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Podcast Profile: Science In Action

podcast imageTwitter: @bbcworldservice@thescienceear (@bbcworldservice followed by 12 science writers)
Site: www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p002vsnb
173 episodes
2019 to present
Average episode: 31 minutes
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Categories: Broadcast Radio Programs • News-Style

Podcaster's summary: The BBC brings you all the week's science news.

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List Updated: 2022-Sep-28 12:10 UTC. Episodes: 173. Feedback: @TrueSciPhi.

Episodes
2022-Sep-22 • 27 minutes
Should we mine the deep sea?
The first license of its kind has been granted for deep-sea mining. It will be used to run early tests to see whether the seabed could be good place to harvest rare earth materials in the future. These earth minerals are what powers much of our modern technology, and the demand is growing year on year. The license raises ethical questions about whether anyone has ownership over the seabed, and whether we could be disrupting ecosystems under the sea in doing so. We have two experts joining us to discuss the...
2022-Sep-15 • 30 minutes
Science and the causes behind Pakistan’s floods
A new report by the World Weather Attribution consortium demonstrates the impact of global warming on flooding in Pakistan. The consortium is helping to assess the link between humanitarian disasters and global change, faster than ever before. The work, conducted by a team of statisticians, climate experts, and local weather experts, is part of an emerging field in science called Extreme Event Attribution, and can reliably provide assessments in the immediate aftermath of an extreme weather event The repo...
2022-Sep-08 • 31 minutes
The genetics of human intelligence
Early humans and Neanderthals had similar-sized brains but around 6 million years ago something happened that gave us the intellectual edge. The answer may lie in a tiny mutation in a single gene that meant more neurons could develop in a crucial part of the brain. Post-doctoral research scientist at the Max Plank Institute of Molecular Biology and Genetics, Anneline Pinson, did the heavy lifting on the research under the supervision of Wieland Huttner. They discuss with Roland how this finding offers a maj...
2022-Sep-01 • 28 minutes
The China heatwave and the new normal
Hot on the tail of China’s heatwave comes the other side of the extreme coin – tragic flooding. Also, a coming global shortage of sulfur, while scientists produce useful oxygen on Mars in the MOXIE experiment. Prof Chunzai Wang is the Director of the State Key Laboratory of Tropical Oceanography in Guangzhou, China. He tells Roland about the surprising nature of the extreme temperatures and droughts much of China has been experiencing, and how they are connected to so many of the record-breaking weather ev...
2022-Aug-25 • 26 minutes
Surprises from a Martian Lake Bed
The Jezero Crater on Mars was targeted by Nasa’s Perseverence rover because from orbit, there was strong evidence it had at some point contained a lake. When the Mars 2020 mission landed, it didn’t take long to spot rocks protruding from the bottom that looked for all the world like sedimentary rocks – implying they were laid down from the liquid water and maybe perhaps even contain signs of past life. This week, the science team have published some of their analysis from the first 9 months of the mission. ...
2022-Aug-18 • 28 minutes
Deadly drought
East Africa has endured more than two years on continuous drought. The latest predictions suggest the drought is not likely to end any time soon. We look at why climate change and weather patterns in the Pacific and Indian oceans are largely to blame. Andrea Taschetto, chief investigator at the Centre on Climate Extremes at the University of New South Wales discusses the latest predictions Drought has also been an issue in Europe, comparable with events nearly 500 years ago. Chantal Camenisch at the Instit...
2022-Aug-11 • 29 minutes
Icelandic volcano erupts again
We talk to volcano scientist Ed Marshall in Iceland about working at the volcano which has burst into life spectacularly again after a year of quiet. Also in the programme, we'll be following migrating moths across Europe in light aircraft to discover the remarkable secrets of their powers of navigation, and hearing how synthetic biology promises to create smarter and more adaptable genetically engineered crops. (Image: Lava spews from the volcano in Fagradalsfjall. Credit: Getty Images) Presenter...
2022-Aug-04 • 30 minutes
Synthetic mouse embryos with brains and hearts
This week two research groups announced that they have made synthetic mouse embryos that developed brains and beating hearts in the test tube, starting only with embryonic stem cells. No sperm and eggs were involved. Previously, embryos created this way have never got beyond the stage of being a tiny ball of cells. These embryos grew and developed organs through 8 days – more than a third of the way through the gestation period for a mouse. Roland Pease talks to the leader of one of the teams, develo...
2022-Jul-28 • 28 minutes
The first galaxies at the universe's dawn
In the last week, teams of astronomers have rushed to report ever deeper views of the universe thanks to the James Webb Space Telescope. These are galaxies of stars more than 13.5 billion light years from us and we see them as they were when the universe was in its infancy, less than 300 million years after the Big Bang. As University of Texas astronomer Steve Finkelstein tell us, there are some real surprises in these glimpses of the cosmic dawn. The super-distant galaxy that Steve's group has identifi...
2022-Jul-21 • 30 minutes
Heat waves in the Northern Hemisphere
The extreme heat wave in western Europe over the last couple of weeks is just one of many in the Northern Hemisphere in 2022. How is global warming changing the atmosphere to make heat waves more frequent and more intense? We talk to climatologists Hannah Cloke, Friederike Otto and Efi Rousi. If we want to stabilise global warming to two degrees by the end of the century, how are we going to do that? One novel idea is to harness the world's vast railway infrastructure and equip freight and passenger ...
2022-Jul-14 • 32 minutes
First images from the James Webb Space Telescope
Roland Pease talks to two astronomers who began working on the James Webb Space Telescope more than two decades ago and have now seen the first spectacular results of their labours. Marcia Rieke of the University of Arizona and JWST's senior project scientist John Mather discuss the highlights of the first four images. Also in the programme, geologists discover precisely where on the Red Planet the most ancient Martian meteorite came from - we speak to Anthony Lagain whose detective work identified the...
2022-Jul-07 • 30 minutes
Long Covid ‘brain fog’
Following a bout of Covid-19, a significant number of people suffer with weeks or months of 'brain fog' - poor concentration, forgetfulness, and confusion. This is one of the manifestations of Long Covid. A team of scientists in the United States has now discovered that infection in the lung can trigger an inflammatory response which then causes patterns of abnormal brain cell activity. It’s the kind of brain cell dysregulation also seen in people who experience cognitive problems following chemotherapy...
2022-Jun-30 • 32 minutes
Extreme heat death risk in Latin America
A new analysis of deaths in cities across Latin America suggests rising global temperatures could lead to large numbers of deaths in the region and elsewhere in the world. Even a 1-degree rise in extreme heat can add 6% to the risk of dying. Lead researcher Josiah Kephart at Drexel University tells Roland Pease the lessons from Latin America should apply to cities across the global south. Brazilian ecologist Andreas Meyer talks about the troubling prospects for the health of ecosystems, particularly in tro...
2022-Jun-23 • 34 minutes
Monster microbe
Researchers have discovered a species of bacteria which dwarfs all others by thousands of times. Normally you need a microscope to see single-celled bacteria, but Thiomargarita magnifica is the length and width of an eyelash. It's been found growing in mangrove swamps in the Caribbean. Roland Pease talks to Jean Marie Volland about what makes this Godzilla of the microbial world extra-special. Also in the programme, a new study published in the journal Nature has discovered that women scientists are les...
2022-Jun-16 • 30 minutes
Thirty years after the Earth Summit
Thirty years ago, world leaders met at the United Nations Earth Summit in Rio and appeared to commit to action to tackle two of the world's greatest environmental threats. The Earth Summit launched the UN Climate Change Convention and the Convention on Biological Diversity. Science in Action assesses their success by talking to atmospheric scientist Sir Bob Watson, a former chair of the International Panel of Climate Change, and to Tom Oliver, professor of applied ecology at the University of Reading, decad...
2022-Jun-09 • 30 minutes
Body scan reveals HIV's hideouts
Researchers have developed a medical imaging technique which reveals where in the body HIV lies hidden, even when people have their infection well controlled by antiviral drugs. The team at the University of California, San Francisco hope this will lead to better treatments and even cures for HIV. As Timothy Henrich told us, they are also going to use the technique to investigate the notion that Long Covid is caused by the coronavirus persisting deep in the body's tissues. Also in the programme, Roland...
2022-Jun-02 • 30 minutes
Should we worry about the latest Omicron subvariants?
Should we worry about the most recent Omicron subvariants, BA 4 and BA5? They are the subtypes of the Covid-19 virus now dominant in southern Africa and spreading elsewhere. New research suggests that they are better at evading our antibody defences than other forms of the virus. Columbia University virologist David Ho explains the findings and what they means for us. Also, reducing air pollution makes agricultural crops grow better, how large wildfires warm the upper atmosphere, and the dolphins in ...
2022-May-26 • 30 minutes
Heat death by volcano and other stories
Science in Action this week comes from a vast gathering of earth scientists in Vienna, at the general assembly of the European Geosciences Union. Roland Pease hears the latest insights into the cataclysmic eruption of Hunga Tonga in the Pacific ocean from volcanologist Shane Cronin of the University of Auckland. He also talks to NASA's Michael Way about how the planet Venus might have acquired its hellish super-greenhouse atmosphere, and how the same thing could happen to planet Earth. There’s intri...
2022-May-19 • 30 minutes
Death in the rainforest
Tree mortality in tropical moist forests in Australia has been increasing since the mid 1980s. The death rate of trees appears to have doubled over that time period. According to an international team of researchers, the primary cause is drier air in these forests, the consequence of human-induced climate change. According to ecologist David Bauman, a similar process is likely underway in tropical forests on other continents. Also in the programme: the outbreaks of monkeypox in Europe and North Amer...
