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Babbage from The Economist

English, Technology, 1 season, 449 episodes, 16 hours, 40 minutes
About
Named after Charles Babbage, a 19th-century polymath and grandfather of computing, Babbage is a weekly podcast on science and technology. Host Kenneth Cukier talks to our correspondents about the innovations, discoveries and gadgetry making the news. Published every Tuesday by Economist Podcasts.
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Trailer: The Modi Raj

Narendra Modi may well be the most popular politician on the planet. India’s prime minister is eyeing a third term atop the world’s biggest democracy. A tea-seller’s son, Mr Modi began life an outsider and the man behind the political phenomenon remains hard to fathom. India has become an economic powerhouse during his ten years in charge. But he’s also the frontman for a chauvinistic Hindu nationalist dogma. Can Mr Modi continue to balance both parts of his agenda and finish the job of turning India into a superpower? The Economist’s Avantika Chilkoti finds out what makes him tick. Launching June 2024.To listen to the full series, subscribe to Economist Podcasts+.If you’re already a subscriber to The Economist, you have full access to all our shows as part of your subscription. For more information about how to access Economist Podcasts+, please visit our FAQs page or watch our video explaining how to link your account.
5/29/20244 minutes, 58 seconds
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AI and health part one: DrGPT will see you now

Artificial intelligence is already making its mark in health care—but new, bigger, models promise to improve how patients access services, help doctors spot diseases faster and transform how medical research is done. In the first of two episodes on the potential of AI in health care, we ask: how will patients benefit from the technology behind ChatGPT? Host: Alok Jha, The Economist’s science and technology editor. Contributors: Natasha Loder, The Economist's health editor; Gerald Lip of NHS Grampian; Peter Kecskemethy of Kheiron Medical; Pranav Rajpurkar of Harvard Medical School; Hugh Harvey of Hardian Health.Want to learn more about generative artificial intelligence? Listen to our series on the science that built the AI revolution.Transcripts of our podcasts are available via economist.com/podcasts.Get a world of insights for 50% off—subscribe to Economist Podcasts+For more information about how to access Economist Podcasts+, please visit our FAQs page or watch our video explaining how to link your account.
5/22/202445 minutes, 35 seconds
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Babbage: Teens and their screens

Ever since there have been smartphones and social media, there have been concerns about how they might be affecting children. Over the past decade, doctors have seen a decline in mental health in the young in much of the rich world. But whether that rise can be attributed to technology is still a matter of fierce debate. Nevertheless, demands are growing to proactively restrict teenagers’ access to phones and social media, just in case. How concerned should parents and teachers be? Or is this just another moral panic? Host: Alok Jha, The Economist’s science and technology editor. Contributors: Tom Wainwright, The Economist's technology and media editor; Clare Fernyhough, co-founder of Smartphone Free Childhood; Carol Vidal of Johns Hopkins University; Pete Etchells, a psychologist at Bath Spa University and the author of “Unlocked: The Real Science of Screen Time”.Listen to what matters most, from global politics and business to science and technology—subscribe to Economist Podcasts+For more information about how to access Economist Podcasts+, please visit our FAQs page or watch our video explaining how to link your account.
5/1/202442 minutes, 16 seconds
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Babbage: The science that built the AI revolution—part one

What is intelligence? In the middle of the 20th century, the inner workings of the human brain inspired computer scientists to build the first “thinking machines”. But how does human intelligence actually relate to the artificial kind?This is the first episode in a four-part series on the evolution of modern generative AI. What were the scientific and technological developments that took the very first, clunky artificial neurons and ended up with the astonishingly powerful large language models that power apps such as ChatGPT?Host: Alok Jha, The Economist’s science and technology editor. Contributors: Ainslie Johnstone, The Economist’s data journalist and science correspondent; Dawood Dassu and Steve Garratt of UK Biobank; Daniel Glaser, a neuroscientist at London’s Institute of Philosophy; Daniela Rus, director of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory; Yoshua Bengio of the University of Montréal, who is known as one of the “godfathers” of modern AI.On Thursday April 4th, we’re hosting a live event where we’ll answer as many of your questions on AI as possible, following this Babbage series. If you’re a subscriber, you can submit your question and find out more at economist.com/aievent. Get a world of insights for 50% off—subscribe to Economist Podcasts+If you’re already a subscriber to The Economist, you’ll have full access to all our shows as part of your subscription. For more information about how to access Economist Podcasts+, please visit our FAQs page or watch our video explaining how to link your account. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
3/6/202442 minutes, 57 seconds
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Babbage: The hunt for dark matter

Dark matter is thought to make up around a quarter of the universe, but so far it has eluded detection by all scientific instruments. Scientists know it must exist because of the ways galaxies move and it also explains the large-scale structure of the modern universe. But no-one knows what dark matter actually is.Scientists have been hunting for dark matter particles for decades, but have so far had no luck. At the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, held recently in Denver, a new generation of researchers presented their latest tools, techniques and ideas to step up the search for this mysterious substance. Will they finally detect the undetectable? Host: Alok Jha, The Economist’s science and technology editor. Contributors: Don Lincoln, senior scientist at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory; Christopher Karwin, a fellow at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center; Josef Aschbacher, boss of the European Space Agency; Michael Murra of Columbia University; Jodi Cooley, executive director of SNOLAB; Deborah Pinna of University of Wisconsin and CERN.Get a world of insights for 50% off—subscribe to Economist Podcasts+If you’re already a subscriber to The Economist, you’ll have full access to all our shows as part of your subscription. For more information about how to access Economist Podcasts+, please visit our FAQs page or watch our video explaining how to link your account. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
2/21/202443 minutes, 47 seconds
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Babbage: Sam Altman and Satya Nadella on their vision for AI

OpenAI and Microsoft are leaders in generative artificial intelligence (AI). OpenAI has built GPT-4, one of the world’s most sophisticated large language models (LLMs) and Microsoft is injecting those algorithms into its products, from Word to Windows. At the World Economic Forum in Davos last week, Zanny Minton Beddoes, The Economist’s editor-in-chief, interviewed Sam Altman and Satya Nadella, who run OpenAI and Microsoft respectively. They explained their vision for humanity’s future with AI and addressed some thorny questions looming over the field, such as how AI that is better than humans at doing tasks might affect productivity and how to ensure that the technology doesn’t pose existential risks to society.Host: Alok Jha, The Economist's science and technology editor. Contributors: Zanny Minton Beddoes, editor-in-chief of The Economist; Ludwig Siegele, The Economist’s senior editor, AI initiatives; Sam Altman, chief executive of OpenAI; Satya Nadella, chief executive of Microsoft. If you subscribe to The Economist, you can watch the full interview on our website or app. Essential listening, from our archive:“Daniel Dennett on intelligence, both human and artificial”, December 27th 2023“Fei-Fei Li on how to really think about the future of AI”, November 22nd 2023“Mustafa Suleyman on how to prepare for the age of AI”, September 13th 2023“Vint Cerf on how to wisely regulate AI”, July 5th 2023“Is GPT-4 the dawn of true artificial intelligence?”, with Gary Marcus, March 22nd 2023Sign up for a free trial of Economist Podcasts+. If you’re already a subscriber to The Economist, you’ll have full access to all our shows as part of your subscription. For more information about how to access Economist Podcasts+, please visit our FAQs page or watch our video explaining how to link your account. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
1/24/202445 minutes
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Babbage: Science book club

Books are the original medium for communicating science to the masses. In a holiday special, producer Kunal Patel asks Babbage’s family of correspondents about the books that have inspired them in their careers as science journalists.Host: Alok Jha, The Economist’s science and technology editor. Contributors: Rachel Dobbs, The Economist’s climate correspondent; Kenneth Cukier, our deputy executive editor; The Economist’s Emilie Steinmark; Geoff Carr, our senior editor for science and technology; and Abby Bertics, The Economist’s science correspondent. Reading list: “The Periodic Table” by Primo Levi; “When We Cease to Understand the World” by Benjamín Labatut; “A Theory of Everyone” by Michael Muthukrishna; “Madame Curie” by Ève Curie; “Sociobiology” by E. O. Wilson; “The Selfish Gene” by Richard Dawkins; “Why Fish Don't Exist” by Lulu Miller; and “How Far the Light Reaches” by Sabrina Imbler.Sign up for a free trial of Economist Podcasts+. If you’re already a subscriber to The Economist, you’ll have full access to all our shows as part of your subscription. For more information about how to access Economist Podcasts+, please visit our FAQs page or watch our video explaining how to link your account. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
12/20/202342 minutes, 23 seconds
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Babbage: Fei-Fei Li on how to really think about the future of AI

A year ago, the public launch of ChatGPT took the world by storm and it was followed by many more generative artificial intelligence tools, all with remarkable, human-like abilities. Fears over the existential risks posed by AI have dominated the global conversation around the technology ever since. Fei-Fei Li, a pioneer that helped lay the groundwork that underpins modern generative AI models, takes a more nuanced approach. She’s pushing for a human-centred way of dealing with AI—treating it as a tool to help enhance—and not replace—humanity, while focussing on the pressing challenges of disinformation, bias and job disruption.Fei-Fei Li is the founding co-director of Stanford University’s Institute for Human-Centred Artificial Intelligence. Fei-Fei and her research group created ImageNet, a huge database of images that enabled computers scientists to build algorithms that were able to see and recognise objects in the real world. That endeavour also introduced the world to deep learning, a type of machine learning that is fundamental part of how large-language and image-creation models work.Host: Alok Jha, The Economist’s science and technology editor. Sign up for a free trial of Economist Podcasts+. If you’re already a subscriber to The Economist, you’ll have full access to all our shows as part of your subscription. For more information about how to access Economist Podcasts+, please visit our FAQs page or watch our video explaining how to link your account. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
11/22/202338 minutes, 58 seconds
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Babbage: How to avoid a battery shortage

In the coming decades, electric vehicles will dominate the roads and renewables will provide energy to homes. But for the green transition to be successful, unprecedented amounts of energy storage is needed. Batteries will be used everywhere—from powering electric vehicles, to providing electricity when the sun doesn’t shine or the wind doesn’t blow. The current generation of batteries are lacking in capacity and are too reliant on rare metals, though. Many analysts worry about material shortages. How can technology help? Host: Alok Jha, The Economist’s science and technology editor. Contributors: Paul Markillie, our innovation editor; Matthieu Favas, our finance correspondent; Anjani Trivedi, our global business correspondent. Sign up for Economist Podcasts+ now and get 50% off your subscription with our limited time offer. If you’re already a subscriber to The Economist, you’ll have full access to all our shows as part of your subscription. For more information about how to access Economist Podcasts+, please visit our FAQs page or watch our video explaining how to link your account. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
10/25/202344 minutes, 47 seconds
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Babbage: The mystery of chronic pain

Chronic pain is thought to affect around a third of people. For one in ten of these, the pain is severe enough to be disabling—making it the leading cause of disability worldwide. Some forms of chronic pain are particularly mysterious—with clinicians unable to treat the pain, nor understand its causal mechanisms—presenting a huge challenge for societies. How can this burden be eased, for both healthcare systems and the individuals living with pain? Host: Alok Jha, The Economist’s science and technology editor, with Gilead Amit, our science correspondent. Contributors: Catherine Charlwood, who lives with chronic pain; Francis Keefe, director of the Pain Prevention and Treatment Research Program at Duke University; Matt Evans, a clinical lecturer at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital and Imperial College London; Jan Vollert, a pain researcher at the University of Exeter.Sign up for Economist Podcasts+ now and get 50% off your subscription with our limited time offer. You will not be charged until Economist Podcasts+ launches.If you’re already a subscriber to The Economist, you’ll have full access to all our shows as part of your subscription. For more information about Economist Podcasts+, including how to get access, please visit our FAQs page. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
10/18/202343 minutes, 39 seconds
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Babbage: Deb Chachra on the value of great infrastructure

From roads to telecommunications, networks of infrastructure define people’s lives, but are often hidden from view. Our guest wants people to step back, look at and appreciate the infrastructure around them. As the climate changes and landscapes shift, societies need to prepare for an increasingly unpredictable world by building better infrastructure for a more effective, efficient and equitable future.Alok Jha, The Economist’s science and technology editor, interviews Deb Chachra, a materials science professor at Olin College of Engineering and the author of “How Infrastructure Works”, a new book about the intersection of technology and society. Sign up for Economist Podcasts+ now and get 50% off your subscription with our limited time offer. You will not be charged until Economist Podcasts+ launches.If you’re already a subscriber to The Economist, you’ll have full access to all our shows as part of your subscription.For more information about Economist Podcasts+, including how to get access, please visit our FAQs page. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
10/11/202338 minutes, 15 seconds
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Babbage: The 2023 Nobel prizes in science

This year’s Nobel prizes in science recognised the former underdogs behind mRNA vaccines, how to watch electrons and a new class of material that could revolutionise both solar panels and cancer treatments. How have these achievements had an impact beyond the lab?Host: Alok Jha, The Economist’s science and technology editor. Contributors: Katalin Karikó and Drew Weissman, this year’s co-laureates in medicine or physiology; Jon Marangos, a professor of laser physics at Imperial College London; Judy Giordan, the president of the American Chemical Society; and Natasha Loder, The Economist’s health editor.Sign up for Economist Podcasts+ now and get 50% off your subscription with our limited time offer. You will not be charged until Economist Podcasts+ launches.If you’re already a subscriber to The Economist, you’ll have full access to all our shows as part of your subscription.For more information about Economist Podcasts+, including how to get access, please visit our FAQs page. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
10/4/202337 minutes, 31 seconds
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Babbage: The scientific quest to conquer ageing

How ageing happens and whether it can be slowed has recently become the subject of intense research and investment. Scientists are exploring differing approaches to reducing age-related deterioration, tech billionaires are experimenting with as-yet-unproven interventions. It is entirely possible that by 2100, people will typically live to be 100, thanks to a better understanding of the process of ageing. But is there a limit to how far human lives can be extended? Host: Alok Jha, The Economist’s science and technology editor. Contributors: Geoff Carr, The Economist’s senior editor (science and technology); Bryan Johnson, a tech entrepreneur and self-declared “rejuvenation athlete”; Paul Knoepfler, a professor in longevity at the University of California, Davis; Irina Conboy, a biotechnology professor at the University of California, Berkeley; Mike Conboy, a researcher at the University of California, Berkeley.Sign up for Economist Podcasts+ now and get 50% off your subscription with our limited time offer. You will not be charged until Economist Podcasts+ launches.If you’re already a subscriber to The Economist, you’ll have full access to all our shows as part of your subscription.For more information about Economist Podcasts+, including how to get access, please visit our FAQs page. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
9/27/202339 minutes, 37 seconds
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Babbage: How AI promises to revolutionise science

Discussions about artificial intelligence tend to focus on its risks, but there is also excitement on the horizon. AI tools, like the models beneath ChatGPT, are being increasingly used by scientists for everything from finding new drugs and materials to predicting the shapes of proteins. Self-driving lab robots could take things even further towards making new discoveries. As it gets ever more useful, could AI change the scientific process altogether?Jane Dyson, structural biologist at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, explains why Google DeepMind’s AlphaFold tool is useful, but scientists should be aware of its limitations. This week, Google DeepMind released a new tool to unpick the link between genes and disease, as Pushmeet Kohli, head of the company’s “AI for Science” team, explains. Also, Kunal Patel, one of our producers, meets Erik Bjurström, a researcher at Chalmers University of Technology and Ross King, a professor of Machine Intelligence at Chalmers University of Technology and at the University of Cambridge. They explain why self-driving lab robots could make research more efficient. Alok Jha, The Economist’s science and technology editor hosts, with Abby Bertics, our science correspondent and Tom Standage, deputy editor. Sign up for Economist Podcasts+ now and get 50% off your subscription with our limited time offer: economist.com/podcastsplus-babbage. You will not be charged until Economist Podcasts+ launches.If you’re already a subscriber to The Economist, you’ll have full access to all our shows as part of your subscription.For more information about Economist Podcasts+, including how to get access, please visit our FAQs page. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
9/20/202346 minutes, 27 seconds
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Babbage: Mustafa Suleyman on how to prepare for the age of AI

Artificial intelligence and biotechnology are at the vanguard of a new era of humanity, according to Mustafa Suleyman. The entrepreneur has been at the forefront of AI development for over a decade and predicts that in the near future, everyone will have their own personal AI assistants that will plan and arrange tasks on their behalf. He also sees an acceleration in the pace of scientific discovery, with AI helping researchers tackle some of the world's grandest challenges—from climate change to famine. But these technologies also come with grave risks. In the hands of bad actors, disinformation could influence elections, or synthetic substances could be weaponised. This week, we explore how to develop the coming technologies responsibly, the hurdles that need to be overcome and how society should prepare for this new age of AI. Alok Jha, The Economist’s science and technology editor, hosts.Mustafa Suleyman is the founder of Inflection AI. He was also the co-founder of Google DeepMind. His latest book, “The Coming Wave”, explores how to navigate the opportunities and risks of fast-proliferating new technologiesFor full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
9/13/202344 minutes, 26 seconds
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Babbage: Sex differences and sport

Some sports use different rules and equipment in the women’s game; some do not. We consider the distinction through the lenses of professional football and rugby. Scientific questions of relative performance lead to those of player safety, and ultimately to philosophy: what do varying opinions about changing women’s game reveal about the purpose of sport in society?Arve Vorland Pedersen, a sports scientist at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, calculates how football’s pitches and equipment might scale to account for physiological differences. Ross Tucker, a consultant for World Rugby, describes how a trial of a smaller ball might change the game’s mechanics. Lauren Heria, a professional footballer, explains why such meddling is seen as disrespectful by many players. And Emelia Funnell, a researcher at Ida Sports, reveals why ignorance about ACL injuries among women traces back to male cadavers. Host Alok Jha, The Economist’s science and technology editor, is joined by Abby Bertics, our science correspondent (and a former professional volleyball player).For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
9/6/202339 minutes, 59 seconds
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Babbage: El Niño is back, and he looks angry

Extreme weather is constantly in the news, but a new factor is just getting warmed up: El Niño. This Pacific Ocean phenomenon can have devastating effects in some parts of the world while benefiting others; it is linked to droughts as well as floods; and this year’s looks like it may be severe.Maarten van Aalst, a professor of climate and disaster resilience at the University of Twente, explains how the current El Niño will affect the climate in unpredictable ways. Chris Funk, the director of the Climate Hazards Center at the University of California Santa Barbara, looks at global effects that are already under way. Plus, the harrowing tale of Jack Egan, who lost his home to bushfires in Australia during the last El Niño event. Catherine Brahic, The Economist’s environment editor, and our correspondent Rachel Dobbs consider how prepared countries are for this event. Alok Jha, The Economist’s science and technology editor, hosts.For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
8/30/202339 minutes, 17 seconds
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Babbage: How to learn to love maths, with Eugenia Cheng

While some people enjoy learning maths, the subject haunts many children throughout school and beyond. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Eugenia Cheng, a mathematician and author of “Is Maths Real?”, explains why, to her, maths is a joyful enterprise. In this interview with Alok Jha, The Economist’s science and technology editor, Eugenia explores how asking seemingly simple questions can uncover deep mysteries beneath the sums. She also argues that education systems should rethink the way that the subject is taught, to encourage curiosity and creativity.For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
8/23/202334 minutes, 11 seconds
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Babbage: The race to the Moon’s South Pole

In the coming days, both Russia and India hope to land robotic probes near the South Pole of the Moon. Conquering the South Pole remains one of the grandest challenges in lunar science, but it’s a potentially rewarding endeavour. If evidence of water is found it will make human settlements much more likely. But the significance of the missions racing for the Moon, Luna-25 and Chandrayaan-3, go beyond science. Russia’s space agency has become isolated after the country’s invasion of Ukraine, while India’s space agency seeks to raise its profile. In an increasingly polarised world, is there any hope for an international agreement on humanity’s use of the Moon?Sam Dayala, a former director at the Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology and India’s space agency, explains the aims of Chandrayaan-3. Simeon Barber, a planetary scientist at the Open University who works with the European Space Agency, discusses Russia’s Luna missions and why his drilling package has been removed from the Luna-27 probe. Natan Eismont of the Russian Academy of Sciences explains his desire for renewed global collaboration, despite the political backdrop. Plus, Asif Siddiqi of Fordham University and Raji Rajagopalan of the Observer Research Foundation, reflect on the stakes if a consensus on the use of the Moon isn’t agreed internationally. Gilead Amit, The Economist’s science correspondent, hosts, with Oliver Morton, a senior editor at The Economist.For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
8/16/202343 minutes, 2 seconds
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Babbage: Advances in healthcare technology

Attending a science festival or an exhibition can be an exciting day out, while also being hugely informative. Natasha Loder, The Economist’s health editor visits the Royal Society’s summer exhibition to play with both the simple and cutting-edge technologies that have potential for healthcare. Natasha asks Clem Burke, drummer of the rock band Blondie, and Marcus Smith of the University of Chichester how drumming can help children with autism. Natasha also meets Lorenzo Picinali, of Imperial College London, who explains why creating audio that feels three-dimensional could be useful for people with sensory impairment. Plus, Sumeet Mahajan of the University of Southampton demonstrates how technology used in NASA’s Mars rover can be applied to the early detection of diseases. Gilead Amit, The Economist’s science correspondent, hosts. For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
8/9/202338 minutes, 24 seconds
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Babbage: Are auctioned dinosaur fossils lost to science?

Natural history auctions are on the rise and are generating millions of dollars for private fossil hunters, but the commercialisation of ancient bones is worrying some palaeontologists. They argue that specimens sold privately are lost to science. Yet others say that by disincentivising the black market and encouraging more enthusiasts to search for rare finds, fossil auctions could improve the scientific understanding of ancient reptiles. The Economist’s Dylan Barry explores the Natural History Museum’s fossil collection in London, with Paul Barrett, a paleontologist. Dylan also chats to the “dinosaur cowboy”, Clayton Phipps, a commercial fossil prospector, about his discovery of the “duelling dinosaurs” and how ranchers benefit from finding dinosaur bones. Plus, Cassandra Hatton, the vice president and head of natural history of Sotheby’s, an auction house, argues that auctioneers and palaeontologists should see each other as being on the same side. Kenneth Cukier hosts.For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
8/2/202343 minutes, 31 seconds
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Babbage: How good can weather forecasting get?

