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News from the worlds of science and technology.
20070105News from the worlds of science and technology.
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20070209This week, as part of the India Rising season, Science In Action comes from The Indian Science Institute in India's science capital, Bangalore.
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20071102From outer space to the atom's inner working, the BBC reports and explains the week's most important science stories.
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20080524This week's science news.
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20081128 This week's science news.

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This week's science news.

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Synopsis

This week's science news.

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20090501 Everything you ever wanted to know about Swine Flu but were afraid to ask.

Swine Flu has been all over the media this week, but how much of what we’ve heard is fact and how much is exaggeration. In this week’s programme we pick apart the media frenzy. With specialists in vaccine technology and respiratory diseases we look at the scientific facts about Swine Flu. We find out how long it really takes to make an effective vaccine. We see if science can do more and we compare the readiness of different parts of the world to respond to a potential epidemic.

Everything you ever wanted to know about Swine Flu but were afraid to ask.

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20090522 Ida the fossil, Hubble the Telescope and perfect pitch for football and frogs.

Behind the hype, what’s the truth about Ida – the 47 million year old primate fossil from Germany. A team of palaeontologists have named the spectacularly preserved lemur-like creature ‘Darwinus masillae’. Team leader Jorn Hurum says it’s the closest known ancestor of all monkeys and apes, including ourselves. Palaeontologist Chris Beard questions that claim and evolutionary biologist Steve Jones explains why you should never use the phrase ‘missing link’.

Success for the Nasa shuttle mission to mend and upgrade the Hubble Space Telescope. We review some of the high and stickier points of the astronauts and talk to Nasa astronomer Jennifer Wiseman about Hubble’s new exo-planet capabilities.

As the teams in next week’s European Championship football final know, the result of a match can be decided by the quality of the pitch as well as their play. Scientists and football follower Christopher Cooper investigates the secret of a good surface for both football and cricket.

Plus the highs of another kind of pitch. By the rushing tropical streams of Borneo, zoologists have discovered the first species of frog which croaks ultrasonically – so high pitched humans cannot hear it.

Ida the fossil, Hubble the Telescope and perfect pitch for football and frogs.

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This week's science news.

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20090703 The BBC brings you all the week's science news.

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

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

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20100101SpaceX; Zero gravity plane; Waiter's memory; Lionfish; Plant signalling; Reading emotion

The best of Science in Action reports

PRIVATE ROCKETS IN SPACE

NASA's Space Shuttle is approaching the end of its run. The exact date for its retirement is still being debated, but private companies are stepping up to fill the role once performed only by governments – the transport of cargo and even people into orbit. They believe they can do it at a fraction of the cost. A recent review of human spaceflight plans in the US suggested that commercial companies should take over the job of ferrying astronauts to the International Space Station. Jon Stewart has visited one of these firms SpaceX which is based in Los Angeles. The BBC Science Correspondent Jonathan Amos also joined Jon on the programme to explain why these companies are able to compete with NASA.

ZERO GRAVITY

The programme also takes a zero gravity ride on a roller coaster aircraft in the cause of advancing space science, and gets a personal view on the ex-astronaut chosen to be Nasa’s first African-American chief administrator, Charles Bolden.

BUENOS AIRES WAITERS' SUPER-MEMORY

The waiters of Buenos Aires in Argentina are world famous at remembering complex orders without having to write anything down. Jon Stewart talks to the scientist who has looked into how they do this. Could the technique be used to help people with memory problems?

LIONFISH INVADE THE BAHAMAS

The Bahamas consists of a collection of islands in the Atlantic, 60 miles off the coast of Florida, known for its tax haven status, relaxed lifestyle, coral reefs and beautiful clear seas that sustain the local fishermen and attract the tourists – but there's a predator in the water that shouldn’t be there. Lionfish are supposed to live in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. They were first spotted in the Atlantic in the early 1990s. It's thought they probably escaped from aquariums when Hurricane Andrew destroyed homes and released them into the wild. They have long venomous spines that inflict a nasty sting, and they've been menacing the Bahamas' reefs since 2003, as Science in Action's Pauline Newman discovered.

WHEN TREES NEED HELP

Researchers at Germany's Max Planck Institute have discovered that trees have the ability to send out a chemical SOS to get help from friendly insects and this trick may have huge implications for creating naturally pest-resistant crops. Science in Action's Anna Lacey joined scientists out in a former military zone between Germany and Poland where the research is being carried out.

"THE COMPUTATION OF EMOTION IN MAN AND MACHINES" AT LONDON'S ROYAL SOCIETY

We find out what happened at a meeting on "The Computation of Emotion in Man and Machines" held at London's Royal Society. And ask whether computers will ever be able to understand human feelings.

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20100122Oil spill leftover; Haiti earthquake; Ozone levels; alien tech; biodiversity in Madagascar

LEFTOVERS OF TWENTY YEAR-OLD EXXON VALDEZ OIL SPILL

An oil spill near Alaska more than two decades ago has left the beaches contaminated to this day. The spill occurred in 1989 when the oil tanker Exxon Valdez collided with a reef. Scientists hoped that the oil would have dissipated years ago, but large quantities are still found underneath the gravel beaches. Clean-up operations to fix the environmental disaster were suspended in 1992, when it was believed that the oil would eventually disperse. A recent study showed that the oil was dissipating at a rate of only 4% per year, much lower than the previously estimated 70%. Professor Michel Boufadel of Temple University in Philadelphia, USA who conducted this study, tells Science in Action what he found.

PREDICTING EARTHQUAKES AND EVALUATING NATURAL HAZARDS

After the devastating earthquake, Haiti is now experiencing aftershocks. The aftershocks can be predicted, but is it possible to foresee the earthquakes themselves? Science in Action speaks to Professor Willy Aspinall of Bristol University in the UK to find out if we can. Professor Aspinall, who specialises in evaluating the dangers of natural disasters, tells us how accurate these evaluations can be and what Haiti can do to reduce the damage caused by earthquakes in the future.

HARMFUL OZONE FROM ASIA TRAVELLING TO AMERICA

Pollution knows no borders. Recent analyses of Ozone measurements across the west of North America show that air pollution from Asia has reached America. Although Ozone is usually beneficial to us by blocking out harmful rays from the sun, the Ozone produced by burning toxic fuels is harmful. Owen Cooper from the University of Colorado, who analysed the air pollution, tells Science in Action what this means. We are also joined by the BBC Environment Correspondent Richard Black, who tells us what the impact of this study will have on nations trying to improve their air quality standards.

ALIEN TECHNOLOGY AND INTERPLANETARY TRAVEL

The UK's Ministry of Defence operated a UFO unit for over five decades, investigating reports of sightings. Last month, they finally closed the unit, which received thousands of reports, none of which proved the existence of aliens. However, Science in Action doesn't want to give up, just yet. Our reporter, Tracey Logan, explores the various proposed designs for alien spacecrafts, and tells us how they compare with the designs that people claim they've seen.

UNIQUE ANIMALS OF MADAGASCAR

Madagascar, one of the largest islands in the world, has several species of mammals and plants that are unique to it. Although it is thought to have separated from Africa 160 million years ago, the mammals are believed to have appeared on it about 60 million years ago. Professor Matthew Huber tells Science in Action how he believes the animals reached the island.

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

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20101001Will a road through Tanzania's Serengeti create an eco-disaster?

Serengeti road controversy

A group of zoologists say that a proposed road through the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania will cause an ecological disaster. They say the planned transport route will block the annual migration of 1.5 million wildebeest and zebra, with profound knock-on effects throughout the world-famous ecosystem.

The latest from Space

A round-up from BBC News' Spaceman Jon Amos: China's new mission to the Moon, and the news and mood from this year's International Astronautical Meeting in the Czech Republic.

An astronomical Moment of Genius

Galileo's decision to point his telescope at the night sky inspires Professor Jeff Hoffman, retired astronaut and fixer of the Hubble Space Telescope.

The world's largest offshore wind farm

With its 100 wind turbines in operation, the Thanet wind farm will supply 200,000 British homes with their electricity needs. Built off the southeast coast of the UK, it's a milestone for country lagging behind most of Europe in renewable energy.

An artificial pancreas for diabetics

Prof Joan Taylor of De Montfort University describes her 'smart' polymer device aimed at mimicking the pancreas' role in delivering insulin as and when it is needed by the body. The implant is still under development and several years from being available to people with diabetes. However it promises to be an alternative to daily insulin injections and insulin pumps. Its design is aimed at reducing the life-threatening complications associated with diabetes.

Will a road through Tanzania's Serengeti create an eco-disaster?

20101008A rundown of the 2010 Nobel Prizes for science

2010 Nobel Prizes

This week the Nobel prizes for medicine, physics and chemistry are announced. After a long wait Robert Edwards takes the prize for his work on in vitro-fertilisation or IVF; Russian physicist Andre Geim takes the Physics prize for his discovery of the carbon compound graphene and chemists Richard Heck, Ei-ichi Negishi and Akira Suzuki take the chemistry prize on their work on developing new ways to make carbon compounds stick together.

IVF – tracking the cells progress

Success rates for IVF vary widely, depending on the age of the mother, the country where the procedure is being carried out and even the clinic where the work is done. But the success of getting a pregnancy from in vitro-fertilisation is still difficult, with many failures. But now researchers have found that by filming the embryos whilst they are still in the laboratory, before transplanting them back into the mother, can give them a better idea of which embryos will be successful.

Hungarian toxic sludge

Waste from an Alumina (precursor to aluminium) production plant in the west of Hungary has been released into the environment, causing injuries and environmental concern. Aluminium is produced by treating the ore Bauxite with caustic (alkaline) solution, before being smelted into the metal. The waste product known as "red mud" is a mixture of alkaline and fine red particulate iron oxide. It's a pretty toxic substance, which can burn the skin and the dust is so fine and sticky, it can coat the gills of fish and choke up plants. The worry now is that the sludge is not contained before it reaches the river Danube.

Hand control

Choosing which hand we use to reach for a pen or a cup of coffee is something we do without thinking. It's not always the case that right-handed people use their right hand, for such mundane tasks. Scientists wanting to know what part of the brain is involved in this decision making used a dangerous-sounding, but harmless device called a 'trans-cranial magnetic stimulator' to excite volunteers' brains to see if they could affect which hand was chosen.

Census for Marine Life

Scientists are celebrating the completion of a decade-long study of life in the world's oceans. The first Census of Marine Life should provide a baseline, so we can tell how human activity is affecting previously unexplored marine ecosystems. The international project involved more than 2,700 researchers from 80 nations, who spent a total of 9,000 days at sea during at least 540 expeditions. It has been described as the most comprehensive study of its kind.

A rundown of the 2010 Nobel Prizes for science

20101015Evaluating the safety of the first embryonic stem cell trial in humans

First embryonic stem cell trial in humans

This week sees the world's first human trial of a therapy based on embryonic stem cells to treat severe spinal cord injury. The company Geron Corp have carried out a Phase One safety trial on one spinally injured patient in the United States, to see if the injection of embryonic stem cells to help repair the nerve coatings in the spine will be safe. The next step will be to assess whether the procedure actually works. But it's being seen as a new dawn in the age of embryonic stem cells being used therapeutically.

Bilingualism is good for the brain

Pulitzer prize-winning author and professor of geography, Jared Diamond, writes in the journal Science this week about a number of studies which show that speaking two or more languages can help with mental processing and even help to stave off degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Brain adaptation to deafness

You may have heard anecdotal evidence that people who have lost one of their senses, have some improvement in their other senses as compensation - so if you are deaf, you have better eyesight. But if this is the case, how does this happen, what's happening in the brain? Research into cats that are born deaf has shown that the brain re-programmes the hearing centres and uses them for visual processing.

X PRIZE

Six years ago, a team scooped the $10million (Ansari) X Prize for successfully building and flying the world's first commercial spaceflight vehicle which is supposed to eventually herald a new era in commercial space opportunities. The stakes in the latest space race, to send a robot to the moon, are even higher. With a prize pot of $30 million, the Google Lunar X PRIZE is the largest international incentive prize ever to be offered.

Very early photography

The first photographic images were created by Joseph Nic退phore Ni退pce, a French scientist who experimented in the early 1820's with various techniques, including heliographs made on pewter or copper plates. This week, the Getty Conservation Institute in California presents research that reveals new details about how Ni退pce created his first photographic images.

Evaluating the safety of the first embryonic stem cell trial in humans

20101022The LCROSS mission looking for lunar water finds precious metals at the Moon’s South Pole

LCROSS finds Moon treasures

Last year NASA deliberately crashed two spacecraft into the moon to shake up the surface and hunt for water. It had long been thought that some dark, deep craters at the South Pole could hold reserves of water ice.

The LCROSS or Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite mission threw up a few surprises, which are detailed in the journal Science this week. Silver and other precious metals may hold a clue to the Moon's and even the Earth's history.

Did Neanderthals make jewellery?

It is a hotly debated topic among paleoanthropologists – just how advanced and aesthetic were our ancient cousins, the Neanderthals? New dating techniques used at an ancient settlement in France, has thrown up possible doubt that decorative artefacts, which were thought to be associated with ancient Neanderthal remains. They could be from some of our early human ancestors who also settled in the area. It is a tricky subject, as around 35,000 to 40,000 years ago – both were thought to be in the vicinity.

Biodiversity Conference

This is the International Year of Biodiversity. It was hoped that at a conference in Nagoya in Japan this week, delegates would be celebrating the success of the Convention on Biodiversity which was set to halt the rate of decrease of species on our planet by 2010. But the convention has failed and now conservationists, policy makers and scientists are trying to work out what’s next? One plan is to copy something from the climate change community by creating an international umbrella organisation covering the policy, economics and science. It is very similar to what the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) is to climate science. The International Science Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services or IPBES is the plan. If it is accepted at the conference, the United Nation's Environment Programme will vote on before the end of the year.

Leopard Spots and tiger stripes

One of the wonderful things about biodiversity is its diversity! Take wild cats for example, they are not just different sizes and shapes, they come in a range of colours and more specifically patterns. But just how did the leopard get its distinctive spots? In one of his Just So stories in 1902 Rudyard Kipling thought it was because the leopard moved from the bright plain to dense forest. According to researchers at the University of Bristol in the UK, he was probably correct.

The LCROSS mission looking for lunar water finds precious metals at the Moon’s South Pole

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Comparing the variation in our genetic code, helps us understand inherited diseases.

1000 Genomes Project

A consortium of scientists have just completed a pilot study which aims to map the variation in the genetic code of 2,500 people from across the world. They have already found 16 million previously unknown variations in the DNA. Variation in the genetic code is what makes each of us different. The main application of the work is to look at the variations that spell for disease and disorders. But they think that the data will also give us insight into human evolution. Duplications of segments of the genome could well have led to the traits that distinguish human beings from other primate species, they also may be linked to diseases like schizophrenia and autism.

Moments of Genius

Nobel prize winning scientist, Sir Tim Hunt describes his favourite moment in the history of science. The experimental German biologist, Theodore Boveri, is one of Tim Hunt's heroes. In 1902, Boveri knew nothing about DNA and yet, in a beautiful set of experiments on sea urchin eggs, he worked out what happens when cells divide. This was fifty years before Watson and Crick and others confirmed that Boveri's theory of chromosomes was absolutely spot on.

SWARM

If it wasn't for the Earth's magnetic field, the atmosphere would be stripped away by the Sun and we would be bombarded by damaging radiation. Scientists have long recognised this and have tried many times to map the field, to get a better understanding of how it works and how it might change in the future. A hundred years ago, they did it with wooden boats that sailed the oceans for decades taking the most precise measurements possible at the time. Today, they use satellites.

Tracking saiga antelope in Kazakhstan

The saiga antelope is one of the world's most threatened mammals. They have been hunted almost to extinction. Now, conservationists are catching, tagging and monitoring this Central Asian antelope and its diverse steppe habitat renewed hope to try and learn about this elusive creature and it's migration patterns in order to try and increase its numbers.

Comparing the variation in our genetic code, helps us understand inherited diseases.

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New research shows cells can destroy viruses; this could lead to cures for the common cold

Cure for the common cold

Up until now it was thought that antibodies only worked outside cells, trying to catch and destroy viruses before they invaded, but new work shows that they can actually help cells get rid of viruses. Could this discovery help us develop new cures for the common cold? Dr Leo James from the Medical Research Council's Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge in the UK, leads the team behind the work.

New snake sex

A female boa constrictor snake has given birth to 22 rather special babies. They have no father. They seem to be half clones of their mother, with a genetic makeup that has never been seen before. BBC science reporter Victoria Gill explains more on the programme.

ALICE

The Large Hadron Collider, buried some 100 meters below the Swiss/French border, is the world's largest and most expensive particle accelerator. A 27km loop speeds particles to nearly the speed of light, which means they complete that 27km 11,000 times a second. Next week things are due to step up a level. The LHC will start a series of experiments dubbed ALICE that will take us closer to the Big Bang than we have ever been before. Science in Action's Bruce Thorson tells us more.

Orange Maize

Vitamin A deficiency is the leading cause of preventable blindness in children, and puts them at risk of disease and death. It is a major problem in poorer countries, especially in Africa and South East Asia. One way of overcoming this is to breed a crop that is high in beta-carotene which the body converts to vitamin A. So it is potentially great news that scientists have discovered a type of maize – a very common and readily available crop – that is much higher in beta-carotene than usual. Howarth Bouis the Director of HarvestPlus – a programme which aims to breed vitamin and mineral rich staple food crops for the developing world – joins us on Science in Action to inform us of their progress.

ISS

The International Space Station has now been inhabited continuously for a decade. It has been well used – around 200 people have visited, including astronauts, cosmonauts, and space tourists. The exact cost of constructing it is not easy to work out, but it seems to be somewhere around 100 billion dollars. But what has the ISS done for us? Former NASA astronaut, Jeff Hoffman, who is now professor of aerospace engineering at MIT in the US, shares his thoughts on the ISS.

New research shows cells can destroy viruses; this could lead to cures for the common cold

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The clean-up operation after the Hungarian toxic sludge spill is going well, say experts

Hungarian toxic sludge

The industrial plant which was the source of the Hungarian toxic sludge spill, reopened this week. Nine people died after caustic red mud burst through a reservoir wall in October, and devastated towns and rivers in the west of the country. But since the spill scientists and engineers have been studying the disaster, to figure out how bad things might be, and to prevent anything similar happening again. Professor Paul Younger, the Director of the Newcastle Institute for Research on Sustainability, in the UK, returned from a trip to Hungary last week and talked to Science in Action about how the clean-up is going.

Moments of Genius: Anton van Leeuwenhoek – the birth of microbiology

Out of sheer curiosity, a Dutch tradesman working in the 1670s made a lens that was five hundred times more powerful than all other lenses at the time. With it, he revealed a previously unseen world of little "animacules" in a drop of pond water. But because he was just an amateur scientist, most of the more distinguished scientists of the day thought he might be hallucinating. British award winning author and publisher Jenny Uglow explains why she believes this was a moment of genius.

Microbiology today - using antibodies against cancer

But how far has microbiology come since that day when Anton van Leeuwenhoek looked through his microscope and saw single celled organisms for the first time? Last week we heard about a new Human Protein Atlas trying to pinpoint the exact location of all proteins in the human body. Understanding all of our proteins – the human proteome - where they are and how they make our bodies work the way they do, promises completely new medical treatments including new cancer treatments. Dr Mike Taussig of Cambridge University's Babraham Institute and the Chairman of the European Science Foundation's programme on Functional Genomics talked to Science in Action reporter, Tracey Logan about finding the proteins that make us sick.

Rat Attack

Scientists are working to help farmers in Bangladesh and India, to help them overcome a threat to their food and livelihoods – Rat Floods. These terrifying sounding rodent attacks happen once every 50 years. The animals literally flood out of the bamboo forests and consume and destroy crops. The onslaughts have found their way into myths, and even the language of societies, in part because they are devastating, but infrequent. They happen when the bamboo forest flowers on a 50 year cycle, and the seeds the flowers produced, are the size of pears. With so much food the rats reproduce to plague levels, and once the seeds are all eaten they descend on the rice fields, leaving farmers with nothing. Dr Steven Belmain tells Jon Stewart about his efforts to manage the problem in Bangladesh. There are pictures and more on this story on the BBC Earth News website, that's at bbc.co.uk/Earth News

Science Hack Day San Francisco

Sometimes a fresh pair of eyes on a problem can give us an important new perspective on it, but it is not often that scientists veer out of their very specialised fields to see their work through other people's eyes. But 100 people, from a mix of different backgrounds, have just descended on San Francisco for Science Hack Day. They joined forces, shared skills, and spent 24-hours together, in the hope of finding new ways to use established technologies, and new ways to get information from existing data. Kate Arkless went to find out what a Science Hack Day is all about.

The clean-up operation after the Hungarian toxic sludge spill is going well, say experts

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Carbon emissions were lower last year due to the recession, but not as low as expected

Carbon Emissions

As countries prepare for the next round of international climate talks in Cancun, a United Nations report shows that promises made in the past have not done enough to reduce greenhouse gas production. Despite pledges to reduce carbon emissions, temperatures will still rise by up to 4 degrees during this century. Another interesting report out this week shows that carbon emissions did fall in 2009, but not as much as people thought they would, because of the global economic downturn. We spoke to the BBC's Environment Correspondent Richard Black who explained these latest developments.

Tigers in danger

In the past 100 years tiger numbers have dropped from about 100,000 to 3,500 and they could be at even greater risk from environmental changes than previously thought. The latest research from Durham University and the Zoological Society of London shows that large carnivores like tigers and polar bears are likely to be highly affected by a reduction in their prey and this could significantly impact on their numbers. Dr Phillip Stephens, one of the scientists behind the study tells us more.

Renaissance in Islamic science

Investment in science and innovation is increasing at a dramatic pace across the Islamic world. For example in Saudi Arabia, the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology aims to rival the California Institute of Technology for prestige within the next 20 years. But what is behind the upswing? Dr Rim Turkmani spoke this week to the Royal Society in London on the state of science in Muslim countries. It is connected to a project called The Atlas of Islamic-World Science and Innovation.

Star-nosed mole

Pain is universal. All of us have experienced physical pain in one form or another from the minor to the horrific. You might think scientists would have a pretty good handle on it. But it turns out the science behind pain, the how and why our skin says something is painful, is an area of science with many unanswered questions. Dr Diana Bautista, a biologist and bioengineer at University of California, Berkeley, is studying the star-nosed mole - a very unusual animal - and is trying to unravel some of the basics. Science in Action reporter Bruce Thorson went to her laboratory to find out what exactly she is going to be looking at.

Maple seed flight

A cool new robot – a mechanical maple seed –could help collect data from the atmosphere. Understanding the way a maple seed flies has given engineers the tools they need to build brand new, small scale flying machines. It turns out it is easier to keep a huge 747 in the air than a machine just a few centimetres in scale. Dr Evan Ulrich from the Aerospace Engineering Department at the University of Maryland explains how his latest invention works.

Carbon emissions were lower last year due to the recession, but not as low as expected

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Newly discovered species of early human in Siberia has been gene sequenced by researchers

X Woman genome sequenced

Scientists have sequenced the genome of an ancient hominid female from just the finger-bone found in Denisova cave in southern Siberia. She is nicknamed 'X Woman' - thought to have been living in Central Aisa around 48,000 and 30,000 years ago. Earlier in the year, analysis of the mitochondrial DNA, which is only inherited down the maternal line, revealed that these 'Denisovans' shared a common ancestor with modern humans and Neanderthals about one million years ago, but that it was unlikely to have interbred with our direct ancestors and those of our ancient cousins. Now, having decoded the nuclear DNA and have much more information about this possibly new species.

Determining age form blood samples

Blood left at a scene of crime is often a good source of clues – studying the splatter pattern can help forensic experts to recreate what might have happened. The DNA can be checked against known suspects. But now it is hoped that forensic scientists may soon get even more information from blood left behind. Professor Manfred Kayser of the Erasmus University in Rotterdam, in the Netherlands has discovered an accurate and reliable way of determining the age of an individual from what are known as "T-cells" in blood.

Moments of Genius - Professor Barry Marshall on Kary Mullis and PCR

All this year we have been bringing you Moments of Genius - scientific inspiration from the past. The final moment comes from Australian physician Professor Barry Marshall who won the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2005 for his work that proved that a bacteria rather than stress and bad diet caused peptic ulcers. He describes the moment in 1983 when Kary Mullis worked out how to make millions of copies of DNA using the Polymerase Chain Reaction or PCR.

Ice-Age fossils

A seven-foot mastodon tusk, the 100 kilogramme skull of a bison, and the tooth of an ancient sloth are just some of the recently discovered ice-age fossils that are keeping scientists at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, in Colorado in the US, incredibly busy. They have unearthed more than 600 ice age fossils, including the remains of insects and plants. The discovery is being thought of as an entire ecosystem frozen in time.

