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Science in Action

BBC

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The latest science research and news stories from all over the world.
156 Episodes Play All Episodes
Brazil%E2%80%99s+Covid+chaos
access_time6 days ago
The number of cases of Covid -19 infections in Brazil and deaths related to the pandemic may be much higher than official figures show. Testing of the living is not widespread and there are few resources for analysing the potential role of the virus as a cause of death. Virologist Fernando Spiliki gives us his bleak assessment.

A remarkable study from South Africa shows just how easily the virus can spread around a hospital, with a single infected person infecting many. However the route of infection is not necessarily direct person to person transmission says investigator Richard Lessells from the University of KwaZulu Natal.
And from London a study in a hospital with many Covid patients at the height of the pandemic supports the South African findings; Researchers found viral particles on surfaces and in the air says Professor Wendy Barclay from Imperial College.

An early warning system for outbreaks of the virus or second waves may come from analysis of sewage, Jordan Peccia from Yale University analysed waste from his local sewage treatment works and found peaks in concentrations of the virus in the sludge occurred a few days before increases in hospital admissions.


(Image: Supporters of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro wear face masks as they demonstrate against quarantine and social distancing measures imposed by governors and mayors to combat the new coronavirus outbreak and demand military intervention. Credit: SERGIO LIMA/AFP via Getty Images)

Presenter: Roland Pease
Producer: Julian Siddle
Covid+-19+Vaccines
access_time13 days ago
There are more than 100 different Covid -19 vaccine trials currently going on. We look at which seem to be the most promising with Helen Branswell from Stat News.

And we examine a very old idea, using antibodies from one virus – in this case SARS, to counter another virus SARS- CoV-2 , which causes Covid-19. Davide Corti from Vir Biotechnology says a version of these antibodies offers potential for both vaccination and treatment.

Race and Covid -19, there seems to be a link between ethnicity and susceptibility to the virus which can’t be easily explained away by economic factors. That's the finding from a study of nearly 6 million people in the US conducted by Epidemiologist Chris Rentsch from the London School of hygiene and tropical medicine.

And social distancing in ancient times, how plagues and pandemics in the past seem to have been defeated using similar behavioural adaptations to those we are current employing. Archaeologist Shadreck Chikure has seen the evidence in sites across Africa.


(Image:Vaccine trials Credit: Getty Images)


Presenter: Roland Pease
Producer: Julian Siddle
Loosening+lockdown
access_time20 days ago
How is Covid -19 spread? Who is most at risk and what are the circumstances under which it is most likely to be transmitted? These questions need answers for the implementation of effective and safe strategies to end lockdown. We look at what research is showing.

And if you have to go back to work what’s the best way to protect yourself, how should we be using face coverings for example? There are lessons from research on fluid dynamics.

Also key is reducing the rate of infection, the R number, Italy relaxed lockdown a few weeks ago we look at early findings on the impact.

It’s clear more widespread and effective testing will be needed to reduce transmission, A new test which should be quicker has been developed using synthetic biology and gene editing techniques.


(Image: Commuters wear masks whilst travelling on a London Underground train. Credit: Tolga Akmen/Getty Images)


Presenter: Roland Pease
Producer: Julian Siddle
Covid+-19+new+hope+from+blood+tests
access_time27 days ago
Research from New York examining the blood of people who have recovered from Covid – 19 shows the majority have produced antibodies against the disease, The researchers hope to soon be able to establish whether this confers long term immunity as with more common viral infections.

And Research in Berlin and London has identified biomarkers, minute signs of the disease which may help clinicians identify who is likely to develop severe symptoms and what kind of treatment they might need.

Mutations have been much in the headlines, these are a natural processes of evolution and not just in viruses, but the term is misunderstood, two studies focusing on different aspects shed some light on what mutation in SARS-CoV-2 really means.


(Image: People wear face masks as they cross a street in Times Square in New York City. Credit: Kena Betancur/AFP via Getty Images)


Presenter: Roland Pease
Producer: Julian Siddle
Ebola+drug+offers+hope+for+Covid-19
access_time1 month ago
Remdesivir a drug eventually rejected as a treatment for Ebola seems to have aided recovery in a trial with more than a thousand Covid -19 patients. Researchers are cautious but hopeful; a leading health official in the US has made comparisons with the impact of game changing drugs used to treat HIV.

In contrast an organisation researching the mechanisms by which bat coronaviruses infect humans has had its funding cut following criticism from President Trump.

A scheme to help manufacture ventilators and protective equipment worldwide has seen some success with a simple ventilator they developed, now in use in hospitals.

