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#117: US threat to women’s health; saving the world with bacteria; Darwinian feminism and primate gender; invasion of the earthworms

Season 1, Ep. 117

Women’s abortion rights are under threat in the US. Leaked documents suggest the Supreme Court is on the verge of overturning the landmark Roe v Wade decision that protects the right to abortion. The team discusses the dramatic impact this move could have on women’s health.


Eating microbes could save the world. The team examines a new study which found that substituting just a fifth of the meat in our diets with microbial proteins would more than halve global deforestation rates and related carbon emissions.


While we fight to protect the environment on Earth, a lot less is done to safeguard space. Professor of astronomy at the University of Edinburgh, Andy Lawrence, hopes that is about to change. He tells Rowan why space needs to be a protected ecosystem, subject to the same sort of regulations as the oceans and the atmosphere.


The earthworm invasion is upon us. Large parts of North America have been without earthworms for 12,000 years, but in the last 200 years they’ve begun their slow and undramatic takeover. The team discusses a new study which looks at the effect this is having on plant and aboveground arthropod communities.


And primatologist Frans de Waal joins the pod to discuss the under-studied topic of sexuality, gender and biological sex differences in our closest relatives, chimps and bonobos.


On the pod are Rowan Hooper, Penny Sarchet and Tiffany O’Callaghan. To read about these stories and much more, subscribe at newscientist.com/podcasts.


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More Episodes

6/23/2022

#124: Lopsided universe; solar activity affects heart health; hero rats trained for rescue missions

Season 1, Ep. 124
If you like things orderly, we have bad news for you - our universe is lopsided. Based on everything we know about gravity and the early universe, we’d expect galaxies to be distributed symmetrically - but they’re not. Something spooky’s going on, and the team searches for answers.The activity of the Sun may be affecting our heart health. Sometimes the weather on the Sun gets a little chaotic, and the team discusses new research that suggests these solar storms are messing with our heart rhythms, raising the risk of heart attacks.African pouched rats are being trained as heroes. Donning special little backpacks, they will use their keen sense of smell to go on search and rescue missions. The team explains why they’ve been chosen for the task.Last September El Salvador became the first country to make cryptocurrency legal tender. But with the value of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies plummeting, the team examines what the future holds.Covid-19 is proving resilient, and as new variants of omicron emerge, infection rates still remain high. As omicron is milder than its predecessors, the team asks whether we should still be worried about the disease, and they find out how it may continue to evolve.On the pod are Rowan Hooper, Penny Sarchet, Michael Le Page, Corryn Wetzel, Leah Crane, Jacob Aron and Alice Klein. To read about these stories and much more, subscribe at newscientist.com/podcasts.Events and discount codes:InsideTracker: insidetracker.com/NewScientistNew Scientist Live Event: newscientist.com/childhood20% Discount: newscientist.com/pod20
6/16/2022

#123: ‘Sentient’ claim for Google AI; spacecraft spots starquakes; the rise of the mammals; hot brains

Season 1, Ep. 123
How will we know when we’ve made a truly sentient artificial intelligence? Well, one Google engineer believes we’re already there. The team discusses the story of Google’s very clever AI called LaMDA, and ask another chatbot, GPT3, what it would think if LaMDA was destroyed.Did you know stars have ‘earthquakes’ too? These starquakes have been spotted by the Gaia space observatory, which aims to build a 3D map of all the stars in our galaxy. It’s been collecting a phenomenal amount of data, and the team explores its findings.Net Zero pledges are becoming more popular - which is great - but a lot of them aren’t being acted on. According to a new consortium Net Zero Tracker, a worrying number of these pledges aren’t credible. The team finds out how the group aims to hold companies to account.Our brains are hotter than we realised - 2.5 degrees celsius hotter in fact. The team asks why we’re only just finding this out in 2022, and how the discovery may improve care for people undergoing brain surgery.Steve Brusatte is best known as a dinosaur palaeontologist, but he has turned his attention now to our own class, the mammals. Rowan chats with him, and amongst other things finds out how enslaved Africans in South Carolina were instrumental in the development of palaeontology.On the pod are Rowan Hooper, Penny Sarchet, Clare Wilson,Matt Sparkes and James Dinneen. To read about these stories and much more, subscribe at newscientist.com/podcasts.Events and discount codes:InsideTracker: insidetracker.com/NewScientistFree giveaway: newscientist.com/4weeksfree20% Discount: newscientist.com/pod20
6/9/2022

#122: The science of Top Gun; the 1.5°C climate goal is out of reach; return to the moon; hepatitis mystery

Season 1, Ep. 122
While it may be technically possible to keep global heating to 1.5°C it’s really not very likely - at all. So why are we clinging to it? The team asks, when do we admit that 1.5°C is dead, and what will it mean when we do?NASA is about to launch its CAPSTONE spacecraft into lunar orbit, paving the way for its lunar space station. As a precursor to the Artemis mission to put people back on the moon, CAPSTONE is basically a test run, and the team explains its goals.Rowan’s been to see Top Gun: Maverick, and he’s found a way of making it about science - or technology, at least. In the film we see many new applications of technology and artificial intelligence in warfare, so we chat with AI and drone expert Arthur Holland Michel to discuss the future of combat and what Top Gun 3 might look like in another thirty years.The team brings you an incredibly exotic life form of the week… chickens! It turns out that chickens were domesticated a lot more recently than we thought. Hear some of the humorous archaeological blunders that have led to this confusion.In recent months doctors around the world have been reporting mysterious cases of children suddenly developing liver failure. While we don’t know what’s happening, the team explores some possible explanations.On the pod are Rowan Hooper, Penny Sarchet, Michael Le Page and Adam Vaughan. To read about these stories and much more, subscribe at newscientist.com/podcasts.Events and discount codes:Free giveaway: newscientist.com/4weeksfree20% Discount: newscientist.com/pod20Blue Dot Festival: discoverthebluedot.comUnderstanding the AI revolution: newscientist.com/aievent