Gene for impulsivity

You might think that impulsive behaviour or 'acting without thinking' is just an annoying trait you or some of your friends may have. But impulsivity - can have a darker side. Impulsivity has been linked to a variety of behavioural and psychiatric syndromes, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, mania, drug addiction and borderline personality disorder. It has also been associated with violent behaviour and antisocial personality disorders. And now it turns out, there maybe a genetic mutation for it. David Goldman from the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism in Rockville Maryland reported in the journal Nature this week that they have found the mutation for impulsive behaviour in a group of people in Finland.

Newly discovered species of early human in Siberia has been gene sequenced by researchers

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Biodiversity special featuring reports on extreme animals in exotic locations.

Tracking saiga antelope in Kazakhstan

Our reporter Robin Forestier-Walker takes a bone-jarring drive several hundred kilometres west of Kazakhstan's capital Astana, to one of the last great wildernesses on Earth to capture and tag the ancient saiga antelope. Once there were half a million beasts roaming the steppe, but the population was almost wiped out by unregulated hunting after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Numbers are slowly rising again, but they are still vulnerable.

Contagious cancer pushing Tasmanian devils to extinction

Earlier this year we heard how one very unusual species, the Tasmanian devil – a carnivorous marsupial from the island of Tasmania off Australia, is being threatened by a very strange form of cancer. Science in Action's Monika Seynsche went to Tasmania to meet the scientists who are desperately trying to save the Devil from extinction.

Wildlife in New York

Not all wildlife is restricted to the wilderness, and not all of it is welcome.

Living alongside millions of people in New York City, you can now find increasing numbers of raccoons, geese, skunks and deer. Some ecologists are warning that their growing numbers will lead to increasing conflict between New Yorkers – human and animal. Science in Action reporter Laura Sheeter went for a walk on the wild side.

Bird Biodiversity

Professor George Divoky, who we heard on Science in Action earlier this year, has dedicated the past 40 years of his life to studying the black guillemot – a black and white, pigeon-sized seabird. Every spring he moves into a cabin on Cooper Island, just off the coast of Alaska. Now, as he nears his fourth decade of study he is closing in on a record for running one of the longest seabird studies in the world. But last summer his life's work came dangerously close to an end. The warming climate of Alaska has brought new visitors to Cooper Island. Recently puffins have moved up from the south, and polar bears have taken to land as their sea ice disappears. Both species feed on guillemot chicks. We hear Divoky's very personal account of daily life with his beloved guillemots.

Biodiversity special featuring reports on extreme animals in exotic locations.

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Natural degradation of methane from BP oil spill cleared up quickly

Gulf of Mexico oil spill update

A large component of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico from the BP Deep Horizon well was natural gas, including methane. Scientists measured the hydrocarbons in the ocean for the duration of the event. They found that the methane was degraded by naturally-occurring bacteria far quicker than they had expected.

Hijacking research to make recreational drugs

Eminent pharmacologist Professor David Nichols was horrified to discover that his openly-published scientific work on psychedelic drugs and similar compounds was being used as a 'recipe sheet'by people operating in the shady world of recreation drugs – looking for compounds that can give so-called 'legal highs'. It is a dilemma that many scientists have to face when they publish work on dangerous compounds.

Northern Lights

The aurora borealis, or Northern Lights, is a dramatic display of dancing ribbons of light, visible from northern parts of the world. Charged particles from the Sun are deflected by the Earth's magnetic field and funnel in around the poles. They excite molecules in the upper atmosphere and create the shimmering green curtains. The interaction is known as incoherent scatter. A group of nations has clubbed together as EISCAT - the European Incoherent Scatter Organisation - to operate giant radars in the Arctic to study what's going on.

Quitting success

You may think you have strong will-power when in comes to giving up smoking or using more sunscreen. But scientists have found that a person's perception of their inner strength is not nearly as good as reading activity directly from the brain. And by scanning a certain region of volunteer’s brains while they are watching health promotional advertisements, they can tell which ads will work better than others, and who is most likely to succeed.

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Women in Science

Women scientists are being celebrated in 2011 - the centennial year of International Women's Day. But in the fields of maths and engineering, females do not reach the top levels within academia. Could it be a matter of timing? Juggling starting a family with academic endeavour? We ask the laureates of the L'Or退al-UNESCO's award for Women in Science.

Kids think scientifically

We all know that children have enquiring minds. But new research has shown that they have 'scientifically' enquiring minds. Studies using computer graphics have shown that very young children can grasp causality and even complex scientific statistics.

TED Talks

The TED (Technology Entertainment and Design) Conference is a get together of big thinkers, with, according to the conference organisers, ideas worth spreading.

Science in Action caught up with three more interesting speakers.

Eythor Bender has developed a kind of mechanical exoskeleton that can be worn on the legs. The eLEGS are designed for the military and for people who have been paralysed from the waist down, and will allow them to walk on two legs, using their arms to 'steer'.

Dr Anthony Atala is part of a group who have been developing a 3D printer that can 'print' internal organs. Using cells instead of ink and printing into a biological gel – the structure of organs such as kidneys and bladders can be created from the patient's own cells. It is early days and the printed organs have not yet been implanted into humans, but it holds promise for the future of organ replacement.

Janna Levin is an astronomer who has been listening to the Universe. They say that in airless space, no one can hear you scream, but you can hear black holes booming if you 'listen' to gravitational waves in the same way you would hear sound waves. Monumental Earth-based detectors such as LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory) and the planned space-based mission LISA (Laser Interferometer Space Antenna) aim to record the songs from space for the first time thereby turning up the volume on the soundtrack to the Universe.

Women scientists are celebrated, but why do many not reach the top levels of academia?

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20110818In this week's programme, scientists in the US say they have developed a new treatment that attacks the genetic code of viruses. In experiments they say they have successfully treated 15 different types of virus with the same method and this could in time produce a new drug with the ability to tackle nearly all viruses. In Science in Action we ask whether these claims stack up, does this work herald a new era of treatments for viruses from the common cold to HIV?

Twenty years ago the Soviet Union began to fall apart. The superpower had invested heavily in scientific research, especially the high end physics associated with military development and space exploration. Funding for such research was quickly cut, and scientists faced difficult choices. Many left science or left the country. Recently there have been moves to encourage a revival of scientific research in Russia. We look back on the plight of Russian scientists over the past twenty years and discuss their hopes for the future.

Swarming insects provide the model for a new type of helicopter. Tiny, remote control 'quadcopters' have been built in Germany which can swarm together like bees or locusts. The quadcopters are designed to provide a multitasking tool for use in places where human access is problematic, such as war zones or the inside of a nuclear reactor. Together they can lift heavy payloads, and individually they can be equipped with a range of scientific monitoring equipment.

A catch all cure for viruses

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20111013Lake Ellsworth

Today a team of British engineers embark on the first phase of a mission to find out – and to explore what’s being called the final frontier of life on earth. It’s taken 15 years of planning, and now they’re finally headed to Lake Ellsworth in Antarctica. But to get there they need to drill through 3 and a half kilometres of solid ice, which has sealed the lake off from the rest of the earth for the last million years. David Pearce, microbiologist at the British Antarctic Survey hopes that they will be able to overcome the challenges of the harsh Antarctic climate, and the need to not contaminate the pristine lake environment – and to discover new forms of life. This British project is just one of three international missions to reach subglacial lakes over the next five years. American scientists are drilling down into the Whillans ice stream, and a Russian team hope to reach the larger Lake Vostok. The combination of three missions should help to build a full picture of life under the Antarctic ice. The British advance party leave today to set up the camp, and the drilling will take place next season. The scientists expect to have results by early 2013.

New Zealand Oil Spill

A cargo ship off the north coast of New Zealand has been leaking oil since it ran aground last week, and is causing the country’s largest maritime disaster. The oil spilt is a relatively small amount, particularly compared to the Gulf of Mexico spill last year, and experts say it’s not too concerning as it will disperse relatively quickly. Despite that, the wildlife in the area, including penguins, is at risk. Dr Simon Boxall from the National Oceanographic Centre in Southampton in the UK says there are other, bigger, dangers to the environment than the oil. As containers fall from the cargo ship, hazardous and flammable chemicals may be released into the ocean with serious consequences. The clean up operation continues, despite bad weather conditions.

Stem Cell Therapy

Scientists have developed a technique that could help combat debilitating antitrypsin deficiency, which causes liver disease and emphysema in 30,000 people in the UK alone. The only way we can currently combat the disease is by organ transplant, but these new developments are allowing scientists to get straight to the genetic cause and ‘clean’ the cells of their genetic defects. Researchers at the Wellcome Trust’s Sanger institute and the University of Cambridge have been able to culture liver stem cells from a patient’s skin sample, then use ‘molecular scissors’ to remove and replaced the damaged part of the gene that causes the disease. Putting these cells back into a liver – the scientist have tested it on mice – will reset the template of the whole liver to normal and cure the disease. Professor David Lomas anticipates that following clinical trials, the technique can be used as an effective stem cell therapy.

Bwindi National Park

The growing global population, and increase in intensive land use, has led to numerous problems and conflicts. One solution that many countries have tried is the development of “national parks” – protected areas that are sanctuaries for plant and animal species. It’s not an ideal solution, as it can lead to problems for the humans residing within that area, who need to earn a living, often through farming. There are some solutions being proposed, which could have implications around the world. Meera Senthilingam visited the Bwindi National Park in southwest Uganda to find out how farmers have targeted the problem of native wildlife raiding crops, by planting foods – like tea - that they find unappetizing.

Black Death DNA

The Black Death in the mid 14th century was perhaps the most famous plague in all of history, wiping out half of the population of Europe in just five years. International scientists have recovered DNA from the remains of medieval corpses in a cemetery in London, and have used it to pin down the bacterium Yersinia pestis, which causes Bubonic plague today, as culprit for the disease. They also unearthed some startling evidence that we aren’t so far removed form those deadly times. Johannes Krause, Professor of palaeogenetics at the University of Tübingen in Germany explains that the Black plague bacteria is almost identical to the bacteria that cause today’s plagues. So why was it so deadly? People may have since adapted and developed effective medicines, but the scientists think that the Black Death was the first instance of Yersinia pestis in humans and this is what made it such a catastrophic plague. Although the deadly Yersinia pestis remains with us today virtually unchanged, antibiotics are effective at treating plague if caught in time.

A British team embark on a mission to drill to subglacial Lake Ellsworth in Antarctica

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20111229In this week's programme, Jon Stewart discusses the successes, failures and future of space travel with BBC's space expert, Jonathan Amos.

With the landing of Atlantis on July 21st of this year, NASA's Space Shuttle Programme has come to a definite end. Jonathan highlights some of the most important missions and discusses why the Shuttle Programme was no longer sustainable.

But the end of NASA's Space Shuttle Programme also signifies a new beginning in space travel. Mars Science Laboratory is currently on its way to Mars, where it will give us a remarkable insight into past conditions of the Red Planet.

Jonathan discusses privately run Space Station resupply missions with Gwynne Shotwell, the President of SpaceX.

And finally, with the Space Launch System, NASA will also aim to develop a much larger rocket that allows humans to go deeper into space then any human being has been before.

Space: what happened in 2011 and what can we expect for 2012?

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2012051720120518The BBC brings you all the week's science news.
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2012052420120528Researchers have developed a way to identify where fish were caught using a DNA sample.

Fish stock identification

Researchers in Europe have developed a way to identify where fish were caught, using a DNA sample. With 75% of global fish stocks in decline, and illegal fishing costing $25 billion a year, this new forensic technique could not only identify with incredible accuracy where a fish or fish product was caught, but could lead to prosecutions for illegal fishing. Professor Gary Carvalho from Bangor University, co-ordinated this EU wide project, and explains just why a tool like this is so essential.

Swappable batteries

Scooters are increasingly popular for whizzing around congested cities, but their gasoline engines can actually be more polluting than cars. Not to mention noisy. Electric scooters could be both greener and quieter, but their small size means small batteries, and therefore a small range. A French company has an idea which could fix that - battery swapping stations. Gilles Chelard is Head of Engineering at Matra. He believes it could be a perfect way for pizza and sushi delivery bike drivers to keep moving. He showed Science in Action how the system works.

Street lighting and ecosystems

New research suggests that street lights could substantially change the ecology of the animals below them. Dr Thomas Davies from the University of Exeter explains how.

Ten year old science star

Linus Hovmöller Zou is 10 years old and has just had research published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A. Alongside his dad, Sven Hovmöller, Linus worked out the atomic arrangement of several types of crystal called approximants. Until recently scientists did not even accept that approximants, and so called quasicrystals existed. Their discovery earned a chemist a Nobel Prize last year. We speak to father and son about their collaboration.

Volcanic eruption predictions

Over 500 million people live close to volcanoes which may erupt with little or no clear warning, causing widespread devastation, disruption to aviation and even global effects on climate. Scientists have studied the way that crystals form near the top of volcanoes, and found they can tell what has happened in the past, and more excitingly what is going to happen. Dr Kate Saunders from the University of Bristol tells us more about her research in the journal Science.

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

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

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The BBC brings you all the week's science news.
20171102The BBC brings you all the week's science news.

A hidden void has been uncovered under the Great Pyramid in Giza. Using a new technique using muons which are a by-product of cosmic rays from the Universe. Explorers have visualized what they think could be a large void at least 30 metres long above the Great Gallery in the 4500 year old Pharaoh Khufu's Pyramid.

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

Pharaoh's Serpent
Some of you may remember an indoor firework trick called the ‘Pharaoh's Serpent'. You lit an ‘egg' with a match, stood back and watched while a snake-like substance instantly grew out of the egg, meanwhile the room was engulfed in clouds of sulphurous smoke. It's a party trick displaying the wonder of chemistry', that's been around since Victorian times and videos of the remarkable reaction are having a resurgence on the internet….but what's it all about and why are chemists now, so interested in the party trick? Chemists re-examining the chemistry of the Serpent think it may have some more practical applications in superconductors.

Picture: Pyramids of Giza, Credit: stevenallan/Getty Images

Presenter: Roland Pease
Producer: Fiona Roberts

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

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

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

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

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01/03/201220120302Scientists have discovered how a type of worm appears to be able to 'live forever'

Immortality – in worms!

A paper has just been published detailing a type of worm that is able to avoid the aging process, and therefore, presumably, live forever – although as the researchers will admit it is hard to test that claim when we only have finite lives ourselves! Dr Aziz Aboobaker from the University of Nottingham in the UK has been working with planarian worms, one type of which reproduces asexually, they do not need two parents to make an offspring, they just split in two, and seem to regenerate forever. So does this mean human immortality is just around the corner? We spoke to Dr Aboobaker in the lab, where he was in the middle of running another experiment. He told us the worms are unique.

Schmallenberg virus

Farmers in Northern Europe are on alert, as a new disease seems to be spreading amongst sheep flocks. Schmallenberg virus first appeared in Germany, and has spread to the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, France, Italy and the UK. There is no cure or vaccine for the Schmallenberg virus, and it has the potential to affect cattle and goats too. It seems to attack the nervous system and leads to stillbirths, or deformities. Professor John Fazekerley, the Director of the Institute of Animal Health, in the UK, explained that there is still some really basic science to be done in increasing our understanding of the virus.

Ancient Baghdad weather

When we look to the future, we often rely on information from the past. Extrapolating forward from historical records can give us an idea of what to expect. Climate records can give us a baseline when we are trying to understand what is happening at the moment. Unfortunately accurate records have not been kept for very long. Our ancient ancestors did not deploy weather stations, so climate scientists use things like tree rings or ice cores, so called paleoclimatology. Now scientists are finding that they can use documents kept by ancient civilisations and in this month’s magazine Weather they report doing that in Iraq, giving them information going back 1,000 years. Our BBC environment correspondent Richard Black has been following this.

Space archaeology

Sometimes all traces of ancient civilisations are lost to us, along with everything we can learn from them. But the latest technology is helping to uncover remains of tombs, settlements, and even Egyptian pyramids. Professor Sarah Parcak, a space archaeologist from the University of Alabama spoke at a meeting of some of the biggest names in science, technology and design, known as TED in California this week and took the time to meet up with Science in Action.

Scientists have discovered how a type of worm appears to be able to 'live forever'

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01/09/201120110903BIRDFLU

The World Health Organisation says that bird flu has killed 331 people since 2003, and killed or led to the culling of more than 400 million birds like domestic poultry. The economic damage from that is estimated at $20bn. The warning is alarming, because it says that the risk to humans can't be predicted – but how worried should we be? Ian Jones, who is a Professor of Virology at Reading University in the UK answers that question.

ISS AND THE SOYUZ CRASH

Could the future of manned spaceflight be in doubt following the crash of the Soyuz rocket? At the moment that means only Russia has the capability to ferry people to and from the international space station, and they have just delayed the launch of their next manned mission after an unmanned Soyuz cargo vessel crashed. We're joined by our space expert and BBC science correspondent, Jonathan Amos, to explain why the ISS could be left unmanned.

SYNTHETIC BIOLOGY

Synthetic biology is the building of biological systems that don't exist naturally, or the use of engineering to redesign life. The field is exciting scientists interested in learning how to harness the power of the living world, using synthetic bacteria to make biofuels for example, or to create new medical treatments. New researchers, just published in the journal Science seem to show that synthetic biology has reached a new level of sophistication. Roland Pease from our BBC science team has been following this, and joins us on the programme.

COMPUTING HISTORY

Tony Sale, the engineer who led the rebuild of Colossus, the first modern computer has died aged 80. The massive project to recreate the code-cracking Colossus was the pinnacle of a career built around electronics and computers. Tony was also behind the campaign to save Bletchley Park, where Colossus aided Allied code-cracking efforts during World War II. At Bletchley Park he also founded the National Museum of Computing to help preserve the UK's ageing computers. Joining us on Science in Action is Kevin Murrell, a trustee and director of the Museum and friend of Tony Sale.

A new strain of birdflu has been identified, so what are the real risks to human health?

01/09/201120110904A new strain of birdflu has been identified, so what are the real risks to human health?

BIRDFLU

The World Health Organisation says that bird flu has killed 331 people since 2003, and killed or led to the culling of more than 400 million birds like domestic poultry. The economic damage from that is estimated at 20 billion dollars. The warning is alarming, because it says that the risk to humans can’t be predicted – but how worried should we be? Ian Jones, who is a Professor of Virology at Reading University in the UK answers that question

ISS AND THE SOYUZ CRASH

Could the future of manned spaceflight be in doubt following the crash of the Soyuz rocket? At the moment that means only Russia has the capability to ferry people to and from the international space station, and they have just delayed the launch of their next manned mission after an unmanned Soyuz cargo vessel crashed. We’re joined by our space expert and BBC science correspondent, Jonathan Amos, to explain why the ISS could be left unmanned.

SYNTHETIC BIOLOGY

Synthetic biology is the building of biological systems that don’t exist naturally, or the use of engineering to redesign life. The field is exciting scientists interested in learning how to harness the power of the living world, using synthetic bacteria to make biofuels for example, or to create new medical treatments. New researchers, just published in the journal Science seem to show that synthetic biology has reached a new level of sophistication. Roland Pease from our BBC science team has been following this, and joins us on the programme.

COMPUTING HISTORY

Tony Sale, the engineer who led the rebuild of Colossus, the first modern computer has died aged 80. The massive project to recreate the code-cracking Colossus was the pinnacle of a career built around electronics and computers. Tony was also behind the campaign to save Bletchley Park, where Colossus aided Allied code-cracking efforts during World War II. At Bletchley Park he also founded the National Museum of Computing to help preserve the UK's ageing computers. Joining us on Science in Action is Kevin Murrell, a trustee and director of the Museum and friend of Tony Sale.

A new strain of birdflu has been identified, so what are the real risks to human health?

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01/12/201120111202As the climate warms, greenhouse gases could be released from thawing permafrost

Permafrost thawing

One of the difficulties with the science of climate change is that it is a work in progress, and new evidence is constantly coming in. Sometimes that evidence is a game changer, which means that models of global warming have to be adjusted. Now a new report, published in the journal Nature, on melting arctic permafrost, warns of the consequences of this happening. Permafrost is soil that has always frozen solid, locking away carbon. As the permafrost melts it will release that carbon into the atmosphere, in the form of greenhouse gases. This will add to global warming leading to more permafrost melting, a vicious circle. Ted Schuur from the University of Florida is one of the authors of the report.

STAGE – putting drama into Science

Is it possible to write good fiction about science? A competition to find a great science drama is underway. STAGE, which stands for Scientists, Technologists and Artists Generating Exploration, is awarding a $10,000 prize for a new play about science or technology. This will be the fifth time that the prize has been awarded. The current STAGE winner is Craig Baxter, a playwright from Cambridge in the UK, who also works for the International Glaciological Society. He joins us on the programme and we hear a specially recorded extract from his award winning play.

Whale dialects

Marine scientists have long been trying to decode whale song. Many suspect that the sometimes haunting, sometimes chaotic calls of marine mammals betray a complex language. Now scientists are asking us for a hand in identifying whale dialects, by listening to them online. Ian Boyd, the Director of the Sea Mammal Research Institute at the University of St Andrews in Scotland, is on the programme.

As the climate warms, greenhouse gases could be released from thawing permafrost

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02/07/201020100703TRACKING THE OIL SPILL

As Hurricane Alex hits the Gulf of Mexico and holds up the clean up operation of the BP oil spill and with storm force winds, concerns about where the slick will go are foremost in the minds of people living in the region. Since the oil spill started, in April, the big question has been 'where will it go'? The ocean currents in the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic have the potential to spread it for hundreds of miles. But how do you track it? One idea from researchers at the National Centre for Atmospheric Research in the US is to use high resolution models to study global ocean currents and eddies – small circular currents. They do that by simulating what would happen if they release a coloured dye, rather than oil, into the water – watching it swirl and spread.

NEW YORK WILDLIFE

The phrase 'New York City wildlife' may conjure up images of the more exotic aspects of US urban living; but natural wildlife – that is wild animals and birds – are becoming a growing part of New York’s population. Living alongside millions of people, you can now find increasing numbers of raccoons, geese, skunks and deer. Now, some ecologists are warning that their growing numbers will lead to increasing conflict between New Yorkers – human and animal.

MOUNTAIN PINE BEETLE

Great swathes of pine forest in the Rocky Mountain States in the US are being killed by an outbreak of tiny beetles – the Mountain Pine Beetle infestation has reached epidemic proportions. Scientists with the US Forest Service, think the beetles are causing so much damage for a number of reasons - most of the trees are the same age – the ideal age for an infestation; droughts have stressed the forest and a lack of cold winters has meant no annual kill-off of the beetle larvae.

INTERNATIONAL FameLab

International FameLab isn't a competition to find a new global popstar, but a competition to help change our perceptions of scientists and science. The 2010 event took place at the Cheltenham Science Festival in the UK, and Science in Action was there to catch up on the new kids on the block.

Tracking the oil spill; NYC wildlife; Mountain pine beetle epidemic; International FameLab

02/07/201020100704Tracking the oil spill; NYC wildlife; Mountain pine beetle epidemic; International FameLab
02/10/200920091003EARTHQUAKES AND TSUNAMIS

Yet again, the world has been shaken by a series of earthquakes and tsunamis. On Tuesday a powerful 8.0 magnitude earthquake in the Pacific off the Samoa Islands region generated a tsunami 4 and a half metres tall in some areas of the islands. Then there have been two more large earthquakes in Sumatra 7.6 and 6.9 magnitudes. The devastation and loss of life is still being assessed. But it's not unusual to have seismic activity in these parts of the world because they're on sites of massive geological shift. Roland Pease from our science team explains why these happen and whether scientists can predict when they will happen.

MOSQUITOES AND MALARIA

Malaria infects more that 500 million people globally each year, and kills more than a million. One person dies about every 30 seconds. In Africa it's the leading killer of children. Scientists are always looking for chinks in the armour of the malaria parasite or the mosquito that carries it. This week researchers in Germany and France have discovered that variations in a single gene affects mosquitoes' resistance to the malaria it carries and Jon asks whether this could be used as a way of killing the parasite before it gets passed on to humans?

There's more work on mosquitoes in the journal Science this week. Researchers at the University of Oxford have been looking at the effects of the bacteria Wolbachia. When it infects mosquitoes, it halves their lifespan – which means parasites such as the filariasis nematode that causes elephantiasis cannot complete their incubation and die off before they can become infective. Will it work for malaria too? And could it be a way of eradicating the disease without having to use insecticides?

ARDIPITHECUS

An almost complete skeleton of one of the earliest hominids know has been described in massive detail by an international team of scientists in this week's journal Science. Ardipithecus ramidus who lived over 4.4 million years ago in what is now known as Ethiopia gives us a new insight into human evolution by extending our knowledge back further, only a few million years after the human line divided from chimpanzees. It's another step in the journey to understanding our origins.