And we look at climate change –with this year set for extreme weather



(Image: Liberian photographer Alphanso Appleton took this picture of a schoolgirl and sent it to the Wellcome Trust, to express thanks for their and others’ efforts to develop an Ebola vaccine. Credit: Alphanso Appleton/Wellcome Trust)

Presenter: Roland Pease
Producer: Julian Siddle
Presidents+and+pandemics
access_time1 month ago
President Trump has repeated unfounded claims that scientists created Covid-19 in a lab. Rigorous scrutiny of the genetics of the virus reveals no evidence for such a claim.

And Brazil’s President Bolsonaro is at odds with his own health advisors – splitting public opinion and action over lockdown measures needed to control the virus.

We also look at why Covid -19 seems to be associated with so many different symptoms, from diarrheal infections to complicating kidney disease, to heart attacks

And some potentially good news from HIV research, a new target to stop that virus in its tracks, which might also be useful in the fight against other viruses.


(Image: President Trump with Brazilian President Bolsonaro. Credit: Getty Images)

Presenter: Roland Pease
Producer: Julian Siddle
Italy%2C+getting+Covid+19+under+control
access_time2 months ago
Italy is beginning its first tentative steps towards ending its lockdown. These are small steps, opening a few shops in areas where virus transmission has seen big falls. Part of the reason for this controlled strategy is that there are real concerns over a potential resurgence of the virus,

Around the world there are now hundreds of trials on drug treatments for Covid 19. Results so far are mixed, with antivirals developed for Ebola and HIV showing positive signs, but antimalarial drugs, championed by President Trump in particular have been shown to have dangerous potentially life threatening side effects.

A warning from history, more than 500 years ago suggests the western US in particular is entering an extreme drought, a ‘Megadrought’. When this last happened it led to war, depopulation and the spread of disease.

And its 10 years since the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Studies of fish in the region suggest they are still affected by oil from that spill and more recent lesser known pollution events.


(Image: Italy, shops begin to open. Credit: European Photopress Agency)

Presenter: Roland Pease
Producer: Julian Siddle
Covid+19+-+the+threat+to+refugees
access_time2 months ago
Massively over crowded Moria refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos has seen numbers grow from 5 to 20 thousand in a matter of months. Hundreds of people share taps and toilets, there is little chance to implement measures designed to stop the spread of covid 19. So far the camp has not been hit by the epidemic, but aid agencies fear for the most vulnerable in the camp.

Covid 19 jumped from bats to humans, possibly via another wild animal. A study of zoonotic diseases has identified many other viruses that could do the same.

The skies are clearer, levels of pollution from traffic have dropped by up to 50 percent but how long will cleaner air remain?

And Comet Borisov makes a spectacular exit.

(Image: Moria refugee camp, Lesvos, Greece. Credit: Getty Images)


Presenter: Roland Pease
Producer: Julian Siddle
Covid+19+%E2%80%93+The+fightback+in+Africa+begins
access_time2 months ago
Nigeria has seen a small number of Covid -19 cases, largely spread amongst the most affluent, people who travel abroad, However there is concern about the potential of the virus to spread to overcrowded slum areas. In such conditions social distancing measures would be difficult to enforce. What are the alternatives?

The US now has the majority of cases of the virus, New York has been heavily hit, medics have developed an app to help understand the spread of Covid 19 in the community.

The availability of test kits is an issue worldwide, we look at a novel idea, adapting a device made from paper that could help to see whether the virus is present in wastewater.

The WHO has launched international drug trials to tackle covid 19, but none of the drugs involved were developed specifically to target this virus we look at why they might just work.


(Image: Getty Images)

Presenter: Roland Pease
Producer: Julian Siddle
The+science+of+social+distancing
access_time2 months ago
The strong social distancing policies introduced by China seem to have been successful in stopping the spread of Covid 19. Without any effective drug treatments, reducing our number of contacts is the most effective way to prevent viral transmission.

We also look at the similarities been policies in Russia and the US on how best to deal with the virus. In both cases there are contradictions and disagreements between medical professionals and politicians.

And a warning from Polio, how vaccines may create problems when immunisation campaigns do not reach everyone.


(Image: Getty Images)

Presenter: Roland Pease
Producer: Julian Siddle
Covid+-19%2C+are+you+carrying+the+virus%3F
access_time3 months ago
In Italy the entire population of a small town was tested for Covid 19. Of those infected, one in three people with no symptoms had the virus. And from China researchers found many people carried the virus – even before authorities there began tracking its spread. The findings suggest vulnerable people may contract the virus from those without symptoms.

And we’ve news of a breakthrough - new tests looking at Covid 19 antibodies, These should help provide a picture of developing immunity to the virus.


However as growing numbers of people fall ill there are concerns over a potential shortage of hospital ventilators globally, These are needed to treat the most severe cases. However a crowdsourcing project has been set up to try and kick start the manufacturing of a variety of different types of ventilator that could be built around the world. If you have knowledge of ventilators or their use and would like to get involved more information is available here. http://bit.ly/frontiertech4COVIDaction



(Image: AFP/Getty Images)

Presenter: Roland Pease
Producer: Julian Siddle
Covid+-19+how+infectious+is+it+really%3F
access_time3 months ago
Covid- 19 cases seem to be multiplying daily and there is now a growing body of scientific evidence both on its spread and the effectiveness of measures to try and control it. We look at what’s working, what’s not and why.

