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How humans survived an ancient volcanic winter and how disgust shapes ecosystems

When Indonesia’s Mount Toba blew its top some 74,000 years ago, an apocalyptic scenario ensued: Tons of ash and debris entered the atmosphere, coating the planet in ash for 2 weeks straight and sending global temperatures plummeting. Despite the worldwide destruction, humans survived. Sarah Crespi talks with Online News Editor Catherine Matacic about how life after Toba was even possible—were humans decimated, or did they rally in the face of a suddenly extra hostile planet? Next, Julia Buck...


Animals that don’t need people to be domesticated; the astonishing spread of false news; and links between gender, sexual orientation, and speech

Did people domesticate animals? Or did they domesticate themselves? Online News Editor David Grimm talks with Sarah Crespi about a recent study that looked at self-domesticating mice. If they could go it alone, could cats or dogs have done the same in the distant past? Next, Sinan Aral of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge joins Sarah to discuss his work on true and false rumor cascades across all of Twitter, since its inception. He finds that false news travels...


A new dark matter signal from the early universe, massive family trees, and how we might respond to alien contact

For some time after the big bang there were no stars. Researchers are now looking at cosmic dawn—the time when stars first popped into being—and are seeing hints of dark matter’s influence on supercold hydrogen clouds. News Writer Adrian Cho talks with Sarah Crespi about how this observation was made and what it means for our understanding of dark matter. Sarah also interviews Joanna Kaplanis of the Wellcome Sanger Institute in Hinxton, U.K., about constructing enormous family trees based...


Neandertals that made art, live news from the AAAS Annual Meeting, and the emotional experience of being a scientist

We talk about the techniques of painting sleuths, how to combat alternative facts or “fake news,” and using audio signposts to keep birds from flying into buildings. For this segment, David Grimm—online news editor for Science—talks with host Sarah Crespi as part of a live podcast event from the AAAS Annual Meeting in Austin. Sarah also interviews Science News Editor Tim Appenzeller about Neandertal art. The unexpected age of some European cave paintings is causing experts to rethink the...


Genes that turn off after death, and debunking the sugar conspiracy

Some of our genes come alive after we die. David Grimm—online news editor for Science—talks with Sarah Crespi about which genes are active after death and what we can learn about time of death by looking at patterns of postmortem gene expression. Sarah also interviews David Merritt Johns of Columbia University about the so-called sugar conspiracy. Historical evidence suggests, despite recent media reports, it is unlikely that “big sugar” influenced U.S. nutrition policy and led to the...


Happy lab animals may make better research subjects, and understanding the chemistry of the indoor environment

Would happy lab animals—rats, mice, even zebrafish—make for better experiments? David Grimm—online news editor for Science—talks with Sarah Crespi about the potential of treating lab animals more like us and making them more useful for science at the same time. Sarah also interviews Jon Abbatt of the University of Toronto in Canada about indoor chemistry. What is going on in the air inside buildings—how different is it from the outside? Researchers are bringing together the tools of...


Following 1000 people for decades to learn about the interplay of health, environment, and temperament, and investigating why naked mole rats don’t seem to age

David Grimm—online news editor for Science—talks with Sarah Crespi about the chance a naked mole rat could die at any one moment. Surprisingly, the probability a naked mole rat will die does not go up as it gets older. Researchers are looking at the biology of these fascinating animals for clues to their seeming lack of aging. Sarah also interviews freelancer Douglas Starr about his feature story on the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study—a comprehensive study of the...


The dangers of dismantling a geoengineered sun shield and the importance of genes we don’t inherit

Catherine Matacic—online news editor for Science—talks with Sarah Crespi about how geoengineering could reduce the harshest impacts of climate change, but make them even worse if it were ever turned off. Sarah also interviews Augustine Kong of the Big Data Institute at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom about his Science paper on the role of noninherited “nurturing genes.” For example, educational attainment has a genetic component that may or may not be inherited. But having a...


Unearthed letters reveal changes in Fields Medal awards, and predicting crime with computers is no easy feat

Freelance science writer Michael Price talks with Sarah Crespi about recently revealed deliberations for a coveted mathematics prize: the Fields Medal. Unearthed letters suggest early award committees favored promise and youth over star power. Sarah also interviews Julia Dressel about her Science Advances paper on predicting recidivism—the likelihood that a criminal defendant will commit another crime. It turns out computers aren’t better than people at these types of predictions, in...


Salad-eating sharks, and what happens after quantum computing achieves quantum supremacy

David Grimm—online news editor for Science—talks with Sarah Crespi about two underwater finds: the first sharks shown to survive off of seagrass and what fossilized barnacles reveal about ancient whale migrations. Sarah also interviews Staff Writer Adrian Cho about what happens after quantum computing achieves quantum supremacy—the threshold where a quantum computer’s abilities outstrip nonquantum machines. Just how useful will these machines be and what kinds of scientific problems might...


