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Coronapod: The heavy toll on people of colour

In this episode: 00:45 Black Lives Matter The killing of George Floyd, a black man, by police in Minnesota has sent a shockwave of anger around the globe. As unrest continues, we discuss the protests in Washington DC and ask how scientists are reacting. 04:01 The outsized toll of covid-19 on people of colour Reports from around the globe are showing that ethnic minorities are at much higher risk of infection and death from the coronavirus. But why might that be? And what can be done about it? News: How to address the coronavirus’s outsized toll on people of colour World View: How environmental racism is fuelling the coronavirus pandemic 16:27 Food for thought Richard Van Noorden suggests some inspirational listening to learn and reflect in difficult times. Podcast: George the poet 18:27 Lessons from past pandemics The coronavirus pandemic is just the latest of hundreds throughout history. Nick Howe interviews author Frank M Snowden about how disease has shaped society. Books and Arts: How pandemics shape social evolution  

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Why men may have more severe COVID-19 symptoms, and using bacteria to track contaminated food

First up this week, Staff Writer Meredith Wadman talks with host Sarah Crespi about how male sex hormones may play a role in higher levels of severe coronavirus infections in men. New support for this idea comes from a study showing high levels of male pattern baldness in hospitalized COVID-19 patients. Read all our coronavirus coverage. Next, Jason Qian, a Ph.D. student in the systems biology department at Harvard Medical School, joins Sarah to talk about an object-tracking system that uses bacterial spores engineered with unique DNA barcodes. The inactivated spores can be sprayed on anything from lettuce, to wood, to sand and later be scraped off and read out using a CRISPR-based detection system. Spraying these DNA-based identifiers on such things as vegetables could help trace foodborne illnesses back to their source. Read a related commentary piece.  This week’s episode was produced with help from Podigy. Listen to previous podcasts. About the Science Podcast Download a transcript (PDF).
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Rocket Roundup for June 3, 2020

Join us for this week's Rocket Roundup with host Annie Wilson. We look at the rocket launches that did and did not happen since our last update, including, of course, the SpaceX Crew Dragon launch. We also cover a couple of Chinese launches, one Russian launch, one Japanese launch, the Virgin Orbit test launch, and the explosion of SN4.

Lab-made skin grows its own hair

This week, a new method to grow hairy skin in a dish, and new research takes aim at the RNA world hypothesis. In this episode: 00:45 Hairy Skin Researchers may have developed a way to make skin that can grow hair in the lab, paving the way for treatment of a variety of skin disorders, and perhaps even baldness. Research Article: Lee et al.; News and Views: Regenerative medicine could pave the way to treating baldness 08:56 Research Highlights How mercury moved during the ‘Great Dying’, and the link between mobile phones and gender equality. Research Highlight: Giant eruptions belched toxic metal during the ‘Great Dying’; Research Article: Rotondi et al. 11:21 Does DNA predate life? The RNA world hypothesis posits that RNA formed spontaneously leading eventually to life. Now new research suggests that RNA and DNA formed together, before life. Research Article: Xu et al.; News and Views: How DNA and RNA subunits might have formed to make the first genetic alphabet 19:25 Pick of the Briefing We pick our highlights from the Nature Briefing, including the recent SpaceX launch, and the earliest fossil of a land animal. CBC: Scientists find oldest fossil of a land animal; Nature News: SpaceX to launch astronauts — and a new era of private human spaceflight Subscribe to Nature Briefing, an unmissable daily round-up of science news, opinion and analysis free in your inbox every weekday. Other links Video: We test a home antibody kit for tracking Covid-19 transmission  

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Ep. 572: Twists in Planet Formation

We're all looking to the next generation of exoplanetary research where we get planets directly. But astronomers are already making great strides in directly observing newly forming planets help us understand how our solar system might have formed.

Coronapod: The divisive hydroxychloroquine study that's triggering mass confusion

00:59 Chloroquine on rocky ground President Trump's preferred coronavirus treatment is the focus of a new study suggesting it could cause more harm than good, but not everybody agrees. We discuss the fallout as trials around the world are paused and countries diverge over policy advice. News: India expands use of controversial coronavirus drug amid safety concerns News: Safety fears over hyped drug hydroxychloroquine spark global confusion 12:12 Are we rushing science? Coronavirus papers are being published extremely quickly, while normally healthy scientific debate is being blown up in the world’s press. Is there a balancing act between timely research and accurate messaging? 18:49 One good thing Our hosts pick out things that have made them smile in the last week, including hedgerow brews and a trip into the past using AI. Recipe: Elderflower 'Champagne' Video: Denis Shiryaev restores historic footage with AI 22:30 The latest coronavirus research papers Noah Baker takes a look through some of the key coronavirus papers of the last few weeks. News: Coronavirus research updates medRxiv: Full genome viral sequences inform patterns of SARS-CoV-2 spread into and within Israel Harvard Library: Reductions in commuting mobility predict geographic differences in SARS-CoV-2 prevalence in New York City Science: DNA vaccine protection against SARS-CoV-2 in rhesus macaques  

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A rare condition associated with coronavirus in children, and tracing glaciers by looking at the ocean floor

First up this week, Staff Writer Jennifer Couzin-Frankel talks with host Sarah Crespi about a rare inflammatory response in children that has appeared in a number of COVID-19 hot spots. Next, Julian Dowdeswell, director of the Scott Polar Research Institute and professor of physical geography at the University of Cambridge, talks with producer Meagan Cantwell about tracing the retreat of Antarctica's glaciers by examining the ocean floor. Finally, Kiki Sanford interviews author Danny Dorling about his new book, Slowdown: The End of the Great Acceleration―and Why It’s Good for the Planet, the Economy, and Our Lives. This week’s episode was produced with help from Podigy. Listen to previous podcasts. About the Science Podcast Download a transcript (PDF).