And we look to the potential for coronavirus drug treatments, why despite the hype there really isn’t anything round the corner.

Australia’s recent fire season was intense; a new study looks back over 500 years of the weather pattern partly responsible, the Indian Ocean Dipole. The findings show the most extreme years occurred recently – under the influence of man-made climate change.

And we look at life deep below the sea floor, microbes which multiply slowly over centuries and eat their neighbours.


(Image: Coronavirus test. Credit: iStock / Getty Images Plus)

Presenter: Roland Pease
Producer: Julian Siddle
Australia%E2%80%99s+fires+-+fuelled+by+climate+change
access_time3 months ago
Attributing Australia's bush fires, a major study says man-made climate change was a big driver – making the fires at least 30% worse than they would have been if natural processes were the only factors.

We look at preparations for coronavirus in Africa. Although cases there are currently lower than in much of the rest of the world a major training initiative is taking place to spread awareness amongst medics across the continent.

We ask why Horseshoe bats in particular carry coronaviruses, and find a novel idea for distributing vaccines in places without refrigeration.




(Image: Australian bushfires. Credit: Getty images/AFP)


Presenter: Roland Pease
Producer: Julian Siddle
Tracking+coronavirus+spread
access_time3 months ago
The appearance of Covid -19 in Italy and Iran surprised many this week. As the virus continues to spread we look at ways to contain it.

Australia’s fires have burnt around 20 percent of the countries woodlands, what are the implications for the recovery of those ecosystems?

And what is the link between the world’s super rich and deforestation? Unsurprisingly it’s money.

And we hear about the unexpected cooling effects of hydroelectric dams.


(Image: Tourists wearing masks tour outside the Coliseum in Rome. Credit: Getty Images)


Presenter: Roland Pease
Producer Julian Siddle.
Monitoring+Covid-19%2C+harvests+and+space+junk
access_time3 months ago
Roland Pease reports from the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s annual meeting in Seattle. At the UK Research and Innovation’s stand in the exhibition hall, he’s joined by three scientists to discuss monitoring the Coronavirus outbreak, the locusts devastating crops in East Africa and the ever increasing amount of space junk orbiting the Earth.

Professor Jeffrey Shaman of the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University talks about how he is modelling the movement of Covid-19 around China and beyond.

Dr Catherine Nakalembe, of the University of Maryland and East Africa Lead for NASA Harvest explains how she uses data collected by satellites to find out where crops are thriving and where they are not. She also talks about how this technology can alert countries to approaching locust swarms.

And Professor Moriba Jah of University of Texas at Austin, tells Roland why he’s concerned about the amount of space junk that’s orbiting the earth and why so little is being done about controlling satellite launch and disposal.


(Image: Artist response to NASA Harvest discussion at AAAS Credit: Lorenzo Palloni)


Presenter: Roland Pease
Editor: Deborah Cohen
CoVid-19.+mapping+the+outbreak
access_time4 months ago
Researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical medicine have developed an online map which presents the latest information on the spread of CoVid-19 and allows anyone to follow the outbreak and compare this data with the spread of Ebola and SARS. See the weblink from this page to try it for yourself.

And the coming together of microbiology and big data science has led to the development of a portable device able to spot antibiotic resistant bacteria. This should help with more precise drug targeting and potentially save lives.

We also look at how social science is helping to improve the health of people reliant on woodstoves for cooking, and we unearth a huge impact crater hidden in plain sight.

(Image:Getty Images)
Coronavirus%2C+prospects+for+treatment%3F
access_time4 months ago
Doctors in the US have treated a coronavirus patient with a drug developed for Ebola. That drug had never been tested on people so its use here seems an extreme move. We look at why this kind of drug developed for one virus might work on another. It’s all down to the genetic material at the centre of the virus. That raises safety concerns as human cells contain similar material.

East Africa is experiencing a plague of locusts and bizarrely it’s linked to the Australian wildfires. A weather pattern across the Indian Ocean, made more extreme by climate change, links the rains in Africa with the heatwave in Australia.

New features of The Northern Lights have been discovered thanks to an analysis of photos on Facebook by physicists in Finland. Amateur sky watchers pictures reveal previously unnoticed forms in the light display.

And we look at the search for properties of sub atomic particles, why a small device might be better than the enormous ones used so far.




