Nature Podcast


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

0:46 The mysterious ring in the distant Solar System

Quaoar 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 place

07:01 Research Highlights

A 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 drinking

Research Highlight: Volcanic quartet linked to bad times in ancient Egypt

09:26 Air pollution

Exposure 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 them

19:52 Briefing Chat

We 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 moons

The Conversation: Nope, coffee won’t give you extra energy. It’ll just borrow a bit that you’ll pay for later

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More Episodes


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.