Nature Podcast

Springer Nature Limited

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.

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Lizard-inspired building design could save lives
15-05-2024
Lizard-inspired building design could save lives
In this episode:00:45 A recyclable 3D printing resin from an unusual sourceMany 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 al10:05 Research HighlightsHow 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 shortagesResearch Highlight: How the cauliflower got its curlicues12:27 To learn how to make safe structures researchers... destroyed a buildingMany 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 catastrophe23:20: Briefing ChatAn 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 RocksNature News: Cubic millimetre of brain mapped in spectacular detailSubscribe 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.
Alphafold 3.0: the AI protein predictor gets an upgrade
08-05-2024
Alphafold 3.0: the AI protein predictor gets an upgrade
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 HighlightsWhy 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 purpleResearch Highlight: A magnetic liquid makes for an injectable sensor in living tissue13:48 AlphaFold gets an upgradeDeepmind’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 discoveryResearch 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.
Talking about sex and gender doesn't need to be toxic
02-05-2024
Talking about sex and gender doesn't need to be toxic
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.
Dad's microbiome can affect offsprings' health — in mice
01-05-2024
Dad's microbiome can affect offsprings' health — in mice
In this episode:00:46 Using genomics to explain geographic differences in cancer riskThe 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 sites07:46 Research HighlightsResearch 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 warthogResearch Highlight: Garden-variety fungus is an expert at environmental clean-ups09:55 How disrupting a male mouse’s microbiome affects its offspringDisruption 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 growth17:23 Briefing ChatAn 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 madeNature News: ‘ChatGPT for CRISPR’ creates new gene-editing toolsSubscribe 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.
How gliding marsupials got their 'wings'
24-04-2024
How gliding marsupials got their 'wings'
In this episode:00:46 Optical clocks at seaOptical 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 package09:34 Research HighlightsEvidence 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 shiftResearch Highlight: Detectors deep in South Pole ice pin down elusive tau neutrino11:52 How marsupial gliding membranes evolvedSeveral 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 evolved19:22 Briefing ChatHow 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 thickSubscribe 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.
Keys, wallet, phone: the neuroscience behind working memory
17-04-2024
Keys, wallet, phone: the neuroscience behind working memory
In this episode:00:46 Mysterious methane emission from a cool brown dwarfThe 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 HighlightsThe 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 thoughtResearch Highlight: An exoplanet is wrapped in glory13:07 How working memory worksWorking 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 humans22:31 Briefing ChatThe 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 SayNature News: Scientists discover first algae that can fix nitrogen — thanks to a tiny cell structureNature video: AI and robotics demystify the workings of a fly's wingVote for us in the Webbys: https://go.nature.com/3TVYHmP Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
The 'ghost roads' driving tropical deforestation
10-04-2024
The 'ghost roads' driving tropical deforestation
In this episode:00:46 Mapping ‘ghost roads’ in tropical forestsAcross 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 HighlightsHow 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 seaResearch Highlight: Smallest known starquakes are detected with a subtle shift of colour13:02 Briefing ChatA 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 trialNature News: Right- or left-handed? Protein in embryo cells might help decideNature video: How would a starfish wear trousers? Science has an answerVote for us in the Webbys: https://go.nature.com/3TVYHmPSubscribe 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.
Pregnancy's effect on 'biological' age, polite birds, and the carbon cost of home-grown veg
03-04-2024
Pregnancy's effect on 'biological' age, polite birds, and the carbon cost of home-grown veg
In this episode:00:35 Pregnancy advances your ‘biological’ age — but giving birth turns it backGrowing 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 back08:07 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 First13:34 The carbon cost of home-grown vegResearch 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 tomatoes20:29 A look at next week's total eclipseOn 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.
How climate change is affecting global timekeeping
27-03-2024
How climate change is affecting global timekeeping
In this episode:01:28 Inflammation’s role in memoryHow 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 persist08:40 Research HighlightsThe 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 brieflyResearch Highlight: Squeeze, freeze, bake: how to make 3D-printed wood that mimics the real thing11:14 How melting ice is affecting global timekeepingDue 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: AgnewNews and Views: Melting ice solves leap-second problem — for now20:04 Briefing ChatAn AI for antibody development, and the plans for the upcoming Simons observatory.Nature News: ‘A landmark moment’: scientists use AI to design antibodies from scratchNature News: ‘Best view ever’: observatory will map Big Bang’s afterglow in new detailSubscribe 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.
AI hears hidden X factor in zebra finch love songs
20-03-2024
AI hears hidden X factor in zebra finch love songs
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 computersSkyrmions 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 storage07:51 Research HighlightsHow 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 seasResearch Highlight: Pooling babies’ saliva helps catch grave infection in newborns10:01 AI identifies X factor hidden within zebra finch songsMale 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 songs20:04 Briefing ChatHow 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 studiesScientific American: Snake Steak Could Be a Climate-Friendly Source of ProteinSubscribe 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.
Killer whales have menopause. Now scientists think they know why
13-03-2024
Killer whales have menopause. Now scientists think they know why
In this episode:00:45 Making a map of the human heartThe 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 atlas08:37 Research HighlightsResidue 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 tobaccoResearch Highlight: A better way to charge a quantum battery11:11 The evolution of menopause in toothed whalesMenopause 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 evolved18:03 Briefing ChatHow 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 HIVNature News: Landmark study links microplastics to serious health problemsSubscribe 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.
These tiny fish combine electric pulses to probe the environment
06-03-2024
These tiny fish combine electric pulses to probe the environment
In this episode:00:48 Bumblebees can learn new tricks from each otherOne 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 alone16:55 Research HighlightsWhy 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 topResearch Highlight: This dying star bears a jagged metal scar19:28 The fish that collectively, electrically senseMany 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 Sawtell27:54 Briefing ChatThe 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 diseasesThe New York Times: Researchers Dispute Claim That Ancient Whale Was Heaviest Animal EverSubscribe 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.
Could this one-time ‘epigenetic’ treatment control cholesterol?
28-02-2024
Could this one-time ‘epigenetic’ treatment control cholesterol?
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 HighlightsAncient 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 languageResearch Highlight: Laser pulses engrave an unlikely surface: soap films11:05 Controlling cholesterol with epigeneticsTo 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 tailsWhy 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 publishResearch Article: Xia et al.News and Views: A mobile DNA sequence could explain tail loss in humans and apesSubscribe 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.