Tag Archives: Nature.com

Science: Gun Violence Research Returns, Pikas In Winter & Glass Sponges

Funding for gun violence research in the US returns after a 20-year federal hiatus, and the glass sponges that can manipulate ocean currents.

In this episode:

00:45 Gun violence research is rebooted

For 20 years there has been no federally-funded research on gun violence in the US. In 2019, $25 million a year was allocated for this work. We speak to some of the researchers that are using these funds, and the questions they are trying to answer about gun violence.

News Feature: Gun violence is surging — researchers finally have the money to ask why

Podcast: Stick to the science

09:21 Research Highlights

Strategic laziness and yak dung help pikas survive harsh winters, and how food gets wasted in China’s supply chains.

Research Highlight: Pikas in high places have a winter-time treat: yak poo

Research Highlight: China wastes almost 30% of its food

11:40 How a sea sponge controls ocean currents

Venus’ flower baskets are marine sponges that live at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. These sponges have an unusual glass skeleton that helps them gather food, and even appears to control ocean currents.

Research Article: Falcucci et al.

News and Views: Fluid flow through a deep-sea sponge could inspire engineering designs

18:55 Briefing Chat

We discuss some highlights from the Nature Briefing. This time, investment in non-human primate facilities, and the European Union’s latest climate plan.

Nature News: The US is boosting funding for research monkeys in the wake of COVID

BBC News: EU unveils sweeping climate change plan

Science: Heat Waves In U.S. Impacting Minorities, Graphene Layers, Twitter

Why heat waves disproportionately impact minorities in US cities, and the researcher that critiqued his whole career on Twitter.

In this episode:

00:45 How heat waves kill unequally

Researchers are beginning to unpick how historic discrimination in city planning is making the recent heat waves in North America more deadly for some than others.

News Feature: Racism is magnifying the deadly impact of rising city heat

11:59 Research Highlights

A graphene layer can protect paintings from age, and a new and endangered species of ‘fairy lantern’.

Research Highlight: A graphene cloak keeps artworks’ colours ageles

Research Highlight: Newfound ‘fairy lantern’ could soon be snuffed out forever

14:25 Self-criticism

When researcher Nick Holmes decided to criticise his past papers, in 57 tweets, he found the reflection enlightening. Now he’s encouraging other researchers to self-criticise, to help speed scientific progress.

World View: I critiqued my past papers on social media — here’s what I learnt

20:53 Briefing Chat

We discuss some highlights from the Nature Briefing. This time, Richard Branson’s commercial space flight, and the Maori perspective on Antarctic conservation.

The Washington Post: Richard Branson and his Virgin Galactic crew are safely back from space, ushering in a new era

The New York Times: The Maori Vision of Antarctica’s Future (intermittent paywall)

Science: Avoiding Sudden Food Scarcity, Lattice Strength, Time Neurons

Addressing the problem of sudden food scarcity in US cities, and the up-and-coming field of computational social science.

In this episode:

00:45 Food shocks

Climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic, and geopolitical crises can cause food shortages. To tackle this issue, Alfonso Mejia and colleagues have modelled how to best mitigate these food shocks in US cities. Alfonso tells us about the new analyses and what steps cities could take in the future.

Research Article: Gomez et al.

News and Views: How to buffer against an urban food shortage

06:07 Research Highlights

A tiny lattice can withstand the impacts of projectiles at twice the speed of sound, and the neurons that allow humans to perceive time.

Research Highlight: Supersonic strikes leave just a dent in this super-light material

Research Highlight: The ‘time neurons’ that help the brain keep track

08:25 Computational Social Science

Big data is transforming research, and social science is no exception. This week, Nature is running a special issue on ‘computational social science’. We catch up with some of the editors involved to find out more about this up-and-coming field.

Collections: Computational Social Science

19:27 Briefing Chat

We discuss some highlights from the Nature Briefing. This time, discovering the dazzling diversity of viruses, and how China eradicated malaria.

Nature News Feature: Beyond coronavirus: the virus discoveries transforming biology

Science: It’s official: China has eliminated malaria

Science Podcast: How Brain Cells Use Energy, Lobster Bellies & Red Meat

Ultra-precise measurements connect brain activity and energy use in individual fruit-fly neurons.

