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Download the Nature Podcast 20 March 2024

In this episode:

00:48 How mysterious skyrmions could power next-generation computers

Table of Contents

Skyrmions are tiny whirlpools of magnetic spin that some researchers believe have useful properties that could unlock new kinds of computing. However getting skyrmions to perform useful computational tasks has been tricky. Now researchers have developed a method to create and manipulate skyrmions in a way that is compatible with existing computing technology, allowing them to read and write data at a fraction of the energy cost of conventional systems. The team think this shows that skyrmions could be a viable part of the next generation of computers.

Research Article: Chen et al.

News and Views: Magnetic whirlpools offer improved data storage

07:51 Research Highlights

How robotically-enhanced, live jellyfish could make ocean monitoring cheap and easy, and how collective saliva tests could be a cost-effective way of testing for a serious infant infection.

Research Highlight: These cyborg jellyfish could monitor the changing seas

Research Highlight: Pooling babies’ saliva helps catch grave infection in newborns

10:01 AI identifies X factor hidden within Zebra finch songs

Male songbirds often develop elaborate songs to demonstrate their fitness, but many birds only learn a single song and stick with it their entire lives. How female birds judge the fitness between these males has been a long-standing puzzle. Now, using an AI-based system a team has analysed the songs of male zebra finches and shown that some songs have a hidden factor that is imperceptible to humans. Although it’s not clear exactly what this factor is, songs containing it were shown to be harder to learn and more attractive to females. The researchers hope that this AI-based method will allow them to better understand what makes some birdsong more attractive than others.

Research article: Alam et al.

News and Views: Birds convey complex signals in simple songs

20:04 Briefing Chat

How H5N1 avian influenza is threatening penguins on Antarctica, and why farmed snake-meat could be a more environmentally-friendly way to produce protein for food.

Nature News: Bird-flu threat disrupts Antarctic penguin studies

Scientific American: Snake Steak Could Be a Climate-Friendly Source of Protein

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