add_circle Create Playlist

English Science & Medicine Podcast

Ebola can remain dormant for five years
The Science Hour BBC
access_time14 hours ago
An international team of researchers has discovered that an outbreak of Ebola in Guinea in February this year was the result of re-activated Ebola virus in someone who’d been infected at least five years ago during the earlier large Ebola epidemic that swept through Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. This means the virus can remain dormant in some Ebola survivors for five years or more. Virologists Alpha Kabinet Keita and Robert Garry talk to Roland Pease about the research and its implications. Also in the programme: The eruption of lavas from Iceland’s newest volcano Fagradalsfjall continues six months on. Geochemist Ed Marshall tells us how he gets up close to sample the molten rock with a long scoop and a bucket of water, and what he’s learning about this remarkable eruption. NASA’s Katie Stack Morgan updates Science in Action on the Perseverance rover’s successful sampling of rocks from Jezero crater on the planet Mars. When the specimens are eventually returned to Earth, she says they may turn out to contain tiny samples of Mars’ water and atmosphere from early in the Red Planet’s history. Also Look into my eyes. What do you see? Pupil, lens, retina… an intricate set of special tissues and mechanisms all working seamlessly together, so that I can see the world around me. Charles Darwin called the eye an ‘organ of extreme perfection’ and he’s not wrong! But if the eye is so complex and intricate, how did it evolve? One listener, Aloyce from Tanzania, got in touch to pose this difficult question. It’s a question that taxed Darwin himself, but CrowdScience is always up for a challenge! The problem is that eyes weren’t ever designed - they were cobbled together over millions and millions of years, formed gradually by the tweaks and adaptations of evolution. How do you get from the basic detection of light to the wonderful complexity - and diversity – of visual systems we find throughout the animal kingdom? CrowdScience sent Marnie Chesterton on an 800 million year journey to trace how the different elements that make up the human eye gradually came into being; from the emergence of the first light-sensitive proteins to crude eye-cups, from deep sea creatures with simple pinhole eyes to the first light-focusing lenses, all the way to the technicolour detail of the present day. (Image credit: Getty Images)
Ebola can remain dormant for five years
Science in Action BBC
access_time3 days ago
An international team of researchers has discovered that an outbreak of Ebola in Guinea in February this year was the result of re-activated Ebola virus in someone who’d been infected at least five years ago during the earlier large Ebola epidemic that swept through Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. This means the virus can remain dormant in some Ebola survivors for five years or more. Virologists Alpha Kabinet Keita and Robert Garry talk to Roland Pease about the research and its implications. Also in the programme: The eruption of lavas from Iceland’s newest volcano Fagradalsfjall continues six months on. Geochemist Ed Marshall tells us how he gets up close to sample the molten rock with a long scoop and a bucket of water, and what he’s learning about this remarkable eruption. NASA’s Katie Stack Morgan updates Science in Action on the Perseverance rover’s successful sampling of rocks from Jezero crater on the planet Mars. When the specimens are eventually returned to Earth, she says they may turn out to contain tiny samples of Mars’ water and atmosphere from early in the Red Planet’s history. (Image credit: Getty Images) Presenter: Roland Pease Producer: Andrew Luck-Baker
The Evolution of Crocodiles
In Our Time: Science BBC
access_time4 days ago
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the remarkable diversity of the animals that dominated life on land in the Triassic, before the rise of the dinosaurs in the Jurassic, and whose descendants are often described wrongly as 'living fossils'. For tens of millions of years, the ancestors of alligators and Nile crocodiles included some as large as a bus, some running on two legs like a T Rex and some that lived like whales. They survived and rebounded from a series of extinction events but, while the range of habitats of the dinosaur descendants such as birds covers much of the globe, those of the crocodiles have contracted, even if the animals themselves continue to evolve today as quickly as they ever have. With Anjali Goswami Research Leader in Life Sciences and Dean of Postgraduate Education at the Natural History Museum Philip Mannion Lecturer in the Department of Earth Sciences at University College London And Steve Brusatte Professor of Palaeontology and Evolution at the University of Edinburgh Producer Simon Tillotson
Covid origins: The science
Discovery BBC
access_time6 days ago
Presenter: Roland Pease Picture: Wuhan Residents Told Not To Leave As Coronavirus Pneumonia Spreads, Credit: Stringer/Getty Images
Keep most fossil fuel in ground to meet 1.5 degree goal
The Science Hour BBC
access_time8 days ago
For the world to have a decent chance of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees, 90 per cent of remaining coal reserves and 60% of unexploited oil and gas have to stay in the ground. These are the stark findings of carbon budget research by scientists at University College London. Dan Welsby spells out the details to Roland Pease. Virologist Ravi Gupta of the University of Cambridge describes his latest research that explains why the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2 is much more infectious and more able to evade our immune systems and covid vaccines than other variants. When dense fog rises from the Pacific ocean into the foothills of the Andes, oases of floral colour bloom for a few weeks or months. When the fog goes, the plants die and disappear for another year or maybe another decade. The true extent of these unique ecosystems (known as fog oases or Lomas) has now been revealed by researchers at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew in the UK, working with colleagues in Peru and Chile. They’ve discovered that the Lomas are much more extensive than suspected. Ecologist Carolina Tovar tells Roland why the fog oases are threatened and need to be protected. A species of duck can now be added to the list of birds such as parrots and starlings that mimic human speech and other sounds in their environment. Listen to Ripper, the Australian musk duck who was hand-reared on a nature reserve where he learnt to imitate his keeper say ‘You bloody fool’ and imitate the sound of an aviary door closing. Animal behaviour researcher Carel ten Cate of Leiden University says that Ripper is not the only mimicking musk duck mimic but why this duck species has evolved this trick remains a mystery. Pioneering physicist Nikolas Tesla had a dream of connecting the world up through wireless communication and power. And whilst at the start of the 20th Century Tesla demonstrated that electricity could be transmitted wirelessly very short distances, the amount of power that was needed to do this made it an unfeasible venture and the idea has since lain mostly forgotten. CrowdScience listener, George from Ghana, has asked the team whether it is once again time to reconsider this means of power generation. In countries where rugged landscapes make laying traditional power lines difficult, could wireless electricity help connect those currently reliant on costly and polluting generators? CrowdScience gets talking to various scientists who are now using state of the art technology to reimagine Tesla’s dream. We speak to a team in New Zealand developing ‘beamable’ electricity and hear how they are using lasers to make sure they don’t harm any wildlife that might wander into the beam. We then hear how wireless electricity could help fulfil the power demands of a growing electric vehicle market. We learn how a town in the USA is turning its bus fleet electric and putting wireless chargers into the tarmac at bus stops so that the busses can trickle charge as passengers get on and off. Finally, we ask whether one day, the tangled knot of wires spilling out of our electronic devices will be but a thing of the past. (Image credit: Getty Images)
Keep most fossil fuel in ground to meet 1.5 degree goal
Science in Action BBC
access_time10 days ago
For the world to have a decent chance of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees, 90 per cent of remaining coal reserves and 60% of unexploited oil and gas have to stay in the ground. These are the stark findings of carbon budget research by scientists at University College London. Dan Welsby spells out the details to Roland Pease. Virologist Ravi Gupta of the University of Cambridge describes his latest research that explains why the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2 is much more infectious and more able to evade our immune systems and covid vaccines than other variants. When dense fog rises from the Pacific ocean into the foothills of the Andes, oases of floral colour bloom for a few weeks or months. When the fog goes, the plants die and disappear for another year or maybe another decade. The true extent of these unique ecosystems (known as fog oases or Lomas) has now been revealed by researchers at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew in the UK, working with colleagues in Peru and Chile. They’ve discovered that the Lomas are much more extensive than suspected. Ecologist Carolina Tovar tells Roland why the fog oases are threatened and need to be protected. A species of duck can now be added to the list of birds such as parrots and starlings that mimic human speech and other sounds in their environment. Listen to Ripper, the Australian musk duck who was hand-reared on a nature reserve where he learnt to imitate his keeper say ‘You bloody fool’ and imitate the sound of an aviary door closing. Animal behaviour researcher Carel ten Cate of Leiden University says that Ripper is not the only mimicking musk duck mimic but why this duck species has evolved this trick remains a mystery. (Image credit: Getty Images) Presenter: Roland Pease Producer: Andrew Luck-Baker
A sci-fi vision of life in 2041 | Chen Qiufan
TEDTalks Science and Medicine TEDTalks
access_time12 days ago
Sci-fi writer Chen Qiufan doesn't fear a dystopian future. Instead, he believes developments in artificial intelligence will make all of our lives better, healthier and safer. He takes us on a tour of the next 20 years of AI and shares some astonishing predictions for the advancements in science and technology that could await us. "For every future we wish to create, we must first learn to imagine it," he says.
