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The Nature Podcast brings you the best stories from the world of science each week. We cover everything from astronomy to zoology, highlighting the most exciting research from each issue of the Nature journal. We meet the scientists behind the results and provide in-depth analysis from Nature's journalists and editors. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.

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The Nature Podcast brings you the best stories from the world of science each week. We cover everything from astronomy to zoology, highlighting the most exciting research from each issue of the Nature journal. We meet the scientists behind the results and provide in-depth analysis from Nature's journalists and editors. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.

Language:

English


Episodes
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Fentanyl addiction: the brain pathways behind the opioid crisis

5/22/2024
00:45 The neuroscience of fentanyl addiction Research in mice has shown that fentanyl addiction is the result of two brain circuits working in tandem, rather than a single neural pathway as had been previously thought. One circuit underlies the positive feelings this powerful drug elicits, which the other was responsible for the intense withdrawal when it is taken away. Opioid addiction leads to tens of thousands of deaths each year, and the team hopes that this work will help in the development of drugs that are less addictive. Research Article: Chaudun et al. 09:16 Research Highlights How an ‘assembloid’ could transform how scientists study drug delivery to the brain, and an edible gel that prevents and treats alcohol intoxication in mice. Research Highlight: Organoids merge to model the blood–brain barrier Research Highlight: How cheesemaking could cook up an antidote for alcohol excess 11:36: Briefing Chat Why babies are taking the South Korean government to court, and Europe’s efforts to send a nuclear-powered heater to Mars. Nature News: Why babies in South Korea are suing the government Nature News: Mars rover mission will use pioneering nuclear power source Subscribe to Nature Briefing, an unmissable daily round-up of science news, opinion and analysis free in your inbox every weekday. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.

Duration:00:20:23

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Lizard-inspired building design could save lives

5/15/2024
In this episode: 00:45 A recyclable 3D printing resin from an unusual source Many 3D printers create objects using liquid resins that turn into robust solids when exposed to light. But many of these are derived from petrochemicals that are difficult to recycle. To overcome this a team has developed a new type of resin, which they’ve made using a bodybuilding supplement called lipoic acid. Their resin can be printed, recycled and reused multiple times, which they hope could in future contribute to reducing waste associated with 3D printing. Research Article: Machado et al 10:05 Research Highlights How housing shortages can drive a tiny parrot resort to kill, and the genes that gave cauliflower its curls. Research Highlight: These parrots go on killing sprees over real-estate shortages Research Highlight: How the cauliflower got its curlicues 12:27 To learn how to make safe structures researchers... destroyed a building Many buildings are designed to prevent collapse by redistributing weight following an initial failure. However this relies on extensive structural connectedness that can result in an entire building being pulled down. To prevent this, researchers took a new approach inspired by the ability of some lizards to shed their tails. They used this to develop a modular system, which they tested by building — and destroying — a two storey structure. Their method stopped an initial failure from spreading, preventing a total collapse. The team hope this finding will help prevent catastrophic collapses, reducing loss of life in aid rescue efforts. Research Article: Makoond et al. Nature video: Controlled failure: The building designed to limit catastrophe 23:20: Briefing Chat An AI algorithm discovers 27,500 new asteroids, and an exquisitely-accurate map of a human brain section reveals cells with previously undiscovered features. New York Times: Killer Asteroid Hunters Spot 27,500 Overlooked Space Rocks Nature News: Cubic millimetre of brain mapped in spectacular detail Subscribe to Nature Briefing, an unmissable daily round-up of science news, opinion and analysis free in your inbox every weekday. Subscribe to Nature Briefing: AI and robotics Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.

