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Weekly: How declining birth rates could shake up society; Humanoid robots; Top prize in mathematics

Season 1, Ep. 242

#242

Human population growth is coming to an end. The global population is expected to peak between 2060 and 2080, then start falling. Many countries will have much lower birth rates than would be needed to support ageing populations. These demographic projections have major implications for the way our societies function, including immigration and transportation, and what kinds of policies and systems we need. 

Remember Rosie the Robot from The Jetsons? Humanoid robots capable of many different tasks may be one step closer after two big announcements from chip-making giant NVIDIA. The company revealed what it calls its most powerful AI chip yet, as well as a new computer for humanoid robots called Jetson Thor.

A group of California orcas known as transient killer whales have been observed using a never-before seen way of hunting down prey in the deep waters of the open ocean. Until now, their distance from the coast had kept this group’s hunting methods mysterious. It turns out these orcas have ingenious and brutal methods for hunting whale calves and other mammals. 

Two big maths stories this week. The Abel prize has gone to mathematician Michel Talagrand for his groundbreaking work in understanding randomness. His work has been integral in everything from weather forecasts to large language models and quantum computers. Plus, a group of mathematicians plans to direct a computer to prove the famously complex final theorem of the long-dead Pierre de Fermat – which could advance the field of mathematics research immensely if successful. 

Plus: Archaeologists uncover a perfectly preserved ancient settlement in Britain; bad news for life in the universe as one in twelve stars may be gobbling up their orbiting planets; why teenagers’ sweat is particularly smelly.

Hosts Christie Taylor and Timothy Revell discuss with guests Clare Wilson, Jeremy Hsu, Chen Ly and Alex Wilkins. To read more about these stories, visit newscientist.com.


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