First up, host Sarah Crespi talks with Staff Writer Jon Cohen about some tricky ethical questions that may arise after the first coronavirus vaccine is authorized for use in the United States. Will people continue to participate in clinical trials of other vaccines? Will it still be OK to give participants placebo vaccines?
Next, producer Meagan Cantwell talks with Bert Weckhuysen, a professor at Utrecht University, about a process for taking low-value plastic like polyethylene (often used for packaging and grocery bags) and “upcycling” it into biodegradable materials that can be used for new purposes.
First up, host Meagan Cantwell speaks with Abigail Echo-Hawk, director of the Urban Indian Health Institute and chief research officer for the Seattle Indian Health Board. Echo-Hawk shares what inspired her journey in public health and explains the repercussions of excluding native people from health data.
This story was originally reported by Lizzie Wade, who profiled Echo-Hawk as part of Science’s “voices of the pandemic” series. Next, host Sarah Crespi interviews Danielle Murashige, a Ph.D. student at the University of Pennsylvania, about her Science paper that attempts to quantify how much fuel a healthy heart needs.
Investigative journalist Charles Piller joins host Sarah Crespi to discuss his latest Science exclusive: a deep dive into the Food and Drug Administration’s protection of human subjects in clinical trials. Based on months of data analysis and interviews, he uncovered long-term failures in safety enforcement in clinical trials and potential problems with trial data used to make decisions about drug and device approvals.
Sarah also talks with Klaus-Robert Müller, a professor of machine learning at the Technical University of Berlin, about an artificial intelligence (AI) trained in the sport of curling—often described as a cross between bowling and chess. Although AI has succeeded in chess, Go, and poker, the constantly changing environment of curling is far harder for a nonhuman mind to adapt to. But AIs were the big winners in competitions with top human players, Müller and colleagues report this week in Science Robotics.
Contributing Correspondent Ann Gibbons talks with host Sarah Crespi about a series of 120,000-year-old human footprints found alongside prints from animals like asses, elephants, and camels in a dried-up lake on the Arabian Peninsula. These are the earliest human footprints found so far in Arabia and may help researchers better understand the history of early hominin migrations out of Africa.
Continuing on the history of humanity theme, Sarah talks with Janet Kelso of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, about her team’s efforts to fish the elusive Y chromosome out of Neanderthal and Denisovan DNA. It turns out Y chromosomes tell a different story about our past interbreeding with Neanderthals than previous tales told by the rest of the genome.
Staff Writer Kelly Servick joins host Sarah Crespi to discuss how jail and prison populations in the United States have dropped in the face of coronavirus and what kinds of scientific questions about public health and criminal justice are arising as a result.