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This week, Nasa scientists smashed a spacecraft into an asteroid, more than 11m km from Earth. Most rocket scientists would wince at the thought, but the Double Asteroid Redirection Test, or DART, was purposefully designed to slam head-on into the asteroid Dimorphos. The aim is to nudge it off its current orbit, in an experiment that will assess the possibility of deflecting a killer space rock – if one was ever headed our way. Ian Sample speaks to Prof Colin Snodgrass about why they chose Dimorphos, what happens to the asteroid now, and whether there are other ways to prevent space-based planetary destruction. Help support our independent journalism at theguardian.com/sciencepod
The Breakthrough prizes are described by their Silicon Valley founders as ‘the Oscars of science’, and while they are not as glamorous, they do come with a $3m award. This year, one of the prizes was dished out to Prof Emmanuel Mignot at Stanford University and Masashi Yanagisawa at the University of Tsukuba for their work uncovering the cause of narcolepsy. Their discovery has opened the door to the development of treatments for this chronic and often debilitating condition. Madeleine Finlay speaks to Mignot about how he pinpointed the cause of narcolepsy, why it is similar to diabetes and what sleep mysteries he wants to solve next. Help support our independent journalism at theguardian.com/sciencepod
The UK’s new health secretary, Thérèse Coffey, has not taken on an easy job. Almost two-thirds of trainee GPs plan to work part-time just a year after they qualify, reporting that the job has become too intense to safely work more. A record 6.8 million people are waiting for hospital treatment in England, and 132,139 posts lie vacant across the NHS in England. Ian Sample hears from acute medicine consultant Dr Tim Cooksley about what’s happening within the NHS, and speaks to the Guardian’s health policy editor, Denis Campbell, about how the UK’s health and social care systems ended up in crisis and whether they can be fixed. Help support our independent journalism at theguardian.com/sciencepod
Against a backdrop of a cost of living crisis caused in part by soaring energy prices, the UK’s new prime minister, Liz Truss, appointed MP Jacob Rees-Mogg as secretary of state for business and energy. In this role, Rees-Mogg will have to tackle these issues while being responsible for the UK’s legally binding target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. It is a goal he has previously described as ‘a long way off’. Madeleine Finlay hears from environment correspondent Fiona Harvey about his plans to extract ‘every last drop’ of oil and gas from the North Sea, the possibility of fracking in the UK, and the importance of energy efficiency and renewables in addressing the cost of living, energy and climate crises together. Help support our independent journalism at theguardian.com/sciencepod
According to the World Health Organisation, air pollution causes 7 million premature deaths every year. We’ve known for a long time that air pollution causes lots of health problems, including lung cancer – but exactly how the two were linked was somewhat of mystery. Last week, a team from the Francis Crick Institute and University College London presented findings that shed new light on the role between air pollution and lung cancer. And, in doing so, could make us rethink how cancer develops. Madeleine Finlay speaks to the Guardian’s science correspondent Hannah Devlin about how scientists uncovered this link – and what it might mean for the future of the field.. Help support our independent journalism at theguardian.com/sciencepod
As we collectively mark the loss of the longest-serving monarch in British history and all that she represented on a national scale, many people are feeling a much more personal impact. The Guardian’s science editor, Ian Sample, talks to Prof Michael Cholbi about what grief is, how losing a public figure can have such a profound impact on our lives, and why there’s value in grieving. Help support our independent journalism at theguardian.com/sciencepod
According to a recent study, more than 14% of the world’s population probably has, or has had, tick-borne Lyme disease – an infection that can cause long and debilitating symptoms. That number is set to rise too, as climate and environment changes continue to increase tick populations and distribution. To help prevent some of these cases, pharmaceutical company Pfizer and biotech company Valneva will soon be testing a new vaccine against Lyme disease with 6,000 volunteers across Europe and in the US. Madeleine Finlay speaks to Dr Eoin Healy about what Lyme disease is and how the vaccine works, and hears from a special guest about their own experience of getting ill with the disease.. Help support our independent journalism at theguardian.com/sciencepod
Last week, a team of inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) arrived at Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. The plant was seized by Russian forces in early May and has recently been the target of sustained shelling, increasing the risk of a nuclear disaster. The head of the IAEA, Rafael Grossi, who is leading the inspection team, has reported that the integrity of the plant has been violated several times. Ian Sample speaks to Prof Claire Corkhill about what this could mean for Zaporizhzhia, what the risks are if the plant loses external power, and how a nuclear meltdown can be avoided. Help support our independent journalism at theguardian.com/sciencepod
It is now less than 100 days until Cop15, the UN convention on biological diversity. At these talks, which are taking place in Montreal, Canada in December, governments from around the world will come together to agree targets aimed at halting the destruction of the natural world and protecting biodiversity. With the Earth experiencing the largest loss of life since the extinction of the dinosaurs, what is decided at this meeting could shape the future of the planet and humanity. Madeleine Finlay speaks to biodiversity reporter Phoebe Weston about how negotiations have been going so far, and what’s next on the road to Cop15. Help support our independent journalism at theguardian.com/sciencepod
Holidaymakers heading to British beaches and rivers were faced with a very unpleasant problem this summer – raw sewage. The sewage system usually carries rainwater and dirty wastewater from bathrooms and kitchens to treatment works but during ‘exceptional events’ such as heavy rainfall, when it is likely to be overwhelmed, raw sewage can be diverted and discharged into rivers and seas. Available data shows that in 2021, water companies released untreated sewage into waterways for 2.7m hours – with many discharge pipe monitors not working or left uninstalled. Madeleine Finlay speaks to reporter Helena Horton about why this is happening, and the damage it is doing to the environment, our health, and the UK’s seafood industry. Help support our independent journalism at theguardian.com/sciencepod
Many teenagers will receive their GCSE results today. These exams can have a significant impact on what they do next, so it can be a stressful time for students, their teachers and parents. Over the past decade, reported mental health problems among teenagers have been on the rise. A recent survey by the NHS statistics agency found rates of probable mental disorders in six- to 16-year-olds reached one in six in 2021. Madeleine Finlay speaks to the academic psychologist Dr Lucy Foulkes about what could be behind this crisis, how schools are trying to tackle it, and how we can help teenagers with their mental wellbeing. Help support our independent journalism at theguardian.com/sciencepod
About 325 million years ago, when Britain sat near the equator as part of the supercontinent Pangaea, two populations of a small, scaly, swamp-dwelling creature separated from each other. One of these lineages, over millions and millions of years, evolved into mammals. Our ancestors shared the planet with dinosaurs, survived an asteroid and made it through an ice age. This fascinating history is documented in The Rise and Reign of the Mammals, a new book by the palaeontologist Prof Steve Brusatte. The Guardian science correspondent Nicola Davis talks to Madeleine Finlay about her visit with Brusatte and what she learned about the strange mammals that once walked the Earth. What might their past reveal about their future in a rapidly changing world?. Help support our independent journalism at theguardian.com/sciencepod
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