Science Weekly podcast

Science Weekly

Twice a week, the Guardian brings you the latest science and environment news

Twice a week, the Guardian brings you the latest science and environment news

 

#300

AI, algorithms and apps: can dating be boiled down to a science?

Last week the founder of the dating app Bumble forecasted a near future dating landscape where AI ‘dating concierges’ filter out prospective partners for us. But does AI, or even science, really understand what makes two people compatible? Madeleine Finlay speaks to Amie Gordon, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Michigan, to find out what we know about why two people go the distance, and why she’s designing her own dating app to learn more.. Help support our independent journalism at [theguardian.com/sciencepod] (https://www.theguardian.com/sciencepod) ... Read more

16 May 2024

16 MINS

16:46

16 May 2024


#299

Backstabbing, bluffing and playing dead: has AI learned to deceive?

As AI systems have grown in sophistication, so has their capacity for deception, according to a new analysis from researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Dr Peter Park, an AI existential safety researcher at MIT and author of the research, tells Ian Sample about the different examples of deception he uncovered, and why they will be so difficult to tackle as long as AI remains a black box. Help support our independent journalism at [theguardian.com/sciencepod] (https://www.theguardian.com/sciencepod) ... Read more

14 May 2024

15 MINS

15:29

14 May 2024


#298

How much protein is too much?

Sales of cottage cheese are booming thanks to a boost from protein-hungry social media influencers. But do we really need all this extra protein? Madeleine Finlay speaks to Joanne Slavin, a professor of food science and nutrition at the University of Minnesota, to find out what exactly protein is doing in our bodies, and what happens to it when we consume it in excess. Help support our independent journalism at [theguardian.com/sciencepod] (https://www.theguardian.com/sciencepod) ... Read more

09 May 2024

15 MINS

15:17

09 May 2024


#297

Why are the world’s cities sinking?

A study has found that more than two dozen US coastal cities are sinking by more than 2mm a year. It’s a similar picture across the world. Nearly half of China’s major cities, as well as places such as Tehran and Jakarta, are facing similar problems. These issues are compounded by sea level rises caused by global heating. Madeleine Finlay speaks to Prof Manoochehr Shirzaei of Virginia Tech University and Prof Robert Nicholls of the University of East Anglia to find out what’s making our cities sink and whether anything can be done to rescue them from the sea. Help support our independent journalism at [theguardian.com/sciencepod] (https://www.theguardian.com/sciencepod) ... Read more

07 May 2024

16 MINS

16:19

07 May 2024


#296

The extraordinary promise of personalised cancer vaccines

Glioblastomas are an extremely aggressive type of brain tumour, which is why the news this week of a vaccine that has shown promise in fighting them is so exciting. And this comes right off the back of the announcement of another trial of the world’s first personalised mRNA vaccine for melanoma, a kind of skin cancer. Ian Sample talks to Prof Alan Melcher of the Institute of Cancer Research about how these vaccines work and whether they could one day be used to target cancer before it is even detectable on scans. Help support our independent journalism at [theguardian.com/sciencepod] (https://www.theguardian.com/sciencepod) ... Read more

02 May 2024

13 MINS

13:15

02 May 2024


#295

The stream of plastic pollution: could a global treaty help us turn off the tap?

Guardian Seascapes reporter Karen McVeigh tells Madeleine Finlay about a recent trip to the Galápagos Islands, where mounds of plastic waste are washing up and causing problems for endemic species. Tackling this kind of waste and the overproduction of plastic were the topics on the table in Ottawa this week, as countries met to negotiate a global plastics treaty. But is progress too slow to address this pervasive problem?. Help support our independent journalism at [theguardian.com/sciencepod] (https://www.theguardian.com/sciencepod) ... Read more

30 Apr 2024

15 MINS

15:56

30 Apr 2024


#294

From birds, to cattle, to … us? Could bird flu be the next pandemic?

As bird flu is confirmed in 33 cattle herds across eight US states, Ian Sample talks to virologist Dr Ed Hutchinson of Glasgow University about why this development has taken scientists by surprise, and how prepared we are for the possibility it might start spreading among humans. Help support our independent journalism at [theguardian.com/sciencepod] (https://www.theguardian.com/sciencepod) ... Read more

25 Apr 2024

15 MINS

15:05

25 Apr 2024


#293

Hardwired to eat: what can our dogs teach us about obesity?

