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United States

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English


Episodes

Where private research funders stow their cash and studying gun deaths in children

12/6/2018
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A new Science investigation reveals several major private research funders—including the Wellcome Trust and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation—are making secretive offshore investments at odds with their organizational missions. Host Meagan Cantwell talks with writer Charles Piller about his deep dive into why some private funders choose to invest in these accounts. In the United States, gun injuries kill more children annually than pediatric cancer, but funding for firearm research pales in...

Duration:00:24:16

The universe’s star formation history and a powerful new helper for evolution

11/29/2018
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In a fast-changing environment, evolution can be slow—sometimes so slow that an organism dies out before the right mutation comes along. Host Sarah Crespi speaks with Staff Writer Elizabeth Pennisi about how plastic traits—traits that can alter in response to environmental conditions—could help life catch up. Also on this week’s show, host Meagan Cantwell talks with Marco Ajello a professor of physics and astronomy at Clemson University in South Carolina about his team’s method to determine...

Duration:00:25:36

Exploding the Cambrian and building a DNA database for forensics

11/22/2018
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First, we hear from science writer Joshua Sokol about his trip to the Cambrian—well not quite. He talks with host Megan Cantwell about his travels to a remote site in the mountains of British Columbia where some of Earth’s first animals—including a mysterious, alien-looking creature—are spilling out of Canadian rocks. Also on this week’s show, host Sarah Crespi talks with James Hazel a postdoctoral research fellow at the Center for Genetic Privacy and Identity in Community Settings at...

Duration:00:23:01

The worst year ever and the effects of fasting

11/15/2018
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When was the worst year to be alive? Contributing Correspondent Ann Gibbons talks to host Sarah Crespi about a contender year that features a volcanic eruption, extended darkness, cold summer, and a plague. Also on this week’s show, host Meagan Cantwell talks with Andrea Di Francesco of the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Aging in Baltimore, Maryland, about his review of current wisdom on fasting and metabolism. Should we start fasting—if not to extend our lives maybe...

Duration:00:32:04

A big increase in monkey research and an overhaul for the metric system

11/8/2018
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A new report suggests a big increase in the use of monkeys in laboratory experiments in the United States in 2017. Online News Editor David Grimm joins host Sarah Crespi to discuss which areas of research are experiencing this rise and the possible reasons behind it. Also this week, host Meagan Cantwell talks with staff writer Adrian Cho about a final push to affix the metric system’s measures to physical constants instead of physical objects. That means the perfectly formed 1-kilogram...

Duration:00:18:59

How the appendix could hold the keys to Parkinson’s disease, and materials scientists mimic nature

11/1/2018
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For a long time, Parkinson’s disease was thought to be merely a disorder of the nervous system. But in the past decade researchers have started to look elsewhere in the body for clues to this debilitating disease—particularly in the gut. Host Meagan Cantwell talks with Viviane Labrie of the Van Andel Institute in Grand Rapids, Michigan, about new research suggesting people without their appendixes have a reduced risk of Parkinson’s. Labrie also describes the possible mechanism behind this...

Duration:00:27:27

Children sue the U.S. government over climate change, and how mice inherit their gut microbes

10/25/2018
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A group of children is suing the U.S. government—claiming their rights to life, liberty, and property are under threat from climate change thanks to government policies that have encouraged the use and extraction of fossil fuels. Host Meagan Cantwell interviews news writer Julia Rosen on the ins and outs of the suit and what it could mean if the kids win the day. Also this week, host Sarah Crespi talks with Andrew Moeller of Cornell University about his work tracing the gut microbes...

Duration:00:27:33

Mutant cells in the esophagus, and protecting farmers from dangerous pesticide exposure

10/18/2018
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As you age, your cells divide over and over again, leading to minute changes in their genomes. New research reveals that in the lining of the esophagus, mutant cells run rampant, fighting for dominance over normal cells. But they do this without causing any detectable damage or cancer. Host Sarah Crespi talks to Phil Jones, a professor of cancer development at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, about what these genome changes can tell us about aging and cancer, and how some...

Duration:00:21:58

What we can learn from a cluster of people with an inherited intellectual disability, and questioning how sustainable green lawns are in dry places

10/11/2018
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A small isolated town in Colombia is home to a large cluster of people with fragile X syndrome—a genetic disorder that leads to intellectual disability, physical abnormalities, and sometimes autism. Spectrum staff reporter Hannah Furfaro joins host Sarah Crespi to discuss the history of fragile X in the town of Ricaurte and the future of the people who live there. Also this week, we talk about greening up grass. Lawns of green grass pervade urban areas all around the world, regardless of...

Duration:00:18:32

Odd new particles may be tunneling through the planet, and how the flu operates differently in big and small towns

10/4/2018
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Hoping to spot subatomic particles called neutrinos smashing into Earth, the balloon-borne Antarctic Impulsive Transient Antenna (ANITA) detector has circled the South Pole four times. ANITA has yet to detect those particles, but it has twice seen oddball radio signals that could be evidence of something even weirder: some heavier particle unknown to physicists’ standard model, burrowing up through Earth. Science writer Adrian Cho joins host Sarah Crespi to discuss the possibility that this...