DIY SPACE PHOTOGRAPHY

Last week on Science in Action we heard from the do-it-youself biologists, genetically engineering organisms in their bedrooms. This week, we have do-it-yourself space exploration. If you go to http://space.1337arts.com/?page_id=47 you’ll see some amazing time-lapse footage of the curvature of the Earth. The photos were taken by students in the US who pieced together some readily available equipment which enabled them to launch a camera not quite into space, but to the very edge. What's really amazing is that they did it for around $150. They didn't need huge expensive rockets, they used a helium filled balloon, a digital camera, and a mobile phone. One of those students, Oliver Yeh, a Computer Science and Electrical Engineering student at MIT, is planning more DIY science projects in the future.

Earthquakes and tsunamis; mosquito and malaria; Ardipithecus; DIY space photography

02/10/200920091004 Earthquakes and tsunamis; mosquito and malaria; Ardipithecus; DIY space photography
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03/05/201220120504The European Space Agency has given the go ahead for its next mission to Jupiter's moons

JUICE

The European Space Agency has just given the go ahead for its next mission. JUICE, Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer, is expected to launch in 2022, and it should arrive at the gas giant in 2030. Michelle Dougherty, Professor of Space Physics at Imperial College London, explains what the mission is all about and why ESA has decided to investigate Jupiter’s moons more closely.

British Weather

The great British weather is wet, this may come as no surprise as it is often portrayed as such but it is making headlines in the UK. The UK has just had the wettest April since records began in 1910, yet some parts of the country are officially in a drought, and recently the records being broken were for dry spells! Is this massive variability evidence of something bigger going on? We ask Dan Williams from the UK Met Office, especially given that the UK is well known for April showers.

Cleaning water with sunlight

Drought conditions in the UK may result in some inconvenience for residents, but they will have access to clean drinking water. This though is not the case in many developing countries, and creating a cheap and easy way of sterilising water is a problem many scientists have studied. Now researchers at the University of Hull in the UK think they may have found a way to do that, using just sunlight. Dr Ross Boyle explains how his method uses sunlight to kill bacteria and even a parasite.

Star Gazing in Afghanistan

A campaign is being launched to bring astronomy to Afghanistan, to schools, orphanages, and refugee camps. The idea is to enable children to learn important basic science, using simple tools like star gazing kits, and drawing on the historical importance of studying the skies in Islam. Christopher Phillips is behind the "Reach for the Stars" project.

The European Space Agency has given the go ahead for its next mission to Jupiter's moons

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03/07/200920090704The BBC brings you all the week's science news.

A new El Nino? Dinosaur teeth secrets; Baboon & Human DNA; Summer Science

03/07/200920090705 A new El Nino? Dinosaur teeth secrets; Baboon & Human DNA; Summer Science
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03/11/201120111105Fukushima update

A radioactive gas has been detected at the site, which was badly damaged by an earthquake and tsunami in March. Reactors went into meltdown and engineers have been working to bring them under control ever since. The official word is that they are on track to achieve a stable shutdown by the end of the year, so does the new detection of radioactivity show that something is wrong? Paddy Regan, Professor of Nuclear Physics at the University of Surrey, and an expert in Radiation Science, joins us on the programme to explain what is happening at the plant.

Moon Express

Jon Stewart visits Moon Express, the company trying to be the first commercial venture to land on and mine the Lunar Service. It already has a contract from NASA to develop lunar landing technology.

Modern Humans

New analysis of a human jawbone found in the UK back in 1927, and thought to be about 35,000 years old, has shown it to be a lot older, closer to 44,000 years old. What that means is that humans and Neanderthals were living in Europe together. Professor Tom Higham, the Deputy Director of the Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit at the University of Oxford had the second look, and joins Jon Stewart on the programme.

Ice Age Animals

The end of the last Ice Age saw a massive extinction of large mammals, two thirds of species disappeared. Why they died out has not ever fully been investigated. Did we hunt them to death, or did a changing climate lead to their demise, or was it a combination of factors? A team led by Professor Eske Willerslev from the Centre for GeoGenetics at the University of Copenhagen, used the lasted DNA techniques, and also studied archaeological remains from North America and Eurasia to find out.

We find out what could be the source of the newly detected radioactive gas at Fukushima

03/11/201120111107We find out what could be the source of the newly detected radioactive gas at Fukushima
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04/06/201020100605PROFESSOR MARTIN REES

One of the world's leading astronomers and cosmologists. Martin Rees has written more than 500 scientific papers, as well as 7 books. He travels extensively, and spends much of his time encouraging a greater interest and understanding of science amongst the general public. He is also this year's BBC Reith Lecturer, where he'll explore the limits of our scientific understanding, and how science might transform our lives in the rest of the 21st century.

Mars500

This week a group of 6 'cosmonauts' are starting an 18-month long experiment, locked away in a container, with very limited contact with the outside world. The idea is to see if they can cope with the physical and mental stresses of a trip to Mars.

MOMENTS OF GENIUS

Author Eoin Colfer not only wrote the sixth instalment of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, but in 2008, he wrote the story of a young boy's race for flight at the end of the 19th century. He became fascinated by the many and varied attempts to defy gravity, especially by the Wright brothers, who were bike shop mechanics in North Carolina in the US. Their moment of genius, Eoin argues, was to carefully test, not flamboyantly guess which flying machine might work best.

SOLENODON

The nocturnal solenodon is only found in the Dominican Republic and in one of the last forested patches of Haiti. It is often described as a "living fossil", thanks to the fact that it has been around, virtually unchanged, for the past 76 million years. It is the size of a rabbit, with a ginger-brown coat. It has disproportionately large, clawed feet, beady little eyes and a very long, thin nose. But perhaps it's most bizarre - and prehistoric - feature is that it is the only mammal that can inject venom through its teeth, the same way a snake does. Scientists are only just finding out about this intriguing species and now it's threatened by habitat destruction and introduced predators. So the race is on to locate these beasts and help to prevent their disappearance.

Professor Martin Rees on Scientific Horizons; Mars500; First flight; Solenodon

04/06/201020100606Professor Martin Rees on Scientific Horizons; Mars500; First flight; Solenodon
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04/09/200920090905GEOENGINEERING AND CLIMATE CHANGE

What will happen if no new deal is agreed at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen later this year? The Agency is warning that this is the last chance for countries to agree a plan of action.

But could science – in the form of geoengineering – be used as a back-up plan?

This week the Royal Society in London published a report on geoengineering – using technology to try and manipulate the climate in order to counteract the effects of global warming.

As Sue Broom reports potential projects include reflecting sunlight away from the Earth and fertilising the oceans.

SOLAR STORMS

Could the Earth also be in danger from a huge solar storm? One is overdue and, as we hear on the programme, we are still very vulnerable to its potentially devastating effects.

On the 150th anniversary of the first documented solar storm Science in Action speaks to astronomer and author Stuart Clark. He describes how an amateur astronomer in England – Richard Carrington – saw a flare shoot out from a sunspot. Hours later the night turned blood red with an aurora that smothered two thirds of the Earth’s sky. Back then it caused havoc, we find out what a similar storm could do now.

NANOTECHNOLOGY AND CANCER

Will a new nanotechnology breath test reduce the number of lung cancer deaths? Each year 1.3 million people die from the disease; often the cancer is discovered when it has spread and can no longer be removed, so an early diagnostic tool could potentially save lives.

Published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology the research, carried out by scientists in Israel, uses gold nanoparticles that have been attached to a microsensor. These can detect specific chemical vapours called volatile organic compounds which are found in the breath of lung cancer patients.

To explain the technology Science in Action spoke to Dr. Joseph Wafule Ndieryira from the Jomo Kenyatta University in Kenya and the London Centre for Nanotechnology, while Professor Stephen Spiro, the vice-chair of the British Lung Foundation, told the programme why developments like this are so important even if they are many years from being routinely used in hospitals.

WHY WE NEED SLEEP?

Science in Action finds out why we need sleep. Jon Stewart has visited Professor Jerry Spiegel at his laboratory full of sleeping animals at the Sepulveda Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Los Angeles, who has come up with what might be a controversial theory.

PESTIVAL

A festival that “celebrates insects in art, and the art of being an insect” has just opened in London. “Pestival” joins international artists, scientists and local communities to create art projects designed to help us better appreciate the biosphere we live in.

Geoff Watts has been finding out more.

Geoengineering and climate change, solar storms and nanotechnology that diagnoses cancer.

04/09/200920090906 Geoengineering and climate change, solar storms and nanotechnology that diagnoses cancer.
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05/01/201220120109Highlights in Physics and Chemistry

What will be the big discoveries in physics and chemistry in 2012? Professor Neville Harnew, a physicist from the University of Oxford and Professor Andrea Sella, a chemist from University College, London look ahead. The physicists really want to find the Higgs Boson in 2012, an elementary particle that gives matter to everything. And in chemistry, researchers are working on materials that can be given new properties like with grapheme.

New species in deep sea

UK researchers have discovered communities of species previously unknown to science on the seafloor near Antarctica, clustered in the hot, dark environment surrounding hydrothermal vents known as black smokers. The discoveries nearly 2,400 metres down on the seafloor include a new species of yeti crab, called The Hoff crab, starfish, barnacles, sea anemones, and even an octopus. For the first time, scientists have used a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) to explore the East Scotia Ridge deep beneath the Southern Ocean. Professor Alex Rogers from the University of Oxford tells Science in Action about his journeys to the Southern Ocean.

Flora in Iraq

A project to catalogue all the plant species in Iraq is restarting after being put on hold for a quarter of a century. Scientists from Iraq are working with botanists from the famous Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew in London to finish the reference work that was started in 1966. Our reporter Mike Tighe went to have a look at some of the specimens already archived.

What will be the big science discoveries in 2012? Predictions in physics and chemistry.

05/02/201020100207NASA's future; Studying exoplanets from Earth; Science research row and giant salamanders.
05/03/201020100306METHANE WARNING

New research, published in the journal Science, shows we have missed one of the largest sources of greenhouse gasses. Methane gas is leaking into the atmosphere from the bottom of the Arctic Ocean, at rates equivalent to the previous estimates for all the world’s oceans. It was thought the methane there was safely locked away, but thanks to years of trips, braving the conditions on Russian ice breaker ships, Dr. Natalia Shakhova, from the International Arctic Research Centre at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks and the Russian Academy of Sciences, has been able to show that's not the case. The implications are serious.

DEAD PIGS AND THE DEEP SEA

Marine scientists investigating the scourge of ocean dead zones have a new and unusual tool in their kit – dead pigs. Diverting the pigs from the butchers to an undersea observatory, scientists from the University of Victoria in the USA have found a unique way to study scavengers – the vital creatures that clean up the ocean floor. Our science reporter Victoria Gill met two of these researchers at the Ocean Sciences meeting in Portland, Oregon, last week who are looking at what kind of organisms feed on the dead pigs and how far they would travel for a free meal. Her full online report is available on the BBC News website as are videos of scavengers feeding on the dead pigs.

PERFECT MOSCOW WEATHER

Average temperatures in the Russian capital are still below freezing at this time of year – all day every day - causing considerable disruption to daily life. Authorities there spend millions of dollars every winter, trying to clear snow. Now, they’re looking at a radical alternative - getting rid of clouds over the capital so that it simply doesn’t snow. Meteorologists are still looking into tests of successful winter cloud seeding – a way of either forcing it to snow or rain before clouds reach the city, or simply breaking them up. Weather manipulation is also something Chinese officials have been experimenting with – most notably with measures to keep the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics from being rained on. But it's a controversial move. Katia Mostvich reports for Science in Action from Moscow.

HOLLYWOOD SCIENCE

It's the big week in Hollywood as tinsel town prepares for the Oscars. With all the glitz and glamour of the red carpet you would think there would be no room for hard science. But big film directors do often work closely with scientists to at least base some of their more imaginative story lines on scientific facts. Jon Stewart caught up with Professor Sidney Perkowitz, from Emory University in Atlanta and author of the book "Hollywood Science" to find out more.

Permafrost thawing releasing methane; Dead pigs in the sea and Hollywood science.

05/03/201020100307Permafrost thawing releasing methane; Dead pigs in the sea and Hollywood science.
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05/06/200920090606We humans pride ourselves on our culture. Our tools, our ideas and innovations, and our art. They’re all passed on within our societies, and help shape who we are. These so called ‘modern human behaviours’ appeared suddenly around 90 thousand years ago, but at different times in different geographical areas. Something must have been happening to prompt the change – but exactly what has been a mystery. Jon Stewart meets researchers who think they have solved the problem.

An example of early human tools was presented in public for the first time in 150 years this week… archaeologists showed a crudely fashioned hand axe that once helped change our view of our origins. Science in Action reporter Roland Pease was there to find out more.

What role should scientists take in international relations, and diplomacy? Eminent researchers, politicians, and even the odd diplomat were at London’s Royal Society to see if science can help bring peace to the Middle East or ease nuclear tensions. Our reporter, Tracey Logan was there.

This week a hidden world under the ice in Antarctica was revealed – a range of mountains, up to 3000 meters high. We talk to the lead researcher behind the discovery – why didn’t we know they were there – and now that we do, how does it change our thinking?

We are a step closer to solving one Antarctic mystery though – what happens to emperor penguins in the middle of winter, when they move deep onto sea ice to breed. It’s hard to monitor them, which makes it hard to keep track of their population numbers. So how do satellites and reddish brown marks on the ice.

Modern Human behaviour - why? Science diplomacy, hidden Antarctica, penguins & space.

05/06/200920090607 Modern Human behaviour - why? Science diplomacy, hidden Antarctica, penguins & space.
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06/08/201020100807Monitoring whale song in Gulf of Mexico

Claims by the US government that three-quarters of the oil spilt in the Gulf of Mexico has been cleaned up, dissolved or dissipated is concerning scientists who have not yet begun to measure the environmental impact. Researchers have laid out a strip of sound recorders in the region to listen to whales and dolphins to find out how they are coping.

Deep ocean oil and gas plumes

The oil and gases forming 'plumes' deep underwater in the Gulf of Mexico are being analysed to see how they are behaving and what the impact of microbial degradation may be.

Gas hydrates as alternative source of fuel

Gas hydrates are microscopic crystalline 'cages' of water molecules holding gas molecules. They are very abundant in deep, cold water, such as the bottom of the ocean. They are also present in Lake Baikal in Russia – a unique, huge, deep, cold lake. Scientists think that these special compounds could be an abundant source of natural gas, such as methane, for the future. So they are exploring in Baikal to see just how useful they may be.

Moments of Genius – first systematic review of medical literature by Ben Goldacre

5000 academic medical journals are produced every month, and there are around 15 million medical research papers already out there. Which can make it confusing to weigh up medical evidence, and decide what is relevant and what is not. Individual clinical trials have been around for centuries, but the idea of a systematic review of all the available evidence is remarkably new, says the author of the book and newspaper column, Bad Science, Ben Goldacre.

Will NASA's Mars Rovers wake up form hibernation?

Their mission started in 2004, and was supposed to last just 3 months. But despite being many millions of kilometres from home the Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity have still been working. That is more than 6 years!! But the proud scientists in charge of these resilient probes are having to steel themselves for the possibility that Spirit might not phone home again.

Measuring the environmental effect of oil spills by listening to whales

06/08/201020100808Measuring the environmental effect of oil spills by listening to whales
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06/11/200920091107AFTERSHOCKS

Some tremors may be aftershocks of bigger earthquakes that occurred hundreds of years ago. Professor Seth Stein joins Jon Stewart to explain why he thinks this research will change the way seismologists predict future quakes.

LANDSLIDES

The Slumgullion landslide in the western United States has been moving almost continuously for over 100 years – and now scientists have found that it moves everyday when air pressure is at its lowest. We speak to Bill Schulz from the United States Geological Survey who carried out the research and believes that atmospheric low tides may also be involved in earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

NANOMEDICINE

Medically used nanoparticles can damage the DNA of cells without crossing cellular barriers in the body. This latest research is published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology. It was carried out on cells grown in the lab and used much higher concentrations of nanoparticles than are used in treatments but it still raises questions about the safety of using them to treat patients. Science in Action invited Dr. Gevdeep Bhabra from the University of Bristol, one of the team behind the work, to explain more.

GLACIERS

The glaciers on Mount Kilimanjaro are disappearing and will be gone for good by 2033. Science in Action talks to Professor Lonnie Thompson who has just published this latest research in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. He says that the glaciers that he's studied in the Andes and Himalayas are all also retreating at an alarming rate.

UNDERGROUND PESTS

As the global population continues to rise, the pressures increase on food supplies. Staple foods like rice, maize and potatoes are critical, but we're not the only ones who eat them. Underground crop pests cause billions of dollars worth of damage every year, and unlike pests that eat the top parts of the plant, they are difficult to treat with pesticides. But help is at hand. Our reporter Anna Lacey went to the University of Innsbruck in Austria to speak to insect and underground food web experts who are trying to control these underground beasts.

Small earthquakes could be aftershocks from quakes 100's of years ago;is nanomedicine safe

06/11/200920091108 Small earthquakes could be aftershocks from quakes 100's of years ago;is nanomedicine safe
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07/05/201020100508NEANDERTHAL GENOME SEQUENCED

The Neanderthals are our closest evolutionary relatives. They lived between 200,000 and 30,000 years ago. There is lots of speculation about how closely related modern humans are to the Neanderthals, and whether or not they interbred. Now, scientists have decoded the Neanderthal genome and compared it with those of modern humans, answering some of these questions.

GULF OF MEXICO OIL SPILL

Since last week, the amount of oil leaking into the Gulf of Mexico has increased. Some sealing and containment of the leak on the ocean floor has been achieved, and more of the oil has been burnt off from the surface. Together with dispersants – chemicals designed to break up the oil and help it dissipate – they're the best bets for dealing with the slick, and reducing damage to the coastline and wildlife. But what are the extraordinary challenges of dealing with this particular spill?

NASA'S SOFIA

NASA hopes to use to answer some fundamental questions about the structure and evolution of the universe. SOFIA, or the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy is a flying observatory – or at least it will be. The huge telescope embedded into a heavily modified 747 is undergoing final testing. Jon Stewart was allowed to clamber on board, to see how this thing works – originally a jumbo jet like this could have held up to 500 passengers across its 2 decks.

RUSSIAN CIS SCIENCE COLLABORATION

2010 was declared a year of science and innovation in Russia and the former Soviet Republic's CIS states. Collaboration in the areas of science and technology is Moscow's latest attempt to revive science in Russia, which has been in decline since the collapse of the Soviet Union almost 20 years ago. But is it an excuse to tempt the best scientific brains to Russia or a sound economic decision?

25th ANNIVERSARY OF OZONE HOLE

In May 1985 three scientists from the British Antarctic Survey were studying the atmosphere in Antarctica. They noticed some anomalies in the data for the thickness of the ozone layer – the protective blanket-like layer that prevents harmful UV rays from the Sun reaching the Earth – they had discovered the ozone hole, caused by chemicals found in refrigerants and aerosol propellants.

Neanderthal genome; Oil spill; NASA's SOFIA; Russian science; 25 years of ozone hole

07/05/201020100509Neanderthal genome; Oil spill; NASA's SOFIA; Russian science; 25 years of ozone hole
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07/08/200920090808HIV/AIDS is back in the news this week with two new discoveries. First, scientists have unravelled the structure of HIV’s genome, that’s the genetic code that contains all the information for the virus to spread. And by creating a model of how the genetic information folds up within the virus, they can predict with far greater accuracy how it will behave. This opens the door for new and better therapies.

HIV was also in the news this week with the discovery of an infection in a Cameroonian woman, which is clearly linked to a gorilla strain of the virus. Until now, it was assumed that HIV had crossed the species barrier from chimpanzees to humans, but it now appears that that jump can come from gorillas too.

ORIGINS OF MALARIA

It’s that ability of disease to jump species that is key to understanding the origins of one of the diseases facing humankind: Malaria. With more than 500 million cases each year, Malaria places enormous health strains on many countries, most extensively in Africa. The disease is caused by a parasite called Plasmodium which is carried by mosquitoes. But while we have a good knowledge of how the disease infects people, understanding how humans became susceptible to it in the first place has, until now, remained a mystery. And knowing its origins could lead to new ways to combat the disease.

DOMESTICATION OF DOGS

The dog - ‘man’s best friend’. Dogs have been with us for longer than civilisation itself, having evolved from the grey wolf. Humans domesticated dogs at least 15,000 years ago, and our four legged companions have been present in every human population ever since. Where this first happened was thought to be in Asia, but a new study is challenging that idea.

MINDS OF PSYCHOPATHS

Now, Psychopaths crop up in scary movies showing violent, cold and murderous behaviour. And in the real world, they are no different. Their behaviour often results in criminal activity with devastating consequences.

Until now psychiatrists have relied on defining the characteristics of a psychopath largely by their behaviour. By using the latest brain scanning technology, researchers this week have found a physical characteristic in the brains of psychopathic patients, which could lead to new approaches to diagnosis and treatment.

ARCTIC TUNDRA, FIRE, PERMAFROST AND CLIMATE CHANGE

This week scientists’ meeting at the Ecological Society of America have been warning of the global threat from wildfires in a surprising place – the Arctic. Though currently rare, fires on the Arctic Tundra -a vast area of grassland - could become more common as climate change increases the chances of lightening strikes on warmer and drier grasslands. From the USA to Canada & Russia there’s about 5 million square kilometres of tundra. Frozen beneath the surface, permafrost stores twice as much carbon as is in the atmosphere. This week the scientists revealed how much of that carbon is turned into greenhouse gases when fire strikes. Science in Action’s reporter Tracey Logan joined one of them on a field trip to collect the data behind the headlines.

Origins of HIV,Malaria,domestication of dogs;brains of psychopaths,fire on Arctic Tundra

07/08/200920090809 Origins of HIV,Malaria,domestication of dogs;brains of psychopaths,fire on Arctic Tundra
08/01/201020100109THE MOVE FROM WATER TO LAND

New evidence based on fossilised tracks uncovered in Poland suggests that four-legged creatures walked on land as early as 395 million years ago. The tracks, 18 million years older than the oldest four-legged – tetrapod – fossils, were made by an unknown creature and have distinct hand and feet marks, some even with toe prints. The discovery means scientists will have to re-consider when and how tetrapods diverged from fish, and moved onto land. Professor Per Ahlberg of the Uppsala University in Sweden and Philippe Janvier from the Museum of Natural History in Paris speaks to Science in Action to tell us about this fascinating find.

2010 – INTERNATIONAL YEAR OF BIODIVERSITY

The contribution of human influence to the rate at which species are disappearing is very high – some experts suggest the rate is 1000 times higher than it would be without human influence. With this in mind, the United Nations has designated 2010 as the International Year of Biodiversity. Science in Action speaks to Jean-Christophe Vi退 of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature before the official launch of the year in Berlin, next Monday. Also we look at coral reefs, which are at great risk. New research published in the journal 'Science' shows they give rise to many more new specie than other tropical marine habitats.

CONTAGIOUS CANCER PUSHING TASMANIAN DEVILS TO EXTINCTION

The Tasmanian Devil is the world's largest carnivorous marsupial, but a strange form of contagious cancer may be pushing this beast towards extinction. The cancer is threatening the survival of not only the Devil but the entire ecosystem. Science in Action's Monika Seynsche went to Tasmania to meet the scientists who are desperately trying to save the Tasmanian Devil from extinction.

TEN OF EVOLUTION'S GREATEST INVENTIONS

Dr Nick Lane talks to Science in Action about his new book 'Life Ascending, the Ten Greatest Inventions of Evolution'. Jon Stewart learns why sex, death, photosynthesis and the eye were so important for life as we know it.

Fossil footprints; Year of Biodiversity; cancer in Taz Devils; evolution's best gifts

08/01/201020100110 Fossil footprints; Year of Biodiversity; cancer in Taz Devils; evolution's best gifts
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08/03/201820180309 ()The BBC brings you all the week's science news.
08/05/200920090509This week in Science in Action we examine two new findings on the Indonesian Hobbits, the fossil remains of a tiny human species discovered on the island of Flores. There has been much controversy over whether they truly represent a new evolutionary branch of humanity, or whether they were the result of some kind of genetic deformity. We bring you new findings which are helping to solve the puzzle.

Also in the programme how DNA matching techniques could help identify the soldiers found in a mass grave from the First World War. Around 400 Australian and British troops are thought to have been buried in a mass grave near the village of Fromelles in northern France in 1916. DNA samples from the grave are to be matched with samples from people who might be their living relatives to try and identify the dead.

And we look to the far reaches of outer space, or at least as far into space as we can see at the moment. We follow preparations for the Launch of two new European space telescopes Herschel and Planck.

Why hobbits had big feet, looking further into space and the row in Turkey over Darwin.

08/05/200920090510 Why hobbits had big feet, looking further into space and the row in Turkey over Darwin.
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08/09/201120110911Has the US Department of Homeland Security failed in its scientific role?
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08/12/201120111210In this week's Science in Action we are on a planetary exploration mission, looking at both our own and other worlds.

