Mosaic Science Podcast

In-depth stories about the science of life. Each week, we tell a story about ideas, trends and people, and how science and medicine affect our lives, our health and our society. More at Published by the Wellcome Trust.

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The Mosaic Science Podcast - audio documentaries and audio versions of our weekly longread. Mosaic is a digital magazine that publishes compelling stories exploring the science of life. Produced by the Wellcome Trust. More at
🇬🇧 English
last modified
2019-03-18 00:58
last episode published
2019-03-18 00:00
publication frequency
7.18 days
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Number of Episodes
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Society & Culture Science & Medicine Health



Date Thumb Title & Description Contributors

The little yellow box that’s made thousands of operations safer

Millions of people are left dead or disabled by surgical complications each year when one simple piece of kit could have saved them. Jane Feinmann discovers how it has helped transform medicine in Mongolia. Written by Jane Feinmann.  Read by Rebecca Mc...

Can meditation really slow ageing?

Is there real science in the spiritualism of meditation? Jo Marchant meets a Nobel Prize-winner who thinks so. Written by Jo MarchantRead by Pip MayoProduced by Barry J Gibb For more stories and to read this story, visit Subscribe to ...

Psychosis in Parkinson’s: now we can treat it without making other symptoms worse

Half of people with Parkinson’s disease experience hallucinations, paranoia and delusions. Mary O’Hara reports on a new hope. Written by Mary O'Hara Read by Michael Regnier Produced by Graihagh Jackson

India is training ‘quacks’ to do real medicine. This is why

Priyanka Pulla asks if there can ever be legitimacy in ‘quackery’. Written by Priyanka Pulla, read by Kirsten Irving, produced by Barry J Gibb, audio editing by Geoff Marsh. If you liked this story, we recommend Can meditation really slow ageing? by Ma...

The only emotions I can feel are anger and fear

One in ten people struggle to recognise their emotions. New research suggests a vital link between our ability to sense our physical bodies and knowing how we feel. Written by Emma Young Read by Charlotte Hussey  Produced by Graihagh Jackson

Killer dust

Why is asbestos still killing people? Nic Fleming finds out in a twisting tale of industry cover-ups and misinformation that spans decades. Written by Nic Fleming, read by Pip Mayo, produced by Barry J Gibb

The people who help you die better

A network of compassionate volunteers caring for their terminally ill neighbours is allowing more people in Kerala, India, to end their days at peace and at home. Jeremy Laurance meets the man leading the movement. Written by Jeremy Laurance Read by Ki...

Can America cope with a resurgence of tropical disease?

Having stamped out a number of tropical diseases – including malaria – decades ago, is America today complacent about a rising wave of infectious disease? By Carrie Arnold. Written by Carrie Arnold, read by Kirsten Irving, produced by Barry J Gibb, aud...

How to mend a broken heart

The need to mend broken hearts has never been greater. But what if we could simply manufacture a new one? Alex O’Brien studies the legacy of Texan surgeons and artificial hearts. Written by Alex O'Brien, read by Pip Mayo, produced by Barry J Gibb, audi...

What can we learn when a clinical trial is stopped?

An early halt to a trial of deep brain stimulation for depression reveals little about the treatment but more about the changing nature of clinical trials. Written by David Dobbs Read by Brian Yim Lim Produced by Graihagh Jackson

Why the calorie is broken

Calories consumed minus calories burned: it’s the simple formula for weight loss or gain. But dieters often find that it doesn’t work. Cynthia Graber and Nicola Twilley of Gastropod investigate. Written by Cynthia Graber, read by Charlotte Hussey, prod...

Psychedelic therapy

Notoriously illegal and synonymous with hedonism, LSD and ecstasy started life as aids to psychotherapy. Sam Wong meets the band of psychiatrists who are looking to reclaim them for medicine again. Written by Sam Wong, read by Pip Mayo, produced by Bar...

Light at the end of the scalpel

Telling cancer from non-cancer is tough for brain surgeons. Scorpions, and the legacy of a dying girl might change that, writes Alex O'Brien. Written by Alex O'Brien, read by Kirsten Irving, produced by Barry J Gibb For more stories and to r...

Abortion, contraception, pregnancy: how women’s bodies became a battlezone

Women’s reproductive rights are under attack across the globe. Sophie Cousins investigates the challenges women face in accessing abortion and contraception in two very different countries – India and the USA. Written by Sophie Cousins Read by Kirsten ...

The fat city that declared war on obesity

Oklahoma has lost a million pounds of fat. Ian Birrell asks how – and whether declaring ‘war on obesity’ can really change a city’s infrastructure and encourage healthy living. Written by Ian Birrell, read by Kirsten Irving, produced by Barry J Gibb If...