Duration:00:18:42

The future of PCB-laden orca whales, and doing genomics work with Indigenous people

9/27/2018
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Science has often treated Indigenous people as resources for research—especially when it comes to genomics. Now, Indigenous people are exploring how this type of study can be conducted in a way that respects their people and traditions. Meagan Cantwell talks with contributing correspondent Lizzie Wade about a summer workshop for Indigenous scientists that aims to start a new chapter in genomics. We’ve known for decades that PCBs—polychlorinated biphenyls—are toxic and carcinogenic. In the...

Duration:00:31:56

Metaresearchers take on meta-analyses, and hoary old myths about science

9/20/2018
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Meta-analyses—structured analyses of many studies on the same topic—were once seen as objective and definitive projects that helped sort out conflicts amongst smaller studies. These days, thousands of meta-analyses are published every year—many either redundant or contrary to earlier metaworks. Host Sarah Crespi talks to freelance science journalist Jop de Vrieze about ongoing meta-analysis wars in which opposing research teams churn out conflicting metastudies around important public health...

Duration:00:24:13

The youngest sex chromosomes on the block, and how to test a Zika vaccine without Zika cases

9/13/2018
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Strawberries had both male and female parts, like most plants, until several million years ago. This may seem like a long time ago, but it actually means strawberries have some of the youngest sex chromosomes around. What are the advantages of splitting a species into two sexes? Host Sarah Crespi interviews freelance journalist Carol Cruzan Morton about her story on scientists’ journey to understanding the strawberry’s sexual awakening. In 2016, experimental Zika vaccines were swiftly...

Duration:00:20:50

Should we prioritize which endangered species to save, and why were chemists baffled by soot for so long?

9/6/2018
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We are in the middle of what some scientists are calling the sixth mass extinction and not all at-risk species can be saved. That’s causing some conservationists to say we need to start thinking about “species triage.” Meagan Cantwell interviews freelance journalist Warren Cornwall about his story on weighing the costs of saving Canada’s endangered caribou and the debate among conservationists on new approaches to conservation. And host Sarah Crespi interviews Hope Michelsen, a staff...

Duration:00:19:56

Science and Nature get their social science studies replicated—or not, the mechanisms behind human-induced earthquakes, and the taboo of claiming causality in science

8/30/2018
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A new project out of the Center for Open Science in Charlottesville, Virginia, found that of all the experimental social science papers published in Science and Nature from 2010–15, 62% successfully replicated, even when larger sample sizes were used. What does this say about peer review? Host Sarah Crespi talks with Staff Writer Kelly Servick about how this project stacks up against similar replication efforts, and whether we can achieve similar results by merely asking people to guess...

Duration:00:27:47

Sending flocks of tiny satellites out past Earth orbit and solving the irrigation efficiency paradox

8/23/2018
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Small satellites—about the size of a briefcase—have been hitching rides on rockets to lower Earth orbit for decades. Now, because of their low cost and ease of launching, governments and private companies are looking to expand the range of these “sate-lites” deeper into space. Host Sarah Crespi talks with Deputy News Editor Eric Hand about the mods and missions in store for so-called CubeSats. And our newest podcast producer Meagan Cantwell interviews Quentin Grafton of Australian National...

Duration:00:20:15

Ancient volcanic eruptions, and peer pressure—from robots

8/16/2018
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Several thousand years ago the volcano under Santorini in Greece—known as Thera—erupted in a tremendous explosion, dusting the nearby Mediterranean civilizations of Crete and Egypt in a layer of white ash. This geological marker could be used to tie together many ancient historical events, but the estimated date could be off by a century. Contributing Correspondent Lizzie Wade joins host Sarah Crespi to talk about a new study that used tree rings to calibrate radiocarbon readings—and get...

Duration:00:19:43

Doubts about the drought that kicked off our latest geological age, and a faceoff between stink bugs with samurai wasps

8/9/2018
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We now live in the Meghalayan age—the last age of the Holocene epoch. Did you get the memo? A July decision by the International Commission on Stratigraphy, which is responsible for naming geological time periods, divided the Holocene into three ages: the Greenlandian, the Northgrippian, and the Meghalayan. The one we live in—the Meghalayan age (pronounced “megalion”)—is pegged to a global drought thought to have happened some 4200 years ago. But many critics question the timing of this...

Duration:00:20:11

How our brains may have evolved for language, and clues to what makes us leaders—or followers

8/2/2018
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Yes, humans are the only species with language, but how did we acquire it? New research suggests our linguistic prowess might arise from the same process that brought domesticated dogs big eyes and bonobos the power to read others’ intent. Online News Editor Catherine Matacic joins host Sarah Crespi to talk about how humans might have self-domesticated themselves, leading to physical and behavioral changes that gave us a “language-ready” brain. Sarah also talks with Micah Edelson of the...

Duration:00:25:26

Liquid water on Mars, athletic performance in transgender women, and the lost colony of Roanoke

7/26/2018
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Billions of years ago, Mars probably hosted many water features: streams, rivers, gullies, etc. But until recently, water detected on the Red Planet was either locked up in ice or flitting about as a gas in the atmosphere. Now, researchers analyzing radar data from the Mars Express mission have found evidence for an enormous salty lake under the southern polar ice cap of Mars. Daniel Clery joins host Sarah Crespi to discuss how the water was found and how it can still be liquid—despite...

Duration:00:25:39