cover art for Audio long-read: The race to save the Internet from quantum hackers

Nature Podcast

Audio long-read: The race to save the Internet from quantum hackers

Almost everything we do on the Internet is made possible by cryptographic algorithms, which scramble our data to protect our privacy. However, this privacy could be under threat. If quantum computers reach their potential these machines could crack current encryption systems — leaving our online data vulnerable.

To limit the damage of this so called 'Q-day', researchers are racing to develop new cryptographic systems, capable of withstanding a quantum attack.

This is an audio version of our feature: The race to save the Internet from quantum hackers

Never miss an episode: Subscribe to the Nature Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify or your favourite podcast app. Head here for the Nature Podcast RSS feed

More episodes

View all episodes

  • The world’s smallest light-trapping silicon cavity

    In this episode:00:48 A gap for trapping lightConfining photons within materials opens up potential applications in quantum computing and telecommunications. But capturing light requires nanoscale cavities, which are difficult to make. This week, a team has created the smallest silicon gap yet for this purpose, just two nano-metres wide, by exploiting the intermolecular forces that are usually an obstacle when creating such small structures. They show this gap can trap light effectively, but they also believe that their method could be used to create tiny cavities for use in a range of different fields.Research Article: Babar et al.News and Views: Self-assembling structures close the gap to trap light07:28 Research HighlightsResearchers head into the wilderness to search for dark matter, and the discovery that bottlenose dolphins can sense weak magnetic fields.Research Highlight: The hunt for dark-matter particles ventures into the wildResearch Highlight: Dolphins have a feel for electric fields09:54 The environmental cost of tackling povertyExtreme poverty, defined as living on less than US$2.15 a day, affects around 10% of the world’s population. In the past, economic growth has generally been seen as key to reducing poverty; however, such growth has also led to an increase in climate-warming emissions. To find out whether poverty can be tackled without costing the planet, a team of researchers modelled how different levels of economic growth would affect global emissions. They found that ending poverty has only a negligible impact on emissions, which could be lowered even further by decarbonising energy production.Research Article: Wollburg et al.News and Views: Tackling extreme poverty around the world need not impede climate actionNews: Catastrophic change looms as Earth nears climate ‘tipping points’, report saysNews: Scientists skip COP28 to demand climate action at home18:36 Briefing ChatScientists create a robotic octopus arm that you can control with a finger, and how disruptive science seems to elude farflung teams. Nature News: How does it feel to have an octopus arm? This robo-tentacle lets people find outNature News: ‘Disruptive’ science: in-person teams make more breakthroughs than remote groupsSubscribe to Nature Briefing, an unmissable daily round-up of science news, opinion and analysis free in your inbox every weekday.
  • Sanitary products made from plants could help tackle period poverty

    Around 500 million people are estimated to be in period poverty, lacking adequate access to sanitary products. Many of these people rely on donations, but this is far from a long-term solution. To tackle this researchers have developed a method to extract absorbent materials for menstrual pads from a common plant, Agave sisalana. The researchers say that their method can be performed using local techniques and has a lower environmental impact than the manufacture of other period products. They're aiming to scale-up this approach to help those in period poverty.Research Article: Molina et al.Subscribe to Nature Briefing, an unmissable daily round-up of science news, opinion and analysis free in your inbox every weekday.
  • Why COP28 probably won't keep the 1.5 degree dream alive

    In this episode:00:49 What to expect at COP28.The UN’s annual climate change conference is starting soon in Dubai. This time will be the first time that humanity formally assesses its progress under the 2015 Paris climate agreement, so we ask if this challenge of keeping warming below 1.5 ˚C can be met and what needs to happen at COP28 to make it a reality. News Feature: Is it too late to keep global warming below 1.5 °C? The challenge in 7 charts10:49 Research HighlightsFalcons show off their smarts, and how smoke from California wildfires made Europe cloudy.Research Highlight: These falcons excel at problem-solving — and outdo some of the world’s smartest birdsResearch Highlight: Huge California wildfires seeded cirrus clouds half a world away12:59 Briefing ChatThe mystery surrounding a powerful cosmic ray, and how to make super hot plasma easily.Nature News: The most powerful cosmic ray since the Oh-My-God particle puzzles scientistsResearch Article: Xie et al.Video: Super hot plasma made easy with stabilising fibresSubscribe to Nature Briefing, an unmissable daily round-up of science news, opinion and analysis free in your inbox every weekday.
  • Audio long read: Apple revival — how science is bringing historic varieties back to life

    Researchers have been resurrecting apple trees to revive forgotten varieties of the fruit. They hope that sequencing these apples' genomes could uncover mutations that influence flavour, colour, crispness and other characteristics. This knowledge could help unlock the next blockbuster fruit, and develop trees that are more resistant to disease, climate change and other environmental pressures.This is an audio version of our Feature Apple revival: how science is bringing historic varieties back to life
  • Polio could be eradicated within 3 years — what happens then?