In recent weeks, extreme heat, floods and storms have smashed records and caused devastation around the world. Freak weather events such as these will become more frequent due to climate change—but they are exceptionally hard to predict. How are meteorologists gearing up to face the enormous challenge of predicting the weather in a warming world? Andrew Charlton-Perez, at the University of Reading in Britain, explains how weather forecasts are made—and why meteorology is such a complicated science. The Economist’s Rachel Dobbs investigates the next frontiers in forecasting. She asks Sam Levang, the chief scientist at Salient Predictions, how artificial intelligence can play a role in improving predictions of the weather. Rachel also visits the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts’s data centre in Bologna, Italy, to understand how a combination of technological approaches will be required to make weather forecasting fit for the 21st century. Alok Jha, The Economist’s science and technology editor, hosts.For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
7/26/202343 minutes, 17 seconds
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Babbage: Summer science lessons

How much science do you remember from school? Do you know how a simple electric motor works, or what the Doppler effect is?  Basic physics is taught early in schools, but is easily forgotten. To learn some basic science, we travel this week to the Royal Institution (RI) in London, one of the world’s oldest and established venues for scientific education and research. It hosts the annual Christmas lectures, which have cemented its reputation for demonstrations of how science works. Good demonstrations can play a big role in making abstract science concepts come alive. Alok Jha, The Economist’s science and technology editor, meets author and physics teacher Alom Shaha at the RI for some summer science lessons. Alok speaks to Dan Plane, head of Demonstrations at the RI, about the institution’s history and the importance of making science fun and accessible. Alom also leads Alok through a few science demos to explore some key concepts taught in schools today. For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
7/19/202337 minutes, 31 seconds
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Babbage: The debate over deep-sea mining

As the effects of climate change are increasingly being felt around the world, the need to transition away from fossil fuels is becoming more urgent. An electrified world requires more batteries, which in turn means the demand for metals, such as nickel, is rising. Mining those metals can often have devastating consequences for ecosystems, destroying and polluting vast landscapes. But there is another way to get these metals—from the floor of the Pacific Ocean. an area over 4km below the ocean’s surface offers an alternative. The companies proposing to harvest these metals argue that mining the deep sea would be less environmentally damaging than land-based mining. But many ecologists disagree. The Economist’s Hal Hodson explores the diversity of deep-sea ecology by visiting Adrain Glover’s lab at the Natural History Museum in London. Gerard Barron, the boss of The Metals Company, outlines the case for mining the ocean floor. Lisa Levin of Scripps Institution of Oceanography and Anna Metaxas, an oceanographer at Dalhousie University, share their concerns over the lack of evidence of the impact of deep-sea mining. Plus, Sue-Lin Wong, The Economist’s South East Asia correspondent, reports on the destruction that traditional land-based mining in Indonesia causes to the country’s rainforests. Alok Jha, The Economist’s science and technology editor, hosts.For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
7/12/202342 minutes, 55 seconds
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Babbage: Vint Cerf on how to wisely regulate AI

Almost 50 years ago, Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn designed TCP/IP, a set of rules enabling computers to connect and communicate with each other. It led to the creation of a vast global network: the internet. TCP/IP is how almost the entirety of the internet still sends and receives information. Vint Cerf is now 80 and serves as the chief internet evangelist and a vice president at Google. He is also the chairman of the Marconi Society, a group that promotes digital equity.Alok Jha, The Economist’s science and technology editor, asks Vint to reflect on the state of the internet today and the lessons that should be learned for the next, disruptive technology: generative artificial intelligence. Vint Cerf explains how he thinks large language models can be regulated without stifling innovation—ie, more precisely based on their specific applications.For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
7/5/202337 minutes, 5 seconds
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Babbage: Understanding same-sex attraction in people

Same-sex attraction is found in many animals—but, like all animal behaviours, it can be complicated and difficult to study. The underlying biological mechanisms, however, are of great interest for understanding human health, genetics and evolution. Researchers know there is no such thing as a “gay gene”; in fact genetics can explain less than a third of the variation in people’s self-reported same-sex behaviour. Non-genetic factors, therefore, play an enormous role. Scientists can’t agree on exactly what those factors are, though.Abby Bertics, The Economist’s science correspondent, visits a Royal Society conference in Cookham on the genetics and evolution of same-sex attraction, to meet some of the researchers applying scientific rigour to these intriguing questions. Lisa Diamond, a psychologist at the University of Utah, explores some of the theories related to brain development in babies. Robbee Wedow, a sociologist at Purdue University, and Andrea Ganna, a data scientist at the University of Helsinki, explain how genomic studies are changing the focus of research into same-sex attraction. Plus, Qazi Rahman, a psychologist at King's College London, explains why investigating same-sex attraction should be of broad interest to everyone. Alok Jha, The Economist’s science and technology editor, hosts.For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
6/28/202346 minutes, 25 seconds
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Babbage: How to uncover the origin of the coronavirus

The Biden administration is expected to declassify some information gathered on the origin of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, hoping to end a three-year battle over whether covid-19 came from a seafood market or a laboratory in Wuhan, China. Some scientists say they have strong evidence for a market origin—although many are far from convinced. Will this mystery ever be solved? Natasha Loder, The Economist’s health editor, asks James Wood, an epidemiologist at the University of Cambridge, how to trace a virus back to its source—and why interpreting the patchy data is so complicated. Plus, Alison Young, the author of “Pandora’s Gamble” explains the implications of this investigation on laboratory safety. Alok Jha, The Economist’s science and technology editor, hosts. We would love to hear from you. Please fill out our updated listener survey at economist.com/podcastsurvey.For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
6/21/202343 minutes, 5 seconds
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Babbage: How to farm fish on dry land

Fish are a vital source of protein and other nutrients for humans, as well as an important part of the ocean's ecology. But overfishing has become a crisis. It is estimated that 90 percent of the world’s fisheries are being fished either at or over their capacity, while some species have been driven to extinction. Can an innovative farming method, which grows fish on dry land, solve the problem?Abby Bertics, The Economist’s science correspondent, investigates. Tackling overfishing is a problem that needs to be solved in the ocean but also by using aquaculture, according to George Clark of the Marine Stewardship Council. At a small shrimp farm in California, Steve Sutton, the boss of TransparentSea, explains how recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS) work. John Sällebrant, Salten Smolt’s production manager shows how RAS can be scaled-up at a Norwegian salmon farm. Plus, Matt Craze, a consultant at Spheric Research, and David Cahill of Pure Salmon, explore the future of fish farming. Alok Jha, The Economist’s science and technology editor, hosts. For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
6/14/202343 minutes, 21 seconds
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Babbage: How to save cities from sinking

Many of the world’s most important urban areas are on coastlines or rivers, putting them at risk of rising sea levels. Rapid urbanisation and climate change are conspiring to make this threat more urgent. How can cities adapt to avoid catastrophe? The Economist’s Benjamin Sutherland explores how well new flood defences work in Venice and why Venetians are pondering raising the city’s foundations. Alizée Jean-Baptiste, The Economist’s Asia podcast producer, visits Jakarta, to investigate why Indonesia’s government is choosing to build an entirely new capital city, in a new location, in their attempt to adapt to future flooding. Plus, Catherine Brahic, our environment editor, explores the political and economic considerations needed to save cities. Alok Jha, The Economist’s science and technology editor, hosts.For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
6/7/202343 minutes, 33 seconds
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Babbage: What if generative AI destroys biometric security?

Recent years have seen a boom in biometric security systems—identification measures based on a person’s individual biology—from unlocking smartphones, to automating border controls. As this technology becomes more prevalent, some cybersecurity researchers are worried about how secure biometric data is—and the risk of spoofs. If generative AI becomes so powerful and easy-to-use that deepfake audio and video could hack into our security systems, what can be done? Bruce Schneier, a security technologist at Harvard University and the author of “A Hacker’s Mind”, explores the cybersecurity risks associated with biometrics, and Matthias Marx, a security researcher, discusses the consequences of bad actors obtaining personal data. If artificial intelligence could overcome security systems, human implants may be used as authentication, according to Katina Michael, a professor at Arizona State University. Plus, Joseph Lindley, a design academic at Lancaster University, proposes how security systems can be better designed to avoid vulnerabilities. To think about practical solutions, Scott Shapiro, professor at Yale Law School and author of “Fancy Bear Goes Phishing”, puts generative AI into the wider context of cybersecurity. Finally, Tim Cross, The Economist’s deputy science editor, weighs up the real-world implications of our thought experiment. Kenneth Cukier hosts.Learn more about detecting deepfakes at economist.com/detecting-deepfakes-pod, or listen to all of our generative AI coverage at economist.com/AI-pods.For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
5/31/202339 minutes, 11 seconds
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Babbage: Change clinical trials and save lives

Clinical trials are the gold standard for testing the safety and efficacy of a treatment or drug, and a keystone in modern medicine. But their grinding timelines and skyrocketing price tags are hindering development and, ultimately, costing lives.Natasha Loder, The Economist’s health editor, asks Sir Martin Landray, the boss of Protas, a clinical-trial organisation, what can be learned from his pioneering RECOVERY covid-19 trial. Euan Ashley, a cardiologist at Stanford University, explains how to use wearable technology to conduct wholly digital clinical trials. Plus, Alejandro Frangi of the University of Leeds says virtual clinical trials that use computers to model medical interventions can save time and money. Alok Jha, The Economist's science and technology editor, hosts.We would love to hear from you. Please fill out our listener survey at economist.com/babbagesurvey.For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
5/24/202339 minutes, 46 seconds
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Babbage: How to battle superbugs with viruses

Antimicrobial resistance killed over a million people in 2019. That figure is expected to rise to ten million by 2050. Antibiotics remain vital to modern medicine, but this hidden pandemic of drug-resistant superbugs is driving scientists to explore possible alternatives. One type of therapy in particular is attracting serious scientific interest: bacteriophages. Phages are viruses that can destroy bacteria. In the 1920s, phage therapies were used widely against infections, but much of the world abandoned the idea following the discovery of penicillin. Some parts of the former Soviet Union, though, have continued to use phage therapies. What can governments and international companies learn from this medicine?Gilead Amit, The Economist’s science correspondent, travels to the Eliava Institute in Tbilisi, Georgia to find out how phage therapies have been used there over the last century. He speaks to the director, Mzia Kutateladze, head of phage production, Vakho Pavlenishvili, and from the therapy centre: Davit Sturia, Lia Nadareishvili and Lana Abesadze. Barry Rud, a Canadian patient attending the clinic, discusses his experience. Steffanie Strathdee, who leads phage research at the University of California, San Diego, explains the renewed international interest in bacteriophages. Alok Jha, The Economist’s science and technology editor, hosts.We would love to hear from you. Please fill out our listener survey at economist.com/babbagesurvey.The Economist is also seeking applications for the 2023 Richard Casement internship. The successful candidate will spend three months with us in London writing about science and technology. More details here: economist.com/casement2023.For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
5/17/202346 minutes, 56 seconds
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Babbage: How drones are transforming warfare in Ukraine

The use of drones in the war in Ukraine has been increasing. Unmanned vehicles capture battlefield images, relay co-ordinates, and strike targets in Ukraine and even Russia. Whether purpose-built military devices or off-the-shelf civilian technology, the drones are having an outsized impact. How are they influencing battles? And what do they mean for the future of warfare?Oliver Carroll, our correspondent in Ukraine, explores the purpose and effectiveness of drones in the war. Ulrike Franke of the European Council on Foreign Relations explains the potential that drone technology offers to armies. Plus, The Economist’s Benjamin Sutherland travels to Kyiv, to investigate how engineers in underground workshops are tinkering with consumer drones and turning them into military machines. Alok Jha, The Economist’s science and technology editor, hosts.  If you love Babbage, why not work with us? We’re hiring for an Assistant Audio Producer to work on the show. Apply by May 15th.The Economist is also seeking applications for the 2023 Richard Casement internship. The successful candidate will spend three months with us in London writing about science and technology. More details here: economist.com/casement2023.For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
5/10/202341 minutes, 48 seconds
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Babbage: The urgency to green the electric grid

The vast majority of the energy used on Earth comes from fossil fuels. But as governments enact climate-friendly policies, electric grids need to be decarbonised, by using renewable-energy sources. And much more electricity needs to be generated too—to power transport, homes and heavy industry. Despite its urgency, redesigning electric grids is both a political and technological challenge. How can such a revolution happen?Host Kenneth Cukier explores the mechanics of how electric grids work and how to upgrade them with The Economist’s Hal Hodson. Hal travels to Drax, a power station in the north of England, to visualise this supersized circuit with Bruce Heppenstall, the plant’s director. Plus, Hal asks Gerhard Salge, the chief technology officer of Hitachi Energy, how the latest generation of high voltage direct current cables will transform energy systems.If you love Babbage, why not work with us? We’re hiring for an Assistant Audio Producer to work on the show. Apply by May 15th.For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
5/3/202339 minutes, 17 seconds
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Babbage: How worrying is generative AI?

Since the launch of OpenAI’s ChatGPT almost six months ago, little else has occupied the minds of technologists. Generative artificial intelligence—capable of producing media like text, images and audio in response to prompts—seems to be improving every day, with many technology companies developing and releasing their own competing systems.As the AI revolution accelerates, the technology is being used in ever more creative ways, companies are discovering its potential, causing unease among many content-creators and white-collar professionals, whose jobs seem to be at risk. The story of automation changing the world of work is not a new one. But the speed, the visibility and the hype surrounding generative AI can seem alarming. How worrying is it?The Economist’s Abby Bertics and Arjun Ramani explain how large language models work, the risk posed by the technology—and what to do about it. Callum Williams, our senior economics writer, ponders the potential for economic disruption as generative AI enters the workplace. Plus, Tom Standage, The Economist’s deputy editor explores the question of regulating this emerging technology without hindering innovation. Kenneth Cukier hosts.Listen to all of our coverage of the artificial intelligence revolution at economist.com/AI-pods. If you love Babbage, why not work with us? We’re hiring for an Assistant Audio Producer to work on the show. Apply by May 15th. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
4/26/202345 minutes, 58 seconds
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Babbage: The unfinished genomics revolution

Twenty years ago, the Human Genome Project was completed. It unveiled a mostly complete sequence of the 3 billion pairs of building blocks that make up the code within every set of human chromosomes. These are the instructions that create humans. Almost all of human biology research uses the Human Genome Project’s findings in some way, from understanding why some people are more likely to develop diseases than others, to uncovering the secrets of our ancestors and evolution. But for genomics to become a part of everyday medicine, paving the way for personalised medicines, the hard work is still ahead.Natasha Loder, The Economist’s health editor and Geoff Carr, our senior editor for science and technology, reflect on the completion of the Human Genome Project in the early 2000s and the gaps that still remain. Natasha also visits the Wellcome Sanger Institute, to explore the next frontiers for genomics in medicine—she meets the outgoing director, Mike Stratton; the incoming director, Matt Hurles; and the boss of the European Bioinformatics Institute, Ewan Birney. Plus, Mathew Davies, an engineer at the Sanger Institute, and his team, discuss the challenges with storing and processing vast amounts of sequencing data. Alok Jha, The Economist’s science and technology editor, hosts.To dive deeper on genomics, find our recent episode from the Third International Summit on Human Genome Editing, or explore the power of gene therapies, and also an explainer on how genomic sequencing works.If you love Babbage, why not work with us? We’re hiring for an Assistant Audio Producer to work on the show. Apply by May 15th.For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
4/19/202343 minutes, 24 seconds
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Babbage: Hunting for life elsewhere—part two, JUICE

On April 13th, the European Space Agency will launch a spacecraft towards Jupiter and three of its icy moons—Ganymede, Europa and Callisto. The JUICE mission will carry ten instruments to the outer solar system and will hunt for water, a heat source and organic material—the ingredients that scientists think are needed for life. It is hoped the results that come from JUICE, and a similar NASA mission, Europa Clipper, will give us scientists a clearer view of whether life exists beyond planet Earth. Tim Cross, The Economist’s deputy science editor, explains why missions to the Jovian system represent a shift away from Mars, to hunt for extraterrestrial life. Plus, Jason Hosken, our producer, visits Imperial College London to find out how the JUICE magnetometer works, with engineers Patrick Brown and Richard Baughen. He also asks Michele Dougherty, the instrument’s principal investigator, about the mission’s scientific aims. Alok Jha, The Economist’s science and technology editor, hosts.This is the second episode on the grand scientific quest to search for life beyond Earth. Last week, we asked exoplanet hunter and Nobel laureate, Didier Queloz, how to start answering one of the universe’s most intriguing questions. Listen at economist.com/queloz-pod or on your podcast app.For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
4/12/202339 minutes, 11 seconds
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Babbage: Hunting for life elsewhere—part one, Didier Queloz

As they stare up into the night sky, astronomers have long wondered whether life exists elsewhere in the universe. For decades, the hunt for extraterrestrial life has focused on Mars, Venus and even on the various moons of our solar system. But in 1995, that search entered a new phase, when Didier Queloz and Michel Mayor found the first clear evidence of a planet orbiting another star: 51 Pegasi b. Since then, more than 5,000 exoplanets have been found. This week, Alok Jha asks Nobel laureate Dider Queloz, how the “exoplanet revolution” has influenced the search for life elsewhere.Dider Queloz is the founding director of the Center for the Origin and Prevalence of Life at ETH Zurich and the director of the Leverhulme Centre for Life in the Universe at the University of Cambridge. We also hear from Emily Mitchell, the co-director of the Leverhulme Centre, on what an international collaboration of scientists called the “Origins Federation” has set out to study. Alok Jha, The Economist’s science and technology editor, hosts.This is the first of two episodes on the grand scientific quest to search for life beyond Earth. Next time, we’ll explore the European Space Agency’s mission to Jupiter’s icy moons: JUICE.For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
4/5/202336 minutes, 29 seconds
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Babbage: The race for nuclear fusion goes private

Imagine a power source that produces hardly any waste and is carbon-free. That’s the tantalising promise of controlled nuclear fusion, which physicists have been trying to achieve for 70 years. It is a simulacrum of the process that powers the sun, colliding atomic nuclei of various sorts to release huge amounts of energy. Fusion research was once the provenance of governments and national laboratories, but now private companies are getting in on the act. Dozens of them are exploring different ways to create the extreme conditions needed to achieve fusion here on Earth. And, contrary to the old joke that fusion power is thirty years away, and always will be, some of them think they can get there in a decade.Fernanda Rimini, an experimental fusion scientist with the UK Atomic Energy Authority, explains how nuclear fusion works. Geoff Carr, The Economist’s science and technology editor, explores why fusion is coming back into fashion for private companies. Geoff also speaks to Bob Mumgaard of Commonwealth Fusion Systems, Warrick Matthews of Tokamak Energy and Nick Hawker of First Light Fusion. Plus, Stephen Cowley, the director of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory assesses how helpful the latest private fusion ventures are in advancing the field. Alok Jha hosts. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
3/29/202344 minutes, 29 seconds
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Babbage: Is GPT-4 the dawn of true artificial intelligence?

OpenAI's Chat GPT, an advanced chatbot, has taken the world by storm, amassing over 100 million monthly active users and exhibiting unprecedented capabilities. From crafting essays and fiction to designing websites and writing code. You’d be forgiven for thinking there’s little it can’t do. Now it’s had an upgrade. GPT-4 has even more incredible abilities, it can take in photos as an input, and deliver smoother, more natural writing to the user. But it also hallucinates, throws up false answers, and remains unable to reference any world events that happened after September 2021.Seeking to get under the hood of the Large Language Model that operates GPT-4, host Alok Jha speaks with Maria Laikata, a professor in Natural Language Processing at Queen Mary’s university in London. We put the technology through its paces with the economist’s tech-guru Ludwig Seigele, and even run it through something like a Turing Test to give an idea of whether it could pass for human-level-intelligence. An Artificial General Intelligence is the ultimate goal of AI research, so how significant will GPT-4 and similar technologies be in the grand scheme of machine intelligence? Not very, suggests Gary Marcus, expert in both AI and human intelligence, though they will impact all of our lives both in good and bad ways. For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
3/22/202343 minutes, 22 seconds
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Babbage: How to tackle the obesity epidemic

A new class of drugs for weight loss have become available and are showing promising results. That’s welcome news, as a recent report estimates that half of the world’s population is expected to be overweight or obese by 2035. Obesity is a disease which can lead to serious health complications–and most previous attempts at treating it have proven futile. Can the new weight-loss drugs turn the tide against this global threat?Louise Baur, president of the World Obesity Federation crunches the numbers on the global impact of overweight and obesity. Stephan Guyenet, a neurobiologist and author of “The Hungry Brain”, explains the neurological and genetic factors that influence weight gain. Chris van Tulleken, an infectious diseases doctor at University College London and author of the upcoming book “Ultra-Processed People”, explores how the modern diet is contributing to the obesity epidemic–and other health problems. Plus, host Alok Jha asks Natasha Loder, The Economist’s health editor, how important the new skinny jabs are in the fight against obesity.For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
3/15/202343 minutes, 58 seconds
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Babbage: The hopes and fears of human genome editing

The Third International Summit on Human Genome Editing was held this week in London. It was the first such meeting since 2018, when a Chinese researcher announced that he had created the world’s first genetically edited babies—a move that was roundly condemned at the time. Host Alok Jha and Natasha Loder, The Economist’s health editor, report from the conference to explore the exciting future—and knotty challenges—of the world that gene-editing therapies could create.Robin Lovell-Badge, a leading scientist at the Francis Crick Institute in London and the organiser of the summit, explains how genome-editing technology has rapidly advanced in recent years. Claire Booth, a professor of gene therapy and paediatric immunology at Great Ormond Street Hospital and University College London discusses the hopes of gene-editing treatments. Plus, Kelly Ormond, a bioethicist from ETH-Zurich, explores the ethical dilemmas that are raised by the technology, and Filippa Lentzos of King’s College London, explains why human genome editing presents potential biosecurity risks.Listen to previous episodes of “Babbage” on the topic: the gene therapy revolution and an interview with Jennifer Doudna, the pioneer of CRISPR-Cas9 technology. For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
3/8/202345 minutes, 37 seconds
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Babbage: The scandal of scientific fraud

There is a worrying amount of fraud in medical research. As many as one in 50 research papers may be unreliable because of fabrication, plagiarism or serious errors. Fabricated data can influence the guidelines which doctors use to treat patients. Misguided clinical guidelines could cause serious illness and death in patients. Fraudulent studies can also influence further research programmes—recent findings suggest that manipulated images may have resulted in scientists wasting time and money following blind alleys in Alzheimer’s research for decades. What can be done to combat scientific malpractice? Dorothy Bishop, a retired professor of psychology at the University of Oxford, explores the motivation behind fraudsters in research. John Carlisle, an anaesthetist and an editor of the journal Anaesthesia, explains the impact of fraud and how to detect it in research papers. Also, Elisabeth Bik, a former microbiologist and a full-time scientific image detective, discusses the consequences of whistle-blowing on both sleuths and the fraudsters. Plus, The Economist’s health-care correspondent, Slavea Chankova, investigates how to overcome the worrying unwillingness on all sides to do anything about fraud in research. Alok Jha hosts.For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
3/1/202339 minutes, 10 seconds
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Babbage: The fight to link contact sports to long-term brain injuries

Over the past few years, hundreds of rugby players have launched class-action lawsuits against the sport’s governing bodies, accusing them of failing to do enough to protect players from head injuries. They say that repeated blows to the head, sustained through years of playing rugby, or other sports, have caused neurodegenerative conditions like dementia, motor neurone and Parkinson’s diseases. But can scientific evidence prove a link between contact sports and these brain conditions? Alix Popham, a Welsh former professional rugby player, tells his story of head injuries on the pitch and his desired outcomes from the lawsuits. Plus, Lauren Pulling, who runs the Drake Foundation, explains the current state of neuroscientific research and what further studies are needed to investigate the connection. Alok Jha hosts with Natasha Loder, The Economist’s health editor, and Georgia Banjo, our Britain correspondent. For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
2/22/202340 minutes, 41 seconds
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Babbage: Will bird flu cause the next human pandemic?

