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Covid-19: can we compare different countries? from The Guardian's Science Weekly

From The Guardian's Science Weekly - Nicola Davis asks mathematician Kit Yates how useful global comparisons are when it comes to the coronavirus outbreak, given the huge differences in demographics and public health responses. And, as per a question from a listener, what the best metric is when doing such comparisons?. Help support our independent journalism at <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/sciencepod">theguardian.com/sciencepod</a>


The Guardian's Science Weekly
The award winning Science Weekly is the best place to learn about the big discoveries and debates in biology, chemistry, physics, and sometimes even maths. From the Guardian science desk - Ian Sample, Hannah Devlin & Nicola Davis meet the great thinkers and doers in science and technology.

Covid-19: can we compare different countries?
2020-05-19 21:00:16
Nicola Davis asks mathematician Kit Yates how useful global comparisons are when it comes to the coronavirus outbreak, given the huge differences in demographics and public health responses. And, as per a question from a listener, what the best metric is when doing such comparisons?. Help support our independent journalism at <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/sciencepod">theguardian.com/sciencepod</a>
14 minutes


Do smart assistants need a feminist reboot? Part 1
2020-09-29 04:08:55
From Rosie the Robot in the 1960s animated sitcom The Jetsons to Siri and Alexa today, technologies that perform the roles of housekeeper and secretary are often presented as female. What does the gendering of these machines say about our expectations of who should be doing this kind of work? In the first of two episodes exploring the world of fembots and female AI assistants, the Guardian's UK technology editor, Alex Hern, examines whether smart assistants are reinforcing harmful gender stereotypes. Help support our independent journalism at <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/sciencepod">theguardian.com/sciencepod</a>


Covid-19: is it possible to predict how sick someone could get?
2020-09-24 03:00:23
Nine months in, and with over 30 million people having been infected with Covid-19, we now know some of the main factors that put people at higher risk of a severe case of the disease, such as age and having other health problems. But there is still a lot to learn about why some people, and not others, become very ill from catching Sars-CoV-2. Nicola Davis takes a look at the researchers attempting to rapidly work out how to predict who is going to get very sick. Help support our independent journalism at <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/sciencepod">theguardian.com/sciencepod</a>


What does it mean to be alive? Paul Nurse on defining 'life'
2020-09-21 21:00:03
Is it possible to define the biological, chemical and physical functions that separate cells, plants and even humans from inanimate objects? In his new book, Paul Nurse, Nobel prize winner and director of the Francis Crick Institute, addresses a question that has long plagued both philosophers and scientists - what does it really mean to be alive? Speaking to Madeleine Finlay, Paul delves into why it's important to understand the underlying principles of life, the role of science in society, and what life might look like on other planets. Help support our independent journalism at <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/sciencepod">theguardian.com/sciencepod</a>


Covid-19 ethics: should we deliberately infect volunteers in the name of science? Part 2
2020-09-16 21:00:47
Teams around the world are hard at work developing Covid-19 vaccines. While any potential candidate will need to be tested on thousands of volunteers to prove its safety and efficacy, some scientists have argued that the race to the finish line could be sped up by human challenge trials – where participants are infected with a special strain of the virus. Ian Sample delves into some of the misconceptions and hurdles inherent in this kind of research. In the second of two episodes, Ian explores the importance of rescue treatments, what happens if something goes wrong, and whether it would ever be morally permissible to deliberately infect those most at risk of Covid-19, like volunteer octogenarians. Help support our independent journalism at <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/sciencepod">theguardian.com/sciencepod</a>


Covid-19 ethics: Should we deliberately infect volunteers in the name of science? (part 1)
2020-09-14 21:00:15
Would you be willing to have a dose of Sars-CoV-2 sprayed up your nose for medical research? For thousands around the world, the answer is yes. Eager volunteers have already signed up to take part in human challenge trials, where participants would be deliberately infected with the virus in order to better understand the disease, and rapidly develop a treatment or vaccine. But should such studies go ahead with a dangerous and relatively new virus? In the first of two episodes, alongside a panel of experts Ian Sample delves into some of the ethical questions of human challenge trials and asks where the balance of risks and benefits currently lies. Help support our independent journalism at <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/sciencepod">theguardian.com/sciencepod</a>


Covid-19: what happens when flu season hits? (part 2)
2020-09-09 21:00:33
As the northern hemisphere heads into autumn and winter, cold and flu are beginning to spread and more people find themselves with coughs, fevers and a runny nose. With Covid-19, this brings new challenges. Should we quarantine at the first sign of the sniffles? Could co-infections of flu and Covid-19 make your symptoms worse? Do we have the capacity to test for more than one virus? In part 2 of our investigation into what happens when flu season hits, Ian Sample speaks to Prof Peter Horby about what it might mean for both individuals and medical professionals if multiple respiratory viruses are circulating, and how we can best prepare for a potential winter resurgence of Covid-19. Help support our independent journalism at <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/sciencepod">theguardian.com/sciencepod</a>


