Plan S, an initiative that requires participating research funders to immediately publish research in an open-access journal or repository, was announced in September 2018 by Science Europe with 11 participating agencies. Several others have signed on since the launch, but other funders and journal publishers have reservations. Host Meagan Cantwell speaks with Contributing Correspondent Tania Rabesandratana about those reservations and how Plan S is trying to change publishing practices and research culture at large. Some 1.7 million Jewish people were murdered by the Nazis in the 22 months of Operation Reinhard (1942–43) which aimed to eliminate all Jews in occupied Poland. But until now, the speed and totality of these murders were poorly understood. It turns out that about one-quarter of all Jews killed during the Holocaust were murdered in the autumn of 1942, during this operation. Meagan talks with Lewi Stone, a professor of biomathematics at Tel Aviv University in Israel and mathematical science at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, about this shocking kill rate, and why researchers are taking a quantitative approach to characterizing genocides. This week’s episode was edited by Podigy. Listen to previous podcasts. About the Science Podcast [Image: Michael Beckwith; Music: Jeffrey Cook]
First, we hear Online News Editor David Grimm and host Sarah Crespi discuss audience favorites and staff picks from this year’s online stories, from mysterious pelvises to quantum engines. Megan Cantwell talks with News Editor Tim Appenzeller about the 2018 Breakthrough of the Year, a few of the runners-up, and some breakdowns. See the whole breakthrough package here, including all the runners-up and breakdowns. And in her final segment for the Science Podcast, host Jen Golbeck talks with Science books editor Valerie Thompson about the year in books. Both also suggest some last-minute additions to your holiday shopping list. This week’s episode was edited by Podigy. Listen to previous podcasts. About the Science Podcast [Image: NASA Scientific Visualization Studio; Music: Jeffrey Cook]
In 1968, Science published the now-famous paper “The Tragedy of the Commons” by ecologist Garrett Hardin. In it, Hardin questioned society’s ability to manage shared resources, concluding that individuals will act in their self-interest and ultimately spoil the resource. Host Meagan Cantwell revisits this classic paper with two experts: Tine De Moor, professor of economics and social history at Utrecht University in the Netherlands, and Brett Frischmann, a professor of law, business, and economics at Villanova University in Pennsylvania. They discuss how premodern societies dealt with common resources and how our current society might apply the concept to a more abstract resource—knowledge. Not all human skulls are the same shape—and if yours is a little less round, you may have your extinct cousins, the Neanderthals, to thank. Meagan speaks with Simon Fisher, neurogeneticist and director of the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, about why living humans with two Neanderthal gene variants have slightly less round heads—and how studying Neanderthal DNA can help us better understand our own biology. This week’s episode was edited by Podigy. Listen to previous podcasts. About the Science Podcast [Image: Phillip Gunz; Music: Jeffrey Cook]
A new Science investigation reveals several major private research funders—including the Wellcome Trust and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation—are making secretive offshore investments at odds with their organizational missions. Host Meagan Cantwell talks with writer Charles Piller about his deep dive into why some private funders choose to invest in these accounts. In the United States, gun injuries kill more children annually than pediatric cancer, but funding for firearm research pales in comparison. On this week’s show, host Sarah Crespi talks with Staff Writer Meredith Wadman and emergency physician Rebecca Cunningham about how a new grant will jump-start research on gun deaths in children. This week’s episode was edited by Podigy. Listen to previous podcasts. About the Science Podcast [Image: Bernard Spragg; Music: Jeffrey Cook]
In a fast-changing environment, evolution can be slow—sometimes so slow that an organism dies out before the right mutation comes along. Host Sarah Crespi speaks with Staff Writer Elizabeth Pennisi about how plastic traits—traits that can alter in response to environmental conditions—could help life catch up. Also on this week’s show, host Meagan Cantwell talks with Marco Ajello a professor of physics and astronomy at Clemson University in South Carolina about his team’s method to determine the universe’s star formation history. By looking at 739 blazars, supermassive black holes at the center of galaxies, Ajello and his team were able to model the history of stars since the big bang. Finally, in this month’s book segment, Jen Golbeck interviews Christine Du Bois about her book Story of Soy. You can listen to more book segments and read more reviews on our books blog, Books et al. This week’s episode was edited by Podigy. Listen to previous podcasts. About the Science Podcast [Image: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Conceptual Image Lab; Music: Jeffrey Cook]