Future vaccines
Discovery BBC
access_time13 days ago
The COVID19 pandemic has revolutionised the way vaccines are made, and underlined the inequalities in access to vaccines. But will it leave a legacy? Roland Pease explores the potential for mRNA and other revolutionary vaccines to make future health protection faster, safer and more flexible, whether 'universal' vaccines will give broader protection, and how access to vaccines can be made more equitable. Picture: Coronavirus vaccines on the production line, Credit: MikeMareen/Getty Images
Hurricane season intensifies
The Science Hour BBC
access_time15 days ago
When hurricane Ida struck the coast of Louisiana last weekend, almost to the day that Katrina did 16 years ago, comparisons between the two events were soon to follow. As the latest storm continues to wreak havoc and death further north in the US, Suzana Camargo of Columbia university talks to Roland Pease about the similarities and differences, the better forecasting available now, and the grim reality that climate change suggests for this and future hurricane seasons. A couple of weeks ago, Science in Action looked at the carbon accounting of Blue Hydrogen (hydrogen manufactured from fossil fuels). Listener Nick Arndt got in touch to say we were wrong when we stated that hydrogen can’t be piped out of the ground from natural sources. His company, Sisprobe, plans to use its passive seismic prospecting technology to work with an international consortium that aims to unlock a new “hydrogen rush” – commercialising what they suspect to be a near-ubiquitous source of genuinely carbon-free fuel - to supply the world economy of the near future. Viacheslav Zgonnik - CEO of start-up Natural Hydrogen Energy LLC - has been working on hydrogen for 10 years, has written a recent review of the science, and tells Roland about current and future studies into finding the best way to tap this simplest of molecules before it escapes into space. In Chile, the recent megadrought has led to fears that hydroelectric damns may become so drained that power-outs may occur in the coming months. This will not help Chile to achieve its target of carbon-neutrality by 2050. Apt, then, that a new Concentrated Solar Power plant (CSP) is now up and running in the north of the country. Reporter Jane Chambers has been to visit Cerro Dominador – the spectacular new array of 10,600 mirrors that focus sunshine onto a molten salt target, heating it up to 560C, and generating up to 210 MW electricity. Meanwhile archaeologists have been doing a molecular analysis of a protein found to survive in the bones of unfortunate victims of the mount Vesuvius eruption that destroyed Pompeii. Despite the searing heat that killed inhabitants of nearby Herculaneum, Oliver Criag of York University has been able to examine the different isotopes in amino acids still recoverable from their bones to help identify what sorts of things these people ate during their tragically foreshortened lifetimes. A whole lot of cereals generally, but more interestingly, the men tended to eat more fish while the women seem to have consumed more meat and dairy. Our connection to the night sky spans cultures and millennia: observing the stars and planets helped our ancestors navigate the world, tell stories about the constellations, and understand our place in the universe. But these days, for the vast majority of us, seeing the stars is getting harder. 80% of people live under light polluted skies, and in many cities you’re lucky to see a handful of stars at night. This state of affairs is bothering CrowdScience listener and keen stargazer Mo from Salt Lake City in the USA, who wonders if there’s anything we can do about light pollution. Of course, we could simply turn out all the lights, but that’s unrealistic. So what are smarter ways of lighting our communities to preserve our view of the cosmos? Increasingly worried by the effect of artificial lighting on the ability to observe stars, astronomer Dr Jason Pun set up a series of monitoring stations to continuously measure ‘sky glow’. By comparing sky glow across the world, he wants to figure out which approaches work best. One community taking an active approach is the South Downs National Park in South East England, one of a number of Dark Sky Reserves around the word. We visit the park and speak to the Dark Skies Officer there, to find out how people are coming together to turn down their lights and keep the night dark. And it’s not just stargazing that’s threatened by light pollution. Artificial light at night disrupts the circadian rhythms of wildlife. We visit a project in rural Germany looking into the benefits of dark-sky-friendly lighting on insect populations there. (Image credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Hurricane season intensifies
Science in Action BBC
access_time17 days ago
When hurricane Ida struck the coast of Louisiana last weekend, almost to the day that Katrina did 16 years ago, comparisons between the two events were soon to follow. As the latest storm continues to wreak havoc and death further north in the US, Suzana Camargo of Columbia university talks to Roland Pease about the similarities and differences, the better forecasting available now, and the grim reality that climate change suggests for this and future hurricane seasons. A couple of weeks ago, Science in Action looked at the carbon accounting of Blue Hydrogen (hydrogen manufactured from fossil fuels). Listener Nick Arndt got in touch to say we were wrong when we stated that hydrogen can’t be piped out of the ground from natural sources. His company, Sisprobe, is using its passive seismic prospecting technology to work with an international consortium that aims to unlock a new “hydrogen Rush” – commercialising what they suspect to be a near-ubiquitous source of genuinely carbon-free fuel to supply the world economy of the near future. Viacheslav Zgonnik - CEO of start-up Natural Hydrogen Energy LLC - has been working on hydrogen for 10 years, has written a recent review of the science, and tells Roland about current and future studies into finding the best way to tap this simplest of molecules before it escapes into space. In Chile, the recent megadrought has led to fears that hydroelectric damns may become so drained that power-outs may occur in the coming months. This will not help Chile to achieve its target of carbon-neutrality by 2050. Apt, then, that a new Concentrated Solar Power plant (CSP) is now up and running in the north of the country. Reporter Jane Chambers has been to visit Cerro Dominador – the spectacular new array of 10,600 mirrors that focus sunshine onto a molten salt target, heating it up to 560C, and generating up to 210 MW electricity. Meanwhile archaeologists have been doing a molecular analysis of a protein found to survive in the bones of unfortunate victims of the mount Vesuvius eruption that destroyed Pompeii. Despite the searing heat that killed inhabitants of nearby Herculaneum, Oliver Criag of York University has been able to examine the different isotopes in amino acids still recoverable from their bones to help identify what sorts of things these people ate during their tragically foreshortened lifetimes. A whole lot of cereals generally, but more interestingly, the men tended to eat more fish while the women seem to have consumed more meat and dairy. (Image credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images) Presenter: Roland Pease Producer: Alex Mansfield
Tamsin Edwards on the uncertainty in climate science
Discovery BBC
access_time20 days ago
Certainty is comforting. Certainty is quick. But science is uncertain. And this is particularly true for people who are trying to understand climate change. Climate scientist, Tamsin Edwards tackles this uncertainty head on. She quantifies the uncertainty inherent in all climate change predictions to try and understand which of many possible storylines about the future of our planet are most likely to come true. How likely is it that the ice cliffs in Antarctica will collapse into the sea causing a terrifying amount of sea level rise? Even the best supercomputers in the world aren’t fast enough to do all the calculations we need to understand what might be going on, so Tamsin uses statistical tools to fill in the gaps. She joined the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2018 and is currently working on the 6th Assessment Report which will inform the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP26. She tells Jim Al-Khalili about her life and work and why she wishes more people would have the humility (and confidence) to consider the possibility that they might be wrong.
The Evidence: How will the pandemic end?
