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Science Weekly

Science Weekly

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Science Weekly podcast will now explore some of the crucial scientific questions about Covid-19. Led by its usual hosts  Ian Sample,  Hannah Devlin and  Nicola Davis, as well as the Guardian's health editor Sarah Boseley, we?ll be taking questions ? some sent by you ? to experts on the frontline of the global outbreak. Send us your questions here:  


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The world finally has a malaria vaccine. Why has it taken so long?

Last week the World Health Organization approved the world?s first malaria vaccine. It?s been hailed as a historic breakthrough that could save tens of thousands of lives each year. But researchers have been trying to create one for more than a century ? so why has it taken so long? Anand Jagatia speaks to Dr Latif Ndeketa and Prof Chris Drakeley about how the new RTS,S vaccine works and why it?s been so difficult to produce. Help support our independent journalism at
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Is gene editing the future of food?

The world?s harvests are coming under increasing pressure from extreme weather events, disease and deteriorating soil health ? problems that are set to get worse in the next few decades. Could one solution be to genetically edit our food to make it more resilient? With the UK?s recent announcement that it will ease the rules for growing gene-edited crops in England, Madeleine Finlay investigates what it will mean for scientists researching the technology, and why it could become a critical tool for the future of our food. Help support our independent journalism at
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Covid-19: will there soon be a pill that stops us getting sick?

Last week the pharmaceutical company Merck released promising early data on a pill for Covid-19, which trials suggest halves hospitalisations and deaths. So what do we know about this experimental treatment? Madeleine Finlay talks to the Guardian?s science correspondent Hannah Devlin about whether this antiviral could be a gamechanger. And as some UK experts warn ? there isn?t much A&E capacity left?, we also hear from Prof Peter Horby on the importance of drugs in the fight against Covid-19. Help support our independent journalism at
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Could machines sucking carbon out of the air help fight the climate crisis?

Meeting the Paris agreement?s goal of keeping global temperature rises to below 2C by the end of the century requires drastic cuts to fossil fuel use and carbon emissions. The problem is, even if we do this we?ll still need to draw down the carbon dioxide that?s emitted in the meantime. To find out how, Shivani Dave speaks to Phoebe Weston and Damian Carrington about the natural and synthetic ways of pulling CO2 out of the atmosphere. Help support our independent journalism at
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CoolSculpting, Botox and fillers are on the rise ? but are they safe?

Last week, supermodel Linda Evangelista posted on her Instagram page describing undergoing a procedure called CoolSculpting, claiming it has left her ?permanently deformed?. With this, which is also known as cryolipolysis, and other non-surgical cosmetic treatments on the rise, particularly among younger people, Madeleine Finlay investigates how these procedures work and how risky they really are. Help support our independent journalism at
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Fleeing a war zone is traumatic ? so is what happens next

As Britain begins its commitment to take in 20,000 people fleeing Afghanistan, we look at the psychological impacts of trying to start again in a new country. Many asylum seekers and refugees have had to flee their homes in extremely distressing circumstances. A lucky few make it to a safe country such as the UK ? but what happens next? Anand Jagatia speaks to Afraa, who was forcibly displaced from Syria with her family, and Prof Rachel Tribe, a counselling and occupational psychologist who works with asylum seekers and refugees. Help support our independent journalism at
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Covid-19: how effective are face masks, really?

Since the start of the pandemic, face coverings and their ability to prevent the transmission of Covid-19 have been under constant scrutiny by scientists, politicians and the public. More than a year and a half in, what do ? and don?t ? we know? Madeleine Finlay speaks to Prof Cath Noakes about how effective different face coverings are, how best to use them, and when we should be masking-up. Help support our independent journalism at
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Egg-freezing just got more attractive ? but is it worth it?

Earlier this month the government announced it will extend the storage limit for those freezing their egg cells from 10 to 55 years. Over the past decade there has been a rapid growth in egg freezing, reaching 2,400 cycles in 2019, and the new rules will allow more freedom in choosing when to freeze ? and unfreeze. But, as an expensive, invasive and often unsuccessful procedure, it certainly isn?t the fertility-preserving guarantee that most wish for. Shivani Dave asks if the process is really worth it for those wanting to conceive at a later date. Help support our independent journalism at
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Jaws made us scared of sharks but is a lack of sharks scarier?

