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New Scientist Podcasts

New Scientist

Podcasts for the insatiably curious by the world’s most popular weekly science magazine. Everything from the latest science and technology news to the big-picture questions about life, the universe and what it means to be human.


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Weekly: ADHD helps foraging?; the rise of AI “deepfakes”; ignored ovary appendage
3d ago
Weekly: ADHD helps foraging?; the rise of AI “deepfakes”; ignored ovary appendage
#238ADHD is a condition that affects millions of people and is marked by impulsivity, restlessness and attention difficulties. But how did ADHD evolve in humans and why did it stick around? Through the help of a video game, a study shows that these traits might be beneficial when foraging for food. In 2023, we hit record after record when it comes to high temperatures on Earth, including in the oceans and seas. From the surface to 2000 metres down, it was hard to find a part of the ocean not affected. This week, about 5000 scientists gathered in New Orleans for the American Geophysical Union’s biennial Ocean Sciences Meeting. Heat was the one thing on everyone’s mind, as researchers grapple to understand the drivers and consequences these new records have – but also look for promising solutions.The future of AI deepfake technology is not looking good. You might remember the infamous fake images of Taylor Swift that included non-consensual, intimate images of her on social media. Or the fake robotcall that mimicked President Joe Biden’s voice and discouraged voters from coming to the polls. As voice, picture and video generating technologies become cheaper and easier to use, can anything be done to prevent more harm?A “useless” structure on the ovary may in fact be key to fertility in mammals. The structure, a tiny series of tubes called the rete ovarii, was first discovered in 1870  and doesn’t even appear in modern textbooks. Now, researchers accidentally stumbled back onto it – and suggest that the rete ovarii may help control ovulation and the menopause. Plus: Humpback whales’ huge and specialised larynxes; physicists are excited about a new “unicorn” in the world of black holes; the “dogbot” that becomes three-legged to open doors.Hosts Christie Taylor and Timothy Revell discuss with guests Chen Ly, James Dinneen, Jeremy Hsu and Michael Le Page. To read more about these stories, visit newscientist.com. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
Weekly: Reversing blindness; power beamed from space; animal love languages
16-02-2024
Weekly: Reversing blindness; power beamed from space; animal love languages
#237Glaucoma, which can cause blindness by damaging the optic nerve, may be reversible. Researchers have managed to coax new optic nerve cells to grow in mice, partly restoring sight in some. How the treatment works through an eyeball injection and why, for humans, prevention and early detection are still the best options.Black holes, just like planets and stars, spin. But they may be spinning a lot slower than we thought. When black holes gobble up matter around them, they start spinning faster and we’ve largely used this understanding to guess their speed. But new research also weighs the slowing effect of massive gas jets that black holes emit – revealing that many may have slowed dramatically since their births. How these new estimates of spin also offer insights into a black hole’s history. What if we could generate solar power in space, far more efficiently than on Earth – and then beam it down to our houses? An MIT experiment has managed to do one of the most crucial steps of that science fiction-seeming process, converting electricity from a satellite into microwaves that were then successfully received by a collector in California. How these microwaves could supply the power grid on Earth and help ween us off of fossil fuels – if they can overcome some major hurdles. Apes like to playfully tease each other, just like humans do. While their methods may be a bit different from ours – poking, hitting, pulling on hair and stealing – it looks like they’re often doing it for fun, rather than to harass or assert dominance. This new finding could explain why humans evolved to enjoy jokes.Plus: A weird cooling quirk of Antarctica’s atmosphere; the microbes that make your tea taste delicious; and the flamboyant love languages of cuttlefish, scorpions and even dog-loving humans.Hosts Christie Taylor and Chelsea Whyte discuss with guests Michael Le Page, Alex Wilkins and Chen Ly. To read more about these stories, visit newscientist.com. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
Weekly: Record-breaking fusion experiments inch the world closer to new source of clean energy
09-02-2024
Weekly: Record-breaking fusion experiments inch the world closer to new source of clean energy