2022-May-12 • 29 minutes
Portrait of the monster black hole at our galaxy’s heart
The heaviest thing in the Galaxy has now been imaged by the biggest telescope on Earth. This is Sagittarius A*, the supermassive black hole at the centre of our Galaxy – a gas and star-consuming object, a 4 million times the mass of the Sun. The Event Horizon Telescope is not one device but a consortium of radio telescopes ranging from the South Pole to the Arctic Circle. Their combined data allowed astronomers to focus in on this extreme object for the first time. Astronomer Ziri Younsi from University C...
2022-May-05 • 30 minutes
Mekong Delta will sink beneath the sea by 2100
The Mekong Delta is home to 17 million people and is Vietnam’s most productive agricultural region. An international group of scientists warn this week that almost all of the low lying delta will have sunk beneath the sea within 80 years without international action. Its disappearance is the result of both sea level rise and developments such as dams and sand mining. Also in the programme: using the rumbling of traffic in Mexico City to monitor earthquake hazard, record-breaking quakes on Mars and a recor...
2022-Apr-28 • 31 minutes
The Indian subcontinent’s record-breaking heatwave
Deadly heat has been building over the Indian sub-continent for weeks and this week reached crisis levels. India experienced its hottest March on record and temperatures over 40 degrees Celsius (and in some places approaching 50 degrees) are making it almost impossible for 1.4 billion people to work. It’s damaging crops and it’s just what climate scientists have been warning about. Roland Pease talks to Vimal Mishra of the Indian Institute of Technology in Gandhinagar about the impact and causes of the u...
2022-Apr-21 • 33 minutes
Climate techno-fix would worsen global malaria burden
As a series of UN climate reports have warned recently, drastic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions – a halving over the next decade – are needed if we are to keep global warming down to manageable levels. No sign of that happening. An emergency measure to buy time that’s sometimes discussed is solar geoengineering – creating an atmospheric sunscreen that reduces incoming solar heat. Sulphate compounds in volcanic gases or in industrial fumes attract water vapour to make a fine haze and have that effec...
2022-Apr-14 • 31 minutes
How ‘magic mushroom’ chemical treats depression
Brain scanning experiments reveal how psilocybin works to relieve severe depression. Psilocybin is the psychedelic substance in 'magic mushrooms'. The psychoactive chemical is currently in clinical trials in the UK and US as a potential treatment for depression and other mental illnesses. Professor David Nutt of Imperial College London tells Roland about the research Also in the show, worrying findings about the increase in premature deaths because of air pollution in growing cities in tropical Africa...
2022-Apr-07 • 34 minutes
Tsunami detective in Tonga
Just over two months ago, the undersea volcano of Hunga Tonga erupted catastrophically, generating huge tsunamis and covering the islands of Tonga in ash. University of Auckland geologist Shane Cronin is now in Tonga, trying to piece together the sequence of violent events. Edinburgh University palaeontologist Ornella Bertrand tells us about her studies of the ancient mammals that inherited the Earth after the dinosaurs were wiped out. To her surprise, in the first 10 million years after the giant mete...
2022-Mar-31 • 30 minutes
Radioactive Red Forest
Russian forces in the forested exclusion zone around the Chernobyl nuclear site may be receiving potentially dangerous levels of radiation. After the nuclear accident trees were felled and radioactive material was buried across the site. As the forest regrew its took up much of that radiation - making it the most radioactive forest in the world according to Tom Scott from Bristol University who studies radiation levels in the region. The troop's activities, from digging trenches to lighting fires as missile...
2022-Mar-24 • 32 minutes
Warming world
Unseasonably high temperatures have been recorded in both polar regions. Glaciologist Ruth Mottram discusses why they might be occurring now and the potential impact on her own work measuring climate change in Greenland. Erica Ollmann Saphire from the La Jolla Institute for Immunology tells us about her work developing new treatments for Ebola, she is looking to develop drugs which work not just on Ebola but also a range of related Viruses. And Eugene Koonin from the United States National Institutes of...
2022-Mar-17 • 30 minutes
Covid in the sewers
Analysis of wastewater from sewage systems has provided an early warning system for the presence of Covid-19 in communities – showing up in the water samples before people test positive. It’s also possible to identify the variants and even specific genetic mutations. Davida Smyth of Texas A&M University has been using this technique in New York and found intriguing results - forms of the virus not present in humans. The suggestion is that mutated forms may be infecting other animals, possibly those present ...
2022-Mar-10 • 30 minutes
Why are Covid-19 cases rising in Hong Kong?
Hong Kong had been very successful at preventing the spread of Covid-19. Testing and isolation measures were very effective. However, vaccine uptake was low amongst elderly people and that says virologist Malik Peiris has now left them vulnerable to the highly infectious Omicron variant. The bombing of a scientific institute in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv has echoes of the Stalinist purges says physicist and historical Mikhail Shifman. He tells us how the institute developed as a leading centre for phys...
2022-Mar-03 • 30 minutes
Covid -19 origins
Wuhan's Huanan Seafood Market is associated with many of the first cases or Covid- 19, but data on precisely how and from where the virus might have first spread has been difficult to find. However a re-examination of the earliest samples collected from the market seem to pinpoint where the virus first showed itself. Sydney University virologist Eddie Holmes says this evidence will be crucial in determining which animals may have initially passed the virus to humans. Humans are known to have passed the S...
2022-Feb-24 • 26 minutes
Reforming the ‘China Initiative’
A scheme in the US designed to prevent industrial espionage and the theft of intellectual property, is to be refocused after it was accused of unfairly targeting Chinese American scientists. We speak to Gang Chen, a professor from MIT who was falsely accused of financial crimes, and Holden Thorp Editor in Chief of the Journal Science who tells us why the ‘China Initiative’ is at odds with the reality of international scientific collaboration. And a huge study of farmed animals in China, from raccoon dogs ...
2022-Feb-17 • 30 minutes
Bone repair from Covid-19 vaccine technology
Messenger RNA-based vaccines have been used successfully to kick start the antibody production needed to fight Covid-19. Now the technology has been successfully used to encourage the growth of new bones to heal severe fractures. The technique seems to work far better than the current alternatives says Maastricht University’s Elizabeth Rosado Balmayor. Ivory smuggling continues to be a lucrative business for international criminal gangs, however, DNA techniques to trace where ivory seized by law enforcemen...
2022-Feb-10 • 30 minutes
Inside Wuhan's coronavirus lab
The Wuhan Institute of Virology has been at the centre of a controversy surrounding the origins of the virus which caused the Covid-19 pandemic. The work of the lab's previously obscure division looking at bat coronaviruses has been the subject of massive speculation and misinformation campaigns. Journalist and former biomedical scientist Jane Qiu has gained unique access to the lab. She has interviewed the staff there extensively and tells us what she found on her visits. And Tyler Starr from the Fred Hut...
2022-Feb-03 • 30 minutes
Identifying a more infectious HIV variant
We’re 40 years into the AIDS pandemic, and even with massive public health campaigns, still, 1 ½ million become infected with HIV each year; about half that number die of its ravages. And a study just out shows that this well-understood virus can still take on more worrying forms as a new variant has been uncovered. Although the total number of cases involved is small, and the new variant is as treatable as earlier strains, the finding underlines that viruses can become more infectious and more virulent. ...
2022-Jan-27 • 26 minutes
The roots of Long Covid
There are now a number of biological indicators for the potential development of long covid. Immunologist Onur Boyman of Zurich University Hospital and Claire Steves, Clinical Senior Lecturer at King’s College London strives to tell us how pinpointing these factors is now helping in the development of strategies to predict the syndrome and prepare treatment. The James Webb telescope has reached its final orbit. The years of planning, preparation and rehearsal seem to have paid off. The telescope is now r...
2022-Jan-20 • 30 minutes
Tonga eruption – how it happened
The effects of the Tonga eruption could be felt around the world, many heard the boom of a sonic shock, and tsunami waves travelled far and wide. Volcanologist Shane Cronin from the University of Auckland in New Zealand is one of only a handful of people to have landed on the tiny islands above the volcano where the eruption took place. Those islands have now sunk beneath the waves but Shane tells us what he found when he went there and how his findings could inform what happens next. Stephan Grilli from ...
2022-Jan-13 • 29 minutes
Have we got it wrong on Omicron?
Studies using swabs from coronavirus patients seem to contradict earlier findings from cell cultures which showed Omicon replicated faster than earlier variants. As Benjamin Meyer from the centre for Vaccinology at the University of Geneva, explains there may be other reasons why omicron is spreading faster not just how quickly it reproduces. Predicting how the pandemic will develop is not possible, however predicting what individual mutations in the virus may develop and the impact they might have indivi...
2022-Jan-06 • 27 minutes
Corbevax – A vaccine for the world?
Corbevax, which is being produced in India, is grown in yeast in a similar way to several other widely available vaccines. The technology used to make it is far simpler and much more readily available than that used to produce mRNA vaccines. In theory, Corbevax could be produced cheaply in large quantities to improve Covid-19 vaccine availability around the world. It was developed by a team from Baylor College of Medicine in Texas, including Maria Elena Bottazzi. Antibiotic-resistant superbugs are thought ...
2021-Dec-30 • 27 minutes
2021: The year of variants
In our first programme of the year, we gathered a group of scientific experts directly involved in analysing the structure and impact of the SARS- Cov-2 coronavirus. There were concerns over the emergence of two new variants, Alpha and Beta, especially whether these variants might spread more quickly, or outmanoeuvre the suite of new vaccines that were about to be rolled out. Now the same questions are being asked about the Omicron variant’s ability to spread and overcome our defences. We’ve invited the s...
2021-Dec-23 • 28 minutes
Omicron – mild or monster?
Studies from South Africa and the UK suggest Omicron may be a mild infection for the majority of people. Hospital admissions are down when compared with other variants. However, the virus is replicating at a much faster rate than earlier variants and is able to overcome vaccines to some extent. Cases studies so far have mainly been in young people. There is concern over what will now happen as Omicron spreads across Europe and the US where there are older unvaccinated populations. Anne von Gottberg from Sou...
