New Scientist Weekly


#152 Ancient species of human could control fire; complete brain map of fly

Season 1, Ep. 152
An extinct species of ancient human may have been much more advanced than we first realised. First discovered 10 years ago, Homo neladi had a brain about a third the size of ours and yet it may have done complex things like burying its dead and controlling fire. The team learns about the latest finding from the Rising Star cave near Johannesburg.Mars has long been described as geologically dead, but new evidence shows it may still be volcanically active. The team learns about a new theory which might explain what created the mysterious trenches in the Cerberus Fossae region of the planet.The largest complete map of the connections between neurons inside a brain has been made - but it’s not of a human brain. This whole-brain connectome is that of a Drosophila larva - the larva of a fruit fly. The team finds out about this massive undertaking - a stepping stone to describing the brains of more complex animals.Are penguins self-aware? When we try to answer this question in any animal, we tend to use the controversial mirror method - and that’s exactly what a group of researchers have done. But does it actually work, and can we trust the new findings? The remains of the last known thylacine (Tasmanian tiger) have been found, 80 years after they went missing. Self-described Australian mammal nerd Jack Ashby of Cambridge University tells the team how this curious mystery was solved. As the author of Platypus Matters, Jack also shares a story about Platypuses, and the “cocktail of misery” in the animal’s poisonous sting.On the pod are Rowan Hooper, Penn Sarchet, Leah Crane, Alison George and Michael Marshall. To read about these subjects and much more, you can subscribe to New Scientist magazine at and discount codes:Half price deal:

#151 COP15: the meeting to save life on Earth; anti-ageing properties of urine

Season 1, Ep. 151
Following repeated delays, the COP15 biodiversity conference is finally going ahead. On December 7th representatives from most of the countries in the world will meet to reach an agreement on how to address the global biodiversity crisis. There’s already a draft agreement in place, and the team explains the ambitions it lays out. But is this event likely to move the needle?A species of rat which should have gone extinct has somehow managed to keep going - and now we know why. In a story worthy of Margaret Atwood, the team finds out how the Amami spiny rat continues to survive despite losing its Y chromosome, the one which makes males. There’s a genuine space race going on, with multiple companies hoping to become the first private firm to land on the Moon. The Japanese mission ispace has hit a delay, but the team explains how a viable lunar economy is now a serious prospect.Newborn female mice who sniff the urine of other female mice live longer - considerably so in fact. The team finds out what’s going on, and whether the finding applies to humans too…And Rowan chats with Henry Gee, senior editor at the journal Nature, who has won the 2022 Royal Society science book Prize. He describes his book, ‘A Very Short History of Life on Earth: 4.6 billion years in 12 chapters’, as a bedtime story for adults, that tells the greatest story ever - the whole saga of life on Earth.On the pod are Rowan Hooper, Chelsea Whyte, James Dinneen, Michael Le Page and Leah Crane. To read about these subjects and much more, you can subscribe to New Scientist magazine at and discount codes:Cyber Monday deal:

#150 Megadrought in the US; how to move an elephant

Season 1, Ep. 150
The southwestern US is currently in the midst of a megadrought - the worst in 1200 years. And it has put the Colorado River in crisis, an essential source of water for more than 40 million people. Can it be saved? Chelsea Whyte investigates.The team unveils the fun new names that have been chosen to define incomprehensibly massive and incredibly tiny numbers. These prefixes describe measurements that have more than 27 zeroes, created as part of the International System of Units.Like mac and cheese but hate the faff of making a roux? You’re in luck. Sam Wong shares a science-based one-pot mac hack, that’ll save you time and up the flavour too.Was COP27 in Egypt a success or a flop? Madeleine Cuff describes it as a mixed bag. After returning from the climate summit in Sharm El-Sheik, she reports on the progress that was made, and the vital issues that must be addressed over the next 12 months.Have you ever wondered how to move an elephant? Well, Ugandan wildlife vet Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka has done it, andit’s a struggle. She was given the task early on in her career, working at the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre, and she shares her experience.On the pod are Penny Sarchet, Chelsea Whyte, Alex Wilkins, Madeleine Cuff, Graham Lawton and Sam Wong. To read about these subjects and much more, you can subscribe to New Scientist magazine at For New Scientist’s in depth series on the US megadrought, visit and discount codes:Black Friday deal: Scientist Business:

#149 COP27 treaty emerges; a method to discover wormholes

Season 1, Ep. 149
Cheering greeted Brazil’s president-elect, Lula da Silva, when he appeared at COP27 this week. Madeleine Cuff brings us a report from the climate conference in Egypt, where Lula has made bold promises to protect the Amazon. She also tells us what we can expect from this year’s draft treaty - and why the text has been causing quite a stir.There’s plenty going on in Space, with NASA’s Artemis mission now finally launching to the Moon. And the news that we may be able to look for wormholes (if they exist). These are different to black holes because they are traversable - handy if you happen to be an interstellar traveller looking for a fast route across the universe.Our ancestors may have begun using sophisticated cooking methods as long as 780,000 years ago. The team explains how fish teeth have been discovered near hearths at an ancient settlement in Israel. And X-ray analysis suggests they may have been cooked in some sort of earthen oven.Rowan visits a colony of leaf-cutter ants, who use an incredible method of farming fungi that evolved between 45 and 65 million years ago. David Labonte at Imperial College London explains how this complex and decentralised society operates.And have you ever wondered why some poos float and others sink? Too much fat in your diet? Fibre maybe? Or is it gas? Well, new research has lifted the toilet lid on this age-old question, and the team shares the results.On the pod are Rowan Hooper, Penny Sarchet, Madeleine Cuff, Leah Crane, Alice Klein and Sam Wong. To read about these subjects and much more, you can subscribe to New Scientist magazine at and discount codes:New Scientist Discovery Tours: Future Engineer: Friday deal:

