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Science Magazine Podcast

Science Magazine Podcast

Weekly podcasts from Science Magazine, the world's leading journal of original scientific research, global news, and commentary.

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Better hurricane forecasts and spotting salts on Jupiter?s moon Europa

We?ve all seen images or animations of hurricanes that color code the wind speeds inside the whirling mass?but it turns out we can do a better job measuring these winds and, as a result, better predict the path of the storm. Staff Writer Paul Voosen talks with host Sarah Crespi about how a microsatellite-based project for measuring hurricane wind speeds is showing signs of success?despite unexpected obstacles from the U.S. military?s tweaking of GPS signals.    Also this week, Sarah talks with graduate student Samantha Trumbo, a Ph.D. candidate in planetary science at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, about spotting chloride salts on the surface of Jupiter?s moon Europa. What can these salts on the surface tell us about the oceans that lie beneath Europa?s icy crust? Download a transcript (PDF)  This week?s episode was edited by Podigy. Ads on the show: KiwiCo.com; MagellanTV Listen to previous podcasts. About the Science Podcast [Image: Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SETI Institute; Music: Jeffrey Cook]
2019-06-13
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The limits on human endurance, and a new type of LED

Cheap and easy to make, perovskite minerals have become the wonder material of solar energy. Now, scientists are turning from using perovskites to capture light to using them to emit it. Staff Writer Robert Service joins host Sarah Crespi to talk about using these minerals in all kinds of light-emitting diodes, from cellphones to flat screen TVs. Read the related paper in Science Advances. Also this week, Sarah talks with Caitlin Thurber, a biologist at Nassau Community College in Garden City, New York, about a hard limit on human endurance. Her group used data from transcontinental racers?who ran 957 kilometers over the course of 20 weeks?and found that after about 100 days, their metabolism settled in at about 2.5 times the baseline rate, suggesting a hard limit on human endurance at long timescales. Earlier studies based on the 23-day Tour de France found much higher levels of energy expenditure, in the four- to five-times-baseline range. Download a transcript (PDF) This week?s episode was edited by Podigy. Ads on the show: KiwiCo.com Listen to previous podcasts. About the Science Podcast [Image: N. Zhou et al., Science Advances 2019; Music: Jeffrey Cook]
2019-06-06
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Grad schools dropping the GRE requirement and AIs play capture the flag

Up until this year, most U.S. graduate programs in the sciences required the General Record Examination from applicants. But concerns about what the test scores actually say about potential students and the worry that the cost is a barrier to many have led to a rapid and dramatic reduction in the number of programs requiring the test. Science Staff Writer Katie Langin joins host Sarah Crespi to talk about this trend and how it differs across disciplines. Also this week, Sarah talks with DeepMind?s Max Jaderberg in London about training artificial agents to play a video game version of capture the flag. The agents played approximately 4 years? worth of Quake III Arena and came out better than even expert human players at both cooperating and collaborating, even when their computer-quick reflexes were hampered. And in this month?s book segment, new host Kiki Sanford interviews Marcus Du Satoy about his book The Creativity Code: Art and Innovation in the Age of AI. This week?s episode was edited by Podigy. Ads this week: KiwiCo.com Download a transcript (PDF) Listen to previous podcasts. About the Science podcast. [Image: DeepMind; Music: Jeffrey Cook]
2019-05-30
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New targets for the world?s biggest atom smasher and wood designed to cool buildings

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) was built with one big goal in mind: to find the Higgs boson. It did just that in 2012. But the question on many physicists? minds about the LHC is, ?What have you done for me lately?? Host Sarah Crespi talks with Staff Writer Adrian Cho about proposals to look at the showers of particles created by its proton collisions in new ways?from changing which events are recorded, to changing how the data are analyzed, even building more detectors outside of the LHC proper?all in the hopes that strange, longer-lived particles are being generated but missed by the current set up. Also this week, Sarah talks with Tian Li of the University of Maryland in College Park about a modified wood designed to passively cool buildings. Starting from its humble roots in the forest, the wood is given a makeover: First it is bleached white to eliminate pigments that absorb light. Next, it is hot pressed, which adds strength and durability. Most importantly, these processes allow the wood to emit in the middle-infrared range, so that when facing the sky, heat passes through the wood out to the giant heat sink of outer space. This week?s episode was edited by Podigy. Download a transcript (PDF) Listen to previous podcasts. About the Science Podcast
2019-05-23
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Nonstick chemicals that stick around and detecting ear infections with smartphones

The groundwater of Rockford, Michigan, is contaminated by per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, chemicals found in everything from nonstick pans to dental floss to?in the case of Rockford?waterproofing agents from a shoe factory that shut down in 2009. Science journalist Sara Talpos talks with host Meagan Cantwell about how locals found the potentially health-harming chemicals in their water, and how contamination from nonstick chemicals isn?t limited to Michigan. Also this week, host Sarah Crespi talks with Shyamnath Gollakota of the University of Washington in Seattle about his work diagnosing ear infections with smartphones. With the right app and a small paper cone, it turns out that your phone can listen for excess fluid in the ear by bouncing quiet clicks from the speaker off the eardrum. Clinical testing shows the setup is simple to use and can help parents and doctors check children for this common infection. This week?s episode was edited by Podigy. Ads on this show: Science Rules! podcast with Bill Nye Download the transcript (PDF)  Listen to previous podcasts. About the Science Podcast [Image: Dennis Wise/University of Washington; Music: Jeffrey Cook]
2019-05-16
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Probing the secrets of the feline mind and how Uber and Lyft may be making traffic worse

Dog cognition and social behavior have hogged the scientific limelight for years?showing in study after study that canines have social skills essential to their relationships with people. Cats, not so much. These often-fractious felines tend to balk at strange situations?be they laboratories, MRI machines, or even a slightly noisy fan. Online News Editor David Grimm joins host Sarah Crespi to discuss several brave research labs that have started to work with cats on their terms in order to show they have social smarts comparable to dogs. So far, the results suggest that despite their different ancestors and paths to domestication, cats and dogs have a lot more in common then we previously thought. Also this week, host Meagan Cantwell speaks with Greg Erhardt, assistant professor of civil engineering at University of Kentucky in Lexington about the effect of ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft on traffic in San Francisco, California. His group?s work showed that when comparing 2010 and 2016 traffic, these services contributed significantly to increases in congestion in a large growing city like San Francisco, but questions still remain about how much can be generalized to other cities or lower density areas. This week?s episode was edited by Podigy. Download the transcript (PDF)  Ads on this show: KiwiCo Listen to previous podcasts. About the Science Podcast [Image: Thomas Hawk/Flickr; Music: Jeffrey Cook]
2019-05-09
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The age-old quest for the color blue and why pollution is not killing the killifish

