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From the College of Natural Sciences

This is the Point of Discovery Podcast brought to you by the College of Natural Sciences Communications Office.

Right Time, Right Place

​Like the Hubble Space Telescope before it, the James Webb Space Telescope has the potential to change the course of astronomy and inspire a new generation of astronomers.

Neutralizing Crazy Ants

Over the past 15 years or so, tawny crazy ants from South America have been popping up across the southeastern U.S. like paratroopers dropping in from an invading army. Where they take hold, they're like an ecological wrecking ball and they cause headaches for homeowners. Podcast host Marc Airhart joined biologist Edward LeBrun in the Texas Hill Country to test a new weapon in the battle against the destructive tawny crazy ant.

A Physicist’s Search for Beauty (Audio)

Here in part 2 of our continuing remembrance of Steven Weinberg, we're diving a little deeper into what we know because of him. Weinberg was one of the world's greatest theoretical physicists, and his passing last year was deeply felt not only by us here at The University of Texas at Austin, but by a broad community of scientists and science-loving people. Weinberg summed up the goal of his life's work as: "to know why things are the way they are." To him, that meant distilling the rules of physics down to their simplest, most beautiful essence.

Remembering Steven Weinberg (Audio)

Today, in the first of two parts of a special segment, we're remembering the life and legacy of one of the greatest theoretical physicists of all time — The University of Texas at Austin's Steven Weinberg, who died in July. We're exploring who he was as a scientist, writer and mentor — and a deep thinker about our place in the universe. We'll hear from colleagues who worked with him — fellow UT Austin physicists Katherine Freese, Willy Fischler and Can Kilic — and from his former student John Preskill.


Frog Pandemic (Audio)

Until COVID-19, few people alive today had experienced the chaos and destruction of a really bad pandemic, one that has at times ground businesses, schools and social lives to a near standstill and killed millions globally. But did you know that we aren't alone in being battered by a global infectious disease? Frogs are also struggling through their own pandemic that, according to biologist Kelly Zamudio, has several eerie parallels with COVID-19. Perhaps our own encounters with a pandemic will give us new sympathy for our slimy, bug-eyed friends.

Presenting the Texas Podcast Network (Audio)

Today we're doing something a little different. We're bringing you an excerpt from another great podcast produced here at the University of Texas at Austin, called TX512. It's about all things UT Austin and Texas.


The Case Against Spanking (Audio)

Physical punishment, or spanking, is widely practiced in the U.S. and around the world, although it appears to be decreasing. Parents, caregivers and school administrators who use it say the goal is to prevent unwanted behaviors and teach children to make better choices. But does it actually work? And what long term effects does it have on the physical and mental health of people who are punished this way?

Do Sick Animals Socially Distance? (Audio)

When we get sick, we change our social interactions—we keep away from others and we don't share food. It turns out, humans aren't the only species to do it.

Artificial Intelligence Revs Up Evolution’s Clock (Audio)

Evolutionary biologists never have enough time. Some of the most mysterious behaviors in the animal kingdom—like parenting—evolved over thousands of years, if not longer. Human lifespans are just too short to sit and observe such complex behaviors evolve. But computer scientists are beginning to offer clues by using artificial intelligence to simulate the life and death of thousands of generations of animals in a matter of hours or days. It's called computational evolution.

Ask the COVID-19 Experts (Audio)

We asked you, dear listeners, to send us your most burning questions about COVID-19. And you didn't disappoint. You asked: When will it be safe for my 12-week-old baby to meet her grandparents? Can you catch it twice? Is the virus mutating and will that make it harder to develop vaccines? In today's episode, our three experts get to the bottom of these questions, and more.

The Next 50 Years: Anybody Out There? (Audio)

In these next few decades, will humans finally find life in space? We asked University of Texas at Austin astronomer Caroline Morley and her answer just might surprise you. Morley shares her vision for the future in this latest episode of our miniseries, The Next 50 Years.

The Next 50 Years: A Model of Life on the Atomic Scale (Audio)

Can we simulate life — in all its messy complexity and at the scale of each individual atom — in a computer?

Science Amid the Social Distance (Audio)

Daily life has changed for many of us due to the coronavirus pandemic. During this unusual time, when it's harder to connect physically with important people in our lives, it can be helpful to step back and spend a little time thinking about the things that still bind us together, like the wonder of the natural world and the hope that scientists offer us as we take on societal challenges.

The Next 50 Years: An A.I. Designed to Make Life Better (Audio)

Artificial intelligence is becoming more and more a part of our daily lives. But will AI have mostly positive or negative impacts on society?

The Next 50 Years: Your Perfect Meal and Exercise Plan (Audio)

Have you ever wondered why some people seem to be able to follow a specific diet or exercise plan and others fail? The answer might have to do with factors unique to each person, like their microbiomes and genetics.