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

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]

 

 ++

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]

 

 ++

Authors: Sarah Crespi; Meagan Cantwell; Warren Cornwall

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

On this week’s show: the latest social science replication study, the mechanisms behind human-induced earthquakes, and Judea Pearl and Dana Mackenzie’s The Book of Why: The New Science of Cause and Effect

 

A new project out of the Center for Open Science in Charlottesville, Virginia, found that of all the experimental social science papers published in Science and Nature from 2010–15, 62% successfully replicated, even when larger sample sizes were used. What does this say about peer review? Host Sarah Crespi talks with Staff Writer Kelly Servick about how this project stacks up against similar replication efforts, and whether we can achieve similar results by merely asking people to guess whether a study can be replicated.

 

Podcast producer Meagan Cantwell interviews Emily Brodsky of the University of California, Santa Cruz, about her research report examining why earthquakes occur as far as 10 kilometers from wastewater injection and fracking sites. Emily discusses why the well-established mechanism for human-induced earthquakes doesn’t explain this distance, and how these findings may influence where we place injection wells in the future.

 

In this month’s book podcast, Jen Golbeck interviews Judea Pearl and Dana McKenzie, authors of The Book of Why: The New Science of Cause and Effect. They propose that researchers have for too long shied away from claiming causality and provide a road map for bringing cause and effect back into science.

 

This week’s episode was edited by Podigy.

 

Listen to previous podcasts

 

About the Science Podcast

 

[Image: Jens Lambert, Shutterstock; Music: Jeffrey Cook]

Direct download: SciencePodcast_180831.mp3
Category:Science -- posted at: 1:59pm EDT

Small satellites—about the size of a briefcase—have been hitching rides on rockets to lower Earth orbit for decades. Now, because of their low cost and ease of launching, governments and private companies are looking to expand the range of these “sate-lites” deeper into space. Host Sarah Crespi talks with Deputy News Editor Eric Hand about the mods and missions in store for so-called CubeSats.

 

And our newest podcast producer Meagan Cantwell interviews Quentin Grafton of Australian National University in Canberra and Brad Udall of Colorado State University in Fort Collins about something called the “irrigation efficiency paradox.” As freshwater supplies dry up around the world, policymakers and farmers have been quick to try to make up the difference by improving irrigation, a notorious water waster. It turns out that both human behavior and the difficulty of water measurement are plaguing water conservation efforts in agriculture. For example, when farms find they are using less water, they tend to plant ever-more-water-intensive crops. Now, researchers are trying to get the message out about the behavioral component of this issue and tackle the measurement problem, using cheap remote-sensing technology, but with water scarcity looming ahead, we have to act soon.

 

This week’s episode was edited by Podigy.

 

Listen to previous podcasts

 

About the Science Podcast

  

[Image: John A. Kelley, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service; Music: Jeffrey Cook]

 

 ++

Authors: Sarah Crespi; Eric Hand; Meagan Cantwell

Direct download: SciencePodcast_180824.mp3
Category:Science -- posted at: 1:59pm EDT

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]

 

 ++

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]

 

 ++

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]

 

 ++

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]

 

 ++

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]

 

 ++

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]

 

 ++

Authors: Sarah Crespi; Daniel Clery

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