Covid-19: what happens when flu season hits? (part 1)
2020-09-07 21:00:12
For those of us in the northern hemisphere, flu season is quickly approaching. This raises an important question: what will it mean for Covid-19? Could hospitals be overloaded? Is co-infection likely and could it make symptoms worse? Or, will transmission of Sars-CoV-2 prevent the spread of seasonal influenza? In the first of two parts, Ian Sample addresses the question of flu and Covid-19 by investigating how different respiratory viruses interact. Speaking with Prof Pablo Murcia, Ian explores the interplay when viruses meet - both on a population level, and on the human scale. Help support our independent journalism at <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/sciencepod">theguardian.com/sciencepod</a>


Covid-19: why do pandemics trigger civil unrest? - podcast
2020-09-03 03:08:13
As countries entered lockdowns to mitigate the impact of Covid-19, many citizens came out to protest against measures such as social distancing, face masks and potential vaccination programmes. Demonstrations have subsequently erupted around around the world, with causes ranging from the Black Lives Matter movement to protests against inequality and corruption. Taking a look at some of the social psychology underpinning such action, Nicola Davis asks Prof Clifford Stott why pandemics can trigger social unrest, how disease outbreaks should be policed, and what Covid-19 might mean for community relationships. Help support our independent journalism at <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/sciencepod">theguardian.com/sciencepod</a>


The science of healthy eating: Why are we still getting it wrong?
2020-09-01 06:43:22
According to a recent study, obesity increases the risk of dying of Covid-19 by nearly 50%. Governments around the world are now hoping to encourage their citizens to lose weight. But with so much complex and often contradictory diet advice, as well as endless food fads, it can be hard to know what healthy eating actually looks like. How many pieces of fruit and vegetables should you eat a day? Will cutting out carbs help you lose weight? Is breakfast really the most important meal of the day? Speaking to Tim Spector, professor of genetic epidemiology at King's College London about his new book Spoon-Fed, Madeleine Finlay asks why we're still getting food science wrong, and explores the current scientific evidence on snacking, supplements and calorie labels. Help support our independent journalism at <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/sciencepod">theguardian.com/sciencepod</a>


From the archives: the fate of Arctic sea ice
2020-08-26 21:00:43
As the Science Weekly team continue their summer break, we're digging through the archives. Today's episode takes us back to 2016, when Ian Sample explored the crisis of melting Arctic sea ice. Recently, this worrying phenomenon hit the headlines once again when a new model found that the Arctic could experience summers completely free of sea-ice as early as 2035. In our episode from the archive, Ian asks a host of experts what some of the potential ramifications might be of the total disappearance of Arctic sea ice. Help support our independent journalism at <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/sciencepod">theguardian.com/sciencepod</a>


From the archives: nudge theory and the psychology of persuasion
2020-08-24 21:00:44
While the Science Weekly team take a summer break, we're bringing you an episode from the archives - one that seems particularly pertinent as the pandemic continues and governments take a more prominent role in our day-to-day lives. Back in 2017, Ian Sample investigated how we're constantly "nudged" to change how we act. Exploring the psychology, history and ethics of nudge theory, Ian spoke to the Harvard Law School professor Cass Sunstein and Dr David Halpern, one of the field's founders, who is currently advising the UK government on nudging during the coronavirus outbreak. Help support our independent journalism at <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/sciencepod">theguardian.com/sciencepod</a>


Covid-19 ethics: digital contact tracing (part 2)
2020-08-19 21:00:11
The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted many of the economic, health, and social disparities faced by minorities and those living in more deprived areas. Although track-and-trace apps have the potential to reduce the spread of Covid-19, there remain questions about what role digital contact-tracing systems might have in reducing - or increasing - inequality, and who an app will really work for. In the second part of a conversation about the ethics of track-and-trace apps, Ian Sample discusses these issues with Carly Kind and Seeta Peña Gangadharan. Help support our independent journalism at <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/sciencepod">theguardian.com/sciencepod</a>


Covid-19: behind the app – the ethics of digital contract tracing part 1
2020-08-17 21:00:27
As a trial of the revised English coronavirus app gets under way, many of us will be watching closely to see what it can and cannot do, and whether it could help to contain Covid-19. But alongside issues of efficacy are other, deeper questions about what this technology means for the citizens who use it - today and in the future. Split over two episodes, Ian Sample talks to Carly Kind and Seeta Peña Gangadharan about data privacy, the involvement of Google and Apple, and if we should expect track-and-trace apps to become a normal part of our lives. Help support our independent journalism at <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/sciencepod">theguardian.com/sciencepod</a>


From the archives: the chemistry of crime fiction
2020-08-12 21:00:44
The Science Weekly team are taking a summer break - well, some of them - and so we're bringing you an episode from the archive. And not just any episode, one of Nicola Davis's favourites. Back in 2017, Nicola sat down with with Dr Kathryn Harkup to discuss a shared love of crime fiction and the chemistry contained within their poisonous plots. Help support our independent journalism at <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/sciencepod">theguardian.com/sciencepod</a>


