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Weekly: Saving the trees we already have; why US men are dying younger; soap bubble lasers (pew pew pew)

Season 1, Ep. 224

#224

Tree planting has become an incredibly popular way of attempting to store carbon dioxide and slow global warming. But new research estimates we may be able to store huge amounts of carbon dioxide without planting any new trees at all. All we have to do is protect the ones we already have. The world’s existing forests could store up to 228 billion tonnes of carbon, but is protecting them an achievable goal?

Life expectancy for everyone in the US is on the decline, but especially for men, with the “death gap” between men and women increasing dramatically in recent years. Why are men now dying nearly six years before women on average? Covid-19, opioid use, suicide and firearms are all influencing the worrisome trend.

Bonobos are the peacekeepers of the primate world. While their close cousins, chimpanzees, prefer to fight with rival groups to resolve conflict, bonobos prefer to have sex – and they generally get along with members of other groups. Why some bonobos are friendlier than others, and what that might tell us about human aggression and cooperation.

Physicists have created tiny lasers from soap bubbles. This whimsical sounding technological feat is surprisingly simple to recreate. With a few ingredients, you too could create a bubble laser at home. Useful for detecting electric fields and pressure changes, this could become a much more affordable way of producing sensors in the future.

Plus: How 20 per cent of people who take Paxlovid, a covid-19 drug that reduces the risk of severe illness, rebound and get the virus again a few days after they stop taking it; how to seed new life on a planet by “catching” a comet; and how one artificial intelligence model has learned how to beat us at both chess and poker, and what this might say about creating more “generally” intelligent AIs.

Hosts Timothy Revell and Christie Taylor discuss all of this with guests James Dinneen, Corryn Wetzel, Sam Wong and Karmela Padavic-Callaghan. To read more about these stories, visit newscientist.com.

Need a listening ear? UK Samaritans: 116123; US 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline: 988; hotlines in other countries.

Event: Separating the science from the hype with the latest research on cannabis.

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