Tag Archives: Nature Podcasts

Science: Vikings In North America, Magnets Moving Non-Magnetic Metals

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.

Editorial: COVID, racism, China: three tests for the next NIH leader

News: Francis Collins to step down at NIH: scientists assess his legacy

Science: Predicting Rain With AI, Map Of The Motor Cortex, 2021 Nobel Prizes

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

Editorial: Neuroscientists make strides towards deciphering the human brain

17:58 Nobel News

Flora Graham from the Nature Briefing joins us to talk about the winners of this year’s science Nobels.

News: Medicine Nobel goes to scientists who discovered biology of senses

News: Climate modellers and theorist of complex systems share physics Nobel

News: ‘Elegant’ catalysts that tell left from right scoop chemistry Nobel

Science: Floating ‘Seed’ Sensors, Human Walking Pace, Genome Editing

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.

Video: Seed-inspired spinners ride the wind and monitor the atmosphere

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

The Guardian: Cows ‘potty-trained’ in experiment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

Science: Aquatic Foods To Aleviate World Hunger, Australian Wildfires

How aquatic foods could help tackle world hunger, and how Australian wildfires spurred phytoplankton growth in the Southern Ocean.

In this episode:

00:45 The role of aquatic food in tackling hunger

Ahead of the UN’s Food Systems Summit, Nature journals are publishing research from the Blue Food Assessment, looking at how aquatic foods could help feed the world’s population in a healthy, sustainable and equitable way.

We speak to Ismahane Elouafi, Chief Scientist at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, who tells us about the role of blue foods in future food systems.

Immersive feature: Blue Foods

Nature’s Blue Food collection

12:27 Research Highlights

The ingestible capsule that injects drugs straight into stomach tissue, and a soft material that changes colour when twisted.

Research Highlight: An easily swallowed capsule injects drugs straight into the gut

Research Highlight: Flowing crystals for quick camouflage

14:52 How Australian wildfires spurred phytoplankton blooms

The devastating Australian wildfires of 2019-2020 released plumes of iron-rich aerosols that circled the globe, fertilizing oceans thousands of miles away. New research suggests that these aerosols ultimately triggered blooms of microscopic phytoplankton downwind of the fires, in the Southern Ocean.

Research Article: Tang et al.

Science: Geology’s Billion Year Gap, End Of Leaded Gas & Lush Ancient Arabia

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.

BBC Future: The strange race to track down a missing billion years

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

Science: Dead Trees Giving Off CO2, Massive Stars, Melting Ice & Biodiversity

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.

Editorial: The scientific panel on biodiversity needs a bigger role

19:32 Briefing Chat

We discuss some highlights from the Nature Briefing. This time, cannibal cane toads and a pterosaur fossil rescued from smugglers.

Nature News: Australia’s cane toads evolved as cannibals with frightening speed

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

Science: Research Paper Translation, Sustainable EV’s & Giant Centipedes

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?

News Feature: Electric cars and batteries: how will the world produce enough?

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.

Nature: Mammoth’s epic travels preserved in tusk

Nature: Why NASA’s Mars rover failed to collect its first rock core

Science: Mapping A Bat’s Navigation Neurons In 3D, Poison Dart Frogs, Fabrics

Researchers uncover how grid cells fire in a 3D space to help bats navigate, and a fabric that switches between being stiff and flexible.

In this episode:

00:47 Mapping a bat’s navigation neurons in 3D

Grid cells are neurons that regularly fire as an animal moves through space, creating a pattern of activity that aids navigation. But much of our understanding of how grid cells work has involved rats moving in a 2D plane. To figure out how the system works in a 3D space, researchers have mapped the brain activity of bats flying freely around a room.

Research Article: Ginosar et al.

07:44 Research Highlights

How a ‘toxin sponge’ may protect poison dart frogs from themselves, and the world’s oldest known coin foundry has been found.

Research Highlight: An absorbing tale: poison dart frogs might have a ‘toxin sponge’

Research Highlight: Found: the world’s oldest known mint and its jumbo product

09:59 A flexible fabric that transforms from soft to rigid (and back again)

Researchers have created a ‘tunable’ fabric, inspired by medieval chainmail, that when compressed changes from flexible to rigid. The stiffened structure can hold 30 times its own weight, and the team behind it suggest this material could be used to build temporary shelters or have medical applications.

Research article: Wang et al.

16:33 Stark warning from the IPCC’s latest report

This week the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its long awaited report detailing compiling the latest climate science data. Nature’s Jeff Tollefson joins us to discuss the report and the warnings it contains for our warming world.

News: IPCC climate report: Earth is warmer than it’s been in 125,000 years

Science: Flood Risks In High Population Areas, Selfishness, Democracy

Satellite imaging has shown population increases are 10x higher in flood prone areas than previously thought, and a new way to introduce fairness into a democratic process.

In this episode:

00:47 Calculating how many people are at risk of floods.

Researchers have used satellite imagery to estimate the number of people living in flood-prone regions. They suggest that the percentage of people exposed to floods has increased 10 times more than previously thought, and with climate change that number is only set to climb.

Research Article: Tellman et al.

News and Views: The fraction of the global population at risk of floods is growing

09:41 Research Highlights

People are happy to be selfish towards a crowd, but generous to an individual; and how wildfire smoke affects clouds’ brightness.

Research Highlight: ‘Robber’ experiment tests generosity — with sobering results

Research Highlight: Wildfire smoke creates brighter clouds — and weather changes

12:01 Making democracy fairer

Citizens’ assemblies are small groups of people invited to come together to help inform and affect policy decisions. But deciding who is in these groups is a mathematical challenge — the process needs to be random, but still reflect social demographics. This week, researchers describe a new algorithm that could offer a solution.

Research article: Flanigan et al.

News and Views: A bridge across the democracy–expertise divide

20:04 Briefing Chat

We discuss some highlights from the Nature Briefing. This time, how ships could spread a deadly coral disease, and research shows that female scientists are less likely to be cited in elite medical journals.

The Guardian: Deadly coral disease sweeping Caribbean linked to water from ships

Nature News: Fewer citations for female authors of medical research

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.