Humans have sought new materials to make elusive blue pigments for millennia?with mixed success. Today, scientists are tackling this blue-hued problem from many different angles. Host Sarah Crespi talks with contributing correspondent Kai Kupferschmidt about how scientists are looking to algae, bacteria, flowers?even minerals from deep under Earth?s crust?in the age-old quest for the rarest of pigments. Also this week, host Meagan Cantwell speaks with Andrew Whitehead, associate professor in the department of environmental toxicology at the University of California, Davis, about how the Atlantic killifish rescued its cousin, the gulf killifish, from extreme pollution. Whitehead talks about how a gene exchange occurred between these species that normally live thousands of kilometers apart, and whether this research could inform future conservation efforts. This week?s episode was edited by Podigy Download the transcript (PDF) Ads on this show: KiwiCo Listen to previous podcasts. About the Science Podcast
2019-05-02
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Race and disease risk and Berlin?s singing nightingales

Noncancerous tumors of the uterus?also known as fibroids?are extremely common in women. One risk factor, according to the scientific literature, is ?black race.? But such simplistic categories may actually obscure the real drivers of the disparities in outcomes for women with fibroids, according to this week?s guest. Host Meagan Cantwell speaks with Jada Benn Torres, an associate professor of anthropology at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, about how using interdisciplinary approaches? incorporating both genetic and cultural perspectives?can paint a more complete picture of how race shapes our understanding of diseases and how they are treated. In our monthly books segment, book review editor Valerie Thompson talks with David Rothenberg, author of the book Nightingales in Berlin: Searching for the Perfect Sound, about spending time with birds, whales, and neuroscientists trying to understand the aesthetics of human and animal music. This week?s episode was edited by Podigy. Download the transcript (PDF) Listen to previous podcasts. About the Science Podcast [Image: Carlos Delgado/Wikipedia; Matthias Ripp/Flickr; Music: Jeffrey Cook]
2019-04-25
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How dental plaque reveals the history of dairy farming, and how our neighbors view food waste

This week we have two interviews from the annual meeting of AAAS in Washington D.C.: one on the history of food and one about our own perceptions of food and food waste.  First up, host Sarah Crespi talks with Christina Warinner from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena, Germany, about the history of dairying. When did people first start to milk animals and where? It turns out, the spread of human genetic adaptations for drinking milk do not closely correspond to the history of consuming milk from animals. Instead, evidence from ancient dental plaque suggests people from all over the world developed different ways of chugging milk?not all of them genetic. Next, Host Meagan Cantwell speaks with Sheril Kirshenbaum, co-director of the Michigan State University Food Literacy and Engagement Poll, about the public?s perception of food waste. Do most people try to conserve food and produce less waste? Better insight into the point of view of consumers may help keep billions of kilograms of food from being discarded every year in the United States. This week?s episode was edited by Podigy. Download the transcript (PDF) Ads on the show: Columbia University and Magellan TV Listen to previous podcasts. About the Science Podcast [Image:  Carefull in Wyoming/Flickr; Music: Jeffrey Cook]
2019-04-18
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A new species of ancient human and real-time evolutionary changes in flowering plants

The ancient humans also known as the ?hobbit? people (Homo floresiensis) might have company in their small stature with the discovery of another species of hominin in the Philippines. Host Sarah Crespi talks to Contributing Correspondent Lizzie Wade about what researchers have learned about this hominin from a jaw fragment, and its finger and toe bones and how this fits in with past discoveries of other ancient humans. Also this week, host Meagan Cantwell speaks with Florian Schiestl, a professor in evolutionary biology at the University of Zurich in Switzerland, about his work to understand the rapid evolution of the flowering plant Brassica rapa over the course of six generations. He was able to see how the combination of pollination by bees and risk of getting eaten by herbivores influences the plant?s appearance and defense mechanisms. This week?s episode was edited by Podigy. Ads on this week's show: Kolabtree.com and Magellan TV Listen to previous podcasts. About the Science Podcast [Image: Florian Schiestl; Music: Jeffrey Cook]
2019-04-11
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A radioactive waste standoff and science?s debt to the slave trade

A single factory in Malaysia supplies about 10% of the world?s rare earth oxides, used in everything from cellphones to lasers to missiles. Controversy over the final resting place for the slightly radioactive byproducts has pushed the plant to the brink of closure. Host Meagan Cantwell talks with freelance writer Yao Hua Law about calls to ship the waste back to where it was originally mined in Australia, and how stopping production in Malaysia would mean almost all rare earth production would take place in China.  In another global trade story, host Sarah Crespi talks with freelance writer Sam Kean about close links between the slave trade and early naturalists? efforts to catalog the world?s flora and fauna. Today, historians and museums are just starting to come to grips with the often-ignored relationships between slavers and scientists. This week?s episode was edited by Podigy. Download the transcript (PDF) Ads on this show: Kolabtree and MagellanTV Listen to previous podcasts. About the Science Podcast [Image: James Petiver, 1695; Music: Jeffrey Cook]
2019-04-04
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Mysterious racehorse injuries, and reforming the U.S. bail system

Southern California?s famous Santa Anita racetrack is struggling to explain a series of recent horse injuries and deaths. Host Meagan Cantwell is joined by freelance journalist Christa Lesté-Lasserre to discuss what might be causing these injuries and when the track might reopen. In our second segment, researchers are racing to understand the impact of jailing people before trial in the United States. Host Sarah Crespi talks with Online News Editor Catherine Matacic about the negative downstream effects of cash bail?and what research can tell us about other options for the U.S. pretrial justice system. Last up is books, in which we hear about the long, sometimes winding, roads that food can take from its source to your plate. Books editor Valerie Thompson talks with author Robyn Metcalfe about her new work, Food Routes: Growing Bananas in Iceland and Other Tales from the Logistics of Eating. This week?s episode was edited by Podigy. *Correction, 1 April, 12 p.m.: A previous version of this podcast included an additional research technique that was not used to investigate the Santa Anita racetrack. Download the transcript (PDF)  Listen to previous podcasts. About the Science Podcast [Image: Mark Smith/Flickr; Music: Jeffrey Cook]
2019-03-28
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Vacuuming potato-size nodules of valuable metals in the deep sea, and an expedition to an asteroid 290 million kilometers away

Pirate?s gold may not be that far off, as there are valuable metals embedded in potato-size nodules thousands of meters down in the depths of the ocean. Host Meagan Cantwell talks with Staff Writer Paul Voosen about the first deep-sea test of a bus-size machine designed to scoop up these nodules, and its potential impact on the surrounding ecosystem. In an expedition well above sea level, the Hayabusa2 spacecraft touched down on the asteroid Ryugu last month. And although the craft won?t return to Earth until 2020, researchers have learned a lot about Ryugu in the meantime. Meagan speaks with Seiji Sugita, a professor at the University of Tokyo and principal investigator of the Optical Navigation Camera of Hayabusa 2, about Ryugu?s parent body, and how this study can better inform future asteroid missions. This week?s episode was edited by Podigy. Download transcript (PDF) Listen to previous podcasts. About the Science Podcast [Image: Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency; Music: Jeffrey Cook]
2019-03-21
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Mysterious fast radio bursts and long-lasting effects of childhood cancer treatments