2021-Dec-16 • 31 minutes
Omicron’s rapid replication rate
A study from Hong Kong university shows Omicron replicates 70 times faster than two earlier variants of the SARS-Cov-2 virus. Virologist Malik Peiris, explains how tests using cells from the wind pipe showed the dramatic difference, which supports observations of increased transmission. In contrast Omicron replicated less well than other variants on cells from dep in thre lung – offering some possibility that it may produce mild infections. Tornados in the US do not normally occur in December. The one whi...
2021-Dec-09 • 34 minutes
Can the weather trigger a volcano?
Which came first the volcano or the rain? Volcanic eruptions are known to influence global climate systems, even leading to the cooling of the planet. However local weather conditions can also influence the timing and ferocity of volcanic eruptions. As volcanologist Jenni Barclay explains rainwater can contribute to volcanic instability and even increase the explosiveness of eruptions. Syria has been experiencing civil war for more than 10 years. Many people have left including many of the country's scie...
2021-Dec-02 • 30 minutes
Omicron, racism and trust
South Africa announced their discovery of the Omicron variant to the world as quickly as they could. The response from many nations was panic and the closure of transport links with southern Africa. Tulio de Oliveira who made the initial announcement and leads South Africa’s Centre for Epidemic Response and Innovation tells us this is now having a negative effect on the country, with cases rising but vital supplies needed to tackle the virus not arriving thanks to the blockade. Omicron contains many more ...
2021-Nov-25 • 30 minutes
Deliberately doomed dart
DART is a space mission designed to hit a distant asteroid and knock it slightly out of orbit. It’s a test mission, a pilot project for a way of potentially protecting the earth from a stray asteroid. We hear from mission coordinators Nancy Chabot and Andy Rivkin, both from the Applied Physics Labs, APL, of Johns Hopkins University. A new kind of Covid-19 vaccine has successfully undergone preliminary tests. Tuebingen University’s Juliane Walz tells us about how it hopes to stimulate a longer lasting prote...
2021-Nov-18 • 27 minutes
The end for coal power?
The political message from the COP meeting was a fudge over coal, but what does the science say? Surprisingly India seems to be on track to switch away from coal to renewables. We explore the apparent contradiction with Lauri Myllyvirta of the thinktank Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air. Also a synchrotron for Africa, how such a project would give a boost to scientific development across the continent, with Marielle Agbahoungbata from the X-tech Lab in Seme City in Benin. Moriba Jah, who leads...
2021-Nov-11 • 27 minutes
Bambi got Covid
Up to 8 percent of deer sampled in studies in the US were found to be infected with the SARS-Cov-2 Virus. Suresh Kuchipudi from the Department of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences at Penn State University in the US says what they are seeing is a mixture of human to deer and deer to deer transmission of the virus. There is concern that its presence in animal reservoirs could lead to a new form of the virus emerging. Tropical forests and spread of zoonotic diseases And as the Cop26 meeting in Glasgow draws...
2021-Nov-04 • 32 minutes
Jet fuel from thin air
Scientists in Switzerland have developed a system which uses solar energy to extract gases such as hydrogen and carbon dioxide from the air and turns them into fuels for transport. So far they have only made small quantities in experimental reactors, however they say with the right investment their alternatives to fossil fuels could be scaled up to provide a climate friendly way to power transport, particularly aviation and shipping. We speak to Aldo Steinfeld and Tony Patt from ETH Zurich and Johan Lillies...
2021-Oct-29 • 26 minutes
Can we still avoid climate catastrophe?
Just a few days before COP26 opens in Glasgow, the World Meteorological Organisation reported record greenhouse gas levels, despite a fall in CO2 due to pandemic restrictions. The UN Environment Programme’s Emissions Gap Report also revealed that current country pledges will only take 7.5% off predicted greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, well below the 55% needed to limit global warming to 1.5C. Worse still, many large emission producers are not on track to meet their countries’ pledges. Rachel Warren, Tyn...
2021-Oct-21 • 27 minutes
Red blood cells’ surprising immune function
We’ve talked a huge amount the past 18 months, for obvious reasons, about the way that white blood cells protect us from infection. But red blood cells – it’s probably among the earliest things I learned in human biology that they’re simple bags for carrying oxygen around the body. But over recent years, immunologist Nilam Mangalmurti, University of Pennsylvania, has been finding several clues to challenge that dogma – including molecules on the surface of red blood cells known from other parts of the immu...
2021-Oct-14 • 28 minutes
Wetlands under attack
Since its introduction four decades ago, Spartina alterniflora, a salt-water cordgrass from the USA, has been spreading along China’s coasts. Today, it covers nearly half of the country’s salt marshes. As the UN Biodiversity Conference COP 15 kicks off in China, we look at how this invasive plant species threatens native species in protected coastal wetlands. Featuring Yuan Lin, East China Normal University, and Qiang He, Fudan University. In January 2020, Barney Graham and Jason McLellan teamed up to eng...
2021-Oct-07 • 29 minutes
Youngest rock samples from the moon
In December 2020, China's Chang'e-5 mission returned to earth carrying rock samples collected from the moon – the first lunar samples to be collected since the American Apollo and Luna missions to the moon in the 1970s. Laboratory analysis has revealed that these are the youngest samples of rocks to be collected from the moon. Lunar geologist Katherine Joy explains what this tells us about the moon’s volcanic past. Also on the programme, a recent study reveals that the hepatitis B virus has been infecting ...
2021-Sep-30 • 29 minutes
Drug resistant malaria found in East Africa
Since their discovery in the 1970s, artemisinin-based drugs have become the mainstay of treatment for malaria caused by the Plasmodium falciparum parasite. Researchers have identified artemisinin-resistant malaria parasites in Southeast Asia since the early 2000s, but now, there is evidence of resistance in Rwanda and Uganda. Dr Betty Balikagala of Juntendo University tells us how this resistance developed and what it means for managing malaria in Africa, which carries the greatest burden of malaria cases a...
2021-Sep-23 • 30 minutes
New evidence for Sars-CoV-2’s origin in bats
Researchers studying bats in Northern Laos have found evidence that brings us closer than ever to understanding the origin of Covid-19. Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic scientists have tried to pin-point the exact origin of Sars-CoV-2. But recent evidence from the Institut Pasteur has identified several novel coronaviruses with similarities to the current coronavirus in bats. Professor Marc Eliot spoke to Roland Pease about how this research could give us a better idea where Covid-19 came fro...
2021-Sep-16 • 28 minutes
Ebola can remain dormant for five years
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...
2021-Sep-09 • 29 minutes
Keep most fossil fuel in ground to meet 1.5 degree goal
For the world to have a decent chance of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees, 90% 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 eva...
2021-Sep-02 • 32 minutes
Hurricane season intensifies
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 Ac...
2021-Aug-26 • 37 minutes
World’s first DNA Covid vaccine
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 wo...
2021-Aug-19 • 39 minutes
Seismic citizen science in Hispaniola
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 particu...
2021-Aug-12 • 29 minutes
Methane: A climate solution?
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 t...
2021-Aug-05 • 30 minutes
Record-shattering weather
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 publis...
2021-Jul-29 • 36 minutes
The earliest traces of animal life on earth.
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 re...
2021-Jul-22 • 34 minutes
Your molecular machinery, now in 3D
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 a...
2021-Jul-15 • 31 minutes
Science when the funding dries up
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 comm...
2021-Jul-08 • 34 minutes
Human induced climate change heats up fast
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 ex...
2021-Jul-01 • 33 minutes
Insects in incredible detail
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 green...
2021-Jun-24 • 40 minutes
Tales of unexpected DNA data
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 ...
2021-Jun-17 • 38 minutes
Doubling Earth’s energy imbalance
Nasa scientists have observed that the Earth’s energy imbalance has doubled in just 15 years. As greenhouse gas atmospheric concentrations have risen, so too has the difference between the total amount of energy being absorbed from the sun, and the total amount being reradiated back into space. Meanwhile, as we all heat up, scientists at the LIGO Gravitational Wave Observatory have managed to do something very cool with their mirrors. Such is the precision with which the detectors have been engineered, they...
2021-Jun-10 • 33 minutes
Evolving viral variant trickery
Dr. Clare Jolly and colleagues have been looking at how the first of the major covid variants – alpha - evolved to be more transmissible. Whilst a lot of attention has been on the spike binding areas of the virus and the effectiveness of antibodies from either vaccine or prior infection, their preprint paper this week reports how the virus evolved an ability to inhibit our bodies innate virus response once it has infected a cell. Prof Dan Shugar and colleagues have been studying the conditions that led to ...
2021-Jun-03 • 36 minutes
Zoonotic hotspots and where to find them
Researchers map where the riskiest areas are for viruses to jump from bats into humans. Also, synthetic bacteria with unnatural DNA, and the origin of the humble watermelon. David Hayman of Massey University in NZ and colleagues have published in the journal Nature Food a study highlighting areas of the world where zoonotic transmission of coronaviruses are most likely to occur between humans and bats of the type most suspected of being the origin of the current SARS CoV2 virus. There are a lot of hotspots...
2021-May-27 • 27 minutes
Nyiragongo eruption
The latest Nyiragongo eruption was not entirely unexpected, the volcano’s lava lake inside the crater had been building up for years. Local volcanologists say it was only a matter of time before an eruption occurred. The big concern was where the flank of the volcano would be breached as the city of Goma rests under the volcano and there are potential fissures even within the town. However there are still questions over the effectiveness of seismic monitoring in the area, North Kivu. The Goma observatory ...
