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The Naked Scientists Special Editions


Special items and features produced by the Naked Scientists team including coverage of the Cambridge Science Festival, the BA Festival of Science and the AAAS Conference.

Special items and features produced by the Naked Scientists team including coverage of the Cambridge Science Festival, the BA Festival of Science and the AAAS Conference.
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Barrington, United Kingdom




Special items and features produced by the Naked Scientists team including coverage of the Cambridge Science Festival, the BA Festival of Science and the AAAS Conference.




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


Can artificial intelligence make medicines?

We get so many good questions sent to us here at The Naked Scientists, that sadly we can't fit them all into our monthly question and answer shows. So here's an extra slice of science for you from our November 2018 QnA. Roger got in touch to ask whether artificial intelligence will be making medicines in the future, and we also heard from Sean about some rather intelligent ravens...


How WW1 can help head injuries

Today marks 100 years since the end of World War 1. This conflict caused the deaths of around 16 million people, and the new developments in artillery meant that new and nasty injuries were defying our ability to treat them. Ironically, this meant WW1 actually lead to huge advances in medicine, and neuroscience. But, thanks to a charity, Headway, it's also helping people with brain injuries today. Georgia Mills has been finding out how


Glioblastoma's Effect on Genes

Glioblastoma is an aggressive and often deadly cancer of the brain. Understanding it is vital to improving patient outcomes. In a new study published in Nature Genetics, a group in Cornell University has been sequencing genes to understand which ones are switched on by the tumours. To learn more, Adam Murphy spoke to Charles Danko, of the Baker Institute for Animal Health and the Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine...


Targeting immune cells to treat periodontitis

Good dental hygiene is crucial in the fight against gum disease, which can lead to a common condition called periodontitis. It comes about when changes to the bacteria in the mouth cause a reaction called inflammation in areas around the teeth, potentially destroying tissue and bone and causing tooth loss. But quite why an altered microbiome causes this inflammation isn't known, so there are no targeted treatments, and surgery is the main option for severe cases. But now scientists have...


Cosmic Collisions: Supermassive black holes

Astronomers at the University of Hertfordshire have come up with an explanation for the wobble seen in jets of matter being blasted from regions surrounding some supermassive black holes: Another nearby supermassive black hole! Dr Martin Krause tells us how we can see them at all...


1000 years of Tuberculosis

Nowadays, tuberculosis takes more lives than any other infectious disease. Cases are on the decline but emerging antibiotic resistance threatens to interrupt that pattern. Tamsin Bell spoke with Professor Francois Balloux from University College London to learn about how this infectious disease evolved...


English youths drinking less

We all know that drinking alcohol is bad for us but in the UK we still pay a huge 3.5 billion annually for the National Health Service (NHS) to treat over 60 alcohol induced medical conditions including liver disease, pancreatitis, diabetes, heart disease and numerous forms of cancer. Fortunately, it seems that the message to put down the booze has trickled down to the younger generation as a recent study of 16 to 24 year olds shows that over the past ten years, they are drinking less....


NASA: Now and Next

From right here on earth to the furthest visible parts of the universe, NASA has its eye on pretty much everything in between. Professor Andrew Coates from University College London was lead co-investigator in the joint ESA-NASA Cassini-Huygens mission to Saturn, and is involved in several further NASA missions of space exploration. With NASA turning 60 this month, Sam Brown spoke to Professor Coates about the fascinating missions that NASA is involved with, and what they have planned for...


Using gene editing to wipe out malaria-transmitting mosquitoes

Mosquitoes spread diseases like malaria, and they are rapidly becoming resistant to the insecticides used to control them. So scientists are looking at the potential of using a genetic technique, called a gene drive, to solve the problem. This involves engineering a gene-editing system into the insects that targets and inactivates a gene called dbx - or doublesex - that is needed for the insects to develop normally. Critically though, only female mosquitoes, which are also the ones that...


