New Scientist Weekly
#164 The Last of Us: the science of a fungal zombie apocalypse
Season 1, Ep. 164
The new HBO series The Last of Us is making waves, raking in a steady stream of high reviews. Based on a game of the same name, it’s set in a world where a parasitic fungus called Cordyceps has mutated to infect and zombify humans.
In this bonus episode of the podcast, Bethan Ackerley asks if this could actually happen in real life. She’s joined by fungal pathogens expert Professor Matthew Fisher of Imperial College London.
To read about these subjects, Beth’s review of The Last of Us, and much more, you can subscribe to New Scientist magazine at newscientist.com.
#177 Field report from the High Arctic: polar bears and melting glaciers in Svalbard
Season 1, Ep. 177
In this bonus episode, join host Rowan Hooper as he ventures to Svalbard, the Norwegian archipelago in the far north, just 1000 km from the North Pole. The Arctic is warming far faster than any other region on the planet, making Svalbard an incredible natural laboratory to study climate change, and particularly, melting glaciers. Svalbard is also home to a large population of the world’s largest land carnivore, the polar bear. Rowan speaks with Jon Aars of the Norwegian Polar Institute about the fate of this spectacular predator. To read about subjects like this and much more, you can subscribe to New Scientist magazine at newscientist.com.
#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
#175 Living Off-Earth: Ethical questions for living in outer space with Erika Nesvold
Season 1, Ep. 175
Whether it’s on the Moon, Mars or somewhere even more distant, we may see human settlements in space in our lifetime. But when we do, will we be prepared?Alongside all the concerns of whether we should even be considering moving out to space, there are a lot of ethical considerations that need to be thought about too. How do you govern the new societies you’re forging? How do you hold the leaders accountable? How do we learn from and avoid the mistakes we’ve made on Earth? In this bonus episode of the podcast, Leah Crane speaks to astrophysicist Erika Nesvold, who tackles these issues in her new book Off-Earth: Ethical Questions and Quandaries for Living in Outer Space.To read about subjects like this and much more, you can subscribe to New Scientist magazine at newscientist.com.