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About this episode

20 October 2023


When you’re asleep, you’re completely dead to the world, right? Well, it turns out we can actually communicate with people while they’re sleeping and even get them to smile or frown on command – at least some of the time., Why this window into the sleeping brain could have important implications for treating people with certain sleep-related health conditions, or even better insights into why and how we dream.

In space, scientists have discovered the source of the largest ever recorded marsquake, which rattled the red planet last year. Unlike other quakes on Mars, which does not have plate tectonics to explain seismic events, this one was not the result of an asteroid impact. And the oldest fast radio burst ever detected shocks researchers – a blast with power enough to microwave a bowl of popcorn twice the size of our Sun. What both these events can tell us about unearthly environments.

As a record bird flu outbreak continues to devastate bird populations across the globe, we’ve got a surprising finding about its origins. Unlike previous outbreaks, the virus currently circulating originated in Europe and Africa, not Asia. Why this geographical shift? And how can knowing its origins help prevent future outbreaks?

The world’s best known particle accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, is the largest machine on the planet. But it turns out particle accelerators don’t need to be so big. Scientists have made a truly miniature accelerator, so small it could fit into a pen tip, which could have hugely practical benefits for medical care. 

Plus: How to reduce the energy footprint of massive data centres, why hitting ‘snooze’ on your alarm clock may not actually be a bad thing and how dung beetles can help us keep track of highly endangered lemurs.

And if you want one final chance to win a free copy of Rob Eastaway’s Headscratchers, email your guess for this week’s puzzle to, or send a voice message to hear yourself on the show.

Hosts Timothy Revell and Christie Taylor discuss all of this with guests Clare Wilson, Alex Wilkins, Grace Wade and Karmela Padavic-Callaghan. To read more about these stories, visit

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