Duration:00:31:27

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Alphafold 3.0: the AI protein predictor gets an upgrade

5/8/2024
In this episode: 00:45 A nuclear timekeeper that could transform fundamental-physics research. Nuclear clocks — based on tiny shifts in energy in an atomic nucleus — could be even more accurate and stable than other advanced timekeeping systems, but have been difficult to make. Now, a team of researchers have made a breakthrough in the development of these clocks, identifying the correct frequency of laser light required to make this energy transition happen. Ultimately it’s hoped that physicists could use nuclear clocks to probe the fundamental forces that hold atoms together. News: Laser breakthrough paves the way for ultra precise ‘nuclear clock’ 10:34 Research Highlights Why life on other planets may come in purple, brown or orange, and a magnetic fluid that could change shape inside the body. Research Highlight: Never mind little green men: life on other planets might be purple Research Highlight: A magnetic liquid makes for an injectable sensor in living tissue 13:48 AlphaFold gets an upgrade Deepmind’s AlphaFold has revolutionised research by making it simple to predict the 3D structures of proteins, but it has lacked the ability to predict situations where a protein is bound to another molecule. Now, the AI has been upgraded to AlphaFold 3 and can accurately predict protein-molecule complexes containing DNA, RNA and more. Whilst the new version is restricted to non-commercial use, researchers are excited by its greater range of predictive abilities and the prospect of speedier drug discovery. News: Major AlphaFold upgrade offers huge boost for drug discovery Research Article: Abramson et al. Subscribe to Nature Briefing, an unmissable daily round-up of science news, opinion and analysis free in your inbox every weekday. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.

Duration:00:21:33

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Talking about sex and gender doesn't need to be toxic

5/2/2024
Ever since scientific enquiry began, people have focused mainly on men, or if studies involve animals, on male mice, male rats or whatever it may be. And this has led to gaps in scientists’ understanding of how diseases, and responses to treatment, and many other things might vary between people of different sexes and genders. These days, mainly thanks to big funders like the NIH introducing new guidelines and mandates, a lot more scientists are thinking about sex and, where appropriate, gender. And this has led to a whole host of discoveries. But all this research is going on within a sociopolitical climate that’s becoming increasingly hostile and polarized, particularly in relation to gender identity. And in some cases, science is being weaponized to push agendas, creating confusion and fear. It is clear that sex and gender exist beyond a simple binary. This is widely accepted by scientists and it is not something we will be debating in this podcast. But this whole area is full of complexity, and there are many discussions which need to be had around funding, inclusivity or research practices. To try to lessen fear, and encourage clearer, less divisive thinking, we have asked three contributors to a special series of opinion pieces on sex and gender to come together and thrash out how exactly scientists can fill in years of neglected research – and move forward with exploring the differences between individuals in a way that is responsible, inclusive and beneficial to as many people as possible. Read the full collection: Sex and gender in science Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.

Duration:00:58:39

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Dad's microbiome can affect offsprings' health — in mice

5/1/2024
In this episode: 00:46 Using genomics to explain geographic differences in cancer risk The risk of developing cancer can vary hugely depending on geographic region, but it’s not exactly clear why. To get a better idea, a team has compared the genomes of kidney cancers taken from people around the globe. They reveal a link between geographical locations and specific genetic mutations, suggesting that there are as-yet unknown environmental or chemical exposures in different locations. They hope this work will inform public health efforts to identify and reduce potential causes of cancer. Research Article: Senkin et al. News and Views: Genomics reveal unknown mutation-promoting agents at global sites 07:46 Research Highlights Research reveals that the extinct ‘sabre-toothed salmon’ actually had tusks, and a common fungus that can clean up both heavy-metal and organic pollutants. Research Highlight: This giant extinct salmon had tusks like a warthog Research Highlight: Garden-variety fungus is an expert at environmental clean-ups 09:55 How disrupting a male mouse’s microbiome affects its offspring Disruption of the gut microbiota has been linked to issues with multiple organs. Now a team show disruption can even affect offspring. Male mice given antibiotics targeting gut microbes showed changes to their testes and sperm, which lead to their offspring having a higher probability of severe growth issues and premature death. Although it’s unknown whether a similar effect would be seen in humans, it suggests that factors other than genetics play a role in intergenerational disease susceptibility. Research article: Argaw-Denboba et al. News and Views: Dad’s gut microbes matter for pregnancy health and baby’s growth 17:23 Briefing Chat An updated atlas of the Moon that was a decade in the making, and using AI to design new gene-editing systems. Nature News: China's Moon atlas is the most detailed ever made Nature News: ‘ChatGPT for CRISPR’ creates new gene-editing tools Subscribe to Nature Briefing, an unmissable daily round-up of science news, opinion and analysis free in your inbox every weekday. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.