Violent crime is like infectious disease – and we know how to stop it spreading

Headlines scream about “epidemics” of shootings and stabbings – but what if we took that literally? From Chicago to Glasgow, treating violence as a public health problem has produced great results. Written by Samira Shackle Read by Kirsten Irving Produ...

Can you supercharge your brain?

Applying mild electrical currents to your head could take away pain, help memory and improve attention – and the US military is very interested. Emma Young reports. Written by Emma Young, read by Kirsten Irving, produced by Barry J Gibb If you liked th...

Sick building syndrome: is it the buildings or the people who need treatment?

In Finland, people whose sickness is linked to certain buildings fear being labelled as mentally ill, while scientists search for evidence that their condition is ‘real’. Written by Shayla Love Read by Graihagh Jackson  If you liked this story, we reco...

Hacking the nervous system

One nerve connects your vital organs, sensing and shaping your health. If we learn to control it, the future of medicine will be electric. Written by Gaia Vince, read by Kirsten Irving, produced by Barry J Gibb, edited by Geoff Marsh For more stories a...

How the mafia is causing cancer

When doctors in rural Italy began to see a surge in cancer cases, they were baffled. Then they made the link with industrial waste being dumped by local crime syndicates. Ian Birrell learns about the tragic consequences.  Written by Ian Birrell Read by...

Hungary's cold war with polio

"Polio was unpredictable. Often no more harmful than any other childhood infection, it could on occasion ‘turn’ with swift, inexplicable savagery, destroying a child’s nerve cells and leaving him paralysed for life. If it damaged the nerves controlling...

The sex workers who are stopping HIV

Sex workers in Mozambique are providing health support to those at the margins of society. They face political and financial challenges, but against the odds they are helping thousands. Written by Jules Montague  Read by Kirsten Irving  Produced by Gra...

What the nose knows

"Losing enjoyment of food and drink is a common complaint for people who lose their sense of smell. You can taste sweet, salty, bitter, sour and umami with your tongue. More complex flavours – like grapefruit or barbecued steak – depend on smell. But f...

This disease kills half the people it infects. So why isn’t more being done?

Melioidosis is a bacterial infection that quietly causes thousands of deaths each year. Meet the doctor who made it his mission to make the world take notice. Written by Carrie Arnold Read by Michael Regnier Produced by Graihagh Jackson For more storie...

Facial discrimination

In a world obsessed with beauty, living with a facial disfigurement can be hard. Neil Steinberg explores the past and present to find out what it’s like to look different. Written by Neil Steinberg Read by Pip Mayo Produced by Barry J Gibb Edited by Ge...

Staying awake: the surprisingly effective way to treat depression

Using sleep deprivation to lift people out of severe depression may seem counterintuitive, but for some people, it’s the only thing that works.  Written by Linda Geddes Read by Rebecca McIntosh  Produced by Graihagh Jackson For more stories and to read...

Porklife: building a better pig

How have the farm animals of today been shaped by centuries of domestication and selective breeding? Sujata Gupta investigates. Written by Sujata Gupta, read by Kirsten Irving, produced by Barry J Gibb, edited by Geoff Marsh For more stories and to rea...

How far would you go to be able to smile?

Smiling is one of the fundamental ways people communicate, so what happens if your face can’t do it? Written by Neil Steinberg Read by Charlotte Hussey Produced by Graihagh Jackson For more stories and to read the text original, visit

Decisions on a knife-edge

Women predisposed to ovarian cancer can reduce their risk with surgery, but with it comes early menopause. To avoid this, some doctors propose delaying part of the procedure. But is this safe? Charlotte Huff explores the costs of buying time. Written ...

If we can beat Ebola, why not sleeping sickness too?

A disease that killed millions in the 20th century still lingers – and with it the threat of a new epidemic. Why? The answer may have been staring us in the face all along, as Michael Regnier discovered when he travelled to Guinea with scientists searc...

Why do we have allergies?

Allergies such as peanut allergy and hay fever make millions of us miserable, but scientists aren’t even sure why they exist. Carl Zimmer talks to a master immunologist with a controversial answer. Written by Carl Zimmer, read by Kirsten Irving, produc...

How close are we to a cure for Huntington’s?

Twenty-five years after the discovery of the gene behind Huntington’s disease, Peter Forbes reports on the potential first treatment for this devastating condition. Written by Peter Forbes, read by Brian Yim Lim, produced by Graihagh Jackson. For more ...

