Named after Charles Babbage, a 19th-century polymath and grandfather of computing, Babbage is a weekly podcast on science and technology. Host Kenneth Cukier talks to our correspondents about the innovations, discoveries and gadgetry making the news. Published every Wednesday on Economist Radio.
The business opportunities from small satellite technology are infinite: from an ?ambulance? which rescues malfunctioning spacecraft to devices that can measure the oil level in a tanker from space. Are we on the verge of making gene-editing technology safer? And, 50 years after man set foot on the moon, Oliver Morton, senior editor and author, predicts the future of humans? relationship with lunar exploration. Kenn Cukier hosts
In this week?s Babbage, Alok Jha investigates the organisations and companies trying to crack a technology that could solve all of the world?s energy problems in a stroke?nuclear fusion. From Iter, the world's largest collaborative fusion experiment, to private start-ups racing to be first, could the long-promised dream of nuclear fusion - to provide clean, limitless, carbon-free power - finally be about to come true?
The measles resurgence around the world has been blamed on parents refusing to vaccinate their children but is vaccinating children enough? Also, how a new glove for humans is teaching robots how to feel. And Kenneth Cukier asks Carl Benedikt Frey, economic historian, what can be learnt from the industrial revolution in today?s world of automation and robots.
Access to the right data can be as valuable in humanitarian crises as water or medical care, but it can also be dangerous. Misused or in the wrong hands, the same information can put already vulnerable people at further risk. Kenneth Cukier hosts this special edition of Babbage examining how humanitarian organisations use data and what they can learn from the profit-making tech industry. This episode was recorded live from Wilton Park, in collaboration with the United Nations OCHA Centre for Humanitarian Data
Legislators in San Francisco have just voted to ban the use of facial recognition?is this a victory for privacy or a setback for technology? Also, new research on how machine learning can be used to predict the likelihood of breast cancer. And Amazon's boss, Jeff Bezos, draws inspiration from science fiction in his aim to build space habitats. Kenneth Cukier hosts
As Uber prepares for its public listing this week, a new study in San Francisco shows that ride-hailing companies cause major road congestion. Also, how much should smart speakers see as well as hear? And, author Douglas Rushkoff explains why he views modern technology as anti-human. Kenneth Cukier hosts
This week the Committee on Climate Change releases its anticipated recommendations for Britain to become a carbon-free economy, but will the Government take meaningful action? Also, the controversial subject of lung cancer screening. And David Spiegelhalter discusses ?The Art of Statistics?. Kenneth Cukier hosts
Kenneth Cukier takes a look at the future of genetic engineering and what it means to be human. He speaks to leading scientists, doctors and philosophers to ask if ethics and regulations are able to keep up with the technology
Amazon?s use of artificial intelligence has long outstripped Facebook and Google. Just how ingrained is AI at Amazon? Also, journalist and author David Wallace Wells explains the diminishing optimism of the climate change movement. And, how natural disasters fade from collective memory. Kenneth Cukier hosts
America, China and Russia are developing long range, gliding missiles that travel at speeds greater than Mach 5. What are the threats and safeguards? Also, Dame Stephanie Shirley, the programmer who set up Britain?s first all-female software company in 1962, gives advice to women in tech today. And, how to knit a sports car with carbon fibre. Kenneth Cukier hosts
A little-known paleontologist may have found the last piece of the puzzle explaining the fate of the dinosaurs: what actually happened when the giant asteroid struck the Earth. Also, Paul Davies, a renowned physicist, explains the systems of information that make up consciousness. And, why being heard in the House of Commons is not always essential to getting things done. Kenneth Cukier hosts
How scientists followed the nose of a super-smeller to identify a new test for Parkinson?s disease. Also, historian Kate Brown tells us what she uncovered from decades of researching the Chernobyl disaster. And scientists in China have found a potential solution for recharging the pacemaker. Kenneth Cukier hosts
The insect apocalypse may not be imminent, but the decline of insect species is still a concern. And we speak to Dr Angela Gallop about her career as one of Britain?s most eminent forensic scientists. Also, when will a robot barista serve you a latte? Kenneth Cukier hosts
Kenneth Cukier gets in the Babbage time machine and travels to 1989, when Sir Tim Berners-Lee wrote the famous memo that laid the foundations for the world wide web. Kenn speaks to some of the other key figures that influenced its invention, like Ted Nelson and Vint Cerf, and then asks what the WWW might look like in the future.