It is often said that we know more about the surface of the moon that we do about the bottom of the ocean, now new research suggests we may be wrong in our assumptions about how deep it is.

Kepler 22-b is a newly discovered planet. We ask whether it is really a mirror earth. It is orbiting around another sun, but what of the atmosphere and surface temperatures?

And we look at how agriculture in Asia and Latin America seems to be helping to preserve some rare animal species.

Dangerous volcanoes, disappearing oceans, and new planets - news from our world and beyond

08/12/201120111212Dangerous volcanoes, disappearing oceans, and new planets - news from our world and beyond
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09/04/201020100410NEW HOMINID DISCOVERED - AUSTRALOPITHECUS SEDIBA

Fossilised bones from two individual skeletons have been found in a cave in South Africa. The skeletons are thought to belong to a female and young male of a new species of Australopithicine that lived almost 2 million years ago. Although probably not a direct ancestor of modern humans, Australopithecus sediba is thought to share many traits with our early ancestors.

THE ORIGIN OF THE DOMESTIC DOG

Sometimes 'where' things evolved is as interesting as how they evolved. We all know that the domestic dog – from Chihuahuas to Great Danes – evolved from the wolf. But until now it was thought that it was wolves in Asia that evolved into our beloved pets and companions. But new genetic analysis carried out at UCLA suggests they came from the Middle East – which is where domestic cats also came from.

PLANT BIODIVERSITY IN MOZAMBIQUE

In a planet as well studied as ours, it's sometimes surprising to find there's lots of plants and animals that we haven't yet discovered. In the far north of Mozambique is one such.

2010 is the International Year of Biodiversity and continuing with our reports on the richness and range of animals and plants we share our planet with. Science in Action reporter Sue Broom travelled to Mozambique, where many plants that grow there are new to science and have not yet been classified. Local and international scientists have recently been exploring for the first time the remote northern parts of the country, bringing back specimens for closer examination.

DARWINIAN EVOLUTION IN JORDAN

The British Council's 'Darwin Now' project has been on the road for a year, with conferences and a travelling exhibition in more than 50 countries. Now it has come to Amman in Jordan; a county with high standards of science education but also widespread and deeply held Islamic religious beliefs. So how does Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection fare in a faith-based society? Martin Redfern went along to the opening debate at the University of Jordan in Amman to find out.

New hominid; origin of the dog; biodiversity in Mozambique; evolutionary theory in Jordan

09/04/201020100411New hominid; origin of the dog; biodiversity in Mozambique; evolutionary theory in Jordan
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09/07/201020100710PLANCK TELESCOPE PICTURES OF 'OLDEST LIGHT IN COSMOS’

The European Space Agency's Planck telescope was sent nearly a million miles into space to record the origins of the universe. The Planck observatory's job was to look at the age, contents and evolution of the cosmos by studying the heat left behind by the Big Bang. In September it began to reveal its first images showing strips of ancient light across the sky. Now it has revealed a full picture of the sky. As well as being visually stunning, the data which makes up the image should help explain how our universe came into being, and why it looks like it does.

EARLY HUMANS MOVE NORTH

Researchers have discovered ancient stone tools that show that early humans must have been living in northern Europe between 800 thousand and a million years ago – MUCH earlier than previously thought. The find, reported in this week's journal Nature, shows that early humans lived as far north as Norfolk in the east of England at a time when the climate would have been colder than it is now. Until now it wasn't thought that these early humans, fresh out of the warm climes of Africa could cope with such a cold climate.

MUMMIES OF THE WORLD

The largest exhibition of mummies ever assembled has just opened in Los Angeles, in the US. It showcases how medical technology, like CT scans, MRIs, and X-rays can help look inside mummies without destroying them – it's fascinating stuff. The mummies are taken into hospitals outside normal hours, and put through the scanners.

CLIMATE CHANGE IN ANTARCTICA

Dr. Ted Scambos, is a glaciologist from the National Snow and Ice Data Centre in Boulder, Colorado, in the US. He's been studying the melting ice-sheets and retreating glaciers in Antarctica and he has some strong opinions on how climate-change science should be carried out and dealt with.

ASHDEN AWARDS FOR SUSTAINABLE ENERGY

There are six international finalists in the annual "Ashden Awards" with technology & engineering projects helping to solve local problems, but with the big global picture in mind. The awards have just been presented in London, and we sent reporter Tracey Logan to find out how big a difference they're making.

Planck telescope; Early humans move north; Mummies of the World; Antarctica; Ashden Awards

09/07/201020100711Planck telescope; Early humans move north; Mummies of the World; Antarctica; Ashden Awards
09/10/200920091010The tsunami that hit the islands of Samoa, American Samoa and Tonga claimed one hundred and seventy lives. It was caused by a massive earthquake two hundred miles off the coast. Jon Stewart visits the US Geological Survey near Los Angeles in California where scientists monitor Earthquakes around the world.

Natural disasters are inevitable, the Earth is a hive of geological activity. But when does a natural hazard become a natural disaster? Professor Steve Sparks from the department of Earth Sciences at Bristol University in the UK explains.

The Hurricane season in the Atlantic is drawing to a close, and so far has been fairly quiet this year. But 2005 was a different story. Hurricane Katrina, a category 5 storm, devastated New Orleans and many nearby towns.

This year though it's the Pacific that has been hardest hit. Over the past week typhoons Ketsana, Parma and Melor have battered the Philippines, causing the worst floods in forty years. Science in Action asks Richard Black, the BBC Environment Correspondent, if global warming is to blame for these extreme weather conditions?

According to News agency reports a quarter of a million people have been left homeless because of floods in India. Other parts of India are suffering from drought.

East Africa is also suffering from extreme droughts. In Kenya, the last rains that were due in April failed to arrive and there has been no proper wet season for at least three years. Richard Black explains why.

Wild fires have raged in Greece, South Africa, Australia and the United States this year. Even this week a state of emergency was declared by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger when another wild fire broke out near Los Angeles. Jon Stewart went to Wrightwood in the San Bernadino National Forest to see if the fire had been brought under control.

Finally Science in Action reports on new research which seems to suggest that some types of volcano are much more unpredictable than scientists thought. Eruptions usually are preceded by weeks or even months of rumbling and minor activity. But in May last year the Chait退n Volcano in Chile erupted without any prior warning. It had been inactive for nine thousand years. Don Dingwell from the University of Munich discovered that certain volcanoes can erupt in this way.

Natural disasters; why they happen, the devastation and the link to climate change?

09/10/200920091011 Natural disasters; why they happen, the devastation and the link to climate change?
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10/07/200920090711LONGEVITY

Two major research breakthroughs on delaying the aging process have emerged this week.

One group of researchers has found that a drug normally given to humans to prevent organ rejection after transplantation has increased the lifespan of mice by up to 14 percent. Rapamycin seems to mimic the effect of eating less food on a long term basis – what scientists call Caloric Restriction or CR.

CR has been shown to extend the natural lifespan of fruit flies and rats but this week, another team of scientists, revealed for the first time that eating less slows down ageing in non-human primates – rhesus monkeys to be precise.

Eating less not only keeps the animals younger-looking and acting, but also much healthier, reduces their risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and other age related conditions.

TEST TUBE SPERM?

Scientists in the UK believe they have been able to create sperm in the lab – in a move that could eventually help infertile men have children. The same team managed do similar work in mice some years ago.

The new work uses human embryonic stem cells. Now, for the first time, the scientists claim to have been able to make them transform into sperm – cells that can give rise to a whole new body.

The work made the headlines, and it’s easy to imagine why. The potential, as we’ll hear, of an advance like this is huge, and it’s raised some concerns about creating human life in a test tube.

CORAL REEFS

Coral Reefs provide shelter for fish populations and protect shorelines.

This week there was a warning that coral reef survival around the world is on a knife edge. The warning that we are close to losing them came from an international meeting organised by the Zoological Society of London.

HOW DO CHIMPS LEARN?

Chimpanzees, it seems, are copy cats. They are able to build their own tools after watching a video demonstration. This was a test of what’s known as social learning – to figure out how well chimps learn from each other.

DOG OR ROBOT – THE BEST PET?

Can virtual reality ever replace the real thing? Engineers are offering us alternatives - from robotic pets to artificial views, but maybe there really is nothing better than nature.

Scientists in the US have been investigating. Jon Stewart went to visit them to find out more.

Eat less live longer; test tube sperm; coral reefs at risk; Chimps and videos

10/07/200920090712 Eat less live longer; test tube sperm; coral reefs at risk; Chimps and videos
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10/11/201120111114Malaria transmission

Scientists have identified a critical step in the way the malaria parasite infects our blood cells, and are now working on a way to stop it. It could offer a new target for a vaccine, which would be a very welcome development, because malaria kills 800,000 people every year according to the World Health Organisation, most of them are young children in sub-Saharan Africa. Dr Julian Rayner, who carried out the new research at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Cambridge, England, explains his work to Science in Action.

TB Breathalyser

Have you ever been breath-tested for alcohol? If not, you may have seen a breathalyser type device used on television shows. It has become a very common test, probably because it is so easy. You simply blow into a tube, and moments later the hand held device can tell you how much alcohol there is in your blood. Imagine such a simple test for tuberculosis. At the moment checking for TB can take weeks, and a number of visits to a clinic or hospital. Now a young Indian scientist, Dr Ranjan Nanda, has been given a grant to develop his idea of a breathalyser that can detect TB. The money is being given by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Grand Challenges Canada. Their CEO Dr Peter Singer, spoke to us about the project.

Space - Asteroids and Mars missions

BBC Science Correspondent Jonathan Amos joins us to talk about a busy week in space, from an asteroid that came very close to the Earth (at least in astronomical terms) to a Russian Mars Mission that may never get to the Red Planet.

Morality Test

Philosophers have tried for years to explain our sense of ethics, but now the BBC’s Lab UK is trying to understand why evolution may have a role to play in how our morality is shaped. They have developed an online morality test, an interactive questionnaire that puts users through various ethical scenarios, from a leader failing to defend their country from outside aggressors, to the selection of a candidate for a particular job because they are related to their employer. So what can this test teach us about the biological benefits of acting morally? Science in Action's Mike Tighe visits the BBC's West London Media Centre and meets the development team behind the project.

(Image: Mosquito in flight. Credit: Press Association)

Scientists stop malaria from invading red blood cells for the first time.

Scientists stop malaria from invading red blood cells for the first time.

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10/12/201020101212Analysing tree-specific microbes in the Brazilian rainforest
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11/02/201120110213The final 3 space projects chosen by ESA for co-funding with NASA

Funding future space missions

The biggest decision European space scientists have faced in almost two decades is which big missions they can afford to fund. They have to choose a project that will do something extraordinary, both scientifically and technologically. The European Space Agency has just announced the final three missions, which will be considered for joint funding with other space agencies such as NASA.

Lucy's foot bones

Walking on two legs – bipedality - is considered a turning point in human evolution. It has long been debated when our ancestors switched from mainly swinging around in the trees to mostly walking upright, on two feet, on the ground. Most experts have agreed that it was not a sudden evolutionary adaptation, but rather a long slow progression from tree-dwelling to running.

The focus on this debate has centred on the most famous ancient human ancestor 'Lucy'. She was the first Australopithecus afarensis skeleton ever found. And even though her remains are only about 40 percent complete, researchers have been able to work out a lot about how she lived and looked. Now, palaeontologists have described remains from another individual of this species, and this time they have an all important foot bone, which displays a distinctive arched shape, which tells us that our ancient ancestor was well evolved to be able to walk.

How a flea jumps

Over 40 years ago scientists, Miriam Rothschild and Henry Bennet Clark argued about how a flea jumps. They knew that it had a special elastic pad which could store and release the explosive energy the flea needs to jump more than 50 times its length in a matter of milliseconds. But they did not know how the energy was harnessed. Did it come from pressing the 'hip' joint or trocanter on the ground? Or did the energy come from the 'toe' or tarsus pressing down? Now ultra high speed filming techniques, mechanical models and physiological examination has proved once and for all that the energy is harnessed by the flea pressing down its toes.

Information overload

Ever felt overwhelmed by the amount of information that flows at you each day, from the radio, the TV, the internet, newspapers, speech, billboards etc, etc? Well, it is a lot – 295 exabytes of information (an exabyte is 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 bytes). This is according to scientists who have calculated all the information in the world, how much is stored everywhere including all the computers, video cassettes, books, in the memory of mobile phones.

The final 3 space projects chosen by ESA for co-funding with NASA

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11/06/201020100612HAYABUSA MISSION EXPECTED TO RETURN TO EARTH

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency space probe Hayabusa is finally, and hopefully, returning back to Earth on Sunday, with samples it has collected from the asteroid Itokawa.

Hayabusa has already sent pictures and data, which has showed that far from the expected solid lump of rock flying through space, turned out to be a more like a heap of rubble, rocks, and boulders.

MONITORING MOLLUSCS TO ASSESS OIL SPILL

We still don't have accurate figures for the amount of oil leaking in the Gulf of Mexico, but researchers are working on some alternative methods for measuring how much of it is entering the food web in this ecosystem. One way is to look at one of the environments smaller inhabitants…shellfish and particularly the molluscs and their shells.

CHANGE BLINDNESS

Scientists have designed a computer game to test a strange and occasionally frustrating phenomenon known as "change blindness". The game, developed at Queen Mary, University of London, uses artificial intelligence to find out why people sometimes just don't notice when and how things change. Our science reporter Victoria Gill gives it a try.

MacRobert ENGINEERING AWARD

This week in London four top engineering teams held their breath, waiting to hear who had won the Royal Academy of Engineering’s prestigious MacRobert Award. At stake, not just a gold medal and £50,000 prize but recognition of their innovation – its commercial success and value to the community. Just hours before the awards were announced we sent reporter Tracey Logan to meet the finalists and find out what makes their inventions so special.

Hayabusa space probe; Monitoring molluscs; Change blindness; MacRobert engineering awards

11/06/201020100613Hayabusa space probe; Monitoring molluscs; Change blindness; MacRobert engineering awards
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11/09/200920090912HUBBLE SUCCESS

The new images from the Hubble Space telescope show that repairs carried out earlier in year have been a success. It’s now expected that the long serving orbiting observatory will carry on until at least 2014. That’s the good news, but what about other missions? A review of human space flight in the United States warns that current plans to replace the shuttle are not viable, so could Hubble and any future telescopes be our only way of looking far into the stars?

We look back at Hubble’s ups and downs and ask BBC Science Correspondent Jonathan Amos what does the future hold for Hubble and for human space exploration?

GOOGLE CALCULATES EXTINCTION

The way organisms interact with each other in a particular ecosystem can be very complex. Scientists create food webs to see who eats what and how these links are vital for the survival of each individual species. But it’s difficult to predict how these food webs will change if one species becomes extinct. A new approach using the search engine website Google may be able to help.

Dr. Stephano Allesina from the National Center for Ecological Analysis and synthesis at the University of California tells Science in Action how Google’s Page Rank System can be applied to food webs.

BIOCLUSTERS VITAL FOR BIOTECH

How many of the scientific developments that we have reported on this programme have actually made it to market? The answer: not many. This is a problem that the biotechnology industry faces everyday; a plethora of great ideas but a lack of investment and business knowledge to turn a research project into a real marketable item.

Our reporter Mat Heywood has visited the site of a new biocluster that’s being built in Israel. This is a specially designed massive science park, where institutions like universities and hospitals stand alongside small start up companies and even investment banks. The idea is that they can then talk and do business with each other. Claire Skentelbery from the Council of European BioRegions joins us on the programme to explain why this set up is vital for the biotechnology industry.

PERSONAL SPACE AND THE BRAIN

Have you ever felt that someone has invaded your personal space? But could crossing that invisible boundary that surrounds us and coming in far too close to someone be caused by faults in part of our brain? Jon Stewart speaks to Ralph Adolphs and Dan Kennedy from Caltech University in the United States whose research has just been published in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

The success of Hubble, Google predicts extinction effects and the business of bioclusters.

11/09/200920090913 The success of Hubble, Google predicts extinction effects and the business of bioclusters.
11/12/200920091212CLEAN GREEN DRIVING MACHINES

This week we have a special Science in Action as part of the Climate Connection season, which has been made in association with the Open University who are launching a ten year diary on environmental change.

Since the industrial revolution, global growth and development have been linked with the combustion of fossil fuels and the release of greater and greater amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. As world powers meet in Copenhagen to discuss measures to help combat climate change some scientists and activists are saying we need a new, technological approach.

The average car travels about twenty thousand kilometres a year according to the US Environmental Protection Agency. It burns fossil fuels in the form of petrol or diesel, and releases over 5000 kilograms of carbon dioxide.

Transportation is the fastest-growing source of U.S. green house gases. Jon Stewart investigates the American love for the motor car and can this car mad nation really be weaned off the motor vehicle?

Detroit may be the birthplace of the car, but Los Angeles is where it’s really taken residence; a city on rubber, as it's known. Jon Stewart visits the city's iconic annual auto show and finds that manufacturers are jumping on the clean green band wagon and are actually delivering top spec environmentally kinder cars.

EFFICIENT ENGINES

Electric cars are all well and good but they are still some way off becoming popular with the public. Jon Stewart looks at short term alternatives. At the Mechanical Engineering Department at Stanford University near San Francisco they are developing much cleaner traditional engines.

CLEAN ENERGY

Another statistic from the America's Environmental Protection Agency – the process of generating electricity is the single largest source of carbon dioxide emissions in the United States - accounting for 41% of total CO2 emissions.

The introduction of electric cars, requiring overnight charging, will mean that figure will increase dramatically unless we could meet all our energy needs from solar power.

That's the promise of schemes such as DESERTEC – a proposal to install a vast solar farm in the Sahara desert in Northern Africa and then sell that clean energy to Europe. An ambitious, and arguably contentious scheme – but when you consider that less than 1% of the Earth's deserts could supply the whole world’s electricity needs – it's one that has great potential. Neil Crumpton an energy campaigner for the environmental group Friends of the Earth and a member of the DESERTEC Foundation explains the concept.

But what about harvesting the sun's energy all the time? Science in Action talks to John Mankins, the president of the Space Power Association. He thinks a better alternative is to put solar panels in space, above any cloud cover, in intense sunlight and then beam that power back down to earth.

Will our love affair with the motor car have to stop to combat climate change?

11/12/200920091213 Will our love affair with the motor car have to stop to combat climate change?
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12/02/201020100213Modern cars, software and safety

Car maker Toyota is battling a public relations nightmare, as millions of its vehicles are subject to a recall over concerns about brakes and accelerators. First drivers were warned that accelerator pedals could stick, causing the car to speed dangerously, then drivers of the company’s Prius model – a hybrid – complained that their brakes would momentarily feel like they’d stopped working. In a separate development, Ford also says that its Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan hybrids could suffer braking problems. Now Honda are also recalling some models because of airbag issues.

Modern cars are becoming more and more complex, with much of the control being done behind the scenes by computer – so could that be the underlying cause?

Dr Colin Brown is the Engineering Director at the Institute of Mechanical Engineers in the UK. He explained why the brakes on the Prius were causing problems.

ISS Science

Here’s an interesting question to test friends. Where would you find the highest trees? It is a bit of a trick question because they’re not at the top of any mountain; they are in fact on the space station. It’s part of a growing list of experiments being conducted on the international space station now that they’ve almost finished building the laboratory in the sky. Jonathan Amos witnessed the last module of the ISS leaving the Earth on the shuttle Endeavour earlier this week and found out why the astronauts are planting trees in space.

Potatoes and Climate change

In Peru, in the Andes, the potato is a vital, staple crop. Due to climate change, in particular a change in rain patterns, crop yields have been falling over the past few years. Now scientists, from all around the world have been working on different strategies to fix the problem. Laura Plitt, environment correspondent from BBC Mundo, went on a visit to Peru to see how the problem was being overcome.

Gene Doping at the Olympics?

The Winter Olympics in Vancouver are getting under way. Through sports as varied as skiing, curling, and bobsleigh, athletes will be testing the limits of human endurance and performance – always pushing the boundaries in the hope of setting ever higher records. But that desire to excel has always pushed some people to cheat - traditionally through the use of drugs. But now scientists are warning that we could start seeing a new way to enhance performance – genetic manipulation. Marketing for gene therapy is already online, using untested and likely exaggerated claims. So is this something we should be watching out for at the Olympics, and what tests are available?

Science in Action spoke to Professor Theodore Friedmann from the University of California in San Diego, a specialist in gene therapy and sport, who had just published a report about genetic doping in the journal Science.

Smoking ears and screaming teeth

While the use of unregulated, untested performance enhancing products is something to be watched carefully – there’s a long tradition of eccentrics and even serious scientists experimenting on themselves, often with the goal of helping us all. In his new book called “Smoking ears and screaming teeth” Professor Trevor Norton reveals some of the medical mavericks who have helped us understand more about how our bodies work, and how diseases affect us, often at the cost of their own health.

Car recalls, trees in space, Peruvian potatoes, genetic doping and screaming teeth.

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12/03/201020100313IVORY TRADE

It has been banned for more than 20 years, but rare sales of ivory from natural elephant deaths or population control have been allowed. Now two African nations, Tanzania and Zambia, want permission to sell their stockpiles. But researchers writing in the journal Science this week are worried that will do more harm than good and could actually increase elephant poaching. It is an issue that CITES – the Convention on Trade in Endangered Species – will be tackling in the near future.

To get more context Science in Action spoke to Dr Katarzyna Nowak from Princeton University in the US. She is a biologist who was based in Tanzania for ten years and is one of the authors of the paper in Science. Jon Stewart also spoke to the chief of the CITES Science Support Unit David Morgan, who is in Doha for the conventions meeting. He said that any decision about lifting a trade ban on ivory would be based on many factors, including politics and science.

EARTHQUAKE PREDICTIONS

The ways in which the internet has transformed our world is now the subject of a special season of programming - SuperPower - from BBC World Service.

The internet was invented as a way of linking research computers – so we are going to look at the way they are being used now – with a very timely example. The Science and Technology Facilities Council's Daresbury Laboratory in the UK is working with the National Autonomous University of Mexico, using mega-computing power to estimate the likely impact of large earthquakes. An intricate computer model of how the earth will move might help officials plan for risks. Dr Mike Ashworth, Associate Director of the Computational Science and Engineering Department at Daresbury explains how this approach works.

DEAD ZONE MICROORGANISMS

We heard on the programme last week about 'Dead Zones' in the oceans – regions where oxygen levels in the water are so low almost everything fish, crabs, even worms suffocate. Some are man-made; the result of fertilizer and fumes washing into oceans, some are natural - both kinds are growing - with natural dead zones alone now covering around a million square kilometres of ocean. If you want to hear how dead pigs are helping probe the extent of these dead zones, you can listen to last week's programme online. Now a team in Vancouver, British Columbia recently discovered that dead zones also hold a few secrets when it comes to climate change. Our reporter Bruce Thorson joined them in a boat outside Vancouver.

AMAZING OCTOPUS

It is a master of disguise – an octopus that can imitate a fish, in a most uncanny way. We are talking about the Atlantic longarm octopus in this case, which is able to do an impression of a flounder – a flatfish which skims along the ocean floor. Jon spoke to Dr Roger Hanlon, from the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, who made the discovery.

WIRELESS BUSES

Finally – it is the future of transport – or at least its inventors in South Korea hope it is. Imagine an electric vehicle that doesn't need recharging, because it gets its power directly from the road. No overhead cables or rails. The online electric vehicle, or OLEV as it is being called, has just been unveiled, in a very limited form, near Seoul. Dr Colin Brown, the Director of Engineering at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in the UK came into the BBC's studios in London, to explain if this vehicle could possibly be seen on streets across the world in years to come.

Selling ivory; earthquake science; dead zone microbes; octopus camouflage & wireless buses

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13/10/201120111014A British team embark on a mission to drill to subglacial Lake Ellsworth in Antarctica
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13/11/200920091114DUCK RESCUE

A last-ditch effort to save the world's rarest duck from extinction – again – has turned a hotel bathtub into a makeshift duckling pond. The pochard duck of Madagascar was thought to be already extinct until a colony of 20 was found in 2006. But when scientists visited their lake in July, they discovered all of the chicks born in 2008 had died and just six of the remaining birds were female, prompting an emergency rescue operation. So far, 17 chicks from two clutches have been moved from the wild to the safety of a hotel in the nearest town, since a washed-out bridge prevents the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust team from taking them to the capital, Antananarivo. A third clutch of seven eggs is being transferred even before they hatch for fear that the rainy season will make the treacherous road to the lake impassable until spring. The hotel has agreed to let the scientists build some small ponds in its grounds until a permanent, purpose-built rescue centre opens next year. Peter Cranswick from the Trust tells Jon about the challenges, and hazards, faced by the rescue team.

