Science Magazine PodcastAuthor: Science Magazine
20 Aug 2018

Science Magazine Podcast

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

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    Ancient volcanic eruptions, and peer pressure—from robots

    Several thousand years ago the volcano under Santorini in Greece—known as Thera—erupted in a tremendous explosion, dusting the nearby Mediterranean civilizations of Crete and Egypt in a layer of white ash. This geological marker could be used to tie together many ancient historical events, but the estimated date could be off by a century. Contributing Correspondent Lizzie Wade joins host Sarah Crespi to talk about a new study that used tree rings to calibrate radiocarbon readings—and get closer to pinning down a date. The findings also suggest that scientists may need to change their standard radiocarbon dating calibration curve. Sarah also talks to Tony Belpaeme of Ghent University in Belgium and Plymouth University in the United Kingdom about his Science Robotics paper that explored whether people are susceptible to peer pressure from robots. Using a classic psychological measure of peer influence, the team found that kids from ages 7 to 9 occasionally gave in to social pressure from robot peers, but adults did not. This week’s episode was edited by Podigy, with help from Meagan Cantwell. Listen to previous podcasts. About the Science Podcast [Image: Softbank Robotics; Music: Jeffrey Cook]

  • Posted on 16 Aug 2018

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    Doubts about the drought that kicked off our latest geological age, and a faceoff between stink bugs with samurai wasps

    We now live in the Meghalayan age—the last age of the Holocene epoch. Did you get the memo? A July decision by the International Commission on Stratigraphy, which is responsible for naming geological time periods, divided the Holocene into three ages: the Greenlandian, the Northgrippian, and the Meghalayan. The one we live in—the Meghalayan age (pronounced “megalion”)—is pegged to a global drought thought to have happened some 4200 years ago. But many critics question the timing of this latest age and the global expanse of the drought. Staff writer Paul Voosen talks with host Sarah Crespi about the evidence for and against the global drought—and what it means if it’s wrong. Sarah also talks to staff writer Kelly Servick about her feature story on what happens when biocontrol goes out of control. Here’s the setup: U.S. Department of Agriculture researchers wanted to know whether brown marmorated stink bugs that have invaded the United States could be controlled—aka killed—by importing their natural predators, samurai wasps, from Asia. But before they could find out, the wasps showed up anyway. Kelly discusses how using one species to combat another can go wrong—or right—and what happens when the situation outruns regulators. This week’s episode was edited by Podigy. Listen to previous podcasts. [Image: Melissa McMasters/Flickr; Music: Jeffrey Cook] 

  • Posted on 09 Aug 2018

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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. Listen to previous podcasts. [Image: Scaly breasted munia/Ravi Vaidyanathan; Music: Jeffrey Cook]

  • Posted on 02 Aug 2018

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    Liquid water on Mars, athletic performance in transgender women, and the lost colony of Roanoke

    Billions of years ago, Mars probably hosted many water features: streams, rivers, gullies, etc. But until recently, water detected on the Red Planet was either locked up in ice or flitting about as a gas in the atmosphere. Now, researchers analyzing radar data from the Mars Express mission have found evidence for an enormous salty lake under the southern polar ice cap of Mars. Daniel Clery joins host Sarah Crespi to discuss how the water was found and how it can still be liquid—despite temperatures and pressures typically inhospitable to water in its liquid form. Read the research. Sarah also talks with science journalist Katherine Kornei about her story on changing athletic performance after gender transition. The feature profiles researcher Joanna Harper on the work she has done to understand the impacts of hormone replacement therapy and testosterone levels in transgender women involved in running and other sports. It turns out within a year of beginning hormone replacement therapy, transgender women plateau at their new performance level and stay in a similar rank with respect to the top performers in the sport. Her work has influenced sports oversight bodies like the International Olympic Committee. In this month’s book segment, Jen Golbeck interviews Andrew Lawler about his book The Secret Token: Myth, Obsession, and the Search for the Lost Colony of Roanoke. Next month’s book will be The Book of Why: The New Science of Cause and Effect by Judea Pearl and Dana Mackenzie. Write us at sciencepodcast@aaas.org or tweet to us @sciencemagazine with your questions for the authors. This week’s episode was edited by Podigy. Listen to previous podcasts. [Image: Henry Howe; Music: Jeffrey Cook]

  • Posted on 26 Jul 2018

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    Why the platypus gave up suckling, and how gravity waves clear clouds

    Suckling mothers milk is a pretty basic feature of being a mammal. Humans do it. Possums do it. But monotremes such as the platypus and echidna—although still mammals—gave up suckling long ago. Instead, they lap at milky patches on their mothers’ skin to get early sustenance. Science News Writer Gretchen Vogel talks with host Sarah Crespi about the newest suckling science—it turns out monotremes probably had suckling ancestors, but gave it up for the ability to grind up tasty, hard-shelled, river-dwelling creatures. Sarah also talks with Sandra Yuter of North Carolina State University in Raleigh about her work on fast-clearing clouds off the southwest coast of Africa. These immense marine layers appear to be exiting the coastal regions under the influence of gravity waves (not to be confused with gravitational waves). This finding can help scientists better model cloud behavior, particularly with respect to their influence on global temperatures. This week’s episode was edited by Podigy. Listen to previous podcasts. [Image: North Carolina State University]    

  • Posted on 19 Jul 2018

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