Labradors are known for being greedy dogs, and now scientists have come up with a theory about the genetic factors that might be behind their behaviour. Science correspondent and flat-coated retriever owner Nicola Davis visits Cambridge University to meet Dr Eleanor Raffan and Prof Giles Yeo to find out how understanding this pathway could help us treat the obesity crisis in humans. Help support our independent journalism at [theguardian.com/sciencepod] (https://www.theguardian.com/sciencepod) ... Read more

23 Apr 2024

20 MINS

20:05

23 Apr 2024


#292

Who really wins if the Enhanced Games go ahead?

Billed as a rival to the Olympic Games, the Enhanced Games, set to take place in 2025, is a sporting event with a difference; athletes will be allowed to dope. Ian Sample talks to chief sports writer Barney Ronay about where the idea came from and how it’s being sold as an anti-establishment underdog, and to Dr Peter Angell about what these usually banned substances are, and what they could do to athletes’ bodies. Help support our independent journalism at [theguardian.com/sciencepod] (https://www.theguardian.com/sciencepod) ... Read more

18 Apr 2024

16 MINS

16:41

18 Apr 2024


#291

Soundscape ecology: a window into a disappearing world

What can sound tell us about nature loss? Guardian biodiversity reporter Phoebe Weston tells Madeleine Finlay about her visit to Monks Wood in Cambridgeshire, where ecologist Richard Broughton has witnessed the decline of the marsh tit population over 22 years, and has heard the impact on the wood’s soundscape. As species lose their habitats across the world, pioneering soundscape ecologist Bernie Krause has argued that if we listen closely, nature can tell us everything we need to know about our impact on the planet. Help support our independent journalism at [theguardian.com/sciencepod] (https://www.theguardian.com/sciencepod) ... Read more

16 Apr 2024

16 MINS

16:16

16 Apr 2024


#290

The senior Swiss women who went to court over climate change, and won

This week, in a landmark case, the European court of human rights ruled that Switzerland’s weak climate policy had violated the rights of a group of older Swiss women to family life. Ian Sample talks to Europe environment correspondent Ajit Niranjan about why the women brought the case and what the ruling could mean for future climate policy.. Help support our independent journalism at [theguardian.com/sciencepod] (https://www.theguardian.com/sciencepod) ... Read more

11 Apr 2024

15 MINS

15:30

11 Apr 2024


#289

Remembering physicist Peter Higgs

The Nobel prize-winning British physicist Peter Higgs has died aged 94. The confirmation in 2012 of the existence of the Higgs boson particle, five decades after Higgs had first theorised its existence, paved the way for his 2013 Nobel win. Nicknamed ‘the god particle’, the Higgs boson was part of an attempt to explain why the building blocks of the universe have mass. Ian Sample and Madeleine Finlay look back on the life and legacy of a giant of science. Help support our independent journalism at [theguardian.com/sciencepod] (https://www.theguardian.com/sciencepod) ... Read more

10 Apr 2024

17 MINS

17:05

10 Apr 2024


#288

Horny tortoises and solar mysteries: what scientists can learn from a total eclipse

For most people seeing a total solar eclipse is a once in a lifetime experience. But for scientists it can be a fleeting chance to understand something deeper about their field of research. Madeleine Finlay meets solar scientist prof Huw Morgan, of Aberystwyth University, and Adam Hartstone-Rose, professor of biological sciences at NC State University, to find out what they hoped to learn from 8 April’s four minutes of darkness.. Help support our independent journalism at [theguardian.com/sciencepod] (https://www.theguardian.com/sciencepod) ... Read more

09 Apr 2024

17 MINS

17:17

09 Apr 2024


#287

The science of ‘weird shit’: why we believe in fate, ghosts and conspiracy theories

Psychologist Chris French has spent decades studying paranormal claims and mysterious experiences, from seemingly-impossible coincidences to paintings that purportedly predict the future. Ian Sample sits down with French to explore why so many of us end up believing in, what he terms, ‘weird shit’, and what we can learn from understanding why we’re drawn to mysterious and mystic phenomena. Help support our independent journalism at [theguardian.com/sciencepod] (https://www.theguardian.com/sciencepod) ... Read more

04 Apr 2024

18 MINS

18:33

04 Apr 2024


#286

Hypermobility: a blessing or a curse?

