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The Science Hour



Science, health and technology news and highlights of the week.
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access_time3 days ago
Is 2018 the warmest year on record? We look at the evidence behind that claim. What part do the global oceans play in regulating the planets temperatures and what are the prospects for future extreme weather.

We look at how climate change is ocean systems affecting storms and ocean waves, and the implications this could have for those of us living in coastal regions.

And wild coffee species are facing extinction. This could affect commercial production of the coffee we drink. However rediscovering the coffee of the past might offer a solution.

When CrowdScience listener, Grady, crashed violently on his motorbike in the desert, he thought he was going to die. Years later he still can’t remember the dramatic seconds just before the impact. Where did the memory disappear to? Did the hard hit to the head knock his memories out or are they still in his brain somewhere? CrowdScience turns to brain science to find out if those last few seconds are lost for good or if the brain tells a different story.
access_time13 days ago
As federal employees many US scientists have been affected by the US government shutdown. They are not being paid, can’t talk about their work or go to scientific conferences. We look at how this US political stand-off is affecting scientific research. One of the casualties is the Hubble space telescope, in need of repairs, which cannot start until its federal employed engineers can get back to work.

Meanwhile, in Antarctica a US led team have extracted microbes, water and rock samples from a subglacial lake covered with kilometre thick ice. Their live samples may have evolved in the depths and dark of the lake, hidden from view for thousands of years.

And just how are we to feed the world in the future? One team of scientists have successfully increased the yield of their experimental plants by 40 percent. They are hoping to repeat the technique with food crops.

This comes at the same time as an investigation into China’s future food needs. While demand is high, more efficient farming methods might mean China could be self-sufficient in food in years to come.

Magma is the hot, molten rock found beneath the Earth’s crust. It’s so plentiful that it got Greek listener Dimitrios wondering whether we could harness this heat. Could we drill directly into the magma and use it to power our homes? And from Ghana, Madock also got in touch with CrowdScience to ask why there are lots of volcanoes in some areas of the world, but then none in others?

We visit Kenya - a country that is one of the biggest providers of geothermal energy in the world and home to East African Rift system. At 4,000 miles long, a string of volcanoes sits along this fault line. CrowdScience travels to a geothermal power plant to get to grips with how conventional geothermal energy works. But can our equipment stand such temperatures?

(Image: Hubble space telescope. Credit to NASA)
access_time17 days ago
It’s been years in the planning and involved a tiny window of opportunity. NASA’s New Horizons mission launched in 2006 has reached its far flung destination, a couple of outer space snowballs known as Ultima Thule. The mission aims to shed light on the formation of our solar system.

And just days later an unmanned Chinese mission has landed on the moon, on the far side, they’ll be examining rocks and also seeing if simple plants and animals survive in a biosphere there.

We also look at the Indonesian Anak Krakatau volcano, which has erupted recently. Just why did it collapse into the sea creating a tsunami, and why is it so difficult to predict the impact of volcanic eruptions?

And we celebrate the periodic table,150 years old this year, this chart of chemical elements found on the walls of classrooms around the world still has much to reveal.

Birds are dinosaurs, but did their extinct relatives move, look, or even sing like their avian relatives? From revealing the hidden information within fossilised dinosaur footprints, to reading the messages left by muscle attachments on fossil bones and seeing how modern palaeo-artists have started to draw fluffy feathered Tyranosaurs, CrowdScience starts to reimagine dinosaurs as living animals.

Listener Malcolm asks about hopping dinosaurs while on a fossil finding mission with world expert Dr Peter Falkingham, we explore the vaults of the Natural History Museum with Dr Susie Maidment and meets palaeoartist Dr Mark Witton’s pet dinosaurs in his living room studio.

(Picture: The first high-definition picture of Ultima Thule, Credit: NASA)
access_time25 days ago
The Parker Solar Probe has flown nearer to the sun than any other mission. The probe is now sending back data on the behaviour of electromagnetic waves emitted from the coronal mass. Fluctuations in these waves can lead to solar flares ,which in turn can have a huge impact on earth, including the potential to knock out global communications.

The Japanese space agency’s Hayabusa mission successfully landed two robots on an asteroid 4 years away from earth. Next year the mission will return to mine rock samples from beneath the asteroids surface by shooting a ‘space cannon’ to blast samples from within the asteroid.

NASA has a similar mission planned again to collect rocks from an asteroid, their method is to use kind of ‘space hoover’ to suck up samples.
The engineering challenges of creating a spacecraft that could eventually take us all the way to Mars. Then there are the challenges of engineering the humans for that momentous journey. In space, no-one can hear you scream, which is probably a good thing if you’re going to be trapped in a metal box for two years with the same people, as you cruise through the void on your way to the red planet. So how do astronauts prepare for the physical and psychological impacts of long-term space travel? We also discover how space travel can be made greener and cleaner and test a space harpoon designed to tackle the millions of pieces of space debris floating around our planet that potentially, could impact a mission before it even leaves Earth orbit.

Picture: The surface of the sun, Credit: NASA
access_time1 month ago
The Parker Solar Probe has flown nearer to the sun than any other mission. The probe is now sending back data on the behaviour of electromagnetic waves emitted from the coronal mass. Fluctuations in these waves can lead to solar flares ,which in turn can have a huge impact on earth, including the potential to knock out global communications.

The Japanese space agency’s Hayabusa mission successfully landed two robots on an asteroid 4 years away from earth. Next year the mission will return to mine rock samples from beneath the asteroids surface by shooting a ‘space cannon’ to blast samples from within the asteroid.

NASA has a similar mission planned again to collect rocks from an asteroid, their method is to use kind of ‘space hoover’ to suck up samples.

Picture: The surface of the sun, Credit: NASA
Presenter: Roland Pease
Producer: Julian Siddle
access_time1 month ago
Investigations beneath our deep oceans have revealed an immense variety of incredibly hardy microbial life. Investigators even found life after drilling 2.5 km into the rock beneath the oceans. They found microbes that can resist immense pressure and incredible temperatures. They say it’s plausible that life itself could have developed under such conditions.

Comparisons between central and southern Africans, the latter with lighter skins, show that Eurasian genes with an impact on skin colour were introduced into the Southern African population as recently as 2000 years ago. Researchers say the connection is not a direct one, and such genes probably arrived in Africa via the Middle East many years earlier.

Working on ways to improve rice, scientists have used a gene editing technique to encourage asexual reproduction. The idea is to ensure beneficial traits such as drought resistance and high yields are passed down through generations of seeds. This research is a proof of principle, but with the potential to change the nature of the world’s cereal crops.

And how do we assess ancient levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide to compare with today? One method is to look at plant fossils, in particular the size and shape of leaf pores used to exchange gasses.

Loving someone who doesn’t love you in return makes us feel wretched – can science explain why we must suffer? Parental love makes perfect evolutionary sense but romance just seems to have it in for us time after time. CrowdScience listener Leja wants to know why we fall in and out of love.

Crowd Science discovers the irrational things, the impulsive things and the financially ruinous things BBC World Service listeners have done in the name of love and meet the rapper who turned herself into a science subject in an effort to flush out thoughts of her ex-boyfriend.

We delve into our ancestral past and into our brains to find out why romantic love is so central to the human experience.
access_time1 month ago
The latest climate talks have heard that emissions this year and last have increased - they fell in the 3 years previously.
Development of electric vehicles and energy generation with renewable technologies have helped reduce emissions, but it’s not enough according to the latest analysis. The growth of conventional energy generation using fossil fuels has dwarfed reduction from using cleaner technologies.

Ammonia pollution is a serious issue for health globally. New satellite observations are able to pinpoint sources from factories to chicken farms worldwide.

Changes in laws in the Amazon designed to make the conservation of forests in private hands easier could have the opposite effect. In a strange statistical quirk, if a state is successful in its conservation efforts more private forestry could be made available for development.

And the maths of Democracy, can analytical systems developed to help understand stem cell growth or the behaviour of social insects be used to help understand the function and dysfunction of political systems?
Researchers suggest such analysis could even be used to predict a change in political direction, in the run up to elections for example.

From cradle to grave, CrowdScience examines the complex web of factors that are involved in how men and women age differently. It seems that, right from the word go, male embryos are already in the firing line because of their genetics. Marnie hears how women’s genetics are configured so that they have a backup copy of some of their genes, whereas men only have one copy. Not only does this makes less male embryos less resilient (and therefore more likely to miscarry), men are also at risk of a set of genetic diseases later in life like haemophilia.

In Russia, the gap is nearly 13 years (the highest in the world) and it’s thought that a culture of heavy drinking and smoking is why women outlive men by more than a decade.
which got Marnie thinking - could men change their destiny and outlive women?
access_time2 months ago
A researcher in China claims to have modified the genes of two baby girls. His announcement at a genetics conference in Hong Kong caused outrage. Experts in the field were quick to point out the dangers of the technique he had used and questioned the ethics of doing such an experiment.

Scientists in Cambridge have successfully grown human placental tissue. This is not for transplant into humans, but to provide a model to help understand problems in early pregnancy which can affect both mother and baby.

Mercury in the Arctic is a toxic problem for people and wildlife. It’s not produced there, but comes from industrial processes around the world. Scientists have discovered about half the mercury transported to the Arctic each year comes from Russian rivers after it is released from melting permafrost.

Removing carbon dioxide from our atmosphere - and stopping it getting up there in the first place - is becoming increasingly urgent if we want to prevent catastrophic climate change. There are some seriously high tech machines being developed to try and tackle this problem, but could an equally powerful solution be found in the dirt under our feet? Prompted by New Zealand farmer and CrowdScience listener Kem, we dig deep to see how effectively plants and soils soak up CO2 from the air; and what that means for how we should farm the land around the world. And we visit a Scottish forest to find out how the ancient art of making charcoal is staging a comeback in the fight against climate change.

(Image: He Jiankui. Credit: Getty images)
access_time2 months ago
The 1960s concept of ‘Ionic Wind’ has been successfully put to the test in a new kind of electric airplane. The plane has no motors and uses the exchange of ions in the air to propel itself. Larger versions could carry goods and passengers and would produce far less pollution than conventional aircraft.

The death of the kilogram. The ancient lumps of metal that provided the standard measures. have been replaced with a mathematical formula that should not deteriorate over time.

Whale music, how Humpbacks learn new tunes.

How ancient teeth helped track the development of dairy farming. From the Vikings to the Mongols, the plaque on Bronze Age teeth reveals a milk based diet.

Crowdscience investigates why perfume makes listener Annabel so queasy, Anand Jagatia gets a whiff of the world’s stinkiest flower - and finds some people enjoy it – then asks what’s happening in the brain when we love or hate a scent. But could our different perceptions about this under-appreciated sense actually come down to a lack of words to describe it? He hears about one culture which has developed its own language for smell.

(Image: The futuristic electric aircraft with no motors powered by ‘Ionic Wind’. Credit: Steven Barrett - MIT)
access_time2 months ago
In the US mid-term elections, the Democrats gained a majority in the lower house, this means they take control of key committees – including the House Science Committee. Over recent years this once bipartisan committee has been used by Republicans to push a climate change denying agenda.

Now the democrats will regain control and the chair elect says she will be reinforcing that climate change is real and doing more to encourage participation in science at a grassroots level particularly with minorities who are currently under represented.

We ask what this and other changes to science administration mean for the future of science under Donald Trump’s presidency. Environmental policies and his generally anti science attitude are likely to come under greater scrutiny. We’ll also look at the California fires, which seem to be increasing in frequency, is this due to climate change or other human intervention or changes in natural processes?

Communicating quickly, accurately and, ideally, in a way that's well-received is no easy feat, wherever you live in the world. For this week's listener, who lives and works in several different countries as a member of the armed forces, good communication can be a matter of life or death. And this doesn’t just affect military life – anyone who flies on aeroplanes may be interested to hear how clear use of language is crucial for airline safety.

But what do we mean by an efficient language – it is the fastest and most accurate speech, or most widely understood in multiple countries? Crowd Science attempts to apply science and evidence to the art of speech, in a quest to discover what language is the most efficient on Earth.

(Picture: Donald Trump. Credit: Getty images)
access_time2 months ago
The junk and geology of the Anthropocene, how mankind’s influence of the planet is now producing more erosion than natural forces, and how the materials we’ve used for mining and building in the past provides a snapshot of our geological influence of the planet.

Finland’s Water shortage: Even in places where water is seemingly plentiful there can be issues, particularly caused by growing populations. In Finland to try balance the needs of rural and urban communities, authorities have introduced an online publicly accessible system of monitoring underwater aquifers, so everyone can see in real time how much water is being used and by whom.

What do rats forget? And how will that help with conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder? Researchers have discovered striking similarities between the way rats and human forget things.

From IVF to premature babies we’re exploring what science we’d need to make a baby outside the body in a pursuit to answer a question from Nigerian listener, Aminu asking: Can we make an artificial womb?

CrowdScience gets very close to a uterus transplant operation, peers at the earliest cells of a placenta, and sees a disembodied womb being kept alive in a box full of artificial blood. Finding the road blocks in the way of the she asks how close current reproductive medicine brings us to gestating babies in a lab.

(Picture: Human impact on the environment now causes more erosion than natural processes. Credit: Getty images)
access_time3 months ago
An impact with galaxy Enceladus, around 10 billion years ago filled, our home galaxy, the Milky Way’s inner surrounding halo with stars and made the galactic disk much thicker, and starrier than it ought to be.

