Podcast: 63 Degrees North

Podcast: 63 Degrees North

– Science, history and innovation from Europe's outer edge


Close-up of iceberg. Foto with text: 63 degrees north.


We bring you surprising stories of science, history and innovation from 63 Degrees North, the home of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), and from its campuses in Trondheim, Ålesund and Gjøvik.

Listen as we explore everything from the mysteries of the polar night to the history of Viking raiders, and how eavesdropping on whales can help bring them back from the brink of extinction — and more. Take a journey to Europe's outer edge for fascinating tales and remarkable discoveries. Hosted by Nancy Bazilchuk.


Season 4 – 2024

Season 4


Episode 21

21: Seabed mining – savior or scourge?

Nations of the world are racing against the clock to cut the greenhouse gas emissions that drive global warming. New and existing technologies – from electric cars to high-tech solar panels and wind turbines – hold the key to making the shift away from our fossil fueled lives. But making this shift requires the metals and minerals we need to build these technologies.

Enter deep sea mining. On January 9, the Norwegian Parliament, the Storting, decided to open an area in the deep ocean that's roughly the size of Italy to exploration and mining. This area lies mostly in Arctic waters, and straddles the Mid-Arctic Ocean Ridge.

At the same time, biologists are beginning to learn about the diversity of previously unknown creatures living in the depths, under enormous water pressure and near water temperatures hot enough to melt plastic.

A look at the pros and cons of Norway's controversial – and first-in-the-world – decision to allow deep sea mining. Our guests on today's show are Mats Ingulstad, Egil Tjåland, Kurt Aasly and Torkild Bakken.

Read more: Episode 21 details | Episode 21 transcript

Season 1 of the podcast 63 Degrees North

Season 1 – 2021

Sneak peak and episodes 1-5

Season 1 - sneak peak and episodes 1-5

Ever wonder what's happening in some of the more far-flung places on the planet? In 63 Degrees North, we'll bring you stories from Norway every week about surprising science, little-known history, and technology and engineering discoveries that can help change the world.

Krill eyeballs. The werewolf effect. Diel vertical migration. Arctic marine biologists really talk about these things, because in the darkest dark of the polar night, it turns out that fish, birds and tiny marine organisms are far more active than researchers ever imagined. Even the faintest light of the moon has an effect. Aaahoooo! The werewolf effect!

Read more: Episode 1 details | Episode 1 transcript

It’s no bigger than four decks of cards stacked one on top of the other – a tiny box raided from an Irish church. In Ireland, the box held the holy remains of a saint. What a mound of sand, some leftover nails and the box itself tell us about the Viking raiders who stole it – and what they did with it when they brought it back to Norway.

Read more: Episode 2 details | Episode 2 transcript

Everyone knows there’s just too much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere – and we’re heating up the planet at an unprecedented pace. More than 20 years ago, Norwegians helped pioneer an approach to dealing with CO2 that’s still ongoing today – they captured it and pumped it into a rock formation deep under the sea. Now the Norwegian government is building on those decades of experience with a large-scale carbon capture and storage project called Longship. Will it work? Is it safe? And is it something that other countries can benefit from, too?

Read more: Episode 3 details | Episode 3 transcript

When the coronavirus first transformed from a weird respiratory disease centered in Wuhan,China to a global pandemic, no one was really prepared. Worldwide, no one had enough masks, personal protective gear and definitely – not enough tests. The problem was especially acute in places like Norway, a small country that had to compete on a global market to get anything and everything. What happened when a genetics researcher,some engineers and a couple of PhDs and postdocs put their heads together to design a completely different kind of coronavirus test – and how it changed lives in India, Denmark and Nepal.

Read more: Episode 4 details | Episode 4 transcript

The different species of Galapagos finches, with their specially evolved beaks that allow them to eat very specific types of food, helped Darwin understand that organisms can evolve over time to better survive in their environment. Nearly 200 years later and thousands of miles away, Norwegian biologists are learning some surprising lessons about evolution from northern Norwegian populations of the humble house sparrow.

Read more: Episode 5 details | Episode 5 transcript

Season 2 of the podcast 63 Degrees North

Season 2 – 2022

Episodes 6-13

Season 2 - episodes 6-13

What can medieval skeletons tell us about modern-day pandemics? Trondheim, Norway’s first religious and national capital, has a rich history that has been revealed over decades of archaeological excavations.  Rsearchers are using this collection to see if insights into the health conditions of the past can shed light on pandemics in our own time.  With the help of old bones, latrine wastes and dental plaque, researchers are learning about how diseases evolved in medieval populations, and what society did to stem them – and how that might help us in the future. 

Read more: Episode 6 details | Episode 6 transcript

Why Norway always ranks among the top countries on the planet when it comes to gender equality.

Read more: Episode 7 details | Episode 7 transcript

How the unlikely combination of WWII Germany, a modest English engineer who created a worker’s paradise, an ambitious industrialist prosecuted as a traitor and a hardworking PhD helped build modern Norway, one aluminium ingot at a time.

Read more: Episode 8 details | Episode 8 transcript

Baby grey seals. Polar bears. Zooplankton on painkillers. How do toxic chemicals and substances end up in Arctic animals – and as it happens, native people, too?