Robotic Skin turns everyday objects into robots

Imagine going into space. You've got your kit, you're blasted into darkness, you're ready to discover the unknown but then your equipment doesn't quite fit the task required. How can you prepare for that? This is a reality that space engineers and robotic experts are trying to facing every day. Now, researchers from Yale think they've got an answer. They've developed something called "Omniskin" - a sheet of material that can animate everyday objects and turn them into robots. Izzie Clarke...


A new conductive and magnetic material

You may have heard of graphene, the so called wonder material set to revolutionise electronics but the difficulty to consistently add extra properties and scale up cheaply limits industrial use! Scientists have been looking for easy to make alternatives, such as a new class of materials called metal organic frameworks or MOFs. As the name suggests, they're made by combining two components: a metal and something called an "organic chain" which contains carbon with some other elements. These...


Back to School: Why mistakes help us learn

We've all been there at some point - you raise your hand in class, answer the question, and get it utterly, utterly wrong. These school-day humiliations may stay with us many years later, in fact - I'd love to hear yours, but as our kids are all headed back to school this week, we're trying to find out if perhaps these mistakes are good for us! Georgia Mills is on the case, but only after finding out some of our listeners biggest dunce moments!


Bonobo Apes Won't Share Toys

Do you share food or do you bite the hand off anyone who tries? Chimpanzees, one of our closest relatives are in the latter category: they'll gladly share tools, but food's a no no. New research published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B has been looking into our other close relatives: bonobo apes. Bizarrely, while they'll gladly share food, woe betide anyone who touches someone else's tools or toys! So what does this say about us? Adam Murphy spoke to Christopher Krupenye, from the...


Audio cues improve driver safety

These days, many of us are heavily dependent on our trusty sat navs to get where we want to go, but looking at these devices whilst driving is incredibly dangerous and can lead to car accidents. Psychologists from Anglia Ruskin University are hoping to minimise the dangers of using this technology by incorporating audio cues with in-car GPS to forewarn the driver of the lay of the land. Tamsin Bell met with Helen Keyes to hear what's driving their work...


Goats prefer happy people

Goats can tell apart human facial expressions and - what's more - prefer to interact with happy people, according to a new study from scientists at Queen Mary University of London. We knew work animals like dogs and horses could do this, but no-one knew if animals domesticated for food products would be able to. Georgia Mills spoke to lead researcher Alan McElligott to find out how they did it


Origins of childhood kidney cancer

Most of the people who develop cancer are adults, although a significant number of children succumb too. The signs are though that childhood cancers could have a different origin than the adult disease, which might also mean they can be treated in a different way. Cambridge University's Sam Behjati suspects that tumours in children form from foetal tissue that has failed to mature properly. And by comparing the genetic instructions operating in normal and cancerous kidney cells from children...


The Science of St John's

From artificial photosynthesis to the art of statistics, the Naked Scientists take Jenny Zhang and Richard Samworth, two of St John's College's leading scientists, for a trip down the river to hear all about their work.


Evolution of the Skeleton

Since Darwin's time scientists have been studying the skeleton of a type of fish that lived 400 million years ago called Heterostracans. These fish were covered in a tough exoskeleton, but scientists couldn't decide exactly where it came from. Was it a precursor to bone? To teeth? New research is suggesting all those old theories may be as dead and buried as the fish fossils, and this exoskeleton is just another way of making bone. Adam Murphy spoke to Joseph Keating of the University of...


Chemputer: Chemistry goes digital

Mixing chemicals together causes reactions and produces new molecules. With so many different chemicals in existence, there are infinite combinations that can be made, and millions of chemical reactions yet to be tried. But doing these tests is very time consuming, laborious and has a low success rate; it's also very susceptible to human failings, like bias and fatigue. To surmount this, University of Glasgow chemist Lee Cronin has invented a robot to test his chemical combinations for him....


Circumcision Prevents HIV

HIV is a global pandemic. Worldwide, about 37 million people are living with the virus, and there are between 3 and 5 thousand AIDS deaths every day. More worrying is that, despite intensive public health and safe sex campaigns, there are a further 3 to 5 thousand new HIV infections occurring every day, and despite decades of effort, scientists still have not yet managed to develop an effective vaccine. But one very powerful way to prevent infection is for men to be circumcised, which...