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Science Weekly

Twice a week, the Guardian brings you the latest science and environment news


Why is Nasa looking into UFOs and what has it found so far?
Last week, Nasa held the first public meeting of a panel established to investigate sightings of UFOs. It came just before a whistleblower former intelligence official told the Debrief that the US government had ‘intact and partially intact’ craft of non-human origin. Ian Sample talks to Prof David Spergel, the independent chair of Nasa’s panel, about why this is happening now, what they hope to find and why there is so much stigma attached to this field. Help support our independent journalism at
17:28 08/06/2023
‘It’s taught me everything about living’: Rachel Clarke on delivering palliative care from the NHS to Ukraine
Ian Sample talks to Dr Rachel Clarke about her experience working in palliative care in the NHS and now with hospices in Ukraine. She tells him what dying can teach the living, what we can learn from the Covid pandemic, and reveals the anguish and defiance of trying to provide a dignified death in the midst of war. Help support our independent journalism at
24:15 06/06/2023
Why are food allergies on the rise and is a cure on the horizon?
Food allergies appear to be increasing globally, but as scientific understanding improves, some experts believe we may one day be able to eliminate them altogether. Ian Sample speaks to Dr Kari Nadeau, an allergy specialist at Harvard School of Public Health and author of the book The End of Food Allergy, to discuss why food allergies are on the rise and what we can do to prevent – and possibly even cure – them. Help support our independent journalism at
16:27 01/06/2023
Six months to Cop28: will the most vital summit yet make meaningful progress?
Every year, the world’s leaders gather for the UN climate change conference. At Cop28, they will be faced with two stark warnings from scientists: we are likely to breach 1.5C warming above pre-industrial levels in the next five years, and we are on course to reach 2.7C of warming by the end of the century. Progress has never been more critical and this year it lies in the hands of the United Arab Emirates, a country that has plans to expand its already extensive oil and gas productions. With six months to go, Madeleine Finlay talks to environment correspondent Fiona Harvey about Cop28’s hosts and president, why this year is particularly key, and how close we are getting to irreversible climate tipping points. Help support our independent journalism at
15:55 30/05/2023
Japanese knotweed: why is it so damaging and can it be stopped?
Since it was introduced to the UK in 1850, Japanese knotweed has gone from novel ornamental plant to rampant invasive species. Madeleine Finlay speaks to journalist Samanth Subramanian about the huge costs associated with finding it on a property, and Dr Sophie Hocking explains what the plant, and our attempts to control it, might be doing to the environment.. Help support our independent journalism at
18:02 25/05/2023
What will we eat in a post-1.5C world?
We now know that global temperatures are likely to temporarily rise by more than 1.5C above pre-industrial levels in the next five years. Breaching this crucial threshold will give humanity an insight into what the next few decades could bring. It will undoubtedly have serious consequences in all aspects of our lives, including what we eat. In the second of our special series of episodes looking at what a future world might look like, science editor Ian Sample explores how our diets could change as the Earth heats up. Ian talks to Kew’s kitchen gardener Helena Dove about climate-resilient vegetables, visits Tiziana di Costanzo’s insect farm to try mealworms and crickets, and hears from Solar Food’s CEO, Pasi Vainikka, about making food from bacteria, electricity and air. Help support our independent journalism at
23:10 23/05/2023
Menopause: could a new brain-based treatment cure hot flushes?
A first-of-its-kind non-hormonal drug to treat hot flushes has been approved in the US. Targeting connections in the brain that change during menopause, the drug, called fezolinetant, could provide relief for those who aren’t able to take hormonal replacement therapy. Madeleine Finlay speaks to endocrinologist and menopause specialist Prof Annice Mukherjee to find out what we know about the mechanism that causes hot flushes, how this new drug works, and what it might mean for those experiencing menopause in the future.. Help support our independent journalism at
15:41 18/05/2023
Is it the beginning of the end for scientific publishing?
More than 40 leading scientists have resigned en masse from the editorial board of a top science journal in protest at what they describe as the ‘greed’ of the publisher. Ian Sample speaks to correspondent Hannah Devlin about the remarkably lucrative business of scientific publishing, hears from Prof Chris Chambers about what was behind the recent mass resignation, and finds out why researchers are demanding change. Help support our independent journalism at
17:50 16/05/2023
First UK baby born with DNA from three people: what happens next?
The pioneering IVF procedure known as mitochondrial donation therapy (MDT) could prevent children from being born with devastating mitochondrial diseases. Madeleine Finlay speaks to Prof Darren Griffin, an expert in genetic diseases and reproduction, about how MDT works, the ethical considerations attached, and what techniques like it could mean for the future of reproduction. Help support our independent journalism at
15:43 11/05/2023
Will psychedelic drugs transform mental health treatment?
