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Weekly: Why AI won’t take your job just yet; how sound helps fungi grow faster; chickpeas grown in moon dust for first time

New Scientist Podcasts

26-01-2024 • 23 mins

#234

Is AI really ready to take our jobs? A team looked at whether AI image recognition could replace tasks like checking price tags on items or looking at the pupils of patients in surgery.  The researchers found only a small fraction of these vision-reliant tasks could be cost-effectively taken over by AI – for now, anyway.

There’s an old myth that singing to your plants helps them grow – apparently this actually works with fungus. A pair of experiments has found that fungus grows much more quickly when it’s blasted with an 80 decibel tone, compared to fungus that receives the silent treatment.

Roe v Wade, the landmark US Supreme Court decision that protected the right to an abortion, was overturned in 2022. Many states passed new restrictions on the procedure in the years that followed, some total or near-total – meaning few exceptions for pregnancies that result from sexual assault. New estimates suggest that more than 65,000 people in those states have since experienced rape-related pregnancy and been unable to legally receive abortion care where they live.

Chickpeas have been grown in moon dust for the first time. Moon dust is low on nutrients and full of toxic heavy metals, making it a difficult place for plants to grow.But by turning the dust into more of an ecosystem, complete with fungi and earthworms, a team has gotten a generation of chickpeas to survive and even flower. And given chickpeas are more nutrient dense than other plants we’ve managed to grow so far, this is great news if we ever want to settle on the lunar surface.

Plus: Maybe owls can actually turn their heads around, 360 degrees. A robot avatar that lets you see and feel what it sees and feels. And a bacteria that turns from prey to predator when the temperature drops.

Hosts Timothy Revell and Christie Taylor discuss with guests Jeremy Hsu, James Woodford, Grace Wade and Leah Crane. To read more about these stories, visit newscientist.com.


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