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60-Second Science

Tune in every weekday for quick reports and commentaries on the world of science—it'll just take a minute
60-Second Science


Leading science journalists provide a daily minute commentary on some of the most interesting developments in the world of science. For a full-length, weekly podcast you can subscribe to Science Talk: The Podcast of Scientific American . To view all of our archived podcasts please go to



Genetic Tweak Gave Early Humans Leg Up

Sep 13, 2018 00:01:34


A mutation in a key gene may have endowed humans with superior endurance—allowing them to compete better with other animals on the savanna. Christopher Intagliata reports.

Earlier Springs May Mean Mistimed Bird Migrations

Sep 12, 2018 00:01:25


Springtime's arriving earlier across North America. But the degree of change isn't the same everywhere, which could spell trouble for migratory birds. Christopher Intagliata reports. 

Pasta Problem Cracked!

Sep 5, 2018 00:03:07


An intrepid undergrad led the way to understanding the physics of snapping strands of spaghetti.

Sometimes Mosquitoes Are Just Thirsty

Aug 24, 2018 00:02:20


Mosquitoes want your blood for its proteins...or simply to hydrate on a hot, dry day.    

Plants Dominate the Planet's Biomass

Aug 15, 2018 00:01:52


About 80 percent of Earth's biomass is plant life, with humans about equal to krill way down the heft chart.    

Solar Eclipse of 2017 Boosted Science Interest

Aug 14, 2018 00:02:56


The Michigan Scientific Literacy Survey of 2017 found that last year's total solar eclipse got Americans more interested in celestial science.   

Crickets Carve Tools to Amplify Their Chirps

Aug 14, 2018 00:02:51


The insects fashion and use "baffles"—sound controllers—made of leaves to produce sound more efficiently. Jason G. Goldman reports.

Birds Learn Safety from Other Kinds of Birds

Aug 3, 2018 00:01:45


Birds become good at avoiding danger by eavesdropping on the alarm calls of other birds—and the learning occurs without even seeing their peers or predators. Christopher Intagliata reports. 

Bird's Song Staying Power Implies Culture

Jun 22, 2018 00:01:32


Certain motifs in swamp sparrow songs can last hundreds, even thousands of years—evidence of a cultural tradition in the birds. Christopher Intagliata reports.

Alaskan Beluga Whales Ace Hearing Exam

Jun 22, 2018 00:01:35


Researchers tested the hearing of beluga whales in an Alaskan bay and found that they seem to have suffered little hearing loss due to ocean noise. Christopher Intagliata reports.

Fat-Carb Combo Is a Potent One-Two Punch

Jun 20, 2018 00:03:04


Foods high in both carbs and fats tickle the brain’s reward circuits more so than snacks that showcase just one or the other. Karen Hopkin reports. 

Jupiter Crackles with Polar Lightning

Jun 18, 2018 00:01:38


Juno spacecraft data suggest lightning on Jupiter is much more common than we thought—but it congregates near the poles, not the equator as on Earth. Christopher Intagliata reports. 

Coral Reefs Keep Costly Waves at Bay

Jun 15, 2018 00:01:43


A new analysis found the flood protection benefits of coral reefs save the global economy $4 billion dollars a year. Christopher Intagliata reports. 

Hippo Dung Fouls Up Freshwater Fisheries

Jun 15, 2018 00:02:50


Hippo poop is piling up in Tanzania’s freshwater fisheries—which is bad news for biodiversity, and deleterious for the dinner plate. Jason G. Goldman reports. 

A Litmus Test for Bad Breath

Jun 14, 2018 00:02:32


Researchers engineered a portable device that detects even the tiniest trace of hydrogen sulfide—one of the primary offenders in bad breath. Karen Hopkin reports. 

Prez (of AMA) Issues Call to Arms-Science

Jun 12, 2018 00:03:08


At the AMA annual meeting the organization's president petitioned for an evidence-based, science-driven analysis of gun violence and solutions.

Powder Pulls Drinking Water from Desert Air

Jun 8, 2018 00:01:46


A structure known as a metal organic framework traps water vapor by night, then releases it when heated the next day. Christopher Intagliata reports.

Ancient Clan War Explains Genetic Diversity Drop

Jun 6, 2018 00:02:05


Some 5,000 to 7,000 years ago, the diversity of Y chromosomes plummeted. A new analysis suggests clan warfare may have been the cause. Christopher Intagliata reports.