Carbon tetrachloride is one of several man-made gases that contribute to the depletion of the ozone layer high in the atmosphere. Because of this, restrictions were introduced on the use of this gas under the Montreal Protocol. Concentrations of the gas in the atmosphere should be going down at a rapid rate. But it’s not, and a team of atmospheric scientists have been sniffing around to work out where the new sources of carbon tetrachloride are coming from and it’s China.

Every year, the influenza viruses spreading around the world are monitored to work out which strains are most prevalent and potent and it’s these that flu vaccines are created to combat. But what if there was a universal flu vaccine that worked against all influenza strains? Well, this is what’s being worked on right now and it involves llama antibodies.

How should we tackle the biggest clean-up job in history? Listener Michelle from Ireland sends CrowdScience to investigate what to do with years’ worth of spent nuclear fuel. Most of the highly toxic waste is a by-product from nuclear power production and the stockpiles across the World continue to grow. “Could we blast it into the sun? Dilute it across the continent? Or should we burry it?” Michelle asks.

We travel deep into the Finnish bedrock to visit what could be its final resting place and speak to the scientists who are securing the facility many ice-ages into the future. The nastiest stuff in the waste soup needs to stay put for thousands of years before it becomes safe. No man-made structure has ever before lasted so long. The Finnish solution is not easy to replicate in other countries as communities oppose nuclear waste being permanently buried in their backyard.

Picture: Nasa Hubble Space Telescope image of the Antennae galaxies, Credit: Stocktrek Images/Getty
access_time8 months ago
This week an auction of a 70% complete dinosaur skeleton took place in Paris. The Therapod species, dating from the late Jurassic period about 155m years ago is scientifically very interesting. It’s an unknown predator which, argues the Society of Vertebrate Palaeontologists, is why it should not be owned by the highest bidder, but made available to palaeontologists for more scientific study. Roland Pease reports.

Cancer Test

If a doctor suspects cancer is behind a patient’s symptoms, blood tests and scans can help to detect tumours. Tiny bits of tissue can also be extracted in biopsies to see how advanced the disease is. Detecting cancer early offers a better chance of a cure. So news of a potential blood test to detect ten different types has been welcomed this week. Claudia Hammond spoke to Jacqui Shaw, Professor of Translational Cancer Genetics at Leicester University in the UK.

Atlantic Hurricanes

The 1st of June marks the start of the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season. Leading climate scientists debate whether we will see fewer or more tropical cyclones in the Atlantic as a consequence of anthropogenic climate change. There is a mounting consensus, however, that we will see more intense hurricanes. So do we need to add a more severe Category 6 to the Saffir-Simpson hurricane intensity scale? Roland Pease put this to climate scientist Michael Mann from Penn State University.

Cancer Immunotherapy Treatment

Immunotherapies for cancer have been in the news in the last week. Adam Rutherford talks to cancer researchers Sophie Papa of Kings College, London and Samra Turaljik of the Royal Marsden Hospital about the principles behind immunotherapy about the different approaches in the clinic and under clinical trials.

Kenya Food App

Getting access to loans in Kenya for small retailers can be tricky, but now cryptocurrency could solve this problem. Twiga Foods already provides marketplaces via an online platform for farmers and urban retailers. Now it is branching out to provide micro-loans secured via blockchain technology. CEO of Twiga Grant Brooke explains more to Gareth Mitchell.

The Science Of Disgust

Encouraging people to be healthier can involve gentle persuasion or giving some kind of incentive. Harnessing the most visceral of emotions – disgust – might not seem an obvious approach. Professor Val Curtis from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine has carried out an online survey in order to categorise the commonest types of disgust in order to harness its effects to fight against the spread of disease. She spoke to Claudia Hammond.

The Science Hour was presented by Marnie Chesterton with comments from Kerri Smith, Nature features editor.

Producer: Katy Takatsuki

(Image caption: A skeleton of an undeterminate carnivorous dinosaur on display at the first floor of the Eiffel Tower in Paris which went on auction © AFP / Getty Images)
access_time8 months ago
When the New Horizons space probe flew past Pluto three years ago, it revealed an expectedly exotic little world. The latest revelation from the data is that dunes creep across its surface. But as John Spencer of the South West Research Institute explains, these dunes are not made of sand grain, but tiny particles of frozen methane. Then again, it is minus 240 degrees Celsius on Pluto.

Plenty, a Silicon Valley company plans to revolutionize farming by bringing it indoors and dramatically reducing water use. It has ambitious plans to replicate its warehouse farms in Japan, China and across Europe. Alison van Diggelen explores: the veracity of its technology; its environmental claims; its use of AI and automation; and how it plans to disrupt the agricultural industry.

India is tackling an outbreak of the deadly Nipah virus. It has claimed at least 13 lives so far in the southern state, Kerala. The WHO has Nipah on its list as one of eight diseases that could cause a global epidemic.

40% of adults report that they have trouble falling asleep at least a couple of times a month. Common worries about the day’s events and what lies ahead can result in restlessness and low sleep quality. A new study shows that writing a to-do list before bed may help you to nod off faster

A 10 kilometre wide asteroid wiped out 75% of life (including the dinosaurs) 66 million years ago. So it’s been a shock to discover this week that life rapidly returned, flourished and diversified at very place where the asteroid crashed into the Earth. Sean Gulick and Chris Lowery of the University of Texas in Austin talks about their discoveries and how they relate to today’s mass extinction crisis.

Is Fasting Healthy? Marnie Chestherton cuts down on cookies and investigates the science behind low-calorie or time-restricted eating. She hears how some cells regenerate when we're deprived of food, which one researcher says could reduce breast cancer rates.

The coldest place in the universe will be created shortly on the International Space Station. This will be in a box called the Cold Atom Lab installed on the station earlier this week. Lasers and magnets will cool a strange cloud of atoms to within a few fractions of a billionth of a degree above absolute zero. The Lab’s creator is physicist Rob Thompson of Nasa’s JPL in Pasadena.

Picture: Image of Pluto taken by the New Horizons space probe.

Credit: Credit the picture (note, don't capitalise names)
access_time8 months ago
Increased CO2 and Rice Nutrition

New research suggests that rice will be depleted in important B vitamins and minerals by rising CO2 levels in the atmosphere. Adam Rutherford to talks to Kristie Ebi of the University of Washington, one of the scientists behind the finding, and Marco Springmann of the Future of Food project at the University of Oxford.


Legislation to greater protect individuals’ data in the EU has come into force. What does it mean, and will there be unexpected consequences for the use of metadata? Gareth Mitchell talks to Claire Bury from the EU commission and Luukas Ilves, Deputy Director at The Lisbon Council.

Polio Vaccination

As vaccinations start in the Democratic Republic of Congo to try to contain the ebola outbreak, scientists in the United States have published research which they hope will help to simplify immunisations against diseases like polio. Eradication is tricky because the vaccine needs to be given in multiple doses. However, researchers at MIT say they have successfully vaccinated animals with just one injection. Claudia Hammond speaks to researcher Ana Jaklenec.

Feel Good Garden

Claudia Hammond visits the RHS Feel Good Garden at the Chelsea Flower Show. The garden is part of the 70th birthday celebrations for the NHS and was proposed by occupational therapist Andrew Kingston and designed by Matt Keightley to highlight the benefits of gardening for mental health.

African Bee Parasites

The presence of queen bees in a hive prevents them from being taking over by ‘parasite’ bees, a new study has found. Fiona Mumoki of the University of Pretoria explains to Roland Pease how the parasitic bees take over queenless hives, eventually causing hive collapse, and how the presence of a queen can enable hive fight back against the parasites.

Drone Dog Rescue

An engineer in India repurposed a drone to rescue a puppy that had fallen into a gully in New Delhi. Milind Raj constructed a giant claw that was attached to the drone. Raj says it took him six hours to assemble the improvised aerial vehicle. He says he attached an Artificial Intelligence-controlled robotic arm and giant drone together in his Lucknow lab which was then used to rescue the dog.

Picture: A man holds a handful of rice grains at a market on July 17, 2008 in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The Science Hour was presented by Gareth Mitchell with comments from BBC science reporter Helen Briggs.

Producer: Katy Takatsuki
access_time8 months ago
Threat to conservation

A third of protected nature reserves around the world are under threat from intense human activities like road building, grazing of animals and urbanization, according to a new study. Professor James Watson from the World Conservation Society explains to Roland Pease how only 10% of lands were completely free of human activity.

Drones reforesting Myanmar

Irina Fedorenko, Co-Founder of BioCarbon Engineering in Oxford, has been using drone technology to reforest the coastal areas of Myanmar. She tells Gareth Mitchell how they can restore natural ecosystems in a fraction of the time it takes traditional methods.

Bitcoin energy

Alex de Vries from accountancy group PwC explains how Bitcoin works, and how there is a limit to Bitcoin production. He speaks to Roland Pease about how his calculations suggest that Bitcoin electricity usage will soon be almost the same as the consumption of Ireland.

Ebola outbreak in DR Congo

The Ebola outbreak in DR Congo has spread from the countryside into a city, prompting fears that the disease will be increasingly hard to control. Health Minister Oly Ilunga Kalenga confirmed a case in Mbandaka, a city of a million about 130km (80 miles) from where the first cases were confirmed. Earlier this week, Claudia Hammond spoke to Helen Branswell from the US health website STAT about the action needed to prevent the spread of the disease.

Alzheimer's disease

We hear about efforts in Italy to help diagnose dementia earlier using computer algorithms to rapidly analyse thousands of brain scans for markers of the disease before symptoms become apparent. Agnese Abrusci reports from Bari in Italy.

Evolution of music

How have the trends in music changed over recent years? Natalia Komarova has tapped into databases online to discover what characteristics make a song ‘successful’. Her study, which uses machine learning to try to predict the success of songs, shows that the ‘happiness’ of songs is slowly declining, while the ‘danceability’ has increased. Roland Pease spoke to Dr Natalia Komarova from the University of California, Irvine.

Picture: Madidi National Park, Bolivia. Credit: Rob Wallace

The Science Hour was presented by Marnie Chesterton with comments from BBC Science reporter Katie Silver.

Producer: Katy Takatsuki
access_time9 months ago
On the remote island of South Georgia, Antarctica, the invasion of rats from passing ships has wreaked havoc on the local wildlife. But the South Georgia Heritage Trust announced this week that all rats have been eradicated, thanks to an extensive project. Adam Rutherford speaks to chairman Professor Mike Richardson about the achievement and how wildlife is already healing.

Amphibian Deadly Fungus

According to new research a deadly fungus which has infected more than 700 species of amphibians originated from the Korean Peninsula. The data provides a more complete picture of how the fungus spread from region to region, and emphasises that human trade of amphibian species over the past 100 years has accelerated the spread of the disease. Simon O’Hanlon, from Imperial College London’s Department of Infectious Disease Epidemiology, explains more to Roland Pease.

The Health Risks of Burning Waste in Lebanon

Since the closure of a landfill site near Beirut, residents have started to burn rubbish which was building up on the streets. The Mount Lebanon region saw a 500% rise of cases of open burning. Respiratory doctors say the toxic fumes from the fires can put people’s health at risk, as Hugo Goodridge reports.

The Smear Test

The smear test – or pap smear – is carried out to detect any changes in cells which might later on lead to cervical cancer. But for some women the test itself puts them off going – as it can be uncomfortable and embarrassing. In the UK the number of women going for screening is at its lowest rate for 19 years and for 30 in the US. The design of the vaginal speculum used today dates back to the Ancient Greeks – so could it do with a re-design, to make it more patient-friendly? Claudia Hammond talks to Kate Sanger from Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust and mechanical engineer, Fran Wong, from Frog Design in California.

The Rise of the Dinosaurs

We all know how dinosaurs became extinct, but how did they rise to prominence? Dr Steve Brusatte talks to Adam Rutherford about what the origins of dinosaurs and how they came to dominate the earth.

Time in a Sauna Linked to Lower Stroke Risk

For Finnish people there is nothing more relaxing than sitting inside a hot sauna. And now a new study suggests that taking frequent saunas could reduce the risk of having a stroke. The researchers believe that the intense heat helps to reduce blood pressure, cutting the risk. Claudia Hammond speaks to Dr Setor Kunutsor from the University of Bristol’s Musculoskeletal Research Unit.

(Photo credit: A member of Team Rat filling a baiting bucket in South Georgia – credit: Oliver Prince/PA Wire)

The Science Hour was presented by Claudia Hammond with comments from freelance writer and columnist for BBC Future, David Robson

Producer: Katy Takatsuki
access_time9 months ago
The Thwaites Glacier in Western Antarctica is twice the size of the UK and accounts for about 4% of sea level rise, but what is unknown is whether the glacier will collapse as a result of environmental change. Adam Rutherford speaks to two scientists from a major new study which will be investigating what goes on under the glacier.

The ‘Greatest Glasshouse’ in the World

The Temperate House, the extensive Victorian glasshouse nestled within London’s Kew Gardens, will once again be open to the public after five years of refurbishments. The building is home to 10,000 plants, across 1,500 species, and many of them are classified as rare and endangered. Roland Pease takes a tour.