Duration:00:25:14

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Audio long read: Why loneliness is bad for your health

4/26/2024
Many people around the world feel lonely. Chronic loneliness is known to have far-reaching health effects and has been linked to multiple conditions and even early death. But the mechanisms through which feeling alone can lead to poor health is a puzzle. Now, researchers are looking at neurons in the hopes that they may help explain why health issues arise when social needs go unmet. This is an audio version of our Feature Why loneliness is bad for your health Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.

Duration:00:14:58

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How gliding marsupials got their 'wings'

4/24/2024
In this episode: 00:46 Optical clocks at sea Optical atomic clocks are the most precise timekeeping devices on the planet, but these devices are huge and difficult to work with, limiting their use outside of the lab. Now, researchers have developed a portable optical clock and demonstrated its robustness by sending it on a perilous sea journey. The team hope that this work will pave the way to more practical uses of optical clocks, such as on satellites where they could help improve the accuracy of GPS technologies. Research Article: Roslund et al. News and Views: Robust optical clocks promise stable timing in a portable package 09:34 Research Highlights Evidence of ritual burning of the remains of a Maya royal family, and the first solid detection of an astrophysical tau-neutrino. Research Highlight: Burnt remains of Maya royalty mark a dramatic power shift Research Highlight: Detectors deep in South Pole ice pin down elusive tau neutrino 11:52 How marsupial gliding membranes evolved Several marsupial species have evolved a membrane called a patagium that allows them to glide gracefully from tree to tree. Experiments show that mutations in areas of DNA around the gene Emx2 were key to the evolution of this ability, which has appeared independently in multiple marsupial species. Research article: Moreno et al. News and Views: Marsupial genomes reveal how a skin membrane for gliding evolved 19:22 Briefing Chat How overtraining AIs can help them discover novel solutions, and researchers manage to make one-atom thick sheets of ‘goldene’. Quanta Magazine: How Do Machines ‘Grok’ Data? Nature news: Meet ‘goldene’: this gilded cousin of graphene is also one atom thick Subscribe to Nature Briefing, an unmissable daily round-up of science news, opinion and analysis free in your inbox every weekday. Subscribe to Nature Briefing: AI and robotics Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.

Duration:00:28:36

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Living on Mars would probably suck — here's why

4/19/2024
Humans setting up home in outer space has long been the preserve of science fiction. Now, thanks to advances in technology and the backing of billionaires, this dream could actually be realised. But is it more likely to be a nightmare? Kelly and Zach Weinersmith join us to discuss their new book A City on Mars and some of the medical, environmental and legal roadblocks that may prevent humanity from ultimately settling in space. A City on Mars: Can We Settle Space, Should We Settle Space, and Have We Really Thought This Through? Kelly and Zach Weinersmith Particular Books (2023) Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.

Duration:00:38:11

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Keys, wallet, phone: the neuroscience behind working memory

4/17/2024
In this episode: 00:46 Mysterious methane emission from a cool brown dwarf The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is revealing the makeup of brown dwarfs — strange space objects that blur the line between a planet and a star. And it appears that methane in the atmosphere of one of these objects, named W1935, is emitting infrared radiation. Where the energy comes from is a mystery however, researchers hypothesise that the glow could be caused by an aurora in the object’s atmosphere, perhaps driven by an as-yet unseen moon. Research Article: Faherty et al. 10:44 Research Highlights The discovery that bitter taste receptors may date back 450 million years, and the first planet outside the Solar System to boast a rainbow-like phenomenon called a ‘glory’. Research Highlight: Bitter taste receptors are even older than scientists thought Research Highlight: An exoplanet is wrapped in glory 13:07 How working memory works Working memory is a fundamental process that allows us to temporarily store important information, such as the name of a person we’ve just met. However distractions can easily interrupt this process, leading to these memories vanishing. By looking at the brain activity of people doing working-memory tasks, a team have now confirmed that working memory requires two brain regions: one to hold a memory as long as you focus on it; and another to control its maintenance by helping you to not get distracted. Research article: Daume et al. News and Views: Coupled neural activity controls working memory in humans 22:31 Briefing Chat The bleaching event hitting coral around the world, and the first evidence of a nitrogen-fixing eukaryote. New York Times: The Widest-Ever Global Coral Crisis Will Hit Within Weeks, Scientists Say Nature News: Scientists discover first algae that can fix nitrogen — thanks to a tiny cell structure Nature video: AI and robotics demystify the workings of a fly's wing Vote for us in the Webbys: https://go.nature.com/3TVYHmP Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.

