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Naked Scientists, In Short Special Editions Podcast


Probing the weird, wacky and spectacular, the Naked Scientists Special Editions are special one-off scientific reports, investigations and interviews on cutting-edge topics by the Naked Scientists team.

Probing the weird, wacky and spectacular, the Naked Scientists Special Editions are special one-off scientific reports, investigations and interviews on cutting-edge topics by the Naked Scientists team.


Barrington, United Kingdom




Probing the weird, wacky and spectacular, the Naked Scientists Special Editions are special one-off scientific reports, investigations and interviews on cutting-edge topics by the Naked Scientists team.




Dr. Chris Smith The Naked Scientists 36 West Green Barrington Cambridgeshire CB2 5SA +44 (0) 7092 01 96 9


Plants affected by noise pollution

Noise pollution can be difficult to live with, and it turns out that plants are also impacted by too much noise, although not in the way you might expect. Jenny Phillips from Texas A&M in San Antonio has been studying the seedlings of native trees around gas wells in New Mexico. She's found that noise pollution can drive away the animals that some plants rely on to spread their seeds, as she explained to Katie Haylor... Like this podcast? Please help us by supporting the Naked Scientists


Biological target for future anorexia drugs

Anorexia nervosa is a cruel, complex and serious mental health condition. It involves deliberately losing weight in order to keep body weight as low as possible. And through investigating brain circuits involved in regulating body weight and which can go awry in obesity, Roger Cone from the University of Michigan and colleagues, along with scientists from Vanderbilt University, have now shown that activating a particular receptor called MC3 in the brains of mice encourages them to eat more,...


Ancient DNA extracted from cave dirt

When they're trying to piece together our understanding of ancient Humans and Neanderthals, scientists often have to rely on artifacts found in caves. What scientists wish they had more of was ancient DNA, which would allow them to study how the populations of these groups changed and expanded over time. Now that's about to change thanks to Benjamin Vernot at the Max Planck Institute, as he explained to Eva Higginbotham.... Like this podcast? Please help us by supporting the Naked Scientists


New treatment for paracetamol overdose

Each year 80,000 patients are hospitalised in the US for paracetamol overdose, the leading cause of liver damage in the US and Europe. The current treatment is effective at treating the liver damage, but because its efficacy is limited to being given within 8 hours since the overdose, scientists have been looking for alternative treatments. Melanie Jans-Singh spoke with clinical scientist Christof Gaunt, about the discovery of a new molecule that can treat the damage done by the paracetamol...


Masks on the beach and in beer gardens? C'mon...

Face masks have their place, but what's really needed right now is a breath of fresh air and a dose of common sense to control Covid-19, as Chris Smith explains... Like this podcast? Please help us by supporting the Naked Scientists


Genetics behind why rabbits hop

New research has found a gene that looks to be the reason why rabbits, and perhaps all bouncing mammals hop. Using an unusual type of rabbit, called a sauteur d'Alfort, which doesn't hop, but runs on its front paws like a handstand, scientists have found a specific gene called RORB, that's missing in these rabbits. Defects in this gene may have damaging effects in all mammals though, not just rabbits. Adam Murphy spoke to Leif Andersson from Uppsala University about these bizarre bunnies......


Spinosaurus: was it a giant, toothy heron?

Spinosaurus was a dinosaur that was around 13 metres long, and looked a little like a T-Rex with the addition of a massive sail on its back. There's been much debate around how it lived; while it seems to be tied to the water, it's unclear how close those ties were. One theory suggests it was actually like a crocodile, living a pretty aquatic life. But new research points to features of its anatomy that suggest that it was a lot more like a giant, very toothy heron, waiting at the water's...


The world of fungi inside seed banks

We share our planet with microbes. Some do us harm, others do us good and are known as our microbiome. Plants also have a microbiome, and in a paper out recently, scientists working in a seed bank report how they got curious about what microbes could be stored away inside banked seeds. And by surveying seeds from just 1 type of plant, they found about 200 species of fungi. Katie Haylor spoke to study author Rowena Hill... Like this podcast? Please help us by supporting the Naked Scientists


Eagle killer identified

In 1994, at DeGray Lake in the state of Arkansas in the USA, 29 bald eagles were found dead from a mysterious disease. Many more across the area have been found suffering from "Avian Vacuolar Myelinopathy", which causes holes in the brain and spinal cord, and erratic behaviour. Researchers now think they've cracked the mystery, as Eva Higginbotham heard from Timo Niedermeyer at Martin Luther University in Halle, Germany... Like this podcast? Please help us by supporting the Naked Scientists


Industrial yeast impairs gut wound healing

Crohn's Disease is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (or IBD), where the immune system attacks and inflames bits of the intestines. It can cause diarrhea, pain, fatigue, and consequent disruptions to daily activities like school and work. There are treatments, but currently no cure. Now, scientists in the US have found that a fungus used industrially in foods like wine, cheese and cured meats - called Debaryomyces Hansenii - seems to be thriving in gut wounds in mice, and getting in the...


Wildfire smoke detected in stratosphere

Fires of any scale tend to produce a certain amount of smoke - a variety of different particles including small bits of unburnt fuel, which eventually disperse into the atmosphere. And looking at data from satellites out in space, scientists in Israel have shown that smoke from the late 2019 / early 2020 Australian wildfires actually travelled up beyond the lower atmosphere (known as the troposphere) and into the stratosphere - that's above where clouds gather and planes tend to fly. Up...


Cone snails seduce prey with pheromones

Cone snails are a group of highly venomous marine snails. Their shells are beautiful, but they pack a powerful neurotoxic punch: some members of this family are so poisonous that they can easily kill a person. But one species of cone snail, called Conus imperialis, produces a very different reaction in the worms they hunt. This snail has a venom cocktail that includes pheromones: it uses similar chemicals to the ones the worms give off when mating. Why make a worm aphrodisiac? Phil Sansom...


Modelling concussion with eggs

In recent years we've realised quite how bad a knock on the head can be for us, because the brain bobs about suspended in fluid inside our skulls. And if you move, or stop, the head suddenly, the brain cannons into the inside of the skull and can be injured. It's especially important in sports, but it's hard to study - and to develop effective safety equipment - for obvious reasons. But scientists have now discovered that something you commonly find in fridge door behaves in an uncannily...


Diabetes drug trialled to treat obesity

In the UK, about 1 in 4 adults are affected by obesity, which is linked to diabetes, heart disease and some cancers. But recently a new study has documented the effect of giving a drug called semaglutide to 2000 people over a 1 year period. The drug mimics a gut hormone called GLP-1 to boost insulin levels and it's already used to treat diabetes. The study subjects lost an average of 15kg on the drug, suggesting that it might be an effective way to support weight loss. Katie Haylor asked...


Bile ducts grown in lab can repair livers

A new way to repair diseased livers has been unveiled by researchers at the University of Cambridge. They've found a way to grow the cells that line the branching system of pathways inside the liver - the bile ducts. It's a big step forward. Chris Smith heard from Kourosh Saeb-Parsy, who is part of the team behind the work... Like this podcast? Please help us by supporting the Naked Scientists


COVID: seeking herd immunity by vaccination

One thing we're all hoping for is that the new coronavirus vaccines will give us 'herd immunity' - this would mean that so many people are immune to the virus that it would start to die away as it can't find new hosts to infect. But how does herd immunity work in practice, and are the vaccines we have likely to put us in this fortunate position? Eva Higginbotham spoke with Peter English, a consultant in communicable disease control, to find out... Like this podcast? Please help us by...


Covid-19 latest and the flu surge in waiting

Virologist Dr Chris Smith catches up with RNZ's Kim Hill with an update on the Covid-19 latest news including encouraging data on the performance of the vaccines, but discouraging news on the stances of some prominent European leaders towards AstraZeneca's vaccine. Also, new Covid variants in America, and why scientists suspect flu might be waiting in the wings to make a dramatic comeback... Like this podcast? Please help us by supporting the Naked Scientists


Treating osteoarthritis with antidepressants

Osteoarthritis is a painful condition caused by wear and tear to the slippery cartilage that normally coats and lubricates the bone surfaces in our joints. This doesn't repair itself very well, so, when it wears out, joint replacement is usually the only option. But recently, scientists out of Penn State University in the US have shown that the antidepressant drug paroxetine has an interesting side-effect: it encourages the cells that make and build cartilage to grow. So, perhaps, in the...


An ancient freshwater Arctic ocean

About 70% of our planet is covered in water, and the vast majority of that water is in the salty oceans. But in a paper published recently, scientists from Germany propose that the Arctic Ocean was - at a relatively recent few points in Earth's history - actually entirely freshwater. Rivers and meltwater flushed out the salt, and lower sea levels worldwide at the time meant it couldn't come back, at least for a while. Getting to grips with how and exactly when this was happening is critical...


Traffic noise makes crickets pick bad mates

Many of us may love driving, but nature certainly doesn't love us doing it! Alongside the pollution, there's the noise of traffic, which isn't just a nuisance for humans. Lots of research shows man-made noise affects nearby animals, and now another study shows that insects are also being impacted: female crickets get so confused by road noise that they struggle to pick the best potential suitor from the pack. Zoologist Adam Bent explained the situation to Phil Sansom... Like this podcast?...