CultureLab: What would life on Mars be like? The science behind TV series For All Mankind45:34Freezing temperatures, dust storms, radiation, marsquakes – living on Mars right now would be hellish. And getting there remains a multi-year journey. But what if we could make it habitable? Could we one day build settlements on the Red Planet or send human scientists to search for life?That’s the premise of the TV series For All Mankind, which explores a future where the space race continued after the moon landing and humanity kept spreading out across space. But in the name of a good story, real science occasionally took the backstage. In this episode, TV columnist Bethan Ackerley speaks to NASA Astronaut Garrett Reisman, who was also a consultant on the show, as well as planetary scientist Tanya Harrison who’s worked on multiple NASA missions to Mars. Between them, they explore how far off we really are from living on Mars, what it would take to surmount the remaining challenges – and why it’s still a dream worth pursuing in the real world.Want more? Read Bethan’s review of For All Mankind Season 4.To read about subjects like this and much more, visit newscientist.com.
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238. Weekly: ADHD helps foraging?; the rise of AI “deepfakes”; ignored ovary appendage24:09#238ADHD is a condition that affects millions of people and is marked by impulsivity, restlessness and attention difficulties. But how did ADHD evolve in humans and why did it stick around? Through the help of a video game, a study shows that these traits might be beneficial when foraging for food. In 2023, we hit record after record when it comes to high temperatures on Earth, including in the oceans and seas. From the surface to 2000 metres down, it was hard to find a part of the ocean not affected. This week, about 5000 scientists gathered in New Orleans for the American Geophysical Union’s biennial Ocean Sciences Meeting. Heat was the one thing on everyone’s mind, as researchers grapple to understand the drivers and consequences these new records have – but also look for promising solutions.The future of AI deepfake technology is not looking good. You might remember the infamous fake images of Taylor Swift that included non-consensual, intimate images of her on social media. Or the fake robotcall that mimicked President Joe Biden’s voice and discouraged voters from coming to the polls. As voice, picture and video generating technologies become cheaper and easier to use, can anything be done to prevent more harm?A “useless” structure on the ovary may in fact be key to fertility in mammals. The structure, a tiny series of tubes called the rete ovarii, was first discovered in 1870 and doesn’t even appear in modern textbooks. Now, researchers accidentally stumbled back onto it – and suggest that the rete ovarii may help control ovulation and the menopause. Plus: Humpback whales’ huge and specialised larynxes; physicists are excited about a new “unicorn” in the world of black holes; the “dogbot” that becomes three-legged to open doors.Hosts Christie Taylor and Timothy Revell discuss with guests Chen Ly, James Dinneen, Jeremy Hsu and Michael Le Page. To read more about these stories, visit newscientist.com.
Escape Pod #5 Sound: Prepare to feel relaxed, tingly and amazed, in the space of 20 minutes17:34This is a re-airing of a podcast originally released in February 2021.Prepare to feel relaxed, tingly and amazed all in the space of 20 minutes. This episode is all about sound.We start with the musical tones of an elephant trumpeting, followed by a recording from Cornell University’s Elephant Listening Project, showing how they communicate at an infrasonic frequency, which humans can’t ordinarily detect.The team then attempts to send shivers down your spine by recreating ASMR, explaining why some people enjoy the sound of whispering, rustling crisp packets or apple biting.They also share a range of audio illusions, and close the show with the soothing sounds of white noise, created by Stephane Pigeon from www.mynoise.net.Shepard Tone and Binaural Beats courtesy of Alexander from www.orangefreesounds.com under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.On the pod are Rowan Hooper, Bethan Ackerley and Timothy Revell. Find out more at newscientist.com/podcasts
237. Weekly: Reversing blindness; power beamed from space; animal love languages23:55#237Glaucoma, which can cause blindness by damaging the optic nerve, may be reversible. Researchers have managed to coax new optic nerve cells to grow in mice, partly restoring sight in some. How the treatment works through an eyeball injection and why, for humans, prevention and early detection are still the best options.Black holes, just like planets and stars, spin. But they may be spinning a lot slower than we thought. When black holes gobble up matter around them, they start spinning faster and we’ve largely used this understanding to guess their speed. But new research also weighs the slowing effect of massive gas jets that black holes emit – revealing that many may have slowed dramatically since their births. How these new estimates of spin also offer insights into a black hole’s history. What if we could generate solar power in space, far more efficiently than on Earth – and then beam it down to our houses? An MIT experiment has managed to do one of the most crucial steps of that science fiction-seeming process, converting electricity from a satellite into microwaves that were then successfully received by a collector in California. How these microwaves could supply the power grid on Earth and help ween us off of fossil fuels – if they can overcome some major hurdles. Apes like to playfully tease each other, just like humans do. While their methods may be a bit different from ours – poking, hitting, pulling on hair and stealing – it looks like they’re often doing it for fun, rather than to harass or assert dominance. This new finding could explain why humans evolved to enjoy jokes.Plus: A weird cooling quirk of Antarctica’s atmosphere; the microbes that make your tea taste delicious; and the flamboyant love languages of cuttlefish, scorpions and even dog-loving humans.Hosts Christie Taylor and Chelsea Whyte discuss with guests Michael Le Page, Alex Wilkins and Chen Ly. To read more about these stories, visit newscientist.com.