2021-May-20 • 36 minutes
Robot revolution
A brain-computer interface allows a severely paralysed patient not only to move and use a robotic arm, but also to feel the sensations as the mechanical hand clasps objects . We hear from Jennifer Collinger at Pittsburgh University’s Rehab Neural Engineering Labs. And Nathan Copeland, who has been controlling the robotic arm with his thoughts via a series of brain implants. Ralph Baric of the University of North Carolina tells us about the development of a multi-component vaccine that would be effective...
2021-May-13 • 32 minutes
Covid and clean air
We wouldn’t drink dirty water so why do we put up with polluted air? Researchers are calling for a major rethink on our attitude to air quality. Professor Lidia Morawska, from the Queensland University of Technology, says attention to air quality during the Covid pandemic has shown how levels of airborne disease can be reduced. Sam Wilson from the UK Medical Research Council, University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research has been investigating genetic mechanisms associated with susceptibility to Covid ...
2021-May-06 • 29 minutes
Africa’s oldest burial
Analysis of the 78,0000-year-old fossil of a Kenyan boy reveals he was likely buried with care and attention, the body wrapped and laid to rest supported on a pillow. Maria Martinon-Torres, of the National Research Centre on Human Evolution in Burgos, Spain, and a team from Kenya and Germany used techniques from paleontology and forensic science to reveal his story from the fragile remains. A promising malaria vaccine is to enter trials which could lead to it being used globally to vaccinate children. Merh...
2021-Apr-29 • 37 minutes
Melting glaciers, warming coffee and a Dragonfly on Titan
When Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins – who passed away this week – looked down on the earth from lunar orbit during those days in 1969, he saw more ice and a smaller liquid ocean than you would see today. Of the 200,000 glaciers outside of the polar and Greenland ice sheets, their melting in the last two decades accounts for about a fifth of the sea level rise we are also seeing. Thus according to a paper published this week in the journal nature by, amongst others Bob McNabb of Ulster University who de...
2021-Apr-22 • 47 minutes
Exponential increase in Indian covid cases
As Covid cases surge almost beyond belief in India, how much is to do with social distancing, and how much to do with the mutations to the original virus? Ramanan Laxminarayan talks to Roland from Delhi about ways in which the huge second wave could and could not have been predicted and avoided. Suggestions of the latest variant to make the headlines, B1.617, have got virologists such as Ravindra Gupta working hard to identify the clinical significance of the latest combinations of mutations. In the journ...
2021-Apr-15 • 45 minutes
Rolling out the vaccines faster
Two weeks ago several G7 leaders called for an international treaty on Pandemic Preparedness for the future. This week 175 prominent leaders called for lifting the IP on vaccine design. And former UK PM Gordon Brown called on the G7 to finance vaccines for the world in the next two months. But are there technical difficulties that limit the pace of manufacture? Anthony McDonnell is an economist at think tank Centre for Global Development who has been looking at the problem since last year. He suggests, am...
2021-Apr-08 • 34 minutes
On the trail of rare blood clots
On Wednesday the EU’s EMA and UK’s JCVI announced a suspected correlation between vaccination and an extremely rare type of blood clot. Prof Sabine Eichinger is a co-author of a new paper suggesting a link with vaccination or the immune response to Covid vaccination and suggests the name VIPIT for the condition. One of her patients died at the end of February having presented with a rare combination of symptoms – blood clots and a low blood platelet count. Sabine tells Roland the dots they have managed to j...
2021-Apr-01 • 37 minutes
Post-Covid outcomes after release from hospital
After last year’s first wave of covid-19 in the UK, individuals who had been discharged after hospitalisation suffered higher rates of coronary and respiratory disorders, and even diabetes subsequently over 140 days. As Dr Ami Banerjee of University College London explains, out of 48,000 cases, patients who had had acute covid-19 were four times more likely to be readmitted and 8 times more likely to die. Ami’s team suggests in their paper published in the British Medical Journal that diagnosis, treatment a...
2021-Mar-25 • 42 minutes
Science on the side of a new volcano
Sightseers and social media scrollers have flocked to the slopes of Fagradalsfjall, a volcano erupting 40 kilometres west of the Icelandic capital Reykjavik. Having produced less than 1 square kilometre of lava this eruption could be deemed relatively minor, allowing bystanders to get up close and personal. Among the hubbub, you might also spot Dr Evgenia Ilyinskaya from University of Leeds, just one of the researchers measuring and observing the event from an alarmingly small distance. Her interest is more...
2021-Mar-18 • 35 minutes
International science at sea
In the UK thousands of scientists have signed open letters to the UK government protesting cuts to international funding announced this week. Abruptly and severely, the cuts may end hundreds of international collaborations between UK scientists and colleagues around the world working on health, climate change, disaster resilience, sustainability and many development topics. Professor Jenni Barclay is a volcanologist at the University of East Anglia, and is one of the organisers of the protest. At the Univ...
2021-Mar-11 • 34 minutes
A shooting star parked on your driveway
Last week a fireball lit up the sky of western England. Locals and professionals scoured the countryside for any surviving precious fragments of meteorite, and thanks to them some bits of the earliest solar system are now in London’s Natural History Museum. And as an excited Sara Russell, Merit Researcher in Cosmic Mineralogy tells us, examples of carbonaceous chondrite – the soft, loamy type that fell in Winchcombe – such as this, are a rare and special chunk of luck. 10 years on from the Japanese Tsunami...
2021-Mar-04 • 27 minutes
Uncovering history with Little Foot's skull
One of our most complete ancient ancestor’s fossils has been transported to the UK from South Africa in order to be scanned at the Diamond Light Source. Roland Pease investigates what these scans could reveal about the human story. Professor Corinne Le Quéré explains how she managed to look past the 7% reduction in human emissions caused by the pandemic in 2020 to reveal the impact of the Paris Climate agreements, and explains what more needs to be done. Roland speaks with anthropologist Dr. Rolf Quam, wh...
2021-Feb-25 • 31 minutes
Waste not, want not
Although vaccines will go a long way to reducing the number of cases of Covid, there’s still a need for other approaches. One of these could be an engineered biomolecule, designed by virologists Anne Moscona and Matteo Porotto, that blocks SARS-CoV-2 precisely at the moment it tries to enter cells in the nose and upper airways. Roland Pease talks to Anne Moscona about this “molecular mask”. We’re already beginning to see really encouraging analyses showing that Covid vaccines are performing as well in the...
2021-Feb-18 • 33 minutes
Weird weather
A paper in the BMJ shows that deaths from Covid 9 are being massively overlooked in Zambia. The new data come from post-mortem tests at the University Hospital mortuary in Lusaka, showing that at least 1 in 6 deaths there are due to the coronavirus; many of the victims had also been suffering from tuberculosis. Chris Gill of Boston University’s Department of Global Health, and Lawrence Mwananyanda, chief scientific officer of Right to Care, Zambia, discuss their findings with Roland Pease. New variants of...
2021-Feb-11 • 33 minutes
Perseverance approaches Mars
On 18th February the Perseverance rover should land on Mars. Katie Stack-Morgan of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab tells Roland Pease about the technological advances that mean that the spacecraft should be able to land in Jezero Crater. Imperial College geologist Sanjeev Gupta discusses what this crater can reveal about the history of life on the red planet. After months of negotiations, and weeks of work on the ground, a team brought together by the World Health Organisation has just concluded its first attem...
2021-Feb-04 • 30 minutes
Mixing Covid vaccines
A new trial is about to start in the UK, seeing if different vaccines can be mixed and matched in a two-dose schedule, and whether the timing matters. Governments want to know the answer as vaccines are in short supply. Oxford University’s Matthew Snape takes Roland Pease through the thinking. Despite the numbers of vaccines being approved for use we still need treatments for Covid-19. A team at the University of North Carolina is upgrading the kind of manufactured antibodies that have been used to treat ...
2021-Jan-28 • 34 minutes
New Covid vaccine
Researchers at Imperial College have been working on a strategy that can make RNA vaccines stretch further. Anna Blakely explains how the new approach works and why RNA vaccines are adaptable to a changing disease. In January 2019 a dam collapsed in Brazil, spilling 10 million cubic metres of red sludge down nearby rivers, claiming the lives of at least 259 people. An engineering report into the collapse looked at data from safety sensors around the site, and said they’d not revealed any weakening of the da...
2021-Jan-21 • 28 minutes
Saving the Northern White Rhino
Northern white rhinos are extinct in the wild and there are just two females in captivity in Kenya. Conservationists are working on an artificial breeding programme, using eggs from the females and sperm from a deceased male. Now five embryos have been created. Thomas Hildebrandt of the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Berlin explained the research. President Biden’s first executive order was what’s being called the hundred-day mask mandate. The day before the inauguration a massive anal...
2021-Jan-14 • 30 minutes
Gravitational waves and black holes
After collecting data for more than twelve years the North American Nanohertz Observatory for Gravitational Waves (NANOGrav) announced it may have detected new kinds of gravitational waves caused by colliding supermassive black holes. Professor Chiara Mingarelli of the University of Connecticut tells Roland Pease why this is such an exciting discovery. Supermassive black holes are at the heart of galaxies and they are the engines of quasars, the brightest light sources in the heavens that can be seen acros...
2021-Jan-07 • 27 minutes
New variants of SARS-Cov2
Mutant strains of SARS-Cov2 have been identified not only in the UK, where it was first identified, but also in at least 30 other countries. And to complicate matters, another alarming variant, with some similar mutations, has arisen in South Africa. Roland Pease talks to Ravi Gupta, a virologist at Cambridge University and Tulio de Oliveira of the University of KwaZulu Natal about these new strains. There’s only so much that can be learned about the virus by looking at the patients it infects. Thanks to ...