(Image: Scientists are at work as they try to find an effective treatment against the new SARS-like coronavirus,
Credit: AFP/Getty Images)



Presenter: Roland Pease
Producer: Julian Siddle
Understanding+the+Wuhan+Coronavirus
access_time4 months ago
Parts of China are on lockdown, a small number of cases have been reported in other countries and the past week has brought widely conflicting views on the potential danger presented by the new virus.
We look at the scientific facts, analyse why it’s so difficult to predict the spread of the virus, look at the nature of virus infection and discuss why treatments such as vaccines are not available.
We look at why some viruses can jump from animals to humans and examine high tec solutions designed to speed up the process of drug development.

Image: Medical staff member helps a couple at a hospital in Wuhan. Credit: Feature China/Barcroft Media via Getty Images)


Presenter: Roland Pease
Producer: Julian Siddle
Wuhan+Coronavirus
access_time4 months ago
The way in which a new virus has emerged in China is reminiscent of SARS, a highly infectious virus that spread rapidly. It’s so similar that Health officials demanded action as soon as its existence became known. And the Chinese authorities and global medical community have acted to try and stop the spread.
Events were still developing, even as we were in the studio making this programme, new reports of suspected cases were coming in. The WHO was yet to give its view on the severity of the outbreak. This week’s edition is very much a snapshot of what we know or knew about this virus on the afternoon of Thursday January 23rd 2020.


(Image: Wuhan Residents wear masks to buy vegetables in the market. Credit: Getty Images)

Presenter: Roland Pease
Producer: Julian Siddle
Mount+Taal+volcano
access_time5 months ago
An experimental satellite called Aeolus, named after a Greek god of wind, which takes daily global measurements of the wind patterns throughout the depth of atmosphere has improved weather forecasts. ESA’s Anne-Greta Straume explains how it works.

The dramatic eruption of the island volcano Taal in the Philippines was a spectacular picture of the plume of ejecta punching a hole in overlying cloud cover. Nearby towns have been blanketed with dust, fissures have appeared in the ground and there has been dramatic lightning. Geologist Yannick Withoos at Leicester University is studying historic eruptions of Taal and current events have brought the purpose of her research into sharp relief.

Philipp Heck of the Field Museum in Chicago explains how he has found the oldest dust grains on earth inside a Murchison meteorite. They are millions of years older than the solar system.
And Roland Pease talks to Brian Rauch of Washington University, St ouis, who is currently in Antarctica flying detectors on balloons around the South Pole searcLhing for cosmic rays produced in the death of stars.

Tracking climate change in the Himalaya – not up at the snow capped peaks, clearly visible from afar, but in the extensive rocky hinterland further down you occasionally see in documentaries about attempts on Everest – is difficult. Ecologist and hydrologist Karen Anderson, of Exeter University, has used satellite data to measure the changes in the vegetation in this remote area.



(Image: Taal Volcano, Philippines. Credit: EPA)


Presenter: Roland Pease
Producer: Julian Siddle
Australia%E2%80%99s+extreme+fire+season
access_time5 months ago
2019 was Australia’s hottest year on record, a major factor behind the bush fires which have been far worse than usual. We look at the patterns of extreme weather that have contributed to the fires but are also linked to floods in Africa. And the way in which thunderstorms have helped to spread the fires.


The armpit of Orion is changing. The star Betelgeuse is dimming some claim this is readying it for a major explosion others are more sceptical, we weight up the arguments.

And an Iron Age brain may hold some clues to modern neurodegenerative disease. Protein fragments have been extracted from the brain tissue found inside a 2,500 year old human skull.


(Image: Australia fires. Credit: Getty Images)

Presenter: Roland Pease
Producer: Julian Siddle
Adapting+California
access_time5 months ago
Roland Pease is joined by California based science Journalist Molly Bentley as we examine the impact of earthquakes and fires. California has experienced both in the last year - What’s it like to live with a constant threat from these extreme events? We also take a look at NASA’s plans for a new mission to Mars – to look for signs on life.

Picture: Roland Pease with science journalist Molly Bentley, Credit: BBC
Gaming+climate+change
access_time5 months ago
The latest round of climate negotiations, COP25 have ended without agreement on many fundamental issues. We join researchers from Perdue University in the US who have developed a role playing game to encourage climate negotiators and others to take a long term view. Key to this research project is the concept of tipping points, where an environment changes irreversibly from one state to another. This is accompanied by the loss of ecosystems, for example the widespread melting of arctic sea ice, rainforest burning or coral bleaching.

The idea is that such tipping points provide a more meaning full focus for the implication of climate change than abstract concepts like temperature rise.

Image: Polar Bear in the Arctic Sea, Credit: Coldimages/Getty
Understanding+the+Anak+Krakatau+eruption
access_time6 months ago
We have the latest from a year long investigation into the causes of the December 2018 Indonesian Tsunami. And we get a look at the first pictures from the Mayotte undersea volcano, which emerged earlier this year off the coast of East Africa.




(Anak Krakatau volcano. Credit: AFP/Getty Images)



Presenter: Roland Pease
Producer: Julian Siddle
White+Island+volcano+eruption
access_time6 months ago
This week’s programme comes from the world’s largest earth sciences conference, the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco.


