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Science Weekly

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Science Weekly podcast will now explore some of the crucial scientific questions about Covid-19. Led by its usual hosts  Ian Sample,  Hannah Devlin and  Nicola Davis, as well as the Guardian's health editor Sarah Boseley, we’ll be taking questions – some sent by you – to experts on the frontline of the global outbreak. Send us your questions here:  theguardian.com/covid19questions

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What does it mean to be alive? Paul Nurse on defining 'life'

Is it possible to define the biological, chemical and physical functions that separate cells, plants and even humans from inanimate objects? In his new book, Paul Nurse, Nobel prize winner and director of the Francis Crick Institute, addresses a question that has long plagued both philosophers and scientists – what does it really mean to be alive? Speaking to Madeleine Finlay, Paul delves into why it’s important to understand the underlying principles of life, the role of science in society, and what life might look like on other planets. Help support our independent journalism at theguardian.com/sciencepod

21mins

22 Sep 2020

Rank #1

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Up early or lying in: why we need different amounts of sleep – Science Weekly podcast

Requiring minimal amounts of sleep is sometimes seen as a badge of honour. But for many of us, being able to actually function is a different matter altogether. So why is it that some people seem to need more or less sleep? And what are some of the ramifications if we don’t get enough? Hannah Devlin speaks to two experts whose work is bringing new understanding to our sleeping behaviours. Help support our independent journalism at theguardian.com/sciencepod

17mins

22 Nov 2019

Rank #2

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Covid-19 vaccines: anti-vaxxers and conspiracy theories

As Covid-19 spread around the world, conspiracy theories about its origin, severity and prevention followed closely behind. Now attention has turned to vaccines. False claims circulated among anti-vaxxer groups include the theory that Covid vaccines are being used to implant microchips in people and that they will alter a person’s DNA. In the second of a two-part exploration into Covid vaccine scepticism, Nicola Davis hears from the Guardian’s UK technology editor, Alex Hern, and the researcher Joe Ondrak about how conspiracy theories emerge and spread, and if there’s anything we can do about them. Help support our independent journalism at theguardian.com/sciencepod

19mins

24 Dec 2020

Rank #3

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Covid-19: What has the BCG vaccine got to do with it? – Science Weekly Podcast

Sarah Boseley talks to Prof Helen McShane about why there has been interest in the tuberculosis vaccine and whether it could play a role in protecting us against Covid-19. Help support our independent journalism at theguardian.com/sciencepod

12mins

30 Apr 2020

Rank #4

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Covid-19: how long can it survive outside the body? – Science Weekly Podcast

Sarah Boseley speaks to Prof Deenan Pillay about how the virus contaminates surfaces and why headlines about how long it can survive may be misleading. And, following a number of listener questions, we find out whether or not Sars-CoV-2 can survive in a swimming pool. Help support our independent journalism at theguardian.com/sciencepod

9mins

24 Mar 2020

Rank #5

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'Nature is quantum from the start': Sean Carroll, many worlds, and a new theory of spacetime – Science Weekly podcast

Ian Sample speaks to the theoretical physicist Sean Carroll about his mission to demystify quantum mechanics. It won’t be easy, though, as Carroll’s favoured interpretation of this fundamental theory – the ‘many worlds’ interpretation – results in a possibly infinite number of parallel universes. Help support our independent journalism at theguardian.com/sciencepod

26mins

20 Sep 2019

Rank #6

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From the archives: How do we save society?

With the coronavirus pandemic continuing to highlight health and economic inequalities, and the US election fast approaching, this week we return to the archive to explore how divisions in society arise and what we can do about them. In this episode from 2017, Ian Sample investigates where group splits come from, how we can connect to those we disagree with, and what could happen if we fail. Help support our independent journalism at theguardian.com/sciencepod

31mins

22 Oct 2020

Rank #7

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Why should we listen to birds? (part one)

Our colleagues from the Age of Extinction project, Phoebe Weston and Patrick Greenfield, are back with two new episodes asking whether birdsong might be beneficial to both our mental and physical health – and if nature is so good for us, why aren’t we taking better care of it?. Help support our independent journalism at theguardian.com/sciencepod

22mins

15 Dec 2020

Rank #8

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Covid-19: can ibuprofen make an infection worse? – Science Weekly Podcast

Nicola Davis speaks to Dr Ian Bailey about the current guidance on taking ibuprofen and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs during a Sars-CoV-2 infection. And, why there was concern about whether these medications could make symptoms of the disease worse. Help support our independent journalism at theguardian.com/sciencepod

