Science Magazine Podcast
Weekly podcasts from Science Magazine, the world's leading journal of original scientific research, global news, and commentary.

Several thousand years ago the volcano under Santorini in Greece—known as Thera—erupted in a tremendous explosion, dusting the nearby Mediterranean civilizations of Crete and Egypt in a layer of white ash. This geological marker could be used to tie together many ancient historical events, but the estimated date could be off by a century. Contributing correspondent Lizzie Wade joins host Sarah Crespi to talk about a new study that used tree rings to calibrate radiocarbon readings—and get closer to pinning down a date. The findings also suggest that scientists may need to change their standard radiocarbon dating calibration curve.

 

Sarah also talks to Tony Belpaeme of Ghent University in Belgium and Plymouth University in the United Kingdom about his Science Robotics paper that explored whether people are susceptible to peer pressure from robots. Using a classic psychological measure of peer influence, the team found that kids from ages 7 to 9 occasionally gave in to social pressure from robot peers, but adults did not.

 

This week’s episode was edited by Podigy, with help from Meagan Cantwell.

 

Listen to previous podcasts.

 

About the Science Podcast

  

[Image: Softbank Robotics; Music: Jeffrey Cook]

 

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Authors: Sarah Crespi; Lizzie Wade, Meagan Cantwell

Direct download: SciencePodcast_180817.mp3
Category:Science -- posted at: 1:59pm EDT

We now live in the Meghalayan age—the last age of the Holocene epoch. Did you get the memo? A July 2018 decision by the International Commission on Stratigraphy, which is responsible for naming geological time periods, divided the Holocene into three ages: the Greenlandian, the Northgrippian, and the Meghalayan. The one we live in—the Meghalayan age (pronounced “mega-lion”)—is pegged to a global drought thought to have happened some 4200 years ago. But many critics question the timing of this latest age and the global expanse of the drought. Staff writer Paul Voosen talks with host Sarah Crespi about the evidence for and against the global drought—and what it means if it’s wrong.

 

Sarah also talks staff writer Kelly Servick about her feature story on what happens when biocontrol goes out of control. Here’s the setup: U.S. Department of Agriculture researchers wanted to know if brown marmorated stink bugs that have invaded the United States could be controlled—aka killed—by importing their natural predators, samurai wasps, from Asia. But before they could find out, the wasps showed up anyway. Kelly discusses how using one species to combat another can go wrong—or right—and what happens when the situation outruns regulators.

 

This week’s episode was edited by Podigy.

 

Listen to previous podcasts.

  

[Image: Stink bug/Flickr/Melissa McMasters; Music: Jeffrey Cook]

 

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Authors: Sarah Crespi; Paul Voosen; Kelly Servick

Direct download: SciencePodcast_180810.mp3
Category:Science -- posted at: 1:59pm EDT

Yes, humans are the only species with language, but how did we acquire it [linkTK]? New research suggests our linguistic prowess might arise from the same process that brought domesticated dogs big eyes and bonobos the power to read others’ intent. Online News Editor Catherine Matacic joins host Sarah Crespi to talk about how humans might have self-domesticated themselves, leading to physical and behavioral changes that gave us a “language-ready” brain.

 

Sarah also talks with Micah Edelson of the University of Zurich in Switzerland about his group’s research into the role that “responsibility aversion”—the reluctance to make decisions for a group—might play when people decide to lead or defer in a group setting. In their experiments, the team found that some people adjusted how much risk they would take on, depending on whether they were deciding for themselves alone or for the entire group. The ones who didn’t—those who stuck to the same plan whether others were involved or not—tended to score higher on standardized tests of leadership and have held higher military rank.

 

This week’s episode was edited by Podigy.

 

Listen to previous podcasts.

