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Babbage from The Economist

The Economist

Named after Charles Babbage, a 19th-century polymath and grandfather of computing, Babbage is a weekly podcast on science and technology. Host Alok Jha talks to our correspondents about the innovations, discoveries and gadgetry making the news. Published every Tuesday by Economist Podcasts. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.

Named after Charles Babbage, a 19th-century polymath and grandfather of computing, Babbage is a weekly podcast on science and technology. Host Alok Jha talks to our correspondents about the innovations, discoveries and gadgetry making the news. Published every Tuesday by Economist Podcasts. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.

Location:

London, United Kingdom

Networks:

The Economist

Description:

Named after Charles Babbage, a 19th-century polymath and grandfather of computing, Babbage is a weekly podcast on science and technology. Host Alok Jha talks to our correspondents about the innovations, discoveries and gadgetry making the news. Published every Tuesday by Economist Podcasts. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.

Language:

English


Episodes

Babbage: How science can save the world

9/20/2022
During the pandemic, scientists gained greater prominence in the lives of ordinary people than ever before. And while covid-19 highlighted the importance of the field to humanity, it also raised questions about the role of scientists in modern life. Host Alok Jha talks to the astronomer and cosmologist Martin Rees, one of Britain’s top scientists and a former president of the Royal Society. His new book “If Science is to Save Us” argues that scientific knowledge can solve some of the world’s...

Duration:00:37:36

Babbage: Will Ethereum’s merge transform crypto?

9/13/2022
A monumental shift is about to take place in the crypto world. One of the most important blockchain projects, Ethereum, is set to change the way it secures its network—from the energy-intensive “proof-of-work” system to the greener “proof-of-stake” method. Known as “the merge”, the switch could slash Ethereum’s energy consumption by over 99 percent. The Economist’s Stevie Hertz investigates why the “proof-of-work” system of mining currencies like bitcoin is so bad for the environment, and...

Duration:00:43:44

Babbage: From our archive—the James Webb Space Telescope

9/6/2022
In recent months, the world has been astounded by cosmic images taken by the James Webb Space Telescope. By gazing deep into space, it can see billions of years back in time, and promises to transform human understanding of the universe. In this episode, first released in December 2021, host Alok Jha explores the telescope’s promise. And, science correspondent Gilead Amit asks NASA’s head of science Thomas Zurbuchen about the mission’s impact on the agency. For full access to The...

Duration:00:42:37

Babbage: The open-source intelligence war

8/30/2022
Six months have passed since Russia invaded Ukraine. It is arguably the most transparent conflict ever, thanks to publicly available satellite data and social media. How has open-source intelligence (OSINT) shaped the war? The Economist’s defence editor Shashank Joshi examines the technologies behind the OSINT revolution, and how this new era of openness is changing warfare. Alok Jha hosts. For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at...

Duration:00:43:42

Babbage: NASA’s newish rocket

8/23/2022
NASA’s giant new rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS), will soon embark on its maiden journey to lunar orbit. The launcher is designed to send humans back to the Moon, but was built on old technology, and is years late and shockingly over budget. Does NASA even need a successor to the Space Shuttle, when Elon Musk’s SpaceX is developing a cheaper, more powerful alternative? Host Alok Jha examines the politics behind the SLS and the role of NASA against the backdrop of a now-flourishing,...

Duration:00:43:22

Babbage: Could artificial intelligence become sentient?

8/16/2022
A debate has been raging in technology circles, after an engineer at Google claimed in June that the company’s chatbot was sentient. Host Kenneth Cukier explores how to define “sentience” and whether it could be attained by AI. If machines can exhibit consciousness, it presents myriad ethical and legal considerations. Is society equipped to deal with the implications of conscious AI? Find The Economist’s list of the five best books to read on artificial intelligence here. For full access...

Duration:00:45:16

Babbage: The child hepatitis mystery

8/9/2022
Since April a mysterious outbreak of hepatitis in children around the world has baffled doctors. Some children have required liver transplants and more than 20 have died. Recent findings may link the spike in cases to covid-19 lockdowns. We examine the evidence and ask how a lack of exposure to bugs can affect immune systems. What other consequences could pandemic restrictions have for the long-term health of children—and adults? Kenneth Cukier hosts. For full access to The Economist’s...

Duration:00:44:55

Babbage: How AI cracked biology’s biggest problem

8/2/2022
DeepMind’s artificial-intelligence system AlphaFold has predicted the three-dimensional shape of almost all known proteins. The company’s boss Demis Hassabis tells us how the AI was able to solve what was, for decades, biology’s grand challenge. Plus, Gilead Amit, The Economist’s science correspondent, explores the significance of the breakthrough for scientists tackling neglected diseases and designing new molecules. The leap forward could be AI’s greatest contribution to biology to date,...

Duration:00:31:39

Babbage: Can technology personalise your diet?

7/26/2022
Digital tools and sophisticated wearable devices are being combined with the latest knowledge on metabolic science to build personalised eating plans. Slavea Chankova, The Economist’s health-care correspondent, explores the future of nutrition. Data from new nutrition technology can also be tied to exercise monitoring devices and blood biomarkers, to build algorithms that aim to make people get healthier. But can the emerging personalised nutrition era make a real difference to public...

