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, Penny Sarchet, Leah Crane, Alison George and Michael Marshall. To read about these subjects and much more, you can subscribe to New Scientist magazine at

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#176 Human organoids are new AI frontier; Listening to the big bang through the cosmic microwave background

Season 1, Ep. 176
Brainoids - tiny clumps of human brain cells - are being turned into living artificial intelligence machines, capable of carrying out tasks like solving complex equations. The team finds out how these brain organoids compare to normal computer-based AIs, and they explore the ethics of it all.Sickle cell disease is now curable, thanks to a pioneering trial with CRISPR gene editing. The team shares the story of a woman whose life has been transformed by the treatment.We can now hear the sound of the afterglow of the big bang, the radiation in the universe known as the cosmic microwave background. The team shares the eerie piece that has been transposed for human ears, named by researchers The Echo of Eternity.Artificial intelligence can now read our minds…under a very specific set of circumstances. The team looks at a mindblowing new study which feels very sci-fi.Pop legend and environmentalist Feargal Sharkey makes a cameo to highlight the campaign New Scientist is running in collaboration with the i newspaper, to draw attention to the shocking state of Britain’s rivers. Great apes like to twirl around like ballerinas. As the team finds out, it turns out it’s not just humans who like to spin around and make themselves dizzy, it’s fun for many other species of ape too.Bonnie Garmus, author of the bestselling novel Lessons In Chemistry, speaks to comment and culture editor Alison Flood about the success of her debut novel. She explains the inspiration behind her protagonist and why she made her a chemist. And she discusses fan-favourite character Six-Thirty the dog and the intelligence of animals.On the pod are Rowan Hooper, Penny Sarchet, Michael Le Page and Alison Flood. To read about these subjects and much more, you can subscribe to New Scientist magazine at and discount codes:NS JWST Event: