BBC Inside Science

BBC Inside Science

By BBC Radio 4

Dr Adam Rutherford and guests illuminate the mysteries and challenge the controversies behind the science that's changing our world.


How sperm swim, the theory of soil & the Big Compost Experiment update

Adam reveals new research which overturns received wisdom about how sperm swim. More than three centuries after Antonie van Leeuwenhoek peered down his early microscope to observe human sperm or ‘animalcules’ swimming with a ‘snakelike movement, like eels in water’, high-tech observations now reveal that this was, in fact, an optical illusion. Hermes Gadelha from Bristol University used 3D microscopy, a high-speed camera and mathematics, to reconstruct the true movement of the sperm tail. Much to his amazement, sperm have a highly sophisticated way of rolling as they swim. They do this to counter the numerous irregularities in their morphology which would otherwise send them swimming in circles. In doing so, they are able to propel themselves forwards. This highly complex set of movements, seen in 3D, is obscured in 2D when sperm appear to use a symmetrical eel-like motion to swim. Also on the programme, Adam gets an update from Mark Miodownik on the Big Compost Experiment, the citizen science project that wants to know what you compost, how you do it and, most importantly, how quickly the stuff breaks down. Mark reveals how confused participants are, about what they can compost, and explains why items marked ‘compostable’ or biodegradable’ won’t compost at home. Staying with soil, healthy soil is being lost at an alarming rate due to intensive agricultural practices. In England and Wales, a recent survey found that nearly forty percent of arable soils were degraded. Inside Science reporter Madeleine Findlay visits Andrew Neil from Rothamsted Research who has devised a new way of thinking about soil. They’ve solved the mystery of why adding carbon through organic material, like compost, improves soil health. PRODUCERS: Beth Eastwood & Fiona Roberts
06/08/2028m 13s

Science Museum mystery objects; home security camera security and Rosalind Franklin at 100

The Science Museum Group looks after over 7.3 million items. As with most museums, the objects you see on display when you visit are only the tip of the iceberg of the entire collection. Up until now, many of the remaining 300,000 objects have been stored in Blythe House in London. But now the collection is being moved to a purpose-built warehouse in Wiltshire. The move is a perfect opportunity for curators to see what’s there, re-catalogue long hidden gems and to conserve and care for their treasures. But during the process they have discovered a number of unidentified items that have been mislabelled or not catalogued properly in the past and some of them are just so mysterious, or esoteric, that the Science Museum needs the aid of the public to help identify them, and their uses. We’ll be showcasing items over the next weeks and months, but this week, Jessica Bradford, the keeper of collection engagement at the Science Museum is asking Inside Science listeners if they recognise, or can shed light on the possible use of the ‘scoop’ in the picture above. Send suggestions to Email: or People install and use home security cameras for peace of mind. But the very behaviour of the commonly used IP home security cameras (internet-connected security cameras) could be giving away important information about your household to potential burglars. Gareth Tyson, at Queen Mary University London, has been working with researchers in China to explore how we use these home security camera systems and to look for flaws in the security of security cameras. Last Saturday, 25th July, was a hundred years since the birth of chemist Rosalind Franklin. She is perhaps most famous for her work using X-ray crystallography which helped lead to the discovery of the double helix structure of DNA, a contribution for which she was not credited at the time. But there’s so much more to the scientific story of her life than just being the wronged woman in the DNA story, who died tragically young at the age of just 37. She pioneered work in the coal industry and on the structure of viruses, including the polio virus. And Franklin’s work has resonance today, in this era of COVID-19. Baroness Nicola Blackwood, chair of Genomics England thinks Rosalind Franklin’s legacy is something we should be very proud of today. Presenter - Gareth Mitchell Producers - Fiona Roberts and Beth Eastwood
30/07/2031m 46s

Pre-prints over peer review during the COVID pandemic and roads and birds

A pre-print is a way for scientists to get their work out quickly for other scientists to comment on and debate. But pre-prints are not peer reviewed; they have not undergone the scrutiny of reviewers and journal editors. They're generally seen as a good thing, but are just a step on the way for science to be verified and published. But it's important to note that the science can be wrong or sloppy in pre-prints, so they have never really been part of the process by which science is disseminated to the general public. That is, until the COVID pandemic. The speed at which the science can be shared has led to pre-prints becoming more and more scrutinised by journalists and used to inform the public about this terrible disease. Fiona Fox, CEO of the Science Media Centre, which is an independent press office for the scientific community, discusses the potential pitfalls of using pre-prints with Adam Rutherford and with Dr Jonathan Read from Lancaster University, who himself got caught up in a pre-print firestorm at the start of the pandemic. The UK has the 12th highest road density in the world, but very little is known about the impact of roads on our wildlife. Now conservation scientists are starting to look at their effects on our bird populations. They call it ‘road exposure’ because they can’t directly measure the impact of road noise, but the noise pollution aspect is very much to the fore. Cambridge University's Sophia Cook has found that roads have a mostly negative effect on most birds in Great Britain. And with that negative effect being stronger in rarer birds this could be adding to the 'simplification' of bird populations and a reduction in biodiversity. Presenter - Adam Rutherford Producers - Fiona Roberts and Beth Eastwood #bbcinsidescience
23/07/2031m 33s

Science Fraud & Bias, Immunity to COVID-19

Science is all about self-reflection. Scientists constantly check themselves, share their work, and check each other’s data. But how robust is the science upon which civilisation is built, the science which has mapped genomes, cured diseases, split atoms and sent people to the moon? Adam talks to Stuart Ritchie, a psychologist from Kings College London, about his new book Science Fictions which explores everything from biases and human fallibility, to outright fraud. He also talks to microbiologist turned image sleuth, Elisabeth Bik, whose work is revealing that manipulated images appear in scientific papers shockingly often. Now we are several months into the COVID pandemic, scientists are beginning to share their first insights into whether people retain immunity to SARS-CoV-2 after they've had the disease COVID-19. At Kings College London, Senior Lecturer in Infectious Diseases, Katie Doores and her team tracked the antibody levels over the first months after infection with COVID-19. Their first preprint findings suggest a worrying pattern – antibodies against the virus begin to wane within months of being infected. However it is too early to say if and when a person who’s had COVID-19 could be vulnerable to reinfection. Early findings from Marcus Buggert, at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, suggest that another part of the immune system, the memory T-cells, are active in those who have had the disease, even if they lack antibodies against the virus. Producers: Beth Eastwood & Fiona Roberts
16/07/2028m 4s

Satellite navigation in the UK; the science of the World Wide Web and Neolithic genomics

Is the UK losing its way when it comes to satellite navigation? There's GPS from the US, but other countries and regions, including Russia, China, India and Japan, either have, or are building, satellite navigation systems of their own. The EU has Galileo, but with Brexit, Britain is no longer involved. The Government has announced that it’s just acquired a satellite technology company called OneWeb. It’s primary role is enhanced broadband, but there’s talk of adding in a navigation function to the constellation of satellites. But how feasible will that be? In an era of cyber-crime, misinformation, disinformation, state-sponsored attacks on rival countries’ infrastructure, government-imposed internet shutdowns in places like Eritrea and Kashmir, the World Wide Web is an increasingly dark and troubled place. Making sense of how the internet has changed from the democratic, sharing, open platform it was designed to be, and predicting what’s next, are the web scientists. Professor Dame Wendy Hall, Regius Professor of Computer Science at the University of Southampton, and a co-founder of the whole field of web science, is hosting an online, annual conference this week. The theme this year is 'Making the web human-centric'. Communal burial sites tend to suggest an egalitarian society, where everyone is considered equal. And this is what we expected the Neolithic societies that spread across Europe with the birth of agriculture around 6000 years ago would be. But DNA evidence from a single human, NG10, buried in 3200 B.C.E in the vast tomb of Newgrange, 25 miles north of Dublin, in Ireland, shows very strong inbreeding. Couple this with the fact the body was buried and not cremated and placed in a highly adorned chamber. Does this indicate an elite ruling class where marrying one’s close kin was the order of the day? Dr. Lara Cassidy, palaeogeneticist at Trinity College Dublin, decoded NG10’s DNA and she tells Adam Rutherford the story. Presenter - Gareth Mitchell Producers - Fiona Roberts and Beth Eastwood
09/07/2033m 45s

Preventing pandemics, invading alien species, blood types & COVID-19.

As we’re beginning to understand more about SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, we’re hopefully starting to get some clues on how to deal with the next viral pandemics, and even look at ways of stopping them from happening. To do this, we have to go back to where the virus jumped from its animal host into humans. Like this current coronavirus, many of the pandemic viruses (SARS, MERS HIV, Ebola…to name a few) are zoonotic diseases. They start in wild animals and evolve to jump to humans (sometimes via another animal species). It’s not the animal’s fault. It’s evolution. But has our tangled, often exploitative relationship with wild animals made it harder to stop future pandemics? A paper just published asks these questions and tries to figure out how to prevent future zoonotic epidemics. Dr. Silviu Petrovan (Researcher in the Department of Zoology in Cambridge) and Associate Professor Alice Hughes (Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences) highlight some of the 161 possible actions we should be taking to protect ourselves from the next pandemic. The current pandemic may have curtailed a lot of holiday plans but we are still more global than ever before. Food is coming to the UK from all over the world. With movement comes the opportunity for unwelcome hitchhikers to tag along. A new study, published in Biological Reviews, by a team of researchers from 13 different countries warns that alien species invasions are on the rise. Professor Tim Blackburn from University College London talks to Marnie about this increasing threat. Also on the programme, inspired by a listener question, Marnie asks whether there's any truth behind the idea that susceptibility to COVID-19 could be linked to blood type. Associate Professor of Venom Pharmacology at Reading University, Dr Sakthivel Vaiyapuri, explains what the science says so far. Producers: Fiona Roberts & Beth Eastwood
02/07/2028m 14s

The Human Genome Project's 20th Anniversary

Adam Rutherford is back to celebrate the 20th anniversary of one of the most ambitious and revolutionary scientific endeavours of all time - the Human Genome Project. Its scope and scale was breath-taking, set up to read every one of the 3 billion nucleotides, or letters of genetic information, contained within the DNA in every cell of the human body. It took seven years, hundreds of scientists, cost almost $3 billion and, amazingly, came in under budget and on time. Adam reflects back on that momentous time with Ewan Birney, Director of the European Bio-informatics Institute, part of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory. Twenty years ago, he was a PhD student working on the project, in the months leading up to the first draft. The Human Genome Project underpins many branches of science, from human evolution and synthetic biology to forensic genetics and ancestry testing. But a key motivation for the project was to alleviate human suffering. While the ‘cures’, hyped by the media back in 2000, were not realistic our understanding of disease has been revolutionised. Adam talks to Cancer Research UK Scientist, Dr Serena Nik-Zainal, from Cambridge University, who explains why the sequencing of the human genome has been so crucial to the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer. The Human Genome Project is also playing a crucial role in the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr Kenneth Baillie has been treating critically ill patients at Edinburgh’s Royal Infirmary since the pandemic started. As the Lead on GenOMICC, a global collaboration on genetics and critical illness, he has joined forces with Genomics England and the NHS, to pinpoint genetic signals in these patients to help identify the best treatments. Producers: Beth Eastwood & Fiona Roberts
25/06/2032m 2s

Coronavirus conspiracy, Listeners' mask questions, Solar Orbiter gets close to the Sun

Throughout the pandemic, we've seen an explosion in information about the science of the virus, SARS-CoV-2, and the disease it causes, COVID-19. An article online, or a text forwarded, could be true and sounds about right, but how do you know that it's accurate? When scrolling through your social feed, how do you decipher fact from fiction? A new report, by Kings College London and Ipsos MORI, reveals that those of us who get our news from social media are more likely to believe misinformation about the pandemic. Marnie talks to Jack Goodman of the Anti-Disinformation Unit at BBC Online, a new team set up to tackle the problem. She finds out how science fact turns to science fiction online, and what the team is doing to try to counter this. Now that wearing face masks are now mandatory in a number of situations, a lot of us are making our own. BBC Inside Science listeners sent in lots of ideas about the design, maintenance and durability of face masks, and other ways to protect against spreading the coronavirus. We asked Professor of Materials & Society at UCL Mark Miodownik in to comment. In February this year, the European Space Agency’s Solar Orbiter, SolO, successfully launched, escaping this planet before most of us went into lock-down. Professor Lucie Green from the Mullard Space Science Lab at University College London, is a solar scientist and part of the team that will be using a telescope to take images of the Sun in extreme ultraviolet light. The orbiter is now in it’s ‘Cruise Phase’ which means most of its instruments have now been tested and calibrated, but aren’t yet up and running. One instrument that has been operational since just after launch is the magnetometer, which will collect data on the Sun’s complex and dynamic magnetic field. Presenter - Marnie Chesterton Producers - Fiona Roberts and Beth Eastwood
18/06/2040m 58s

Engineering out of lockdown and should we castrate male dogs?

As the UK gradually begins to ease out of lockdown, Marnie explores how engineers are hoping to reduce the spread of Covid-19. We’ve learned how infected people exhale droplets and aerosols, containing the virus, and how we can then either inhale them, or transfer them to our faces by touching contaminated surfaces. Many shops already have screens and physical barriers, while schools and offices are re-configuring desks and walkways. What role does the environment play in our overall risk of becoming infected and what can we do about it? This is the focus of the SAGE Environmental Working Group. Marnie talks to its Chair, Catherine Noakes, Professor of Environmental Engineering for Buildings at Leeds University. Minimising the risks that contaminated surfaces pose is a key challenge that engineers are now trying to address. Marnie asks Birmingham University Research Scientist, Felicity de Cogan, about the surface she created which kills bacteria in seconds. She's now re-purposing the technology to kill the virus that causes Covid-19. If her laboratory studies prove that it kills the virus as quickly, as she hopes, the technology could be used to create antiviral PPE that can be re-used rather than thrown away. Epidemiology has been thrust into the spotlight in recent months, helping us track the viral threat facing all of us. But companion animal epidemiology - which studies disease in pet populations - is a much younger field. It’s one that’s starting to search for the answers to another puppy-related conundrum that’s been puzzling BBC Inside Science reporter Geoff Marsh - should he get puppy Kevin castrated? Neutering has become a cultural norm in the UK. But the health risks to neutered male dogs include cancers and joint disorders in some breeds. The operation and anaesthetic carries some risk as does the age of the dog when the operation is carried out. The risk of dog populations exploding with hundreds of un-neutered dogs is low, because most owners control their dogs to such a degree the chance of unplanned mating doesn't come up. But neutering can help with some behavioural problems in pet dogs. So what is the answer? Will Kevin remain intact? Presenter - Marnie Chesterton Producers - Beth Eastwood and Fiona Roberts
11/06/2028m 0s

Back to School and Covid-19 and Ordnance Survey and the pandemic

As the lockdown eases and some children, in preschool and primary years, start heading back to school, what impact will this have on the pandemic, how will we know and is there anything we can do about it? Marnie Chesterton talks to Professor of Mathematical Biology at Cambridge University, Julia Gog, who co-chaired the group that advised the government on the impact of easing school closures. She explains why the limited opening of schools provides a golden opportunity to learn about its impact on the pandemic, and inform what happens in September when the new school year begins. Marnie also talks to Tim Spector, Professor of Genetic Epidemiology at King’s College London, to find out what parents can do to help control the spread of the virus in their communities. He runs the COVID Symptom Study, a huge citizen science project that’s pinpointing the symptoms most closely associated with Covid-19. Millions of British adults have downloaded the app, to take part in the study, logging how they feel each day and adding symptoms when they feel unwell. The breakthrough that losing your sense of smell, or anosmia, is a common symptom in Covid-19, arose from this app. While children with Covid-19 tend to have mild or no symptoms, Tim Spector believes that some cases are being missed because many of the symptoms we’re told to look out for in adults, such as fever, are transient or absent in children. Tim explains which symptoms parents should look out for in children, including anosmia and a range of rashes such as ‘covid toe’. If parents log their children’s symptoms each day, the hope is he’ll have enough data to further refine the symptoms most closely associated with Covid-19 in children. Parents will then be better placed to spot them, if they occur, and keep their children at home. You might be forgiven for thinking that Ordnance Survey (OS), the national mapping agency for Great Britain, would be having a quiet time during the lockdown. But its online OS Map apps have seen a 300% increase in use, with users not only checking out new places and walks in their local area, but using the virtual maps to plan and imagine themselves on walks in more remote and far flung parts of Great Britain. But Ordnance Survey is so much more than just leisure maps. It runs the Master Map of Great Britain, a massive, interactive, geospatial database which can be interrogated by anyone in the public sector with questions on geography, planning, logistics, addresses and more. The list is long. And during the coronavirus pandemic, the Mapping for Emergencies service has been busy helping the NHS find places for blood testing facilities and PPE storage; working out which walkways are wide enough to allow social distancing, working out where the nearest pharmacies to vulnerable people are and much more. Presenter - Marnie Chesterton Producers - Beth Eastwood and Fiona Roberts
04/06/2027m 44s

Testing & Tracing the coronavirus, and the traces our movements leave behind

Inside Science this week is all about our information - the stuff we volunteer and the traces our everyday movements leave behind. With the launch of NHS Test and Trace across England, if you start to feel unwell with suspected Covid-19 and call a new NHS hotline 119, you’ll be tested for the virus. Your close contacts will be traced and, if you test positive, you'll be asked to self-isolate for 7 days, and your contacts asked to quarantine for 14 days. The route to those close contacts is currently through manual tracing - you have to give the details of everyone with whom you’ve been in close contact. But in the coming weeks, the plan is to integrate the NHSX app, currently being trialled on the Isle of Wight. This will pick up close contacts with people you don't know, on public transport, for example, provided they also have the app. It’s a new way to fight a pandemic, but the pioneers here are the residents of the English town of Haslemere in Surrey who, back in 2017, were tackling a terrifyingly contagious and, thankfully, hypothetical virus spread by ‘patient zero’ Hannah Fry. Created for the BBC4 documentary: Contagion, it was an experiment to see how we could fight the next pandemic. The BBC built an app, which residents downloaded and, crucially, it created a data-set. Evolutionary Biologist Dr Lewis Spurgin, from University of East Anglia, has used this data-set to explore the impact that different control strategies could have on the spread of the virus that causes Covid-19. In a different case of tracking and tracing, involving some policing by members of the public and journalists, Dominic Cummings’ comings and goings have consumed the nation this week. Just how much are our everyday movements being clocked, monitored and recorded? What traces do our phones, cars and even our faces leave behind? And who gets to see this information? Marnie talks to researcher and broadcaster Stephanie Hare, author of the forthcoming book Technology Ethics. Presenter: Marnie Chesterton Producers: Beth Eastwood & Fiona Roberts
28/05/2030m 39s

Coronavirus-free science, the impact of lockdown on climate change and the odds of both life and intelligent life existing.

In response to listeners who have expressed coronavirus fatigue in recent weeks, Marnie Chesterton brings us up to date on some of the best and brightest breaking science we might have missed, with BBC’s Non-Covid-19 Science Correspondent Jonathan Amos. Inching back to pandemic news, Marnie investigates the fallout of the lockdown from a climate perspective. In many countries, citizens have been asked to stay at home and not to travel unless it’s strictly necessary. As a result, the hubbub of normal life has slowed to a trickle. What impact has this had on levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere? Corinne Le Quéré, the Royal Society Professor of Climate Change Science at the University of East Anglia, explains just how dramatically these emissions have been affected around the world. And the chances that intelligent life exists on other planets. David Kipping, Assistant Professor of Astronomy at Columbia University in the US, has calculated the odds of both life and intelligent life existing if he were to re-run earth’s history. Presenter - Marnie Chesterton Producer - Beth Eastwood
21/05/2028m 7s

Coronavirus R number, genome study of Covid-19 survivors and using aircraft messages to assess aviation

R seems to have found its way into the newspapers and on Radio 4 as if it’s a word, or a letter, that we should all be familiar with and understand. As part of the government’s briefing on Sunday, it appeared in a pseudo-equation, the infographic - 'COVID alert level = R + number of infections' - the Government called R the 'Rate of Infection', but it is commonly known as the 'Reproduction Number'. So what exactly is R, and what does it do? Mathematical Biologist, Kit Yates, from the University of Bath, clears up the confusion, and explains how R was first calculated for covid-19. And one of the scientists tracking R in the UK is Petra Klepac, who is Assistant Professor in Infectious Disease Modelling at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. She explains how crucial R is in tracking the pandemic and how it’s now being used to shape the way we get out of lockdown. There are so many variables about who will survive Covid-19 and who, unfortunately, will not. Many people will only experience mild symptoms, but a minority will have a severe or even life-threatening response. Whilst some of the difference can be explained by age, or underlying health conditions, the reasons why men and some ethnic minorities and a number of apparently fit younger people become so ill, is one of the great puzzles of this pandemic. Some of the uncertainly is down to environmental effects. But a lot of the variability could be down to our genomes. To try and find out, this week Genomics England announced funding for a study - The GenOMICC - COVID Genomics UK (CoG-UK) Partnership for Severely Ill Patients to sequence the whole genomes of 20,000 severely ill and 15,000 asymptomatic or very mild patients. Led by Genomics England, these genomes will be compared with those held in the 100,000 Genomes Project dataset. The coronavirus pandemic is really highlighting the need for fast, accurate ways to analyse data on a global and national scale. Be that data on the number of people dying or track and trace data from various apps. But do we realise how much data we leave about ourselves online even in normal times? This is something Professors Tobias Preis and Suzy Moat in the Data Science Lab, at the Warwick Business School get very excited about. They use rapid analysis of big data to try and understand our behaviour as a way to rapidly inform economists and policy makers on how the world works. They have been looking at alternative data sources to give us quicker estimates of what’s happening in the world – travel patterns, economic indicators, how many people have a given disease. This is going to become invaluable both during and in the aftermath of the pandemic, when understanding the economic fallout will be key to helping the economy recover. Take their latest work – where they’re gathering much quicker estimates on the contributions of air travel to the UK’s GDP. Presenter – Marnie Chesterton Producers – Fiona Roberts and Beth Eastwood
14/05/2032m 35s

Should the public wear face masks? Did SARS-Cov-2 escape from a laboratory in Wuhan?

Advice about whether the public should wear face masks, to protect against infection by the coronavirus, differs around the world. In Europe, policy recommendations are mostly geared towards homemade masks. As this country waits to find out how we’ll venture out of lock down, should we be wearing face masks out in public too? The government’s mantra throughout the pandemic has been “follow the science” but on this issue there is ongoing debate, with strongly held and differing views. The Royal Society’s DELVE Initiative (Data Evaluation and Learning for Viral Epidemics) put out a report this week to try to bring some clarity to the issue. Marnie Chesterton asks Professor of Primary Care Health Sciences at Oxford University, Trisha Greenhalgh, and microbiologist and Professor of Environmental Healthcare at the University of Southampton, William Keevil, why there is so little science to inform the policy-makers. If the government recommends that we all wear cloth masks, we'll be wearing them for the common good - they’re better at stopping the wearer from spreading the virus than protecting him or her from catching it. Choosing one that fits, made from the right material, and keeping it clean is also crucial. If you’re not really up to making your own mask, Professor Mark Miadownik at UCL’s Institute of Making warns against the single-use surgical masks, now a common addition to the litter scene and a bane to the environment. As the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 continues to spread at an alarming rate in the United States, with well over a million confirmed cases and over 70,000 deaths, attention in the White House has been turning to suggestions that the virus originated in the Institute of Virology Laboratory in Wuhan, China and not in the wild where bats are the ultimate suspected source. For years, a group there led by “bat woman” Jungli Shi, have been collecting virus samples and studying them to see if they could infect us humans. This is standard virology, trying to understand where the next pandemic viral threat might come from. But conspiracy theorists have been suggesting that there’s more going on, such as deliberate genetic manipulation of the viruses, weaponising them, or just unsafe management. These ideas have been taken up by President Trump and his team. BBC Inside Science reporter Roland Pease asks the experts what they think. Is there any place for this sort of politics in the pandemic? Presenter - Marnie Chesterton Producers - Fiona Roberts and Beth Eastwood
07/05/2029m 15s

Testing for immunity to COVID-19 and Citizen science on BBC Radio past and present

This week, the Government’s target to be testing 100,000 a day for COVID-19 looks like it won’t be met. But we’ve heard about many people who experienced the virus mildly, or who’ve tested positive with no symptoms at all. If you really want to know who has had the virus, the only way to tell for certain is with an antibody, or serology, test. Describing how they work is Professor of Virology at Nottingham University, Jonathan Ball. Eleanor Riley, Professor of Immunology and Infectious Disease at Edinburgh University, explains why its so important to get the specificity and sensitivity of these tests right, and reveals what they can and can't tell us about individual and population-wide exposure to the virus. We like citizen science on BBC Inside Science, it’s an opportunity for anyone and everyone to try their hand at some scientific projects, learn about the scientific process and help researchers crunch through masses of data. Professor Chris Lintott co-founded Zooniverse, the biggest citizen science platform over a decade ago. He’s a regular on the programme telling us about the latest Muon-hunting, Penguin-counting, galaxy-searching opportunities they offer. But they’re not the only ones, Butterfly Conservation want you to help them track the timing of butterfly emergence in the UK and are asking people to play their protein folding online game to help them find a possible cure for Covid-19. But back in the 1930’s BBC radio producer Mary Adams was running a series called ‘Science in the Making’, where listeners were invited to participate in, what would now be called ‘citizen science’ experiments. With topics as diverse as charting the timing of blackbird egg laying and deciphering the meaning of dreams, a scientist would explain their hypothesis and ask the audience for help. Allan Jones, a senior lecturer in computing and communications from the Open University has been digging into the BBC’s earliest public science experiments, and the woman who decided to broadcast them. Presenter – Marnie Chesterton Producers – Fiona Roberts and Beth Eastwood
30/04/2031m 24s

Understanding Covid-19 death rates; Contact tracing apps; Whale sharks and atomic bombs

Every death is a tragedy for grief-stricken families, but every set of statistics is an opportunity to understand the virus and the disease Covid-19 a bit more. In fact gathering these data, quickly and accurately, is a priority at the moment, up there with developing a vaccine and rolling out widespread testing. Gareth Mitchell discusses, with, David Spiegelhalter, who is the Winton Professor of the Public Understanding of Risk in the Statistical Laboratory at the University of Cambridge, why it’s so hard to measure coronavirus fatalities. The Covid-19 pandemic is unprecedented in modern times. There will no doubt be years of debating over who managed the outbreak the best, which tools and actions were implemented at the right time and in the right way. One small, but important part of dealing with the viral outbreak is contact tracing – discovering who is infected and who they might have come into contact with. This has to be done quickly, so the people an infected person had contact with, can be found and informed to isolate, before they themselves spread the virus further. Some countries used this early on in the pandemic (Singapore and South Korea, have successfully used it to contain their outbreaks, while Germany, which has a far lower case and death rate than the UK, has also worked hard on contact tracing.) Others are hoping to implement contact tracing as a means of easing social distancing or coming out of lockdown. To do this public health agencies will have to start aggressively contact tracing and at a much higher level than they were a few months ago. The UK started using contact tracing then stopped, they are now looking to restart it. A plausible way of doing this is to make use of the fact that a lot of people carry a mobile phone, so apps that can help are being developed and used. There are biological factors that need to be taken into account (reliable, accessible testing in the first place) but also logistical, practical and security issues… who are we giving our data to? And what are they doing with it? Could it be used to restrict my freedom in ways other than just managing the spread of the virus? Timandra Harkness author of Big Data, Does Size Matter? and Fellow of the Royal Statistical Society, and a member of their working group on Data Ethics helps answer these questions. Finally, a small bit of good that’s come out of another dark time in our recent history. Atomic bomb tests during the Cold War. The nuclear fallout, doubled the amount of an isotope called carbon-14 in the atmosphere. And that has turned out to be very useful for scientists working on a crucial conservation effort – to age and safeguard the world’s largest fish - the Whale Shark. Presenter - Gareth Mitchell Producer - Fiona Roberts
23/04/2042m 11s

Lockdown lessons for climate change and the carbon neutral Cumbrian coal mine

While the world is dealing with the coronavirus outbreak, those who are concerned about the environment are saying that an arguably bigger crisis is being side-lined. Climate change, or climate breakdown, is still happening. Just like the Covid-19 pandemic, it will be the poorest people in the poorest countries that pay the highest price for the breakdown in our climate. But can we learn something from the current lockdown that can be applied to climate change? Can it provide the impetus for us to do things differently. Writer and environmentalist George Monbiot thinks so. He recently wrote that coronavirus is ‘a wake-up call for a complacent civilisation’, and he discusses with Marnie Chesterton whether there is some hope that can be taken from the current crisis. Last year, it was announced that a new coal mine in Cumbria was given backing in parliament. The Woodhouse colliery would be Britain’s first new deep coal mine in 30 years, bringing much needed jobs to the community. The colliery, along the coast from Whitehaven, is planned to be producing coking coal for the steel industry. Cumbria County Council claimed the mine, which aims to process 2.5m tonnes of coking coal a year, would be carbon neutral, as locally produced coal, negates the need to ship it in from as far afield as the US, Canada, Russia and Colombia. It’s perhaps unsurprising that climate campaigners think this is a huge step back and that the mine is unnecessary and incompatible with UK climate ambitions and that it will hold back the development of low-carbon steelmaking. BBC Inside Science sent reporter Geoff Marsh to explore the story that highlights the difficulties of balancing carbon costs and accounting, with employment and self-sufficiency. Presenter - Marnie Chesterton Producer - Fiona Roberts
16/04/2028m 7s

Testing for asymptomatic coronavirus carriers, Human Cell Atlas, and invasive parakeets

You can’t build up a picture of Covid-19’s spread throughout the UK without testing those who might have it and those who might have already had it. Britain currently is only testing people who are hospitalised, some healthcare workers and a handful of exceptions. The upshot is that we don't have reliable numbers on how many people in the community have, or have had, Covid-19. Even self-reporting doesn’t pick up those who carry the virus, but do not show any symptoms. Professor Mike Bonsall is part of a team at Oxford University running a new project that seeks to change that. They want to estimate how common the coronavirus causing disease is in the UK, using a new diagnostic tool called nanopore sequencing. If you want to take part, have not had any symptoms and live in the Oxford area - You probably think you know your body like the back of your hand, but given that it’s made up of an average of about 37 trillion cells, some sort of guide book might be helpful. This is what the Human Cell Atlas, an international project, is doing. By providing a map of human cell types, aims to help researchers fight diseases, from cancer to covid19. Although every cell in our bodies has the same genetic code – the same DNA; the differences between, for example, muscles cells, brain cells, and fat cells – come down to which bits of the DNA each cell uses - which genes are switched on and off. This gives cell types their different characteristics. The Atlas not only helps scientists understand the precise nature of each cell type but also how they interact with other cells in the body. There are a lot of myths surrounding the source of the rose-necked parakeets in south east England. The introduction of these noisy green alien invaders have been attributed to Jimi Hendrix, George Michael and even Humphrey Bogart. But where did they really come from? Presenter - Marnie Chesterton Producer - Fiona Roberts
09/04/2028m 49s

Coronavirus: Models & being ‘led by the science’; Mars500 isolation tips; Kids’ science - singing glasses

Marnie Chesterton reveals how important the models and graphs are in informing government strategies for the Covid-19 pandemic. Christl Donnelly, Professor of Statistical Epidemiology at Imperial College London and Professor of Applied Statistics at the University of Oxford, and Dr Kit Yates, Senior Lecturer in Mathematical Biology at the University of Bath and author of 'The Maths of Life and Death', explain what epidemiological models can and can’t tell us about the progression of the disease, infection rates and death rates, and how testing will provide the essential data to make these models more accurate. They also give their take on the current inundation of social media with graphs and infographics created by non-epidemiologists - the ‘epidemic of armchair epidemiologists’. The European Space Agency’s Diego Urbina was one of the Mars500 participants. He spent 520 days in a human mission to Mars, shut up in a fake spacecraft with his fellow astronauts. So who better to get tips for home isolation from? Are you stuck in with the kids and want to try some science experiments that you can do at home? The Royal Institution is about to launch ExpeRimental Live - a live stream of home science experiments, designed to educate, entertain and inform your children with some cheap and easy science. And its existing ExpeRimental series of short films for parents are already available online. They were produced and directed by science teacher and writer Alom Shaha, who helps BBC Inside Science producer Jennifer Whyntie to have a go at making singing wine glasses with her children. Producers - Fiona Roberts and Jennifer Whyntie
02/04/2032m 21s

Coronavirus - Lockdown efficacy; viral testing; surface survival; dog walking safety

Last week, we promised we’d tackle your coronavirus and associated Covid 19 questions and you came up trumps. So this week we’re be talking about the latest from the lockdown, why there are bottlenecks in the testing system, how long the virus lives on your door handles and whether your dog can spread coronavirus. Joining us to answer your questions are Jonathan Ball, Professor of Virology at the University of Nottingham, and BBC Radio Science presenter and reporter Roland Pease. On Monday evening, Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the British people to ‘stay at home’. How stringent is the UK’s lockdown compared to other countries, and is it likely to be effective? The only real way we can know about the incidence and prevalence of the coronavirus is to test. Listener Andrew in Didcot wants to know more about testing and when antibodies appear in us. We discuss how the current testing system works, and why there are limitations on testing. One question that lots of scientists have been asking is: can people with mild or no symptoms spread the coronavirus? And so we delve into the evidence for asymptomatic spreading. Listeners Eleanor and Andy have been wondering about passing the virus from person to surface to person. Roland Pease looks into the virus’ survival on surfaces and elsewhere, and asks how that might be affecting spread. Finally, reporter Geoff Marsh tackles a quandary facing dog owners: Is it safe to walk your pet? Can dogs spread the virus? Presenter: Marnie Chesterton Producers: Fiona Roberts and Jennifer Whyntie
26/03/2042m 53s

TB vaccination to replace culling in badgers; Neil Shubin on the wonders of evolution

The government have announced that the controversial cull of badgers across England will begin to be phased out in the next few years. It will be replaced by vaccinating badgers for bovine TB. The cull is intended to cut tuberculosis in cattle and has killed at least 100,000 badgers since 2013. TB in cattle is a severe problem for farmers and taxpayers, leading to the compulsory slaughter of 30,000 cattle and a cost of £150m every year. However culling is thought to have failed because frequent trading of cattle and poor biosecurity on farms severely hampering efforts to tackle the crisis. Expert and ecologist Rosie Woodroffe at the Institute of Zoology, the research division of the Zoological Society of London, who has been trialling vaccinations for the past few years in Cornwall explains to Marnie Chesterton why it is highly desirable to move from culling to vaccination of badgers. Plus they discuss the parallels between this and the coronavirus outbreak in humans. Evolutionary biologist Neil Shubin at the University of Chicago, is also the author of the best-selling book on evolution – ‘Your Inner Fish’. In his new book, out this week, ‘Some Assembly Required – Decoding four billion years of life from ancient fossils to DNA’, Neil revisits the topic of evolutionary development and explains to Adam how we have now arrived at a remarkable moment—prehistoric fossils coupled with new DNA technology have given us the tools to answer some of the basic questions of our existence: How do big changes in evolution happen? Is our presence on Earth the product of mere chance? This new science reveals a multi-billion-year evolutionary history filled with twists and turns, trial and error, accident and invention. Presenter - Marnie Chesterton Producer – Fiona Roberts
19/03/2028m 45s

Biology of the new coronavirus

Adam Rutherford explores what makes the new coronavirus so effective at making us ill. Jonathan Ball, Professor of Virology at Nottingham University, explains the structure of the virus and how it gets into our lungs. Evolutionary virologist at Cambridge University, Dr Charlotte Houldcroft talks to Adam about how labs are detecting the virus and how they are studying the way it mutates to understand how it's moving around the world. Kate Jones, Professor of Ecology at UCL, tells Adam how bats live with coronaviruses, but they don't get sick. She says the reason they have moved from bats to humans is because we have taken them out of their natural habitat into places like the wet markets of East Asia. Sarah Gilbert at Oxford University explains how her team is developing vaccines, and Jonathan Ball looks at work to repurpose existing drugs that may be used as treatment for Covid-19.
12/03/2027m 55s

Banning lead shot for hunting; UK Fireball Network and Extremely thin gold

We have known for centuries about the toxic properties of lead, and we have known since at least 1876 that birds die of lead poisoning when they eat lead gunshot (which they do, thinking its grit). To address this, in 1999, the use of lead ammunition in England was restricted. These Regulations prohibit the use of lead ammunition in certain habitat (predominately wetlands) and for the shooting of all ducks and geese, coot and moorhen. However compliance with these Regulations is low. And what about other animals (game birds and game animals) hunted with lead ammunition? It’s only been since 2008 that it’s been demonstrated that that animals shot with lead were a risk to the health of people who ate them. Tiny particles of the toxic metal remain in the meat and are consumed. Children are especially vulnerable to lead toxicity, which causes problems with brain development. Leading Cambridge conservation scientist Professor Debbie Pain, has been studying lead in the environment for her entire career. So it’s good news to her that, 8 of the main UK shooting organisations have voluntarily agreed to ban lead shot for all live quarry by 2025. But is a voluntary ban is enough? And what are the Department of Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) doing to monitor and manage the problem? It can be a real treat to watch a meteor shower in the night sky and you can consider yourself lucky if you get to witness a fireball streaking through the atmosphere. But what the scientists in the Global Fireball Observatory really want is to find these fist-sized extra-terrestrial meteoroids where they land on Earth. One of the Fireball UK Network’s leaders, Luke Daly at the University of Glasgow, explains how, if we know where in the Solar system these rocks came from and we can analyse their make-up, we can learn a lot about how our Solar System was made. However surprising few of the 5000 tonnes of meteorites that land on our planet every year are retrieved. Most are sand-sized grains and many fall in the sea. But even tracking down these precious rocks on land is extremely difficult. So the Network has a suite of cameras watching the sky, and together with some clever number-crunching algorithms, they can track these events and narrow down where to search. But they still need the good citizens of Britain to help find them. If you want to get involved (and this is a good one for schools to take part in) email or follow @fireballsUK on Twitter. We are fast learning that elements at the nanoscale have vastly different properties than they do in the form we can observe them. It’s proving to be a rich field for changing the properties of materials, and inventing new substances that might be of use in medicines, in electronics, and much more. Inside Science’s Maddie Finlay went to meet Stephen Evans from the University of Leeds, where they have been tinkering with a substance that definitely doesn’t glister even though it’s gold. Producer: Fiona Roberts
05/03/2033m 35s

The Big Compost Experiment; Using AI to screen for new antibiotics; Science of slapstick

Composters - we need you! Or rather materials scientists at UCL, Mark Miodownik and Danielle Purkiss, need you to take part in their Big Compost Experiment. Launched back in November, the team asked members of the public to fill in an online questionnaire about their composting and recycling habits. With special reference to plastic packaging labelled as 'compostable', they want you to see whether your compost bin at home can break down these products. Despite starting in the coldest season, where compost production really slows down, they've had some success. To take part, go to One particular infectious disease (Covid-19) is dominating the headlines, but it's by no means the only one we should be concerned about. There's an infectious disease crisis that is longstanding, and one of the most significant threats to global health. It’s the on-going antibiotic resistant crisis. Antibiotics kill bacteria, but bacteria evolve resistance very quickly, and because of overuse of antibiotics, we’ve effectively driven the evolution of many disease causing bacteria to be resistant to our best antibiotics, thus rendering them redundant as drugs. On top of that, we haven’t found any new classes of antibiotics for many years. And the cost of developing new drugs is very high – billions, and the financial incentive for developing antibiotics is low. So this is a perfect storm. A new study this week shows a glimmer of light in the quest to find new antibiotics, via artificial intelligence. Lena Ciric, a microbiologist at University College London, explains how the new drug Halicin was found and the promise it holds as a new antibiotic. Slapstick is one of the most universally appreciated comedy styles. The physical comedy that made Charlie Chaplin, Laurel & Hardy and even Mr Bean so popular has transfixed and entertained generations. But how has it endured the test of time? Why do we enjoy seeing characters in pain? Or is it something deeper rooted that it tells us about the human condition? Laughter is a social action – we do it to show we understand a joke and to signal to people that we get along with them. 'Told By An Idiot' is a theatre company exploring the divide between comedy and tragedy who are currently performing a slapstick style show about the relationship between Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel, who had been his understudy. Hannah Fisher has been to see the show. Producer - Fiona Roberts
27/02/2028m 21s

Coronavirus questions; HMS Challenger and ocean acidification; Sean Carroll's quantum world

Adam Rutherford is joined by Professor of Virology at Nottingham University, Jonathan Ball, to help answer some of your questions on the latest coronavirus outbreak. Will it become endemic, and once infected and recovered how long are we resistant to the virus? And can face masks and alcohol hand gels help prevent infection? In the 1870's the scientific research ship, HMS Challenger, sailed all the world's oceans measuring sea temperatures, ocean depths and sampling the geology of the seabed. But it's the seawater samples, containing microscopic zooplankton, preserved for 130 years which intrigued climate scientist Dr. Lyndsey Fox. She has been measuring the thickness of the shells of Foraminifera - tiny single-celled organisms - as a way of measuring how much the ocean has acidified over time. The shells are made of calcium carbonate, that is much harder to accrete when the pH drops. Theoretical physicist Sean M. Carroll is very good at explaining the unexplainable. He chats to Adam about his latest book - Something Deeply Hidden: Quantum Worlds and the Emergence of Spacetime. Producer: Fiona Roberts
20/02/2042m 23s

Ordnance Survey - Britain's 220-year-old tech company; Launching synthetic voices and personality test

For the past 220 years, Ordnance Survey have been mapping Great Britain with extraordinary accuracy. But as Gareth discovers when he visits their HQ in Southampton, GB's master map is not a static printed document. It's a 2 petabyte database which is updated up to 20,000 times a day. This adds up to 360 million updates a year. Since the development of the theodolite and the first detailed map in 1801 of the county of Kent, Ordnance Survey have used cutting edge technology, not only to map our lands, but to manipulate, understand and ask questions of the geography of our natural landscapes and built environment. Voices on the train, public address announcements at the station, automated telephone banking, Alexa and Siri. We are surrounded by electronic voices. But very little research has been done of how we respond to synthetic speech. To investigate the impact of artificially generated voices in our lives, BBC R&D together with our favourite acoustic engineer, Professor Trevor Cox of the University of Salford, has just launched a study. The Synthetic Voices and Personality Test, is an online test we want you to take part in. Please go to and have a listen Presenter Gareth Mitchell Producer - Fiona Roberts
13/02/2040m 39s