Untranslatable Words

There is a decades-old debate in psychology about which comes first - language or thought? It raises questions about the words used to describe emotional experiences and the many emotional words which are particular to certain languages. Claudia Hammond talks to Dr Tim Lomas, a lecturer in positive psychology from the University of East London, who has been collecting these kinds of words for an online lexicon.

VR Innovations at Tribeca Film Festival

Gareth Mitchell takes part in a virtual experience where he becomes Michael Sterling, a black man who encounters racism all the way from his school days through to his career as a bright young graduate.

Dead Zone in the Arabian Sea

Piracy and geopolitical tensions have made it difficult to monitor the Arabian Sea, leading to data becoming outdated and incorrect. While searching the area using underwater robots Dr Bastien Queste and his team have discovered that a large area now lacks oxygen, impacting on ecosystems and fishing in the region. He speaks to Roland Pease.

Fighting Diarrhoea with a Vaccine

Residents of Finland are being offered a cut-price holiday in Benin – but there is a catch. They have to provide stool samples for scientists testing a vaccine against one of the common causes of diarrhoea which can kill children. Half of the holidaymakers will be given the vaccine to see if it helps to protect them against the bacteria. Mandeep Rai reports.

(Picture caption: Aerial view of Thwaites Glacier – credit: U.S. National Science Foundation/U.S. Antarctic Program/PA Wire)

The Science Hour was presented by Gareth Mitchell with comments from Dr Jon Copley, Associate Professor of Ocean Exploration at the University of Southampton

Producer: Katy Takatsuki
access_time9 months ago
New research suggests that an experiment in geothermal energy may be linked to an earthquake that hit the town of Pohang in South Korea last year. The usually geologically stable country also experienced another quake the year before. Roland Pease speaks to The University of Glasgow’s Rob Westaway is a hydraulics engineer who was involved in the geothermal operations and is now part of the team who have been looking to see if that was connected to the unexpected seismicity.

Improving the Take-Up of Vaccinations

This week is World Immunization Week – designed to concentrate efforts to improve the take-up of vaccinations. Claudia Hammond talks to Gretchen Chapman who is Professor of Social and Decision Science at Carnegie Mellon University in the US. She explains how simple things, like reminders, are the best way to boost vaccination numbers.

Shrimp Power Waves

Could tiny little brine shrimps and their crustacean cousins actually change the currents in the seas? Roland Pease has been to the beach to find out more. Joining him was Isabel Houghton, who did the experiments, and krill enthusiast Angus Atkinson.

One More Spore Could Kill Europe’s Ash trees

New genetic analysis of the pathogen than causes Ash dieback shows that just one more deadly spore entering Europe from Asia could wipe out European ash trees altogether. The data shows that the current disease – which has killed 95% of the continents ash – could have been caused by just one or two tiny mushroom like fruiting bodies imported from Asia. We hear from the Natural History Museum’s Matthew Clark.

Surgeon Performance Benefits From ‘Warm-Up’

New research from the UK shows that skilled surgeons speed up after the first operation of the day - especially if they repeat the same procedure on the next patient. Claudia Hammond spoke to Dr Faisal Mushtaq, a cognitive neuroscientist from the University of Leeds and Tom Pike, a surgeon at the Northern General Hospital in Sheffield. They looked at the data and now want to create a warm-up routine for surgeons.

The VR Documentary That Explores Grief

Lisa Elin and Aaron Bradbury discuss how their VR documentary “Vestige” tells the story of Lisa’s grief.

A New Citizen Science Project for Dog Lovers

When a puppy is born, we often ask what breed it is – especially if it is a mongrel. And when we think we know what it is, we make assumptions about how that dog will behave. But do our perceptions of the dog's breed change the way it behaves? That is the question of a new citizen science project called MuttMix which asks you to guess the ancestry of various mongrels. Adam Rutherford spoke to Elinor Karlson from the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

The Science Hour was presented by Roland Pease with comments from medical reporter at New Scientist, Clare Wilson

(Photo: The geothermal drilling site near Pohang in South Korea - credit: Rob Westaway)

Producer: Katy Takatsuki
access_time9 months ago
Two years ago Japanese scientists discovered a type of bacteria which has evolved to feed on PET plastic - the material from which fizzy drink bottles are made. It was isolated at a local recycling centre. An international team has now characterised the structure of the plastic-degrading enzyme and accidentally improved its efficiency. Adam Rutherford spoke to Professor John McGeehan of the University of Portmouth who led the team and talks about where the discovery may lead.

Bill Gates Pledges Billions to Fight Malaria

The Microsoft founder and philanthropist, Bill Gates, has announced new funding from his foundation and other donors to try to halve the number of deaths from malaria. Mr Gates said that the money would be used to improve the bed-nets that help to combat the spread of the disease and to provide digital tools to enable much better targeting of where the nets are needed. He spoke to BBC’s John Humphrys.

The Bajou Diving People

The Bajou people can dive for several minutes at a time, hunting for food for their families. Now scientists’ writing in the journal Cell, have found that they can do this because their spleen is approximately 50% larger than in non-divers. This adaptation allows the divers to release more oxygen carrying red blood cells from the spleen when under water. Roland Pease spoke to the first author Melissa Ilardo who was inspired to look into the basis of their skills having witnessed the Bajau at work.

Beds from Mattresses

Roland Pease visits the greenhouses at the University of Sheffield in the UK, where PhD student Harry Wright and Professor of Physical Chemistry, Tony Ryan are turning old mattresses into bedding material for plants – they are also testing them in a Jordanian refugee camp.

Bringing Schrodinger's Cat to Life

Schrodinger's cat is the one that is famously alive and dead. At the same time. Impossible! Roland Pease meets the quantum scientists hoping to bring one to life in the laboratory. Not a real cat, to be fair. But large biomolecules, viruses, even bacteria, that can exhibit the quantum duality parodied in the paradox first described by one of the fathers of quantum physics. Because if they succeed, they may learn something about the interface between the quantum world, and the human world we live in.

The Double Helix

Fifty years after its 1968 publication, Adam Rutherford speaks to biologist and historian Matthew Cobb and science writer Angela Saini to discuss the place of James Watson's compelling and controversial memoir in the annals of popular science writing. His account of the discovery of the DNA's structure was unlike any science book that had come before. Does it stand the test of time and what of its blatantly sexist treatment of the gifted X-ray crystallographer Rosalind Franklin? Her work was crucial to Crick and Watson's 1953 model of the DNA molecule.

(Picture caption: Labourer sorting out plastic bottles for recycling © Fred Dufour/AFP/Getty Images)

The Science Hour was presented by Roland Pease with comments from science journalist and editor at the Economist Jason Palmer

Producer: Adrian Washbourne
access_time9 months ago
NASA’s latest exoplanet hunting mission is due to launch this week. It will look for Earth-like planets closer to home than the previous Kepler exoplanet mission. By looking at stars hundreds of light years away, rather than thousands, scientists will be able to use ground based telescopes to learn more about rocky planets. Roland Pease talks to Professor Sara Seager from MIT who is the Deputy Science Director on the TESS Mission.

Brain Surgery While Wide Awake

We hear extraordinary story vet Adam Tjolle who found out he had a brain tumour, following a scan when he had a cycling accident. The low-grade glioma – nicknamed his second brain – grew inside his head, very slowly, for ten or even twenty years. Adam is a friend of presenter Claudia Hammond and together they decided to keep a record of his journey – before and after his life changing surgery.

Internet Health Report 2018

Mozilla’s annual Internet Health Report is a detailed overview, reflecting its volunteers’ research into internet shutdowns, net neutrality, corporate dominance and online misinformation. Gareth Mitchell talks to the author of the report, Solana Larsen.

Tasmanian Devils at Greater Risk of Cancer

Scientists writing in the journal Cancer Cell say they have identified the sources of two transmissible cancers that are killing Tasmanian devils, and threatening the survival of the species. It appears the cancers originated in two different animals – one male and one female. The team is now looking to see if new human cancer treatments will work in the Tasmanian devil population, as Elizabeth Murchison from the University of Cambridge explained to Roland Pease.

More on Brain Surgery While Wide Awake

Claudia Hammond speaks to her friend Adam Tjolle after his life changing brain surgery.

Raising Eyebrows

Our ancestors bore a very prominent brow ridge, which scientists think was a symbol of dominance. Modern humans, however, have lost this ridge in favour of a flatter forehead - but why? Adam Rutherford asks Dr Penny Spikins from the Department of Archaeology at the University of York.

(Image caption: Nasa’s TESS, shown here in a conceptual illustration, will identify exoplanets orbiting the brightest stars just outside our solar system – credit Nasa’s Goddard Space Flight Center)

The Science Hour was presented by Claudia Hammond with comments from BBC Science reporter Bobbie Lakhera

Producer: Katy Takatsuki
access_time10 months ago
How are scientists looking for the trail of the novichok nerve agent used in the Salisbury attacks? Roland Pease speaks to Steven Drielak a “hotzone” forensics expert, who explains the techniques he would use when investigating environmental chemical crimes.

Formula 1 Innovations

Formula 1, the epitome of a glamour sport, is driven by technology, design and innovation where the slightest variation can make the difference between a championship winning car and not. But away from the track, F1 teams have been investing money, time and skill into ideas that could benefit from their expertise. Jack Meegan reports.

Whalesong Under the Ice

Beneath the Arctic sea ice, in the blanket of January's polar night, bowhead whales most prefer to sing. While the songs of humpback whales have long received the most attention, it turns out that their baleen cousins could have a far greater repertoire. A study of a bowhead population near Svalbard has shown that their musical calls may be as varied as those of songbirds. This would make them unique among whale populations, and possibly even mammals.

Bees, Forests and Paternity Tests

Bees drop pollen during flight and that pollen sometimes lands on trees and their fruit. Professor Shalene Jha follows this pollen trail to discover bees’ travel patterns. Using genetic and genomic techniques, she is able to establish the fruit’s ‘father’ and therefore discover where a bee has travelled. Roland Pease hears more.

Genetic Testing for Inherited Forms of Cancer

Genetic testing for inherited forms of cancer was pioneered in the UK by Professor Sir John Burn. He tells Professor Jim Al-Khalili how he helped to put the north eastern city of Newcastle-upon-Tyne on the research map – after becoming one of the first British doctors to champion the study of genes in medicine back in the 1980s.

A Holocaust Survivor’s Digital Doppelgänger

Eva Schloss’s story of surviving the Holocaust has now been preserved through an interactive exhibition. Schloss recounted the facts of her survival to over a hundred video cameras, which photographed her from all angles, and logged her patient answers. The recordings were used to develop an artificial Eva Schloss, housed inside a screen. Lauren Hutchinson’s report includes an interview with Eva Schloss.

(Photo caption: Police officers in protective suits and masks collect samples near the scene where former double-agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia were discovered after being attacked with a nerve-agent - credit: Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

The Science Hour was presented by Roland Pease with comments from BBC Science Correspondent Jonathan Amos

Producer: Adrian Washbourne

Editor: Deborah Cohen
access_time10 months ago
Having flu or pneumonia increases the risk of having a heart attack or stroke for a few days or weeks after the infection according to a new study. For many years doctors have noticed a connection. But new research has now linked specific microbes to the heart attacks and strokes – using data from Scottish hospitals. Claudia Hammond spoke to Dr Charlotte Warren-Gash, Associate Professor of Epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

Nerve Agents

The nerve agent that has made a Russian ex-spy and his daughter seriously ill in the English town of Salisbury has been traced to the front door of their home. That came to light earlier this week in the continuing investigation into the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia. But what do we now know about the deadly nerve agent – novichok - and others like it? Hamish Bretton-Gordon a former commander of the UK Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Regiment tells Roland Pease when deadly chemical weapons of mass destruction first appeared.

3D Printed Prosthetic Limbs

3D printed prosthetic limbs are helping a Jordanian hospital treat Syrian war refugees. Gareth Mitchell talks to Safa Herfat from MSF about replicating the project elsewhere.

Why Bear Cubs Are Spending Longer With Their Mothers

Brown bear cubs living in the forests of Sweden are spending longer with their mothers. Baby bears stay by their mother's side until they are aged two-and-a-half - an extra year compared with a few decades ago, according to a study. Adam Rutherford spoke to Joanie Van de Walle of the Université de Sherbrooke in Quebec, Canada and Andreas Zedrosser from the University of Southeast Norway. They were part of the team that has been watching these bears for more than thirty years.

Chronic Pain

Doctors are using a new form of spinal cord stimulation or neuromodulation to help patients with chronic back pain. Every year 1 in 10 adults is diagnosed with chronic pain which is pain that lasts for longer than three months. A small electrical field is delivered to the spine via a wire - to modify the pain signals the body sends to the brain. Now doctors in London have altered the frequency of the electrical impulses to try and reduce any side effects. Bobbie Lakhera went to see an operation in action.

The Future of Food

Increasing urbanisation and changing diets mean that we’re going to have to get more adventurous in our dining habits. Either that or food production needs to jump some 60 percent by 2050 to stop us all going hungry. That’s why a restaurant in London is trying to make one food source more palatable. It is offering diners jellyfish, and as Marnie Chesterton reports, one way they will persuade you is by immersing you in a multi-sensory experience.

Circadian Light

When working or studying, some people resort to a strong cup of coffee to perk themselves up. But new research suggests better lighting might also help. Scientists monitored what happened to staff when they improved the lighting in gloomy US Embassy offices in Iceland and Latvia – where there is little daylight during the winter months. They found that people felt perkier with more powerful, blue-white lights. Claudia Hammond spoke to Dr Mariana Figueiro of the Lighting Research Center (LRC) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York State.