Being more flexible than the average person can have its advantages, from being great at games such as Limbo to feeling smug in yoga class. But researchers are coming to understand that being hypermobile can also be linked to pain in later life, anxiety, and even long Covid. Madeleine Finlay hears from the science correspondent Linda Geddes about her experience of hypermobility, and finds out what might be behind its link to mental and physical health. Help support our independent journalism at [theguardian.com/sciencepod] (https://www.theguardian.com/sciencepod) ... Read more

02 Apr 2024

15 MINS

15:01

02 Apr 2024


#285

The virus that infects almost everyone, and its link to cancer and MS

On 28 March it’s the 60th anniversary of the discovery of Epstein-Barr virus, the most common viral infection in humans. The virus was first discovered in association with a rare type of cancer located in Africa, but is now understood to be implicated in 1% of cancers, as well as the autoimmune disease multiple sclerosis, among others. Ian Sample meets Lawrence Young, professor of molecular oncology at Warwick Medical School, to hear the story of this virus, and how understanding it might help us prevent and treat cancer and other illnesses.. Help support our independent journalism at [theguardian.com/sciencepod] (https://www.theguardian.com/sciencepod) ... Read more

28 Mar 2024

15 MINS

15:35

28 Mar 2024


#284

What could a severe solar storm do to Earth, and are we prepared?

The sun is currently ramping up to hit the peak of its 11-year activity cycle. In the past few days, powerful solar eruptions have sent a stream of particles towards Earth which are set to produce spectacular auroras in both hemispheres. But these kinds of geomagnetic storms can also have less appealing consequences. Madeleine Finlay speaks to Dr Lisa Upton, a solar scientist at the Southwest Research Institute, about how the mysterious inner workings of the sun create space weather, how solar events can significantly disrupt Earth’s infrastructure, and whether we are prepared for the worst-case scenario. Help support our independent journalism at [theguardian.com/sciencepod] (https://www.theguardian.com/sciencepod) ... Read more

26 Mar 2024

14 MINS

14:38

26 Mar 2024


#283

Havana syndrome: will we ever understand what happened?

In late 2016, US officials in Cuba’s capital began experiencing a mysterious and often debilitating set of symptoms that came to be known as Havana syndrome. As two new studies into the condition are published, Ian Sample speaks to the Guardian’s world affairs editor, Julian Borger, who has been following the story, and to the consultant neurologist Prof Jon Stone, about what could be behind the condition. Help support our independent journalism at [theguardian.com/sciencepod] (https://www.theguardian.com/sciencepod) ... Read more

21 Mar 2024

16 MINS

16:12

21 Mar 2024


#282

Should forests have rights?

A growing movement of ecologists, lawyers and artists is arguing that nature should have legal rights. By recognising the rights of ecosystems and other species, advocates hope that they can gain better protection. Madeleine Finlay speaks to the Guardian’s global environment editor, Jonathan Watts, about where this movement has come from and why the UK government has dismissed the concept, and hears from Cesar Rodriguez-Garavito of NYU School of Law about how he is finding creative ways to give rights to nature. Help support our independent journalism at [theguardian.com/sciencepod] (https://www.theguardian.com/sciencepod) ... Read more

19 Mar 2024

16 MINS

16:37

19 Mar 2024


#281

A waterworld with a boiling ocean and the end of dark matter? The week in science

Ian Sample and science correspondent Hannah Devlin discuss some of the science stories that have made headlines this week, from a new theory challenging the existence of dark matter to an alarming study about the possible impact of microplastics on our health and a glimpse of a ‘waterworld with a boiling ocean’ deep in space. Help support our independent journalism at [theguardian.com/sciencepod] (https://www.theguardian.com/sciencepod) ... Read more

14 Mar 2024

19 MINS

19:09

14 Mar 2024