Solar Orbiter launch; Mutational signatures in cancer; paleo-oncology

The latest space mission to the Sun is due to launch on Sunday. SolO, the European Space Agency's Solar Orbiter, will loop around our star in an elliptical orbit, sling-shotting around Venus. Professor Richard Harrison at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory has been on the mission from its conception, he details the instruments and what they're hoping to discover about the Sun and its impact on space weather back here on Earth. If chemicals in cigarette smoke or exposure to UV light played a role in causing a cancerous tumour, we can now see this evidence in the DNA. These and other causes of cancer are being catalogued by a huge international study revealing the genetic fingerprints of DNA-damaging processes that drive cancer development. Professor Mike Stratton, is director of the Wellcome Sanger Institute and author of one of many papers released in Nature and associated journals this week that detail the results of the Pan-Cancer of Whole Genomes Consortium. Cancer is not a modern disease. Evidence in bones and remains reveal our ancient ancestors also suffered. Dr. Kate Hunt is a paleo-pathologist studying paleo-oncology, a very specific, very recent branch of archaeology, looking through ancient burial sites, artefacts and literature for signs of cancer. Presenter - Marnie Chesterton Producer - Fiona Roberts
06/02/2028m 7s

Coronavirus update, Typhoid Mary and 200th anniversary of the first sighting of Antarctica

With the recent coronavirus outbreak spreading around the world, and concerns about people being infectious before they exhibit any symptoms. Professor of Virology at Nottingham University Jonathan Ball explains infection rates, quarantines and why he's worried about it spreading to the developing world. 'Alice in Typhoidland' is a new exhibition in Oxford recording how that city dealt with typhoid. It’s called that after one of its 19th century residents, Alice Liddell (the girl after whom Alice in Wonderland was named). Her father Henry Liddell was the Dean of Christchurch College and together with his friend Henry Ackland was instrumental in closing off Oxford's open sewers and thereby combating some of the causes of the disease. The exhibition also explores the fate of Typhoid Mary – one of the most famous asymptomatic disease carriers in history. Exactly 200 years ago, 30th January 1820, at 3:30 local time, the continent of Antarctica was spotted for the first time by a British expedition captained by Edward Bransfield, on the Merchant Ship The Williams. But they weren’t the very first: 3 days earlier - on 27 January - a Russian expedition led by Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen and Mikhail Lazarev spotted what is now known as the Fimbul Ice Shelf. The UK Antarctic Heritage Trust is spearheading celebrations. Camilla Nichol is its CEO and she describes the history of the icy continent and how it's become the protected scientific reserve it is now. Producer - Fiona Roberts
30/01/2036m 41s

Coronavirus outbreak in China; Genetic diseases in Amish communities and getting an Egyptian mummy to speak

With news reports moving as quickly as the virus may be spreading, the latest coronavirus outbreak which is thought to have started in Wuhan in central China is fast becoming a global health concern. Adam Rutherford speaks to BBC Inside Science's resident virologist Professor Jonathan Ball from Nottingham University, who says one of the most urgent things to do is to find out where the virus came from, and what animal it jumped to humans from. The Anabaptist Amish communities are some of the fastest growing populations on the planet. They came to the US from the Swiss-German border in the 18th and 19th centuries and have maintained their plain, simple community-minded way of life. Partly because they all descended from the same geographical area and partly because they tend to marry within their own communities, they can suffer from a particular spectrum of genetic disorders. Professor Andrew Crosby and Dr. Emma Baple from Exeter University have been studying these diseases, including a number new to medicine, and in return they are helping the Amish to understand and treat some of these debilitating diseases. He may currently sound more like a sheep baa-ing, but in a proof of concept experiment, Professor David Howard, an electrical engineer at Royal Holloway University of London, has been able to scan, 3D print and electronically reanimate the vocal tract of Nesyamum, a 3000 year old Egyptian mummy. The eventual hope is to recreate his tongue and try to get him to sing. Producer - Fiona Roberts
23/01/2031m 13s

Reproducibility crisis in science; Aeolus wind-measuring satellite; electric cars

Science is built upon the idea that results can be verified by others. Scientists do their experiments and write up their methods and results and submit them to a journal that sends them to other scientists, who check them and if they pass muster, the study gets published for further scrutiny. One of the keystones of this process is that results can be reproduced. If your results can’t be replicated, something is amiss. Over the last few years, particularly in the field of psychology, many high profile findings have not been reproduced. Now, the same problems that have plagued psychology are spilling over into other areas. This week, a study showed that ocean acidification does not significantly alter fish behaviour, as had been reported several times before. Adam Rutherford discusses the crisis with Matthew Cobb, Professor of Zoology at Manchester University. ESA’s Aeolus mission was launched in August 2018. It’s one of the European Space Agency’s Earth Explorer satellites. The Aeolus satellite uses lasers to monitor the wind by firing an ultraviolet laser beam into the atmosphere and catching the light’s reflection as it scatters off molecules and particles carried along in the air. It was planned to be very much a proof of principle mission, testing the science, with longer-term plans for a whole constellation of wind monitoring satellites. But Aeolus has performed so well in the tests that, unusually for meteorological science, the results are now considered robust enough to be inputted into the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts models. The UK is aiming to phase out conventional combustion engines in favour of more energy-efficient, less polluting electric vehicles by 2040. In response to a listener’s question on the cleanliness of these machines, BBC Inside Science reporter, Tristan Varela, conducts an investigation in the streets, garages, and laboratories of London. He finds that electric cars are relatively clean in the UK, where energy generation from renewable sources has recently overtaken fossil fuels. However, sales of new electric cars are still heavily outweighed by large, fossil fuel hungry, SUVs. But some people are instead converting existing cars to make their vehicles more environmentally-friendly. Producer - Fiona Roberts
16/01/2030m 11s

Australian bush fires; Veganuary and LIGO

2019 was the hottest and driest year on record in Australia. The Indian Ocean Dipole and the Southern Annular Mode weather systems, plus existing drought conditions, all primed the continent for the horrific fire season currently raging in the east and south east of the country. Climate scientist at the University of New South Wales Sarah Perkins-Kirkpatrick is in no doubt global warming played a role in making these the worst fires in recent history. Making matters even worse is that the ferocity of the bush-fires is creating its own weather. Nicholas McCarthy at the University of Queensland studies fire-induced weather and he explains how this can help spread the fires further. January is also Veganuary, a chance for you to try being vegan for 31 days. The reasons for giving up animal products in your diet are varied, from reducing your carbon footprint to not eating animals and getting healthy. Reporter Geoff Marsh is interested in the evidence in favour for and against a vegan diet. A signal in April 2019 picked up by the LIGO Livingston Observatory has been confirmed as the gravitational ripples from a collision of two neutron stars. LIGO Livingston is part of a gravitational-wave network that includes LIGO (the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory), and the European Virgo detector. Producer - Fiona Roberts
09/01/2031m 51s

The hidden history in our DNA - Part 2 - Travel and Culture

Our genomes are more than just an instruction manual for our bodies. They are maps, diaries, history books and medical records of our and our ancestor's lives...if you know how to read them. In the second part of BBC Inside Science's special, series, Adam Rutherford, UCL geneticist Lucy van Dorp and other scientists discover how travel and even culture of our ancestors can be decoded in our DNA today.
02/01/2027m 58s

The hidden history in our DNA - Part 1 - Sex and Disease

Our genomes are more than just an instruction manual for our bodies. They are maps, diaries, history books and medical records of our and our ancestors' lives.....if you know how to read them. In this programme and the next Adam Rutherford is joined by UCL geneticist Lucy van Dorp and other scientists who are cracking these genomic codes to tell the human story. This week they explore how sex and disease over the past few thousand years has left indelible marks on our DNA.
26/12/1933m 13s

Ten years of Zooniverse; what happened to volcano Anak Krakatau and visualising maths

Adam Rutherford talks to Chris Lintott about the citizen science platform he set up ten years ago. Zooniverse is a place where the public can help scientists analyse huge swathes of data. Projects such as spotting distant galaxies, counting penguins and tagging WW2 diaries have all has a huge boost thanks to the people-power of the Zooniverse. The Indonesian volcano Anak Krakatau, which means 'Son of Krakatoa', was born out of the ashes of the mega volcano which erupted and collapsed in the 1880s. Last year the island volcano Anak collapsed, causing a tsunami which killed 400 people. The collapse of millions of tonnes of rock into the ocean has now been mapped and chunks of rock, the size of office blocks, have been found tossed kilometres from the island. It really brings home how dangerous these volcanoes can be. BBC Inside Science producer Fi is always scribbling and doodling during interviews. It turns out she is a visual thinker and she compulsively draws the science being discussed. She is not alone: many scientists working in fields involving complex maths and physics resort to pictures to illustrate what's happening. But not everything in science can be reduced down to a 2D sketch and not everyone needs a visual aid. Marnie Chesterton finds the scientists who can look at an equation, and 'see' in their heads, the graph it describes. Others get intensely annoyed at analogies that just aren't quite right - like spacetime being a ball on a rubber sheet. She asks a physicist, a philosopher and a mathematician about the relationship they have between maths, reality and our senses. Producer - Fiona Roberts
19/12/1930m 17s

Earliest hunting scene cave painting; animal domestication syndrome

A cave painting in Sulawesi, Indonesia, has been dated and is at least 43,900 years old. The mural portrays a group of part-human, part-animal figures (called therianthropes), hunting large mammals with spears and ropes. It is thought to be the oldest representation of a hunting scene in human history, and perhaps Homo sapiens' oldest known figurative rock art. Adam Brumm at Griffith University in Brisbane is part of an international team that has been exploring this cave complex. He speculates with Adam Rutherford about who the artists were and what they were trying to depict. A famous Russian farm fox study has been running since the 1950’s. The researchers essentially took foxes bound for the fur trade and selected for tameness by choosing to keep and breed from the animals that showed less fear and more friendliness towards humans. After years of selection, the tamer foxes also showed physical changes (floppier ears, curlier tails, white spots, redder fur) as well as changes in breeding times. As a way to study the evolution of domestication of animals, this study is taught to students all over the world. However a chance discovery at a Fox Museum on a Canadian Island, shows the original foxes were taken from fur farms in Canada and had already been bred for tameness. Elinor Karlsson at the Broad Institute at MIT and Harvard University discusses with Adam whether we have to rethink the Animal Domestication Syndrome. Producer - Fiona Roberts
12/12/1928m 4s

Global Carbon Emissions; Parker Solar Probe and simulating swaying buildings

Reports from the UN Climate Change Conference (COP 25) in Madrid are saying that global warming is increasing and that we're not doing enough, fast enough, to change things. The World Meteorological Organisation's provisional State of the Climate 2019 report lists atmospheric carbon dioxide reaching record levels. Global mean temperatures for Jan-Oct 2019 were 1.1+/-0.1 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. The Arctic ice extent minimum in Sept 2019 was the second lowest on satellite record. Tropical cyclone Idai was the strongest cyclone known to make landfall. These are all concerning statistics. According to the Global Carbon Emissions figures that have just been released, carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is still increasing: the slightly good news is that the rate of increase has slowed. Adam Rutherford talks to climate expert at the Tyndall Centre at the University of East Anglia, Corinne Le Le Quéré, to find out more. “Safe as houses" is a cliché built on the solidity of the buildings we put up. But at Bath University engineers are working in the opposite direction. They are asking just how strong does a building have to be - especially in an age of ever taller sky-scrapers, which inevitably sway, particularly when the wind picks up. It's not that there's any danger they'll fall down - but the movement can be unsettling to the occupants. So they've developed a virtual tower - a windowless cabin not much bigger than a caravan stuck on top of a set of hydraulic pistons with virtual reality screens to mimic window views that allow psychologists to monitor volunteers' experiences of living and working in high, flexible spaces. Our Sun is so much more than a giant ball of burning gas. Its core is a nuclear reactor which creates billions of looping and tangling magnetic fields. Its layers are puzzling variations of hot temperatures and its solar wind has some very peculiar properties. These are just some of the reasons NASA launched its Parker Solar Probe in August 2018 on a mission to get close (3.8 million miles) to our star’s surface and study its properties. The first scientific reports from the mission are out and solar expert Professor Lucie Green at UCL reveals what the car-sized, armour-plated craft has been finding out so far. She says "our Sun is more dynamic than expected and we might be getting clues to why the sun spins more slowly than theory predicts." Producer - Fiona Roberts
05/12/1931m 54s

What's the problem with palm oil and should we be supporting sustainably grown oil? Virtual reality skin

Palm oil is now such a dirty word for household products and processed food, that it often hides behind a list of dozens of pseudonyms (from the ubiquitous sodium laureth sulphate to the slightly more obvious palm kernel oil, to the totally opaque vegetable oil). It’s becoming a major global concern, and there is on going debate between enforcing a ban or shifting to more sustainable production. It’s always complicated, but as we’ve learned so many times in the past, we have to tread carefully to avoid the unintended consequences of making snap environmental decisions. Indications that an outright ban might be more environmentally harmful because of the lower yield and more land needed by alternative vegetable oil crops, so should we be paying more attention and even championing sustainably sourced palm oil? In the UK, Chester has become the first city to source its palm oil entirely from sustainable sources. Cat Barton and Simon Dowell from Chester Zoo have recently returned from the EU where they were advising on the creation of more sustainable palm oil cities on the continent. Alongside Indonesia, Malaysia is one of the biggest producers of palm oil. As of 2015, the country was covered in over five and a half million hectares of oil palm, nearly a third of which is found in Sabah, the north eastern state in Borneo. Sabah is home to many endangered species, like pygmy elephants and orang-utans. Many of them are found in reserves but they often need to move between these national parks to ensure they have enough food or to find new territories but also to ensure a healthy mix of genetics within populations. To do this, they need to travel through plantations, which can cause many human-wildlife conflicts, especially when they can sometimes cause thousands of dollars worth of damage in one night as they pass through. This is particularly true of elephants, who love to eat the oil palm fruit bunches, but it isn’t isolated to palm oil. Elephants can frighten people or knock down trees in softwood plantations. Graihagh Jackson reports from Sabah. Virtual Reality has come on leaps and bounds for the visual and auditory senses, but in the realms of haptics, or touch, it’s had to rely on wiring up the user with electrodes which produce vibrations to simulate sensory experiences. But now John Rogers and his team at Northwestern University have developed a wireless soft, flexible ‘skin’ which can be layered gently over the wearer’s own skin to produce a more comfortable and realistic haptic interface with applications not just for gaming, but for tactile social media applications and even for controlling prosthetics. Producer - Fiona Roberts
28/11/1929m 57s

Noise pollution and wildlife; No till farming; Cornwall's geothermal heat

The effects of human-made noise on the natural world has been surprisingly little studied. Hanjoerg Kunc at Queen's University in Belfast has collected all experimental data on the effects of anthropogenic noise on wild animals and found it to be overwhelmingly harmful., And Cambridge University's PhD student Sophia Cooke is looking at the impact of roads, including road noise on British birds, and the impact could be huge. Last week we spoke to Jane Rickson at Cranfield University about how healthy soils are a good defence against the effects of, and indeed the process of, flooding. Many farmer listeners emailed in to tell us about their experiences with no till and minimum disturbance agriculture. Simon Jeffery at Harper-Adams University takes Adam through some of the points raised. Last November, drilling began in Redruth, Cornwall to see if geothermal heat could be tapped from the hot rocks below. Graihagh Jackson went to catch up with the project and met with Lucy Cotton – the project geologist for the United Downs Deep Geothermal Power project. Producer: Fiona Roberts
21/11/1937m 3s

Soils and floods, Air pollution and ultra-low emission zones, detecting the drug Spice

The UK's soils are the first line of defence against flooding, but the condition of the soil is vital to how well it can soak up and slowly release rainwater. Jane Rickson, Professor of soil erosion and conservation at Cranfield University, explains to Adam what makes a healthy soil and what farmers can do to try to prevent floods. "Spice" is a catch-all phrase for a large variety of psycho-active compounds - commonly called legal highs. They interact with the same receptors in the brain as cannabis does. They're commonly sold sprayed onto common herbs that users smoke, so that dose, as well as variety and purity are completely uncontrolled by the time they're taken. And that's where the problems start in A&E departments and the blue-light services, because patients can show up with severe symptoms of psychosis with little clue as to what's caused it. And until now there's been no quick and easy test. Roland Pease went to Bath University where biochemist Chris Pudney and his team have developed some portable kit using ultraviolet to throw light on the spice users are smoking. The Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) was brought in in London in April 2019 to improve air quality in the centre of the city. In 2020 cities including Bath, Leeds and Birmingham are also bringing in ‘Clean Air Zones. Alastair Lewis is professor of atmospheric chemistry at the University of York and he explains what these schemes are targeting and whether we can measure whether they are working. Producer: Fiona Roberts
14/11/1929m 12s

Fracking moratorium; Bloodhound; Big Compost Experiment; transit of Mercury

The Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced an indefinite moratorium this week on mining of shale gas by hydraulic fracturing, aka fracking, in the UK, citing fears of earthquakes and seismic activity caused by fracking in the past. In August this year, a 2.9 magnitude earthquake was recorded at the Preston New Road fracking site in Lancashire, which prompted an immediate shutdown, as required by the strict protocols that we have in place. Adam Rutherford talks to Dr James Verdon, a geophysicist at Bristol University and a co-author of one of the Oil & Gas Authority studies on the Preston New Road, about the science of fracking. Bloodhound is the latest British attempt at the supersonic land speed record. All this week Wing Commander Andy Green has been burning across a dried out lake in the Kalahari Desert, as he and his team are building up to break the sound barrier at 740mph, and his own land speed record of 763 mph. BBC science correspondent Jonathan Amos reports from the trackside. The Big Compost Experiment is a new citizen science project about the wonderful, rich, fruity and essential substance you can produce by doing not that much at all. Architect Danielle Purkiss and Mark Miodownik, material scientist at UCL tell Adam why they are launching this experiment. The planet Mercury, messenger of the Gods, passes between us and the Sun on average just thirteen times a century. This astronomical event will be visible in the UK – weather permitting – next Monday, 11th November. Solar physicist Lucie Green explains how to see the transit of Mercury.
07/11/1928m 4s

African genomes sequenced; Space weather; sports head injuries

Since the human genome was first sequenced nearly 20 years ago, around a million people have had theirs decoded, giving us new insights into the links between genes, ancestry and disease. But most of the genomes studied have been in people of European descent. Now a decade-long collaboration between scientists in the UK and in Uganda has created the largest African genome dataset to date. Dr Deepti Gurdasani discusses her research with Gaia Vince. After 7 years of orbiting the Earth and sending us important information about space weather, NASA’s Van Allen Probes are retiring. Professor Lucie Green from UCL explains how the sun can spit out superhot plasma and streams of high energy particles in our direction. We are mostly protected by the Earth’s magnetic field - but not always. The worst-case scenario is that the radiation could disrupt navigation satellites and bring down electrical power supplies. Professor Green will be keeping an eye on space weather with a new spacecraft. Growing evidence shows that repeatedly getting your head knocked around during competitive sports can lead to long-term serious consequences. The head doesn’t necessarily need to be the target of the blow – a hard tackle can ricochet through your body giving your head a jolt. Roland Pease speaks with sports scientist Liz Williams of Swansea University about a new device to measure these impacts. Presenter: Gaia Vince Producers: Jen Whyntie and Louisa Field
31/10/1929m 0s

Organic farming emissions; Staring at seagulls; Salt and dementia

Switching to 100% organic food production in England and Wales would see an overall increase in greenhouse gas emissions. Although going fully organic would produce fewer direct emissions than conventional farming, researchers say it would limit food production. Making up the shortfall with imports from overseas would increase overall emissions. But is the sustainability of our food production about more than greenhouse gas emissions alone? Professor Dave Reay is Chair in Carbon Management & Education at the University of Edinburgh, and has recently acquired a smallholding in Scotland. He discusses the study and answer your questions about sustainable food and population growth. Seagulls have become notorious food thieves in recent times as they move into towns to find new habitats and sustenance. Scientists at the University of Exeter have found that if you stare at a herring gull, it’s much less likely to steal your chips. Reporter Graihagh Jackson went to Falmouth to meet with researchers Madeleine Goumas and Neeltje Boogert to see the tactic in action. More than 800,000 people in the UK live with dementia, which is an umbrella term for over 200 specific diagnoses that all involve some form of neurodegeneration. Epidemiological evidence has suggested that high dietary salt intake may somehow be linked to developing cognitive impairment. A study released this week shows a mechanism for how this might occur biologically in the brains of mice who were fed a high salt diet. Professor Carol Brayne is Director of the Cambridge Institute of Public Health at the University of Cambridge, and she explains how this new research fits into the field and our understanding of dementia’s causes.
24/10/1927m 59s

Ebola model, Partula snails, Malaria origin

Zoonotic diseases are infections that transfer from animals to people, and include killers such as bubonic plague, malaria, ebola and a whole host of others. Trying to understand how diseases make the leap from animals to humans – so called spillover – and how outbreaks occur is a crucial part of preventing them. But outbreaks are complex and dynamic, with a huge number of factors playing a role: What animal is hosting the disease, the environment in which it lives, the changing climate, human presence and impact on the local area and many other factors. Kate Jones is professor of ecology and biodiversity at University College London, and has been tracking ebola in Africa. Her team has just published a new study that models how and when spillover might happen in the future. On the lushly forest islands of French Polynesia, there lives a very special snail. Partula are around 100 species of tiny snails who give birth to live young and feed on decomposing plants. Each species is uniquely adapted to a particular ecological niche. But in 1967, the highly edible Giant African Land Snail was introduced to the islands as a source of food. They quickly became pests, and in response, the French Polynesian government then introduced carnivorous Rosy Wolf Snails - aka Euglandina rosea - to quell the spread of the introduced Giant Land snails. Reporter Naomi Clements-Brode picks up the story with scientist Ann Clarke, along with Dave Clarke and Paul Pearce-Kelly at ZSL London Zoo. Finally this week, malaria is, as best we can account for it, the single greatest killer in human history. The vast majority of malaria is caused by a type of single celled protozoan called Plasmodium falciparum, carried by mosquitos. But according to new research published this week, it started out around fifty thousand years ago not in us, but as a gorilla disease, and in one particularly unlucky gorilla, two simultaneous infections prompted the mutation and rise of the plasmodium parasite that would go on to kill millions. Dr Gavin Wright from the Wellcome Sanger Institute in Hinxton lead the team behind this molecular archaeology.
17/10/1927m 56s

Extinction Rebellion, UK net zero emissions and climate change; Nobel Prizes

Extinction Rebellion is in the news with its stated aim of civil disobedience and protest, and goal to compel governments around the world to act on the climate crisis. Meanwhile, the UK government this week announced that it was overruling its own Planning Inspectorate, by approving in principle new gas-fired turbines at the Drax power station in North Yorkshire. The Inspectors had advised that the new developments would undermine UK climate policies on carbon emissions. In the UK we are committed to reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050, in order to comply with our ratification of the Paris agreement, which aims to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees. So what are we to do? Are the government policies and commitments enough, and are we sticking to them? Adam Rutherford discusses these questions with Jim Skea, Professor of Sustainable Energy at Imperial College, London, and co-chair of the Working Group tackling reducing emissions of greenhouse gases, part of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. This week has been the annual jamboree and drama of the Nobel Prizes: the announcements of the biggest gongs in science. The Physiology or Medicine Prize went to William Kaelin from Harvard University, Sir Peter Ratcliffe from the Crick Institute in London and Gregg Semenza from Johns Hopkins University for their work on how the body responds to changing oxygen levels. The Physics Prize went to James Peebles of Princeton for cosmological discoveries, and Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz, then at the University of Geneva, for the 1995 discovery of the first exoplanet, 51 Pegasi b. And the Chemistry Prize was awarded for the invention of something that we utterly rely on every day, the lithium battery. The winners are John Goodenough, University of Texas at Austin, Stanley Whittingham, State University of New York, and Akira Yoshino of the Asahi Kasei Corporation in Japan. These awards offer plenty to discuss, so Adam is joined by Lisa Kaltenegger, Director of Carl Sagan Institute & Associate Professor of Astronomy, Andrew Pontzen, Professor of Astrophysics at University College, London, and reporter and presenter Marnie Chesterton, who spent some time with chemistry laureate John Goodenough.
10/10/1927m 52s

HIV protective gene paper retraction, Imaging ancient Herculaneum scrolls, Bill Bryson's The Body

In November 2018 news broke via YouTube that He Jiankui, then a professor at Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, China had created the world’s first gene-edited babies from two embryos. The edited gene was CCR5 delta 32 - a gene that conferred protection against HIV. Alongside the public, most of the scientific community were horrified. There was a spate of correspondence, not just on the ethics, but also on the science. One prominent paper was by Rasmus Nielsen and Xinzhu Wei’s of the University of California, Berkeley. They published a study in June 2019 in Nature Medicine that found an increased mortality rate in people with an HIV-preventing gene variant. It was another stick used to beat Jiankiu – had he put a gene in these babies that was not just not helpful, but actually harmful? However it now turns out that the study by Nielsen and Wei has a major flaw. In a series of tweets, Nielsen was notified of an error in the UK Biobank data and his analysis. Sean Harrison at the University of Bristol tried and failed to replicate the result using the UK Biobank data. He posted his findings on Twitter and communicated with Nielsen and Wei who have now requested a retraction. UCL's Helen O'Neill is intimately acquainted with the story and she chats to Adam Rutherford about the role of social media in the scientific process of this saga. The Herculaneum Library is perhaps the most remarkable collection of texts from the Roman era. Discovered two centuries ago in the villa of Julius Caesar’s father in law, many of the papyrus scrolls bear the writings of the house philosopher, Philodemus. Others are thought to be the works of the philosophers and poets he admired. However, the big drawback is that the villa was buried in the eruption that engulfed Pompeii, and the heat from the volcanic ash turned them all to charcoal. To make life even more difficult, the ink the scribes used was also made of carbon – think black on black. However, now a team from the University of Kentucky are hoping to decipher the texts using X-rays, and have just scanned two complete scrolls, and some fragments at the Diamond Synchrotron in near Oxford. When renowned author Bill Bryson decided to apply his unique eye for anecdote and trivia to the human body he thought he's start at the head and work down. But as he reveals to Adam, it's a lot more complicated and interconnected than that. His book "The Body - A Guide for Occupants" is an indispensable guide to the inner workings of ourselves. Producer: Fiona Roberts
03/10/1935m 37s

Oceans, ice and climate change; Neolithic baby bottles; Caroline Criado-Perez wins RS Book Prize

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's special report on the oceans and cryosphere makes pretty grim reading on the state of our seas and icy places. Ocean temperatures are rising, permafrost and sea ice are melting, sea levels are rising and marine life is either moving or suffering the effects of temperature changes and acidification. Dr Phil Williamson, research fellow at the University of East Anglia, worked on the report and he explains to Adam Rutherford how the watery and icy parts of the planet connect to the atmosphere and climate. It's a good job the small, round, spouted clay vessels found in 3000 year old baby graves in Bavaria weren't washed up very well. Crusts of food deposits have shown that these early baby bottles were used to give infants milk from ruminants such as cows, goats and sheep. This discovery, and previous discoveries of even earlier spouted vessels in Europe, indicate that settling down from hunter-gathering to agriculture in prehistoric Iron and Bronze-Age people impacted all ages. Dr Julie Dunne, organic geochemist at the University of Bristol, thinks that this more settled lifestyle with domesticated animals and cereals to supplement a baby's diet, led to earlier weaning and maybe more babies. Caroline Criado Perez’s ground-breaking gender bias exposé wins the 2019 Royal Society Science Book Prize. 'Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men' by writer, broadcaster and feminist campaigner Caroline Criado Perez, becomes the 32nd winner of the prestigious Royal Society Insight Investment Science Books Prize. Caroline explains to Adam how a range of case studies, stories and new research highlights ways in which women are ‘forgotten’ on a daily basis. From government policy and medical research to technology, media and workplaces, she exposes the lack of gender-specific data that has unintentionally created a world biased against women Producer - Fiona Roberts
26/09/1935m 17s

MOSAiC Arctic super-expedition, Likely extinction of the Bahama nuthatch, Tim Smedley's book on air pollution

On Friday, 20 September, a powerful icebreaker called The Polarstern will set sail from Tromsø, Norway, with the aim of getting stuck into the polar ice. The plan is for the ship to spend the next year drifting past the North Pole, and this should enable scientists to collect unprecedented data on the Arctic. The Polarstern is the ‘mothership’ of a substantial international collaboration called the Multidisciplinary drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate (or project MOSAiC). Scientists from over seventy research institutions across 19 different countries are involved, and a total of six hundred experts will be aboard throughout the expedition. They plan to construct a ‘research city’ around the vessel with different neighbourhoods, each focused on a particular scientific area including: ecosystem, bio-geo-chemistry, ocean, atmosphere and sea ice. Adam spoke to UCL’s Professor Julienne Stroeve, who will be aboard The Polarstern for two months during the Arctic winter, looking at the depth and density of snow in order to improve our understanding of the Arctic, and enhance our ability to predict effects of global climate change. The residents of the Bahamas are still struggling to come to terms with the devastation of Hurricane Dorian (which hit 2 weeks ago) and also with the additional impact of Tropical Storm Humberto which reached the islands on Friday night, bringing more heavy rain and more strong winds. But the human population is resilient and they will eventually rebuild and resume their lives on the Caribbean islands. But for the Bahama nuthatch, it’s thought that Dorian was the final straw. The endemic bird, is (or was) one of the rarest birds in the western hemisphere, in fact it was already thought extinct (after the damage wrought by Hurricane Mathew in June 2016) until last year when Professor Diana Bell and her team of conservationists from the University of East Anglia rediscovered it. But now, after the hurricane it is feared lost forever, and it may not be the only irreversible ecological loss for the Bahamas. Tim Smedley's book 'Cleaning the Air: The Beginning and End of Air Pollution' is shortlisted for the Royal Society's science book prize. Tim tells the full story of air pollution: what it is, which pollutants are harmful, and where they come from. It's scary stuff, but there is good news that air pollution can be avoided and drastically reduced with sensible measures. Producer - Fiona Roberts
19/09/1930m 47s

Model embryos from stem cells, Paul Steinhardt's book on impossible crystals, Mother Thames

One of the most fundamental developmental stages we humans go through is extremely poorly understood. The first few days of the embryo, once it's been implanted in the womb is incredibly hard to study. Yet it's the time when the majority of pregnancies fail. Professor Magdalena Zernika-Goetz at Cambridge University is a leader in the field of making 'model embryos' in both mice and humans. Model embryos until now have been grown in the lab from donated fertilised eggs, but these are hard to come by and governed by strict laws and ethical guidelines. Now researchers in the University of Michigan have used human pluripotent stem cell lines (originally isolated from embryos, but kept and nurtured as clumps of dividing cells in petri-dishes for many years) to make a model embryo that has shown signs of development and organisation in the crucial 7-10 day window. Magdalena and Gaia Vince discuss how helpful these will be to understanding crucial early stage pregnancies and as a tool to test drugs, treatments and disease processes. The ethical side of growing human embryos from stem cells is addressed by Stanford University ethicist Professor Hank Greely. Physicist Paul Steinhardt has spent a great deal of his career trying to understand crystals with seemingly impossible five fold symmetries. Most of this was with pen and pencil in his Princeton laboratory. But in his Royal Society Science Book Prize shortlisted book, 'The Second Kind of Impossible', he documents his adventurous quest for these 'quasicrystals' in the wilds of Russia's Kamchatka Peninsular. In 1957 the River Thames was so polluted it was declared ecologically dead. But since then The Zoological Society of London in partnership with over 30 conservation and research organisations have been working to improve the health of the River Thames and bring back the plethora of life and biodiversity. They are set to publish the first complete analysis of the river in over 60 years this Autumn. They're calling it 'Mother Thames' in recognition of the now nurturing nature of one of Britain's biggest rivers. Presenter - Gaia Vince Producer - Fiona Roberts
12/09/1935m 56s

Inventing GPS, Carbon nanotube computer, Steven Strogatz and Monty Lyman discuss calculus and skin

Global Positioning System, or GPS is perhaps the best known of the satellite navigation systems, helping us find our way every day. Back in the 1970's Bradford Parkinson and Hugo Fruehauf were two of the inventors who miniaturised atomic clocks and launched them in Earth orbit satellites. This was part of the US Department of Defense's plan to track ships and aircraft and guide targeted missiles. In the intervening years, Brad and Hugo had no idea just how far the civilian applications of GPS would go. Alongside Richard Schwartz and James Spilker, they have just been awarded the prestigious the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering. The age of silicon chip based computing could be coming to an end. Difficulties in shrinking silicon transistors, or switches, into ever smaller processors led researchers at MIT to search for alternative semiconducting materials to replace them. Cue carbon nanotubes, tubes of carbon atoms many tens of thousands of times narrower than a human hair. Electrical engineer Max Shulaker and his team have overcome spaghetti-like tangles of CNTs and varying levels of conductivity to create a 16bit processor. He says that rather than a straight forward replacement to silicon, the initial hope is that CNT chip technology can be added to existing silicon wafers. Steven Strogatz and Monty Lyman have been shortlisted for the Royal Society Insight Investment Science Book Prize this year. In "Infinite Powers", Professor of applied maths at Cornell University, Steven Strogatz tells Adam Rutherford the story of calculus and why his book has a warning saying "this book is dangerous, it will make you love mathematics!" And in "The Remarkable Life of the Skin" Dr. Monty Lyman takes Claudia Hammond on an intimate journey across our surface. They discuss advances in skin treatments, new research on the importance of our diet and our skin and the vital role our largest organ plays in our lives. Producer - Fiona Roberts Presenter - Gareth Mitchell
05/09/1930m 27s

Amazon fires, Royal Society Book Prize shortlist announced, John Gribben on quantum physics

Satellite data has shown an 85% increase in the number of fires across Brazil this year. There are more than 2,500 fires active across the Amazon region. This represents the most active number of fires since 2010. The increase in fires has been attributed to deliberate deforestation and clearing for agriculture or mining. The new president of Brazil, Jair Bolsanaro, supports the commercialisation of the Amazon forest and this is said to have encouraged the wide scale burning. Professor of Earth System Science at the University of California Irvine, Jim Randerson and Luiz Aragão of Brazil’s National Institute of Space Research are just two scientists concerned about the destruction and carbon emissions from the extensive burning. The 6 shortlisted books have been announced in the Royal Society Insight Investment Science Book Prize this year. Judges Professor Sir Nigel Shadbolt, a computer scientist and best-selling author Dorothy Koomson run through the list: Infinite Powers – Steven Strogatz The Remarkable Life of the Skin – Monty Lyman Clearing the Air – Tim Smedley Invisible Women – Caroline Criado Perez The Second Kind of Impossible – Paul Steinhardt Six Impossible Things – John Gribbin Science writer and journalist John Gribben takes Gareth through the world of quantum physics when he discusses his book "Six Impossible Things - The Quanta of Solace and the Mysteries of the Subatomic World" Producer - Fiona Roberts
29/08/1928m 14s

UK's black squirrels' genetic heritage; nuclear fusion in the UK and the Royal Society's science book prize

Perhaps you’ve been lucky enough to spot the uncommon black grey squirrel in the UK. The bizarre mutation that causes a change in fur colour has finally divulged its historic evolution. Dr Helen McRobie at Anglia Ruskin University studies the black version of the introduced grey squirrel. She explains to Gareth Mitchell how the grey squirrel might have got the genetic mutation for black fur back when it was in North America. She describes how she stumbled across a finding that questions how we define a species. Nuclear fusion – it’s the energy source of the future, and always will be! Yes, it’s one of those technologies that was about thirty years away in the 1980s when they built a massive fusion lab in Culham in Oxfordshire. And, thirty years on, they’re still trying to crack it. Part of the challenge is building containers that can handle some of the hottest, and trickiest, matter known to humans – plasma. At the Joint European Torus (or JET), they’ve been busy revamping their thirty-five-year-old kit. It’s to keep the fusion research going whilst the scientists wait for a shiny new facility to open up in Southern France. It’s all about working on reactions like those that fuel the Sun – squashing atoms together rather than pulling them apart. A brand new series of landmark tests at JET is kicking off in the months ahead. Roland Pease went to the labs to find out just where the UK is in fusion right now. The 2019 Royal Society Insight Investment Science Book Prize winner will be announced in late September. The shortlisted authors will be announced next week but before then Adam Rutherford chats to two of the judges, Professor Sir Nigel Shadbolt, and best selling fiction author, Dorothy Koomson, about what makes a great popular science book and what in particular the judges are looking for in this year’s competition. Producer - Fiona Roberts
22/08/1928m 9s

UK power cut, Huge dinosaur find in Wyoming, Micro-plastics in Arctic snow

Following the simultaneous outages of two UK power plants last Friday, affecting nearly 1 million people across the country, we at Inside Science wanted to get back to the basics of electricity and get our heads round how the National Grid keeps the nation running. Keith Bell explains the difference between AC and DC (Alternating and Direct current), and why it's essential to keep the frequency of the grid steady at 50Hz. They’re calling it ‘Mission Jurassic’. A site so full of dinosaur bones that it would most probably keep a thousand palaeontologists happy and enormously busy for a thousand years. The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis (TCMI) has signed a 20 year exploration lease on a parcel of the Wyoming dinosaur site, calling on the help of UK associates from the University of Manchester and London’s Natural History Museum (NHM) to assist with the excavations. BBC science correspondent Jonathan Amos was invited to the top secret location to take part in what is arguably the country’s biggest dino dig in decades. There's now good evidence that micro-plastics are present in our oceans and are accumulating in our food chains, but surely they aren’t present in the last pristine environment on Earth? Melanie Bergmann and her team based in Germany compared snow samples from two dozen locations, ranging from the Arctic ice floes and the Norwegian archipelago Svalbard to the north of Germany. Surprisingly, they found 10,000 plastic particles per litre in Arctic snow. But how is the plastic getting there? Melanie provides insight into her ground breaking research unearthing how micro-plastics are capable of travelling such great distances. Producer: Fiona Roberts
15/08/1933m 42s

Making the UK's dams safe, AI spots fake smiles, How many trees should we be planting?