11mins

26 Mar 2020

Rank #9

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Investigating the historic eruption of Mount Vesuvius

When Mount Vesuvius erupted in AD79, the damage wreaked was catastrophic. Ash and pumice darkened the skies, and hot gas flowed from the volcano. Uncovering the victims, fated to lie frozen in time for 2,000 years, has shown they died in a range of gruesome ways. Nicola Davis speaks to Pier Paolo Petrone about his work analysing ancient inhabitants of Pompeii and nearby towns, and what it tells us about the risk people face today. Help support our independent journalism at theguardian.com/sciencepod

16mins

5 Nov 2020

Rank #10

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Covid-19: what role might air pollution play? – Science Weekly Podcast

After a string of studies that highlight the possible link between air pollution and Covid-19 deaths, Ian Sample hears from Prof Anna Hansell about the complicated relationship between pollution, health and infection with Sars-CoV-2. Help support our independent journalism at theguardian.com/sciencepod

12mins

28 Apr 2020

Rank #11

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What (non-Covid) science is coming up in 2021?

Ian Sample and producer Madeleine discuss what science, outside of the pandemic, they’ll be looking out for in 2021. Joined by Prof Gillian Wright and the Guardian’s global environment editor Jonathan Watts, they explore exciting space missions and critical climate change conferences. Help support our independent journalism at theguardian.com/sciencepod

28mins

21 Jan 2021

Rank #12

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Covid-19: how do you find drugs to treat the disease? – Science Weekly Podcast

Hannah Devlin speaks to Dr Miraz Rahman about how to find drugs to treat a new disease like Covid-19, and discusses repurposing old drugs such as the anti-malaria medicine hydroxychloroquine. Help support our independent journalism at theguardian.com/sciencepod

12mins

23 Apr 2020

Rank #13

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A year of science reporting – Science Weekly podcast

For the final science weekly of 2019 the Guardian’s Science team – Hannah Devlin, Ian Sample and Nicola Davis – talk through their top stories of the year including black holes, rebooted brains and seagulls. Help support our independent journalism at theguardian.com/sciencepod

22mins

20 Dec 2019

Rank #14

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Covid-19: getting public health messaging right

The alarming pattern of second waves of Covid-19 infection across the world, and the promise of vaccines on the horizon, has once again brought public health messaging into focus. So what has the pandemic taught us about what makes a successful programme? The Guardian’s health editor, Sarah Boseley, speaks to Prof Linda Bauld about how best to encourage people to change their behaviour in order to mitigate the spread of disease. Help support our independent journalism at theguardian.com/sciencepod

14mins

8 Dec 2020

Rank #15

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Covid-19: how do we test for it? – Science Weekly Podcast

Hannah Devlin speaks with Prof David Smith about the various ways in which clinicians can test whether or not someone is infected with Sars-CoV-2. And, following the recent announcement that the UK government has bought millions of antibody tests, explores what these might be able to tell us. Help support our independent journalism at theguardian.com/sciencepod

12mins

31 Mar 2020

Rank #16

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What are the new coronavirus variants and how do we monitor them?

Over the course of the pandemic, scientists have been monitoring emerging genetic changes to Sars-Cov-2. Mutations occur naturally as the virus replicates but if they confer an advantage – like being more transmissible – that variant of the virus may go on to proliferate. This was the case with the ‘UK’ or B117 variant, which is about 50% more contagious and is rapidly spreading around the country. So how does genetic surveillance of the virus work? And what do we know about the new variants? Ian Sample speaks to Dr Jeffrey Barrett, the director of the Covid-19 genomics initiative at the Wellcome Sanger Institute, to find out Coronavirus – latest updates See all our coronavirus coverage. Help support our independent journalism at theguardian.com/sciencepod

21mins

12 Jan 2021

Rank #17

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Amy Dickman on her life of big cat conservation - Science Weekly podcast

Dr Amy Dickman is an internationally renowned conservation biologist. She’s dedicated her life to saving big cats in the wild, working in Africa for over 20 years on carnivore ecology and how to resolve human-wildlife conflict. Amy talks to Nicola Davis about her career trying to bring a halt to the decline in big cat populations, including the role that trophy hunting might play. Help support our independent journalism at theguardian.com/sciencepod

23mins

29 Nov 2019

Rank #18