#236This week marks two major milestones in the world of fusion. In 2022 a fusion experiment at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory created more power than was required to sustain it – now, the same team has improved this record by 25 per cent, releasing almost twice the energy that was put in. Meanwhile, the UK’s JET reactor set a new world record for total energy output from any fusion reaction, just before it shut down for good late last year. Why these two milestones inch us closer to practical, sustainable fusion energy – but still leave a significant distance to go.A historic drought has caused a shipping traffic jam in the Panama Canal, one of the world’s most important shipping routes. Record low levels of water mean fewer ships can pass through the intricate system of locks that carry them across the narrow strip of land. As climate change increases the likelihood of extreme drought, how could this impact both the cost of shipping goods and Panama’s economy?Microdosing LSD may not have psychedelic effects, but it still causes noticeable changes in the brain. Researchers gave people tiny amounts of the drug while measuring their brain activity and noticed their brain signals became far more complex, even though they didn’t feel any hallucinatory effects. What this study tells us about the relationship between consciousness and neural complexity.Magma flowing into a giant crack formed by this year’s volcanic eruption in Iceland was caught moving at a rate of 7400 cubic metres per second – the fastest ever recorded for this kind of event. The kilometres-long crack first began producing eruptions in December last year, and another began just this week. So what’s next for the people living nearby? Plus: The asteroid Bennu may be a chunk of an ocean world; a new, lightning-dense thunderstorm spotted by satellites; rediscovering the bizarre-looking sharp-snouted Somali worm lizard after more than 90 years.Hosts Christie Taylor and Sophie Bushwick discuss with guests Matt Sparkes, James Dinneen, Grace Wade and Michael Le Page. To read more about these stories, visit newscientist.com. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
Weekly: Alzheimer’s from contaminated injections; Musk's Neuralink begins human trials; longest living dogs
02-02-2024
Weekly: Alzheimer’s from contaminated injections; Musk's Neuralink begins human trials; longest living dogs
#235In very rare cases, Alzheimer’s disease could be transmitted from person to person during medical procedures. This finding comes as five people have developed the disease after receiving contaminated human growth hormone injections in the late 1950s to early 1980s – a practice that is now banned. What this finding means for medical settings and why most people don’t need to be concerned.  Elon Musk’s mind-reading brain implant company Neuralink is carrying out its first human trial. The volunteer who has received the surgically implanted device and is now, Musk said earlier this week, “recovering well”. Neuralink promises to connect users to their smartphones and computers, reading brain signals and translating a person’s intentions into text or other functions. While this isn’t the first device of its kind, it is the only one being marketed as a consumer technology device, as opposed to a medical device. Contrails, the streams of white vapour that form behind planes in the sky, are to blame for a huge proportion of air travel’s impact on the climate. But there’s good news. Small changes in altitude may be sufficient to reduce their formation – and implementing these changes may be easier than we thought. Plus why flying at night has a bigger climate impact.Tiny tornadoes have been discovered inside the egg cells of fruit flies. These twisters circulate the jelly-like cytoplasm inside the cells and could be essential to the successful reproduction of these fruit flies. Excitingly, these tornadoes may be happening in the cells of other animals too – just not humans.Plus: Revealing which dogs live the longest; how an army of Twitter bots spreaded fake news about 2023’s Chinese spy balloon incident; an ancient gadget that turns fibres into rope.Hosts Timothy Revell and Christie Taylor discuss with guests Chen Ly, Matt Sparkes, James Dinneen and Alex Wilkins. To read more about these stories, visit newscientist.com. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
Weekly: Why AI won’t take your job just yet; how sound helps fungi grow faster; chickpeas grown in moon dust for first time
26-01-2024
Weekly: Why AI won’t take your job just yet; how sound helps fungi grow faster; chickpeas grown in moon dust for first time
#234Is AI really ready to take our jobs? A team looked at whether AI image recognition could replace tasks like checking price tags on items or looking at the pupils of patients in surgery.  The researchers found only a small fraction of these vision-reliant tasks could be cost-effectively taken over by AI – for now, anyway.There’s an old myth that singing to your plants helps them grow – apparently this actually works with fungus. A pair of experiments has found that fungus grows much more quickly when it’s blasted with an 80 decibel tone, compared to fungus that receives the silent treatment. Roe v Wade, the landmark US Supreme Court decision that protected the right to an abortion, was overturned in 2022. Many states passed new restrictions on the procedure in the years that followed, some total or near-total – meaning few exceptions for pregnancies that result from sexual assault. New estimates suggest that more than 65,000 people in those states have since experienced rape-related pregnancy and been unable to legally receive