Last week, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) world conservation congress took place in Marseille. Guardian biodiversity reporter Phoebe Weston was there and heard about the latest updated ?red list? of threatened species, which included a warning that over a third of all shark and ray species now face extinction. To find out more, Anand Jagatia spoke to Phoebe about the findings and what they mean for the fate of sharks, rays and the ecosystems they inhabit. Help support our independent journalism at
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Flu season: are we in for a bumpier ride this year?

In a report earlier this summer, the Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisations (JCVI) noted there could be a 50% increase in cases of influenza in comparison to other years. Madeleine Finlay speaks to Ian Sample about the factors at play, from weakened immunity to the expanded vaccine programme, and hears from Derek Smith, professor of infectious disease informatics about how the World Health Organization has decided on which influenza strains to vaccinate against this year. Help support our independent journalism at
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Are third vaccines and vaccine boosters the same thing?

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation is recommending that a third jab be offered to people with weakened immune systems but the programme and rollout are different to the Covid vaccine boosters expected to be discussed by the JCVI later on Thursday. Shivani Dave speaks to Eleanor Riley, professor of immunology and infectious disease at the University of Edinburgh, and the Guardian science correspondent Nicola Davis about the distinctions between booster jabs and third jabs Coronavirus ? latest updates. Help support our independent journalism at
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Why swearing is more complicated than you think

Recently a study from Aston University revealed that the F-word had overtaken bloody to become Britain?s most popular swear word for the first time. Shivani Dave speaks to emeritus professor of psychology Timothy Jay of Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts to find out why people swear and whether or not there are any benefits to using swear words ? especially as we move back into public spaces such as the office. Help support our independent journalism at
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Can we really solve the climate crisis by planting trees? (part two)

Getting trees into the ground isn?t simple. Reforestation often involves trade-offs and challenges. Phoebe Weston checks in on two projects where people are planting trees, and one where it?s not humans doing the planting at all. She and Patrick Greenfield from The age of extinction are back with two new episodes. Help support our independent journalism at
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Can we really solve the climate crisis by planting trees? (part one)

In an era of divisions over the climate breakdown, tree planting seems to bring everyone together. But are there situations where tree planting can cause more harm than good? And how much can it help us counteract global heating? Patrick Greenfield leads you through the science and controversy behind the decisions we?re making and how those decisions could shape our future environment. He and Phoebe Weston from The age of extinction are back with two new episodes. Help support our independent journalism at
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Why aren?t children being vaccinated in the UK?

As back to school looms and in-person teaching returns, there is an expectation that Covid-19 cases will rise, especially among children. In the UK, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has approved the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines for children aged 12 to 17, but they are still not available to most people in this demographic. Shivani Dave speaks to the Guardian?s science correspondent, Natalie Grover, about why that is the case This podcast was amended on Thursday 26th August 2021 to correct for a misspeak: we said MRHA instead of MHRA. Help support our independent journalism at
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What should we be feeding our cats?

In mid-June this year, some brands of cat food were recalled as a precaution after a sudden increase in cases of feline pancytopenia, a rare blood disease that can be fatal. Shivani Dave speaks to Daniella Dos Santos, a practicing small animal and exotic pet vet and the senior vice-president of the British Veterinary Association, to understand what the food recall means for cat owners, and to find out how best to feed our feline friends. Help support our independent journalism at
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From the archive: the secret, sonic lives of narwhals

Narwhals may be shy and elusive, but they are certainly not quiet. Nicola Davis speaks to geophysicist Dr Evgeny Podolskiy about capturing the vocalisations of narwhals in an arctic fjord, and what this sonic world could tell us about the lives of these mysterious creatures. Help support our independent journalism at
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From the archive: Are alternative meats the key to a healthier life and planet?

How do protein substitutes compare with the real deal? Graihagh Jackson investigates by speaking to dietician Priya Tew, the Guardian?s Fiona Harvey and author Isabella Tree. This podcast was amended on 18 May 2019. An earlier version incorrectly claimed that vitamin B12 is also known as folate or folic acid. While folate/folic acid is also a B vitamin, it is not vitamin B12.. Help support our independent journalism at
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From the archive: are national parks failing nature? (part 2)

The climate crisis is ?unequivocally? caused by human activities, according to a recent report from the IPCC. Many attempts are being made to conserve the environment, with one being to protect national parks. Patrick Greenfield and Phoebe Weston explore the impact that conservation and national parks can have on Indigenous communities and the biodiversity surrounding them. If you haven?t already, go back and listen to Tuesday?s episode on the history of national parks and some of the challenges they face. Help support our independent journalism at
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From the archive: Are national parks failing nature? (part 1)

The climate crisis is ?unequivocally? caused by human activities, according to a report from the IPCC. One attempt to conserve the environment, being pushed by Boris Johnson, is to protect 30% of UK land in a boost for biodiversity. A Guardian exclusive found that an area twice the size of Greater London is devoted to grouse shooting in UK national parks, which threatens efforts to tackle the climate crisis. Patrick Greenfield and Phoebe Weston investigate whether national parks benefit the environment and biodiversity, or if there might be a better way of doing things. Help support our independent journalism at
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Are hair relaxers causing breast cancer in black women?