Who visits raccoon latrines, and boosting cancer therapy with gut microbes

David Grimm—online news editor for Science—talks with Sarah Crespi about a long-term project monitoring raccoon latrines in California. What influence do these wild bathrooms have on the ecosystem? Sarah also interviews Christian Jobin of the University of Florida in Gainesville about his Perspective on three papers linking the success of cancer immunotherapy with microbes in the gut—it turns out which bacteria live in a cancer patient’s intestines can predict their response to this...


Science’s Breakthrough of the Year, our best online news, and science books for your shopping list

Dave Grimm—online news editor for Science—talks with Sarah Crespi about a few of this year’s top stories from our online news site, like ones on a major error in the monarch butterfly biological record and using massive balloons to build tunnels, and why they were chosen. Hint: It’s not just the stats. Sarah also interviews Staff Writer Adrian Cho about the 2017 Breakthrough of the Year. Adrian talks about why Science gave the nod to the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory...


Putting the breaks on driverless cars, and dolphins that can muffle their ears

Whales and dolphins have incredibly sensitive hearing and are known to be harmed by loud underwater noises. David Grimm talks with Sarah Crespi about new research on captive cetaceans suggesting that some species can naturally muffle such sounds—perhaps opening a way to protect these marine mammals in the wild. Sarah also interviews Staff Writer Jeffrey Mervis about his story on the future of autonomous cars. Will they really reduce traffic and make our lives easier? What does the science...


Folding DNA into teddy bears and getting creative about gun violence research

This week, three papers came out describing new approaches to folding DNA into large complex shapes—20 times bigger than previous DNA sculptures. Staff Writer Bob Service talks with Sarah Crespi about building microscopic teddy bears, doughnuts, and more from genetic material, and using these techniques to push forward fields from materials science to drug delivery. Sarah also interviews Philip Cook of Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, about his Policy Forum on gun regulation...


Debunking yeti DNA, and the incredibly strong arms of prehistoric female farmers

The abominable snowman, the yeti, bigfoot, and sasquatch—these long-lived myths of giant, hairy hominids depend on dropping elusive clues to stay in the popular imagination—a blurry photo here, a big footprint there—but what happens when scientists try to pin that evidence down? Online News Editor David Grimm talks with Sarah Crespi about the latest attempts to verify the yeti’s existence using DNA analysis of bones and hair and how this research has led to more than the debunking of a...


The world’s first dog pictures, and looking at the planet from a quantum perspective

About 8000 years ago, people were drawing dogs with leashes, according to a series of newly described stone carvings from Saudi Arabia. Online News Editor David Grimm talks with Sarah Crespi about reporting on this story and what it says about the history of dog domestication. Sarah also interviews physicist Brad Marston of Brown University on surprising findings that bring together planetary science and quantum physics. It turns out that Earth’s rotation and the presence of oceans and...


Preventing psychosis and the evolution—or not—of written language

How has written language changed over time? Do the way we read and the way our eyes work influence how scripts look? This week we hear a story on changes in legibility in written texts with Online News Editor Catherine Matacic. Sarah Crespi also interviews Staff Writer Jennifer Couzin-Frankel on her story about detecting signs of psychosis in kids and teens, recruiting at-risk individuals for trials, and searching for anything that can stop the progression. Listen to previous podcasts....


Randomizing the news for science, transplanting genetically engineered skin, and the ethics of experimental brain implants

This week we hear stories on what to do with experimental brain implants after a study is over, how gene therapy gave a second skin to a boy with a rare epidermal disease, and how bone markings thought to be evidence for early hominid tool use may have been crocodile bites instead, with Online News Editor Catherine Matacic. Sarah Crespi interviews Gary King about his new experiment to bring fresh data to the age-old question of how the news media influences the public. Are journalists...


How Earth’s rotation could predict giant quakes, gene therapy’s new hope, and how carbon monoxide helps deep-diving seals

This week we hear stories on how the sloshing of Earth’s core may spike major earthquakes, carbon monoxide’s role in keeping deep diving elephant seals oxygenated, and a festival celebrating heavily researched yet completely nonsensical theories with Online News Editor David Grimm. Sarah Crespi interviews staff writer Jocelyn Kaiser about the status of gene therapy, including a newly tested gene-delivering virus that may give scientists a new way to treat devastating spinal and brain...


Building conscious machines, tracing asteroid origins, and how the world’s oldest forests grew

This week we hear stories on sunlight pushing Mars’s flock of asteroids around, approximately 400-million-year-old trees that grew by splitting their guts, and why fighting poverty might also mean worsening climate change with Online News Editor David Grimm. Sarah Crespi talks with cognitive neuroscientist Stanislas Dehaene of the Collège de France in Paris about consciousness—what is it and can machines have it? For our monthly books segment, Jen Golbeck reviews astronaut Scott Kelly’s...


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