New Scientist Weekly


#165 Water dowsing to detect leaks; Astroforge going asteroid mining; AI discovers new bacteria-killing proteins – the latest news in science

Season 1, Ep. 165

An ancient and debunked method of searching for water leaks is still being used by some of the UK’s water companies. The team finds out why water dowsing is still in practice, despite being scientifically discredited. But they also find out how it might actually work - just not in the way you think.

People have sometimes complained that the chimps in the various Planet of the Apes films have unrealistic eyes - because they have whites around the iris, like humans. But it turns out real chimps actually do have whites too. We thought this white sclera was only a human thing - but as Rowan finds out, we were wrong.

An artificial intelligence called ProGen has designed bacteria-killing synthetic proteins, some of which actually work when inserted into cells. The team suggests this is a “short-cut to evolution” and is very promising for the development of new antibiotics.

Asteroid mining tech is being tested in space in April by satellite construction company AstroForge. Rowan speaks with their co-founder to hear what they’re hoping to achieve, and discusses the company’s second mission planned for later this year, when they’ll be doing a flyby of a near-Earth asteroid to look for platinum.

If you look up at the sky you may just see a rare green comet flying by. Comet C/2022 only heads this way every 50,000 years, so the team explains how you can seize the opportunity to see it for yourself.

On the pod are Rowan Hooper, Penny Sarchet, Matt Sparkes, Abby Beal and Karmela Padavic-Callaghan. 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: