Tag Archives: Science Podcasts

Science: Accupuncture’s Inflammation Effect, Antibiotics & Gut Bacteria

The neurons behind acupuncture’s effect on inflammation, and how antibiotics affect gut bacteria.

In this episode:

00:54 The neuronal basis for acupuncture’s effect on inflammation

In mice, electroacupuncture has been shown to reduce inflammation, but only when certain points on the body are stimulated. Why this is has puzzled scientists, but now, researchers have identified the specific neurons that are involved. They hope that this knowledge could be used in future to help treat certain inflammatory-related diseases.

Research article: Liu et al.

News and Views: Electroacupuncture activates neurons to switch off inflammation

07:28 Research Highlights

The Aztec origins of an obsidian ‘spirit mirror’, and the damage done by a Soviet plutonium complex.

Research Highlight: A ‘spirit mirror’ used in Elizabeth I’s court had Aztec roots

Research Highlight: Cold-war spy pictures reveal a Soviet nuclear ‘cloud generator’

10:18 Assessing antibiotics’ collateral damage.

Antibiotics are known to cause damage to the communities of bacteria that live in our guts. To better understand why this happens, a team has mapped the effects that different antibiotics have on individual gut-bacteria species, which may offer new insights into preventing this collateral damage.

Research article: Maier et al.

17:32 Briefing Chat

We discuss some highlights from the Nature Briefing. This time, the latest species to be declared extinct in the US, and a potential planet that orbits three stars.

New York Times: Protected Too Late: U.S. Officials Report More Than 20 Extinctions

New York Times: This May Be the First Planet Found Orbiting 3 Stars at Once

Science: Predicting Rain With AI, Map Of The Motor Cortex, 2021 Nobel Prizes

AI weather forecasters, mapping the human brain and the 2021 science Nobel prizes.

In this episode:

00:52 Improving the accuracy of weather forecasts with AI

Short-term rain predictions are a significant challenge for meteorologists. Now, a team of researchers have come up with an artificial-intelligence based system that weather forecasters preferred to other prediction methods.

Research article: Ravuri et al.

08:02 Research Highlights

The vaping robot that could help explain why some e-cigarettes damage lungs, and the sea-slugs that steal chloroplasts to boost egg production.

Research Highlight: This robot vapes for science

Research Highlight: Solar-powered slugs have a bright reproductive future

10:29 A map of the motor cortex

A group of researchers are undertaking an enormous task: to make a cellular atlas of the entire brain. This week, they publish a suite of papers that has accomplished this feat for one part of the brain — the motor cortex.

Research Article: BRAIN Initiative Cell Census Network

News and Views: A census of cell types in the brain’s motor cortex

Editorial: Neuroscientists make strides towards deciphering the human brain

17:58 Nobel News

Flora Graham from the Nature Briefing joins us to talk about the winners of this year’s science Nobels.

News: Medicine Nobel goes to scientists who discovered biology of senses

News: Climate modellers and theorist of complex systems share physics Nobel

News: ‘Elegant’ catalysts that tell left from right scoop chemistry Nobel

Science: Whole-Genome Screening For Newborns, Active Learning For STEM

Today, most newborns get some biochemical screens of their blood, but whole-genome sequencing is a much more comprehensive look at an infant—maybe too comprehensive?

Staff Writer Jocelyn Kaiser joins host Sarah Crespi to discuss the ethical ins and outs of whole-genome screening for newborns, and the kinds of infrastructure needed to use these screens more widely. Sarah also talks with three contributors to a series of vignettes on the importance of active learning for students in science, technology, engineering, and math. Yuko Munakata, professor in the department of psychology and Center for Mind and Brain at the University of California, Davis, talks about how the amount of unstructured time and active learning contributes to developing executive function—the way our brains keep us on task. Nesra Yannier, special faculty at Carnegie Mellon University and inventor of NoRILLA, discusses an artificial intelligence–driven learning platform that helps children explore and learn about the real world. Finally, Louis Deslauriers, senior preceptor in the department of physics and director of science teaching and learning at Harvard University, laments lectures: why we like them so much, why we think we learn more from lectures than inquiry-based learning, and why we’re wrong. 

Science: Potty-Trained Cows, Massive Sardines Run Off South Africa

Online News Editor David Grimm joins host Sarah Crespi to talk about the health and environmental benefits of potty training cows. 

Next, Peter Teske, a professor in the department of zoology at the University of Johannesburg, joins us to talk about his Science Advances paper on origins of the sardine run—a massive annual fish migration off the coast of South Africa. 

Science: Aquatic Foods To Aleviate World Hunger, Australian Wildfires

How aquatic foods could help tackle world hunger, and how Australian wildfires spurred phytoplankton growth in the Southern Ocean.

In this episode:

00:45 The role of aquatic food in tackling hunger

Ahead of the UN’s Food Systems Summit, Nature journals are publishing research from the Blue Food Assessment, looking at how aquatic foods could help feed the world’s population in a healthy, sustainable and equitable way.

We speak to Ismahane Elouafi, Chief Scientist at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, who tells us about the role of blue foods in future food systems.

Immersive feature: Blue Foods

Nature’s Blue Food collection

12:27 Research Highlights

The ingestible capsule that injects drugs straight into stomach tissue, and a soft material that changes colour when twisted.