(Photo caption: Man having chest pain – credit: Getty Images)

The Science Hour was presented by Gareth Mitchell with comments from BBC Health and Science reporter Helen Briggs

Producer: Katy Takatsuki
access_time10 months ago
The number of young people who smoke is on the rise in sub-Saharan Africa while rate of take-up of the habit by youth is falling in Europe and North America. Africa's tobacco trend was a key issue of concern for experts at the recent World Conference on Tobacco or Health in Cape Town. Doctors dread the consequences for Africa's young smokers as lung disease caused by tobacco will be exacerbated by the region's high HIV and TB rates. One describes the situation as 'a perfect storm'. Hannah McNeish reports from Cape Town.

Data Scraping

The story of how Cambridge Analytica had scraped Facebook data in its attempt to influence voting behaviour has been reported widely this week. Andrew Steele, a medical researcher at the Crick Institute in London, explains how data mining or scraping actually works and how it is used by many scientists to find ways of improving human health.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

After three months collecting 3 million bits of rubbish from an area in the ocean the size of Iran, researchers now estimate there are 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic floating around what is known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The patch lies between California and Hawaii. The next step: cleaning it with a 600 metre floating boom, starting this summer. Roland Pease speaks to chief scientist Laurent Lebreton.

Saving the Northern White Rhino

Genetic treatments could help save the northern white rhino. Only two females remain in the world following the death of the last male this week. Jan Stejskal, director of international projects at Dvr Králové Zoo in the Czech Republic, which technically owns the three rhinos, arrived in the Ol Pejeta reserve in Kenya early this week, as the keepers prepared to take precious tissue and semen samples from Sudan before euthanising him, to be used in future attempts at artificial fertilisation. He spoke to Roland Pease about how scientists want to use IVF and stem cell techniques to try to conserve the subspecies.

Mobile Clinic

From Kenya to South Africa - and to one of the country's poorest regions - rural Kwazulu Natal - where scientists are about to launch one of the most ambitious medical research projects ever in sub Saharan Africa. Rates of both HIV/AIDS and Tuberculosis are extremely high here - about 30% of the population is HIV positive and TB is the cause of 30% of all deaths. So from May staff from the Africa Health Research Institute will be taking mobile clinics around the region with the aim of screening 50,000 people. Claudia Hammond spoke to the Institute's Director Deenan Pillay.

Drone Technology

The latest drone hardware has been unveiled at an aviation show in Belgrade. The technology is designed to fly for 24 hours and can be used for surveillance or communications uses. Before the unveiling, Gareth Mitchell managed to get a sneak preview of some of the machines from Petar Matunovic and Milos Matejic of the company CTT, which stands for Composite Technology Team.

And finally….following a question from a listener, we find out whether anything in the universe stands still. Professor Steve Biller, a physicist at Oxford University says it’s all relative. Or rather, it’s all about relativity. He explained to Marnie Chesterton how, if you can travel as fast as the speed of light, everything stands still.

The Science Hour was presented by Marnie Chesterton with comments from Claire Ainsworth.

Producer: Katy Takatsuki

(Photo: An African boy smoking a cigarette. Credit: Chris Hondros Getty Images)
access_time10 months ago
The physicist Stephen Hawking died earlier this week. His fame was founded on the research he did on general relativity and black holes, and he was known not only for being one of the finest ever scientists, but finest ever communicators of science. Being a theoretical physicist, Hawking thought in abstraction and mathematics. Roland Pease speaks to fellow cosmologist Sean Carroll and science writer Stuart Clarke, as they try to decode some of his mathematical language.

Microplastic particles

Microscopic plastic beads, fragments and fibres are littering riverbeds across the UK - from rural streams to urban waterways. This is according to a study that analysed sediments from rivers in north-west England. Scientists from the University of Manchester tested river sediments at 40 sites throughout Greater Manchester and found "microplastics everywhere". There is evidence that such small particles can enter the food chain. BBC Science Correspondent Victoria Gill reports.

Facebook algorithms

Facebook's collection of data makes it one of the most influential organisations in the world. Share Lab, a project from the Belgrade based Share Foundation, wants to look "under the bonnet" at the tech giant's algorithms and connections, to better understand the social structure and power relations within the company. Gareth Mitchell talks to Vladan Joler from the organisation.

John B. Goodenough

When you next plug in your laptop, hearing aid or mobile phone to charge, spare a thought for Professor John B. Goodenough. He is widely credited with the identification and development of the Lithium-ion rechargeable battery. At 95, he's still full of energy and ideas. Roland Pease tried to keep up with him when he visited his labs recently. He went to find out what John has in store for the next generation of energy storage.

AI Podcast

Sheldon County is the latest step in a life-long quest to build computers that generate fictional worlds. It's a podcast that will never sound the same twice. Every time someone listens to it, they'll begin by typing a random number into a website. This "seed" will set in motion a Rube Goldberg machine of calculation that will create characters, relationships, jealousies, betrayals, and maybe even a murder or two. Gareth Mitchell speaks to programmer James Ryan at University of California, Santa Cruz.

Stephen Hawking's legacy

In a final goodbye to Stephen Hawking, we look at his legacy. He was foremost a research scientist studying the likes of black holes, the Big Bang, singularities, and eventually quantum physics. Adam Rutherford speaks to fellow cosmologist Sheila Rowan - a key player in the ongoing LIGO experiments studying gravitational waves - about where we are with these concepts today.

The Science Hour was presented by Gareth Mitchell with comments from Jon Copley, Associate Professor of Ocean Exploration at the University of Southampton.

Producer: Katy Takatsuki

Picture: Stephen Hawking celebrates his 60th birthday, January 2002. Photo by Sion Touhig / Getty Images.
access_time11 months ago
New research predicts how climate change might impact on fish stocks around the world by 2300 – and the impact could be serious. Phytoplankton the first organisms in the food chain, are already being affected by warmer waters, meaning less food for larger organisms, including fish. This study shows the decline is likely to be low and slow for the next 100 years, but will then accelerate, as Charlotte Laufkotter from the University of Bern Climate and Environment programme explained to Roland Pease.

Is Diabetes Five Different Diseases?

There are five distinct types of diabetes, rather than two – that’s according to new research published this week. Claudia Hammond talks to lead researcher Leif Groop of the Lund University Diabetes Centre in Sweden about this proposed new classification and asks how it might affect how people with diabetes are treated in the future.

Russian Spy Poisoning

The poisoning of a former Russian spy, Sergie Skripal, and his daughter Yulia, has led to much speculation this week. They were found unconscious on a bench in Salisbury, UK on Sunday, and police have since confirmed they were deliberately poisoned with a nerve agent. Nerve agents disrupt nerve signals that control muscle function. However, not enough is yet known to say with any certainty whether it was a well-known agent like sarin or VX, or a rarer one. Gareth Mitchell spoke to Professor Alastair Hay of Leeds University in the UK about the challenge of identifying the substance.

Russia’s New Nuclear Age

Russian President Vladimir Putin has just announced a whole new suite of strategic nuclear systems being developed. One of these is a nuclear-powered cruise missile. Back in the 1960’s, the US tried something similar with Project Pluto and SLAM, and it turned out the missiles were too dangerous to even test. So how plausible is it that Putin has developed such a missile? Roland Pease asks life-long rocket engineer Robert Schmucker.

Angry When Hungry?

Katy Takatsuki investigates a question from World Service listener Abi Gurjar about the phenomenon known as ‘hanger’, and reveals the very real research behind the link between an empty-stomach and the descent of the red mist.

Looking for Ice in Diamonds

Diamonds look nice on rings and necklaces, but they can also have uses beyond ornamentation. In a recent study, geologists have found minute traces of a new form of ice in diamonds from deep within the Earth’s mantle. Could this be evidence of an untapped ocean beneath our feet? Roland Pease spoke to Canadian geologist Kim Tait.

(Picture: Mediterranean bream fish – credit: Boris Horvat/AFP/Getty Images)

The Science Hour was presented by Roland Pease with comments from BBC Health and Science reporter, Katie Silver

Producer: Katy Takatsuki
access_time11 months ago
A new study links a warming Arctic with sudden cold winters, like the one being experienced in Europe right now. It is all down to the weakening of the polar vortex. A team in Potsdam in Germany have linked this to climate change causing the Arctic sea ice to melt at much greater rates. Roland Pease talks to climatologist Stefan Rahmstorf, Head of Earth System Analysis at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.

Seven Hour Operation Removes Giant Brain Tumour

Neurosurgeon Trimurti Nadkarni has led a surgical team to remove what is claimed to be the world’s largest brain tumour. The 31-year-old patient from Mumbai had a tumour that weighed 1.8kg. It had grown beneath the skin of his scalp through the skull and into the brain. Dr Nadkarni of the BYL Nair Charitable Hospital tells Claudia Hammond how his team approached the seven hour long, high risk operation.

Medieval Violence

How violent are we? Compared with our past, that is. Research from collections of gruesome medieval remains paint a picture of a violent society, where men and women commonly carried weapons. It suggests inflicting or receiving severe wounds may have been a part of daily life. And yet, as Marnie Chesterton reports, other studies suggest this level of violence is actually lower than that experienced in some societies today.

Eastern Ghouta Hospitals

The doctors and nurses working in besieged Eastern Ghouta in Syria say they are close to collapse as they try to save lives. It comes as the region sees the most intense period of fighting that the area has endured. Claudia Hammond speaks to Meinie Nicolai, director general of MSF in Brussels, who is in contact with medical staff in Eastern Ghouta.

Wearable Technology Devices

At this year’s American Association for the Advancement of Science, recently held in Texas, Roland Pease tries the next generation of wearable technology. He tries some smart plasters that measure your heartbeat and sweat chemistry; flexible, wearable LED health displays, and ultrathin, flexible electrodes.

How a Smart Glove Can Help The Blind

Eighteen year old Nikola Krstić discusses his haptic “smart” glove. It aims to help the blind and visually impaired by vibrating at an increasing intensity as it moves closer to an object and can also recognise faces and detect colours, as he explains to Gareth Mitchell.

The Largest Family Tree Ever

Scientists have harnessed genealogy datasets to create a massive family tree with over 13 million members and 86 million records! The new dataset offers fresh insights into the last 500 years of marriage and migration in Europe and North America, and the role of genes in longevity.

(Picture caption: Storm Emma meets the Beast from the East bringing further snow chaos to the UK – credit: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

The Science Hour was presented by Roland Pease with comments from medical reporter at New Scientist, Clare Wilson

Producer: Katy Takatsuki
access_time11 months ago
An outbreak of Lassa fever in Nigeria has made hundreds ill and killed at least 43 people. With symptoms including bleeding from gums, eyes and nose, it shares some similarities with Ebola, but is less infectious and can be mild. Claudia Hammond talks to Professor Dan Bausch of the UK Public Health Rapid Support Team, which is preparing to send people over to Nigeria, if required, to contain the outbreak.

The Beaker People

Around 4,500 years ago, 90% of the British population was replaced by incomers from Iberia, known as the Beaker people. Archaeologists had uncovered elements of the Beaker culture - stylised bell-shaped pots, copper daggers, arrowheads, stone wrist guards and distinctive perforated buttons - but were unsure whether this represented a wave of mass migration or a fashion trend spread across Europe through trade. This week, Professor David Reich published one of the largest ancient DNA studies ever, detailing how the Beaker people spread across Europe. Marnie Chesterton spoke to him.

Planet Formation

The annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science – held this year in Austin, Texas – concluded this week. On the agenda were topics that ranged from the difficulty of conveying the science of climate change to all those who need to know, to the growing impact of artificial intelligence, and the hunt for other planet Earths. Along those lines, a session that caught the eye of Roland Pease was the study of planets caught in gestation around newly formed stars. He spoke to Karin Öberg, astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

Water Crisis in Cape Town

9th July - it’s being called Day Zero, the day the water is turned off in drought stricken Cape Town in South Africa. After three years of unexpected dry weather leaving no water in the reservoirs that serve the city, Roland Pease speaks to water policy analyst Sandra Postel about what can be done to mitigate the water shortage and how to prevent the same thing happening in other cities.

The Healthy Habits Of 'Super-Agers'

Aging well is a topic most people have a personal interest in—science certainly does. And it’s revealed some interesting findings in recent years, as long-term studies on “super agers” from across the globe have come in. Bobbie Lakhera has been looking at the latest studies.

Masks Putting Children with Cancer at Ease

Cancer treatment is difficult for children to endure and for parents to watch. St James Hospital in Leeds in the north of England is helping its young patients to cope by painting the masks they have to wear to keep them still during radiotherapy. Paula McGrath went to meet some of the children and staff.

Hurricane Bells

A new collaboration between an artist and a cyclone physicist commences this week. Peter Shenai and Dr Carlo Corsaro have joined forces to model Hurricane Katrina and cast its shape into six brass bells. Each bell represents a key moment from the category 5 storm, as it progressed across the Gulf of Mexico and made landfall in the United States in 2005. Marnie Chesterton talks to them.

