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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.

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.

The Next 50 Years: A Global Census of Life (Audio)

We know absolutely nothing about roughly 80 percent of the different types of life on Earth. Biologist David Hillis aims to discover all those missing species—by some estimates 5 to 10 million—possibly in the next few decades. Sound impossible? He shares his vision for how this would work in this first episode of our new miniseries, The Next 50 Years.

Coming Soon: A New Podcast Miniseries (Audio)

In this episode, producer and host Marc Airhart chats with senior editor Christine Sinatra about how the podcast has changed over the last few years (we're now in our fifth year of production – yay!) and where we're going in the future. We also share some exciting news: we're kicking off a new miniseries called The Next 50 Years. The first episode drops in January 2020. Stay tuned!

You Belong Here: What It Takes for Success in College (Audio)

Why do so many first-year students struggle in college? Who is most likely to fail? And what can professors and staff do to help them get over the hump?

Experimental Vaccine Against Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) Elicits Strong Immune Response

An experimental vaccine against respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), one of the leading causes of infectious disease deaths in infants, has shown early promise in a Phase 1 human clinical trial. A team of researchers, including The University of Texas at Austin's Jason McLellan, report today in the journal Science that one dose of their vaccine candidate elicited large increases in RSV-neutralizing antibodies that were sustained for several months.

New AI Sees Like a Human, Filling in the Blanks (Updated)

Computer scientists at The University of Texas at Austin have taught an artificial intelligence agent how to do something that usually only humans can do—take a few quick glimpses around and infer its whole environment, a skill necessary for the development of effective search-and-rescue robots that one day can improve the effectiveness of dangerous missions.

A Machine That Understands Language Like a Human (Audio)

One thing that sets humans apart from even the smartest of artificially intelligent machines is the ability to understand, not just the definitions of words and phrases, but the deepest meanings embedded in human language.

A Love Letter from Texas Scientists to the Periodic Table (Audio)

In this episode of the Point of Discovery podcast, we're celebrating the 150th anniversary of the periodic table. Join us as we tour the cosmos, from the microscopic to the telescopic, with four scientists studying the role of four elements—zinc, oxygen, palladium and gold—in life, the universe and everything.

All in the (Scientific) Family

Scientists often talk about the people who mentored them, and the students and postdocs they supervise, in ways that sound like a family.


An audio journey behind the front lines of science. Music by Poddington Bear.


Marc Airhart



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