Over the past 18 months, the largest-ever recorded avian influenza outbreak has decimated bird populations around the world. But recently bird flu has spread to mammals. Last week, Peru reported the deaths of 585 sea lions. If the virus has mutated to enable mammal-to-mammal transmission, that could be an intermediate step towards human-to-human transmission. How worrying is this threat?Susan Davies, CEO of the Scottish Seabird Centre, describes how the H5N1 avian flu has affected populations of wild birds. Ian Brown of Britain’s Animal and Plant Health Agency explains why the dynamics of this outbreak are concerning scientists. Plus, we ask Marion Koopmans, head of viroscience at Erasmus MC, why she’s more worried than ever about a human influenza pandemic. The Economist’s Slavea Chankova also compares the influenza threat to the covid-19 pandemic. Do we have enough tools in our arsenal? Alok Jha hosts. For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
2/15/202341 minutes, 1 second
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Babbage: An interview with a humanoid robot

Engineers have spent decades trying to create functional humanoid robots, which look and act like humans. But these machines, which combine complex mechanics with generative artificial intelligence models, like ChatGPT, are finally coming-of-age. Are they good enough to sustain a human-like conversation, though?Host Alok Jha travels to Cornwall to meet Ameca, a robot made by Engineered Arts. Will Jackson, the company’s boss, explains how the technology behind Ameca works and the advantages of having robots that look and behave like people. Plus, Paul Markillie, The Economist’s innovation editor, assesses the state of the field and how to prepare for the rollout of humanoid robots. For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
2/8/202344 minutes, 44 seconds
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Babbage: Alternatives to alcohol

Alcohol is the most widely used drug in the world, but it is also the cause of three million deaths each year and has been linked to many other long-term illnesses. In addition, the loss of productivity due to hangovers has an outsized impact on some economies. People still want to have a good time, though, and innovators are dreaming up ways to enjoy the effects of alcohol, without the costs.Jason Hosken, our producer, visits Brixton Brewery to speak to co-founders Jez Galaun and Xochitl Benjamin about the rise of alcohol-free beer. Natasha Loder, The Economist’s health editor, investigates the herbal drinks that claim to mimic the effects of alcohol. Plus, David Nutt, a professor at Imperial College London explains how alcohol affects the brain and why his synthetic alcohol could reduce excessive drinking and end hangovers forever. For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
2/1/202343 minutes, 39 seconds
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Babbage: The private Moon race

Three firms are racing to become the first private company to land on the Moon. The potential commercial opportunities range from mining lunar resources to establishing a human base with communications infrastructure. But the commercialisation of the Moon raises tricky questions about who owns Earth’s closest neighbour.Steve Altemus, CEO of Intuitive Machines, explains what he hopes his company’s missions will achieve, while Ian Jones of Goonhilly Earth Station describes how the blossoming private space sector is boosting the economy. And Dhara Patel, an expert at Britain’s National Space Centre, explores how the international community has attempted to govern space. Alok Jha hosts with Tom Standage, The Economist’s deputy editor.For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
1/25/202341 minutes, 26 seconds
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Babbage: How to detect a deepfake

Digital fakery, from the latest generation of deepfakes to lower-tech trickery, threatens to erode trust in societies and can prevent justice from being served. But how can technology be used to both detect deepfakes and authenticate real images?Patrick Traynor, a professor at the University of Florida, explains a novel method to expose audio generated by artificial intelligence. Ilke Demir of Intel Labs demonstrates how to spot visual fakery by analysing colour changes in the face. Plus, The Economist’s Benjamin Sutherland investigates the flipside of deepfakes: how to prove that footage is real. And Wendy Betts of eyeWitness to Atrocities explains how her technology is being used as evidence for war crimes. Alok Jha hosts.For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
1/18/202341 minutes, 6 seconds
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Babbage: How Elon Musk’s satellites could change warfare forever

SpaceX’s Starlink was designed to provide off-grid high-bandwidth internet access to civilians. But the mega-constellation of satellites has become more famous for its role in Ukraine. In 2022, it became vital to the country’s war effort, revealing the military potential of near-ubiquitous communications. Now, with more companies and countries piling in to build their own mega-constellations, a new space race is on.Shashank Joshi,The Economist’s defence editor, and Tim Cross, our technology and society editor, examine how the satellites have saved Ukraine and changed warfare. Aaron Bateman of George Washington University explores the military history of satellite communications. And Herming Chiueh, Taiwan’s deputy minister for digital affairs, explains why the threat from China has led the island to pursue its own Starlink-like satellite system. Alok Jha hosts.For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
1/11/202341 minutes, 39 seconds
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Babbage: BioNTech's founder on the future of mRNA technology

Since covid-19 emerged three years ago, mRNA vaccines have taken the world by storm. How will they keep up with new variants of the coronavirus, and where does the mRNA revolution go from here?Natasha Loder, The Economist’s health policy editor, talks to Ugur Sahin, the co-founder of BioNTech, whose covid vaccine changed the course of the pandemic. They consider the development of a universal coronavirus vaccine, and the other infectious diseases that will be targeted by mRNA jabs. Plus, the immunologist explains how mRNA technology can treat illnesses such as cancer, and his expectations for the technology in 2023. Alok Jha hosts.For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions, subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
1/4/202337 minutes, 14 seconds
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Babbage: The tech behind ChatGPT—an episode from our archive

ChatGPT is just one example of a new type of artificial intelligence, which could become the next major general-purpose technology. This week, we revisit one of our favourite episodes of 2022, which explains why "foundational AI" promises to be so transformative.The Economist’s Ludwig Siegele explains why ChatGPT has been taking the world by storm, and why foundation models, or generative AI, could end up having an economic impact similar to that of electricity. Jack Clark of Anthropic AI tells us about the new AI ecosystem that is emerging. Reeps One, a beatboxer, explains how he uses machine learning to compose music. And Kate Crawford, the author of “Atlas of AI”, considers why the technology is proving so controversial. Alok Jha hosts.Babbage will be published every Wednesday from January 4th 2023.For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions, subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
12/27/202244 minutes, 52 seconds
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Babbage: Untangling quantum mechanics with Nobel laureate Anton Zeilinger

In 2022, the Nobel prize for physics was awarded to a trio of scientists for their work on the fundamentals of quantum mechanics. This week, host Alok Jha asks one of the laureates, Anton Zeilinger, how he proved Einstein wrong and how his research into a phenomenon called quantum entanglement can help make sense of the universe. Plus, can “quantum teleportation” usher in a new era of technology? Anton Zeilinger is a physicist at the Austrian Academy of Sciences and professor emeritus at the University of Vienna.For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
12/20/202235 minutes, 37 seconds
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Babbage: What causes long covid?

Soon after the pandemic began, another health crisis started to emerge. Long covid now affects millions of people around the world. But finding the causes of the condition—and how to treat it—has been a challenge. Three years after the SARS-CoV-2 virus was first detected, are scientists any closer to understanding long covid? Natasha Loder, The Economist’s health policy editor, explores the latest research into the condition, and catches up with Tom Stayte, a patient we met in 2020. Jason Hosken, our producer, visits Britain’s first long-covid clinic at University College London Hospital. Melissa Heightman, the team’s clinical lead, explains how to treat symptoms. Plus, we ask whether the hunt to solve this medical mystery could have implications for other chronic conditions. Alok Jha hosts. We are always trying to improve our podcasts. To help, please complete this short questionnaire: economist.com/babbagesurveyFor full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions, subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
12/13/202238 minutes, 46 seconds
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Babbage: The surprising ineffectiveness of Russia’s cyber-war

When Russia invaded Ukraine, for the first time ever, two mature cyber-powers began to fight over computer networks in wartime. But while Russia’s cyber-war may have been intense, its impact has been modest. Has the country’s cyber prowess been overrated? The Economist’s Benjamin Sutherland describes the cybercriminals joining the war effort in Ukraine. Paul Chichester, operations director at the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre, analyses why Russia hasn’t had more success in the cyber domain. And Shashank Joshi, our defence editor, finds lessons from Ukraine on cyber warfare more broadly. Alok Jha hosts. We are always trying to improve our podcasts. To help, please complete this short questionnaire: economist.com/babbagesurveyFor full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions, subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
12/6/202236 minutes, 46 seconds
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Babbage: How to cure type-1 diabetes

A new drug for type-1 diabetes has been licensed in America. Teplizumab is the first treatment for the condition since insulin began being used a century ago. It targets one of the root causes of this type of diabetes and can slow the onset of the disease. Better still, the drug could be the herald of a new era in treating the condition.Colin Dayan, a professor of clinical diabetes and metabolism at Cardiff University, tells “Babbage” producer Jason Hosken why immunotherapy could be a game-changing innovation for diabetes. Beth Baldwin and Harj Singh share personal stories of how the condition has affected their families. And Sanjoy Dutta, chief scientific officer of diabetes research charity JDRF, explains the potential pathways to finding a cure. Alok Jha hosts.For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions, subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
11/29/202241 minutes, 39 seconds
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Babbage at COP27: Part four—“Africa’s COP” concludes

COP27 was an arduous summit, with mixed results. A landmark agreement to create a new “loss and damage” fund was a historic achievement. But many delegates were disappointed by the lack of progress on decarbonising energy systems. In the final episode of our series, we explore what the final deal means for the future of climate action. Plus, we examine AFR100, a project that aims to pair climate action with economic growth in Africa.The Economist’s Rachel Dobbs reports on the gruelling final hours of negotiations at COP27. Ani Dasgupta of the World Resources Institute explains how the AFR100 project combines agriculture, technology and clever financing to capture carbon in Africa. And Mamadou Diakhite of the African Union Development Agency describes the impact the initiative is having on communities.Alok Jha hosts with Catherine Brahic, The Economist’s environment editor, and Vijay Vaitheeswaran, our global energy and climate innovation editor.Listen to our mini-series at economist.com/COP27pod and follow all of The Economist’s climate coverage at economist.com/climate-change.For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions, subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
11/22/202237 minutes, 52 seconds
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Babbage at COP27: Part three—the energy crisis

COP27 takes place amid war in Ukraine and an energy crisis. In the third episode of our series covering the summit, we explore how energy-security concerns are affecting efforts to decarbonise.Niklas Höhne of the NewClimate Institute says the energy crisis could deepen Europe’s dependence on fossil fuels. But Francesco La Camera, who leads the International Renewable Energy Agency, sees it as an opportunity to accelerate the green agenda. Plus, award-winning author Daniel Yergin explains the implications for Russia, and Jason Bordoff of Columbia University assesses the geopolitics of the transition to clean energy.Alok Jha hosts with Catherine Brahic, The Economist’s environment editor, and Vijay Vaitheeswaran, our global energy and climate innovation editor.Listen to our mini-series at economist.com/COP27pod and follow all of The Economist’s climate coverage at economist.com/climate-change.For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions, subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
11/15/202240 minutes, 40 seconds
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Babbage at COP27: Part two—adapting to a changing climate

COP27 has kicked off in Egypt, and adaptation is high on the agenda. In the second episode of our series covering the conference, we explore how to step up global efforts to adapt to a changing climate.Edward McBride, The Economist’s briefings editor, travels to Iraq to investigate how a hotter world is affecting the way people live. Adeline Stuart-Watt, an adaptation policy fellow at the London School of Economics and Political Science, explains how to implement and finance climate-resilient projects.Alok Jha hosts with Catherine Brahic, The Economist’s environment editor, and Vijay Vaitheeswaran, our global energy and climate innovation editor.Listen to our mini-series at economist.com/COP27pod and follow all of The Economist’s climate coverage at economist.com/climate-change.For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions, subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
11/8/202239 minutes, 16 seconds
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Babbage at COP27: Part one—the new climate realism

This week, the COP27 climate summit will begin in Egypt. In the first of four episodes, we consider the themes set to dominate the conference. After a year lacking in climate action, do lofty targets need a dose of realism? Plus, “loss and damage” financing is expected to be high on the agenda at the summit. We explore its patchy history, and explain why we think rich countries are unlikely to pay compensation to vulnerable ones for historic emissions.Gavin Jackson, The Economist’s economics and finance correspondent, scrutinises debates on climate reparations. Fredi Otto, a climate scientist at Imperial College London, explains how carbon emissions can be attributed to climate disasters.Alok Jha hosts with Catherine Brahic, The Economist’s environment editor, and Vijay Vaitheeswaran, our global energy and climate innovation editor.Follow all of The Economist’s climate coverage at economist.com/climate-change.For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions, subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
11/1/202239 minutes, 13 seconds
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Babbage: How to use the pandemic to tackle TB

The pandemic shattered global efforts to control tuberculosis, which was the most lethal infectious disease in the world until covid-19 took its crown. Now, with deaths rising, TB is set to reclaim that dubious honour. But the covid era also holds important lessons for the fight against TB. Can innovations such as genomic sequencing facilities and new vaccine technologies be applied to TB care, too?Avantika Chilkoti, The Economist’s international correspondent, travels to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil to find out why TB is a disease of the poor. Mel Spigelman of the TB Alliance and Lucica Ditiu of the Stop TB Partnership say tackling the disease is a question of political will. Josefina Campos of ANLIS in Argentina explains how genomic sequencing helps monitor TB drug resistance. Author Vidya Krishnan talks about TB’s influence on art and culture. Plus, we examine why doctors are worried about the prospect of a new, highly contagious form of TB that doesn’t respond to existing drugs. Alok Jha hosts.For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
10/25/202238 minutes, 31 seconds
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Babbage: What are tactical nuclear weapons?

The war in Ukraine has raised the nuclear threat to its highest level since the Cuban missile crisis. What types of nuclear weapons could be used in Ukraine, and how much damage could they do? Cheryl Rofer, a former nuclear scientist at America’s Los Alamos National Laboratory, describes the “tactical” nukes in Russia’s arsenal. Patricia Lewis, research director for international security at Chatham House, explains the destruction that would be wrought if the war turned nuclear. Plus, Shashank Joshi, The Economist’s defence editor, analyses whether Russia’s recent military setbacks increase the risk of nuclear conflict. Alok Jha hosts.For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
10/18/202236 minutes, 50 seconds
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Babbage: The gene-therapy revolution

Gene therapies border on the miraculous, transforming lives in a single shot. The treatments offer hope to millions around the world who live with genetic diseases, and could also help the fight against cancer and HIV. This year, four new gene therapies were approved—and there are thousands more clinical trials under way. But the path from miracles of science to miracles of medicine will not be easy. The Economist’s Natasha Loder explains the safety concerns and market challenges that must be overcome to make the genetic revolution possible. Alok Jha hosts.For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
10/11/202239 minutes, 12 seconds
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Babbage: How snooping on sewage could save lives

During the pandemic, wastewater monitoring became a valuable tool in spotting covid-19 infection waves and the arrival of new variants. But sewage surveillance can help track the spread of all kinds of diseases—and measure a population’s consumption of everything from vegetables to cocaine. The Economist’s Gilead Amit examines how spying on sewage could offer health agencies an unprecedented insight into the lives of local populations, and considers the privacy concerns that could arise. Plus, we speak to the founder of a company that monitors wastewater to track the opioid crisis in America. Alok Jha hosts.For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions, subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
10/4/202242 minutes, 34 seconds
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Babbage: How psychedelics could fix the brain

Psychedelic drugs—such as LSD and psilocybin, the psychoactive compound found in magic mushrooms—may be coming to the medicine cabinet. Research into their use to treat mental-health conditions was long blocked by law and stigma. But in recent years, there has been a revival of interest in the drugs, which are now being trialled to treat conditions such as depression. The Economist’s Ainslie Johnstone visits one of Britain's most high-profile psilocybin research facilities, and investigates how the drug could help scientists better understand autism. And, as investors pile in, Natasha Loder, our health policy editor, separates the hope from the hype. Plus, we ask whether the drugs’ hallucinatory effects are necessary for their health benefits, and meet a researcher who hopes to develop psychedelics without the trip. Alok Jha hosts.Listen to our other episodes on psychedelics in health care at economist.com/psychedelics-pod.For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
9/27/202244 minutes, 25 seconds
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Babbage: How science can save the world

During the pandemic, scientists gained greater prominence in the lives of ordinary people than ever before. And while covid-19 highlighted the importance of the field to humanity, it also raised questions about the role of scientists in modern life. Host Alok Jha talks to the astronomer and cosmologist Martin Rees, one of Britain’s top scientists and a former president of the Royal Society. His new book “If Science is to Save Us” argues that scientific knowledge can solve some of the world’s biggest problems, but it can also lead to great harm. He tells us about the three looming “mega-catastrophes” that worry him most, and how to encourage innovation in scientific research.For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
9/20/202236 minutes, 9 seconds
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Babbage: Will Ethereum’s merge transform crypto?

A monumental shift is about to take place in the crypto world. One of the most important blockchain projects, Ethereum, is set to change the way it secures its network—from the energy-intensive “proof-of-work” system to the greener “proof-of-stake” method. Known as “the merge”, the switch could slash Ethereum’s energy consumption by over 99 percent. The Economist’s Stevie Hertz investigates why the “proof-of-work” system of mining currencies like bitcoin is so bad for the environment, and Alice Fulwood and Ludwig Siegele analyse how Ethereum’s merge will change the wider cryptoverse. Alok Jha hosts.For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
9/13/202242 minutes, 49 seconds
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Babbage: From our archive—the James Webb Space Telescope

In recent months, the world has been astounded by cosmic images taken by the James Webb Space Telescope. By gazing deep into space, it can see billions of years back in time, and promises to transform human understanding of the universe. In this episode, first released in December 2021, host Alok Jha explores the telescope’s promise. And, science correspondent Gilead Amit asks NASA’s head of science Thomas Zurbuchen about the mission’s impact on the agency.For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience.With thanks to Don Giller for supplying additional audio. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
9/6/202241 minutes, 10 seconds
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Babbage: The open-source intelligence war

Six months have passed since Russia invaded Ukraine. It is arguably the most transparent conflict ever, thanks to publicly available satellite data and social media. How has open-source intelligence (OSINT) shaped the war? The Economist’s defence editor Shashank Joshi examines the technologies behind the OSINT revolution, and how this new era of openness is changing warfare. Alok Jha hosts.For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
8/30/202241 minutes, 42 seconds
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Babbage: NASA’s newish rocket

NASA’s giant new rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS), will soon embark on its maiden journey to lunar orbit. The launcher is designed to send humans back to the Moon, but was built on old technology, and is years late and shockingly over budget. Does NASA even need a successor to the Space Shuttle, when Elon Musk’s SpaceX is developing a cheaper, more powerful alternative? Host Alok Jha examines the politics behind the SLS and the role of NASA against the backdrop of a now-flourishing, innovative, private-sector space industry.Listen to our guide to SpaceX’s Starship rocket at economist.com/starship-pod.For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
8/23/202242 minutes, 15 seconds
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Babbage: Could artificial intelligence become sentient?

A debate has been raging in technology circles, after an engineer at Google claimed in June that the company’s chatbot was sentient. Host Kenneth Cukier explores how to define “sentience” and whether it could be attained by AI. If machines can exhibit consciousness, it presents myriad ethical and legal considerations. Is society equipped to deal with the implications of conscious AI?Find The Economist’s list of the five best books to read on artificial intelligence here. For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
8/16/202244 minutes, 50 seconds
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Babbage: The child hepatitis mystery

Since April a mysterious outbreak of hepatitis in children around the world has baffled doctors. Some children have required liver transplants and more than 20 have died. Recent findings may link the spike in cases to covid-19 lockdowns. We examine the evidence and ask how a lack of exposure to bugs can affect immune systems. What other consequences could pandemic restrictions have for the long-term health of children—and adults? Kenneth Cukier hosts.For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
8/9/202242 minutes, 37 seconds
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Babbage: How AI cracked biology’s biggest problem

DeepMind’s artificial-intelligence system AlphaFold has predicted the three-dimensional shape of almost all known proteins. The company’s boss Demis Hassabis tells us how the AI was able to solve what was, for decades, biology’s grand challenge. Plus, Gilead Amit, The Economist’s science correspondent, explores the significance of the breakthrough for scientists tackling neglected diseases and designing new molecules. The leap forward could be AI’s greatest contribution to biology to date, but how else could machine learning help science? Kenneth Cukier hosts.For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
8/2/202234 minutes, 34 seconds
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Babbage: Can technology personalise your diet?

Digital tools and sophisticated wearable devices are being combined with the latest knowledge on metabolic science to build personalised eating plans. Slavea Chankova, The Economist’s health-care correspondent, explores the future of nutrition. Data from new nutrition technology can also be tied to exercise monitoring devices and blood biomarkers, to build algorithms that aim to make people get healthier. But can the emerging personalised nutrition era make a real difference to public health? Alok Jha hosts.Listen to our recent collection of episodes on the digital health revolution at economist.com/babbagewearables.For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
7/26/202243 minutes, 41 seconds
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Babbage: How to keep secrets in the age of quantum computing

The age of quantum computing is coming closer, presenting both an opportunity and a risk for individuals, companies and governments. Host Alok Jha explores why quantum computers threaten to crack the codes that keep data and communications secure over the internet. We also investigate how encryption techniques can be improved for a post-quantum age, and why it is urgent that they be deployed as soon as possible.For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
7/19/202240 minutes, 19 seconds
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Babbage: How did humans evolve?

The evolutionary journey that created modern humans was once thought to be relatively linear. But new technology is revealing a far more complex picture. The Economist’s Dylan Barry travels to South Africa to trace the story of our evolution, and explains how interbreeding with other species provided the genes possessed by many people today. To uncover our origins, scientists are nowadays not only hunting for clues in the bones of our ancestors—but in the genomes of living people, too. We speak to the researchers who are helping to rewrite the human story. Alok Jha hosts.For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
7/12/202240 minutes, 17 seconds
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Babbage: How to unlock the secrets of the universe—beyond the Standard Model

This week, the Large Hadron Collider returned to life after a three-year upgrade. By recreating conditions as close as possible to the Big Bang, it might provide answers to some of physics’s greatest mysteries. Recent findings have shown chinks in the armour of the Standard Model of particle physics, currently scientists’ best understanding of the universe at its smallest scales. Through the lens of an intriguing anomalous result, host Alok Jha investigates the new theories that might supersede the Standard Model. How could such ideas impact our comprehension of the universe and what it contains?This episode follows our two-part series about the reopening of the Large Hadron Collider. Listen at economist.com/LHC-pod.For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions, subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
7/5/202236 minutes, 1 second
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Babbage: How to go green amid an energy crisis

The energy shock threatens to derail action on climate change. Which technologies will enable the green transition, while ensuring energy security, too? Vijay Vaitheeswaran, The Economist's global energy & climate innovation editor, describes the pathway to a decarbonised future. How can electrical grids be made smarter and more resilient as they are fed by cleaner, more renewable sources of energy? And how soon will the technology that’s needed for the energy transition be ready for widespread deployment? Alok Jha hosts.For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
6/28/202237 minutes, 34 seconds
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Babbage: The short-sightedness epidemic

Short-sightedness, known as myopia, was once a rare condition. But in East Asia, it is becoming ubiquitous, with rates increasing in the rest of the world, too. For decades, researchers thought the condition was mostly genetic. But the scientific consensus has changed. Host Alok Jha and Tim Cross, The Economist’s technology editor, wade through the latest evidence and explore how to prevent or slow the onset of myopia. And, how can the condition’s public-health burden be reduced?For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
6/21/202239 minutes, 11 seconds
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Babbage: Is ketamine the next antidepressant?

