowan Hooper, Valerie Jamieson, Leah Crane and Jess Hamzelou.The team discusses a study that shows sleep functions differently depending on our age, particularly when babies develop into toddlers, and the purpose of sleep shifts from growing and developing their brains, to repairing them. Also on the show - favourite facts about evolution, like how coffee is able to cause epigenetic changes to your DNA. The team also discusses NASA’s plan to land a man and woman on the moon in 2024. Plus: the team explains how water can exist in two liquid forms simultaneously, and celebrates climate hope with China’s recent pledge to reach net-zero carbon emissions.To find out more, subscribe at newscientist.com/podcasts.
33 minutes | 2 months ago
#34: Race to find life on Venus; coronavirus claims lives of 1 million people; extinction crisis; how the brain slows time
Move over Mars - Venus might actually be the best place to find alien life in our solar system. Phosphine, a molecule that on Earth is only created by bacteria or by industrial processes has been found in the planet’s clouds. Could it really be a new lifeform?In the pod this week are New Scientist journalists Rowan Hooper, Valerie Jamieson, Leah Crane and Adam Vaughan.The team discusses the thrilling discovery of phosphine on Venus and how the spacecraft BepiColombo will soon try to confirm this news. If it’s true, it may be an unexpected sign that life exists on the seemingly inhospitable planet. They also mark a grim milestone for the coronavirus pandemic, as global deaths reach 1 million. Sir David Attenborough makes an appearance as the team analyses the dire reality of Earth’s biodiversity crisis, and another British icon - Doctor Who - also appears as the team hears how our perception of time can be altered. Finally, we discover why a goat has had its testicles cloned.To find out more, subscribe at newscientist.com/podcasts.
31 minutes | 3 months ago
#33: The healthy-eating revolution; China’s cosmic ambitions; Russia’s pursuit of gene-editing technology; the world’s greatest mammal
If you’ve longed for the day when scientists announce pizza is actually good for you, you *may* be in luck. It turns out there’s no such thing as a universally wholesome diet - what’s healthy for one person might be harmful for the next.In the pod this week are New Scientist journalists Rowan Hooper, Valerie Jamieson and Graham Lawton.The team discusses the advent of a healthy eating revolution. “Precision nutrition” aims to measure the metabolic response of individuals to certain types of food, to figure out what foods are good and bad for people on a personal level. Maybe, for you, chocolate cake really is the best breakfast?Elsewhere on the show we hear the squeaky sounds of the naked mole rat, as we learn that not only are these legendary mammals practically blind, but they’re also almost completely deaf. The team hears about Vladimir Putin’s thoughts on the potential for gene editing in humans, discusses China’s recent launch of a reusable space plane, and checks in on the “Great Green Wall” project to plant a belt of trees across the whole width of Africa.To find out more, subscribe at newscientist.com/podcasts.
34 minutes | 3 months ago
#32: Billionaire plan to geoengineer the planet; how the moon affects your health; Neuralink’s telepathic pigs
If we’re not going to make the effort to cut carbon emissions, why don’t we manipulate Earth’s climate, forcing it to cool down? Obviously that’s not ideal - but geoengineering, one the most controversial proposals to combat climate change, is back in the spotlight this week.In the pod are New Scientist journalists Rowan Hooper, Valerie Jamieson and Cat de Lange. They’re joined by best-selling author and former New Scientist editor Jo Marchant. Silicon Valley billionaires have been linked with a new method for geoengineering the planet, which would aim to reverse ocean acidity and remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. But do we really want unilateral decisions being made on issues that affect the entire planet?The team also discusses the power of the moon - you might think its impact on our health is purely the stuff of folklore, but it turns out it may genuinely affect our physiology. Also on the agenda is Elon Musk’s demonstration of Neuralink, a brain-computer interface recently tested in pigs. The team also explains how to travel through a wormhole without dying, and offers the latest updates on coronavirus, as children around the world go back to school.To find out more, subscribe at newscientist.com/podcasts.
24 minutes | 3 months ago
#31: Widening the search for alien life on habitable planets; why unconscious bias training might not work; the microbiome of cancer tumours
The universe is so large, so expansive, it’s hard to believe that life doesn’t exist elsewhere. Over the years we’ve found a handful of planets that look like they could host life, but now the net’s being cast wider than ever before.In the pod this week are New Scientist journalists Valerie Jamieson, Clare Wilson and Tim Revell. They explain how our definition of a ‘habitable planet’ might be too narrow - that a planet might not need to sit in the Goldilocks zone to sustain life - opening up the possibility for life on many weird and wonderful worlds we’ve never even considered before.The team also discusses the impact of unconscious bias training - why it might not work and how it could in fact make biases worse. They explain how cancer tumours have their own microbiome, and what that means for diagnoses. They also touch on an amazing new finding about Clarias batrachus, a catfish that walks on land, and ponder over whether our sun once had a twin.To find out more, subscribe at newscientist.com/podcasts.
30 minutes | 3 months ago
#30: Redefining time; why mindfulness can cause problems; secrets of super-resilient tardigrades
Our measurement of time isn’t up to scratch. We can’t define a second or an hour or even a day by referring to the length of time it takes the Earth to spin on its axis, because that duration isn’t constant. But even caesium atomic clocks, with an accuracy of 1 second in 100 million years, are no longer accurate enough. Time needs a new definition.In the pod this week are New Scientist journalists Rowan Hooper, Valerie Jamieson and Clare Wilson. They discuss a new, more precise way of defining a second, a method that will now be considered by the Time Lords in charge of these things, and ask what benefits we could get with a new kind of atomic clock.The team also explores the findings that mindfulness, used the world over to improve mental health, could sometimes have the opposite effect, leaving some people more anxious and depressed. They celebrate the toughest creatures in the world, the eight-legged tardigrades, and consider how we might use their powers to our own ends, and also discuss the worrying news that Greenland has passed a tipping point and is set to lose all of its ice. In the Total Perspective Vortex, the team marvel at the speed of the fastest star ever seen.To find out more, subscribe at newscientist.com/podcasts.