2020-Dec-31 • 26 minutes
Coping with Covid
This has been an incredible year for scientific advance and collaboration, epitomised by the roll out of vaccines that didn’t exist a year ago, against a virus that no one had ever heard of . And yet at the same time its been a year of incredible frustration. We are stil largely using the same methods to counter the virus that were used in past pandemics, going back a hundred years. Here we look back at key the findings on who is most susceptible and why, and ask how to improve the strategies for reducing...
2020-Dec-24 • 27 minutes
A year with Covid -19
It was the end of December 2019 when reports of a new flu like infection first came out of China. Within weeks millions of people were in lockdown as the virus took hold around the world. In this programme we look back and revisit the scientists who were ready, those who had been studying bat coronaviruses and warning of their pandemic potential. The scientific response was immediate. The coronavirus tests now used across the world were being developed within a few hours of news of the outbreak in China,...
2020-Dec-17 • 31 minutes
Covid -19 – Mutations are normal
This week the UK Health secretary raised concerns over a new variant of SARS- CoV-2 currently spreading across Europe. Viruses mutate all the time so it’s no surprise that a new form of the one causing Covid -19 would emerge. However, virologist Ravi Gupta who analysed the new strain says we need to be weary in case future strains mutate in ways that could overcome vaccines. Immunologist Akiko Iwasaki is part of a team looking at the impact of Covid -19 on our immune system. Her research has uncovered aut...
2020-Dec-10 • 26 minutes
The unchecked spread of Covid-19 in Manaus
Pictures of coffins and mass graves seen by satellites showed that Manaus has been badly affected by Covid- 19. Now analysis of blood samples shows the extent to which the virus took hold in the Amazon city earlier this year. Investigators Ester Sabino and Lewis Buss from Brazil’s University of Sao Paulo discuss how and why the virus spread. Humanity has been modifying the environment for millennia, but have we now reached a point where it’s all too much? An analysis by Emily Elhacham from Tel Aviv Univer...
2020-Dec-03 • 33 minutes
Freak weather getting even freakier
This year’s Atlantic hurricane season has seen a new record for severe storms says Climatologist Michael Mann. He says warming oceans are one of the drivers. And Australia has seen spring temperatures hit new highs. Climate scientist Sarah Perkins – Kirkpatrick says it’s all the more remarkable as weather patterns are currently in a cycle associated with cooler temperatures. Where exactly did SARS- COV-2 emerge from? That’s one of the questions for a WHO fact-finding mission to China looking into the ori...
2020-Nov-26 • 31 minutes
Vaccines – the Covid confusion
While developing new treatments drug companies usually release little useful information on how the clinical trials are progressing. However with the world’s attention on potential vaccines against Covid -19, the usually dull data on the progression of each trial step is subject to huge scrutiny. It doesn’t help to clarify things says epidemiologist Nicole Basta when that data raises questions about the rigour of the trial itself. This seems to be what happened with the latest Astra Zeneca, and Oxford Unive...
2020-Nov-19 • 35 minutes
Covid- 19 – Good news on immunity
Tests on patients for up to 8 months following their infection with SARS- CoV-2 suggests an immune response can persist. Alessandro Sette and Daniela Weiskopf at the La Jolla Institute in California are optimistic this could mean vaccines would also confer long lasting immunity. An analysis of samples from Kenya’s blood banks by Sophie Uyoga at the KEMRI-Wellcome Research Programme reveals far more people in Kenya contracted the virus than was previously know. The figures mean Kenya has similar levels of i...
2020-Nov-12 • 33 minutes
Covid-19 defeats US Marines
The WHO is working with China to try and pinpoint the source of SARS- COV-2. Sian Griffiths, Emeritus Professor of Public Health at the Chinese University of Hong Kong says there are lessons we can learn from the investigation she led into the original SARS outbreak back in 2003. That inquiry revealed how SARS had spread from bats to humans via civet cats. A Covid-19 vaccine claims to be 90% effective. It uses genetic material, messenger RNA. Daniel Anderson of Harvard MIT Health Science tells us about th...
2020-Nov-05 • 39 minutes
Coronavirus spreads from mink to humans
All the farmed mink in Denmark are to be killed. Around 17 million. This is because they have SARS COV-2 coronavirus circulating among them and some humans have contracted a new strain from the animals. The scientific detail is sketchy, but Emma Hodcroft at Basel University pieces together a picture of what this means for tackling the virus. Typhoon Goni and hurricane Eta are two very powerful tropical cyclones. But the way these storms are recorded differs by geographical location and recording style. We...
2020-Oct-29 • 26 minutes
Osiris Rex stows asteroid material
Last week NASA’s Osiris-Rex mission successfully touched down on asteroid Bennu’s crumbly surface. But the spacecraft collected so much material that the canister wouldn’t close. NASA systems engineer Estelle Church tells Roland Pease how she and the team back on Earth performed clever manoeuvres to remotely successfully shut the lid. As winter draws on in the North, and people spend more time indoors, there’s considerable debate about the conditions in which SARS-Cov2 is more likely to spread. Princeton ...
2020-Oct-22 • 34 minutes
Nasa probe Osiris Rex lands on asteroid
Science in Action talks to Nasa researcher Hannah Kaplan who is part of the team for the space agency’s sampling mission to the asteroid Bennu. Mission scientists were overjoyed this week when the probe Osiris Rex momentarily touched the asteroid and sucked up some of the sand and grit on its surface. What might we learn when the sample is returned to Earth in three years' time? There is some not-such-good news about a theory about immunity to the pandemic coronavirus, and medical researchers in the UK an...
2020-Oct-15 • 36 minutes
Covid-19 mortality
Why is there such a range in the number of deaths from Covid -19 between countries? A study of the data across 21 industrialised countries reveals a wide discrepancy. Preparedness and the point at which countries went into lockdown were key factors says epidemiologist Jonny Pearson- Stuttard Recurring illnesses which show up sometimes months after a Covid -19 infections are being more commonly reported. The Uk’s National Institute for Health research has launched a major initiative to better understand thi...
2020-Oct-08 • 37 minutes
Do Covid–19 mutations matter?
Data from clinical investigations has suggested that a specific mutation in the SARS-Cov -2 virus has made it more transmissible. This finding is now supported by molecular biology work. Ralph Baric from the University of North Carolina led a team comparing the form of the virus which first emerged from China with the mutated type now prevalent word wide. Bats are known to carry many different types of viruses, horseshow bats specifically carry coronaviruses, apparently without any ill effects to themselv...
2020-Oct-01 • 37 minutes
Are children the biggest Covid-19 spreaders?
An analysis of Covid-19 data from South India shows children more than any other group are transmitting the virus both to other children and adults, Epidemiologist Ramanan Laxminarayan tell us the data also shows the situations in which the virus is most likely to spread, public transport is of particular concern. The WHO has launched an initiative to roll out rapid testing, particularly to countries that don’t have access to lab based tests, Catharina Boehme who leads one of the WHO’s partner organisatio...
2020-Sep-24 • 42 minutes
Why Covid -19 vaccines may not stop transmission
While vaccines against Covid -19 are being developed at unprecedented speed, none of them have been tested to see if they can actually stop transmission of the virus. They are designed to stop those who are vaccinated from developing Covid -19 disease, but not becoming infected. This says Virologist Malik Peiris from Hong Kong University means while vaccinated people themselves may be protected they might also spread the virus. Cells produced in the bone marrow may be responsible for an extreme immune r...
2020-Sep-17 • 30 minutes
Malaria resistance breakthrough
Some East Africans have a genetic mutation which gives them resistance to Malaria. Investigations into how it works have produced a surprising finding. As researcher Silvia Kariuki explains it’s all to do with the surface tension of the red blood cells. SARS-CoV- 2 can pass from people in the very early stages of Covid -19, before they show symptoms. New research shows identifying cases at this early stage is crucial to controlling the pandemic. And yet most testing regimes require symptoms to show before ...
2020-Sep-15 • 26 minutes
Monitoring Covid-19, harvests and space junk
Roland Pease reports from the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s annual meeting in Seattle. At the UK Research and Innovation’s stand in the exhibition hall, he’s joined by three scientists to discuss monitoring the Coronavirus outbreak, the locusts devastating crops in East Africa and the ever increasing amount of space junk orbiting the Earth. Professor Jeffrey Shaman of the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University talks about how he is modelling the movement of Covid-19...
2020-Sep-10 • 38 minutes
Covid -19 science versus politics
With the announcement in the UK of investment in rapid testing for people who may not have Covid -19 we ask why is this only happening now? For months on this programme we’ve featured scientific research suggesting such a strategy would be the quickest way to end the pandemic. We speak with Connie Cepko and Brian Rabe who have developed a rapid test and Manu Prakash who is currently rolling it out to countries in the global south. Could a huge motorcycle rally really have been the source of over a quart...
2020-Sep-03 • 31 minutes
Nyiragongo - is Goma under threat?
A new survey of the volcano's activity suggests there may be an eruption in the next 4 to 7 years. It's a particular concern for the populations of Goma and Gisenyi, two cites between the volcano and lake Kivu. As we hear from the director of the Goma Volcano Observatory Katcho Karume, the city of Goma in particular has expanded so much that many people now live right next to fissures in the flank of the volcano through which any eruption would likely occur. Hurricane Laura made landfall in Louisiana's ma...
2020-Aug-27 • 39 minutes
Covid-19 therapy controversy
This week Science in Action examines the evidence around the Trump Administration’s emergency use authorisation of convalescent plasma therapy for the treatment of Covid-19. Donald Trump described its US-wide roll-out as ‘historic’ but the majority of scientists and doctors disagree, questioning the scientific basis for the government’s decision. Roland Pease talks to Mayo Clinic’s Michael Joyner, the leader of the convalescent plasma therapy study on which the action was based. The Mayo Clinic trial invo...
