Tag Archives: Science Podcasts

Science: Fossil Mystery Solved, A Silk Mother Of Pearl, Bolivian Amazon

The puzzle of PalaeospondylusOver a hundred years ago, archaeologists discovered fossils of the aquatic animal Palaeospondylus. But since then researchers have been unable to place where this animal sits on the tree of life. Now, new analysis of Palaeospondylus’s anatomy might help to solve this mystery.

08:18 Research Highlights

A strong, silk-based version of mother of pearl, and the parrots that use their heads when climbing.

Research Highlight: Silk imitates mother of pearl for a tough, eco-friendly material

Research Highlight: A ‘forbidden’ body type? These parrots flout the rules

10:51 How lasers revealed an ancient Amazonian civilization

Archaeologists have used LiDAR to uncover evidence of an ancient civilization buried in the Bolivian Amazon. The team’s work suggests that this area was not as sparsely populated in pre-Hispanic times as previously thought.

Research article: Prümers et al.

News and Views: Large-scale early urban settlements in Amazonia

Nature Video: Lost beneath the leaves: Lasers reveal an ancient Amazonian civilisation

16:21 Briefing Chat

We discuss some highlights from the Nature Briefing. This time, the debate surrounding the first transplant of pig kidneys into humans, and the plants grown in lunar soil.

Nature News: First pig kidneys transplanted into people: what scientists think

Science: Galaxies Without Dark Matter, High Helium Levels, Solar Energy Jump

Dark matter makes up most of the matter in the Universe, and is thought to be needed for galaxies to form. But four years ago, astronomers made a perplexing, and controversial discovery: two galaxies seemingly devoid of dark matter. 

This week the team suggests that a cosmic collision may explain how these, and a string of other dark-matter-free galaxies, could have formed.

Research article: van Dokkum et al

News and Views: Giant collision created galaxies devoid of dark matter

08:39 Research Highlights

How fossil fuel burning has caused levels of helium to rise, and a high-efficiency, hybrid solar-energy system.

Research Highlight: Helium levels in the atmosphere are ballooning

Research Highlight: Flower power: ‘Sunflower’ system churns out useful energy

10:49 Researchers experiences of the war in Ukraine

We hear the stories of scientists whose lives have been affected by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, including researchers who have become refugees, soldiers and activists in the face of a horrifying conflict.

Nature Feature: How three Ukrainian scientists are surviving Russia’s brutal war

20:46 Imaging the black hole at the centre of the Milky Way

Last week, a team of researchers released an image of Sagittarius A*, the supermassive blackhole at the centre of our galaxy. We hear how they took the image and what it is revealing about these enormous objects.

Nature News: Black hole at the centre of our Galaxy imaged for the first time

Science: Reviving Retinas, Floral Chocolates, First Life From RNA + Proteins

Reviving retinas to understand eyes

Research efforts to learn more about diseases of the human eye have been hampered as these organs degrade rapidly after death, and animal eyes are quite different to those from humans. 

To address this, a team have developed a new method to revive retinas taken from donors shortly after their death. They hope this will provide tissue for new studies looking into the workings of the human eye and nervous system.

Research article: Abbas et al.

8:05 Research Highlights

A technique that simplifies chocolate making yields fragrant flavours, and 3D imaging reveals some of the largest-known Native American cave art.

Research Highlight: How to make a fruitier, more floral chocolate

Research Highlight: Cramped chamber hides some of North America’s biggest cave art

10:54 Did life emerge in an ‘RNA world’?

How did the earliest biochemical process evolve from Earth’s primordial soup? One popular theory is that life began in an ‘RNA world’ from which proteins and DNA evolved. However, this week a new paper suggests that a world composed of RNA alone is unlikely, and that life is more likely to have begun with molecules that were part RNA and part protein.

Research article: Müller et al.

News and Views: A possible path towards encoded protein synthesis on ancient Earth

17:52 Briefing Chat

We discuss some highlights from the Nature Briefing. This time, the ‘polarised sunglasses’ that helped astronomers identify an ultra-bright pulsar, and how a chemical in sunscreen becomes toxic to coral.

Nature: A ‘galaxy’ is unmasked as a pulsar — the brightest outside the Milky Way

Science: Microbial Meat, Saltwater Crocodiles, Mosquito’s Sense Of Smell

How a move to microbial protein could affect emissions. It’s well understood that the production of meat has large impacts on the environment. 

This week, a team show that replacing 20% of future meat consumption with protein derived from microbes could reduce associated emissions and halve deforestation rates.

Research article: Humpenöder et al

News and Views: Mycoprotein produced in cell culture has environmental benefits over beef

08:21 Research Highlights

How saltwater crocodiles’ penchant for pigs is driving population recovery in Australia, and solving the mystery of some eighteenth-century porcelain’s iridescent lustre.

Research Highlight: Pork dinners fuel huge crocodiles’ return from near-extinction

Research Highlight: The nanoparticles that give a famed antique porcelain its dazzle

10:47 The neurons that help mosquitoes distinguish smell

Female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes strongly prefer human odours to those of animals, but how they distinguish between them is not well understood. Now, researchers have shown that human odours strongly activate a specific area in the brains of these insects, a finding that could have important implications for mosquito-control strategies.

Research article: Zhao et al.

18:05 Briefing Chat

We discuss some highlights from the Nature Briefing. This time, how climate change could affect virus transmission between mammals, and how the link between a dog’s breed and its temperament may not be as close as previously thought.

Nature: Climate change will force new animal encounters — and boost viral outbreaks

Science: Dark Matter Quantum Sensors, Rabies Risks, New Book Reviews

On this week’s show: How physicists are using quantum sensors to suss out dark matter, how rabies thwarts canine vaccination campaigns, and a kickoff for our new series with authors of books on food, land management, and nutrition science

Dark matter hunters have turned to quantum sensors to find elusive subatomic particles that may exist outside physicists’ standard model. Adrian Cho, a staff writer for Science, joins host Sarah Crespi to give a tour of the latest dark matter particle candidates—and the traps that physicists are setting for them.

Next, we hear from Katie Hampson, a professor in the Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health & Comparative Medicine at the University of Glasgow, about her work contact tracing rabies in Tanzania. Her group was able to track rabies in a population of 50,000 dogs over 14 years. The massive study gives new insight into how to stop a virus that circulates at superlow levels but keeps popping up, despite vaccine campaigns.

Finally, we launch our 2022 books series on food and agriculture. In six interviews, which will be released monthly for the rest of the year, host and science journalist Angela Saini will speak to authors of recent books on topics from Indigenous land management to foods that are going extinct. This month, Angela talks with Lenore Newman, director of the Food and Agriculture Institute at the University of the Fraser Valley, who helped select the books for the series.

Science: Birds Saved From Bright Buildings, Robots Controlled From Space

On this week’s show: Saving birds from city lights, and helping astronauts inhabit robots

First up, Science Contributing Correspondent Josh Sokol talks with host Sarah Crespi about the millions of migrating birds killed every year when they slam into buildings—attracted by brightly lit windows. New efforts are underway to predict bird migrations and dim lights along their path, using a bird-forecasting system called .

Next, we hear from Aaron Pereira, a researcher at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and a guest researcher at the human robot interaction lab at the European Space Agency. He chats with Sarah about his Science Robotics paper on controlling a robot on Earth from the International Space Station and the best way for an astronaut to “immerse” themselves in a rover or make themselves feel like it is an extension of their body. 

In a sponsored segment from Science and the AAAS Custom Publishing Office, Sean Sanders, director and senior editor for custom publishing, interviews Alberto Pugliese, professor of medicine, microbiology, and immunology at the University of Miami, about a program he leads to advance research into type 1 diabetes. This segment is sponsored by the Helmsley Charitable Trust and nPod (the Network for Pancreatic Organ Donors with Diabetes).

Science: Climate Change Hits Desert Soil, Mayan Calendars In Guatemala

On this week’s show: Climate change is killing critical soil organisms in arid regions, and early evidence for the Maya calendar from a site in Guatemala.