First, we hear from science writer Joshua Sokol about his trip to the Cambrian—well not quite. He talks with host Megan Cantwell about his travels to a remote site in the mountains of British Columbia where some of Earth’s first animals—including a mysterious, alien-looking creature—are spilling out of Canadian rocks. Also on this week’s show, host Sarah Crespi talks with James Hazel a postdoctoral research fellow at the Center for Genetic Privacy and Identity in Community Settings at Vanderbilt University in Nashville about a proposal for creating a universal forensic DNA database. He and his co-authors argue that current, invasive practices such as law enforcement subpoenaing medical records, commercial genetic profiles, and other sets of extremely detailed genetic information during criminal investigations, would be curtailed if a forensics-use-only universal database were created. This week’s episode was edited by Podigy. Read a transcript (PDF) Listen to previous podcasts. About the Science Podcast
When was the worst year to be alive? Contributing Correspondent Ann Gibbons talks to host Sarah Crespi about a contender year that features a volcanic eruption, extended darkness, cold summer, and a plague. Also on this week’s show, host Meagan Cantwell talks with Andrea Di Francesco of the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Aging in Baltimore, Maryland, about his review of current wisdom on fasting and metabolism. Should we start fasting—if not to extend our lives maybe to at least to give ourselves a healthy old age? In a special segment from our policy desk, Deputy Editor David Malakoff discusses the results of the recent U.S. election with Senior Correspondent Jeffrey Mervis and we learn what happened to the many scientist candidates that ran and some implications for science policy. This week’s episode was edited by Podigy. Listen to previous podcasts. About the Science Podcast [Photo: Scott Suchman; Styling: Nichole Bryant; Music: Jeffrey Cook]
A new report suggests a big increase in the use of monkeys in laboratory experiments in the United States in 2017. Online News Editor David Grimm joins host Sarah Crespi to discuss which areas of research are experiencing this rise and the possible reasons behind it. Also this week, host Meagan Cantwell talks with staff writer Adrian Cho about a final push to affix the metric system’s measures to physical constants instead of physical objects. That means the perfectly formed 1-kilogram cylinder known as Le Grand K is no more; it also means that the meter, the ampere, and other units of measure are now derived using complex calculations and experiments. This week’s episode was edited by Podigy. Listen to previous podcasts. About the Science Podcast [Image: Peter Nijenhuis/Flickr; Music: Jeffrey Cook]
As you age, your cells divide over and over again, leading to minute changes in their genomes. New research reveals that in the lining of the esophagus, mutant cells run rampant, fighting for dominance over normal cells. But they do this without causing any detectable damage or cancer. Host Sarah Crespi talks to Phil Jones, a professor of cancer development at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, about what these genome changes can tell us about aging and cancer, and how some of the mutations might be good for you. Most Western farmers apply their pesticides using drones and machinery, but in less developed countries, organophosphate pesticides are applied by hand, resulting in myriad health issues from direct exposure to these neurotoxic chemicals. Host Meagan Cantwell speaks with Praveen Vemula, a research investigator at the Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine in Bengaluru, India, about his latest solution—a cost-effective gel that can be applied to the skin to limit pesticide-related toxicity and mortality. This week’s episode was edited by Podigy. Listen to previous podcasts. About the Science Podcast [Image:Navid Folpour/Flickr; Music: Jeffrey Cook]
A small isolated town in Colombia is home to a large cluster of people with fragile X syndrome—a genetic disorder that leads to intellectual disability, physical abnormalities, and sometimes autism. Spectrum staff reporter Hannah Furfaro joins host Sarah Crespi to discuss the history of fragile X in the town of Ricaurte and the future of the people who live there. Also this week, we talk about greening up grass. Lawns of green grass pervade urban areas all around the world, regardless of climate, but the cost of maintaining them may outweigh their benefits. Host Meagan Cantwell talks with Maria Ignatieva of The University of Western Australia in Perth and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences in Uppsala about how lawns can be transformed to contribute to a more sustainable future. This week’s episode was edited by Podigy. Listen to previous podcasts. About the Science Podcast [Image: Adam Kerfoot-Roberts/Flickr; Music: Jeffrey Cook]