Host Sarah Crespi talks with Staff Writer Daniel Clery about the many, many theories surrounding fast radio bursts?extremely fast, intense radio signals from outside the galaxy?and a new telescope coming online that may help sort them out. Also this week, Sarah talks with Staff Writer Jennifer Couzin-Frankel about her story on researchers? attempts to tackle the long-term effects of pediatric cancer treatment. The survival rate for some pediatric cancers is as high as 90%, but many survivors have a host of health problems. Jennifer?s feature is part of a special section on pediatric cancer. This week?s episode was edited by Podigy. Download a transcript (PDF) Listen to previous podcasts. About the Science Podcast [Image: ESO/L. Calçada; Music: Jeffrey Cook] 
2019-03-14
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Clues that the medieval plague swept into sub-Saharan Africa and evidence humans hunted and butchered giant ground sloths 12,000 years ago

New archaeological evidence suggests the same black plague that decimated Europe also took its toll on sub-Saharan Africa. Host Sarah Crespi talks with Contributing Correspondent Lizzie Wade about diverse medieval sub-Saharan cities that shrank or even disappeared around the same time the plague was stalking Europe. In a second archaeological story, Meagan Cantwell talks with Gustavo Politis, professor of archaeology at the National University of Central Buenos Aires and the National University of La Plata, about new radiocarbon dates for giant ground sloth remains found in the Argentine archaeological site Campo Laborde. The team?s new dates suggest humans hunted and butchered ground sloths in the late Pleistocene, about 12,500 years ago. This week?s episode was edited by Podigy. Download the transcript (PDF) Listen to previous podcasts. About the Science Podcast [Image: Ife-Sungbo Archaeological Project; Music: Jeffrey Cook]
2019-03-07
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Measuring earthquake damage with cellphone sensors and determining the height of the ancient Tibetan Plateau

In the wake of a devastating earthquake, assessing the extent of damage to infrastructure is time consuming?now, a cheap sensor system based on the accelerometers in cellphones could expedite this process. Host Sarah Crespi talks with Contributing Correspondent Lizzie Wade about how these sensor systems work and how they might assist communities after an earthquake. In another Earth-shaking study, scientists have downgraded the height of the ancient Tibetan Plateau. Most reconstructions estimate that the ?rooftop of the world? reached its current height of 4500 meters about 40 million years ago, but a new study suggests it was a mere 3000 meters high during this period. Host Meagan Cantwell speaks with Svetlana Botsyun, a postdoctoral researcher at Tübingen University in Germany, about her team?s new approach to studying paleoelevation, and how a shorter Tibetan Plateau would have impacted the surrounding area?s climate. This week?s episode was edited by Podigy. Download the transcript (PDF) Listen to previous podcasts. About the Science Podcast [Image: Martin Luff/Flickr; Music: Jeffrey Cook]
2019-02-28
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Spotting slavery from space, and using iPads for communication disorders

In our first segment from the annual meeting of AAAS (Science?s publisher) in Washington, D.C., host Sarah Crespi talks with Cathy Binger of University of New Mexico in Albuquerque about her session on the role of modern technology, such as iPads and apps, in helping people with communication disorders. It turns out that there?s no killer app, but some devices do help normalize assistive technology for kids. Also this week, freelance journalist Sarah Scoles joins Sarah Crespi to talk about bringing together satellite imaging, machine learning, and nonprofits to put a stop to modern-day slavery. In our monthly books segment, books editor Valerie Thompson talks with Judy Grisel about her book Never Enough: The Neuroscience and Experience of Addiction, including discussions of Gisel?s personal experience with addiction and how it has informed her research as a neuroscientist. This week?s episode was edited by Podigy. Download the transcript (PDF) Listen to previous podcasts. About the Science Podcast [Image: ILO in Asia and the Pacific/Flickr; Music: Jeffrey Cook]
2019-02-21
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How far out we can predict the weather, and an ocean robot that monitors food webs

The app on your phone tells you the weather for the next 10 days?that?s the furthest forecasters have ever been able to predict. In fact, every decade for the past hundred years, a day has been added to the total forecast length. But we may be approaching a limit?thanks to chaos inherent in the atmosphere. Staff writer Paul Voosen joins host Sarah Crespi to talk about how researchers have determined that we will only be adding about 5 more days to our weather prediction apps. Also this week, host Meagan Cantwell interviews Trygve Fossum from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim about his article in Science Robotics on an underwater autonomous vehicle designed to sample phytoplankton off the coast of Norway. The device will help researchers form a better picture of the base of many food webs and with continued monitoring, researchers hope to better understand key processes in the ocean such as nutrient, carbon, and energy cycling. This week?s episode was edited by Podigy. Download the transcript (PDF) Listen to previous podcasts About the Science Podcast [Image: Joshua Stevens/NASA Earth Observatory; Music: Jeffrey Cook]
2019-02-14
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Possible potato improvements, and a pill that gives you a jab in the gut

Because of its genetic complexity, the potato didn?t undergo a ?green revolution? like other staple crops. It can take more than 15 years to breed a new kind of potato that farmers can grow, and genetic engineering just won?t work for tackling complex traits such as increased yield or heat resistance. Host Sarah Crespi talks with Staff Writer Erik Stokstad about how researchers are trying to simplify the potato genome to make it easier to manipulate through breeding. Researchers and companies are racing to perfect an injector pill?a pill that you swallow, which then uses a tiny needle to shoot medicine into the body. Such an approach could help improve compliance for injected medications like insulin. Host Meagan Cantwell and Staff Writer Robert F. Service discuss a new kind of pill?one that flips itself over once it hits the bottom of the stomach and injects a dose of medication into the stomach lining. This week?s episode was edited by Podigy. Download the transcript (PDF) Listen to previous podcasts. About the Science Podcast [Image: Michael Eric Nickel/Flickr; Music: Jeffrey Cook]
2019-02-07
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Treating the microbiome, and a gene that induces sleep

Orla Smith, editor of Science Translational Medicine joins host Sarah Crespi to talk about what has changed in the past 10 years of microbiome research, what?s getting close to being useful in treatment, and how strong, exactly, the research is behind those probiotic yogurts. When you?re sick, sleeping is restorative?it helps your body recover from nasty infections. Meagan Cantwell speaks with Amita Sehgal, professor of neuroscience at the University of Pennsylvania and an investigator at Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Chevy Chase, Maryland, about the process of discovering a gene in fruit flies that links sleep and immune function. This week?s episode was edited by Podigy. Download the transcript (PDF) Listen to previous podcasts. About the Science Podcast [Music: Jeffrey Cook]
2019-01-31
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Pollution from pot plants, and how our bodies perceive processed foods