(Photo caption: The government of Anambra State in Southeastern Nigeria, has banned the drinking of raw garri, which it says can lead to Lassa fever – credit: Pius Utomi Ekpei/AFP/Getty Images)

The Science Hour was presented by Marnie Chesterton with comments from BBC Science reporter Bobbie Lakhera

Producer: Katy Takatsuki
access_time11 months ago
Sulphur belching out of vessels’ smokestacks is a serious health problem for coastal communities around the world. An estimated four hundred thousand premature deaths from lung cancer and cardiovascular disease, and around 14 million childhood asthma cases annually are reckoned to be related to shipping emissions. The International Maritime Organisation has finally agreed to drastically reduce polluting emissions from 2020. Gareth Mitchell discusses how this reduction could benefit health with James Corbett of the University of Delaware.

The Loneliness Experiment

Claudia Hammond launches the BBC Loneliness Experiment, in what is hoped will be the largest ever survey of its kind. Loneliness is likely to affect all of us at some point in our lives and is not only distressing, but is implicated in health problems such as an increased risk of heart disease. Claudia Hammond speaks to lead researchers Professor Manuela Barreto of the University of Exeter and Professor Pamela Qualter of the University of Manchester in the UK. Plus, we will have details on how you can take part.

Snowshoe Hares in a Climate-Changed World

Snowshoe hares have a remarkable skill. When winter comes, they lose their brown coat and grow a white one to help them blend in with the snow. But climate change is bringing about problems. Dr Scott Mills from the University of Montana has been researching the phenomenon and explained to Marnie Chesterton.

Science Funding in the US

Roland Pease is in Austin, Texas at the AAAS science conference, where he is finding out about how US scientists are coping with President Trump’s proposals to cut science funding. He finds out why scientists there are looking to philanthropy to fill funding gaps.

Millirobots in Medicine

Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems have invented a magnetically controlled soft robot only four millimetres in size that can walk, crawl or roll through uneven terrain, carry cargo, climb onto the water surface, and even swim in it. Gareth Mitchell talks to Professor Metin Sitti, Director of the Physical Intelligence Department at the Max Planck Institute, about the future use of millirobots in medicine.

Dog Brain Training

Can you teach an old dog new tricks? Apparently, you can. Marnie Chesterton talks to Dr Lisa Wallis from ELTE University in Hungary about her work to improve the cognitive abilities of older dogs - using touchscreens.

(Photo caption: Black smoke from ship sailing on the high sea – credit: Getty Images)

The Science Hour was presented by Gareth Mitchell with comments from BBC Health and Science reporter, Katie Silver

Producer: Katy Takatsuki
access_time12 months ago
British medical researchers have investigated the origins and spread of a multidrug-resistant strain of malaria in Southeast Asia which is now causing great concern. According to Professor Dominic Kwiatkowski, the positive news is that the genomic techniques they have used to reconstruct this story can be employed to closely follow the strain’s for future spread, and (if implemented) better contain it. He speaks to Claudia Hammond about how delays in detecting the spread of resistance could threaten global efforts to eliminate malaria.

The Secrets of Hummingbird Flight Revealed

Slow motion videos of hundreds of hummingbirds have revealed the secrets to their remarkable manoeuvrability in the air. Roland Pease speaks to Professor Doug Altshuler from the University of British Columbia, who has captured and analysed hummingbirds from a small, portable studio that he had constructed, and where he could catch them in free flight.

MIT’s Intelligence Quest

MIT has launched the Intelligence Quest, an initiative to discover the foundations of human intelligence and drive the development of technological tools that can positively influence virtually every aspect of society. MIT are focused on advancing the science and engineering of both human and machine intelligence as James DiCarlo and Daniela Rus from MIT explain to Gareth Mitchell.

Undetected High Blood Pressure in New Mothers

Pre-eclampsia is one of the commonest complications of pregnancy. In severe cases, it can be life-threatening to mother and foetus but the risks to women don’t disappear after giving birth. It was known that women who had severe pre-eclampsia were at risk of persistent high blood pressure but a new study by Dr Laura Benschop at the Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam reveals that many of these women are not being diagnosed by standard clinic visits. She speaks to Claudia Hammond.

Forever Young Bats

Can bat science help human ageing research? New findings have shown that some long lived bat species do not age in the same way as other mammals. They do not even seem to posses the DNA repair enzyme most commonly found in the animal kingdom. Gareth Mitchell speaks to Emma Teeling of University College Dublin about the mystery of why bats seem to have evolved in this way.

Childhood Obesity

Can the city of Amsterdam help the world tackle the global epidemic of childhood obesity? In the last three years, the number of overweight and obese children has been reduced by 12%. Strict rules at school about pupils’ diets – and cycling – are parts of the story. Anna Holligan reports.

Lost Satellite Found

Have you lost a satellite? Do not worry, a computer geek will find it for you. That is exactly what has happened - an amateur space sleuth has detected signals from a Nasa satellite thought to have been 'lost' for years. Samanta Oon reports.

(Picture caption: Health worker looking at samples under a microscope at a health center in Pailin province – Credit: Tang Chhin Sothy/AFP/Getty Images)

The Science Hour was presented by Claudia Hammond with comments from freelance writer and columnist for BBC Future, David Robson

Producer: Katy Takatsuki
access_time12 months ago
About 18 months ago, a number of foreign and local scientists working in Turkey were arrested and charged with spying and terrorism. This is thought to be part of the crackdown by the government following a coup attempt in July 2016. Against international condemnation, the trials are due to start. Stephen Reicher, Professor of Psychology at the University of St Andrews has been to Turkey to observe the trial of one of his former colleagues and tells us what he saw and discusses the wider issues for science.

Drug-resistant Typhoid Outbreak in Pakistan

An outbreak of drug-resistant typhoid in Pakistan has prompted an emergency vaccination programme. The bacteria, spread by infected food and water, is becoming harder to treat because of antibiotic resistance. Claudia Hammond spoke to Professor David Mabey, a physician specialising in Infectious and Tropical Diseases at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Explorer 1

It has been sixty years since the launch of Explorer 1 and the discovery of the Van Allen Belts. This was the satellite the US launched in response to Sputnik. However, unlike Sputnik, it did undertake scientific exploration and its findings have been significant for every space mission that followed. Gareth Mitchell hears more.

Paper That Makes Water Safe

A revolutionary microbial-based paper sensor has been developed, creating a cheap, sustainable and recyclable device for detecting toxic compounds in water. Inspired by the simplicity of litmus paper - commonly used for the rapid assessment of acidity in water – it consists of a microbial fuel cell (MFC), obtained by screen printing biodegradable carbon electrodes onto a single piece of paper. Dr Mirella Di Lorenzo and Dr Janet Scott, both from the University of Bath, demonstrate how it works to Roland Pease.

Global Warming is Shrinking Insects

A new study suggests global warming is shrinking the size of some insects. Researchers in Canada found that some native beetle species are getting 20 per cent smaller as their habitats get warmer. BBC Science reporter Bobbie Lakhera explains.

Damming the Amazon

In a large multi-national survey of the Amazon and in particular the many tributaries which spring up in the Andes Mountains, the impacts of a large number of dams are being measured. The impacts of such hydropower dams on indigenous populations and fisheries in the region are cause for concern, says Elizabeth Anderson, a freshwater conservation ecologist based at Florida International University in Miami. She spoke to Roland Pease.

High Tea with a Difference

On New Year’s Day California became the sixth state in the United States to legalise marijuana for recreational purposes. With an estimated potential market of $7 billion, it is big business. Reporter Alison van Diggelen went along to a “high tea” – and to ask an addiction expert about the potential risks of taking the drug.

(Image caption: Turkey high resolution science concept – credit: Getty Images)

The Science Hour was presented by Roland Pease with comments from BBC Science reporter Bobbie Lakhera

Producer: Katy Takatsuki
access_time12 months ago
The earliest Early Modern Human (Homo sapien) fossil has been found outside Africa. A partial jaw discovered in a cave in northern Israel is thought to be the remains of one of the earliest modern humans to have left Africa over 180,000 years ago. Roland Pease speaks to archaeologists Israel Hershkovitz and Mina Weinstein-Evron.

Cancer Blood Test

A new blood test designed to detect eight different types of cancer managed to pick up 7 out of 10 cases in patients – creating the possibility of a routine test for cancer. In another study, researchers say that testing all women for the faulty BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes – which carry a higher risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer - would be cost-effective and could save lives. Professor Paul Pharoah from the University of Cambridge speaks to Claudia Hammond.

Turtle Feminisation

Populations of green turtles breeding around the Great Barrier Reef in Australia are becoming predominantly female because of global warming. The sex of many reptile embryos, including the green turtle, is determined by the temperatures they are exposed to during development. UK conservationist Brendan Godley of the University of Exeter spoke to Roland Pease.

Did Typhoid Kill the Aztecs?

In some areas of the Americas as many as 95% of the indigenous population died of diseases brought in by the discoverers of the New World. Pandemics hit the population who had little immunity to diseases carried by people and livestock. One outbreak responsible for killing millions started in 1545 and was locally called 'cocoliztli'. Adam Rutherford talks to Johannes Krause of the Max Planck Institute who has analysed the teeth of ten individuals from a mass grave and historian Caroline Dodds Pennock from the University of Sheffield discusses the difficulties of knowing for definite what killed so many millions of people.

Bitcoin Encoded into DNA

Using DNA to store data is relatively new, and to test the method, scientists encoded a bitcoin’s data into DNA and set the challenge for the virtual currency to be mined. Marnie Chesterton investigates this very 21st century puzzle.

Disco Ball Put into Space from NZ

A highly reflective sphere has been placed in orbit by a New Zealand-launched rocket. The BBC’s Science Correspondent Jonathan Amos tells us about this, and other small-rocket launches.

Body Image and Nature

Many people find it relaxing to spend time in the countryside. Past research has looked at the impact on wellbeing of spending time in nature. But could it even improve your satisfaction with your own body? Professor Viren Swami from Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge explains the benefits to Claudia Hammond.

(Image caption: Fossil jawbone from Israel is the oldest modern human found outside Africa– credit: AFP Photo/Rolf Quam/Binghamton University)

The Science Hour was presented by Marnie Chesterton with comments from BBC Science Correspondent Jonathan Amos

Producer: Katy Takatsuki
access_time1 year ago
Scientists have found a worrying human immune response to the gene editing protein Cas9. With human trials of Crispr Cas9 on the cards, new research shows up to 70% of people have existing immune proteins and cells primed to target the Cas9 proteins. This could mean they might be immune to Crispr-based therapies or vulnerable to dangerous side effects. Roland Pease spoke to one of the authors of the report Professor Matthew Porteus from Stanford University in California.

Screen Time and Children

Many parents know how hard it is to separate children from technology – be it tablets, phones or TVs. Headlines warn parents of the risks – but how much evidence is there that screen time is harmful? Surprisingly little – according to researchers who have been meeting in London. Claudia Hammond talks to Pete Etchells, Reader in Psychology and Science Communication at Bath Spa University and Tamasin Greenough Graham from the Parenting Science Gang.

African Swine Fever

World animal health authorities are on high alert monitoring the recent spread of African swine fever across swathes of mainland Europe. Introduced from Africa into Georgia, the virus has continued to spread through neighbouring countries, then on to several Baltic states. The economic costs to the Baltic pig industry alone may be as high as 50 million Euros, and there are real fears that the virus may spread further. Jonathan Ball from the University of Nottingham is a Professor of Molecular Virology and wanted to find out more, so he talked to leading Africa swine fever expert Dr Linda Dixon from the Pirbright Institute in the UK.

Soil Bacteria Atlas

An assessment of soils across six continents reveals that very few bacterial taxa are consistently found. The work represents the first global atlas of soil bacteria. The results of this study hopefully mean we can narrow down the immense number of bacterial types to just a few, as the University of Manchester’s Richard Bardgett explained to Roland Pease.

VR Bucket List

Do you have a list of things you want to do before you die – like seeing the Pyramids or the Northern Lights? People living with a terminal illness might find travelling too difficult. So now a hospice in the UK is using virtual reality experiences to help people tick off some of their bucket list wishes, and studying the impact on patients. Katy Takatsuki reports.

Surfing or Swimming in Dirty Water

If you like surfing or swimming in the sea you may want to know how clean the water is. Researchers in the UK have made a troubling discovery – that some surfers had ingested E.coli bacteria – and even worse, they were the kind that are resistant to a common antibiotic. Claudia Hammond talks to Dr Anne Leonard from Exeter Medical School.

(Image caption: Hand inserts a molecule into DNA – credit: Getty Images)

The Science Hour was presented by Claudia Hammond with comments from BBC Health and Science reporter Helen Briggs

Producer: Katy Takatsuki
access_time1 year ago
Experts are anxiously watching the developing story of the oil tanker in the East China Sea burning after a collision – worried not just for the missing crew, but the danger from its million barrels of crude. The cargo is a lighter and more toxic form of crude than emergency services have previously had to handle and this means that the longer term environmental damage from this toxic fuel could be serious. Simon Boxhall from the University of Southampton explains why to Adam Rutherford.

Child Trauma

For children who are exposed to the violence of war it’s estimated between 25 and 75% of them experience post traumatic stress disorder – with symptoms like flashbacks and anxiety. Experts at a World Psychiatric Association meeting in London this week have been discussing whether it is possible to train non-therapists to teach children some simple techniques to help relieve their anxiety. Claudia Hammond talks to Bill Yule, Emeritus Professor of Applied Child Psychology at King’s College London.