In the light of the evacuation of the Derbyshire town of Whaley Bridge due to damage to the Todbrook reservoir dam and the threat of a catastrophic collapse, questions inevitably arise as to how ‘future proofed’ UK dams are? This is doubly worrying in light of climate change and the increasing likelihood of extreme weather events. With the average age of UK dams being over 100 years and the UK climate forecast to become wetter and warmer, should we be concerned? Gareth Mitchell speaks to Rachel Pether from the British Dam Society and Craig Goff, Technical Lead, Dams and Reservoirs from HR Wallingford, who explain the science and engineering involved in monitoring and safely managing UK dams in a changing climate. When someone smiles at you, how can you tell whether that smile is genuine or fake and why would you want to know? According to Professor of visual computing at the University of Bradford, Hassan Ugail, it’s all in the eyes! Humans are notoriously bad at picking up fake smiles, because we tend to focus our vision on the upturned corners of the mouth. Focus on specific movement of the eyes and the dynamic progression of a smile, however, and that’s when a genuine smile is evident. Hassan explains how computers are over 90% successful at being able to detect fake smiles, and examines the purposes to which this facial recognition technology may be applied in our daily lives. Inside Science listener, Thomas from New Zealand, has noticed the sudden surge in nations encouraging mass tree planting and reforestation. But how much of a difference is it all making? Professor of Agriculture, policy and development at the University of Reading Dr Martin Lukac discusses the impacts of, the soot and ash from the recent forest fires in Siberia, deforestation and even makes an educated guess at much forest you would have to plant to counteract the CO2 emissions emitted after using your family car for the year. Producer - Fiona Roberts
08/08/1928m 6s

Lovelock at 100; Hydrothermal vents and antibiotic resistance in the environment

James Lovelock is one of the most influential thinkers on the environment of the last half century. His grand theory of planet Earth - Gaia, which is the idea that from the bottom of the Earth's crust to the upper reaches of the atmosphere, Earth is one giant inter-connected and self-regulating system, has had an impact way beyond the world of science. As Lovelock celebrates his hundredth birthday (he was born on 26th July 1919) he is still writing books and thinking about science. Science writer Gaia Vince spoke to him about his work and how he came to his famous but controversial theory. Most hydrothermal vents are in deep water far from land, making them incredibly inaccessible to divers. But in a fjord known locally as Eyjafjörður, off the coast of Iceland, is the hydrothermal vent Strytan. It's close enough that it can be accessed by scuba divers, and the algae and animals living in the hot chemical-laden plumes can be sampled. Geoff Marsh heads out with a team of scientists from the Natural History Museum in London and the University of Southampton to collect creatures living both in the hot vent water and in the icy cold fjord. The idea is to sample the genes to see what adaptations to temperature are evolving. We are hearing more and more about antibiotic resistance. Overuse of antibiotics has led to more and more bacteria evolving and adapting ways to survive antimicrobial treatments. But did you know that the genes coding for this resistance can also float freely in water and on surfaces in the environment? A couple of recent studies have been sampling freshwater bodies and commonly touched surfaces (like handrails and toilet seats) in and around London and the amount of antibiotic resistance genes (either freely floating or in bacteria) is quite alarming. Environmental engineer at UCL, Professor Lena Ciric, explains to Marnie Chesterton what this means and whether we should be concerned. Producer: Fiona Roberts
01/08/1930m 13s

False positives in genetic test kits, Impact of fishing on ocean sharks, Sex-change fish

Dr Adam Rutherford uncovers the worrying number of false positive results that the DNA sequencing technologies used by 'direct to consumer' genetic test kits are producing. Many of these tests offer analysis on your ancestry, but some also offer to check you out for the likelihood of you being at risk of some genetic diseases like cystic fibrosis or certain types of breast cancer. The tests look for variants in your genome, little changes in your DNA that alter the risk of developing a number of genetic diseases. The trouble is the rarer the variant, the more likely it is to be disease-causing. But the rarer the variant, the more likely the simple genetic tests are to get it wrong. And with more and more people sending off their raw genetic data to third-party websites for analysis and annotation, the risk of a false positive result increases to up to 80%. It's a small number of people affected, but a serious one if you're told out of the blue that you are at extreme risk of a serious disease. The advice is to keep an eye on family disease traits and if you are worried, go and see your doctor and get a proper diagnostic test. Deep sea pelagic sharks, like the great white, silky, tiger, porbeagle and blue are much more vulnerable than their scary reputation suggests. In fact, many shark species are in decline as a result of industrial fishing rapidly encroaching upon their territories, and an increased value of the sharks themselves. The oceans are big and sharks range far and wide, so understanding these movements is not easy. Professor David Sims, from the Marine Biological Association of the UK and the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton, is part of a huge international consortium of marine biologists who have been tracking 11 species of shark all over the high seas using satellite technology. We’ve been fishing for more than 40,000 years, but our exploitation of the seas got serious in the last 50 years. In nature, sex can be quite fluid, and in some species, sex changes are just a normal part of every day life. Especially in fish. This type of behaviour is called sequential hermaphroditism, and is common in fish. It's been known about for years, but the underlying genetic mechanisms are mysterious, which is strange for such a radical transformation. In the Blueheaded wrasse, when a dominant male is lost from the shoal, the largest female will immediately begin transforming into a male. Neil Gemmell from the University of Otago in New Zealand has lead a study which for the first time has uncovered the genetics of how the sex change happens. Producer: Fiona Roberts
25/07/1928m 5s

Turing on the new £50 note, Moon landing on the radio, 25 years since Shoemaker-Levy comet

Code-breaker and father of computer science, Alan Turing has been chosen to celebrate the field of science on the new £50 note. Adam Rutherford asks Chief Cashier at the Bank of England, Sarah Johns how and why he was selected and he asks Sue Black, Professor of Computer Science and Technology Evangelist at Durham University, who campaigned to save Bletchley Park, what this accolade means. In 1969, while millions watched the Apollo 11 moon landing on the television, BBC radio was providing scientific and engineering commentary throughout the day. One young scientist brought in to help interpret the lunar landscape was Lionel Wilson, at the time he had just finished his PhD on the mechanics of the Moon's surface. But after seeing evidence of ancient lava fields in the pictures beamed back to Earth, he changed the course of his career and spent the next 50 years studying volcanology on Earth and in space. 25 years ago, the planet Jupiter was peppered with over 20 cometary impacts, this had never been seen before. The comet was Shoemaker Levy 9, which had already broken into icy pieces. Its fiery death had been foretold a year earlier when calculations showed its orbit was due to cross Jupiter's. As D-day approached, July 16 1994, experts wondered whether there would be fireworks, or a fizzle, they weren't disappointed. Producer - Fiona Roberts
18/07/1927m 57s

Earliest modern human skull, Analysing moon rocks, Viruses lurking in our genomes

A new study shows that 210,000-year-old skull found in Greece is the earliest evidence for modern humans in Eurasia. A second skull found in the same site is found to be a Neanderthal from 170,000 years ago. These findings suggest that modern humans left Africa earlier and reached further than previously thought. Analysing moon rocks The Apollo missions were scientific explorations, bringing back hundreds of kilograms of moon rock to help us understand the formation of the Moon, the Earth and life itself. We are still studying the rocks that were bought back from between 1969 and 1972. Roland Pease went to the Diamond Light Source Syncotron in Oxfordshire, where scientists are still studying these moon rocks. Viruses lurking in our genomes When it comes to our genomes, there is no such thing as 100% human. Our genetic code is a patchwork of DNA that we have picked up or lost along the way. 8% of our DNA comes from viruses. So what does this mean? Much of the viral DNA is thought to have been involved in forming our immune systems, fighting against pathogenic viruses. But it's not all good news, new work suggests that these human endogenous retroviruses or HERVs might also be the missing causative link in major 'unsolved' neurological diseases such as multiple sclerosis [MS], amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's disease [ALS] and schizophrenia [SCZ]. Presenter: Adam Rutherford Producer: Caroline Steel
11/07/1931m 14s

X-Rays on Mercury, Monkey Tools, Music of Molecules, AI Drivers

The 2019 Royal Society Summer Science exhibition in London is free to enter and continues until Sunday 7th July. BBC Inside Science this week comes from the Society’s HQ in central London. BepiColombo and the X-rays from Mercury Prof Emma Bunce, has been part of the team that last year launched an x-ray telescope on a space probe to Mercury. It will be a long journey, not arriving until 2025. As Emma describes, the MIXS instrument, designed and built in the UK, will analyze the x-rays emitted by the different chemicals on the planet’s surface, and so build a map of the abundancies of different atoms across the terrifyingly hostile world. This is only possible because of the strength of the x-rays coming from the sun that strike the atoms on the surface, eliciting a distinctive signature re-emitted back into space. Capuchin Monkeys and their Tools Tomos Proffitt and colleagues announced in a recent paper in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution their study of archaeological evidence of Brazil’s capuchin monkeys using stones and anvils to smash cashew nuts for at least the last 3000 years. It is not the oldest evidence of non-human primate tool use but it is the oldest for monkeys, and suggests tantalisingly that tool use may have emerged in hominin species independently and on numerous occasions. Molecular Music Chemistry and music pupils at Ilkley Grammar School in the UK have been working together with The University of Bradford to create music specific to different molecules. As A-Level students Amelia Milner and Matthew Hodson describe to Adam, they took the distinctive frequencies of the bonds in certain molecules found in nature and transposed them onto the chromatic musical scale. Then the musicians composed pieces using only that set of notes that evoked some of the properties of the molecules. AI Drivers and Machine Learning Genovefa Kefalidou shows Adam a self-driving car circling a track at the exhibition. The technology to identify and track different objects is getting better, and machine learning algorithms can map human actions onto different scenarios to find appropriate responses, but is society ready to trust and accept the benefits they might bring? Presenter: Adam Rutherford Composers: Amelia Milner, Matthew Hodson (water, aspirin) and Daniel Burgess (cinnamic acid) Producer: Alex Mansfield
04/07/1934m 49s

Global Food Security, Reactive Use-By Labels, Origins of the Potato

On the day that the UK government launches a year long “food-to-Fork” review of food production in the UK, we present a food themed special edition. Global Food Security Maia Elliot is an analyst and writer for Global Food Security, who recently held a competition for young food researchers to present their work in a compelling way in less than 3 minutes. Maia and the winner, Claire Kanja of Rothamstead Research discuss with Adam the broader issues “Food Security” seeks to address, and also how best to communicate often esoteric specialized interest to a broader audience that includes food-consuming tax-payers. A Threat to Wheat Claire’s work is looking into a threat to world wheat harvests known as Fusarium Head (or Ear) Blight. She is trying to categorize the proteins that the fungus uses firstly to evade Wheat’s defences, and then to kill the plant cells for its own food. Food Freshness Sensor Meanwhile, at Imperial College, Hannah Fisher reports on new work to make cheap-as-chips gas sensitive food labels that could detect levels of gases inside a food packet that indicate it is gone off or decayed. You could even read them with the NFC chip in most smartphones. The Origins and Adaptations of the European Potato Talking of chips, published this week is a genetic history of the cultivated European potato. Using DNA from museum specimens going back centuries, the authors describe a very complicated to-and-froing between continents that enables modern varieties to avoid certain blights and even to form decent sized potatoes when growing in different day-lengths. Sandy Knapp of the Natural History Museum in London was one of the authors. Presenter: Adam Rutherford Producer: Alex Mansfield
27/06/1932m 8s

Rinderpest destruction, Noise and birdsong, Science as entertainment

Rinderpest – Sequence and Destroy Last week the UK’s Pirbright Institute announced that it had destroyed its remaining stocks of the deadly cattle virus Rinderpest. This repository was one of the biggest remaining stores of it since it was announced in 2011 that vaccines had eradicated it in the wild. Dr Michael Baron, amongst others, has been arguing for years that because we can now obtain a full sequence of such viruses, we no longer need to run the risk of such scientific samples ever being released, through accident or malice. As such, for Pirbright at least, the rinderpest virus that once killed millions of cattle and starved similar numbers of humans now only exists as a digital memory. Oi, You Singin' at My Bird? The delightful song of the European Robin is actually a fierce territorial warning between males that functions to avoid costly mismatched conflict. In fact, the complexity of the song seems to represent the fitness of the singer. Gareth Arnott of Queen’s University in Belfast talks about his investigation into whether noise – including anthropogenic noise interferes with this life-or-death conversation. It sounds like it does. Science as Entertainment All this week and next BBC2 is hosting a new programme called The Family Brain Games. The games are designed not to test merely general knowledge or conventional measures of IQ, but rather a functional, communicative sort of intelligence that competing families display amongst themselves as a team. But can this sort of nuanced science be properly communicated on TV? Host Dara Ó Briain and neuroscientist Prof Sophie Scott discuss the ins and outs of making science entertaining. Presenter: Adam Rutherford Producer: Alex Mansfield
20/06/1935m 34s

Net-Zero carbon target, Science Policy Under Thatcher, Screen time measures

Net-Zero Carbon Target The UK is set to become the first member of the G7 industrialised nations group to legislate for net-zero emissions after Theresa May’s announcement this week. The proposed legislation would commit the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions to ‘net-zero’ by 2050, which would mean that after reducing emissions as much as possible, any remaining emissions would be offset through schemes such as planting trees or investing in renewable energy infrastructure. Dr Jo House, from the department of Geography at Bristol University, has spent time advising the government on previous carbon budgets and was there in the build-up to the signing of the Paris Agreement in 2016. She talks to Gareth Mitchell about the proposal, what it means for the UK’s climate future and how realistic she thinks the targets are. Science Policy Under Thatcher 30 years ago a new Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, told her officials - in a break from the norm - that she would keep a personal eye on science policy in her government. By 1987, the relationship between government, university research and industrial research would be changed utterly. Prof Jon Agar has been scouring The National Archives and a wealth of hitherto private communications that shed light on how her approach to science policy formed. His new book is out this week and he discusses the events with Prof Dame Wendy Hall, a young scientist in the 80s but now fresh to the programme from hearing announcements at the London Technology Week regarding large investment and an industrial strategy towards Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. Screen Time Measures If you are using evidence to inform your policy, you need to make sure that evidence is as robust as you think it is. David Ellis of Lancaster University tells Gareth about his team’s recent work to evaluate a certain type of self-reporting, particularly involving studies into our well-being with regards to technology use. How much time do you spend with your device? Your answer might not be completely aligned with reality, as revealed by actual screen-time data. Unfortunately, many of the headline-grabbing papers we read regarding health and screen time are based on self-reporting questionnaires, which David suggests might require more scepticism. Presenter: Gareth Mitchell Producer: Alex Mansfield
13/06/1930m 19s

CCR5 Mutation Effects, The Surrey Earthquake Swarm, Animal Emotions

Some people have a genetic mutation in a gene called CCR5 that seems to bestow immunity to a form of HIV. This is the mutation which controversial Chinese scientist Jianqui He tried to bestow upon two baby girls last year when he edited the genes in embryos and then implanted them in a mother. A paper in the journal Nature Medicine this week uses data from the UK Biobank to look at the long term health patterns associated with this gene variant. It suggests that whilst the HIV-1 immunity may be considered a positive, having two copies of the gene also comes with a cost. It seems that it may also lower our immunity to other diseases and shows in the database as a 21% increase in mortality overall. Author Rasmus Nielsen talks about how important this gene is to evolutionary biologists trying to find signs of natural selection in humans. Adam discusses the ethical implications of the research with Dr Helen O’Neill. The Surrey Earthquake Swarm Over the last year several small earthquakes have been detected in one part of Surrey. Many have surmised that these may be caused by oil drilling taking place nearby, but it might be simpler than that. So the British Geological Survey has been monitoring the region. Roland Pease joined Imperial College seismologist Steven Hicks out in the countryside inspecting his detectors to find out more. Mama’s Last Hug Frans de Waal, one of the world’s leading primatologists talks to Adam about his latest book, and the difficulties we as human observers have with studying emotion in animals. Prof de Waal coins a neologism ‘anthropodenialism’ to describe the belief that emotions in animals are incommensurable with human experience. He thinks most mammals, and certainly primates, experience pretty much the same emotions as we do, for similar reasons. Feelings, however, are a different matter. Producer: Alex Mansfield
06/06/1937m 48s

How maths underpins science

Adam Rutherford and guests at the Hay Festival discuss how maths underwrites all branches of science, and is at the foundation of the modern world. His guests are the following. Professor Steve Strogatz, of Cornell University, the author of a new book on calculus, Infinite Powers. He’s worked on all kinds of problems including some biological ones such as the shape of DNA, how fireflies create light and the grandness of small world theories. Dr Emily Shuckburgh, is a climate change scientist at University of Cambridge, who has a PhD in maths studying fluid dynamics. She is the co-author of the Ladybird book on Climate Change with Prince Charles, Sir Venki Ramakrishnan, is President of the Royal Society, and was originally a physicist, who moved into biology, to study the 3-dimensional shape of one of the most important biological structures, the ribosome, for which he won the Nobel prize winner.
30/05/1929m 9s

New CFC emissions, Cannabis and the Environment, The Noisy Cocktail Party, Automated Face Recognition

New CFC emissions Researchers say that they have pinpointed the major sources of a mysterious recent rise in a dangerous, ozone-destroying chemical. CFC-11 was primarily used for home insulation but global production was due to be phased out in 2010. But scientists have seen a big slowdown in the rate of depletion over the past six years. This new study published in the Journal Nature says this is mostly being caused by new gas production in eastern provinces of China. Dr Matt Rigby of the University of Bristol and the BBC’s Matt McGrath, who has also been following the trail, tell Gareth about the mystery. Yeast to make cannabinoids In California, where cannabis has become a major cash crop since legalisation there, researchers are trying to evaluate the environmental impacts of large scale agricultural planting. But, as Geoff Marsh reports, other researchers are finding other ways to produce various cannabinoids for potential future sale. Can humble yeast be modified to produce the active substances that some believe to have therapeutic benefits? Hearing aids for cocktail parties One of the most impressive properties of the human auditory system is the way most of us can overhear or eavesdrop on specific voices in an otherwise crowded room. Most hearing aids can’t help with that: they can sometimes filter out noises that are not human voices, but cannot do the very human trick of sorting one voice from a sea of others. Nima Mesgarani from Columbia University reports in the journal Science Advances a proof of principle for a device that might be able to do just that. Firstly, a new algorithm can separate out one voice from another. Then brain waves from the wearer could be used to recognise which of those voices they are trying to hear. Then it’s a simple case of turning that voice up, and lowering the volume of the others, all in nearly real-time. Automatic face recognition So called Neural Network computing techniques are revolutionising our lives. They are able to perform a host of tasks that not so long ago would be the preserve of human brains, and to process huge sets of data and “learn” very quickly. One of the things they are proving exceptional at is face recognition; being able to identify faces in a crowd, or on a street, from a set of images provided by a user. But with great computing power comes great computing responsibility. What are the implications for policing and personal privacy? Gareth discusses these issues with Stephanie Hare. Producer: Alex Mansfield
23/05/1928m 27s

Hubble Not-So Constant, Synthetic E. Coli, The Adventures of Alexander von Humboldt

The Hubble Constant The Hubble constant is the current expansion rate of the universe but it seems to have changed over time. Hiranya Peiris, Professor of Astrophysics from University College London and Adam Riess, Professor of Physics and Astronomy from Johns Hopkins University, are both using different methods to obtain a value for the Hubble constant. But there is a discrepancy in their values. It used to be that the error bars on the two values overlapped, and so cosmologists thought they would converge as the experiments got more precise. But instead, as the error bars have shrunk, the discrepancy is getting more serious, and something must be wrong. They chat to Adam about potential reasons for this difference in calculations and what it could mean for our cosmological model of the universe. Is new physics required to evolve the description of the age of the universe as we know it to be more accurate? A synthetic E. Coli genome Jason Chin and Colleagues at the Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge have published this week in the Journal Nature their latest work to completely synthesise a new genome of an E. coli bacteria. Not only was the genome designed and manufactured by human means, it was also recoded in a way not used by nature, involving some 18000 edits. In natural DNA, several different codes can do the same job. As Roland Pease reports, the new genome instead uses fewer of these duplicates, demonstrating all sorts of possibilities for future designs of synthetic cells. Von Humboldt Friedrich Wilhelm Heinrich Alexander von Humboldt was a celebrated Prussian geographer, naturalist and explorer. He influenced Darwin and was the first person to describe human-induced climate change, based on his observations from his travels. Yet he has slipped into relative obscurity, at least in the English-speaking world. Andrea Wulf is an acclaimed author who has previously written about Alexander von Humboldt and is now back with another book about the explorer: The Adventures of Alexander von Humboldt. It’s a graphic novel (illustrated by Lillian Melcher) that celebrates the 250th anniversary of Humboldt’s birth and depicts his adventures on his 5 year expedition through South America. Adam Rutherford chats to Andrea about her book, why she chose to make it a graphic novel and how Humboldt’s views on the environment can be interpreted today. Producer: Alex Mansfield
16/05/1934m 16s

Forensic science provision, optimal garden watering strategy, and a mystery knee bone

A damning House of Lords' report into the provision of forensic science in England and Wales makes for uncomfortable reading for some but is broadly welcomed by those in the field. Prof. Niamh Nic Daeid, one of many who gave evidence to the Science and Technology Committee, gives her reaction and suggests how a combination of unsatisfactory regulation, profit and austerity pressures in a uniquely commercialised sector, and some surprising gaps in the science knowledge base has lead to a sorry situation. Spring has sprung and it's probably not too late to get the tomato plants in, but should you water them little and often, or more but less often? Madeleine Finlay reports from Wisley, where The Royal Horticultural Society's Janet Manning has set up a new experiment this year to answer that question. Janet is the first Garden Water Scientist at the RHS, and hopes to demonstrate that giving plants less frequent, but more generous, bouts of hydration encourages deeper root growth, building in resilience for those periods when water is harder to come by whilst also allowing gardeners ultimately to use less. Do you have a fabella? Or maybe two fabellae? Michael Berthaume, "Anthroengineer" at Imperial College London tells us about a curiously under-studied bone that some people have in their knees. Present in certain primates and quadruped mammals, but thought to have disappeared from human anatomy, it seems to have made a bit of a comeback in certain populations around the world over the last century or so. Quite why, quite how, and quite what it's for, seems something of a mystery.
09/05/1928m 39s

Sex, gender and sport - the Caster Semenya case and the latest Denisovan discovery

In 2018, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) introduced new eligibility regulations for female athletes with differences in sex development (DSDs). These regulations are based on the contention that women with high levels of endogenous testosterone and androgen sensitivity have a performance advantage over their peers. South African middle distance runner, Mokgadi Caster Semenya, who won two Olympic gold medals in 2012 and 2016, and Athletics South Africa, are contesting the legality of these new regulations. The basis of their objection, at the Court of Arbitration for Sport, is that there is a lack of scientific evidence showing that endogenous testosterone concentrations substantially enhance sports performance. Caster, who is DSD herself, has lost her case and Adam turns to expert in sport, exercise and genomics at Manchester Metropolitan University, Dr. Alun Williams to explain the implications. Less than a decade ago, an entirely new branch of the ancient human tree was discovered. These new hominins were named the Denisovans, after the Denisova cave in the Altai Mountains in Siberia where fragments of finger bone and teeth were discovered, and genetic sequencing of a finger bone revealed that they were a new hominin group, an extinct sister group to Neanderthals. This exciting find contained a tantalising puzzle. Traces of Denisovan DNA are found in modern-day population groups like Sherpas, Tibetans and some other neighbouring populations and this includes genetic variants which help them to survive at high altitudes where the oxygen levels are low. The original Denisovan cave is only around 700 metres, so why would such an adaptation be necessary at these altitudes? This week a new paper in Nature slots a big piece into the puzzle. Teams from the Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology have found another Denisovan fossil – this time a mandible, a lower jawbone, still containing teeth – from the vast Tibetan plateau in China. At 2.3 Km above sea level, it’s very high and the air is thin, and 160,000 years ago, which is when the fossil has been dated to, it would have been a very challenging place to live indeed. In fact this jawbone is the earliest known hominin fossil found on this enormous plateau. Adam calls in Professor Fred Spoor, from the Centre for Human Evolution Research at the Natural History Museum in London, to examine the facts and to see if we can work out how far and wide these hominins travelled. Producer: Fiona Roberts
02/05/1927m 58s

Thought-to-speech machine, City Nature Challenge, Science of Storytelling

Patients who suffer neurological impairments preventing them from speaking potentially face a severely limited existence. Being able to express yourself in real time is a large part of our identity. In the journal Nature this week, scientists from the University of California, San Francisco, report a new technique for synthesising speech based on measurements of neural signals taken from the brain. Author Dr Gopala Anumanchipalli tells Adam about how this proof of principle could one day form the basis for a speech prosthesis for patients who have lost the ability to converse. Around the world this weekend (April 26th-29th 2019) people are being encouraged to participate in the City Nature Challenge, a global effort to catalogue urban wildlife using a free mobile app. Reporter Geoff Marsh travelled to the California Academy of Sciences, home of the initiative, to meet those behind it and how we might all take part. The third act in our drama is a chat with journalist and writer Will Storr about his new book - the Science of Storytelling - which explores the structure of stories with relation to our evolution and brain structure. Primeval instincts of expectation, subversion and causation intertwine with camp-fire sagas from the beginning of conversation. What can this science of storytelling contribute to the art of telling stories about science? A ripping yarn indeed. Producer: Alex Mansfield
25/04/1928m 27s

Notre-Dame fire, Reviving pig brains, ExoMars, Evolution of faces

The horror of the blazing Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris has been slightly quenched by the fact that so much of the French landmark has been saved. But what was it about the structure of the roof, with some the beams dating from the 13th century, that meant it burned like a well-stacked bonfire? Guillermo Rein is Professor of Fire Science at Imperial College London , and he explains to Adam Rutherford how wood burns and how it was the intricate mixture of large and small beams, and very poor fire protection measures that made the iconic roof, so vulnerable. An experiment to see whether isolated dead pig brains could be preserved at the cellular level in order to study post mortem brains, had a surprising outcome. The BrainEx technology of perfusing the brains with chemicals that should have just halted the rapid degradation of cellular structure in the brain, that occurs soon after death, actually caused them to start firing neurons, reacting to drugs and generally behaving as if they were alive. Although, it has to be stressed, there was no whole-brain connectivity or consciousness achieved, it does raise ethical questions about death, if this method was to be developed for use in humans. Bioethicist at Kings College London, Silvia Camporesi explores the facts that reveal that death is a process rather than a single event and what this might mean for patients that are diagnosed as brain dead. Where is the Martian methane? This is the question Mannish Patel at the Open University has been left pondering after the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter came up empty handed in detecting the gas on Mars. Methane could be a signature of past of present life on the Red Planet, it's been measured by NASA's Curiosity rover and by telescopes on Earth, but the far more sensitive and specialised TGO has so far failed to detect the gas. It could be because methane levels in the thin Martian atmosphere is a seasonal event, we'll just have to ait for an entire Martian year of surveys to be able to solve this mystery. Our faces are incredibly important in our lives, we feed through them, they are the conduit for our sensory interaction with the universe, via smell, hearing and vision; we speak, and we convey the subtlest emotions with a raised eyebrow, a wry smile, a clenched jaw or eyes wide open. It is the central importance of these features that has meant we’ve been intensively studying the evolution of the face for decades, to work out why we look the way we do, and how much of our looks reflects adaptations that enhanced our survival, and how much is just down to quirks of evolution. Anatomist, Paul O’Higgins from York University is interested in how all that has influenced our faces. Producer: Fiona Roberts
18/04/1933m 8s

Visualising a black hole, Homo luzonensis, Two ways to overcome antimicrobial resistance

"We have now seen the unseeable" according to scientists who are part of the Event Horizon Telescope group. The international team has released a picture of the first black hole. Data gathered from an array of over 8 radio telescopes has been crunched to create a picture of the super-hot plasma surrounding the black hole M87. It shows extremely excited photons on the brink of being swallowed up by the supermassive black hole, 500 million trillion km away. Marnie Chesterton, asks UCL cosmologist Andrew Pontzen what the glowing doughnut-shaped image can tell us about the laws of gravity and relativity. A new species of hominin has been discovered in caves at the northernmost tip of the Philippines, on the island of Luzon. The discoverers have called this creature Homo luzonensis, and it's thought to be 50,000 years or older. The teeth, hand and foot bones suggest it could have been a mixture of early modern humans - Homo sapiens- and older ancestors like the Australopithecines. Cambridge University's Leverhulme Professor of Human Evolution, Robert Foley suggests some caution with calling this a new species, and explains how populations of hominins isolated on islands could evolve to be different by a mechanism called genetic drift. The world is facing an antimicrobial crisis. The global fight against infections is looking worrying as more and more strains of bacteria emerge which are resistant to our stocks of antibiotics. Marnie visits to Tblisi, in Georgia to meet scientists who are looking at a different way to fight infections, collecting and using the microscopic phage viruses which infect the bacteria which infect us. Another way to try and beat antibiotic resistance was the focus for Susan Rosenberg at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston Texas, when she thought it might be clever to try and stop microbes evolving resistance to antibiotics . She discovered that when microbial cells are stressed, a number of them actually start to mutate at a greater rate. This means they stand a greater chance of mutating into a form that has some resistance to our drugs. But by learning about the finer details of this mechanism, and finding a drug that can halt it. She and her team hope to skew the evolutionary arms race between microbes and antibiotics and our immune systems in our favour. Producer: Fiona Roberts
11/04/1938m 32s

Cretaceous catastrophe fossilised, LIGO and Virgo, Corals, Forensic shoeprint database

About 66 million years ago an asteroid at least 6 miles wide crashed into the Earth, in the shallow sea that is now the Yucatan Peninsular in Mexico. It gouged the Chicxulub crater 18 miles deep; threw 25 trillion tonnes of debris into the atmosphere, much of which was hotter than the Sun, created huge seismic waves and massive tsunamis churning the Gulf of Mexico, tearing up coastlines and peeling up 100’s of metres of rock. 75% of the Earth’s forest burned. Debris was thrown out across the Solar System and North America was showered by a fan of glassy molten rock droplets. This geological event marked the end of the Cretaceous period and the start of the Palaeogene. Most people accept that this massive event caused the last great extinction, the end of the dinosaurs and a period of intense cold. Many fossil finds back this theory up. But very little fossil evidence showing the impact of the actual event has been found. Until now. Hundreds of miles from Chicxulub in a fossil site called Tanis, in North Dakota, part of the vast Hell Creek formation, is a fossil find that depicts the turmoil 10's of minutes after the asteroid hit. Marine and freshwater fish are found tangled together with these glassy droplets crammed in their gills, Charred trees are mixed up with hundreds of mangled animal bones, amber perfectly preserving drops of what was molten Earth. It's got palaeontologists including Professor Phil Manning at Manchester University very excited. The gravitational wave detectors LIGO and VIRGO have been recently upgraded and made more sensitive to the miniscule signals that denote ripples in gravity - gravitational waves. Professor Sheila Rowan of the University of Glasgow explains to Gareth Mitchell that she hopes that with this third run of the detectors, they will be finding not just one or two signals that provide evidence of massive events in our universe, but hundreds, maybe even thousands. In the quest to understand how corals are affected by rising sea temperatures we need to understand the symbiotic relationship they have with dinoflagellates, the single-celled algae that live in, and use photosynthesis to make food for the coral. When coral gets too hot and undergoes 'bleaching', this is the algae leaving the coral. Yixian Zheng at the Carnegie Institution of Washington takes Roland Pease on a tour of her coral tanks and explains that she's hunting for a model coral organism to study this process at the genetic and molecular level. A crime has been committed in the studio. Gareth's tea has been drunk and his biscuits have been nibbled. Luckily evidence was left at the scene of the crime - a shoeprint with distinctive wear patterns. One quick phone call and the director of the Leverhulme Research Centre for Forensic Science at the University of Dundee, Professor Niamh Nic Daeid is on the case. She's asking the public to help build up a database of footwear prints. The project is the largest ever study into the variation in footwear marks made by the same shoes across different surfaces and activities so that the variation observed can be used to explore links between the shoe and the mark it makes. In order to do this, she's asking thousands of individuals to take part in a large-scale citizen science project by taking pictures of their footwear and the marks they make. This will help the Dundee team build a substantial database for use in their research to aid the scientific validation of footwear marks as evidence for use in the criminal justice system. Producer (and biscuit thief) - Fiona Roberts
04/04/1939m 0s

UK pollinating insect numbers, Tracking whales using barnacles, Sleep signals

One of the longest running insect pollinator surveys in the world, shows that a few generalist pollinators are on the increase, whereas specialist insects are declining. Using data collected by volunteers across Great Britain to map the spatial loss of pollinator insect species, the study by the CEH (Centre for Ecology and Hydrology) measured 353 wild bee and hoverfly species across the country. The results showed that on average, each 1km2 survey patch lost an average of 11 species from 1980-2013. CEH's Professor Helen Roy and Dr Claire Carvell explain to Marnie Chesterton how volunteers can take part in the next survey. Want to know where a whale has been? Just ask the barnacles on its head! Barnacles hitchhike on whales, and they’ve been doing this for millions of years. When barnacles grow they add to their carbonate shells using compounds from their surroundings. As the whales migrate, the barnacles take up compounds from the different oceanic locations. A bit like filling in a travel diary, or collecting passport stamps. If you can decipher the chemical code laid down in the barnacle shells, you can work out where the whale has been on its oceanic migrations. This is what researcher Larry Taylor, at University of California Berkeley, has been doing and he says that the information can even be found in fossilised whales (and barnacles.) The patterns signals in our brain make when we are falling asleep are quite hard to study. But thanks to a few people who manage to fall asleep in an FMRi scanner, we now know there are multiple stages of sleep. Professor Morton Kringlebach, a professor of neuroscience at the University of Oxford likens the pattern of brain activity, as it enters the various sleep stages, to the choreography of a dance. His friend, Dr. Milton Mermikides at the University of Surrey, goes one further. As a composer and academic expert in jazz, he thought the pattern of brain activity was like chord changes in jazz music. So he put the sleepy brain to music. Marnie listens to the soporific tones and asks if people with disordered sleep, such as insomnia or restless leg syndrome would make different music? Producer: Fiona Roberts
28/03/1927m 59s

Where next World Wide Web? Space rocks and worms

30 years ago Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web as a way to let physicists share their papers and data on a distributed network. It's changed a lot since then and not all for the better. Dominant technology companies monopolise our data and many, including Berners-Lee are worried about the growth of state sponsored hacking, misinformation and scamming. One solution is to re-decentralise the web, giving us more control of our information and what is done with it, but at what cost? Founder and director of, Irina Bolychevsky and technology guru Bill Thompson discuss the future. BBC Space Correspondent Jonathan Amos has news on some space rocks this week. Ultima and Thule, make up a bi-lobe comet out in the far reaches of the Solar System in the Kuiper Belt. Ultima-Thule was visited by the New Horizons mission in January. More data is being analysed and giving scientists insight into how these two planetary building blocks collided and merged and also on how it got its strange flattened shape. Another rock seems to be a rubble pile. The asteroid Ryugu is currently hosting the Japanese Space Agency's Hayabusa 2 spacecraft and landers. Jonathan explains to Gareth what stage the missions' audacious sample collect and return is now at. And there's a shock discovery by spacecraft OSIRIS-REx from asteroid Bennu. The NASA spacecraft analysing the asteroid has observed it shooting out plumes of dust that surround it in a dusty haze. It's a phenomenon never seen in an asteroid before. Back down on Earth and under the surface of the earth are the earthworms. As any savvy gardener will know, earthworms make a big difference to the health of soil and plants. What isn’t as well understood is how changes to the soil - like climate change and the intensification of agricultural practices - have impacted on the all-important worm population. In fact, scientists don’t even know what’s down there, wriggling underneath the surface. To find out, farmers recently undertook to the first worm survey in the UK. Finding that 42% of fields had very few or completely lacked key types of earthworm, the results suggest that over-cultivation has led to poor soil health in significant amounts of farmland. Producer: Fiona Roberts
21/03/1931m 37s

Rules and ethics of genome editing, Gender, sex and sport, Hog roasts at Stonehenge

When the news broke last December that Chinese biophysicist He Jiankui had successfully edited the genomes of twin girls using the technique known as CRISPR-Cas9, scientists and the public were rightly outraged that such a procedure had taken place. Jiankui is currently being investigated by Chinese authorities for breaking legal and ethical guidelines on human genome editing. This week, in the journal Nature, several top scientists have called for a global moratorium on gene editing in the clinic. Which might be surprising, because we thought these rules were already in place. Dr. Helen O’Neill, a Lecturer in Reproductive and Molecular Genetics at UCL explains to Adam Rutherford what the current rules are, and they debate whether we need a ‘voluntary moratorium’. It’s hard to miss the current discussions on sex, gender, and biology. One arena where debates are getting quite heated is sport. In 2016, the International Olympic Committee announced that male-to-female transgender athletes will be allowed to compete in the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, without having gender reassignment surgery. They do have to demonstrate reduced blood testosterone levels (usually achieved through hormone therapy). Female-to-male transgender athletes can compete ‘without restriction’. Gerard Conway, Professor of Reproductive Endocrinology at the Institute for Women’s Health at University College London, joins Adam to help us understand many of the issues concerning testosterone and its putative effect on athletic performance. The festival hog roast has been happening for more than four and a half thousand years. Hundreds of pig bones have been unearthed from henge sites including Durrington Walls near Stonehenge in Wiltshire – and these have helped put together a picture of life in Neolithic Britain, especially when people came together from all over the country, and brought pigs with them for big feasts. Dr. Richard Madgewick at Cardiff University carried out isotopic analysis on the pig bones to work out just how far people travelled with their pigs to attend these social events. Producer: Fiona Roberts
14/03/1930m 36s

A cure for HIV? Sleepy flies, Secrets of the Fukushima disaster, Science fact checking

An HIV-1 sufferer, who had developed aggressive cancer, and underwent a revolutionary stem cell transplant, has been declared HIV resistant. It's been 18 months since the 'London patient' underwent a stem cell transplant of donated HIV resistant cells. This has only happened once before, in the case of the ‘Berlin Patient' – who, after two transplants, has now been HIV and cancer free for 10 years. Professor Ravindra Gupta at Cambridge University is careful not to say the work carried out at UCL has ‘cured’ the patient, but it’s very promising. They say they have made the patient’s cells ‘resistant’ to infection by the HIV virus. There are no animals that do not need sleep, yet we're still not sure why we need to sleep. Giorgio Gilestro at Imperial College has been trying to find out more about whether lack of sleep shortens lifespan, by bothering fruit flies and stopping them dropping off. In a carefully designed experiment, he has devised a way of shaking the flies as soon as it looks like they are dropping off. He tells Gareth Mitchell that he's 98% certain the flies were kept awake day after day and discovered that there was no life-shortening effect due to lack of sleep. He cannot rule out the benefit of micro-sleep, but it provides tantalising results which could point us in the direction of finally discovering whether we need those 8 precious hours a night. Eight years ago, on 11th March 2011, three of the nuclear reactors overheated and exploded at the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan. This was following the tsunami that killed around 19,000 people. The essentials are known – the reactors overheated when the cooling circuits failed. The overheated steam then broke down into hydrogen and oxygen, which then caught fire and blew the reactor vessels apart. But the details aren’t known. And there’s no way of getting inside the reactors to learn them. So instead researchers are doing a forensic analysis of the radioactive debris scattered around the reactor sites – some of it at the Diamond X-ray facility just outside Oxford. Roland Pease was waiting in the experimental area as one grain of Fukushima dust was brought in from safe storage. Concerned about a growing number of spurious scientific claims on products and campaigns against vaccinations and the shape of our planet, climate scientist Ben McNeil decided to do something about it. He has come up with a website where anyone can pose a question for scientists to answer. is just starting up, but Ben's hope is to put the public in direct contact with the scientists with some, if not all, of the answers.
07/03/1929m 16s

Falling carbon and rising methane; Unsung heroes at the Crick

Efforts to cut emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and tackle climate change in many developed economies are beginning to pay off, according to research led by Corinne Le Quere at the Tyndall Centre at the University of East Anglia. The study suggests that policies supporting renewable energy and energy efficiency are helping to reduce emissions in 18 developed economies. The group of countries represents 28% of global emissions, and includes the UK, US, France and Germany. The research team analysed the various reasons behind changes in CO2 emissions in countries where they had declined significantly between 2005 and 2015. They show that the fall in CO2 emissions was mainly due to renewable energy replacing fossil fuels and to decreasing energy use. Methane is many times more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. However, it breaks down much more quickly than CO2 and is found at much lower levels in the atmosphere. During much of the 20th century levels of methane, mostly from fossil fuel sources like coal and gas, increased in the atmosphere but, by the beginning of the 21st century, they had stabilised. Then, surprisingly, levels starting rising in 2007. That increase began to accelerate after 2014 and fast growth has continued. Studies suggest these increases are more likely to be mainly biological in origin. However, the exact cause remains unclear. Some researchers believe the spread of intense farming in Africa may be involved, in particular in tropical regions where conditions are becoming warmer and wetter because of climate change. Rising numbers of cattle – as well as wetter and warmer swamps – are producing more and more methane. This idea is now being studied in detail by a consortium led by Professor Euan Nisbet, at Royal Holloway, University of London. Another, more worrying source for the increase in methane could be that it’s not been broken down in the atmosphere as efficiently. Natural chemicals in the atmosphere, which help to break down methane, may be changing because of temperature rises, causing them to lose their ability to deal with the gas. The Francis Crick Institute is a biomedical discovery institute researching the biology underlying human health. This vital research is carried out by some of the best scientists in their field. However, many, many more people are involved behind the scenes. ‘Craft and Graft’ is a new exhibition at the Francis Crick Institute celebrating these ‘unsung heroes’, and opens on 1 March, focusing the spotlight on the technicians, engineers and support staff that are vital in supporting the scientists and their work by ensuring the glassware is washed, the equipment runs smoothly and the cells are all looked after and categorised correctly. Hannah Fisher was granted special access behind the scenes to meet some of the people who inspired the exhibition. Producer: Fiona Roberts
28/02/1927m 44s

Mars - rovers v humans? Forests and carbon, Ethiopian bush crow

Nasa have called time on the 14 year mission with the Mars Opportunity rover. Curiosity is still there. But what's next for our exploration of the Red planet? Adam asks Senior Strategist in Space Systems at Airbus, Liz Seward and BBC space correspondent, Jonathan Amos. Airbus are working with the European and Russian Space Agencies on the next rover, part of the Exomars mission. This new rover is called the Rosalind Franklin, after the UK scientist and when it hopefully lands in 2021, it'll be drilling down, deep into the surface of Mars to look for evidence of past life. We know that trees help mitigate the effects of greenhouse gases on climate change by sucking up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. In fact forests are estimated to lock up 2 of every 10 carbon molecules released. But which forests do it best? Tom Pugh at the University of Birmingham has been looking at the age of forests to try and see if this is a factor. It turns out the pristine, ancient tropical forests like the Amazon, although doing a good job, just aren't as good as the younger, regrowth forests of the Boreal and Temperate zones in the northern hemisphere. It's all down to demographics and the balance between new trees and dying trees. We keep hearing that this, or that, species is being threatened by climate change, but often the mechanisms are not that obvious. One particularly intriguing example comes in the form of the Ethiopian bush crow. An intelligent, seemingly adaptable bird, living in what seems like a general, widespread habitat in Southern Ethiopia, eating a wide and varied diet. Yet it's range is restricted to tiny pockets of land in a huge area of, what seems like a similar habitat. Ecologist, Andrew Bladon at Cambridge University thinks he has the answer to what's restricting this bird's range and how is a warming climate pushing this bird to extinction. Producer: Fiona Roberts
21/02/1934m 13s

Insect decline, Gut microbiome, Geomagnetic switching

A very strongly worded, meta-review paper (looking at 73 historical reports from around the world published over the past 13 years) has just been published looking at the fate of insects around the world. The researchers have collated other people’s research, including the big 27 year study from Germany, that showed 75% loss of insects by weight (biomass). The basic headlines are quite scary: 40% of insect species are declining; 33% are endangered; we’re losing a total mass of 2.5% of insects every year. The reviewers blame habitat loss by conversion to intensive agriculture as the main driver for the declines, plus agro-chemicals, invasive species and climate change adding to the burden. Adam Rutherford speaks to insect expert Professor Adam Hart from the University of Gloucestershire to discuss numbers and consequences. It’s quickly being realised that the composition of microbes in our guts is vital to our health. Scientists working on the gut microbiome have discovered and isolated more than 100 completely new species of bacteria from healthy human intestines. It’s hoped that these new techniques to isolate and grow these novel bugs, will give us insight into how our microbiome keeps us healthy. After covering the story about the Earth’s early core accretion and the clues found in rocks about the early magnetic field, listener Neil Tugwell emailed BBC Inside Science to ask for more information about geomagnetic switching. Are we heading for another flip of the magnetic poles? And what might be the impact on GPS? Adam gets the answers from Dr. Robert Wicks, lecturer in space risk in the UCL Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction. Producer: Fiona Roberts
14/02/1927m 55s

Sea Level Rise, Equine Flu, Generator Bricks, Iberian Genes

In 2016 some scientists suggested that with climate change so much ice in Antarctica could melt that the global sea level could rise up to a metre. There would be an "ice apocalypse". Now another group has refined the models and in a paper published this week has concluded that the rise will be lower. Adam Rutherford and lead author Dr Tamsin Edwards of Kings College London discuss the latest research and how policy makers and the public should react to changing results from ice sheet studies. All race meetings in the UK have been cancelled today following the discovery that three horses have been diagnosed with equine flu, despite having been vaccinated. Expert on equine flu at the University of Nottingham, Dr Janet Daly, talks to Adam about the disease, how the outbreak has come about and the process of making a new vaccine. What if the walls of your house generated their own electricity? It may sound far-fetched, but one team in the chemistry department of King’s College London is trying to do just that. Reporter Hannah Fisher went to visit Dr Leigh Aldous to discover his invention – a brick, which is hoped to be made out of recycled plastic, that can generate its own electricity. While the project is still in its early stages, it is hoped that the brick will be able to be used in off-grid and remote locations, as well as those affected by natural disasters. Scientists have analysed DNA samples from people living on the Iberian Peninsula to determine their genetic heritage. Results revealed near vertical stripes running from the north of the peninsula to the south, indicating that at this fine resolution, Spanish people are more genetically similar from north to south as opposed to east to west. Dr Clare Bycroft of Oxford University chats to Adam more about how this fits with what we know about Spanish history.
07/02/1927m 55s

Sprinting Neanderthals, Geodynamo, Spreading Sneezes and Dying Hares

Many physical features of Neanderthals might not be for cold climate adaptation as previously thought. They may be for types of locomotion. Which, according to paleo-ecologist, John Stewart at Bournemouth University, makes the long thigh to calf ratios more likely that Neanderthals were adapted to fast, powerful sprints, as part of their hunting and survival. The clues to this lie less in the bones and more in the evidence that Neanderthals lived in wooded areas rather than tundra. Earth’s solid iron inner core, liquid outer core and interactions between the two give us our protective magnetic field and are responsible for the ‘geodynamo’ that drives this, as well as volcanism and Earth’s tectonics. But we don’t yet know when the solid core formed. It’s hard to find paleo-magnetic records from early in Earth’s history. But now a group at Rochester University in New York have discovered magnetic particles from 565 million year old Ediacaran Period rocks in Canada and they say that at the time lots of life was evolving on our planet, the geodynamo was low and wobbly. This leads them to believe the solid core formed two to three times later than previously thought. A typical sneeze will throw out 40,000 tiny droplets loaded with viruses or bacteria, which can hang in the air like a cloud until someone else comes along and inhales some. To a scientist, this suspension is an aerosol, and what goes on inside a tiny droplet can be very different from what happens in a beaker of fluid. But studying those conditions, which can alter whether a germ can survive its aerial journey is hard. Which is why at Bristol University they’ve developed an aerosol trap that can hold droplets mid-air, without contact, with an electric field. Rabbits and hares across Europe have been declining rapidly over the past few decades. There are a number of factors involved (Agricultural intensification, climate change, hunting and a whole host of infectious diseases.) Myxomatosis in rabbits, which has now jumped into hares, is fairly well known by the public, but there are other viral and bacterial diseases that are jumping between the species and the most recent one Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus 2 (RHDV2) is of particular concern right now. Very little is known about this disease in wild populations. It was seen in hares in Europe a few years back, but it’s now just been identified in the UKs native brown hare population. Biologist Diana Bell at the University of East Anglia wants the public to contact her if they see any hares that look like they’ve died from the disease. Producer - Fiona Roberts
31/01/1928m 8s

Leonardo's drawings, Super-Mendelian inheritance in mice, The Weddell Sea Expedition

In February The Royal Collection will be holding the largest exhibition of Leonardo da Vinci’s work in more than 65 years to mark the 500th anniversary of his death. Adam Rutherford gets up close and personal with some of Leonardo's drawings in the Royal Collection at Windsor Castle. Curator and Leonardo expert, Martin Clayton explains how modern scientific, non-invasive, techniques have revealed some interesting insight into the great artist and scientist's mind and his creative process. The exhibition - Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing - will start exhibiting at a number of venues nationwide, before coming together, at the Queen's Gallery in Buckingham Palace and The Queen's Gallery Palace of Holyrood House in Edinburgh. In normal Mendelian inheritance, genes are inherited according to a particular pattern. Basically, you have two copies of each gene, but a sperm or egg only has one, and so there is a 50% chance of one of those genes going into one of the sex cells, sperm or egg. However there are ways of massively increasing the chance of one gene making it through to the next generation. We call these ‘gene drives’. By harnessing these naturally occurring systems, there’s been plenty of work on engineering gene drives in such a way that they could, for example eradicate malaria, by driving resistance genes into some insects, which would rapidly spread to the whole population. So far this has been limited to insects, but the genetic engineering technique CRISPR-CAS9 is changing all that. Kimberly Cooper from the University of California in San Diego explains to Adam how she and her team have taken this gene drive concept, and modified it so they can try to control how to push a particular gene into the next generation of mice, in order that it can be used as a tool for modelling diseases that have multiple genetic causes. This new technique could significantly increase the efficiency of making transgenic mice to study genetic diseases. A major international scientific expedition are exploring one of the coldest, harshest and most remote locations in the world, the Weddell Sea, off Antarctica. Using underwater robots, drones and other state-of-the-art technology the Polar scientists are studying the Larsen C iceshelf. The team led by Julian Dowdeswell, director of the Scott Polar Research Institute, are also looking for the wreck of the Endurance, Earnest Shackleton’s ship that was famously stuck in the Antarctic ice in 1915 for 10 months before it was crushed by the ice and sunk, thwarting his attempt at the South Pole. Producer: Fiona Roberts
24/01/1936m 55s

Clean Air Strategy, Fast Radio Bursts and Kuba Kingdom

With the publication of the UK Government’s Clear Air Strategy this week, Professor of atmospheric chemistry at the University of York, Alastair Lewis, discusses with Adam Rutherford about whether the guidelines go far enough. It’s a hugely complex issue that’s been complied with unprecedented scientific input. The most obvious conclusion is that the implementation to cleaning up our air must be cohesive. One clever idea comes from Professor Barbara Maher at Lancaster University, who has been looking at how trees planted along roadsides can help clean up pollution from traffic. Fast Radio Bursts are mysterious transient radio pulses a fraction of a millisecond long, caused by some high-energy astrophysical process billions of light years away. Astronomers have not yet identified a source for these ultra-high energy events. A team using the CHIME (Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment) radio telescope in Canada have just detected a repeating FRB and an FRB of extraordinarily low frequency. Deborah Good at the University of British Columbia, explains to Adam that every different type of FRB adds clues as to what these long-travelled signals might be. Our genomes hold so much information. A new study shows how genetic diversity can mirror political, economic and societal organisation. Lucy Van Dorp, a researcher in UCL’s Genetics Research Institute, has been studying this in what are modern day ancestors of the Kuba Kingdom (an important 16th-18th century Democratic Republic of Congo community that welcomed outsiders.) This is a great demonstration to what genetic information can add to understanding human history.
17/01/1928m 4s

Antarctic lake drilling, Birds and climate change, Cold snap, Holograms

Sampling from subglacial lakes under the ice in Antarctica can hopefully tell us a lot about past climates as well as reveal organisms that have evolved in extreme environment, long separated from the rest of the world. However it's not easy work, drilling kilometres into ice, in sub-zero conditions, without contaminating these pristine ecological environments. Martin Siegert, co-director of the Grantham Institute, understands just how difficult it is, as he led an expedition to Antarctica in 2012 to drill over 3km down into Lake Ellsworth. The expedition failed due to problems with the drilling, leading to the team eventually running out of fuel and time. But, as he explains to Gareth Mitchell, lessons learnt from Ellsworth have helped a US team to use the hot-water drilling technique to access Lake Mercer and bring up lots of sediment and microbial samples. The impact of climate change on the natural world can be complex and unexpected. Pied flycatchers are birds which migrate every year from Africa to Europe in order to breed, they share the same breeding grounds as great tits. However, great tits are resident in these areas all year round, and are therefore much more flexible to any local changes in climate and the subsequent impact on important resources, like food and nesting sites, than the migratory pied flycatchers. Jelmer Samplonius, at the University of Edinburgh, explains to Gareth what impact these changes in temperature could have on the conflict between great tits and pied flycatchers. There have been lots of rumours about a return of the ‘Beast from the East’ which caused a prolonged cold snap in our weather in early 2018. This was due to a phenomenon called ‘sudden stratospheric warming’. Laura Paterson, chief meteorologist at The Met Office, explains how unexpected warming in the stratosphere (a high layer in our atmosphere) can impact the weather down here on Earth, and that while this stratospheric warming does mean it is more likely we will experience colder weather, it does not guarantee a return visit of the ‘Beast from the East’. Lecturers at Imperial College, London have a new star quality- they are getting the Michael Jackson treatment - being turned into holograms. The school has decided this will help connect their students around the world. Wanting a taste of the glory Roland Pease went to the college while they were testing out the system
10/01/1931m 25s

Ultima Thule, Dry January, Periodic Table

2019 means the opportunity to explore the most distant object yet encountered in our solar system – the brilliantly named Ultima Thule as Nasa’s New Horizons spacecraft hit the headlines this week when it flew past an object 4 billion miles away, took photos and sent them back to earth. The stunning images confirmed that Ultima Thule looks a bit like a snowman, only several miles in length and orbiting somewhere much colder than any earth winter. Inside Science talked to Dr Carly Howett, a member of the New Horizon’s team and deputy principle investigator of the RALPH instrument, which will send back data on Ultima Thule’s form and structure later this year. And For many of us, January is a time to try a bit better. And millions of us decide to give up alcohol. It’s called Dry January. But what does this alcohol break actually achieve? Has anyone scientifically researched the results of a month off the sauce? Marnie Chesterton spoke to liver specialist and senior lecturer at university college London, Dr Gautam Mehta. And because chemists are celebrating the 150th birthday, or rather birth-year, of the Periodic Table we thought BBC Inside Science should as well. The table is that chart on every science classroom wall. It’s a grid of small boxes, each with a symbol that represents a chemical element. And elements are the fundamental substances that make up everything you can see, and quite a few things that you can’t. We spoke to chemist Dr Eric Scerri at UCLA, who has written a book on the history and significance of the Periodic Table while Roland Pease visited the lab of Professor Andrea Sella, who is making a physical representation of the whole table, if he can find all the elements that is.
04/01/1930m 32s

First stars, Life on Mars, Climate update, Control of CRISPR, Jamestown forensic genetics

Adam Rutherford and guests discuss 2018 in space, climate science and genetics and listeners' questions. Dr Emma Chapman of Imperial College chooses the discovery by the EDGES telescope of the first stars as her highlight of the year and answers a question from Evgeniy Osievskyi about searching for life on Mars in lava tubes. Dr Tamsin Edwards of Kings College London talks about the international approach to keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees and explains the processes going on in the ocean when it absorbs carbon dioxide in response to a query from Derek McComiskey. Pete Stokes asks if the scientific community could come up with a global and hopefully binding agreement to control CRISPR gene editing on humans. Adam and Professor Turi King of Leicester University discuss this possibility. Looking back at 2018 Turi picks the role of forensic genetics in finding the Golden State killer in the US. Looking ahead to 2019, Emma is hoping for more insights into the very early universe and into dark matter and dark energy, Tamsin is getting ready to research the role of ice sheets in sea level rise and Turi is applying genetic genealogy to find out if a skeleton found at Jamestown, the first permanent British colony in America, is really that of the Governor of Virginia, Sir George Yeardley.
27/12/1827m 53s

Fish Farming and Climate Change, Gigantic Fungus, Robot Swarms, Gaming in Schools, Drones

Wester Ross Fisheries says over half the salmon at one of its sites have been wiped out because of high seawater temperatures. This highlights yet another damaging effect of climate change, at a time when aquaculture is playing an ever-greater role in feeding us all. Professor of Food Security at the University of Stirling, Rachel Norman, discusses the challenges of farming fish in the age of climate change with Gareth Mitchell. Under the ground in a forest in Michigan in the USA lives a gigantic fungus. It weighs at least 400 tonnes and is 2,500 years old. For the last thirty years of its long life, Myron Smith form Carleton University has been studying it. With modern genetic analysis he has discovered that it has remarkably stable DNA with very low rates of mutations. In a paper in Science Robotics, biologist James Sharp and roboticist Sabine Hauert demonstrate how hundreds of tiny robots can move together as a swarm. It is not unlike the behaviour biologists see in schools of fish or flocks of birds. Dr Hauert explains how one day these robots may aid rescuers to find victims of natural disasters. Reporter Roland Pease visits Sir Bernard Lovell Academy to meet students and teachers who are using video games in education. He speaks to Laura Hobbs of Lancaster University’s "Science Hunters" team who has been running the sessions. The runway at Gatwick airport was closed last night as two drones were seen flying within the perimeter fence. Sussex Police have described the incident as a ‘deliberate act of disruption’. Rob Siddall, a researcher from Imperial College London, discusses the issues of drones in our airspaces with Gareth Mitchell. One solution to keeping the skies clear is to train eagles to take out drones that stray into dangerous areas.
20/12/1828m 11s

Control of AI, Deep carbon, ICESat-2, Autonauts in Antarctica, Rapid evolution in Khoe San

We are now in an age where big decisions about our lives, from health care to recruitment, are being governed by computer programmes and data. The Royal Society has been running a series of events in its ongoing “You and AI” series and the most recent, held earlier this week, chewed over the ethics and the problems behind the control of machine learning. One of those taking part was theoretical neuroscientist and technologist Vivienne Ming and she discusses our often problematic relationship with the big technology companies with Gareth Mitchell. Jonathan Amos, BBC Science Correspondent, reports from the American Geophysical Union meeting on the surprising finding from the Deep Carbon Observatory that a vast amount of carbon is locked up underground and on the high resolution images of the earth captured by NASA's ICESat-2. Reporter Hannah Fisher goes to see an unmanned automated vessel, called the AutoNaut being tested in icy conditions. ... in a cold room at the University of East Anglia. The remotely-operated vessel will be used to explore uncharted waters around Antarctic ice sheets to collect data on ice-melt and sea-level rise. But first it needs to have a coating that won’t ice up. Between a third and a half of all members of the Khoe San indigenous people in southern Africa have been found to carry a pigment gene associated with lighter skin. New research from Brenna Hann, an anthropologist at University of California Davis, suggests that this gene was introduced as recently as 2,000 years ago, through pastoralists who migrated from what is now Tanzania. It would have come in with only a handful of people, yet it rapidly became widespread in this indigenous population. How did it happen so quickly? It must have been a case of significant positive selection. Brenna Hanna tells Gareth why this gene could have helped people to adapt to living in settled communities around sheep and goats.
13/12/1828m 13s

Greenland ice sheet melting; Gingko biloba and CO2; Jodrell Bank and quantum compass

The rate the Greenland Ice Sheet is melting is possibly the highest in 8000 years. New work looking at layers of melt in ice cores, from the second biggest ice sheet in the world, has shown that in the past 20 years the rate of melting has increased by 250-575%. The resultant fresh water run off not only adds to sea level rise, but impacts important ocean currents in the Atlantic. When trying to understand how plants are reacting to increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, scientists count their stomata. Stomata are the tiny pores found on leaves which allow for carbon dioxide (plant food) uptake and oxygen release. They also are the route by which plants lose water. So there is always a trade-off. More stomata, more potential for CO2 uptake, but more chance of drying out due to water loss. This means that the number of pores in a leaf is carefully calibrated to the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. If you take a 200 million year old leaf from a gingko tree, it’s got a lot more stomata than a gingko leaf now. This is because levels of the greenhouse gas were much higher then. But how are modern gingkos and other plants adapting to increasing carbon now? Jodrell Bank Observatory, part of Manchester University, is famous for its telescopes and work on radio astronomy. But what’s not so well known is its work tracking communications from spacecraft, which came about completely by accident. Starting with the tracking of Sputnik 1 in the 1950s, scientists at Jodrell Bank tracked flights throughout the US Russian Space Race. Recently, Professor of Physics and Associate Director of the observatory, Tim O’Brien found a box of audio tapes, which turned out to be recordings of these communications, annotated by Sir Bernard Lovell himself. These tapes are a time capsule back to when the world was racing to get into space. News this week that the UK will not be part of the Galileo satellite positioning system when we leave Europe is worrying, especially as so many British funds and innovation have already been spent. But what if we can come up with a way of knowing where you are without the need to use triangulation of signals from expensive satellites? A quantum compass harnessing super-cooled atoms, in a state where lasers can gauge changes in their speed. In other words, it’s an accelerometer like the one in your phone, except in this case with atomic accuracy. Producer: Fiona Roberts
06/12/1829m 25s

Gene-edited twins, Placenta organoids in a dish, When the last leaves drop

Claims by a Chinese scientist that he has gene-edited human embryos, transplanted them producing genetically edited twins, who will pass on these changes to their offspring, has the scientific community outraged. The work, which was carried out in secret, has not been officially published or peer reviewed, but if the claims are to be taken seriously, this work severely flaunts international ethical guidelines at many levels. BBC Health and Science Correspondent James Gallagher explains the story so far. Little is known about the placenta and how it works, despite it being absolutely essential for supporting the baby as it grows inside the mother. When it doesn’t function properly, it can result in serious problems, from pre-eclampsia to miscarriage, with immediate and lifelong consequences for both mother and child. Our knowledge of this important organ is very limited because of a lack of good experimental models. Animals are too dissimilar to humans to provide a good model of placental development and implantation, and stem cell studies have largely proved unsuccessful. But one group of University Cambridge researchers have now created ‘mini-proto placentas’ – a cellular model, growing long-term, in 3D of the early stages of the placenta – that could provide a ‘window’ into early pregnancy and help transform our understanding of reproductive disorders. The Woodland Trust want you to tell them when you notice a tree, you regularly see, loses all of its leaves. Its part of their long term phonological study, Nature's Calendar . They hope to keep track of the effect of climate change on the timings of annual tree events.
29/11/1828m 3s

Mars InSight mission, Detecting dark matter, Redefining the kilogram, Bovine TB

The Government's strategy to eradicate TB in cattle is a contentious topic. The disease is extremely complicated and lots of people have different ideas on how to manage it. Professor of Zoonotic and Emerging Disease at the University of Nottingham, Malcolm Bennett, helps Adam Rutherford understand just how complex the TB bacterium is, how difficult it is to test for infection and why the vaccine BCG does and doesn't work and answers listener's question of why don't we vaccinate cows? Citizen scientists and their smartphones are being recruited to test the supermassive particle theory of dark matter and dark energy. The CREDO (Cosmic-Ray Extremely Distributed Observatory) project utilises smartphone cameras to take 'dark photos' and hopefully capture a particle collision that could be from the cascaded decay of these early universe massive particles or WIMPS. Metrologists from across the world have just voted to update the metric system. With the redefinition of the kilogram, alongside the units for temperature, electrical current and amount of substance. For the first time, we now have a measurement system defined by fundamental constants of the universe and not physical artefacts made by humans. Reporter Henry Bennie travelled with the UK's kilogram to Paris for the vote. NASA's Mars InSight mission lander is expected to touch down on the red planet on Monday. BBC Science Correspondent, Jonathan Amos, explains to Adam just how this stationary science lab will explore Martian geology looking for signs that life could have existed at one time on our neighbour. Producer: Fiona Roberts
22/11/1837m 10s

Bovine TB and badger culling, Shrimp hoover CSI, Shark-skin and Turing

The Bovine TB Strategy Review has just been released. It contains a review of the science and offers advice and guidance to Government ministers on how to eradicate this costly and hard to manage disease in cattle. Controversially it does not include the results from the on going badger culling trials in the West of England and it states that the majority of disease transmission is from cow to cow. But it addresses the efficacy of skin TB tests and repeatedly states that the long-term aim is to end culling badgers and moving to vaccination or other non lethal methods to control the disease reservoir in wildlife. Professor Rosie Woodroffe at the Institute of Zoology, who ran the Randomised Badger Culling Trials in 2007, thinks the report is mostly a good thing. She praises the advice to find alternatives to killing British wildlife, but explains to Adam Rutherford that trialling vaccinations for badgers after culling could be problematic. Monitoring the health of estuarine and coastal water ecosystems usually relies on the expensive and time-consuming practice of catching fish to get a view on the health of entire ecosystem. New methods are starting to be used called Environmental DNA sampling, using DNA barcoding techniques. As everything sheds fragments of DNA into the environment, by sampling water or sediment, you can use High Throughput DNA analysis, using special probes to pull out and identify the species you want. It’s a lot quicker and cheaper, but you still have to deal with problems of collection, filtration and contamination. But Professor of Conservation Genetics, Stefano Mariani at the University of Salford, has found an even better way. He's recruited the European brown Shrimp, which eat everything, are found everywhere and can do all the filtering and storing of the DNA for him. All Stefano has to do is catch the shrimp and analyse their stomach contents to get a picture of what is in the environment. PhD student at Sheffield University, Rory Cooper explains to Adam how mathematical patterns that Alan Turing worked on late in his career are found in abundance in the natural world. The genetic mechanisms of switching on cellular processes that lead to feather or hair emergence have now been found in the formation of shark scales. The pattern relies on genes to switch on a function, such as feathering, but diffuse out to surrounding cells and switch the function off, leading to a uniform, spaced out pattern. As shark species split off from other vertebrates around 420 million years ago, it therefore proves that Turing’s pattern is recycled through other vertebrates. Producer: Fiona Roberts
15/11/1830m 30s

Oldest cave picture; the Anthropocene under London; a new scientist for the £50 note

What could be the oldest figurative cave paintings in the world have been found in a cave complex in remote Borneo. A reddish orange depiction of an animal that could be a Banteng (wild cattle found in the region) is at least 40,000 years old. Humans are now the greatest force in shaping the surface of the Earth. We now move more than 24 times as much rock, rubble and sediment than all the world’s rivers. Dr Anthony Cooper of the British Geological Society has been weighing this anthropogenic global force. Closer to home, Adam Rutherford speaks to Professor Colin Waters at the University of Leicester, about the weight of human-created rubble he’s found under the City of London. When the new polymer £50 note is introduced in around a year’s time, it’ll have a scientist on the reverse. Industrialist Matthew Boulton and engineer James Watt will step aside for a British scientist nominated by the public. Sarah John, Chief Cashier at the Bank of England, explains the rules to Adam and science experts, Emily Grossman and Alice Bell debate the merits of some of the more popular front runners.
08/11/1829m 10s

Repairing potholes, Ozone hole, Internet of hives, Drugs from fingerprints

Potholes are one of the biggest frustrations to any road-user, but why do they keep occurring? Following Philip Hammond’s announcement of £420 million for councils to tackle potholes, Malcolm Simms, Director of the Mineral Products Association’s Asphalt & Pavement group, explains how potholes form and why they continue to occur. Alvaro Hernandez of Nottingham University chats to Marnie about new solutions he is investigating to improve our roads and reduce the number of potholes. Roland Pease meets John Able and Professor Simon Potts, to discuss the value of ‘big data’ – in this case, for honeybees. Using a ‘buzz box’ to detect conditions inside and out of the beehive, this data can be transmitted to the cloud and used to keep track of beehive health. This is termed the ‘internet of hives’ and provides a huge amount of high quality data to discover the key indicators of beehive health. Back in the 1980s, the world discovered that CFCs were destroying the ozone layer, which protects the earth, and us, from being fried by the sun’s rays. The 1987 Montreal Protocol banned the use of CFCs, and as we stopped emitting them, the ozone layer started to recover. But there are other gases like carbon tetrachloride that destroy the ozone layer and are also restricted. But Dr Matt Rigby, an atmospheric chemist from Bristol University, has been discovering that there are still sources of carbon tetrachloride. Testing for illicit drugs usually needs a blood or urine sample, but now it can be done from a sweaty fingerprint. And not only on a living suspect, but on a corpse. Adam Rutherford speaks to the developer of this smart chemistry , University of East Anglia’s David Russell.
01/11/1828m 7s

Science and Brexit, Antibiotic livestock growth promoters, Bepicolombo goes to Mercury

How might Brexit affect UK Science? Why is feeding a 'last resort' antibiotic to farm animals not a good idea? Why is space probe Bepicolombo going to Mercury? Adam Rutherford is your host. This week, leading British and European scientists wrote to the British Prime Minister and European Commission President. They expressed their concerns about the potential impact if there is a no-deal departure by the UK from the European Union. We hear from one of the signatories Professor Venki Ramakrishnan, President of the Royal Society and from UK Science Minister Sam Gyimah. Roland Pease reports on the use of the medically valuable last-resort antibiotic, colistin, as a growth promoting substance in agricultural livestock feed in India. He speaks to infectious disease consultant Abdul Ghafur in Chennai, India and microbiologist Tim Walsh at Cardiff University. The space probe Bepicolombo has begun its 7 year voyage to the planet Mercury. Suzie Imber of the University of Leicester and David Rothery of the Open University tell Adam why the journey will take so long and why Mercury is such an intriguing planet, worthy of exploration by this new probe.
25/10/1827m 53s

Old Dogs and Physics in Space

How far back can we trace the ancestry of dogs? For just how long have they been following us around? The answer is for a very long time - long before humans settled down and developed societies. Scientists in France have been looking at ancient dog DNA to try and work out whether people tamed and domesticated local dogs as they migrated across the planet, or brought dogs with them. The answer tells us much about the relationship - or rather lack of it, between early farmers and the hunter gathers they replaced throughout Europe. And how many Bosons can you fit in a rocket? As they are rather small particles the answer will be quite a lot, but a team from Germany has succeeded in making a form of mater known as the Bose Einstein Condensate in a small rocket which they launched into the Earth’s upper atmosphere. Potentially the success of their experiment could lead to new ways of detecting gravitational waves in space. Back on earth a group of ‘A’ level students have been looking at or rather listening to data from space, and published a scientific paper on their observation of a solar storm. In a unique partnership with university physics researchers, information on electromagnetic waves around our planet has been turned into audible data. The keen ears of the students identified events that had not previously been detected. And how incriminating is your washing machine? Digital forensics, the unpicking of the data trails on our digital devices, from phones to TV tuners, even baby monitors and washing machines are now playing a part in criminal investigations, not just cases involving online fraud or cybercrime, but any investigation looking at what suspects were doing and when. A digital trail can act as evidence for time and place.
18/10/1828m 5s

IPCC report, Cairngorms Connect project, grass pea, the Sun exhibition at Science Museum

Adam Rutherford speaks to Dr Tamsin Edwards, a lecturer in Physical Geography at Kings College London and a lead author for the latest IPCC report. Dr Edwards describes what happens in the making of the report, including the summarising of the wealth of scientific literature available into an understandable document for the policy makers. Cairngorms National Park in Scotland is part of an ambitious project to restore the habitat to its former natural state. Four organisations have joined together as the 'Cairngorms Connect’ project – Scottish Natural Heritage, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Wildland Limited and Forest Enterprise Scotland. Graeme Prest of Forest Enterprise Scotland explains how the project team will start to restore the habitat. The grass pea is a resilient and highly nutritious legume but it contains varying level of toxins. Marnie Chesterton visits the John Innes Centre in Norwich to meet the researchers working on making the grass pea less poisonous, which could aid food security, particularly in sub-Saharan. The Sun is technically a G-type main sequence star, which means it’s a giant continuous nuclear fusion reaction plasma, spewing out extremely dangerous matter and energy in every direction, and when it hits the Earth, this can cause all sorts of problems. Adam visits the Science Museum in London to meet Harry Cliff, a physicist and curator of a new exhibition: ‘The Sun: Living With Our Star’, which explores our relationship with the closest star to earth. Adam also finds out from Professor Chris Scott of Reading University about a citizen science project called Protect our Planet from Solar Storms.
11/10/1827m 55s

Nobel Prizes - Hayabusa 2 latest - IPCC meeting - North Pole science

Adam Rutherford reviews this year's Nobel science prizes, and talks to Professor Venkatraman Ramakrishnan, a 2009 laureate and president of the Royal Society, about the experience of being tipped as a Nobel winner. This can included a stressful condition known as Pre-Nobelitis and having unidentified Scandinavians turn up in the audiences of your scientific talks. The Japanese space probe Hayabusa 2 dropped an exploratory robot onto the surface of the asteroid Rguyu early on Wednesday morning. The autonomous probe is called MASCOT. With 16 hours of battery life, it landed at one spot on the asteroid's southern hemisphere, took a slew of data and then jumped to another location for more image-taking, temperature and magnetic measurements and chemical analyses of the rocks. MASCOT project manager is Dr Tra-Mi Ho of the German Space Agency. A critical meeting of the International Panel on Climate Change is underway in South Korea. Scientists and government representatives aim to finalise a policy road map to limit global warming to a 1.5 degree C increase by the end of the century. BBC News environment correspondent Matt McGrath is reporting from the meeting and explains why 1.5 degree C and not 2 degrees is the new preferred target for many scientists and nations. But will scientists and policy makers from around the world see eye to eye? Physicist Helen Czerski provides Adam with a final report at the end of her 8 week expedition at the North Pole which aimed to explore the interactions of water, ice, atmosphere and life in shaping Arctic weather and climate. The adventure ended with a crunch and the loss of thousands of pounds worth of scientific kit. Producer: Andrew Luck-Baker
04/10/1827m 44s

Hyabusa 2 at Ryugu, deadly 1918 flu pandemic; WW2 bombing and ionosphere, teenage brain

Japan’s Hayabusa-2 spacecraft has arrived after more than a three year journey at the Ryugu asteroid which is just over half a mile long. It has successfully sent probes onto the surface and is sending pictures back to Earth. Gareth Mitchell discusses the achievement with BBC Science Correspondent Jonathan Amos. A hundred years ago, the 1918 flu pandemic killed between 50 and 100 million people worldwide and infected around half a billion. Seasonal flu accounts for about 650,000 deaths per year. As this year’s flu season approaches, there are new insights into how the influenza virus causes disease and why some strains like the 1918 one (a subtype of the avian strain H1N1) are so deadly compared with the seasonal kind. In the most serious cases, there’s an extreme immune reaction in the lungs, and people can effectively suffocate. The latest research from the universities of Cambridge and Oxford has uncovered a molecule that might be behind that immune overreaction. Dr Aartjan te Velthuis explains the findings and the implications for novel treatments. The massive bombing raids on cities in World War Two lead to terrible human tragedy, Now a historian and a physicist have been looking at how shock waves from some of the major bombing over Berlin caused the upper atmosphere above Slough to wobble. Specifically they’re interested in the layer eighty to a thousand kilometres up that reflects radio waves, the ionosphere. Historian Patrick Major and meteorology expert Christopher Scott, both professors at the University of Reading, tell Gareth about their collaboration and how monitoring changes in the ionosphere today can reveal both man made and natural explosive events. And Adam Rutherford talks to Professor Sarah-Jayne Blakemore of UCL about her book, Inventing Ourselves: the Secret Life of the Teenage Brain, the last on this year's shortlist for the Royal Society Insight Investment Science Book Prize.
27/09/1828m 17s

Science of Addiction

The Science Gallery London at Kings College London, right under the Shard, is a brand new venue for the collision of art, science and culture, and its opening exhibition is called Hooked, a series of installations and works by people who have experienced addiction. Adam Rutherford explores the neuroscience, the psychology and the epidemiology of addiction; what the latest research says about what addiction is, and how that can help us treat people experiencing addiction. He discusses these questions with psychologist Dr Sally Marlow and neurologist Professor Mitul Mehta who are both at Kings College and have been involved in the exhibition, and Dr Suzi Gage from Liverpool University who studies the epidemiology of addiction. He also talks to the curator of Hooked, Hannah Redler Hawes, and to two of the Science Gallery Young Leaders, Elly Magson and Mandeep Singh, who show him a couple of the exhibits.
20/09/1827m 42s

First human drawing, Cycling genes, Oden Arctic expedition, Hello World

A new discovery of abstract symbolic drawings on a rock has been found in the Blombos Cave, about 300 km east of Cape Town in South Africa. The fragment - which some say looks a bit like a hashtag - puts the date of the earliest drawing at 73,000 years ago. As archaeologist Chris Henshilwood tells Adam Rutherford, the discovery is a "a prime indicator of modern cognition" in our species. Nearly half the human genome contains genes that regulate what your organs should be doing at a specific time of day, This has enormous potential importance to the efficacy of drugs - what time of day you take them could be a real issue. John Hogenesch from Cincinnatti Children's Hospital has been studying the genes that cycle with our daily lives. His new database of cyclic genes could help plan the best timing for a host of therapeutic interventions Physicist Helen Czerski has been in the Arctic for the last five weeks, aboard the Swedish research vessel and ice breaker Oden. As the expedition comes to a close we hear about the team's attempts to elucidate the driving forces behind the unusual weather patterns around the North Pole. Inside Science has been profiling authors shortlisted for the prestigious Royal Society science book prize. This week it's mathematician Hannah Fry's new book, Hello World: How to be human in the Age of Machines. You can hear extracts from it on Book of the Week on Radio 4 all this week too. Producer Adrian Washbourne.
13/09/1827m 59s

Complexity in Biology

Adam Rutherford takes the show to Dublin this week, to wrestle with great matters of biological complexity. Trinity College Dublin has organised a mass gathering of some of the world's leading researchers in the life sciences to mark the 75th anniversary of one of the most influential series of lectures in the 20th century. The talks were delivered by the celebrated physicist Erwin Schrodinger in 1943 who applied his mind to a fundamental biological question: what is life? Some of his ideas were an influence on Francis Crick as he worked on the structure of DNA. Seventy five years on, Adam is joined by four of the many scientists delivering their own lectures this week. They tackle subjects of complexity in biology, ranging from the origin of complex life, the increasingly messy structure of life's evolutionary tree, the functioning of the human brain as a network of many component parts, and the place of neuroscience discoveries in the building of artificial intelligences. The guests are: Nick Lane, evolutionary biochemist at University College London, Beth Shapiro, evolutionary geneticist of the University of California Santa Cruz, Danielle Bassett, physicist and neuroscientist at the University of Pennsylvannia, Murray Shanahan, artificial intelligence researcher at Imperial College London and Google's DeepMind The podcast version ends with a question and answer session with the show's audience who include a surprise celebrity guest. Producer: Andrew Luck-Baker.
06/09/1840m 16s

Electronic brain probe; Rural stream biodiversity; Arctic weather research trip; Science book prize

Scientists have shown how an electronic gadget, implanted in the brain, can detect, treat and even prevent epileptic seizures. Epilepsy is usually treated using anti-epilepsy drugs, but can cause serious side-effects. Researchers at the University of Cambridge, are aiming to create something more specific to the part of the brain with the problem. Professor Malliaras tells Marnie Chesterton about the unique properties of this new implant, which could be used for a range of brain-related conditions from Parkinson’s tremors to brain tumours. Many of Britain’s cleaner urban rivers are home to levels of biodiversity not seen for decades. But rural rivers, even in places without pollution, tell a different story. Up in the hills of central Wales, just north of the Brecon Beacons, lies the Llyn Brianne observatory and its surrounding system of beautiful streams. Professor Steve Ormerod from Cardiff University has been taking stock of the dwindling number of specialist invertebrates and the subtle ways the decline is happening which points to an extinction crisis that has gone unnoticed. Marnie Chesterton checks in with bubble physicist Dr Helen Czerski. She’s part of a team of researchers aboard the icebreaker Oden research vessel, which is trying to understand arctic weather patterns and how the contents of open water between ice flows influence cloud behaviour. It’s a race against time to gather data before any water refreezes as the arctic winter approaches. Inside Science has been profiling authors shortlisted for the prestigious Royal Society science book prize. This week it’s the turn of materials scientist Mark Miadownik, His new book “Liquid: The delightful and dangerous substances that flow through our lives” is about fluids and how their particular properties allow life to flourish. Presenter Marnie Chesterton Producer: Adrian Washbourne
30/08/1828m 2s

Cavendish banana survival; Guillemot egg shape; Unexpected Truth About Animals; Tambora's rainstorm

The last banana you probably ate was a type called Cavendish. But this, our last commercially viable variety is under severe threat, as the fungus, called Tropical Race 4, is laying waste to swathes of Cavendish banana plants across China, Asia and Australia. Recently, scientists & horticulturalists gathered in Istanbul to discuss the best ways to fight the threat. Professor James Dale from the Institute of Future Environments at the University of Queensland has been conducting successful field trials in previously infected areas with impressive results. Could gene editing provide the solution? The extraordinary shape of the guillemot egg is one of ornithology’s great mysteries. This seabird lays something twice the size of a hen’s egg, which looks a bit like an obelisk, blue, speckled and weirdly elongated at one end, with almost flat sides. There have been a handful of theories to explain why it’s evolved. Professor of behaviour and evolution Tim Birkhead, at the University of Sheffield shows in his new research that the answer lies in allowing the birds to successfully breed on the steep slopes of cliff ledges. Marnie Chesterton meets the next in Inside Science’s series of writers shortlisted for the very prestigious Royal Society’s Book Prize : Lucy Cooke, zoologist, author and broadcaster discusses The Unexpected Truth About Animals which flies the flag for some of the lessons learnt from mistakes made in understanding animal behaviour. Could the Tambora volcanic eruption in April 1815 be responsible for Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo? A rain-soaked battlefield in June 1815, stopped Napoleon deploying his military might although many have questioned how a volcano could have such an effect on the weather so soon. How was it to blame for a Belgian rainstorm just several weeks after the end of the eruption? Dr Matt Genge from Imperial College, in a new paper out this week, says the answer lies in the phenomenon known as electrostatic levitation. Presenter: Marnie Chesterton Producer: Adrian Washbourne
23/08/1828m 8s

Capturing greenhouse gas, Beating heart failure with beetroot, Why elephants don't get cancer, Exactly - a history of precision

Researchers have found a way to produce a naturally occurring mineral, magnesite, in a lab, that can absorb CO2 from the atmosphere, offering a potential strategy for tackling climate change. They've accelerated a process that normally takes thousands of years to a matter of days, using panels made from tiny balls of polystyrene. Gareth Mitchell meets Ian Power of Trent University in Ontario who led the research. Could this be a viable technology for tackling global warming and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere? What if something as natural as beetroot - or specifically defined doses of beetroot juice - could help alleviate cardiovascular disease and improve the pumping function of failing hearts? That's the idea behind a major trial underway at the Barts Heart Hospital and Queen Mary University in London. Amrita Ahluwalia, co-Director of the William Harvey Research Institute and Christopher Primus a specialist in heart failure, are interrogating the natural nitrates in foods like beetroot and how they could be beneficial to our cardiovascular system. Cells in our bodies can go wrong and end up proliferating into cancers. Intuition might say the bigger something is, the more cells it has and thus, greater is its risk of developing cancer. But elephants have somehow re-awakened a gene that kills cells that could be cancerous before they have time to cause any damage. Vincent Lynch of the University of Chicago has been looking at the genetics that keeps these giants virtually, immune which could hold clues for tackling cancers in humans. And we hear from Simon Winchester, the next in our series of interviews with the shortlisted authors for this year's Royal Society Insight Investment Science Book Prize. Exactly, is an intriguing history of precision, the search for ever greater engineering accuracy and how it changed the world. Presenter: Gareth Mitchell Producer: Adrian Washbourne.
16/08/1828m 1s

New Horizons' next mission, Helium at 150, The Beautiful Cure, Oden arctic expedition

Astronomers this week have been warming up for an encounter as far from the Sun as ever attempted. It's the finale of the New Horizons mission which successfully passed Pluto in 2015 and is now on its way to Ultima Thule - a Kuiper belt object on the edge of the solar system. Marc Buie is just back from Senegal where he and a team of fellow astronomers have been observing this ancient rock to get a final look at its size and shape, before the momentous flyby on Jan 1st 2019. He explains why the encounter will be so valuable in unlocking key secrets in the formation of our solar system. It's the 150th birthday of the discovery of helium, which, after hydrogen is the second most abundant element in the universe. It's surprisingly rare on Earth, but it makes up much of the content of the gas giants in our local neighbourhood, Jupiter and Saturn. Adam Rutherford hears from particle physicist and Science Museum curator Harry Cliff on how it was first discovered through a telescope rather than in a lab, and Jessica Spake of Exeter University who after an 18-year search has used similar techniques to discover helium around an exoplanet 200 light-years away. We hear from scientist and author Dan Davis from the University of Manchester, the next in our preview of authors shortlisted for this year's Royal Society book prize. The Beautiful Cure, is the rollicking story of how the intricate immune system came to be understood. And there's an update from physicist Helen Czerski. She's part of a 40-strong team of field scientists on board the Oden, a Swedish ice breaker and research ship. They're set to find a suitable iceberg, and moor to get to grips with the factors that guide the arctic weather patterns. Producer: Adrian Washbourne.
09/08/1828m 10s

Parker solar probe, Diversity in the lab, Royal Society book prize, Arctic circle weather

The sun still has many mysterious properties. The Parker Solar Probe, launched next week will be the closest a spacecraft has ever flown to our star. It's a mission that's been on the drawing board for decades which space scientists have only dreamt of. It will fly into the mysterious solar corona, where so much of the action at 3 million degrees centigrade takes place. Nicola Fox from Johns Hopkins University is the Parker Probe Project Scientist. Adam Rutherford speaks to her from Cape Canaveral, where they are making the final adjustments for the most ambitious journey ever, to the Sun. We meet two scientists who are making a real difference in promoting diversity and equality in the lab. Physicist Jess Wade has been chipping away at this issue, most recently in a heroic project to write up a Wikipedia entry for a scientist who is also a woman every day for the last 270 days and counting. Emma Chapman is an astrophysicist, and last month won the prestigious Royal Society Athena Prize for her work in driving policy changes about sexual harassment at universities. Today the shortlist of the most prestigious of the literary prizes for the sciences was announced - the Royal Society Insight Investment Science Book Prize. This is the 31st prize, and previous winners are a who's who in truly great science writing. Frances Ashcroft, Professor of Physiology at Oxford is the chair of the judges and discusses the books they have selected. Physicist Helen Czerski and 40 colleagues are now aboard the Oden, a Swedish icebreaker and scientific research vessel that set sail earlier this week. They are en route to spend a month anchored to arctic sea ice to elucidate the mysterious behaviour of arctic weather. Before she set off she gave Adam Rutherford a preview of the research trip. Producer Adrian Washbourne.
02/08/1827m 57s

Liquid water on Mars, Early embryo development, Earth Biogenome Project, Marine wilderness

The European Space Agency's satellite Mars Express has identified what we think is a subterranean lake of liquid near the south pole of the red planet. The question of water on Mars has been around for years, and we've known about water ice, and there's been the possibility of seasonal flowing water on Mars for a while. But if this result is right, this is the first case of a substantial stable body of liquid water on Mars. Adam Rutherford talks to Roberto Orosei of the Radio Astronomy Institute in Bologna whose team made the discovery. Where should scientists be directing their efforts next in the light of this new finding? We hear from NASA's Chief Scientist Jim Green. We've been growing embryonic cells in petri dishes for a few years now, to try to fill in the gaps in our understanding of early development, but the tissue that grows never really resembles an actual embryo. Magdalena Zernicka Goetz is a developmental biologist from Cambridge University and in a paper out this week has leapt over this hurdle in developmental biology using three types of stem cell, which - unlike previous efforts - push a ball of cells to becoming an embryo, which could help us understand why pregnancy can fail. 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 project will take 10 years to complete and cost an estimated $4.7 billion. Harris Lewin from UC Davis is spearheading this scheme. How will he meet his ambition to curate all the DNA of life on Earth? For the first time, scientists have assessed how much of the seas are untouched by the impact of human activity. They're referred to as Marine Wilderness, and qualify as such by being relatively untouched by things like fishing, pollution or agricultural run-off. According to the survey, published today, only 13% of the world's oceans remain as wilderness. James Watson from the University of Queensland discusss the action that needs to be taken if these precious ecological areas are to survive. Producer : Adrian Washbourne.
26/07/1827m 59s