People are animals, too

"We gaze into the eyes of a chimp and see a reflection of ourselves. We glance at a crow and see an alien being that under some jurisdictions can be exterminated with impunity - bringing a sinister second meaning to the phrase "a murder of crows". Such...

Spain leads the world in organ donation. What’s stopping other countries catching up?

More and more people are donating organs, but demand still far exceeds supply. What can the world learn from the country that does it best?  Written by Chris Baraniuk, narrated and produced by Graihagh Jackson.  For more storie...

Why we still haven’t stopped cholera

"Cholera has killed nearly 9,000 Haitians. More than 730,000 people have been infected. It is the worst outbreak of the disease, globally, in modern history. Hundreds of emergency and development workers have been working alongside the Haitian governme...

Why good people turn bad online

Meet the scientists finding out how we can defeat our inner trolls and build more cooperative digital societies. Written by Gaia Vince, narrated by Kirsten Irving, produced by Graihagh Jackson. For more stories and to read the text original, visit mosa...

Can India’s urban future be a healthy one?

"As more Indians adopt more urban lives, chronic conditions like diabetes, obesity and heart disease are on the rise, replacing malnutrition and infectious diseases as the country’s most urgent health worries. Reddy doesn’t want to risk his family’s he...

Smart and smarter drugs

Cognitive enhancement drugs are usually depicted as a distinctly contemporary phenomenon, however none of these drugs are new. Are we asking the right questions about smart drugs? Marek Kohn looks at what they can do for us – and what they can’t. Writt...

Saved: How addicts gained the power to reverse overdoses

Naloxone can reverse an otherwise fatal heroin overdose within minutes. Carrie Arnold meets the doctors who put this remarkable drug in the hands of the police, families and addicts—and saved thousands of lives. Written by Carrie Arnold, narrated by Ki...

Climate change is turning dehydration into a deadly epidemic

A mysterious kidney disease is striking down labourers across the world and climate change is making it worse. Jane Palmer meets the doctors who are trying to understand it and stop it. Written by Jane Palmer, narrated by Michael Regnier, produced by G...

Brazil's cancer curse

"Gomez is one of Achatz's regular patients at the A C Camargo Cancer Center in São Paulo, Brazil. He is extraordinarily susceptible to cancer. So too are many members of his extended family; cancer is so common among them - and premature death so painf...

Why the calorie is broken

Calories consumed minus calories burned: it’s the simple formula for weight loss or gain. But dieters often find that it doesn’t work. Cynthia Graber and Nicola Twilley of Gastropod investigate. Written by Cynthia Graber, read by Charlotte Hussey, prod...

How a bee sting saved my life: poison as medicine

"She packed up everything and moved to California to die. And she almost did. Less than a week after moving, Ellie was attacked by a swarm of Africanised bees." Ellie Lobel was ready to die. Then she was attacked by bees. Christie Wilcox hears how veno...

How to get to a world without suicide

After his son’s suicide aged 18, Steve Mallen sees the world differently. Along with a growing number of mental health experts, he wants to reduce the rate of suicide across the world, and is aiming for zero.  Written by Simon Usborne  Read by Kirsten ...

Unspoken: the forgotten prisoners of war

They were the forgotten army. Taken captive during World War II, they lived lives of desperation and disease, internment and ingenuity. Long unspoken, their tale is now told through the voices of those who survived. Audio producer: Chris Chapman Sound ...

My many selves: how I learned to live with multiple personalities

Emma Young meets a woman with dissociative identity disorder and discovers what happens when you lose your sense of being an individual. Written by Emma Young Read by Kirsten Irving Produced by Graihagh Jackson To read the full story visit: https://wel...

The worst sound in the world

John Osborne has always hated the sound of whistling. But it wasn’t until a man whistling in a café infuriated him so much that he got up and left that he realised it was becoming a problem. Could he even be suffering from misophonia – a condition char...

The women that kill, abuse and torture

Marian Partington is working to forgive Rosemary West – one of her sister’s killers – because she thinks the only way to break the cycle of female violence is to understand it.  Written by Katharine Quarmby Read by Kirsten Irving To read the full story...

The troubled history of the foreskin

"Men have been circumcised for thousands of years, yet our thinking about the foreskin seems as muddled as ever. And a close examination of this muddle raises disturbing questions. Is American exceptionalism justified? Should we really be funding mass ...

The uncertain future of genetic testing

Bringing genetics into medicine leads to more accuracy, better diagnosis and personalised treatment – but not for everyone. Carrie Arnold meets families for whom gene testing has led only to unanswered questions. Written by Carrie Arnold Read by Rebecc...