Discovery BBC
access_time21 days ago
When all restrictions are lifted in a highly vaccinated country, how manageable is the coronavirus? Both Israel and UK’s experiments to do just that, have raised new worries about raising the risk of new vaccine resistant variants. Claudia Hammond and her panel of global experts consider our ability to predict how and when variants of concern are most likely to arise and how long our repertoire of vaccines can remain effective in riding out increasingly infectious waves of the virus. Also in the programme - does anyone need a third “booster” dose or is it more important to make sure the whole world gets their first two doses instead? And as more people in the world get vaccinated every day, can we get to a situation where the virus is kept in check, without the huge surges in cases that overwhelm hospitals? Listeners put their questions about coronavirus and the pandemic directly to Claudia and her panel of specialists which includes Professor Salim Abdool Karim - a clinical infectious disease epidemiologist and a Member of the African Task Force on Coronavirus; Dr Natalia Freund a leading immunologist at Sackler School of Medicine, Tel Aviv University; Adam Finn, professor of paediatrics at the Bristol Children's Vaccine Centre, University of Bristol, and a member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation that advises UK health departments on immunisation, and Dr Muge Cevik, who’s a medical doctor and clinical lecturer in infectious diseases and medical virology at the University of St Andrew’s in Scotland. Producer: Adrian Washbourne Editor: Deborah Cohen Technical supervision: Steve Greenwood
World’s first DNA Covid-Vaccine
The Science Hour BBC
access_time22 days ago
Indian authorities have approved the world’s first DNA-based Covid vaccine for emergency use. Not all the data that has led to the opening of the phase 3 trials is yet publicly available, but as public health policy expert Chandrakant Lahariya explains to presenter Roland Pease, it could be a real help in India’s, and the world’s, fight to get things under control. WHO Wuhan expedition The origins of the Covid virus were investigated last winter by a WHO team sent to Wuhan – where the first cases were discovered – earlier this year. Their work has since become the subject of intense political scrutiny and some criticism. This week, members of the team including Marian Koopmans have written a rebuttal, setting out the original terms of the investigation and urging the continuation of the process, as she explains to Victoria Gill. Decolonise Science Most of the science written by people from or about the African continent is written in English. Many local African languages do not currently have a meaningful vocabulary for many of the scientific terms and concepts researchers use. This week a team of scientists, journalists, and translators are completing the launch of a project called Decolonise Science, which will take 180 nominated papers posted on the website AfricaArxiv, translate them into 6 African languages including isiZulu, Sothu, and Hausa, and then use Machine Learning methods to build resources for science communication and education in people’s home languages. Project partner Sibusiso Byela explains the thinking. Royal Society Africa Prize winner This week the UK’s Royal Society announced its annual awards. Kenya’s George Warimwe has taken the Africa Award for his work creating vaccines for a virus that creates disease in livestock and humans – Rift Valley Fever. His promising approach stems from years of working with adenovirus technology akin to the AstraZeneca Covid virus. But as he explains, his One Health approach is to learn from the immune response in humans and apply it to animals, and vice-versa. The grant associated with the award should also help him and his team pick- up on research left-off before the coronavirus pandemic. How did our ancestors sleep? How we sleep is a topic of endless fascination and for some can, ironically be quite exhausting. Modern life has allowed us to invade the night, and those pesky late night work emails, social media and TV all conspire to limit our sleep or simply prevent us from a truly restful night. But if we travel back in time, did our ancestors master sleep any better? No air-con or electric fan for them on hot humid nights, and only smoky fires to keep them warm on cold, snowy nights. What if we go way back into our pre-history, to our ancient human ancestors? No interruption for them from an unwanted work email, however perhaps a ravenous lion gave them more reason for those night time worries. CrowdScience listener Tom asks our sleep deprived presenter Datshiane Navanayagam to investigate how our sleep has changed over history and pre-history. She talks to Professor Russell Foster, Head of the Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Institute at the University of Oxford and Neanderthal expert Dr Rebecca Wragg Sykes about slumber habits in days of yore, and in doing so, she uncovers some top tips from our ancestors that may give us all a better nights rest. (Image: Getty Images) Presenters: Roland Pease and Datshiane Navanayagam Producers: Alex Mansfield and Alexandra Feachem
World’s first DNA Covid-Vaccine
Science in Action BBC
access_time24 days ago
Indian authorities have approved the world’s first DNA-based covid vaccine for emergency use. Not all the data that has led to the opening of the phase 3 trials is yet publicly available, but as public health policy expert Chandrakant Lahariya explains to Roland, it could be a real help in India’s, and the world’s, fight to get things under control. The origins of the Covid virus were investigated last winter by a WHO team sent to Wuhan – where the first cases were discovered – earlier this year. Their work has since become the subject of intense political scrutiny and some criticism. This week, members of the team including Marian Koopmans have written a rebuttal, setting out the original terms of the investigation and urging the continuation of the process, as she explains to Victoria Gill. Most of the science written by people from or about the African continent is written in English. Many local African languages do not currently have a meaningful vocabulary for many of the scientific terms and concepts researchers use. This week a team of scientists, journalists, and translators are completing the launch of a project called Decolonise Science, which will take 180 nominated papers posted on the website AfricaArxiv, translate them into 6 African languages including isiZulu, Sothu, and Hausa, and then use Machine Learning methods to build resources for science communication and education in people’s home languages. Project partner Sibusiso Byela explains the thinking. This week the UK’s Royal Society announced its annual awards. Kenya’s George Warimwe has taken the Africa Award for his work creating vaccines for a virus that creates disease in livestock and humans – Rift Valley Fever. His promising approach stems from years of working with adenovirus technology akin to the AstraZeneca covid virus. But as he explains, his One Health approach is to learn from the immune response in humans and apply it to animals, and vice-versa. The grant associated with the award should also help him and his team pick- up on research left-off before the coronavirus pandemic. (Image: Getty Images) Presenter: Roland Pease Producer: Alex Mansfield
The Life Scientific: Professor Martin Sweeting
Discovery BBC
access_time27 days ago
When Martin Sweeting was a student, he thought it would be fun to try to build a satellite using electronic components found in some of the earliest personal computers. An amateur radio ham and space enthusiast, he wanted to create a communications satellite that could be used to talk to people on the other side of the world. It was a team effort, he insists, with friends and family pitching in and a lot of the work being done on his kitchen table. Somehow he managed to persuade NASA to let his microsatellite hitch a ride into space and, after the first message was received, spent more than a decade trying to get a good picture of planet earth. The technology that Martin pioneered underpins modern life with thousands of reprogrammable microsatellites now in orbit around the earth and thousands more due to launch in the next few years to bring internet connections to remote parts of the world. The university spin-off company, Surrey Satellite Technologies Limited (SSTL) that Martin set up in the 1980s with an initial investment of £100 sold for £50 million, a quarter of a century later. If his company had been bought by venture capitalists, he says he would probably have ended up making TVs. Instead he developed the satellite technology on which so much of modern life depends. Produce: Anna Buckley Photo Credit: SSTL
Seismic citizen science in Hispaniola
The Science Hour BBC
access_time29 days ago
The epicentre of the tragic earthquake in Haiti last week was just 100km from that of the even more deadly 2010 one. Unlike then, a network of small cheap seismic detectors run by volunteers is currently monitoring the aftershocks. As Eric Calais says, the suspicion is that this could be the latest in a sequence of quakes, echoing previous clusters over the last few hundred years. Is ‘Blue Hydrogen’ all that green? Hydrogen is being much touted as an alternative to natural gas as a source of fuel for homes in a low-carbon world. In particular, “blue” hydrogen – hydrogen made from fossil fuels but with the carbon dioxide being captured at the point of production – is said to be some sort of transitional fuel that could be introduced into current infrastructure with little stress. But Robert Howarth is less optimistic. He is co-author on a paper published last week analysing the net carbon impact of blue hydrogen production. He argues that not only are there hidden greenhouse gas emissions in production, but that in fact burning blue Hydrogen at home could have a worse impact than burning the natural gas from which it is made. Why do some bat babies babble? Meanwhile, scientists of the Leibniz Institute evolution and Biodiversity have been eavesdropping on bats in Panama. Human babies babble when they are learning how to talk. It’s been shown before that songbirds do something similar, but according to Ahana Fernandez, it now it seems another mammal joins the babbling ranks – the younglings of the Greater Sac-Winged bat of South America. Ahana tells Roland about her analysis. Why is human skin so rubbish? If you’ve ever fallen over and grazed your skin, maybe you wished it were made of stronger stuff. The tough hide of a rhinoceros or the protective armour of a stag beetle would do a better job. It’s a thought that’s been bothering CrowdScience listener Paul, who points out that our skin also suffers from acne, eczema and hives; it dries out; it bruises. In fact, human hide is so vulnerable that we cover our feet in other animals’ skin and our bodies in clothes just to make life more comfortable. Is this really the pinnacle of evolution? Marnie Chesterton makes the case for the largest, fastest-growing organ, hiding in plain site on our body. Tissue Engineer Professor Sheila MacNeil from Sheffield University explains how skin manages to be breathable yet waterproof; flexible yet stronger than steel; sensitive to touch but protective against pollution and damaging UV. Skin biologist Dr Christina Philippeos from King’s College London explains how our bodies make a scar. Professor Muzlifah Haniffa has developed an atlas of the human skin – a tool to help researchers unravel the mysteries of how different skin cells interact. This atlas should help treat skin diseases in the future. Over in Tanzania’s Regional Dermatology Training Centre in Moshi, Dr Daudi Mavura talks us through a rare but devastating skin disorder called Xeroderma Pigmentosum, or XP. For children with XP, sunlight is dangerous because a mutation in the skin’s DNA repair mechanism means that UV rays can cause lesions and tumours. Our epidermis is already multifunctional but over at Ben May Department of Cancer Research at the University of Chicago, Professor Xaioyang Wu and colleagues are looking at how much more skin could do. Personalised skin grafts may provide living drug patches to help people manage their disease, addiction or even weight. With thanks to Dr Lynne MacTavish from Mankwe Wildlife Reserve in South Africa for describing a rhino’s skin. Produced and presented by Marnie Chesterton (Photo by Reginald Loiussaint/JR/AFP via Getty Images) Presenters: Roland Pease / Marnie Chesterton Producers: Alex Mansfield / Marnie Chesterton
Seismic citizen science in Hispaniola
Science in Action BBC
access_time1 month ago
The epicentre of the tragic earthquake in Haiti last week was just 100km from that of the even more deadly 2010 one. Unlike then, a network of small cheap seismic detectors run by volunteers is currently monitoring the aftershocks. As Eric Calais says, the suspicion is that this could be the latest in a sequence of quakes, echoing previous clusters over the last few hundred years. Hydrogen is being much touted as an alternative to natural gas as a source of fuel for homes in a low-carbon world. In particular, “blue” hydrogen – hydrogen made from fossil fuels but with the carbon dioxide being captured at the point of production – is said to be some sort of transitional fuel that could be introduced into current infrastructure with little stress. But Robert Howarth is less optimistic. He is co-author on a paper published last week analysing the net carbon impact of blue hydrogen production. He argues that not only are there hidden greenhouse gas emissions in production, but that in fact burning blue Hydrogen at home could have a worse impact than burning the natural gas from which it is made. Meanwhile, physicists at the US National Ignition Facility are rumoured to have made a huge stride in the quest for controlled, sustained nuclear fusion. Using a barrage of powerful lasers to heat indirectly a tiny hydrogen isotope target, on the 8th of august, they briefly got 70% of the energy back from one of their runs. It is a huge leap in returns, and tantalisingly suggests some sort of runaway fusion reaction occurred. Around the world, hopes of laser-driven fusion energy generation are soaring, but as an ecstatic Kate Lancaster of the University of York cautions, even if it does represent ignition, we are still a long way from “plug socket efficiency” or net energy gain. Meanwhile, scientists of the Leibniz Institute evolution and Biodiversity have been eavesdropping on bats in Panama. Human babies babble when they are learning how to talk. It’s been shown before that songbirds do something similar, but according to Ahana Fernandez, it now it seems another mammal joins the babbling ranks – the younglings of the Greater Sac-Winged bat of South America. Ahana tells Roland about her analysis. (Photo by Reginald Loiussaint/JR/AFP via Getty Images) Presenter: Roland Pease Producer: Alex Mansfield
The Life Scientific: Dr Nira Chamberlain
Discovery BBC
access_time1 month ago
When does a crowd of people become unsafe? How well will the football team Aston Villa do next season? When is it cost-effective to replace a kitchen? The answers may seem arbitrary but, to Nira Chamberlain, they lie in mathematics. You can use maths to model virtually anything. Dr Nira Chamberlain is President of the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications, and Principal Mathematical Modeller for the multinational engineering company SNC-Lavalin Atkins. He specialises in complex engineering and industrial problems, creating mathematical models to describe a particular feature or process, and then running simulations to better understand it, and predict its behaviour. Nira is one of just a handful of esteemed mathematicians, and the first black mathematician. to be featured in ‘Who’s Who’, Britain’s book of prominent people. Since 2018, he’s made the Black Power List, which celebrates the UK’s top 100 most influential people of African or African-Caribbean heritage, ranking higher than Stormzy and Lewis Hamilton when he was first listed. Proof, he says, that maths really is for everyone.
