An ancient solar storm helps pinpoint when Vikings lived in the Americas, and using magnets to deftly move non-magnetic metals.
In this episode:
00:53 Pinpointing Viking presence in North America
It’s well-understood that Vikings went to North America around a thousand years ago. However, working out a precise date has proven difficult. Now, thanks to an ancient solar storm, researchers have been able to identify an individual year when Vikings were definitely living on the continent.
Research article: Kuitems et al.
14:57 Research Highlights
How shoulder muscles gave Pterosaurs an aerodynamic edge, and mysterious radio waves coming from near the centre of the Milky Way.
Research Highlight: How ancient reptiles were streamlined for flight
Research Highlight: A mysterious radio signal object is beaming radio waves into the Milky Way
17:45 Magnets move non-magnetic metals
Scientists have created an array of magnets capable of moving non-metallic objects in 6 dimensions. They hope their new approach could one day be used to clean up debris in space.
Research article: Pham et al.
News and Views: Non-magnetic objects induced to move by electromagnets
27:06 What Francis Collin’s retirement means for the US NIH
After 12 years, Francis Collins announced plans to retire from his role as Director of the United States National Institutes of Health. We discuss his legacy and what this means for the world’s biggest public funder of biomedical research.
AI weather forecasters, mapping the human brain and the 2021 science Nobel prizes.
In this episode:
00:52 Improving the accuracy of weather forecasts with AI
Short-term rain predictions are a significant challenge for meteorologists. Now, a team of researchers have come up with an artificial-intelligence based system that weather forecasters preferred to other prediction methods.
Research article: Ravuri et al.
08:02 Research Highlights
The vaping robot that could help explain why some e-cigarettes damage lungs, and the sea-slugs that steal chloroplasts to boost egg production.
Research Highlight: This robot vapes for science
Research Highlight: Solar-powered slugs have a bright reproductive future
10:29 A map of the motor cortex
A group of researchers are undertaking an enormous task: to make a cellular atlas of the entire brain. This week, they publish a suite of papers that has accomplished this feat for one part of the brain — the motor cortex.
Research Article: BRAIN Initiative Cell Census Network
News and Views: A census of cell types in the brain’s motor cortex
17:58 Nobel News
Flora Graham from the Nature Briefing joins us to talk about the winners of this year’s science Nobels.
How tiny seed-like sensors could monitor the environment, and the latest from the Nature Briefing.
In this episode:
00:45 Spinning seeds inspire floating electronics
Researchers have developed miniature electronic-chips with wings that fall like seeds, which could be a new way to monitor the environment.
Research article: Kim et al.
06:02 Research Highlights
How humans can adjust to an energy-efficient walking pace almost without thinking, and the viral shell that excels at delivering genome-editing tools.
Research Highlight: Humans walk efficiently even with their heads in the clouds
Research Highlight: A CRISPR fix for muscles hatches from a viral shell
08:34 Briefing Chat
We discuss some highlights from the Nature Briefing. This time, the mystery of the Sun’s super-hot corona, and the latest efforts to toilet-train cows.
Physics World: The enduring mystery of the solar corona
A new theory to explain missing geological time, the end of leaded petrol, and the ancient humans of Arabia.
In this episode:
00:29 Unpicking the Great Unconformity
For more than 150 years, geologists have been aware of ‘missing’ layers of rock from the Earth’s geological record. Up to one billion years appear to have been erased in what’s known as the Great Unconformity. Many theories to explain this have been proposed, and now a new one suggests that the Great Unconformity may have in fact been a series of smaller events.
05:23 The era of leaded petrol is over
In July, Algeria became the final country to ban the sale of leaded petrol, meaning that the fuel is unavailable to buy legally anywhere on Earth. However despite this milestone, the toxic effects of lead petrol pollution will linger for many years to come.
Chemistry World: Leaded petrol is finally phased out worldwide
08:26 The ancient humans who lived in a wetter Arabia
While much of modern day Arabia is covered by deserts, new research suggests that hundreds of thousands of years ago conditions were much wetter for periods on the peninsula. These lusher periods may have made the area a key migratory crossroads for ancient humans.
Research Article: Groucutt et al.
News and Views: Traces of a series of human dispersals through Arabia
How insects help release carbon stored in forests, and the upcoming biodiversity summit COP 15.
In this episode:
00:44 Fungi, insects, dead trees and the carbon cycle
Across the world forests play a huge role in the carbon cycle, removing huge amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. But when those trees die, some of that carbon goes back into the air. A new project studies how fast dead wood breaks down in different conditions, and the important role played by insects.
Research Article: Seibold et al.
09:37 Research Highlights
Massive stars make bigger planets, and melting ice moves continents.
Research Highlight: Why gassy planets are bigger around more-massive stars
Research Highlight: So much ice is melting that Earth’s crust is moving
12:04 The UN’s Convention on Biological Diversity
After several delays, the fifteenth Conference of the Parties (COP 15) to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, is now slated to take place next year. Even communicating the issues surrounding biodiversity loss has been a challenge, and reaching the targets due to be set at the upcoming meeting will be an even bigger one.
19:32 Briefing Chat
We discuss some highlights from the Nature Briefing. This time, cannibal cane toads and a pterosaur fossil rescued from smugglers.
Research Highlight: A plundered pterosaur reveals the extinct flyer’s extreme headgear
National Geographic: Stunning fossil seized in police raid reveals prehistoric flying reptile’s secrets
A team is creating bespoke words for scientific terms in African languages, and the sustainability of the electric car boom.
00:46 Creating new words for scientific terms
Many words that are common to science have never been written in some African languages, or speakers struggle to agree what the right term is. Now a new project aims to change that, by translating 180 research papers into six languages spoken by millions of people across the continent of Africa.
11:48 Research Highlights
A rainbow of biodegradable inks derived from brown seaweed, and the enormous centipede that preys on baby birds.
Research Highlight: From drab to dazzling: seaweed yields sparkling coloured inks
Research Highlight: The giant centipede that devours fluffy baby seabirds
13:58 How sustainable is the electric car boom?
As electric cars become more ubiquitous, manufacturers will have to up the production of batteries needed to power them. But that begs the question – can they be mass produced in a sustainable way?
24:06 Briefing chat
We discuss some highlights from the Nature Briefing. This time, how a tusk-based ‘chemical GPS’ revealed details of a mammoth’s enormous journeys , and why the Perseverance rover’s first efforts to collect a Mars rock sample didn’t go according to plan.