We have an exclusive interview with Dr Huw Griffiths on the mission to investigate a recently uncovered marine ecosystem in the Antarctic. And the author and scholar Shoshana Zuboff explains surveillance capitalism. Also, how the makers of the game Fortnite have the online platforms of Steam and Google locked in their sights. Kenneth Cukier hosts.
It is 150 years since Dmitri Mendeleev discovered the periodic table, the innate order underpinning the elements. Kenneth Cukier explores how this simple grid has shaped our understanding of the universe and our place in it. In a laboratory near Moscow the search is on for element 119, but on the other side of the world in California, researchers are hesitant. Is chemistry over?
The latest buzz from the AAAS, the largest general science meeting in the world, from The Economist?s science correspondent, Alok Jha. NASA scientists presented initial findings on how a year in space changes astronauts? bodies. Why a good sense of humour is required for a successful mission to Mars. And can machines become scientists?
Tech giants face regulation on news after UK media review. Its author, Dame Frances Cairncross, tells us even the technology platforms recognise the need for change. Roger McNamee, one of Facebook?s early investors, asks if it?s now too powerful. And the award-winning inventor of GPS on how his early atomic clock just keeps getting better with age. Kenneth Cukier hosts
Should individuals have rights over their data that are protected similar to human rights? We discuss the universe with Jo Dunkley of Princeton. And why the oceans are turning a different shade of blue. Kenneth Cukier hosts
As the controversial story of the editing of the genomes of two babies in China unfolds, we ask how can science be more ethical ? and how to tackle ?ethics dumping?. Also, how environmental factors can influence the national security of countries affected by climate change. And we look at the phenomenon of the placebo button. Kenneth Cukier hosts
How can new technology deal with rogue drones? And what can be learned from Dutch hospitals in the fight against superbugs. Also, the development of a simple camera that can see around corners. Tim Cross hosts
We discuss CERN?s latest plans for a successor to the Large Hadron Collider. Also, our healthcare editor explains how scientists hope to develop vaccines more quickly for unexpected viruses. And, how altering the genetic code of E.coli is leading to groundbreaking research on cancer drugs. Kenneth Cukier hosts.
In a special show, we examine China?s impressive scientific advances and question what they mean for the future of the sciences?and of China. Among the guests is the Chinese-American astronaut Leroy Chiao, discussing China?s recent feat of landing a probe on the far side of the moon. Kenneth Cukier hosts.
In this special episode of Babbage, we discuss some of the advancements in technology that could change the lives of those living with a disability ? an app that is helping those who are visually impaired. Also, how the sit-ski has benefited from research in the aerospace and automotive industries. And, can the symptoms of phantom limb syndrome be harnessed to enhance prosthetics? Kenneth Cukier hosts.
In this festive special we look back at some of our favourite stories from 2018. Could IVF could save the northern white rhino from extinction? Also, the discovery of liquid water on Mars. And, how the amphibious life of the Bajau people has led to their unique evolutionary traits. Kenneth Cukier hosts.
We ask how can conservationists preserve biodiversity through new ideas. Also, what can be done to increase the number of women in the technology industry? And Hossein Derakhshan, a formerly jailed Iranian blogger, discusses whether the web is becoming more superficial. Kenneth Cukier hosts.
The race is on to launch satellites to connect the entire world to the internet. We talk to psychologist and geneticist Robert Plomin, about his career and his latest book. And, is the fax machine facing extinction? Kenneth Cukier hosts
Waymo, a division of Google's parent company Alphabet, launched its self-driving taxi service, but is it really a landmark for driverless vehicles? Also, a vast study seeks to understand the genetic underpinnings of ADHD. And we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the ?Mother of all demos? computing presentation. Kenneth Cukier hosts
A Chinese scientist has claimed to have edited the genomes of two babies using the revolutionary genome-editing technique called CRISPR-Cas9. Also, how the production of semiconductors is becoming a new battlefield. And Kenneth Cukier asks the author, technology executive and investor Elad Gil what it takes for a startup to become a technology giant.