Super-efficient catalyst boosts hopes for hydrogen fuel

This week, perfecting catalysts that split water using light, and the mystery of missing matter in the Universe. In this episode: 00:44 Water splitting After decades of research scientists have managed to achieve near perfect efficiency using a light-activated catalyst to separate hydrogen from water for fuel. Research Article: Takata et al.; News and Views: An almost perfectly efficient light-activated catalyst for producing hydrogen from water 05:37 Research Highlights The hidden water inside the earth’s core, and how working memory ‘works’ in children. Research Highlight: Our planet’s heart is watery; Research Highlight: A child’s memory prowess is revealed by brain patterns 07:53 Measuring matter Estimations of baryonic matter in the Universe have conflicted with observations, but now researchers have reconciled these differences. Research Article: Macquart et al. 13:42 Pick of the Briefing We pick our highlights from the Nature Briefing, including the possibility of a black hole in our solar system, and the biting bees that force plants to bloom. Physics World: If ‘Planet Nine’ is a primordial black hole, could we detect it with a fleet of tiny spacecraft?; Scientific American: Bumblebees Bite Plants to Force Them to Flower (Seriously) Subscribe to Nature Briefing, an unmissable daily round-up of science news, opinion and analysis free in your inbox every weekday.  

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571: Extreme Binaries

So we're familiar with regular binary stars. Two stars orbiting each other. Simple. Of course the Universe has come up with every combination of things orbiting other things, and this week we look at some extreme examples.

Coronapod: Hope and caution greet vaccine trial result, and Trump vs the WHO

01:38 Trump vs the WHO President Trump has given the WHO an ultimatum in a tweet, threatening to pull out of the organisation within 30 days unless unclear demands are met. We discuss what this means for the pandemic, the USA and the future of international health cooperation. 12:06 Where are we with vaccines? The first results from vaccine trials are in and they are encouraging, but scientists are still urging caution. We hear the lowdown on the types of vaccines being developed and what hope there is of rolling them out any time soon.  News: Coronavirus vaccine trials have delivered their first results — but their promise is still unclear News: The race for coronavirus vaccines: a graphical guide News: If a coronavirus vaccine arrives, can the world make enough? 25:20 One good thing Our hosts pick out things that have made them smile in the last week, including hopeful antibody research, at-home sketch comedy and printable board games. News: Potent human antibodies could inspire a vaccine Video: Whiskers R we - SNL Video:The wild affordable world of 1 Player Print’n’Play Games Video:MORE of the Very Best Solitaire Print'n'Play Games Video: Marble run league Video: BBC goals at home (Only available in the UK) 30:04 The latest coronavirus research papers Noah Baker takes a look through some of the key coronavirus papers of the last few weeks. News: Coronavirus research updates medRxiv: Saliva is more sensitive for SARS-CoV-2 detection in COVID-19 patients than nasopharangel swabs Nature: Effect of non-pharmaceutical interventions to contain COVID-19 in China Science: Changes in contact patterns shape the dynamics of the COVID-19 outbreak in China New England Journal of Medicine: Multiorgan and Renal Tropism of SARS-CoV-2 Subscribe to Nature Briefing, an unmissable daily round-up of science news, opinion and analysis free in your inbox every weekday.  

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How scientists are thinking about reopening labs, and the global threat of arsenic in drinking water

Online News Editor David Grimm talks with producer Joel Goldberg about the unique challenges of reopening labs amid the coronavirus pandemic. Though the chance to resume research may instill a sense of hope, new policies around physical distancing and access to facilities threaten to derail studies—and even careers. Despite all the uncertainty, the crisis could result in new approaches that ultimately benefit the scientific community and the world. Also this week, Joel Podgorski, a senior scientist in the Water Resources and Drinking Water Department at the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology, joins host Sarah Crespi to discuss the global threat of arsenic in drinking water. Arsenic is basically present in all rocks in minute amounts. Under the right conditions it can leach into groundwater and poison drinking water. Without a noticeable taste or smell, arsenic contamination can go undetected for years. The paper, published in Science, estimates that more than 100 million people are at risk of drinking arsenic-contaminated water and provides a guide for the most important places to test. This week’s episode was produced with help from Podigy. Listen to previous podcasts. About the Science Podcast Download a transcript (PDF).