Peatbog wildfires, Coral acoustics, Magdalena Skipper, Fuelling long-term space travel

The wildfires on Saddleworth Moor may well be the most widespread in modern British history. Thanks to herculean efforts by Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service and the military, they are now extinguished, though the peat continues to smoulder. Now the longer term ecological impact is being assessed. Adam Rutherford talks to geochemist Chris Evans from the Centre for Hydrology and Ecology about what's been unleashed into the environment from the burning of the peat and lessons we've learnt in maintaining peatlands. Coral reefs are noisy places filled with the clicks, pops, chirps and chattering of numerous fish and crustaceans. But a new study conducted on Australia's Great Barrier Reef shows that this noise has been quietened in areas damaged by bleaching and cyclones. Marine biologist Tim Gordon of Exeter University has examined how the changing coral acoustics are impacting on fish communities and whether a "choral orchestra" could help reduce the decline in local reef systems. Adam Rutherford meets Magdalena Skipper, the new Editor-in-Chief of the journal Nature. It's a longstanding publication, founded in 1869 and is the cornerstone of scientific endeavour. But how will Nature evolve as the demands on research change and scientific publishing continues to undergo a revolution in the digital age? In order to go very far in space, future astronauts will need some means of creating their own air and fuel. Katharina Brinkert at California Institute of Technology has succeeded in harvesting hydrogen from water in microgravity - overcoming a huge hurdle in the weightlessness of space, that may one day lead to a way to acquire fuel during a long-distance, crewed space mission. Producer: Adrian Washbourne.
19/07/1831m 44s

Out of Africa, Predicting future heatwaves, Virtual reality molecules, Life in the dark

Scientists have found the earliest known evidence of a human presence outside Africa. A set of 96 stone tools has been found in the mountains of south-east China, which is the furthest afield this type of tool has been located. The scientists who found them have put the date of these tools at 2.1 million years old, which is at least 300,000 years earlier than the current evidence for early human presence outside of Africa. John Kappelman, a paleoanthropologist at the University of Texas, discusses how we're now moving beyond a Eurocentric view of human evolution in Eurasia. Much of northern Europe has been experiencing a heatwave - notable for its intensity and duration. It's caused by "atmosphere blocking". Can we predict when these blocks will come and how long they will last? Adam Rutherford talks to Jana Sillmann, director of the Centre for International Climate Research in Oslo, Norway, author of a new study that has modelled 40 years' worth of heatwaves and blocking, and looked to the end of the century in attempting to predict blocking patterns as the climate changes. How can researchers get to grips with the shape of molecules in the digital world? Chemists have for years used ball and stick representations of the shapes their molecules come in. But when they publish, they have to flatten it all down onto a 2D a piece of paper losing crucial information. Bristol University's David Glowacki has put the power of virtual reality into the hands of the molecular magicians. Inside Science's Roland Pease went to his virtual lab, to see atoms dance in a molecular space odyssey. Given that half the world is in the dark half of the time, and the depths of the oceans are perpetually hidden from sunlight, there's lot of darkness to explore. For those of us drawn to the shadows, a new exhibition at the Natural History Museum in London does exactly that. Geoff Boxhall, professor of invertebrate biology, gives Adam Rutherford a tour of Life in the Dark. Producer Adrian Washbourne.
12/07/1830m 53s

Northern white rhino preservation, Deep sea earthquake detection, Twitter's rare Heuchera discovery, Human roars

The northern white rhinoceros is the world's most endangered mammal. The death earlier this year of the last male of this rhino subspecies leaves just two females as its only living members. New research out this week has adopted new techniques in reproductive medicine as a last ditch attempt to preserve these animals. Thomas Hildebrandt from Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research and Terri Roth, Director of Conservation Research at Cincinnati Zoo, discuss the ambition, and how realistic this approach is in future animal conservation. Earthquakes are scientifically measured with seismometers, but few are present on the sea floor, where earthquakes that can cause tsunamis originate. But could communication cables traversing the oceans fill in the gaps? Giuseppi Marra from the National Physical Laboratory in Teddington, discusses his accidental discovery that fibre-optic cables might be registering the earth's vibrations. For the first time in the annals of science, a tweet was the key reference in a paper reporting on a discovery that a rare wild variety of the gardener's favourite - Heuchera, thought to be limited to a few rocky outcrops in Virginia - is actually abundantly present 100km away. It's all come about because of a picture shared on Twitter. Reporter Roland Pease retraces the tale of the tweets with the key players. Can the size of a roar be used to accurately determine physical strength?' Or can a roar deceive, and make you sound tougher than you actually are? That's what Jordan Raine from the University of Sussex decided to find out, not with lions or tigers or bears but in us. Producer Adrian Washbourne.
05/07/1828m 5s

Hyabusa mission; ProtoDUNE neutrino detector; Caledonian crow skills; Koala microbiome

Yesterday a small Japanese ion-thruster spaceship arrived at its destination after a three year and half year, 2 billion mile journey. Hyabusa2 is currently floating alongside the asteroid known as 162173 Ryugu. BBC Science Correspondent Jonathan Amos dissects the aims of this audacious sample-return mission and the initial images that have just arrived back on earth. There's a plethora of neutrinos flowing through your body right now. Adam Rutherford goes inside 'protoDune', the world's latest and largest neutrino detector whose prototype is about to be filled with over 700 tonnes of liquid argon and hopefully pick up a few signals generated by interactions from these elusive particles. We hear from project leader Christos Touramanis who is a particle physicist from Liverpool University. Caledonian crows craft tools with greater sophistication than most animals, and can learn to modify their tools to make them gradually more effective. This "cultural accumulation" is commonplace amongst humans - where we pass on information socially. But it's extremely rare in other animals to see them passing on knowledge in this way. Sarah Jelbert from Cambridge University discusses her new evidence that suggests crows manage to transmit their tool designing skills from one bird to another in this sophisticated way Our gut bacteria are emerging as key determinants of our health and the microbiome may even influence our behaviour. The interaction between ubiquitous bacteria and the food wild animals eat is beginning to be studied all over the world. Could manipulating the microbiome prove a new tool for conservation in animals whose food supply is under threat? Ecologist Ben Moore from Western Sydney University has been studying the eating habits of koalas and whether faecal transplants could alter the eating habits of this highly fussy herbivore. Producer Adrian Washbourne.
28/06/1827m 55s

The Large Hadron Collider Upgrade, Voltaglue, Cambridge Zoology Museum, Francis Willughby

It's been 8 years since the Large Hadron Collider went online and started smashing protons together at just below the speed of light. CERN announced this week that they're ready for a massive upgrade, and on Friday last week, there was a ceremony to break ground on what is being called the High luminosity LHC. Particle physicist Jon Butterworth from UCL discusses the next generation of particle accelerators that are undergoing early trials and what the newly announced upgrade means for particle physics. Medical surgeons routinely stitch or pin organs and blood vessels with needle and thread and secure medical devices like pacemakers with hooks. But what if you could just use glue? Material scientist Terry Steele from Nanyang Technological University in Singapore has devised Voltaglue, a flexible adhesive that works in wet environments by putting an electric current across an inert substance. He explains how this new kind of chemistry could revolutionise many medical procedures. This weekend Sir David Attenborough will reopen The Museum of Zoology at Cambridge University. It's undergone a five-year redevelopment, showcasing thousands of incredible specimens from across the animal kingdom, and exploring stories of conservation, extinction, survival, evolution and discovery. Adam Rutherford visits the new displays under the watchful eye of conservator Natalie Jones and zoologist and museum manager Jack Ashby. And Professor Tim Birkhead of the University of Sheffield discusses The Wonderful Mr Willughby - his fascinating new account of 17th century ornithologist Francis Willughby who together with the celebrated naturalist John Ray pioneered the way we think about birds in science. Producer Adrian Washbourne.
21/06/1827m 54s

Antarctic melt speeds up, Antarctica's future, Cryo-acoustics, Narwhals

Adam Rutherford goes totally polar this week with news of accelerating ice melt in Antarctica, two visions of the continent's future, and the sounds of collapsing icebergs and the songs of narwhals. Two hundred billion tonnes of Antarctic ice are now being lost to the ocean every year, pushing up global sea level by 0.6 millimetres a year. This is a three fold increase since 2012. This finding comes from IMBIE, the Ice Sheet Mass Balance Intercomparison Exercise. Leeds glaciologist Andy Shepherd and Durham earth scientist Pippa Whitehouse tell Adam how the project made this startling finding and what it may mean for global sea level rise in the future. Glaciologist Martin Siegert of Imperial College London has co-authored an unusual Antarctic paper in the journal Nature this week, with other leading south polar researchers. It is a history of the frozen continent, looking back from the year 2070 and charts two different courses that we could be on today. Satellites above the Antarctic and Arctic can only tell us so much about the melting and collapse of the ice sheets. Oskar Glowacki of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography is exploring what extra insights might come from recording the underwater sounds that ice sheets make when they collapse and melt in Arctic seas. The narwhal, sometimes known as the unicorn of the sea, is one of the world's most elusive and poorly studied cetaceans, primarily because it spends much of its life underwater and under ice in the Arctic. Marine biologist Susanna Blackwell led a team which used sound recorders and satellite tags attached to several narwhals in Eastern Greenland, to follow their lives continuously for an unprecedented length of time. Producer: Andrew Luck-Baker.
18/06/1832m 10s

Dinosaur auction, Who owns the genes of the ocean life, Cancer immunotherapy

A spectacular predatory dinosaur fossil was auctioned this week in Paris. It was bought by a private collector at the cost of about 2 million Euros. Academic palaeontologists are not happy about the sale. Anjali Goswami of the Natural History Museum and Steve Brussatte of Edinburgh University air their views to Adam Rutherford on the legal and illegal markets for premium vertebrate fossils. Who owns the genetic biodiversity of the oceans? One single multinational corporation - the chemicals giant BASF - has registered almost half of all known patents on genetic sequences from marine organisms. This is the headline finding of a survey of marine genetic resource ownership by David Blasiak of the Global Resilience Centre at Stockholm University. Immunotherapies for cancer have been in the news in the last week. Adam talks to cancer researchers Sophie Papa of Kings College, London and Samra Turaljik of the Royal Marsden Hospital about the principles behind immunotherapy and the different approaches in the clinic and under clinical trials. Producer: Andrew Luck-Baker
14/06/1832m 10s

Hay Festival

Adam Rutherford and his guests at the Hay Festival, neurologist Dr Suzanne O'Sullivan, acoustic engineer Professor Trevor Cox and science writer Dr Philip Ball discuss what scientists learn when things go wrong. Suzanne O'Sullivan, author of Brainstorm, talks about how she helps her patients with strange and unusual forms of epilepsy; Trevor Cox, whose new book is called Now You're Talking, describes cases where our voices change, such as stammering and foreign language syndrome; and Philip Ball, who is part of Created out of Mind, a Wellcome funded project about dementia and the arts, explores what happens when our brains age.
31/05/1840m 26s

CO2 and rice, Underground farming, Ancient interstellar asteroid, Microplastics air pollution

New research suggests that rice will be depleted in important B vitamins and minerals by rising CO2 levels in the atmosphere. Adam Rutherford to talks to Kristie Ebi of the University of Washington, one of the scientists behind the finding, and consults Marco Springmann of the Future of Food project at the University of Oxford. Is the future of farming subterranean? Marnie Chesterton visits a farm called Growing Underground for some answers. Specialising in salad and herbs, it is located beneath Clapham Common in South London in an old Second World War air-raid shelter. Has an interstellar asteroid been lurking in our solar system for more than four billions years? It's a possibility according to the astronomers who've watched and plotted its strange orbit. It travels around the Sun in the opposite direction to most of the planets, asteroids and comets. Asteroid specialist Alan Fitzsimmons of Queens University Belfast talks to Adam about this astronomical oddity and assesses the evidence for it being a traveller from the stars, captured by our solar system during its early childhood. Stephanie Wright of Kings College London explains about what we do and don't know about the abundance and health risks of microplastic particles in the air we breathe. Producer: Andrew Luck-Baker.
24/05/1833m 15s

Face Recognition, ‘Thug’ plants, Cancer Funding Inequalities, Feynman’s 100th birthday

Facial recognition technology is on the rise and in some places used to fight crime. In the UK the police have been heavily criticised for falsely identifying people using the technology. But are their results really that bad? Professor Hassan Ugail tells Adam Rutherford that – though there is room for improvement – the results may not be as catastrophic as critics claim. Wild flowers are being outcompeted by ‘thug’ plants on our roadside verges, a study by the charity Plantlife has found. Pollution from cars and poor management practices by local councils has meant that nitrogen-loving plants outcompete wildflowers. Dr Trevor Dines explains to Adam Rutherford what actions can be taken to help our verges regain their natural biodiversity. A new study reveals that for every pound a female scientist receives for her cancer research a male scientist will get one pound and forty pence. This gender imbalance in cancer funding highlights wider issues around women in science and how funding councils operate. Adam Rutherford discusses the problem with chief scientist at Cancer Research UK, Karen Vousden, and Professor Henrietta O’Connor, who co-authored the study. This week Adam Rutherford marks the birthday of one of the greatest of all physicists: Richard Feynman. Professor Jonathan Butterworth talks about Feynman’s legacy as a scientist and science communicator but also about his highly problematic views on women.
17/05/1829m 41s

Rat eradication; elephant talk; the rise of the dinosaurs; physics of snooker

On the remote island of South Georgia, the invasion of rats from passing ships has wreaked havoc on the local wildlife. But the South Georgia Heritage Trust announced this week that all rats have been eradicated thanks to an extensive project. Adam Rutherford speaks to chairman Professor Mike Richardson about the achievement and how the wildlife is already healing. Elephants don’t only communicate using their trunks but also their feet. A new study taps into this underground communication using seismic equipment to detect the vibrations. Dr Beth Mortimer explains how the technology may help to react in real-time to elephant distress such as panic running – for example – when being hunted by poachers. We all know how dinosaurs became extinct but how did they rise to prominence? Author of the new book “The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs” Steve Brusatte talks about how the beloved creatures came to dominate the Earth and the new technologies being used to discover even more about them. How does science help us understand snooker? From the importance of chalking cues to how physics explains extraordinary snooker shots. Adam Rutherford tries to find out how he can up his game with the help of physicist Dr Phil Sutton.
10/05/1828m 12s

Antarctic, Kew, Paleogenomics, Sea birds

The Thwaites glacier in Western Antarctica is twice the size of the UK and accounts for about 4% of sea level rise, but what is unknown is whether the glacier will collapse as a result of environmental change. Adam Rutherford speaks to 2 scientists from a major new study who with the help of seals and Boaty McBoat face will be investigating what goes on under the glacier and what drilling into the rocks under the sea can tell us. And while the work of the new Antarctic team-up is studying the impact of the rise of sea levels, here in the UK, researchers are similarly concerned about the warming of the oceans, but on the specific effect it could have on sea birds. Inside Science's Jack Meegan reports from the Yorkshire coast. The Temperate House at Kew has undergone a 5 year restoration and now is about to open to the public, Adam goes along to get a preview. Who owns ancient DNA? A recent article in the journal Science argues that we need to think harder about the living relatives of indigenous people and not simply treat their human remains as "artifacts".
03/05/1827m 47s

Human Consciousness: Could a brain in a dish become sentient?

As the field of neuroscience advances, scientists are increasingly growing brain tissue to study conditions like autism, Alzheimer's and Zika virus. But could it become conscious? And if so, how far away is that scenario? Wind, changing water temperatures and salt are all factors known to control ocean currents. But new research suggests there's another element in the mix. When sea monkeys amass, the thousands of swimming legs can create powerful currents that mix hundreds of meters of water. Whenever a baby is born, we ask whether it's a girl or a boy. But when it comes to puppies, the question is often about the breed, especially with mongrels. And when we think we know what it is, we make assumptions about how that dog will behave. For instance, if you think there's some golden retriever parentage, you may expect it to be good at playing fetch. But do our perceptions of dog breeds change the way it behaves? That's the question of a new citizen science project called MuttMix, which asks you to guess the ancestry of various mongrels. Finally, Charles Dickens is known as one of the best novelists of the Victorian era but a new exhibition is questioning whether he should be also known as a man of science. Dickens campaigned for paediatrics and his powers of description lead to a new conditions being medically recognised. The exhibition will be at the Charles Dickens Museum and it opens in May.
26/04/1831m 0s

Plastic-eating bacteria, Foam mattresses for crops, The evolved life aquatic, The Double Helix

A breakthrough for closed loop plastic recycling? Two years ago Japanese scientists discovered a type of bacteria which has evolved to feed on PET plastic - the material from which fizzy drink bottles are made It was isolated at a local recycling centre. An international team has now characterised the structure of the plastic-degrading enzyme and accidentally improved its efficiency. John McGeehan of the University of Portmouth led the team and talks to Adam about where the discovery may lead. If you can't recycle plastic, you can re-use. Sheffield University chemist Tony Ryan is working to convert old polyurethane foam mattresses into hydroponic allotment beds so that people at a Syrian refugee camp in Jordan can grow their own crops. Roland Pease reports. How southeast Asian sea nomads evolved the life aquatic. The Double Helix, fifty years after its 1968 publication. Biologist and historian Matthew Cobb and science writer Angela Saini discuss the place of James Watson's compelling and controversial memoir in the annals of popular science writing. His account of the discovery of the DNA's structure was unlike any science book that had come before. Does it stand the test of time and what of its blantantly sexist treatment of the gifted X-ray crystallographer Rosalind Franklin? Her work was crucial to Crick and Watson's 1953 model of the DNA molecule.
19/04/1838m 31s

Pesticides in British Farming

A few weeks ago, Inside Science featured an item on neonicotinoids and the negative impact these pesticides have on insects like honey bees. The discussion turned to alternatives, including organic farming. Many listeners wrote in about some issues that went unchallenged. So this week, Adam returns to the subject to get into the nuts and bolts of both organic and conventional farming. Next week sees the launch of a NASA mission called TESS. The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite is surveying the brightest stars near Earth and looking for habitable planets. Roland Pease reports. Traditionally, the move from Bronze Age to the Iron Age is estimated to be around 1200 BCE. But recent excavations of smelting sites in Uttar Pradesh in India suggest that this date might be a few centuries late and that it might even originate in Asia. Adam visits The Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxfordshire to see how a particle accelerator is revealing the details of the Indian Iron Age. Our ancestors bore a very prominent brow ridge, which scientists think was a symbol of dominance. Modern humans, however, have lost this ridge in favour of a flatter forehead. Why? Dr Penny Spikins and her colleagues think the answer lies in social interaction and in particular, the ability to raise your eyebrows.
12/04/1831m 13s

Stephen Hawking Tribute

Adam Rutherford presents a special tribute to the science of Stephen Hawking. He is joined by Fay Dowker, a former PhD student of Hawking and now a professor of theoretical physics at Imperial College, Professor Carlos Frenk, a long-time colleague and friend and fellow physicist and science communicator Professor Brian Cox. They look at the scientific legacy of Stephen Hawking and the role that his work played in bringing us a step closer to a single grand theory that explains how the universe works.
05/04/1829m 40s

Genes and education, John Goodenough, Caring bears and hunting

A widely reported study published last week suggests that on average children at selective schools have more gene variants associated with higher educational attainment than children at non-selective schools. It also suggests that selective schools achieve better GCSE exam results because their selection procedures favour children with those genetic variants, and not because of the teaching and facilities at private and grammar schools. Adam Rutherford talks to the senior researcher Robert Plomin of the Institute of Psychiatry in London, and Ewan Birney, director of the European Bioinformatics Institute near Cambridge. John Goodenough invented the lithium ion battery, the power pack that makes our smart phones, tablets and laptops possible. At the age of 95, in his lab at the University of Texas, he's now working with colleagues such as Portuguese physicist Helena Braga on an even better next generation battery technology: one that could transform the prospects for electric vehicles and renewable energy storage. Roland Pease meets the jovial battery pioneer and his team. Hunting regulations in Sweden are having a profound effect on the behaviour of brown bears in the country. Since the 1980s, hunters are not allowed to shoot female bears with cubs. Historically, mother bears stayed with their cubs for 1.5 years but as hunting rates increased, mothers began to keep their offspring with them for an additional year. Now more than a third of mothers look after their cubs for 2.5 years. According to Andreas Zebrosser of the University of Southeastern Norway and Joanie van der Walle of the Universitie de Sherbrooke, hunting appears to be acting as a powerful evolutionary force on the species' reproductive behaviour.
29/03/1830m 42s

Data Scraping

The story of how Cambridge Analytica had scraped Facebook data in its attempt to influence voting behaviour has been reported widely this week. Andrew Steele, a medical researcher at the Crick Institute in London, explains how data mining or scraping actually works and how it is used by many scientists to find ways of improving human health. The Government Office for Science published a massive report this week, entitled the 'Future of the Sea' which sets out the UK's stall with regard to our future relationship with the seas, and to put science front and centre in that plan. Professor Ed Hill, Executive Director at the National Oceanographic Centre in Southampton, is one of the authors and tells Adam Rutherford about future exploitation of the sea. Debris in space is a huge issue - it's estimated that there are more than 170 million fragments of satellites, rockets and other stuff that we've sent up, all orbiting the Earth at ballistic speeds. All of these have the potential to lethally strike a working satellite or worse, a crewed space station. Graihagh Jackson met Professor Guglielmo Aglietti at Surrey University who's researching the best technology to safely remove space junk. Dinosaurs were incredibly successful and lived on earth for over 150 million years. Francois Therrien from the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology in Alberta, Canada, and colleagues explored how living crocodiles and birds, the descendants of dinosaurs, rear their eggs. Dr Therrien told Adam how their findings have suggested that dinosaurs used a variety of ways to hatch their eggs in the many environments on earth.
22/03/1827m 48s

Buzz kill

As spring and Brexit loom, Adam Rutherford examines what stance the UK might take on neonicotinoids. The pesticide has been shown to harm bee populations by many scientific studies. Now, the largest report of its kind has put pressure on the EU to vote on whether three types of neonics should be banned. Will the UK follow Europe's lead if the ban is legislated? Fly tipping is a problem faced by most authorities. But conservationists at the Creekside Discovery Centre in Deptford are embracing the carpets and shopping trolleys that have washed up in their creek in south-east London. They even argue that the rubbish provides a safe haven for wildlife. Graihagh Jackson investigates. Graphene is often touted as a wonder material but now this carbon sheet could be making an unexpected appearance in your bathroom cabinet as hair dye. The world-renowned physicist Stephen Hawking has died at the age of 76. The British scientist was famed for his work with black holes and a general relativity. Inside Science examines his scientific legacy.
15/03/1832m 13s

Russian Spy Poisoning

A former Russian spy, Sergei Skripal, and his daughter Yulia are in a serious condition after being exposed to a nerve agent on Sunday. The first police officer to attend the scene also remains in hospital. It is being treated as 'a major incident involving attempted murder.' We ask what happens next: what antidotes are available, how do they work and what's the prognosis? Today marks International Women’s Day. Its aim is to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. But there’s also a strong call for change, especially in the tech industry where women are vastly underrepresented. Discussions on how we could achieve gender equality have been ongoing for years, so why has there been so little change? And how can this bias affect the technology we all use? Scientists are warning of an infertility 'crisis' among men. Sperm counts have been falling for over 40 years and now, 1 in 20 men have low sperm counts. The cause is unknown and this week, doctors are calling for more funding to better understand the issue. The red squirrel has found an unlikely ally: the pine marten. Grey squirrels were introduced to the UK in the late 1800s from America and have since caused the native red population to diminish. However, with the reintroduction of a predator, the mal-adapted greys are being hunted and as a result, red squirrels are bouncing back.
08/03/1831m 18s

Weird Weather?

With many parts of the country seeing large snowfalls we ask what's driving our current weather? What factors need to be in place to create snowfalls, and how do these differ from sleet or frozen rain? And we address the impact of climate change, while a series of weather events might show a pattern, at what point should we go looking for explanations beyond natural events? Dutch Elm Disease laid waste to millions of British Elm trees back in the 1970's, Now a new tree bacteria which mimics the effects of drought has spread from the Americas to Europe. It has already been detected in some tree imports to the UK. Unlike Dutch Elm Disease it affects a huge variety of trees and shrubs, from mighty oaks to fruit trees and Lavender bushes. New directives have just been introduced to try and halt its spread. Can we beat dementia? Research from the US amongst people in their 80's and 90's provides grounds for optimism, showing that elderly people with good memories have brain structures which can be more developed than those of people 30 years younger. And yet at the same time they may carry factors usually associated with dementia. And how violent are we? Compared with our past that is. Research from collections of gruesome medieval remains paint a picture of a violent society, where men and women commonly carried weapons and inflicting or receiving severe wounds may have been a part of daily life. And yet other studies suggest this level of violence is actually lower than that experienced in some societies today. Marnie Chesterton presents.
01/03/1833m 2s

Science after Brexit

The UK is one of the largest recipients of research funding in the EU. Marnie Chesterton discusses what the future of UK science funding will look like with MP Norman Lamb, who chairs the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, and Ed Whiting, Director of Policy and Chief of Staff at the Wellcome Trust. Around 4,500 years ago, 90% of the British population was replaced by incomers known as the Beaker people. Across Europe archaeologists have uncovered elements of the Beaker culture - bell-shaped pots, copper daggers, arrowheads, stone wrist guards and distinctive perforated buttons -it's always been a mystery as to whether these finds represent a wave of mass migration or the sharing of ideas between peoples. Now ancient DNA studies show it was both, and for Britain reveal a huge population change which still resonates today. A new collaboration between an artist and a cyclone physicist commences this week.They joined forces to model Hurricane Katrina and cast its shape into six brass bells. Each bell represents a key moment from the category 5 storm, as it progressed across the Gulf of Mexico and made landfall in the United States in 2005. The finished collection will feature in a BBC Radio 4 documentary later this year. And how does the moon affect life on earth? specifically worms - we unearth a species of worm that times its mating ritual by the waxing and waning Moon.
22/02/1830m 0s

Shipping air pollution; Cheddar Man; Millirobots in the body;Dog brain training

Sulphur belched out of vessels' smokestacks is a serious health problem for coastal communities around the world. Four hundred thousand premature deaths from lung cancer and cardiovascular disease and around 14 million childhood asthma cases annually are reckoned to be related to shipping emissions. The International Maritime Organisation has finally agreed to drastically reduce polluting emissions from 2020. Gareth Mitchell discusses with James Corbett of the University of Delaware the impact of the emissions reduction on health. The nearly complete skeleton of Cheddar Man was found in a cave in Somerset in 1903. He'e been in the news because experts in human face reconstruction have created an image of what he probably looked like based on new DNA evidence. Chris Stringer, Ian Barnes and Selina Brace of the Natural History Museum have all worked with Cheddar Man and they talk to Gareth about how the study of this 10 000 year old skeleton is part of a bigger project to understand how Britain became populated with waves of peoples from Europe in the Mesolithic and Neolithic eras. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems have invented a magnetically controlled soft robot only four millimetres in size that can walk, crawl or roll through uneven terrain, carry cargo, climb onto the water surface, and even swim in it. Professor Metin Sitti, Director of the Physical Intelligence Department at the Max Planck Institute, explains how it works and how he sees the future use of millirobots in medicine - in delivering drugs and targeting cancerous cells. Marnie Chesterton talks to Dr Lisa Wallis from ELTE University in Hungary about her work to improve the cognitive abilities of older dogs... using touchscreens.
15/02/1829m 55s

Democracy in Space

This week a US based billionaire launched a giant space rocket and sent a car vaguely in the direction of Mars. As a space mission it was to say the least unconventional, and for those involved in promoting space science it presents a quandary. Is such a mission largely a publicity stunt or is it useful for engaging people in the potential of space exploration? Gareth Mitchell looks at one project which enables schoolchildren to programme computers on the International Space Station and he talks to the European Space Agency about why a rock concert might be a good avenue for exploring space science. As more and more of our everyday lives are conducted online we ask what are the cyber-security threats of today, and how can science be used to counter them. Do we now need new kinds of science to locate, understand and stop new kinds of threat? Can bat science help human ageing research? New findings have show that some long lived bat species do not age in the same way as other mammals. They don't even seem to posses the DNA repair enzyme most commonly found in the animal kingdom. We look at the mystery of why bats seem to have evolved in this way. And have you lost a satellite? Don't worry: a computer geek will find it for you. That's exactly what's happened - an amateur space sleuth has detected signals from a NASA satellite thought to have been 'lost' for years.
08/02/1828m 46s

Scientists on Trial

In 2016 there was an attempted coup in Turkey. This led to many people who the government saw as opposition figures being sacked from their jobs and in some cases held without trial. They include prominent intellectuals, medics and scientists. In recent days there has been a similar crackdown on people voicing criticism of Turkey's current military actions in Syria. Stephen Reichter, Professor of Psychology at St Andrews University has been to Turkey to observe the trial of one of his former colleagues. He tells us what he saw and discusses the wider issues for science. It's the 60 years since the launch of Explorer 1 and the discovery of the Van Allen Belts. This was the satellite the US launched in response to Sputnik. However unlike Sputnik it did undertake scientific exploration, its findings have been significant for every space mission that followed. Using DNA sequencing scientists have found that the 'Two Brothers' mummies at the Manchester Museum have different fathers so are, in fact, half-brothers. Khnum-nakht and Nakht-ankh - date to around 1800 BC. Ever since their discovery in 1907 there has been some debate amongst Egyptologists on whether the two were actually related at all. DNA was extracted from their teeth to solve the mystery. And the science of the Archers, a current storyline involves leaks of industrial chemicals illegally buried on a farm many years ago. We'll be looking behind the scenes to see where the story came from and how the world's longest running soap opera ensures scientific accuracy. This week's programme is presented by Gareth Mitchell as Adam is away.
01/02/1832m 54s

Did typhoid kill the Aztecs, DNA stored in Bitcoin, Glow-in-the-dark plants and levitating humans

What killed the Aztecs? In some areas of the Americas, as many as 95% of the indigenous population died of diseases brought in by the discoverers of the New World. Pandemics hit the population who had little immunity to diseases carried by people and livestock. One outbreak responsible for killing millions started in 1545 and was locally called 'cocoliztli'. But for the last 500 years, exactly what this deadly disease was has remained a mystery. Adam talks to Johannes Krause of the Max Planck Institute who has analysed the teeth of 10 individuals from a mass grave for pathogens and found remnants of typhoid fever DNA. Could this be, in part, responsible for the deaths of millions? Historian Caroline Dodds Pennock from the University of Sheffield discusses the difficulties of knowing for definite what killed so many millions of people. In 2015, Nick Goldman issued a challenge. If anyone could decode the information he had stored on some DNA by 21st January 2018, they could win a bitcoin. When Nick bought the bitcoin it cost about £200. To claim the bitcoin, the winner would have to sequence the DNA and then decrypt a code. In late 2017, Nick thought he would be keeping his bitcoin, now worth thousands of pounds. But PhD student Sander Wuyts got in touch with Nick to claim his prize. Marnie Chesterton follows the story. Adam talks to MIT scientist, Michael Strano about his new techniques to make plants glow in the dark. Could these plants be used as street lighting in the future? And how can sound be used to levitate humans? Professor of Ultrasonics at the University of Bristol, Bruce Drinkwater explains how his team have managed to overcome a size limit on the use of acoustic beams to trap and move objects in space. With no theoretical upper limit on the size of object which can be levitated, he explains how the technology could be used in medicine to deliver powerful drugs to a very specific place. This would leave the rest of the body unharmed or could help in the dispersal of kidney stones.
25/01/1828m 39s

African swine fever, Oil spill update, CRISPR gene editing, Rat eradication in New Zealand, Chimp kin recognition

African Swine fever is deadly to pigs and is spreading west from Russia across Europe. The virus that causes it is very resilient and can stick around on clothing, hay and in infected pork products for as long as 150 days. Biosecurity is crucial to preventing its arrival in the UK. If just one pig eats some infected meat from discarded human food the disease could quickly spread causing thousands of pigs to be culled and costing the industry millions. But what is the current progress on developing a vaccine? Adam talks to virologist Professor Jonathan Ball of Nottingham University and Zoe Davies from the National Pig Association. Simon Boxall from Southampton Oceanography Centre gives an update on the sinking of the oil tanker Sanchi and its environmental impact. CRISPR is a revolutionary gene editing technique which can modify DNA and has the potential to correct genetic errors in a range of human diseases - even cancer. The technique has only been around for a few years but is already being talked about as a Nobel prize winning candidate. The market for the technology has been predicted to be worth US$ 10 billion by 2025. But stocks took a wobble last week on news that our immune system may render CRISPR useless. Is there really a big problem? Adam talks to Matt Porteus from Stanford University who did the research. 18 months ago, New Zealand announced a conservation project to exterminate all vermin that are decimating the indigenous bird population. For millions of years, the flora and fauna evolved in isolation, without predatory mammals. When humans arrived, they brought with them a host of bird-eating animals like rats, stoats and possums which now kill 25 million native birds every year. Marnie Chesterton travelled to New Zealand to report on a campaign of mass poisoning to save the kiwis and the kakapos and asks whether it’s ethical to kill one species to save another. And Cat Hobaiter from St Andrews University responds to listener questions about how chimpanzees might recognise family members.
18/01/1828m 26s

Sanchi oil tanker, Gut gas-monitoring pill and Chimpanzee portraits

After the Sanchi oil tanker collided with another ship it discharged its cargo of 1 million barrels of condensate oil. This could cause one of the biggest oil disasters in 25 years. What is condensate, can it be cleaned up and how toxic to marine life is it if large amounts of it leak or the tanker sinks? Adam talks to Simon Boxall from Southampton Oceanography Centre. A long-held belief that babies look more like their fathers is being put to the test by scientists at St Andrews University. They are launching an on-line citizen science experiment asking members of the public to see if they can tell from a group of chimps which are the close relations. Geoff Marsh takes the test and talks to researcher Cat Hobaiter about why it might be advantageous for a baby primate to look like its father more than its mother and what they hope to learn from humans' ability to recognise chimp family trees. A new swallow-able, electronic pill that sniffs out the gas produced in your gut could be the answer to accurately diagnosing and distinguishing between ailments of the gut. The gastrointestinal tract is hard to access so when something goes wrong, conditions like Irritable Bowel Syndrome, lactose intolerance and over production of bacteria. can be hard to distinguish from one another and so accurately diagnosed. Professor Kourosh Kalantar Zadeh from RMIT in Melbourne explains why his device, which senses gases in the gut and transmits its findings back to a smartphone in real time,, is more accurate and less invasive than current breath tests or endoscopies and colonoscopies. And Janet Kelso answers listener questions on human evolution and why modern Europeans still carry Neanderthal DNA.
11/01/1827m 35s

Tabby's Star, Space 2018, Mosquito sounds, C diff and food additive link

Adam Rutherford talks to astronomer Tabetha Boyajian at Louisiana State University about the wierd star that's perplexed astronomers since its discovery two years ago. KIC 8462852 has the unique habit of intermittently and sometimes dramatically dimming and then brightening. Some scientists even suggested vast alien megastructures around the star might be the explanation. After twenty months of almost continuous observation, Professor Boyajian has much more information about what the star is doing. But the big mystery hasn't gone away. BBC News science correspondent Jonathan Amos joins Adam to share some highlights in space exploration for the coming 12 months. Zoologists and engineers at the University of Oxford are developing an app that identifies one species of mosquito from another by analysing the sounds their rapid wing beats make. Graihagh Jackson visits Marianne Sinka at the Zoology Department to listen to her collection of mosquito songs. Did the widespread introduction of the food additive trehalose fuel the emergence of epidemics of virulent Clostridium difficile in hospitals from the early 2000s? Microbiologist Robert Britton tells Adam about the evidence his team has gathered and published this week in the journal 'Nature'.
04/01/1832m 42s

Ancient DNA and Human Evolution

Twenty years ago, a revolution in the study of human evolution began. A team in Leipzig in Germany successfully extracted DNA from the bones of a Neanderthal man who died about 40,000 years ago. Thirteen years later, the same group unveiled the first complete genome sequence of another Neanderthal individual. Last year, they announced they'd retrieved DNA from much oldest archaic human bones, more than 400,000 years old. Adam Rutherford talks to Svante Paabo, the scientist has led these remarkable achievements. Professor Paabo and his colleague Janet Kelso at the Max Planck Institute of Biological Anthropology in Leipzig discuss the genes in many European people alive today that originated in Neanderthals and were passed to modern humans when the two species interbred. Adam also speaks to Johannes Krause who worked on the Neanderthal genome project in Leipzig but is now director of the Max Planck Institute of the Science of Human History. His latest research adds a new layer of intrigue and complexity to the relationship between our species and Neanderthals in deep time. David Reich at Harvard University focuses on using ancient DNA to uncover the ancestry and movements of modern human hunter-gatherers in Eurasia from about 50,000 years to the Bronze Age, a few thousand years ago. Population movements occur on a cinematic scale, he says. (Podcast only). The revelations of ancient genetics would not be possible and meaningful without the traditional disciplines of palaeoanthropology and archaeology. Adam goes to Gibraltar to seek the perspective of Clive Finlayson who leads excavations there as director of the Gibraltar Museum. Gibraltar is the most concentrated site of Neanderthal occupation in the world. As well as remains of a young Neanderthal child last year, the Rock's caves have also recently yielded the first example of Neanderthal cave art.
28/12/1734m 14s

Antisense RNA therapy, Fossils vs Trump, Printing mini-kidneys, Electric eel power

Promising results from a small clinical trial of Huntingdon's disease patients have led to RNA-directed therapy such as antisense RNA being hailed as possibly a turning point in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases. Adam Rutherford discusses this class of drugs with Heidi Ledford of Nature News. At the beginning of the month, Donald Trump decreed that two national monument landscapes be drastically down-sized. Strict protections against exploitation were removed from vast tracts of land bearing some of the world's most important fossil bearing strata. President of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontologists, Professor David Polly explains why his organisation is now suing Trump. At Harvard University, bioengineers are growing parts of functioning kidneys in small chips using a form of 3D printing. Jennifer Lewis' lab is doing this to learn how kidneys function and explore the possible therapeutic applications of the mini-kidneys-in-a-chip. Roland Pease visits the team at work. The electric eel can deliver a 600 volt shock, from a stack of electrically charged cells along the length of its body. Inspired by the eel's biology, Michael Mayer and his colleagues at the Universities of Fribourg and Michigan have now created their own version of its electric organ with the help of jelly babies and clever origami. In the future, it could power devices in the human body.
21/12/1729m 2s

The Future of Coral Reefs, Little Foot, Arthur C Clarke

Oxford is hosting the European Coral Reef Symposium this week. Climate change is seen as the number one threat to the future of coral reefs. Adam talks to Morgan Pratchett of James Cook University about the two recent coral bleaching events that hit the Great Barrier Reef, and to Barbara Brown of Newcastle University about the potential for coral species to adapt to warmer seas. After twenty years of excavation and preparation, the most complete fossil skeleton of an Australopithecine has been unveiled to the public in South Africa. Its discoverer Ron Clarke explains its significance for understanding human evolution. December 16th is the 100th anniversary of Arthur C Clarke. Science writer Marcus Chown and cultural journalist Samira Ahmed join Adam to discuss Clarke's visions and works of science fiction.
14/12/1734m 34s

Trophy hunting, Gene drives, Nuclear lightning, Peregrine falcons and drones

Trophy hunters are always after the lion with the largest darkest name and the stag with the most impressive antlers. Research by Rob Knell at Queen Mary University of London finds that removing a small proportion of these top males can drive whole populations to extinction, if their environment is changing. Gene drive is a new genetic technology that could be used to eradicate populations of species of 'pest' animals. The Roslin Institute in Edinburgh has just announced it is to begin research on gene drives to control rat and mouse populations. The Institute's Bruce Whitelaw and Simon Lillico explain how the approach would work and argue that it would be humane compared to traditional methods of vermin control. However there are concerns about its potential ecological consequences - namely the risk of female infertility in the targeted species spreading without no geographical limits. Kevin Esvelt of MIT voices his reservations. Bruce Whitelaw outlines how future research aims to bring gene drives under more control. Researchers in the USA and Japan talk about their discovery of nuclear reactions in lightning strikes, and Caroline Brighton and Graham Taylor of the University of Oxford explain why they have been attaching small cameras and GPS units to peregrine falcons and recording the birds chasing drones.
07/12/1731m 5s

Prehistoric Strong Women, Semi-synthetic Life, Listener Feedback, Artificial Superintelligence

More than 5,000 years of heavy agricultural labour by women can be read from the bones found in ancient cemeteries from the Neolithic to Iron Age times. Cambridge University anthropologist Alison Macintosh compared the arm bone dimensions and strength of women from these times with those of modern female athletes such as runners to rowers. Her conclusion is that average upper body strength of women through the Neolithic to the Iron age times exceeded that of today's semi-elite female rowers. A laboratory at the Scripps Research Institute have created a semi-synthetic bacterium with two new man-made genetic letters in its DNA, in addition to the natural four A, G, T and C. What's more, the engineered microbe can use its enhanced genetic alphabet to build synthetic amino acids into the proteins it makes. Chemist Floyd Romesberg talks to Adam Rutherford about what we can learn from his team's extraordinary feat of synthetic biotechnology, what we might gain from it and why, in his opinion, we've no need to be worried. Adam deals with some of your correspondence on axolotls by talking to laboratory salamander breeder Randal Voss at the University of Kentucky. He also notes listeners' comparisons of the recent visit by interstellar asteroid Oumuamua with the alien vessel in Arthur C Clarke's 'Rendezvous with Rama'. Cosmologist and AI researcher Max Tegmark visits BBC Inside Science to discuss the possibility of artificial intelligence machines with super-intelligence and how humanity should be preparing for their advent. Producer: Andrew Luck-Baker.
30/11/1738m 35s