2020-Aug-20 • 32 minutes
Trouble in Greenland
Has the loss from Greenland’s vast ice sheet reached a tipping point? According to glaciologist Michalea King, the rate at which its ice flows into the sea stepped up about 15 years ago. The process of glacial retreat is outpacing the accumulation snow and ice in Greenland’s interior and the loss of Greenland’s ice to the Ocean is set to continue for many years to come. An international study of past climate changes during the last ice age reveals how fast changes to weather patterns and climate state...
2020-Aug-13 • 38 minutes
Putin’s Covid-19 vaccine
Russia’s President Putin announced the registration of a vaccine for coronavirus. This was reported with widespread alarm amid concerns over safety, but as BBC Russian Service’s Sergei Goryashko, tells us the announcement was a political move to capture the headlines. Investigations by Alexandra Reynolds and Hooman Poor at New York’s Mount Sinai Medical Centre have revealed why some Covid 19 patients have low oxygen levels, but don’t have breathing difficulties. The answer came when looking for signs of st...
2020-Aug-06 • 33 minutes
Counting the heat health threat from climate change
If the world does not curb its greenhouse gas emissions, by the end of this century, the number of people dying annually because of extreme heat will be greater than the current global death toll from infectious diseases - that’s all infectiousness diseases, from malaria to diarrhoeal diseases to HIV. This is the grim assessment of climate researchers and economists of the Climate Impact Lab in the largest global study to date of health and financial impacts of temperature-related deaths. Roland Pease t...
2020-Jul-30 • 35 minutes
NASA rover heads for Mars ancient lake
NASA launches its new robotic mission to Mars. The rover, Perseverance, will land in a 50 kilometre wide crater which looks like it was filled by a lake about 4 billion years ago – the time when life on Earth was getting started. Mission scientist Melissa Rice explains why this is one of the most promising places on Mars to continue the search for past life on the red planet. Japanese and US scientists have revived microbes that have been buried at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean for 100 million years. ...
2020-Jul-23 • 35 minutes
Making a Covid-19 vaccine for two billion people
There’s been encouraging news about the Oxford Covid-19 vaccine this week from a trial involving about 1,000 people. But how great is the challenge in scaling up from making a few thousand doses of the vaccine to manufacturing two billion by the end of this year? Sandy Douglas of Oxford’s Jenner Institute explains how they plan to mass-produce the vaccine safely given the speed and magnitude of the scale up. A new kind of treatment for Covid-19 may come from an unlikely source: llamas and alpacas, the ...
2020-Jul-16 • 34 minutes
How long do Covid-19 antibodies last?
Science in Action looks at some of the latest research on the response of our immune system to infection by the coronavirus. Researchers at Kings College London find that protective antibodies appear to fade away after about three months following infection whereas a team at the Karolinska Institute has discovered that although antibodies may decline, other important players called T cells in our defences do not. Doctors Katie Doores and Marcus Buggert talk about the implications of these discoveries for th...
2020-Jul-09 • 30 minutes
Rwanda’s game changing coronavirus test
African scientists have developed a reliable, quick and cheap testing method which could be used by worldwide as the basis for mass testing programmes. The method, which produces highly accurate results, is built around mathematical algorithms developed at the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences in Kigali. We speak to Neil Turok who founded the institute, Leon Mutesa Professor of human genetics on the government coronavirus task force, and Wilfred Ndifon, the mathematical biologist who devised the ...
2020-Jul-02 • 32 minutes
Covid -19 and Children
Studies in Children who have been severely affected by Covid 19 in Italy, Britain and the US are showing the same thing – a range of symptoms linked to an overactive immune system. Elizabeth Whittaker from London’s Imperial College discusses the similarities in these cases and possible reasons for this syndrome with Shanna Kowalsky from Mount Sinai hospital in New York. How much should drugs for Covid 19 cost? Remdesivir which has shown promise against the virus has been priced at over $2000 for a course...
2020-Jun-25 • 26 minutes
Record high temperatures – in the Arctic
A record summer temperature in Siberia is an indication of major changes in the Arctic climate. Changing weather patterns there have a knock on effect for other parts of the planet says Climatologist Steve Vavrus Chile appeared to get Covid-19 under control, but in reality the virus was spreading uncontrollably through poor areas, As we hear from our correspondent in Santiago Jane Chambers, the lockdown has tightened but cases continue to rise. And could mass testing using new saliva tests help control or...
2020-Jun-18 • 34 minutes
Covid -19 hope for severe cases
A multi arm trial testing a range of drugs has shown that readily available steroids can be lifesaving for people severely ill with Covid-19. Max Parmar, head of the UK Medical Research Council’s clinical trials unit says the trial design, where many potential drugs can be tested against the same controls, is key to producing results quickly. As it spreads around the world SARS-CoV-2 is mutating. But what does this mean? These mutations are part of a natural process and some researchers are finding they ...
2020-Jun-11 • 28 minutes
Food security, locusts and Covid -19
Despite the Covid-19 pandemic efforts to counter massive swarms of locusts across East Africa have continued. In many places this has been very effective, killing up to 90% of locusts. However, the threat of repeated waves of locusts remains says Cyril Ferrand, who leads the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation's Resilience Team in East Africa. Conversely West Africa is unaffected by locusts and with a block on imports local producers have seen demand grow for their produce, an unusual positive effect from...
2020-Jun-04 • 32 minutes
The medical complexity of Covid -19
Autopsies show Covid 19 can affect the brain and other organs. Pathologist Mary Fowkes from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai found the signs of stroke - unusually in young people, as well as a disruption of the immune system throughout the body. And studies of heart stem cells show these can be killed by the virus. Cell Biologist Stefanie Dimmeler from the University of Frankfurt says this finding could prove useful in providing treatment and preventative medicine. A massive research project in...
2020-May-28 • 32 minutes
Brazil’s Covid chaos
The number of cases of Covid -19 infections in Brazil and deaths related to the pandemic may be much higher than official figures show. Testing of the living is not widespread and there are few resources for analysing the potential role of the virus as a cause of death. Virologist Fernando Spiliki gives us his bleak assessment. A remarkable study from South Africa shows just how easily the virus can spread around a hospital, with a single infected person infecting many. However the route of infection is no...
2020-May-21 • 31 minutes
Covid-19 vaccines
There are more than 100 different Covid-19 vaccine trials currently going on. We look at which seem to be the most promising with Helen Branswell from Stat News. And we examine a very old idea, using antibodies from one virus – in this case Sars, to counter another virus Sars-CoV-2 , which causes Covid-19. Davide Corti from Vir Biotechnology says a version of these antibodies offers potential for both vaccination and treatment. Race and Covid-19, there seems to be a link between ethnicity and susceptib...
2020-May-14 • 38 minutes
Loosening lockdown
How is Covid -19 spread? Who is most at risk and what are the circumstances under which it is most likely to be transmitted? These questions need answers for the implementation of effective and safe strategies to end lockdown. We look at what research is showing. And if you have to go back to work what’s the best way to protect yourself, how should we be using face coverings for example? There are lessons from research on fluid dynamics. Also key is reducing the rate of infection, the R number, Italy rel...
2020-May-07 • 44 minutes
Covid -19 new hope from blood tests
Research from New York examining the blood of people who have recovered from Covid – 19 shows the majority have produced antibodies against the disease, The researchers hope to soon be able to establish whether this confers long term immunity as with more common viral infections. And Research in Berlin and London has identified biomarkers, minute signs of the disease which may help clinicians identify who is likely to develop severe symptoms and what kind of treatment they might need. Mutations have been...
2020-Apr-30 • 49 minutes
Ebola drug offers hope for Covid-19
Remdesivir a drug eventually rejected as a treatment for Ebola seems to have aided recovery in a trial with more than a thousand Covid -19 patients. Researchers are cautious but hopeful; a leading health official in the US has made comparisons with the impact of game changing drugs used to treat HIV. In contrast an organisation researching the mechanisms by which bat coronaviruses infect humans has had its funding cut following criticism from President Trump. A scheme to help manufacture ventilators and ...
2020-Apr-23 • 43 minutes
Presidents and pandemics
President Trump has repeated unfounded claims that scientists created Covid-19 in a lab. Rigorous scrutiny of the genetics of the virus reveals no evidence for such a claim. And Brazil’s President Bolsonaro is at odds with his own health advisors – splitting public opinion and action over lockdown measures needed to control the virus. We also look at why Covid -19 seems to be associated with so many different symptoms, from diarrheal infections to complicating kidney disease, to heart attacks And some...
2020-Apr-16 • 33 minutes
Italy, getting Covid-19 under control
Italy is beginning its first tentative steps towards ending its lockdown. These are small steps, opening a few shops in areas where virus transmission has seen big falls. Part of the reason for this controlled strategy is that there are real concerns over a potential resurgence of the virus, Around the world there are now hundreds of trials on drug treatments for Covid-19. Results so far are mixed, with antivirals developed for Ebola and HIV showing positive signs, but antimalarial drugs, championed by Pr...
2020-Apr-09 • 26 minutes
Covid 19 - the threat to refugees
Massively over crowded Moria refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos has seen numbers grow from 5 to 20 thousand in a matter of months. Hundreds of people share taps and toilets, there is little chance to implement measures designed to stop the spread of covid 19. So far the camp has not been hit by the epidemic, but aid agencies fear for the most vulnerable in the camp. Covid 19 jumped from bats to humans, possibly via another wild animal. A study of zoonotic diseases has identified many other viruses...
2020-Apr-02 • 33 minutes
Covid 19 – The fightback in Africa begins
Nigeria has seen a small number of Covid -19 cases, largely spread amongst the most affluent, people who travel abroad, However there is concern about the potential of the virus to spread to overcrowded slum areas. In such conditions social distancing measures would be difficult to enforce. What are the alternatives? The US now has the majority of cases of the virus, New York has been heavily hit, medics have developed an app to help understand the spread of Covid 19 in the community. The availability ...