In America and Europe, a growing number of clinics are offering ketamine to treat depression. The anaesthetic—also used illegally as a party drug—can provide rapid relief from the condition where traditional treatments, such as antidepressant drugs, have failed. We investigate how the therapy works, and ask what role it will play in the future of mental-health care. And, as ketamine treatments spread, is enough known about the drug’s long-term safety? Alok Jha hosts with Natasha Loder, The Economist’s health policy editor.For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
6/14/202241 minutes, 52 seconds
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Babbage: Artificial intelligence enters its industrial age

A new type of artificial intelligence (AI) is rapidly emerging as a candidate to become the next major general-purpose technology. "Foundational AI" will inject itself into many human endeavours—from writing to coding to drug discovery. We explore why foundation models could end up having an economic impact similar to that of electricity, and why the emerging technology is also proving so controversial. Alok Jha hosts.For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
6/7/202238 minutes, 14 seconds
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Babbage: Corals vs climate change

Coral reefs are increasingly under threat from global heating, but some species appear to be resistant to warmer sea temperatures. How can scientists harness these findings and revive these important pieces of marine life? Alok Jha hosts.For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience.Additional audio courtesy of the Acoustical Society of America and the U.S. Naval Undersea Warfare Center Newport. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
5/31/202231 minutes, 31 seconds
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Babbage: How to unlock the secrets of the universe—part two

In part two of our visit to the Large Hadron Collider on the Franco-Swiss border, Alok Jha asks whether the machine’s next iteration can take the field of particle physics beyond the Standard Model. We also investigate the long-term future of particle colliders. Will scientists ever build the instruments required to reveal the true building blocks of the universe?Listen to both episodes of the series at economist.com/LHC-pod.For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
5/24/202241 minutes, 40 seconds
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Babbage: How to unlock the secrets of the universe—part one

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is restarting after a three-year break for maintenance and upgrades. In the first of two episodes, host Alok Jha travels to the Franco-Swiss border to find out what the particle accelerator could reveal about the fundamental building blocks of the universe. In 2012, the LHC discovered the Higgs boson, the final piece of the Standard Model of particle physics. But physicists know that that theory is incomplete—it does not account for gravity, dark energy or dark matter, and cannot explain why there seems to be more matter than antimatter. In its third run of experiments, we investigate how the LHC might change our understanding of physics at its most fundamental scales. For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
5/17/202241 minutes, 51 seconds
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Babbage: An app a day keeps the doctor away

Wearable devices, such as fitness trackers and smartwatches, can measure a growing array of health indicators. Machine learning can filter that torrent of data to reveal a continuous, quantified picture of you and your health. But wearables linked to health apps are not only able to help diagnose diseases—they are beginning to treat them too. We explore the technology that promises to revolutionise health care. Alok Jha hosts.Listen to our recent episodes on the use of wearable technologies in health care at economist.com/babbagewearables.For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
5/10/202244 minutes, 19 seconds
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Babbage: Bill Gates's plan to prevent the next pandemic

New diseases are inevitable, but pandemics are not. As the threat from covid-19 recedes, how can the world stop new pathogens from becoming health emergencies? Business leader and philanthropist Bill Gates has long warned of the risk that a novel virus would go global. He tells Geoff Carr, The Economist’s science and technology editor, about his plan to pandemic-proof the planet. Alok Jha hosts.For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
5/3/202233 minutes, 40 seconds
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Babbage: Editing the code of life

In 2012, the discovery of the gene-editing tool CRISPR-Cas9 revolutionised scientists’ ability to modify DNA. Ten years on, host Alok Jha speaks to Jennifer Doudna, the Nobel laureate who pioneered the technology. She explains how CRISPR could transform healthcare and the food supply—and help with the fight against climate change. Plus, how does she grapple with the ethical questions raised by the technology she helped to invent?For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
4/26/202241 minutes, 50 seconds
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Babbage: A new age of nuclear power?

The war in Ukraine is causing countries to rethink their dependence on Russian energy. Some governments are turning to nuclear power. While unpopular, it is one of the safest and most sustainable forms of energy—and an essential weapon in the fight against climate change. Can innovations in technology and engineering help to revive the nuclear industry? Alok Jha hosts.For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
4/19/202242 minutes, 13 seconds
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Babbage: Can the 1.5°C climate target survive?

In its latest report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that the window to fulfil UN climate targets is vanishing. Emissions must peak by 2025 if the world is to meet the Paris Agreement goals. Decisions made this year could determine whether or not that will be possible. Amid war in Ukraine and a deepening energy crisis, will the clean-energy transition happen fast enough?Vijay Vaitheeswaran hosts, with The Economist’s environment editor Catherine Brahic, and Oliver Morton, The Economist’s briefings editor.Explore The Economist’s coverage on climate change at economist.com/climate-change. For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
4/12/202239 minutes, 23 seconds
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Babbage: How do you solve a problem like malaria?

Squashing malaria could, over the next three decades, save as many lives as covid-19 has taken. We explore new ways to fight infections: from the introduction of the first malaria vaccines, to genetically modified mosquitoes. What would it take to vanquish one of the world’s deadliest diseases? Alok Jha hosts.For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
4/5/202239 minutes, 47 seconds
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Babbage: How to communicate in a war zone

Destroying an opponent’s ability to communicate is an elementary military tactic. We examine the technologies helping Ukraine to stay connected: from SpaceX’s satellite-internet service, to shortwave radio. Also, what role is social media playing on the front line and in the information war? Alok Jha hosts.Keep up-to-date with the developing situation in Ukraine at economist.com/ukraine-crisisFor full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience.Additional audio courtesy of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
3/29/202242 minutes, 50 seconds
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Babbage: The pandemic, two years on

Two years after a pandemic was declared, the coronavirus crisis is far from over. Host Alok Jha speaks to Sir Jeremy Farrar, the director of the Wellcome Trust, one of the world's largest medical research foundations. Sir Jeremy has been at the heart of the global fight against covid-19. He assesses China’s zero-covid policy, and explores what lies ahead for the pandemic. Also, Natasha Loder, The Economist’s health policy editor, examines the ongoing vaccination effort.For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our exclusive conversation with Dr Anthony Fauci at economist.com/fauci. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
3/22/202236 minutes, 32 seconds
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Babbage: The fountain of youth

Billions of dollars are being pumped into technologies that hope to reduce the effects of ageing. Host Alok Jha explores the latest research in the field—from regenerating organs to rejuvenating cells—and whether these efforts could help to conquer debilitating human diseases. Is anti-ageing more than just a pipe-dream for Silicon Valley startups? For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
3/15/202239 minutes, 52 seconds
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Babbage: Can tech improve your sleep?

A sleep deficit in the rich world has led to a boom in the sleep-tech industry. This week, we investigate the products designed to help consumers monitor and improve their slumber. And, what innovations could transform sleep in the future? Alok Jha hosts.For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
3/8/202235 minutes, 29 seconds
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Babbage: The threat of cyber-warfare

The conflict in Ukraine has brought renewed fear of a global cyber-war. We explain the technology behind the digital threat and its role in modern warfare. And, why hasn’t Russia carried out large-scale cyber-attacks so far? Alok Jha hosts.Keep up-to-date with the developing situation in Ukraine at economist.com/ukraine-crisisFor full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
3/1/202242 minutes, 22 seconds
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Babbage: Rise of the robots

Relations between people and robots are being reset. Host Alok Jha explores why the pace of automation is likely to accelerate, and what it means for societies and jobs. We also ask how advancements in AI and robotics can improve collaboration between humans and machines.For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
2/22/202236 minutes, 54 seconds
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Babbage: A Starship is born

Elon Musk’s rocketry firm SpaceX has announced that its monstrous, dirt-cheap Starship rocket will soon be ready for its maiden voyage into orbit. Host Alok Jha explores the project’s potential impact on space travel, scientific discoveries and human connectedness on Earth. We also examine the business philosophy that has helped SpaceX innovate, and the risks that could hinder its ambitions.For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
2/15/202241 minutes, 29 seconds
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Babbage: What is web3?

Web3 is the latest Silicon Valley buzzword, referring to a third iteration of the internet built on blockchain technology. Backers say it will reinvent cyberspace but scepticism is growing. Host Kenneth Cukier investigates the hype and the potential.For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
2/8/202240 minutes, 56 seconds
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Babbage: Hide and seek

Technology is profoundly changing warfare. On a battlefield packed with sophisticated sensors, is it possible to avoid being seen and killed? Host Shashank Joshi examines the tech that’s turning combat into an intense competition between hiding and finding. And, how to update the ancient art of deception for the digital age.For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
2/1/202232 minutes, 37 seconds
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Babbage: Sequencing the future

Genomic sequencing has risen to prominence during the pandemic. But the technology has vast potential to transform many aspects of human health. Host Alok Jha investigates the rise of the genome and personalised medicine.For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
1/25/202233 minutes, 40 seconds
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Babbage: Havana syndrome

New cases of Havana syndrome are baffling scientists. Alok Jha investigates the theories behind the mysterious malady plaguing Western diplomats. Are microwave weapons to blame, or could the illness have psychological origins?For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
1/18/202239 minutes, 49 seconds
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Babbage: The smartwatch will see you now

A new tech boom is disrupting medicine. We investigate how wearable trackers, such as the Fitbit or Apple Watch, could transform health care. And, could the devices help prevent the next pandemic? Kenneth Cukier hosts. For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
1/11/202242 minutes, 33 seconds
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Babbage: Everyone’s going to the Moon

A new age of lunar exploration is dawning, bringing opportunity and geopolitical jostling. We explore the science and economics of the next space race. Also, correspondent Alok Jha investigates how to avoid conflict on missions to Mars. Kenneth Cukier hosts.For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience.With thanks to NASA for additional audio used in this episode. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
1/4/202227 minutes, 39 seconds
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Babbage: A new look at the cosmos

The James Webb Space Telescope launches this week. It promises to transform human understanding of the universe. By gazing deep into space, it will see billions of years back in time. But is the long-delayed project worth the $10-billion price tag? And, science correspondent Gilead Amit asks NASA’s head of science Thomas Zurbuchen about the mission’s impact on the agency. Alok Jha hosts.For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience.With thanks to Don Giller for supplying additional audio. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
12/21/202139 minutes, 45 seconds
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Babbage: Unpacking Omicron

The world is desperate to understand the variant, which is poised to overtake Delta in parts of Europe. We ask how experts make sense of emerging data to project Omicron's impact. Also, Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter explains why scientists have drawn widely differing conclusions from covid-19 statistics. And, we reveal the winners of our final book giveaway of the year. Kenneth Cukier hosts.To keep up-to-date with our coverage of the Omicron variant, go to economist.com/omicron.For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience.Terms and conditions for the book competition featured in this podcast are available at economist.com/podcast-contest. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
12/14/202129 minutes, 47 seconds
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Babbage: Goodbye darkness, my old friend

Thousands of satellites are being propelled into low-Earth orbit to provide internet access. Host Alok Jha investigates the impact on astronomy, as companies such as SpaceX multiply their constellations. What can be done to protect the night sky? We would love to hear from you—please take a moment to complete our listener survey at economist.com/babbagesurvey.  For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
12/7/202129 minutes, 21 seconds
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Babbage: Omicron and on

Countries are scrambling to stop the Omicron variant of the coronavirus. We search for scientific clues to understand how it will shape the pandemic. Professor Sharon Peacock, one of the world’s top variant hunters, predicts Omicron will be more transmissible than previous strains. And, will Omicron supplant the Delta variant globally? Correspondent Hal Hodson looks to immunology for answers.Alok Jha hosts, with The Economist’s health policy editor, Natasha Loder and deputy editor, Edward Carr.We would love to hear from you—please take a moment to complete our listener survey at economist.com/babbagesurvey.  To keep up-to-date with our coverage of the Omicron variant, go to economist.com/omicron.For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
11/30/202128 minutes, 33 seconds
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Babbage: Reservoir dogs

The coronavirus could be lurking in many species of animals, according to a new report. We analyse the implications for human health. Also, what is the relationship between an unbalanced gut microbiome and autism? And, the father of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy died this month. Aaron Beck’s daughter, the psychiatrist Judith Beck, tells us how her father turned the world of psychiatry upside down. Kenneth Cukier hosts.We would love to hear from you—please take a moment to complete our listener survey at economist.com/babbagesurvey.  For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience.Additional audio used with permission from the Beck Institute for Cognitive Behavior Therapy. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
11/23/202129 minutes, 36 seconds
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Babbage: Mind matters

An estimated 55 million people around the world live with dementia, yet only a quarter have been formally diagnosed. How will technology improve diagnostic devices for the condition? Also, with better testing in place but few treatments available, we explore if healthcare systems can cope with this silent epidemic. And, author and professor, Nina Kraus explores how brains build a sound world. Kenneth Cukier hosts. For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience.Terms and conditions for the book competition featured in this podcast are available at economist.com/podcast-contest.  Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
11/16/202126 minutes, 57 seconds
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Babbage: Going antiviral

As covid-19 threatens Europe once again, effective oral antiviral treatments for covid-19 are finally being approved by regulators. Is this the next step towards beating the virus? Also, author Azeem Azhar on what the accelerating growth of technology means for business, the economy and society. And we reveal the winners of our latest book giveaway. Kenneth Cukier hosts. For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience.Terms and conditions for the book competition featured in this podcast are available at economist.com/podcast-contest. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
11/9/202126 minutes, 15 seconds
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Babbage: The colour of health

The pandemic has exposed and exacerbated how the colour of a person’s skin can fix the odds on their physical health. Host Alok Jha and Tamara Gilkes Borr, US public policy correspondent, investigate what drives these disparities around the world. As health services embrace artificial intelligence, is medical AI compounding human bias—or could it hold the cure?With Dr Lisa Angeline Cooper, healthcare professor at Johns Hopkins University; Dr Jenna Lester, director of the Skin of Colour clinic at the University of California, San Francisco; Dr Mary Janevic of the University of Michigan School of Public Health; and Dr Ziad Obermeyer, head of the Systems Medicine machine-learning lab.For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our new weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
11/2/202136 minutes, 30 seconds
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Babbage: Cleaning the air

The World Health Organisation recently declared that air pollution is the greatest environmental threat to health globally. What do cities and governments need to do to clean up their act? Also, we explore how Occam’s razor, ​​a theory from a medieval theologist, has influenced science. And, could music be an effective way to communicate with extraterrestrials? Alok Jha hosts For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our new weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience.Terms and conditions for the book competition featured in this podcast are available at economist.com/podcast-contest. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
10/26/202128 minutes, 43 seconds
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Babbage: on Babbage

On the 150th anniversary of the death of Charles Babbage, we retrace the footsteps of the brilliant but irascible British inventor, mathematician, and engineer. Host Kenneth Cukier investigates why Babbage is hailed by some as the grandfather of the computer, while others argue his contribution is overblown. And could letting go of parts of his legacy help unleash the future of computing?For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our new weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
10/19/202130 minutes, 46 seconds
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Babbage: Rocks in space

A probe to study the Trojan asteroids is expected to take off this week, but what will this mission uncover about the formation of the solar system? Also, we explore new technology to observe asteroids, as well as a mission to deflect an incoming celestial object. And, we hear from the Nobel co-laureate in Physiology or Medicine, Ardem Patapoutian, about temperature and pressure sensing. Alok Jha hosts. For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our new weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience.Terms and conditions for the book competition featured in this podcast are available at economist.com/podcast-contest. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
10/12/202130 minutes, 34 seconds
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Babbage: A new Anthropocene diet

A new generation of technologies are transforming the world’s food-production system. Food scientists are producing cruelty-free meat in the lab, growing salad underground in vertical farms and bringing aquaculture on land. The Economist's US digital editor Jon Fasman uncovers the future of food. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
10/5/202126 minutes, 2 seconds
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Babbage: Don't panic

As British petrol stations run dry, we explore the behavioural science of panic buying. Also, a dried-up lake bed reveals evidence about America’s first inhabitants. And neuroscientist Anil Seth explains what a new theory can tell us about our conscious experiences of the world—and a chance to win his book. Kenneth Cukier hosts.  For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our new weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience.Terms and conditions for the book competition featured in this podcast are available at economist.com/podcast-contest. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
9/28/202126 minutes
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Babbage: From pandemic to twindemic

As the northern hemisphere heads towards its second winter battling covid-19, epidemiologist Professor Dame Anne Johnson explains the risk of a surge in flu cases and how to avoid a double pandemic. Also, a decline in mental health was one of the unforeseen consequences of the coronavirus crisis. Dr Wendy Suzuki, a neuroscientist, advises how to turn everyday anxiety into a positive emotion. And, a new form of sea defence is part natural, part artificial. Kenneth Cukier hosts. For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our new weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
9/21/202128 minutes, 52 seconds
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Babbage: Booster shot

As the northern hemisphere heads towards its second pandemic winter, some countries have already started to make third doses of vaccine available to their most vulnerable citizens. But scientists disagree about whether offering boosters is the best use of vaccine resources—or necessary at all. And, a big study in Bangladesh finds simple ways to encourage mask use. Also, we reveal our book competition winner. Kenneth Cukier hosts.For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our new weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience.Terms and conditions for the book competition featured in this podcast are available at economist.com/podcast-contest.  Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
9/14/202124 minutes, 57 seconds
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Babbage: The building blocks of life

From the hive of molecular activity inside every cell to how cells self-organise into complex living things and those organisms evolve into different species, host Kenneth Cukier explores the fundamental architecture of life. He also investigates how the power of stem cells could be used to treat genetic diseases and why there is still debate about the origins of modern humans.With Geoffrey Carr, The Economist’s science editor; Dr Alison Woollard, professor of biochemistry at Oxford University; Dr Alena Pance of the Wellcome Sanger Institute of genomics; and Dr Viviane Slon, a paleogeneticist at the University of Tel Aviv.Subscribers can read our essay series exploring how life works from the scale of the molecule all the way up to that of the planet at economist.com/biology-briefs For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our new weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
9/7/202127 minutes, 26 seconds
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Babbage: Back to school

As debates over vaccinating children rage and the Delta variant of covid-19 surges in many countries, what impact will the return to classrooms have on the covid-19 pandemic? Also, our science correspondent Alok Jha asks ecologist Meg Lowman about the secrets that can be revealed by exploring the treetops. And the northern white rhino is nearing extinction, but can technology bring this species back from the brink? Kenneth Cukier hosts. For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our new weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience.Terms and conditions for the book competition featured in this podcast are available at economist.com/podcast-contest. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
8/31/202128 minutes, 21 seconds
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Babbage: Unstrung — the end of string theory?

The 20th Century was a golden age for physics but some of its ideas for explaining the material universe have been thrown into doubt. Could a theory known as entropic gravity usher in a new dawn? Also, how should scientists engage with science deniers? And, the technology behind the next generation of prosthetic limbs. Natasha Loder hosts. For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our new weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
8/24/202125 minutes, 7 seconds
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Babbage: Keeping it cool

Solar geoengineering has the potential to help counteract global warming, so why are scientists so cautious about it? Host Kenneth Cukier also explores a new, green idea that could revolutionise air conditioning. And our obituaries editor remembers Steven Weinberg, a Nobel laureate in physics who united two of the known forces in the universe.For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our new weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
8/17/202124 minutes, 58 seconds
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Babbage: Open-source intelligence

Amateurs, activists and academics are using technology and open-source data to uncover state secrets. Shashank Joshi, The Economist’s defence editor, explores how open-source intelligence is disrupting statecraft and asks John Brennan, a former director of the CIA, how these techniques are being used alongside secret intelligence to detect missile silos in China.Guests include Elliot Higgins, founder of Bellingcat, an open-source intelligence collective; Melissa Hanham, affiliate at Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation; and Dr Amy Zegart, author of "Spies, Lies and Algorithms".For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our new weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
8/10/202131 minutes, 26 seconds
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Babbage: The shot of the century

The discovery of insulin was a breakthrough in medicine, allowing millions of people to live with diabetes. Host Kenneth Cukier investigates how this life-changing innovation happened. Yet today less than half of the people in the world who need it have access to insulin — how can it be made more accessible? And what does the future hold for insulin treatments?For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our new weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
8/3/202126 minutes, 47 seconds
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Babbage: Protein power

Google’s DeepMind has developed an artificial-intelligence system that can predict the three-dimensional shape of proteins. How will this monumental step-change for biology be used? Also, a new study shows how wearable devices could help doctors understand long covid. And how songbirds reacquired an ability lost by their dinosaur ancestors. Kenneth Cukier hosts For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our new weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
7/27/202127 minutes, 17 seconds
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Babbage: Cloud of suspicion

High stakes and big money lead some athletes to cheat at the Olympic games. Tim Cross, The Economist’s Technology editor, investigates the prevalence of doping in sport and asks if testing can ever keep a lid on the use of performance enhancing drugs. He finds out the impact of the pandemic on testing at the Tokyo games, talks to Olympians about the pressures involved and imagines what if doping restrictions were removed.For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our new weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
7/20/202129 minutes, 9 seconds
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Babbage: Best behaviour

Countries with high covid-19 vaccination rates, including England, are lifting social restrictions. Behavioural scientist Katy Milkman and health-policy editor Natasha Loder assess the impact of these changes. Will mask-wearing and social distancing stick? And, how people may one day drill for copper as they now drill for oil. Kenneth Cukier hostsFor full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our new weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
7/13/202126 minutes, 59 seconds
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Babbage: Urban jungles

As urbanisation progresses and lethal heatwaves become more common, could miniature forests help air-condition cities? Plus, how virtual clinical trials could save money, time and lives. And, counting the hidden costs of artificial intelligence with Kate Crawford, cofounder of the AI Now Institute at NYU and author of “Atlas of AI”. Kenneth Cukier hostsFor full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our new weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
7/6/202131 minutes, 45 seconds
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Babbage: Power play

An unlimited supply of clean, carbon-free energy—nuclear fusion is a technology that could change the world. Can engineers make fusion work on a commercial scale? Also, mathematician Jordan Ellenberg on how geometry shapes the world. And, why one of the most common sporting injuries is more of a risk to women than men—and how to prevent it. Kenneth Cukier hosts For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our new weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
6/29/202128 minutes, 54 seconds
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Babbage: The other environmental emergency

The loss of biodiversity poses as great a risk to humanity as climate change. Catherine Brahic, The Economist’s environment editor, investigates whether technology can help to monitor, model and protect Earth’s ecosystems. Also, do conservation scientists need to employ a new approach to work better with technologists?For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our new weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
6/22/202128 minutes, 21 seconds
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Babbage: Mapping Africa

