Science Express podcasts

Listen to a range of podcasts covering topics such as climate change, Ebola, radiation therapy, alpine fault drilling, and forensics.

Radiation therapy in cancer treatment

Hear about developments in radiation therapy that are changing cancer treatment, from increasingly precise doses to reduced numbers of hospital visits for patients.

Professor and physicist Tomas Kron discusses technical advances that have transformed radiation therapy in the last 10 years. Radiation doses can now be delivered to tumours without damaging healthy tissue. Stereotactic ablative body radiation therapy can reduce the number of patient visits to the hospital from more than 30 to 5 or fewer.

Recorded in November 2015.

Crime and evolution

Can evolution help social scientists understand the origins of criminal behaviours? Clinical psychology professor Tony Ward discusses his pioneering research.

The psychology of offenders, their developmental history, and the society they live in are important in understanding the causes of crime. But do they give a complete explanation? Professor Ward shows how studying the evolution of criminal behaviour could lead to new ways of managing offenders.

Recorded in August 2015.

Fossils: Curios or the key to life?

Fossils – just dusty old curiosities? Hear how technology can unlock the secrets of life on Earth from these natural time capsules.

Recent advanced computer power is turning collections of fossils into valuable research tools. Paleontologist James Crampton explains how scientists can use them to help answer questions such as:

  • What controls the number of species alive at any time?

  • Are species locked in an endless battle for resources?

  • Does evolution happen in frantic bursts, or do species adapt constantly to the prods and pulls of a changing environment?

  • Are there predictable, regular, and unthinkably terrifying crises that annihilate most life on this planet?

Recorded in July 2015.

Ebola: Separating fact from fiction

Ebola – what is fact and fiction, and what are the risks to New Zealand?

Microbiologist Dr Siouxsie Wiles discusses this often deadly virus.

Recorded in June 2015.

Marine reserves

Biologist Jonathan Gardner discusses marine reserves around the world – their importance as ecosystems, and the competing interests that threaten or help protect them.

Conservation, fishing, social, and economic sectors all affect the management of marine areas internationally. Can these sectors work together? What is their impact on these environments, which are so important for protecting biodiversity and resources?

Recorded in March 2015.

Alpine fault drilling

Hear about the deepest fault drilling ever done in New Zealand. What are the challenges of putting a borehole into a fault? What information is revealed?

The Deep Fault Drilling Project was ambitious – to drill down 1.3 kilometres into the Alpine Fault, through parts of the Pacific and Australian plates. Co-leader Rupert Sutherland explains how the project, although halted at 893 metres because of equipment failure, has yielded valuable information about earthquake processes.

Recorded in March 2015.

Discovering dinosaur fossils

Dinosaur fossil-hunting adventures told by PhD candidate Bobby Boessenecker.

Hear Bobby describe some of the unusual methods he used to get fossils from tricky spots in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, and talk about his experiences as a young palaeontologist in New Zealand.

Recorded in September 2014.

Forensic science and English porcelains

Discover how scientific advances are revealing remarkable new information about English porcelains. Could some be older than previously thought?

Scientist Dr Ross Ramsay and Gael Ramsay explore the early years of ceramic experimentation in England. They show how recent forensic analysis of some 18th-century porcelains challenges accepted wisdom about their dates and origins.

Recorded in September 2014.

Tuatara and climate change

Hotter temperatures are tipping the sex ratio of tuatara towards males. Dr Nicky Nelson talks about a revealing study of tuatara on North Brother Island, Cook Strait.

The case study of a natural population of tuatara on North Brother Island in the Cook Strait of New Zealand shows that, as a result of warmer temperatures, there is an accelerating decline in the proportion of adult female tuatara in the population. Dr Nelson says that understanding the mechanisms underlying population declines is critical in preventing the extinction of endangered populations.

Recorded in September 2014.

Planetary overpopulation

Futures Researcher Dr John Robinson discusses the effects of overpopulation. He explores how problems such as peak oil, climate change, and species extinction are created and perpetuated by continued population growth.

He reviews international efforts to slow the effects of population growth and summarises the forecast for a potentially catastrophic ‘perfect storm’ around the year 2030.

Recorded in August 2014.

Science and civilisation in China

From ‘paintergate’ to the Mona Lisa, there is a long history of art works created and falsely attributed to another artist to gain a higher sale price. What scientific advances are helping to identify fakes, and what does a gallery do if they find a fake in their collection?

Dr Christine Prior (GNS Science) and Denis Dutton (University of Canterbury) discuss the issues.

Recorded in March 2008.