Psychedelic drugs have long been been used for their mind-altering effects. Now, they are making their way into western medicine as a treatment for mental health disorders. From July, psychiatrists in Australia will be able to prescribe MDMA for post-traumatic stress disorder, making it the first country in the world to recognise psychedelics as medicines. The US could soon follow, with plans for the US Food and Drug Administration to be asked for approval to treat PTSD with MDMA this year. Ian Sample speaks to correspondent Hannah Devlin about how the science behind psychedelic therapy has progressed, and hears from Prof Celia Morgan about what treatment is actually like, what we know about the risks and what’s left to learn. Help support our independent journalism at
16:54 09/05/2023
How AI is making non-invasive mind reading a reality
For the first time, researchers have found a way to non-invasively translate a person’s thoughts into text. Using fMRI scans and an AI-based decoder trained on a precursor to ChatGPT, the system can reconstruct brain activity to interpret the gist of a story someone is listening to, watching or even just imagining telling. Ian Sample speaks to one of the team behind the breakthrough, the neuroscientist Dr Alex Huth, to find out how it works, where they hope to use it, and whether our mental privacy could soon be at risk. Help support our independent journalism at
17:00 04/05/2023
Can cities help us fight climate change?
As the planet warms, and intense heatwaves become the norm, our urban environments need a radical rethink to keep them habitable. So what do we want the cities of the future to look like? In the first of our special series of episodes looking at what a future world could look like, Madeleine Finlay speaks to author and historian Ben Wilson, Prof Jessica Davies and Prof Diane Jones Allen about how to create cities that are fairer, greener and more self-reliant.. Help support our independent journalism at
19:28 02/05/2023
Europe’s ‘carbon bomb’ petrochemical plant: can it be stopped?
The environmental law charity ClientEarth and 13 other groups headed into a Flemish court this week in an effort to stop Ineos building a petrochemical plant that would be the biggest project of its kind in Europe for 30 years. Madeleine Finlay hears from correspondent Sandra Laville about how plastics are made, the environmental and health impacts of the process and what needs to be done to get a handle on plastic pollution. Help support our independent journalism at
13:48 27/04/2023
Why are black women four times more likely to die from childbirth?
Experts and campaigners have been pointing out the racial disparities in maternal healthcare for years. The latest report to highlight the issue comes from the House of Commons women and equalities committee. MPs behind the report have condemned the government’s failure to address the gulf in outcomes. So why are black and Asian women still more at risk from childbirth? Madeleine Finlay hears what it can be like to navigate the maternity system as a woman of colour, and speaks to Guardian health editor Andrew Gregory and Prof Shakila Thangaratinam about what lies behind the statistics and what can be done. Help support our independent journalism at
16:34 25/04/2023
How did ultra-processed foods take over, and what are they doing to us?
Sliced supermarket bread, ham, cheese, crisps, a fruit-flavoured yoghurt and a fizzy drink. If this sounds like a standard lunch, you’re not alone. The average person in the UK gets more than 50% of their calories from ultra-processed foods – otherwise known as ‘industrially produced edible substances’. Madeleine Finlay speaks to Dr Chris van Tulleken about what ultra-processed foods are really made of, how they have become a major part of our diets, and the impact they are having on our health. Help support our independent journalism at
18:06 20/04/2023
Could virtual reality gaming help people overcome anxiety?
Madeleine Finlay speaks to science correspondent Linda Geddes about trying out a virtual reality game that challenges you to keep your heart-rate down while facing a terrifying monster, why it could help with tackling anxiety, and whether the gamification of coping strategies could be the best way to integrate them into our every day lives. Help support our independent journalism at
12:02 18/04/2023
Juice Mission: why has the search for alien life moved to Jupiter’s moons?
The European Space Agency’s long-awaited Juice Mission is about to blast off for Jupiter’s moons. Its goal: to find out whether the oceans below their icy surfaces could be capable of supporting life. Madeleine Finlay speaks to Dr Stuart Clark about why moons are the new Mars for scientists seeking life, how magnetic fields can help us understand these mysterious lunar oceans, and what Juice might mean for our understanding of life beyond the solar system. Help support our independent journalism at
13:41 13/04/2023
Should we ban artificial grass?
Installing artificial grass is becoming an increasingly popular way to achieve a neat, green lawn without much effort. But with environmental and potential health costs associated with plastic turf many campaigners and gardeners would like to see it banned. Madeleine Finlay speaks to Guardian feature writer Sam Wollaston and urban ecologist Prof Rob Francis about why people go for artificial grass, its environmental impact, and whether it’s time we rid ourselves of the idea of the perfect lawn altogether. Help support our independent journalism at
14:41 11/04/2023
What’s feeding the 5,000-mile blob of seaweed growing in the Atlantic?