Just 2% of the world’s human-genome catalogue represents people of African origin. A massive sequencing project aims to uncover untold genetic diversity and overlooked disease risks. Also, a new study shows intense exercise is a risk factor for ALS, the most common form of motor-neuron disease. And, the return of cicadas in America bodes ill for children’s well-being. Kenneth Cukier hosts For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our new weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
6/15/202129 minutes, 45 seconds
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Babbage: A flicker of light for Alzheimer’s

After almost two decades, the FDA has granted conditional approval to a drug for the treatment of Alzheimer’ disease, called aducanumab. But the new drug, and its approval, is surrounded by controversy. Will the gamble pay off? Also, a clever upgrade to fog-collecting technology which could provide a water source in remote locations. And, potentially life-saving oxygen enemas? Kenneth Cukier hosts For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our new weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
6/8/202124 minutes, 1 second
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Babbage: Clearing the air

Airborne transmission is one of the main ways that SARS-CoV-2 spreads. So why has it taken so long to be officially recognised? Host Kenneth Cukier and science correspondent Alok Jha investigate the flaws in public-health guidelines and how to assess the risk of aerosol contagion. It is time for a revolution in ventilation.For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our new weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
6/1/202129 minutes, 36 seconds
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Babbage: It’s in the genes

How can RNA, which is crucial for the development of vaccines, be used for controlling agricultural pests? Also, we ask Professor Sir Shankar Balasubramanian, a pioneer in next-generation DNA sequencing, what this technology heralds for the future of healthcare. And can dogs be used to screen for covid-19 at airports or mass gatherings? Kenneth Cukier hosts For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our new weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
5/25/202123 minutes, 20 seconds
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Babbage: The red planet

As China becomes the second country to land a rover successfully on the surface of Mars, what does the Tianwen-1 mission aim to achieve? Also, our innovation editor explores the challenge of recycling old electric vehicles, and how does Victorian-era pollution still shape England’s cities? Kenneth Cukier hosts For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our new weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
5/18/202126 minutes, 37 seconds
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Babbage: Chips and blocks

Cutting-edge semiconductors are the most complex objects that humans make. Host Hal Hodson and Tim Cross, The Economist’s technology editor, delve into the secretive science that powers a growing portion of economic activity and the world-leading yet precarious work of TSMC—the company that dominates chipmaking. The pandemic has exposed vulnerabilities in this system, but the race to dominate the world of chips is just beginning.With Dipti Vachani, vice president of automotive and IoT at Arm, Dick Thurston, former chief counsel to TSMC, and Dan Wang of Gavekal Dragonomics.For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our new weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
5/11/202131 minutes, 14 seconds
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Babbage: Belt, road and orbit

China recently launched the first module of its new space station—what impact will this have on the international scientific community? Also, how orbiting telescopes could be useful in understanding cancer. And when solving problems, why do people prefer to innovate by adding things rather than getting rid of them? Kenneth Cukier hosts For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our new weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
5/4/202122 minutes, 43 seconds
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Babbage: Post-covid syndrome

As research on long covid advances, how should countries respond to the impending public health emergency? Also, new hope in the fight against malaria in the form of a highly effective vaccine. And, why the sound of nature might be good for your health. Kenneth Cukier hosts A note for our listeners: from May 4th 2021 Babbage will be published every Tuesday.For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our new weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
4/28/202127 minutes, 56 seconds
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Babbage: Promising the earth

President Biden is hosting a virtual summit with world leaders on Thursday 22nd April aiming to convince countries to take bolder action on climate change. Does this mark a new era for American leadership on climate? With China and America at odds over human rights, security and economic competition, can they work together against this common threat? And will countries take sufficient action to meet the challenge at hand? Charlotte Howard hosts A note for our listeners: from May 4th 2021 Babbage will be published every Tuesday.For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our new weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
4/21/202129 minutes, 55 seconds
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Babbage: Where it began

Almost a year and a half since the discovery of the virus that causes covid-19, The Economist’s health policy editor, Natasha Loder, investigates one of the pandemic’s most compelling mysteries: where did SARS-CoV-2 come from? Peter Daszak, who was part of the World Health Organisation’s controversial fact-finding mission to China, explains what evidence they gathered from Wuhan’s animal markets and the city’s microbiology laboratories. For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our new weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
4/14/202135 minutes, 11 seconds
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Babbage: Finger on the pulse of bias

Hospitals routinely measure patients' blood-oxygen levels to determine the severity of covid-19. Why do these and other medical devices and treatments work less well for non-white people and women? Also, if you can have microwave ovens—why not microwave boilers for central heating? And, we explore how bees run vaccination campaigns too. Kenneth Cukier hostsFor full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our new weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
4/7/202122 minutes, 40 seconds
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Babbage: Early warning

How can technology be used to forecast future pandemics? We speak to the researchers creating an observatory to spot incipient health crises before they take off. Is data the ultimate weapon in the fight against covid-19 and future viruses? And, the rapid genetic sequencing of SARS-CoV-2 made early testing possible—but testing infrastructure needs to be improved. Kenneth Cukier hosts.For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our new weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
3/31/202125 minutes, 22 seconds
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Babbage: Shooting out the messenger

The pandemic has fueled the rapid advancement of emerging biotechnologies. The Economist’s science editor explores the potential of RNA beyond covid-19. Also, theoretical physicist Carlo Rovelli explains the implications of quantum physics on our interactions with objects. And, creating self-healing materials where roads repair themselves. Kenneth Cukier hostsFor full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our new weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
3/24/202126 minutes, 25 seconds
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Babbage: Baidu it

As the Chinese tech giant Baidu prepares for a secondary listing on the Hong Kong stock exchange, how will Baidu’s rise influence technological innovation in China and beyond? Also, the humidity inside facemasks is helpful in fighting covid-19, not just preventing transmission. And Dr Tolullah Oni, an urban epidemiologist, on improving health in rapidly growing cities. Kenneth Cukier hosts For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our new weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
3/17/202124 minutes, 27 seconds
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Babbage: Coronavirus, a year on

A year ago the World Health Organisation declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic. The Economist’s health-care correspondent reflects on the future path of covid-19 infections. Also, how have past pandemics shaped today's society? And, epidemiologist Professor Dame Anne Johnson explores the opportunities for the “new normal”. Kenneth Cukier hostsFor full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at economist.com/podcastoffer and sign up for our new weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
3/10/202123 minutes, 40 seconds
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Babbage: Variations on a gene

As global vaccination efforts continue, how is the coronavirus mutating to stay ahead? The head of Britain's covid-19 genomics consortium explains why genetic sequencing is crucial. Also, how studying individual cancer genes may improve precision treatments. And an AI for an eye—host Kenneth Cukier investigates the potential of AI in medicine first hand.Please subscribe to The Economist for full access to print, digital and audio editions:www.economist.com/podcastoffer Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
3/3/202124 minutes, 10 seconds
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Babbage: Collusions and collisions

After Facebook reached a deal with Australia, the tech giants are coming under fire once again -- this time from each other. Are their cosy monopolies under threat? Also, The Economist’s defence editor investigates the multi-billion dollar industry which exploits vulnerabilities in vital software. And, how whales could help the study of seismology in the ocean. Kenneth Cukier hosts Please subscribe to The Economist for full access to print, digital and audio editions:www.economist.com/podcastoffer Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
2/24/202126 minutes, 50 seconds
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Babbage: Hard reboot

Intel is the world’s biggest chipmaker. So why is it underperforming—and can its new boss turn the company around? As the search for life on Mars hots up, astrophysicist Avi Loeb argues science has already detected evidence of intelligent extraterrestrial life. And, why parents of daughters are more likely to divorce than those with sons. Kenneth Cukier hosts Please subscribe to The Economist for full access to print, digital and audio editions:www.economist.com/podcastoffer Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
2/17/202125 minutes, 24 seconds
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Babbage: Go with your gut

The human microbiome consists of trillions of microorganisms like bacteria, viruses and fungi. Scientists are researching how these tiny creatures could be linked to Parkinson’s disease, diabetes and other diseases. Also, how understanding soil microbiomes could help combat climate change. Kenneth Cukier hosts. Please subscribe to The Economist for full access to print, digital and audio editions:www.economist.com/podcastofferAnd subscribe to our weekly science newsletter at economist.com/simplyscience Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
2/10/202123 minutes, 9 seconds
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Babbage: Clash of the titans

As Facebook and Apple go head-to-head over privacy, the impact could be felt across the digital world. We ask Michael Wooldridge, a leading AI researcher, whether artificial intelligence is the answer to the world’s problems, the seed of humanity’s eventual destruction—or neither. And the world would look very different without the LED: we speak to one of the engineers behind this illuminating technology. Kenneth Cukier hosts Please subscribe to The Economist for full access to print, digital and audio editions:www.economist.com/podcastoffer Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
2/3/202127 minutes, 18 seconds
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Babbage: Is the model looking good?

As initial data arrives from countries with high vaccination rates, how will the covid-19 vaccines affect the need for lockdowns? Epidemiologist Professor Mark Woolhouse explains his models of the future of the virus. Plus: a new way of getting concentrated oxygen out of the air and Britain's state-run strategies for capitalising on the growing space economy. Kenneth Cukier hosts.Please subscribe to The Economist for full access to print, digital and audio editions:www.economist.com/podcastoffer Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
1/27/202124 minutes, 28 seconds
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Babbage: Photon opportunity

How has Albert Einstein’s work on photons ushered in a golden age of light? Oliver Morton, The Economist's briefings editor, explores why the laser's applications have been spectacular and how solar power became the cheapest source of electricity in many countries. Also, he talks to the scientists scanning the skies with the largest digital camera in the world.Please subscribe to The Economist for full access to print, digital and audio editions:www.economist.com/podcastoffer Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
1/20/202123 minutes, 43 seconds
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Babbage: Innovation’s new wave

Covid-19 has catalysed scientific advancement and boosted technological optimism. Could innovation be the answer to decades of slowing growth in Western countries? Also, why magnetic tape still reigns supreme in “cold” data storage. And how effective are traditional herbal remedies at treating tropical diseases? Please subscribe to The Economist for full access to print, digital and audio editions:www.economist.com/podcastoffer Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
1/13/202127 minutes, 13 seconds
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Babbage: Viral defences

A new strain of covid-19 is surging in Britain, America and Europe—vaccines can curb the effects, but can governments speed up the roll-out? Also, in 2020 some regions acted rapidly enough to avoid severe waves of infection. Host Kenneth Cukier speaks to the public health leaders who initiated “elimination” strategies.Please subscribe to The Economist for full access to print, digital and audio editions:www.economist.com/podcastoffer Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
1/6/202127 minutes, 30 seconds
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Babbage: Baby it’s cold outside

In a special holiday episode, we travel to the Russian Arctic to meet the "prophet of the permafrost", take an extraterrestrial hike in the tracks of NASA’s Curiosity rover on Mars and meet the researchers cataloguing culture. Kenneth Cukier hosts Please subscribe to The Economist for full access to print, digital and audio editions:www.economist.com/podcastoffer Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
12/30/202025 minutes, 51 seconds
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Babbage: The parasites and the pandemic

While the world has been preoccupied with tackling covid-19, deadly malaria epidemics are continuing around the world. Robert Guest, The Economist’s foreign editor, investigates how covid-19 has affected the fight against malaria and talks to scientists in Senegal working to eliminate the disease. Also, historian Timothy Winegard explains how malaria has shaped life on Earth.Please subscribe to The Economist for full access to print, digital and audio editions:www.economist.com/podcastoffer Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
12/23/202030 minutes, 55 seconds
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Babbage: Taming the tech titans

This week the EU unveiled its plan to rein in big tech—the draft laws target the American giants, but European firms may not benefit much. Also, how a failed study has revealed a promising new gene-therapy treatment for blindness. And, which science stories were overlooked in a year dominated by covid-19? Kenneth Cukier hosts Please subscribe to The Economist for full access to print, digital and audio editions:www.economist.com/podcastoffer Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
12/16/202026 minutes, 36 seconds
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Babbage: Lighter than air

The aviation industry is under pressure to curb carbon-dioxide emissions—hydrogen fuel could offer a greener way to fly. Also, host Kenneth Cukier unravels the inner workings of the human mind with psychologist Howard Gardner and neuroscientist David Eagleman. If there are multiple intelligences, what happens when they work together? And, how technology can tap into the abilities of the ever-changing brain.Please subscribe to The Economist for full access to print, digital and audio editions:www.economist.com/podcastoffer Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
12/9/202023 minutes, 50 seconds
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Babbage: Testing testing

Britain has become the first country to license a fully tested covid-19 vaccine—the Economist’s health policy editor explains why this a historic milestone. Until vaccines become widespread, mass testing can be used to curb contagion. And, is it possible to detect covid-19 from the sound of a cough? Kenneth Cukier hosts Please subscribe to The Economist for full access to print, digital and audio editions:www.economist.com/podcastoffer Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
12/2/202030 minutes, 32 seconds
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Babbage: Another dose of good news

Following promising results from Pfizer and Moderna, why is a third vaccine, from Oxford University and AstraZeneca, so important in the fight against covid-19? Host Kenneth Cukier and The Economist’s health policy editor Natasha Loder investigate the different approaches to this immense challenge. And Nicholas Christakis, a doctor and network scientist at Yale University, explains how despite a vaccine the pandemic could change humanity for good.Please subscribe to The Economist for full access to print, digital and audio editions:www.economist.com/podcastoffer Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
11/25/202030 minutes, 2 seconds
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Babbage: A grand bargain for tech

Is it time for a new, global politics of technology? Democratic countries need to establish a robust alternative to China’s autocratic technosphere. The news about potential covid-19 vaccines keeps getting better; we assess how the leading candidates differ. And, is there really phosphine on Venus? Kenneth Cukier hosts Please subscribe to The Economist for full access to print, digital and audio editions:www.economist.com/podcastoffer Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
11/18/202022 minutes, 56 seconds
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Babbage: In it for the long-haulers

The arrival of vaccines to tame covid-19 now seems within reach, but the disease will continue to shape lives long after the pandemic. The Economist’s health policy editor Natasha Loder speaks to patients, doctors and researchers about the symptoms that make up “long covid”, the latest findings about its causes—and how to treat it.Subscribe to The Economist for full access to print, digital and audio editions: www.economist.com/podcastoffer Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
11/11/202029 minutes, 33 seconds
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Babbage: Signal and noise

Social media platforms face one of the most testing weeks in their history as they try to filter the real election news from the fake—host Kenneth Cukier asks whether they are up to the task. In the data economy, does privacy equal power? And, how to harness the sound of the deep sea to power underwater devices.Please subscribe to The Economist for full access to print, digital and audio editions: www.economist.com/podcastoffer Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
11/4/202025 minutes, 11 seconds
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Babbage: Life, the universe and everything

From precious moonwater to a handful of asteroid that could provide clues to the origins of life, recent discoveries in our solar system lead host Alok Jha to investigate fundamental questions about the universe. How did life on Earth begin? Could earthly evolution provide a guide to what life elsewhere might be like? And what about the end of everything—the death of the universe itself?Please subscribe to The Economist for full access to print, digital and audio editions:www.economist.com/podcastoffer Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
10/28/202027 minutes, 23 seconds
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Babbage: Herd mentality

As new waves of covid-19 sweep around the world, scientists are clashing over the concept of herd immunity. Host Kenneth Cukier asks scientists on both sides of the debate whether covid-19 should be left to spread freely among the young and healthy? Also, the Department of Justice's federal antitrust lawsuit against Google—we search what this means for big tech.Please subscribe to The Economist for full access to print, digital and audio editions:www.economist.com/podcastoffer Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
10/21/202028 minutes, 21 seconds
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Babbage: The Metaverse is coming

We explore computer-generated virtual worlds and their use in everything from film-making to architecture. What will it take to build a real Metaverse, a persistent virtual world that anyone can plug into? This vision, though born in the minds of science fiction writers, is shaping the real-world ambitions of much of the tech world. Host Alok Jha talks to author Neal Stephenson, VR pioneer Jaron Lanier and the VFX team behind The Mandalorian. Please subscribe to The Economist for full access to print, digital and audio editions:www.economist.com/podcastoffer Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
10/14/202028 minutes, 17 seconds
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Babbage: Nobel minds

Host Kenneth Cukier explores the science honoured in this year’s Nobel prizes. Our correspondents assess the life-saving impact of the identification of hepatitis C, speak to one of this year’s winners for physics, Andrea Ghez, about her work unveiling the mysteries of the cosmos, and hear from Jennifer Doudna, co-developer of CRISPR-Cas9, on the potential of genome editing. Plus, can the awards adapt to modern science?Please subscribe to The Economist for full access to print, digital and audio editions:www.economist.com/podcastoffer Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
10/7/202027 minutes, 27 seconds
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Babbage: Apple's Epic battle

This week a judge heard the first arguments in an antitrust case that could reshape the software ecosystem. Who will be the real winners and losers of this digital deathmatch? Quantum computers have limited capabilities, but the technology may yet live up to its promise. And, how understanding the evolutionary history of exercise could help get people moving. Kenneth Cukier hosts. Please subscribe to The Economist for full access to print, digital and audio editions:www.economist.com/podcastoffer Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
9/30/202025 minutes, 6 seconds
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Babbage: Pandemic’s progress

As the global covid-19 death toll nears 1 million, The Economist’s healthcare correspondent and health policy editor explain what scientists are still investigating about the virus, how long-lasting is the immune response and how the pandemic can be tamed. And, the model of Taiwan—is it “post-pandemic”? Kenneth Cukier hosts Please subscribe to The Economist for full access to print, digital and audio editions:www.economist.com/podcastoffer Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
9/23/202027 minutes, 18 seconds
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Babbage: Rosalind Franklin

100 years after the British scientist Rosalind Franklin's birth, The Economist’s health policy editor Natasha Loder explores her scientific achievements—from photographing the double helix of DNA to discovering the first three-dimensional structure of a virus. And, how does Franklin’s work help the study of covid-19?Please subscribe to The Economist for full access to print, digital and audio editions:www.economist.com/podcastoffer Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
9/16/202027 minutes, 3 seconds
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Babbage: Burning down the house

Wildfires are raging across California as the state experiences a record heatwave. Climate change and irresponsible building has resulted in billions of dollars in damage. How can developers build better fire-proof homes? Also, investigative journalist James Ball on who owns the internet. And, dream on—do dreams reflect reality? Kenneth Cukier hosts Please subscribe to The Economist for full access to print, digital and audio editions:www.economist.com/podcastoffer Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
9/9/202021 minutes, 30 seconds
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Babbage: The fast and the spurious

Governments around the world are approving covid-19 drugs and vaccines at an unprecedented speed, but Natasha Loder, The Economist's Health Policy Editor, warns of the dangers that this could cause. Also, is Elon Musk's plan to link a computer to human brains science or spin? And, take a deep breath—author James Nestor on improving the quality of our breathing. Kenneth Cukier hosts. Please subscribe to The Economist for full access to print, digital and audio editions:www.economist.com/podcastoffer Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
9/2/202026 minutes, 16 seconds
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Babbage: Viruses, lords of creation

These tiny, ancient predators do more than cause pandemics. Host Kenneth Cukier and science editor Geoff Carr investigate how viruses have shaped the world. Evolutionary biologist David Enard explains how viruses have driven human development. And Jennifer Doudna, who pioneered CRISPR gene editing, and Steffanie Strathdee, an innovator in phage therapy, show how cells’ antiviral defences as well as  viruses themselves can be harnessed to protect the future of humanity. Please subscribe to The Economist for full access to print, digital and audio editions:www.economist.com/podcastoffer Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
8/26/202029 minutes, 57 seconds
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Babbage: Long-haul plight

Some victims of covid-19 continue to suffer from the illness many weeks and months after falling ill. What can be done to help these “long-haulers”? Also, the technology writer Matt Ridley on how innovation works. And, a possible solution to 2020’s other plague: locust swarms. Kenneth Cukier hosts.Please subscribe to The Economist for full access to print, digital and audio editions:www.economist.com/podcastoffer Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
8/19/202023 minutes, 56 seconds
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Babbage: WeFight

For Chinese users, WeChat does far more than just messaging. What are the implications of America’s proposed ban on the Chinese “super app”? Also, Canada’s last full Arctic shelf has collapsed, and climate change is to blame. And a sizzling solution to indoor barbeque pollution. Tom Standage hosts Please subscribe to The Economist for full access to print, digital and audio editions:www.economist.com/podcastoffer Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
8/12/202019 minutes, 30 seconds
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Babbage: Put to the test

A shortage of covid-19 tests around the world has hampered efforts to contain it. Could "pool sampling" be a solution? Also, the promise of million-mile electric car batteries? And, Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz, a developmental biologist at the University of Cambridge and Caltech, on the mysteries of life after conception. Kenneth Cukier hosts  Please subscribe to The Economist for full access to print, digital and audio editions:www.economist.com/podcastoffer Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
8/5/202025 minutes, 36 seconds
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Babbage: Life on Mars?