Methane - a climate solution?
The Science Hour BBC
access_time1 month ago
The latest IPCC assessment raised alarm about the rate at which manmade emissions are contributing to climate change. Much of the focus for action is on reducing levels of carbon dioxide, however there is a more potent greenhouse gas, methane, produced by natural and industrial processes which, as Roland Pease tells Drew Shindell of Duke University and lead author on the Global Methane Assessment, is relatively easy to target for reduction. Gut microbes and behaviour Roland speaks to neuroscientist John Cryan of University College, Cork in Ireland who is interested in the effects our gut microbes can have on our behaviour. It’s an unusual connection and one which he’s been experimenting on in mice. By feeding the faeces of younger mice to older ones he has found that the older ones’ took on some of the younger ones’ behaviour. Ball lightning Ball lightning is the stuff of legend and the supernatural. And yet there are many reported sightings of this phenomenon. Texas State University's Karl Stephan explains to Roland that he is keen to uncover the science behind these observations. He’s running a crowd sourcing project encouraging people to contribute video recordings of any ball lightening events they might observe. Chile mummies And Chile is home to the oldest known mummies in the World. UNESCO world heritage status has been given to a collection of around 300 mummies from Chile’s northern deserts. The mummies of babies, children and adults are thought to have been created in response to arsenic poisoning in the region around 7,000 years ago. How can smart tech tackle climate change? Humans are responsible for emitting over 40 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year – and we all know that we need to reduce that figure to prevent devastating climate change. Listener Saugat wonders whether smart technology and artificial intelligence can help us do this more quickly? Green energy will go a long way to tackling the problem, but integrating wind and solar into our current electricity grid is complicated. Marnie Chesterton hears how AI is being used at a wind farm on the island of Orkney to predict periods of high winds, so that excess energy can be turned into hydrogen and stored, then converted back to electricity when there’s greater demand. Digital mirrors are also playing a major role in optimising performance, and scientists say cloud-based “twins” of physical assets like turbines can improve yield by up to 20%, allowing engineers to identify problems via computer without ever having to be on site. Marnie visits an intelligent building in London’s financial district where sensors control everything from air-conditioning to lighting, and machine learning means the building knows which staff will be on which floor at any given time, switching off lifts that are not in use and adjusting ventilation to save on power. Its designer says incorporating this kind of digital technology will help companies achieve net zero more quickly. And in India, more than half the population are involved in agriculture, but the sector is plagued by inefficiency and waste. Tech start-ups have realised there’s potential for growth, and are using drones to monitor crop production and spraying, giving farmers apps which help them decide when and where to fertilise their fields. Image: Livestock farm in Brazil Credit: Photo by Igor Do Vale/NurPhoto via Getty Images Presenters: Roland Pease and Marnie Chesterton Producers: Julian Siddle and Marijke Peters
Methane - a climate solution?
Science in Action BBC
access_time1 month ago
The latest IPCC assessment raised alarm about the rate at which manmade emissions are contributing to climate change. Much of the focus for action is on reducing levels of carbon dioxide, however there is a more potent greenhouse gas, methane, produced by natural and industrial processes which, says Drew Shindell of Duke University and lead author on the Global Methane Assessment, is relatively easy to target for reduction. Neuroscientist John Cryan of University College, Cork in Ireland is interested in the effects our gut microbes can have on our behaviour. It’s an unusual connection and one which he’s been experimenting on in mice. By feeding the faeces of younger mice to older ones he has found that the older ones’ took on some of the younger ones’ behaviour. Ball lightning is the stuff of legend and the supernatural. And yet there are many reported sightings of this phenomenon. Texas State University's Karl Stephan is keen to uncover the science behind these observations. He’s running a crowd sourcing project encouraging people to contribute video recordings of any ball lightening events they might observe. And Chile is home to the oldest known mummies in the World. UNESCO world heritage status has been given to a collection of around 300 mummies from Chile’s northern deserts. The mummies of babies, children and adults are thought to have been created in response to arsenic poisoning in the region around 7,000 years ago. Image: Livestock farm in Brazil Credit: Photo by Igor Do Vale/NurPhoto via Getty Images Presenter: Roland Pease Producer: Julian Siddle
The vulva & your GP medical records
Inside Health BBC
access_time1 month ago
Do you know your mons pubis from your labia majora? Few of us can identify the parts of the vulva - that’s the external female genitals. So I go exploring with Dr Fiona Reid from St Mary’s Hospital in Manchester and find out why we all need to be better informed. Also, who should be able to look at your medical records? There are grand plans afoot to collect the data your GP holds on you and make it available to researchers. We discuss the pros and the cons with Prof Martin Landray from Oxford University and GP Dr Margaret McCartney. PRESENTER: James Gallagher PRODUCER: Beth Eastwood
Lost for words
Discovery BBC
access_time1 month ago
Struggling to find words might be one of the first things we notice when someone develops dementia, while more advanced speech loss can make it really challenging to communicate with loved ones. And understanding what’s behind these changes may help us overcome communication barriers when caring for someone living with the condition. When Ebrahim developed Alzheimer’s Disease, for example, he’d been living in the UK for many years. Gradually his fluent English faded and he reverted to his mother tongue, Farsi - which made things tricky for his English-speaking family who were caring for him. Two decades on, his son, the journalist and author David Shariatmadari, seeks answers to his father’s experience of language loss. What can neuroscience reveal about dementia, ageing, and language changes? Why are some aspects of language more vulnerable than others - and, importantly, what are the best approaches to communicating with someone living with dementia? David reflects on archive recordings of his dad, and speaks to a family in a similar situation to theirs, to compare the ways they tried to keep communication alive. And he discovers there are actually clear benefits to bilingualism when it comes to dementia: juggling two or more languages can delay the onset of symptoms by around four years. So while losing one of his languages posed practical difficulties for Ebrahim, it’s possible that by speaking two languages in the first place, he was able to spend more valuable lucid years with his family. Presented by David Shariatmadari and produced by Cathy Edwards
Record-shattering weather
The Science Hour BBC
access_time1 month ago
July 2021 saw temperatures in the western US and Canada smash previous records by 5 degrees. And that’s what we should expect, according to a study prepared much earlier but published, coincidentally, just a few days later. A hallmark of rapid climate change, says author Erich Fischer of ETH Zurich, will be an accelerating number of record-shattering, and socially disruptive, events. A large new study on communications and hierarchy across a large range of our ape and monkey relatives has just been published. Lead author Katie Slocombe of the University of York explains the findings: like us, the primates live socially in groups, and there are leaders, but the more tolerant ones are also the more communicative ones. In species with ‘despotic’ leaders, order seems to be maintained with more menacing silence. The double helix of all DNA on earth twists in one direction. But researchers at Tsinghua University in China have made some important steps towards making mirror life, in which the DNA twists in the opposite direction. Chemistry journalist Mark Peplow discusses the significance of this discovery with Roland Pease. One of the benefits of science’s ability to read normal DNA has been to compare human genomes from across the globe – for example in the Human Genome Diversity Project –for what they reveal about both our health – and our past. But sequences from the Middle East have been sadly lacking. The Sanger Institute’s Mohamed Almarri and colleagues have just rectified that, saying that the Middle East played such a key role in the human story. Today, up to 3 billion people around the world play video games, from candy-based mobile puzzles to virtual battlegrounds filled with weapons. Many people have turned to gaming during the pandemic as a way of staying connected – but what does science really say about the impact of gaming? Does playing violent video games lead to violence in the real world? Do brain training apps really work? How much gaming is too much – can video games really be addictive? And how can video games help us to explore difficult issues like death, grief and loss? Alex Lathbridge and Anand Jagatia look at the evidence and play some games along the way, speaking to psychologists, doctors and game designers about the power of video games to change us - for better or worse. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)
Introducing: Season 2 of 30 Animals That Made Us Smarter
Discovery BBC
access_time1 month ago
How animals make us smarter – we thought you might like to hear our brand new episode. It’s about a robotic arm inspired by an elephant’s trunk. For more, search for 30 Animals That Made Us Smarter wherever you get your podcasts. #30Animals
Record-shattering weather
Science in Action BBC
access_time2 months ago
July 2021 saw temperatures in the western US and Canada smash previous records by 5 degrees. And that’s what we should expect, according to a study prepared much earlier but published, coincidentally, just a few days later. A hallmark of rapid climate change, says author Erich Fischer of ETH Zurich, will be an accelerating number of record-shattering, and socially disruptive, events. A large new study on communications and hierarchy across a large range of our ape and monkey relatives has just been published. Lead author Katie Slocombe of the University of York explains the findings: like us, the primates live socially in groups, and there are leaders, but the more tolerant ones are also the more communicative ones. In species with ‘despotic’ leaders, order seems to be maintained with more menacing silence. The double helix of all DNA on earth twists in one direction. But researchers at Tsinghua University in China have made some important steps towards making mirror life, in which the DNA twists in the opposite direction. Chemistry journalist Mark Peplow discusses the significance of this discovery with Roland Pease. One of the benefits of science’s ability to read normal DNA has been to compare human genomes from across the globe – for example in the Human Genome Diversity Project – for what they reveal about both our health – and our past. But sequences from the Middle East have been sadly lacking. The Sanger Institute’s Mohamed Almarri and colleagues have just rectified that, saying that the Middle East played such a key role in the human story. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images) Presenter: Roland Pease Editor: Deborah Cohen
Long covid in children & treating normal blood pressure
Inside Health BBC
access_time2 months ago
My blood pressure is perfectly normal, but could I benefit from medication to lower it even further? We discuss with Oxford University’s Prof Kazem Rahimi and our resident GP Margaret McCartney. How do you diagnose a new disease that could have 200 symptoms? We explore long Covid in children with our reporter Carolyn Atkinson and Professor Sir Terence Stephenson from the UCL Great Ormond Street Institute for Child Health. PRESENTER: James Gallagher PRODUCER: Beth Eastwood
Meet the scientist couple driving an mRNA vaccine revolution | Uğur Şahin and Özlem Türeci
TEDTalks Science and Medicine TEDTalks
access_time2 months ago
As COVID-19 spread, BioNTech cofounders Uğur Şahin and Özlem Türeci had one goal: to make a safe, effective vaccine faster than ever before. In this illuminating conversation with head of TED Chris Anderson, the immunologists (and married couple) share the fascinating story of how their decades of mRNA research powered the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine -- and forecast what this breakthrough science could mean for the future of vaccines and other immunotherapy treatments.