In this special episode we examine the controversial gang-mapping database of London's Metropolitan Police Service. Also, a new pilot project to study how a "data trust" might increase access to information while retaining privacy. And how sharing mapping data by the big web platforms could unlock innovations for companies and society. Kenneth Cukier hosts
Should climate change be a matter of human rights? Also, gene drives' controversial potential to wipe out entire species of mosquitoes. And, a novel watch spring that could change the way mechanical watches are designed. Kenneth Cukier hosts
Highlights from The Economist?s Space Summit in New York, including an interview with Apollo 9 astronaut Russell 'Rusty' Schweickart. Also, how to prepare for space exploration with Dava Newman, Apollo Program Professor of Astronautics at MIT. And, astrophysicist Simonetta Di Pippo and astronaut Leroy Chiao discuss worldwide cooperation in space. Tom Standage hosts
Can greenhouse emissions be cut in maritime transport? Also, with the US midterms a week away, Courtney Kennedy from PEW Research Centre discusses the reliability of polling data. And the artificial intelligence system being tested as a way to cut down train delays. Kenneth Cukier hosts
Could delivering goods by drone soon become a common occurrence? Also, cyber-security expert Bruce Schneier discusses his latest book. And a new innovation for the disposing of human waste from Mount Everest. Hal Hodson hosts
Is the internet about to be unravelled by quantum computing? And how artificial intelligence could be used to diagnose the need for lung transplants in patients with cystic fibrosis. Also, our technology correspondent, Hal Hodson, discuss some of the latest happenings in robotics. Kenneth Cukier hosts
This week's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report recommends keeping the global increase in temperature below 1.5°C. We ask how governments and companies can reach "net zero" and whether the global economy can both grow and go green? Kenneth Cukier talks to one of the authors of the report, an advisor to Costa Rica on its pioneering decarbonisation plan and the European refineries industry body on its green efforts.
Music: Smooth as Glass by The Freeharmonic Orchestra (CC x 4.0)
Economist science correspondents break down the discoveries that won this year's Nobel prizes. Tristan Harris, a former design ethicist at Google, discusses the dangerous ways that the tech industry competes for our attention. And: the story of blackest fish in the deep ocean. Kenneth Cukier hosts
What can we learn from the Spanish flu pandemic which killed over 50 million people a hundred years ago? Carl Malamud, founder of public.resource.org, wants to make more data public. And, is food actually scarce at the bottom of the ocean? Kenneth Cukier hosts.
Are e-cigarettes the answer to giving up tobacco smoking? And SpaceX revives its plans to send tourists around the moon. Also, we speak to Zia Chishti of Afiniti about the role of artificial intelligence in business. Kenneth Cukier hosts
How China will struggle to produce another Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba, who steps down as chairman next year. And we discuss cyber-security with former United States Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff. Kenneth Cukier hosts
Should tech companies be legally responsible for all their content? Also, major European research funders have announced ?Plan S? to make all scientific works free to read. And how optical fibre made in orbit could be better than the terrestrial sort. Kenneth Cukier hosts.
Has Silicon Valley?s influence as a technology hub peaked? Also, how artificial intelligence is gaining a sense of curiosity. And how a shampoo bottle is saving lives in Bangladesh. Kenneth Cukier hosts.
If Google does reintroduce its search engine to China what will it have to omit? And how future helicopters will fly in new ways, with pilots optional. Also, the discovery of a 3,200-year-old ancient Egyptian cheese and what we can learn from it. Hal Hodson hosts
Is quantum technology getting ahead of itself? And we look into what is being done to find a cure for celiac disease. Also, we explore random control trials and the placebo effect of sham surgery. Tim Cross hosts
Music by Daniel Birch "Brushed bells in the wind" (CC by 4.0)
We speak to project scientist for the Parker Solar Probe, Dr Nicola Fox, about the spacecraft's upcoming mission to the sun's atmosphere. We also discuss the upsides of artificial intelligence with professor Max Tegmark. And how seal whiskers are helping to create new underwater sensors. Kenneth Cukier hosts
Should AI systems be more human-centric? We look at how a trial of self-driving vehicles in Texas is focusing on what the technology can do now. Rufus Pollack, the founder of Open Knowledge International, discusses how freedom of choice promotes innovation. And, a simple solution to increasing productivity in India. Kenneth Cukier hosts
Are the recent heat waves around the world a sign of things to come? Geoffrey Carr, our science editor, finds out at the meeting of the International AIDS Society what more needs to be done to eradicate the disease. Also, has liquid water on Mars finally been found? Kenneth Cukier hosts.
What does the European Commission's record fine of Google mean for the future of its Android operating system? And how a popular gene editing tool is raising a few questions. Also, we speak to Dr David Fajgenbaum about the first ever World Castleman Disease Day. Kenneth Cukier hosts
Are robots going to replace chefs in the kitchen? And how footsteps can be used for ID and health checks. Also, we focus on the very latest discoveries from the Gaia space mission. Kenneth Cukier hosts
How IVF could save the northern white rhino from extinction. And Jaron Lanier tells us why we should delete our social media accounts. Also, how understanding animal behaviour could reduce errors in the operating theatre. Kenneth Cukier hosts