Duration:00:34:10

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The 'ghost roads' driving tropical deforestation

4/10/2024
In this episode: 00:46 Mapping ‘ghost roads’ in tropical forests Across the world, huge numbers of illegal roads have been cut into forests. However, due to their illicit nature, the exact numbers of these roads and their impacts on ecosystems is poorly understood. To address this, researchers have undertaken a huge mapping exercise across the tropical Asia-Pacific region. Their findings reveal over a million kilometers of roads that don’t appear on official maps, and that their construction is a key driver for deforestation. Research Article: Engert et al. 10:44 Research Highlights How climate change fuelled a record-breaking hailstorm in Spain, and an unusual technique helps researchers detect a tiny starquake. Research Highlight: Baseball-sized hail in Spain began with a heatwave at sea Research Highlight: Smallest known starquakes are detected with a subtle shift of colour 13:02 Briefing Chat A clinical trial to test whether ‘mini livers’ can grow in a person’s lymph node, and the proteins that may determine left-handedness. Nature News: ‘Mini liver’ will grow in person’s own lymph node in bold new trial Nature News: Right- or left-handed? Protein in embryo cells might help decide Nature video: How would a starfish wear trousers? Science has an answer Vote for us in the Webbys: https://go.nature.com/3TVYHmP Subscribe to Nature Briefing, an unmissable daily round-up of science news, opinion and analysis free in your inbox every weekday. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.

Duration:00:23:01

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Audio long read: Why are so many young people getting cancer? What the data say

4/5/2024
Around the world, rates of cancers that typically affect older adults are increasing in those under 50 years old. Models based on global data predict that the number of early-onset cancer cases like these will increase by around 30% between 2019 and 2030. The most likely contributors — such as rising rates of obesity and early-cancer screening — do not fully account for the increase. To try and understand the reasons behind this trend, many researchers are searching for answers buried in studies that tracked the lives and health of children born half a century ago. This is an audio version of our Feature Why are so many young people getting cancer? What the data say Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.

Duration:00:16:29

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Pregnancy's effect on 'biological' age, polite birds, and the carbon cost of home-grown veg

4/3/2024
In this episode: 00:35 Pregnancy advances your ‘biological’ age — but giving birth turns it back Growing a baby leads to changes in the distribution of certain chemical markers on a pregnant person’s DNA, but new research suggests that after giving birth, these changes can revert to an earlier state. Nature News: Pregnancy advances your ‘biological’ age — but giving birth turns it back 08:07 Bird gestures to say 'after you' A Japanese tit (Parus minor) will flutter its wings to invite their mate to enter the nest first. Use of these sorts of gestures, more complex than simply pointing at an object of interest, were thought to be limited to great apes, suggesting that there are more non-vocal forms of communication to be found in the animal kingdom. Scientific American: Wild Birds Gesture ‘After You’ to Insist Their Mate Go First 13:34 The carbon cost of home-grown veg Research have estimated that the carbon footprint of home-grown food and community gardens is six-times greater than conventional, commercial farms. This finding surprised the authors — keen home-growers themselves — who emphasize that their findings can be used to help make urban efforts (which have worthwhile social benefits) more carbon-efficient. BBC Future: The complex climate truth about home-grown tomatoes 20:29 A look at next week's total eclipse On 8th April, a total eclipse of the Sun is due to trace a path across North America. We look at the experiments taking place and what scientists are hoping to learn. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.