Research from the Black Women?s Health Study has found that long-term and frequent users of hair relaxers had roughly a 30% increased risk of breast cancer compared with more infrequent users. Shivani Dave speaks to Dr Kimberly Bertrand, co-investigator of the study and assistant professor of medicine at Boston University, about the research and to journalist Tayo Bero about the effects these findings could have on the black community. Help support our independent journalism at
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The billionaire space race

Last month, billionaire after billionaire hopped into spacecraft to reach the final frontier. Shivani Dave speaks to Robert Massey, the deputy executive director at the Royal Astronomical Society, to understand what, if any, positives might come from what has been called ?the billionaire space race?, or if the money and resources spent on space exploration should be redistributed to focus on the challenges being faced on Earth. Help support our independent journalism at
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Testosterone in women?s athletics

Genetic advantages in sport tend to be celebrated, but that isn?t always the case when it comes to women?s athletics. At the start of July, two female runners from Namibia, Christine Mboma and Beatrice Masilingi, were told they couldn?t compete in the 400m race in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics unless they reduced their naturally high testosterone hormone levels. Shivani Dave speaks to Katrina Karkazis, a professor of sexuality, women?s, and gender studies, specialising in ?sex testing? and sport regulations, about the rules that ban female athletes with naturally high testosterone. Help support our independent journalism at
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Sporting super spikes: how do they work?

In the lead-up to the athletics competitions at the Tokyo Olympic Games 2020, Shivani Dave takes look at how advances in running shoe technology are resulting in records being smashed. Talking to Geoff Burns, a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Michigan who specialises in biomechanics, Shivani asks how so-called ?super spikes? work and if the mechanical advantage they provide is fair. Help support our independent journalism at
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How does the human body cope with extreme heat? (part two)

We learned in our previous episode about the very real consequences that extreme heat has on human health and wellbeing, but there is little research into what actually happens to our bodies when exposed to extreme heat apart from in the world of sports science. In the second part of our discussion, as fears mount that the Tokyo Olympics will be the hottest on record and the world gears up for Cop26, Shivani Dave speaks to Mike Tipton, a professor of human and applied physiology. Help support our independent journalism at
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Why are extreme weather events on the rise? (part one)

The Guardian?s global environment editor, Jonathan Watts, speaks to Shivani Dave about extreme weather events ? including the extreme heat recently recorded in the US and Canada. In the first of two parts, we hear how extreme heat comes about and why extreme weather events such as floods and monsoons look set to become more likely and even more extreme. Help support our independent journalism at
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What are the risks of England unlocking on 19 July?

Nearly all coronavirus restrictions in England are set to be lifted from Monday 19 July. But what are the risks of unlocking when we could be in the middle of a third wave of infections? The Guardian?s science editor, Ian Sample, talks to Anand Jagatia about how cases, hospital admissions and deaths are modelled to increase in the coming weeks, as well as the risks from long Covid and new variants. Help support our independent journalism at
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Covid-19: do we need to reframe the way we think about restrictions?

Before Downing Street urged ? extreme caution? around the lifting of restrictions on so-called ?freedom day?, Shivani Dave spoke to Prof Stephen Reicher about how mixed messages surrounding restrictions can affect our behaviour Coronavirus ? latest updates See all our coronavirus coverage. Help support our independent journalism at
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How does Covid-19 affect chronic pain? (part two)

Fibromyalgia sufferer Vicky Naylor was successfully managing her condition ? until she developed Covid-19. In the second part of our exploration of chronic pain, the Guardian science correspondent Linda Geddes tells Anand Jagatia what we know about the connection between chronic pain, Covid and mental health, and why it affects women more than men. Help support our independent journalism at
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Understanding chronic pain (part one)

Chronic pain affects about 40% of the UK population. While there is growing recognition that pain can be an illness in and of itself, there is still a lot we don?t know. Anand Jagatia hears from fibromyalgia sufferer Vicky Naylor on what it?s like to live with chronic pain, and the Guardian?s science correspondent Linda Geddes about the causes for these sometimes debilitating conditions. Help support our independent journalism at
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Is hay fever on the rise?