  

[Image: Scaly breasted munia/Ravi Vaidyanathan; Music: Jeffrey Cook]

 

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Authors: Sarah Crespi; Catherine Matacic

Direct download: SciencePodcast_180803.mp3
Category:Science -- posted at: 1:59pm EDT

Billions of years ago, Mars probably hosted many water features: streams, rivers, gullies, etc. But until recently, water detected on the Red Planet was either locked up in ice or flitting about as a gas in the atmosphere. Now, researchers analyzing radar data from the Mars Express mission have found evidence for an enormous salty lake under the southern polar ice cap of Mars. Daniel Clery joins host Sarah Crespi to discuss how the water was found and how it can still be liquid[linkTK]—despite temperatures and pressures typically inhospitable to water in its liquid form.

 

Read the research

 

Sarah also talks with science journalist Katherine Kornei about her story on changing athletic performance after gender transition[linkTK]. The feature profiles researcher Joanna Harper on the work she has done to understand the impacts of hormone replacement therapy and testosterone levels in transgender women involved in running and other sports. It turns out within a year of beginning hormone replacement therapy, transgender women plateau at their new performance level and stay in a similar rank with respect to the top performers in the sport. Her work has influenced sports oversight bodies like the International Olympic Committee.

 

In this month’s book segment, Jen Golbeck interviews Andrew Lawler about his book The Secret Token: Myth, Obsession, and the Search for the Lost Colony of Roanoke.

 

Next month’s book will be The Book of Why: The New Science of Cause and Effect by Judea Pearl and Dana Mackenzie. Write us at sciencepodcast@aaas.org or tweet to us @sciencemagazine with your questions for the authors.

 

This week’s episode was edited by Podigy.

 

Listen to previous podcasts.

  

[Image: Henry Howe; Music: Jeffrey Cook]

 

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Authors: Sarah Crespi; Daniel Clery; Katherine Kornei; Jen Golbeck; Andrew Lawler

Direct download: SciencePodcast_180727.mp3
Category:Science -- posted at: 1:59pm EDT

Suckling mothers milk is a pretty basic feature of being a mammal. Humans do it. Possums do it. But monotremes such as the platypus and echidna—while still mammals—gave up suckling long ago. Instead they lap at milky patches on their mothers’ skin to get early sustenance. Science News Writer Gretchen Vogel talks with host Sarah Crespi about the newest suckling science—it turns out monotremes probably had suckling ancestors, but gave it up for the ability to grind up tasty, hard-shelled river-dwelling creatures.  

 

Sarah also talks with North Carolina State University’s Sandra Yuter about her work on fast clearing clouds off the southwest coast of Africa. These immense marine layers appear to be exiting the coastal regions under the influence of gravity waves (not to be confused with gravitational waves). This finding can help scientists better model cloud behavior, particularly with respect to their influence on global temperatures.

 

This week’s episode was edited by Podigy.

 

Listen to previous podcasts.

  

[Image: North Carolina State University]

 

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Authors: Sarah Crespi; Gretchen Vogel

 

Direct download: SciencePodcast_180720.mp3
Category:Science -- posted at: 1:59pm EDT

A detection of a single neutrino at the 1-square-kilometer IceCube detector in Antarctica may signal the beginning of “neutrino astronomy.” The neutral, almost massless particle left its trail of debris in the ice last September, and its source was picked out of the sky by the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope soon thereafter. Science News Writer Daniel Clery joins host Sarah Crespi to discuss the blazar fingered as the source and how neutrinos from this gigantic matter-gobbling black hole could help astronomers learn more about mysterious high-energy cosmic rays that occasionally shriek toward Earth.

 

Read the research.

 

Sarah also talks with Cornell University’s Susan McCouch about her team’s work on deep-water rice. Rice can survive flooding by fast internodal growth—basically a quick growth spurt that raises its leaves above water. But this growth only occurs in prolonged, deep flooding. How do these plants know they are submerged and how much to grow? Sarah and Susan discuss the mechanisms involved and where they originated.

 

 

This week’s episode was edited by Podigy.

 

Listen to previous podcasts.

