Tag Archives: Nature Podcasts

Science: Enteric Viruses Spread Via Saliva, Jupiter’s Rocks, Megalodon Teeth

Enteric viruses, such as norovirus, cause a significant health burden around the world and are generally considered to only spread via the faecal-oral route.

However, new research in mice suggests that saliva may also be a route of transmission for these viruses, which the authors say could have important public health implications.

Research Article: Ghosh et al.

08:59 Research Highlights

How devouring space rocks helped Jupiter to get so big, and what analysing teeth has revealed about the diet of the extinct super-sized megalodon shark.

Research Highlight: The heavy diet that made Jupiter so big

Research Highlight: What did megalodon the mega-toothed shark eat? Anything it wanted

11:24 Making the tetraneutron

For decades there have been hints of the existence of tetraneutrons, strange systems composed of four neutrons, and now researchers may have created one in the lab. This breakthrough could tell us more about the strong nuclear force that holds matter together.

Research article: Duer et al.

News and Views: Collisions hint that four neutrons form a transient isolated entity

18:46 After Roe v. Wade

Last Friday the US supreme court struck down the constitutional right to abortion. In the wake of this ruling, Nature has been turning to research to ask what we can expect in the coming weeks and months.

News: After Roe v. Wade: US researchers warn of what’s to come


Science: Galaxies Without Dark Matter, High Helium Levels, Solar Energy Jump

Dark matter makes up most of the matter in the Universe, and is thought to be needed for galaxies to form. But four years ago, astronomers made a perplexing, and controversial discovery: two galaxies seemingly devoid of dark matter. 

This week the team suggests that a cosmic collision may explain how these, and a string of other dark-matter-free galaxies, could have formed.

Research article: van Dokkum et al

News and Views: Giant collision created galaxies devoid of dark matter

08:39 Research Highlights

How fossil fuel burning has caused levels of helium to rise, and a high-efficiency, hybrid solar-energy system.

Research Highlight: Helium levels in the atmosphere are ballooning

Research Highlight: Flower power: ‘Sunflower’ system churns out useful energy

10:49 Researchers experiences of the war in Ukraine

We hear the stories of scientists whose lives have been affected by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, including researchers who have become refugees, soldiers and activists in the face of a horrifying conflict.

Nature Feature: How three Ukrainian scientists are surviving Russia’s brutal war

20:46 Imaging the black hole at the centre of the Milky Way

Last week, a team of researchers released an image of Sagittarius A*, the supermassive blackhole at the centre of our galaxy. We hear how they took the image and what it is revealing about these enormous objects.

Nature News: Black hole at the centre of our Galaxy imaged for the first time

Science: Reviving Retinas, Floral Chocolates, First Life From RNA + Proteins

Reviving retinas to understand eyes

Research efforts to learn more about diseases of the human eye have been hampered as these organs degrade rapidly after death, and animal eyes are quite different to those from humans. 

To address this, a team have developed a new method to revive retinas taken from donors shortly after their death. They hope this will provide tissue for new studies looking into the workings of the human eye and nervous system.

Research article: Abbas et al.

8:05 Research Highlights

A technique that simplifies chocolate making yields fragrant flavours, and 3D imaging reveals some of the largest-known Native American cave art.

Research Highlight: How to make a fruitier, more floral chocolate

Research Highlight: Cramped chamber hides some of North America’s biggest cave art

10:54 Did life emerge in an ‘RNA world’?

How did the earliest biochemical process evolve from Earth’s primordial soup? One popular theory is that life began in an ‘RNA world’ from which proteins and DNA evolved. However, this week a new paper suggests that a world composed of RNA alone is unlikely, and that life is more likely to have begun with molecules that were part RNA and part protein.

Research article: Müller et al.

News and Views: A possible path towards encoded protein synthesis on ancient Earth

17:52 Briefing Chat

We discuss some highlights from the Nature Briefing. This time, the ‘polarised sunglasses’ that helped astronomers identify an ultra-bright pulsar, and how a chemical in sunscreen becomes toxic to coral.

Nature: A ‘galaxy’ is unmasked as a pulsar — the brightest outside the Milky Way

Science: Microbial Meat, Saltwater Crocodiles, Mosquito’s Sense Of Smell

How a move to microbial protein could affect emissions. It’s well understood that the production of meat has large impacts on the environment. 