Interstellar visitor, Svante Paabo, Synthetic biology, Plight of the Axolotl

On 19th October, a mysterious object sped through our solar system. It was first spotted by astronomers with a telescope in Hawaii. Its trajectory and speed told of its interstellar origins. It is the first body to be detected from outside our solar system. Scientists are now publishing their papers on the enigmatic visitor. They estimate that it was about 400 metres long and bizarrely elongated in shape. Adam Rutherford talks to astronomer Alan Fitzsimmons of Queens University in Belfast. Twenty years ago, geneticist Svante Paabo began a revolution in human evolution science when he extracted fragments of DNA from the 40,000 year old bone of a Neanderthal. Among other first, he went onto sequence the entire genome sequence of Homo Neanderthalenisis. Professor Paabo was in the UK this week at a conference on DNA and human evolution at the Wellcome Genome Campus to mark the anniversary. He tells Adam about one of the new directions of research for him now. What does the future hold for synthetic biology? Who will be the practitioners of this fast-growing branch of bioengineering and what will be its impact on the world - for good and possibly ill? Experts in the field have just published a horizon-scanning report in the journal eLife. One of its authors, Jenny Molloy of the University of Cambridge, talks to Adam about the nascent democratisation of the discipline and where this might lead the field and society. The paradoxical plight of the axolotl: popular aquarium pet, laboratory animal and critically endangered species in the wild. This species of salamander is a wonder of nature. It's the amphibian that never grows out of its larval stage yet it's able to reproduce. Most remarkable is its ability to regrow limbs, which is of great potential interest to researchers developing regenerative medicine. There are many thousands of axolotls in labs and homes around the world. But in the wild, in their native Mexico, they are on the very edge of extinction. Inside Science talks to conservation biologist Richard Griffiths of the University of Kent and axolotl researcher Tatiana Sandoval Guzman of the Technical University in Dresden, Germany. Producer: Andrew Luck-Baker.
23/11/1734m 23s

Can we forecast earthquakes?, Britain's space race rocket Skylark, Francis Galton

What might the length of the day have to do with the likelihood of destructive earthquakes around the world? According to Professors Rebecca Bendick and Roger Bilham, there's a correlation between changes in the rate at which the Earth rotates and the incidence of earthquakes of Magnitude 7 and above. The rotation speed of the planet increases and decreases over periods of years and decades. From their research, the earth scientists say that there's an substantial increase in the number of powerful earthquakes around the world five years after the Earth attains a peak in its spin speed and enters a period of slow down. The difference in day length is tiny but it is enough, say the researchers, to trigger already stressed faults in the crust to move sooner than later. In the year that the Soviet Union launched Sputnik into orbit, the UK launched its own rocket into the Space Race. 1957 saw the launch of the first Skylark space rocket. Inside Science talks to two veterans of the Skylark programme - Professors John Zarnecki and Ken Pounds - who cut their space research teeth with some of the 440 launches. The Science Museum in London is staging a Skylark exhibition in celebration. Francis Galton was one of the UK's most influential 19th century scientists and laid important methodological foundations for genetics and other fields of science today. But he was also a racist and leading proponent of eugenics. Adam discusses Galton's legacy with historian Subhadra Das of University College London and clinical geneticist Han Brunner of the Maastricht University Medical Centre in the Netherlands. Both guests attended a meeting of the Galton Institute in London which brought together researchers of many disciplines to discuss the bad and the good in Francis Galton's legacy. Producer: Andrew Luck-Baker.
16/11/1736m 12s

Boy gets New Skin, The York Gospels, Stephen Hawking's Thesis

Researchers in Italy and Germany have saved the life of a boy with a life threatening genetic skin disease, using a combination of stem cell and gene therapy. 7 year old Hassan had lost 60% of his protective epidermis because of the condition, junctional epidermolysis bullosa. The severe blistering and consequent bacterial infections put his life in imminent danger. In a final attempt to save him, the scientists took a small area of unblistered epidermis from his body, separated the constituent skin cells and then engineered them with a normal version of the gene that was malfunctioning in Hassan's body. Sheets of healthy epidermis of an area of about one square metre were then grown in culture, and then grafted onto 80% of his body. Hassan is now living a normal life, back at school, playing football. Lead researcher Michele de Luca describes the remarkable recovery and Fiona Watt, director of the Centre for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine at Kings College London, explains how the procedure worked. Scientists at the University of York are investigating medieval livestock farming through the study of the 1,000 year old York Gospels manuscript: not by reading it but by extracting proteins and DNA from its animal skin parchment pages. Inside Science listener and Middle Eastern archaeologist Melissa Sharp takes the programme to task for suggesting that anyone can now use publically available sonar and satellite data to search for shipwrecks and other archaeological sites. It opens up the world's ancient and not so ancient heritage to looters, she says. Since the University of Cambridge made Stephen Hawkings 1966 PhD thesis free to view and download last month, more than a million people have at least looked at it. Adam Rutherford talks to cosmologist Andrew Pontzen, biologist Matthew Cobb and neuroscientist Sophie Scott about the record-breaking thesis and asks whose first research project they'd like to download. Producer: Andrew Luck-Baker
09/11/1732m 54s

Climate Change and Health; Moth Snow Storm Feedback; Whale Brain Evolution; Pharoah's Serpent

Adam Rutherford talks to researchers on a major global study that aimed to quantify how climate change has already damaged the health of millions of people. Hugh Montgomery is the co-chair of the Lancet Countdown report and says that climate change is the largest single threat to global health. Climate scientist Peter Cox talks about his stark findings on the increase in the number of vulnerable people exposed to heat waves between now and the turn of the century. We hear anecdotes and concerns from listeners following our item last week on the catastrophic decline in flying insects in the last quarter century and the disappearance of moth snow storms. What can the social lives and brains of whales and dolphins tell us about the evolution of our species cognitive capacities and white matter? Adam talks to Susanne Shultz of the University of Manchester. Everyone's favourite indoor firework, the Pharoah's Serpent, is under scientific scrutiny from chemists Tom Miller and Andrea Sella at University College London.
02/11/1734m 27s

Insects disappearing, DNA Biosensor, Dog faces, Bandit dinosaur

The total biomass of flying insects in the environment has decreased by 75% in the last quarter of a century. That's the conclusion of research published at the end of last week in the journal PLOS One. The discovery, made in Germany, has shocked many, but should we in the UK be worried too? The answer is yes, according to Adam Rutherford's guests Dave Goulson, professor of biology at the University of Sussex, and Michael McCarthy, environmental journalist and author of 'The Moth Snow Storm.' The speed and ease of precise infection diagnosis could be transformed by synthetic biologists at Imperial College, London. Paul Freemont tells Adam about a simple DNA biosensor that turns green in the presence of a pneumonia-causing bacterium that is a particular problem for people with Cystic Fibrosis. He adds that the technology is adaptable to any kind of bacteria and may also aid efforts to curb the spread of antibiotic resistance. When dogs know you are looking at them, they ramp up the expressiveness of their faces. Marnie Chesterton visits the Dog Cognition Centre at the University of Portsmouth to talk to the researchers who made this discovery, and to meet Jimmy the Staffy. Palaeontologists at the University of Bristol have figured out the colour patterning on a dinosaur that lived 120 million years ago. Sinosauropteryx was a small feathered dinosaur. Two spectacular fossils of it were found in northeast China. The specimens are so well preserved that remnants of pigment remain in the feathers. This allows Jakob Vinter and colleagues to see that Sinosauropteryx was reddish brown in colour, with light stripes on its tail, light and dark counter-shading on its body and a dashing bandit-style face mask. Producer: Andrew Luck-Baker.
26/10/1733m 46s

Colliding Neutron Stars, Krakatoa, Centigrade vs Celsius

Adam Rutherford talks to astrophysicists about the astronomical discovery of the year, if not the last couple of decades: the collision of two neutron stars and the cosmic gold-forging aftermath. The discovery of this long-hypothesized event on 17th August came from the much awaited marriage of the capabilities of the gravitational wave detectors LIGO and Virgo with those of ground-based and space-based telescopes. Samaya Nissanke of Radboud University, Sheila Rowan of the University of Glasgow and Nial Tanvir of the University of Leicester take Inside Science through the story. What made the infamous 1883 eruption of Krakatoa so devastating? Roland Pease meets the earth scientists trying to answer the question by recreating in the lab the conditions under the volcano prior to the eruption. Following a temperature-related faux pas by Adam in the last episode, Michael de Podesta of the National Physical Laboratory explains the difference between Celsius and Centigrade. Producer: Andrew Luck-Baker.
19/10/1734m 5s

HiQuake, Plate Tectonics@50, Sonic Weapon Puzzle, The Chinese Typewriter

Gareth Mitchell talks to Gillian Foulger of Durham University about HiQuake, the world's largest database of human-induced earthquakes. Professor Foulger and her colleagues have so far compiled close to 750 seismic events for which there are reasonable cases to be made for anthropogenic triggers. Triggers include mining operations, fossil fuel extraction, reservoir filling, skyscraper construction and tunnelling. Among the surprises is the fact that the US state of Oklahoma is more seismically active than California because of quakes and tremors set off by the local oil and gas industry. The theory of plate tectonics is 50 years old. It's as fundamental to understanding the Earth as evolution by natural selection is to understanding life. Roland Pease meets geologists such as Dan McKenzie, John Dewey and Xavier Le Pichon who played key roles in proving the hypothesis in the late 1960s. The United States has removed more than half of its diplomats from its embassy in Havana, Cuba. A signficant number of staff have complained of ailments such as hearing loss, dizziness, headaches and nausea, and there has been speculation that some kind of sonic or acoustic weapon might be responsible. Trevor Cox, professor of acoustic engineering at the University of Salford, discusses the likelihood with Gareth. Stanford University's Tom Mullaney is the author of 'The Chinese Typewriter: A History'. He talks to Gareth about the great engineering and linguistic challenge in the 19th and 20th centuries of getting the Chinese language onto a table top machine. The survival of the ancient language or China's entry into the modern world depended on the success of numerous inventors. In fact one consequence was the development of predictive text in the Chinese IT world long before it appeared in the West. Note: In the podcast version of this programme, there is an additional item on new research on the role of the world's botanical gardens in global plant conservation. One of the scientists involved, Dr Paul Smith of Botanical Gardens Conservation International, tells Gareth that there's good news about these institutions' contributions and there are areas where there is room for improvement. Producer: Andrew Luck-Baker
05/10/1737m 35s

Gravity wave breakthrough, The antibiotic pipeline, Microbial waste recycling, Fausto - an AI opera

The gravitational waves produced by two massive black holes colliding have for the first time been detected by three gravitational wave detectors. Professor Sheila Rowan of the University of Glasgow explains the importance of this new three way observation. The World Health organisation reports that there are too few new candidate antibiotics in the development pipelines to replace those becoming obsolete through the rapid spread of antibiotic resistance. Professor Willem van Shaik of the University of Birmingham and pharma-biotech analyst Dr Jack Scannell discuss where the problems and solutions might lie. Could bacteria recycle all of our waste? Waste disposal is a growing concern as nations run out of space and ecosystems are increasingly polluted. Microorganisms may hold the key for turning household waste into biodegradable plastic and perhaps one day even into food and basic chemical feedstocks. Hans Vesterhoff, Professor of Systems Biology at Amsterdam University is developing microbial networks with the aim of converting all carbon-based waste into useful or edible stuff. AI and Opera: Prof Luc Steels, an AI and language researcher at the Institute for Advanced Studies of Catalonia is also a composer. He has just had his new opera premiered. With a libretto written by a neuropsychiatrist colleague, the opera 'Fausto' is a re-telling of the Faust story. It explores the dangers and flawed thinking of silicon-based transhumanism. In the opera, the Faust character is a social media-obsessed hipster and Mephistopheles is a malevolent AI in the cloud. In a twist on the original, Fausto trades his body rather than his soul so that he can be uploaded and reunited with his lover in the cloud.
28/09/1730m 46s

Cassini's finale; Science and Technology Select Committee; Crick's lecture; Cave acoustics

After last week's Inside Science's edition devoted to Cassini ended, the Cassini spaceship plunged into the atmosphere of Saturn, and became part of the planet it studied. But the project lives on, as the data and photos generated by Cassini right up until contact was lost will be studied and scrutinised for years to come. Linda Spilker is the Project Scientist for the Cassini mission. Adam Rutherford spoke to her to find out what was captured in the last few moments of Cassini's closest and fatal encounter with the ringed planet. The House of Commons has announced its Science and Technology Select Committee - the body of MPs that holds the Government to account on scientific matters, and offers advice on scientific issues of the day. Some controversy has followed, concerning the scientific credentials and the gender imbalance of the committee make-up so far. Norman Lamb, MP for North Norfolk was elected chair of the committee, and he came into the Inside Science studio to discuss the committee selection and its future ambitions. This week was the 60th anniversary of one of the greatest conceptual leaps in all biology, made by Crick at a lecture at University College London. Matthew Cobb, biologist and historian from Manchester University, who's written a new account of the lecture, discusses its fundamental significance. It has long been suggested that there's something about the acoustics of a cave that correlates with the location of motifs and sometimes paintings on the walls.Bruno Fazenda is an acoustic scientist at the University of Salford, and reveals how he went into the caves to conduct the first methodical study of this theory by listening to the past.
21/09/1727m 57s

Farewell to Cassini, the epic 20 year mission to Saturn

As Cassini's epic journey to Saturn finally ends tonight, Adam Rutherford celebrates the incredible discoveries of a mission that has changed the way we see our solar system. BBC Science Correspondent Jonathan Amos is at Mission Control in Pasadena as scientists assemble to witness the final few hours of the Saturnian observations beforeCassini completes its death dive into the planet. We also hear from key scientists who've played a role in capturing and interpreting the multitude of data from the last 12 years. With contributions from Michele Dougherty, Professor of space physics at Imperial College Robert Brown, Professor Planetary surface processes Arizona University Carl Murray, Professor of Astronomy, Queen Mary,University of London Ellen Stofan, former chief NASA scientist Producer Adrian Washbourne.
14/09/1735m 58s

North Korea Bomb Tests, Warming Antarctic Sea Life, the Microbiome, Cuckoo Chuckle

The Democratic People's Republic of Korea claims to have successfully tested a thermonuclear weapon, a hydrogen bomb. Tom Plant, director of Proliferation and Nuclear Policy at the Royal United Services Institute, talks to Adam Rutherford about how the boast might be proved by monitoring technology around the world. How will marine life respond to warming of the seas around Antarctica this century? Dramatically, according to the results of the most realistic attempt so far to warm the sea bed to temperatures predicted for the coming decades. The British Antarctic Survey installed gently heated panels at 12 metres depth off the West Antarctic coast to mimic rock surfaces and then over 9 months monitored how marine creatures colonised and grew on them. All creatures flourished on panels at 1 degree C above today's chilly waters and in fact grew astonishingly quickly on them. But a 2 degree increase saw some continue to flourish vigorously but many species fail. Experiment mastermind Lloyd Peck tells Adam what the findings may mean, and describes the extraordinary cold water diving skills that made the experiment a success. 'I contain Multitudes' is shortlisted for the Royal Society Insight Investment Science Book Prize this year. Its subject is the microbiome - the trillions of benign , friendly and not so friendly bacteria which inhabit our bodies and those of all other animals. For 30 years, Cambridge University zoologists have studied the evolutionary arms race between the cuckoo and the reed warbler that rears the cheating bird's offspring. They have figured out many of the deceptions and counter-tactics adopted by the two co-evolving species. The latest revelation concerns the strange chuckling call which the female cuckoo makes after laying her egg in the warbler's nest. Jenny York describes the experiments which show that the cuckoo is mimicking a predatory sparrow hawk which distracts the warblers and makes them much more likely to not recognise her egg as something they should reject from the nest.
07/09/1732m 46s

Noxious haze over south coast; In Pursuit of Memory book; technosphere; Big Wasp Survey

Last weekend a chemical ‘haze’ on the East Sussex coast saw 150 people needing hospital treatment after something in the air led to streaming eyes, sore throats and nausea. Leading theories so far include a chemical spill from shipping in the English channel, a localised spike in ozone levels and an algal bloom, where algae suddenly proliferate and release harmful gasses. Dr Simon Boxall of the National Oceanography Centre at the University of Southampton tells Gareth Mitchell why he’s favouring the algal bloom theory. We know about extinct species from fossils in rocks. But in the future there will be techno-fossils too, evidence of our civilisation. Katie Kropshofer has been finding out from Professors Jan Zalasiewicz and Sarah Gabbot of the University of Leicester what we’re leaving for the hypothetical geologists of the future. Neuroscientist Joseph Jebelli's book, In Pursuit of Memory: The Fight Against Alzheimer's, is the one of the six titles on the shortlist of the Royal Society Insight Investment Science Book Prize. He explains to Gareth Mitchell that it was his grandfather's development of the condition that made him interested in Alzheimer’s. The Big Wasp Survey is a citizen project to trap wasps and send them off to teams at the University of Gloucester and University College London, so that scientists can then learn more about the distribution of different species around this land. One of the organisers, entomologist and professor of Science Communication at the University of Gloucester Adam Hart, talks to Gareth about why these unpopular insects are ecologically valuable.
31/08/1728m 3s

Killer robots; Myths and superstitions and conservation; Science book prize nominee - Cordelia Fine; Taxidermy

Once again, the ethical side of fully autonomous weapons has been raised, this time by over 100 leading robotics experts, including Elon Musk of SpaceX and Tesla, and Mustafa Suleyman of DeepMind. They have sent an open letter to the United Nations urging them to take action in order to prevent the development of "killer robots". The letter says "lethal autonomous" technology is a "Pandora's box", once opened it will be very difficult to close - they have called for a ban on the use of AI in managing weaponry. Gareth asks AI expert, Professor Peter Bentley from University College London, if this is the right approach or is this just an attempt to delay the inevitable? When a paper titled "Fantastic Beasts and Why to Conserve Them" is printed in the journal Oryx, we had to take a closer look. Far more than a publicity stunt, this work by George Holmes, an expert in conservation and society at the University of Leeds, covers an important point. It explores the dangers of neglecting local beliefs, myths and superstitions about the natural world, and animals in particular, when trying to come up with conservation strategies. Cordelia Fine is a professor of the history and philosophy of science at the University of Melbourne. She is the third shortlisted author of the Royal Society Insight Investment Science Book Prize. Her book "Testosterone Rex" explores the science behind gender. She argues that testosterone isn't necessarily the basis for masculinity and that there is so much more to gender than merely our biological sex. 200 years ago, taxidermy was a crucial part of zoological teaching and research, and in the days before BBC wildlife films, often the only way that many people could see strange and exotic wildlife from other lands. Lots of those early specimens are incredibly valuable, and can still be found in museums around the world, although being so old they are often in need of urgent repair. Usually this happens out of sight behind the scenes, but not so at the Grant Museum of Zoology in London, which has been doing its conservation live in the gallery for all to see, to draw attention to the art and science of taxidermy. Some of the more serious repairs get sent to taxidermy conservator Lucie Mascord in Lancashire. Produced by Fiona Roberts Presented by Gareth Mitchell.
24/08/1728m 15s

Antarctica's volcanoes, science book prize nominee - Mark O'Connell, US solar eclipse and 40 years of NASA's Voyager mission

Not so much hiding in plain sight, but tucked under the ice-sheet in Antarctica are 91 volcanoes. This adds to the 47 volcanoes already known on the continent. After a graduate student posed the question,"are there any volcanoes in Western Antarctica?", Dr Robert Bingham, and colleagues, at Edinburgh University, scoured the satellite and database records to find the volcanoes. This huge region is likely to dwarf that of East Africa's volcanic ridge, which is currently the most volcano-dense region on Earth. Journalist Mark O'Connell is the second of our Royal Society Insight Investment Science Book Prize 2017 nominees. His broad-minded, yet sceptical look at the world of 'transhumanism', "To be a Machine: Adventures Among Cyborgs, Utopians, Hackers, and the Futurists Solving the Modest Problem of Death", questions how and why some of us are looking to use technology to fundamentally change the human condition. On Monday 21st of August 2017, some of the United States will go dark. This is the first total solar eclipse, visible from coast to coast in the US for 99 years. Gareth gets excited with veteran eclipse watchers, David Baron and Jackie Beucher. On the 20th of August 1977, NASA's probe Voyager 2 launched. This was quickly followed two weeks later by the launch of Voyager 1 (which was on a faster trajectory). Since then the two spacecraft have been exploring our Solar System, the Heliosphere and interstellar space. Surpassing all expectations, the probes have taught us so much about our planets, their moons and beyond. Gareth looks back at the highlights with the Voyager mission's chief scientist, Professor Ed Stone, in a celebration of the 40 year mission. Produced by Fiona Roberts Presented by Gareth Mitchell.
17/08/1728m 44s

European heatwave and climate change, Eugenia Cheng, Next generation batteries for electric cars, Joseph Hooker exhibition.

The current heat wave in Europe is proving deadly. High day and night temperatures, coupled with high humidity, can be a very dangerous combination. A new study has calculated the risk of deadly heat on a global basis, and shown that between 48% and 74% of the world's population will be subjected to life-threatening heat and humidity for at least 20 days a year. Ed Hawkins, Professor of Climate Science at the University of Reading, discusses the findings. Gareth also asks BBC weatherman, Darren Betts, whether the recent wave of climate trend animations, or gifs, doing the rounds on social media, are a helpful tool in communicating climate change risks. Professor of Mathematics, Eugenia Cheng, is one of the shortlisted authors for the Royal Society Insight Investment Science Book Prize 2017. She talks Gareth through the inspiration for her book "Beyond Infinity: An expedition to the Outer Limits of the Mathematical Universe". The UK Government announced last week that it was aspiring to remove all petrol and diesel vehicles from roads by 2040. Current battery technology relies on lithium-ion batteries. Are lithium, and the other metals required for batteries, sustainable for a totally electric transport system? And do they have the charge capacity to make them a reliable alternative to fossil fuels? Dr Billy Wu, of the Dyson School of Design Engineering at Imperial College London, goes through the alternatives and the next generation of battery technology. To mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of one of Victorian Britain's most important scientists, Joseph Hooker (1817-1911), Kew Royal Botanic Gardens is holding an exhibition titled Joseph Dalton Hooker: Putting plants in their place. It's a fascinating selection of his photographs, journals and paintings. Gareth is taken on a tour by the curators - historian Professor Jim Endersby of the University of Sussex and Galleries and Exhibitions Leader at RBG Kew, Maria Devaney. They explain how as a tireless traveller and plant collector, Hooker was the founder of modern botanical classification and a close friend of Charles Darwin. Produced by Fiona Roberts Presented by Gareth Mitchell.
10/08/1728m 27s

Gene-editing human embryos, Spaceman's eyes, Science book prize, Sexual selection in salmon

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is the heart condition that can lead to seemingly super-fit athletes collapsing with heart failure. It affects one in 500 people, and is a heritable disorder. Scientists using the precise gene-editing technique, Crispr CAS 9, have identified one of the genes responsible for the disease and 'fixed' it. This is in very early stage human embryos, prior to implantation. Dr. Fredrik Lanner at the Karolinska institute, is a leader in this field and he describes the work as purely at the experimental stages, but the team have managed to overcome various issues with the technique. Despite the obvious benefits of being an astronaut... exploring new worlds, seeing Earth from space, and of course the glory and fame, it can take a real toll on the body. Astronauts' skeletons and muscles deteriorate in zero gravity, their immune system weakens, and they experience nasal congestion and sleep disturbance. Many symptoms persists once they're back on Earth. But, there's another to add to the list, space flight-associated neuro-ocular syndrome or SANS. Ophthalmologist at Houston Methodist Hospital, Dr Andrew Lee explains that the build-up of fluid in the brain can squeeze the eye and optic nerve and lead to visual disturbance and even vision loss. The shortlist for the Royal Society Insight Investment Science Book Prize 2017 has just been announced. Adam pesters judge Claudia Hammond for the name of the winner (she doesn't tell!) and discusses the criteria for this £25,000 prestigious award. The top 6 books will be featured over the next 6 weeks on BBC Inside Science. Sexual selection - who you decide to have babies with - is usually decided at the dating stage. But the choice does not have to stop at copulation. Post-mating sexual selection is a thing. Mechanisms such as sperm competition, and cryptic female choice, can happen after sex, but before the sperm fertilises the egg. It's not just an internal thing either, it happens in 'external fertilizers', where eggs are laid, and then fertilized by the male sperm outside the female's body, like come fish do in water. Professor Neil Gemmell, at the University of Otago in Dunedin in New Zealand, has been studying just such processes in Chinook salmon. His findings are surprising and could inform us about human reproduction and fertility. Produced by Fiona Roberts.
03/08/1735m 36s

Cod fisheries, Our connection to nature, Domestic electricity and Gamma ray bursts

News that the Marine Stewardship Council has reopened the North Sea cod fishery is met by some concern from marine biologist Professor Callum Roberts at the University of York. He says, this may be good news for cod and cod fishermen, but other marine species getting caught up in the drag nets may not be so capable of bouncing back. In a report out this week, the UK Government announced they are funding £246 million for major changes to the way electricity is produced and stored. New rules will make it easier for people to generate their own power with solar panels, and store it in batteries. But do we have the technology to make it work in a cost effective way? Steven Harris, a consultant in sustainable energy, thinks we'll soon have smart domestic appliances in our homes which better manage the fluctuating supply and demand for power. Expert in energy systems, at the University of Newcastle, Professor Phil Taylor, is researching the next generation of smart appliances and domestic storage batteries. A new study reports that 69% of Brits feel they have lost touch with nature. Dr. Rachel Bragg, at the Green Exercise Research Unit at the University of Essex and Care Farming UK, unpicks the anecdotal evidence from the facts and explores why a connection with the natural world is so important, why the connection is being broken and what we need to do about it. Professor of Extragalactic Astronomy at the University of Bath, Carole Mundell, explains how she and other astronomers captured the most complete picture yet of the most powerful type of explosion in the universe - Gamma Ray Bursts. These short-lived bursts of the most energetic form of light, shine hundreds of times brighter than a supernova and trillions of times brighter than our sun.
27/07/1729m 34s

Genetics and privacy, Global plastic, Great Ape Dictionary, Ocean Discovery X Prize

Should our genomes be private? Professors Tim Hubbard and Nils Hoppe join Adam Rutherford to discuss concerns about data security and privacy of our genetic data. Once our DNA has been extracted, sequenced and stored as a digital file, what is done with it, who gets to see it and what say do we have in all this? Back in the 1950's at the dawn of the new plastic age, its everlasting properties were a major selling point. Now, we're dealing with escalating plastic pollution and bulging landfill. But how much plastic are we dealing with? Dr. Roland Geyer has calculated the production, use and fate of all plastics ever made. Chimpanzees are very communicative animals: they tend to use gestures foremost with vocalisation just to emphasise the flick of a wrist or a stretch of the hand. In an attempt to get a grasp on why, and how, we humans made the shift from gesture-led communication to talking, we need to see how well we can decipher our ape relatives. A new online study called the 'Great Ape Dictionary' wants you to have a go. The bottom of our seas remains a mysterious other world. Yet, adventuring into the deep depths of the ocean is a major challenge, which is probably why only 5% of it has ever been explored - even though it covers more than 70% of our planet. So to start learning more about our own planet, the Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE is awarding a total of $7 million to teams that develop autonomous, unmanned vehicles to map and image the bottom of the seas. Dr Jyotika Virmani tells Adam why ocean exploration is so important, and why it tends to take a backseat to adventuring into space. Presented by Adam Rutherford Produced by Fiona Roberts.
20/07/1732m 11s

Genetic testing; Pugs on treadmills; Frankenstein

What can genome science do for you? Chief Medical officer Dame Sally Davies recently published her annual report, issuing a plea for a revolution in the use of genetic information in the NHS. She wants DNA tests to be as routine as biopsies or blood tests. Adam chats to geneticist Ewan Birney, head of the European Bioinformatics Institute in Hinxton, about the potential uses and limitations of genetic testing. Pugs are set to become Britain's most popular breed in the next couple of years. Together with similar dogs, like bulldogs and Frenchies, they are classed 'brachycephalic', having short snouts and compact skulls which makes them susceptible to a breathing problems. Veterinary surgeon Jane Ladlow has studied 1,000 dogs to improve their health today and in future generations. Reporter Graihagh Jackson went to visit the team at Cambridge Veterinary School. To mark the forthcoming 200th anniversary of the publication of Frankenstein, a new edition has been created especially for scientists and engineers. Adam talks to editor David Guston, from Arizona State University about the lessons this cautionary tale contains for science today. Presenter: Adam Rutherford Producer: Michelle Martin.
13/07/1728m 31s

Neonics dispute, Hygenic bees, Hip-hop MRI

The results of the first large-scale field study looking at neonicotinoid pesticides and their impact on bees has caused controversy. It was carried out by the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH) and commissioned and funded by the agricultural chemical companies Syngenta and Bayer. However, both companies have expressed dissatisfaction with the paper. Adam Rutherford talks to Dr Peter Campbell from Syngenta and Dr Ben Woodcock from CEH about the results. In a separate project, beekeepers have been trying to improve hive health by breeding 'hygienic bees'. These nifty insects love to keep their homes clean and free from disease, improving colony numbers and reducing the need to use antibiotics. Reporter Rory Galloway embarks on some fieldwork at the University of Sussex, with Luciano Scandin, Honeybee Research Facility Manager and Francis Ratnieks, Professor of Apiculture. What happens when you rap inside an MRI scanner? Neuroscientist Sophie Scott wanted to find out. She's been making movies of the internal workings of some extraordinary voice boxes, owned by beatboxers, opera singers and rappers, like biochemist Alex Lathbridge aka Thermoflynamics. Presenter: Adam Rutherford Researcher: Caroline Steel Producer: Michelle Martin.
06/07/1730m 3s

Sex bias in biology, Engineering prize, Olympic bats, Angry Chef

Teams from all over the world have been looking at the differences between male and female mice. They've assessed hundreds of characteristics, from weight changes to cholesterol to blood chemistry. The surprising results show huge differences between the sexes, which have great repercussions for drug development which mostly uses male mice, and humans, for testing. Medicines may be less effective in females, or have greater side-effects, due to the extent of genetic differences being found between the sexes. Adam talks to one of the authors, Prof Judith Mank from University College London. Three global engineering technologies are in the running for this year's coveted MacRobert Award, the UK's top innovation prize. Adam Rutherford talks to judge Dr Dame Sue Ion to find out more about each of the finalists - Darktrace, Raspberry Pi and Vision RT. Urban bats are getting smart - sensors newly installed at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford are using machine learning algorithms to recognise and record the different colonies that emerge after dark. One in five mammal species are bats, and they are often used as an indicator to measure the health of our environment. BBC Science reporter Helen Briggs talks to Prof Kate Jones and the team involved in creating and installing these hi-tech bat phones. Anthony Warner is a chef. And he's angry. With a background in biochemistry he's pledged to fight fad diets, bogus nutritional advice and celebrity food nonsense wherever he finds it. From Clean Eating to the Paleo Diet, he busts some diet myths for us, and explains why we've unfairly demonised ingredients like gluten. Presenter: Adam Rutherford Assistant Producer: Caroline Steel Producer: Michelle Martin.
29/06/1727m 54s

Forensics Centre in Dundee; D'Arcy Thompson centenary; Scottish science adviser; Coffee and climate

The Leverhulme Research Centre for Forensic Science at the University of Dundee has expanded to test new psychoactive substances. Adam Rutherford talks to Professors Sue Black and Niamh Nic Daeid, who jointly run the Centre, about how they can keep up with the many new illegal drugs coming onto the market and about how they intend to modernise forensics. 2017 is the centenary of the publication of On Growth and Form, the book by D'Arcy Thompson that influenced many people from mathematical biologists to architects. Adam discusses the man and the book with Matthew Jarrron in the D'Arcy Thompson Museum at the University of Dundee. Astrophysicist Sheila Rowan has been the Chief Science Adviser to the Scottish Government for just over a year. Adam asks her about the role and how she deals with controversial issues such as GM crops. And Aaron Davis of Kew Gardens explains the impact of climate change on coffee growing in Ethiopia.
22/06/1727m 44s

Science in Fire Prevention

Applying scientific techniques to reduce fire risk in tall buildings. We look at practical measures to prevent building fires and also how science can improve evacuation plans. Modeling the brain with maths. new research using multidimensional models is helping researchers understand the levels of complexity in brain function. Sexism in science, its as old We look at how sex bias has influenced the outcome of scientific research throughout history. And also look at how science itself is changing as opportunities for women to pursue scientific careers increase. And a unique study which turns recordings from police body cameras into empirical data that can be used to assess and improve police interactions with the public.
15/06/1728m 22s

Early Humans Were Even Earlier Than We Thought

Early human fossils from Morocco suggest our ancestors walked the earth much earlier than previously thought. Human ancestral fossils from the area were first discovered in the 1960's, but now a re-examination of these and more recent finds suggests they are from an early form of us - Homo sapiens - living in the area around 300,000 years ago. We have news of a one in a million stellar observation: light bending around a distant star. This is the first time the phenomenon has been observed outside our solar system, and is further proof of Einstein's theory of General Relativity. It involved measurements millions of miles away and many times smaller than the width of a human hair. Gold mining is a highly polluting process involving toxic chemicals. Marnie Chesterton visits a Scottish gold mine and looks at attempts to make the extraction of gold more environmentally friendly by replacing the toxic chemicals with ingredients more commonly found in vitamins and natural fertilisers. And US President Trump has announced his intention to pullout of the Paris climate agreement. We look at the implications of the decision for global emissions reduction.
08/06/1728m 19s

The Importance of Basic Research

Adam Rutherford discusses the relationship between basic and applied scientific research with guests at the Hay Festival. Adam is joined by the Astronomer Royal, Lord Martin Rees, physicist Professor Robbert Dijkgraaf, the director of the Institute for Advanced Studies at Princeton University and author of a new essay introducing On the Usefulness of Useless Knowledge, behavioural psychologist Professor Theresa Marteau of Cambridge University and geneticist and writer Professor Steve Jones of University College London.
01/06/1744m 25s

Sherpas - dolphin rescue - quantum computing - hot lavas

The superior performance of Sherpa guides on Mountain Everest is legendary. New findings reveal how their bodies make the most of low oxygen levels at high altitude. Presenter Gareth Mitchell also talks to the Mexican biologist heading a last ditch attempt to save the world's most endangered marine mammal - a small porpoise called vaquita. There are fewer than 30 animals left, all of them in the Gulf of California. The plan is to capture up to half of them and move them to a safe haven in the Gulf, away from the illegal fishing nets that have been trapping and drowning them. Key players in the plan are US Navy dolphins, trained to find and follow the vaquitas so the scientists can catch and move them. The idea is to keep the porpoises in a protected bay until the illegal fishing threat has been tackled. Also in the programme, white hot lavas and reporter Roland Pease asks whether quantum computing is finally coming of age.
25/05/1732m 40s

Childhood cancers - Ghana telescope - Nano-listening device for cells - Ancient whales

Adam Rutherford goes the pathology archive of Great Ormond Street Hospital in London to hear how tumour samples from child patients about one hundred years ago may improve the diagnosis and treatment of very rare cancers in children today. He meets cancer geneticist Sam Behjati of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and Great Ormond Street pathologist Neil Sebire in the hospital's basement archive. Africa now has its first radio telescope outside South Africa. It is located in Ghana near the capital Accra. The telescope is in fact a defunct telecoms satellite dish which was spotted on Google Earth images and then re-purposed for cutting edge astrophysics. It is hoped the dish will be the founding instrument of a pan African network of radio telescopes scrutinising exotic celestial objects in the skies above the continent. South African science journalist Sarah Wilds tells the story of how the Ghanaian dish was found and converted. Nano-engineers in California have created a device 100 times thinner than a human hair which they have used to measure the turbulence created by swimming microbes and record the sounds of heart cells contracting. Don Sirbuly is the professor of nano-engineering at the University of California San Diego who led the team. A spectacular new whale fossil unearthed Peru is the oldest known member of the evolutionary branch which gave rise to the giant filter-feeding baleen whales of today. The 36 million year old fossil provides evidence for how ancestral whales transitioned from capturing prey with their teeth to filter-feeding with baleen fibres. They may gone through a period of sucking prey from the sea bed.
18/05/1727m 58s

Violins - Social networks and cliques in great tits and snow monkeys - Exploring DNA and art

Classical music fans will know well the legendary violins made by the likes of Stradivarius and Guarneri in the 17th and 18th century. But new acoustical research has found that concert goers rated the music of new fiddles higher than that from old and revered Italian violins. Dr Claudia Fritz of the Pierre and Marie Curie University in Paris explains how she did this study and what she found. Virtuoso soloist Tasmin Little plays her 260 year old Italian instrument for presenter Adam Rutherford and offers her thoughts on the findings. Adam also hears about personality and social cliques in great tits in Oxfordshire, and social networks and disease in Japanese snow monkeys. Adam chats with Leicester University geneticist Turi King and artists Ruth Singer and Gillian McFarland about their collaborative project to explore DNA through art.
11/05/1733m 0s

The moral brain, stem cell developments, ancient DNA in cave dirt, mangrove forest

Adam Rutherford talks to neuroscientist Molly Crockett about moral decision-making in the brain. She combined brain scanning with a test involving money and electric shocks. Geoff Marsh reports from Japan where stem cell research appears to be bringing regenerative medicine for a common cause of blindness ever closer. A team at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology has pulled off another triumph in the study of ancient human DNA. Viviane Slon explains how they've extracted DNA of extinct species of humans from the soil in caves across Europe and Russia. Adam discusses the significance with Ian Barnes, ancient DNA specialist at the Natural History Museum in London. Dan Friess of the National University of Singapore studies mangrove forests around the coasts of tropical Pacific and Indian ocean countries. This kind of forest has turned out to store much more carbon than even rainforests, as measured by the hectare. Dr Friess talks about carbon counting in mangroves and how this research may save the forests from further destruction.
04/05/1733m 4s

Homo naledi, First humans in America, Dark matter detector, New theory of dark matter

Controversy has followed the remains of a new species of human, Homo naledi, since it was described in 2015. Buried deep in a South African cave, its primitive features led scientists to believe it was up to three million years old. This week it's been revealed that this estimate was wrong. New dating evidence suggests the skeletons are only 200 000 to 300 000 years old and that means they may have lived alongside other homo species. Previously, humans were thought to have travelled to America via a land bridge between eastern Siberia and modern day Alaska, somewhere between 17 000 - 40 000 years ago when sea levels were lower than they are today. Researchers from the San Diego Natural History Museum now present evidence that suggests this transition could have been much earlier - nearly 100 000 years earlier. Adam talked to Chris Stringer, researcher in human evolution at the Natural History Museum in London, to unpick the evidence. Dark matter is a mystery that has evaded scientists for decades. Now the biggest and most sensitive detector is being built in South Dakota and scientists believe the Lux-Zeppelin experiment will soon be able to detect one of the candidates for dark matter, the elusive particle known as a weakly interacting massive particle (WIMP). Graihagh Jackson got a sneak peak of the key components, including the 'eyes' of the detector, before they're sent off for installation. Adam Rutherford talks to cosmologist Carlos Frenk from the University of Durham and learns of an alternative theory to describe this mysterious dark matter - a whole new dark sector. This sector contains a vast range of different dark particles, from photons to bosons, that could interact with normal particles.
27/04/1727m 57s

Cassini’s death, scrapping diesel, weather balloon, satellites monitoring volcanos

The Cassini-Huygens mission has been monumental for science. For thirteen years the probe has gathered data on Saturn, revealing more about the gas giant than we have ever known before. But now, Cassini is running out of fuel. Adam Rutherford talks to Professor Michele Dougherty of Imperial College about the plans for Cassini's spectacular end, which will be to burn up in Saturn's atmosphere later this year. The descent begins this week and Cassini will collect exciting new data until the end. Next week, Theresa May will unveil her plans to kerb air pollution and it is believed that some diesel drivers could be paid up to £2,000 to trade in their vehicles. Diesel cars emit nitrogen oxides - a pollutant that has been linked to nearly 12,000 UK deaths in 2013. This is the second highest in Europe after Italy. However, this isn't the first scrappage scheme to be brought in. Philippa Oldham from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers and Adam discuss the merits and pitfalls of an initiative like this. Thousands of balloons are launched every day to measure temperature, pressure and humidity of the air. Kerri Nicoll from the University of Reading wants to add cheap, volcanic ash sensors to these balloons which are going up anyway. This could vastly improve the limited information we currently have on volcanic eruptions, allowing us to quickly see rises in ash particles and therefore improve ash cloud forecasting. Many of the world's volcanoes aren't monitored but a new technology from the University of Leeds should mean that scientists can keep track of all 1,500 them by the end of the year. The technology involves monitoring changes in ground deformation from satellites in space, which will give clues as to whether a volcano is about to erupt. For those living near unmonitored volcanoes, this could provide an early warning system and save their lives.
20/04/1728m 1s

23andMe Genetic Sequencing, Human Knockout genes, Coral Bleaching

23andMe is one of the biggest providers of home genetic testing kits and if you live in the UK, it's the only one that also includes various genetic analyses relevant not just to ancestry, but also to health. After a previous ban, the Food and Drug Administration for the first time approved marketing of the 23andMe Genetic Health Risk tests for diseases in the US. Adam Rutherford talks to geneticist Professor Matthew Cobb of the University of Manchester and to medical ethicist Dr Sarah Chan of the University of Edinburgh about how useful this genetic information can be and about who owns the data. New research published this week has revealed something really quite bizarre about our own genomes: that we can survive normally with a considerable number of dysfunctional genes. We've got around 20,000 genes, and you might think that you need them all, as when they don't work, they could lead to a serious health condition. But from a study of more than 10,000 people from Pakistan more than 1300 mutations were found to have no effect on their health. Geneticist Robert Plenge explains the research. The Great Barrier Reef has taken another huge hit with a mass bleaching event occurring a second year in a row. Over two thirds of the reef is now seriously damaged. Professor Jorg Wiedenmann of the University of Southampton explains that if bleaching events continue to happen at this rate, the world's largest coral reef will never recover.
13/04/1727m 48s

Creation of island Britain, Sleep gene, Mary Kelly forensics, Global Tree Search survey

Adam Rutherford examines a new study published this week which reveals how a megaflood and giant waterfalls severed our connection to what is now France, resulting in the creation of island Britain and the watery moat of the English Channel. Jenny Collier of Imperial College London uncovers the ancient evidence dating back 450 000 years ago. The dream of unbroken sleep is a complex interaction between our environment and our genes, and new research is a step towards understanding the genetics of sleeping patterns. Jason Gerstner of Washington State University discusses his isolation of a gene that seems to play a crucial role in sleep across a number of species including humans. Turi King played a pivotal role in the identification of Richard III from bones discovered in a Leicester car park She's now involved in another infamous cold case - that of Jack the Ripper. Her interest is in the last of his five canonical victims, known as Mary Kelly, and she's authored a commissioned report on the possibility of identifying the body of Mary Kelly using DNA. And Paul Smith from Gardens Conservation International discusses the new Global Tree Survey - the biggest and the most comprehensive database of all the trees in the world - accumulated from 500 papers, and nearly four centuries of dendrology. Producer Adrian Washbourne.
06/04/1727m 56s

Climate change and extreme weather; Primate brain size; Earthquake forecasting; Planet 9

Following yesterday's US House Committee on Science,Space,and Technology's controversial hearing on scientific method and climate change, Adam Rutherford meets atmospheric scientist Professor Michael Mann after he emerged from the heated debate and who's just published a new paper suggesting a direct link between extreme weather and greenhouse gases via a particular behaviour of the jet stream across the northern hemisphere How has intelligence evolved? For over 2 decades the idea has prevailed that primate brain size and intelligence has been driven mainly by complex social hierarchies. But a new study by Alex DeCascien of New York University suggests that diet is a better predictor of brain size. This month is the 6th anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami that devastated much of Japan's coastline. Roland Pease reports on new research that aims to embrace uncertainty to improve quake forecasting And we hear how you can join in the search for the missing mysterious 9th planet of our solar system. Adam Rutherford hears from astronomer Brad Tucker on Walkabout at the Mount Stromlo Observatory in New South Wales Producer: Adrian Washbourne.
30/03/1728m 12s

Comet 67P images; Etna eruption; Brain navigation; Octopus intelligence

The recent Rosetta mission to image and land a probe on a comet was an astounding achievement. Rosetta took thousands of photos mapping the entire surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko , as it dramatically changed over 2 years. This week analysis of 18000 67P pictures are out of the shade and into the sunlight. Adam Rutherford talks to study leader Raamy El Maary on the intriguing insights and what they suggests about the evolution of comets as they pass through our solar system. And while no-one has any doubt that volcanoes are extremely dangerous forces of nature, Science correspondent Rebecca Morelle was caught in an unusual and terrifying eruption last week. She tells BBC Inside Science the perils of reporting up close from the side of Etna and the rare kind of eruptions that are unique to snowy volcanoes. What are our brains doing when we're navigating through towns and cities? A new study from a team at University College London has made detailed maps of brain activity when negotiating the very windy London streets of Soho and compared it to what our brains are up to when we're simply following a sat nav. Hugo Spiers discusses the results and how this kind of neuroscience has a role to play in the future design of new street networks and cities. And we feature the private life of the octopus - a seemingly alien intelligence right here on Earth as philosopher Peter Godfrey-Smith discusses his new book "Other Minds: The Octopus and the Evolution of Intelligent Life", in which he literally dives into the oceans and delves in to the workings of the octopus mind Producer Adrian Washbourne.
23/03/1728m 18s

Boaty McBoatface in Antarctica, Aeroplane biofuels, Bakhshali manuscript, Goldilocks zones

The submarine famously named Boaty McBoatface is deployed this week for its first mission to examine a narrow submarine gap in the South Atlantic. Mike Meredith of the British Antarctic Survey tells Adam Rutherford how this research into the behaviour of deep water at this crucial point in the oceans will help us answer key questions about global ocean temperature flows. Some close-quarter flying in the wake of a jet has provided new insights on reducing aircraft pollution. Richard Moore at NASA Langley in Virginia describes how he's taken to the skies to measure gasses emitted by new biofuels to assess their impact in reducing carbon soot particles, aircraft contrails and climate-changing cloud formations across the sky Angela Saini visits the Bodleian Library in Oxford where the Bakhshali manuscript which contains possibly the very first graphical representation of the number zero is finally being carbon dated so we can better understand its scientific importance And the habitable zones around stars in our the universe just got a whole lot bigger. Lisa Kaltenegger of the Carl Sagan Institute reveals how the presence of volcanoes pumping out hydrogen has a significant warming effect on planets, and increases the range of the so called Goldilocks Zone Producer: Adrian Washbourne.
16/03/1728m 9s

Rise of the Robots: 3. Where is my mind?