Covid-19: tracking the spread of a virus in real time
2020-08-11 02:15:31
Central to infectious disease control is tracking the spread of a pathogen through the population. In Cambridge, UK, researchers are looking at genetic mutations in samples from Covid-19 patients to rapidly investigate how and where hospital transmissions are occurring. Dr Estée Török tells Nicola Davis what this real-time pathological detective work can reveal about the origins of an outbreak. Help support our independent journalism at <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/sciencepod">theguardian.com/sciencepod</a>


The fight over the Hubble constant
2020-08-06 05:11:16
When it comes to the expansion rate of the universe, trying to get a straight answer isn't easy. That's because the two best ways of measuring what's known as the Hubble constant are giving different results. As each method becomes increasingly accurate, the gap between widens. Is one of them wrong? Or is it time to rejig the Standard Model of Cosmology? Madeleine Finlay investigates the so-called 'Hubble tension' with Prof Erminia Calabrese. Help support our independent journalism at <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/sciencepod">theguardian.com/sciencepod</a>


Covid-19: does more testing always mean more cases?
2020-08-03 21:00:21
Since the beginning of the pandemic, 'test, test, test' has been the key message from epidemiologists, infectious disease specialists and healthcare professionals alike. But how does a country know if it's doing sufficient testing? Or that it's catching enough of the asymptomatic cases? Nicola Davis speaks to Prof Rowland Kao about the positivity rate, a value that can help to answer some of these difficult questions. Help support our independent journalism at <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/sciencepod">theguardian.com/sciencepod</a>


How Red Sea 'supercorals' are resisting the climate crisis
2020-07-29 21:00:08
Ian Sample speaks to marine biologist Prof Maoz Fine about his surprising research on the relationship between increasing ocean temperatures and the Red Sea's coral reefs. Help support our independent journalism at <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/sciencepod">theguardian.com/sciencepod</a>


Covid-19: How risky is singing?
2020-07-27 21:00:12
With evolving evidence on airborne transmission of Covid-19 and early super-spreading events linked to choir practices, musicians have been left wondering how risky it is to sing and play instruments in person. Investigating a listener question, Nicola Davis speaks to Prof Jonathan Reid about the science of aerosols and why he's getting musicians to sing into funnels – in the middle of an operating theatre. Help support our independent journalism at <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/sciencepod">theguardian.com/sciencepod</a>


Are we in the midst of a new space race?
2020-07-22 21:00:32
From Elon Musk's SpaceX, to Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic and Jeff Bezos's Blue Horizon - there is a growing interest in space exploration by some of the world's least publicity-shy billionaires. But does the 2020 launch of the SpaceX Dragon 2 spacecraft really mark the beginning of a new privately financed space race? And what do recent international launches, such as the UAE's Hope probe to Mars, say about changing geopolitical ambitions for space exploration? Ian Sample speaks to space policy veteran Prof John Logsdon about the past, present and future of global space policy.. Help support our independent journalism at <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/sciencepod">theguardian.com/sciencepod</a>


Covid-19: what can sewage tell us?
2020-07-20 21:00:33
It may be a respiratory virus, but studies have repeatedly found traces of Covid-19 in the faeces of infected patients. Using this to their advantage, scientists are sampling untreated sewage from wastewater plants in an effort to track the virus. Hannah Devlin speaks to Andrew Singer about how what we flush down the toilet can help detect emerging outbreaks - days before patients begin presenting with symptoms. Help support our independent journalism at <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/sciencepod">theguardian.com/sciencepod</a>


Booming blooms: how algae are turning the alps pink
2020-07-16 00:50:44
They are usually associated with toxic, murky lakes. But algae blooms are increasingly turning up in icy regions too. Hannah Devlin speaks to Prof Marian Yallop about the recent appearance of pink snow in the Italian alps, and what the growing numbers of algal blooms could mean for melting glaciers and ice sheets. Help support our independent journalism at <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/sciencepod">theguardian.com/sciencepod</a>


Covid-19: the relationship between antibodies and immunity
2020-07-13 21:00:40
With antibodies having implications for both our understanding of previous coronavirus infections and potential future immunity, Nicola Davis talks to Prof Eleanor Riley about how best to test for them and asks whether antibodies are the only thing we should be looking for. Help support our independent journalism at <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/sciencepod">theguardian.com/sciencepod</a>


How many contactable alien civilisations are out there?
2020-07-08 21:00:51
Could there really be other civilisations out there in the Milky Way? Nicola Davis talks to Prof Chris Conselice, whose recent work revises the decades-old Drake equation to throw new light on the possibility of contactable alien life existing in our galaxy. Help support our independent journalism at <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/sciencepod">theguardian.com/sciencepod</a>


Covid-19: Why are people suffering long-term symptoms?
2020-07-06 21:00:02
Weeks and months after having a confirmed or suspected Covid-19 infection, many people are finding they still haven't fully recovered. Emerging reports describe lingering symptoms ranging from fatigue and brain-fog to breathlessness and tingling toes. So why does Covid-19 cause lasting health problems? Ian Sample discusses some of the possible explanations with Prof Danny Altmann, and finds out how patients might be helped in the future. Help support our independent journalism at <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/sciencepod">theguardian.com/sciencepod</a>


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