A giant mass of seaweed is heading towards beaches in Mexico, Florida and the Caribbean, bringing with it toxic gases and a smell similar to rotting eggs. Visible from space, the Great Atlantic Sargassum Belt stretches from the coast of Africa all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. It is the biggest seaweed bloom on the planet, and for more than a decade researchers have watched as it has continued to grow in size. 2023 is predicted to be another record year. Madeleine Finlay speaks to sargassum expert Prof Brian Lapointe about why it’s getting bigger, what happens when it washes up on coastlines, and if anything can be done to deal with it. Help support our independent journalism at
16:32 05/04/2023
Why does the UK government want to ban laughing gas?
The UK government recently announced plans to make the possession of laughing gas for recreational use a criminal offence. Nitrous oxide, also known as “nos”, is hugely popular among young people, and doctors have raised concerns about a rise in cases of nerve damage linked to the use of the drug. Ian Sample speaks to science correspondent Nicola Davis about the reasons behind the ban, the risks associated with using nitrous oxide and what experts have made of the government’s decision. Help support our independent journalism at
14:41 04/04/2023
Glass beads full of water on the moon: what does the discovery mean for space exploration?
More than half a century after humans last walked on the moon, researchers have made a discovery that makes lunar living an increasing possibility. The moon’s surface is littered with tiny glass beads containing water, which could be extracted and used by visiting astronauts. Ian Sample speaks to Professor Mahesh Anand, part of the team that made the discovery, about where these beads come from and what they mean for future moon missions. Help support our independent journalism at
15:46 30/03/2023
Could faecal transplants be the next frontier in health?
Madeleine Finlay hears from science correspondent Linda Geddes about her experience becoming a faecal transplant donor, how getting a dose of someone else’s gut bacteria could treat illnesses like arthritis, diabetes and cancer, and asks whether a pill made from poo is an idea we are ready to swallow. Help support our independent journalism at
16:14 28/03/2023
Three years on: are we any closer to understanding long Covid?
Ian Sample hears from Scotland’s Astronomer Royal Catherine Heymans about her experience of long Covid and how it has impacted her life. He also speaks to Professor Danny Altmann, an immunologist at Imperial College London, about the current scientific understanding of the condition, and whether we’re any closer to a treatment.. Help support our independent journalism at
17:44 23/03/2023
Willow Project: what could the ‘carbon bomb’ mean for the environment?
Madeleine Finlay speaks to Guardian West Coast reporter Maanvi Singh about the Biden administration’s approval of a controversial new oil drilling project on Alaska’s North Slope. She also hears from Kristen Monsell, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, which is part of a coalition that’s filing a lawsuit to challenge the decision.. Help support our independent journalism at
16:01 21/03/2023
How will gene editing change medicine and who will benefit?
Ian Sample speaks to Guardian science correspondent Hannah Devlin about the latest developments and debates about gene editing to emerge from a summit at the Francis Crick Institute in London. The summit heard from the first person with sickle cell disease to be treated with a technique known as Crispr. He also hears from Prof Claire Booth about ensuring these cutting edge treatments are made available to everyone who needs them. Help support our independent journalism at
16:18 16/03/2023
The Last of Us: could the next pandemic be fungal?
Madeleine Finlay speaks to Guardian science correspondent Linda Geddes about the possibility of a fungal pandemic like the one depicted in apocalyptic thriller The Last of Us. They discuss the strange world of fungi, the risks of infections and treatment resistance, and what we can do to protect ourselves from future fungal threats. Help support our independent journalism at
14:52 14/03/2023
Everything Everywhere All at Once: could the multiverse be real?
The film Everything Everywhere All at Once has enjoyed critical acclaim and awards success. Ahead of the Oscars, where it’s tipped to sweep the board, Ian Sample speaks to theoretical physicist and philosopher Sean Carroll about why we seem to be drawn to the idea of multiple worlds, and what the science says about how the multiverse might actually work. Help support our independent journalism at
18:25 09/03/2023
Matt Hancock’s messages: how scientifically literate should our politicians be?
Ian Sample speaks to mathematical biologist Kit Yates about what Matt Hancock’s leaked WhatsApp messages reveal about scientific understanding at the heart of government during the pandemic, and what should be done to prepare for the future. Help support our independent journalism at
12:36 07/03/2023
What should we do about the rise in children vaping?
Madeleine Finlay speaks to former Guardian health editor Sarah Boseley about the rise in vaping among under-18s and what can be done to discourage more children from taking up the habit. She also hears from Prof Linda Bauld about the impact of vaping on young people. Help support our independent journalism at
15:56 02/03/2023
What are ‘forever chemicals’ and why are they causing alarm?
Madeleine Finlay speaks to environmental journalist Rachel Salvidge about PFAS, also known as ‘forever chemicals’, which have been found at high levels at thousands of sites across the UK and Europe. Rachel explains what they are, how harmful they can be, and what can be done to mitigate their effects. Help support our independent journalism at
14:27 28/02/2023