Roland Pease talks with Diana Roman of the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington DC about the tragic White Island volcanic eruption in which at least eight tourists died.


Aurora Elmore of National Geographic and Arbindra Khadka of Tribhuvan University in Kathmandu Nepal discuss the state of Himalayan glaciers and climate change.

Robert Hazen of the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington DC tells Roland about the research area called geobiochemistry and Hilairy Hartnett of Arizona State University explains why it may not be easy to find life on extra solar planets.



(Image: Smoke from the volcanic eruption of Whakaari, also known as White Island. Credit: Reuters)



Presenter: Roland Pease
Producer: Julian Siddle
CRISPR+babies+scandal+%E2%80%93+more+details
access_time6 months ago
Extracts from unpublished papers on the methods used by a Chinese scientist to genetically modify the embryos of two girls reveal a series of potentially dangerous problems with the procedure and ethical shortcomings.

We look at the mechanism behind the formation of our facial features and how this is linked to our evolution, scrutinise the impact of current emissions on global climates and see why lithium, used in batteries and medicines, is now a potentially widespread pollutant.

(Photo: He Jiankui, Chinese scientist and professor at Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen. Credit:Reuters)

Presenter: Roland Pease
Producer: Julian Siddle
New+malaria+target
access_time6 months ago
Molecular scale investigations have identified the mechanism which confers resistance to antimalarial drugs. Researchers hope work to turn off this mechanism could mean cheaper well known antimalarials can become effective once again.

We look at the threat to weather forecasting from 5G networks, discuss the origins of much of the technology in our mobile phones and ask what food we’ll be eating in the future and how the past can inform this.


Image: Mosquito. Science Photo Library

Presenter: Roland Pease
Producer: Julian Siddle
Politics+and+Amazonia%E2%80%99s+fires
access_time7 months ago
This year’s Amazon fires have been worse than since 2010, scientists blame a government attitude which they say has encouraged deforestation. Government funded scientists have contributed anonymously to the finding – fearing for their jobs.

Food crops and fungus are not normally seen as compatible, but a mutually beneficial relationship between these organisms may help reduce the need for chemical fertilisers and combat climate change.

Hayabusa 2, the Japanese space mission is returning to earth after its mission to blast a crater in a distant asteroid.

And how the chemistry of protein analysis is helping psychiatrists and emergency medics deal with the effects of the street drug spice.




(Image: A Brazilian Institute for the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA) fire brigade member is seen as he attempts to control hot points during a fire. Credit: Reuters/Bruno Kelly)


Presenter: Roland Pease
Producer: Julian Siddle
Australia+burning
access_time7 months ago
Australia’s annual wild fires have started early this year, drought is a factor but to what extent is ‘Bush fire weather’ influenced by climate change?

A two million year old fossil tooth reveals some biological answers to who its owner was.

Why Climate change may have killed off the world’s first superpower

And a hologram produced from sound waves.



(Image: Firefighters tackle a bushfire to save a home in Taree, Australia. Credit Peter Parks/AFP via Getty Images)



Presenter: Roland Pease
Producer: Julian Siddle
Climate+in+crisis
access_time7 months ago
Pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are largely unachievable says a major audit of commitments to the Paris Climate Accord.

Air pollution in Delhi is so bad, breathing the toxic particles has been likened to smoking. Can a scientific assessment of the multiple causes help provide a way forward?

We examine a new way of making new plastic – from old plastic.

And why sending some stem cells to the international space station might help astronauts travel further.




(Image: Tourists wearing masks to protect themselves from smog in New Delhi, India. Credit: Sushil Kumar/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)


Presenter: Roland Pease
Producer: Julian Siddle
Wildfires+and+winds+in+California
access_time7 months ago
The Santa Ana in the south, and the Diablo in the north, are winds that are fuelling the terrible fires raging in California this week. They’re also blamed for bringing down power lines that sometimes start the fires. Roland Pease talks to Janice Coen of the National Center for Atmospheric Research NCAR who has been developing a highly detailed model to forecast how wind, mountains, and flames interact during a wildfire.

The glaring gaps in human genetics are in Africa – much overlooked because the companies and universities sequencing DNA are mostly based in Europe, the US and other advanced economies. A ten-year attempt to fill in some of those gaps came to fruition this week, with the release of a study covering thousands of individuals from rural Uganda. Deepti Gurdasani, of Queen Mary University London, explains the data reveal both new medical stories, and the scale of past migration within Africa.

There are also gaps in the climate record from Africa. Knowing past climates could help massively in understanding the prospects for climate change in coming years on the continent. Journalist Linda Nordling has just published an article in Nature that shows that the records exist – old weather data collected since the 19th Century. It’s just they’re scattered, unexamined, in vaults and collections across Africa.

