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#163 Antidepressants; Exoplanets; California’s megadroughts – the latest news in science

Season 1, Ep. 163

A vaccine for the respiratory virus RSV may be ready this year. In fact, after decades of efforts, successful vaccines have arrived like buses, with three of them on the way. As a particularly devastating virus for young children and the elderly, the team explains just how impactful these new vaccines will be.

You may have read headlines that Earth’s core is changing direction - but the team explains why it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. They also bring less-than-thrilling news for the existence of life in the universe, as we may have been overestimating how many planets are out there that have the right conditions for life.

Following intense rainfall, floods and disaster declarations, California finally has a dry forecast. But, the team asks, has all this water helped ease the State’s worst-in-a-century drought? And will we see more of these dramatic swings in weather as climate change worsens?

Science has shown what most people who take antidepressants already know - that they blunt both bad and good emotions. The team explores the implications of this new study.

You may be noticing a few bonus episodes popping up in your feed lately. The team shares a teaser of the latest ones, including a discussion about ‘tipping points’ with climate scientist Tim Lenton, and a chat with fungal pathogen expert Mat Fisher about the new fungal horror TV show The Last of Us.

On the pod are Rowan Hooper, Penny Sarchet, James Dinneen, Michael Le Page and Leah Crane. To read about these subjects and much more, you can subscribe to New Scientist magazine at newscientist.com.

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3/16/2023

#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 newscientist.com.Events and discount codes:NS JWST Event: newscientist.com/jwt