Tag Archives: Nature Podcasts

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

Science Podcast: Rural U.S. Sanitation Crisis, Manta Rays & Magnetic Muons

The lack of adequate sanitation in parts of the rural US, and physicists reassess muons’ magnetism.

In this episode:

00:45 How failing sanitation infrastructure is causing a US public health crisis

In the US, huge numbers of people live without access to adequate sanitation. Environmental-health advocate Catherine Coleman Flowers tells us about her new book looking at the roots and consequences of this crisis, focusing on Lowndes County, Alabama, an area inhabited largely by poor Black people, where an estimated 90% of households have failing or inadequate waste-water systems.

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

07:56 Research Highlights

Why adding new members to the team can spark ideas, and how manta rays remember the best spots for pampering.

Research Highlight: Want fresh results? Analysis of thousands of papers suggests trying new teammates

Research Highlight: What manta rays remember: the best spots to get spruced up

10:13 Reassessing muons’ magnetic moment

A decade ago, physicists measured the ‘magnetic moment’ of the subatomic muon, and found their value did not match what theory suggested. This puzzled researchers, and hinted at the existence of new physics. Now, a team has used a different method to recalculate the theoretical result and see if this discrepancy remains.

Research Article: Fodor et al.

Covid-19 Podcast: What Are Vaccine Side Effects?

From a sore arm to anaphylaxis, a wide range of adverse events have been reported after people have received a COVID-19 vaccine. And yet it is unclear how many of these events are actually caused by the vaccine. In the vast majority of cases, reactions are mild and can be explained by the body’s own immune response.

But monitoring systems designed to track adverse events are catching much rarer but more serious events. Now scientists need to work out if they are causally liked to the vaccine, or are just statistical anomalies – and that is not an easy task.News: Why is it so hard to investigate the rare side effects of COVID vaccines?Subscribe to Nature Briefing, an unmissable daily round-up of science news, opinion and analysis free in your inbox every weekday.

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.

Science Podcast: Unequal Surge In Research Papers, Energy Without Oxygen

The pandemic’s unequal toll on the research community, and a newly discovered mitochondria-like symbiosis.

In this episode:

00:48 The pandemic’s unequal toll on researchers

Although 2020 saw a huge uptick in the numbers of research papers submitted, these increases were not evenly distributed among male and female scientists. We look at how this could widen existing disparities in science, and damage future career prospects.

Editorial: COVID is amplifying the inadequacy of research-evaluation processes

09:18 Research Highlights

How a parasite can make viral infections more deadly, and the first known space hurricane.

Research Highlight: Intestinal worms throw open the door to dangerous viruses

Research Highlight: The first known space hurricane pours electron ‘rain’

11:36 Energy without oxygen

Millions of years ago, a microscopic protist swallowed a bacterium and gained the ability to breathe nitrate. This relationship partially replaced the cell’s mitochondria and allowed it to produce abundant energy without oxygen. This week, researchers describe how this newly discovered symbiosis works.

Research Article: Graf et al.

News and Views: A microbial marriage reminiscent of mitochondrial evolution

19:22 Briefing Chat

We discuss some highlights from the Nature Briefing. This time, the weakening of the Gulf Stream, and a new satellite to monitor deforestation in the Amazon.

The Guardian: Atlantic Ocean circulation at weakest in a millennium, say scientists

Science: Brazil’s first homemade satellite will put an extra eye on dwindling Amazon forests

Science Podcast: Inside A Proton, Cold Genes & Growing Small Intestines

The surprising structure of protons, and a method for growing small intestines for transplantation.

In this episode:

00:45 Probing the proton’s interior

Although studied for decades, the internal structure of the proton is still throwing up surprises for physicists. This week, a team of researchers report an unexpected imbalance in the antimatter particles that make up the proton.

Research Article: Dove et al.

News and Views: Antimatter in the proton is more down than up

07:08 Research Highlights

How an inactive gene may help keep off the chill, and Cuba’s isolation may have prevented invasive species taking root on the island.

Research Highlight: Impervious to cold? A gene helps people to ward off the chills

Research Highlight: Marauding plants steer clear of a communist-ruled island

09:48 A new way to grow a small intestine

Short Bowel Syndrome is an often fatal condition that results from the removal of the small intestine. Treatment options are limited to transplantation, but donor intestines are hard to come by and can be rejected by the body. Now researchers may have developed a method to grow a replacement small intestine using stem cells and a small section of colon.

Research Article: Sugimoto et al.

15:50 Briefing Chat

We discuss some highlights from the Nature Briefing. This time, the landing of Perseverance on Mars, and the researchers speaking with lucid dreamers.

Nature News: Mars video reveals Perseverance rover’s daring touchdown

Nature News: Touch down! NASA’s Mars landing sparks new era of exploration