Adam McKay of NASA and Alan Fitzsimmons of Queens University Belfast talk to Roland Pease about the latest observations of the interstellar interloper Comet Borisov.


(Image: A firefighter sets a back fire along a hillside during firefighting operations to battle the Kincade Fire in Healdsburg, California. Credit: Philip Pacheco/ /AFP via Getty Images)


Presenter: Roland Pease
Producer: Deborah Cohen
Is+quantum+supremacy+%E2%80%98garbage%E2%80%99%3F
access_time7 months ago
A quantum computer has performed a calculation considered impossible for conventional computers, but how meaningful is the result? As our guest reveals, this quantum state can be hugely significant and garbage – at the same time.

Also we look at a new method of gene editing, which avoids cutting up DNA, get to grips with where the worlds worms live and watch elements being created in distant solar collisions.





(Photo: A quantum circuit from Google's Sycamore computer. Credit: Google)


Presenter: Roland Pease
Producer: Julian Siddle
Malaria%2C+origins+and+a+potential+new+treatment
access_time8 months ago
A variety of malarial parasites have existed amongst the great apes for millennia, we look at how one of them jumped species and why humans became its preferred host.
And from Antarctica we hear about a potential new treatment for malaria found in a deep sea sponge.
We also look at why improved monitoring is changing our perceptions of earthquakes and follow the story of an endangered Polynesian snail.




(Photo: Gorilla. Credit: Hermes Images/AGF/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)


Presenter: Roland Pease
Producer: Julian Siddle
From+batteries+to+distant+worlds
access_time8 months ago
Nobel prizes this week went to a range of discoveries that you might be familiar with, in fact you might be using one of them right now – the lithium ion battery. The scientists credited with its Invention got the chemistry prize. And the tantalising prospect of life on other planets plays into the physics prize win.

And we also see what salamanders have to offer in the treatment of arthritis


(Picture: Illustration of the Earth-like exoplanet Kepler-452b and its parent star Kepler-452. Credit: NASA/Ames/JPL-Caltech/Science Photo Library)

Presenter: Roland Pease
Producer: Julian Siddle
Drought+likely+to+follow+India%E2%80%99s+floods
access_time8 months ago
India has experienced some of the worse monsoon weather in years, but despite the extreme rainfall climate models suggest a drought may be on the way, with higher than average temperatures predicted for the months following the monsoon season.

We also hear warnings over the state of the world’s aquifers, with water levels in many places already low enough to affect ecosystems.

We examine the consequences of two historic eruptions. How Indonesian volcano Tambora changed global weather and why papyrus scrolls blackened by Italy’s Vesuvius can now be read again.

And from Australia the discovery of a new species of pterosaur in Queensland.



Presenter: Roland Pease
Producer: Julian Siddle


(Photo: Commuters make their way on a waterlogged road following heavy rainfalls in Patna.Credit:Getty Images)
Global+climate+inaction
access_time8 months ago
This week’s IPCC report on the state of the world’s climate looks very much like their earlier reports on the subject. The document cautiously expresses a picture of a future with greater climate extremes.
Activists are frustrated by the lack of action. We look at why the scientific message is often hampered by politics.

Fish could provide micronutrients to the world poor, but as we’ll hear this would need a major shift in commercial fishing practices globally.

Baby bottles from thousands of years ago suggest Neolithic people gave animal milk to their children.

And when did the Sahara develop? New findings in deposits from volcanic islands provides some evidence.



(Image: Greta Thunberg. Credit: AFP/Getty Image)



Presenter: Roland Pease
Producer: Julian Siddle
South+East+Asia+choking+-+again
access_time9 months ago
Staying indoors might seem a good way to avoid air pollution, but scientists studying the fires in Indonesia have found there is little difference between the air quality in their hotel room and the atmosphere outside. Both levels are high enough to be considered dangerous for human health. To add to the problem, fires continue to burn underground in the peaty soil long after they were started.

In the Arctic ice melt this summer has been particularly severe, however the picture in complicated by climatic conditions. A new mission to the region involving trapping a ship in ice over winter hopes to provide answers.

Nearly 500 million of year ago the earth’s sky was darkened by a massive asteroid explosion, blotting out the sun. New data on this event may provide an insight into contemporary climate change.

And how about a device which turns the conventions of solar panels on their head and generates electricity in the dark?




