Science in Action

By BBC World Service

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Category: Science & Medicine

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Pete Ellinger
 Aug 4, 2018
More BBC hand ringing and doom mongering. Give it a rest.

A Podcast Republic user
 Aug 3, 2018

A Podcast Republic user
 Jul 27, 2018

A Podcast Republic user
 Jul 20, 2018

A Podcast Republic user
 Jul 20, 2018


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

Episode Date
Weed-killer – ‘Roundup’, Science and the Law
A jury in San Francisco has ruled that, agricultural chemical giant, Monsanto, should pay a groundskeeper over $280 million in compensation after the individual developed a form of cancer after using the weed-killer - Roundup. It’s a complex case that involves allegations of undermining efforts to evaluate a potential link between the active ingredient glyphosate. Accusations of punitive fines and unproven links between the herbicide and the disease. We explore how science goes about proving cause and effect in cases like this? Bubbles in the Arctic Physicist, Helen Czerski, is part of a group of scientists on board a Swedish icebreaker and scientific research vessel in the high Arctic called the Oden. The team hopes to spend a month anchored to Arctic sea ice near the North Pole. They will be looking at how microbiological life in the ocean and ice is connected to cloud formation in the region. Helen’s speciality is in the bubbles between the sea and the atmosphere. She is looking to see if microscopic specks of microbial life from the ocean are released into the atmosphere form bubbles where they can then go on to seed clouds in the sky. Clues to the Mystery of the Oldest Earth Rock The oldest surviving rock on Earth is ‘Acasta gneiss’ at 4.03 billion years old. The lump of stripy granite-like rock was found in Northern Canada. This type of rock is thought to be the seed of our continents. The trouble is, for this rock to be created from the ubiquitous basalt you needed water and high temperatures, but not the high-pressures found deep under the crust. So how was it made? New work suggests bombardment from huge meteorites provided the perfect conditions. Apoptosis or Cell Death We know a bit about how a cell dies. But not so much about the mechanism. New research, on usefully large, Xenopus frog egg cells shows that the way death is communicated throughout the cell is much more targeted than mere diffusion of the deadly message of apoptosis. Giving possible clues to how cells communicate other messages as well. Picture: Tractor working in a field of wheat, Credit: CactuSoup/Getty Images Presenter: Roland Pease Producer: Fiona Roberts
Aug 16, 2018
Nasa's Solar Probe Launch
Nasa is just a few days away from launching its next science mission, a spacecraft called the Parker Solar Probe that will eventually "touch the sun." If all goes to plan, the probe will take off aboard a rocket on Saturday 11 August from Cape Canaveral in Florida. On its final close approach, in 2025, the Parker Solar Probe will get within six million kilometres of the Sun's surface — so close that it will actually fly through the star's incredibly hot atmosphere, called the corona. It is hoped the mission will provide answers to some of the Sun’s mysteries - why its atmosphere becomes hotter further away from the surface of the sun? How the solar wind of charged particles streaming out into space is born? And what causes the gigantic outbursts scientists call coronal mass ejections? One Hundred and Fifty Years Since the Discovery of Helium Helium, the second most abundant element in the universe, was discovered on the Sun before it was found on the Earth. Pierre-Jules-César Janssen, a French astronomer, noticed a yellow line in the Sun's spectrum while studying a total solar eclipse in 1868. Sir Norman Lockyer, an English astronomer, realised that this line, could not be produced by any element known at the time. It was hypothesised that a new element on the sun was responsible for this mysterious yellow emission. This unknown element was named helium by Lockyer. The Trouble with Doing Science Marnie Chesterton takes an inside look at the hoops some scientists have to jump through to get their experiments running. In an experiment to look for dark matter, Polish scientist, Pawel Majewski, at Rutherford Appleton Lab has spent 5 years orchestrating the fabrication of a test chamber, a flask called a Cryostat. For the experiment to work the chamber has to be as radiation-free as possible. The trouble is the natural radiation from Earth during the manufacture and transport keep contaminating the metal. New Horizons to Visit Ultima Thule Ultima Thule is the name given to an asteroid, or pair of asteroids, in the Kuiper Belt – a ring of rocky bodies at the edge of the Solar System. The New Horizons mission, which captured such amazing data on Pluto, got a mission extension to travel further out. This week the asteroid passed in front of a distant star, giving the team a chance to see more detail of the rocky body, which will be the furthest object visited by a man-made craft, when New Horizon’s gets there in November. Picture: The surface of the sun, Credit: NASA Presenter: Roland Pease Producer: Fiona Roberts
Aug 09, 2018
Drought and the Mayans
Drought was the reason for the demise of the Mayan civilization. Scientists have been analysing ancient lake sediments on the Yucatan Peninsular in Mexico to determine the extent of the dry spell that caused catastrophic crop losses, which contributed to the demise of the Lowland Classic Mayan civilization. Kilauea Volcano As the Kilauea volcano continues to erupt and spew molten lava over the Island of Hawaii, volcanologists from the UK are setting up monitors on the slope in the hope of understanding the shield volcano better. They are measuring the micro-earthquakes and are hoping to record the moment the volcano quiets. Eukaryote Genome The Earth Biogenome Project aims to sequence the DNA of all the planet's eukaryotes, some 1.5 million known species including all known plants, animals and single-celled organisms. The ambitious project will take 10 years to complete and cost an estimated $4.7 billion. Air pollution in Africa How the residents of Mukuru in Nairobi are trying to tackle the growing health problems caused by particulate air pollution. Presenter: Roland Pease Producer: Fiona Roberts Image: Mask of the Maya rain God 'Chaac' on a building at Labná in the Puuc region of the northern Yucatán Peninsula. Credit: Mark Brenner.
