Tag Archives: Nature Podcasts

Science: 890 Million-Year-Old Sponge, Caffeinated Bees, Greenland Glaciers

Researchers debate whether an ancient fossil is the oldest animal yet discovered, and a new way to eavesdrop on glaciers.

In this episode:

01:04 Early sponge

This week in Nature, a researcher claims to have found a fossil sponge from 890-million-years-ago. If confirmed, this would be more than 300-million-years older than the earliest uncontested animal fossils but not all palaeontologists are convinced.

Research Article: Turner

10:13 Research Highlights

A caffeine buzz appears to improve bees’ memory, and reconstructing an Iron Age man’s final meal.

Research Highlight: A caffeine buzz gives bees flower power

Research Highlight: The guts of a ‘bog body’ reveal sacrificed man’s final meal

12:34 Eavesdropping on a glacier’s base

We hear about one researcher’s unorthodox attempt to listen in to the seismic-whisper at the foot of a Greenland glacier – a method that might reveal more about conditions under these enormous blocks of ice.

Research Article: Podolskiy et al.

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: How Humans Started Counting, Sea Anemones & ClownFish

The cross-discipline effort to work our how ancient humans learned to count.

In this episode:

00:45 Number origins

Around the world, archaeologists, linguists and a host of other researchers are trying to answer some big questions – when, and how, did humans learn to count? We speak to some of the scientists at the forefront of this effort.

News Feature: How did Neanderthals and other ancient humans learn to count?

07:47 Research Highlights

How sea anemones influence clownfish stripes, and how skin-to-skin contact can improve survival rates for high-risk newborns.

Research Highlight: How the clownfish gets its stripes

Research Highlight: Nestling skin-to-skin right after birth saves fragile babies’ lives

09:48 Briefing Chat

We discuss some highlights from the Nature Briefing. This time, an upper limit for human ageing, and could tardigrades survive a collision with the moon?

Scientific American: Humans Could Live up to 150 Years, New Research Suggests

Science: Hardy water bears survive bullet impacts—up to a point

Science Podcast: Snow-Covered ‘Zombie Fires’, Flashy Plant Research

Smouldering fires lay dormant before bursting back into flame in spring.

In this episode:



00:56 The mysterious overwintering forest fires

Researchers have shown that fires can smoulder under snow in frozen northern forests before flaring up the following spring. Understanding how these so-called ‘zombie’ fires start and spread is vital in the fight against climate change.

Research Article: Scholten et al.

07:39 Research Highlights

Aesthetic bias means pretty plants receive the most research attention, and ancient tooth gunk reveals the evolution of the mouth microbiome.

Research Highlight: Flashy plants draw outsize share of scientists’ attention

Research Highlight: Microbes in Neanderthals’ mouths reveal their carb-laden diet

10:04 Briefing Chat

We discuss some highlights from the Nature Briefing. This time, Voyager 1 detects a faint interstellar ‘hum’, and a trove of Neanderthal bones found in an Italian cave.

Reuters: Faraway NASA probe detects the eerie hum of interstellar space

The Guardian: Remains of nine Neanderthals found in cave south of Rome

Video: Hawaii’s surprise volcanic eruption: Lessons from Kilauea 2018

Science: Stone Age Burial Site In Kenya, Metal-Free Rechargeable Batteries

The earliest evidence of deliberate human burial in Africa, and a metal-free rechargeable battery.

In this episode:

00:44 Human burial practices in Stone Age Africa

The discovery of the burial site of a young child in a Kenyan cave dated to around 78 thousand years ago sheds new light on how Stone Age populations treated their dead.

Research Article: Martinón-Torres et al.

News and Views: A child’s grave is the earliest known burial site in Africa

09:15 Research Highlights

How warming seas led to a record low in Northwestern Pacific typhoons, and the Arctic bird that maintains a circadian rhythm despite 24 hour sunlight.

Research Highlight: Warming seas brought an eerie calm to a stormy region

Research Highlight: The world’s northernmost bird is a clock-watcher

11:35 A metal-free rechargeable battery

Lithium-ion batteries have revolutionised portable electronics, but there are significant issues surrounding their recyclability and the mining of the metals within them. To address these problems, a team of researchers have developed a metal-free rechargeable battery that breaks down to its component parts on demand.

Research Article: Nguyen et al.

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: Inflatable Self-Supporting Structures, River Carbon Emissions

The self-supporting structures that snap into place, and how a ban on fossil-fuel funding could entrench poverty in sub-Saharan Africa.

In this episode:

00:45 Self-supporting, foldable structures

Drawing inspiration from the art of origami, a team of researchers have demonstrated a way to design self-supporting structures that lock into place after being inflated. The team hope that this technique could be used to create arches and emergency shelters that can be quickly unfolded from flat with minimal input.

Research Article: Melancon et al.

News and Views: Large-scale origami locks into place under pressure

Video: Origami-inspired structures could be deployed in disaster zones

07:32 Research Highlights

Nocturnal fluctuations cause scientists to underestimate rivers’ carbon emissions, and the ‘island rule’ of animal size-change is seen around the world.

Research Highlight: Rivers give off stealth carbon at night

Research Highlight: Animals around the world follow the ‘island rule’ to a curious fate

09:55 Banning fossil-fuel funding will not alleviate poverty

A ban by wealthy nations on the funding of overseas fossil-fuel projects would do little to reduce the world’s climate emissions and much to entrench poverty in sub-Saharan Africa, argues economist Vijaya Ramachandran.

World View: Blanket bans on fossil-fuel funds will entrench poverty

17:17 Briefing Chat

We discuss some highlights from the Nature Briefing. This time, the first powered flight on another world, and estimating how many Tyrannosaurus rex ever lived.

News: Lift off! First flight on Mars launches new way to explore worlds

Video: Flying a helicopter on Mars: NASA’s Ingenuity

News: How many T. rex ever existed? Calculation of dinosaur’s abundance offers an answer