(Researcher Mark Grovener from Kings College London measures air quality in Indonesia.
Credit Marlin Wooster KCL)

Presenter: Roland Pease
Producer: Julian Siddle
Embryoids+from+stem+cells
access_time9 months ago
Scientists know very little about the first few days of the life of a human embryo, once it's been implanted in the womb. Yet this is when the majority of pregnancies fail. Professor Magdalena Zernika-Goetz at Cambridge University is a leader in the field of making 'model embryos' in both mice and humans. Model embryos until now have been grown in the lab from donated fertilised eggs, but these are hard to come by and governed by strict laws and ethical guidelines. Now researchers in the University of Michigan have used human pluripotent stem cell lines (originally isolated from embryos, but kept and nurtured as clumps of dividing cells in petri-dishes for many years) to make a model embryo that has shown signs of development and organisation in the crucial 7-10 day window. Magdalena and Roland Pease discuss how helpful these will be to understanding crucial early stage pregnancies and as a tool to test drugs, treatments and disease processes. The ethical side of growing human embryos from stem cells is addressed by Stanford University ethicist Professor Hank Greely.

Astronomers have detected water vapour in the atmosphere of a planet called K2-18b orbiting within the habitable zone of a distant star. The lead scientist, Professor Giovanna Tinetti of University College London, talks to Roland about the discovery and what she hopes to explore when a satellite telescope called ARIEL is launched by ESA in around a decade.

And an amateur astronomer has discovered a comet that appears to have arrived from outside our Solar System. This observation follows on from that of Oumuamua which looked like it was an asteroid that had escaped from an exoplanetary system. Roland asks professional astronomers Alan Fitzsimmons of Queens University Belfast and Simon Porter from South West Research Institute in Colorado what they make of the latest interstellar visitor.



(Picture: A set of five embryo-like structures in a microfluidic device developed in the lab of Jianping Fu. The top row consists of “immunostaining” images in which key proteins are tagged with dyes to label different cell types, whereas the bottom row shows standard photos taken through a microscope. Parts of the bottom images were blurred to more clearly show a correlation between the rows. Image credit: Fu Lab, Michigan Engineering)


Presenter: Roland Pease
Producer: Deborah Cohen
New+evidence+of+nuclear+reactor+explosion
access_time9 months ago
An isotopic fingerprint is reported of a nuclear explosion in Russia last month. Also, a near miss in Earth’s crowded orbit, India expects a moon landing, and defrosting cemeteries.



(Tell-tale radioactive isotopes could still be in dust on cars near the site of the blast. Credit: Humonia/iStock / Getty Images Plus)

Presenter: Roland Pease
Producer: Alex Mansfield
Nanotube+computer+says+hello
access_time9 months ago
A computer processor made of carbon nanotubes is unveiled to the world. Also, the continuing quest for nuclear fusion energy, and the stats on crocodile attacks since the 1960s.


(The world's first 16 bit microprocessor made of carbon nanotubes. Credit: Max Shulaker)
Amazonian+fires+likely+to+worsen
access_time10 months ago
As fires across the amazon basin continue to burn, we speak to the researchers watching from space and from the ground. Also, Greenland’s top geologist gives his valuation of his native island for prospective purchasers.


(Photo: Wildfires in Amazon rainforest. Credit:REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino)
Cracking+the+case+of+the+Krakatoa+volcano+collapse
access_time10 months ago
Scientists this week are on expedition around the volcano Anak Krakatoa, which erupted and collapsed in 2018 leading to the loss of some 400 lives on the island of Java. The scientists, including David Tappin and Michael Cassidy, are hoping that their survey of the seafloor and tsunami debris will allow them to piece together the sequence of events, and maybe find signs to look out for in the future.

Wyoming Dinosaur trove
The BBC got a secret visit to a newly discovered fossil site somewhere in the US which scientists reckon could keep them busy for many years. Jon Amos got to have a tour and even found out a tasty technique to tell a fossil from a rock.

Bioflourescent Aliens
Researchers at Cornell University’s Carla Sagan Institute report their work thinking about detecting alien life on distant planets orbiting other stars. Around 75% of stars are of a type that emits far more dangerous UV than our own sun. What, they argue, would a type of life that could survive that look like to us? Well, just maybe it would act like some of our own terrestrial corals, who can protect their symbiotic algae from UV, and in doing so, emit visible light. Could such an emission be detectable, in sync with dangerous emergent UV flares around distant suns? The next generation of large telescopes maybe could…


(Photo: Volcano Anak Krakatoa. Credit: Drone Pilot, Muhammad Edo Marshal, ITB university in Bandung, Indonesia)

Presenter: Roland Pease
Producer: Alex Mansfield
Reporter: Giulia Barbareschi
Keeping+tabs+on+nuclear+weapons
access_time10 months ago
The US has withdrawn from a historic nuclear disarmament treaty. However the verification of such treaties has been under scrutiny for some time as they don’t actually reveal the size of nuclear stockpiles.
New methods of verification and encryption should allow all sides to be more confident on who has what in terms of nuclear stockpiles.

Can carbon capture and storage technology help reduce atmospheric Co2 levels? The answer seems to be yes, but at a considerable cost.

And we go for a cold swim around some hydrothermal vents.

