Quanta Science Podcast

Quanta Science Podcast

Listen to Quanta Magazine's in-depth news stories about developments in mathematics, theoretical physics, theoretical computer science and the basic life sciences. Quanta, an editorially independent magazine published by the Simons Foundation, seeks to enhance public understanding of basic research. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org. You've learned from Quanta. Now we want to learn from you! Quanta is conducting a series of surveys to better serve our audience. Take our podcast listener survey and you will be entered to win a free Quanta book, t-shirt or tote bag: quantamag.typeform.com/podcast

Quanta Science Podcast

Wed Jul 10 2024

New Clues for What Will Happen When the Sun Eats the Earth

planetary systemsun's deathred giantexoplanetswhite dwarfs

Recent observations of an aging, alien planetary system are helping to answer the question of what will happen to our planet when the sun dies. Earth's fate rests on a coin flip, as simulations show that it could be engulfed by the sun and destroyed. However, a nearby planetary system offers clues that suggest some planets might survive when their star becomes a red giant. The fate of planets engulfed by red giants can be swift, but observations have provided insights into our own solar system's future. Additionally, some exoplanets have survived their star's red giant phase and orbit white dwarfs, which could still be habitable and support life.

Quanta Science Podcast

Wed Jun 26 2024

New Cell Atlases Reveal Untold Variety in the Brain and Beyond

cell atlasbiologygene expressionbraindisease research

Recent efforts to map every cell in the human body have revealed thousands of subtly different types of cells. Cell atlases are revolutionizing our understanding of biology, providing detailed maps of organs and uncovering incredible cellular diversity. New tools allow researchers to fingerprint individual cells based on gene expression, revealing their importance in organ function. The promise of a human cell atlas could help identify cells responsible for diseases. Cell atlases have unveiled the complexity of cells and provided critical information for disease research. The brain atlas has discovered a vast array of cell types, shedding light on brain evolution and cognition. Cell atlases have implications for disease treatment and future research. The Human Cell Atlas Project aims to create a complete map of all cells in the human body.

Quanta Science Podcast

Tue Jun 11 2024

Extra-Long Blasts Challenge Our Theories of Cosmic Cataclysms

gamma-ray burstsneutron star mergersheavy elementsastrophysicsgravitational waves

Astronomers are reevaluating their understanding of gamma-ray bursts, as recent observations challenge previous theories. The duration and aftermath of these bursts suggest the involvement of neutron star mergers and the formation of heavy elements. Different scenarios are being explored to explain the longer duration of gamma ray bursts, and gravitational wave observatories will provide crucial insights. The goal is to fully comprehend the origins of all substances in the universe.

Quanta Science Podcast

Wed May 29 2024

Meet Strange Metals: Where Electricity May Flow Without Electrons

physicsmaterials scienceelectric currentstrange metalsFermi-liquid theory

Physicists have discovered a strange material that defies the conventional understanding of electric current. This material, along with other strange metals, exhibits unusual behavior and challenges the widely accepted Fermi-liquid theory. Researchers conducted experiments to investigate the charge movement in strange metals and found evidence that quasi-particles may not exist in these materials. The breakdown of Fermi-liquid theory has sparked the search for a new theoretical framework to explain the behavior of charge in strange metals.

Quanta Science Podcast

Wed May 15 2024

In the Gut's 'Second Brain,' Key Agents of Health Emerge

gutglial cellsdigestionimmune responsegastrointestinal disorders

This episode explores the under-appreciated role of glial cells in the gut. Glia, once thought to be passive cells, are now recognized for their active roles in digestion and immune response. The enteric nervous system, also known as the second brain, plays a key role in gut function. Recent studies have unveiled the diverse functions of glial cells and their implications for gastrointestinal disorders. Advances in technology have opened up new possibilities for understanding and treating these disorders.

Quanta Science Podcast

Wed May 01 2024

During Pregnancy, a Fake 'Infection' Protects the Fetus

placentaimmune defenseviral attackfetusneurons

Cells in the placenta have a trick for activating gentle immune defenses and keeping them turned on when no infection is present. The placenta uses a molecular trick to feign illness by pretending it's under viral attack, which keeps the immune system running at a gentle steady pace to protect the fetus. This discovery reveals a new strategy the placenta has for protecting the fetus apart from the mom's immune system.

Quanta Science Podcast

Wed Apr 17 2024

Why the Human Brain Perceives Small Numbers Better

number sensebrainneuronsperceptionworking memory

This episode explores the discovery of number sense and the brain's mechanisms for judging quantity. It discusses the presence of number neurons in both animals and humans, as well as the implications for working memory and future research. Numbers are a fundamental part of being human, and understanding how our brains perceive and process numbers can have wide-ranging applications.

Quanta Science Podcast

Wed Apr 03 2024

Inside Scientists' Life-Saving Prediction of the Iceland Eruption

volcanic activitymagma movementeruption forecastingfissure eruptionsReikoness Peninsula

After 800 years of dormancy, Iceland's Reikoness Peninsula has entered a new volcanic era. Scientists are using seismic waves and ground deformation measurements to track magma movement and predict future eruptions. The ongoing volcanic crisis poses threats to towns like Grindevic, and the behavior of the peninsula's distinct volcanic systems is being studied. Understanding the patterns of fissure eruptions and decoding seismic waves provide insights into the complex nature of volcanism in the region.

Quanta Science Podcast

Wed Mar 20 2024

Echoes of Electromagnetism Found in Number Theory

mathematicsnumber theoryLanglands program

A new magnum opus posits the existence of a hidden mathematical link akin to the connection between electricity and magnetism. Akshay Venkatesh carried a table of mathematical expressions that played a key role in number theory, hoping to understand their common traits. Through collaboration, he and David Benzvie created a two-way translation between periods and L functions, providing a single conceptual framework for the Langlands program. The work unifies disparate phenomena and brings order to the relationship between periods and L functions.

Quanta Science Podcast

Wed Mar 06 2024

Tiny Language Models Come of Age

neural networkslanguage modelstrainingsynthetic stories

Researchers are training smaller versions of neural networks using synthetic children stories to understand how they learn to simulate writing. Training large language models is costly and time-intensive, and understanding their inner workings is challenging. By training tiny language models on children's stories, researchers have found that these models rapidly learn to tell consistent and grammatical stories. The results provide insights that could be helpful for training larger models and understanding their behavior.

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