From Skynet and the Terminator franchise, through Wargames and Ava in Ex Machina, artificial intelligences pervade our cinematic experiences. But AIs are already in the real world, answering our questions on our phones and making diagnoses about our health. Adam Rutherford asks if we are ready for AI, when fiction becomes reality, and we create thinking machines.
15/03/1727m 59s

Cells and Celluloid: Aliens on Film

With Adam Rutherford and Francine Stock.
09/03/1757m 42s

Rise of the Robots: 2. More human than human

Adam Rutherford explores our relationship with contemporary humanoid robots
06/03/1728m 14s

Rise of the Robots: 1. The history of things to come

The idea of robots goes back to the Ancient Greeks. In myths Hephaestus, the god of fire, created robots to assist in his workshop. In the medieval period the wealthy showed off their automata. In France in the 15th century a Duke of Burgundy had his chateau filled with automata that played practical tricks on his guests, such as spraying water at them. By the 18th century craftsmen were making life like performing robots. In 1738 in Paris people queued to see the amazing flute playing automaton, designed and built by Jacques Vaucanson. With the industrial revolution the idea of automata became intertwined with that of human workers. The word robot first appears in a 1921 play, Rossum's Universal Robots, by Czech author Carel Chapek. Drawing on examples from fact and fiction, Adam Rutherford explores the role of robots in past societies and discovers they were nearly always made in our image, and inspired both fear and wonder in their audiences. He talks to Dr Elly Truitt of Bryn Mawr College in the US about ancient and medieval robots, to Simon Shaffer, Professor of History of Science at Cambridge University and to Dr Andrew Nahum of the Science Museum about !8th century automata, and to Dr Ben Russell of the Science Museum about robots and workers in the 20th century. And Matthew Sweet provides the cultural context. Show less
03/03/1728m 17s

Earth's Earliest Life, The Benefits of Pollution, Sexuality and Science and New ideas on Evolution

The World's oldest sedimentary rocks reveal traces of our earliest ancestors. New analysis shows life forms existed more than 3.7 billion years ago which were very similar to those found in our deepest oceans today, microbial life around hydro thermal vents. Some pollution might be good for the world oceans. New finding from China show how iron oxide pollution from power generation and industry has been turned into a source of nutrients for phytoplankton - by interacting with other chemical pollutants. The researchers say this is increasing the ability of the ocean to lock up atmospheric carbon dioxide and so reduce the impact of man made greenhouse gasses. They query whether reducing this kind of pollution could have a negative impact. This week The Royal Society celebrated LGBT history month and 50 years since the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in England and Wales Rory Galloway meets Sir Dermot Turing, the nephew of renowned computer scientist Alan Turing, to discuss Alan’s Legacy for LGBT scientists today, and we look at the continued impacted of homophobia in science. And we hear about a new test for ideas in Evolution. This involves recreating the ancestors of fruit flies. The findings have overturned an established theory on genetic inheritance in these alcohol tolerant flies.
02/03/1729m 19s

The perils of fake science news, The neanderthal inside us, What The Beatles really sang - statistically speaking

A woolly story about resurrecting mammoths raises serious questions for medical ethics. News of a scientist's plan to resurrect mammoths has spread around the world. However the story is largely untrue. We look at how this kind of 'fake science news' story can impact on perceptions of real medical research - some times with negative consequences. Almost all Europeans and Asians carry Neanderthal genes. Until recently these were thought to have little impact on us today, but new research shows they may be involved with determining height and aspects of both our physical and mental health. And what were Lennon and McCartney really thinking when they wrote their hit songs? Thanks to the number crunching power of computer algorithms the emotional content of 23 years worth of their compositions have been analysed. The results are both startling and for Beatles fans perhaps a little unsurprising.
23/02/1728m 19s

Science and cyber security, Dinosaur babies, Winston Churchill and level crossings

Testing cyber security with science. The UK now has a new National Cyber Security Centre. However there is very little scientific evidence against which to test the detection of cyber attacks and effectiveness of measures to prevent them. We ask what is needed to turn cyber security into a more scientific discipline. Winston Churchill and Aliens. Throughout his life Churchill maintained a strong interest in scientific developments and wrote widely on subjects from quantum mechanics to nuclear energy. Newly discovered papers show he also had an interest in the potential for life on other planets. Dinosaurs and egg laying. A new fossil find revealing a dinosaur with an unborn baby suggests live births may have occurred many years earlier than previously thought. Turn off at level crossings. New research suggests personal messages about the impact of engine fumes on health may be the most effective way of persuading drivers to switch off their engines at level crossings.
16/02/1728m 46s

Measuring human impact on earth, Awards for engineers, Sounds of space junk.

Quantifying the impact of humanity on the earth's natural systems. Why human activity now has a larger effect on our planet than the forces of nature. We look at how mathematical equations can now be used to compare historical natural processes with contemporary man made changes. And we ask where current developments will take us in years to come. The Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering has been awarded to the inventors of digital imaging sensors. First invented in the 1970's, many of us use this technology everyday. These sensor can be found inside every digital camera ever made, from the devices used on space probes to collect distant images from the far reaches of the universe to the ubiquitous pocket cameras in our mobile phones. The earth is surrounded by junk - space junk. Many thousand of pieces of junk orbit the planet, left over from the history of everything we've ever sent into space. A new project has given a voice to this junk, and created a machine which plays simulated sounds of the junk as it passes overhead. Producer: Julian Siddle Presenter: Gareth Mitchell
09/02/1728m 19s

Wildlife trafficking, New quantum computers, Ancient bird beaks, Glassblowing.

Conservation and conflict. A year long BBC investigation has exposed an illegal animal trafficking network stretching from West Africa to the Middle East and Asia. Traffickers have used fake permits to undermine international conservation efforts. New developments in Quantum computing. Sussex University are building a new type of modular Quantum computer. We attempt to explain what Quantum computing is. A Massive citizen science project to map bird beak evolution- using records from the Natural History Museum. And the last scientific Glassblower at Imperial College gives us a demonstration of his craft.
02/02/1728m 44s

Crime, volcanoes, ghosts and how we are influenced by the genes of unrelated others

The genes of unrelated others can influence our health and behaviour. New research suggests the genetic make up of our partners can have a profound influence on our lives. Scientists have quantified genetic influence , in mice at present but the plan is to try to extend this to human interactions. If accepted this has potentially far reaching consequences for studying heritability and also perhaps modern medicine as the findings suggest an illness can in part be influenced by those we live with. The use of DNA evidence in criminal cases has sometimes been given far more weight than it deserves. In the worst examples there have been miscarriages of justice where DNA evidence has been misinterpreted. The fiction of DNA as a 'magic bullet' pervades TV drama and films - but views of DNA evidence as infallible are also widely held amongst the public, police and lawyers. Forensic specialists explain what we can and can't find from DNA evidence. Oxford's Bodleian library has manuscripts stretching back to medieval times depicting volcanos discovered in the 6th century. These manuscripts also contain remarkable interpretations of eruptions and associated volcanic events, often mixed with mythology. Although those recording such events did not understand what they were scientifically, some of the depictions and ideas of what was happening are surprisingly accurate. Roland Pease and Professor David Pyle take a look at this remarkable collection. Nearly a hundred years ago, Oliver Lodge, eminent physicist and the first to demonstrate radio waves, published a book about life after death. It was entitled 'Raymond' after his son who was killed in the First World War. Lodge was a believer in ghosts and telepathy, and conducted experiments to test their existence. Adam Rutherford and Samira Ahmed look at how Oliver Lodge squared his scientific and spiritualist beliefs - and how the latter led to him, as Britain's most well know scientist of his time, being written out of scientific history.
26/01/1728m 1s

Antarctic science rescue, Killing cancer with viruses, Measuring wind from space and the Last man on the moon

Why the British Antarctic science base is being temporarily abandoned. New cracks have appeared in the Ice shelf on which the Halley research station sits. The promise of viro-therapy for treating cancer. Scientists have successfully used a virus to kill cancer cells. They say this could form the basis for a vaccine that could be injected to destroy tumours. The limitations of mouse models. Many animals are used for testing treatments intended for humans, we explain why the results of such experiments can't always be applied to people. Measuring wind speeds from space. A new satellite will lead to more accurate weather forecasts. Gene Cernan, the last man on the moon. We celebrate the charismatic astronaut who has died aged 82.
19/01/1728m 10s

The perils of explaining science, Living to 500, What's good for your teeth and The future of stargazing

Why the simplest explanations are not always the best when it comes to science. Where you read about a scientific subject can affect not just what you learn but also how much you think you know about the subject. Quahogs are a kind of clam and they can live for hundreds of years. Analysis of their shells provides a record of historical climate change. Researchers studying their shells have found big differences between the drivers of climate change now and in the pre-industrial era. Trips to the dentist may become less frequent if an experimental treatment with stem cells becomes widespread. The treatment involves regrowing damaged dentine, bringing about a natural tooth repair. Radio telescopes have brought us signals from the far reaches of the known universe and listened in on the space race. Now a new generation will take us further than ever before. Producer Julian Siddle.
12/01/1731m 7s

RIP Granny the oldest Orca - Graphene + Silly Putty - Moving a Giant Magnet - Space in 2017

The world's oldest known killer whale is presumed dead. At an estimated age of 100 years, 'Granny' was last seen with her family in October. The scientists who've followed her and her pod for four decades announced that they believe she has died somewhere in the North American Pacific. Adam Rutherford talks to evolutionary biologist Darren Croft of the University of Exeter about this remarkable animal and the insights that Granny and her clan have provided on killer whale social life and the evolution of the menopause. Adam also hears how a 'kitchen' experiment with Silly Putty and the form of carbon known as graphene led to the creation of an ultra-sensitive electro-mechanical sensing material. G-putty may provide the basis for a continuous and wearable blood pressure monitor. It can also detect the footsteps of spiders. Professor Jonathan Coleman of Trinity College, Dublin explains how its properties arise from mixing the two materials. Reporter Marnie Chesterton tells how a 700 tonne magnet was moved 3,000 miles by road and river across the United States, inciting both conspiracy theories and adulation. Now homed at Fermilab - the US's premier particle physics lab - the magnet is about to start probing the laws of the Universe in the Muon g-2 experiment. BBC science correspondents Rebecca Morelle and Jonathan Amos pick their space and astronomy highlights for the coming year. Producer: Andrew Luck-Baker.
05/01/1733m 11s

Listeners' Questions

Adam Rutherford puts listeners' science questions to his team of experts: physicist Helen Czerski, cosmologist Andrew Pontzen and biologist Yan Wong. Queries include gravity on sci-fi space ships, how animals would evolve on the low gravitational field of the Moon, gravitational waves, mimicry in parrots, sea level rise, the accelerating universe, dinosaur intelligence, the Higgs field and concerns about oxygen levels in the atmosphere. Further questions are answered in the podcast version of the show. They cover Antarctic dinosaurs, reducing CO2 levels in the atmosphere by trapping it as limestone, and Neanderthal DNA.
29/12/1644m 20s

Inuits and Denisovans, Sex and woodlice, Peace through particle physics, Caspar the octopus in peril?

Can Inuit people survive the Arctic cold thanks to deep past liaisons with another species? Adam Rutherford talks to geneticist Rasmus Nielsen who says that's part of the answer. His team's research has identified a particular section of the Inuit people's genome which looks as though it originally came from a long extinct population of humans who lived in Siberia 50,000 years ago. The genes concerned are involved in physiological processes advantageous to adapting to the cold. The conclusion is that at some point, the ancestors of Inuits interbred with members of this other species of human (known as the Denisovans) before people arrived in Greenland. Also in the programme: The woodlice which are made either female or male because of a gene that once belonged a bacterium. The gene came from a dead microbe and was incorporated by chance into the woodlouse genome. This is the first known instance of the invention of an animal sex chromosome through bacterial donation. We talk to Richard Cordaux of the University of Poitiers and Nick Lane of University College London about the discovery. Peace through particle physics. Roland Pease visits SESAME in Jordan - the Middle East's first synchrotron facility is about to start operating. The experiment brings together scientists from all over the Middle East in common cause, with for example Israeli, Palestinian, Iranian, Egyptian and Turkish scientists working side by side. Marine ecologist Autun Purser tells Adam about his European team's discovery of ghostly octopods living at 4,000 metres on the dark, cold sea bed of the Pacific ocean. Autun's camera has caught extraordinary egg brooding behaviour by this new kind of octopus. It lays its eggs half way up the stalks of dead sponges and then guards them for several years until they hatch. Unfortunately, the sponges only grow on lumps of metal-rich rock called manganese nodules which form slowly on the deep sea floor. Several companies are now exploring the possibility of extracting vast quantities of these nodules in deep sea mining, threatening the existence of the sponges and the octopods depending on them.
22/12/1628m 54s

Rock traces of life on Mars, Desert fireball network, Gut microbes and Parkinson's Disease, Science Museum's maths exhibition

Could rocks studied by the Mars rover Spirit in Gusev Crater in 2007 contain the hallmarks of ancient life? Geologist Steve Ruff of Arizona State University talks about what he found in hot springs in Chile which begs that question. He says the evidence is intriguing enough for NASA to send its next and more sophisticated Mars robot back to the same spot on the Red Planet in 2020. Adam also talks to Phil Bland of Curtin University in Australia - one of the creators of the Desert Fireball Network - an array of automated cameras across Australia, built to locate where shooting stars land as meteorites and also pinpoint from where they came in the solar system. Boosting the chances of collecting these meteorites and knowing their space origins should helps us to better understand how the Earth and other planets formed 4.5 billion years ago. There's new compelling evidence that microbes in the gut play a role in the development of Parkinson's disease. Tim Sampson of Caltech in the US outlines his experiments which raise this possibility and Patrick Lewis, another Parkinson's researcher at the University of Reading, puts the new findings into a wider context. Adam takes a tour of the spectacular new mathematics gallery at the Science Museum in London. The Winton Gallery's exhibited objects and design by the celebrated architect Zaha Hadid focusses on mathematics in the real world. Adam's guide is lead curator David Rooney.
08/12/1636m 39s

Alzheimers research, Lucy in the Scanner, Smart bandages, From supernovae to Hollywood

Alzheimers disease is now the leading cause of death in the UK, but there are as yet no treatments to halt or reverse it. There was huge disappointment last week when the drug company Eli Lilly announced that a large, phase 3 clinical trial had failed to show any benefit to mild dementia sufferers from its antibody therapy, solanezumab. So where does this leave our basic understanding of biology of Alzheimers disease and how we might most effectively treat or cure it? Adam Rutherford talks to Alzheimers researcher Tara Spires-Jones of the University of Edinburgh. Also in the programme: The skeleton of the world's most famous fossil, Lucy, has received a body scan which revealed she spent a considerable portion of her life climbing trees. Researchers at the University of Bath are making smart bandages for burns patients which glow when their wounds become infected. Adam also talks to the astrophysicist who gave up studying exploding stars to apply his maths to Hollywood stars in the movie business.
01/12/1633m 21s

Predator bacteria therapy, New money for UK science, Stick-on stethoscope, Taming fears in the brain scanner

Bdellovibrio is a small bacterium which preys and kills other bacteria. A team of researchers in the UK has shown in animal experiments that injections of the predator microbe can successfully treat infections. So how close does this take us to Bdellovibrio therapy for human patients and what part might it play in tackling the growing crisis of antibiotic resistance? Adam Rutherford talks to Professor Liz Sockett of the University of Nottingham. The British government has announced that it will be spending an additional £2 billion on research and development by 2020. Commentators say it is the largest hike in public funding for science in a very long time. Dr Sarah Main of the Campaign for Science and Engineering, and Dr Arnab Basu, physicist and CEO of Kromek, discuss the new money and how it would be best used. Also in the programme, materials and electronics engineers in the US have devised a small wearable heart monitor - the size and thickness of a sticking plaster. Adam talks to its lead designer Professor John Rogers of Northwestern University in Chicago. And could phobias be cured without exposure to the thing which frightens people? Dr Ben Seymour outlines an intriguing experiment which involved reading people's thoughts in a brain scanner, which suggests ultimately it may be possible.
24/11/1627m 52s

Does Pluto have an ocean, Antarctica's oldest ice, Meat emissions, Swifts fly ten months non-stop

Does the distant dwarf planet Pluto have an ocean beneath its thick crust of ice? It's certainly possible, according to a group of researchers who are analysing the data from the New Horizons Pluto flyby last year. They argue that a deep ocean of water would best explain the position of the great heart shaped depression on Pluto's surface. Adam Rutherford quizzes planetary scientist Francis Nimmo about this new hypothesis. Adam also talks to glaciologist Robert Mulvaney of the British Antarctic Survey, who is now setting off for the frozen south to prospect for the oldest ice in Antarctica. He's part of a European project which aims to drill deep into the ice sheet of East Antarctica and chart the climate and atmosphere history of Antarctica back to 1.5 million years ago. Are grass-fed cattle better for the global climate than cattle fed on grain-based feeds? Dr Tara Garnett of the Food Climate Research Network at Oxford University responds to listeners comments on carbon emissions and diet. Swifts can fly for 10 months non-stop, never touching the ground. Anders Hedenstrom of Lund University discovered this remarkable fact by fitting birds with a tiny electronic backpack which recorded their location and flight activity across a whole year.
17/11/1628m 11s

Climate change questions, Animal computer interaction, Sounds and meaning across world's languages

Climate change is in the news this week. The international Paris agreement to curb global temperature rise has just come into effect but President Elect Donald Trump has said he would take the United States out of the process. In BBC Inside Science, Adam Rutherford puts listener's questions and views about climate change to experts, such as the emissions reduction impact of becoming a vegan to a proposed technology to remove carbon dioxide from the planet's atmosphere. Myles Allen and Peter Scarborough of the University of Oxford, and Anna Harper of the University of Exeter are consulted. The programme also visits a lab at the Open University which studies the way animals interact with computer technology. Research includes technology to enable dogs to phone the emergency services if humans get into trouble, and using dogs to detect cancer. Reporter Marnie Chesterton meets researcher Clara Mancini and dogs Ozzie and Tory. Are there commonalities across the world's languages between the sounds in particular words and the meanings of those words? The traditional thinking in linguistics says no. But new research surveying the meaning and sounds of words across 6,000 languages from the Americas, Asia, Europe and Australasia finds otherwise. The 'r' sound is used in words for the colour 'red' all around the world at frequencies much higher than by chance. The case is the same for the words for 'nose' and other parts of the body. Morten Christiansen of Cornell University talks to Adam Rutherford about the research.
10/11/1628m 10s

Italy's quakes, Ebola virus, Accidental rocket fuel, China in space

In the past three months, central Italy has been shaken by several large earthquakes. The quake near Norcia on 30th October was the most powerful for decades. In late August, another struck near Amatrice, causing 300 lost lives. Adam Rutherford talks to seismologist Ross Stein about why this part of the Italian peninsula is so prone to shaking, whether there is a pattern in the recent activity and whether the scientists are getting any better at earthquake forecasting. The recent Ebola epidemic in West Africa was the largest and most deadly of its kind so far. More than 11,000 people were killed by the virus. Now two groups of virologists have discovered that early in the epidemic's course, the Ebola virus underwent a genetic change which allowed it to infect human cells more easily. Could this mutation explain the terrible scale of the outbreak of 2013 to 2016? Also in the show, the chemists who are aiming to make ammonia fertiliser production more environmentally friendly but made rocket fuel instead; and the past and future of the Chinese space programme.
03/11/1627m 53s

Making mozzies safe with a microbe, CO2 at 400 ppm, Chixculub crater rocks, Why Mars Lander failed

Adam Rutherford meets the Australian scientist behind a radical new technique to prevent mosquitoes from spreading the zika and dengue fever viruses to people. The method involves infecting mosquitoes with a harmless bacterium. The microbe doesn't kill the mosquitoes but stops the viruses multiplying inside them and spreads rapidly through wild mosquito populations. After 15 years of research, the mosquito control method is about to be deployed in large scale trials in urban areas in South America. Also in the programme, the world's atmosphere crosses an iconic threshold as measured by the concentration of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide: scientists get their hands on the rocks at the centre of the extinction of the dinosaurs: and details emerge of why the European Space Agency's recent Mars lander crashed onto the Red Planet.
27/10/1631m 23s

HFC Ban; Human Cell Atlas; Origin of Hunting with Dogs

Biologists are to begin a 10 year international project to map the multitude of different kinds of cell in the human body. The average adult is built of 37 trillion cells and if you look in a text book, it will say there are about 200 distinct varieties of cells. But this is a grand underestimate. There could in fact be 10,000. The Human Cell Atlas project aims to identify every type and subtype of cell in every tissue of the body - a massive endeavour which, the cell mappers argue, will have profound benefits for medicine. Adam Rutherford also talks to zoological archaeologist Angela Perri whose research is aimed at discovering when our ancestors first started to use dogs as 'hunting' technology. Her work involves joining hunts with dogs in the modern day as well as traditional archaeological field work. He also explores the science behind exploding smart phone batteries and the new international climate agreement to rid the world of hydrofluorocarbons.
20/10/1630m 11s

Life on Mars? Quantum Gravity. The deep origins of bird song

Mars is about to be visited by the first space mission for 40 years which is designed to seek signs of life on the Red Planet. Adam Rutherford talks to Dr Manish Patel of the Open University, a senior scientist on the European Space Agency's ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter. Once the spacecraft starts work, it may solve the mystery of ebbs and flows of methane gas in the Martian atmosphere. It may answer whether the gas is being produced by life beneath the planet's cold dusty surface. The American space agency Nasa already has a mission well underway on the Martian surface.. For four years, Curiosity has been exploring the deep geological past of a huge Martian crater and mountain. Recently possible signs of liquid water have been seen nearby. But rather than going closer to study it, Nasa wants the rover to avoid it. Project scientist Ashwin Vasavada explains why. Carlo Rovelli is a theoretical physicist and writer. His latest book 'Reality is not what it Seems' explores the history of thought about the physical nature of the universe and one of the latest incarnations of that great quests - loop quantum gravity theory. He talks to Adam about the fine grain of space and time, and exploding black holes. Palaeontologist Julia Clarke has discovered the oldest fossil of a bird's organ of song, the syrinx. At the University of Texas, Austin the delicate structure turned up in an X ray scan of a 66 million year old bird fossil from Antarctica. The fossil syrinx is so well preserved, it is possible to say what the call of this ancient bird Vegavis would have sounded like. It's also a massive boost in the quest to discover when birds first sang and recreating the dawn chorus back in the Age of Dinosaurs.
13/10/1629m 13s

Microbead impact, Remote animal logging, Royal Society book prize, Surgewatch

The government has announced that tiny pieces of plastic in personal beauty products that end up in the oceans will be banned from sale in the UK. But given their size how much of a problem are minuscule bits of plastic to marine life? Gareth Mitchell meets Professor Richard Thompson of Plymouth University to uncover the marine biology concerns that have led to the micro bead ban. However much we watch animals in the wild we can't really know what they get up to. Rory Wilson, Professor of Zoology at Swansea University, has found a way to eavesdrop on animals that live in remote parts of the world and he's revealed some of his latest discoveries at the British Science Festival in Swansea today. He's developed a logging device that collects a whopping amount of data - 400 items each second. His daily diary collects amongst other measurements, location, magnetic field, temperature, and pressure. Before his talk, Adam Rutherford went along to Rory Wilson's lab and found out which animals he's attached the logger to and discovered their secret life. In the final entry of this year's shortlist for the Royal Society book prize Jo Marchant discusses Cure - which examines how the mind plays a crucial role in health. Our thoughts, emotions and beliefs, it seems, can ease pain, heal wounds, fend off infection and heart disease and even slow the progression of AIDS and some cancers. So what is the potential of the mind to heal - and what are its limits? As many as 530 key infrastructure sites across England are still vulnerable to flooding, according to a government review out today. Southampton University researchers want to understand better how floods happen and how to predict them. Beyond burst river banks and breached defences, they're building up a more detailed picture, house by house, and street by street of what happens when water levels rise. For that they need data, lots of it going back as far as possible. Ivan Haigh at the National Oceanography Centre and his colleagues are pulling all kinds of photos and records together in an interactive multi-purpose online shared database called Surgewatch. Presenter Gareth Mitchell Producer Adrian Washbourne.
08/09/1629m 30s

Proxima b exoplanet, The Hunt for Vulcan, East Antarctic lakes, Deep sea shark hunting

The nearest habitable world beyond our Solar System might be right on our doorstep . Scientists say their investigations of our closest star, Proxima Centauri, show it to have an Earth-sized planet orbiting about it. What's more, it is moving in a zone that would make liquid water on its surface a possibility. Gareth Mitchell hears from Guillem Anglada-Escudé whose "Pale Red Dot" team made the discovery and discusses what the "earth- like" claims actually mean. The planet hunters of today search for worlds beyond our Solar System. The planet hunters of a century or so ago, were still going crazy trying to find one more planet orbiting this sun. In The Hunt for Vulcan shortlisted for this year's Royal Society Book Prize, Prof.Thomas Levenson examines the craze known as Vulcan -mania, in the desperate search for another planet in an attempt to explain the odd orbit of the planet Mercury. But why did the phantom planet theory survive for so long? We examine observations from space of fleeting blue lakes in East Antarctica. They come and go with the seasons, forming during the warmer months of the south pole summer. As Amber Leeson of Lancaster University explains, many of the lakes then drain away, an effect already been found in Greenland but never, until now, in this part of the Antarctic. And their effect is cause for concern. Deep sea sharks are nearly impossible to track around the planet, however they inherit the chemistry of the things they eat. Researchers at Southampton University have worked backwards and by examining the chemistry of the sharks, they've been able to determine what things a shark has been eating but also where in the world it has been feeding. Chris Bird and Clive Trueman discuss how they're building up the first accurate pattern of their extraordinary movements. Presenter: Gareth Mitchell Producer: Adrian Washbourne.
25/08/1628m 57s

Autonomous cars, Bees and neonicotinoids, Marden Henge, Royal Society Book Prize

Ford has just announced that by 2021 it's going to have a driverless car on the road with no steering wheel. It sounds ambitious, since it is the intermediate stop on the road to full autonomy that's raising some of the big research questions at the moment. How can drivers enjoy the reduced workload of automation whilst still being alert enough to take control if something goes wrong? For a drive of the future, Gareth Mitchell went to Southampton University's simulator facility for automated vehicles to meet Professor of Human Factors in Transport, Neville Stanton. Neonicotinoid pesticides have been used widely in protecting the UK's vast acreage of oil seed rape. Research out this week claims there is a link between 'neonics' as they're known, and waning numbers of bees - with the worst affected populations declining by a third. The study has grabbed the headlines because of its scope - 18 years' worth of observations in the countryside. But how much is the link a cause for concern? Researchers Ben Woodcock and Nick Isaac of the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology discuss the results. Nestled in the Vale of Pewsey, Marden Henge is an artificial mound considered by archaeologists to be one of the best of the area's neolithic monuments. It represents the missing link between the stone circles at Stone Henge and Avebury. Teams from Reading, Historic England, and other volunteers, have been digging there this summer. Roland Pease has been along to meet them. And we've the next nomination in this year's Royal Society Science Book prize shortlist: Tim Birkhead's new book, The Most Perfect Thing, all about bird eggs. It covers how they are made, why they are the shape they are, where their patterns come from and much more. Producer Adrian Washbourne.
18/08/1628m 29s

Blow to the LHC "bump", Crow intelligence, Robot mudskippers, Royal Society book prize

New results have squashed the hope that the hints of a new particle detected by the Large Hadron Collider would confirm the existence of something extremely exotic, such as a new Higgs, or even the theoretical Graviton. Instead, the intriguing data 'bump' turns out to be nothing more than a statistical fluctuation. Physicist Jonathan Butterworth of UCL discusses whether this false alarm affects the LHC's chances of finding something else. Crows, ravens and other members of the bird family we call Corvids are well known to have sophisticated skills in tool use and problem solving. Research out this week reports ravens bending wire to help forage for their food. But what constitutes intelligence in bird brains? Adam Rutherford visits the Tower of London where ravens have been permanent residents since the 16th Century, and so quite a good spot for scientists to go and put bird brains to the test. He meets Sophie Hamnett and Nathan Emery from Queen Mary, University of London. Animals evolved in the seas, but by about 400 million years ago, some fishy creatures had evolved to begin walking on terra firma. Nowadays we look at creatures like mudskippers, that can swim and wade, to see how those first crawlers might have crept up the beach. A new study has gone one step further: Jonathan Webb went to Georgia Tech in Atlanta to meet the robot mudskippers. We're profiling each of the shortlisted books for the Royal Society book prize this year, and this week it is the turn of oncologist Siddartha Muhkerjee. He has turned his attention to trying to understand the root of all cancers, and the mental health issues his own family endure. His new book, The Gene, details the central concept in inheritance. Producer Adrian Washbourne.
11/08/1628m 1s

Signs of life on planets, Royal Society Book Prize, Queen Bee control, Galactic Prom 29

What should we be looking for when searching for life on other planets beyond our solar system? Scientists urgently need to come to a consensus on this as a new suite of telescopes soon begins detecting. The space agency NASA has put together a virtual institute called The Nexus for Exoplanet System Science, and they've just met to work out how we should be looking for bio signatures - on the burgeoning catalogue of worlds beyond the Solar System. Adam Rutherford hears from Sarah Rugheimer, an astrobiologist from the University of St Andrews, on why the world's astrobiologists have decided to lay down the law. The Royal Society Insight Investment Book Prize celebrates some of the best science published each year. Today the judges announced their shortlist: The Cure by Jo Marchant; The Gene by Siddhartha Mukherjee; The Hunt for Vulcan by Thomas Levenson; The Invention of Nature by Andrea Wulf; The Most Perfect Thing by Tim Birkhead; The Planet Remade by Oliver Morton. We're talking to all the authors over the next 6 weeks before the winner is announced on the 19th of September. The first is Oliver Morton's The Planet Remade: How Geoengineering Could Change the World. Bee hives have evolved to have a complex, fascinating social hierarchy, and although we know about Royal Jelly and pheromones, how exactly does the queen bee control the fertility of the rest of the hive? A team of New Zealand geneticists, Peter Dearden and Elizabeth Duncan, has finally worked it out. This Saturday's evening BBC Prom is set in space. The National Youth Orchestra performs The Planets by Holst, and Richard Strauss' Also Sprach Zarathustra. But the concert begins with a piece inspired by this year's detection of Gravitational Waves by LIGO, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory. Gravitational Waves composer Iris Ter Schiphorst discusses how she went galactic. Producer: Adrian Washbourne.
04/08/1627m 49s

Dinosaur extinction, Neanderthals in Gibraltar, Music appreciation, A year of New Horizons

The dinosaurs met their end with a massive bang when, 66 million years ago, a 6 mile-wide rock crashed into the Gulf of Mexico. This was bad news for the dinosaurs, and consequently good news for the mammals left behind. Thomas Halliday is a palaeontologist, who specialises on the rise of the mammals, and his new work unpicks what happened to survivors after 75% of the species on earth died. The Neanderthals were found in Gibraltar back in 1848. Ever since then, teams have been exploring the caves systems on that rocky outcrop of Europe. It's known as Neanderthal City and researchers think it was home to the very last of these people, some 30,000 years ago. BBC science reporter Melissa Hogenboom has just returned from Gibraltar and talks to Adam about the recent findings of abstract art, which suggest that Neanderthals are much more like us than previously thought. We generally find the combination of notes in a consonant chord more pleasant to our ears than a dissonant one. The question is whether that reaction is learnt or simply part of our biology. It's a tricky thing to test because music is culturally ubiquitous. Neuroscientist Josh McDermott has found a way around this, by playing those tunes to members of a very remote Bolivian tribe - the Tsimane - and gauging their reactions. One year on since the New Horizons probe zoomed past Pluto, Kathy Olkin, one of the chief scientists behind the mission talks to Adam about how the team have dealt with the new data. Noah Hammond from Brown University explains how he has used photographic data from New Horizons to examine the cracks in the surface of Pluto, and has suggested how they came to be. Presenter: Adam Rutherford Producer: Adrian Washbourne.
14/07/1628m 15s

Juno, Space debris, Fake tumours, Risky plants

Earlier this week, the US space agency successfully put a new probe in orbit around Jupiter. The Juno satellite, which left Earth five years ago, had to fire a rocket engine in a tricky and precise manoeuvre in order to brake and become ensnared by Jupiter's gravity. Fran Baganal is a mission scientist for Juno and tells Adam Rutherford what measurements Juno is now in position to make. Space is full of junk left over from past space missions: from flecks of paint to used rockets, dead satellites, also debris from past collisions of space junk. This junk is speeding around the Earth at several thousand miles per hour. At those speeds even small pieces of rubbish just fractions of a millimetre across can damage communication satellites which are vital for the web, mobile phones, and satellite navigation on earth. The Surrey Space centre team are preparing to launch the world's first space litter-picking mission. The RemoveDebris team share their clean up designs with Adam. Researchers have had success growing body parts like windpipes and ears in the laboratory for use in transplants. A group of scientists at Barts Cancer Institute in London are making own tumours; tissues we don't want. However, it is important to study how they grow, and co-opt other cells in the body. Reporter Anand Jagatia heads to their tissue lab to see what they've grown. All animals take risky decisions all the time. The ability to assess the potential gain from the potential harm, and make the right choice, gives the animal an evolutionary advantage. A new study suggests that plants are capable of making similar calculations, despite not having brains. Alex Kacelnik at Oxford University is one of the scientists behind the experiment that suggests that pea plants are willing to gamble. Presenter: Adam Rutherford Producer: Adrian Washbourne.
07/07/1628m 16s

Juno, Nanotech art conservation, Robots fix the city, Eel conservation

NASA's Juno Probe arrives at Jupiter on 4th July, where it will execute a daring loop-the-loop in order to get closer to the giant planet than any other spacecraft in history. Juno is constructed like an armoured tank, because Jupiter is surrounded by a belt of very intense radiation that can quickly fry most spacecraft electronics. On July 4, Juno's engines will attempt to slow the probe down so it can be sucked into Jupiter's orbit. The slightest error could mean Juno misses this window, putting an end to the $1.1 billion mission. The man in charge is Dr Scott Bolton, and he speaks to Adam from Pasadena in California. Traditional art conservation tends to focus on paintings - how to stop paint from peeling. But contemporary art uses a much broader range of materials; plastics, rubber; pickled sharks. This means that an ever-increasing array of techniques are needed to conserve those materials. A new project is looking at the role nanotechnology can play, as Rob Thompson reports. It's National Robot Week. There is a fear that robots will replace many of the jobs done by humans. But what if robots just stuck to emptying the gutters and fixing potholes; the chores that humans find tedious? Professor Phil Purnell from Leeds University has just launched a project that aims to use robots to fix bits of the city - finding and patching tiny defects before they turn into massive sinkholes. The European eel may be mysterious, and delicious but it is also critically endangered. The only reason we know this is because of organisations like the Zoological Society of London. They do the unglamorous job of monitoring these fish caught in traps in rivers around the UK. Marnie Chesterton went along to count eels in rainy Brentford with ZSL's Joe Pecorelli, who shares his knowledge of this creature's epic life journey.
30/06/1627m 47s

National Insect Week, Venus' electric field, Green mining, Wimbledon grass science

This week is National Insect Week. Almost all animals on Earth are insects, and entomologist Adam Hart told us why we're celebrating and studying them in such detail - particularly diamondback moths, which have recently arrived the UK in large numbers. On the first official (and rather rainy) day of summer, we went down to Butterfly Paradise at London Zoo for the event launch. Entomologist Adam Hart tells us what the Week is all about. New research out this week suggests that a so called "electric wind" has stripped all the water away from the surface of Venus. Space scientist Glyn Collinson at NASA Goddard Space Flight Centre has led this electrical field study. Wales has 1300 rivers with illegal levels of heavy metals. Toxic metals like lead, zinc and copper are a legacy left over from when the area was heavily mined. Natural Resources Wales and Innovate UK set a competition to look for technology that would clean up these rivers. One of the winners was Steve Skill from Swansea University, who has come up with some biotechnology that uses algae to suck the poison out of the rivers. The Championships at Wimbledon start next week, and whatever the weather, the grass has to be perfect. Adam Rutherford headed to London's SW19 to find out how the ground staff are using scientific evidence to cultivate the courts. Producers: Marnie Chesterton & Jen Whyntie.
23/06/1628m 13s

More gravitational waves; Ocean floor mapping; Selfish Gene 40th; Spoonies

Gravitational waves have been detected for a second time. These waves are ripples in the curvature of space time, predicted by Einstein in his General Theory of Relativity in 1916. Back in February, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (better known as LIGO) announced that they had detected the signal of gravitational waves from the collisions of two big black holes. The detection in February was the first observation of these waves, and confirmed General Relativity. This week, LIGO confirm a second detection. BBC Science Correspondent Jonathan Amos explains what is new about these new gravitational waves. We know more about the surface of the moon than we know about the ocean floor. Admittedly, the sea is much more dynamic, the scene of many chemical and biological processes, about which scientists would like to learn more. This week, cartographers meet in Monte Carlo, to discuss their plan to map the ocean floor by 2030. Roland Pease reports on the ocean-mapping options. 40 years ago, The Selfish Gene, by Richard Dawkins was published. Since then, it has been a perpetual bestseller. In it, Dawkins explains that the gene is the unit of natural selection, an idea that has become central to all biology. Adam Rutherford speaks to Richard Dawkins, and his co-author on ‘The Ancestor’s Tale’ Yan Wong, at the Cheltenham Science Festival, to discuss the impact of The Selfish Gene. The spoonbilled sandpiper is standing on the edge of extinction, but in good news, Adam hears about of a clutch of eggs laid not in their native Russia but in Slimbridge in Gloucestershire. BBC producer Andrew Luck-Baker visited the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust’s population back in April, and describes these birds to Adam.
16/06/1630m 39s

