New Scientist Weekly


#153: Fusion breakthrough; COP15 report; Shakespeare and climate change

Season 1, Ep. 153

There’s been an exciting breakthrough in nuclear fusion. For the first time on Earth, a controlled fusion reaction has generated more power than it requires to run, bringing us closer than ever before to a viable way of producing clean energy for the world. So, what’s the catch? The team finds out.

The New Scientist team reports from a worryingly quiet COP15. It’s hoped the biodiversity conference will be an opportunity to set ambitious global goals for nature, to reach the goal of restoring it by 2030. But with a distinct lack of world leaders in attendance, can this vital conference deliver?

We now know how to spot alien spacecraft whizzing through space at warp speed…assuming some advanced civilisation has figured out how to stretch the fabric of spacetime of course. The team finds out about this new research which involves LIGO and gravitational waves.

Shakespeare lived through an intense period of deforestation and climate change, and he referenced a lot of this in his work. Think back to Titania’s speech in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” about the changing seasons, and when Gloucester in Henry IV part 2 says “the seasons have changed their manners”. Shakespeare even described the energy transition from wood to coal as a fuel source. Rowan chats with Shakespearean scholar Randall Martin from the University of New Brunswick in Canada, and auditions for the part of Queen of the Fairies.

Acclaimed science fiction author Adrian Tchaikovsky discusses his latest book, Children of Memory, the story of a fragile human colony on a far flung outpost – and some corvids, which may or may not be sentient. 

On the pod are Rowan Hooper, Penny Sarchet, Matt Sparkes, Madeleine Cuff, James Dinneen and Alison Flood. 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: