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Weekly: Elephants have names for each other; conspiracies and doppelgangers with Naomi Klein; an ancient galactic weather report

14 June 2024

About this episode

We know elephants are smart, but it seems we’ve only scratched the surface in understanding their intelligence. It turns out African elephants seem to have unique names for each other – maybe even nicknames. If it’s true, humans would no longer be alone in this practice. A team has been analysing their rumbly greeting calls using AI. Is this a hint that we’ve been wrong about other animals, too?

It’s a weather report like no other: two to three million years ago, the protective bubble called the heliosphere that surrounds the sun and the planets crashed into a galactic cloud. This left Earth exposed to the radioactive particles of interstellar space for as long as ten thousand years. And it could even have impacted evolution.

Naomi Klein won the Women’s Prize for nonfiction this week for her book Doppelganger: A Trip Into the Mirror World. Rowan Hooper speaks to Naomi following the win, as the pair dig into the strange confluence of the alt-right and wellness influencers, why conspiracy theories have become so widespread and how grifters and charlatans are exploiting the uncertain times we live in.

Astronauts have been sending biological samples like blood and faeces to a new space “biobank”. It’s all in an effort to better understand the impact of space travel on human health. As a bonus, read Clare’s story on the ‘vomit comet’ here.

And if you’ve ever completed a game of New Super Mario Bros. – congratulations, you’re smarter than a supercomputer. A new study shows supercomputers don’t just find it hard to analyse the game, but actually impossible. But why?

Hosts Timothy Revell and Christie Taylor discuss with guests Michael Le Page, James Woodford, Clare Wilson and Matthew Sparkes.

To read more about these stories, visit

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