Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week in politics, including whether public impeachment hearings are making President Trump more or less vulnerable, what stood out about the witnesses who testified so far, whether Trump’s Ukraine dealings are surprising or “in character” and the latest dynamics among 2020 Democrats.
The Polarstern research vessel will spend 1 year locked in an Arctic ice floe. Aboard the ship and on the nearby ice, researchers will take measurements of the ice, air, water, and more in an effort to understand this pristine place. Science journalist Shannon Hall joins host Sarah Crespi to talk about her time aboard the Polarstern and how difficult these measurements are, when the researchers’ temporary Arctic home is the noisiest, smokiest, brightest thing around.
After that icy start, Sarah talks also with Tanmoy Samanta, a postdoctoral researcher at Peking University in Beijing, about the source of the extreme temperature of the Sun’s corona, which can be up to 1 million K hotter than the surface of the Sun. His team’s careful measurements of spicules—small, plentiful, short-lived spikes of plasma that constantly ruffle the Sun’s surface—and the magnetic networks that seem to generate these spikes, suggest a solution to the long-standing problem of how spicules arise and, at the same time, their likely role in the heating of the corona.
Hear this week’s science news, with Nick Howe and Shamini Bundell. This week, a new 3D printer allows quick shifting between many materials, and understanding the link between gut microbes and liver disease.
In this episode:
00:46 A new dimension for 3D printers
A new nozzle lets a 3D printer switch between materials at a rapid rate, opening the door to a range of applications. Research Article: Skylar-Scott et al.; News and Views: How to print multi-material devices in one go
08:07 Research Highlights
The slippery secrets of ice, and cells wrapping up their nuclei. Research Highlight: Viscous water holds the secret to an ice skater’s smooth glide; Research Highlight: Super-thin layer of ‘bubble wrap’ cushions a cell’s nucleus
10:17 Linking bacteria to liver disease
17:10 News Chat
‘Megaconstellations’ of satellites concern astronomers, and a report on the gender gap in chemistry. News: SpaceX launch highlights threat to astronomy from ‘megaconstellations’; News: Huge study documents gender gap in chemistry publishing
Most historical accounts of slavery were written by colonists and planters. Researchers are now using the tools of archaeology to learn more about the day-to-day lives of enslaved Africans—how they survived the conditions of slavery, how they participated in local economies, and how they maintained their own agency. Host Sarah Crespi talks with Contributing Correspondent Lizzie Wade about a Caribbean archaeology project based on St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands and launched by the founders of the Society for Black Archaeologists that aims to unearth these details. Watch a related video here.
Sarah also talks with Jonathan Schulz, a professor in the Department of Economics at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, about a role for the medieval Roman Catholic Church in so-called WEIRD psychology—western, educated, industrialized, rich, democratic. The bulk of psychology experiments have used participants that could be described as WEIRD, and according to many psychological measures, WEIRD subjects tend to have some extreme traits, like a stronger tendency toward individuality and more friendliness with strangers. Schulz and colleagues used historical maps and measures of kinship structure to tie these traits to strict marriage rules enforced by the medieval Catholic Church in Western Europe. Read related commentary.
Measles is a dangerous infection that can kill. As many as 100,000 people die from the disease each year. For those who survive infection, the virus leaves a lasting mark—it appears to wipe out the immune system’s memory. News Intern Eva Fredrick joins host Sarah Crespi to talk about a pair of studies that looked at how this happens in children’s immune systems.
In our second segment this week, Sarah talks with Todd Thompson, of Ohio State University in Columbus, about his effort to find a small black hole in a binary pair with a red giant star. Usually black holes are detected because they are accruing matter and as the matter interacts with the black hole, x-rays are released. Without this flashy signal, black hole detection gets much harder. Astronomers must look for the gravitational influence of the black holes on nearby stars—which is easier to spot when the black hole is massive. Thompson talks with Sarah about a new approach to finding small, noninteracting black holes.
Hear the latest science news, with Benjamin Thompson and Shamini Bundell. This week, a computer beats the best human players in StarCraft II, and a huge study of insects and other arthropods.
In this episode:
00:51 Learning to play
By studying and experimenting, an AI has reached Grandmaster level at the video game Starcraft II. Research Article: Vinyals et al.; News Article: Google AI beats experienced human players at real-time strategy game StarCraft II
10:08 Research Highlights
A record-breaking lightning bolt, and identifying our grey matter’s favourite tunes. Research Highlight: Here come the lightning ‘megaflashes’; Research Highlight: Why some songs delight the human brain
12:24 Arthropods in decline
Researchers have surveyed how land-use change has affected arthropod diversity. Research article: Seibold et al.
18:30 News Chat
Young Canadians file a lawsuit against their government, an Alzheimer’s drug gets a second chance, and South Korean efforts to curb a viral epidemic in pigs.
In 2015, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO) facilities in the US directly detected ripples in space-time known as gravitational waves. These waves were produced by the final spiral of two oribiting black holes that smashed into each other, sending ripples across the universe.
In this Podcast Extra, Benjamin Thompson speaks to Cole Miller from the University of Maryland about the quest to detect gravitational waves, which were first hypothesised by Albert Einstein back in 1916.