#148 Climate action from COP27; world population reaches 8 billion

Season 1, Ep. 148
Warnings over the world’s mad dash to create new supplies of fossil fuels, discussions about climate loss and damage, and talk about nature-based solutions. COP27 in Egypt is in full swing. Our reporter Madeleine Cuff brings us the latest, direct from Sharm el Sheikh.This week’s Sci-fi alert is the unusual discovery of a star with a solid surface. The team explains how on this magnetar (the dense corpse of an exploded star), gravity would be immense and time would behave really weirdly - that’s if you’d be able to land on the thing. They also discuss how the IceCube Neutrino Observatory in Antarctica has been able to plot the course of cosmic neutrinos back to their home galaxy.The 15th of November has been chosen by the UN to mark the point that the number of people on the planet passes 8 billion. Despite this, the team explains how the world’s population isn’t accelerating, and is expected to peak sometime this century - sharing surprising statistics from Japan and China.Birds that migrate long distances are more likely to break up with their partners. Usually bird species are pretty much monogamous, so the team finds out why travelling species find it harder to stay together.“May this tusk root out the lice of the hair and the beard.” The team shares news of the discovery of the oldest readable sentence written using the first alphabet.On the pod are Rowan Hooper, Penny Sarchet, Madeleine Cuff, Leah Crane and Michael Le Page. To read about these subjects and much more, you can subscribe to New Scientist magazine at Events and discount codes:Half price offer: Perception Census: www.perceptioncensus.dreamachine.worldWild Wild Life newsletter:

#146 Accelerated end to fossil fuel; double discovery on Mars

Season 1, Ep. 146
Spurred on by the war in Ukraine, we’re seeing a worldwide shift to green energy, with the global demand of fossil fuels now expected to peak in 15 years - a dose of optimism ahead of COP27. The climate conference kicks off in Egypt on November 6, and the team brings a round-up of what we can expect. Maddie and Rowan also discuss their recent visit to the London Literature Festival, where they saw Greta Thunberg speak.‘Marsquakes’ studied by NASA’s InSight lander suggest Mars may still be volcanically active - and it may have a subsurface water table similar to the one on Earth. The team says this is exciting news for the prospect of life existing on the Red Planet.“A victory not only for the region, but for humanity and life itself.” Brazil’s President  Jair Bolsonaro has been unseated by Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. The team explains how Bolsonaro has presided over climate catastrophe, and why this news has sparked celebration - and relief - from environmentalists.Genetically modified mosquitoes have been released in a city in Brazil. The team explains how UK-based biotechnology firm Oxitec have done this in an effort to find ways to eliminate mosquitoes. The insects transmit deadly diseases like malaria, which kills more than 600,000 people a year.And we bring you a controversial ‘Lifeform of the Week’ - everyone’s most hated amphibian, the cane toad. Quite disturbingly, the team explains how new x-ray video footage shows that cane toads lick their own hearts when they swallow prey. Gross. On the pod are Rowan Hooper, Madeleine Cuff, Sam Wong, Chris Simms and Alexandra Thompson. To read about these subjects and much more, you can subscribe to New Scientist magazine at and discount codes:Early bird offer:

#145 COP27 climate summit preview; unexpected animal sounds

Season 1, Ep. 145
It’s already been a year since COP26, with its successor COP27 gearing up to begin on 6 November. 12 months on from some big pledges, the team finds out how much action has actually been taken, and whether this next climate conference is set to move the needle further.Quacks, barks and farts; listen out for some intriguing and unexpected animal sounds. The team shares the newly discovered vocalisations of some animals, like turtles and lungfish, that we previously thought were silent.Turmeric has become an increasingly popular supplement, particularly in the US. But reports are coming in that the spice is causing liver injuries and turning people’s skin yellow. The team finds out what’s going on.A quantum watch is a completely new way to measure time. Using quantum interference, this new technique can accurately measure tiny nanoseconds of time. Although its applications are quite niche, the team explains how this technology could be very useful.As a Halloween treat, our Life Form of the Week is the pumpkin and other squashes. The team dives into the surprising origins of these strange, hard-skinned fruits, and how they came to spread worldwide.On the pod are Penny Sarchet, Chelsea Whyte, Michael Le Page, Leah Crane, Sam Wong, Alice Klein and Rowan Hooper. To read about these subjects and much more, you can subscribe to New Scientist magazine at and discount codes:Halloween sale: Scientist Discovery Tours: Wild Life newsletter: