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 excitin...
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Why does cancer spread to the spine? Newly discovered stem cells might be the key
In this episode:00:45 A new insight into cancers' selective spreadCancer cells can spread to bones in the late stages of disease and in many cancers, cells actually preferentially metastasise to the spine. The reason for this has been a puzzle to researchers for years, but now a team has found a new kind of stem cell that may be involved in this process. The stem cell is found in mice and humans and could represent a clinical target in the treatment of cancer.Research article: Sun et al.News and Views: Stem cells provide clues to why vertebrae attract tumour cells09:55 Research HighlightsA preference for certain percussion instruments among palm cockatoos, and modelling where people wait on train platforms.Research Highlight: This parrot taps out beats — and it custom-builds its instrumentsResearch Highlight: The maths of how we wait in crowded places12:29 Briefing ChatThis time, a second trial shows the effectiveness of using MDMA to help treat post-traumatic stress disorder, and how an upgrade to an X-ray laser will let researchers make ultra-crisp ‘molecular movies’.Nature News: Psychedelic drug MDMA moves closer to US approval following success in PTSD trialNature News: World’s most powerful X-ray laser will ‘film’ chemical reactions in unprecedented detail Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
A mussel-inspired glue for more sustainable sticking
In this episode:00:46 A sustainably-sourced, super-strong adhesiveThe modern world is held together by adhesives, but these fossil-fuel derived materials come at an environmental cost. To overcome this, a team have developed a soya-oil based adhesive, which also takes inspiration from the proteins that marine animals like mussels use to stick firmly to rocks. The researchers say their glue is strong, reversible, and less carbon intensive to produce than existing adhesives.Research article: Westerman et al.07:43 Research HighlightsWhy chemicals derived from wood could be sustainable alternatives to a common plastic building block, and how historical accounts helped researchers estimate the brightness of a 1859 solar flare.Research Highlight: Wood component yields useful plastics — without the health risksResearch Highlight: A historic solar flare’s huge intensity is revealed by new tools10:08 New insights into childhood stunting and wastingAround the world, millions of children are affected by malnutrition, which can result in stunting or wasting, both associated with serious health issues. Despite a widespread recognition of the seriousness of stunting and wasting, there are still questions about their extent, causes and consequences. To answer these, a team have pooled data from previous studies, and show that nutritional interventions targeting the earliest years of life could have the greatest impact.Research article: Benjamin-Chung et al.Research article: Mertens et al.Research article: Mertens et al.Nature Collection: Progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals20:29 Briefing ChatThis time, what rejoining the Horizon Europe research-funding programme means for UK research, and the 1.4-million-year-old stone balls that are mystifying scientists.Nature News: Scientists celebrate as UK rejoins Horizon Europe research programmeScience: Were these stone balls made by ancient human relatives trying to perfect the sphere?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.
Our ancestors lost nearly 99% of their population, 900,000 years ago
In this episode:00:30 Early humans pushed to brink of extinctionAround 900,000 years ago the ancestors of modern humans were pushed to the brink of extinction, according to new research. Genetic studies suggest that the breeding population of our ancestors in Africa dropped to just 1,280 and didn’t expand again for another 117,000 years. This population crash would likely have had an impact on human genetic diversity, and may have driven the evolution of important features of modern humans, such as brain size.Nature News: Human ancestors nearly went extinct 900,000 years ago3:49 The pollution legacy of Antarctica’s research stationsPoor historical waste practices have left high levels of pollution around Antartica’s research facilities. By surveying the seafloor near Australia’s Casey research station, researchers have revealed high concentrations of hydrocarbons and heavy metals.This pollution is likely to be widespread, but its impact on the continent is unknown.Nature News: Antarctic research stations have polluted a pristine wilderness07:43 Melting sea-ice causes catastrophic penguin breeding failurePersistently low levels of sea-ice around Antarctica have caused emperor penguins to abandon their breeding colonies early, resulting in the death of large numbers of chicks. Although the affected populations only represent a small number of the total emperor penguins on the continent, it’s unclear how they’ll fare if trends in sea-ice melt continue.Science: Emperor penguins abandon breeding grounds as ice melts around them09:23 The AI trained to describe smellsResearchers have developed an artificial-intelligence that can describe how compounds smell by analysing their molecular structures. The system’s description of scents are often similar to those of trained human sniffers, and may have applications in the food and perfume industries. Currently the AI works on individual molecules, and is unable to identify the smells associated with complex combinations of molecules, something humans noses do with ease.Nature: AI predicts chemicals’ smells from their structuresSubscribe 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.
In this episode:00:47 First observation of oxygen 28Oxygen 28 is an isotope of oxygen with 20 neutrons and eight protons. This strange isotope has long been sought after by physicists, as its proposed unusual properties would allow them to put their theories of how atomic nuclei work to the test. Now, after decades of experiments physicists believe they have observed oxygen 28. The observations are at odds with theory predictions, so they imply that there’s a lot more physicists don’t know about the forces that hold atomic nuclei together.Research article: Kondo et al.News and Views: Heaviest oxygen isotope is found to be unbound10:06 Research HighlightsHow venus fly traps can protect themselves from wildfires, and a ball-point pen that can ‘write’ LEDs.Research Highlight: Venus flytraps shut their traps when flames approachResearch Highlight: A rainbow of LEDs adorns objects at the stroke of a pen12:39 An AI for Drone RacingAIs have been beating humans at games for years, but in these cases the AI has always trained in exactly the same conditions in which it competes. In chess for example, the board can be simulated exactly. Now though, researchers have demonstrated an AI that can beat humans in a place where simulation can only take you so far, the real world. The Swift AI system is able to race drones against champion-level humans, and beat them most of the time. The researchers hope this research can help improve the efficiency of drones in general.Research article: Kaufmann et al.News and Views: Drone-racing champions outpaced by AIVideo: AI finally beats humans at a real-life sport - drone racing19:51 Briefing ChatThis time, the Indian Space Research Organization’s successful moon landing, and the low level of support offered to researchers whose first language isn’t English by journals.Nature News: India lands on the Moon! Scientists celebrate as Chandrayaan-3 touches downNature News: Scientists who don’t speak fluent English get little help from journals, study findsSubscribe 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.
Audio long read: Medicine is plagued by untrustworthy clinical trials. How many studies are faked or flawed?
Investigations suggest that, in some fields, at least one-quarter of clinical trials might be problematic or even entirely made up. Faked or unreliable trials are dangerous, as they could end up being included in the reviews that help inform clinical treatments. However, the extent of the problem in unclear, and many researchers urge stronger scrutiny.This is an audio version of our Feature: Medicine is plagued by untrustworthy clinical trials. How many studies are faked or flawed? Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
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. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.