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Science Magazine Podcast

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

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How Neanderthals got human Y chromosomes, and the earliest human footprints in Arabia

Contributing Correspondent Ann Gibbons talks with host Sarah Crespi about a series of 120,000-year-old human footprints found alongside prints from animals like asses, elephants, and camels in a dried-up lake on the Arabian Peninsula. These are the earliest human footprints found so far in Arabia and may help researchers better understand the history of early hominin migrations out of Africa. Continuing on the history of humanity theme, Sarah talks with Janet Kelso of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, about her team’s efforts to fish the elusive Y chromosome out of Neanderthal and Denisovan DNA. It turns out Y chromosomes tell a different story about our past interbreeding with Neanderthals than previous tales told by the rest of the genome. Read a related Insight article. This week’s episode was produced with help from Podigy. Listen to previous podcasts. About the Science Podcast Download a transcript (PDF).


24 Sep 2020

Rank #1

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Safer jet fuels and a daily news roundup

Julia Kornfield discusses the design of safer jet fuel additives using polymer theory to control misting and prevent fires, David Grimm talks about building a better sunscreen, cultures that don't count past four, and does empathy mean feeling literal pain. Hosted by Susanne Bard. [Image credit: Eduard Marmet/CC BY-SA-3.0]


1 Oct 2015

Rank #2

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Podcast: An omnipresent antimicrobial, a lichen ménage à trois, and tiny tide-induced tremors

Stories on a lichen threesome, tremors caused by tides, and a theoretical way to inspect nuclear warheads without looking too closely at them, with Catherine Matacic.   Despite concerns about antibiotic resistance, it seems like antimicrobials have crept into everything—from hand soap to toothpaste, and even fabrics. What does the ubiquitous presence of these compounds mean for our microbiomes? Alyson Yee talks with host Sarah Crespi about one antimicrobial in particular—triclosan—which has been partially banned in the European Union.     [Image: T. Wheeler/Music: Jeffrey Cook]


21 Jul 2016

Rank #3

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Mysterious racehorse injuries, and reforming the U.S. bail system

Southern California’s famous Santa Anita racetrack is struggling to explain a series of recent horse injuries and deaths. Host Meagan Cantwell is joined by freelance journalist Christa Lesté-Lasserre to discuss what might be causing these injuries and when the track might reopen. In our second segment, researchers are racing to understand the impact of jailing people before trial in the United States. Host Sarah Crespi talks with Online News Editor Catherine Matacic about the negative downstream effects of cash bail—and what research can tell us about other options for the U.S. pretrial justice system. Last up is books, in which we hear about the long, sometimes winding, roads that food can take from its source to your plate. Books editor Valerie Thompson talks with author Robyn Metcalfe about her new work, Food Routes: Growing Bananas in Iceland and Other Tales from the Logistics of Eating. This week’s episode was edited by Podigy. *Correction, 1 April, 12 p.m.: A previous version of this podcast included an additional research technique that was not used to investigate the Santa Anita racetrack. Download the transcript (PDF)  Listen to previous podcasts. About the Science Podcast [Image: Mark Smith/Flickr; Music: Jeffrey Cook]


28 Mar 2019

Rank #4

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A worldwide worm survey, and racial bias in a health care algorithm

Earthworms are easy … to find. But despite their prevalence and importance to ecosystems around the world, there hasn’t been a comprehensive survey of earthworm diversity or population size. This week in Science, Helen Philips, a postdoctoral fellow at the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research and the Institute of Biology at Leipzig University, and colleagues published the results of their worldwide earthworm study, composed of data sets from many worm researchers around the globe. Host Sarah Crespi gets the lowdown from Philips on earthworm myths, collaborating with worm researchers, and links between worm populations and climate. Read a related commentary here.  Sarah also talks with Ziad Obermeyer, a professor in the School of Public Health at the University of California, Berkeley, about dissecting out bias in an algorithm used by health care systems in the United States to recommend patients for additional health services. With unusual access to a proprietary algorithm, inputs, and outputs, Obermeyer and his colleagues found that the low amount of health care dollars spent on black patients in the past caused the algorithm to underestimate their risk for poor health in the future. Obermeyer and Sarah discuss how this happened and remedies that are already in progress. Read a related commentary here.  Finally, in the monthly books segment, books host Kiki Sanford interviews author Alice Gorman about her book Dr. Space Junk vs The Universe: Archaeology and the Future. Listen to more book segments on the Science books blog: Books, et al. This week’s episode was edited by Podigy. Ads on this week’s show: The Tangled Tree: A Radical New History of Life by David Quanmen; MEL Science Download the transcript (PDF). Listen to previous podcasts. About the Science Podcast [Image: Public domain; Music: Jeffrey Cook]


24 Oct 2019

Rank #5

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How our brains may have evolved for language, and clues to what makes us leaders—or followers

Yes, humans are the only species with language, but how did we acquire it? 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. Download a transcript of this episode (PDF) Listen to previous podcasts. [Image: Scaly breasted munia/Ravi Vaidyanathan; Music: Jeffrey Cook]


2 Aug 2018

Rank #6