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Last week, public health officials declared a ‘national incident’ after they found vaccine-derived poliovirus in London sewage samples. No cases of polio symptoms have been reported but there is evidence the virus is spreading. So what does it mean to have found the virus almost 20 years after the UK was declared polio-free? Ian Sample speaks to epidemiologist Nicholas Grassly to find out how worried we should be and what it means for the global effort to eradicate polio.. Help support our independent journalism at theguardian.com/sciencepod
When the Guardian’s UK technology editor Alex Hern was contacted on Twitter to ask if he was involved in a new cryptocurrency called Tsuka, he assumed they just wanted him to buy it. He ignored the messages. But soon after Alex realised that, without knowing it, he was already involved. What happened next reveals a lot about the strange world of ‘shitcoins’ – cryptocurrencies with no reason for existence beyond buying low and selling high. Madeleine Finlay speaks to Alex Hern about his shitcoin saga, and how the lines can get blurred between a gamble and a scam. Help support our independent journalism at theguardian.com/sciencepod
After wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone national park in 1995, researchers noticed some big ecological changes, leading to the regeneration of the landscape. It’s an argument used to justify the return of apex predators – but it’s increasingly being challenged. Phoebe Weston talks to Ian Sample about whether wolves really have the power to shape ecosystems, and what that means for the debate about bringing them back to the UK. Help support our independent journalism at theguardian.com/sciencepod
They support an incredible array of biodiversity and may also be some of the world’s most effective carbon sinks. But vast swathes of seagrass meadows have been lost in the last century, and they continue to vanish at the rate of a football pitch every half hour. Madeleine Finlay makes a trip out of the Guardian office to visit a rewilding project in Hampshire. She speaks to marine biologist Tim Ferrero about the challenges of replanting seagrass meadows and what hope it offers.. Help support our independent journalism at theguardian.com/sciencepod
Last week an engineer at Google claimed that an AI chatbot he worked with, known as LaMDA, had become ‘sentient’. Blake Lemoine published a transcript of his conversations with LaMDA that included responses about having feelings and fearing death. But could it really be conscious? AI researcher and author Kate Crawford speaks to Ian Sample about how LaMDA actually works, and why we shouldn’t worry about the inner life of software – for now.. Help support our independent journalism at theguardian.com/sciencepod
According to some estimates smoking causes one in 10 deaths worldwide. A lesser known side-effect of cigarettes is the damage they cause to our mental health. Yet, the rates of smoking among people with mental health conditions are much higher than the rest of the population. Last week, the UK government published the Khan review, an independent report looking at how England could become smoke free by 2030. One of the recommendations was to tackle the issue of mental health and smoking. Madeleine Finlay speaks to epidemiologist Dr Gemma Taylor about how significant this link is, what we can do to break it, and how to dispel the myth that smoking is a stress reliever. Help support our independent journalism at theguardian.com/sciencepod
When reports surfaced that Boris Johnson would be announcing the return of imperial measurements to mark the Queen’s platinum jubilee, there was some celebration, consternation, and a lot of confusion. Britain already uses a mix of both imperial and metric, and it is legal to price goods in pounds and ounces if this is displayed alongside the price in grams and kilograms. So what’s really behind this rekindled debate over units? Science editor Ian Sample speaks to author and metrology historian James Vincent about the rise of metric, the enduring political power of measurement, and why it’s unlikely we’ll be getting rid of pints in pubs any time soon.. Help support our independent journalism at theguardian.com/sciencepod
Are synthetic chemicals we encounter every day causing us to gain weight? According to a major scientific review authored by dozens of scientists, there is now enough evidence to conclude that they are. Termed ‘obesogens’, these chemicals can be found in food packaging, personal hygiene products, electronics and even water. Madeleine Finlay speaks to environment editor Damian Carrington about how obesogens might be contributing to the global obesity pandemic, what they may be doing to our bodies, and if there’s anything we can do to avoid them.. Help support our independent journalism at theguardian.com/sciencepod
Bisexuality is the largest sexual minority in the world – but according to psychologist Dr Julia Shaw, it’s the least well understood. She talks to Madeleine Finlay about her new book, Bi, which challenges us to think more deeply about who we are and how we love. She discusses the history of trying to define and measure bisexuality, sexual behaviour in the animal kingdom, and how we can improve health outcomes for bi people.. Help support our independent journalism at theguardian.com/sciencepod
A recent report on the exclusion of pregnant and breastfeeding women in clinical trials found that both women and babies in the UK are “dying needlessly” from a lack of suitable medications. Over the past 40 years, only two new medicines have been approved for use in pregnancy, leaving patients to weigh up unknown risks and make difficult decisions about their own health and that of their babies. Science editor Ian Sample talks to Peter Brocklehurst, professor of women’s health at the University of Birmingham, about why pregnant women are so often excluded from pharmaceutical research and how we can make sure they too benefit from modern medicine. Help support our independent journalism at theguardian.com/sciencepod
The sudden surge of monkeypox cases outside Africa has alarmed public health authorities around the world. In Europe and North America it’s the first time community transmission has been recorded among people with no links to west or central Africa. So what is happening? Ian Sample talks to virologist Oyewale Tomori about why monkeypox is flaring up, whether we should fear it, and what we can learn from countries such as Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which have been tackling this virus for decades. Help support our independent journalism at theguardian.com/sciencepod
Millions around the world are struggling with higher food and energy prices. In the UK inflation has reached a 40-year high of 9% in the 12 months to April, leaving many struggling to pay bills and shoulder normal living costs. When the weekly shop gets smaller and the flat gets colder, it’s our health that suffers. Madeleine Finlay speaks to health inequity expert Prof Michael Marmot about the ways poverty makes you sicker and why falling income is so bad for the country’s health. This cost of living crisis could be “austerity squared”, he warns.. Help support our independent journalism at theguardian.com/sciencepod
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