The ?dank? smelling terpenes emitted by growing marijuana can combine with chemicals in car emissions to form ozone, a health-damaging compound. This is especially problematic in Denver, where ozone levels are dangerously high and pot farms have sprung up along two highways in the city. Host Sarah Crespi talks with reporter Jason Plautz about researchers? efforts to measure terpene emissions from pot plants and how federal restrictions have hampered them. Next, host Meagan Cantwell talks with Dana Small, a professor of psychiatry and psychology at Yale University, about how processed foods are perceived by the body. In a doughnut-rich world, what?s a body to think about calories, nutrition, and satiety? And in the first book segment of the year, books editor Valerie Thompson is joined by Erika Malim, a history professor at Princeton University, to talk about her book Creatures of Cain: The Hunt for Human Nature in Cold War America, which follows the rise and fall of the ?killer ape hypothesis??the idea that our capacity for killing each other is what makes us human. This week?s episode was edited by Podigy. Download the transcript (PDF) Listen to previous podcasts. About the Science Podcast [Image: Wornden LY/Flickr; Music: Jeffrey Cook]
2019-01-24
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Peering inside giant planets, and fighting Ebola in the face of fake news

It?s incredibly difficult to get an inkling of what is going on inside gas giants Saturn and Jupiter. But with data deliveries from the Cassini and Juno spacecraft, researchers are starting to learn more. Science Staff Writer Paul Voosen talks with host Sarah Crespi about new gravity measurements from Cassini?s last passes around Saturn. Using these data, researchers were able to compare wind patterns on Saturn and Jupiter and measure the mass and age of Saturn?s rings. It turns out the rings are young, relatively speaking?they may have formed as recently as 10 million years ago, after dinosaurs went extinct. Megan Cantwell then talks to science writer Laura Spinney about how researchers are fighting conspiracy theories and political manipulation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo during the country?s ongoing Ebola outbreak. In a first, the government, nongovernmental organizations, and scientists are working with community leaders to fight misinformation?and they might actually be winning. This week?s episode was edited by Podigy. Download the transcript (PDF) Listen to previous podcasts. About the Science Podcast [Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Stuart Rankin; Music: Jeffrey Cook]
2019-01-17
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A mysterious blue pigment in the teeth of a medieval woman, and the evolution of online master?s degrees

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) provide free lectures and assignments, and gained global attention for their potential to increase education accessibility. Plagued with high attrition rates and fewer returning students every year, MOOCs have pivoted to a new revenue model?offering accredited master?s degrees for professionals. Host Meagan Cantwell speaks with Justin Reich, an assistant professor in the Comparative Media Studies Department at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, about the evolution of MOOCs and how these MOOC professional programs may be reaching a different audience than traditional online education. Archaeologists were flummoxed when they found a brilliant blue mineral in the dental plaque of a medieval-era woman from Germany. It turned out to be lapis lazuli?an expensive pigment that would have had to travel thousands of kilometers from the mines of Afghanistan to a monastery in Germany. Host Sarah Crespi talks to Christina Warinner, a professor of archaeogenetics at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena, Germany, about how the discovery of this pigment shed light on the impressive life of the medieval woman, an artist who likely played a role in manuscript production. This week?s episode was edited by Podigy. Download the transcript (PDF) Listen to previous podcasts. About the Science Podcast [Image:Oberlin.edu/Wikimedia Commons; Music: Jeffrey Cook]
2019-01-10
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Will a radical open-access proposal catch on, and quantifying the most deadly period of the Holocaust

Plan S, an initiative that requires participating research funders to immediately publish research in an open-access journal or repository, was announced in September 2018 by Science Europe with 11 participating agencies. Several others have signed on since the launch, but other funders and journal publishers have reservations. Host Meagan Cantwell speaks with Contributing Correspondent Tania Rabesandratana about those reservations and how Plan S is trying to change publishing practices and research culture at large. Some 1.7 million Jewish people were murdered by the Nazis in the 22 months of Operation Reinhard (1942?43) which aimed to eliminate all Jews in occupied Poland. But until now, the speed and totality of these murders were poorly understood. It turns out that about one-quarter of all Jews killed during the Holocaust were murdered in the autumn of 1942, during this operation. Meagan talks with Lewi Stone, a professor of biomathematics at Tel Aviv University in Israel and mathematical science at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, about this shocking kill rate, and why researchers are taking a quantitative approach to characterizing genocides. This week?s episode was edited by Podigy. Download the transcript (PDF) Listen to previous podcasts. About the Science Podcast [Image: Michael Beckwith; Music: Jeffrey Cook]
2019-01-03
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End of the year podcast: 2018?s breakthroughs, breakdowns, and top online stories

First, we hear Online News Editor David Grimm and host Sarah Crespi discuss audience favorites and staff picks from this year?s online stories, from mysterious pelvises to quantum engines. Megan Cantwell talks with News Editor Tim Appenzeller about the 2018 Breakthrough of the Year, a few of the runners-up, and some breakdowns. See the whole breakthrough package here, including all the runners-up and breakdowns. And in her final segment for the Science Podcast, host Jen Golbeck talks with Science books editor Valerie Thompson about the year in books. Both also suggest some last-minute additions to your holiday shopping list. This week?s episode was edited by Podigy. Download the transcript (PDF) Listen to previous podcasts. About the Science Podcast [Image: NASA Scientific Visualization Studio; Music: Jeffrey Cook]
2018-12-20
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?The Tragedy of the Commons? turns 50, and how Neanderthal DNA could change your skull

In 1968, Science published the now-famous paper ?The Tragedy of the Commons? by ecologist Garrett Hardin. In it, Hardin questioned society?s ability to manage shared resources, concluding that individuals will act in their self-interest and ultimately spoil the resource. Host Meagan Cantwell revisits this classic paper with two experts: Tine De Moor, professor of economics and social history at Utrecht University in the Netherlands, and Brett Frischmann, a professor of law, business, and economics at Villanova University in Pennsylvania. They discuss how premodern societies dealt with common resources and how our current society might apply the concept to a more abstract resource?knowledge. Not all human skulls are the same shape?and if yours is a little less round, you may have your extinct cousins, the Neanderthals, to thank. Meagan speaks with Simon Fisher, neurogeneticist and director of the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, about why living humans with two Neanderthal gene variants have slightly less round heads?and how studying Neanderthal DNA can help us better understand our own biology. This week?s episode was edited by Podigy. Download a transcript of this episode (PDF) Listen to previous podcasts. About the Science Podcast [Image: Phillip Gunz; Music: Jeffrey Cook]
2018-12-13
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Where private research funders stow their cash and studying gun deaths in children