After 18 months of life being at a near standstill, Science Weekly?s Shivani Dave found a lot of their conversations with friends turned to the severity of hay fever this year. Many claimed their allergies had never been worse. Shivani Dave asks horticulturist, Thomas Ogren, whether hay fever symptoms have become more severe in recent times. Help support our independent journalism at
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How effective is the new Alzheimer?s drug aducanumab?

Before Covid, dementia was the biggest killer in the UK and Alzheimer?s disease is the most common type. A controversial new drug for Alzheimer?s, aducanumab, is the first in nearly 20 years to be approved in the US, which will trigger pressure to make it available worldwide. The Guardian?s health editor, Sarah Bosley, talks Shivani Dave through the mixed evidence of its efficacy. Help support our independent journalism at
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Are we really ready to live with Covid-19?

Throughout the pandemic, but increasingly in recent weeks, some senior scientists and politicians have been saying that, at some point, we?re going to have to learn to live with coronavirus. On the other hand, just last week, there was a vote in the Commons to delay the easing of restrictions - a date dubbed by some as ?freedom day?. Speaking to Prof Siân Griffiths and Prof David Salisbury, Ian Sample asks if now is the time to go back to normality or whether a more cautious approach is needed Coronavirus ? latest updates See all our coronavirus coverage. Help support our independent journalism at
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How clocks have shaped civilisations

Since the dawn of time, clocks have shaped our behaviour and values. They are embedded in almost every aspect of modern life, from the time on your smartphone to the atomic clocks that underpin GPS. Anand Jagatia talks to horologist David Rooney about his new book, which tells the history of civilisation in twelve clocks. Help support our independent journalism at
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Inside the world of wildlife trafficking (part two)

In the second part of our look at wildlife crime, Phoebe Weston and Patrick Greenfield from the Guardian?s age of extinction project look at another victim: orchids. Why are they valued so highly? And how are they being protected? ? Read more: ?Orchidelirium?: how a modern-day flower madness is fuelling the illegal trade. Help support our independent journalism at
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Inside the world of wildlife trafficking (part one)

We often think of the illegal trade in wildlife as involving charismatic megafauna such as elephants and big cats. But some of the biggest victims are more inconspicuous. Phoebe Weston and Patrick Greenfield from the Guardian?s age of extinction project explore wildlife crime in a two part series Read more: Jellied, smoked, baked in pies ? but can the UK stop eels sliding into extinction?. Help support our independent journalism at
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As indigenous languages die out, will we lose knowledge about plants?

There are more than 7,000 languages spoken on Earth, but by the end of the century, 30% of these could be lost. This week, research warns that knowledge of medicinal plants is at risk of disappearing as human languages become extinct. Phoebe Weston speaks to Rodrigo Cámara Leret about the study, and the links between biological and cultural diversity. Help support our independent journalism at
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Anna Ploszajski: crafting to better understand material science

Material science allows us to understand the objects around us mathematically, but there is no formula to describe the sophistication of a handcrafted teacup. Dr Anna Ploszajski is a materials scientist who has travelled all over the UK, meeting makers to better understand her craft and theirs. She spoke to Shivani Dave about what she discovered and documented in her new book, Handmade.. Help support our independent journalism at
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From the archive: Callum Roberts on a life spent diving in coral reefs

As temperatures soar in the UK, the Guardian?s Science Weekly team have decided to pull this episode out of the archive. Prof Callum Roberts is a British oceanographer, author and one of the world?s leading marine biologists. Sitting down with Ian Sample in 2019, he talks about his journey into exploring this marine habitat. Help support our independent journalism at
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What can a wild night out teach us about ecosystem health?

Moths, bats and owls are just some of the animals best observed at night, and they tell us a lot about the health of ecosystems. Age of Extinction reporter Phoebe Weston ventures into a dark wood with Chris Salisbury, author of Wild Nights Out, to see what she can learn by watching and listening to wildlife. Help support our independent journalism at
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Can Covid vaccines disrupt menstrual cycles?