abortion care where they live.Chickpeas have been grown in moon dust for the first time. Moon dust is low on nutrients and full of toxic heavy metals, making it a difficult place for plants to grow.But by turning the dust into more of an ecosystem, complete with fungi and earthworms, a team has gotten a generation of chickpeas to survive and even flower. And given chickpeas are more nutrient dense than other plants we’ve managed to grow so far, this is great news if we ever want to settle on the lunar surface.Plus: Maybe owls can actually turn their heads around, 360 degrees. A robot avatar that lets you see and feel what it sees and feels. And a bacteria that turns from prey to predator when the temperature drops.Hosts Timothy Revell and Christie Taylor discuss with guests Jeremy Hsu, James Woodford, Grace Wade and Leah Crane. To read more about these stories, visit newscientist.com. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
Weekly: Cloned rhesus monkey lives to adulthood for first time; fermented foods carry antibiotic resistant bugs; an impossible cosmic object
19-01-2024
Weekly: Cloned rhesus monkey lives to adulthood for first time; fermented foods carry antibiotic resistant bugs; an impossible cosmic object
#233A cloned rhesus monkey named ReTro is said to be in good health more than three years after his birth – a landmark achievement, as no other rhesus clone has lived to adulthood.. However, the method used to clone ReTro used fetal cells, a method that cannot create identical clones of adult primates. The method could still be useful for medical research. Fermented foods are meant to be healthy and good for our guts, but there’s a problem. Researchers have found antibiotic resistant bacteria in a small pilot study of some fermented foods. In vulnerable people, these bacteria could damage the gut and cause more severe health issues – and be resistant to antibiotic treatment. This ancient practice may need an update to deal with a modern problem.Is it a black hole, is it a neutron star? No it’s a… mystery. A strange object has been found in the depths of space that could be the smallest black hole we’ve ever detected, or a neutron star that’s larger than we thought possible. Either result would be interesting, offering exciting new insights into our understanding of the universe.A new type of computer promises to be more efficient than your standard PC. Normal Computing’s device uses the laws of thermodynamics – and tiny, random fluctuations in electrical current – to compute. And maybe most importantly, it’s already been used to solve some difficult problems.Tardigrades are some of the hardiest creatures on the planet. These microscopic “water bears” can survive harsh conditions by entering a deep, dehydrated state of hibernation. And now researchers have figured out how they do it.Hosts Timothy Revell and Christie Taylor discuss with guests Sam Wong, James Woodford, Alex Wilkins, Karmela Padavic-Callaghan and Chen Ly. To read more about these stories, visit newscientist.com. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
Weekly: Brain regions shrink during pregnancy; oldest and largest Amazon cities discovered; corals that change their sex like clockwork
12-01-2024
Weekly: Brain regions shrink during pregnancy; oldest and largest Amazon cities discovered; corals that change their sex like clockwork
#232During pregnancy the brain undergoes profound changes – almost every part of the cortex thins out and loses volume by the third trimester. It’s such a big change that you can tell if someone’s pregnant just by looking at a scan of their brain. How researchers discovered these changes and why they might be occurring.A massive, ancient group of cities has been discovered in the Amazon rainforest using lasers. It’s the biggest pre-Columbian urban area ever found in the Amazon and parts of it date back further than any other settlement too. So why have we only just found it and why was it abandoned?Where does stuff go when it’s sucked into a black hole? Based on Stephen Hawking’s theory that black holes slowly evaporate, most of it just disappears. But in physics, information about that matter can’t just disappear – so what’s going on? Many teams have tried to solve this paradox, but an intriguing new idea may bring us closer to an answer. Once we develop a whole range of groundbreaking new spacecraft technology, that is.Every single year, hammer corals change their sex, swapping between male and female. While many animals, including corals, change their sex across their lifetimes, this clockwork, routine schedule is quite unusual. But it turns out a habit of change might be useful to help ensure successful reproduction in the ocean. Plus: Making lithium-ion batteries with 70 per cent less lithium – with help from AI; staving off the amphibian apocalypse with fungus-resistant frogs; and the discovery of the oldest known fossil skin.Hosts Timothy Revell and Christie Taylor discuss with guests Alex Wilkins, Grace Wade, Michael Le Page and Sophie Bushwick. To read more about these stories, visit newscientist.com. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
Weekly: What’s next for science in 2024? A year of moons; weight-loss drugs; and a massive new supercomputer for Europe
05-01-2024