Aug 02, 2018
Water on Mars
Scientists say they have discovered evidence of a 12 mile long body of water on Mars. Estimated to be at least a metre deep, the “lake” was found beneath the red planet’s southern polar ice cap by the agency’s radar probe, known as Marsis. While orbiting the planet on the European Space Agency’s Mars Express spacecraft, Marsis used ground-penetrating radar to send signals deep into the surface - and there was only one possible conclusion from the data that was bounced back to it. The discovery hints that, with all the necessary ingredients present, there may be a possibility of finding life beneath Mars’s surface. The last of the wild oceans A study led by scientists from the University of Queensland has discovered that only 13% of the ocean worldwide has not been severely impacted by humans. The majority of these wilderness areas are not currently protected by law, and the researchers are highlighting an urgent need for action to protect what little remains. Using fluorine to detect dementia University College London chemists are finding new ways to track degenerative diseases in the brain. They’ve used a radioactive form of fluorine which binds to areas of the brain that are diseased to illuminate those areas during scans, allowing them to track exactly how the disease develops. The return of the red shift S2, a star orbiting around a black hole at the centre of our galaxy, has shown to physicists that Einstein’s theories continue to hold up after all this time. By observing how the star changes colour during its orbit, members of the Max Planck Institute for Extra-Terrestrial Physics have been able to examine how light bends under the gravitational pull of a supermassive object. Picture: Photo composite of Marsis in front of Mars. Credit: ESA/INAF. Graphic rendering by Davide Coero Borga - Media INAF Presenter: ROLAND PEASE Producer: ANIA LICHTAROWICZ
Jul 26, 2018
Heatwaves and Droughts
The Northern Hemisphere has been sweltering in some of the hottest temperatures recorded this summer. Records have been broken in Taiwan, California, Canada, Algeria and Oman. Yet 2018 is a La Nina year. This is the is the positive phase of the El Niño Southern Oscillation and is associated with cooler-than-average sea surface temperatures in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean and usually cooler and wetter summers in the Northern hemisphere. So what’s happening? And what do we know about how these heatwaves and droughts start? Jellyfish Catching Robot A specially designed remote-controlled robot, inspired by Japanese origami paper-folding has been developed specifically to catch soft-bodied, gelatinous sea creatures such as deep sea jellyfish. Splitting Water in Microgravity To travel far in space, future astronauts will need some means for creating their own air and fuel. One way to do this is to split water into hydrogen for fuel and oxygen for air. But there’s a problem. In microgravity, this process, called electrolysis, is very inefficient. It turns out that the bubbles of hydrogen just don’t go anywhere useful and cluster around the electrodes, holding up the process. But a team of scientists have been tinkering with the texture of the electrodes to get the bubbles to behave better. And the best bit – the experiments have to take place in the 9.3 seconds it takes the capsule containing the equipment to fall 120 metres at 168km/hr to imitate microgravity on Earth. Saving Lebanese Wild Flowers When Michel Ayoub bought a small patch of land in Lebanon 40 years ago as insurance against the financial crisis of the impending civil war, little did he know that he was creating an important micro-reserve for rare and endangered plants. Lebanon is home to a number of endemic plants. But many of the habitats where these plants thrive have been destroyed by conflict and subsequent unregulated construction. So these tiny pockets of protected, untouched land are proving invaluable for the country’s biodiversity. Picture: Drought, Credit: draco-zlat/Getty Images Presenter: Roland Pease Producer: Fiona Roberts
Jul 19, 2018
The Biggest Explosions in the Universe
An international team of scientists have captured the biggest explosions in the Universe in unprecedented detail for the first time. These Gamma Ray Bursts sometimes last for just a few milliseconds, but for that time are trillions of times brighter than our Sun. The chance of capturing one of these rare bursts, which occur just as a dying star collapses into a black hole, is just an incredible one-in-10,000. Sight and Sound Despite the intuitive feeling that we can listen to something whilst looking elsewhere, our visual and auditory perceptions are - from the earliest points - processed together in the brain. Sight and sound work together to build up a picture of the world around us, and when the two senses aren’t aligned our brains have to work much harder to filter out distractions. Although this relationship is largely unexplored, it could tell us more about how to aid those with hearing impairments and even what effect technology, such as smartphones, might be having on our ability to concentrate. Old animals We humans like to think we live long lives, some of us are lucky enough to make it into triple digits. But we can’t compare to the humble tubeworm, casually hanging around on the ocean floor and researchers have discovered that they can live up to 300 years old! Iceland’s Molten Rock Origins Iceland’s volcanoes are one of the country’s most famous geological features. The island sits on a volcano hot spot and straddles two tectonic plates, the Eurasian and North American plates, otherwise known as the North Atlantic Ridge - making it highly volcanically active. New research into the Volcano Hot Spot under Iceland has revealed something unusual. New measurements of the Mantle region within Earth, appears to be feeding material in the form of a plume to the surface, where Iceland is located. Picture: Star being destroyed, Credit: Nasa Presenter: Roland Pease Producer: Jack Meegan
Jul 27, 2017