Three nations set out on separate missions to shed light on a question that astronomers have been asking for centuries—is there life on Mars? Alok Jha asks leading scientists about how their missions will search for signs of life on the red planet. And, why those investigating it should avoid irreversible damage to a potentially pristine ecosystem.Please subscribe to The Economist for full access to print, digital and audio editions:www.economist.com/podcastoffer Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
7/29/202032 minutes, 42 seconds
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Babbage: A punt on the Oxford vaccine

Oxford University is ahead in the race to develop a covid-19 vaccine that could halt the pandemic. Yet lead researcher, Professor Sarah Gilbert, says some trial results may be delayed owing to changing virus transmissions in different countries. Also, navigating the sky with diamonds. And, why sewage can help census-takers. Kenneth Cukier hosts. Please subscribe to The Economist for full access to print, digital and audio editions:www.economist.com/podcastoffer Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
7/22/202024 minutes, 53 seconds
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Babbage: Something in the air

As governments consider loosening lockdowns, troubling evidence suggests that the virus behind covid-19 lingers in the air, making it more communicable than previously thought. Lidia Morawska, of the International Laboratory for Air Quality and Health in Queensland, argues for better indoor ventilation. Also, Dr Vivian Lee from Verily, on how she would fix the American healthcare system. And, the “illuminating” technology revealing archaeological secrets. Kenneth Cukier hosts Please subscribe to The Economist for full access to print, digital and audio editions:www.economist.com/podcastoffer Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
7/15/202026 minutes, 27 seconds
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Babbage: The forgotten pandemic

With attention diverted to covid-19, access to HIV medications has been disrupted. Host Kenneth Cukier talks to Meg Doherty, director of HIV programmes at the World Health Organisation, about the fight against the other pandemic. Also, hydrogen power has had many false starts. Could it be about to take off? And, scientist Ainissa Ramirez on the ways technology changes how people live, act, and think.  Please subscribe to The Economist for full access to print, digital and audio editions:www.economist.com/podcastoffer Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
7/8/202025 minutes, 21 seconds
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Babbage: Predicting pandemics

As covid-19 continues to devastate the world and scientists race to develop therapeutics and vaccines, Alok Jha investigates how to get ahead of the curve and prevent the next pandemic. Scientists explain how studying the relationship between animals and humans, and finding and genetically sequencing the millions of as-yet-undiscovered animal viruses in the wild, could stop future disease outbreaks becoming global health catastrophes. Please subscribe to The Economist for full access to print, digital and audio editions:www.economist.com/podcastoffer Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
7/1/202024 minutes, 13 seconds
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Babbage: Track and trace

Contact tracing is one of the tools being used against covid-19, but in the age of the smartphone, technology presents a new way to improve the process. Kenneth Cukier explores why contact-tracing apps have not yet delivered on their promise, how they can preserve privacy and what today’s decisions mean for the future of technology in society.  Please subscribe to The Economist for full access to print, digital and audio editions:www.economist.com/podcastoffer Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
6/24/202033 minutes, 12 seconds
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Babbage: Pole position

A year-long, $160m expedition to the Arctic has passed its halfway mark and is amassing sobering data about the effects of climate change there. One of the scientists on board explains the discoveries so far. Also, Peter Schwartz, who imagined the future in Minority Report, shares his advice for forward planning in the age of covid-19. And, what next for facial recognition technology?Please subscribe to The Economist for full access to print, digital and audio editions:www.economist.com/podcastoffer Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
6/17/202025 minutes, 19 seconds
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Babbage: Covid-19's path of destruction

Slavea Chankova and Kenneth Cukier investigate the ways in which SARS-CoV-2, the virus which causes covid-19, wears the body down. Apart from pneumonia, there are other facets to the disease that are less understood such as damage to the kidneys, blood vessels and heart. And, how does covid-19 continue to harm the body—and patients' mental health— in the long term?Please subscribe to The Economist for full access to print, digital and audio editions:www.economist.com/podcastoffer Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
6/10/202026 minutes, 19 seconds
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Babbage: The rise of robo-doc

Doctors enter augmented reality to help them treat patients with illnesses like covid-19. Host Kenneth Cukier speaks to the doctors leading a Hololens initiative at an Imperial College London hospital. Also, Dario Gil, director of IBM Research, on the future of scientific collaboration. And SpaceX has successfully sent two astronauts to the International Space Station—what’s next for commercial spaceflight? Please subscribe to The Economist for full access to print, digital and audio editions:www.economist.com/radiooffer Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
6/3/202028 minutes, 6 seconds
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Babbage: The language of the universe

How can mathematics help us understand our lives and predict the world around us? Host Alok Jha speaks to David Sumpter of Uppsala University about the equations that can help people make better decisions. Christl Donnelly, an epidemiologist at the University of Oxford and Imperial College London details the role mathematics plays in modelling covid-19. Moon Duchin of Tufts University explains how maths can stop gerrymandering. And physicist Graham Farmelo on why he thinks the universe speaks in numbers. For more on the pandemic, see The Economist's coronavirus hub.Please subscribe to The Economist for full access to print, digital and audio editions:www.economist.com/radiooffer Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
5/27/202025 minutes, 16 seconds
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Babbage: Think of the children

An apparent spike in a rare childhood illness, Kawasaki disease, suggests the coronavirus may manifest very differently in children and raises questions over the role they play in spreading the pandemic. America’s latest offensive against Huawei pushes the global semiconductor industry into uncharted territory; it may also harm American interests in the process. And, flattening the other curve—could fossil fuels be added to covid-19’s casualty list? Kenneth Cukier hostsFor more on the pandemic, see The Economist's coronavirus hub.Please subscribe to The Economist for full access to print, digital and audio editions:www.economist.com/radiooffer Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
5/20/202023 minutes, 31 seconds
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Babbage: Is there anybody out there?

Will humans ever discover intelligent life in space? Since the 1960’s, scientists have been working on the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. They have not found it yet but their research is moving up a gear. Better telescopes, faster computers and more funding means that the chances of discovering ET in the next few decades have dramatically increased. Alok Jha hosts.For access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe: www.economist.com/radiooffer Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
5/13/202024 minutes, 39 seconds
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Babbage: Shot at victory

Could repurposing existing drugs, such as remdesivir, be the answer to the search for treatments for covid-19? Also, the winner of this year’s Marconi Prize, Andrea Goldsmith of Stanford University, on her pioneering work in wireless communications technology. And, the mission to give rivers their wiggle back. Kenneth Cukier hosts. For more on the pandemic, see The Economist's coronavirus hub.Please subscribe to The Economist for full access to print, digital and audio editions:www.economist.com/radiooffer Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
5/6/202024 minutes, 42 seconds
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Babbage: Beyond immunity

The immune system plays a vital role in protecting humans from infections, but how is it faring against covid-19? Pascal Soriot, chief executive of the pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca, tells host, Kenneth Cukier, about potential treatments for covid patients. Plus, do people build up an immunity to covid-19 if they have recovered from it, or can they catch it again? And, Sonja Lyubomirsky, professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside, on how acts of kindness can boost the immune system.Read The Economist’s full coverage of the coronavirus.For access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe: www.economist.com/radiooffer Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
4/29/202023 minutes, 35 seconds
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Babbage: Opening up

Tech firm Microsoft has announced plans to embrace open data. Jeni Tennison, from Britain’s Open Data Institute, says it marks a milestone in the way big companies share data. Also, could mass testing for covid-19 provide a way out of the global lockdown? And, what is causing the worst drought in over 1,000 years in the south-west of the United States? Kenneth Cukier hosts  You can read The Economist’s full coverage of the coronavirus. Please subscribe for full access to print, digital and audio editions: www.economist.com/radiooffer. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
4/22/202025 minutes, 27 seconds
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Babbage: Worth a shot

Scientists are working at an unprecedented pace to find a vaccine for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes covid-19. The stakes are high. Natasha Loder, The Economist's health policy editor, explains how an effective vaccine might be developed. Dr Trevor Drew of the Australian Centre for Disease Preparedness speaks to host Kenneth Cukier about two trials which have reached the animal-testing stage. Plus, once a vaccine is discovered, what can be done to make sure it is distributed fairly? Dr Seth Berkley, chief executive of GAVI, the vaccine alliance, explains the importance of global cooperation.For more on the pandemic, see The Economist's coronavirus hub. And please subscribe to The Economist for full access to print, digital and audio editions:www.economist.com/radiooffer Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
4/15/202026 minutes, 53 seconds
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Babbage: Maskarade

The “silent transmission” of covid-19 means people without symptoms could be a major source of its spread. How effective are masks as a defence? Plus, Kenneth Cukier asks Ivan Oransky, co-founder of Retractionwatch.com, whether the race to uncover the mysteries of the virus could lead to a torrent of “bad science”.For more on the pandemic, see The Economist's coronavirus hub. And please subscribe to The Economist for full access to print, digital and audio editions:www.economist.com/radiooffer Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
4/8/202021 minutes, 13 seconds
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Babbage: Fighting contagion with data

How are location data from mobile phones being used to combat covid-19? And, as more people are forced to stay at home, can broadband and mobile internet connections keep up? Plus, the epidemiologist who helped defeat smallpox, Larry Brilliant, on what needs to be done against the coronavirus. Kenneth Cukier hosts.The Economist is making some of its most important coverage of the covid-19 pandemic freely available to readers of The Economist Today, our daily newsletter. To receive it, register here. For more coverage, see our coronavirus hub. Please subscribe to The Economist for full access to print, digital and audio editions:www.economist.com/radiooffer Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
4/1/202027 minutes, 19 seconds
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Babbage: The sniff test for covid-19

Ear, nose and throat experts believe there may be a link between covid-19 and the loss of the senses of smell and taste. Might this help tackle the spread of the disease? And, how scientists and manufacturers are trying to keep up with demand for life-saving ventilators. Plus, the climate impact of staying at home. Kenneth Cukier hosts. Please subscribe to The Economist for full access to print, digital and audio editions:www.economist.com/radiooffer and read The Economist’s full coverage of the coronavirus. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
3/25/202025 minutes, 49 seconds
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Babbage: Can the curve be flattened?

Dramatic measures to staunch the spread of covid-19 are happening around the world, but will they be enough to reduce the rate of new cases? And amid public anxiety we answer your questions such as can you get coronavirus twice? How does testing work? And how long does the virus live on surfaces and in the air? The Economist’s health-care and science correspondents answer your covid-19 questions. Kenneth Cukier hosts Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
3/18/202025 minutes, 21 seconds
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Babbage: Fighting the virus

As the number of cases of covid-19 rises over 100,000 around the world, scientists and governments are working around the clock on treatments and vaccines. Our science editor, Geoffrey Carr, explains the genetic make-up of the virus. Mark Suzman, CEO of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Rupert Beale from the Francis Crick Institute, and Regina Barzilay from MIT explain their attempts to thwart the outbreak. Plus, we turn data outlining the fatality rate by age into sound. Kenneth Cukier hosts  Please subscribe to The Economist for full access to print, digital and audio editions:www.economist.com/radiooffer Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
3/11/202019 minutes, 50 seconds
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Babbage: The ocean—it ain't easy being blue

The ocean is under assault as people demand more of its resources. Now climate change is causing the greatest stress yet to ocean ecosystems. Kenneth Cukier talks to Jane Lubchenco, the first US science envoy for the ocean, about why the ocean is too big to ignore. He meets the scientists helping corals to spawn outside their natural habitat and using seaweed as a substitute for single-use plastic. Also, how can Japanese sushi chefs guarantee the origins of their fish? Please subscribe to The Economist for full access to print, digital and audio editions:www.economist.com/radiooffer Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
3/4/202024 minutes, 32 seconds
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Babbage: Going viral, going global

Covid-19, the new coronavirus, is spreading around the world. Abdi Mahamad, the World Health Organisation’s incident manager for Asia, reveals that for the first time since the start of the outbreak, more cases are being reported outside China than within it. What can countries do to limit the spread of the virus, and will it become a pandemic? The Economist’s deputy editor Tom Standage hosts a debate with Therese Hesketh, professor of global health at the Institute for Global Health at University College London; Christl Donnelly, professor of statistical epidemiology at Imperial College London a WHO Collaborating Centre for Infectious Disease Modelling; and Slavea Chankova, our health-care correspondent.  Please subscribe to The Economist for full access to print, digital and audio editions:www.economist.com/radiooffer Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
2/26/202023 minutes, 11 seconds
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Babbage: Feeding tomorrow’s world @AAAS

By 2050 the global population is projected to reach 9.7 billion. At the same time, climate change is putting increasing pressure on agricultural land. At the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Seattle, Alok Jha, The Economist’s science correspondent, speaks to nutritionists, genetic engineers and computer scientists to find out whether the planet can sustainably feed future generations. Could genetic engineering make key crops more productive, resilient and nutritious? And how harvesting more data can help farmers get more from their fields____________________Subscribe to The Economist for full access to print, digital and audio editions:www.economist.com/radiooffer____________________ Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
2/19/202031 minutes, 22 seconds
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Babbage: Close encounters of a solar kind

The Solar Orbiter is on a two year journey towards the sun, the most studied astronomical subject in the sky. What will this new view of the sun reveal? Also, Kenneth Cukier talks to Amy Zegart, who advises American policymakers on cyber-spycraft, about how countries can improve their defence against digital security threats. And, why living in a city impairs navigational skills. Please subscribe to The Economist for full access to print, digital and audio editions:www.economist.com/radiooffer Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
2/12/202023 minutes, 50 seconds
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Babbage: Viral hit

Can a vaccine for the new coronavirus be developed in time to stop a pandemic? How a satellite called Claire has found a new way of spotting methane leaks to help combat global warming. And, unfolding the mystery of butterfly wings. Kenneth Cukier hosts Please subscribe to The Economist for full access to print, digital and audio editions:www.economist.com/radiooffer Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
2/5/202018 minutes, 9 seconds
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Babbage: Judging the book

Will Facebook’s new “oversight board” restore trust in the social media giant? Also, venture capitalist Roy Bahat on how AI will transform the future of work. And, how to make oxygen from moon dust. Kenneth Cukier hosts Please subscribe to The Economist for full access to print, digital and audio editions:www.economist.com/radiooffer Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
1/29/202020 minutes, 45 seconds
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Babbage: The Wuhan plan

The new coronavirus, which was discovered in December in the city of Wuhan China, is now causing a global scare. What are the symptoms of the Wuhan virus and how can it be contained? Also, a new biotech company is hoping to revolutionise the way drugs are brought to market. And, should countries around the world ban Huawei technology from their 5G network? Kenneth Cukier hosts.Please subscribe to The Economist for full access to print, digital and audio editions:www.economist.com/radiooffer Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
1/22/202025 minutes, 8 seconds
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Babbage: Starlight, star bright

A giant star called Betelgeuse is behaving strangely. Could the dimming star be about to become a supernova? Also, a group of internet veterans are contesting the billion dollar sale of the “.org” domain registry. What’s their alternative? And, accidental stampedes can be deadly. How does a crowd turn into a crush? Kenneth Cukier hosts____________________Please subscribe to The Economist for full access to print, digital and audio editions:www.economist.com/radiooffer____________________ Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
1/15/202018 minutes, 42 seconds
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Babbage: Fire fighting

Australia is battling catastrophic wildfires. Climate models predict extreme fire events are going to become more commonplace. What can countries do to prepare? And, a glimpse into the chip factory around which the modern world turns. Also, what is “open innovation”? Henry Chesbrough, professor at the Haas School of Business, at UC Berkeley talks to Kenneth Cukier.Please subscribe to The Economist for full access to print, digital and audio editions:www.economist.com/radiooffer Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
1/8/202024 minutes, 25 seconds
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Babbage: What’s the frequency Kenneth?

Kenneth Cukier celebrates the invention of a musical instrument that turns 100 in 2020—the Theremin. A staple of sci-fi sound-effects, the instrument is enjoying a revival in the digital age. We talk to players, historians, a former student and relative of its inventor to learn about the influence of the Theremin on modern culture. Was the instrument a technological achievement that came a century too soon?Please subscribe to The Economist for full access to print, digital and audio editions:www.economist.com/radiooffer Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
1/1/202023 minutes, 8 seconds
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Babbage: How the planets got their spots

The workings of the solar system were once likened to the machinations of a precise clock, but the orbits of the planets haven’t always been so perfectly balanced. How did the planets end up where they are today? Also, the Mars missions which hopes to reveal life on the red planet. And, designer and technologist John Maeda on the importance of understanding machines. Kenneth Cukier hosts Please subscribe to The Economist for full access to print, digital and audio editions:www.economist.com/radiooffer Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
12/18/201925 minutes, 5 seconds
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Babbage: Beijing kicks out foreign kit

China wants to remove all foreign technology from its state offices within the next three years. One in every two people will experience the menopause. Why are so few women taking advantage of life-changing hormone replacement therapies? And, the internet domain registry “.org” is being sold for over $1bn. What does this mean for the future of the internet? Kenneth Cukier hosts ____________________Please subscribe to The Economist for full access to print, digital and audio editions:www.economist.com/radiooffer____________________ Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
12/11/201923 minutes, 34 seconds
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Babbage: Now I’ve learned my ABC

After the founders of Google, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, step back from their roles at Google’s parent company Alphabet, who will really be in charge? Israeli venture capitalist Chemi Peres on the ways innovation can lead to peace. And, cases of Malaria are no longer in decline — what needs to happen to reignite the fight? Kenneth Cukier hosts Please subscribe to The Economist for full access to print, digital and audio editions:www.economist.com/radiooffer Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
12/4/201922 minutes, 9 seconds
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Babbage: AI: The end of the scientific method?

Researchers are using artificial intelligence techniques to invent medicines and materials—but in the process are they upending the scientific method itself? The AI approach is a form of trial-and-error at scale, or “radical empiricism”. But does AI-driven science uncover new answers that humans cannot understand? Host Kenneth Cukier finds out with James Field of LabGenius, Demis Hassabis of DeepMind, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, tech venture capitalists Zavain Dar and Nan Li, philosophy professor Sabrina Leonelli, and others. Please subscribe to The Economist for full access to print, digital and audio editions:www.economist.com/radiooffer Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
11/27/201922 minutes, 40 seconds
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Babbage: Reality check

Virtual reality continues to make people sick. Will the technology ever take off and is it designed for women? Leo Murray, from “Riding Sunbeams”, on using solar power to propel future commuter journeys. Also, how slippery toilets could reduce water-use. Alok Jha hosts Please subscribe to The Economist for full access to print, digital and audio editions:www.economist.com/radiooffer Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
11/20/201923 minutes, 7 seconds
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Babbage: Private patients

Google has teamed up with US-healthcare provider Ascension to access patient data without them being notified. What are the privacy concerns and implications for digital healthcare? And, how will 3D printing change the way we build everything from skyscrapers to spaceships. Also, Neil deGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist and author, speaks to Kenn Cukier about the future of science education and space exploration.Please subscribe to The Economist for full access to print, digital and audio editions:www.economist.com/radiooffer Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
11/13/201928 minutes, 20 seconds
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Babbage: Designer genes

How far away are “designer babies” from being a reality? Host Kenneth Cukier explores the ethical questions around the applications of a genome-wide association study. Journalist and author Gaia Vince on how “cultural evolution” shapes society. Also, a solution to the problem of “concrete cancer” Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
11/6/201923 minutes, 50 seconds
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Babbage: Home o’Sapiens

Scientists believe they have located the ancestral home of one of humanity’s early ancestors—in northern Botswana. Tom Siebel, a Silicon Valley veteran and the founder of C3.ai, explains how digital transformation stops companies from going extinct. And, host Kenneth Cukier takes a trip to the Natural History Museum in London to learn about bias in species collection_________________________Please subscribe to The Economist for full access to print, digital and audio editions:www.economist.com/radiooffer_________________________ Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
10/30/201923 minutes, 16 seconds
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Babbage: Libra takes a pounding

Facebook’s cryptocurrency, Libra, has suffered setbacks in recent weeks, as the company’s founder Mark Zuckerberg appears before a congressional committee to defend it. The Economist’s technology editor Tim Cross explains what’s at stake. Also, how a giant timber mill in Finland is leading the way in sustainable forestry. And Damian Bradfield, chief creative officer of WeTransfer, on how ethics and the internet can coexist. Kenneth Cukier hosts____________________Please subscribe to The Economist for full access to print, digital and audio editions:www.economist.com/radiooffer____________________ Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
10/23/201921 minutes, 21 seconds
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Babbage: Cough up

Over the past two decades the Global Fund has fought the spread of AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, but now many in the field fear its progress is under threat. The founder and CEO of language-learning app Duolingo, Luis von Ahn, on his plans to help the 750m illiterate adults in the world learn to read. And, why net-zero carbon emissions targets are measuring the wrong thing. Kenneth Cukier hosts Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
10/16/201925 minutes, 10 seconds
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Babbage: The promise and peril of AI

Artificial intelligence—the technique of using data and algorithms to make decisions as well as (or better) than humans—is on track to become a mainstream technology, on a par with electricity or computing. But in order to flourish it needs to overcome several challenges. From privacy and market concentration, to safety and explainability. In this week’s show Kenneth Cukier speaks to some of the leading experts in the field about the benefits and risks of AI, and why it is so important that we deploy the technology. Guests include Yoshua Bengio, Andrew Ng, Ajay Agrawal, Catherine Havasi and Stuart Russell Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
10/9/201928 minutes, 41 seconds
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Babbage: Steak and Chips

As the trade war intensifies, China wants to reduce its reliance on imports of foreign computer chips. Could open-source technology solve its problems? Also, new research on red meat pits statisticians against nutritionists. And Brad Smith, president of Microsoft, on the ethical dilemmas that come from powerful new technology. Kenneth Cukier hosts____________________Please subscribe to The Economist for full access to print, digital and audio editions:www.economist.com/radiooffer____________________ Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
10/2/201926 minutes, 15 seconds
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Babbage: Carbon sucks

Scientists are experimenting with different ways to reduce the amount of carbon being emitted into the Earth’s atmosphere. Nilay Shah, of Imperial College London, explains how carbon capture and storage works. And, Wang Jian, a tech chief of Alibaba, on how data can be harnessed to make cities more efficient. Plus, three low-tech innovations that could make a big difference to sustainable living. Kenneth Cukier hostsAdditional music by Chris Zabriskie "Divider" (CC by 4.0)____________________Please subscribe to The Economist for full access to print, digital and audio editions:www.economist.com/radiooffer____________________ Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
9/25/201925 minutes, 39 seconds
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Babbage: Climate. Change

As global leaders prepare for the UN climate change summit next week, we debate what changes individuals can make today to help limit the effects of climate change. The Economist’s environment editor, Catherine Brahic, hosts a roundtable with Christiana Figueres, who convenes Mission 2020 to reduce global carbon emissions; Ed Davey, a director of the Food and Land Use Coalition with the World Resources Institute; and Kevin Anderson, professor of energy and climate change in the school of engineering at Manchester University Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
9/18/201925 minutes, 18 seconds
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Babbage: Taxis for take-off

Flying taxis could soon become commonplace in cities if operators can overcome strict regulations on their use. Journalist Rebecca Fannin explores the future of technology giants in China. And, how can the sound of sand reveal its source? Kenn Cukier hostsextra music by Chris Zabriskie “Divider” (CC by 4.0 UK) Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
9/11/201924 minutes, 23 seconds
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Babbage: Innovation around innovation

Innovation: it’s more than just a buzzword that companies use when trying to sound dynamic. But what does it actually mean? Some entrepreneurs and economists like Patrick Collison and Tyler Cowen think that it needs to be studied as a science of progress. How can pulling together thinking about this help innovators of the future? And what are companies doing today to try and change the way we work? Kenneth Cukier hosts Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
9/4/201927 minutes, 17 seconds
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Babbage: Oh, grow up

Investors are ploughing hundreds of millions of dollars into vertical farming. Could towers of vegetables help feed the world’s growing population? Also, how studying gravitational waves could unlock the deepest mysteries of the universe and prove Einstein wrong. And, network theorist Albert-Laszlo Barabasi explains the science of professional success. Kenneth Cukier hosts Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
8/28/201922 minutes, 52 seconds
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Babbage: Gut Feeling

How can understanding the link between gut bacteria and Autism Spectrum Disorder help scientists develop a treatment? Broken heart syndrome, or Takotsubo, is a serious condition that can be caused by the death of a loved one. Scientists have recently discovered a possible link to cancer. Also, could re-training the brain combat chronic breathlessness? Kenneth Cukier hosts Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
8/21/201921 minutes, 31 seconds
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Babbage: A cure for Ebola?