    In this episode:00:46 What happens after polio is eradicatedSince 1988, cases of polio have fallen by more than 99%, and many observers predict that the disease could be eradicated within the next three years. However, eradication isn’t the same as extinction, so the next challenge is for researchers to make sure the disease won’t return. We discuss what a post-polio future may look like, and how to ensure that the disease is gone for good.News Feature: Polio is on the brink of eradication. Here's how to keep it from coming back09:48 Research HighlightsBotulinum toxin shows promise in treating a common disorder in older people, and how safeguarding seabirds may require significantly larger conservation-areas than previously thought.Research Highlight: Botox’s paralysing effects can relieve an uncontrolled head tremorResearch Highlight: Seabirds’ lonely travels pose a conservation challenge12:21 Briefing ChatHow demand for research monkeys is fuelling an illegal trade in smuggled animals, and the surprising observation that may help explain mysterious space explosions. Nature: How wild monkeys ‘laundered’ for science could undermine researchNature News: Mysterious ‘Tasmanian devil’ space explosion baffles astronomersSubscribe to Nature Briefing, an unmissable daily round-up of science news, opinion and analysis free in your inbox every weekday.
  • Dust: the tiny substance with enormous power

    In the latest episode of Nature hits the books, writer and researcher Jay Owens joins us to discuss her book Dust: The Modern World in a Trillion Particles. Much like dust itself, Jay’s book travels the globe, looking at the impacts that these microscopic particles are having on the world, our health and environment, as well as exploring the role that humanity has played in creating them.Dust: The Modern World in a Trillion Particles Jay Owens Hodder & Stoughton (2023)Music supplied by Airae/Epidemic Sound/Getty images.
  • How to 3D print fully-formed robots

    In this episode:00:46 Machine vision enables multi-material 3D printing3D printers are capable of producing complex shapes, but making functioning objects from multiple materials in a single print-run has proved challenging. To overcome this, a team has combined inkjet printing with an error-correction system guided by machine vision, to allow them to print sophisticated multi-material objects. They used this method to make a bio-inspired robotic hand that combines soft and rigid plastics to make mechanical bones, ligaments, and tendons, as well as a pump based on a mammalian heart.Research article: Buchner et al.News & Views: Multi-material 3D printing guided by machine visionVideo: The 3D printer that crafts complex robotic organs in a single run07:49 Research HighlightsCitizen-scientists help identify an astronomical object that blurs the line between asteroid and comet, and how a Seinfeld episode helped scientists to distinguish the brain regions involved in understanding and appreciating humour.Research Highlight: Citizen scientists find a rarity: an asteroid trying to be a cometResearch Highlight: One brain area helps you to enjoy a joke — but another helps you to get it10:31 Assessing the effectiveness of lifestyle interventions for diabetesType 2 diabetes affects hundreds of millions of people around the world and represents a significant burden on healthcare systems. But behaviour change programmes — also known as lifestyle interventions — could potentially play a large role in preventing people from developing type 2 diabetes. This week in Nature a new paper assesses how effective this kind of intervention might be. Looking at a huge amount of data from the NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme, the paper concludes that these interventions represent a viable diabetes prevention strategy.Research article: Lemp et al.News & Views: Diabetes prevention programme put to the test17:35 Briefing ChatHow marine heatwaves revved up crabs’ metabolisms until they starved, and the AI-powered, robot chemist that could extract oxygen from water on Mars.Wired: The Surprising Reason Sea Creatures Are Getting HungrierNature News: This AI robot chemist could make oxygen on Mars
  • How to tame a toxic yet life-saving antifungal

    In this episode:00:46 Modifying a fungal drug to make it less toxicAmphotericin B is a drug used to treat life-threatening fungal infections. But while it is effective against many fungal species, it is also extremely toxic to kidneys, meaning it is mostly used as a drug of last-resort. This week, a team has unpicked the mechanism behind the drug’s toxicity, allowing them to modify it and reduce side effects in human kidney cells. The researchers hope this new version of the drug could become a useful tool in fighting fungal diseases.Research article: Maji et al.09:00 Research HighlightsReconstructing woolly rhino DNA using samples from fossilized hyena dung, and a soft robot that can perform surgery inside a beating heart.Research Highlight: Woolly-rhino genome emerges from cave hyena’s fossilized pooResearch Highlight: A robot performs heart surgery with a strong but delicate touch11:26 Phosphorus found at the edge of our GalaxyPhosphorus is a vital element for life and for planet formation, but although abundant in the inner part of the Milky Way, it has been undetected in the outer regions of our Galaxy. Now, researchers have identified phosphorus-containing molecules huge distances from Earth, although exactly how this phosphorus was created is unclear. The team suspect that lower-mass stars are behind the phosphorus generation, and believe that the detection of the element could broaden the range of planets that may be habitable in our Galaxy.Research article: Koelemay et al.18:14 Briefing ChatWhat Osiris-REx’s hypersonic capsule return could teach researchers about asteroids hitting Earth’s atmosphere, and the genetic studies that could help restore the genomes of Scotland’s endangered ‘Highland tigers’.Nature News: Asteroid sampler’s hypersonic return thrilled scientists: here’s what they learntNature News: How to keep wildcats wild: ancient DNA offers fresh insightsSubscribe to Nature Briefing, an unmissable daily round-up of science news, opinion and analysis free in your inbox every weekday.
  • Nature's Take: How will ChatGPT and generative AI transform research?

    In the past year, generative AIs have been taking the world by storm. ChatGPT, Bard, DALL-E and more, are changing the nature of how content is produced. In science, they could help transform and streamline publishing. However, they also come with plenty of risks.In this episode of Nature's Take we discuss how these AIs are impacting science and what the future might hold.Subscribe to Nature Briefing, an unmissable daily round-up of science news, opinion and analysis free in your inbox every weekday.