THE BIG THAW

The Arctic tundra has a peaty, boggy surface on top of ancient ice. But as the world warms, this ice is melting and the land is sagging like a deflating souffl退, creating features called thermokarsts. The consequences for civil engineering have been well studied, as the process damages buildings and pipelines. But scientists around the Arctic Circle are now taking a co-ordinated look at the profound affects this great thaw is having on the environment. Once clear streams, for example, are now so clouded with sediment, that fish cannot see the insects they prey on. And whole layers of soil are being detached on islands such as Ellesmere in Nunavut, Canada, allowing them to slip away. BBC reporter Tracey Logan went to see for herself the dramatic changes to the Arctic landscape.

FLOURISHING PHYTOPLANKTON

At the opposite end of the world, however, global warming is having an unexpectedly positive consequence for life. Since the collapse of the Larsen ice shelf in 2002, phytoplankton, the base of the food chain in the Antarctic, have colonised the newly opened sea, followed by krill and whales. When the algae die, they sink to the sea bed trapping the carbon they've absorbed. Professor Lloyd Peck from the British Antarctic Survey says this new biological activity is soaking up 12 to 13 million tonnes of CO2 a year, the equivalent of a forest the size of Wales. But that's still 1,000 times less than the amount emitted by humans, though it should be included in climate change calculations.

SPEECH GENE

Research in the journal Nature this week describes a gene which seems to control the human ability to speak. FOXP2 works like a dimmer switch, turning the expression of other genes up or down. These genes in turn affect our control of the facial muscles necessary for speech, and may influence the brain circuits involved in language. But, asks Jon, would genetically engineering chimpanzees to carry FOXP2 allow them to talk? Dr Daniel Geshwind from the University of California, Los Angeles, has an answer.

FAST FOOTWORK

What makes a sprinter so swift? When an American football star asked Professor Stephen Piazza from Pennsylvania State University to help his performance, the result was a surprising discovery. The scientist expected to find that the athlete had a long Achilles' tendon. In fact he found the smallest he'd ever seen. But the player also had long toes and a short heel enabling him to produce much more force. Professor Piazza explains the anatomical mechanics.

The world's rarest bird; polar thaws; a gene for speech and why sprinters run so fast.

13/11/200920091115 The world's rarest bird; polar thaws; a gene for speech and why sprinters run so fast.
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14/04/201120110417Scientists track the distribution of sounds to discover how language evolved in Africa

Evolution of language

It has now been accepted by most people that humans evolved out of Africa. Now it seems the same is true for our ability to communicate by speech. Language is made up of distinct sounds and tones - known as 'phonemes'. These are similar to what genes are to the genome. By tracking the diversity and number of phonemes in different languages around the world, researchers have calculated that the most diverse and phoneme-rich languages are in Southern Africa and they get less diverse, the further away you get.

Seeing and feeling

On regaining their sight, young people who were born with treatable blindness are initially unable to visually recognize an object that they have previously only touched. These results suggest that, in a sense, we must learn to see: people learn the correspondence between how objects look and how they feel, and this ability is not innate.

How the riderless bike stays upright

You might think that a bicycle is a fairly simple device, but to mathematicians, a bike provides a wealth of puzzles - from figuring out the mechanics of wheel rotation and friction to how they stay upright. Now scientists have solved the equations as to why a bicycle with no rider can stay upright. There is a number of different mechanisms that keep bikes upright and by designing a bike which rules out some of these, they have managed to work out what the other mechanisms are. But will it mean the end to stabilisers?

Scientists track the distribution of sounds to discover how language evolved in Africa

14/05/201020100515LIZARD EXTINCTIONS

20% of all lizard species could be extinct by 2080 according to a paper in the journal Science this week. The cause? Temperature increases due to global warming. Professor Barry Sinervo from the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of California Santa Cruz in the US has been modelling the decline.

ARCHAEOPTERYX FLAPPING OR GLIDING?

A fascinating study of fossilised feathers has revealed more about our most ancient birds. Archaeopteryx lived about 150 million years ago. They look like beaked lizards with feathered wings and are often referred to as the missing link between reptiles and birds. But did they fly? Or more precisely did they flap their wings and fly? It's a question that scientists have pondered for years, and now Dr. Robert Nudd from Manchester University in the UK is a step closer to answering it. In a paper in the journal Science this week he describes the maths he used to work it out.

MOMENTS OF GENIUS

Across the next few weeks and months we’re going to be asking an eclectic mix of artists and scientists to bring us their favourite moment in the history of science, as part of a series we’re calling "Moments of Genius".

Professor Richard Dawkins - the first holder of the Charles Simonyi Professorship Chair for the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University. He's spent much of his working life trying to explain the implications of scientific theories. But his favourite moment of genius is when Charles Darwin discovered the secret of life.

NANO-BOTS

Scientists have come up with another 'nano-bot', attaining yet higher levels of autonomy and complexity and this time incorporating DNA into its spider-like legs. Two new studies reported in the journal Nature this week reveal these 'DNA walkers' – motile molecules which can move from one binding site to another.

MALARIA ERADICATION

It's been done with smallpox, and many believe it could be possible with polio, but could Malaria be eradicated? The disease is carried by a parasite in mosquitoes, and affects nearly half a billion people worldwide. According to an article in the journal Science this week, scientists need to increase the effort put into killing the parasite. But one researcher, Professor Bart Knolls in the Netherlands, believes that the solution lies in a method that was abandoned decades ago – kill the mosquitoes that spread the disease when they are in their vulnerable larval stages. He says it's not so much clever science we need, just a huge and sustained effort.

Lizard extinctions; fossil bird flight; nano-spiders; malaria eradication

14/05/201020100516Lizard extinctions; fossil bird flight; nano-spiders; malaria eradication
14/07/201120110715Predicting Drought

Severe drought in the horn of Africa has led to crop failures and food shortages. Ten million people are at risk of starvation. So can science help to better predict these events and help mitigate these disasters? Dr Bradfield Lyon is a research scientist at the International Research Institute for Climate and Society based at Columbia University in the United States. He explained the east African rains can be influenced by events as far away as the Pacific Ocean, where climate flip flops between El Niño events and their opposite states, the La Niñas.

Tough at the top

These days, the expression "it's tough at the top" is usually used ironically. But it turns out that being a top ranking, or alpha male could be a lot more stressful than we realised, particularly if you are a monkey. Researchers have just published work involving a nine year study of baboon populations in Africa. They found that alpha males have higher levels of stress hormones and lower levels of testosterone than males ranked below them. So could the same hold true for humans?

Gray Whales

Gray Whale populations are seriously threatened by Russian oil exploration. That is according to scientists at the International Whaling Commission annual meeting. Grays exist in two parts of the world - along the west coast of North America the population is robust and healthy. But those near the Russian island of Sakhalin, is critically endangered. Oil and gas exploration as well as fishing is to blame.

Twinkle Twinkle

Scientists managed to recover the sound from what is thought to be the earliest ever talking doll – 123 years old, singing 'Twinkle Twinkle Little Star'. It was recorded by Thomas Edison himself, and probably has not been heard since his lifetime. We find out how this recording was made.

It's the internet, stupid

Are we becoming too reliant on search engines? Do we depend too much on the internet to remember things for us? An experiment just published in the journal Science shows that when people did not know the answers to questions, their first thought was to use their computer to look it up. Professor Betsy Sparrow from Columbia University in the United States says rather than remember things ourselves we are basically outsourcing our memory to a sort of external storage.

How well can climate science predict droughts, like the one gripping East Africa?

How well can climate science predict droughts, like the one gripping East Africa?

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14/08/200920090815INDIA GROUNDWATER DEPLETION

Groundwater north-western India – the natural stores of water deep down – is being used at an unsustainable rate. Research published by the journal Nature this week uses satellite data to study the change in terrestrial water storage in the states Rajasthan, Punjab and Haryana – which includes Delhi. 114 million people live in the region. Using the GRACE satellite system, NASA scientists were able to detect minute changes in the force of gravity, and therefore calculate the mass of water underground. We examine the research, talk to people experiencing water shortages in Delhi and get the assessment of crop and water scientists in India.

FIRE AND HUMANS 164,000 YEARS AGO

We Humans are a pretty clever bunch. Our ability to change our surroundings to suit us better has given us many advantages over the millennia.

It now turns out that modern humans weren’t just using fire for heat and cooking but actually for improving raw materials, and making better tools from stone – the height of the technology in the…stone age! This was as long ago as 164 thousand years and it was happening in the Mossel Bay region of South Africa. We talk to the researchers unearthing our human past.

LIONFISH INVADE THE BAHAMAS

The Bahamas consists of a collection of islands in the Atlantic, 60 miles off the coast of Florida, known for its tax haven status, relaxed lifestyle, coral reefs and beautiful clear seas that sustain the local fishermen and attract the tourists – but there’s a predator in the water that shouldn’t be there. Lionfish are supposed to live in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. They were first spotted in the Atlantic in the early 1990s. It’s thought they probably escaped from aquariums when Hurricane Andrew destroyed homes and released them into the wild. They have long venomous spines that inflict a nasty sting, and they’ve been menacing the Bahamas’ reefs since 2003, as Science in Action’s Pauline Newman discovered.

SCIENCE REALITY IN THE MOVIES

It’s half way through the summer in the United States at the moment, and so halfway through the summer blockbuster season – an important time for film studios hoping to make big bucks from their releases. It looks like Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, and Terminator Salvation are holding the top 3 spots, with Star Trek not far behind. All movies that involve some element of science – or at least science fiction and fantasy. How important is it that films portray science accurately? Aren’t they just entertainment? Well, it’s important enough that the Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts and Sciences – the people who hand out Oscars – just hosted an event discussing the issue. It was chaired by Adam Weiner and we went to find out more.

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15/03/201220120316The remains of a possibly previously unknown early human relative have been found in China

Red Deer Cave People

The remains of what could be a previously unknown early human relative have been found in China. It started with a chance discovery, back in 1989, by some Chinese miners, and now it may change our current thinking on human evolution. The fossils they uncovered were of at least five individuals, who lived up to 14 and a half thousand years ago. They look very different to other early humans, but where did they come from? Dr Isabelle de Groote, a researcher in human origins at the Natural History Museum in London, gives her explanations.

Venus and Jupiter

If you have looked up at the night sky this week, you cannot have failed to notice two incredibly bright spots to the West. They look like oversized stars, but are actually the planets Jupiter and Venus. This month all five visible planets are in fact making an appearance in the night sky. Science in Action invited Dr Robert Massey from the Royal Astronomical Society to tell us more.

Votes and voices

Voters in political elections are most likely to pick a candidate with a lower voice, according to research just published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Professor Casey Klofstad, from the University of Miami in the US, explains how they tested the hypotheses.

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15/03/201820180316 ()The BBC brings you all the week's science news.
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15/05/200920090517This week the Hubble space telescope is being repaired. A team of Astronauts have been training for the past 3 years for the mission. We talk to some of them about the risks of working in space and ask what new images of distant space the improved Hubble is likely to deliver.

Pornography is not often a word associated with Ice Age icons, but a new find from Germany, possibly the world’s oldest carving of a woman, has been described as just that. We speak to the man who found it and ask what it tells us about ourselves.

Turkey lies at the centre of a seismically active zone, it is also the home to many unique ancient monuments. We look at how early warning techniques may go some way to preserving the countries ancient history and lives of its people when the next earthquake strikes.

Making the earth move with ancient sexual icons, a journey that’s truly out of this world.

15/09/201120110916Dinosaur feathers

We tend to think that we know what the world of the dinosaurs looked like, thanks in part to films like Jurassic Park. The plants were dark green and luscious, and the creatures themselves were green and grey and scaly. But perhaps they were not? New research published in the journal Science shows that feathers, even quite complicated ones, were around at the time of the dinosaurs. Dr Mark Norrell from the American Museum of Natural History in New York reviewed the work, and told Science in Action that these new finds are vastly advancing our understanding of life on earth during an incredibly exciting time.

Climate attitudes

The dangers that climate change poses are known; risks of sea level rise, coastal erosion, property damage, illnesses and diseases, but are Europeans prepared for them? Dr. Katja Phillipart a marine biologist at the Royal Netherlands institute for Sea Research is part of project CLAMER, a project looking at climate change research. She has been finding out what people in Europe really think about climate change.

Exoplanets

A haul of new exoplanets has been discovered. We are able to discover planets around other suns with ground and space based telescopes and astronomers have just announced fifty new ones. BBC Science Editor Paul Rincon comes on the programme to tell us more.

Panda Poo

Dr Ron Swaisgood, Director of Applied Animal Ecology at San Diego Zoo's Institute for Conservation Research, and his colleagues from the Chinese Academy of Science, have made a discovery that could affect the way pandas mate, and could help in efforts to conserve them.

Could dinosaurs have been fluffy, colourful creatures?

Could dinosaurs have been fluffy, colourful creatures?

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15/12/201120111219The search for the Higgs Boson gets tantalisingly closer

In this weeks programme the search for the Higgs Boson, a fundamental particle of physics. Huge hype surrounds the announcement that scientists are getting closer, but what does it mean?

How to get to the bottom of the Mariana Trench the deepest part of the ocean, Science in Action looks at the new submersible vehicles which will be going down.

Neuroscience and the law, brain scans can indicate personality traits, but should they be used as evidence in court when considering?

The search for the Higgs Boson gets tantalisingly closer

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16/04/201020100418China earthquakes; NASA's Global Hawk; Venus Express; Sound tourism; Koalas in peril
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16/07/201020100717COLLABORATING ON THE OIL SPILL

One of the criticisms of BP in the early stages of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico was the secrecy surrounding the initial responses to the blow out. Dr Iraj Ershaghi, in the University of Southern California's Collaboration Lab thinks that experts from around the world could and should have collaborated remotely to come up with solutions to stopping the oil spill.

GENERALISED FLU VACCINE

The problems with flu vaccines, is that they're very specific to each flu virus strain – so a new one must be made for each year, and for each strain of influenza. But now, scientists think they could have come up with a way of making a much more generalised flu vaccine – which could be given to children and possibly give them immunity for life.

GM INSECTS

Outdoor trials of Genetically Modified mosquitoes to tackle the disease Dengue fever will start in South America this year. If they are proven safe and effective then they could be fighting Dengue for real by this time next year. That would transform the lives of people threatened by the bone-crushing pain of this disease, when there's very little other protection science can offer. But are there potential dangers? There are certainly concerns about releasing Genetically Modified animals into the wild. Reporter Tracey Logan goes to see some of these GM mosquitoes for herself, in the laboratories of Professor Luke Alphey, of Oxitec – Oxford Insect Technologies, just outside London.

ROSETTA PROBE'S FLYBY OF ASTEROID "LUTETIA"

One of the ways we can learn about how the Earth and the Solar System formed is to look at the bits of rubble left over from when it all began 4.6 billion years ago – in the form of asteroids and comets.

The asteroid "Lutetia" has been a mystery for many years, with ground-based telescopes often showing us confusing characteristics. But the European Space Agency's Rosetta probe has recently made a flyby of the asteroid. Dr. Stuart Clark, author of a new book "The Big Questions: The Universe", was in Mission Control for Science in Action when the Rosetta probe started to send back its amazing images of "Lutetia".

Managing the oil spill; General flu vaccine; GM insects; Asteroid "Lutetia"

16/07/201020100718Managing the oil spill; General flu vaccine; GM insects; Asteroid "Lutetia"
16/10/200920091017DARWINOPTERUS

The fossil of a bizarre-looking flying reptile was revealed by British and Chinese scientists in Proceedings of the Royal Society B this week, raising questions about how species evolve. Darwinopterus, named after the father of evolution, appears to fit between primitive, long-tailed pterosaurs and an advanced species with a shorter tail. But it does not, as expected, show a smooth transition between them, with a medium length tail. Instead the 160-million-year-old fossil has the long tail of the primitive pterosaur and the extended neck and jaw of the later animal. Dr David Unwin, one of the lead scientists, thought at first that it might be a fake. Now he believes it's evidence of a controversial theory of evolution.

BIODIVERSITY

Extinction rates are at least 100 times what they were before humans came along, and it's only getting worse. Yet internationally agreed targets for stemming the loss of biodiversity will be missed next year. Freshwater ecosystems in particular are collapsing around the world in what's being called the silent crisis. So much water is used or diverted by humans that some rivers, including the Nile and the Colorado, regularly fail to reach the sea. Jon visits the Back Bay Science Center in Newport Bay California, a state which has lost more than 90 per cent of its wetlands, to talk with Professor Peter Bryant from the University of California and Professor Georgina Mace from imperial college, at an international conference on biodiversity in Cape Town South Africa, explains what's going wrong.

NASA'S LCROSS MISSION

NASA's latest attempt to find water on the moon by crashing two spacecraft into a crater last week was less spectacular than many people had expected. Thermal images from the Lunar reconnaissance Orbiter have provided a few points of data, and scientists are still hopeful that other instruments will provide results. But what will this mission mean for the future of manned space flight. Science in Action asks the BBC's Science Correspondent Jonathan Amos to explain what may happen next.

MARCUS CHOWN

The Victorians used to think the Sun was a giant lump of burning coal. Now many scientists see the universe as a cosmic computer, processing information. But science author Marcus Chown warns that both views demonstrate the danger of describing reality with reference to the everyday world around us. Marcus came in to Science in Action to talk about his latest book, 'We Need to Talk About Kelvin'.

Fossil flying reptiles; biodiversity; water on the moon; our biased views of the universe.

16/10/200920091018 Fossil flying reptiles; biodiversity; water on the moon; our biased views of the universe.
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17/07/200920090718ECLIPSE

Jon Stewart looks forward to next week’s Asian eclipse, likely to be the most observed in human history as it passes over India, China and Japan. And as well as being amazing to witness, eclipses are great opportunities to learn more about our nearest star. Despite advances in satellites and astronomy – nothing beats seeing the moon, the Earth, and the sun fall perfectly into alignment. Quentin Cooper speaks to satellite astronomer Lucy Green, and solar physicist, Ken Phillips, from the Mullard Space Science Laboratory in the UK, both of whom will be in ‘zone of totality’.

SNAILS AND SEX

It’s question that puzzled Darwin and one which biologists today still can’t fully explain: why do most organisms reproduce sexually using a male and a female rather than simply reproduce by dividing into identical clones, like bacteria?

Researcher Jukka Jokela of the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology in Zurich, has spent 20 years watching snails reproduce both ways and thinks that sexual reproduction has survived because in the long term it can lead to genes with better protection against parasites which would otherwise wipe out all identical clones. Professor Steve Jones also comments on the research.

WHEN TREES NEED HELP

Researchers at Germany’s Max Planck Institute have discovered that trees have the ability to send out a chemical SOS to get help from friendly insects and this trick may have huge implications for creating naturally pest-resistant crops. Science in Action’s Anna Lacey joined scientists out in a former military zone between Germany and Poland where the research is being carried out.

E COLI ADVANCE

E. coli is a bacterium than can cause food poisoning in humans but it’s also one of the most studied organisms in all of biology. Its genetic code was unravelled more than a decade ago and now, new research has uncovered genes which might help protect us against cancer. Jon Stewart spoke to Tracy Palmer from the University of Dundee in Scotland.

LEADING THE WAY FOR LEDs

LEDs, or light emitting diodes, could revolutionise the way we light our homes, offices, streets, cars, or just about anything else. Invented in Russia in the 1920s, the big advance in LEDs came relatively recently when scientists developed white ones, opening the way for super-bright office and home lighting with vastly improved efficiency compared to traditional light bulbs and at a lower cost. Jon Stewart spoke to Professor Colin Humphreys of Cambridge University.

Asian Eclipse, The Origins of Sex, E Coli, Trees & LEDs

17/07/200920090719 Asian Eclipse, The Origins of Sex, E Coli, Trees & LEDs
17/09/201020100918British Festival of Science

It used to be called the British Association for the Advancement of Science, but the annual festival of science has had a makeover and focuses largely on enthusing the public and especially children about science and technology. Martin Redfern went along to Aston University in Birmingham in the English midlands to see what British science was capturing the headlines.

Natural Gas-eating bacteria in the Gulf on Mexico oil plumes

There are many scientists studying the underwater plumes of gas and oil which resulted from the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. There have been some contradictions on reports of how microbes are degrading the hydrocarbons deep underwater. This week, scientists report in the journal Science that they think microbes start off their meal on a diet of natural gas molecules – methane, ethane, propane and butane, then move on to the oil molecules.

Street lighting and songbirds

Street lights being left on all night are thought to have an effect on forest nesting songbirds, like blackbirds, robins, great tits and blue tits. The lights act like an artificial dawn, leading to males starting their dawn chorus earlier. The researchers have found that these males have longer time singing and seem to attract more females. This means that male birds which have street lights in their territory claim paternity to far more chicks…but is there a cost to getting up so early?

NASA in the Arizona Desert

NASA is testing the next generation of human spaceflight technology in the desert of Arizona in the US, and they invited Jon Stewart along to have a look at what that future holds. The rocky, dusty, desert, not far from the lip of the Grand Canyon, is apparently an ideal place to do a dry run for living on another planet.

Highlights from the 2010 British Festival of Science

17/09/201020100919Highlights from the 2010 British Festival of Science
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18/02/201120110220Tiny seismic signals before a major earthquake show promise for predicting earthquakes

Earthquake prediction

In 1999, a massive earthquake struck nearby and devastated the city of Izmet in Turkey. Now scientists have looked back at the seismic signals just before the magnitude 7.6 quake and they think they have detected signature creaks and pops caused by the final shift in the Earth's tectonic plates at the fault line. The hope is that these tiny seismic signals occur at other earthquake faults and that a method can be devised to pick up the signals to give a few seconds warning before the next big shock.

Anthropogenic climate change is causing intensification of precipitation

Increasing levels of greenhouse gasses are affecting global temperature, which in turn is affecting the weather. This is according to climate scientists who have been analysing precipitation in the Northern hemisphere. Precipitation – rain, snow, hail etc, has been shown, by models and actual observations, to be becoming more intense as the climate warms. This could mean that we are at a greater risk of flooding, mudslides and heavy snowfall in the future.

Sexual Selection Exhibition

The Natural History Museum in London has launched its Sexual Nature Exhibition. In it are a great many exhibits drawn from the museum's collections and even some bespoke taxidermy to explore the myriad ways all animals have to compete for mates and win the game Charles Darwin unveiled. It's not survival of the fittest - it's procreation of the fittest. The exhibits take us through the familiar – peacocks feathers to the frankly bizarre, including the female emu who weighs her mates before deciding which one to mate with. All in all, it is an entertaining if slightly voyeuristic look into the same biological drives that push us humans to lipstick, cologne, tight T-shirts and dating.

Hibernating bears

Black bears in Alaska have been monitored through the whole of their five to seven months hibernation and beyond. Scientists monitoring their temperature and metabolism, have found that, unlike smaller hibernating mammals, the bears do not lower their core body temperature by too many degrees, yet they somehow manage to reduce their metabolism – heart rate, breathing etc, by a massive 75%. It is adding insights into how these large mammals manage to survive the winter with no food or water.

Tiny seismic signals before a major earthquake show promise for predicting earthquakes

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18/06/201020100619This week Science in Action comes from Louisiana as we investigate the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. President Obama calls it the worst environmental disaster this country has faced. We speak to ecologists, engineers, and biologists – to get the facts, including some surprising information you are unlikely to have heard before. Jon Stewart asks "Is everything possible being done?" We get on a boat and go to see the oil slick for ourselves and look at alternative approaches to cleaning up the oil.

We investigate the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, getting the science behind the story.

18/06/201020100620We investigate the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, getting the science behind the story.
18/08/201120110819A catch all cure for viruses
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18/09/200920090919A fossil find in northern China has shown that the classic Tyrannosaurus rex body shape evolved tens of millions of years earlier, just in a much smaller form.

The trade in bush meat is changing. Wild animal meat in Asia, South and Central America and West and Central Africa is getting too expansive for the locals to buy, yet overseas, international trade is growing. Conservationists are worried about rare species being exploited. Now scientists have found a way of determining the species of animal from just a hunk of dried meat or a scrap of leather – using a DNA barcode method.

Lake Balkhash in Kazakhstan is the second largest Asian lake next to the Caspian Sea. But there are worried that the shallow lake is drying out. Robin Forrestier-Walker goes out with scientists sampling the lake to see if they can find out if it’s a natural fluctuation or whether man is having an influence.

Red-green colour blindness, whilst not the most debilitating genetic disorder, is a problem for sufferers. Scientists have managed to correct this problem in monkeys using gene therapy. Overcoming the issue of whether the brain can cope with this sudden sensory overload of colour from the eyes. Will it work in humans?

Tiny T rex ancestor;DNA barcode to track bushmeat;Lake Balkhash;cure for colourblindness?

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19/02/201020100220Personalised cancer treatment

Researchers in the US have developed a test which allows them to look for a specific genetic fingerprint of a cancer. They can then use this test, or assay, to look for any residual traces of cancer after surgery for example, or to see how well a treatment like chemotherapy is working. This is still at the early stages, and needs expensive DNA reading equipment, but the hope is the price will fall quickly as that kit becomes more common. Jon Stewart speaks to Professor Victor Velculescu and Rebecca Leary from the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Centre in Baltimore. Their work is published in the journal Science.