Duration:00:24:32

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How climate change is affecting global timekeeping

3/27/2024
In this episode: 01:28 Inflammation’s role in memory How memories are stored is an ongoing question in neuroscience. Now researchers have found an inflammatory pathway that responds to DNA damage in neurons has a key role in the persistence of memories. How this pathway helps memories persist is unclear, but the researchers suggest that how the DNA damage is repaired may play a role. As inflammation in the brain is often associated with disease, the team were surprised by this finding, which they hope will help uncover ways to better preserve our memories, especially in the face of neurodegenerative disorders. Research Article: Jovasevic et al. News and Views: Innate immunity in neurons makes memories persist 08:40 Research Highlights The effect of wind turbines on property values, and how waste wood can be used to 3D print new wooden objects. Research Highlight: A view of wind turbines drives down home values — but only briefly Research Highlight: Squeeze, freeze, bake: how to make 3D-printed wood that mimics the real thing 11:14 How melting ice is affecting global timekeeping Due to variations in the speed of Earth’s rotation, the length of a day is rarely exactly 24 hours. By calculating the strength of the different factors affecting this, a researcher has shown that while Earth’s rotation is overall speeding up, this effect is being tempered by the melting of the polar ice caps. As global time kept by atomic clocks occasionally has to be altered to match Earth’s rotation, human-induced climate change may delay plans to add a negative leap-second to ensure the two align. Research article: Agnew News and Views: Melting ice solves leap-second problem — for now 20:04 Briefing Chat An AI for antibody development, and the plans for the upcoming Simons observatory. Nature News: ‘A landmark moment’: scientists use AI to design antibodies from scratch Nature News: ‘Best view ever’: observatory will map Big Bang’s afterglow in new detail Subscribe to Nature Briefing, an unmissable daily round-up of science news, opinion and analysis free in your inbox every weekday. Subscribe to Nature Briefing: AI and robotics Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.

Duration:00:26:49

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AI hears hidden X factor in zebra finch love songs

3/20/2024
This podcast has been corrected: in a previous version at 5:55 we stated that that the team's 200mm devices currently contain only a couple of magnetic tunnelling junctions, in fact they studied 500-1000 devices in this work. 00:48 How mysterious skyrmions could power next-generation computers Skyrmions are tiny whirlpools of magnetic spin that some researchers believe have useful properties that could unlock new kinds of computing. However getting skyrmions to perform useful computational tasks has been tricky. Now researchers have developed a method to create and manipulate skyrmions in a way that is compatible with existing computing technology, allowing them to read and write data at a fraction of the energy cost of conventional systems. The team think this shows that skyrmions could be a viable part of the next generation of computers. Research Article: Chen et al. News and Views: Magnetic whirlpools offer improved data storage 07:51 Research Highlights How robotically-enhanced, live jellyfish could make ocean monitoring cheap and easy, and how collective saliva tests could be a cost-effective way of testing for a serious infant infection. Research Highlight: These cyborg jellyfish could monitor the changing seas Research Highlight: Pooling babies’ saliva helps catch grave infection in newborns 10:01 AI identifies X factor hidden within zebra finch songs Male songbirds often develop elaborate songs to demonstrate their fitness, but many birds only learn a single song and stick with it their entire lives. How female birds judge the fitness between these males has been a long-standing puzzle. Now, using an AI-based system a team has analysed the songs of male zebra finches and shown that some songs have a hidden factor that is imperceptible to humans. Although it’s not clear exactly what this factor is, songs containing it were shown to be harder to learn and more attractive to females. The researchers hope that this AI-based method will allow them to better understand what makes some birdsong more attractive than others. Research article: Alam et al. News and Views: Birds convey complex signals in simple songs 20:04 Briefing Chat How H5N1 avian influenza is threatening penguins on Antarctica, and why farmed snake-meat could be a more environmentally-friendly way to produce protein for food. Nature News: Bird-flu threat disrupts Antarctic penguin studies Scientific American: Snake Steak Could Be a Climate-Friendly Source of Protein Subscribe to Nature Briefing, an unmissable daily round-up of science news, opinion and analysis free in your inbox every weekday. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.