Hoping to spot subatomic particles called neutrinos smashing into Earth, the balloon-borne Antarctic Impulsive Transient Antenna (ANITA) detector has circled the South Pole four times. ANITA has yet to detect those particles, but it has twice seen oddball radio signals that could be evidence of something even weirder: some heavier particle unknown to physicists’ standard model, burrowing up through Earth. Science writer Adrian Cho joins host Sarah Crespi to discuss the possibility that this reading could lead to a big change in physics. Next, host Meagan Cantwell asks researcher Ben Dalziel what makes a bad—or good—flu year. Traditionally, research has focused on two factors: climate, which impacts how long the virus stays active after a sneeze or cough, and changes in the virus itself, which can influence its infectiousness. But these factors don’t explain every pattern. Dalziel, a population biologist in the Departments of Integrative Biology and Mathematics at Oregon State University in Corvallis, explains how humidity and community size shape the way influenza spreads. This week’s episode was edited by Podigy. Listen to previous podcasts. About the Science Podcast [Image: Stuart Rankin/Flickr; Music: Jeffrey Cook]
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 the United Kingdom, 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. Listen to previous podcasts About the Science Podcast [Image: Public domain; Music: Jeffrey Cook]
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 whether 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]
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, there’s so little spread of the virus in the Americas that it has stymied vaccine trials. Researchers hope to overcome this hurdle with “human challenge experiments”—vaccinating people, then intentionally infecting them with Zika to see whether they’re protected from 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]
Two of the world’s most famous research chimpanzees have finally retired. Hercules and Leo arrived at a chimp sanctuary in Georgia last week. Sarah Crespi checks in with Online News Editor David Grimm on the increasing momentum for research chimp retirement since the primates were labeled endangered species in 2015. Sarah also interviews freelancer Sophia Chen about her piece on x-ray ghost imaging—a technique that may lead to safer medical imaging done with cheap, single-pixel cameras. David Ma…
When Indonesia’s Mount Toba blew its top some 74,000 years ago, an apocalyptic scenario ensued: Tons of ash and debris entered the atmosphere, coating the planet in ash for 2 weeks straight and sending global temperatures plummeting. Despite the worldwide destruction, humans survived. Sarah Crespi talks with Online News Editor Catherine Matacic about how life after Toba was even possible—were humans decimated, or did they rally in the face of a suddenly extra hostile planet?
Next, Julia Buck of …
For some time after the big bang there were no stars. Researchers are now looking at cosmic dawn—the time when stars first popped into being—and are seeing hints of dark matter’s influence on supercold hydrogen clouds. News Writer Adrian Cho talks with Sarah Crespi about how this observation was made and what it means for our understanding of dark matter.
Sarah also interviews Joanna Kaplanis of the Wellcome Sanger Institute in Hinxton, U.K., about constructing enormous family trees based on an …
We talk about the techniques of painting sleuths, how to combat alternative facts or “fake news,” and using audio signposts to keep birds from flying into buildings. For this segment, David Grimm—online news editor for Science—talks with host Sarah Crespi as part of a live podcast event from the AAAS Annual Meeting in Austin.
Sarah also interviews Science News Editor Tim Appenzeller about Neandertal art. The unexpected age of some European cave paintings is causing experts to rethink the mental …
Would happy lab animals—rats, mice, even zebrafish—make for better experiments? David Grimm—online news editor for Science—talks with Sarah Crespi about the potential of treating lab animals more like us and making them more useful for science at the same time.
Sarah also interviews Jon Abbatt of the University of Toronto in Canada about indoor chemistry. What is going on in the air inside buildings—how different is it from the outside? Researchers are bringing together the tools of outdoor chem…
David Grimm—online news editor for Science—talks with Sarah Crespi about the chance a naked mole rat could die at any one moment. Surprisingly, the probability a naked mole rat will die does not go up as it gets older. Researchers are looking at the biology of these fascinating animals for clues to their seeming lack of aging.
Sarah also interviews freelancer Douglas Starr about his feature story on the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study—a comprehensive study of the lives of …