Public perception of science

Can we trust science and scientists? It’s a question that is increasingly being asked by the media, and the public, after some high profile apparent mistakes. Did UK scientists manipulate data on global warming? Is the International Panel on Climate Change credible after it admitted that it had made a mistake in asserting that Himalayan glaciers could disappear by 2035? In the past few years there have also been false claims about stem cells, and erroneous warnings about vaccines. Michael Specter is the author of “Denialism”, where he asks why we have begun to fear scientific advances instead of embracing them. He was speaking at TED – Technology, Entertainment, and Design – a conference in California billed as some of the biggest thinkers coming together to spread ideas. This year the theme was “what the world needs now”. Jon Stewart went along to find out more. He also spoke to Dr. Seth Berkely, the President and the CEO of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, to find out how far the development of a vaccine against HIV transmission has got.

If you’d like to attend TED, the next one is in Oxford, England, in July – there a more details on the Science in Action website. There is a fellowship programme, which focuses on attracting people who have world changing ideas, living or working in the Asia, Africa, the Caribbean, Latin America and the Middle East.

Ocean acidification

The oceans are becoming more acidic and at a faster rate than previously measured. This could lead to a massive extinction in the deep seas, according to new research. The ocean is what is known as a carbon sink – it has taken up between a quarter and a third of all atmospheric CO2 since the start of the industrial revolution. A study published in the journal Nature Geoscience shows that the increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is leading to a similar increase in the oceans today. But it is believed that the process is making the seas much more acidic which is damaging the delicate shells of organisms that are critical to the marine food chain. In fact the rate of acidification is now the highest in 55 million years. Danniella Schmidt from the University of Bristol, one of the scientists behind the work, joins us on the programme.

Aliens calling

Where is ET and should he have not called by now? Tracey Logan asks exactly that question after speaking to the top scientists hunting for proof of alien life. She went to the Royal Society in London where the possibility of detection of extra-terrestrial life, and its consequences for science and society, were discussed.

Personalised cancer treatment, public trust in science, acid oceans and alien life.

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19/03/201020100320This week's programme presented by Andrew Luck-Baker

JUPITER'S RED SPOT

A storm that's already been raging for more than a hundred years with winds gusting up to 800 kilometres an hour and temperatures down to about minus 160 degrees Celsius. Fortunately this hurricane is not on Earth, but on Jupiter. New images, taken by massive 8m telescopes on Earth have revealed what the weather is really like on the planet's famous Red Spot. Andrew Luck-Baker speaks to Leigh Fletcher at the University of Oxford who is one of the scientists interpreting these new images.

INCA EMPIRE AND GLOBAL WARMING

In South America, along the Andes, rising temperatures are melting glaciers - which is in turn speeding soil erosion. This is disastrous for the highland communities there making a living from farming. But according to scientists working in Peru, the evidence from the bottom of an ancient lake suggests there are ways to adapt. Between nine hundred and five hundred years ago, this region underwent a period of climatic warming. Also during this time, the Inca people appeared in this area of Peru and developed an empire stretching from Ecuador to Chile. The international research team believes there's a link. Science in Action caught up with the BBC's Valeria Perasso who recently visited the scientists in Peru.

SURGICAL SILK

When a patient is opened up, has tissues cut and repaired – the mainstay of putting everything back together again is a needle and some sort of thread. Right now, the use of surgical glues is limited – they don't do a great job sticking wet things together. But researchers at the University of Utah are trying to rectify that by learning from the secretions of an insect. Caddisflies spend part of their lives as an underwater larval grubs. For protection, they build themselves tube-like casings – made of bits and pieces from the stream bed, all stuck together with fibres of a special kind of silk. Leader of the Utah team is Russell Stewart, who joined us on the programme.

MOLECULAR EVOLUTION

The caddisfly's sticky silk is a product of many millions of years of evolution. Now you won't find many biologists disagreeing about the fundamentals of Charles Darwin's explanation for life on Earth, but there's plenty of research still to be done to figure out the details. Some of the gaps were up for discussion at a meeting in Mozambique, organised by the British Council. Sue Broom was there and she spoke to Lars Jansen of the Gulbenkian Institute of Science in Portugal about how we inherit certain traits at the molecular level.

CAT COMMUNICATION

If you've got a pet cat, then you may think they are pretty smart and even manipulative, but their powers of persuasion are probably more finely tuned than you suspected. Maybe that should be, purrfectly tuned. Karen McComb, a researcher on animal communication at the UK's University of Sussex, describes a line of scientific enquiry that began in her bedroom early one morning with her cat waking her up.

Jupiter's Red Spot; Incas & climate change; an underwater glue; Evolution & cat language

19/03/201020100321Jupiter's Red Spot; Incas & climate change; an underwater glue; Evolution & cat language
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19/06/200920090620In Science in Action, Jon Stewart investigates the impact of cutting edge science on sporting success. Do engineering advances in sport threaten fair play? What can neuroscience tell us about sporting success? And, could being ambidextrous help you to win Wimbledon?

Jon interviewed Dr David James, the Royal Academy of Engineering’s first Fellow of Public Engagement in Science about his work. In his work at Sheffield Hallam University he looks at the application of technology to sport and his is now looking at the ethics of engineering athletic performance.

Jon also talked to Dr David Shearer about his work as a sports psychologist using the techniques of neuroscience to improve sporting performance.

Jon visited Stanford University where they have developing a ‘cooling glove’. This is a device which helps to lower quickly core body temperature and so improve recovery times for athletes.

Jon also interviewed Michael J Lavery, a sports coach who trains athletes to be ambidextrous. His theory is that using both hands gives sports people a mechanical advantage but also ‘rewires’ the brain so that the hemispheres of the brain work together. Michael Lavery’s theories about ‘whole brain training’ have yet to be proven by independent scientific study.

19/06/200920090621 Jon Stewart investigates the impact of cutting edge science on sporting success.
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20/10/201120111021Just how likely are deadly global pandemics like those depicted in the new film Contagion?

Science behind Contagion

The Warner Bros film Contagion is released in the UK this week. It depicts the rapid spread of a deadly virus and the global scientific and social reactions in this time of crisis. Of course, movie makers like to show us the worst case scenarios, but director Stephen Soderberg has tried to make Contagion an ‘ultra-realistic’ movie. A team of scientific advisors for the film including Dr Nathan Wolfe, a human biology professor and director of the Global Viral Forecasting Initiative, have made sure the fiction is never too far from fact. The spread of contagious viral diseases, like SARS or HIV, is something that we should be vigilant about says Dr Wolfe. He believes it should be possible to detect these diseases in their early stages, when they jump from animals into humans, and stop their spread before it becomes a global problem.

Stopping Goat Plague

Not all animal diseases have the ability to jump from animals into humans, but they do frequently impact lives and livelihoods. Goat plague, or more formally Peste des Petits Ruminants (PPR) is a growing problem that has already swept across Africa, the Middle East, and the Indian Subcontinent affecting poorer communities where goats are a source of food and monetary security. Following the announcement that Rinderpest, a disease that killed millions of cattle and buffalo, has been eradicated, leading veterinarians and animal health experts are now calling for investment in vaccination programme and other steps to stop Goat Plague in its tracks. Dr Michael Baron, research scientist at the Institute for Animal Health in the UK, and Dr Philip, a vetinary officer in the Mbale district of Uganda explain the importance of eradicating this disease.

Embryonic Stem Cell Ruling

In the treatment of human diseases like cancer, development of therapies using stem cells has advanced hugely in the last decade. Many of these therapies have traditionally used stem cells from fertilised embryos, because these have the ability to transform into any type of cell. This week, the European Court of Justice ruled to block the patenting of such stem cell therapies using embryonic stem cells. While receiving support from many religious and rights activists groups, the ruling could prevent work already done form being turned into treatments for patients. But Professor Roger Pedersen from the Laboratory for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Cambridge has doubts about the long term impacts of the decision.

Tracking Migrating Birds

During the Deepwater oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in April last year, many sea birds were oiled. Prominent amongst them was the Northern Gannet, a bird that has colonies in Eastern Canada, which winters along the eastern coast of the US. Previous information on its migrations came from mapping the distribution of rings, recovered from the legs of dead birds, and showed that less than 10% of the gannets wintered in the Gulf of Mexico. Researchers from Memorial University of Newfoundland, led by Bill Montevecchi, have been using new tracking technologies to retrieve much higher resolution information about their migrations. They have used satellite tags as well as ‘geosensors’ that measure latitude and longitude by recording day length and sunrise times. Using this, they have been able to track the movements of adult and juvenile gannets and show that 25% of the birds winter in the Gulf of Mexico, with a large portion of juveniles still there in April to be affected by the spill. Montevecchi hopes that the worldwide network of tracking technology can now be used by industries in taking more responsibility for their impacts on the biological world.

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20/11/200920091121HIV VACCINE FAILURE

It was bitter blow to the community of scientists around the world working on a HIV vaccine. In 2007 a major trial was halted when early results showed that people given a prototype immunisation actually had a higher risk of developing HIV than those who had been given a placebo. The international drug company Merck had had high hopes for the vaccine, which it spent 10 years developing.

Now new research suggests that failure was probably caused by the immune system reacting to a virus which was used to carry the therapy around the body. Harmless HIV genes were inserted into a common-cold virus – it was thought this would help the immune system recognise HIV, and then fight it off. But that's not what happened. Professor Steven Patterson from Imperial College, London, has just had the research published in the journal PNAS. He joined us to explain what happened.

RUSSIAN SCIENCE FEUD

The Russian Academy of Sciences is hitting back at criticism that science in the country is on the verge of collapse. This is after a group of Russian academics – who all now live in the West – wrote a letter to the Kremlin last month warning that the state of Russian science is "catastrophic".

The Soviet Union may have sent the first man into space, but Russia’s failure to win any Nobel Prizes for science this year was taken so seriously it was featured on a prime-time TV talk show. Katia Moskvitch from the BBC's Russian Service came to the our studios to explain exactly what has happened.

PRIVATE ROCKETS IN SPACE

NASA's Space Shuttle is approaching the end of its run. The exact date for its retirement is still being debated, but private companies are stepping up to fill the role once performed only by governments – the transport of cargo and even people into orbit. They believe they can do it at a fraction of the cost. A recent review of human spaceflight plans in the US suggested that commercial companies should take over the job of ferrying astronauts to the International Space Station. Jon Stewart has visited one of these firms SpaceX which is based in Los Angeles. The BBC Science Correspondent Jonathan Amos also joined Jon on the programme to explain why these companies are able to compete with NASA.

MAMMOTHS AND CONSERVATION

We take you back about 15 thousand years to a period when the North American landscape was very different. Mammoths, mastodons and giant sloth the size of cars roamed the landscape. Fast forward a couple of thousand years and the large animals are gone, and the landscape is transformed as broad leafed trees that had been held in consumed are beginning to dominate the landscape. What caused the extinctions in this diverse ecosystem is a mystery. Jacquelyn Gill explains why her research published in the journal Science may help explain what happened and what conservationists should learn from these habitat changes.

HIV vaccine failure; a Russian science feud; private space rockets; mammoth extinction

20/11/200920091122 HIV vaccine failure; a Russian science feud; private space rockets; mammoth extinction
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21/05/201020100522SYNTHETIC LIFE

How about this for a science project? – reverse global warming, solve the world's energy crisis, and make life-saving antibiotics and vaccines...all you need to do is create synthetic life-forms, like bacteria which can clean up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, turn it into fuel and make a few vaccines on the side. Not as far fetched as you might think according to Dr. J. Craig Venter, who has just created the world's first synthetic cell. Welcome to the wonderful world of synthetic genomics.

MOMENTS OF GENIUS

This week's scientific breakthrough is chosen by human fertility expert Professor Lord Robert Winston and it belongs to Lazzaro Spallanzani, an Italian biologist, who was curious about sexual reproduction. In late 18th century, it was generally believed that mice, for example, could emerge spontaneously from a piece of cheese. Spallanzani proved this theory of 'spontaneous generation' wrong and what's more, showed what sperm is for.

MALARIA AND CLIMATE CHANGE

One of the many knock-on effects of global warming is that as temperatures rise, pests and infectious diseases of the tropics will spread to more temperate zones. The most worrying of these is malaria, which affects nearly half a billion people worldwide. But there's some good news this week. Although Malaria could spread with increasing temperatures, the effects are not likely to be as bad as predicted, and our efforts to control the disease will be effective.

BIRD CONSERVATION IN HAWAII

Hawaii's endemic birds have not had an easy ride, they’ve had to deal with habitat destruction, introduced predators like cats and rats and the introduced diseases, avian pox and avian malaria. Of more than 140 native species and subspecies that were present before humans arrived on the islands, more than half have been lost to extinction. Among the remaining 71 endemic forms, 30 are federally listed as endangered, and fifteen of these are literally on the brink of extinction, numbering fewer than 500 individuals. But conservation scientists at San Diego Zoo have stepped to help stop the decline and even to replace birds that have become extinct in the wild. Using intensive captive breeding and release techniques, they aims to re-establish self-sustaining populations of critically endangered birds. A total of 874 birds have been successfully raised since 1993.

SCIENCE OF AGEING

When it comes to fighting the ageing process, nematode worms are the clear winners – able to change their metabolism to live five times their normal lifespan. Even mice, closer to us on the evolutionary tree, can be made to live a third longer. So why can’t we? Could science make it possible for us to live not only longer, but stay younger and healthier for longer?

Synthetic life; Malaria and climate change; Birds in Hawaii; Science of ageing

21/05/201020100523Synthetic life; Malaria and climate change; Birds in Hawaii; Science of ageing
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21/08/200920090822Artificial life – scientists at the J. Craig Venter Institute in the US are a step closer to creating synthetic bacteria. They have overcome one of the problems of the bacteria attacking foreign DNA when it’s introduced to the cell. They hope that artificial bacteria will one day, be able to produce biofuels and clear up toxic pollution.

The waiters of Buenos Aires in Argentina are world famous at remembering complex orders without having to write anything down. Jon Stewart talks to the scientist who has looked into how they do this. Could the technique be used to help people with memory problems?

A new cell has been discovered in fish that allow them to see subconsciously. It helps them to calibrate between day and night. Mammals have similar cells and maybe so do humans.

Scientists think they know why we tend to walk in circles when lost or walking in the dark. Without a visual cue, such as the Sun or a distant landmark to help us recalibrate, the part of the brain that deals with our sense of direction gets too noisy and confused.

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21/08/200920090823 Artificial life;Buenos Aires waiters' super-memory;subconscious vision;Walking in circles
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22/03/201220120324Ice on Mercury?

The first data from NASA's Messenger Probe has been analysed by scientists. They have found that the closest planet to the sun, Mercury, far from always having been a dead planet as previously thought was once very active. Not only that, but the findings suggest that water ice maybe hiding at the planet’s poles. BBC News Online Science Editor, Paul Rincon, is at the 43rd Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Texas in the US where these findings were announced.

Scott, Antarctica and Science

A hundred years ago, the remaining members of Robert Scott's polar team died on the return from their failed bid to be the first people to reach the South Pole. What tends to be forgotten is that Scott's expedition was much more than a dash to the Pole. Many members of Scott's team were engaged in the serious scientific study of Antarctica, whereas Amundsen, the man in charge of the rival expedition to the South Pole, did no science at all. Many of the Scott discoveries and specimens are still of great scientific significance and value today - from glaciology to marine biology. Specimens of sea creatures collected on Scott's expeditions are turning out to be vital in seeing how climate change is affecting Antarctica today. Kevin Fong went to investigate at the Natural History Museum in London.

Diving Deep

It is often said that we know more about the surface of other planets, than we do about the parts of our oceans, the deepest of which is the Mariana Trench in the Western Pacific. It is 11km down, pitch black and icy cold. It sounds like something out of a Hollywood movie and now one of the most famous film directors is attempting to explore it himself. Director James Cameron has built a prototype submarine called the Deepsea Challenger that fits just one person, in the first manned mission to the bottom of the trench for 50 years. BBC Science Reporter Rebecca Morelle has been speaking to James Cameron and has been watching events closely from his base camp in Guam, a small tropical Island in the Pacific Ocean, and the nearest major landmass to the Mariana Trench.

Data from the Mercury Messenger missions hints at ice at the planet's poles.

22/03/201220120325Data from the Mercury Messenger missions hints at ice at the planet's poles.
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22/12/201120111226The latest on the search for another planet like our own Earth.

In this week's programme we look at the latest earth like exoplanets, are they cool enough to support life?

Also, creating the fuel of the future using lessons from nature - a way to make hydrogen directly from sunlight.

We examine the conditions under which aquatic mammals, in particular whales, might get decompression sickness, a condition found in human divers.

We hear how the evolution of elephant's foot bones means they tip toe around, as if they are wearing high heels.

The latest on the search for another planet like our own Earth.

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23/04/201020100424VOLCANIC ASH DAMAGE TO JET ENGINES

The eruption of the volcano, Eyjafjallajokull in Iceland, caused many airports in Europe to shut down for days, stranding people all over the world. The ash plume from the volcano, which has been blanketing northern Europe's airspace caused, and may still cause the problem as volcanic ash has peculiar properties which can cause massive damage to jet engines. To determine how real that risk is, you have to look at the engines of planes that have encountered volcanic ash. In 2000, during another volcanic eruption in Iceland, a NASA DC-8 jet flew through ash while carrying out atmospheric research. The pilots thought they had avoided the plume, but the scientific instruments told them otherwise. Tom Grindle, aircraft maintenance division chief at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Centre in the US, told us the damage was surprising and significant.

Stuart John, Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering in London, former president of the Royal Aeronautical Society, and someone with over 50 years in the civil aviation business gives us his viewpoint on the situation in Europe. He agrees that the only way to really test whether it's safe to fly is to send up test planes to see for themselves.

SPLITTING WATER

Scientists have been struggling to efficiently split water into hydrogen and oxygen for years. Plants use sunlight to drive the photosynthesis process, turning water into chemical fuel to power their growth. We've been using expensive catalysts and electricity, until now...researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have come up with a novel way to mimic the process using viruses. A clean, green source of hydrogen could provide us with a fuel for the future, for everything from our homes to cars. Angela Belcher is a material scientist, and biological engineer, and one of the researchers who has just reported this advance in the journal Nature.

PROTECTED AREAS IN JORDAN

This is the International Year of Biodiversity, population pressure and climate change are putting increased pressure on the world's wildlife. In Jordan, the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature is establishing a series of protected areas and involving local people in their management and ecotourism. Martin Redfern went to see the progress.

BRAIN TRAINING DOES NOT MAKE YOU BRAINIER

Brain training games are big business. We're lured in by the promise that the brain training software will make us smarter. If the 'use it or lose it' ethos is to be believed, doing mental arithmetic, solving puzzles and testing our spelling against the clock will improve our cognitive function in all everyday thinking tasks. But a huge study, started by the BBC, and following over 11,000 people has shown that playing brain training games only makes you better at...playing more brain training games. The author of the paper published in the journal Nature this week is neuroscientist, Adrian Owen of the MRC Cognition and Brain Science Unit in Cambridge in the UK.

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23/04/201020100425Volcanic ash damage jet engines;Splitting water;Protected areas in Jordan;Brain training
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23/06/201120110626Dinosaur temperatures

Since fossils of these great beasts were first discovered over 100 years ago, people have fascinated by how they lived. At first, it was generally assumed that they were pretty similar to modern reptiles, and were therefore fairly slow and sluggish, lumbering through their environments, and reliant on external heat to regulate their body temperatures – what we would call cold blooded. But now researchers at the California Institute of Technology have taken the temperature of these long extinct creatures by examining fossilised teeth.

Ocean decline

The world's oceans are in a dramatic state of decline, one much bigger and faster than ever before. This startling conclusion about the status of marine life was announced by the International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO) this week, which bought together experts from a number of disciplines. In one particularly chilling quote, their report warns that "ocean life is at high risk of entering a phase of extinction of marine species unprecedented in human history". Professor Alex Roger is the IPSO's Scientific Director, and spoke to Science in Action.

Water Acid Maps

One of the findings from the IPSO report showed that a rising carbon dioxide level in the atmosphere is leading to increased acidity of the oceans, as it dissolves in water. Currently there is no global record of how acidic the water around the world actually is – more data is desperately needed. So in what is being billed as the world's largest chemistry experiment is aiming to find provide. Schools around the world are being asked to measure their local body of water, and plot the results on a global map. Pupils in London have been honing their skills, as Science in Action's Ania Lichtarowicz found out.

CryoSat

The European CryoSat satellite has provided a map of how thick the ice is across the entire Arctic Ocean basin. It is giving scientist vital information about how the ice may be affected by changes in climate. The ice map was presented at the Paris Air Show which is also a major event for European Space Science, and the BBC Science Correspondent, Jonathan Amos has been there all week.

Scientists measure the body temperature of dinosaurs from fossilised teeth

23/07/201020100724MEMORY IN STEM CELLS

Since they were discovered Induced Pluripotent Stem cells or IPS cells have been hailed as the ethically-sound, safe alternative to using stem cells from embryos. They were made by taking an adult cell and turn it back into its embryonic–state and then go on to re-programme it into any other type of cell in the body. But IPS cells have never been quite so good at turning into cells different form their original form. New research has found that they retain some epigenetic memory of their former role – this doesn't mean that they are not useful, it's just that scientists will have to make use of the fact that IPS cells from blood make blood cells more easily than skin cells. It does, however, leave the door open for more research using stem cells from embryos.

MOMENTS OF GENIUS

Professor Raymond Tallis is a philosopher, poet, novelist and cultural critic and was until recently a physician and clinical scientist. His Moments of Genius from the past was when James Lind undertook the first properly conducted clinical trial.

ACOUSTIC FIBRES

Imagine clothes that can detect the sounds of your body as you wear them – picking up your hear-beat, or listening in to your digestive process. Or maybe monitoring your environment, or acting as a speaker and microphone for your mobile phone. Researchers at MIT have now created fibres that can detect and produce sound.

EXPLODING MOSS

Sphagnum moss, the moss that makes up peat bogs, covers 1% of the surface of the Earth. It manages this by spreading its spores as far as possible, so the can colonise new ground. But how they manage to get these miniscule seed-packets up into the air currents that can carry then away, has been a mystery that’s only just been solved…and it took a physicist, a huge water pistol and super-fast cameras to do it!

SUPER MASSIVE STAR

British astronomers have found one of the largest stars ever discovered in the Universe – they claim it's over 300 times the size of the Sun. These super-sized stars live fast and die young and can tell us something about the early stages of the universe.

Stem cell memory; Ray Tallis; Acoustic fibres; Exploding moss; Super-massive star

23/07/201020100725Stem cell memory; Ray Tallis; Acoustic fibres; Exploding moss; Super-massive star
23/10/200920091025 Biofuels: good or bad?; saving seeds; HIV vaccine doubts; chimp culture; internet brains.
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24/07/200920090725ORION

Forty years on from the Apollo Moon landing, NASA engineers are busy developing the latest spacecraft, Orion, which they hope will go back to the Moon and beyond.

But before this can happen, the craft must undergo rigorous tests at NASA’s Ames Research Center near San Francisco. This includes testing the aerodynamics in a wind tunnel and by firing small scale models out of a specialist gun. Richard Hollingham meets the team behind these tests, and hears about the differences and similarities, between Orion and Apollo.

DEEP IMPACT

On Sunday an amateur astronomer spotted a dark mark on the surface of Jupiter, the result of a collision with a large object. Leigh Fletcher of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena describes how It provides an amazing opportunity to learn more about the planet, and has been keenly observed by astronomers all over the globe.

MAKING WAVES

Geologists have found that the risk of a huge Pacific Ocean tsunami on the West Coast of America could be greater than they previously thought. The study was published in Quaternary Science Reviews and showed that future tsunamis could be even bigger than that caused by the 1964 Alaskan earthquake, the second biggest in recorded history. Jon Stewart spoke to Professor Ian Shennan from Durham University who was behind the study.

CLOUDS AND CLIMATE

The role of clouds in climate change has been hotly debated, but understanding the link between the two could be critical in order to make predictions about the future of the global climate. To shed some light on the problem, researchers looked at recordings of cloud cover over the last fifty years. The results showed that some of our computer climate prediction models could be off the mark. Jon Stewart spoke to Amy Clement, of Miami university, who was one of the team behind the report in the journal Science.

FORMULA STUDENT

Formula Student is run by the UK’s Institute of Mechanical Engineers, and challenges students to design and build a small single-seater racing car. Last week, over 100 teams from all over the world converged at Silverstone racetrack to pit their vehicles against each other. Science in Action producer Martin Redfern spoke to science minister Lord Drayson and head judge Jon Hilton about the engineering talent on show at the event. He also went trackside to meet some of the teams and their entries, including the world’s first fuel cell racing vehicle.