A sense of music
Discovery BBC
access_time2 months ago
Music can make us feel happy and sad. It can compel us to move in time with it, or sing along to a melody. It taps into some integral sense of musicality that binds us together. But music is regimented, organised. That same 'sense' that lets us lean into Beethoven makes a bad note or a missed beat instantly recognisable. But does that same thing happen in the minds of animals? Can a monkey feel moved by Mozart? Will a bird bop to a beat? Do animals share our 'Sense of Music'? Charles Darwin himself thought that the basic building blocks of an appreciation for music were shared across the animal kingdom. But over decades of scientific investigation, evidence for this has been vanishingly rare. Fresh from his revelation that animals' experience of time can be vastly different to our own, in the award-winning programme 'A Sense of Time', presenter Geoff Marsh delves once more into the minds of different species. This time he explores three key aspects of musicality: rhythm, melody and emotional sensitivity. Geoff finds rhythm is lacking in our closest relatives, the chimpanzees. But it's abundantly clear in a dancing Cockatoo, and internet sensation, named Snowball. He speaks with scientists who have revealed that birds enjoy their own music, but may be listening for something completely different to melody. And Geoff listens to music composed for tamarin monkeys, that apparently they find remarkably relaxing, but which sets us on edge. In 'A Sense of Music', discover what happens when music meets the animal mind. Produced by Rory Galloway Presented by Geoff Marsh
The earliest traces of animal life on earth
The Science Hour BBC
access_time2 months ago
Do rocks found in Canada show animal life 350 million years older than any found before? And, delving to the core of Mars, the guts of cats, and into the life of Steven Weinberg. Prof Elizabeth Turner of Canada's Laurentian University reports in the journal Nature structures in some of the oldest sedimentary rocks that resemble the residue left by sponges such as the sort you might find in a bath. 350 million years older than the oldest such fossils yet identified, if they are left by such animals, they represent a complex life that existed some 90 million years before - it has been supposed - there was even enough oxygen to support such development. As she tells us, rather like previous geologists investigating the deep history of life, Elizabeth has been sitting on this idea since she was a young researcher. Since 2019 NASA's InSight probe has been on the surface of Mars listening for seismic waves from below to try to form a picture of the planet's internal structure. Last week in the journal Science, three papers presented data and analysis and some surprises for planetary scientists trying to work out how a planet that began almost, but not quite, so similar to earth could have turned out so different today. Cambridge University's Dr Sanna Cottaar gives us her take on the exciting findings. Most of our understanding of genetics – diseases and heritability – is derived from decades of deep studies into just a few model species besides humans. But Prof Lesley Lyons runs a lab at the University of Missouri focusing almost entirely on cats. She describes to Roland a proclamation she makes this week to her fellow scientists to do more work into cat genetics and how, because of the similarities between cats and human genomes, that will bring all sorts of benefits to human (and cat) health. Earlier this week we heard of the death of physicist Steven Weinberg - one of the giants of 20th century particle physics and cosmology. Roland presents recordings and reminiscences of a remarkable scientist who provided so much insight into the first 3 minutes of our universe's existence Also, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. It’s a well-known phrase that we all try and follow in our day to day lives. But are our current recycling habits the best they can be? It’s a hot topic at Crowdscience - multiple listeners have contacted Crowdscience with questions about the ins and outs of recycling. We follow one listener’s food waste to a processing plant to investigate whether or not it could be processed in our own homes. But aside from the food waste, what about the containers it comes in? We investigate if food containers really need to be cleaned before we put them in recycling bins, or if that just wastes water. Recycling processes differ all over the world, so we hear from reporter Chhavi Sachdev in Mumbai, India, who follows her plastic waste to find out how plastic sorting and recycling is a whole economy of its own. But new technologies have meant that biodegradable and bioderived plastics are starting to appear in our packaging, and one Crowdscience listener wants to know which is better for the environment – traditional plastic that has been recycled, or bioplastic and compostable alternatives? And looking to the future, could we ever recycle our plastic waste at home and use 3D printers to make useful things out of our own waste? Marnie Chesterton delves into these questions with Circular Economy Project Manager Dr Rhiannon Hunt of Manchester Metropolitan University, to discover the details of recycling and unearth how we can make our own recycling as efficient as possible. With Dave Atkins, reporter Chhavi Sachdev and Dr Rhiannon Hunt. Image: Field locations in Northwest Territories, Canada Credit: Elizabeth Turner, Laurentian University
Whatever happened to…those Covid-19 stories
Discovery BBC
access_time2 months ago
Whatever happened to those sniffer dogs who were seeking out any passengers infected with Covid-19 at Helsinki airport? And did plans to sample sewage to spot outbreaks early prove successful? This week on The Evidence, we have listeners’ questions about some of the clever ideas which were in the news early on in the pandemic but we haven’t heard about for a while. Trials of treatments like the cheap steroid dexamethasone proved successful – but what about the anti-parasite medication, ivermectin, which has sparked fierce debate on social media? Because of its role in our body’s immune system, researchers wondered if Vitamin D might be useful in preventing Covid infections or treating people in hospital. We hear about some of the flaws in those studies – and the role which genetics plays in how much Vitamin D there is in our bodies. Nasal sprays have been used for colds and flu to help shorten how long you are ill for and reduce the symptoms – can we achieve the same result for Covid infections by using a spray which contains seaweed? Vaccination is key to ending the pandemic – but have all of the vaccines bought by countries like the United States been used? And what will happen to any which are left over, can they be given to countries which desperately need them? Once enough people are vaccinated or have immunity from being infected we should reach the magical “herd immunity” level where there aren’t enough people vulnerable to infection for Covid-19 to spread. We hear how new variants of the virus could mean that number will grow – making it more difficult to bring the pandemic to an end. Claudia Hammond’s panel of experts will guide you through some of the ideas which have been tested like nasal sprays and nicotine patches – to separate the duds from the winners – as well as highlight others which could still prove to be promising. Claudia’s expert panel includes global health epidemiologist from the University of Boston, Professor Matthew Fox; from The Netherlands Professor Marion Koopmans who’s Head of the Erasmus MC Department of Viroscience in Rotterdam, who was a member of the WHO’s mission to Wuhan in China earlier this year to investigate the origins of Covid-19; Vice Dean of the Faculty of Intensive Care Medicine Dr Danny Bryden, who’s a Consultant at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals; medical journalist Clare Wilson from New Scientist Magazine. Produced by: Paula McGrath, Samara Linton and Maria Simons Studio Engineers: Jo Longton
The earliest traces of animal life on earth.