Saying "This May Hurt" May Make It Worse

Jun 6, 2018 00:02:40


Warning a child that something, like a vaccine shot, will hurt can actually increase their perception of the pain.

Mongooses Gift Grooming for Guard Duty

Jun 2, 2018 00:02:12


Humans and other primates often reciprocate good deeds. A new study suggests a nonprimate, the dwarf mongoose, does so, too, even after a delay. Christopher Intagliata reports.

Some Trees Beat Heat with Sweat

May 31, 2018 00:03:06


During extreme heat waves, a species of eucalyptus copes by releasing water and taking advantage of evaporative cooling. Other trees may do the same.

Computers Go Head-to-Head with Humans on Face Recognition

May 30, 2018 00:01:43


The best facial-recognition algorithms are now as good as the best forensic examiners are. But the best results come by combining human and computer skills. Christopher Intagliata reports.

Pinnipeds Don't Appreciate Biped Disturbance

May 30, 2018 00:02:58


Sea lions and fur seals in Uruguay have become a tourist attraction—but the animals have become less, not more, accepting of humans. Jason G. Goldman reports. 

Computers Predict Pop Chart Success

May 25, 2018 00:02:22


An evolutionary analysis of pop tunes revealed that over the past 30 years songs have grown sadder—but the big hits buck that trend. Christopher Intagliata reports. 

Doc's YA Novel Treats Life-and-Death Issues

May 23, 2018 00:01:40


Pediatric cardiologist Ismée Williams discusses her young adult novel, Water in May, about a teenage girl whose newborn has a life-threatening heart condition.

Google's AI Assistant Does Your Talk Tasks

May 17, 2018 00:02:37


The new Google AI voice assistant, called Duplex, highlights the intricacies of carrying out a mundane human-style conversation, as it keeps you off the phone.

Great Ape Makes Good Doc

May 16, 2018 00:02:45


Orangutans were observed to use plant extracts to treat their own pain.

Stool-Pigeon Poop Reveals Bird-Racing Fouls

May 16, 2018 00:01:59


Racing pigeons is big business—and doping is common. Now scientists have devised a way to detect doping in the avian athletes. Christopher Intagliata reports.

Radar Scans Detail North Korean Nukes

May 15, 2018 00:01:55


Scientists have added radar info to seismic data, isotope measurements and optical imagery to study covert nuclear tests. Christopher Intagliata reports.

Hunting Rules Have Changed Mama Bear Care

May 12, 2018 00:03:01


Hunting regulations in Sweden prohibit killing brown bear mothers in company of cubs—causing mama bears to care for their young longer. Jason G. Goldman reports.

Jupiter and Venus Squeeze Earth's Orbit

May 10, 2018 00:02:35


Sediment records have confirmed that Jupiter and Venus change Earth's orbit from virtually circular to noticeably elliptical and back every 405,000 years. Christopher Intagliata reports.

Mars Lander Will Peer Inside the Red Planet

May 8, 2018 00:03:24


The InSight Mission will look at Mars's seismic activity and latent heat to find out more about how planets get made--and how humans might live there.

Plants Can Sense Animal Attack Coming

May 7, 2018 00:02:45


Tomato plants detected snail slime in soil near them and mounted preemptive defenses, even though they were not directly touched.

Archaeologist Makes Case for Seafaring Neanderthals

May 5, 2018 00:02:39


Ancient tools on Mediterranean islands could predate the appearance of modern humans—suggesting Neanderthals took to the seas. Christopher Intagliata reports.

Africa: Future Worldwide Science Hub

May 3, 2018 00:01:56


Thierry Zomahoun, president of the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences, talks about the potential and needs of science on the continent.

Healthful Eating Requires Supermarket Smarts

May 1, 2018 00:02:55


Advice from an N.Y.U. food policy symposium: eating healthfully means you can't ever let down your guard when shopping.

Culture Shapes Kids' Views of Nature

Apr 29, 2018 00:02:40


In a study of children interacting with toy animals Native American kids and non-Native kids imagined the animals very differently.

Bad Audio Can Hurt a Scientist's Credibility

Apr 28, 2018 00:02:28


Listeners gave more credence to a scientist’s radio interview when the audio was good quality than they did to the same material when the audio was poor. Christopher Intagliata reports.

Bill Gates Announces a Universal Flu Vaccine Effort

Apr 27, 2018 00:02:43


Today in Boston, Gates announced a $12-million initiative to foster the development of a vaccine effective against all flu strains.

