Nature Podcast


How to build a virus-proof cell

00:47 An edited genetic code that prevents viral infectionResearchers have engineered bacteria with synthetic genomes to be immune to viral infection. The team streamlined the bacteria’s genetic code, and re-engineered the protein-producing machinery to insert the wrong amino acid if used by a virus, effectively making the bacteria ‘speak’ a different language to any invaders. It’s hoped that this technique could be used to reduce unwanted sharing of genes from modified organisms.Research article: Nyerges et al.News & Views: Synthetic bacterial genome upgraded for viral defence and biocontainment07:42 Research HighlightsEstimating the methane output of an enormous wetland ecosystem, and how honeybees improve their dance moves with a little help from their elders.Research Highlight: Methane from one of Earth’s largest wetland complexes is set to soarResearch Highlight: Watch them waggle: bees dance better after lessons from elders10:02 How mini-MRI scanners could improve access to imagingMagnetic resonance imaging is a standard technique in clinical care. However many people, particularly those living in low- and middle-income countries have limited access to this technology. To address this, new types of smaller MRI scanners are being designed that are more affordable and practical for use in rural settings or small clinics. We hear from a researcher working on one of these systems about ways improve them and ensure they are available to all.Comment: Five steps to make MRI scanners more affordable to the world18:11 Briefing ChatWe discuss some highlights from the Nature Briefing. This time, how researchers have developed embryos from two male mice and new claims of room-temperature superconductivity.News: The mice with two dads: scientists create eggs from male cellsQuanta Magazine: Room-Temperature Superconductor Discovery Meets With Resistance

How the Australian wildfires devastated the ozone layer

00:47 Wildfire smoke’s chemical composition enhances ozone depletionSmoke from the devastating Australian wildfires of 2019-2020 led to a reduction in ozone levels in the upper atmosphere, but it’s been unclear how. Now, a team proposes that smoke’s particulate matter can enhance the production of ozone depleting chemicals, matching satellite observations during the Australian fires. The results spark concerns that future wildfires, which are set to grow more frequent with ongoing climate change, will undo much of the progress towards restoration of the ozone layer.Research article: Solomon et al.News & Views: How wildfires deplete ozone in the stratosphere08:27 Research HighlightsA global analysis of bats reveals the species most likely to be hunted by humans, and the stem cells that allow deer antlers to regrow.Research Highlight: Big bats fly towards extinction with hunters in pursuitResearch Highlight: Mice grow ‘mini-antlers’ thanks to deers’ speedy stem cells10:53 Modelling food systems with ‘digital twins’Recent global crises have highlighted the fragility of the interconnected systems involved in getting food from farm to fork. However, siloed datasets have made it hard to predict what the exact impacts of these events will be. In a World View for Nature, researcher Zia Mehrabi argues that precise virtual models like those used in the aerospace industry should be developed for food systems. These so-called ‘digital twins’ could inform global food policy before emergencies unfold.World View: Sims-style ‘digital twin’ models can tell us if food systems will weather crises18:17 Briefing ChatWe discuss some highlights from the Nature Briefing. This time, what the stray dogs of Chernobyl could reveal about the effects of chronic radiation exposure, and the debate surrounding the fate of Pablo Escobar’s ‘cocaine hippos’.News: What Chernobyl’s stray dogs could teach us about radiationNews: Pablo Escobar’s ‘cocaine hippos’ spark conservation rowSubscribe to Nature Briefing, an unmissable daily round-up of science news, opinion and analysis free in your inbox every weekday.

How an increased heart rate could induce anxiety in mice

00:47 How a racing heart could trigger anxietyAnxiety can make the heart beat faster, but could the reverse be true as well? That question has been much debated, but hard to test. Now, a team has shown that artificially increasing a mouse’s heart rate can induce anxiety-like behaviours, and identified an area in the brain that appears to be a key mediator of this response. They hope that this knowledge could help to improve therapies for treating anxiety-related conditions in the future.Research article: Hsueh et al.News & Views: How an anxious heart talks to the brain08:32 Research HighlightsThe chance discovery of the smallest rock seen so far in the Solar System, and the first brain recording from a freely swimming octopus.Research Highlight: Asteroid photobombs JWST practice shotsResearch Highlight: How to measure the brain of an octopus10:57 How NASA’s DART mission beat expectiationsIn September 2022, NASA’s DART spacecraft smashed into a space rock known as Dimorphos, which orbits a near-Earth asteroid. The aim of the mission was to test whether asteroids could be redirected as a method to protect Earth against future impacts. This week, multiple papers have been published describing what researchers have learnt about the impact and its aftermath. Reporter Alex Witze joined us to round up the findings.News: Asteroid lost 1 million kilograms after collision with DART spacecraftResearch article: Thomas et al.Research article: Daly et al.Research article: Li et al.Research article: Cheng et al.Research article: Graykowski et al.Subscribe to Nature Briefing, an unmissable daily round-up of science news, opinion and analysis free in your inbox every weekday.