MIT Depth Sensor

Researchers from MIT have developed new depth sensors that could be sensitive enough for self-driving cars. Gareth Mitchell talks to the lead researcher, Achuta Kadambi.

Gut Gas Detecting Electronic Capsules

Gases produced in the digestive tract can tell us a lot about the activity of essential and harmful bacteria in the gut and consequently about our health. Ingestible sensors (capsules that you swallow), which then detect gases throughout the alimentary tract, are now being trailed in humans. Roland Pease talks to Professor Kourosh Kalantar Zadeh from the University of Melbourne.

Chimp-Facial Portraits

A new citizen science project is being launched exploring relatedness in chimpanzees. In humans there is a good chance babies will look like their father early in life. When it comes to chimps it is even more interesting, as chimpanzee expert Cat Hobaiter explained to Geoff Marsh.

Self-Help Craze

A New Year can herald ambitious goals for self-improvement – including physical fitness and even a commitment to greater happiness. The self-help sections in bookshops are well-stocked – but does reading them do any good? Claudia Hammond speaks to Sven Brinkmann, a Danish philosopher, and Sonja Lyubomirsky, a American psychologist, about the role of self -help.

(Photo caption: Rescue ships work to extinguish the fire on the Panama-registered Sanchi tanker carrying Iranian oil, which went ablaze after a collision with a Chinese freight ship in the East China Sea – credit: China Daily via Reuters)

The Science Hour was presented by Gareth Mitchell with comments from BBC Health and Science reporter, Katie Silver

Producer: Katy Takatsuki
access_time1 year ago
Dyson Sphere Star

KIC 8462852 is otherwise an average star, about a 1,000 light years away in the constellation Cygnus. It is about 50 percent bigger and 1,000 degrees hotter than the Sun, which is not particularly peculiar. What is very peculiar is that it flickers and dims in a way that has never been observed in any star so far. This led to some intense debate amongst the astrophysics community, and the press, including the possibility that the dimming was being caused by some sort of alien megastructure – A ‘Dyson Sphere’, set up to harness the power of the star. New work sheds some light of this very strange star (spoiler alert, it’s never aliens!)

Surgery in Africa

Twice as many people die during or after surgery in Africa than on average around the world, according to a new study. The patients – from 250 hospitals in 25 countries - fared worse even though they were young and fit and the operations were often minor. Professor Bruce Biccard tells Claudia Hammond that many of the deaths could be prevented – if patients were monitored properly after their operations.

Sugar and C.difficile

Did the widespread introduction of the food additive trehalose fuel the emergence of epidemics of virulent Clostridium difficile in hospitals from the early 2000s? Microbiologist Robert Britton tells Adam Rutherford about the evidence his team has gathered and published this week in the journal 'Nature'.

Glowing Plants / Plant Nanobionics

Plants may not be the obvious starting point for new technology, but in fact they offer many advantages that our electronics do not. A team from MIT have created a glowing plant using nanoparticles that can enter previously impenetrable parts of the plant cell. Their work is part of a new field called plant nanobionics and is paving the way for plants that can light up highways.

Women’s Concussion

Some researchers believe that women’s brains might be at greater risk of concussion than men if they sustain a head injury playing sport. New research from the Centre for Brain Injury and Repair at the University of Pennsylvania has tried to pin down what might be happening. They found that brain cells from female rats and human stem cells sustained more damage than those of males.

Blue Zones

Villagrande in Sardinia is a “Blue Zone”. A Blue Zone is a ‘longevity hotspot’. A region with a much higher proportion than average of people over 100. Sardinia is not the only place where a larger percentage of people get to celebrate their 100th birthday. Also Greece, Japan and Costa Rica, all have Blue Zones. Now you would expect such zones to be a perfect opportunity for scientists to try and find out the secret to a long life. But how easy would it be?

Picture: Tabby's Star (Illustration), Credit: NASA

Producer: Katy Takatsuki
access_time1 year ago
Java’s Bird Trade

The dense rain forests of Java – Indonesia’s most crowded island – are rapidly falling silent. Tuneful songbirds that used to give the mountains a unique melody are being caught and sold. Bird-singing competitions are national events in the country, but this is threatening to drive the songbirds to extinction. BBC science reporter Victoria Gill has travelled to the country to investigate.


Many of us are spending more and more time engaging with online social networks. But while we might be the only primate to have Facebook, we are certainly not the only primates to have social networks. Geoff Marsh has been exploring one particular primate network and its possible value in predicting the spread of disease. He was at Kyoto University's Primate Research Institute in Japan, speaking to ecologist Dr Andrew McIntosh.

Dolphin Brains

A large brain, relative to our size, underpins sophisticated social structure in humans. Whales and dolphins also have exceptionally large and anatomically sophisticated brains. But until recently it has been unclear whether large brain size is linked to social structure in these marine mammals. Author of a new study Michael Muthukrishna tells Roland Pease more about tackling the question of brain size and intelligence in human evolution.

Whooping Bees

Honey bees have long been known to make a noise that scientists call the whoop whooping signal - quite simply because that is what it sounds like. BBC Science Correspondent Victoria Gill explains.

Wildlife at the border wall

President Trump still wants a wall on the border between Mexico and the USA. This year, Victoria Gill visited scientists from the University of Arizona who explained why they’re worried about a particular endangered antelope-like animal called the Sonoran pronghorn.

Sheep 'Can Recognise Human Faces'

Sheep have demonstrated the ability to recognise familiar human faces, according to a study. Cambridge University researchers were able to train sheep to identify the faces of actors Jake Gyllenhaal and Emma Watson, former US President Barack Obama and BBC newsreader Fiona Bruce. Victoria Gill explains why they may have developed this skill.

Dog Faces

When dogs know you are looking at them, they ramp up the expressiveness of their faces. Marnie Chesterton visits the Dog Cognition Centre at the University of Portsmouth to talk to the researchers who made this discovery.

NZ Sheep Dog Fitbit

New Zealand is reputed to have more working dogs per capita than anywhere else in the world – an estimated 200,000. Simon Morton visits a high country sheep station and reports on a ground-breaking study using canine fitbits to monitor the dogs’ lives.

Goldfish Turn To Alcohol to Survive Icy Winters

Scientists have decoded the secrets behind a goldfish's ability to survive in ice-covered lakes. They have worked out how and why the fish turn lactic acid in their bodies into alcohol, as a means of staying alive. Some goldfish were found to have levels well above legal drink-driving limits in many countries. Victoria Gill explains how researchers say the work may help with the study of some alcohol impacts in humans.

(Image caption: African safari animals meeting together around tree – credit: Getty Images)

The Science Hour was presented by Claudia Hammond with comments from Victoria Gill, BBC Science Correspondent

Producer: Katy Takatsuki
access_time1 year ago
New research has begun to look at ways to offer early warnings of landslides in the mountainous regions of south west India. The Western Ghats region suffer regular and deadly landslides, partly because they encounter a double monsoon season each year. An early warning system that factors in weather, topography and the geology of the region is being developed, as Helen Reeves, Science Director at the British Geological Survey, explains to Roland Pease.

Growth in Global E-waste

A new report on global e-waste, discarded products with a battery or plug, shows 44.7 million metric tonnes generated in 2016 - up 8% from 2014. Gareth Mitchell talks to one of the report’s authors, Ruediger Kuehr, from the United Nations University.

Caffeine: Good or Bad?

Some people love to start their day with caffeine. But what are the impacts on our body? Reporter Alison van Diggelen talks to Stanford University drug and addiction expert Professor Keith Humphreys, and Professor Matthew Walker, who runs a sleep lab in Berkeley, California – a state which just loves its coffee.

Palaeontologists suing Trump

President Donald Trump wants to downsize two US national monuments in Utah. The Society of Vertebrate Paleontology is against lifting this protective status, as “Bears Ears” and “Grand Staircase –Escalante” include some of the most important sites in the world for vertebrate fossils. We hear from David Polly, President of the society.

New Horizons

The American space agency's New Horizons mission has struck gold again. After its astonishing flyby of Pluto in 2015, scientists have just discovered that the probe's next target is not one object but very likely two. Science Editor Jonathan Webb from ABC Radio National in Australia has been speaking to Alan Stern from the New Horizons team.

MSF Using Tech to Aid Rohingya People

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has been helping refugees and other displaced Rohingya in targeting disease and providing medicine and aid. Gareth Mitchell talks to Sam Taylor from MSF about how technology is helping.

3D Printed Kidney

By printing bio-ink on silicone scaffolding, a team at Harvard in the US can print the intricate components of an artificial kidney which can filter blood and produce urine. The work is still at the early stages, and an entire 3D printed kidney is still a way off. Applications and potential for clinical medicine could be a new kind of dialysis for people with kidney failure, as well as being able to safely test whether new drugs damage the kidney. Roland Pease reports.

Children's Willpower

The popular image of children is that they have short attention spans and want everything right now. But a new analysis of 50 years of data from the Marshmallow Test - a classic test of self -control suggests that children are getting better at delaying gratification. John Protzko of University of California Santa Barbara explains why it's happening to Claudia Hammond.

(Photo caption: Indian villagers look on during a rescue operation at the site of a landslide in Laptap village in the Papum Pare district of the state of Arunachal Pradesh on July 11, 2017 – credit: STR/AFP/Getty Images)

The Science Hour was presented by Gareth Mitchell with comments from Science Editor Jonathan Webb from ABC Radio National in Australia

Producer: Katy Takatsuki
access_time1 year ago
There’s been a breakthrough this week in the fatal brain condition, Huntington’s disease. Affected families are told they have a 50% chance of passing the faulty gene onto their children – and up until now there has been no treatment. Scientists at University College London corrected the genetic defect for the first time ever – using an experimental drug which was injected into the spinal fluid. Claudia Hammond talks to Roger Barker, Professor of Clinical Neuroscience at the University of Cambridge, one of the centres taking part in the study.

Climate change is seen as the number one threat to the future of coral reefs. This week the European Coral Reef Symposium in Oxford is discussing the problem. Adam Rutherford talks to Morgan Pratchett of James Cook University about the two recent coral bleaching events that hit the Great Barrier Reef, and to Barbara Brown of Newcastle University about the potential for coral species to adapt to warmer seas.

The electric eel is perhaps an obvious creature to turn to for inspiration for a power source. Researchers have examined the complex transfer of charged chemicals across the cell membranes in these eels to help them make an artificial electric organ. Experimental physicist Michael Mayer from the University of Fribourg in Switzerland speaks to Roland Pease.

Southern California is suffering intense forest fires right now, and October brought some of the largest forest fires since records began. What are the conditions that led to these disastrous events? Roland Pease asks forest ecologist Christina Restaino of University of California Davis.

Going to see the doctor can be embarrassing especially if you have to take off clothes or discuss a personal issue. The shame which can result from embarrassment can mean we don’t tell the doctor the whole story about our worries and this can affect our health. Claudia Hammond speaks to Dr Luna Dolezal, who has been researching shame at the doctor’s surgery.

Prolific science fiction writer, Arthur C. Clarke was born 100 years ago, on the 16th December 1917. Some think he was a man way ahead of his time as many of his predictions about future science and technology have come true. He is most famous for being co-writer of the book and screenplay for the 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey, widely considered to be one of the most influential movies of all time. Jack Meegan looks back on his life.

Image: Illustration of nerve cells affected in neurological diseases

Credit: iStock / Getty Images Plus

The Science Hour was presented by Roland Pease with comments from BBC Science reporter Bobbie Lakhera.

Producer: Katy Takatsuki
access_time1 year ago
Nations have agreed that the world needs to completely stop plastic waste from entering the oceans. The UN resolution has no timetable and is not legally binding. But ministers at an environment summit in Kenya believe it will set the course for much tougher policies and send a clear signal to business. BBC Science Correspondent Victoria Gill brings us the latest on the story.

Nuclear Fallout in the Pacific

In the 1940s and 1950s, the US conducted 66 nuclear weapons tests at the Bikini and Enewetak Atolls in the Pacific. Now a lingering remnant of this history is the Runit Dome that houses radioactive debris left over from the weapons tests. Activists are adamant that it is the source of radiation that is polluting the ocean that surrounds them. So far it is set up as a political and social issue, but what does the science tell us about what is happening in this area? Roland Pease spoke to radiochemist Ken Buesseler from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

Trophy Hunting

Trophy hunters are always after the lion with the largest darkest name and the stag with the most impressive antlers. Gareth Mitchell spoke with Rob Knell at Queen Mary University of London who has found that removing a small proportion of these top males can drive whole populations to extinction, if their environment is changing.

50 Years Since the First Heart Transplant

The first ever heart transplant took place in Cape Town in South Africa fifty years ago this week. That patient died after just 18 days – but today around 5,000 people have heart transplants every year. A shortage of donor hearts means there is often a wait – and an artificial pump called an L-VAD can buy time. We hear from doctors and a patient about the advances in technology which have made the pumps easier to live with.


The World Health Organization says that more than 200 million women – most in sub-Saharan Africa - are subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM). The girls who have their labia and clitoris cut away often have lifelong health problems as a result. FGM was banned in The Gambia two years ago – where 3 out of 4 girls have been cut. Irene Caselli travelled to West Africa and heard how attitudes are slowly changing.

Narwhal Escape

Scientists who fitted heart rate-monitoring tags to Arctic narwhals have discovered a strange paradox in how the animals respond to threats. When these tusked whales are frightened, their hearts slow, but at the same time they swim quickly to escape. Scientists say the response could be "highly costly" - because they exert themselves with a limited blood supply. Victoria Gill reports.