Drumming Beats Speech for Distant Communication

Apr 25, 2018 00:02:38


The Bora people in the northwestern Amazon use drums to send languagelike messages across long distances. Christopher Intagliata reports.

Bees Have a Goldilocks Lawn Mow Schedule

Apr 24, 2018 00:02:33


Lawns mowed every two weeks hosted more bees than lawns mowed every three weeks. Jason G. Goldman reports. 

If Singing's Tough, Try Whistling

Apr 21, 2018 00:02:19


A new study claims it's easier to accurately whistle a melody than to sing it. Christopher Intagliata reports. 

Traffic Deaths Increase after 4:20 P.M. on 4/20

Apr 19, 2018 00:01:55


A look at a database of fatal traffic accidents found a 12 percent increase on the informal marijuana holiday 4/20 after 4:20 P.M. compared with nearby dates.  

NYC Mice Are Packed with Pathogens

Apr 19, 2018 00:02:01


Mice trapped in New York City apartment buildings harbored disease-causing bacteria and antibiotic resistance genes. Christopher Intagliata reports.

Mine Social Media Posts to Predict Flu

Apr 18, 2018 00:02:50


Researchers used Twitter searches for nonflu words associated with behavior to predict flu outbreaks two weeks in advance.

Planting Milkweed for Monarchs? Make Sure It's Native

Apr 17, 2018 00:02:39


Non-native milkweed species planted in the southern U.S. could harm monarch butterflies as temperatures rise. Jason G. Goldman reports.

The Internet Needs A Tune-Up

Apr 13, 2018 00:01:41


Princeton University's Jennifer Rexford talks about optimizing the Internet for the uses it got drafted into performing.  

Glacier Suddenly Goes Galloping

Apr 12, 2018 00:02:30


Researchers try to figure out why every 20 years a Pakistan glacier moves roughly 1,500 times faster.  

Some Habitable Zone Exoplanets May Get X-Rayed Out

Apr 12, 2018 00:02:12


Red dwarfs are a popular place to hunt for small exoplanets in the habitable zone—but the stars' radiation bursts might fry chances for life as we know it. Christopher Intagliata reports.

Right Whales Seem to Think before They Speak

Apr 10, 2018 00:02:50


Rather than always making the same call in response to the same stimuli, North Atlantic right whales are capable of changing their vocalizations.  

Old New England Underground May Be Spry after All

Apr 8, 2018 00:02:52


The U.S. Northeast may be more geologically active than was previously thought, according to a seismic sensor network.

Brain Scan Might Reveal Appetite for Risk

Apr 7, 2018 00:02:33


Volunteers willing to place riskier bets tended to sport larger amygdalas—a region associated with processing fear. Christopher Intagliata reports.

Neandertal Face Shape Was All Over the Air

Apr 4, 2018 00:02:22


The jutting midface of Neandertals seems to have evolved to help get large volumes of air into an active body that needed lots of oxygen.  

Rev Up Photosynthesis to Boost Crop Yields

Apr 3, 2018 00:01:57


Photosynthesis actually is an inefficient process, but a biological chemist is trying to crank it up. 

13,000-Year-Old Footprints under West Coast Beach

Apr 1, 2018 00:01:40


Several feet below a beach in British Columbia, archaeologists discovered soil trampled by human feet—the oldest footprints found so far in North America. Christopher Intagliata reports.

Math Cracks a Knuckle-Cracking Mystery

Mar 29, 2018 00:02:04


The source of knuckle cracking sounds is much debated—but new mathematical models may reconcile two opposing views. Christopher Intagliata reports.

Rotting Flesh Offers Insight on Fossilization

Mar 26, 2018 00:02:13


To learn more about decay and fossilization, researchers conduct unorthodox experiments—like dissecting decomposing animals in the lab. Christopher Intagliata reports.

Ravens Crow with Individual Flair

Mar 24, 2018 00:03:05


Ravens produce different types of calls depending on their age and sex—which might help ravens size up other individuals. Jason G. Goldman reports.

U.S. Flu Spread Counts On Southern Cold Snaps

Mar 21, 2018 00:02:59


A multifactorial analysis finds that the ignition of a flu epidemic stems from a blast of colder weather striking an otherwise warm, humid, urban environment, and driving people indoors into close quarters.  

Louise Slaughter Was Congress's Food Safety Champion

Mar 21, 2018 00:02:38


Upstate New York Congresswoman Louise Slaughter, who worked for decades on issues such as overuse of antibiotics in agriculture and food safety in general, died March 16 at the age of 88.  