Research Highlight: An easily swallowed capsule injects drugs straight into the gut

Research Highlight: Flowing crystals for quick camouflage

14:52 How Australian wildfires spurred phytoplankton blooms

The devastating Australian wildfires of 2019-2020 released plumes of iron-rich aerosols that circled the globe, fertilizing oceans thousands of miles away. New research suggests that these aerosols ultimately triggered blooms of microscopic phytoplankton downwind of the fires, in the Southern Ocean.

Research Article: Tang et al.

Science: NASA’s First Moon Mission In 50 Years, Robots That Look, Act Like People

Staff Writer Paul Voosen talks with host Sarah Crespi about plans for NASA’s first visit to the Moon in 50 years—and the quick succession of missions that will likely follow. 

Next, Eileen Roesler, an engineering psychologist at the Technical University of Berlin, discusses the benefits of making robots that look and act like people—it’s not always as helpful as you would think. 

Science: Geology’s Billion Year Gap, End Of Leaded Gas & Lush Ancient Arabia

A new theory to explain missing geological time, the end of leaded petrol, and the ancient humans of Arabia.

In this episode:

00:29 Unpicking the Great Unconformity

For more than 150 years, geologists have been aware of ‘missing’ layers of rock from the Earth’s geological record. Up to one billion years appear to have been erased in what’s known as the Great Unconformity. Many theories to explain this have been proposed, and now a new one suggests that the Great Unconformity may have in fact been a series of smaller events.

BBC Future: The strange race to track down a missing billion years

05:23 The era of leaded petrol is over

In July, Algeria became the final country to ban the sale of leaded petrol, meaning that the fuel is unavailable to buy legally anywhere on Earth. However despite this milestone, the toxic effects of lead petrol pollution will linger for many years to come.

Chemistry World: Leaded petrol is finally phased out worldwide

08:26 The ancient humans who lived in a wetter Arabia

While much of modern day Arabia is covered by deserts, new research suggests that hundreds of thousands of years ago conditions were much wetter for periods on the peninsula. These lusher periods may have made the area a key migratory crossroads for ancient humans.

Research Article: Groucutt et al.

News and Views: Traces of a series of human dispersals through Arabia

Science: Dead Trees Giving Off CO2, Massive Stars, Melting Ice & Biodiversity

How insects help release carbon stored in forests, and the upcoming biodiversity summit COP 15.

In this episode:

00:44 Fungi, insects, dead trees and the carbon cycle

Across the world forests play a huge role in the carbon cycle, removing huge amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. But when those trees die, some of that carbon goes back into the air. A new project studies how fast dead wood breaks down in different conditions, and the important role played by insects.

Research Article: Seibold et al.

09:37 Research Highlights

Massive stars make bigger planets, and melting ice moves continents.

Research Highlight: Why gassy planets are bigger around more-massive stars

Research Highlight: So much ice is melting that Earth’s crust is moving

12:04 The UN’s Convention on Biological Diversity

After several delays, the fifteenth Conference of the Parties (COP 15) to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, is now slated to take place next year. Even communicating the issues surrounding biodiversity loss has been a challenge, and reaching the targets due to be set at the upcoming meeting will be an even bigger one.

Editorial: The scientific panel on biodiversity needs a bigger role

19:32 Briefing Chat

We discuss some highlights from the Nature Briefing. This time, cannibal cane toads and a pterosaur fossil rescued from smugglers.

Nature News: Australia’s cane toads evolved as cannibals with frightening speed

Research Highlight: A plundered pterosaur reveals the extinct flyer’s extreme headgear

National Geographic: Stunning fossil seized in police raid reveals prehistoric flying reptile’s secrets

Science: Building A Mars Analog In Arizona, Moral Outrage Algorithms

Contributing Correspondent Michael Price joins host Sarah Crespi to discuss the newest Mars analog to be built on the location of the first attempt at a large-scale sealed habitat, Biosphere 2 in Arizona. 

Next, William Brady, a postdoctoral researcher in the psychology department at Yale University, talks with Sarah about using an algorithm to measure increasing expressions of moral outrage on social media platforms. 

Science: Research Paper Translation, Sustainable EV’s & Giant Centipedes

A team is creating bespoke words for scientific terms in African languages, and the sustainability of the electric car boom.

00:46 Creating new words for scientific terms

Many words that are common to science have never been written in some African languages, or speakers struggle to agree what the right term is. Now a new project aims to change that, by translating 180 research papers into six languages spoken by millions of people across the continent of Africa.

11:48 Research Highlights

A rainbow of biodegradable inks derived from brown seaweed, and the enormous centipede that preys on baby birds.

Research Highlight: From drab to dazzling: seaweed yields sparkling coloured inks

Research Highlight: The giant centipede that devours fluffy baby seabirds

13:58 How sustainable is the electric car boom?

As electric cars become more ubiquitous, manufacturers will have to up the production of batteries needed to power them. But that begs the question – can they be mass produced in a sustainable way?

News Feature: Electric cars and batteries: how will the world produce enough?

24:06 Briefing chat

We discuss some highlights from the Nature Briefing. This time, how a tusk-based ‘chemical GPS’ revealed details of a mammoth’s enormous journeys , and why the Perseverance rover’s first efforts to collect a Mars rock sample didn’t go according to plan.

Nature: Mammoth’s epic travels preserved in tusk

Nature: Why NASA’s Mars rover failed to collect its first rock core