Indian Crop Yields

For farmers the date for sowing seeds is critical to ensure they harvest a good crop. Gareth Mitchell talks to Dr Suhas Wani, from the International Crop Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics about an AI Sowing App powered by machine learning that alerts farmers about the best time to sow seeds.


Exercise helps to keep us healthy, but thinking that we do less than our friends can have a negative impact and even shorten our lives. The American study analysed 21 years’ worth of data and could influence public health campaigns aimed at making us more active. Claudia Hammond spoke to Octavia Zahrt from Stanford University about this research.

(Photo caption: Underwater photographer Caroline Power found the plastic blanket of forks, bottles and rubbish 15 miles off the coast of Roatan heading towards the Cayos Cochinos Marine Reserve – credit: AFP / Caroline Power)

The Science Hour was presented by Claudia Hammond with comments from Victoria Gill, BBC Science Correspondent

Producer: Katy Takatsuki
access_time1 year ago
The World Malaria Report 2017 draws on data from 91 countries and areas with ongoing malaria transmission. This year's report shows that after an unprecedented period of success in global malaria control, progress has stalled. In 2016, there were an estimated 216 million cases of malaria, an increase of about 5 million cases over 2015. Deaths reached 445,000, a similar number to the previous year. Science journalist Dr Claire Ainsworth explains.

Scarlet Fever Outbreaks

In 2016 the infectious disease scarlet fever hit its highest level in 50 years in England and there are also epidemics in Hong Kong, South Korea and parts of China which show no signs of letting up. Dr Theresa Lamagni, head of streptococcal surveillance at Public Health England, talks about the outbreaks with Claudia Hammond.

Prehistoric Women’s Arms

Grinding grain for hours a day gave prehistoric women stronger arms than today's elite female rowers, a study says. The discovery points to a ''hidden history'' of gruelling manual labour performed by women over millennia, say University of Cambridge researchers. Dr Alison Macintosh talks to Adam Rutherford about how the study is the first to compare prehistoric female bones to those of living women.


This species of salamander is a wonder of nature. It's the amphibian that never grows out of its larval stage yet it is able to reproduce. Most remarkable is its ability to regrow limbs, which is of great potential interest to researchers developing regenerative medicine. There are many thousands of axolotls in labs and homes around the world. But in the wild, in their native Mexico, they are on the very edge of extinction. Conservation biologist Richard Griffiths of the University of Kent and axolotl researcher Tatiana Sandoval Guzman of the Technical University in Dresden, Germany explains.

Synthetic Biology

What does the future hold for synthetic biology? Who will be the practitioners of this fast-growing branch of bioengineering and what will be its impact on the world - for good and possibly ill? Experts in the field have just published a horizon-scanning report in the journal eLife. One of the scientists involved, Floyd Romesberg of the Scripps Research Institute in California, talks to Roland Pease.

Pimp My Zimmer

Schoolchildren in the UK are helping older people decorate their walking frames, known as Zimmer frames, to make them a bit more beautiful. It’s to try and reduce the number of falls, which are common in the elderly. Bobbie Lakhera reports from a care home in Wales taking part in the “Pimp My Zimmer” project.

Election Security

The robustness of democratic elections continues to be questioned. Gareth Mitchell talks to Debora Plunkett, formerly of the US National Security Agency, and now at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, about efforts to prevent future hacking during US elections.

Sibling Rivalry

We tend to think of sibling rivalry as something that is inevitable – and not good. But in her new book, Siblings, clinical psychologist Linda Blair says there can be benefits. She tells Claudia Hammond how parents should deal with sibling rivalry.

(Photo caption: The body of a female mosquito fills up and balloons as she sucks blood from a hand – credit: Getty Images)

The Science Hour was presented by Gareth Mitchell with comments from freelance science journalist, Dr Claire Ainsworth

Producer: Katy Takatsuki
access_time1 year ago
Why is the interstellar asteroid ‘Oumuamua’ such a strange shape? At 10 times longer than it is wide, the space rock is one of the most elongated cosmic objects known to science. It is also the first asteroid visitor form outside our Solar System, as Alan Fitzsimmons of Queen’s University Belfast explains.

Millions of people wear electronic step counting bracelets or use apps on their phones – aiming for 10,000 steps a day. Claudia Hammond asks whether this routine motivates her – or if it is actually setting her up for failure.

Dog owners have a lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease or other causes, a study of 3.4 million Swedes has found. The team analysed national registries for people aged 40 to 80, and compared them to dog ownership registers. BBC Health and Science reporter Katie Silver tells us more.

The news that individual households, towns and cities are switching to LED lights in order to save energy should be good news. But a new study shows that the artificially lit surface of Earth at night increased in radiance and extent over the past four years by 2% annually. Roland Pease speaks to lead author Christopher Kyba about his concerns.

Flashes of lightning can spark natural nuclear reactions in the atmosphere over our heads. It might sound dangerous, but the fact it happens tells scientists just how extreme conditions can get when lightning strikes. Roland Pease reports.

Cancerous breast lumps are less likely to be detected in overweight or obese women before the tumour becomes large, a Swedish study has found. These women may need more frequent mammograms to help spot early tumours. Katie Silver also reports on news research that’s found that a fifth of cancer patients experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Twenty years ago, geneticist Svante Paabo began a revolution in human evolution science when he extracted fragments of DNA from the 40,000 year old bone of a Neanderthal. He speaks to Adam Rutherford about the differences and similarities between humans and Neanderthals.

Scientists are exploring new materials as a substitute for expensive platinum catalysts in fuel cells. Marnie Chesterton reports on how one unusual material is being used in the making of a substitute.

(Image caption: Artist's concept of interstellar asteroid 1I/2017 U1 ('Oumuamua') as it passed through the solar system after its discovery in October 2017 © European Southern Observatory / M. Kornmesser)

The Science Hour was presented by Roland Pease with comments from BBC Health and Science reporter Katie Silver

Producer: Katy Takatsuki
access_time1 year ago
In a week the border of Iran and Iraq saw a devastating earthquake, we are looking at predicting quakes and new research which says natural variations in the length of the day may influence the likelihood of strong earthquakes happening. Seismologist Roger Bilham and his colleague Rebecca Bendick from the University of Colorado Boulder explain their findings.

Every day in the USA more than a thousand people have a cardiac arrest. Some people with heart problems worry about whether the exertion of having sex might put a strain on their heart. But at the American Heart Association’s conference this week, there was good news: it is much rarer than we thought. Claudia Hammond talks to Sumeet Chugh of the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute about his study.

LiFi is a wireless optical networking technology that uses light-emitting diodes (LEDs) for data transmission. Roland Pease reports on the latest product by company pureLifi. It wants to open up thousands more additional channels for wireless communications through LiFi.

Following the biggest ever influenza outbreak in Australia, it is now the turn of the northern hemisphere to prepare for the flu season. As winter approaches in Europe and the US we answer listeners’ questions on flu and colds. Katy Takatsuki reports.

Astronomers are beaming techno into space for aliens to decode. Scientists have asked artists including Nina Kraviz, Kate Tempest and Jean Michel Jarre to produce tracks which are being sent to a planet more than 70 trillion miles away from Earth. Studio guest Jason Palmer from The Economist explains.

Dawn of the New Everything by Jaron Lanier is a history and exploration of virtual reality, the term that he coined for the pioneering technology that he was instrumental in creating. The book is a hybrid of memoir and philosophy and gives a compelling account of the origins and development of the digital revolution. Lanier joins Gareth Mitchell to discuss his journey through virtual reality.

Roland Pease rolls his sleeves up and delves into the world of fake human waste. He meets researcher Naomi Deering at the University of Bath, who is making it her mission to help tackle poor hygiene by creating piles of fake poo, as part of a project to try and help reduce the 750,000 child deaths from poor sanitation.

(Photo caption: An Iranian civil defence K-9 unit wait near damaged buildings during a search for survivors in the town of Sarpol-e Zahab in the western Kermanshah province near the border with Iraq © Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images)

The Science Hour was presented by Gareth Mitchell with comments from science journalist and editor at the Economist Jason Palmer

Producer: Katy Takatsuki
access_time1 year ago
Stem cell therapies are finally maturing. This week, an Italian and German team have used stem cells to grow back huge amounts of skin in a patient with a genetic disease. The patient, a 7 year old boy, was treated with his own genetically modified stem cells and has gone from being in a life-threatening position, to a full recovery. Fiona Watt, Director of the Centre for Stem Cells & Regenerative Medicine at Kings College London, told Andrew Luck-Baker more about the therapy.

A new study reports that elderly patients with severe burns who have higher levels of vitamin D recover more successfully than those with lower levels. The British researchers observed improved wound healing, fewer complications and less scarring. Their hope is that vitamin supplements could help burns patients to recover more quickly, once their findings are confirmed. Claudia Hammond speaks to Professor Janet Lord, Director of the Institute of Inflammation and Ageing at the University of Birmingham in the UK.

A medieval illuminated manuscript, over one-thousand years old, is still in used in religious ceremonies in the UK today. The York Gospels is exquisitely decorated and bound, providing important historical and artistic value. But new bio-archaeological analysis has shone light on the biological value of the book. The team have revealed which animal skins went to make the parchment and other fascinating discoveries about the biology contained beneath its covers. Jack Meegan reports from York Minster.

Stanford University professor Mark Z. Jacobson has filed a lawsuit, demanding $10 million in damages, against the peer-reviewed scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) and a group of eminent scientists (Clack et al.) Their study showed that Jacobson made improper assumptions in order to claim that he had demonstrated U.S. energy could be provided exclusively by renewable energy, primarily wind, water, and solar. Professor of Law Jonathan Adler of Case Western University has written about the case in the Washington Post and spoke to Roland Pease.

Fossils of the oldest-known ancestors of most living mammals, including human beings, have been unearthed in southern England. Teeth belonging to the extinct shrew-like creatures, which scampered at the feet of dinosaurs, were discovered in cliffs on the Dorset coast. Scientists who identified the specimens say they are the earliest undisputed fossils of mammals belonging to the line that led to humans. They date back 145 million years. BBC science reporter Helen Briggs has been investigating.

"When your brain wakes up but your body doesn't" is how a sleep expert describes the phenomenon of sleep paralysis. Around 1 in 20 people will experience vivid hallucinations while falling asleep or waking up whilst being completely unable to move. Claudia Hammond talks to Chris French, Professor of Psychology at Goldsmiths University of London who conducted this new review, and Deborah Hyde describes what sleep paralysis is like for her.

All this week, the BBC has been shining a spotlight on inspiring women in science as part of the 100 women series. Australian astronomer Karlie Noon tells us about Aboriginal astronomy and her journey as an indigenous woman in physics.

The Science Hour was presented by Claudia Hammond with comments from BBC Science Correspondent Helen Briggs

Producer: Katy Takatsuki

(Picture: Scientists have created GM skin to treat a child with a devastating blistering disease © CMR Unimore/PA Wire)
access_time1 year ago
A major global study aims to quantify how climate change has damaged the health of millions. We hear from Hugh Montgomery, co-chair of the Lancet Countdown report who says that climate change is the largest single threat to global health. Also, climate scientist Peter Cox explains how an increase in heat waves is impacting on vulnerable people.

Four out five patients with Hepatitis C do not know they are infected – and the virus can cause cancer or cirrhosis of the liver, leading to 1.3 million deaths every year. The World Health Organisation wants to eliminate hepatitis by 2030 – but only a handful of countries like Egypt and Australia are on track. The World Hepatitis Summit has been taking place in Sao Paulo, Brazil, to explore the best ways to detect and treat those infected. Claudia Hammond talks to Charles Gore, President of World Hepatitis Alliance.

When the Earth’s crust slides under the surface at subduction zones, you might expect that the rock melts and gets amalgamated into the Earth’s Mantle. They do – eventually - but over millions and millions of years. This means that ocean-bed rock and continental rock, from as far back as 300 million years ago, exist as lost continents and islands in the inner Earth. New work using earthquake waves has located almost 100 such structures. Roland Pease talks to Douwe van der Meer who has mapped an Atlas of the Underworld.

A hidden void has been uncovered under the Great Pyramid in Giza. Using a new technique using muons which are a by-product of cosmic rays from the Universe, explorers have visualized what they think could be a large void at least 30 metres long above the Great Gallery in the 4500 year old Pharaoh Khufu’s Pyramid. Roland Pease talks to archaeologist Mark Lehner and project director Mehdi Tayoubi about the discovery.

Do you remember an indoor firework trick called the ‘Pharaoh’s Serpent’? You lit an ‘egg’ with a match, stood back and watched while a snake-like substance instantly grew out of the egg, meanwhile the room was engulfed in clouds of sulphurous smoke. It’s a party trick displaying the wonder of chemistry’, that has been around since Victorian times and videos of the remarkable reaction are having a resurgence on the internet. But what is it all about and why are chemists now so interested in the party trick? Roland Pease talks to nanotechnologist Tom Miller and chemist Andrea Sella from University College London about the chemistry.

If you have an aversion to spiders, snakes, ants, wasps, and scorpions you may not want to visit the exhibition that Ronald Jenner has put together for London's Natural History Museum. It celebrates the evolution and diversity of venoms - and the creatures that use them. Ronald met the BBC’s Science correspondent Jonathan Amos, and gave him a tour.