  

[Image: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Conceptual Image Lab; Music: Jeffrey Cook]

 

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Authors: Sarah Crespi; Daniel Clery

Direct download: SciencePodcast_180713.mp3
Category:Science -- posted at: 1:59pm EDT

Wild polio has been hunted to near extinction in a decades-old global eradication program. Now, a vaccine-derived outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is threatening to seriously extend the polio eradication endgame. Deputy News Editor Leslie Roberts joins host Sarah Crespi to talk about the tough choices experts face in the fight against this disease in the DRC.

 

Sarah also talks with Online News Editor David Grimm about when dogs first came to the Americas[linkTK]. New DNA and archeological evidence suggest these pups did not arise from North American wolves, but came over thousands of years after the first people did. Now that we know where they came from, the question is: Where did they go?

 

Read the research.

 

This week’s episode was edited by Podigy.

 

Listen to previous podcasts.

  

[Image: Polio virus/David Goodsell/RCSB PDB; Music: Jeffrey Cook]

 

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Authors: Sarah Crespi; David Grimm; Leslie Roberts

Direct download: SciencePodcast_180706.mp3
Category:Science -- posted at: 1:59pm EDT

Public opinion on the morality of animal research is on the downswing in the United States. But some researchers think letting the public know more about how animals are used in experiments might turn things around. Online News Editor David Grimm joins Sarah Crespi to talk about these efforts.

 

Sarah also talks Ken Wachter of the University of California, Berkeley about his group’s careful analysis of data from all living Italians born 105 or more years before the study. It turns out the risk of dying does not continue to accelerate with age, but actually plateaus around the age of 105. What does this mean for attempts to increase human lifespan?

 

In this month’s book segment, Jen Golbeck talks with Simon Winchester about his book The Perfectionists: How Precision Engineers Created the Modern World. Read more book reviews at our books blog, Books et al.

 

This week’s episode was edited by Podigy.

 

Listen to previous podcasts.

  

[Image: Chris Jones/Flickr; Music: Jeffrey Cook]

 

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Authors: Sarah Crespi; David Grimm; Jen Golbeck

Direct download: SciencePodcast_180629.mp3
Category:Science -- posted at: 1:59pm EDT

Since the 2016 reports of a mysterious assault on U.S. embassy staff in Cuba, researchers have struggled to find evidence of injury or weapon. Now, new research has discovered inner-ear damage in some of the personnel complaining of symptoms. Former International News Editor Rich Stone talks to host Sarah Crespi about the case, including new reports of a similar incident in China, and what kind of weapon—if any—might have been involved.

 

Sarah also talks with Staff Writer Gretchen Vogel about the bones of an extinct gibbon found in a 2200- to 2300-year-old tomb in China. Although gibbons were often featured in historical poetry and paintings, these bones confirm their presence and the fact that they were distinct from today’s species.  

 

Read the research.

 

This week’s episode was edited by Podigy.

 

Listen to previous podcasts.

  

[Image: Zhu Zhanji c. 1427;Music: Jeffrey Cook]

 

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Authors: Sarah Crespi; Gretchen Vogel; Rich Stone

Direct download: SciencePodcast_180622.mp3
Category:Science -- posted at: 1:59pm EDT

Nigeria, Russia, and Florida seem like an odd set, but they all have one thing in common: growing caseloads of HIV. Science Staff Writer Jon Cohen joins host Sarah Crespi to talk about this week’s big read on how the fight against HIV/AIDS is evolving in these diverse locations.

 

Sarah also talks with Armin Raznahan of the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, Maryland, about his group’s work measuring which parts of the human brain are bigger in bigger brains. Adult human brains can vary as much as 2 times in size—and until now this this expansion was thought to be evenly distributed. However, the team found that highly integrative regions are overrepresented in bigger brains, while regions related to processing incoming sensory information such as sight and sound tend to be underrepresented. 

 

This week’s episode was edited by Podigy.

 

Listen to previous podcasts.

  

[Image: Misha Friedman; Music: Jeffrey Cook]

 

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Authors: Sarah Crespi; Jon Cohen

Direct download: SciencePodcast_180615.mp3
Category:Science -- posted at: 1:59pm EDT