Category Archives: Science

Science Podcast: Aracibo Observatory Research, Environment & Behavior

Science Senior Correspondent Daniel Clery regales host Sarah Crespi with tales about the most important work to come from 57 years of research at the now-defunct Arecibo Observatory and plans for the future of the site. 

Sarah also talks with Toman Barsbai, an associate professor in the school of economics at the University of Bristol, about the influence of ecology on human behavior—can we figure out how many of our behaviors are related to the different environments where we live? Barsbai and colleagues took on this question by comparing behaviors around finding food, reproduction, and social hierarchy in three groups of animals living in the same places: foraging humans, nonhuman mammals, and birds. 

Covid-19: ‘The Rise Of The RNA Vaccines’ (Podcast)

Benjamin Thompson, Noah Baker and Elie Dolgin discuss RNA vaccines.

In this episode:

01:16 How RNA vaccines came to prominence

In less than a year, two RNA vaccines against COVID-19 were designed, tested and rolled out across the world. We discuss these vaccines’ pros and cons, how RNA technology lends itself to rapid vaccine development, and what this means for the fight against other diseases.

News feature: How COVID unlocked the power of RNA vaccines

09:20 The hurdles for trialling new COVID-19 vaccines

Multiple candidates for new COVID-19 vaccines are still being developed, which may offer advantages over the vaccines currently available. However, running placebo-controlled trials of these candidates is becoming increasingly difficult, so researchers are looking for different ways to evaluate them.

News: Search for better COVID vaccines confounded by existing rollouts

14:45 How long will COVID vaccines be effective?

There is much concern around the world about two faster-spreading variants of SARS-CoV-2. We get an update on whether these variants could render vaccines ineffective.

News: Could new COVID variants undermine vaccines? Labs scramble to find out

Science Podcast: Dire Wolf Extinction, Pluto’s Blue Haze & Mice Empathy

DNA clues point to how dire wolves went extinct, and a round-up of the main impacts of Brexit on science.

In this episode:

00:45 Dire wolf DNA

Dire wolves were huge predators that commonly roamed across North America before disappearing around 13,000 years ago. Despite the existence of a large number of dire wolf fossils, questions remain about why this species went extinct and how they relate to other wolf species. Now, using DNA and protein analysis, researchers are getting a better understanding of what happened to these extinct predators.

Research Article: Perri et al.

11:43 Research Highlights

The secret to Pluto’s blue haze, and the neural circuitry underlying mice empathy.

Research Highlight: Ice bathes Pluto in a blue haze

Research Highlight: Brain maps show how empathetic mice feel each other’s pain

13:31 Post-Brexit science

In December, a last minute trade-deal between the UK and EU clarified what the future relationship between the two regions would look like, after Brexit. We discuss the implications of this trade-deal for science funding, the movement of researchers, and data sharing.

News Explainer: What the landmark Brexit deal means for science

23:18 Briefing Chat

We discuss some highlights from the Nature Briefing. This time, concerns about contaminating water on the moon, and the spy satellites that spied out environmental change.

Nature News: Will increasing traffic to the Moon contaminate its precious ice?

The New York Times: Inside the C.I.A., She Became a Spy for Planet Earth

Covid-19: ‘How mRNA Vaccines Work’ (Video)

Messenger RNA—or mRNA—vaccines have been in development for decades, and are now approved for use against COVID-19. Here’s how they work and what you should know about them. Visit https://www.jhsph.edu/covid-19​ for even more resources.

Profile: 2004 Nobel Prize Physicist Frank Wilczek – ‘Strong Force Theory’

In 1972, Frank Wilczek and his thesis adviser, David Gross, discovered the basic theory of the strong force — the final pillar of the Standard Model of particle physics. Their work revealed the strange alchemy at work inside the nucleus of an atom. It also turned out to underpin almost all subsequent research into the early universe. Wilczek and Gross went on to share the 2004 Nobel Prize in Physics for the work. At the time it was done, Wilczek was just 21 years old. His influence in the decades since has been profound. He predicted the existence of a hypothetical particle called the axion, which today is a leading candidate for dark matter. He published groundbreaking papers on the nature of the early universe. And just last year, his prediction of the “anyon” — a strange type of particle that only shows up in two-dimensional systems — was experimentally confirmed.

Covid-19: What Are The New Variants & How Are They Monitored (Podcast)

Over the course of the pandemic, scientists have been monitoring emerging genetic changes to Sars-Cov-2. Mutations occur naturally as the virus replicates but if they confer an advantage – like being more transmissible – that variant of the virus may go on to proliferate. 

This was the case with the ‘UK’ or B117 variant, which is about 50% more contagious and is rapidly spreading around the country. So how does genetic surveillance of the virus work? And what do we know about the new variants? Ian Sample speaks to Dr Jeffrey Barrett, the director of the Covid-19 genomics initiative at the Wellcome Sanger Institute, to find out Coronavirus – latest updates See all our coronavirus coverage.

The Brain: ‘Learning & Memory’ – Neuroscience & Disease Research (Video)

Neuroscience Professor Seth Tomchik, PhD, focuses on two major research areas, the neuroscience of learning and memory, and diseases that affect learning and memory, including neurofibromatosis type one. Neuroscience is now the largest department on the Florida campus of Scripps Research.

The department’s faculty and staff, together with graduate students enrolled in the institute’s Skaggs Graduate School, push the boundaries of scientific knowledge to benefit humanity. Watch all 11 videos in this series to see their work in more detail. Scripps Research is an independent, nonprofit biomedical research institute ranked the most influential in the world for its impact on innovation. With campuses in La Jolla, California, and Jupiter, Florida, the institute advances human health through profound discoveries that address pressing medical concerns around the globe. Scripps Research also trains the next generation of leading scientists at the Skaggs Graduate School, consistently named among the top 10 U.S. programs for chemistry and biological sciences. Learn more at http://www.scripps.edu.