When getting a Covid jab you will be read a list of potential side-effects. You?ll even be given a leaflet to take home with the side-effects on them, and none of those includes changes in menstruation. After anecdotal reports of bleeding, Dr Kate Clancy and Dr Katharine Lee speak to Nicola Davis about why they launched a survey documenting events of this kind. Help support our independent journalism at
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Could sniffer dogs soon be used to detect Covid-19? (an update)

This week, a study has added to the evidence that specially trained dogs could be used to sniff out people with Covid-19, showing that canines are faster than PCR tests and more accurate than lateral flow tests at detecting infections. Anand Jagatia speaks to the Guardian?s science correspondent Linda Geddes, who went to see the dogs in action Coronavirus ? latest updates See all our coronavirus coverage This podcast was amended on 2 June 2021. An earlier version incorrectly referred to insulin being used by people with type 1 diabetes to treat low blood sugar; in fact insulin is given when blood sugar is too high. That reference has been removed.. Help support our independent journalism at
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Have we entered the Anthropocene ? a new epoch in Earth?s history?

Human beings have transformed the planet. Over the last century we?ve disrupted the climate and impacted entire ecosystems. This has led some to propose that we?ve entered another chapter in Earth?s history called the Anthropocene. Anand Jagatia speaks to Dr Simon Turner from the Anthropocene Working Group, given the task of gathering evidence on whether it will become an official unit of geological time. Help support our independent journalism at
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The reality behind NFTs

One-of-a-kind digital collectables, known as non-fungible tokens (NFTs), have boomed in areas ranging from music, sport and art. As the focus is on digital artists to seize this opportunity to potentially make millions for their work, the Guardian?s technology correspondent, Alex Hern, talks to Shivani Dave about the pros and cons of this emerging technology. Help support our independent journalism at
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Covid-19: what do we know about the variants first detected in India?

With restrictions in England due to be further relaxed on 17 May, new coronavirus variants first detected in India are spreading across the UK. Public Health England designated one, known as B.1.617.2, as a ?variant of concern? last week. It is now the second most common variant in the country. Anand Jagatia speaks to the Guardian science correspondent Nicola Davis and Prof Ravi Gupta about what we know and how concerned we should be. Help support our independent journalism at
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Melting away: understanding the impact of disappearing glaciers

Prompted by an illness that took her to the brink of death and back, Jemma Wadham recalls 25 years of expeditions around the globe. Speaking to the professor about her new book, Ice Rivers, Shivani Dave uncovers the importance of glaciers ? and what they should mean to us. Help support our independent journalism at
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How has our thinking on the climate crisis changed?

When the Guardian began reporting on the climate crisis 70 years ago, people were worried that warmer temperatures would make it harder to complain about the weather. Today it is the biggest challenge humanity has ever faced. In the second special episode marking 200 years of the Guardian, Phoebe Weston is joined by Jonathan Watts, Prof Naomi Oreskes and Alice Bell to take a look at climate coverage over the years, how our understanding of the science has changed and how our attitudes and politics have shifted. Help support our independent journalism at
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What can we learn from the 1918 flu pandemic? ? podcast

On 22 June 1918, the Manchester Guardian reported that a flu epidemic was moving through the British Isles. It was noted to be ?by any means a common form of influenza?. Eventually, it took the lives of more than 50 million people around the world. In a special episode to mark the Guardian?s 200th anniversary, Nicola Davis looks back on the 1918 flu pandemic and how it was reported at the time. Speaking to science journalist Laura Spinney, and ex-chief reporter at the Observer and science historian Dr Mark Honigsbaum, Nicola asks about the similarities and differences to our experiences with Covid-19, and what we can learn for future pandemics. Help support our independent journalism at
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Unearthing the secret social lives of trees ? podcast

Over her career, first as a forester and then as a professor of forest ecology, Suzanne Simard has been uncovering the hidden fungal networks that connect trees and allow them to send signals and share resources. Speaking to Suzanne about her new book, Finding the Mother Tree, Linda Geddes discovers how these underground webs allow plants to cooperate and communicate with each other. Help support our independent journalism at
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Can we create a climate-resistant coffee in time? ? podcast

Worldwide, we drink around 2bn cups of coffee every day. But as coffee plants come under pressure from the climate crisis, sustaining this habit will be increasingly challenging. Recently, a new study provided a glimmer of hope: a climate-resistant coffee plant just as tasty as arabica. Patrick Greenfield asks Dr Aaron Davis about his work tracking it down, and speaks to Dr Matthew Reynolds about developing climate-resistant crops. Help support our independent journalism at
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