CultureLab: Where billionaires rule the apocalypse: Naomi Alderman’s ‘The Future’20:25Real tech billionaires are reportedly building secret bunkers in case of post-apocalyptic societal collapse. It’s a frightening prospect, a world where only the super rich survive catastrophe. But it’s a world one author is exploring in her latest novel.Naomi Alderman is the prize-winning and best-selling author of The Power. Her latest book The Future imagines a world where billionaires survive a world-shaking cataclysm, only to find out they’re not as in charge of events as they think they are. The Future has been the centrepiece of the New Scientist book club. In this episode culture and comment editor Alison Flood asks Naomi all about it. They explore her motivations for writing the book, the real mysteries of human evolutionary history and why Alderman thinks artificial intelligence can’t actually predict what’s to come for humanity.This conversation contains some spoilers.To read about subjects like this and much more, visit newscientist.com.
236. Weekly: Record-breaking fusion experiments inch the world closer to new source of clean energy23:22#236This week marks two major milestones in the world of fusion. In 2022 a fusion experiment at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory created more power than was required to sustain it – now, the same team has improved this record by 25 per cent, releasing almost twice the energy that was put in. Meanwhile, the UK’s JET reactor set a new world record for total energy output from any fusion reaction, just before it shut down for good late last year. Why these two milestones inch us closer to practical, sustainable fusion energy – but still leave a significant distance to go.A historic drought has caused a shipping traffic jam in the Panama Canal, one of the world’s most important shipping routes. Record low levels of water mean fewer ships can pass through the intricate system of locks that carry them across the narrow strip of land. As climate change increases the likelihood of extreme drought, how could this impact both the cost of shipping goods and Panama’s economy?Microdosing LSD may not have psychedelic effects, but it still causes noticeable changes in the brain. Researchers gave people tiny amounts of the drug while measuring their brain activity and noticed their brain signals became far more complex, even though they didn’t feel any hallucinatory effects. What this study tells us about the relationship between consciousness and neural complexity.Magma flowing into a giant crack formed by this year’s volcanic eruption in Iceland was caught moving at a rate of 7400 cubic metres per second – the fastest ever recorded for this kind of event. The kilometres-long crack first began producing eruptions in December last year, and another began just this week. So what’s next for the people living nearby? Plus: The asteroid Bennu may be a chunk of an ocean world; a new, lightning-dense thunderstorm spotted by satellites; rediscovering the bizarre-looking sharp-snouted Somali worm lizard after more than 90 years.Hosts Christie Taylor and Sophie Bushwick discuss with guests Matt Sparkes, James Dinneen, Grace Wade and Michael Le Page. To read more about these stories, visit newscientist.com.
4. Escape Pod: #4 Mass: from lightest creates on earth, to the heaviest things in the cosmos17:27This is a re-airing of a podcast originally released in February 2021.From some of the lightest creatures on earth, to the heaviest things in the cosmos, this episode is all about mass.It’s a magical opening to the show as the team discusses a group of insects called fairy wasps which are so light it’s near impossible to weigh them.They then turn to matters of massive proportions, discussing a little thing called dark matter.Finally the team wraps up by looking at the surprising, and slightly hilarious ways that a kilogram is measured.On the podcast are Rowan Hooper, Anna Demming and Timothy Revell.Find out more at newscientist.com/podcasts