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#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.


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11/17/2022

#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 newscientist.com.Events and discount codes:New Scientist Discovery Tours: www.newscientist.com/toursAmazon Future Engineer: www.amazonfutureengineer.co.uk/ayicBlack Friday deal: www.newscientist.com/blackfriday
11/10/2022

#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 newscientist.com. Events and discount codes:Half price offer: www.newscientist.com/halfpricedigitalThe Perception Census: www.perceptioncensus.dreamachine.worldWild Wild Life newsletter: newscientist.com/wildwildlife