Arctic Heat Waves Linked to Snowpocalypse-Like Storms

Mar 19, 2018 00:02:05


An analysis of more than six decades of daily temperature and snowfall data linked warmer arctic temperatures to cold snaps at lower latitudes. Christopher Intagliata reports.

Gut Parasites Have Their Own Gut Microbiomes

Mar 16, 2018 00:02:07


The whipworm lives in the human gut, mooching microbes from its host to build its own microbiome. Christopher Intagliata reports.

Drones Could Help Biologists Tally Birds

Mar 13, 2018 00:02:58


Counting by drone not only saves time and effort, but yields better data on species numbers—a definite plus in terms of conservation. Karen Hopkin reports.

Saliva Protein Might Inhibit Intestinal Anarchy

Mar 10, 2018 00:01:55


A protein found in spit prevents bad bugs from binding to intestinal cells in the lab, pointing to a possible way to lower the chances of dysentery. Christopher Intagliata reports.

Searching the Heavens for Mountains

Mar 9, 2018 00:02:39


Exoplanet hunters are moving beyond simply finding new planets into trying to know what they look like and whether there's surface or subsurface activity.  

Human Echolocators Use Tricks Similar to Bats

Mar 7, 2018 00:02:20


People who use echolocating mouth clicks to compensate for low vision increase the number and intensity of clicks when objects are harder to detect. Christopher Intagliata reports.

Animal Coloration Can Serve Double Duty

Mar 6, 2018 00:02:16


The cinnabar moth caterpillar's coloration pattern warns predators close up, but camouflages the critter from a distance.  

Some Lichen Fungi Let Genes Go Bye

Mar 2, 2018 00:02:37


A study of 22 different types of lichens revealed 10 included fungi that had lost a gene for energy production, making them completely dependent on their algal partner.  

To See Gun Injury Drop, Hold an NRA Meeting

Mar 1, 2018 00:02:08


When the National Rifle Association holds its national convention, gun injuries drop 20 percent—perhaps because fewer gun owners are around their guns. Christopher Intagliata reports.

Big Cities Have Fewer Tweeters Per Capita

Feb 27, 2018 00:01:45


But those who do tweet in big cities are more prolific—tweeting more often, on average, than their small-town counterparts. Christopher Intagliata reports.

How Baby Birds Learn to Duet

Feb 24, 2018 00:02:54


Recordings of songbird duets reveal baby birds learn conversational turn-taking like we do: gradually, and from adults. Christopher Intagliata reports.

Mosquitoes Learn the Smell of Danger

Feb 23, 2018 00:02:28


The bloodsuckers lose their appetite for attractive scents when they associate those aromas with a likelihood of being swatted. Karen Hopkin reports.

Needed: Info on Biodiversity Change over Time

Feb 21, 2018 00:01:45


Understanding an ecosystem means following changes in the abundances and identities of the species present as the clock ticks. The BioTIME database should help.

Undersea Recordings Reveal a Whale's Tale

Feb 20, 2018 00:02:22


By eavesdropping on the calls of blue whales, researchers hope to get a more accurate picture of the massive mammals' distribution and abundance. Christopher Intagliata reports.

Seabird Feathers Reveal Less-Resilient Ocean

Feb 16, 2018 00:02:30


By analyzing 130 years of seabird feathers, researchers determined that food webs are losing complexity in the Pacific—meaning less-resilient ecosystems. Christopher Intagliata reports.

Beetle Liberation Due to Regurgitation

Feb 14, 2018 00:02:40


The bombardier beetle can spray its hot brew of toxic chemicals even after bring swallowed, to force a predator into vomiting it back out.

Old Trees Are Ecosystem Gold

Feb 13, 2018 00:01:37


David Lindenmayer of the Australian National University College of Science in Canberra says that older trees play outsize roles in maintaining landscapes and ecosystems.

Boat Noise Means Fish Can't Learn Their Lessons

Feb 12, 2018 00:02:34


Damselfish had trouble learning to avoid predators, when that lesson was accompanied by a soundtrack of buzzing boat engines. Christopher Intagliata reports.

Woodpeckers Drum to Their Own Tunes

Feb 8, 2018 00:01:23


The length and spacing of woodpecker drum rolls varies enough to tell woodpeckers apart—which could be useful to conservation biologists. Christopher Intagliata reports.

Homebodies Economize on Energy Use

Feb 7, 2018 00:02:45


Today’s work-from-home, on-demand culture means more days at home—and translates into greater energy savings, too. Karen Hopkin reports.