A new Science investigation reveals several major private research funders?including the Wellcome Trust and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation?are making secretive offshore investments at odds with their organizational missions. Host Meagan Cantwell talks with writer Charles Piller about his deep dive into why some private funders choose to invest in these accounts. In the United States, gun injuries kill more children annually than pediatric cancer, but funding for firearm research pales in comparison. On this week?s show, host Sarah Crespi talks with Staff Writer Meredith Wadman and emergency physician Rebecca Cunningham about how a new grant will jump-start research on gun deaths in children. This week?s episode was edited by Podigy. Listen to previous podcasts. About the Science Podcast [Image: Bernard Spragg; Music: Jeffrey Cook] *Correction, 27 December, 5 p.m.: The interview on studying gun deaths in children in the United States incorrectly says that NIH spent $3.1 million on research into pediatric gun deaths. The correct figure is $4.4 million.
2018-12-06
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The universe?s star formation history and a powerful new helper for evolution

In a fast-changing environment, evolution can be slow?sometimes so slow that an organism dies out before the right mutation comes along. Host Sarah Crespi speaks with Staff Writer Elizabeth Pennisi about how plastic traits?traits that can alter in response to environmental conditions?could help life catch up. Also on this week?s show, host Meagan Cantwell talks with Marco Ajello a professor of physics and astronomy at Clemson University in South Carolina about his team?s method to determine the universe?s star formation history. By looking at 739 blazars, supermassive black holes at the center of galaxies, Ajello and his team were able to model the history of stars since the big bang. Finally, in this month?s book segment, Jen Golbeck interviews Christine Du Bois about her book Story of Soy. You can listen to more book segments and read more reviews on our books blog, Books et al. This week?s episode was edited by Podigy. Read a transcript (PDF) Listen to previous podcasts. About the Science Podcast [Image: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Conceptual Image Lab; Music: Jeffrey Cook]
2018-11-29
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Exploding the Cambrian and building a DNA database for forensics

First, we hear from science writer Joshua Sokol about his trip to the Cambrian?well not quite. He talks with host Megan Cantwell about his travels to a remote site in the mountains of British Columbia where some of Earth?s first animals?including a mysterious, alien-looking creature?are spilling out of Canadian rocks.   Also on this week?s show, host Sarah Crespi talks with James Hazel a postdoctoral research fellow at the Center for Genetic Privacy and Identity in Community Settings at Vanderbilt University in Nashville about a proposal for creating a universal forensic DNA database. He and his co-authors argue that current, invasive practices such as law enforcement subpoenaing medical records, commercial genetic profiles, and other sets of extremely detailed genetic information during criminal investigations, would be curtailed if a forensics-use-only universal database were created.     This week?s episode was edited by Podigy.   Read a transcript (PDF) Listen to previous podcasts.   About the Science Podcast  
2018-11-22
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The worst year ever and the effects of fasting

When was the worst year to be alive? Contributing Correspondent Ann Gibbons talks to host Sarah Crespi about a contender year that features a volcanic eruption, extended darkness, cold summer, and a plague. Also on this week?s show, host Meagan Cantwell talks with Andrea Di Francesco of the National Institutes of Health?s National Institute on Aging in Baltimore, Maryland, about his review of current wisdom on fasting and metabolism. Should we start fasting?if not to extend our lives maybe to at least to give ourselves a healthy old age?  In a special segment from our policy desk, Deputy Editor David Malakoff discusses the results of the recent U.S. election with Senior Correspondent Jeffrey Mervis and we learn what happened to the many scientist candidates that ran and some implications for science policy. This week?s episode was edited by Podigy. Download a transcript (PDF) Listen to previous podcasts. About the Science Podcast [Photo: Scott Suchman; Styling: Nichole Bryant; Music: Jeffrey Cook]   
2018-11-15
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A big increase in monkey research and an overhaul for the metric system

A new report suggests a big increase in the use of monkeys in laboratory experiments in the United States in 2017. Online News Editor David Grimm joins host Sarah Crespi to discuss which areas of research are experiencing this rise and the possible reasons behind it. Also this week, host Meagan Cantwell talks with staff writer Adrian Cho about a final push to affix the metric system?s measures to physical constants instead of physical objects. That means the perfectly formed 1-kilogram cylinder known as Le Grand K is no more; it also means that the meter, the ampere, and other units of measure are now derived using complex calculations and experiments.  This week?s episode was edited by Podigy. Download a transcript (PDF) Listen to previous podcasts. About the Science Podcast [Image: Peter Nijenhuis/Flickr; Music: Jeffrey Cook] 
2018-11-08
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How the appendix could hold the keys to Parkinson?s disease, and materials scientists mimic nature

For a long time, Parkinson?s disease was thought to be merely a disorder of the nervous system. But in the past decade researchers have started to look elsewhere in the body for clues to this debilitating disease?particularly in the gut. Host Meagan Cantwell talks with Viviane Labrie of the Van Andel Institute in Grand Rapids, Michigan, about new research suggesting people without their appendixes have a reduced risk of Parkinson?s. Labrie also describes the possible mechanism behind this connection. And host Sarah Crespi talks with Peter Fratzl of the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces in Potsdam, Germany, about what materials scientists can learn from nature. The natural world might not produce innovations like carbon nanotubes, but evolution has forged innumerable materials from very limited resources?mostly sugars, proteins, and minerals. Fratzl discusses how plants make time-release seedpods that are triggered by nothing but fire and rain, the amazing suckerin protein that comprises squid teeth, and how cicadas make their transparent, self-cleaning wings from simple building blocks. Fratzl?s review is part of a special section in Science on composite materials. Read the whole package, including a review on using renewables like coconut fiber for building cars and incorporating carbon nanotubes and graphene into composites. This week?s episode was edited by Podigy. Download the transcript (PDF) Listen to previous podcasts. About the Science Podcast [Image: Roger Smith/Flickr; Music: Jeffrey Cook]
2018-11-01
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Children sue the U.S. government over climate change, and how mice inherit their gut microbes

A group of children is suing the U.S. government?claiming their rights to life, liberty, and property are under threat from climate change thanks to government policies that have encouraged the use and extraction of fossil fuels. Host Meagan Cantwell interviews news writer Julia Rosen on the ins and outs of the suit and what it could mean if the kids win the day.    Also this week, host Sarah Crespi talks with Andrew Moeller of Cornell University about his work tracing the gut microbes inherited through 10 generations of mice. It turns out the fidelity is quite high?you can still tell mice lineages apart by their gut microbes after 10 generations. And horizontally transmitted microbes, those that jump from one mouse line to another through exposure to common spaces or handlers, were more likely than inherited bacteria to be pathogenic and were often linked to illnesses in people. This week?s episode was edited by Podigy. Download a transcript of this episode (PDF) Listen to previous podcasts. About the Science Podcast [Image: Bob Dass/Flickr; Music: Jeffrey Cook] 
2018-10-25
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Mutant cells in the esophagus, and protecting farmers from dangerous pesticide exposure