Science in Action BBC
access_time2 months ago
Do rocks found in Canada show animal life 350 million years older than any found before? And, delving to the core of Mars, the guts of cats, and into the life of Steven Weinberg. Prof Elizabeth Turner of Canada's Laurentian University reports in the journal Nature structures in some of the oldest sedimentary rocks that resemble the residue left by sponges such as the sort you might find in a bath. 350 million years older than the oldest such fossils yet identified, if they are left by such animals, they represent a complex life that existed some 90 million years before - it has been supposed - there was even enough oxygen to support such development. As she tells us, rather like previous geologists investigating the deep history of life, Elizabeth has been sitting on this idea since she was a young researcher. Since 2019 NASA's InSight probe has been on the surface of Mars listening for seismic waves from below to try to form a picture of the planet's internal structure. Last week in the journal Science, three papers presented data and analysis and some surprises for planetary scientists trying to work out how a planet that began almost, but not quite, so similar to earth could have turned out so different today. Cambridge University's Dr Sanna Cottaar gives us her take on the exciting findings. Most of our understanding of genetics – diseases and heritability – is derived from decades of deep studies into just a few model species besides humans. But Prof Lesley Lyons runs a lab at the University of Missouri focusing almost entirely on cats. She describes to Roland a proclamation she makes this week to her fellow scientists to do more work into cat genetics and how, because of the similarities between cats and human genomes, that will bring all sorts of benefits to human (and cat) health. Earlier this week we heard of the death of physicist Steven Weinberg - one of the giants of 20th century particle physics and cosmology. Roland presents recordings and reminiscences of a remarkable scientist who provided so much insight into the first 3 minutes of our universe's existence Image: Field locations in Northwest Territories, Canada Credit: Elizabeth Turner, Laurentian University Presenter: Roland Pease Producer: Alex Mansfield
Fewer periods, The link between erectile dysfunction and the heart
Inside Health BBC
access_time2 months ago
It’s time to talk about periods and contraception. Different birth control options alter the menstrual cycle. Journalist Nicola Davis tells me about her decade without periods and our resident GP Margaret McCartney and sexual health doctor Julia Bailey discuss the evidence and what you need to know. We’ve also got vaccination expert Adam Finn to discuss the slowdown in young people getting the Covid-19 jab and cardiologist Rohin Francis explores the link between erectile dysfunction and the heart. PRESENTER: James Gallagher PRODUCER: Geraldine Fitzgerald & Beth Eastwood
Dare To Repair: Fixing the future
Discovery BBC
access_time2 months ago
Mark Miodownik, explores the environmental consequences of the throwaway society we have become and reveals that recycling electronic waste comes second to repairing broken electronics. He asks what we can learn from repair cultures around the world , he looks at manufacturers who are designing in repair-ability, and discovers the resources available to encourage and train the next generation of repairers. Image: Teen boy solders wires to build robot, Credit: SDI Productions/Getty Images Producer: Fiona Roberts
Your molecular machinery, now in 3D
The Science Hour BBC
access_time2 months ago
Back in November it was announced that an AI company called DeepMind had near enough cracked the problem of protein folding - that is they had managed to successfully predict the 3D structures of complex biochemical molecules by only knowing the 2D sequence of amino acids from which they are made. They are not the only team to use machine learning to approach the vast amounts of data involved. But only last week, they released the source code and methodology behind their so called AlphaFold 2 tool for free. And today they have published, via a paper in the journal Nature, a simply huge database of predicted structures including most of the human proteome, and 20 other model species such as yeast and mice. The possibilities for any biochemists are very exciting. As DeepMind CEO Demis Hassabis tells Roland Pease, they partnered with the European Molecular Biology Laboratory to make over 350,000 of these protein predictions available to researchers around the world free of charge and open-sourced. Dr Benjamin Perry of the Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative told us how it may help in the search for urgently needed drugs for difficult illnesses such as Chagas disease. Prof John McGeehan of the Centre for Enzyme Innovation at Portsmouth University in the UK is on the search for enzymes that might be used to digest otherwise pollutant plastics. He received results (that would have taken years using more traditional methods) back from the AlphaFold team in just a couple of days. Prof Julia Gog of Cambridge University is a biomathematician who has been modelling Covid epidemiology and behaviour. In a recent paper in Royal Society Open Science, she and colleagues wonder whether the vaccination strategy of jabbing the most vulnerable in a population first, rather than the most gregarious or mobile, is necessarily the optimal way to protect them. Should nations still at an early stage in vaccine rollout consider her model? And did you know that elephants can hear things up to a kilometre away through their feet? And that sometimes they communicate by bellowing and rumbling such that the ground shakes? Dr Beth Mortimer of Oxford University has been planting seismic detectors in savannah in Kenya to see if they can tap into the elephant messaging network, to possibly help conservationists track their movements. Also, One listener finds herself unconcerned about much of the world’s problems, it leaves her wondering: am I a psychopath? Inspired by a previous episode on empathy, this listener asked is it true that psychopaths don’t empathise and what are the character traits of psychopathy? Marnie Chesterton talks with a diagnosed pro-social psychopath to find out. She also pays a visit to the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience and gets into an MRI scanner to discover what is happening in her brain when she empathises. Studies suggest around 1 percent of the general population exhibit traits associated with psychopathy and that rises to 3-4 percent in the world of business. But is this really the case? Why is there so much stigma associated with psychopathy and do psychopaths even exist or is it just a convenient term to label those whose emotional range sits outside of the “norm”? Presented by Marnie Chesterton and produced by Caroline Steel for the BBC World Service. Guests: Julia Shaw Jim Fallon Valeria Gazzola Kalliopi Ioumpa Image: Protein folding Credit: Nicolas_/iStock/Getty Images
Your molecular machinery, now in 3D
Science in Action BBC
access_time2 months ago
Back in November it was announced that an AI company called DeepMind had essentially cracked the problem of protein folding – that is they had managed to successfully predict the 3D structures of complex biochemical molecules by only knowing the 2D sequence of amino acids from which they are made. They are not the only team to use machine learning to approach the vast amounts of data involved. But last week, they released the source code and methodology behind their so called AlphaFold2 tool. Today, they are publishing via a paper in the journal Nature, a simply huge database of predicted structures including most of the human proteome and 20 other model species such as yes, mice. The possibilities for any biochemists are very exciting. As DeepMind CEO Demis Hassabis tells Roland Pease, they partnered with the European Molecular Biology Laboratory to make over 350,000 protein predictions available to researchers around the world free of charge and open sourced. Dr Benjamin Perry of the Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative told us how it may help in the search for urgently needed drugs for difficult diseases such as Chagas disease. Prof John McGeehan of the Centre for Enzyme Innovation at Portsmouth University in the UK is on the search for enzymes that might be used to digest otherwise pollutant plastics. He received results (that would have taken years using more traditional methods) back from the AlphaFold team in just a couple of days. Prof Julia Gog of Cambridge University is a biomathematician who has been modelling Covid epidemiology and behaviour. In a recent paper in Royal Society Open Science, she and colleagues wonder whether the vaccination strategy of jabbing the most vulnerable in a population first, rather than the most gregarious or mobile, is necessarily the optimal way to protect them. Should nations still at an early stage in vaccine rollout consider her model? And did you know that elephants can hear things up to a kilometre away through their feet? And that sometimes they communicate by bellowing and rumbling such the ground shakes? Dr Beth Mortimer of Oxford University has been planting seismic detectors in savannah in Kenya to see if they can tap into the elephant messaging network, to possibly help conservationists track their movements. Image: Protein folding Credit: Nicolas_/iStock/Getty Images Presenter: Roland Pease Producers: Alex Mansfield and Samara Linton
When to take your child to A&E, ear wax and happiness
Inside Health BBC
access_time2 months ago
Time for a sprinkling of happiness with a new exhibition at the Wellcome Collection. Last time we heard how children's A&E is under huge pressure as infections, that disappeared during Covid, make a comeback. But doctors also warn that many of those children shouldn’t actually be there. Damian Roland a paediatrician in emergency medicine at University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust busts the myths about fever and gives tips on when to take your child to A&E. And the wonders of ear wax, until it builds up, that is, as it does for me. But it's not just ear wax that nurse Andrew Hill has found in people's ears - cocaine and spiders too. You get it all here on Inside Health. PRESENTER: James Gallagher PRODUCERS: Beth Eastwood & Geraldine Fitzgerald
Dare to repair: The fight for the right to repair
Discovery BBC
access_time2 months ago
Many electronics manufacturers are making it harder for us, to fix our broken kit. There are claims that programmed obsolescence is alive and well, with mobile phone batteries designed to wear out after just 400 charges. They claim it's for safety or security reasons, but it pushes constant replacement and upgrades. But people are starting to fight back. Mark Miodownik talks to the fixers and repairers who are heading up the Right to Repair movement which is forcing governments to act, and making sustainability and value for money part of the consumer equation. Producer: Fiona Roberts (Photo: A pile of discarded computer circuit board. Credit: Tara Moore/Getty Images)
Science when the funding dries up
The Science Hour BBC
access_time2 months ago