Two treatments for Ebola have emerged from a clinical trial in Africa. Scientists estimate that sea-levels across the globe will rise by 50cm or so in the next 80 years; in some places they could go up by twice as much. Are governments and businesses prepared to deal with the rising tides? And, as face-recognition technology spreads, so do ideas for subverting it. Kenneth Cukier hosts Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
8/14/201920 minutes, 31 seconds
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Babbage: Meno-Pause

Can pioneering surgery help delay the menopause and how will it impact women's lives? And, Clara Vu, of Veo Robotics, explains some of the challenges of designing “cobots”, robots that work collaboratively with humans on manufacturing tasks. Also, should people have the right to choose to know if they are a carrier of a hereditary genetic disease? Alok Jha hosts Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
8/7/201920 minutes, 56 seconds
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Babbage: Hot as hell

Record-breaking heatwaves are becoming routine and they are killing people. But many of the potentially life-saving solutions are both low-tech and low-cost. Governments should be doing more. Also, we visit Lake Chad in the Sahel to understand how climate change can fuel conflict. And, droughts or floods, heatwaves or cold snaps, just how responsible is humanity for extreme weather events? Catherine Brahic hosts Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
7/31/201928 minutes, 3 seconds
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Babbage: Return of the king

Under Satya Nadella, Microsoft has reclaimed its crown as the world’s most valuable listed company. What can other firms learn from its reboot? Also, Reshma Shetty, cofounder of Gingko Bioworks, explains the potential of synthetic biology to harness – and transform – the power of nature. And, British ethicists put police use of artificial intelligence on trial. Alok Jha hosts Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
7/24/201918 minutes, 21 seconds
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Babbage: The next giant leap for mankind

This week marks the 50th anniversary of the launch of the Apollo 11 moon mission. Is humankind about to return there? And what do the next 50 years of space exploration hold? The task of moderating a platform with over two billion active users is a daunting one. Brent Harris, Facebook’s director of governance, explains his plans. And the science behind the search for the reddest red yet. Kenneth Cukier hosts Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
7/17/201922 minutes, 40 seconds
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Babbage: How tech is my valley?

China is promoting a tech district that it hopes will be a serious contender to America’s Silicon Valley. Hal Hodson, The Economist’s technology correspondent, visits the new hub. Lord John Browne, author of “Make, Think, Imagine”, on how advancements in engineering and artificial intelligence will eventually affect civilisation. And, what do hydrogen molecules sound like? Some innovative students have developed “molecular music.” Kenneth Cukier hosts. Music provided by Ilkley Grammar School students Sam Harris, Matthew Hodson, Joe Higgit and Edgar Langley.  Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
7/10/201922 minutes, 51 seconds
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Babbage: DeepMind games

The child chess prodigy who created a computer that outplays human grandmasters—Demis Hassabis, founder of DeepMind, explains how games are a testing ground for algorithms and what real-world challenges he hopes to tackle with artificial intelligence. And, what can AlphaZero, the chess-playing computer, teach human players? Kenneth Cukier also speaks to the chess players Dominic Lawson, Natasha Regan and Matthew Sadler about the future of machine intelligence and its interplay with human wisdom Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
7/3/201920 minutes, 57 seconds
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Babbage: Curing the big sea

Researchers hope to use disease-fighting genes found in whales to help find treatments for cancer in humans. Airliners that mix batteries and fossil fuel could dominate the skies in the future. And, are people more honest than they think they are? Kenneth Cukier hosts Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
6/27/201919 minutes, 51 seconds
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Babbage: Facebucks

Facebook wants to create a global digital currency—what could possibly go wrong? Also, why billionaire Stephen Schwarzman, founder of Blackstone private-equity firm, is donating £150m to fund a humanities centre at Oxford University. And, what can be done to increase public trust in artificial intelligence? Kenneth Cukier hosts Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
6/19/201919 minutes, 31 seconds
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Babbage: Space invaders

The business opportunities from small satellite technology are infinite: from an ‘ambulance’ which rescues malfunctioning spacecraft to devices that can measure the oil level in a tanker from space. Are we on the verge of making gene-editing technology safer? And, 50 years after man set foot on the moon, Oliver Morton, senior editor and author, predicts the future of humans’ relationship with lunar exploration. Kenn Cukier hosts Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
6/12/201923 minutes, 36 seconds
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Babbage: Fusing the future

In this week’s Babbage, Alok Jha investigates the organisations and companies trying to crack a technology that could solve all of the world’s energy problems in a stroke—nuclear fusion. From Iter, the world's largest collaborative fusion experiment, to private start-ups racing to be first, could the long-promised dream of nuclear fusion - to provide clean, limitless, carbon-free power - finally be about to come true? Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
6/5/201920 minutes, 3 seconds
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Babbage: Rash behaviour

The measles resurgence around the world has been blamed on parents refusing to vaccinate their children but is vaccinating children enough? Also, how a new glove for humans is teaching robots how to feel. And Kenneth Cukier asks Carl Benedikt Frey, economic historian, what can be learnt from the industrial revolution in today’s world of automation and robots. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
5/29/201919 minutes, 26 seconds
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Babbage: Data to the rescue

Access to the right data can be as valuable in humanitarian crises as water or medical care, but it can also be dangerous. Misused or in the wrong hands, the same information can put already vulnerable people at further risk. Kenneth Cukier hosts this special edition of Babbage examining how humanitarian organisations use data and what they can learn from the profit-making tech industry. This episode was recorded live from Wilton Park, in collaboration with the United Nations OCHA Centre for Humanitarian Data Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
5/22/201924 minutes, 47 seconds
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Babbage: Facing the future?

Legislators in San Francisco have just voted to ban the use of facial recognition—is this a victory for privacy or a setback for technology? Also, new research on how machine learning can be used to predict the likelihood of breast cancer. And Amazon's boss, Jeff Bezos, draws inspiration from science fiction in his aim to build space habitats. Kenneth Cukier hosts Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
5/15/201921 minutes, 10 seconds
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Babbage: Uber traffic

As Uber prepares for its public listing this week, a new study in San Francisco shows that ride-hailing companies cause major road congestion. Also, how much should smart speakers see as well as hear? And, author Douglas Rushkoff explains why he views modern technology as anti-human. Kenneth Cukier hosts Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
5/8/201920 minutes, 31 seconds
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Babbage: Net zero Britain

This week the Committee on Climate Change releases its anticipated recommendations for Britain to become a carbon-free economy, but will the Government take meaningful action? Also, the controversial subject of lung cancer screening. And David Spiegelhalter discusses ‘The Art of Statistics’. Kenneth Cukier hosts Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
5/1/201921 minutes
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Babbage: The genetic revolution

Kenneth Cukier takes a look at the future of genetic engineering and what it means to be human. He speaks to leading scientists, doctors and philosophers to ask if ethics and regulations are able to keep up with the technology Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
4/24/201921 minutes, 9 seconds
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Babbage: Am-AI-zon

Amazon’s use of artificial intelligence has long outstripped Facebook and Google. Just how ingrained is AI at Amazon? Also, journalist and author David Wallace Wells explains the diminishing optimism of the climate change movement. And, how natural disasters fade from collective memory. Kenneth Cukier hosts Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
4/17/201924 minutes, 34 seconds
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Babbage: Hypersonic Boom

America, China and Russia are developing long range, gliding missiles that travel at speeds greater than Mach 5. What are the threats and safeguards? Also, Dame Stephanie Shirley, the programmer who set up Britain’s first all-female software company in 1962, gives advice to women in tech today. And, how to knit a sports car with carbon fibre. Kenneth Cukier hosts Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
4/10/201918 minutes, 9 seconds
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Babbage: Dino-more

A little-known paleontologist may have found the last piece of the puzzle explaining the fate of the dinosaurs: what actually happened when the giant asteroid struck the Earth. Also, Paul Davies, a renowned physicist, explains the systems of information that make up consciousness. And, why being heard in the House of Commons is not always essential to getting things done. Kenneth Cukier hosts Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
4/3/201920 minutes, 45 seconds
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Babbage: DiagNoses

How scientists followed the nose of a super-smeller to identify a new test for Parkinson’s disease. Also, historian Kate Brown tells us what she uncovered from decades of researching the Chernobyl disaster. And scientists in China have found a potential solution for recharging the pacemaker. Kenneth Cukier hosts Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
3/27/201924 minutes, 9 seconds
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Babbage: Insectageddon?

The insect apocalypse may not be imminent, but the decline of insect species is still a concern. And we speak to Dr Angela Gallop about her career as one of Britain’s most eminent forensic scientists. Also, when will a robot barista serve you a latte? Kenneth Cukier hosts Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
3/20/201919 minutes, 45 seconds
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Babbage: Pioneers of the WWW

Kenneth Cukier gets in the Babbage time machine and travels to 1989, when Sir Tim Berners-Lee wrote the famous memo that laid the foundations for the world wide web. Kenn speaks to some of the other key figures that influenced its invention, like Ted Nelson and Vint Cerf, and then asks what the WWW might look like in the future. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
3/13/201920 minutes, 45 seconds
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Babbage: Breaking the ice

We have an exclusive interview with Dr Huw Griffiths on the mission to investigate a recently uncovered marine ecosystem in the Antarctic. And the author and scholar Shoshana Zuboff explains surveillance capitalism. Also, how the makers of the game Fortnite have the online platforms of Steam and Google locked in their sights. Kenneth Cukier hosts. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
3/6/201921 minutes, 34 seconds
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Babbage: The element-hunters

It is 150 years since Dmitri Mendeleev discovered the periodic table, the innate order underpinning the elements. Kenneth Cukier explores how this simple grid has shaped our understanding of the universe and our place in it. In a laboratory near Moscow the search is on for element 119, but on the other side of the world in California, researchers are hesitant. Is chemistry over? Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
2/27/201920 minutes
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Babbage: Joker AAAStronauts

The latest buzz from the AAAS, the largest general science meeting in the world, from The Economist’s science correspondent, Alok Jha. NASA scientists presented initial findings on how a year in space changes astronauts’ bodies. Why a good sense of humour is required for a successful mission to Mars. And can machines become scientists? Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
2/20/201921 minutes
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Babbage: Regulating fake news

Tech giants face regulation on news after UK media review. Its author, Dame Frances Cairncross, tells us even the technology platforms recognise the need for change. Roger McNamee, one of Facebook’s early investors, asks if it’s now too powerful. And the award-winning inventor of GPS on how his early atomic clock just keeps getting better with age. Kenneth Cukier hosts  Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
2/13/201920 minutes, 40 seconds
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Babbage: A bill of data rights

Should individuals have rights over their data that are protected similar to human rights? We discuss the universe with Jo Dunkley of Princeton. And why the oceans are turning a different shade of blue. Kenneth Cukier hosts Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
2/6/201920 minutes, 36 seconds
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Babbage: Ethically challenged

As the controversial story of the editing of the genomes of two babies in China unfolds, we ask how can science be more ethical — and how to tackle “ethics dumping”. Also, how environmental factors can influence the national security of countries affected by climate change. And we look at the phenomenon of the placebo button. Kenneth Cukier hosts Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
1/30/201916 minutes, 13 seconds
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Babbage: Droning on

How can new technology deal with rogue drones? And what can be learned from Dutch hospitals in the fight against superbugs. Also, the development of a simple camera that can see around corners. Tim Cross hosts Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
1/23/201919 minutes, 20 seconds
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Babbage: A growing conCERN

We discuss CERN’s latest plans for a successor to the Large Hadron Collider. Also, our healthcare editor explains how scientists hope to develop vaccines more quickly for unexpected viruses. And, how altering the genetic code of E.coli is leading to groundbreaking research on cancer drugs. Kenneth Cukier hosts. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
1/16/201917 minutes, 38 seconds
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Babbage: Will China dominate science?

In a special show, we examine China’s impressive scientific advances and question what they mean for the future of the sciences—and of China. Among the guests is the Chinese-American astronaut Leroy Chiao, discussing China’s recent feat of landing a probe on the far side of the moon. Kenneth Cukier hosts. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
1/9/201916 minutes, 34 seconds
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Babbage: Success of 'disability tech'

In this special episode of Babbage, we discuss some of the advancements in technology that could change the lives of those living with a disability — an app that is helping those who are visually impaired. Also, how the sit-ski has benefited from research in the aerospace and automotive industries. And, can the symptoms of phantom limb syndrome be harnessed to enhance prosthetics? Kenneth Cukier hosts. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
1/2/201913 minutes, 42 seconds
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Babbage: Best of 2018

In this festive special we look back at some of our favourite stories from 2018. Could IVF could save the northern white rhino from extinction? Also, the discovery of liquid water on Mars. And, how the amphibious life of the Bajau people has led to their unique evolutionary traits. Kenneth Cukier hosts. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
12/26/201814 minutes, 21 seconds
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Babbage: A little more conservation

We ask how can conservationists preserve biodiversity through new ideas. Also, what can be done to increase the number of women in the technology industry? And Hossein Derakhshan, a formerly jailed Iranian blogger, discusses whether the web is becoming more superficial. Kenneth Cukier hosts. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
12/19/201819 minutes, 43 seconds
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Babbage: Lots in space

The race is on to launch satellites to connect the entire world to the internet. We talk to psychologist and geneticist Robert Plomin, about his career and his latest book. And, is the fax machine facing extinction? Kenneth Cukier hosts Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
12/12/201820 minutes, 48 seconds
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Babbage: Waymo to go

Waymo, a division of Google's parent company Alphabet, launched its self-driving taxi service, but is it really a landmark for driverless vehicles? Also, a vast study seeks to understand the genetic underpinnings of ADHD. And we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the “Mother of all demos” computing presentation. Kenneth Cukier hosts Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
12/5/201818 minutes, 6 seconds
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Babbage: The baby crisperer

A Chinese scientist has claimed to have edited the genomes of two babies using the revolutionary genome-editing technique called CRISPR-Cas9. Also, how the production of semiconductors is becoming a new battlefield. And Kenneth Cukier asks the author, technology executive and investor Elad Gil what it takes for a startup to become a technology giant. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
11/28/201819 minutes, 16 seconds
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Babbage: The dos and don'ts of data

In this special episode we examine the controversial gang-mapping database of London's Metropolitan Police Service. Also, a new pilot project to study how a "data trust" might increase access to information while retaining privacy. And how sharing mapping data by the big web platforms could unlock innovations for companies and society. Kenneth Cukier hosts Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
11/21/201818 minutes, 7 seconds
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Babbage: The blame game

Should climate change be a matter of human rights? Also, gene drives' controversial potential to wipe out entire species of mosquitoes. And, a novel watch spring that could change the way mechanical watches are designed. Kenneth Cukier hosts Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
11/14/201815 minutes, 10 seconds
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Babbage: Economist in space

Highlights from The Economist’s Space Summit in New York, including an interview with Apollo 9 astronaut Russell 'Rusty' Schweickart. Also, how to prepare for space exploration with Dava Newman, Apollo Program Professor of Astronautics at MIT. And, astrophysicist Simonetta Di Pippo and astronaut Leroy Chiao discuss worldwide cooperation in space. Tom Standage hosts Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
11/7/201823 minutes, 11 seconds
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Babbage: Turning the oceans green

Can greenhouse emissions be cut in maritime transport? Also, with the US midterms a week away, Courtney Kennedy from PEW Research Centre discusses the reliability of polling data. And the artificial intelligence system being tested as a way to cut down train delays. Kenneth Cukier hosts Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
10/31/201820 minutes, 26 seconds
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Babbage: Pie in the sky

Could delivering goods by drone soon become a common occurrence? Also, cyber-security expert Bruce Schneier discusses his latest book. And a new innovation for the disposing of human waste from Mount Everest. Hal Hodson hosts Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
10/24/201818 minutes, 41 seconds
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Babbage: The quantum conundrum

Is the internet about to be unravelled by quantum computing? And how artificial intelligence could be used to diagnose the need for lung transplants in patients with cystic fibrosis. Also, our technology correspondent, Hal Hodson, discuss some of the latest happenings in robotics. Kenneth Cukier hosts Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
10/17/201819 minutes, 8 seconds
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Babbage: What a difference half a degree makes

This week's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report recommends keeping the global increase in temperature below 1.5°C. We ask how governments and companies can reach "net zero" and whether the global economy can both grow and go green? Kenneth Cukier talks to one of the authors of the report, an advisor to Costa Rica on its pioneering decarbonisation plan and the European refineries industry body on its green efforts.Music: Smooth as Glass by The Freeharmonic Orchestra (CC x 4.0) Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
10/10/201823 minutes, 28 seconds
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Babbage: The Nobel winners explained

Economist science correspondents break down the discoveries that won this year's Nobel prizes. Tristan Harris, a former design ethicist at Google, discusses the dangerous ways that the tech industry competes for our attention. And: the story of blackest fish in the deep ocean. Kenneth Cukier hosts Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
10/3/201816 minutes, 22 seconds
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Babbage: Lessons from Spanish flu

What can we learn from the Spanish flu pandemic which killed over 50 million people a hundred years ago? Carl Malamud, founder of public.resource.org, wants to make more data public. And, is food actually scarce at the bottom of the ocean? Kenneth Cukier hosts. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
9/26/201817 minutes, 10 seconds
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Babbage: Up in smoke

Are e-cigarettes the answer to giving up tobacco smoking? And SpaceX revives its plans to send tourists around the moon. Also, we speak to Zia Chishti of Afiniti about the role of artificial intelligence in business. Kenneth Cukier hosts Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
9/19/201817 minutes, 6 seconds
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Babbage: Ma waves ali bye bye

How China will struggle to produce another Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba, who steps down as chairman next year. And we discuss cyber-security with former United States Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff. Kenneth Cukier hosts Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
9/12/201815 minutes, 14 seconds
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Babbage: Content liability

Should tech companies be legally responsible for all their content? Also, major European research funders have announced ‘Plan S’ to make all scientific works free to read. And how optical fibre made in orbit could be better than the terrestrial sort. Kenneth Cukier hosts. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
9/5/201814 minutes, 20 seconds
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Babbage: Peaks and Valleys

Has Silicon Valley’s influence as a technology hub peaked? Also, how artificial intelligence is gaining a sense of curiosity. And how a shampoo bottle is saving lives in Bangladesh. Kenneth Cukier hosts. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
8/29/201816 minutes, 30 seconds
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Babbage: Will Google translate?

If Google does reintroduce its search engine to China what will it have to omit? And how future helicopters will fly in new ways, with pilots optional. Also, the discovery of a 3,200-year-old ancient Egyptian cheese and what we can learn from it. Hal Hodson hosts Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
8/22/201814 minutes, 38 seconds
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Babbage: Jumping the Q

Is quantum technology getting ahead of itself? And we look into what is being done to find a cure for celiac disease. Also, we explore random control trials and the placebo effect of sham surgery. Tim Cross hosts Music by Daniel Birch "Brushed bells in the wind" (CC by 4.0) Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
8/15/201819 minutes, 23 seconds
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Babbage: My corona

We speak to project scientist for the Parker Solar Probe, Dr Nicola Fox, about the spacecraft's upcoming mission to the sun's atmosphere. We also discuss the upsides of artificial intelligence with professor Max Tegmark. And how seal whiskers are helping to create new underwater sensors. Kenneth Cukier hosts  Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
8/8/201819 minutes, 32 seconds
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Babbage: Drive.ai time

Should AI systems be more human-centric? We look at how a trial of self-driving vehicles in Texas is focusing on what the technology can do now. Rufus Pollack, the founder of Open Knowledge International, discusses how freedom of choice promotes innovation. And, a simple solution to increasing productivity in India. Kenneth Cukier hosts  Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
8/1/201819 minutes, 29 seconds
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Babbage: Too hot to handle

Are the recent heat waves around the world a sign of things to come? Geoffrey Carr, our science editor, finds out at the meeting of the International AIDS Society what more needs to be done to eradicate the disease. Also, has liquid water on Mars finally been found? Kenneth Cukier hosts.  Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
7/25/201815 minutes, 45 seconds
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Babbage: Paranoid android

What does the European Commission's record fine of Google mean for the future of its Android operating system? And how a popular gene editing tool is raising a few questions. Also, we speak to Dr David Fajgenbaum about the first ever World Castleman Disease Day. Kenneth Cukier hosts Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
7/18/201816 minutes, 45 seconds
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Babbage: The Roboburger

Are robots going to replace chefs in the kitchen? And how footsteps can be used for ID and health checks. Also, we focus on the very latest discoveries from the Gaia space mission. Kenneth Cukier hosts Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
7/11/201817 minutes, 39 seconds
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Babbage: Saving white rhino

How IVF could save the northern white rhino from extinction. And Jaron Lanier tells us why we should delete our social media accounts. Also, how understanding animal behaviour could reduce errors in the operating theatre. Kenneth Cukier hosts Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
7/4/201820 minutes, 5 seconds
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Babbage: Fixing the internet

The internet was meant to make the world a less centralised place, but the opposite has happened. The Economist’s technology editor Ludwig Siegele explores why it matters and what can be done about it. Music by Fabian Measures “Open Cab” cc by 4.0 Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
6/27/201814 minutes, 25 seconds
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Babbage: Fuel for thought

How a privately owned Chinese company called OneSpace is using solid fuel for launching rockets. Also, the worrying growth of bogus scientific journals. And is there an optimal strategy for the dreaded penalty shoot-out? Kenneth Cukier hosts Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
6/20/201819 minutes, 41 seconds
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Babbage: Polio returns

Why has polio made a comeback in Venezuela and how does it spread? Tien Tzuo, founder of Zuora, says there will be no need to own anything in the future — you will subscribe to everything.  And research into how marine mammals respond to predators shows there is safety in numbers. Tom Standage hosts. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
6/13/201821 minutes, 48 seconds
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Babbage: AI will see you now

How companies are using artificial intelligence in medicine to help with diagnosis. We hear why a Dutch park that mimics nature is riling animal-rights activists. Also, what can be learnt from a new study on the calls of the bottlenose dolphin. Tim Cross hosts Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
6/6/201818 minutes, 21 seconds
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Babbage: Gene genius

Has new research into the human genome discovered the secret to human evolution? And how studying HIV in every organ helps understand how to eliminate it. Also, we review the book “Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup”. Kenneth Cukier hosts Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
5/30/201817 minutes, 24 seconds
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Babbage: Fake views

Deep-fakes – how can we trust what people appear to be saying in online videos? Also, how to contain the recent outbreak of ebola in the DRC. And, a new study of biomass that is putting human’s place in the world into perspective. Kenneth Cukier hosts Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
5/23/201817 minutes, 52 seconds
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Babbage: Show me the way to Cordillera

Now that the war between the Colombian government and the FARC has ended, scientists are exploring parts of the country previously held by the rebels. The aim is to make Colombia a "bio-power" by 2030. Also, how lead pollution in Greenlandic ice shows evidence of ancient European societies. And the new insect-sized drones that are causing a buzz. Tim Cross hosts Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
5/16/201814 minutes, 30 seconds
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Babbage: When an algorithm decides your fate

Computer algorithms are being used with increasing frequency to make decisions about humans - from whether a job applicant makes it through a selection process or if a prison inmate gets released on parole. But how are the algorithms making their decisions? And what if they make a mistake? In this special episode of Babbage, we explore the complex work of algorithmic decision-making. Music by Chris Zabriskie “Divider” (CC by 4.0 UK) Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
5/9/201820 minutes, 33 seconds
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Babbage: Big data versus privacy

Data is becoming the world's most valuable resource. Governments use it to monitor and control their citizens. Corporations use it to persuade consumers to buy their products. But as machine learning and algorithms advance, will people still be able to harness the power of big data without losing too much individual privacy? Music by Chris Zabriskie “Divider” (CC by 4.0 UK). Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
5/2/201831 minutes, 28 seconds
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Babbage: Insane in the methane

What is causing the rising rates of methane in the atmosphere? Also, how an amphibious life for the Bajau people has led to unique evolutionary traits. And the excitement around the Gaia space probe’s latest data release. Hal Hodson hosts Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
4/25/201816 minutes, 27 seconds
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Babbage: The planet hunter

Professor Sara Seager joins us to discuss the launch of the spacecraft TESS, and its two-year mission to discover new planets. Also, physicist and author Leonard Mlodinow explains elastic thinking. And, how robots are learning to assemble flat-pack furniture. Kenneth Cukier hosts Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
4/18/201816 minutes, 32 seconds
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Babbage: Zuckerberg faces Capitol Hill

Hal Hodson, our technology correspondent, joins us from Washington to discuss Mark Zuckerberg and the future for Facebook. Also, the connection between personality and music. And, how possible is it to populate other planets? Kenneth Cukier hosts.  Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
4/11/201820 minutes, 19 seconds
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Babbage: The information game

How requesting personal data from companies leads to a bureaucratic tangle. Also, nurturing scientific talent in Africa. And, the surprising importance of paint colour for self-driving cars. Kenneth Cukier hosts Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
4/4/201819 minutes, 41 seconds
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Babbage: Working AI to five

Alexandra Suich Bass, our US technology editor, discusses the rise of artificial intelligence in the workplace. Also, the link between genetics and exam success. And, understanding the language of bees. Kenneth Cukier hosts. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
3/28/201818 minutes, 16 seconds
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Babbage: Saving Face...book

Silkie Carlo from Big Brother Watch joins host Tim Cross to discuss the latest privacy issues involving Facebook. Also, ageing the rings of Saturn. And, the cost of using antibiotics on the human gut. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
3/22/201815 minutes, 34 seconds
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Babbage: Remembering Stephen Hawking

We speak to leading scientists about the life and legacy of Professor Stephen Hawking. And, what is being done to help the ailing Coral reefs? Also, the out of control Chinese space station. Hal Hodson hosts Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
3/14/201819 minutes, 54 seconds
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Babbage: Exploring the ocean's hidden depths

In this week's programme, we dive into The Economist's Technology Quarterly issue on oceans. We discuss offshore aquaculture, how to map the sea floor and the threat of plastics. Joining us is Dr Jyotika Virmani, from the Ocean XPRIZE Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
3/7/201814 minutes, 43 seconds
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Babbage: Automation for the people

What are the social problems facing the world of vehicle automation? Also, the rise of robot laboratories. And looking for life in the Atacama desert. Kenneth Cukier hosts Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
2/28/201817 minutes, 34 seconds
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Babbage: Bad AAAS

We bring you the highlights from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, including how children can inherit acquired characteristics from their fathers, asteroid mining and how to grow a human organ. Tim Cross hosts Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
2/21/201818 minutes, 18 seconds
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The World in 2018: Technology and us

In the final episode in our six-part series, we look at the scientific and technological advances that will shape the coming year - from algorithms that can make judgments about us online, to robots that are more effective than humans in the work place. Cathy O'Neil, author of "Weapons of Math Destruction" and Shane Wall, the Chief Technology Officer of HP join our hosts. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
2/14/201825 minutes, 22 seconds
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Babbage: Cars to Mars?

Oliver Morton, our briefings editor, wonders what’s next after Elon Musk’s latest mission to Mars. We ask whether homemade drones can fight conventional armed forces - and could there be lithium under Cornwall? Tim Cross hosts. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
2/7/201816 minutes, 47 seconds
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Babbage: Tech giants go to medical school

The world’s biggest technology firms are poised to transform health care. Will it empower patients and lead to a better diagnosis? Also, ways to prevent passengers in driverless cars from feeling queasy. And how genes play a role in the likelihood of divorce. Kenneth Cukier hosts. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
1/31/201818 minutes, 26 seconds
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Babbage: Out-of-body organ

A medical breakthrough means a human liver can now be kept alive outside the body. Will this result in more transplants? Also, a new idea for deadening an aircraft’s sonic boom. And the universal signals in music that cross cultural boundaries. Hal Hodson hosts Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
1/24/201818 minutes, 9 seconds
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Babbage: The ethics of AI

Artificial intelligence heralds the fourth industrial revolution. But what are its ethical challenges? Also, Anne McElvoy and producer Cheryl Brumley head under Manhattan to inspect New York’s newest water tunnel. And the biggest rocket in the world prepares for its maiden flight. Kenneth Cukier hosts. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
1/17/201820 minutes, 44 seconds
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Babbage: Submarine drones hunt for missing flight

A Norwegian research vessel has joined the search to find missing Malaysia Airlines flight 370. Can its contingent of self-navigating submarine drones find what others have missed? Also, do we really understand the laws of physics? And what’s new at the world’s biggest gadget show? Hal Hodson and Ananyo Bhattacharya host. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
1/10/201816 minutes, 17 seconds
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Babbage: Trees take a bough

They are the longest living organisms on earth and supply a timber industry worth $600 billion. But do we value trees enough? Also, how reforesting is one of the biggest changes to land use changes. And the growing threat to tree health. Kenneth Cukier hosts. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
1/3/201817 minutes, 18 seconds
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Babbage: Highlights special

In this special festive episode, we look back at some of the highlights from this year’s coverage. A better way to sail into the stars, why birds are weaving cigarette butts into their homes and what the future of electric cars might look like when charged through thin air. Jason Palmer hosts Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
12/27/201712 minutes, 7 seconds
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Babbage: Remaking tigerland

Science correspondent Hal Hodson tells the story of T3, a tiger whose bid for freedom and remarkable journey across India highlighted the underlying tensions between humans, nature and conservation Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
12/20/201721 minutes
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Babbage: Greetings, Earthlings

Astronomers say a curious cigar-shaped asteroid passing by the sun is not native to our solar system. Could it be an alien spacecraft? Also, a pioneering patient who set out to find a cure for his own life-threatening disease. And the great avocado shortage. Jason Palmer hosts. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
12/13/201718 minutes, 8 seconds
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Babbage: Archeology without the digging

Google is changing how we view ancient artefacts. Plus, governments could soon regulate video games, as a new money-making method using 'loot boxes' emerges. Some say it's too similar to gambling. And Melinda Gates discusses the importance of contraception in reducing poverty. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
12/6/201716 minutes, 14 seconds
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Babbage: The electric-flight plan

Electric cars have become a common sight. So are battery-powered planes likely to take off soon? Also, the engineered bacterium that uses two synthetic DNA letters to make artificial proteins. And how digital technology is transforming speakers and headsets. Jason Palmer hosts. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
11/29/201717 minutes, 18 seconds
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Babbage: The whizz of Oz

China’s rising demand for electric car batteries has produced a mineral boom in the Australian outback. But is there enough mined cobalt to go round? Also, how the European Union is working towards mitigating climate change. And why the humble fusebox could soon make your home more energy efficient. Tim Cross hosts. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
11/22/201719 minutes, 10 seconds
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Babbage: Negative emissions

Countries around the world have agreed to cut carbon emissions but what are they doing to remove the existing CO2 from the air? And how a new generation of surgical robots is about to enter the operating theatre. Also, why do birds really have such colourful bodies? Jason Palmer hosts. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
11/15/201719 minutes, 22 seconds
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Babbage: Leapfrogging forward

Technology in Africa is making huge advances but will it enough to close the economic gap between Africa and the West? Plus, how scientists are trying to harness the microbiome to rid us of tooth rot. And scientists have developed a 'spaghetti' probe that can map our brains much more accurately. We ask what the future of this technology is. Jason Palmer hosts. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
11/8/201714 minutes, 57 seconds
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Babbage: Unidentified flying rock

The first interstellar visitor to the solar system arrives, turns and leaves. What can be learned from the mysterious object? Also, researchers are kitting out drones to deliver supplies to the battlefield. And if wireless charging takes off, electric vehicles could—in theory—run forever Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
11/1/201715 minutes, 37 seconds
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Babbage: All about that base

Minutes ago, Nature announced an important development in gene editing. Host Hal Hodson and Natasha Loder discuss how this technique is so precise and what this means for curing genetic diseases. Plus, why sperm whales like heavy metal music. And why are we so negative about our future? Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
10/25/201719 minutes
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Babbage: Deus ex machina

With the release of Blade Runner 2049, we explore the future of artificial intelligence and whether it could teach us how the human mind works. The Economist's Oliver Morton and Jan Piotrowski debate with host Tim Cross. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
10/19/201722 minutes, 24 seconds
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Babbage: Are C-sections fuelling the obesity epidemic?

Babies born via a Caesarean section are more likely to be obese says new research. Plus how glass is getting a makeover and we explore the question of why you’re attracted to the people you’re attracted to. The Economist's science correspondent Tim Cross presents. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
10/11/201715 minutes, 40 seconds
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Babbage: Sleep, space and a striking storm-source

This year's Nobel science prizes have been announced and The Economist's science team explain the discoveries behind them. Plus: the link between international trade and lightning strikes, and research suggests that standing desks might be good for your productivity as well as your health. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
10/4/201719 minutes, 59 seconds
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Babbage: Send in the microbots

The hunt is on among the world’s airlines for faster and more efficient ways to keep jet engines in tip-top condition. Could the answer be tiny robots that inspect and fix them from the inside? Also, a new study shows that birds deliberately weave cigarette butts into their nests to help keep parasites away. And is it right to relinquish control of our identities to private companies? Jason Palmer hosts. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
9/27/201717 minutes, 54 seconds
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Babbage: Sailing through space

Electronic sails could lead to faster, cheaper space exploration by harnessing the energy from solar wind. A new paper suggests climate change predictions could have been slightly overheated. And some antivenoms might be more like snake oil than salvation  Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
9/20/201716 minutes, 41 seconds
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Babbage: Curing cancer

Miracles in a test tube won't cure cancer; using and adapting the technology we've already got will. Plus how WiFi's little brother LoRa will enable our smart cities to flourish. And why Saturn's space probe Cassini is diving to its death on Friday. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
9/13/201716 minutes, 14 seconds
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Babbage: I can see you

Facial recognition software can identify you in a crowd. But it will soon be able to judge your mood, your age and ethnicity. We discuss the merits and pitfalls of this fast-advancing technology. Plus, could fish food be the source of antibiotic resistance? And host Jason Palmer gets stuck in a virtual swamp. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
9/6/201715 minutes, 8 seconds
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Babbage: Weird weather

As heatwaves sear across Europe and hurricanes wreak havoc in Houston, we ask why extreme weather events are becoming more common. Plus why the anti-inflammatory injection canakinumab will not be the next miracle drug and why Norway might leave $65 billion of oil in the earth. Kenneth Cukier hosts. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
8/30/201714 minutes, 9 seconds
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Babbage: Memorable moments in technology and science this year

In this special summer episode, we look back at this year's coverage. What are the ethics of human cloning? Is it possible to fuse a computer into the human brain? And could mysterious signals picked up by an observatory really be from space aliens? Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
8/23/201716 minutes, 20 seconds
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Babbage: Water and the Jevons Paradox

Technology is helping us access previously inaccessible water reserves. But the more efficient we become at extracting it, the more we use. Is the world’s water crisis set to get worse? Also, we ask the Royal Horticultural Society how we should prepare our gardens to survive while we are away on vacation. Kenneth Cukier hosts Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
8/16/201716 minutes, 6 seconds
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Babbage: A plug for batteries

Better batteries are providing the jump start that electric cars need. Plus, could nuclear power plants soon be floating at sea? And why most areas on Earth are more biodiverse now than ever before, thanks to humans Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
8/9/201717 minutes, 9 seconds
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Babbage: Hollow-grams?

Holograms have fallen short of the vivid, floating projections seen in science fiction. However, one scientist is copying an iridescent butterfly to create better effects. Also, how blow flies are helping to solve murder mysteries. And why genetic testing is threatening the insurance industry. Kenneth Cukier hosts. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
8/2/201718 minutes, 9 seconds
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Babbage: A boring episode

Elon Musk may be the most prominent advocate of boring technology, but there are projects across the world revamping the way we dig tunnels. The co-founders of the venture firm Public discuss how technology is transforming public services. Also, military researchers are using electricity to get more from the human brain Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
7/26/201720 minutes, 40 seconds
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Babbage: Winter is coming

Scientists have pinpointed the cause of a catastrophic freeze across Europe during the Middle Ages—could a similar event be on the horizon? Author Douglas Rushkoff on why technology firms are criticised so often. And beauty in the eyes of artificial intelligence Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
7/19/201716 minutes, 47 seconds
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Babbage: The power of young blood

Scientists are investigating the apparent benefits of infusing young blood into the body of an older animal. Author and academic Tim Wu explains why our attention is such a vital commodity. And virtual reality is breathing new life into old rollercoasters Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
7/12/201719 minutes, 11 seconds
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Babbage: Fluid intelligence

Zapping the brain with a weak electric current enhances its visual cortex. Is this a way to help squeeze more value out of our grey matter? Also, how a new miniature phone camera is making us rethink every aspect of photography. And why whales have become so good at filtering food. Hal Hodson hosts. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
7/5/201716 minutes, 34 seconds
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Babbage: Printing the future

3D printing is finally revolutionising the mass production of everything from trainer soles and teeth to metal car parts. We explore a new realm of fake news, as creating convincing video and audio of false events becomes far easier. Also, how to stop rogue icebergs from wreaking havoc. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
6/28/201716 minutes, 7 seconds
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Babbage: Taxi for Travis

What next for Uber following the departure of the company's CEO Travis Kalanick? A pathogen that causes cystic fibrosis is being used to fight tuberculosis. Also, the head of Bloomberg's venture capital fund Roy Bahat on the complexities of AI replacing jobs Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
6/21/201715 minutes, 58 seconds
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Babbage: Civilian drones take flight

Most drones today are either cheap toys or expensive weapons. But innovative commercial uses are emerging in the middle, says our deputy editor Tom Standage. Also, physicist Geoffrey West on his theory of scale and how it relates to cities. And do pollsters deserve their bad reputation? Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
6/15/201718 minutes, 35 seconds
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Babbage: Battle of the maps

Companies are striving to control an evolving digital infrastructure that will guide everything from self-driving cars to drones. Veteran investor Bill Janeway explains the parallels between artificial intelligence and electricity. Also, a Braille-controlled camera system offers an efficient way to guide the blind Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
6/7/201719 minutes, 14 seconds
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Babbage: When AI makes music

Can computer-generated composition compete with human creativity? 3D printing is adopting traditional techniques to give us reinforced floors. And cricket adds yet more technology into the game: what does this mean for the sport's hallowed commentators? Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
5/31/201716 minutes, 16 seconds
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Babbage: Anticipating terrorism

In the wake of the Manchester bombing, Dr Robert Wesley explains how artificial intelligence can spot extremist behaviour early. Coloured light can now be used to control how genetically-engineered organisms behave. Also, what we must to do to preserve the oceans Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
5/24/201715 minutes, 24 seconds
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Babbage: Megatech: Technology in 2050

This feature-length episode dives into the technology that will shape our world over the next decades. Host Kenn Cukier and The Economist's Executive Editor Daniel Franklin are joined by experts in artificial intelligence, cyber-security, healthcare and warfare to discuss how technology will transform many aspects of our lives Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
5/17/201731 minutes, 6 seconds
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Babbage: Goodbye glaciers

Miranda Johnson explains why ice in the Arctic is melting at such an alarming rate. Philip Auerswald takes us on a 40,000-year history of human society. And an idea borrowed from lizards could make your waterproof jacket last even longer Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
5/10/201717 minutes, 53 seconds
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Babbage: Soundscape of the deep ocean

A new form of bioengineering ditches the cell and could speed up innovation. Five giant tech firms are hoarding most of the world's data. Is it time to break up the oligopoly? Also, an ambient soundscape from the deepest known part of the ocean Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
5/3/201718 minutes, 42 seconds
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Babbage: When cars fly

Uber announces flying cars to replace taxi systems in the future. How realistic is this? Plastic-munching moths could save the world from the scourge of shopping bags. And an artificial womb could one day help premature babies to survive Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
4/26/201718 minutes, 2 seconds
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Babbage: The new world of voice cloning

The debate over internet regulation is heating up again in America. Also on the show: genetically-engineered bacteria could be used to light up hidden landmines. And voice-cloning technology can now reproduce speech. What does this mean in an era of fake news? Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
4/19/201716 minutes, 21 seconds
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Babbage: What can science do for my garden?

The Royal Botanic Gardens Kew has unlocked the DNA sequence of thousands of plants. Is the ability to manipulate colour and smell good news for the worldwide floral industry? Also: Pests and pathogens thriving in a warmer climate could wipe out our woodlands. And is Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank the ultimate horticultural insurance policy for the planet? Kenneth Cukier hosts. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
4/12/201724 minutes, 33 seconds
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Babbage: Defending data

Security crises soar as computers meld further into our lives, but who is liable when hacking happens? We explore a potential charter to exploit the commercial value of data while also protecting privacy. And how humans can teach computers to avoid racist behaviour. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
4/5/201719 minutes, 29 seconds
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Babbage: Of machines and men

Elon Musk's new venture Neuralink wants to meld computers with the human brain. We explore how this concept could lead to artificial memory. Also, a paralysed man is able to use his own arm again after chips were implanted in his brain. And a new glove lets people detect deadly toxins with touch alone Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
3/29/201717 minutes, 8 seconds
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Babbage: Uber's trail of woes

Why the ride-sharing company is in turmoil following the departure of its president Jeff Jones. Scientific publishing is slowing down progress; how might it be reformed? Also, dust devils in the Atacama desert solve one mystery—and spark another Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
3/22/201718 minutes, 15 seconds
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Babbage: Little green men

Earth has received a cluster of mysterious radio signals; some scientists believe they could be propelling alien spacecraft across the universe. So what's the verdict? Also, an outbreak of yellow fever in Brazil is decimating local monkey populations. And the true worth of spiders is revealed, in how much they eat Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
3/15/201717 minutes, 18 seconds
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Babbage: Building from the atom up

A second quantum revolution is happening at the atomic level. What will it mean for the future of computers? Also: a new battery based on aluminium provides up to ten times the power. And why yellow taxis are much less likely to get into accidents. Kenn Cukier hosts. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
3/8/201717 minutes, 30 seconds
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Babbage: Dragon’s blood medicine

Komodo dragon blood contains compounds that help combat human diseases. So can lizards help in the battle against antibiotic-resistant infections? Also: switch the power off and a microprocessor forgets everything but now there’s a way to give it a permanent memory. And did life on earth really begin 3,770 million years ago? Kenneth Cukier hosts Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
3/1/201717 minutes, 42 seconds
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Babbage: Oceans of pollutants

Even the deepest reaches of the sea have been contaminated by man-made pollution. Author Alan Schwartz reveals the extent of ADHD overdiagnosis in America. And how is the scientific community reacting to President Trump? Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
2/22/201715 minutes, 12 seconds
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Babbage: Cloning time

Twenty years ago, Dolly the sheep became the first adult mammal clone. Are we on the cusp of copying humans, too? And we explore how technology is aiding refugees and migrants with their treacherous journeys to Europe Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
2/15/201716 minutes, 15 seconds
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Babbage: Game of drones

Robotic insects could help pollinate plants if bee numbers continue to decline. Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales on the pitfalls of crowdsourcing knowledge in an era of disinformation. And a protein's structure is key its function but hard to decipher; we explore how citizen science is solving the problem Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
2/9/201716 minutes, 48 seconds
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Babbage: Adding to reality

Augmented reality technology blends the virtual with the real world, so how might this alter the way humans interact with computers, and each other? Also, we explore how artificial intelligence can enhance selling techniques. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
2/1/201716 minutes, 35 seconds
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Babbage: Printing parts

We're now pretty good at printing body parts, so what are the possibilities and limitations? Healthcare expert George Halvorson explains the importance of language development in the first few months of life. Also, the researchers trying to tune in to the particles of dark matter Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
1/25/201717 minutes, 58 seconds
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Babbage: The automation game

How quickly will robots disrupt global industries and what will the implications be? We explore with economist Andrew McAfee at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Also, neuroscientists often compare the human brain to a computer chip, so what happened when the idea was put into practice? Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
1/18/201723 minutes, 41 seconds
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Babbage: Conversational computers

When will computers truly be able to understand what we are saying? We discuss with our guest, Amazon's Alexa. Also, long-distance electrical supergrids could flood the planet with renewable energy Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
1/11/201718 minutes, 56 seconds
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Babbage: War of the words

We explore a clutch of new words from 2016 and how technology contributes to the evolution of language. Vishal Sikka, the CEO of a technology services company explains how artificial intelligence can enhance the labour force. Also, science correspondent Matt Kaplan on a new device to sniff out disease Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
1/4/201719 minutes, 47 seconds
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Babbage: year end review and preview of 2017

How artificial intelligence moved from the research lab into the real world, plus the challenges facing cyber security. And we explore the development of data donorship in the year ahead. Kenneth Cukier hosts Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
12/23/201617 minutes, 52 seconds
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Babbage: The man himself

Charles Babbage was a British polymath, mathematician and a man widely hailed as the father of modern computing. In this special episode, host Emma Duncan is joined by two renowned computer science experts to explore the life and work of the eponymous inventor Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
12/21/201615 minutes, 9 seconds
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Babbage: Thinking deeply

Alphabet's artificial intelligence company DeepMind doesn't make a profit, so why it is arousing long-term interest? Dr Pedro Alonso from the World Health Organisation explores advances in the fight against malaria. And the amateur enthusiast who found meteorite dust in the gutter Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
12/14/201615 minutes, 27 seconds
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Babbage: What Einstein got wrong

This week: clues to dinosaur evolution lurk in the amber mines of Myanmar. Author David Bodanis tells us about Einstein’s greatest mistake. And why solar energy is due soon to pay back its carbon debt. Kenneth Cukier hosts Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
12/7/201615 minutes, 8 seconds
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Babbage: Big bomber is watching

This week: how optical navigation can help a bomb find its target without GPS. Researchers at MIT are investigating super-slippery surfaces. Also, why computers are replacing manpower in port security. Kenneth Cukier hosts Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
11/30/201615 minutes, 40 seconds
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Babbage: Snapping planets

Long-distance photography could help us understand far more about exoplanets. We report on the sense of global resilience at climate talks in Marrakech and an audacious plan to tackle air pollution using old jet engines Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
11/23/201617 minutes, 7 seconds
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Babbage: No news like fake news

Our deputy editor Tom Standage weighs in on the debate about false news in the aftermath of America's presidential election. We speak to female entrepreneurs at the Web Summit in Lisbon about gender balance in the technology industry. And a new way to measure fish stocks using DNA Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
11/16/201620 minutes, 22 seconds
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Babbage: Fighting falsehoods

We are joined by Martin Sweeney, co-founder of Ravelin, to explain how artificial intelligence is being used to stop fraud. Our environment correspondent discusses climate-change scepticism in America. Also, a long-standing bet about the underpinnings of the universe needs to be settled Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
11/10/201616 minutes, 48 seconds
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Babbage: Super new defibrillator ameliorates prognosis

Host Kenneth Cukier explores new research into light-based treatments for patients at high risk of fatal heartbeat irregularities. Also: a new crypto-currency promises greater privacy and how to blend wine via touch screen Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
11/2/201615 minutes
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Babbage: Can the American election be hacked?

In the second episode of Economist Radio specials running up to the presidential election, security expert Bruce Schneier examines vulnerabilities in electoral voting systems. We hear from Dr Darren Schreiber about whether our political inclinations are hardwired. Also: what impact is big data having in this year's election? Cheryl Brumley speaks to online campaigning expert Dr Matt Hindman Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.