As you age, your cells divide over and over again, leading to minute changes in their genomes. New research reveals that in the lining of the esophagus, mutant cells run rampant, fighting for dominance over normal cells. But they do this without causing any detectable damage or cancer. Host Sarah Crespi talks to Phil Jones, a professor of cancer development at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, about what these genome changes can tell us about aging and cancer, and how some of the mutations might be good for you. Most Western farmers apply their pesticides using drones and machinery, but in less developed countries, organophosphate pesticides are applied by hand, resulting in myriad health issues from direct exposure to these neurotoxic chemicals. Host Meagan Cantwell speaks with Praveen Vemula, a research investigator at the Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine in Bengaluru, India, about his latest solution?a cost-effective gel that can be applied to the skin to limit pesticide-related toxicity and mortality. This week?s episode was edited by Podigy. Download a transcript of this episode (PDF) Listen to previous podcasts. About the Science Podcast [Image:Navid Folpour/Flickr; Music: Jeffrey Cook]
2018-10-18
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What we can learn from a cluster of people with an inherited intellectual disability, and questioning how sustainable green lawns are in dry places

A small isolated town in Colombia is home to a large cluster of people with fragile X syndrome?a genetic disorder that leads to intellectual disability, physical abnormalities, and sometimes autism. Spectrum staff reporter Hannah Furfaro joins host Sarah Crespi to discuss the history of fragile X in the town of Ricaurte and the future of the people who live there. Also this week, we talk about greening up grass. Lawns of green grass pervade urban areas all around the world, regardless of climate, but the cost of maintaining them may outweigh their benefits. Host Meagan Cantwell talks with Maria Ignatieva of The University of Western Australia in Perth and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences in Uppsala about how lawns can be transformed to contribute to a more sustainable future. This week?s episode was edited by Podigy. Download a transcript of this episode (PDF) Listen to previous podcasts. About the Science Podcast [Image: Adam Kerfoot-Roberts/Flickr; Music: Jeffrey Cook]
2018-10-11
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Odd new particles may be tunneling through the planet, and how the flu operates differently in big and small towns

Hoping to spot subatomic particles called neutrinos smashing into Earth, the balloon-borne Antarctic Impulsive Transient Antenna (ANITA) detector has circled the South Pole four times. ANITA has yet to detect those particles, but it has twice seen oddball radio signals that could be evidence of something even weirder: some heavier particle unknown to physicists? standard model, burrowing up through Earth. Science writer Adrian Cho joins host Sarah Crespi to discuss the possibility that this reading could lead to a big change in physics. Next, host Meagan Cantwell asks researcher Ben Dalziel what makes a bad?or good?flu year. Traditionally, research has focused on two factors: climate, which impacts how long the virus stays active after a sneeze or cough, and changes in the virus itself, which can influence its infectiousness. But these factors don?t explain every pattern. Dalziel, a population biologist in the Departments of Integrative Biology and Mathematics at Oregon State University in Corvallis, explains how humidity and community size shape the way influenza spreads. This week?s episode was edited by Podigy. Download a transcript of this episode (PDF) Listen to previous podcasts. About the Science Podcast [Image: Stuart Rankin/Flickr; Music: Jeffrey Cook]
2018-10-04
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The future of PCB-laden orca whales, and doing genomics work with Indigenous people

Science has often treated Indigenous people as resources for research?especially when it comes to genomics. Now, Indigenous people are exploring how this type of study can be conducted in a way that respects their people and traditions. Meagan Cantwell talks with contributing correspondent Lizzie Wade about a summer workshop for Indigenous scientists that aims to start a new chapter in genomics. We?ve known for decades that PCBs?polychlorinated biphenyls?are toxic and carcinogenic. In the 1970s and 1980s, these compounds were phased out of use in industrial and electronic applications, worldwide. But they are still in the environment?in soil and air?and in animal tissues, particularly those of killer whales. These toxic compounds start out at minute levels in tiny organisms, but as the small are eaten by the slightly larger, the PCB concentration increases?from plankton, to fish, to seals?until you are at killer whales with PCB-packed blubber. Ailsa Hall, director of the Sea Mammal Research Unit at St. Andrews University in the United Kingdom, talks with host Sarah Crespi about her group?s work measuring PCB levels in different killer whale populations and calculating the effect of PCBs on those populations 100 years from now. In this month?s book segment, Jen Golbeck interviews Damon Centola about his book How Behavior Spreads: The Science of Complex Contagions. You can listen to more books segment and read more reviews on our books blog, Books et al.  This week?s episode was edited by Podigy. Download a transcript of this episode (PDF) Listen to previous podcasts About the Science Podcast [Image: Public domain; Music: Jeffrey Cook] 
2018-09-27
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Metaresearchers take on meta-analyses, and hoary old myths about science

Meta-analyses?structured analyses of many studies on the same topic?were once seen as objective and definitive projects that helped sort out conflicts amongst smaller studies. These days, thousands of meta-analyses are published every year?many either redundant or contrary to earlier metaworks. Host Sarah Crespi talks to freelance science journalist Jop de Vrieze about ongoing meta-analysis wars in which opposing research teams churn out conflicting metastudies around important public health questions such as links between violent video games and school shootings and the effects of antidepressants. They also talk about what clues to look for when trying to evaluate the quality of a meta-analysis. Sarah also talked with three other contributors to our ?Research on Research? special issue. Pierre Azoulay of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Ben Jones of Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, and MIT?s Heidi Williams discuss the evidence for some hoary old scientific home truths. See whether you can guess who originally made these claims and how right or wrong they were: Do scientists make great contributions after age 30? How important is it to stand on the shoulders of giants? Does the truth win, or do its opponents just eventually die out? Read the rest of the package on science under scrutiny here. This week?s episode was edited by Podigy. Download a transcript of this episode (PDF) Listen to previous podcasts. About the Science Podcast [Image: Davide Bonazzi/@SalzmanArt; Show music: Jeffrey Cook; additional music: Nguyen Khoi Nguyen]
2018-09-20
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The youngest sex chromosomes on the block, and how to test a Zika vaccine without Zika cases

Strawberries had both male and female parts, like most plants, until several million years ago. This may seem like a long time ago, but it actually means strawberries have some of the youngest sex chromosomes around. What are the advantages of splitting a species into two sexes? Host Sarah Crespi interviews freelance journalist Carol Cruzan Morton about her story on scientists? journey to understanding the strawberry?s sexual awakening. In 2016, experimental Zika vaccines were swiftly developed in response to the emergence of serious birth defects in the babies of infected woman. Two years after the height of Zika cases, there?s so little spread of the virus in the Americas that it has stymied vaccine trials. Researchers hope to overcome this hurdle with ?human challenge experiments??vaccinating people, then intentionally infecting them with Zika to see whether they?re protected from the virus. Meagan Cantwell talks with staff writer Jon Cohen about his news story that highlights the risks and rewards of human challenge experiments. This week?s episode was edited by Podigy. Download a transcript of this episode (PDF) Listen to previous podcasts. About the Science Podcast [Image: Public domain; Music: Jeffrey Cook]
2018-09-13
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Should we prioritize which endangered species to save, and why were chemists baffled by soot for so long?