In this episode:

00:45 How brain cells use energy

A 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 Highlights

A 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 toughness

Research Highlight: Meat lovers worldwide pay climate little heed

10:15 Briefing Chat

We 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 trials

BBC News: Malaria vaccine hailed as potential breakthrough

New York Times: One of the World’s Oldest Science Experiments Comes Up From the Dirt

Science: Laser-Cooled Antimatter, Economic Cost Of Invasive Species

Laser-cooled antimatter opens up new physics experiments, and the staggering economic cost of invasive species.

In this episode:

00:44 Cooling antimatter with a laser focus

Antimatter is annihilated whenever it interacts with regular matter, which makes it tough for physicists to investigate. Now though, a team at CERN have developed a way to trap and cool antihydrogen atoms using lasers, allowing them to better study its properties.

Research Article: Baker et al.

News and Views: Antimatter cooled by laser light

09:27 Research Highlights

A dramatic increase in Arctic lightning strikes, and an acrobatic bunny helps researchers understand hopping.

Research Highlight: Rising temperatures spark boom in Arctic lightning

Research Highlight: Rabbits that do ‘handstands’ help to find a gene for hopping

11:53 Cost of invasion

Invasive alien species are organisms that end up in places where they don’t really belong, usually as a result of human activity. These species can cause loss of biodiversity and a host of damage to their new environments. This week, researchers estimate that the economic impact of invasive species to be over US $1 trillion.

Research Article: Diagne et al.

19:04 Briefing Chat

We discuss some highlights from the Nature Briefing. This time, the physics that might explain how a ship blocked the Suez Canal, and a new insight into octopuses’ sleep patterns.

The Financial Times: The bank effect and the big boat blocking the Suez

Science: Octopuses, like humans, sleep in two stages

Science: Optical Atomic Clocks Redefine Time, Astronomer Vera Rubin

A web of three optical atomic clocks show incredibly accurate measurements of time, and the trailblazing astronomer who found hints of dark matter.

In this episode:

00:44 Optical clock network

Optical atomic clocks have the potential to reach new levels of accuracy and redefine how scientists measure time. However, this would require a worldwide system of connected clocks. Now researchers have shown that a network of three optical clocks is possible and confirm high levels of accuracy.

Research Article: BACON collaboration

News and Views: Atomic clocks compared with astounding accuracy

08:55 Research Highlights

The possible downside of high-intensity workouts, and the robot with adaptable legs for rough terrain.

Research Highlight: Can people get too much exercise? Mitochondria hint that the answer is yes

Research Highlight: A motorized leg up: this robot changes its limb length to suit the terrain

11:26 Vera Rubin

Vera Rubin was an astronomer whose observations were among the first to show evidence of dark matter. At the time, female astronomers were a rarity, but Vera blazed the trial for future women in science.

Books Review: Vera Rubin, astronomer extraordinaire — a new biography

18:35 Briefing Chat

We discuss some highlights from the Nature Briefing. This time, carbon cost of bottom trawling, and the fictional French researcher confounding metrics.

The Guardian: Bottom trawling releases as much carbon as air travel, landmark study finds

Science: Who is Camille Noûs, the fictitious French researcher with nearly 200 papers?

Science: Computer AI That Debates, Sea Slugs Regrow Entire Bodies (Podcast)

A computer that can participate in live debates against human opponents.

In this episode:

00:43 AI Debater

After thousands of years of human practise, it’s still not clear what makes a good argument. Despite this, researchers have been developing computer programs that can find and process arguments. And this week, researchers at IBM are publishing details of an artificial intelligence that is capable of debating with humans.

Research Article: Slonim et al.

News and Views: Argument technology for debating with humans

10:30 Research Highlights

The sea slugs that can regrow their whole body from their severed head, and evidence of high status women in ancient Europe.

Research Highlight: Now that’s using your head: a sea slug’s severed noggin sprouts a new body

Research Highlight: A breathtaking treasure reveals the power of the woman buried with it

12:56 Briefing Chat

We discuss some highlights from the Nature Briefing. This time, the next generation of gravitational wave detectors, and why 2020 was a record-breaking year for near-Earth asteroids.