Duration:00:29:44

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Killer whales have menopause. Now scientists think they know why

3/13/2024
In this episode: 00:45 Making a map of the human heart The human heart consists of multiple, specialised structures that all work together to enable the organ to beat for a lifetime. But exactly which cells are present in each part of the heart has been difficult to ascertain. Now, a team has combined molecular techniques to create an atlas of the developing human heart at an individual cell level. Their atlas provides insights into how cell communities communicate and form different structures. They hope that this knowledge will ultimately help in the treatment of congenital heart conditions, often caused by irregular development of the heart. Research article: Farah et al. Nature video: Building a heart atlas 08:37 Research Highlights Residue in ceramic vases suggests that ancient Mesoamerican peoples consumed tobacco as a liquid, and a wireless way to charge quantum batteries. Research Highlight: Buried vases hint that ancient Americans might have drunk tobacco Research Highlight: A better way to charge a quantum battery 11:11 The evolution of menopause in toothed whales Menopause is a rare phenomenon, only known to occur in a few mammalian species. Several of these species are toothed whales, such as killer whales, beluga whales and narwhals. But why menopause evolved multiple times in toothed whales has been a long-standing research question. To answer it, a team examined the life history of whales with and without menopause and how this affected the number of offspring and ‘grandoffpsring’. Their results suggest that menopause allows older females to help younger generations in their families and improve their chances of survival. Research Article: Ellis et al. News and Views: Whales make waves in the quest to discover why menopause evolved 18:03 Briefing Chat How the new generation of anti-obesity drugs could help people with HIV, and the study linking microplastics lodged in a key blood vessel with serious health issues. Nature News: Blockbuster obesity drug leads to better health in people with HIV Nature News: Landmark study links microplastics to serious health problems Subscribe to Nature Briefing, an unmissable daily round-up of science news, opinion and analysis free in your inbox every weekday. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.

Duration:00:27:15

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These tiny fish combine electric pulses to probe the environment

3/6/2024
In this episode: 00:48 Bumblebees can learn new tricks from each other One behaviour thought unique to humans is the ability to learn something from your predecessors that you couldn’t figure out on your own. However, researchers believe they have shown bumblebees are also capable of this ‘standing on the shoulders of giants’ approach to learning. Bees that were taught how to complete a puzzle too difficult to solve on their own, were able to share this knowledge with other bees, raising the possibility that this thought-to-be human trait could be widespread amongst animals. Research article: Bridges et al. News and Views: Bees and chimpanzees learn from others what they cannot learn alone 16:55 Research Highlights Why the Krakatau eruption made the skies green, and the dining habits of white dwarf stars. Research Highlight: Why sunsets were a weird colour after Krakatau blew its top Research Highlight: This dying star bears a jagged metal scar 19:28 The fish that collectively, electrically sense Many ocean-dwelling animals sense their environment using electric pulses, which can help them hunt and avoid predators. Now research shows that the tiny elephantnose fish can increase the range of this sense by combining its pulses with those of other elephantnose fish. This allows them to discriminate and determine the location of different objects at a much greater distance than a single fish is able to. This is the first time a collective electric sense has been seen in animals, which could provide an ‘early-warning system', allowing a group to avoid predators from a greater distance. Research Article: Pedraja and Sawtell 27:54 Briefing Chat The organoids made from cells derived from amniotic fluid, and the debate over the heaviest animal. Nature News: Organoids grown from amniotic fluid could shed light on rare diseases The New York Times: Researchers Dispute Claim That Ancient Whale Was Heaviest Animal Ever Subscribe to Nature Briefing, an unmissable daily round-up of science news, opinion and analysis free in your inbox every weekday. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.

Duration:00:36:43

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Could this one-time ‘epigenetic’ treatment control cholesterol?

