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Weekly: Salt glaciers could host life on Mercury; brain cells that tell us when to eat; powerful cosmic ray hits Earth

24 November 2023

About this episode


Life on Mercury? That would be a shocking discovery. The planet is incredibly inhospitable to life… as we know it. But the discovery of salt glaciers on its surface has opened up the possibility that extremophile bacteria could be buried beneath its surface. Lucky then that the BepiColombo mission is planned to take another look at Mercury soon.

Ever wondered why you can go all night without getting hungry but can’t last a few hours in the day? Well, there may be cells in our brains that tell us when it’s time to eat. A mice study found AgRP brain cells fire faster right around the time the rodents usually chow down. If this is true in humans too, it may clue us into our own hunger cues.

Earth has been hit by a powerful cosmic ray, the second most powerful ever detected. This tiny subatomic particle contains a massive amount of energy and is thought to have come from a place in space called the cosmic void. How it got here is a mystery and has scientists excitedly searching for an answer.

Babies are learning how to speak before they’re even born. While we know babies come to know the sound of their parents’ voices while in the womb, it turns out just hearing people talk enhances their future language skills and ability to recognise specific languages.

Plus: Why one bat in Europe uses its penis as a hand, how a robot is being trained to pick up your dirty washing and why plants in Europe are more productive on the weekend.

Hosts Timothy Revell and Christie Taylor discuss with guests Leah Crane, Clare Wilson, Alex Wilkins and Chen Ly. To read more about these stories, visit


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