Read more: Episode 9 details | Episode 9 transcript

The secrets behind how Norwegian scientists and engineers harnessed the country’s wild waterfalls by developing super efficient turbines – and how advances in turbine technology being developed now may be the future in a zero-carbon world. They include an engineer who figured out how to harness national fervour and build the 1900s equivalent of a super computer, a WWII resistance fighter who saw something special in tiny temperature differences, and researchers today, who are finding ways to cut environmental impacts from current hydropower plants and craft the designs we need to confront climate change.

Read more: Episode 10 details| Episode 10 transcript

We all know that climate change is real and that we have to do something about it. In today's podcast extra episode, we go behind the scenes at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and talk to Anders Hammer Strømman, who was one of the lead authors for their latest report, released in April this year. Anders is a professor at NTNU's Industrial Ecology Programme where he has specialized in Life Cycle Assessment and Environmental input-output analysis, which are tools that enable us to understand the real environmental costs of the goods and materials we use in everyday life.

Read more: Episode 11 detailsEpisode 11 transcript 

Earlier this year, tremendous floods in Pakistan forced 600,000 pregnant women to leave their homes for safer ground. It was among the latest in a series of nearly unthinkable happenings caused by climate change."Can you imagine if you are about to give birth to a child, and you have to leave your home and flee? These are very traumatic experiences that people have now in all continents, and increasing frequency," says NTNU Professor Edgar Hertwich. He says we all know now that climate change is no longer an abstraction — it's here, and humankind has to act.

Read more: Episode 12 details | Episode 12 transcript

Three tons of wax. A 4-story office building made almost entirely of wood. And putting CO2 to work instead of letting it heat up the planet: Scientists and engineers across the globe are harnessing unlikely materials to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Today's show looks at how a zero-emissions office building constructed 500 km south of the Arctic Circle combines integrated solar panels, heat pumps and a huge vat of wax to heat and power the structure, with enough left over to sell.

We also talk to a researcher who is building highly efficient heat pumps using CO2 as the stuff inside that makes it work. They're spreading worldwide, and can be found everywhere from inside your Volkswagen ID electric car to the Large Hadron Collider. And also — at a hotel in Hell, Norway, where the owners cut their electricity use by 70 per cent — without making a pact with the devil!

Season 3 of the podcast 63 Degrees North

Season 3 – 2023

Episodes 14-20

Season 3 - episodes 14-20

In 1998, a young Norwegian exercise physiologist found that a technique he had used to help Olympic athletes could help heart patients too. But his idea made doctors sweat. One famous cardiologist told him that if he used his technique in human heart attack patients, he "would kill them."

Today's show looks at what happened when our researcher, Ulrik Wisløff, defied the experts — and built a career learning how high intensity interval training can help everyone from heart patients and ageing Baby Boomers, and possibly even Alzheimer's patients — but not in the way you might think!

Read more: Episode 14 details | Episode 14 transcript

Norwegian technology, courtesy of the 19th-century whaler Svend Foyn, played a critical role in establishing the modern era of industrial whaling.By the time the 1960s rolled around, most large whale populations hovered on the brink of extinction. Now, Norwegian researchers are testing new technologies so they can track and study these marine giants — and help protect them.

Read more: Episode 15 details | Episode 15 transcript 

Sierra Leone used to be the most dangerous place in the world to give birth. Without enough doctors to do C-sections, women and babies were dying. But what if you didn't need a doctor?

This week, the story of two determined surgeons and a not-so radical idea that is saving lives in Sierra Leone — one emergency operation at a time.

You can read more about the non-profit organization the doctors created to fund their training programme at capacare.org

Read more: Episode 16 details | Episode 16 transcript 

Up on the arctic tundra, a young man in chest waders is wandering around a peat bog, burying tea bags. "LIpton tea bags, green tea and rooibos, exactly," he says.

This week, what burying tea bags — and more — in the tundra can tell us about the future of permafrost and its effect on the climate.

Episode 17 details | Episode 17 transcript 

When Hitler's troops stormed into Norway on April 9, 1940, Germany's goal was to secure the country’s 1200 km long coastline so iron ore from Swedish mines could continue to flow to the northern Norwegian port of Narvik — and eventually to the German war machine. 

But that wasn't all that Hitler and his followers hoped for, as Norwegian teachers would come to learn.

Vidkun Quisling, a Nazi collaborator who nominally headed the Norwegian government during the occupation, wanted Norway to embrace Nazi ideology. He decided the best way to do this was through teachers and schoolchildren. In February 1942, he ordered all teachers to join a new union that would require them to introduce Nazi doctrine to their students. Students were also ordered to join the Norwegian equivalent of the Hitler Youth.

What trees tell us about how the Nazis hid their biggest battleship in Norway from Allied bombers. Why a high mountain lake full of dead trees is a gold mine for researchers. And what really happened in Norway during the Black Death? The trees know.

Read more: Episode 19 details | Episode 19 transcript

20: Report from Dubai

Our guest on today's show is Anders Hammer Strømman, one of the lead authors for the last Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report on mitigation of climate change, released in April 2022. He was invited to Dubai to the COP 28 climate talks to talk to the shipping industry about how they can reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. He also shares his experience – not from the negotiating rooms – but from the perspective of a scientist seeing his work being taken up by policy makers.

Read more: Episode 20 details | Episode 20 transcript

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