(Image caption: A sign displays a temperature of 103 degrees in California © Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The Science Hour was presented by Roland Pease with comments from BBC Science Correspondent Jonathan Amos.

Producer: Katy Takatsuki
access_time1 year ago
A few decades ago, when you drove down a country road anywhere in Europe, your car windscreen would get splattered with the squashed bodies of flying insects. It is known as the 'windscreen phenomenon'. But now, there seem to be far fewer flying insects than there used to be. Scientists have long suspected that insects are in dramatic decline, but new evidence confirms this. Adam Rutherford talks to Dave Goulson from the University of Sussex in the UK who has been involved in the study.

Around a quarter of survivors of the Ebola outbreak that started back in 2014 in West Africa have developed eye problems, including uveitis and cataracts. Dr Jessica Shantha and Dr Steven Yeh, both assistant professors of ophthalmology at Emory University in Atlanta US talked to Claudia Hammond about how they have been studying and treating the conditions.

It smells awful, and is banned in many public places, but to many Southeast Asians its creamy flesh is delicious. Why is there such a dichotomy between the smell and taste of the 'King of Fruit'? New genetic analysis may hold the answers and may even help technologists to engineer the smell out of the durian. Bobbie Lakhera reports.

The speed and ease of precise infection diagnosis could be transformed by synthetic biologists at Imperial College, London. Paul Freemont tells Adam Rutherford about a simple DNA biosensor that turns green in the presence of a pneumonia-causing bacterium that is a particular problem for people with Cystic Fibrosis. He adds that the technology is adaptable to any kind of bacteria and may also aid efforts to curb the spread of antibiotic resistance.

The microbiome, our personal mixture of bacteria and other microbes, varies a lot between individuals and still no one knows what’s ideal. Greg Gloor, Professor of Biochemistry at Western University in Canada and colleagues have been studying 1000 people in China from the age of three to over a hundred, including an impressive two hundred over 95 year olds. Could their microbiome hold the secrets to a long and healthy life?

When dogs know you are looking at them, they ramp up the expressiveness of their faces. Marnie Chesterton visits the Dog Cognition Centre at the University of Portsmouth to talk to the researchers who made this discovery, and to meet Jimmy the Staffy.

In the quest for a good storyline and lots of action, Hollywood does not always get its science right. The science of geophysics can get mangled in the plot. But rather than worrying about this and getting angry and shouting at the screen, top geophysicist Seth Stein, at Northwestern University, tells Roland Pease that pointing out scientific errors can be a great way to engage students in the subject.

(Picture caption: Bee on cornflower, Eifel, Germany © Getty Images)

The Science Hour was presented by Claudia Hammond with comments from Nature podcast editor, Kerri Smith

Producer: Katy Takatsuki
access_time1 year ago
Astrophysicists Samaya Nissanke of Radboud University and Sheila Rowan of the University of Glasgow discuss the astronomical discovery of the year, if not the last couple of decades: the collision of two neutron stars and the cosmic gold-forging aftermath. The discovery of this long-hypothesized event on 17th August came from the much awaited marriage of the capabilities of the gravitational wave detectors LIGO and Virgo with those of ground-based and space-based telescopes.

Virgin has recently invested in a futuristic technology, Virgin Hyperloop One, which aims to create a speedy pod-based transport system. Alison van Diggelen talks to Richard Branson about his ambitious plans, including supersonic and space travel.

It's Diwali this week - and the Hindu festival is celebrated with prayers, food and fireworks. But in India, firecrackers have become so popular that there's a spike in air pollution - serious for anyone with lung problems like asthma. The sale of firecrackers has been banned in Delhi - in the hope of preventing a toxic smog from blanketing the city, as reporter Chavvi Suchdev explains.

The dense rain forests of Java - Indonesia's most crowded island - are rapidly falling silent. Tuneful songbirds that used to give the mountains a unique melody are being caught and sold. Bird-singing competitions are national events in the country, but this is threatening to drive the songbirds to extinction. BBC science reporter Victoria Gill has travelled to the country to investigate.

The discovery of the brain's "waste disposal" system could transform our understanding of neurological conditions. Until now, there was no evidence of the lymphatic system in the human brain. Claudia Hammond spoke to Senior Investigator Danny Reich from the National Institutes of Health in the US, about how this knowledge may eventually add to our understanding of brain conditions like multiple sclerosis.

A large brain, relative to our size, underpins sophisticated social structure in humans. Whales and dolphins also have exceptionally large and anatomically sophisticated brains. But until recently it has been unclear whether large brain size is linked to social structure in these marine mammals. Author of a new study Michael Muthukrishna tells Roland Pease more about tackling the question of brain size and intelligence in human evolution.

In,'The Chinese Typewriter: A History',Tom Mullaney recalls the great engineering and linguistic challenges in the 19th and 20th centuries of getting the Chinese language onto a table top machine. One consequence was the development of predictive text in the Chinese IT world long before it appeared in the West. Gareth Mitchell talks to Tom Mullaney.

The Science Hour was presented by Gareth Mitchell with comments from Victoria Gill BBC Science Reporter.

Producer: Katy Takatsuki

(Picture: Artist's concept of the explosive collision of two neutron stars. Credit: Illustration by Robin Dienel courtesy of the Carnegie Institution for Science)
access_time1 year ago
Childhood and teenage obesity is spreading across the world at an alarming rate – and this week the first evidence of the extent of the crisis has been published. Experts at the World Health Organization (WHO) and Imperial College, London analysed data from more than 2000 studies, involving 128 million children and adolescents worldwide. Claudia Hammond speaks to Dr Juana Willumsen from the WHO.

By measuring how carbon moves through Earth's ecosystems we can get a grip on how human activities are altering the carbon cycle. NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) has been watching the Earth breathe from space since 2014 and the results show the impact of El Nino events, volcanic activity and forest fires and even the pollution from individual highways, as Deputy Project Scientist AnnMarie Eldering explains.

Incidental recordings of bird and insect calls before, during and after, the 2015 wildfires in Southeast Asia, reveals a clever way of assessing the damage caused by the haze from these fires to the biodiversity in Singapore. Caroline Steel reports.

The massive eruption in 1883 of the volcano Krakatau (Krakatoa) in Indonesia unleashed huge tsunamis. The explosion is thought to be the loudest sound ever heard in modern history, with reports of it being heard up to 3,000 miles (4,800 km) from its point of origin. So it may be surprising to hear that there are very few remnants of the pumice rock, spewed out in huge numbers at the time. One rare sample survived and is being analysed, along with samples of dust from the deck of the boat that was nearest the volcano at the time, in order to calculate just how explosive the eruption was.

A team at the Georgia Institute of Technology has built a record-breaking mechanical pump. The machine pumped molten tin at 1200 degrees Celsius continuously for 72 hours, and it has worked at even higher white hot temperatures. The pump is fabricated entirely from a heat-resistant ceramic material. Georgia Tech's Asegun Henry is developing the technology to transform the contribution that solar and wind energy generation can make in storing energy and supplying the electricity grid.

A new species of ichthyosaur - predatory marine reptiles that swam the world's oceans whilst dinosaurs walked the land - has been discovered. BBC Science reporter Bobbie Lakhera explains, and we hear from palaeontologist Dean Lomax who made the discovery.

If you saw someone with a sign on the street saying “free listening here”, would you pull up and chair, sit down and tell them all of your problems? In Oakland, California, passers-by are doing just that – thanks to the “active listening” of Sidewalk Talks volunteers. Those involved say it’s life-changing, as Alison van Diggelen reports.

The Science Hour was presented by Roland Pease with comments from BBC Science reporter Bobbie Lakhera.

Producer: Katy Takatsuki

(Picture: Child at swimming pool. Credit: Getty Images)
access_time1 year ago
The Nobel Prize for Medicine has been awarded to three American scientists who discovered the existence of circadian rhythms – the body clock in all living cells. Their research involved fruit flies – but the findings are relevant to humans. The BBC’s Tom Feilden spoke to one of the winners, Michael Rosbash, and Claudia Hammond gets some expert tips for a good night’s sleep from sleep scientist Professor Matthew Walker.

Gareth Mitchell talks to Professor Gillian Foulger of Durham University about HiQuake, the world's largest database of human-induced earthquakes. Professor Foulger and her team have so far compiled close to 750 seismic events. Among the surprises is the fact that the US state of Oklahoma is more seismically active than California because of quakes and tremors set off by the local oil and gas industry.

An AI retreat at the location in Norway used for the film Ex-Machina has been the focus of expert discussion on the future of AI. Bill Thompson joined the retreat arranged by Clearleft’s Andy Budd.

The 2017 Nobel prize in physics has been awarded to three US scientists for the detection of gravitational waves. The ripples were predicted by Albert Einstein and are a fundamental consequence of his General Theory of Relativity. The winners, Rainer Weiss, Kip Thorne and Barry Barish, are members of the Ligo/Virgo observatories, which were responsible for the breakthrough. Professor Weiss talks to Ritula Shah.

The theory of plate tectonics is 50 years old. It's as fundamental to understanding the Earth as evolution by natural selection is to understanding life. Roland Pease meets geologists Dan McKenzie, John Dewey and Xavier Le Pichon who played key roles in proving the hypothesis in the late 1960s.

Ideas on improving cancer care in low and middle-income countries have been shared at a conference at the Royal Society of Medicine in London this week. Claudia Hammond speaks to Dr Harrison Chuwa, from Aga Khan Hospital in Dar es Salaam, and Shailesh Shrikhande, from the Tata Memorial Hospital in Mumbai, about some of the solutions.

The United States has removed some of its diplomats from its embassy in Havana, Cuba, after they complained of ailments like hearing loss, dizziness, headaches and nausea. It’s led to speculation that some kind of sonic or acoustic weapon might be responsible. Trevor Cox, professor of acoustic engineering at the University of Salford, discusses the likelihood with Gareth Mitchell.

(Picture caption: Man and his dog comfortably sleeping in © Getty Images)

The Science Hour was presented by Claudia Hammond with comments from science journalist and editor at the Economist Jason Palmer

Producer: Katy Takatsuki
access_time1 year ago
The World Health organisation has warned there are too few new antibiotics in the development pipelines to replace those becoming obsolete. Gareth Mitchell talks to Willem van Schaik, a professor of microbiology at the University of Birmingham, and UBS analyst Jack Scannell, about the threat of antibiotic resistance.

‘Chemical surgery’ has been performed on human embryos to remove disease for the first time, Chinese researchers have told the BBC. Leading scientists give their first reaction on this ‘base editing’. Also, studio guest Dr Claire Ainsworth, expert in developmental genetics, explains what it could mean.

A menstrual cup is an alternative to sanitary towels or tampons that is transforming the lives of some teenage girls in Kenya. Many cannot afford sanitary protection. Others had ‘boyfriends’ who would buy them pads – in return for sex. Maeve Frances reports from outside Kisumu in the west of the country.

The gravitational waves produced by two massive black holes colliding two billion years ago have been detected by three gravitational wave detectors for the first time. Professor Sheila Rowan of the University of Glasgow explains the importance of this new three way observation.

Marine ecologist Tracey Rogers talks to Jim Al-Khalili about her research on one of Antarctica's top predators, the leopard seal. Tracey's research has encompassed the animal's prolific and eerie underwater singing to radical changes in its diet that appear to be linked to climate change.

Scientists in Zurich have been carrying out new research with drones and lightweight cameras that will enable UAVs to conduct reconnaissance in poor light. Professor Davide Scaramuzza discusses the latest research with Gareth Mitchell.

Most of us are not getting enough sleep and it is affecting our health and life expectancy according to Professor Matthew Walker, whose book, Why We Sleep, is published this week. He has a family history of cardiovascular disease – and does everything he can to protect his sleep. He talks to Claudia Hammond.

(Image caption: Biofilm of antibiotic resistant bacteria © Getty Images)

The Science Hour was presented by Gareth Mitchell with comments from freelance science journalist, Dr Claire Ainsworth

Producer: Katy Takatsuki
access_time1 year ago
Mexico suffered its second earthquake in less than 14 days. Why has there been two events in such a short space of time?

Scientists have found a gene that could be critical in deciding if a newly fertilised egg gets established. This could have implications for IVF treatment.

People seeking tattoos might know to check for clean needles, but what about the ink? The German government has set up a group to study how the inks could impact on our health.

It’s been suggested that the acoustics of a cave correlates with the location paintings on the walls. Scientists are testing this theory by listening.

Children in Italy must have all of their vaccinations before they can start school. The steps were taken after an estimated 4,000 cases of measles last year and three deaths.

Congratulations to Cordelia Fine, who won the Royal Society Book Prize. Claudia Hammond was of the judges and discusses why Testosterone Rex won.

Is it fair to kill invasive species which humans have introduced? We travel to New Zealand to see if poisoning rats could save the kiwi bird.

Two years ago, a new species of hominin was discovered. We hear from one of the archaeologists who took extraordinary measures to excavate the bones.

(Photo caption: Rescuers, firefighters, policemen, soldiers and volunteers search for survivors in a flattened building in Mexico City © Yuri Cortez/AFP/Getty Images)

The Science Hour was presented by Claudia Hammond with comments from BBC Science Correspondent Helen Briggs

Producer Graihagh Jackson and Katy Takatsuki

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