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

Science has often treated Indigenous people as resources for research—especially when it comes to genomics. Now, Indigenous people are exploring how this type of study can be conducted in a way that respects their people and traditions. Meagan Cantwell talks with contributing correspondent Lizzie Wade about a summer workshop for Indigenous scientists that aims to start a new chapter in genomics.

 

We’ve known for decades that PCBs—polychlorinated biphenyls—are toxic and carcinogenic. In the 1970s and 1980s, these compounds were phased out of use in industrial and electronic applications, worldwide. But they are still in the environment—in soil and air—and in animal tissues, particularly those of killer whales. These toxic compounds start out at minute levels in tiny organisms, but as the small are eaten by the slightly larger, the PCB concentration increases—from plankton, to fish, to seals—until you are at killer whales with PCB-packed blubber. Ailsa Hall, director of the Sea Mammal Research Unit at St. Andrews University in Scotland, talks with host Sarah Crespi about her group’s work measuring PCB levels in different killer whale populations and calculating the effect of PCBs on those populations 100 years from now.

 

In this month’s book segment, Jen Golbeck interviews Damon Centola about his book How Behavior Spreads: The Science of Complex Contagions. You can listen to more books segment and read more reviews on our books blog, Books et al

 

This week’s episode was edited by Podigy.

 

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[Image: Public domain; Show music: Jeffrey Cook]

 

Direct download: SciencePodcast_180928.mp3
Category:Science -- posted at: 1:59pm EDT

Meta-analyses—structured analyses of many studies on the same topic—were once seen as objective and definitive projects that helped sort out conflicts amongst smaller studies. These days, thousands of meta-analyses are published every year—many either redundant or contrary to earlier metaworks. Host Sarah Crespi talks to freelance science journalist Jop de Vrieze about ongoing meta-analysis wars in which opposing research teams churn out conflicting metastudies around important public health questions such as links between violent video games and school shootings and the effects of antidepressants. They also talk about what clues to look for when trying to evaluate the quality of a meta-analysis.

 

Sarah also talked with three other contributors to our “Research on Research” special issue. Pierre Azoulay of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Ben Jones of Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, and MIT’s Heidi Williams discuss the evidence for some hoary old scientific home truths. See if you can guess who originally made these claims and how right or wrong they were:

 

  • Do scientists make great contributions after age 30?
  • How important is it to stand on the shoulders of giants?
  • Does the truth win, or do its opponents just eventually die out?

 

Read the rest of the package on science under scrutiny here.

 

This week’s episode was edited by Podigy.

 

Listen to previous podcasts

 

About the Science Podcast

  

[Image: Davide Bonazzi/@SalzmanArt; Show music: Jeffrey Cook; additional music: Nguyen Khoi Nguyen]

 

Direct download: SciencePodcast_180921.mp3
Category:Science -- posted at: 1:59pm EDT

Strawberries had both male and female parts, like most plants, until several million years ago. This may seem like a long time ago, but it actually means strawberries have some of the youngest sex chromosomes around. What are the advantages of splitting a species into two sexes? Host Sarah Crespi interviews freelance journalist Carol Cruzan Morton about her story on scientists’ journey to understanding the strawberry's sexual awakening.

 

In 2016, experimental Zika vaccines were swiftly developed in response to the emergence of serious birth defects in the babies of infected woman. Two years after the height of Zika cases, a lack of human subjects has stymied vaccine trials. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases plans to overcome this hurdle with “human challenge experiments”—vaccinating people, then intentionally infecting them with Zika to see if the vaccine helps them resist the virus. Meagan Cantwell talks with staff writer Jon Cohen about his news story that highlights the risks and rewards of human challenge experiments.

 

This week’s episode was edited by Podigy.

 

Listen to previous podcasts

 

About the Science Podcast

  

[Image: Public domain; Music: Jeffrey Cook]

 

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Authors: Sarah Crespi; Carol Curzan Morton; Meagan Cantwell; Jon Cohen

Direct download: SciencePodcast_180914.mp3
Category:Science -- posted at: 1:59pm EDT

We are in the middle of what some scientists are calling the sixth mass extinction and not all at-risk species can be saved. That’s causing some conservationists to say we need to start thinking about “species triage.” Meagan Cantwell interviews freelance journalist Warren Cornwall about his story on weighing the costs of saving Canada’s endangered caribou and the debate among conservationists on new approaches to conservation.

 

And host Sarah Crespi interviews Hope Michelsen, a staff scientist at Sandia National Laboratories in Livermore, California, about mysterious origins of soot. The black dust has been around since fire itself, but researchers never knew how the high-energy environment of a flame can produce it—until now. Michelsen walks Sarah through the radical chemistry of soot formation—including its formation of free radicals—and discusses soot’s many roles in industry, the environment, and even interstellar space.

 

Check out this useful graphic describing the soot-inception process in the related commentary article.

 

This week’s episode was edited by Podigy.

 

Listen to previous podcasts

 

About the Science Podcast

  

[Image: Darren Bertram/Flickr; Music: Jeffrey Cook]

 

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Authors: Sarah Crespi; Meagan Cantwell; Warren Cornwall

Direct download: SciencePodcast_180907.mp3
Category:Science -- posted at: 1:59pm EDT

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