We are in the middle of what some scientists are calling the sixth mass extinction and not all at-risk species can be saved. That?s causing some conservationists to say we need to start thinking about ?species triage.? Meagan Cantwell interviews freelance journalist Warren Cornwall about his story on weighing the costs of saving Canada?s endangered caribou and the debate among conservationists on new approaches to conservation. And host Sarah Crespi interviews Hope Michelsen, a staff scientist at Sandia National Laboratories in Livermore, California, about mysterious origins of soot. The black dust has been around since fire itself, but researchers never knew how the high-energy environment of a flame can produce it?until now. Michelsen walks Sarah through the radical chemistry of soot formation?including its formation of free radicals?and discusses soot?s many roles in industry, the environment, and even interstellar space. Check out this useful graphic describing the soot inception process in the related commentary article. This week?s episode was edited by Podigy. Download a transcript of this episode (PDF) Listen to previous podcasts. About the Science Podcast [Image: Darren Bertram/Flickr; Music: Jeffrey Cook]
2018-09-06
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Science and Nature get their social science studies replicated?or not, the mechanisms behind human-induced earthquakes, and the taboo of claiming causality in science

A new project out of the Center for Open Science in Charlottesville, Virginia, found that of all the experimental social science papers published in Science and Nature from 2010?15, 62% successfully replicated, even when larger sample sizes were used. What does this say about peer review? Host Sarah Crespi talks with Staff Writer Kelly Servick about how this project stacks up against similar replication efforts, and whether we can achieve similar results by merely asking people to guess whether a study can be replicated. Podcast producer Meagan Cantwell interviews Emily Brodsky of the University of California, Santa Cruz, about her research report examining why earthquakes occur as far as 10 kilometers from wastewater injection and fracking sites. Emily discusses why the well-established mechanism for human-induced earthquakes doesn?t explain this distance, and how these findings may influence where we place injection wells in the future. In this month?s book podcast, Jen Golbeck interviews Judea Pearl and Dana McKenzie, authors of The Book of Why: The New Science of Cause and Effect. They propose that researchers have for too long shied away from claiming causality and provide a road map for bringing cause and effect back into science. This week?s episode was edited by Podigy. Download a transcript of this episode (PDF) Listen to previous podcasts. About the Science Podcast [Image: Jens Lambert, Shutterstock; Music: Jeffrey Cook]
2018-08-30
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Sending flocks of tiny satellites out past Earth orbit and solving the irrigation efficiency paradox

Small satellites?about the size of a briefcase?have been hitching rides on rockets to lower Earth orbit for decades. Now, because of their low cost and ease of launching, governments and private companies are looking to expand the range of these ?sate-lites? deeper into space. Host Sarah Crespi talks with Deputy News Editor Eric Hand about the mods and missions in store for so-called CubeSats. And our newest podcast producer Meagan Cantwell interviews Quentin Grafton of Australian National University in Canberra and Brad Udall of Colorado State University in Fort Collins about something called the ?irrigation efficiency paradox.? As freshwater supplies dry up around the world, policymakers and farmers have been quick to try to make up the difference by improving irrigation, a notorious water waster. It turns out that both human behavior and the difficulty of water measurement are plaguing water conservation efforts in agriculture. For example, when farms find they are using less water, they tend to plant ever-more-water-intensive crops. Now, researchers are trying to get the message out about the behavioral component of this issue and tackle the measurement problem, using cheap remote-sensing technology, but with water scarcity looming ahead, we have to act soon. This week?s episode was edited by Podigy. Download a transcript of this episode (PDF) Listen to previous podcasts. About the Science Podcast [Image: John A. Kelley, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service; Music: Jeffrey Cook]
2018-08-23
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Ancient volcanic eruptions, and peer pressure?from robots

Several thousand years ago the volcano under Santorini in Greece?known as Thera?erupted in a tremendous explosion, dusting the nearby Mediterranean civilizations of Crete and Egypt in a layer of white ash. This geological marker could be used to tie together many ancient historical events, but the estimated date could be off by a century. Contributing Correspondent Lizzie Wade joins host Sarah Crespi to talk about a new study that used tree rings to calibrate radiocarbon readings?and get closer to pinning down a date. The findings also suggest that scientists may need to change their standard radiocarbon dating calibration curve. Sarah also talks to Tony Belpaeme of Ghent University in Belgium and Plymouth University in the United Kingdom about his Science Robotics paper that explored whether people are susceptible to peer pressure from robots. Using a classic psychological measure of peer influence, the team found that kids from ages 7 to 9 occasionally gave in to social pressure from robot peers, but adults did not. This week?s episode was edited by Podigy, with help from Meagan Cantwell. Download a transcript of this episode (PDF) Listen to previous podcasts. About the Science Podcast [Image: Softbank Robotics; Music: Jeffrey Cook]
2018-08-16
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Doubts about the drought that kicked off our latest geological age, and a faceoff between stink bugs with samurai wasps

We now live in the Meghalayan age?the last age of the Holocene epoch. Did you get the memo? A July decision by the International Commission on Stratigraphy, which is responsible for naming geological time periods, divided the Holocene into three ages: the Greenlandian, the Northgrippian, and the Meghalayan. The one we live in?the Meghalayan age (pronounced ?megalion?)?is pegged to a global drought thought to have happened some 4200 years ago. But many critics question the timing of this latest age and the global expanse of the drought. Staff writer Paul Voosen talks with host Sarah Crespi about the evidence for and against the global drought?and what it means if it?s wrong. Sarah also talks to staff writer Kelly Servick about her feature story on what happens when biocontrol goes out of control. Here?s the setup: U.S. Department of Agriculture researchers wanted to know whether brown marmorated stink bugs that have invaded the United States could be controlled?aka killed?by importing their natural predators, samurai wasps, from Asia. But before they could find out, the wasps showed up anyway. Kelly discusses how using one species to combat another can go wrong?or right?and what happens when the situation outruns regulators. This week?s episode was edited by Podigy. Download a transcript of this episode (PDF) Listen to previous podcasts. [Image: Melissa McMasters/Flickr; Music: Jeffrey Cook] 
2018-08-09
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How our brains may have evolved for language, and clues to what makes us leaders?or followers

