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#120: DeepMind claims artificial intelligence breakthrough; searching for ancient life on Mars; Stonehenge surprise; monkeypox latest

Season 1, Ep. 120

DeepMind’s new artificial intelligence, Gato, is a step beyond anything we’ve seen before. But how close has it brought us to the coveted goal of creating ‘artificial general intelligence’? The team unpacks just how powerful this technology really is, and what it means for the future of machine consciousness.


You can learn a lot from poop. In an archaeological detective story, 4500-year-old fossil excrement belonging to the people who built Stonehenge has been examined, and the team explains what it tells us about their eating habits.


CRISPR gene editing has been used to make supercharged tomatoes, rich in vitamin D. The team finds out how they managed to do it, and explains why this breakthrough is particularly good news for vegans.


Ever wondered what it’s like to explore another planet? We hear from Sanjeev Gupta from Imperial College London, one of the scientists with the breathtaking job of helping Nasa's Perseverance rover navigate Mars, as it starts sampling an ancient river delta to look for ancient life.


We’re in the midst of the largest known outbreak of monkeypox. The virus is endemic to Central and West Africa, but has begun to spread to the rest of the world, with 170 cases now confirmed. The team examines the likelihood of this virus becoming the next global pandemic.


On the pod are Rowan Hooper, Penny Sarchet, Jacob Aron and Corryn Wetzel. To read about these stories and much more, subscribe at newscientist.com/podcasts.


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More Episodes

8/4/2022

#130 How to reverse death; Neil Gaiman on Sandman; AlphaFold and biology’s revolution; life in the multiverse with Laura Mersini-Houghton

Season 1, Ep. 130
A new type of artificial blood has been created which, in the future, could bring people back from the dead - or what we think of now as dead, at least. This special fluid has been shown to preserve the organs of dead pigs, long after what was previously thought possible - which the team says could be a game-changer for organ transplants.Rowan talks to legendary writer Neil Gaiman about the new Netflix series, out this week, based on his smash-hit Sandman comics. They also discuss the function of dreams, and the inspiration Neil draws from them.This week we also chew over the recent massive news that DeepMind’s artificial intelligence AlphaFold has predicted the structure of nearly all proteins known to science. It is, says the team, as monumental as the discovery of the structure of DNA. The team explains how transformative this could be in areas like disease prevention.Leaving Earth, we talk with cosmologist Laura Mersini-Houghton about her theory that we live in just one of a vast multiverse of universes, a subject she tackles in her new book ‘Before the Big Bang’.And there’s yet more amazing findings to discuss from the James Webb Space Telescope, including the possible discovery of a galaxy formed not long after the universe itself.On the pod are Rowan Hooper, Penny Sarchet, Clare Wilson, Michael Le Page and Leah Crane. To read about these stories and much more, subscribe at newscientist.com/podcasts.Events and discount codes:InsideTracker: insidetracker.com/NewScientistHow We’re Wired from The Bertarelli Foundation50% discounted subscription: newscientist.com/pod50
7/28/2022

#129 BlueDot special: Mysteries of the universe; stories of hope and joy; growing tiny human brains; solving global problems

Season 1, Ep. 129
Welcome to a special edition of the show recorded live at the bluedot music festival. On the panel are New Scientist journalists Rowan Hooper and Abby Beall, along with Emmy-nominated composer Hannah Peel and geoscientist and broadcaster Chris Jackson.With the awesome Lovell radio telescope dominating the sky above the festival, this episode begins with astronomy news, and in particular stories from the James Webb Space Telescope - including its mission to look at the atmosphere of rocky planets in the search for extraterrestrial life. There’s also a nod to the late great James Lovelock, who has died at the age of 103.The panel brings their stories of joy and hope. Abby brings news of the saving of a research centre for intelligent birds. Chris marvels at an impressive global geological event which highlights the power of collaboration. Hannah dreams up a story about “nanoskin” which happens to be very similar to a real story we reported. And Rowan comes with the news that chimps have been found to treat each other using medicinal insects.The panel discusses the ethics and possibilities of brain organoid research. These are tiny human brains grown in a lab, which have recently been shown to give off brain waves equivalent to those seen in fetuses.The whole team is gifted with an imaginary $100 million, and asked how they’d use it to save the world. Rowan wants to refreeze the Arctic.Then there’s a vibrant Q&A session with the audience. And for the boy who asked about brain organoids playing Pong, here’s the story.InsideTracker: insidetracker.com/NewScientistHow We’re Wired from The Bertarelli FoundationNew Scientist Live event: newscientist.com/nslbd