31 minutes | 3 months ago
#29: Loneliness during lockdown; medical artificial intelligence beats doctors; who gets the coronavirus vaccine first
By now we’re all feeling the effects of video call fatigue. Even though we’ve found new ways to connect with each other virtually during lockdown, remote conversation can’t replace the benefits of real, face-to-face social interactions.In the pod this week are New Scientist journalists Rowan Hooper, Valerie Jamieson and Graham Lawton. They discuss the serious negative effects of social isolation on health and general well-being. People need shared experiences and physical connections to stay healthy, and it turns out that men may feel the loss more than women.The team also discusses how a new type of artificial intelligence is outperforming doctors when diagnosing diseases, and what that means for the future of medicine. They dig into all the news about a potential vaccine for coronavirus, and ask the question: if we can’t make enough stock for everybody all at once, who gets to have the vaccine first? Also on the agenda is a discovery about the solar system’s largest asteroid that is exciting prospective asteroid miners, and our very existence is thrown into perspective with the startling news that the Higgs boson could spell doom for the universe. To find out more, subscribe at newscientist.com/podcasts.
34 minutes | 4 months ago
#28: Origin of life on Earth; second wave of coronavirus; science of miscarriage
How did life spring up on planet Earth? What happened to turn sterile, lifeless rock into cells that could harness energy, grow and reproduce?In the pod this week are New Scientist journalists Rowan Hooper, Valerie Jamieson, Adam Vaughan and Alice Klein. They discuss the origin of life itself, and how we need a rethink of the processes that form life. Scientists are attempting to make a proto-living cell self-assemble and operate without the biochemical machinery it would usually need. The team also discusses the threat of a second wave of coronavirus, how we’ve reached the upper limit in terms of reopening society, and explain why transmission rates in schools should be manageable. Also, Val and Alice share honest and moving accounts of their experiences with miscarriage, as they explain the science behind why it happens, providing a new level of understanding and comfort to the 60% of women who go though pregnancy loss. In the mix too is an analysis of the shocking extent of the ongoing Arctic heatwave, and news with implications for the possibility of past life on Mars.To find out more, subscribe at newscientist.com/podcasts.
30 minutes | 4 months ago
#27: Putting plastic back on the agenda; revisiting the iconic black hole image, how dinosaurs dominated the planet
With the threat of coronavirus taking centre stage in all our minds, has the issue of plastic waste taken a backseat - has the public lost interest?In the pod this week are New Scientist journalists Valerie Jamieson, Graham Lawton and Adam Vaughan. They discuss a new study exploring ways to fix our ever-increasing problem of plastic pollution, which is being especially compounded by many of the world’s new hygiene measures and the dumping of thousands of tonnes of PPE. As different parts of the world look to tackle the issue differently, like the UK’s introduction of a plastic tax for instance, can we push back the worst of our plastic problems?The team also reexamines 2019’s groundbreaking image of a black hole, as a new study reveals what the fuzzy orange glow around the hole could tell us. They also find out how dinosaurs became one of the most successful groups of animals ever to exist, work out whether fungi found at Chernobyl could protect humans from the radiation on Mars, and take a closer look than ever before at the planet nearest to our sun, Mercury!To find out more, subscribe at newscientist.com/podcasts.
28 minutes | 4 months ago
#26: The hidden dark matter of our food; NASA’s new search for life on Mars; smallpox in the American civil war
What’s in our food? By now you’d think we’d have a pretty firm handle on that question, but it turns out we don’t know the half of it.In the pod this week are New Scientist journalists Rowan Hooper, Valerie Jamieson and Graham Lawton. They discuss what’s been called nutritional dark matter: the massive void in our understanding of the biochemicals that make up the food we eat. Our standard guidelines neglect to take into account thousands of molecules and compounds, which might explain why nutritional recommendations tend to flip-flop: chocolate and red wine is good for us one week, and vilified the next.The team also visits Mars as NASA prepares to send a rover called Perseverance on a new life-finding mission, and they explore how a form of vaccination was being used as far back as the 18th century, later adopted by soldiers in the US civil war, in the fight against smallpox. They also celebrate DNA, as a quadruple-stranded form of the molecule has been discovered for the first time in healthy human cells, and herald a polystyrene-eating beetle which may help solve our plastic waste crisis.To find out more, subscribe at newscientist.com/podcasts.
32 minutes | 4 months ago
#25: Coronavirus effects on children, and on other diseases; changing the way you sit could add years to your life; supercrops for a climate-changed world
Contracting covid-19 isn’t the only thing that’s making coronavirus deadly - the outbreak could lead to a jump in the number of deaths from diseases like tuberculosis, malaria and HIV. With healthcare systems at capacity, issues with drug supply chains, and with people unwilling to visit hospitals, the knock-on effects could be devastating.In the pod this week are New Scientist journalists Rowan Hooper, Cat de Lange, and Adam Vaughan. Bringing you the latest news about the pandemic, the team also hear about the mental health implications of lockdown on our children, and the possibility of increased hospital deaths if the UK suffers a bad winter.The team also attempts to vindicate sitting down - it might not be as bad for us as we think, but as always there’s a caveat! They discuss whether it’s possible to radically engineer crops in the face of climate change and population growth, chat about the introduction of bison to the UK, and explain how advanced alien civilisations could avoid cosmic catastrophes by moving their entire solar systems!To find out more, subscribe at newscientist.com/podcasts.
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