Nature Podcast
Nature Podcast
Oct 28, 2020
Lab–grown brains and the debate over consciousness
39 min

The chances of mini-brains becoming sentient, and a UK government decision threatens gender diversity in academia.


In this episode:


00:59 The ethics of creating consciousness

Brain organoids, created by culturing stem cells in a petri dish, are a mainstay of neuroscience research. But as these mini-brains become more complex, is there the chance they could become conscious, and if so, how could we tell?


News Feature: Can lab-grown brains become conscious?


09:01 Coronapod

So called ‘herd immunity’ is claimed by some as a way to break the chain of infection and curtail the pandemic. However epidemiologists say that this course of action is ineffective and will lead to large numbers of infections and deaths.


News Explainer: The false promise of herd immunity for COVID-19


20:59 Research Highlights

Volcanic ash degrades ancient art in Pompeii, and the aerial ineptitude of two bat-like dinosaurs.


Research Highlight: The volcanic debris that buried Pompeii wreaks further destruction; Research Highlight: A dead end on the way to the sky


23:22 How cutting red-tape could harm gender diversity in UK academia

The Athena SWAN scheme, designed to boost gender-equality in UK academia, has proved effective, and has been exported to countries around the world. But now a decision by the UK government to cut bureaucracy could mean that institutions pay less heed to schemes like this and threaten future efforts to increase gender diversity in UK academia.


Editorial: Equality and diversity efforts do not ‘burden’ research — no matter what the UK government says


31:00 Briefing Chat

We discuss some highlights from the Nature Briefing. This time, oncologists discover a potential new human organ, and how re-examined fossils have given new insights into the size of baby tyrannosaurs.


New York Times: Doctors May Have Found Secretive New Organs in the Center of Your Head; National Geographic: First tyrannosaur embryo fossils revealed


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Science Friday
Science Friday
Science Friday and WNYC Studios
Roman Mars, Disinformation, Ancient Female Big Game Hunters. Nov 20, 2020, Part 2
Exploring The Invisible Architecture Of Cities With Roman Mars On a walk through your city or town, there are all sorts of sights and sounds to take in—big buildings, parks and patches of green space, roaring vehicles, and people strolling around. But according to Roman Mars, host of the 99% Invisible podcast, you need to look at the smaller, often unseen details to decode what’s really going on in the city. In the new book The 99% Invisible City: A Field Guide to the Hidden World of Everyday Design, co-authors Mars and Kurt Kohlstedt show that you can learn a lot about the place you live in by taking a closer look at tucked-away architecture and pavement markings. There’s meaning behind the etchings on the covers of maintenance holes and water lines, and the cryptic spray painted symbols on the street that signify network and telecommunication cables. These signs and structures can tell stories about a city’s past and present. Ira chats with Mars about the overlooked details built into our cities and how our urban environments are adapting to the pandemic. Big Tech Can’t Stop The Lies As the dust continues to settle from the 2020 presidential election, unfounded rumors persist about stolen ballots, dead people voting, and other kinds of alleged fraud—all without evidence. But as slow results trickle in, President-Elect Joe Biden has won by large but plausible margins, and investigations into the process have held up the results as inarguable. Anticipating a wave of misinformation, Twitter and Facebook both took unprecedented steps in the weeks leading up to the election to put election claims in context, marking questionable posts as misinformation. And yet large numbers of Americans continue to disagree about reality. How did this happen? And why have we seen so much of other kinds of misinformation this year—like anti-mask beliefs, or other COVID-19 hoaxes? Or take the QAnon conspiracy theories, all of which are completely baseless, yet somehow still spreading? Ira talks to New York Times reporter Davey Alba, and misinformation researcher Joan Donovan, about the patterns of media manipulation and how misinformation succeeds in our digital world. Ancient Big Game Hunters May Have Included Women In ancient hunter-gatherer societies, it’s been predominantly thought that men were the hunters and the women were the gatherers. This narrative has persisted for centuries. But researchers say the story might be more complicated. In Peru, a team of anthropologists uncovered a burial site containing 9,000-year-old remains of a possible female big game hunter. Their findings were published in the journal Science Advances. Producer Alexa Lim talks with one of the authors on that study, anthropologist Randy Haas from UC Davis, about what this can tell us about the social structure of hunter-gatherers.
48 min
Worldly
Worldly
Vox
Fewer troops, forever wars
Alex and Jen discuss President Trump’s decision to draw down the number of US troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. They explain the slapdash announcement and rushed plan, and the inherent tensions between wanting to end a long war and America’s responsibility to the people of the countries it has invaded. The gang also turns to what Trump’s Pentagon shake-up really means, and what President-elect Joe Biden should prepare to inherit in January. References: The US is drawing down troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. Trump has promised to bring troops home by Christmas. He didn’t quite get that, even with a new Pentagon chief. The big question: Will these withdrawals box Biden in on foreign policy? Trump has also appointed a lot of loyalists to the Pentagon recently. Shake-ups could reshape foreign policy in the last months of Trump’s term. And maybe remake the federal bureaucracy. Here’s Trump Inc.’s investigation. Hosts: Jennifer Williams (@jenn_ruth), senior foreign editor, Vox Alex Ward (@AlexWardVox), national security reporter, Vox Jen Kirby (@j_kirby1), foreign reporter, Vox   Consider contributing to Vox: If you value Worldly’s work, please consider making a contribution to Vox: bit.ly/givepodcasts   More to explore: Subscribe for free to Today, Explained, Vox’s daily podcast to help you understand the news, hosted by Sean Rameswaram.   About Vox: Vox is a news network that helps you cut through the noise and understand what's really driving the events in the headlines.   Follow Us: Vox.com  Newsletter: Vox Sentences  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
42 min
How to Save a Planet
How to Save a Planet
Gimlet
If Miami Will Be Underwater, Why Is Construction Booming?
Miami Beach could be mostly underwater within eighty years, but construction of new beachfront properties is booming. What’s behind this disconnect? To find out, writer Sarah Miller went undercover posing as a high end buyer to meet with real estate agents across the city. Here’s the story of what she found. Sarah Miller’s piece, along with 40 other amazing essays by women at the forefront of the climate movement, appear in the book Ayana co-edited with Dr. Katharine Wilkinson, All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis. To find out more about the book and all of the contributors, visit allwecansave.earth. The essay is read by actor Julia Louis-Dreyfus, as excerpted from the star-studded audiobook for All We Can Save. Calls to action Check out this map of sea level rise projections from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to see what areas we likely to become inundated. Check out the rest of the climate anthology that Ayana co-edited, All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis, at allwecansave.earth. Since we’re a podcast, we recommend checking out the audiobook version, which includes America Fererra, Janet Mock, Sophia Bush, Ilana Glazer, and Jane Fonda among the readers. If you take an action we recommend in one of our episodes, do us a favor and tell us about it! We’d love to hear how it went and what it felt like. Record a short voice memo on your phone and send it to us at howtosaveaplanet@spotify.com. We might use it in an upcoming episode.
26 min
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