This week, a team show that replacing 20% of future meat consumption with protein derived from microbes could reduce associated emissions and halve deforestation rates.

Research article: Humpenöder et al

News and Views: Mycoprotein produced in cell culture has environmental benefits over beef

08:21 Research Highlights

How saltwater crocodiles’ penchant for pigs is driving population recovery in Australia, and solving the mystery of some eighteenth-century porcelain’s iridescent lustre.

Research Highlight: Pork dinners fuel huge crocodiles’ return from near-extinction

Research Highlight: The nanoparticles that give a famed antique porcelain its dazzle

10:47 The neurons that help mosquitoes distinguish smell

Female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes strongly prefer human odours to those of animals, but how they distinguish between them is not well understood. Now, researchers have shown that human odours strongly activate a specific area in the brains of these insects, a finding that could have important implications for mosquito-control strategies.

Research article: Zhao et al.

18:05 Briefing Chat

We discuss some highlights from the Nature Briefing. This time, how climate change could affect virus transmission between mammals, and how the link between a dog’s breed and its temperament may not be as close as previously thought.

Nature: Climate change will force new animal encounters — and boost viral outbreaks

Science: Navigating Life, Coastal Storminess, Boa Constrictors, Old Trees

Your ability to find your way may depend on where you grew up and how coastal storminess is changing.

00:47 Your ability to find your way may depend on where you grew up

Researchers have long been trying to understand why some humans are better at navigating than others. This week, researchers show that where someone grew up plays an important role in their ability to find their way; the more winding and disorganised the layouts of your childhood were, the better navigator you’ll be later in life.
Research article: Coutrot et al.

08:57 Research Highlights

How boas can squeeze without suffocating themselves, and why being far from humans helps trees live a long life.
Research Highlight: How boa constrictors squeeze and breathe at the same time

Research Highlight: Where are Earth’s oldest trees? Far from prying eyes

11:39 How coastal storminess is changing

Coastal flooding causes billions of dollars in damage each year. Rising sea levels are known to be a key driver, but the importance of another factor, storm surges, is less clear. Typically after accounting for increasing sea level, they’re not thought to make much of an impact. However new research suggests that this may not be the case.
Research article: Calafat et al.

16:10 Briefing Chat

We discuss some highlights from the Nature Briefing. This time, a brain implant allows a person who is completely paralysed to communicate, and penguin-like bone density suggests Spinosaurus may have hunted underwater.
Science: In a first, brain implant lets man with complete paralysis spell out thoughts: ‘I love my cool son.’

National Geographic: Spinosaurus had penguin-like bones, a sign of hunting underwater

Video: A swimming dinosaur: The tail of Spinosaurus

Science: Subgiant Stars Age, Yellowstone’s Hot Water, Birds & The Moon

Precisely ageing subgiant stars gives new insight into the Milky Way’s formation, and uncovering Yellowstone’s hydrothermal plumbing system.

In this episode:

00:45 Accurately ageing stars reveals the Milky Way’s history

To understand when, and how, the Milky Way formed, researchers need to know when its stars were born. This week, a team of astronomers have precisely aged nearly a quarter of a million stars, revealing more about the sequence of events that took place as our galaxy formed.

Research article: Xiang and Rix

News and Views: A stellar clock reveals the assembly history of the Milky Way

09:53 Research Highlights

Archaeologists reveal an ancient lake was actually a ritual pool, and how the Moon’s phase affects some birds’ altitude.

Research Highlight: Ancient ‘harbour’ revealed to be part of fertility god’s lavish shrine

Research Highlight: These birds fly high when the full Moon hangs in the sky

12:34 Uncovering Yellowstone’s hot water plumbing

Yellowstone National Park’s iconic geothermal geysers and volcanic landmarks are well studied, but very little was known about the ‘plumbing system’ that feeds these features. Now a team of researchers have mapped the underground hydrothermal system, showing the specific faults and pathways that supply the park.

Research article: Finn et al.

19:27 Briefing Chat

We discuss some highlights from the Nature Briefing. This time, 0why an Australian university has been suspended from winning a research foundation’s fellowships, and the ongoing debate about the cause of ‘COVID toes’.

Nature: Funder bars university from grant programme over white-male award line-up

Science: Tonga Volcanic Eruption, Roaming Genes Of Reindeers, Pterosaurs

Scientists scramble to understand the devastating Tongan volcano eruption, and modelling how societal changes might alter carbon emissions.