Yes, humans are the only species with language, but how did we acquire it? New research suggests our linguistic prowess might arise from the same process that brought domesticated dogs big eyes and bonobos the power to read others? intent. Online News Editor Catherine Matacic joins host Sarah Crespi to talk about how humans might have self-domesticated themselves, leading to physical and behavioral changes that gave us a ?language-ready? brain. Sarah also talks with Micah Edelson of the University of Zurich in Switzerland about his group?s research into the role that ?responsibility aversion??the reluctance to make decisions for a group?might play when people decide to lead or defer in a group setting. In their experiments, the team found that some people adjusted how much risk they would take on, depending on whether they were deciding for themselves alone or for the entire group. The ones who didn?t?those who stuck to the same plan whether others were involved or not?tended to score higher on standardized tests of leadership and have held higher military rank. This week?s episode was edited by Podigy. Download a transcript of this episode (PDF) Listen to previous podcasts. [Image: Scaly breasted munia/Ravi Vaidyanathan; Music: Jeffrey Cook]
2018-08-02
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Liquid water on Mars, athletic performance in transgender women, and the lost colony of Roanoke

Billions of years ago, Mars probably hosted many water features: streams, rivers, gullies, etc. But until recently, water detected on the Red Planet was either locked up in ice or flitting about as a gas in the atmosphere. Now, researchers analyzing radar data from the Mars Express mission have found evidence for an enormous salty lake under the southern polar ice cap of Mars. Daniel Clery joins host Sarah Crespi to discuss how the water was found and how it can still be liquid?despite temperatures and pressures typically inhospitable to water in its liquid form. Read the research. Sarah also talks with science journalist Katherine Kornei about her story on changing athletic performance after gender transition. The feature profiles researcher Joanna Harper on the work she has done to understand the impacts of hormone replacement therapy and testosterone levels in transgender women involved in running and other sports. It turns out within a year of beginning hormone replacement therapy, transgender women plateau at their new performance level and stay in a similar rank with respect to the top performers in the sport. Her work has influenced sports oversight bodies like the International Olympic Committee. In this month?s book segment, Jen Golbeck interviews Andrew Lawler about his book The Secret Token: Myth, Obsession, and the Search for the Lost Colony of Roanoke. Next month?s book will be The Book of Why: The New Science of Cause and Effect by Judea Pearl and Dana Mackenzie. Write us at sciencepodcast@aaas.org or tweet to us @sciencemagazine with your questions for the authors. This week?s episode was edited by Podigy. Download a transcript of this episode (PDF) Listen to previous podcasts. [Image: Henry Howe; Music: Jeffrey Cook]
2018-07-26
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Why the platypus gave up suckling, and how gravity waves clear clouds

Suckling mothers milk is a pretty basic feature of being a mammal. Humans do it. Possums do it. But monotremes such as the platypus and echidna?although still mammals?gave up suckling long ago. Instead, they lap at milky patches on their mothers? skin to get early sustenance. Science News Writer Gretchen Vogel talks with host Sarah Crespi about the newest suckling science?it turns out monotremes probably had suckling ancestors, but gave it up for the ability to grind up tasty, hard-shelled, river-dwelling creatures. Sarah also talks with Sandra Yuter of North Carolina State University in Raleigh about her work on fast-clearing clouds off the southwest coast of Africa. These immense marine layers appear to be exiting the coastal regions under the influence of gravity waves (not to be confused with gravitational waves). This finding can help scientists better model cloud behavior, particularly with respect to their influence on global temperatures. This week?s episode was edited by Podigy. Download a transcript of this episode (PDF) Listen to previous podcasts. [Image: North Carolina State University]    
2018-07-19
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The South Pole?s IceCube detector catches a ghostly particle from deep space, and how rice knows to grow when submerged

A detection of a single neutrino at the 1-square-kilometer IceCube detector in Antarctica may signal the beginning of ?neutrino astronomy.? The neutral, almost massless particle left its trail of debris in the ice last September, and its source was picked out of the sky by the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope soon thereafter. Science News Writer Daniel Clery joins host Sarah Crespi to discuss the blazar fingered as the source and how neutrinos from this gigantic matter-gobbling black hole could help astronomers learn more about mysterious high-energy cosmic rays that occasionally shriek toward Earth. Read the research. Sarah also talks with Cornell University?s Susan McCouch about her team?s work on deep-water rice. Rice can survive flooding by fast internodal growth?basically a quick growth spurt that raises its leaves above water. But this growth only occurs in prolonged, deep flooding. How do these plants know they are submerged and how much to grow? Sarah and Susan discuss the mechanisms involved and where they originated. This week?s episode was edited by Podigy. Download a transcript of this episode (PDF) Listen to previous podcasts. [Image: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Conceptual Image Lab; Music: Jeffrey Cook]
2018-07-12
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A polio outbreak threatens global eradication plans, and what happened to America?s first dogs

Wild polio has been hunted to near extinction in a decades-old global eradication program. Now, a vaccine-derived outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is threatening to seriously extend the polio eradication endgame. Deputy News Editor Leslie Roberts joins host Sarah Crespi to talk about the tough choices experts face in the fight against this disease in the DRC. Sarah also talks with Online News Editor David Grimm about when dogs first came to the Americas. New DNA and archaeological evidence suggest these pups did not arise from North American wolves but came over thousands of years after the first people did. Now that we know where they came from, the question is: Where did they go? Read the research. This week?s episode was edited by Podigy. Download a transcript of this episode (PDF) Listen to previous podcasts. About the Science Podcast [Image: Polio virus/David Goodsell/RCSB PDB; Music: Jeffrey Cook]
2018-07-05
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Increasing transparency in animal research to sway public opinion, and a reaching a plateau in human mortality

Public opinion on the morality of animal research is on the downswing in the United States. But some researchers think letting the public know more about how animals are used in experiments might turn things around. Online News Editor David Grimm joins Sarah Crespi to talk about these efforts. Sarah also talks Ken Wachter of the University of California, Berkeley about his group?s careful analysis of data from all living Italians born 105 or more years before the study. It turns out the risk of dying does not continue to accelerate with age, but actually plateaus around the age of 105. What does this mean for attempts to increase human lifespan? In this month?s book segment, Jen Golbeck talks with Simon Winchester about his book The Perfectionists: How Precision Engineers Created the Modern World. Read more book reviews at our books blog, Books et al. This week?s episode was edited by Podigy. Listen to previous podcasts. [Image: Chris Jones/Flickr; Music: Jeffrey Cook]
2018-06-28
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