New Scientist Weekly

Share

#118: Heatwaves push limits of human tolerance; chemical computer to mimic brain; first non-human to practice medicine

Season 1, Ep. 118

It feels like temperature records are being broken almost daily. We’ve seen heatwaves already this year in Texas and Mexico, with forecast highs of 50oC set to hit Pakistan and India. As we edge closer to breaking 1.5 degrees of global warming in the next 5 years, Rowan speaks to climate scientist Vikki Thompson from the University of Bristol, to find out how heatwaves are pushing at the limits of what humans can cope with.


Chemical computers have taken a step up. Lee Cronin and his colleagues at the University of Glasgow have upgraded their 2019 machine, and it’s now fully programmable. The team discusses the project’s ultimate goal, to make a chemical brain and even explain consciousness.


Ants have the power to heal. The team explains how Matabele ants, large ants found in sub-Saharan Africa, have evolved the ability to diagnose infected wounds in their nestmates using an antimicrobial medicine that they produce themselves.


It’s estimated that covid-19 has now killed close to 15 million people. And with reports of rapid reinfections and new omicron sublineages emerging, the team finds out how worried we should be about getting covid multiple times, and what we can expect from future mutations of the virus.


The composer Jon Hopkins has been working with a team involving neuroscientist Anil Seth to create a hallucinogenic immersive experience called Dream Machine. New Scientist’s Carissa Wong has been in it, and shares her wild experience. We also treat you to the music from Dream Machine throughout this episode.


On the pod are Rowan Hooper, Penny Sarchet, Alice Klein, Karmela Padavic-Callaghan and Carissa Wong. To read about these stories and much more, subscribe at newscientist.com/podcasts.


Events and discount codes:

newscientist.com/pod20

newscientist.com/unlimited 

newscientist.com/nslive

newscientist.com/tours


More Episodes

9/22/2022

#137 How to turn the shipping industry green; Enceladus passes habitability test

Season 1, Ep. 137
‘Get it Done’ is the theme for this year’s Climate Week in New York, with hundreds of events taking place across the city. Reporter James Dinneen is there, and brings us news about how to reduce the massive impact of the shipping industry on greenhouse gas emissions. NASA’s DART mission is the first real-world planetary defence mission. And on Monday a 500-kilogram satellite will smash into a small asteroid called Dimorphous to try and change its orbit. The team explains what the mission hopes to achieve.Ants are everywhere. In fact, it’s estimated that Earth is home to 20 quadrillion of the things. Think of all the legs! In light of this news, the team discusses their favourite ants (yes they have favourites) - including the weaver ant which Rowan has been reading about in his favourite bedtime book, The Guests of Ants.Phosphorus has been discovered on Saturn’s moon Enceladus, meaning it now has all six of the essential elements for life. The team explains how the element was found in icy rock grains collected by the Cassini spacecraft.Covid may be triggering early puberty in some girls. While the condition was known about pre-pandemic, the surprising finding shows that since covid it’s happening in higher numbers and even sooner, in girls younger than seven. The team discusses whether it’s the stress of the pandemic or the disease itself that’s causing these effects. On the pod are Rowan Hooper, Chelsea Whyte, James Dinneen, Alexandra Thompson and Alex Wilkins. To read about these stories and much more, subscribe at newscientist.com/podcasts.Events and discount codes:New Scientist Live: newscientist.com/liveAutumn Special: www.newscientist.com/autumnspecial Dow: newscientist.com/dow
9/15/2022

#136 A step towards building artificial life; solar-powered slugs

Season 1, Ep. 136
Ribosomes are tiny protein-making factories found inside cells, and a crucial component of life. And now a team of scientists has figured out how to make them self-replicate outside of cells. Without getting all Mary Shelley, the team says this is a step towards creating artificial life.On a trip to the Isles of Scilly, Rowan found a spectacular lifeform of the week. On the shores of Porthcressa beach on St Mary’s island, he found a solar-powered sea slug, with the help of Scott and Samaya of Scilly Rockpool Safaris.America’s West Coast is still being ravaged by wildfires, and not only are they set to become more frequent as the climate warms, but they’re going to become even more intense. Chelsea, who can see the orange skies of the fires from her home, discusses the rising risk of so-called ‘extreme wildfires’. Rowan makes the point that new research shows that transitioning from fossil fuels to clean energy could lead to savings of $5 to $15 trillion dollars. Centenarians - people who live to be older than 100 - who have all the markers of Alzheimer’s, don’t appear to be affected by the disease. The team finds out about an intriguing new finding that upends our understanding of amyloid plaques, the proteins we think are closely associated with dementia. Climate change artist and Australian playwright David Finnigan discusses his latest play ‘You’re Safe Til 2024: Deep History’, which he performed at this year’s Edinburgh fringe festival and which is coming to London. It looks at the 75,000 year history of our impact on the environment from the lens of the 2019 Australian bushfires.   On the pod are Rowan Hooper, Chelsea Whyte, Abby Beall and Carissa Wong. To read about these stories and much more, subscribe at newscientist.com/podcasts.Events and discount codes:New Scientist Live: newscientist.com/live
9/8/2022

#135 The Amazon passes a tipping point; a place to live only 100 light years away

Season 1, Ep. 135
The Amazon rainforest may have passed the tipping point that will flip it into savannah. A new report suggests that large portions of the rainforest have been either degraded or destroyed, which could have disastrous consequences. The team hears from the Science Panel for the Amazon, who say we must step in now to support regeneration efforts. If you’re looking for a drummer for your new band, you might want to hire a chimp. The team hears recordings of chimps drumming on the buttresses of tree roots in Uganda’s Budongo Forest, and explains why they do it. Meta wants to read your mind - eventually. The panel discusses a new AI developed by Facebook’s parent company, that can detect certain words by reading brainwaves. New Scientist’s chief gourmand, Sam Wong, gets the team to taste-test a west-African fruit called the miracle berry, and explains how it could help curb our sugar addiction. He also discusses the fermenting process and its possible health benefits, while sharing a little of his delicious fermented hot chilli sauce. 100 light years away, we’ve spotted new exoplanets that may be good places to search for life. They exist in the habitable zone, near a red dwarf star with the delicious name SPECULOOS-2. But the planets are different to Earth, and the team discuss the chances they will support life (as we know it). On the pod are Rowan Hooper, Penny Sarchet, Matt Sparkes, Alex Wilkins, Sam Wong and Carissa Wong. To read about these stories and much more, subscribe at newscientist.com/podcasts.Events, podcasts and discount codes:50% discounted subscription: newscientist.com/pod50New Scientist Live: newscientist.com/liveHow The Light Gets In: howthelightgetsin.org