Twice a week, the Guardian brings you the latest science and environment news.
Rewilding with wolves: can they help rebuild ecosystems?
After wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone national park in 1995, researchers noticed some big ecological changes, leading to the regeneration of the landscape. It’s an argument used to justify the return of apex predators – but it’s increasingly being challenged. Phoebe Weston talks to Ian Sample about whether wolves really have the power to shape ecosystems, and what that means for the debate about bringing them back to the UK. Help support our independent journalism at theguardian.com/sciencepod
Seagrass meadows: can we rewild one of the world’s best carbon sinks?
They support an incredible array of biodiversity and may also be some of the world’s most effective carbon sinks. But vast swathes of seagrass meadows have been lost in the last century, and they continue to vanish at the rate of a football pitch every half hour. Madeleine Finlay makes a trip out of the Guardian office to visit a rewilding project in Hampshire. She speaks to marine biologist Tim Ferrero about the challenges of replanting seagrass meadows and what hope it offers.. Help support our independent journalism at theguardian.com/sciencepod
How Google’s chatbot works – and why it isn’t sentient
Last week an engineer at Google claimed that an AI chatbot he worked with, known as LaMDA, had become ‘sentient’. Blake Lemoine published a transcript of his conversations with LaMDA that included responses about having feelings and fearing death. But could it really be conscious? AI researcher and author Kate Crawford speaks to Ian Sample about how LaMDA actually works, and why we shouldn’t worry about the inner life of software – for now.. Help support our independent journalism at theguardian.com/sciencepod
How much does smoking damage our mental health?
According to some estimates smoking causes one in 10 deaths worldwide. A lesser known side-effect of cigarettes is the damage they cause to our mental health. Yet, the rates of smoking among people with mental health conditions are much higher than the rest of the population. Last week, the UK government published the Khan review, an independent report looking at how England could become smoke free by 2030. One of the recommendations was to tackle the issue of mental health and smoking. Madeleine Finlay speaks to epidemiologist Dr Gemma Taylor about how significant this link is, what we can do to break it, and how to dispel the myth that smoking is a stress reliever. Help support our independent journalism at theguardian.com/sciencepod
Why would Boris Johnson want to bring back imperial units?
When reports surfaced that Boris Johnson would be announcing the return of imperial measurements to mark the Queen’s platinum jubilee, there was some celebration, consternation, and a lot of confusion. Britain already uses a mix of both imperial and metric, and it is legal to price goods in pounds and ounces if this is displayed alongside the price in grams and kilograms. So what’s really behind this rekindled debate over units? Science editor Ian Sample speaks to author and metrology historian James Vincent about the rise of metric, the enduring political power of measurement, and why it’s unlikely we’ll be getting rid of pints in pubs any time soon.. Help support our independent journalism at theguardian.com/sciencepod
Is pollution making us fat?
Are synthetic chemicals we encounter every day causing us to gain weight? According to a major scientific review authored by dozens of scientists, there is now enough evidence to conclude that they are. Termed ‘obesogens’, these chemicals can be found in food packaging, personal hygiene products, electronics and even water. Madeleine Finlay speaks to environment editor Damian Carrington about how obesogens might be contributing to the global obesity pandemic, what they may be doing to our bodies, and if there’s anything we can do to avoid them.. Help support our independent journalism at theguardian.com/sciencepod
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