Staff Writer Elizabeth Pennisi joins host Sarah Crespi to discuss how climate change is affecting “biocrust,” a thin layer of fungi, lichens, and other microbes that sits on top of desert soil, helping retain water and create nutrients for rest of the ecosystem. Recent measurements in Utah suggest the warming climate is causing a decline in the lichen component of biocrust, which is important for adding nitrogen into soils.

Next, Sarah talks with Skidmore College anthropologist Heather Hurst, who directs Guatemala’s San Bartolo-Xultun Regional Archaeological Project, and David Stuart, a professor of art history and director of the Mesoamerica Center at the University of Texas, Austin, about their new Science Advances paper. The study used radiocarbon dating to pin down the age of one of the earliest pieces of the Maya calendar. Found in an archaeological dig in San Bartolo, Guatemala, the character known as “seven deer” (which represents a day in the Maya calendar), was dated to 300 B.C.E. That early appearance challenges what researchers know about the age and origins of the Maya dating system.

Science: Longer Lives And Slower Mutations, The Largest Galaxy Structure

For biologists, a long-standing question has been why some animals live longer than others. This week a team have attempted to answer this, by measuring the rates that different animal species accumulate mutations. They show that longer-lived animals acquire mutations at a slower rate, which helps to explain why cancer risk does not scale with lifespan.

07:56 Research Highlights

A clinical trial suggests a change to the treatment of a pregnancy ailment, and astronomers identify the largest known structure produced by a single galaxy.

Research Highlight: Ambitious trial inspires a rethink on a common ailment of pregnancy

Research Highlight: Even among ‘giant’ galaxies this one is record-setting

10:43 The war in Ukraine’s effects on global energy

Many European countries are dependent on Russian fossil fuels for energy production. Following Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, these countries are looking to wean themselves off these fuels, which could have short- and long-term impacts on emissions and food production.

Feature: What the war in Ukraine means for energy, climate and food

Editorial: The EU can simultaneously end dependence on Russia and meet climate goals

Editorial: The war in Ukraine is exposing gaps in the world’s food-systems research

19:58 A new measurement of a particle’s mass hints at new physics

Last week, a new estimate of the W boson’s mass caused much excitement among physicists. The result suggests that this particle is heavier than theory predicts, a finding that could be the first major breach in the standard model of particle physics. However, measuring W bosons is notoriously tricky, and further work will be needed to confirm the finding.

News: Particle’s surprise mass threatens to upend the standard model

Science: New W Boson Particle Measurement, Marine RNA Viruses

On this week’s show: A new measurement of the W boson could challenge physicists’ standard model, and an abundance of marine RNA viruses.

Staff Writer Adrian Cho joins host Sarah Crespi to discuss a new threat to the standard model of particle physics—a heavier than expected measurement of a fundamental particle called the W boson. They chat about how this measurement was taken, and what it means if it is right.

Next, Sarah talks about the microscopic denizens of Earth’s oceans with Ahmed Zayed, a research scientist in the department of microbiology at Ohio State University, Columbus. They talk about findings from a global survey of marine RNA viruses. The results double the number of known RNA viruses, suggesting new classifications will be needed to categorize all this viral diversity.

Science: Probing Earth’s Inner Core, Complete Read Of Human Genome

On this week’s show: A journey to the center of the center of the Earth, and what was missing from the first human genome project.

Staff Writer Paul Voosen talks with host Sarah Crespi about the many mysteries surrounding the innermost part of our planet—from its surprisingly recent birth to whether it spins faster or slower than the rest of the planet.

Next, Sarah chats with Adam Phillippy about the results from the Telomere-to-Telomere (T2T) Consortium, an effort to create a complete and detailed read of the human genome. Phillippy, a senior investigator and head of the Genome Informatics Section at the National Human Genome Research Institute, explains what we can learn by topping up the human genome with roughly 200 more megabases of genetic information—practically a whole chromosome’s worth of additional sequencing.

See all the T2T papers.

This week’s episode was produced with help from Podigy.

[Image: V. Altounian/Science; Music: Jeffrey Cook]

[alt: An array of the human chromosomes showing newly sequenced parts from the Telomere-to-Telomere Consortium with podcast symbol overlay]

Authors: Sarah Crespi; Paul Voosen

Episode page: https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/science.abq1885