2020-Mar-26 • 29 minutes
The science of social distancing
The strong social distancing policies introduced by China seem to have been successful in stopping the spread of Covid 19. Without any effective drug treatments, reducing our number of contacts is the most effective way to prevent viral transmission. We also look at the similarities been policies in Russia and the US on how best to deal with the virus. In both cases there are contradictions and disagreements between medical professionals and politicians. And a warning from Polio, how vaccines may create ...
2020-Mar-19 • 33 minutes
Covid -19, are you carrying the virus?
In Italy the entire population of a small town was tested for Covid 19. Of those infected, one in three people with no symptoms had the virus. And from China researchers found many people carried the virus – even before authorities there began tracking its spread. The findings suggest vulnerable people may contract the virus from those without symptoms. And we’ve news of a breakthrough - new tests looking at Covid 19 antibodies, These should help provide a picture of developing immunity to the virus. Ho...
2020-Mar-12 • 38 minutes
Covid -19 how infectious is it really?
Covid- 19 cases seem to be multiplying daily and there is now a growing body of scientific evidence both on its spread and the effectiveness of measures to try and control it. We look at what’s working, what’s not and why. And we look to the potential for coronavirus drug treatments, why despite the hype there really isn’t anything round the corner. Australia’s recent fire season was intense; a new study looks back over 500 years of the weather pattern partly responsible, the Indian Ocean Dipole. The fin...
2020-Mar-05 • 30 minutes
Australia’s fires - fuelled by climate change
Attributing Australia's bush fires, a major study says man-made climate change was a big driver – making the fires at least 30% worse than they would have been if natural processes were the only factors. We look at preparations for coronavirus in Africa. Although cases there are currently lower than in much of the rest of the world a major training initiative is taking place to spread awareness amongst medics across the continent. We ask why Horseshoe bats in particular carry coronaviruses, and find a nov...
2020-Feb-27 • 30 minutes
Tracking coronavirus spread
The appearance of Covid -19 in Italy and Iran surprised many this week. As the virus continues to spread we look at ways to contain it. Australia’s fires have burnt around 20 percent of the countries woodlands, what are the implications for the recovery of those ecosystems? And what is the link between the world’s super rich and deforestation? Unsurprisingly it’s money. And we hear about the unexpected cooling effects of hydroelectric dams. (Image: Tourists wearing masks tour outside the Coliseum in Ro...
2020-Feb-13 • 26 minutes
CoVid-19: Mapping the outbreak
Researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical medicine have developed an online map which presents the latest information on the spread of CoVid-19 and allows anyone to follow the outbreak and compare this data with the spread of Ebola and SARS. See the weblink from this page to try it for yourself. And the coming together of microbiology and big data science has led to the development of a portable device able to spot antibiotic resistant bacteria. This should help with more precise drug target...
2020-Feb-06 • 30 minutes
Coronavirus, prospects for treatment?
Doctors in the US have treated a coronavirus patient with a drug developed for Ebola. That drug had never been tested on people so its use here seems an extreme move. We look at why this kind of drug developed for one virus might work on another. It’s all down to the genetic material at the centre of the virus. That raises safety concerns as human cells contain similar material. East Africa is experiencing a plague of locusts and bizarrely it’s linked to the Australian wildfires. A weather pattern across t...
2020-Jan-30 • 34 minutes
Understanding the new coronavirus
Parts of China are on lockdown, a small number of cases have been reported in other countries and the past week has brought widely conflicting views on the potential danger presented by the new virus. We look at the scientific facts, analyse why it’s so difficult to predict the spread of the virus, look at the nature of virus infection and discuss why treatments such as vaccines are not available. We look at why some viruses can jump from animals to humans and examine hi-tech solutions designed to speed u...
2020-Jan-23 • 28 minutes
New Coronavirus
The way in which a new virus has emerged in China is reminiscent of SARS, a highly infectious virus that spread rapidly. It’s so similar that Health officials demanded action as soon as its existence became known. And the Chinese authorities and global medical community have acted to try and stop the spread. Events were still developing, even as we were in the studio making this programme, new reports of suspected cases were coming in. The WHO was yet to give its view on the severity of the outbreak. This...
2020-Jan-16 • 27 minutes
Mount Taal volcano
An experimental satellite called Aeolus, named after a Greek god of wind, which takes daily global measurements of the wind patterns throughout the depth of atmosphere has improved weather forecasts. ESA’s Anne-Greta Straume explains how it works. The dramatic eruption of the island volcano Taal in the Philippines was a spectacular picture of the plume of ejecta punching a hole in overlying cloud cover. Nearby towns have been blanketed with dust, fissures have appeared in the ground and there has been dra...
2020-Jan-09 • 27 minutes
Australia’s extreme fire season
2019 was Australia’s hottest year on record, a major factor behind the bush fires which have been far worse than usual. We look at the patterns of extreme weather that have contributed to the fires but are also linked to floods in Africa. And the way in which thunderstorms have helped to spread the fires. The armpit of Orion is changing. The star Betelgeuse is dimming some claim this is readying it for a major explosion others are more sceptical, we weight up the arguments. And an Iron Age brain may ho...
2020-Jan-02 • 26 minutes
Adapting California
Roland Pease is joined by California based science Journalist Molly Bentley as we examine the impact of earthquakes and fires. California has experienced both in the last year - What’s it like to live with a constant threat from these extreme events? We also take a look at NASA’s plans for a new mission to Mars – to look for signs on life. Picture: Roland Pease with science journalist Molly Bentley, Credit: BBC
2019-Dec-26 • 26 minutes
Gaming climate change
The latest round of climate negotiations, COP25, have ended without agreement on many fundamental issues. We join researchers from Perdue University in the US who have developed a role-playing game to encourage climate negotiators and others to take a long-term view. Key to this research project is the concept of tipping points, where an environment changes irreversibly from one state to another. This is accompanied by the loss of ecosystems - for example, the widespread melting of Arctic sea ice, rainfores...
2019-Dec-19 • 26 minutes
Understanding the Anak Krakatau eruption
We have the latest from a year long investigation into the causes of the December 2018 Indonesian Tsunami. And we get a look at the first pictures from the Mayotte undersea volcano, which emerged earlier this year off the coast of East Africa. (Anak Krakatau volcano. Credit: AFP/Getty Images) Presenter: Roland Pease Producer: Julian Siddle
2019-Dec-12 • 26 minutes
White Island volcano eruption
This week’s programme comes from the world’s largest earth sciences conference, the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco. Roland Pease talks with Diana Roman of the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington DC about the tragic White Island volcanic eruption in which at least eight tourists died. Aurora Elmore of National Geographic and Arbindra Khadka of Tribhuvan University in Kathmandu Nepal discuss the state of Himalayan glaciers and climate change. Robert Hazen of the Carnegie Instituti...
2019-Dec-05 • 35 minutes
CRISPR babies scandal – more details
Extracts from unpublished papers on the methods used by a Chinese scientist to genetically modify the embryos of two girls reveal a series of potentially dangerous problems with the procedure and ethical shortcomings. We look at the mechanism behind the formation of our facial features and how this is linked to our evolution, scrutinise the impact of current emissions on global climates and see why lithium, used in batteries and medicines, is now a potentially widespread pollutant. (Photo: He Jiankui, Ch...
2019-Dec-02 • 29 minutes
New malaria target
Molecular scale investigations have identified the mechanism which confers resistance to antimalarial drugs. Researchers hope work to turn off this mechanism could mean cheaper well known antimalarials can become effective once again. We look at the threat to weather forecasting from 5G networks, discuss the origins of much of the technology in our mobile phones and ask what food we’ll be eating in the future and how the past can inform this. Image: Mosquito. Science Photo Library Presenter: Roland Pe...
2019-Nov-21 • 27 minutes
Politics and Amazonia’s fires
This year’s Amazon fires have been worse than since 2010, scientists blame a government attitude which they say has encouraged deforestation. Government funded scientists have contributed anonymously to the finding – fearing for their jobs. Food crops and fungus are not normally seen as compatible, but a mutually beneficial relationship between these organisms may help reduce the need for chemical fertilisers and combat climate change. Hayabusa 2, the Japanese space mission is returning to earth after i...
2019-Nov-14 • 30 minutes
Australia burning
Australia’s annual wild fires have started early this year, drought is a factor but to what extent is ‘Bush fire weather’ influenced by climate change? A two million year old fossil tooth reveals some biological answers to who its owner was. Why Climate change may have killed off the world’s first superpower And a hologram produced from sound waves. (Image: Firefighters tackle a bushfire to save a home in Taree, Australia. Credit Peter Parks/AFP via Getty Images) Presenter: Roland Pease Producer: ...
2019-Nov-07 • 29 minutes
Climate in crisis
Pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are largely unachievable says a major audit of commitments to the Paris Climate Accord. Air pollution in Delhi is so bad, breathing the toxic particles has been likened to smoking. Can a scientific assessment of the multiple causes help provide a way forward? We examine a new way of making new plastic – from old plastic. And why sending some stem cells to the international space station might help astronauts travel further. (Image: Tourists wearing masks to...
2019-Oct-31 • 29 minutes
Wildfires and winds in California
The Santa Ana in the south, and the Diablo in the north, are winds that are fuelling the terrible fires raging in California this week. They’re also blamed for bringing down power lines that sometimes start the fires. Roland Pease talks to Janice Coen of the National Center for Atmospheric Research NCAR who has been developing a highly detailed model to forecast how wind, mountains, and flames interact during a wildfire. The glaring gaps in human genetics are in Africa – much overlooked because the compani...
2019-Oct-24 • 37 minutes
Is quantum supremacy ‘garbage’?