A twisting microscope that could unlock the secrets of 2D materials

00:45 A new microscope to look for ‘magic’ anglesTo better visualise how electrons are ‘moving’ in materials, a team have developed the Quantum Twisting Microscope. This instrument puts two 2D layers of atoms into close contact, allowing them to interact, which can give useful information about their properties. The microscope can also rotate one of the layers, helping researchers look for so-called ‘magic angles’, where 2D materials like graphene can exhibit extraordinary properties.Research article: Inbar et al.News & Views: A twist in the bid to probe electrons in solids09:55 Research HighlightsHow an extinct insect larvae’s prodigiously long ‘neck’ may have helped it hunt, and surveying the levels at which coastal cities are converting water into land.Research Highlight: Extinct insects hunted like predatory giraffesResearch Highlight: Cities worldwide claw vast amounts of land from the sea12:21 How Russia’s invasion has affected science in UkraineThis week marks the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. We discuss how science has fared in Ukraine over the past 12 months, and how international collaborations are shaping the future of research in the country.News Feature: The fight to keep Ukrainian science alive through a year of warEditorial: Rebuilding Ukrainian science can’t wait — here’s how to startWorld View: Ukrainian science has survived against the odds — now let’s rebuild together19:52 Briefing ChatWe discuss some highlights from the Nature Briefing. This time, the US Food and Drug Administration’s requirements to increase diversity in clinical trials, and research suggesting that snakes are better listeners than previously thought.Nature News: FDA to require diversity plan for clinical trialsScience Alert: Snakes Can Hear You Better Than You ThinkSubscribe to Nature Briefing, an unmissable daily round-up of science news, opinion and analysis free in your inbox every weekday.

How 'metadevices' could make electronics faster

00:47 A metadevice for faster electronicsIn the past, increasing the speeds of electronics required designing smaller components, but further reductions in size are being hampered by increasing resistance. To get around this, researchers have demonstrated a ‘metadevice’, which prevents resistance building up by concentrating the flow of signals into specific regions of the device. The hope is that this meta-method could be used to create even smaller electrical components in the future.Research article: Nikoo & Matioli06:27 Research HighlightsHow waiting times for services are higher for people in the US with low incomes, and how your brain hears an alarm while you’re asleep.Research Highlight: Who wastes more time waiting? Income plays a partResearch Highlight: Noise shatters deep sleep thanks to dedicated brain circuit08:52 The research gaps in social media's impact on teen mental healthIn the last ten years, levels of social media use and reported levels of mental health issues among adolescents have both increased. There is much concern that these trends are linked, but hard evidence has been hard to come by. So how can scientists get a better understanding of what’s going on? In a Comment article for Nature, researchers argue that, rather than lumping ‘young people’ into one homogeneous group, future studies should consider where they are in terms of their development, as this could influence the potential impacts of social media use.Comment: How social media affects teen mental health: a missing link19:52 Briefing ChatWe discuss some highlights from the Nature Briefing. This time, we discuss self-burying devices that can plant seeds in remote areas from the air, and scientists’ reactions to a talk by CRISPR-baby researcher He Jiankui.Nature Video: This device corkscrews itself into the ground like a seedNature News: Disgraced CRISPR-baby scientist’s ‘publicity stunt’ frustrates researchers

This mysterious space rock shouldn’t have a ring — but it does

0:46 The mysterious ring in the distant Solar SystemQuaoar is a small, rocky object that lies beyond Neptune’s orbit. In an unexpected discovery, researchers have shown that this object has its own orbiting ring, similar to those seen encircling planets like Saturn. However, Quaoar’s ring shouldn’t exist, as it is at a distance far outside the theoretical limit at which rings are thought to be stable, and researchers are trying to figure out why.Research article: Morgado et al.News and Views: A planetary ring in a surprising place07:01 Research HighlightsA repurposed skin-disease drug suppresses alcohol consumption in people with alcohol-use disorder, and how volcanic eruptions may have contributed to social unrest in ancient Egypt.Research Highlight: Pill for a skin disease also curbs excessive drinkingResearch Highlight: Volcanic quartet linked to bad times in ancient Egypt09:26 Air pollutionExposure to polluted air has been linked to millions of deaths each year. But while much is known about the sources and impacts of outdoor air pollution, significantly less is understood about the pollution that people are exposed to indoors, despite it causing a significant health burden. In a Comment article for Nature, a group of researchers argue for more research in order to inform future public health initiatives.Comment: Hidden harms of indoor air pollution — five steps to expose them19:52 Briefing ChatWe discuss some highlights from the Nature Briefing. This time, the discovery of a new type of ice, and how caffeine’s kick comes at a cost.Nature News: Scientists made a new kind of ice that might exist on distant moonsThe Conversation: Nope, coffee won’t give you extra energy. It’ll just borrow a bit that you’ll pay for laterSubscribe to Nature Briefing, an unmissable daily round-up of science news, opinion and analysis free in your inbox every weekday.