Please add a picture caption to the long description in the following format:

Photo: U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Credit: Sputnik/Reuters

Presenter: Roland Pease
Producer: Julian Siddle
The+snowball+effect+of+Arctic+fires
access_time10 months ago
Wildfires are an annual phenomenon across the arctic region, but this year they are far more intense than usual, we look at the drivers for these extreme fires and the consequences, in particular long term environmental change across the region.

We visit Naples which is built on a super volcano. A new analysis is designed to help predict when it might erupt.
We hear from young scientists around the world on their hopes for the future and hear about the discovery of a new potentially earth like planet.



Presenter: Roland Pease
Producer: Julian Siddle








(Photo: Arctic wildfires: Credit: Getty Images)
The+human+danger+%E2%80%93+for+sharks
access_time10 months ago
A global project tracking sharks through the deep oceans has found they are increasingly facing danger from fishing fleets. Sharks used to be caught accidentally, but now there is a well-established trade in shark meat and fins, which the researchers say is reducing their numbers.

We look at how tourists might be a useful source for conservation data, And we meet one of the planets smallest predators, is it a plant is it an animal? Well actually it’s a bit of both.



(Photo: Tiger shark. Credit: Barcroft Media via Getty Images)


Presenter: Roland Pease
Producer: Julian siddle
The+moon+landing+and+another+big+space+anniversary
access_time11 months ago
It’s 50 years since the moon landing and 25 years since Shoemaker - Levy 9 crashed into Jupiter. The Apollo missions returned to earth with cargos of moon rocks and the comet crash showed us what happens when celestial bodies collide.

We look at the significance of both this week, and also contemplate a return to the moon. What will the next generation of moonwalking astronauts do there?

One thing’s for sure, they’ll be examining moon rocks once more – though this time with a range of scientific tools which hadn’t been invented when the Apollo missions ceased.

Picture: Shoemaker – Levy 9 Comet Impact Marks on Jupiter
Credit: Getty Images

Presenter: Roland Pease
Producer: Julian Siddle
%27Free%27+water+and+electricity+for+the+world%3F
access_time11 months ago
Researchers in Saudi Arabia have developed a prototype solar panel which generates electricity and purifies water at the same time. The device uses waste heat from the electricity generating process to distil water. An individual panel for home use could produce around 4 litres and hour. The researchers suggest use of such panels would help alleviate water shortages.

A long running study of gorilla behaviour in the DRC has found they exhibit social traits previously thought to only be present in humans. This suggests such traits could have developed in the prehistory of both species.

More than 500 fish species can change sex. Analysis of the underlying mechanism shows how sex determination is heavily influenced by environmental and in the case of one species social factors.




(Picture: Future PV farm: not just generating electricity, but also producing fresh water. Credit: Wenbin Wang)




Presenter: Roland Pease
Producer: Julian Siddle
Analysing+the+European+Heatwave
access_time11 months ago
The recent European heatwave broke records, but how severe was it really and what were the underlying causes? Having run the numbers, climate scientists say global warming played a large part, and makes heatwaves in general more likely.

And we look at what seems an incredibly simple idea to counter the effects of global warming – plant more trees, but where and how many?


(Photo: People cool themselves down in the fountain of the Trocadero esplanade in Paris. Credit: AFP/Getty Images)

Presenter: Roland Pease
Producer: Julian Siddle
Is+climate+change+driving+Europe%E2%80%99s+current+heatwave%3F
access_time11 months ago
As Europe experiences another record breaking heatwave, we look at the science of attribution. Usually it’s a long time after extreme weather events that scientists gather enough data to make a judgement on the influence of anthropogenic forces, such as man-made climate change.

However climate experts at a meeting Toulouse France, experiencing the worst of the heatwave, are crunching the data right now, to see if they can quantify the influence of climate change on this heatwave as it happens.

Also we find lakes of fresh water hidden – under the sea, find that Neanderthals went west and discover how spiralling laser light may be used to control a new generation of microelectronics.





(Photo: Heatwave in Paris. Credit: European Photopress Agency)


Presenter: Roland Pease
Producer: Julian Siddle
Iran%E2%80%99s+nuclear+plans
access_time12 months ago
Iran’s nuclear programme is at the centre of a political row, with the country suggesting it could increase uranium production to above the levels permitted under an international agreement. We look beyond the rhetoric, discuss Iran’s covert history of nuclear development and ask scientifically what this latest move involves.

Fish are no respecter of international borders and when it comes to spawning, research reveals up to $10bn worth of potential fish stocks move between different political territories.

Ancient trees in the Eastern US are yielding clues to the climate going back more than 2000 years, they reveal there has been more rain recently.

And we look at how to quantify that rain as it falls now, over much shorter timescales.




(Photo:President Hassan Rouhani and the head of Iran nuclear technology organization Ali Akbar Salehi inspecting nuclear technology.
Copyright: Office of Islamic Republic President via EPA)



Presenter:Roland Pease
Producer: Julian Siddle
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