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Nature Podcast

Even a 'minimal cell' can grow stronger, thanks to evolution

In this episode:

00:46 The effects of evolution on a minimal genome

In 2016, researchers created a ‘minimal cell’ bacterium with a genome that only contains genes essential for the organism's survival. Any mutation in these genes could be fatal, so it was unclear whether there could be scope for evolution. But now, a team has grown this bacterium through 2,000 generations and shown that it does have the ability to evolve and can recover from some of the fitness costs associated with its streamlined genome.

Research article: Moger-Reischer et al.

09:21 Research Highlights

Dolphins use ‘baby talk’ when talking to their offspring, and how microwaving plastic containers can release microplastic particles.

Research Highlight: Dolphin mums whistle ‘baby talk’ with their calves

Research Highlight: What happens when you microwave that plastic bowl?

12:18 The first hints of giant gravitational waves

Gravitational waves were first detected in 2015, when two black holes collided — sending ripples in space-time across the Universe. Last week, four separate research collaborations found signatures of a wholly different kind of gravitational wave, with unknown origins. Nature’s Davide Castelvecchi explains how these waves were detected, and what this could mean for researchers’ understanding of black holes and the history of the cosmos.

Nature News: Monster gravitational waves spotted for first time

Nature News: Giant gravitational waves: why scientists are so excited

20:01 Briefing Chat

We discuss some highlights from the Nature Briefing. This time, new vaccine to protect Tasmanian devils against a deadly contagious cancer, and the ‘paradoxical’ palm that flowers and fruits underground.

Nature News: Tasmanian devil cancer vaccine approved for testing

The Guardian: ‘Mind-boggling’ palm that flowers and fruits underground thrills scientists

Subscribe to Nature Briefing, an unmissable daily round-up of science news, opinion and analysis free in your inbox every weekday.

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  • These frog 'saunas’ could help endangered species fight off a deadly fungus

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  • Audio long read: How NASA astronauts are training to walk on the Moon in 2026

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  • Why ‘open source’ AIs could be anything but, the derailment risks of long freight trains, and breeding better wheat

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  • How mathematician Freeman Hrabowski opened doors for Black scientists

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