A quantum computer has performed a calculation considered impossible for conventional computers, but how meaningful is the result? As our guest reveals, this quantum state can be hugely significant and garbage – at the same time. Also we look at a new method of gene editing, which avoids cutting up DNA, get to grips with where the worlds worms live and watch elements being created in distant solar collisions. (Photo: A quantum circuit from Google's Sycamore computer. Credit: Google) Presenter: Rol...
2019-Oct-17 • 29 minutes
Malaria's origins and a potential new treatment
A variety of malarial parasites have existed amongst the great apes for millennia. How did one of them jump species and why did humans became its preferred host? And from Antarctica we hear about a potential new treatment for malaria found in a deep sea sponge. Also, why improved monitoring is changing our perceptions of earthquakes and the story of an endangered Polynesian snail. Presenter: Roland Pease Producer: Julian Siddle (Photo: Gorilla. Credit: Hermes Images/AGF/Universal Images Group via Getty ...
2019-Oct-10 • 30 minutes
From batteries to distant worlds
Nobel prizes this week went to a range of discoveries that you might be familiar with, in fact you might be using one of them right now – the lithium ion battery. The scientists credited with its Invention got the chemistry prize. And the tantalising prospect of life on other planets plays into the physics prize win. And we also see what salamanders have to offer in the treatment of arthritis (Picture: Illustration of the Earth-like exoplanet Kepler-452b and its parent star Kepler-452. Credit: NASA/Ames...
2019-Oct-03 • 30 minutes
Drought likely to follow India’s floods
India has experienced some of the worse monsoon weather in years, but despite the extreme rainfall climate models suggest a drought may be on the way, with higher than average temperatures predicted for the months following the monsoon season. We also hear warnings over the state of the world’s aquifers, with water levels in many places already low enough to affect ecosystems. We examine the consequences of two historic eruptions. How Indonesian volcano Tambora changed global weather and why papyrus scrol...
2019-Sep-26 • 30 minutes
Global climate inaction
This week’s IPCC report on the state of the world’s climate looks very much like their earlier reports on the subject. The document cautiously expresses a picture of a future with greater climate extremes. Activists are frustrated by the lack of action. We look at why the scientific message is often hampered by politics. Fish could provide micronutrients to the world poor, but as we’ll hear this would need a major shift in commercial fishing practices globally. Baby bottles from thousands of years ago su...
2019-Sep-20 • 31 minutes
South East Asia choking - again
Staying indoors might seem a good way to avoid air pollution, but scientists studying the fires in Indonesia have found there is little difference between the air quality in their hotel room and the atmosphere outside. Both levels are high enough to be considered dangerous for human health. To add to the problem, fires continue to burn underground in the peaty soil long after they were started. In the Arctic ice melt this summer has been particularly severe, however the picture in complicated by climatic ...
2019-Sep-12 • 26 minutes
Embryoids from stem cells
Scientists know very little about the first few days of the life of a human embryo, once it's been implanted in the womb. Yet this is when the majority of pregnancies fail. Professor Magdalena Zernika-Goetz at Cambridge University is a leader in the field of making 'model embryos' in both mice and humans. Model embryos until now have been grown in the lab from donated fertilised eggs, but these are hard to come by and governed by strict laws and ethical guidelines. Now researchers in the University of Michi...
2019-Sep-05 • 35 minutes
New evidence of nuclear reactor explosion
An isotopic fingerprint is reported of a nuclear explosion in Russia last month. Researchers ask people living in the area or nearby to send them samples of dust or soil before the radioactive clues therein decay beyond recognition. Also, a near miss between an ESA satellite and a SpaceX/Starlink module in crowded near space strengthens the case for some sort of international Space Traffic Management treaty, whilst in the arctic circle, melting permafrost is disinterring the graves of long-dead whalers. (P...
2019-Aug-29 • 31 minutes
Nanotube computer says hello
A computer processor made of carbon nanotubes is unveiled to the world. Also, the continuing quest for nuclear fusion energy, and the stats on crocodile attacks since the 1960s. (The world's first 16 bit microprocessor made of carbon nanotubes. Credit: Max Shulaker)
2019-Aug-22 • 30 minutes
Amazonian fires likely to worsen
As fires across the amazon basin continue to burn, we speak to the researchers watching from space and from the ground. Also, new pictures back from the surface of asteroid Ryugu thanks to Germany’s MASCOT lander, part of the Japanese Hyabusa2 mission, give insights into the clay from which the solar system was originally formed, and Greenland’s top geologist gives his valuation of his native island for prospective purchasers. Presenter: Roland Pease Producer: Alex Mansfield (Photo: Wildfires in Amazo...
2019-Aug-15 • 33 minutes
Cracking the case of the Krakatoa volcano collapse
Scientists this week are on expedition around the volcano Anak Krakatoa, which erupted and collapsed in 2018 leading to the loss of some 400 lives on the island of Java. The scientists, including David Tappin and Michael Cassidy, are hoping that their survey of the seafloor and tsunami debris will allow them to piece together the sequence of events, and maybe find signs to look out for in the future. Wyoming Dinosaur trove The BBC got a secret visit to a newly discovered fossil site somewhere in the US wh...
2019-Aug-08 • 26 minutes
Keeping tabs on nuclear weapons
The US has withdrawn from a historic nuclear disarmament treaty. However the verification of such treaties has been under scrutiny for some time as they don’t actually reveal the size of nuclear stockpiles. New methods of verification and encryption should allow all sides to be more confident on who has what in terms of nuclear stockpiles. Can carbon capture and storage technology help reduce atmospheric Co2 levels? The answer seems to be yes, but at a considerable cost. And we go for a cold swim around ...
2019-Aug-01 • 27 minutes
The snowball effect of Arctic fires
Wildfires are an annual phenomenon across the arctic region, but this year they are far more intense than usual, we look at the drivers for these extreme fires and the consequences, in particular long term environmental change across the region. We visit Naples which is built on a super volcano. A new analysis is designed to help predict when it might erupt. We hear from young scientists around the world on their hopes for the future and hear about the discovery of a new potentially earth like planet. ...
2019-Jul-25 • 30 minutes
The human danger – for sharks
A global project tracking sharks through the deep oceans has found they are increasingly facing danger from fishing fleets. Sharks used to be caught accidentally, but now there is a well-established trade in shark meat and fins, which the researchers say is reducing their numbers. We look at how tourists might be a useful source for conservation data, And we meet one of the planets smallest predators, is it a plant is it an animal? Well actually it’s a bit of both. (Photo: Tiger shark. Credit: Barcroft...
2019-Jul-18 • 29 minutes
The moon landing and another big space anniversary
It’s 50 years since the moon landing and 25 years since Shoemaker - Levy 9 crashed into Jupiter. The Apollo missions returned to earth with cargos of moon rocks and the comet crash showed us what happens when celestial bodies collide. We look at the significance of both this week, and also contemplate a return to the moon. What will the next generation of moonwalking astronauts do there? One thing’s for sure, they’ll be examining moon rocks once more – though this time with a range of scientific tools ...
2019-Jul-11 • 30 minutes
'Free' water and electricity for the world?
Researchers in Saudi Arabia have developed a prototype solar panel which generates electricity and purifies water at the same time. The device uses waste heat from the electricity generating process to distil water. An individual panel for home use could produce around 4 litres and hour. The researchers suggest use of such panels would help alleviate water shortages. A long running study of gorilla behaviour in the DRC has found they exhibit social traits previously thought to only be present in humans. Th...
2019-Jul-04 • 28 minutes
Analysing the European heatwave
The recent European heatwave broke records, but how severe was it really and what were the underlying causes? Having run the numbers, climate scientists say global warming played a large part, and makes heatwaves in general more likely. And we look at what seems an incredibly simple idea to counter the effects of global warming – plant more trees, but where and how many? (Photo: People cool themselves down in the fountain of the Trocadero esplanade in Paris. Credit: AFP/Getty Images) Presenter: Roland P...
2019-Jun-27 • 28 minutes
Is climate change driving Europe’s current heatwave?
As Europe experiences another record breaking heatwave, we look at the science of attribution. Usually it’s a long time after extreme weather events that scientists gather enough data to make a judgement on the influence of anthropogenic forces, such as man-made climate change. However climate experts at a meeting Toulouse France, experiencing the worst of the heatwave, are crunching the data right now, to see if they can quantify the influence of climate change on this heatwave as it happens. Also we f...
2019-Jun-20 • 28 minutes
Iran’s nuclear plans
Iran’s nuclear programme is at the centre of a political row, with the country suggesting it could increase uranium production to above the levels permitted under an international agreement. We look beyond the rhetoric, discuss Iran’s covert history of nuclear development and ask scientifically what this latest move involves. Fish are no respecter of international borders and when it comes to spawning, research reveals up to $10bn worth of potential fish stocks move between different political territories...
2019-Jun-13 • 29 minutes
South Asia heatwave and climate change
South Asia has experienced a heatwave where the monsoon has been delayed and temperatures have reached over 50 degrees. Despite this the extreme heat has led to far fewer fatalities than previous heatwaves; we look at why that is. Research into the origins of almonds shows they were domesticated in Asia before spreading worldwide. It’s a bitter sweet story, with sweet varieties being selected over bitter ones. In fact the bitter ones contain poisons which can kill.. As with almonds cannabis as a drug se...
2019-Jun-06 • 35 minutes
US foetal tissue research ban
The US has withdrawn funding for scientific research involving foetal tissue. Scientists point to the lack of feasible alternatives to using foetal tissue – which comes from embryos donated to scientific research via abortion clinics. They say the move to halt this kind of research will have a negative impact on the ability of US medical institutions to develop new treatments for a range of diseases from diabetes to cancer. More controversy from the ‘Crispr babies ‘ scandal – with a new analysis showing...