Orion, Deep Impact, Making Waves, Clouds and Climate, Formula Student.

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24/09/201020100925Testing NASA prototypes

NASA is testing some of their advanced prototypes of rovers, habitat modules and transporters. With a view to using them on future manned space missions to destinations all over the Solar System. The Arizona Desert in the US provides an ideal, extreme environment testing ground for this kit.

Science survey

The journal Nature and popular science magazine Scientific American set out to find out what we think about science and scientists. They set up a survey of scientifically-aware people from all over the world and asked them a series of questions to find out whether they understood, trusted and supported various branches of science.

Mapping the forest

Scientists say they have moved a step closer to understanding the role of the world's forests in regulating the climate. Using satellite technology, researchers from NASA have created a global snapshot - a map - of the world's forests showing their heights and precise locations. They say it will help them better understand how woodlands absorb carbon from the atmosphere.

Castrati autopsy

Paleo-pathologists in Italy take the opportunity to examine a very unusual skeleton. A famous singer known as Farinelli, born Carlo Broschi in 1705, was the most famous castrato of all, and could sing very high, clear notes. The reason for his unusual voice, and the interest of the scientists was that he was a 'castrati' – his testicles were removed when he was reaching puberty in an attempt to retain his child-like voice. But as we discover, it led to other changes in his bones.

Testing life on the Moon with NASA in the Arizona Desert

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25/02/201120110227A new way of rating the destruction and devastation of earthquakes - PAGER

Rating earthquakes

Geologists and seismologists have come up with a new way to rate the destructive power of earthquakes. The current Movement Magnitude Scale, which rated this week's earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand as a 6.3, does not illustrate the likely death tolls and economic losses. But the PAGER system – Prompt Assessment of Global Earthquakes for Response, which has been devised by the US Geological Survey's National Earthquake Information Centre, takes into account, not only the strength of the earthquake, but also where it has struck, how close to the surface, the state of the infrastructure and buildings, the population and even the time of day. All factors that can have an impact on the amount of devastation and damage and help response teams to co-ordinate their efforts better.

Kepler Space Telescope

NASA's search for extraterrestrial planets, using the massive Kepler Space Telescope, is starting to reveal that there are many more Earth-sized, suitably temperate planets in our Solar System than we first thought. Science in Action visits the people who made the telescope and discovers that it is not only looking for new stars and planets, but also listening to them using astro-seismology.

Johannes Kepler Space Freighter

The European Space Agency's sophisticated space freighter, Johannes Kepler, has successfully docked with the International Space Station (ISS). The unmanned robotic tanker has delivered fuel, food, air, and equipment to the station's astronauts.

It is totally automatic and one of the freighter's main tasks in the coming months will be to raise the altitude of the station. The ISS has a tendency to fall back to Earth over time as it drags through the top of the atmosphere. Every few weeks the freighter will use its thrusters to accelerate the platform, taking it further out.

Carbon storage by tiny ocean sea creatures

Over a century ago the explorer Captain Robert Falcon Scott led the first Discovery expedition to the Antarctic. At the time, he may not have realised that the samples of tiny sea creatures, called Bryozoans, that he collected, could tell modern scientists about how the oceans trap and store carbon. Scientists at the British Antarctic Survey in the UK have been comparing modern samples of these branching sea creatures with museum samples and the samples collected by Scott. By tracking their development over the century, they are learning about how they could be trapping and storing carbon on the sea bed and thus taking it out of the atmosphere.

A new way of rating the destruction and devastation of earthquakes - PAGER

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25/08/201120110827In this weeks Science in Action we hear the evidence behind claims that ancient humans not only met other hominid species such as Neanderthals, but interbred with them. Researchers have traced the origins of genes used to control our immune responses not to ancient humans, but Neanderthals.

We look into the brains of mice to see how they work, with new data from genomics.

And how civil conflict in the southern hemisphere is closely linked to changed in the southern oscillation weather patterns, El Nino and La Nina.

We also hear from CERN the particle physics laboratory about how cosmic rays, beams of changed particles from outer space might play a role in cloud formation around the earth.

Proof that early humans interbred with Neanderthals, and how the weather causes war.

25/08/201120110828Proof that early humans interbred with Neanderthals, and how the weather causes war.
25/09/200920090926DIYbio

They're being called "bio hackers" - but bedroom biotechnologists might be a better term. They can copy DNA, grow genetically modified bacteria and even carry out genetic tests from their makeshift labs.

"They" are a growing online community of amateur scientists who are trying their hand at synthetic biology – designing and constructing new biological parts, devices and systems. By finding the gene sequences they are interested in on the internet and shopping for equipment on online auction sites, they have set up labs - in their own homes. But what about the risks? Professor George Church, geneticist at Harvard Medical School, thinks it's a great way to get the public involved in important science, but it needs monitoring to stop dangerous biological agents from getting into the environment.

INDIAN ANCESTRY REVEALED

DNA is a fantastic tool for studying human population history – where we came from, and who we’re related to. One part of the world has a very interesting population history, and until now, has not been studied at the DNA level. But this week in the journal Nature, David Reich Professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School reports on the findings of a large scale study of human genetic variation on the Indian Subcontinent and what it could mean for the treatment of disease.

THINNING OF GREENLAND AND ANTARCTIC ICE SHEETS

New measurements, based on 50 million laser readings from a NASA satellite, have just confirmed what some scientists have been worried about: The melting of the ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica is accelerating along the edges and the faster they flow, the more ice is lost according to Professor David Vaughan from the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge.

MIGRATION OF MONARCH BUTTERFLIES

Monarch butterflies are spectacular insects; they migrate from northern parts of the USA and southern Canada to warmer climes in a very specific site in the mountains west of Mexico City each autumn. Some travel more than 3000 kilo-metres to reach their destination. But how do they navigate? New research (in this week's journal Science) has shown that these butterflies have a sophisticated internal body clock – called a circadian clock – to adjust their position as the sun moves through the sky. But it seems the monarch's clock isn't in their brain, like ours is, but in their antennae. Professor Steven Reppert, from the Department of Neurobiology, University of Massachusetts Medical School in the USA explains the novel way they tested the theory.

DIYbio; Indian Ancestry Revealed; Greenland & Antarctic Ice Sheets; Butterfly Navigation

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25/12/200920091226INTERNATIONAL YEAR OF ASTRONOMY

To mark the end of the event in Britain, astronomers chose to celebrate 5000 years of star watching at Stonehenge – the prehistoric stone circle southern England, whose exact relationship with the heavens is still being unravelled. Our reporter Tracey Logan was there to find out what the IYA has achieved, and also why ancient astronomical monuments like Stonehenge are a window onto the lives of our ancestors.

METEORITE HUNTING

A meteorite is a natural object originating in outer space that survives impact with the Earth's surface. Although not many meteorites are seen hitting the ground and most fall into the sea, thousands are found each year. Meteorites can be found all over the world, but are easiest to spot in dry places, such as deserts such as the one in Arizona in the US, which is where reporter Pauline Newman went with meteorite hunters Ruben Garcia and Laurence Garvie.

Scientists known as cosmochemists are able to work out what has happened throughout the life of a meteorite by studying its chemical structure, revealing a little piece of the solar system's history one rocky chunk at a time.

ALZHEIMER'S DISEASE AND AGEING

The older you get, the more likely you are to get the neurological disease Alzheimer's. But is the ageing process actually causing the disease?

Professor Andrew Dillin from the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in California, used some mice that are genetically programmed to live for a long time to find out.

PAPER BATTERIES

By printing special carbon nano-tube ink onto ordinary paper. Researcher Liangbing Hu at Stanford University can make paper batteries.

SEAHORSES

At a young age, marine biologist and avid diver Helen Scales became fascinated by the beauty of seahorses. She talks to Jon Stewart about her passion and her new book Poseidon's Steed: The Story of Seahorses, From Myth to Reality (Gotham). The book chronicles her decade-long journey to find the seahorse, both in history and in its native watery depths.

International Year of Astronomy; Meteorites;Alzheimer’s & ageing;Paper batteries;Seahorses

25/12/200920091227 International Year of Astronomy; Meteorites;Alzheimer’s & ageing;Paper batteries;Seahorses
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26/02/201020100227A show from the world's largest science meeting; Geoengineering; Cheetahs talking & lasers
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26/03/201020100327This week's programme presented by Andrew Luck-Baker.

NEW HOMINID

Take one tiny fragment of bone found in a cave in the Altai mountains of southern Siberia. Extract and analyse the mitochondrial DNA – that's the genetic material which is inherited through female lines – and discover, a possibly, entirely new hominid which shared the Earth around 50,000 years ago with the ancestors of us, modern humans, Neanderthals and the Hobbit found on the Javan island of Flores.

TRACKING TORTOISES IN EGYPT

There may be only 120 of them left in the wild - one of the world's most endangered tortoises – the Egyptian Tortoise is being threatened by climate change, habitat destruction and the illegal pet trade. The Zaranik Conservation Programme is using local Bedouin volunteers, with their intimate knowledge of the area and well-honed tracking skills to find the few remaining animals.

FLOOD WARNING IN MOZAMBIQUE

Ten years ago, a severe cyclone led to massive, devastating floods in Mozambique in Southern Africa. At the time the national rescue effort and international assistance was hampered by the political turmoil the country was under. But now, a new centre has been set up to monitor and improve the response to a number of natural disasters.

BIBLICAL PROPORTION SIZED MEALS

Obesity is a growing problem around the world. One possible cause is that we're eating too much of the wrong types of food. Portion sizes have been increasing, but when did we start piling up our plates? One way to find out was to look at paintings of meals from the past. So the researchers chose paintings of the much-depicted Last Supper – in Christian belief, this was Jesus Christ's last meal before he was crucified. He shared bread and wine with his disciples. And over time, sure enough the amount of bread and the size of the plates, starts to grow.

New hominid id'd; Tortoises; Flood warning in Mozambique; Biblical proportion sized meals

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26/05/201120110529Science in Action investigates why Iceland's volcanoes are so active and disruptive

Icelandic Volcanoes

What makes Icelandic volcanoes so active and disruptive? Jon Stewart speaks to volcanologist Dr Stephen Blake from the Open University in the UK. He also catches up with Dr Colin Brown from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in the UK to find out how much more we now know about the possible damage from the volcanic ash to jet engines.

South Georgia

Scientists at the British Antarctic Survey may have found the most biological rich place on the planet. Oliver Hogg, who led the research, explains how the Island of South Georgia may harbour more species than Galapagos and Equador.

Science News

Scientists at NASA may have detected the cataclysmic explosion of a huge star in what appears to be the most distant object ever to be seen through a telescope. Meanwhile, also at the US Space Agency, the decision has been taken to no longer try and communicate with the Mars Explorations Rover, Spirit.

Bacteria and Hailstones

A study in the United States shows that hailstones contain bacteria at their core. These not only allow hailstones to form, but also spread the bacteria to different areas.

Science at the Flower Show

One of the world’s most prestigious gardening events, The Royal Horticultural Society's Chelsea Flower Show, not only attracts gardeners, royalty and celebrities but also scientists. Ania Lichtarowicz went to find out about the latest findings at the show.

Science in Action investigates why Iceland's volcanoes are so active and disruptive

26/06/200920090627GENDER AND SCIENCE

A study published this week of tests completed by citizens from around the world showed a 70% bias – stereotyping scientists as men. Significantly, that had a link to how well boys and girls performed at science and maths in school. But why?

Are these stereotypes affecting our subconscious thoughts, and cultural views?

We talk to the researchers a the University of Virginia, USA.

A strong advocate of closing the gender gap in Science in the UK is leading scientist Baroness Susan Greenfield. She recently authored a report on "Women in Science, Technology and Engineering" for the UK government, and is the first female director of the Royal Institution in its 200 year history. What does she think of the new research?

EARLIEST GRANARIES FOUND

When did humans first store food? It’s an important question that goes to the heart of when human beings shifted from being hunter gatherers to planning for the future allowing societies to grow.

Recent excavations of Dhra near the Dead Sea in Jordan have uncovered 11 thousand year old granaries used to store grain. Structures that may show when a critical shift in human societies started - The shift from hunting and gathering when hungry, to forward planning and storing food.

COMPUTERS AND CROPS

It’s becoming increasingly important as we have to feed more and more people globally with limited space and resources. The latest in control is to model the farmland ecosystem on computers, to help predict the impact of changing weather and climate, or the use of new pesticides, before they happen in reality. It also looks to see how we can get a better balance between crops and the surrounding biodiversity of plants and animals.

BRITAIN'S SCIENCE MUSEUM IS 100

Science Museum in London is celebrating its centenary. They have a vast and fabulous array of artefacts on display marking some of our most incredible scientific achievements. Geoff Watts went for Science in Action – the museum is asking visitors to vote for most important artefact in 20th century science.

MIRRORS ON THE MOON

When Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin first stepped foot on our satellite 40 years ago, they left behind an experiment that has been running ever since, and has revealed some startling findings – like the fact the moon is moving away from us…

But after 4 decades its funding has now been cut. Could this mean the end of this iconic experiment?

Gender & Science; earliest human food store; computers & crops; mirrors on moon

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27/03/200920090329Global Malaria Map

You can now find out your risk of catching malaria wherever you are on the planet. The most detailed map ever created of malaria infection has just been published. It’s an international and on-going effort involving over 200 experts around the world. Malaria is carried by mosquitoes and kills a million people every year and the map should help target control methods more effectively. Dr Simon Hay has been co-ordinating the project in Kenya and is now based at the University of Oxford in England.

Alfven Solar Waves

We all know that the closer you get to a fire, the hotter it is – and since the sun is a huge ball of fire you would think the same applied. But it doesn’t. The hottest part of the sun’s heat is just outside the surface of the sun itself and scientists have been struggling to work out why for a long time. This week a paper in the journal Science seems to go quite a long way to solving the puzzle. We talk to one of the researcher’s: Dr David Jess at Queen’s University Belfast.

Afterlife Experiences

Everyone wonders at some stage what it must feel like to die. Will you be frightened, brave, happy, at peace - or conscious of anything at all? It’s one of the great unknowns – except that a small but growing number of people do claim to know. They’re people who have all experienced serious injury or illness that has brought them close to death – but they’ve recovered. What’s so fascinating is that so many seem to have very similar experiences.

  • a conference on the subject was held recently in jamaica and martin redfern of the bbc science unit went to find out if science can help understand what is going on.

    light controlling the brain

    understanding how the brain works and being able to treat it when it goes wrong occupies an army of brain scientists all over the world. small steps in that direction are constantly being made but the complexity and subtlety of the human brain means the goal remains elusive. a new approach to seeing inside the working brain is described in the journal nature. dr karl dieseroth and colleagues at stanford university in the usa have developed a way of using light to track the function of the brain. he explained how they came up with the idea

    presenter: sue broom

  • producer: peter mchugh

    this week's science news.

  • studio guest: roland pease

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    27/10/201120111028Investigating the seismology behind the recent Turkish earthquake

    EARTHQUAKE

    Rescue teams in Turkey are having to make the difficult decision about whether to call off the search for survivors, following last Sunday's earthquake. It was the strongest in a decade, and aid agencies are warning of "hundreds, possibly thousands" of people buried under rubble. The country is already known for its vulnerability to quakes as it sits along major geological fault lines. Dr Richard Walker, from the University of Oxford in the UK, specialises in tectonics and earthquakes, and Jon Stewart asked him what it was about this region that makes it so volatile.

    RIVERS

    Across the world, we all depend on rivers for irrigation, industry and drinking water. But rivers are much more than that. They are habitats, and they are transportation for materials that end up in the ocean. A new project is bringing together scientists from different disciplines and countries to explore the health of six global rivers, including the Yangtze in China and the Ganges in India. The key question at the heart of the project is to find out exactly what rivers are carrying to the sea and what effect human activities like dam-building are having. Science in Action's Jeremy Grange joined one of the teams of researchers from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, looking at the Connecticut River in the north-eastern United States.

    PYTHON

    Burmese Pythons are incredible creatures in their own right, but they could also hold the key to treating human heart disease. They are one of the six largest snakes in the world, and often grow up to 4 metres long. They can go without eating for a year, and when they do eat, they can swallow animals as large as pigs or goats. In Florida in the US, where they are an invasive species, they have been witnessed eating alligators.

    What happens inside their bodies when they do eat is remarkable. Their entire digestive system expands, as does their heart. Studies in the journal Science, carried out by Professor Leslie Leinwand, suggest that this sudden expansion could show how to make our hearts larger and stronger.

    Investigating the seismology behind the recent Turkish earthquake

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    27/11/200920091128A "VACCINE" FOR CANCER

    Treating cancer tumours often involves complicated and costly surgical operations, but new research has opened the way for a possible therapeutic vaccine that can destroy large tumours in mice. Small bioengineered plastic disks, which are designed to prevent cancer growth were implanted under the skin of mice. These discs then redirected the immune system to recognize and attack cancerous cells, even destroying large tumours. Jon Stewart speaks to David Mooney from the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard who led the team behind the work.

    ORIGIN OF SPECIES

    It was a hundred and fifty years ago the John Murray, a publisher in London, first produced a book that was to revolutionise science thinking; Darwin's "On the Origin of Species". Geoff Watts has been to the John Murray Publishing House in London to speak to direct descendants of both Murray and Darwin. He finds out why Darwin chose this particular publishing company to promote his book.

    A ROAD TOO FAR

    The Brazilian government is seeking to repave BR-319 route between Porto Velho and Manaus. But the plan is controversial because the 900km road cuts right through the Amazon rainforest. The road has been inaccessible for most vehicles since 1988, and not everyone is keen for the road to be reopened, particularly conservationists who are worried the repaving will mean many species – both animals and plants - will be lost forever. Eric Camara from the BBC Brazilian Service has travelled the length of the road to find out what the people who will be affected by any change really think.

    HORIZON SCANNING

    Habitat loss that has happened in the Amazon is a known threat to biodiversity, but what about other potential threats? Jon Stewart speaks to Professor William Sutherland who's research has just been published in the journal "TREE – Trends in Ecology and Evolution". He argues that it's vital to identify how new developments like nanotechnology or mobile phones could effect the environment and scientific research – both in good ways and bad.

    THE UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE

    Marcus du Sautoy has just been appointed as Oxford University's Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science and speaks to Science in Action about his passion for maths. He argues that mathematics is the key to many of greatest scientific and technological advances in history and that it even forms the basis for great works of art, from music to literature.

    A new way to kill cancer tumours; threats to biodiversity; and the language of maths

    27/11/200920091129 A new way to kill cancer tumours; threats to biodiversity; and the language of maths
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    28/05/201020100529MEASURING METHANE TO DETERMINE EXTENT OF OIL SPILL

    Knowing how much oil has spilled from the Deepwater Horizon Rig in the Gulf of Mexico is vital to calculate the environmental impact and to inform the clean up crews. But determining how much oil has leaked has proved very difficult. David Valentine - professor of Earth Sciences at the University of California Santa Barbara, thinks that measuring the leaked methane gas in the sea water will give us a much more accurate reading.

    CARBON DIOXIDE STORED IN SOUTHERN OCEAN LINKED TO GLOBAL WARMING

    Rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are contributing to global climate change, and a warming planet. This time it's humans releasing all that CO2 which was locked away in fossil fuels. It escapes into the atmosphere when we burn coal, oil, or gas.

    But the planet has been through warming cycles before, even more dramatic than any temperature changes of the past few hundred years. When the ice sheets melted at the end of the last ice age, atmospheric levels of CO2 increased by nearly 50%. Scientists have been trying to work out where it all came from, and now a paper in the journal Science shows that it was probably stored, effectively, in deep, old, sea water.

    9/11 ATTACKS LED TO AN INCREASE IN MALE MISCARRIAGES

    There's a lot of evidence that the psychological damage caused by traumatic events can lead to physiological damage – physical effects to people. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder affecting soldiers who have been involved in conflict is one example. Now researchers have revealed that the stress caused by the 11th September 2001 attacks on the twin Towers in New York may have led to an increase in the miscarriage of male foetuses.

    MOMENTS OF GENIUS – MARTIN REES ON MARTIN RYLE

    Astronomer and cosmologist Professor Martin Rees chooses the moment when fellow Cambridge astronomer, Martin Ryle revealed that radio waves in deep space enabled him to explore the distant universe.

    DRUGGING SNAILS

    In an unusual behavioural experiment, scientists in the US and Canada are using pond snails to investigate the effects of drug abuse. The snail's simple nervous system makes the creature a very useful model for how addiction to methamphetamine might affect our brains, and in particular how certain drugs can affect our memory.

    Measuring methane; CO2 stored in ocean; 9/11 miscarriages; Martin Rees; Drugged snails

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    28/08/200920090829Colony Collapse Disorder or CCD is a term used to describe the massive disappearance of the European honeybee. This important plant pollinator of commercial food crops is not just found in Europe, but all over the World. CCD has wiped out over a third of all honeybees in the US, but no one knows what’s causing it. Researchers at the University of Illinois have compared the genomes of healthy bees and bees from colonies affected by CCD and have found some differences that point towards the cause.

    Mitochondrial DNA is found in the cytoplasm of cells. Unlike the nuclear DNA that determines all of our physical characteristics. MtDNA is only inherited from the mother and is responsible for running the little power packets (mitochondria) that help convert food to energy in the cells. But like with all genes, things can go wrong. And up until now mitochondrial inherited diseases have not been treatable with gene therapy. Now researchers on monkeys in Portland in Oregon have found a possible solution. They have been able to replace faulty mtDNA in an egg cell with healthy mtDNA from another female, then artificially inseminate the egg with sperm from the father to create 4 baby rhesus macaques free from faulty mtDNA.

    The large island of Madagascar lies in the Indian Ocean off the south-eastern coast of Africa – and was separated from the mainland at least 80 million years ago.

    This separation is thought to be one of the reasons behind why Madagascar has so many unique plant and animal species – more than 80% of the plants and animals found there are ONLY found there. But there may be other reasons why there are so many of these unique species. Our reporter, Tim Healy, went to Madagascar to look try to find out just how they might have evolved.

    People who multitask often think they are being very efficient, but it turns out we are actually doing more harm than good. Watching online videos, instant messaging, while writing an e-mail and talking on the phone at the same time? Sound familiar?

    Researchers at Stanford University have discovered that doing too many media activities at once makes you not very good at any of them. Lead researcher Cliff Nass wants to know what this was doing to our brains.

    Honeybee disappearance; Swapping mitochondrial DNA; Multitasking causes brain mayhem.

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    29/01/201020100130THE COLOUR OF DINOSAURS

    Two new dinosaur discoveries reveal more about the lives of these prehistoric creatures; Science in Action looks at how they will change the way we see dinosaurs. Research published in the journal Nature by Professor Michael Benton from the University of Bristol and his team show that dinosaur feathers may have been ginger and brown in colour. He was able to use a high powered microscope to look at a fossil of a dinosaur that has a ridge of feathers running over its head and down its back like a mohican. He found melanosomes, which in modern animals contain melanin, which gives skin, hair, fur and feathers their colour. Science in Action speaks to him and also visits Dr. Luis Chiappe at the Dino Lab at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County in California to find out how dinosaur models are made.

    BIRD BIODIVERSITY

    Time alone, trapped on a remote island could either be torture, or a welcome escape, depending on your view. For Professor George Divoky it has been a reality for nearly forty years. Every spring he moves into a cabin on Cooper Island, just off the coast of Alaska, where he studies black guillemots - pigeon sized seabirds.

    Now, as he nears his fourth decade of study he's closing in on a record for running one of the longest seabird studies in the world. But last summer his life's work came dangerously close to an end. The warming climate of Alaska has brought new visitors to Cooper Island. In the last few years puffins have moved up from the south, and polar bears have taken to land as their sea ice disappears. Both species feed on guillemot chicks. But what drives Professor Divoky to return to the colony for so many years? We hear his highly personal account of daily life with is beloved guillemots.

    Black guillemots are not a threatened species but that does not mean that losing this colony won't have an effect on these animals as a whole. As part of the International Year of Biodiversity we speak to Dr. Martin Fowlie from Birdlife International who explains that this a problem that many common animals are facing, because of changing habitats and human behaviour they are becoming less common and their numbers are dropping.

    NASA SATELLITES AND KENYAN CATTLE

    NASA satellites are being used to help Kenyan farmers insure their livestock against drought. The project is being piloted with thousands of herders in Northern Kenya, but could be rolled out to other arid areas of Africa. Traditionally it's been hard for them to get insurance, because of the logistical difficulties of sending an insurance agent to each remote farmer to verify every loss. Now satellite images are being used, not to count animals, but to assess how dry the ground is, and therefore how likely animals are do die in a drought.

    Andrew Mude from the International Livestock Research Institute is running the project. He joined the programme from the BBC's studios in Nairobi.