A synthetic eye that 'sees' like a human

This week, crafting an artificial eye with the benefits of a human's, and understanding how disk-galaxies formed by peering back in time. In this episode: 00:45 Biomimetic eye Researchers fabricate an artificial eye complete with a human-like retina. Research Article: Gu et al.; News and Views: Artificial eye boosted by hemispherical retina 09:27 Research Highlights Dazzling elephant seals to avoid predation, and helping blind people ‘see’ through brain stimulation. Research Highlight: Mighty seals humbled by prey that flickers and flashes; Research Highlight: Blind people ‘read’ letters traced on their brains with electricity 11:36 Early disk-galaxy There’s an open question about how disk-galaxies form, but now new observations are pointing to an answer, from the very early Universe. Research Article: Neeleman et al.; News and Views: Galaxy disk observed to have formed shortly after the Big Bang 17:47 Pick of the Briefing We pick our highlights from the Nature Briefing, including a HIV ‘vaccine’, and incredibly hardy bacteria. Science: Long-acting injectable drug prevents HIV infections; Quanta Magazine: Inside Deep Undersea Rocks, Life Thrives Without the Sun Subscribe to Nature Briefing, an unmissable daily round-up of science news, opinion and analysis free in your inbox every weekday.  

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Astronomy Cast Ep. 570: Discovering Comets

Discovering comets is one of the fields that amateurs can still make a regular contribution to astronomy. But more and more comets are getting found by spacecraft, automated systems and machine learning. This week we'll talk about how comets are discovered and how you can get your name on one!

Coronapod: The misinformation pandemic, and science funding fears

With questionable coronavirus content flooding airwaves and online channels, what’s being done to limit its impact?  In this episode:   00:57 The epidemiology of misinformation As the pandemic spreads, so does a tidal wave of misinformation and conspiracy theories. We discuss how researchers' are tracking the spread of questionable content, and ways to limit its impact. News: Anti-vaccine movement could undermine efforts to end coronavirus pandemic, researchers warn Nature Video: Infodemic: Coronavirus and the fake news pandemic   17:55 One good thing Our hosts pick out things that have made them smile in the last week, including walks in new places, an update on the Isolation Choir, and a very long music playlist. Video: The Isolation Choir sing What a Wonderful World Spotify: Beastie Boys Book Complete Songs 22:30 Funding fears for researchers Scientists around the world are concerned about the impacts that the pandemic will have on their funding and research projects. We hear from two who face uncertainty, and get an update on the plans put in place by funding organisations to support their researchers. Subscribe to Nature Briefing, an unmissable daily round-up of science news, opinion and analysis free in your inbox every weekday.  

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How past pandemics reinforced inequality, and millions of mysterious quakes beneath a volcano

Contributing Correspondent Lizzie Wade talks with host Sarah Crespi about the role of inequality in past pandemics. Evidence from medical records and cemeteries suggests diseases like the 1918 flu, smallpox, and even the Black Death weren’t indiscriminately killing people—instead these infections caused more deaths in those with less money or status. Also this week, Aaron Wech, a research geophysicist for the U.S. Geological Survey at the Alaska Volcano Observatory, joins Sarah to talk about recordings of more than 1 million earthquakes from deep under Hawaii’s Mauna Kea volcano, which hasn’t erupted in 4500 years. They discuss how these earthquakes, which have repeated every 7 to 12 minutes for at least 20 years, went undetected for so long. This week’s episode was produced with help from Podigy. Listen to previous podcasts. About the Science Podcast Download a transcript (PDF).

The super-sleuth who spots trouble in science papers, and the puzzle of urban smog

This week, Elisabeth Bik tells us about her work uncovering potential image manipulation, and a new route for particulate pollution formation. In this episode: 00:45 Seeing double Elisabeth Bik spends her days identifying duplicated images in science papers. She tells us about her efforts, and why they’re important. Feature: Meet this super-spotter of duplicated images in science papers; News: Publishers launch joint effort to tackle altered images in research papers 08:11 Research Highlights New insights on the mysterious Tully Monster, and how football fans can stoke air pollution. Research Highlight: Unmasking the Tully Monster: fossils help to tackle a decades-old mystery; Research Highlight: The meaty link between a city’s football matches and its foul air 10:29 Understanding air pollution Particulate pollution is a serious threat to human health, but the way that new particles form is poorly understood. This week, new research suggests a new mechanism for it to happen. Research article: Wang et al.; News and Views: Airborne particles might grow fast in cities 15:09 Pick of the Briefing We pick some highlights from the Nature Briefing, including the closest discovered black hole to Earth, and how wriggly worms are helping physicists model microscopic processes. National Geographic: Closest black hole to Earth found 'hiding in plain sight'; Physics: Worm Viscosity Subscribe to Nature Briefing, an unmissable daily round-up of science news, opinion and analysis free in your inbox every weekday. Other links: Our latest video - Infodemic: Coronavirus and the fake news pandemic  

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Ep. 569: Ethics of Commercial and Military Space, Part 1: Private Space Flight

Every year, more and more people are making their way to space. Some private citizens have already gotten their astronaut wings, paying for a trip to space out of their own pocket. What are the ethical implications of this as the costs of spaceflight come down?
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