In this episode:

00:46 Understanding the Tongan eruption

On the 15th of January, a volcano in the South Pacific Ocean erupted, sending ash into the upper atmosphere, and unleashing a devastating tsunami that destroyed homes on Tonga’s nearby islands. Now scientists are trying to work out exactly what happened during the eruption — and what it means for future volcanic risks.

News Feature: Why the Tongan eruption will go down in the history of volcanology

08:49 Research Highlights

The genes associated with reindeers’ roaming behaviour, and how fossilised puke has thrown up new insights into pterosaurs’ stomachs.

Research Highlight: A reindeer’s yearning to travel can be read in its genes

Research Highlight: Petrified puke shows that ancient winged reptiles purged

11:29 Modelling societal changes to carbon emissions

A team of researchers have modelled what humans might do in the face of climate change, and looked at how societal, political and technological changes could alter future emissions.

Research article: Moore et al.

18:12 Briefing Chat

We discuss some highlights from the Nature Briefing. This time, China alters its guidelines for gene-edited crops, and how Guinea worm infections have been driven down from millions of cases a year to just 14.

Nature News: China’s approval of gene-edited crops energizes researchers

Nature News: Just 14 cases: Guinea worm disease nears eradication

Science: RNA Test Detects Pre-Eclampsia, Machine Vision, Recycling Urine

RNA in blood reveals signs of pre-eclampsia before symptoms occur, and the issue of urine in our sewage and what can be done about it.

In this episode:

00:46 Predicting pre-eclampsia

Cell-free RNA circulates in the blood and can give clues as to what is going on in the body. This can be used to detect disease before symptoms occur. Now researchers have analysed cell-free RNA in pregnant people and have found it can give early warning signs of a serious, and sometimes fatal, disorder of pregnancy — pre-eclampsia.

Research Article: Moufarrej et al.

07:19 Research Highlights

Upgrading machine vision by modelling it on human eyes, and stacked skeletons which could show attempts at repair after European tomb raiders.

Research Highlight: Retina-like sensors give machines better vision

Research Highlight: ‘Spines on posts’ hint at ancient devotion to the dead

09:55 The problems of pee

Sewage and the way it is managed can cause serious problems, for example contaminants in waste can lead to harmful algal blooms. One of the major causes of this is urine, and so some researchers have been promoting a deceptively simple solution — separate out the urine.

News Feature: The urine revolution: how recycling pee could help to save the world

Book Review: Toilets – what will it take to fix them?

16:40 Briefing Chat

We discuss some highlights from the Nature Briefing. This time, how China has planned to make this year’s Winter Olympics carbon neutral, and how a new radio telescope in Namibia will help us understand black holes.

Nature News: China’s Winter Olympics are carbon-neutral — how?

Nature News: 

Science: Random Genome Mutations, Ancient Peru’s Hallucinogenic Beer

Challenging the dogma of gene evolution, and how chiral nanoparticles could give vaccines a boost.

In this episode:

00:45 Genome mutations may be less random than previously thought

A long-standing doctrine in evolution is that mutations can arise anywhere in a genome with equal probability. However, new research is challenging this idea of randomness, showing that mutations in the genome of the plant Arabidosis thaliana appear to happen less frequently in important regions of the genome.

Research article: Munroe et al.

News and Views: Important genomic regions mutate less often than do other regions

13:45 Research Highlights

How hallucinogenic beer helped cement an ancient superpower’s control, and a surprisingly enormous colony of breeding fish.

Research Highlight: Drug-fuelled parties helped ancient Andean rulers to hold power

Research Highlight: Vast fish breeding colony is more than twice the size of Paris

16:11 How a left-handed nanoparticle could give vaccines a boost

The chirality of a molecule – whether it has a left- or right-handed orientation – can have significant impacts on how it works. This week, a team show that left-handed gold nanoparticles can stimulate the immune system of mice, and boost the activity of a flu vaccine.

Research article: Xu et al.

News and Views: Nanoparticle asymmetry shapes an immune response

23:04 Briefing Chat

We discuss some highlights from the Nature Briefing. This time, Tasmanian devils’ discerning diets break the rules on scavenging, and new techniques uncovering the sex of ancient human remains may rewrite our assumptions.

Cosmos: Tasmanian devils puzzle science with picky eating habits

The Observer: Archaeology’s sexual revolution