This week the UK parliament voted to accept the Government’s continued cap on Official Development Aid. This disappointed many researchers around the world, funded directly and indirectly through various scientific funding structures enabling international collaboration on some of the global challenges facing all of us. These funding mechanisms make for a small fraction of the overall amount, but they have been hit hard, with many projects closing altogether. There had been hope amongst the scientific community that the cap – from 0.7% down to 0.5% of the UK’s Gross Domestic Income – might have been in place just for a year. But it seems like the criteria set to judge when the level of aid might rise again imply that it is unlikely to happen for several years at the earliest. What, asks Science in Action, does that mean to the world of scientific collaboration on such topics as climate change, contagious disease, and emergency planning? Researchers Chris Trisos and Jenni Barclay, with journalist Robin Bisson of Research Professional News, update us on the story. Also, In Zambia, where covid testing remains scarce, a project run by Boston University’s Christopher Gill has been estimating the prevalence of covid in the capital Lusaka by taking nasal swab samples from the noses of around one in five of those recently deceased, in the morgue of a major hospital. Tantalisingly, his team have seen over the last few months a sharp rise in cases to the extent that in June, nearly 90 percent of the cadavers tested positive for covid. But as Chris describes, unrelated to the UK cuts, their funding has now run out, so where the graph leads from here we may not learn for a long time. Anyone who has ever taken the Christmas lights out of the cupboard, only to discover they’re hopelessly tangled, will sympathise with this week’s listener Eric. He has a 45m garden hose that always seems to snarl up and snag when he waters his garden, and he wonders what he’s doing wrong? Marnie starts by discovering the important difference between tangles and knots, as she scales a cliff with an experienced climber who explains the way you tie rope is a matter of life and death. Physicists are also fascinated in how string becomes jumbled up and one man has even won an IgNobel award for his work in this field. Doug E Smith discovered that if you put a piece of string in a box then spin it around, its length, thickness and how long you shake the box for, all determine whether it will tie itself up. Not only that, the more the string becomes twisted, the more likely it is to cross over itself and become impossible to untangle. While tangles might be annoying in hair or cables, they’re also a fundamental part of human life. Our DNA is constantly folding itself to fit inside tiny spaces – there are two metres of the stuff inside every cell, where it’s packed down tightly, before it must untangle and duplicate for those cells to divide. It does this with the help of specific enzymes, and when the process goes wrong it leads to cell death. But scientists are also studying molecular tangles that might benefit us humans, and creating nano-sized knots that can be turned into nets or meshes with incredible properties. (Image: Getty Images)
Science when the funding dries up
Science in Action BBC
access_time2 months ago
This week the UK parliament voted to accept the Government’s continued cap on Official Development Aid. This disappointed many researchers around the world, funded directly and indirectly through various scientific funding structures enabling international collaboration on some of the global challenges facing all of us. These funding mechanisms make for a small fraction of the overall amount, but they have been hit hard, with many projects closing altogether. There had been hope amongst the scientific community that the cap – from 0.7% down to 0.5% of the UK’s Gross Domestic Income – might have been in place just for a year. But it seems like the criteria set to judge when the level of aid might rise again imply that it is unlikely to happen for several years at the earliest. What, asks science in action, does that mean to the world of scientific collaboration on such topics as climate change, contagious disease, and emergency planning? Researchers Chris Trysos, and Jenni Barclay, with journalist Robin Bisson of Research Professional News, update us on the story. In Zambia, where covid testing remains scarce, a project run by Boston University’s Christopher Gill has been estimating the prevalence of covid in the capital Lusaka by taking swabs from the noses of around 1 in 5 people in the morgue of a major hospital. Tantalisingly, they have been seeing a sharp rise in cases to the extent that in June, nearly 1 in 5 of the cadavers tested positive. But as Chris describes, unrelated to the UK cuts, their funding has now run out, so where the graph leads from here we may not learn for a long time. Presented by Roland Pease Produced by Alex Mansfield. (Image: Getty Images) Presenter: Roland Pease Producer: Alex Mansfield
The missing 96 percent of the universe | Claire Malone
TEDTalks Science and Medicine TEDTalks
access_time2 months ago
We've misplaced the building blocks of the cosmos -- and particle physicists like Claire Malone are on a mission to find them. Despite scientists hitting a "major snag" in uncovering what exactly makes up dark matter and dark energy, she explains how questioning our fundamental understanding of nature itself invites a different, more meaningful perspective universally.
Increase in childhood viruses and can you be too fit?
Inside Health BBC
access_time2 months ago
Here at Team Inside Health we’ve noticed our children are constantly ill. So we find out why. Are all those bugs that were dormant for the pandemic suddenly having a resurgence? Or has a year and a half of being squeaky clean left a lingering impact on our immune system? Plus Medlife Crisis - Rohin Frances asks can you be too fit?
Dare to Repair: How we broke the future
Discovery BBC
access_time2 months ago
Materials engineer Professor Mark Miodownik looks back to the start of the electronics revolution to find out why our electronic gadgets and household goods are less durable and harder to repair now. As he attempts to fix his digital clock radio, he reveals that the drive for cheaper stuff and advances in design and manufacturing have left us with a culture of throwaway technology and mountains of electronic waste. Image: Apron housewife at kitchen dish washer, Credit: George Marks/Getty Images Producer: Fiona Roberts
Human induced climate change heats up fast
The Science Hour BBC
access_time2 months ago
Scientists say the record-breaking Pacific North-West heatwave of recent weeks must have been caused by human induced climate change, but as Geert Jan van Oldenborgh explains to Roland Pease, despite a herculean effort to analyse the event in just a week, the precise mechanism to cause such an extreme and sudden event is so far bewildering climate modellers, exceeding even worst expectations. Looking to the skies, Rosita Kokotanekova of the European Southern Observatory and colleagues have been getting excited about the discovery of a comet maybe twice as large as any observed before. Being so big, it has been spotted much further out from the sun and – if the best telescopes can be convinced to join the fun – will provide astronomers a chance to observe the core of the comet before the solar heat induces a gaseous coma to form as it nears the point in its orbit closest to the sun. It will be around for the next decade before continuing its several million year journey around our mutual star. But it won’t get terribly close to earth, at least not as close as lumps of an asteroid that fell onto a driveway in the UK earlier this year. Dr Ashley King of the UK’s Natural History Museum is leading a consortium of scientists (benefitting from a rapid research grant by the UK’s STFC) who have now officially classified it and named it. The Winchcombe meteorite is a CM carbonaceous chondrite, meaning it represents the unspoilt early building blocks of the solar system. Falling like 4.5 billion year old leftover celestial lego, only a few are known around the world but perhaps none have been in scientists hands in such a short period of time, continuing its pristine survival. Dr Pablo Tsukayama has published a preprint paper announcing a new variant of interest in the ongoing evolution of the SARS-CoV2 virus. Now named by the WHO as the Lambda variant, it seems it has driven the pandemic for much of this year in Peru – as much as 80% of cases – and large fractions of the outbreak elsewhere in South America. But as Pablo suggests, the reason we don’t know as much about it as for example the Alpha or Delta variants is likely because it hasn’t thus far affected the countries best equipped to do the analysis. Maybe that could change. Standing takes less energy than walking, so why does it feel more tiring? At least, it does for CrowdScience listener Nina. She can march for hours without getting tired, but her legs and feet get achy after just a short time standing still. It’s one of three walking-themed questions CrowdScience is tackling this week. Taking inspiration from our active listeners, Marnie Chesterton walks up a hill with Caroline Williams, author of a new book about why humans are designed to move. We find out how our whole system – body and brain – works better when we’re walking, compared to standing still. We’re probably set up this way because of our evolutionary history: hunting and gathering needed us to be ‘cognitively engaged endurance athletes’. We stop for a break.. but is it true that we shouldn’t sit down to rest during a walk? Our listener Sarah is a keen hillwalker but likes to take the weight off her feet every now and again. Her hillwalking friends disapprove, saying she should rest on her feet. Is this a myth CrowdScience can bust? And finally a question from listener Matteo: is walking or running better for your health? Numerous studies show significant benefits to both forms of exercise, but in the end, the best kind of exercise is the one you’re motivated to do. Image: Wildfires in Lytton, British Columbia Credit: ProPics Canada Media Ltd/Getty Images
Human induced climate change heats up fast
Science in Action BBC
access_time2 months ago
Scientists say the record-breaking Pacific North-West heatwave of recent weeks must have been caused by human induced climate change, but as Geert Jan van Oldenborgh explains to Roland Pease, despite a herculean effort to analyse the event in just a week, the precise mechanism to cause such an extreme and sudden event is so far bewildering climate modellers, exceeding even worst expectations. Looking to the skies, Rosita Kokotanekova of the European Southern Observatory and colleagues have been getting excited about the discovery of a comet maybe twice as large as any observed before. Being so big, it has been spotted much further out from the sun and – if the best telescopes can be convinced to join the fun – will provide astronomers a chance to observe the core of the comet before the solar heat induces a gaseous coma to form as it nears the point in its orbit closest to the sun. It will be around for the next decade before continuing its several million year journey around our mutual star. But it won’t get terribly close to earth, at least not as close as lumps of an asteroid that fell onto a driveway in the UK earlier this year. Dr Ashley King of the UK’s Natural History Museum is leading a consortium of scientists (benefitting from a rapid research grant by the UK’s STFC) who have now officially classified it and named it. The Winchcombe meteorite is a CM carbonaceous chondrite, meaning it represents the unspoilt early building blocks of the solar system. Falling like 4.5 billion year old leftover celestial lego, only a few are known around the world but perhaps none have been in scientists hands in such a short period of time, continuing its pristine survival. Dr Pablo Tsukayama has published a preprint paper announcing a new variant of interest in the ongoing evolution of the SARS-CoV2 virus. Now named by the WHO as the Lambda variant, it seems it has driven the pandemic for much of this year in Peru – as much as 80% of cases – and large fractions of the outbreak elsewhere in South America. But as Pablo suggests, the reason we don’t know as much about it as for example the Alpha or Delta variants is likely because it hasn’t thus far affected the countries best equipped to do the analysis. Maybe that could change. Image: Wildfires in Lytton, British Columbia Credit: ProPics Canada Media Ltd/Getty Images Presenter: Roland Pease Producer: Alex Mansfield
How to defeat needle phobia, and football and lateral flow tests
Inside Health BBC
access_time3 months ago
The Inside Health podcast is back with a bang! Find out how having a couple of mates round for the football trapped scientist Alex Crozier inside a Covid experiment. Laura talks us through her remarkable journey from a fear of needles to having her Covid jab and Oxford University’s Daniel Freeman has some tips for you too. We’ve unleashed our cardiologist, Rohin Francis, for the first of his “Roving Rohin” (trademark pending) reports on hospital staff who don’t get the vaccine. And GP Navjoyt Ladher shares her insight on where we’re at with the pandemic. Happy listening.