Duration:00:45:13

Babbage: How to keep secrets in the age of quantum computing

7/19/2022
The age of quantum computing is coming closer, presenting both an opportunity and a risk for individuals, companies and governments. Host Alok Jha explores why quantum computers threaten to crack the codes that keep data and communications secure over the internet. We also investigate how encryption techniques can be improved for a post-quantum age, and why it is urgent that they be deployed as soon as possible. For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe...

Duration:00:42:01

Babbage: How did humans evolve?

7/12/2022
The evolutionary journey that created modern humans was once thought to be relatively linear. But new technology is revealing a far more complex picture. The Economist’s Dylan Barry travels to South Africa to trace the story of our evolution, and explains how interbreeding with other species provided the genes possessed by many people today. To uncover our origins, scientists are nowadays not only hunting for clues in the bones of our ancestors—but in the genomes of living people, too. We...

Duration:00:40:54

Babbage: How to unlock the secrets of the universe—beyond the Standard Model

7/5/2022
This week, the Large Hadron Collider returned to life after a three-year upgrade. By recreating conditions as close as possible to the Big Bang, it might provide answers to some of physics’s greatest mysteries. Recent findings have shown chinks in the armour of the Standard Model of particle physics, currently scientists’ best understanding of the universe at its smallest scales. Through the lens of an intriguing anomalous result, host Alok Jha investigates the new theories that might...

Duration:00:38:43

Babbage: How to go green amid an energy crisis

6/28/2022
The energy shock threatens to derail action on climate change. Which technologies will enable the green transition, while ensuring energy security, too? Vijay Vaitheeswaran, The Economist's global energy & climate innovation editor, describes the pathway to a decarbonised future. How can electrical grids be made smarter and more resilient as they are fed by cleaner, more renewable sources of energy? And how soon will the technology that’s needed for the energy transition be ready for...

Duration:00:39:05

Babbage: The short-sightedness epidemic

6/21/2022
Short-sightedness, known as myopia, was once a rare condition. But in East Asia, it is becoming ubiquitous, with rates increasing in the rest of the world, too. For decades, researchers thought the condition was mostly genetic. But the scientific consensus has changed. Host Alok Jha and Tim Cross, The Economist’s technology editor, wade through the latest evidence and explore how to prevent or slow the onset of myopia. And, how can the condition’s public-health burden be reduced? For full...

Duration:00:41:19

Babbage: Is ketamine the next antidepressant?

6/14/2022
In America and Europe, a growing number of clinics are offering ketamine to treat depression. The anaesthetic—also used illegally as a party drug—can provide rapid relief from the condition where traditional treatments, such as antidepressant drugs, have failed. We investigate how the therapy works, and ask what role it will play in the future of mental-health care. And, as ketamine treatments spread, is enough known about the drug’s long-term safety? Alok Jha hosts with Natasha Loder, The...

Duration:00:41:50

Babbage: Artificial intelligence enters its industrial age

6/7/2022
A new type of artificial intelligence (AI) is rapidly emerging as a candidate to become the next major general-purpose technology. "Foundational AI" will inject itself into many human endeavours—from writing to coding to drug discovery. We explore why foundation models could end up having an economic impact similar to that of electricity, and why the emerging technology is also proving so controversial. Alok Jha hosts. For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions...

Duration:00:41:08

Babbage: Corals vs climate change

5/31/2022
Coral reefs are increasingly under threat from global heating, but some species appear to be resistant to warmer sea temperatures. How can scientists harness these findings and revive these important pieces of marine life? Alok Jha hosts. For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Additional audio courtesy of the Acoustical Society of America and...

Duration:00:31:17

Babbage: How to unlock the secrets of the universe—part two

5/24/2022
In part two of our visit to the Large Hadron Collider on the Franco-Swiss border, Alok Jha asks whether the machine’s next iteration can take the field of particle physics beyond the Standard Model. We also investigate the long-term future of particle colliders. Will scientists ever build the instruments required to reveal the true building blocks of the universe? Listen to both episodes of the series at economist.com/LHC-pod. For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio...

Duration:00:42:51

Babbage: How to unlock the secrets of the universe—part one

5/17/2022
The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is restarting after a three-year break for maintenance and upgrades. In the first of two episodes, host Alok Jha travels to the Franco-Swiss border to find out what the particle accelerator could reveal about the fundamental building blocks of the universe. In 2012, the LHC discovered the Higgs boson, the final piece of the Standard Model of particle physics. But physicists know that that theory is incomplete—it does not account for gravity, dark energy or...

Duration:00:43:46

Babbage: An app a day keeps the doctor away

5/10/2022
Wearable devices, such as fitness trackers and smartwatches, can measure a growing array of health indicators. Machine learning can filter that torrent of data to reveal a continuous, quantified picture of you and your health. But wearables linked to health apps are not only able to help diagnose diseases—they are beginning to treat them too. We explore the technology that promises to revolutionise health care. Alok Jha hosts. Listen to our recent episodes on the use of wearable...

Duration:00:46:23