    The colour of dinosaurs; 40 years living with guillemots; Satellites and Kenyan farmers

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    29/03/201220120402A commonly used pesticide significantly affects bumble bees and honey bees

    Bumble bees, honey bees and insecticide

    Bees are vital for crop, fruit and flower pollination, and over the last 50 years bumble bees have been on the decline. More recently honey bees are also disappearing. And as yet there appears to be no simple answer. Now two studies just published in the journal Science show that a widely used insecticide harms both bumble bees and honey bees. Professor David Goulson from the University of Stirling in the UK is a bumble bee expert and was involved in one of the studies. He says bumble bees have been declining for more than half a century, probably because of modern farming methods and the greatly reduced numbers of wild flowers, and that this pesticide effect might be the final nail in the coffin for many species.

    Billions of rocky planets

    Rocky planets, similar in size to Earth, are much more common than we thought. In fact new data shows there are probably billions of planets not much bigger than Earth, orbiting stars in our Galaxy, and they could be in the so-called habitable zone where liquid water can exist on the surface of the planet. Scientists used a high precision instrument called HARPS, which is fitted to a telescope at an observatory in Chile to detect the planets. We cannot see them directly, but their gravitational effect on the star can be measured. Dr. St退phane Udry from the Observatory of Geneva explains the technique the team used.

    Gas leak in the North Sea

    Concerns are increasing over a gas leak at a North Sea platform. A flame is still burning in the stack above the Elgin platform from which gas has been leaking for four days. The flare has been taking excess gas off the production platform. It had been hoped the flare would burn itself out but that has still not happened. The methane gas released is a potent greenhouse gas. Not only that, but it is what is known as a 'sour gas' as it contains hydrogen sulphide which is very poisonous to humans and aquatic life.

    Salt tolerant wheat

    Scientists in Australia have developed a type of wheat that can grow in salty water. They used a gene that was identified 15 years ago in an ancestor of modern wheat which made the plant much more tolerant to salty soils. Using traditional breeding techniques they managed to incorporate the salt tolerance gene into durum wheat – the one that is used to make pasta and couscous. Dr Matthew Gilliham, from the University of Adelaide led the team behind the work and joins us on the programme. It is estimated that 20-30% of agricultural soils are saline – so this research could have a significant impact on yields.

    Bacteria extracting metals

    Jon Stewart speaks to Damian Palin about biomining – using bacteria to extract metals from the by-product of water desalination. Damian believes micro-organisms can be used to mine certain minerals from this super-salty left over water.

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    29/05/200920090531Jon Stewart talks to the lead researcher behind the first public assessment of the amounts of oil and natural gas still to be located and extracted north of the Arctic circle. The survey suggests there is 13% of the world’s as yet to be discovered oil there, and an enormous 30% of the world’s undiscovered gas reserves.

    Science in Action also investigates new genetically engineered, glowing monkeys that may transform medical research and testing on currently incurable human brain disease. But will they increase the number of primates used in research while some countries are trying to use monkeys less.

    The programme also takes a zero gravity ride on a roller coaster aircraft in the cause of advancing space science, and gets a personal view on the ex-astronaut chosen to be Nasa’s first African-American chief administrator, Charles Bolden.

    And finally the wonderful worlds of bacteria all over your skin – think of your arm pits as the rainforest, your forearm as the savannah and the skin behind your ear as the tundra. Microbe geneticist Julia Segre explains.

    Arctic gas riches, glowing GM monkeys and harmonious bugs on your skin.

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    29/12/201120111230Space: what happened in 2011 and what can we expect for 2012?
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    29/12/201120120102In this week's programme, Jon Stewart discusses the successes, failures and future of space travel with BBC's space expert, Jonathan Amos.

    With the landing of Atlantis on 21 July of this year, Nasa's Space Shuttle Programme has come to a definite end. Jonathan highlights some of the most important missions and discusses why the Shuttle Programme was no longer sustainable.

    But the end of Nasa's Space Shuttle Programme also signifies a new beginning in space travel. Mars Science Laboratory is currently on its way to Mars, where it will give us a remarkable insight into past conditions of the Red Planet.

    Jonathan discusses privately run Space Station resupply missions with Gwynne Shotwell, the President of SpaceX.

    And finally, with the Space Launch System, Nasa will also aim to develop a much larger rocket that allows humans to go deeper into space then any human being has been before.

    Space: what happened in 2011 and what can we expect for 2012?

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    30/04/201020100501BIODIVERSITY SPECIAL - CONVENTION ON BIODIVERSITY

    In 2002, nearly all the world leaders put their names to a “Convention on Biological Diversity” or CBD. They made a promise to slow the rate of biodiversity loss around the globe by 2010. But in the journal Science this week, a report by a group of scientists and conservationists report that, by looking at various biodiversity indicators, we have failed to slow the rate of decline of plants and animals and habitats.

    GULF OF MEXICO OIL SPILL

    A worrying example of a threat to biodiversity is happening in the Gulf of Mexico. An oil spill there has the potential to severely impact the biodiversity of the region.

    The Deepwater Horizon rig, which is 50 miles south-east of the Louisiana port of Venice, exploded last week and has been leaking oil ever since. Recent figures put the leak at the rate of over 200,000 gallons a day. The Gulf of Mexico is an extremely environmentally and economically important area, with many fisheries, important wetlands and coastal regions.

    LIFE IN THE DESERT OR LIFE ON MARS?

    Walking the fine line between science and science fiction are the scientists dedicated to the search for life on Mars. Manned spaceflights to the red planet might be decades away, but the search for extraterrestrial life is being conducted a little closer to home. NASA is looking to the deserts of Earth to try to unlock the secrets of life on other planets, and our reporter Kate Arkless-Gray joined them.

    WATER AND THE PRECURSORS TO LIFE ON EARTH COULD HAVE COME FROM ASTEROIDS

    Finding evidence of life on another planet might help us understand where life on Earth came from. One theory is that organic molecules, the precursors to life, were brought to the planet in its early stages of formation, carried on asteroids and meteorites. And for a long time it’s been speculated that this could be how another substance necessary for life – water – came to Earth. And now water ice has been seen, for the first time, on the surface of the asteroid – 24 Themis. The finding has just been reported in the journal Nature – and although it may help solve one mystery, its sheer presence is a mystery in itself.

    JAPAN’S RED-CROWNED CRANES

    One thing that’s hard to put a price on is just the sheer enjoyment and spectacle of certain wildlife events. One natural exhibition happens in early spring, near Hokkaido in Japan. Red-crowned cranes, tall elegant black and white birds with a red crown, come together to display before they pair off and breed. They’re endangered though – because of the destruction of the wetlands the birds use for breeding and overwintering.

    Biodiversity; Oil spill; Looking for life on Mars; Water on asteroids; Red-crowned cranes.

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    30/07/201020100731SEARCHING FOR EVIDENCE LIFE ON MARS

    Researchers from SETI Institute think that if you're going to find evidence of life on Mars, then you should look in the rocks. Like certain rocks on earth, carbonate deposits are formed form the bodies of dead, fossilised creatures. There are promising rocks on the Red planet, but the problem is that they are in a place that's too rocky for NASA's next rover to land!

    SNIFF-CONTROL FOR SEVERELY DISABLED PEOPLE

    The nerves that control our sniff response are based in the brain. So if you are disabled by a spinal injury, the chances are you still have the ability to sniff, even if you lose all other control of your body. Researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel have developed a device that can turn the sniff response into electrical signals which can be used to control computers for communication, drive electric wheelchairs or play computer games.

    MOMENTS OF GENIUS – GREGOR MENDEL

    Tom Shakespeare is a research fellow at the Institute for Policy and Practice at Newcastle University, specializing in the fields of disability, bioethics and the arts. His moment of scientific genius was when in the 19th century Gregor Mendel discovered inheritance (later known as genetic inheritance), by cross breeding hundreds and hundreds of pea plants.

    EXTREME MAMMALS

    Jon Stewart visits the exhibition called "Extreme Mammals: The Biggest, Smallest, and Most Amazing Mammals of All Time", at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. He discovers that mammals (like us) have evolved some pretty far out adaptations.

    EATING INSECTS

    Many people already do, but those in the west, US and parts of Australia and New Zealand, still pull a face when faced with the prospect of tucking into a deep fried locust or beetle grub. But according to Professor Marcel Dicke at Wageningen University in the Netherlands – they're delicious, nutritious, safe, environmentally friendly and could be the answer to feeding a growing global population.

    Life on Mars; Sniff-controlled computers; Gregor Mendel; Extreme mammals; Eating insects

    30/07/201020100801Life on Mars; Sniff-controlled computers; Gregor Mendel; Extreme mammals; Eating insects
    30/10/200920091031GENE THERAPY TREATS BLINDNESS

    A dramatic breakthrough using gene therapy to restore sight. We hear from nine your old Corey Haas who was born with a condition that means he was slowly losing his vision. He wasn't able to play with his friends, ride a bike or even take part in normal classroom activities, but now he can. Corey took part in a trial – he was one of twelve people who were treated with a single injection into the eye. Science in Action speaks to Professor Jean Bennett from the University of Pennsylvania who treated Corey.

    FLU EVOLUTION

    New research, published in the journal Science shows that the flu virus evolves in stages. It appears that the virus can change in tiny ways each time it copies itself, but major changes tend to occur every two to five years. This means that flu vaccines could offer at least some protection over a number of years. Dr. Andrew Park from the University of Georgia in Athens joins Jon Stewart on the programme and tells him what they found.

    HOW TO FIND A NUCLEAR EXPLOSION

    Iranian officials were in Vienna recently discussing the country's access to enriched uranium, at the same time an international team of scientists and diplomatic observers headed out of the city and into Slovakia. They were there to test how forensic science may allow them to detect nuclear explosions once the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty comes into force. Our reporter Tracey Logan joined them. We also speak to George Tuckwell, the vice-president of the Geological Society of London who took part in a similar exercise in Kazakhstan.

    THE OLDEST STAR

    It's taken 13 billion years to get here, but astronomers have seen the light of an exploding star – which makes it the most distant object ever observed, and the oldest. The gamma-ray burst was spotted in April and reported this week in the journal Nature. The discovery could help us learn more about the infancy of our universe. Gamma-ray bursts are the most violent explosions known, and they occur when a star dies, probably as it collapses into a black hole. Science in Action invited Professor Nial Tanvir from the University of Leicester who coordinated efforts to gather data from this spotting using an array of different telescopes on Earth and in orbit.

    Gene therapy treats blindness; flu evolution; detection of nuclear explosion; oldest star

    30/10/200920091101Gene therapy treats blindness; flu evolution; detection of nuclear explosion; oldest star
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    This week’s programme presented by Adam Rutherford

    WILDFIRES

    Deadly wildfires have been raging in southern Europe for two weeks now, attracting media attention as they burn. This week, scientists have made some worrying predictions about how climate change is going to make the fires burn harder and further, more on that later. We spoke to some of the scientists that are trying to measure and control the spread of wildfires right now. One thing that doesn’t grab the headlines is that the effects of forest flames burning out of control are far more significant in the developing world.

    We also talk to the researchers who have looked at the impact global climate change could have on the wildfire rate in the USA by 2050 – wildfires could double. Normally, the media covers the wildfires that ravage California, often threaten the homes of Hollywood stars, but the new data suggest that as climate change drives temperatures higher, so the frequency of wildfires will follow - with big consequences for the level of pollution caused.

    CYSTIC FIBROSIS GENE DISCOVERY 20 YEARS ON

    This month marks the 20th anniversary of one of the major breakthrough in the genetics of human disease. Cystic Fibrosis is a devastating condition that attacks the lungs and other parts of the body: it’s one of the most common genetic diseases, particularly in people of European descent. Studying CF families over generations had shown that it was probably caused by a single genetic fault in their DNA, but what that fault was remained a mystery. The struggle to discover the Cystic Fibrosis Gene had become a high stakes international race between top scientists.

    The team that won was lead by Drs. Francis Collins and Lap-Chee Tsui in North America, and it was front page news. The discovery was heralded as opening the door for correcting the mistake in the DNA inside each affected cell in CF patients - the new medical science of Gene Therapy. The breakthrough promised much, but where are we now with Gene Therapy?

    THE DNA OF 3000 YEAR OLD BARLEY

    Studying DNA doesn’t just help us understand how we are built and how we can treat diseases, it also tells us about our deep past. And in this case we’re not even looking at human DNA. Barley has been one of the major sources of food throughout human history. A new study combining genetics with archaeology has revealed that an unusual type of barley was the mainstay of farming produce in a small region on the Nile for over 3000 years. And it could tell us something about the future of agriculture in a warming world.

    Normally around the Nile, farmers have historically grown 6-row barley, that’s barley with 6 rows of seeds on its ear. What the archaeologists found was unusual, a now extinct, 2-row barley in the settlement – used by farmers from different cultures over 3000 years.

    SAVING THE GIANT REDWOODS

    Some of the oldest and largest trees in Yosemite National Park in the US are vanishing. Species like the towering sequoias can be over 2000 years old – but they may not survive much longer.

    The Yosemite area is one of the best protected forests, so the concern is that the problem could be even bigger elsewhere.

    So who or what is to blame for the disappearances? To solve the mystery scientists are starting an ambitious project to tag every tree in one area of the forest – and to come back to and monitor them for generations.

    They’re spending several weeks camped out deep in the park in California – Science in Action’s Jon Stewart donned his knapsack and joined them.

    Wildfires - the global future? Cystic Fibrosis gene now;3000 yr old Barley; Giant Redwoods

    31/07/200920090802 Wildfires - the global future? Cystic Fibrosis gene now;3000 yr old Barley; Giant Redwoods
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    A Strangely-formed Exoplanet20170511Atmospheric elements in a distant exoplanet hints at an unusual planet formation
    Catastrophic Decline In Flying Insects20171026Research in Germany suggests flying insects have declined by 75% over the past 30 years

    A few decades ago, when you drove down a country road anywhere in Europe, your car windscreen would get splattered with the squashed bodies of flying insects. It's known as the 'windscreen phenomenon'. But now, there seem to be far fewer flying insects than there used to be. Scientists have long suspected that insects are in dramatic decline, but new evidence confirms this. Research at more than 60 protected areas in Germany suggests flying insects have declined by more than 75% over the past 30 years.

    Splitting the Cost of Biodiversity
    Globally, $14.4 billion was spent between 1996 and 2008 to help stop the decline in the World's plants and animals. There were some overall successes, with an average reduction in biodiversity loss of 29% per country over this time. However, not all countries are doing well - with the USA (mainly Hawaii), Indonesia, Malaysia, China and India some of the poor achievers. New research has looked at the numbers for each country and at how pressures from human development goals can conflict with saving biodiversity, and has calculated what each country needs to spend to reach biodiversity targets.

    Hollywood Science
    In the quest for a good storyline and lots of action, Hollywood doesn't always get its science right. The science of geophysics can get mangled in the plot. In the 1997 blockbuster 'Volcano', Tommy Lee Jones fights to save residents from volcanic lava flowing through the streets of LA, however the city is located neither near a hot spot nor a subduction zone which would be needed for a volcano to emerge. But rather than worrying about this and getting angry and shouting at the screen, top geophysicist Seth Stein, at Northwestern University, says that pointing out scientific errors can be a great place to engage students in the subject and help inject the healthy scepticism needed to be a good scientist.

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

    Presenter: Roland Pease
    Producer: Fiona Roberts

    Photo: Hoverfly Credit: Dr. Paul F. Donald

    Research in Germany suggests flying insects have declined by 75% over the past 30 years

    A few decades ago, when you drove down a country road anywhere in Europe, your car windscreen would get splattered with the squashed bodies of flying insects. It's known as the 'windscreen phenomenon'. But now, there seem to be far fewer flying insects than there used to be. Scientists have long suspected that insects are in dramatic decline, but new evidence confirms this. Research at more than 60 protected areas in Germany suggests flying insects have declined by more than 75% over the past 30 years.

    Splitting the Cost of Biodiversity
    Globally, $14.4 billion was spent between 1996 and 2008 to help stop the decline in the World's plants and animals. There were some overall successes, with an average reduction in biodiversity loss of 29% per country over this time. However, not all countries are doing well - with the USA (mainly Hawaii), Indonesia, Malaysia, China and India some of the poor achievers. New research has looked at the numbers for each country and at how pressures from human development goals can conflict with saving biodiversity, and has calculated what each country needs to spend to reach biodiversity targets.

    Hollywood Science
    In the quest for a good storyline and lots of action, Hollywood doesn't always get its science right. The science of geophysics can get mangled in the plot. In the 1997 blockbuster 'Volcano', Tommy Lee Jones fights to save residents from volcanic lava flowing through the streets of LA, however the city is located neither near a hot spot nor a subduction zone which would be needed for a volcano to emerge. But rather than worrying about this and getting angry and shouting at the screen, top geophysicist Seth Stein, at Northwestern University, says that pointing out scientific errors can be a great place to engage students in the subject and help inject the healthy scepticism needed to be a good scientist.

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

    Presenter: Roland Pease
    Producer: Fiona Roberts

    Photo: Hoverfly Credit: Dr. Paul F. Donald

    How Humans Are Changing Chimpanzee Behaviour2019030720190308 (WS)
    20190311 (WS)
    The world's largest study of chimpanzee behaviour has come to the rather negative conclusion that interactions with humans decrease the range of chimpanzee behaviours and may interfere with the way in which chimp parents pass skills to their offspring.
    Chimps learn skills from swimming to digging for insects with sticks and exhibit a wide range of vocal communications. In environments where they may be living near humans such skills or behaviours are displayed less and may be replaced altogether with more human related activities such as raiding crops or rubbish dumps.

    And in Mozambique the civil war of the 1990s had huge implication for animals in the Gorongoza national park, eliminating many of the large predators there. A study of a small deer species in the park has shown how prey animals can change their behaviour following a decrease in predators. In this case becoming less fearful.

    Approaching the anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear explosion we look at the tiny particles of radioactive debris now providing clues as to what really happened.

    And how about making plastic from unwanted atmospheric carbon dioxide? Sounds like an amazing solution, the catch is the huge amount of energy required to make such a process work.

    Presenter: Roland Pease
    Producer: Julian Siddle

    (Photo: Chimpanzees in the Taï National Park, Côte d'Ivoire vocalise with another party nearby. © Liran Samuni/Taï Chimpanzee Project)

    Interactions with humans lead to chimpanzees displaying less complex behaviours

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

    How To Survive Without Air20170420The naked mole-rat shows off its breath taking super-powers
    Science In Action (bst) 120100402
    Science In Action (bst) 120100403Gene videos

    If you can name a human gene, the chances are you can now go online and find a film showing what happens in a cell when that gene is switched off. Scientists at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg in Germany have been trying to find out which genes are involved in the cellular process known as Mitosis – when a cell divides, and to do that they've made a stunning 190,000 time-lapse videos of cells.

    GLONASS

    Everything from cars to cell phones now seems to offer it – GPS or satellite navigation. GPS stands for Global Positioning System, and the satellites it uses are owned by the US. But rivals to GPS are coming. With Europe's project Galileo underway and China starting to develop their own. The Russians has been trying to speed up their pace in the sat nav race as well. In early March, another three Russian satellites of the GLONASS global navigation system were launched into orbit, bringing the constellation to 21. This ensures total coverage of Russia as well as partial global coverage. While the system has been working relatively well for military use, the commercial side hasn't been going as smoothly. But the Russians say it's all about to change.

    Katia Moskvitch went to Moscow for Science in Action to find out what's going on.

    CubeSail

    A new device is set to play a major part in cleaning up the dangerous clouds of metal debris hurtling around the Earth's lower orbit.

    More than 5,500 tonnes of 'space junk' are now believed to be cluttering space around the planet as a result of years of abandoning spacecraft, satellites and launch material. The potential threat of large debris plummeting back to Earth, and obstructions to satellite TV signals is becoming a problem. The amount of debris is increasing by 5% each year.

    The Surrey Space Centre has unveiled its solution to the problem - CubeSail, a solar powered sail which can be attached both to new satellites and to existing debris, dragging the debris and defunct spacecraft out of orbit. It's a low cost technology, the first CubeSail is to be ready for launch on new satellites next year, and is expected to be available for shifting existing debris from 2013.

    Young Sun Paradox

    This week a long-standing scientific paradox may have been answered in the journal Nature. The young sun paradox, first identified by the famous American astronomer Carl Sagan in the 1970's.

    To put it simply, if the sun used to be much less intense, why wasn't the Earth much colder and the oceans frozen solid? Answering that could help us understand the intricacies of our atmosphere and global climate. Well in a paper published in the journal Nature this week Professor Minik Rosing geologist at the Natural History Museum of Denmark thinks he's finally struck on the answer and it's not the expected greenhouse effect.

    Earthquake toads

    European or Common toads (Bufo bufo) can detect impending seismic activity and alter their behaviour from breeding to evacuation mode, suggests a new study in the Zoological Society of London's (ZSL) Journal of Zoology.

    Dr. Rachel Grant from The Open University in the UK experienced the earthquake that struck L'Aquila in Italy in 2009 and reported that 96 per cent of male toads in a population abandoned their breeding site five days before the earthquake. The breeding site was located 74 km from the earthquake's epicentre.

    Genes in action; GLONASS; CubeSail to clear space junk; warm sun paradox; earthquake toads

    Science In Action (bst) 120100404Genes in action; GLONASS; CubeSail to clear space junk; warm sun paradox; earthquake toads
    The Earliest North Americans20170427Can a few broken bones and some rocks be evidence of North Americans 130,000 years ago?
    Volcanic Activity In The Comoros Islands2019031420190318 (WS)
    20190317 (WS)
    20190315 (WS)
    Since last May the Comoros islands in the Indian Ocean have been experiencing earthquake tremors and the island of Mayotte has sunk by more than 10cm. French geologists have set up monitoring equipment on land and the seabed to try to assess the extent of the continuing seismic activity.

    Our diet influences our language according to a new study on the evolution of the way we bite. Softer foods, eaten more commonly as we developed cooking and agriculture meant our teeth wore in different ways and over time this has led to our ability to pronounce f and v sounds which rely on how we bring our jaws together.

    Climate change is having a major impact on the ability of forests to recover after forest fires. If temperatures remain high and rainfall low trees have difficulty re-establishing. Over long time periods this could change landscapes, reducing forest cover.

    Water on the moon, we look at why it is there and what it does.

    Image: A white sand island in a lagoon, Mayotte Island
    Credit: Getty Images

    Undersea tremors in French Indian Ocean territory

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

    Since last May the Comoros islands in the Indian Ocean have been experiencing earthquake tremors and the island of Mayotte has sunk by more than 10cm. French geologists have set up monitoring equipment on land and the seabed to try to assess the extent of the continuing seismic activity.

    Our diet influences our language according to a new study on the evolution of the way we bite. Softer foods, eaten more commonly as we developed cooking and agriculture meant our teeth wore in different ways and over time this has led to our ability to pronounce f and v sounds which rely on how we bring our jaws together.

    Climate change is having a major impact on the ability of forests to recover after forest fires. If temperatures remain high and rainfall low trees have difficulty re-establishing. Over long time periods this could change landscapes, reducing forest cover.

    Water on the moon, we look at why it is there and what it does.

    Image: A white sand island in a lagoon, Mayotte Island
    Credit: Getty Images

    Undersea tremors in French Indian Ocean territory

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

    Since last May the Comoros islands in the Indian Ocean have been experiencing earthquake tremors and the island of Mayotte has sunk by more than 10cm. French geologists have set up monitoring equipment on land and the seabed to try to assess the extent of the continuing seismic activity.

    Our diet influences our language according to a new study on the evolution of the way we bite. Softer foods, eaten more commonly as we developed cooking and agriculture meant our teeth wore in different ways and over time this has led to our ability to pronounce f and v sounds which rely on how we bring our jaws together.

    Climate change is having a major impact on the ability of forests to recover after forest fires. If temperatures remain high and rainfall low trees have difficulty re-establishing. Over long time periods this could change landscapes, reducing forest cover.

    Water on the moon, we look at why it is there and what it does.

    Image: A white sand island in a lagoon, Mayotte Island
    Credit: Getty Images

    Undersea tremors in French Indian Ocean territory

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

    Since last May the Comoros islands in the Indian Ocean have been experiencing earthquake tremors and the island of Mayotte has sunk by more than 10cm. French geologists have set up monitoring equipment on land and the seabed to try to assess the extent of the continuing seismic activity.

    Our diet influences our language according to a new study on the evolution of the way we bite. Softer foods, eaten more commonly as we developed cooking and agriculture meant our teeth wore in different ways and over time this has led to our ability to pronounce f and v sounds which rely on how we bring our jaws together.

    Climate change is having a major impact on the ability of forests to recover after forest fires. If temperatures remain high and rainfall low trees have difficulty re-establishing. Over long time periods this could change landscapes, reducing forest cover.

    Water on the moon, we look at why it is there and what it does.

    Image: A white sand island in a lagoon, Mayotte Island
    Credit: Getty Images

    Undersea tremors in French Indian Ocean territory

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

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