Christina Harden, a post-graduate researcher in the Grubaugh Lab, works on SalivaDirect™ tests.

Christina Harden, a post-graduate researcher in the Grubaugh Lab, works on SalivaDirect™ tests. Photo: Yale

8:10 Anne Wyllie: developing a cheap Covid-19 saliva test

Anne Wyllie

Anne Wyllie Photo: supplied

Saliva-based Covid-19 tests could have many advantages over current nasal swabs; being potentially cheaper, quicker, easier, and safer for health workers.

Recently returned expat New Zealander Dr Anne Wyllie is a medical microbiologist usually based at the Yale School of Public Health in New Haven, Connecticut.

She and her colleagues have been working on SalivaDirect, a saliva-based PCR test that got US FDA emergency use authorization in August and has been attracting interest from around the world (including the NBA).

Wyllie has been interested in the role of saliva as a diagnostic tool for the past decade: before the pandemic her research focussed on detecting bacteria linked with pneumonia, but the coronavirus has shifted priorities.


8:35 What Australia can learn from New Zealand: Laura Tingle

Laura Tingle

Laura Tingle Photo: supplied / Guardian Australia

Australia is not well known for casting envious glances across the Tasman. But what can 'the lucky country' learn from us?

Laura Tingle is a senior political journalist with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and the author of Chasing the Future: Recession, Recovery and the New Politics in Australia.

An acclaimed essayist, she's just written a new longform article called The High Road: What Australia Can Learn From New Zealand. You can read an extract here.

In it she considers the current state of the trans-Tasman relationship and compares and contrasts the two countries' attitudes towards government, the economy, our colonial past, and the current pandemic.

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Photo: infinitegraphic/123RF

9:05 Booker Prize winner Douglas Stuart

Scottish writer Douglas Stuart recently won the 2020 Booker Prize for his debut novel Shuggie Bain.

Before its success, the book was rejected more than 30 times by various publishers.

Set in 1980s Glasgow, it's a gritty story of a son's troubled relationship with his alcoholic mother, and is loosely based on Stuart's own experiences growing up in the city.

Based in New York City for the past 20 years, where he designed knitwear for some of the biggest names in fashion, Stuart has now given up his day job to focus on his writing full time.

And he's not resting on his laurels: after having several short stories published in The New Yorker, Stuart has already finished a second novel (titled Loch Awe) and is hard at work on a third, about the demise of the textile industry.

Douglas Stuart

Douglas Stuart Photo: supplied

9:40 High intensity training and the brain: David Moreau 

David Moreau

David Moreau Photo: supplied

Cognitive neuroscientist Dr David Moreau has been recognised by the Royal Society Te Apārangi Te Kōpūnui with the Early Career Research Excellence Award for Social Sciences.

Moreau is a lecturer in the School of Psychology at the University of Auckland, and leads its Brain Dynamics Lab.

The award recognises his research into the benefits of high-intensity exercise on the brain. Although the benefits of exercise on the brain and the body are well documented, this was thought to rely on prolonged aerobic exercise.

His work is showing that similar benefits can be achieved by short bursts of intense activity lasting no more than a few minutes. The findings could be important to schools, workplaces, disadvantaged communities and in rest homes, where opportunities to exercise may be limited.



10:05 The art of audio description: Judith Jones

Judith Jones is an expert audio describer, providing verbal descriptions of museum exhibitions and stage performances to people who are blind or with low vision.

She works as a host at The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa in Wellington offering 'sensory tours', and also with local dance companies and theatres.

In recognition of her work she received an Arts Access Aotearoa Accolade in October.

10:40 Wombats' amazing armoured bums: Alyce Swinbourne

Dr Alyce Swinbourne is a wombat specialist based at the School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences at the University of Adelaide.

She says the animals use their amazing armoured backsides (made up of four hard plates) as a weapon, and to defend their burrows against predators.

We'll ask her more about this often overlooked peril of the Outback, and how she became fascinated by these multifaceted marsupials.

Alyce Swinbourne and a wombat

Alyce Swinbourne Photo: supplied

11:05 Antarctica's Forgotten Hero and the Secret Love Lives of Penguins

Lloyd Spencer Davis

Lloyd Spencer Davis Photo: Supplied / .SCOTTDAVISIMAGES.COM

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Photo: supplied

Penguin expert and Antarctic explorer Lloyd Spencer Davis blends natural history, evolutionary biology and stories of adventure in his new book A Polar Affair: Antarctica's Forgotten Hero and the Secret Love Lives of Penguins.

The 'forgotten hero' of the title is George Levick, the doctor on Robert Falcon Scott's tragic Antarctic expedition of 1910.

Levick became an enthusiastic observer of penguins while he was marooned down South over an Antarctic winter. But the practices he saw there were so depraved, and the couplings so sordid, they were suppressed and sanitised for a Victorian audience.

Lloyd Spencer Davis' previous books include Penguin: A Season in the Life of the Adelie Penguin for which he received the PEN (NZ) Best First Book Award for Nonfiction.

He is also the author of Looking For Darwin, which won the CLL Writer's Award.

11:40 Mary Kisler: 18th century poster girls

Art historian and curator Mary Kisler returns to discuss three so-called 'poster girls' of the 18th century: the opera singer Elizabeth Linley Sheridan, the actress Sarah Siddons, and the model, muse and 'pose taker' Emma, Lady Hamilton.


Books mentioned in this show:

Shuggie Bain
by Douglas Stuart
ISBN:  978-0802148049
Published by Pan Macmillan

A Polar Affair - Antarctica's Forgotten Hero and the Secret Love Lives of Penguins
By Lloyd Spencer Davis
ISBN: 9781643131252
Published by Pegasus Books