On this week’s show: The best of our online stories, what we know about the effects of cannabinoids, and the last in our series of books on race and science.
First, Online News Editor David Grimm brings the top online stories of the year—from headless slugs to Dyson spheres. You can find out the other top stories and the most popular online story of the year here.
Then, Tibor Harkany, a professor of molecular neuroscience at the Medical University of Vienna’s Center for Brain Research, talks with host Sarah Crespi about the state of marijuana research. Pot has been legalized in many places, and many people take cannabinoids—but what do we know about the effects of these molecules on people? Tibor calls for more research into their helpful and harmful potential.
Finally, we have the very last installment of our series of books on race and science. Books host Angela Saini talks with physician and science fiction author Tade Thompson about his book Rosewater. Listen to the whole series.
Geoscientists are turning to fiber optic cables as a means of measuring seismic activity. But rather than connecting them to instruments, the cables are the instruments. Joel Goldberg talks with Staff Writer Paul Voosen about tapping fiber optic cables for science.
Also this week, host Sarah Crespi talks with Sylvie Roke, a physicist and chemist at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Lausanne, and director of its Laboratory for fundamental BioPhotonics, about the place where oil meets water. Despite the importance of the interaction between the hydrophobic and the hydrophilic to biology, and to life, we don’t know much about what happens at the interface of these substances.
Could wildfires be depleting the ozone all over again? Staff Writer Paul Voosen talks with host Sarah Crespi about the evidence from the Polarstern research ship for wildfire smoke lofting itself high into the stratosphere, and how it can affect the ozone layer once it gets there.
Next, we talk ticks—the ones that bite, take blood, and can leave you with a nasty infection. Andaleeb Sajid, a staff scientist at the National Cancer Institute, joins Sarah to talk about her Science Translational Medicine paper describing an mRNA vaccine intended to reduce the length of tick bites to before the pests can transmit diseases to a host.
Simple animals like jellyfish and hydra, even roundworms, sleep. Without brains. Why do they sleep? How can we tell a jellyfish is sleeping?
Staff Writer Liz Pennisi joins host Sarah Crespi to talk about what can be learned about sleep from these simple sleepers. The feature is part of a special issue on sleep this week in Science.
Next is a look at centuries of alien invasions—or rather, invasive insects moving from place to place as humans trade across continents. Sarah talks with Matthew MacLachlan, a research economist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service, about his Science Advances paper on why insect invasions don’t always increase when trade does.
Finally, a book on racism and the search algorithms. Books host Angela Saini for our series of interviews on race and science talks with Safiya Umoja Noble, a professor in the African American Studies and Information Studies departments at the University of California, Los Angeles, about her book: Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism.
This week we are covering the Science special issue on mass incarceration. Can a dog find a body? Sometimes. Can a dog indicate a body was in a spot a few months ago, even though it’s not there now?
There’s not much scientific evidence to back up such claims. But in the United States, people are being sent to prison based on this type of evidence. Host Sarah Crespi talks with Peter Andrey Smith, a reporter and researcher based in Maine, about the science—or lack thereof—behind dog-sniff evidence.
With 2 million people in jail or prison in the United States, it has become incredibly common to have a close relative behind bars. Sarah talks with Hedwig Lee, a sociologist at Washington University in St. Louis, about the consequences of mass incarceration for families of the incarcerated, from economic to social.
News Intern Rachel Fritts talks with host Sarah Crespi about a new way to think about endometriosis—a painful condition found in one in 10 women in which tissue that normally lines the uterus grows on the outside of the uterus and can bind to other organs.
Next, Raphael Townshend, founder and CEO of Atomic AI, talks about predicting RNA folding using deep learning—a machine learning approach that relies on very few examples and limited data.
Finally, in this month’s edition of our limited series on race and science, guest host and journalist Angela Saini is joined by author Lundy Braun, professor of pathology and laboratory medicine and Africana studies at Brown University, to discuss her book: Breathing Race into the Machine: The Surprising Career of the Spirometer from Plantation to Genetics.
International News Editor Martin Enserink talks with host Sarah Crespi about a moratorium on prion research after the fatal brain disease infected two lab workers in France, killing one.
Next, Abhay Goyal, a postdoctoral fellow at Georgetown University, talks with intern Claire Hogan about his Science Advances paper on figuring out how to reduce the massive carbon footprint of cement by looking at its molecular structure.
Finally, in a sponsored segment from the Science/AAAS Custom Publishing Office, Sean Sanders interviews Ansuman Satpathy, assistant professor in the department of pathology at Stanford University School of Medicine and 2018 winner of the Michelson Prize for Human Immunology and Vaccine Research, about the importance of supporting early-career research and diversity in science, technology, engineering, and math. This segment is sponsored by Michelson Philanthropies.
Contributing Correspondent Cathleen O’Grady joins host Sarah Crespi to talk about a company that stores renewable energy by hoisting large objects in massive “gravity batteries.”
Also on this week’s show, Erick Lundgren, a postdoctoral researcher at Aarhus University, talks about how water from wells dug by wild horses and feral donkeys provides a buffer to all different kinds of animals and plants during the driest times in the Sonora and Mojave deserts.
Host Sarah Crespi talks with Contributing Correspondent Joshua Sokol about magnetars—highly magnetized neutron stars. A recent intense outburst of gamma rays from a nearby galaxy has given astronomers a whole new view on these mysterious magnetic monsters.
Also on this week’s show, Christoph Zollikofer, a professor of anthropology at the University of Zurich, talks about the evolution of humanlike brains. His team’s work with brain-case fossils suggests the complex brains we carry around today were not present in the early hominins to leave Africa, but later developed in the cousins they left behind.