2/28/2024
In this episode: 00:49 What caused the Universe to become fully transparent? Around 13 billion years ago, the Universe was filled with a dense ‘fog’ of neutral hydrogen that blocked certain wavelengths of light. This fog was lifted when the hydrogen was hit by radiation in a process known as reionisation, but the source of this radiation has been debated. Now, researchers have used the JWST to peer deep into the Universe’s past and found that charged particles pouring out from dwarf galaxies appear to be the the main driver for reionization. This finding could help researchers understand how some of the structures we now see in the Universe were formed. Research article: Atek et al. 08:46 Research Highlights Ancient inscriptions could be the earliest example of the language that became Basque, and how researchers etched a groove… onto soap film. Research Highlight: Ancient bronze hand’s inscription points to origins of Basque language Research Highlight: Laser pulses engrave an unlikely surface: soap films 11:05 Controlling cholesterol with epigenetics To combat high cholesterol, many people take statins, but because these drugs have to be taken every day researchers have been searching for alternatives. Controlling cholesterol by editing the epigenome has shown promise in lab-grown cells, but its efficacy in animals was unclear. Now, researchers have shown the approach can work in mice, and have used it to silence a gene linked to high cholesterol for a year. The mice show markedly lowered cholesterol, a result the team hope could pave the way for epigenetic therapeutics for humans. Research Article: Cappelluti et al. 18:52 The gene mutation explaining why humans don’t have tails Why don’t humans and other apes have a tail? It was assumed that a change must have happened in our genomes around 25 million years ago that resulted in the loss of this flexible appendage. Now researchers believe they have pinned down a good candidate for what caused this: an insertion into a particular gene known as TBXT. The team showed the key role this gene plays by engineering mice genomes to contain a similar change, leading to animals that were tail-less. This finding could help paint a picture of the important genetic mutations that led to the evolution of humans and other apes. Nature News: How humans lost their tails — and why the discovery took 2.5 years to publish Research Article: Xia et al. News and Views: A mobile DNA sequence could explain tail loss in humans and apes Subscribe to Nature Briefing, an unmissable daily round-up of science news, opinion and analysis free in your inbox every weekday. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.

Duration:00:26:23

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Audio long read: Chimpanzees are dying from our colds — these scientists are trying to save them

2/26/2024
The phenomenon of animals catching diseases from humans, called reverse zoonoses, has had a severe impact on great ape populations, often representing a bigger threat than habitat loss or poaching. However, while many scientists and conservationists agree that human diseases pose one of the greatest risks to great apes today there are a few efforts under way to use a research-based approach to mitigate this problem. This is an audio version of our Feature Chimpanzees are dying from our colds — these scientists are trying to save them Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.

Duration:00:24:39

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How whales sing without drowning, an anatomical mystery solved

2/23/2024
The deep haunting tones of the world's largest animals, baleen whales, are iconic - but how the songs are produced has long been a mystery. Whales evolved from land dwelling mammals which vocalize by passing air through a structure called the larynx - a structure which also helps keep food from entering the respiratory system. However toothed whales like dolphins do not use their larynx to make sound, instead they have evolved a specialized organ in their nose. Now a team of researchers have discovered the structure used by baleen whales - a modified version of the larynx. Whales like Humpbacks and Blue whales are able to create powerful vocalizations but their anatomy also limits the frequency of the sounds they can make and depth at which they can sing. This leaves them unable to escape anthropogenic noise pollution which occur in the same range. Article: Evolutionary novelties underlie sound production in baleen whales Subscribe to Nature Briefing, an unmissable daily round-up of science news, opinion and analysis free in your inbox every weekday. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.

Duration:00:14:28

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Why are we nice? Altruism's origins are put to the test

2/21/2024
In this episode: 00:45 Why are humans so helpful? Humans are notable for their cooperation and display far more altruistic behaviour than other animals, but exactly why this behaviour evolved has been a puzzle. But in a new paper, the two leading theories have been put the test with a model and a real-life experiment. They find that actually neither theory on its own leads to cooperation but a combination is required for humans to help one another. Research article: Efferson et al. News and Views: Why reciprocity is common in humans but rare in other animals 10:55 Research Highlights The discovery of an ancient stone wall hidden underwater, and the fun that apes have teasing one another. Research Highlight: Great ‘Stone Age’ wall discovered in Baltic Sea Research Highlight: What a tease! Great apes pull hair and poke each other for fun 13:14 The DVD makes a comeback Optical discs, like CDs and DVDs, are an attractive option for long-term data storage, but these discs are limited by their small capacity. Now though, a team has overcome a limitation of conventional disc writing to produce optical discs capable of storing petabits of data, significantly more than the largest available hard disk. The researchers behind the work think their new discs could one day replace the energy-hungry hard disks used in giant data centres, making long-term storage more sustainable. Research Article: Zhao et al. 20:10 Briefing Chat The famous fossil that turned out to be a fraud, and why researchers are making hybrid ‘meat-rice’. Ars Technica: It’s a fake: Mysterious 280 million-year-old fossil is mostly just black paint Nature News: Introducing meat–rice: grain with added muscles beefs up protein Subscribe to Nature Briefing, an unmissable daily round-up of science news, opinion and analysis free in your inbox every weekday. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.

Duration:00:30:41