Weekly: What’s next for science in 2024? A year of moons; weight-loss drugs; and a massive new supercomputer for Europe
#231It’s a new year and that means new science. But what (that we know so far) does 2024 hold? On the space front, agencies around the world have as many as 13 missions to Earth’s moon, while Japan’s MMX mission will launch to take samples from the Martian moon Phobos. NASA will finally launch the Europa Clipper mission to explore Jupiter’s ocean-bearing moon. On the technology front, Europe’s first ever exascale supercomputer, capable of performing billions of operations per second – only the third officially recognised such machine in the world, and an extraordinary tool for physicists, mathematicians and even AI development. Plus why we’re increasingly close to the time when quantum computers may break encryption as we know it.And while 2023 was officially the hottest year on record, 2024 is poised to be even hotter, thanks to even higher concentrations of greenhouse gases and more months of El Niño conditions in the Pacific Ocean. How this combination should leave us expecting the unexpected when it comes to drought and rainfall, while nations grapple with the renewable energy and fossil fuel transition pledges they made at 2023’s COP28 climate summit. And why the story isn’t over for hormone-mimicking weight loss injections like Ozempic and Wegovy – or the many similar drugs that are following close on their heels.Host Christie Taylor discusses all of this and more with guests Leah Crane, Matthew Sparkes, James Dinneen and Clare Wilson. To read more about these stories, visit newscientist.com/2024preview. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
Best of 2023, part 2: India lands on the moon; the orca uprising; birds make use of anti-bird spikes
29-12-2023
Best of 2023, part 2: India lands on the moon; the orca uprising; birds make use of anti-bird spikes
What was your favorite science story of 2023? Was it the rise of orca-involved boat sinkings? Or maybe the successful landing of India’s Chandrayaan-3 mission at the moon’s south pole? This week, it’s the second and final part of our annual event about the best science stories of the year, with a roundup of some of the good news, animal news and all-around most important stories of 2023. Like how researchers discovered the high-tech material called graphene can also occur naturally…and did, deep in the Earth, 3 billion years ago. Or how the World Health Organization ended the global health emergency declaration for covid-19.Plus, wonders from the animal kingdom: innovative bird nests made of anti-bird spikes,  cooperation between dolphins and fishermen in Brazil and the incredible clogging power of hagfish slime.Hosts Timothy Revell and Christie Taylor discuss all of this and more with guests Clare Wilson, Sam Wong, and Leah Crane. To read more about these stories, visit newscientist.com.And if you’re still looking for more of the best stories from 2023, enjoy our best features free December 27-31. What’s behind the recent explosion in ADHD diagnoses?Is the entire universe a single quantum object?Climate change: Something strange is happening in the Pacific and we must find out whyThe civilisation myth: How new discoveries are rewriting human historyRevealed: What your thoughts look like and how they compare to others Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
CultureLab: The best books of 2023, from joyful escapism to sobering reads
26-12-2023
CultureLab: The best books of 2023, from joyful escapism to sobering reads
Are you looking forward to catching up on some reading over the holiday season? Or perhaps you are on the prowl for book recommendations after receiving a few literary gift cards? If so, you are in luck – this episode is all about the books we think you’ll love to read.In this episode of CultureLab, culture and comment editor Alison Flood appears in her role as professional bookworm to share some of her favorite reads of the year. From a sobering story of life in the human-polluted ocean (narrated by a dolphin) to science fiction that takes you to parallel worlds, to the real story of the world’s longest study of happiness. The full list of Alison’s recommendations (and a few from host Christie Taylor) is below. Non-fictionThe Good Life: lessons from the world’s longest scientific study of happiness by Robert Waldinger and Marc SchulzBeing Human: How our biology shaped world history by Lewis DartnellOf Time and Turtles: Mending the world, shell by shattered shell by Sy MontgomeryThe Power of Trees: How ancient forests can save us if we let them by Peter WohllebenEnchantment: Reawakening wonder in an exhausted age by Katherine MayElderflora: A modern history of ancient trees by Jared FarmerThe Possibility of Life: Science, Imagination, and Our Quest for Kinship with the cosmos by Jaime GreenBreathe: Tackling the climate emergency by Sadiq KhanWasteland: The dirty truth about what we throw away, where it goes, and why it matters by Oliver Franklin-WallisFire Weather: A true story from a hotter world by John VaillantFictionIn Ascension by Martin McInnesThe Ferryman by Justin CroninBridge by Lauren BeukesThe Future by Naomi AldermanStarter Villain by John ScalziPod by Laline Paull Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.