Tooth and claw: Tigers
Discovery BBC
access_time3 months ago
“As it charges towards you, you can actually feel the drumbeat of its feet falling to the ground”. Nothing quite says fear more than standing before a charging tiger. Yet so often it’s also the poster-predator for conservation. The tiger truly is the ‘prince of the jungle’.. The good news (to some) is that after a century of decline, wild tiger populations have increased recently. But with this comes the increase in human fatalities – there are almost daily attacks on the rural poor across India. A world without wild tigers is not a world we want, but how do we balance the needs of people and the needs of tigers? Adam finds out more about tigers and the people that live around them by speaking with Indian tiger expert Rajeev Matthews and conservation biologist Samantha Helle, who is based in the US and works with communities and tigers in Nepal. Producer: Rami Tzabar and Beth Eastwood Presenter: Professor Adam Hart (Photo: A crouching tiger, Credit: Yudik Pradnyana/Getty Images)
Insects in incredible detail
The Science Hour BBC
access_time3 months ago
The Natural History Museum in London holds a massive collection of insects. It asked researchers at the Diamond light source, a facility near Oxford, to develop a high throughput X-ray microscope to take 3D scans of them all. Roland Pease has been to see the new technology in action. Many people seeking compensation for the impacts of climate change are turning to the law courts. Successes so far have been few. Oxford University’s Friederike Otto, who specialises in connecting weather extremes to the greenhouse effect, has just published a paper looking at the challenge in bringing successful climate lawsuits. Spacecraft will be returning to Venus in the next decade with the recent approval of two NASA missions to the planet, and one from the European Space Agency, ESA. Philippa Mason of Imperial College is a planetary geologist on that mission, Envision. She plans to use radar to peer through that dense and interesting atmosphere to follow up evidence of volcanic activity and tectonics on the surface beneath. A few years ago synthetic biologist Jim Collins of Harvard found a way to spill the contents of biological cells onto … basically … blotting paper, in a way that meant by just adding water, all the biochemical circuitry could be brought back to life. With a bit of genetic engineering, it could be turned into a sensor to detect Ebola and Nipah viruses. His team have kept developing the idea, and this week they report success in a smart face mask that can detect SARS-CoV-2 in your breath. Also, Food. For all of us it is a basic necessity and for those lucky enough, it is something we spend a lot of time planning and enjoying. CrowdScience listeners certainly have a lot of food related questions; in this buffet of an episode Marnie Chesterton opens the fridge door to pick the tastiest. Starting with the seemingly simple question of what makes us feel hungry, and ending in outer-space, Marnie investigates flavour, nutrition and digestion. After a year when watching TV has become a core activity for many people stuck in their homes, one listener wants us to find out if eating food whilst watching the TV affects our perception of taste. We then journey to the skies and ask if it is true that food tastes blander on aeroplanes, what does that mean for astronauts’ mealtimes? Back on earth, Marnie explores whether humans are the only animals that season their food. Tuck in your napkins and prepare to feast on a smorgasbord of scientific snacks. (Image: Hairy Fungus Beetle - Prepared by Malte Storm. Credit: Diamond light Source Ltd)
Insects in incredible detail
Science in Action BBC
access_time3 months ago
The Natural History Museum in London holds a massive collection of insects. It asked researchers at the Diamond light source, a facility near Oxford, to develop a high throughput X-ray microscope to take 3D scans of them all. Roland Pease has been to see the new technology in action. Many people seeking compensation for the impacts of climate change are turning to the law courts. Successes so far have been few. Oxford University’s Friederike Otto, who specialises in connecting weather extremes to the greenhouse effect, has just published a paper looking at the challenge in bringing successful climate lawsuits. Spacecraft will be returning to Venus in the next decade with the recent approval of two NASA missions to the planet, and one from the European Space Agency, ESA. Philippa Mason of Imperial College is a planetary geologist on that mission, Envision. She plans to use radar to peer through that dense and interesting atmosphere to follow up evidence of volcanic activity and tectonics on the surface beneath. A few years ago synthetic biologist Jim Collins of Harvard found a way to spill the contents of biological cells onto … basically … blotting paper, in a way that meant by just adding water, all the biochemical circuitry could be brought back to life. With a bit of genetic engineering, it could be turned into a sensor to detect Ebola and Nipah viruses. His team have kept developing the idea, and this week they report success in a smart face mask that can detect SARS-CoV-2 in your breath. (Image: Hairy Fungus Beetle - Prepared by Malte Storm. Credit: Diamond light Source Ltd) Presenter: Roland Pease Producer: Alex Mansfield
Tooth And Claw: Bears
Discovery BBC
access_time3 months ago
Teddy bears might be popular with children but real bears are anything but cuddly. Brown, Black and Grizzly bears are the most well-known and have a well-deserved fearsome reputation. But for most part, bear attacks are not nearly as common as you might think. They’re solitary, curious and you’re unlikely to see one unless you’re really lucky – or unlucky depending on your point of view. So what should you do if you find yourself facing one in a forest? To learn more about these fascinating creatures, which can spend the winter months in a deep state of biological hibernation, Professor Adam Hart speaks to Dr Clayton Lamb from the University of British Columbia in Canada and Dr Giulia Bombieri from the Science Museum in Trento Italy about their work and experiences of these amazing beasts whose numbers are increasing in some parts of the world, leading to an increase of defensive attacks on people. Produced by Rami Tzabar and Beth Eastwood Presented by Professor Adam Hart. Picture: Brown bear, Credit: Szabo Ervin-Edward/EyeEm/Getty Images
Tales of unexpected DNA data
The Science Hour BBC
access_time3 months ago
This week Jesse Bloom of Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research has published an account of some DNA sequence data he located in an internet archive, despite it having been removed from the US NIH’s Sequence Read Archive. He tells Roland Pease of its significance to our understanding of the beginning of the Covid pandemic, but also, of more general interest, to what it might tell scientists about the full availability of relevant virological evidence. Elsewhere, Elena Zavala of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig has been using new techniques for sequencing tiny fragments of mitochondrial DNA found in layers of mud to trace a long narrative of different evolutionary species of human and animal and their changing fortunes. As she describes in a paper published in Nature, sediments from different depths of the floor of the famous Denisova cave tell a long story of different humans (Denisovan and Neanderthal), bears, hyenas and other animals living there over different periods in the last 250 thousand years. Over in the journal Science, several papers describe a new type of early hominin found in Nesher Rambla, Israel, that may be yet another instance of a human species that didn’t quite make it. As Marta Lahr, professor in human evolutionary biology at Cambridge University tells Roland the new findings all point to the bigger question – given the similar ages, technologies and even neighbourhoods that all these types of hominin shared, just what was it about our own direct ancestor species that enabled us to take over the world? Since almost the beginning of the Covid pandemic, in some parts of the world, the drug Ivermectin has been repurposed as a therapy against the disease, with some even believing it to convey protection against infection – a situation not without tragic consequences. The evidence for any meaningful effect has been less than obvious to most scientists and health authorities. Not the first controversial drug in the story of Covid-19, the discourse has led to abuse directed at scientists and officials, and scathing arguments across social media. As Oxford University’s PRINCIPLE trial this week begins to include Ivermectin in its investigations, BBC Reality Check’s Jack Goodman reports on the Ivermectin’s tortuous path. It took a while before it was officially recognised as a major symptom of Covid-19, but loss of smell has affected up to 60 percent of people who have had the virus. And for a significant portion, smell continues to be an issue for weeks or months after their recovery. So what’s going on and how can you get your sense of smell back? We tend to think of our sense of smell as something universal – if it smells bad to me, it probably does to you but that is not the case for CrowdScience listener Annabel, who wonders why things other people love to sniff, she finds disgusting. Anand Jagatia investigates the science of smell, gets up close to the world’s smelliest plant and finds out if smell training can help those with long-term issues after Covid. (Image: Getty Images)