Fighting Antimicrobial Resistance

This week we're dedicating the whole programme to one of the biggest threats to humanity. We're already at 700,000 preventable deaths per year as a result of antibiotic resistance, and the O'Neill Report suggests that this will rise to 10 million people per year by 2050. Today, we're focussing on the attempts to discover new antibiotics, and alternative therapies for combating bacterial infection. Firstly, we wanted to know why new antibiotics aren't being produced. Dr Jack Scannell, an expert on the drug development economics, told Adam Rutherford why money has been the main barrier. Most of the antibiotics we use were discovered in the mid-20th century, but as the threat of drug resistant infections increases, the race is on to find new organisms that make novel medicines. We have only identified a tiny fraction of the microbes living on Earth and are "bioprospecting" for useful ones in wildly different locations. Microbiologist Matt Hutchings has been looking to the oldest farmers in the world - leaf cutter ants. From exotic locations to under your fridge: Dr Adam Roberts runs a scheme called Swab and Send. It's a citizen science project that asks members of the public to swab a surface and send the sample to him – he'll analyse them to look for the presence of new antibiotic-producing bacteria. We joined in the hunt by swabbing spots around the BBC: Adam's microphone, the Today programme presenters' mics, our tea kitchen's sponge, the revolving entryway doormat, and lastly, the Dalek standing on guard outside the BBC Radio Theatre. Antibiotics are not the only weapon in the war against bacteria. A hundred years ago, a class of virus that infect and destroy bacteria were discovered. They're called bacteriophages. Phage therapies were used throughout the era of Soviet Russia, and still are in some countries, including Georgia. Phage researcher Prof Martha Clokie told us whether phage therapy might be coming to the UK.
09/06/1632m 4s

Fixing the Future

We face many global problems, such as drought, flooding and climate change. All of these issues are rooted in science. It'll take politics and people and business to fix them, or for us to manage them, but none of that can happen without a solid scientific base. In front of an audience at the Hay Festival, Adam Rutherford is joined by Steve Jones, Professor of Genetics at University College London, Marcus du Sautoy, the Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at the University of Oxford, and science journalist, Gaia Vince, to discuss what the future holds for humanity and the planet, what we can know, what we can predict, and what is to come. Adam Rutherford talks to Gaia Vince about the new age of man, the Anthropocene, and the impact it is having on peoples' lives, to Marcus du Sautoy about chaotic systems and when maths can and cannot predict the future, and to Steve Jones about forecasting human population growth and how we are still evolving.
02/06/1627m 54s

GM plants; Svalbard Seed Vault; Directed Evolution; Dolphin Snot

The topic of GM plants raises strong opinions and many questions. This week, the Royal Society published answers to some of those questions. Adam speaks to Professor Ottoline Leyser, plant science expert and Head of the Sainsbury Lab in Cambridge. She was involved in writing the responses and Adam quizzes her on the possible issues with GM crops. Institutes from around the world made deposits to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault this week. More than 8,000 varieties of crops from Germany, Thailand, New Zealand, and the World Vegetable Center arrived at the Vault, located on a remote Norwegian archipelago, to be stored deep within the permafrost. Reporter Marnie Chesterton was there to see it happen, and take a tour of this normally inaccessible place. The Vault is located within the Arctic Circle, and helps to protect the biodiversity of some of the world’s most important crops against climate change, war and natural disaster. This week Professor Frances Arnold was awarded the Millennium Technology Prize; the Finnish version of the Nobel Prize. Her work is a process called Directed Evolution, and involves creating batches of mutant proteins to see if the mutations make them better at certain functions. Dolphins use ultrasound to echolocate. Until recently, scientists did not quite know how. Making ultrasonic noises normally requires some hard surfaces such as metal, and dolphins don’t have metal in their blowholes. Acoustic scientists Aaron Thode at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography in San Diego thinks he’s solved this conundrum, and it involves snot. Producer: Jen Whyntie
26/05/1632m 22s

Climate Change, State of the World's Plants, Antibiotic Resistance, Telephone Metadata, Bat Detective

Today we're asking how anyone can make sense of the deluge of climate change data that is almost continually published. By the end of last month, nearly 200 countries had signed up to the Paris climate change agreement, and in doing so they were nominally committing to keep global temperatures "well below" 2C. So now comes the tricky bit: How best to do that - and what is the scientific evidence for policymakers to decide? Climate change expert Dr Tamsin Edwards of the Open University joins Adam Rutherford to help us unpick the research. Last week a major new report on the State of the World's Plants was unveiled at Kew Gardens in London. There are some 391,000 vascular plants known to science - that's ones with vessels, xylem and phloem - and over 2000 were discovered last year alone. But just over a fifth of all plants are estimated to be threatened with extinction - and global climate change forms part of this threat. Our reporter Cathy Edwards met Professor Kathy Willis, Director of Science at Kew, to find out how plants are responding to the changing climate, and also spoke to Professor Yadvinder Malhi, Oxford University, and Kay Havens, Chicago Botanic Garden. The Review on Antimicrobial Resistance, headed by economist Jim O'Neill, was published today. Molecular microbiologist Professor Matt Hutchings from the University of East Anglia, gave us a brief summary. A new paper out this week looks into exactly what the act of making a phone call can reveal. The study, which was led by Patrick Mutchler and Jonathan Mayer at Stanford University in the States, is the culmination of work looking into what metadata really can show - you may have seen reports of some of their findings, as they've been revealing them in the public interest since 2013. They collected metadata volunteered by 823 participants, in total, more than 250,000 calls, and 1 million text messages. Steven Murdoch from the Information Security Research Group at University College London joined us to put this into context. As part of the BBC's Do Something Great season celebrating volunteers, Adam joined Professor Kate Jones from University College London on a Hampstead Heath bat watch, part of the citizen science project Bat Detective. Producers: Marnie Chesterton & Jen Whyntie.
19/05/1629m 38s

Genetics and education, Eyam plague, Pint of science, Labradors and chocolate

The biggest study of the relationship between genes and educational attainment - in this case, basically the measure of how long you stay in education - has been published this week. A huge number of environmental factors influence this trait, but genes also play a small role. In the new study, a large team of researchers looked at over 300,000 people and identified 74 genetic variants, slight differences in our DNA, that do seem to associate with how long those individuals stayed in formal education. Senior author Dan Benjamin, University of Southern California, and social genetics researcher Eva Krapohl from Kings College London helped steer us through this complex quagmire. The Derbyshire village of Eyam is famous amongst Plague historians because when the disease arrived in a bale of cloth in 1665, the local vicar took a bold step and quarantined the whole village. 260 villagers died, but the sacrifice is thought to have saved surrounding populations. This noted event yielded a rich data set, which Eyam residents Francine Clifford and her late husband John meticulously mined over the last few decades. When epidemiologist Xavier Didelot of Imperial College London visited the local museum whilst on holiday, he couldn't resist investigating. Later this month, in pubs around Britain, and bars in 11 other countries, audiences will gather to hear about everything from black holes to cancer treatments - all part of a phenomenon called 'Pint of Science'. Marnie Chesterton went to The Castle in Farringdon to hear more. Finally, last week we met Poppy, one of the Labradors likely to have a newly discovered genetic reason for eating her owners out of house and home. Poppy's most notable devouring was of a large birthday cake, resulting in a trip to the vet's to get her stomach pumped. A fellow cake-eating-Lab-owning listener got in touch to ask why this procedure was necessary. It all comes down to the flavour of the cake: Chocolate. Producers: Marnie Chesterton & Jen Whyntie.
12/05/1627m 52s

Human embryos, Transit of Mercury, Fishackathon, Fat labradors

In a major advance in the field of embryology, scientists this week have kept human embryos alive in petri dishes for record amounts of time. The legal limit for keeping fertilised human embryos in the lab is 14 days, a cut-off point set in 1979. Back then, scientists were able to keep embryos alive for only a few days, meaning the limit was only a theoretical one. Advances mean that this week, in 2 papers, researchers have reached that limit. Professor Ali Brivanlou, Robert and Harriet Heilbrunn Professor of Stem Cell biology and molecular embryology at Rockefeller University is lead author on one of the papers, and Professor Bobbie Farsides is a clinical and biomedical ethicist at Brighton and Sussex Medical School. They join Adam to discuss the next steps for embryology. Should this limit curtail research? Next Monday is the transit of Mercury. 13 times a century, Mercury passes directly between us and the Sun, and creates a pinprick shadow, a pixel of black for about 8 hours. This strange planet has no atmosphere, but a lot explosive volcanic activity. It has an eccentric orbit - meaning its distance from the sun fluctuates wildly. A Mercury year is 88 Earth days, but a Mercury day lasts almost two mercury years. David Rothery is a professor of Planetary Sciences at the Open University. He reveals how scientists study this planet and explains how, and how not to view the transit of Mercury. Overfishing is one of the biggest threats to the health of our oceans. According to the UN, up to a third of the world's fisheries are overexploited or depleted. It is a huge complex problem with many inputs and outputs to compute. So who better to tackle it than a team of hackers? Recently, coders around the globe gathered to take on the challenge, in a 48-hour Fishackathon. Reporter Anand Jagatia went along and reports back to Adam Most dog lovers will know that Labradors are particularly keen to eat anything, all the time, at any time. As a result, some are a bit corpulent, even obese. The cause is likely to be in their genes. A new study in the current issue of Cell Metabolism has identified that genetic basis for the perpetual hunger. Eleanor Raffan from Cambridge University, geneticist and vet, led the study. She explains to Adam how she gathered a cohort of dogs.
05/05/1628m 11s

Chernobyl, Drones, Tree crickets, Cern

30 years ago this week an explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear plant. A fire raged for 10 days, spewing radioactive materials on the surrounding area and was detected throughout much of a continent. Yet, so many decades on, why is it so difficult to accurately measure the impacts on human health? Richard Wakeford of the University of Manchester is an epidemiologist who has looked at the research done over the years, and he explains why making definitive connections between the Chernobyl explosion and long-term illnesses or premature deaths is so very difficult. In the last few days there have been reports that a drone hit a plane on its way into Heathrow. Investigators say there is so little evidence either way it is not possible to say whether it really was a drone, but either way, the story has raised concerns. BBC Inside science spoke to Dr Sue Wolfe of ARPAS, to find out how our increasingly crowded air space is regulated. And Adam goes drone flying with BBC innovations producer, Derrik Evans, to see how easy these things are to use. If the hum of drones is annoying, imagine the constant din of the rain forest, especially tricky if you're a cricket and you're trying to find a mate. We have a listen to the strategies they use to be heard above the cacophony in the company of Dr Tim Cockerill. Scientists at CERN have also been trying to sort out the wheat from the chaff, continuing their efforts to understand a blip in their data identified and scrutinised over the last few months. Jon Butterworth of UCL and CERN dons the Cloak of Speculation and talks about the possible implications for physics if it does indeed turn out to be a new, unpredicted, particle.
28/04/1632m 30s

EU membership and UK science, Quantum games, Fixing genes

The UK science community draws vital benefits from EU membership and could lose influence in the event of an exit, says a House of Lords report out this week. UK researchers placed a high value on collaboration opportunities afforded by EU membership. A number also believe the UK would lose its ability to influence EU science policy in the event of leaving - something that's disputed by pro-Brexit campaigners. To debate the ins and outs of being in or out of the EU, Adam is joined by Viscount Matt Ridley, a member of the committee, and Professor Paul Boyle, the Vice Chancellor of Leicester University and former president of Science Europe. Scientists at Aarhus University in Denmark are developing a quantum computer. To help them solve a particular problem, they have turned to human brain power, harnessing our ability to play computer games. The team have designed video games, such as Quantum Moves - that are helping them to understand the problem of 'slosh'- that atoms move about, when moved, like water sloshing in a cup. Many diseases are caused by a particular type of DNA error called a 'point mutation'. In our genomes, the substitution of a single letter of genetic code can be the root cause of diseases such as Alzheimer's, sickle cell anaemia, and a whole range of cancers. Recently, a new technique for editing DNA, called CRISPR, a precise genetic engineering tool, was developed, which might help combat these diseases. The problem is that the cell often reacts to this editing; trying to mend what it perceives as damage to its DNA. This week, David Liu, from Harvard University, published new research showing how his team have managed to switch out a single letter, a base pair, whilst tricking the cell into not correcting this edit.
21/04/1627m 35s

Breakthrough Starshot, Moon mining, QB50, Solar Q&A

This week Russian internet billionaire Yuri Milner announced a project to send tiny spaceships to Alpha Centauri. Milner, alongside Stephen Hawking, announced a $100 million project to develop and launch a cloud of spaceships with sails. They'll be powered by giant lasers based on earth, and will fly at one fifth the speed of light. The Breakthrough Starshot project sounds like science fiction - Adam is joined by Professor Andrew Coates from UCL's Mullard Space Science Laboratory to sort the feasible from the fantasy. Space travel is expensive. Scientists and engineers met recently to discuss a way of making it cheaper. Sending men back to the moon to mine it may sound like a hugely costly process, but as reporter Roland Pease discovers, when it comes to future space missions, it might become an essential part of the process. Closer to home than the moon is a section of the atmosphere called the thermosphere that is poorly understood. A European project called QB50 plans to change this, by sending 50 small satellites, known as CubeSats, into orbit this summer. Most of them will sport sensors that can probe the properties of the upper atmosphere. The group building these sensors is led by UCL's Mullard Space Science Laboratory, which will build 14 spectrometers. These will analyse the relative proportions of different types of particles in the thermosphere. Marnie Chesterton finds out how scientists cope with the challenge of building their gadgets smaller and lighter. Many listeners wrote in after a recent piece on solar panels. We had queries about how to store the electricity, and whether PV panels are worth the energetic cost of producing them and what units to use. We put all these questions to Jenny Nelson, Professor of Physics at Imperial College and author of 'The Physics of Solar Cells.'.
14/04/1628m 38s

Air pollution monitoring, Britain breathing, Tracking Hannibal

This week a "Faraday Discussion" - a unique way of presenting and sharing cutting edge science - is underway at the Royal Society of Chemistry in London looking specifically at Chemistry in the Urban Atmosphere. As Prof Ally Lewis of York University tells Adam Rutherford, atmospheric chemistry is so complex, and detector standards so variable - in particular the cheaper commercial brands - that it can be hard to check whether our environmental policies are working. Whilst local and national governments spend precious public money checking for compliance with a number of common pollutants, atmospheric chemists would like a more investigative approach, looking at the chemistry in action, rather than the end products. Do you suffer in the spring and summer? Allergies are on the increase in the UK. And scientists don't know why. But the environment, and what we breathe from it, is thought to be key. A new app for smartphones called Britain Breathing has been developed by scientists at Manchester University working with allergy sufferers. Hay fever affects millions of Britons but is under-reported and poorly understood. Combining large numbers of reports of symptoms with their location and time could lead to valuable insights. Last December, BBC Inside Science reported on the mothballing of several Carbon Capture and Storage pilot schemes, following withdrawal of government funding. But some work continues. Doug Connelly of the National Oceanographic Centre in Southampton tells Adam about a scheme currently trialling carbon storage in the North Sea, to see whether disused oil and gas fields can be used to store our dangerous emissions. A little over 2200 years ago, Carthaginian general Hannibal Barca infamously led a huge army of elephants and horses across the Alps, almost to the gates of Rome. It has been celebrated as one of the most audacious military campaigns in history, but his exact route has always been subject to debate. This week further results from a consortium of disparate scientists have been published, supporting their preferred route taken by the grand army. Microbiologist Chris Allen from Queen's University talks Adam Rutherford through the "deposition of data", marking the passage of thousands of animals. What is the new evidence? A microbially recalcitrant, precisely dated, phylogenetically relevant layer of euphemism.
07/04/1627m 53s

Solar farm, Gravity machine, Kakapo

The world's second largest floating solar farm has just started generating power. Built on the Queen Elizabeth II reservoir in West London, it's the size of eight football pitches and can provides enough power for 1,800 homes. Its construction was a race against time, because the UK government cuts subsidies for new solar farms from April. Adam Rutherford talks to Leev Harder from Lightsource Renewable Energy about the project. Dr Iain Staffel is a sustainable energy expert at Imperial College London and he explains the main issue with solar: the difficulties in storing the electricity produced until it's needed. A team from Glasgow University has invented a portable gravity detector. Volcanologist Hazel Rymer from the Open University discusses how this cheap and portable device can detect tiny changes in gravity in the ground. She hopes to use this kind of device to monitor what's happening inside volcanoes soon. In New Zealand, the near-extinct kakapo will become the first species to have the genome of every single member sequenced, thanks to a crowd-funded conservation project. Adam Rutherford meets geneticist Peter Dearden, in the Zealandia conservation area in Wellington, to chat about these charming but daft birds, and efforts to save them from extinction. Producers: Marnie Chesterton and Jen Whyntie.
31/03/1631m 16s

Flu, Coffee yeasts, Wave machine, Cochlear implants

The flu season is running later this year. And it has been unusually virulent. Professor Wendy Barclay, virologist at Imperial College London, tells Tracey Logan about the constant race to keep up with flu mutations in order to build an effective vaccine. Wine has a microbial terroir which is thought to affect its taste. A new paper suggests coffee and chocolate might do too. Aimee Dudley from the Pacific Northwest Diabetes Research Institute in Seattle has studied global populations of yeast found on cacao and coffee beans. She explains that these yeast varieties are genetically diverse. Tracey Logan travels to coffee supplier Union, to meet scientist-turned-coffee-buyer, Steve Macatonia, and unpick the flavours of coffee. In Delft, the world's biggest artificial waves are pitted against a new kind of super-strong sea wall. The Delta Flume team, led by Mark Klein Breteler, has created a giant concrete channel with a wave generator. Reporter Roland Pease turns up in time to see the team testing their artificial waves against a 10 metre dyke. People with cochlear implants hear a degraded version of speech. Using subtitles helps train the brain to understand it faster. Matt Davis and Ed Sohoglu from the Medical Research Council's Cognition and Brain Science Unit in Cambridge suggest that this feeds into a model of how the brain learns called Perception Learning.
24/03/1627m 45s

Recovering lost memories, Storks eat junk food, Oldest pine fossil, Spring flowering

Research in Nature this week shows that lost memories in mice can be rescued by reactivating a group of memory cells in the brain called 'engram' cells. The team suggests that their research might prove useful for Alzheimer's patients in the future. Professor John Hardy, neuroscientist at University College London and Dr Prerana Shrestha from the Center for Neural Science at New York University discuss the work with Tracey. The migrating white stork is well-known in folklore as the bringer of babies. In recent years, large numbers of them have decided to stop flying to Africa for winter, and live all year round, feasting on food from landfills in Portugal. Dr Aldina Franco from the University of East Anglia has been studying these birds and talks to Tracey about these adapting birds. A scientist at Royal Holloway University in London has discovered the oldest-known fossil of a pine tree. Howard Falcon-Lang discovered the fossils in Nova Scotia, Canada, and brought some back to his office. 5 years later, he dissolved a sample of what looked like charcoal in acid and discovered charred pine twigs. These date back 140 million years to a time when fires raged across large tracts of land. Reporter Roland Pease visits his lab to look at the samples close up. The research suggests the tree's evolution was shaped in the fiery landscape of the Cretaceous, where oxygen levels were much higher than today, fuelling intense and frequent wildfires. UK Gardeners may have noticed summer flowers blooming at unusual times this winter. Tracey meets up with seed scientist Steve Penfield and crop geneticist Judith Irwin in a greenhouse at the John Innes Centre. They explain how seeds and flowering times are affected temperature changes.
17/03/1627m 52s

Gain-of-function research, Mindfulness, Women in science, Snake locomotion

This week in the US, public discussions are taking place into controversial Gain of Function research. Who should decide the limits of studies where scientists make new, deadlier viruses in the laboratory? Dr Filippa Lentzos, biosecurity expert from King's College, London, lists a litany of accidental security breaches from the past. Should we stop this kind of dangerous research, or encourage it, in the interests of national security? Mindfulness is a hot topic at the moment. As part of BBC School Report, students from Connaught School for Girls in Leytonstone have tested themselves to see whether meditation helps with their studies. Tracey Logan discusses the scientific research underpinning this trend with psychologist Claudia Hammond. The Royal Society released a report this week entitled "Parent, Carer, Scientist." The idea is to encourage an environment in research institutions where scientists can have a life as well as a vocation. Professor Ottoline Leyser, Professor of Plant Development and Director of Cambridge University's Sainsbury Laboratory, discusses what needs to change to ensure more female scientists to stay in science. How do snakes move across sand? BBC science reporter Jonathan Webb meets Perrin Schiebel, at the Georgia Institute of Technology. A physicist, she works with a giant sand pit and high-speed cameras, putting snakes through their paces to unpick how they can push their bodies off the sand without sinking into it.
10/03/1627m 50s

UK's longest-running cohort study, The Brain prize, Hairy genetics

This week is birthday time for the 3000-strong group of 70 year olds who might qualify for the title of longest-serving science guinea pigs. Participants in The National Survey for Health and Development cohort study have been closely monitored since their birth in 1946. Joining Adam Rutherford to discuss how this and other similar studies have influenced our lives, and what data we should collect on today's babies, are the Head of the National Survey for Health and Development at MRC's Unit for Lifelong Health and Ageing at University College London, Professor Diana Kuh, and Professor Debbie Lawlor, programme lead at the Medical Research Council's epidemiology unit at Bristol University. A team of British team has picked up £1 million from The Brain Prize, which is issued by a Danish Charity annually. Tim Bliss, Graham Collingridge and Richard Morris have won for their work on how memories are formed. BBC science reporter Jonathan Webb is a former neuroscientist and brings us up-to-date with the latest thinking on how we remember. Finally, grey hair and mono-brows have been all over the news this week with some follicular genetics. A team from UCL assessed the hair types of several thousand Latin Americans and cross-referenced this with their genomes to see what bits of DNA are associated with those characteristics. They found a set of gene variants - or alleles - some known to us, some new, that appear to be part of the reason we have straight hair or curly, bushy brows or mono-brows. Dr Kaustubh Adhikari from UCL is the lead author on the study. Producer: Jen Whyntie.
03/03/1628m 7s

UK science and the EU, Sex of organs, Artificial colon, Gorillas call when eating

Britain faces a referendum on whether to leave Europe. Science, and scientists, often cross borders in collaborations, so what would the implications be for a British exit from the EU? The House of Lords Science and Technology Committee have an ongoing inquiry into how EU membership influences British science. Inside Science condenses the pertinent points. The stem cells that make up our organs 'know' whether they are 'male' or 'female', and that this sexual identity could influence how they grow and behave. Dr Irene Miguel-Aliaga, at the MRC Clinical Sciences Centre at Imperial College London, wanted to ask a very basic question: whether it is just the cells of the sex organs of a fully developed organism that 'know' their sexual identity, or whether this is true of cells in other organs too - and whether that matters. It was previously thought that non-reproductive organs are the same in both sexes, and function differently because of the differences in circulating hormones, but her new research suggests that cells know their sex. At Birmingham University, chemical engineers have built a working prototype of an artificial human colon, the first of its kind. The colon does the last bit of moving your food out of your body, mixing it, squeezing the last few nutrients and excess water out of it. The team want to use it to measure drug delivery to the colon. Talking with your mouth full is an unattractive trait, but for other, non-human, great apes it is a normal part of meal time. The noises recorded by a team at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology are from the silverback Western lowland Gorilla. Primatologist Eva Luef explains that this humming and singing during meal time is a way of signalling without wasting valuable eating time.
25/02/1627m 54s

Gravitational Waves, UK Spaceport, Big Brains and Extinction Risk, Conservation in Papua New Guinea

Gravitational waves were announced last week, in what may be the science discovery of the decade. The Ligo detector, the most sensitive instrument on the surface of the planet, detected the ripples given off by the collision of two black holes. Adam Rutherford puts a selection of listener questions to UCL cosmologist Dr Andrew Pontzen. In March 2015, Campbeltown, Glasgow Prestwick, Stornoway, Newquay, Llanbedr and Leuchars were shortlisted by the government as possible sites for a "cosmodrome" or spaceport. With the UK space industry worth an estimated £40 billion by 2030, various stakeholders met for the UK spaceport conference at the Royal Aeronautical Society in London to discuss the progress of the project. What would the impact be for scientists, industry and the public? Big brains have traditionally been considered an advantage. Animals with larger brains are better at using tools, working as a social group and assessing how to react to predators. But when Dr Eric Abelson cross referenced relative brain size against the mammals on the endangered list, he found something surprising. Many animals with the bigger brains are threatened within extinction. He talks to Adam about why that may be. Tim Cockerill, ecologist and adventurer, returns from Papua New Guinea to discuss how one group of indigenous people have decided to work with scientists in order to conserve and study their local environment.
18/02/1627m 57s

Gravitational Waves Special

The universe is silent no longer - physicists at the LIGO observatory have detected gravitational waves. LIGO, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory, with its giant laser beam arms totalling 5 miles across the remote Hanford desert, is the largest lab on the surface of the planet. It was constructed in the Columbia Basin region of south-eastern Washington specifically to detect gravitational waves -- ripples in the fabric of space-time. First predicted a century ago by Einstein in his theory of general relativity, gravitational waves are produced by exotic cosmic events, such as when 2 black holes collide. Scientists have hunted for them for decades with increasingly sensitive equipment. The laser beam tubes of the observatory have proved sensitive enough to detect the signal from deep space as small as a thousandth the diameter of a proton. Tracey and studio guest Dr Andrew Pontzen from UCL examine the science of gravitational waves, and how LIGO is both an eye and an ear on the motion of distant objects. They scrutinise the cutting-edge technology, which has to be of almost unimaginable sensitivity to enable detection of some of the universe's most dramatic events. Inside Science also shines a spotlight on the passion of individuals who have worked for nearly three decades on a single science experiment, inventing a whole new branch of physics in order to prove the last piece of Einstein's theory of general relativity, and to "hear" the universe in a whole new way.
11/02/1627m 56s

UK pollinators' food, Brain implant, Holograms, Lunar 9

Some much-needed good news for our troubled bees and other pollinators: between 1998 and 2007, the amount of nectar produced from Britain's flowering plants rose by 25%. A new study suggests this may be due to reductions in atmospheric pollution. But researchers looked at records spanning over 80 years, and also found that the UK flowers which provide nectar suffered substantial losses during the 20th century. Considering the services that nectar-feeding pollinators perform for agriculture and our ecosystems, this is something worth knowing. Professor Jane Memmott, ecologist at the University of Bristol, explains how bad things really are for Britain's pollinators and what lessons conservation could learn from her team's latest findings about nectar. In 2014, neuroscientist Dr Phil Kennedy flew to Belize and paid a surgeon to insert electrodes into his otherwise healthy brain, in order to experiment on himself. His aim was to unpick the electrical signals given from his brain during speech. BBC science reporter Jonathan Webb went to his lab in Georgia, US to meet the maverick. Jonathan and Tracey discuss the motivation, scientific outcome and ethics behind Dr Kennedy's highly unusual experiment. The aim of hologram technology, according to Birmingham University researchers, is to make it cheaper, faster and better. Holographic tattoos are a solution they are developing. Currently, holograms are made with lasers and mirrors. Roland Pease went to visit researchers Dr Haider Butt, Bader Al Qattan and Rajib Ahmed in order to make his very own hologram. On 4th February 50 years ago, the Soviet lander Lunar 9 sent a signal back from the moon. Scientists at Jodrell Bank intercepted this and realised that it sounded like a picture image. Professor of Astrophysics at Manchester University Tim O'Brien explains how, with the help of a fax machine borrowed from the Daily Express, British scientists scooped the first pictures of the moon's surface.
04/02/1627m 47s

Zika, Penguins, Erratum, Fossil fish

The Zika virus is dominating the news this week. The latest data says it's been found in 21 countries so far. The symptoms are generally mild, but the possibility of a link to microcephaly has been raised in Brazil. Microcephaly is a serious condition where children are born with abnormally small heads and sometimes incomplete brain development. Trudie Lang, Professor of Global Health at Oxford University, and virologist Professor Jonathan Ball from Nottingham University discuss what we know so far. All the way from Antarctica our reporter Victoria Gill brings us the latest news about the citizen science project 'Penguin Watch'. Victoria installed new cameras with Dr Tom Hart and collected guano with Hila Levy. Gemma Clucas (Oxford and Southampton University) gives an update on what will happen with the collected data. Back in October we featured a major paper by a team of scientists lead by Dr Andrea Manica from Cambridge University. By comparing the 4500 year-old genome of a prehistoric man called Mota to other genomes from living Africans they had mapped a migration of Middle Eastern farmers back into the whole African continent. This week, colleagues identified an error in the way the original team had processed the data, thus overturning one of the key results. But the rest of the findings remain intact. Andrea talks to us about how and why science must make corrections along the path of progress. Heard a few stories about giant dinosaur fossils lately? Usually the giant A-list superstar fossils get all the attention. But according to curator Mark Carnall, about 90% of the collections are mainly uninteresting specimens. Marnie Chesterton went out to meet Mark at the Museum of Natural History in Oxford. He celebrates fragmentary fossils in his blog 'Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month'. Warning: Lower your expectations! Producer: Jen Whyntie Assistant Producer: Julia Lorke.
28/01/1628m 6s

Ancient Britons' DNA, Concorde's 40th Anniversary, Giant dinosaur, New planet?

Our ability to extract DNA from old bones is improving, giving us a much clearer picture of who our ancestors were, and what they did. Two new papers out this week in Nature Communications are filling in some gaps in our knowledge of the history of Britain. One of the pieces of research - led by Professor Dan Bradley from Trinity College Dublin - examines DNA from individuals who died in northeast England at the beginning of the first millennium of the current era. The other paper analyses the genomes of East Anglian people who lived at a similar and slightly later time, and the lead author is Dr Stephan Schiffels. He worked at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute near Cambridge at the time of this research, and is now based at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. Professor Mark Thomas from University College London is a co-author on Dan Bradley's paper and joins Adam Rutherford to discuss this research in the context of its rapidly changing field. Concorde flew its first commercial flight on the 21st January 1976. To mark its 40th birthday, Concorde engineer Christopher Mitchell and Concorde pilot David Rowland talk about the extraordinary aeroplane's scientific and engineering legacy. What looked like an innocent rocky outcrop in the Argentinian desert turned out to be something completely different: An eight foot long femur, belonging to the world's largest dinosaur. Ben Garrod is one of the team who has put together this as yet unnamed behemoth. He talks us through the extraordinary discovery and journey to investigate a new species - and it's only just beginning. The work has been documented as part of the TV programme 'Attenborough & the Giant Dinosaur', due to air at 6.30pm this Sunday 24th Jan on BBC One. Finally, today's headlines indicate that we might have been missing something fairly substantial in our very own solar system: A new ninth planet. However, as BBC Science Correspondent Jonathan Amos tells us, this isn't yet confirmed. With Dr Ellen Stofan, NASA Chief Scientist. Producer: Jen Whyntie.
21/01/1628m 29s

The 100,000 Genome Project, Stem cell doping, Nuclear waste, Dinosaur sex

The 100,000 Genome Project aims to sequence the DNA of 100,000 patients. One of those patients is four-year-old Georgia Walburn-Green. Her symptoms did not fit into any known disease category. Prof Maria Bitner-Glindzicz at University College London used early results from the 100,000 Genome project to diagnose Georgia's condition. Roland Pease reports on helping stem cells survive using a kind of 'blood paint'. By dipping the cells in myoglobin, researchers at Bristol University have found a way to improve both the vigour and survival of stem cells. The expanding nuclear programme in the UK will continue to produce nuclear waste - in lower volumes than previously produced, but we already have a large stockpile that has already been produced over the last 50 years. Countries around the world are facing a similar challenge: What do we do with the waste? Dame Sue Ion, engineer and expert advisor to the nuclear industry, discusses common practices and alternative approaches to nuclear waste disposal. Many dinosaurs had big, iconic features like frills, plates, horns and spines that may have been tools or weapons, but Dr David Hone's (Queen Mary University of London) research on the small, herbivorous dinosaur Protoceratops andrewsi reveals that they may also serve another purpose in the dinosaur society: sexual selection. Could these features be what attracts one dinosaur to another? Producer: Deborah Cohen and Jen Whyntie Assistant Producer: Julia Lorke.
14/01/1628m 4s

El Nino Special

El Niño is releasing vast quantities of heat normally stored in the Pacific, causing floods, droughts and fires. Adam Rutherford discusses the latest with our El Niño expert Roland Pease. This weather event arrives every 2-7 years but it's hard to work out how profound it will be. Back in May last year, the Met Office climate scientist Adam Scaife correctly predicted an El Niño. He returns to give an overview of this phenomenon. How does an altered weather pattern in the Pacific end up altering the weather in Cumbria. Tim Stockdale at the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts and Richard Allan at Reading University explain the science behind the current events. The rains are coming to drought-ridden California as a result of El Niño. Jack Stewart explains why this is not entirely a good thing. Professor Sue Page from Leicester University and Professor Martin Wooster from KCL study the Indonesian fires exacerbated by an El Niño event. They describe the devastating effects of these fires. An estimated 15,000 death can be attributed to the previous El Niño burning and it has added 300 million tonnes of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.
07/01/1627m 45s


Adam Rutherford and guests oceanographer Dr Helen Czerski, astrophysicist Chris Lintott and zoologist Dr Tim Cockerill share their highlights of the science year and answer listeners' science questions. Producer: Adrian Washbourn.
31/12/1528m 5s

New Horizons Pluto update; friendly predatory bacteria; Christmas in the lab; human ancestry

Since the epic flyby of Pluto in July, NASA has been regularly downloading staggering images from the New Horizons mission. Pluto is not a dead rock, but a geologically active dwarf planet, with tectonic movements, ice plains, glaciers, dunes and cryo-volcanoes. For an end of year update on the observations and outstanding mysteries, Adam meets Alan Stern, the Principal Investigator on New Horizons, who is still marvelling at the success of this humble craft. Scientists have discovered how a potentially useful predatory bacterium called Bdellovibrio protects itself against its own weapons when it invades other bacteria. Professor Liz Sockett discusses how the work offers insights into early steps in the evolution of bacterial predators and how this will help to inform new ways to fight antimicrobial resistance Science stops for no one .So how are researchers nurturing their experiments over the festive period? Marnie Chesterton has gone on the hunt for scientists for whom Christmas Day will be yet another day in the lab. This year there's has been an explosion of papers of using DNA to reconstruct human history. We've invented new techniques for extracting DNA from the long dead, and for analysing ancient genomes. Professor Matthew Cobb from the University of Manchester assesses recent key developments in reconstructing the lives and population structures of ancient civilisations. Producer Adrian Washbourne
24/12/1527m 54s

Tim Peake's mission to the ISS, Spaceman Chris Hadfield, AGU round-up, Air pollution, Human Evolution at the NHM

Two times shuttle captain, and with 6 months on the ISS, Commander Chris Hadfield is best qualified to pass on his advice to Major Tim Peake about the science and life in general on the International Space Station. Polar bears walk further Polar bears are having to walk further to stay in the same place. As ice melts in the Arctic, the thin ice is blown around by the wind, making it harder for polar bears to stick to their traditional hunting grounds. Elephant Deterrent By combining a seismic element to the infrasound of recordings of elephant alarm calls, researchers hope to finally develop an audio deterrent to keep marauding elephants from destroying farmland in Africa. Tracking air pollution from space The US space agency satellite, Aura has been tracking trends in emissions of nitrogen oxides for over a decade. It's seen big falls in the pollutant in the US and Europe, while at the same time recording significant increases in some developing nations, such as China and Bangladesh. Air pollution Even if the air pollution trends are getting better in the West, the picture is still very complicated. Not least in London, where nitrogen oxides are still at dangerous levels. Added to this is a rise in smoke pollution from the increasing number of wood burning stoves in the city. Human Evolution Gallery at the Natural History Museum A new gallery of Human Evolution at the Natural History Museum opens on Friday 18th December. Adam gets a sneak preview with Professor Chris Stringer and Dr Louise Humphrey. Spanning 7 million years of evolution, the gallery brings together key fossils and recent evidence such as a reconstructed skull and hand of Homo naledi. It builds up a picture of where we come from and what makes us human. And the picture is far more complex than previously thought, with multiple species living at the same time.
17/12/1534m 42s

Flooding, Scientific modelling, Magnetoreception, Escalators

Flood modelling As parts of Cumbria and Somerset remain on flood alert, Adam looks at the science that predicts floods. Are our flood defences good enough and is climate change behind the recent cluster of '1 in 100 year' floods? Flood modeller Nick Reynard from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology explains. What is a scientific model? Prompted by a listener's question, Adam asks scientists what they mean when they say they "modelled the data". He explores the strengths and weaknesses of using models to represent things as diverse as the spin of planets and field choice of skylarks. Magneto-reception Is there a 6th sense? Since the 1960s, it has been generally accepted that animals have a sense of magnetism. This may help explain how some birds are able to migrate huge distances. However, ever since this discovery, the mechanism behind the reception of the Earth's magnetic field has remained a mystery. Scientists don't know which components are responsible for detecting the magnetism, hence the search for 'a biological compass'. The quest has united people from a range of disciplines such as animal behaviourists, chemists and quantum biologists. Are scientists getting any closer to finding the biological compass? Escalator experiment Regular commuters on the London Underground know instinctively to 'stand on the right and walk up on the left' when using the many escalators on the Tube. But in a three week trial at one of the busiest stations - Holborn - Transport for London staff are asking travellers to stand on both sides. The idea is to regulate the flow of traffic. Will it work? Producer: Fiona Roberts.
10/12/1529m 41s

Science funding, Carbon capture storage, Graphene

Science Funding Review In the Comprehensive Spending Review last week, the Government announced its commitment to protect the science budget in 'real terms'. After five years of declining spending on science, this has been welcomed by many in the research community. But a lot of the detail is still to emerge. Adam asks Minister for Universities and Science, Jo Johnson where the extra funds are coming from? Is it a case of money being moved around, between departments or is there really an extra £1.5 billion, over the next 5 years, in the science research pot? Carbon Capture Storage Five years ago, amid much fanfare, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, committed £1 billion to the development of carbon capture and storage - the technology to extract carbon dioxide from the exhaust streams of power stations, and bury it underground. This technology is one strategy for reducing our impact on the climate while keeping coal, oil and gas as options for generating energy. Given the discussions going on right now over in Paris at the United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP 21, this might seem like a suitable commitment for the UK's plans to address global warming. But in the recent Comprehensive Spending Review, the Government have withdrawn the money, effectively ending the current CCS research in the UK. Graphene In contrast, one of the many recent success stories in UK science, graphene, is set to be a focus of research in the Government's plans. Graphene is the world's first truly two dimensional material; incredibly strong, very light and extremely flexible. It is also capable of conducting heat and electricity, so it is a material exciting scientists and industry alike. Since the isolation of graphene in Manchester in 2004 the UK has been at the forefront in graphene research. This year the National Graphene Institute in Manchester was opened, with a remit to link basic, fundamental research to graphene commerce and industry. Producer: Fiona Roberts.
03/12/1532m 6s

Ancient farmers' genomes, Alice at Cern, Astrophysics questions

Ancient farmers' genomes New research looking at the DNA of people who lived in Europe as early as 8500 years ago shows signs of evolution, of natural selection, and of how farming has changed Europe in the last few millennia. The huge sample of 230 ancient individuals includes 26 Neolithic people from Anatolia thought to be the very first farmers. Cern's ALICE Experiment Adam visits CERN in Geneva, to see ALICE (A Large Ion Collision Experiment). ALICE is designed to investigate one of the four fundamental forces in the Universe. The strong nuclear force is the most powerful, but only over a very short distance. It is what holds quarks together, and quarks stuck together in the right conformation make neutrons and protons. Protons and neutrons stuck together plus electrons make up atoms, which is what everything is made of. Listeners Questions on Astrophysics Space physicists, Dr. Carole Haswell from the Open University and Dr Andrew Pontzen from UCL answer your questions about the force of gravity, the size of stars, the volume of matter and more. Producer: Fiona Roberts.
26/11/1536m 43s

Antarctic ice sheet instability, Groundwater, Accents, Fluorescent coral

Antarctic ice-sheet instability A new study models how the ice sheets in Antarctica will react if greenhouse gases rise at a medium to high rate. They predict the most likely outcome is a rise in global sea level of about 10cm by 2100. Previous research had put this figure at 30cm: this has not been ruled out by the new research, but it's been ruled much less likely. Groundwater The Earth's groundwater has been quantified - it's estimated to be 23 million cubic km. (which is equivalent to the Earth's entire land surface covered in a layer some 180m deep.) However, just 6% of the water is available for our use and to take part in the hydrogeological cycle. That small fraction is referred to as "modern" groundwater: it is extractable because it is near the surface, and can be used to supplement above-ground resources in rivers and lakes. But it's also the most sensitive to over use, climate change and to human contamination. Fluorescent coral Adam visits the National Oceanographic Centre in Southampton to see some fluorescent corals and asks how they can be utilised for medical imaging. Accents How are our accents changing? A three year study at University of Glasgow has found that Scottish accents haven't changed as much as English accents (which have become much more homogenised over the past 100 years). By listening to recordings from first World War Scottish prisoners of war, the Sounds of the City project has noticed that changes to Glaswegian accents have occurred over a much longer time frame than previously thought. But these changes have occurred locally - not in the same way or to the extent that it is thought English accents have evolved. Producer: Fiona Roberts.
19/11/1527m 57s

Sex-change tree, Pluto's cryovolcanoes, Sellafield's plutonium, Ant super-organisms

Britain's oldest tree changes sex - The science behind the headlines - this week it was reported that the Fortingall Yew in Perthshire (known to be a male tree, over 2-5000 years old) had started to produce berries (female) on one of its branches. Dr. Max Coleman from the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh explains that sexuality in plants is more fluid than in animals. Cryo-volcanoes on Pluto The latest observations from the New Horizons mission to Pluto show possible volcanic-type structures made from ice. The mountains have what appear to be caldera-like depressions in the top. Unlike volcanoes on Earth, that erupt molten rock, the suspected volcanoes on Pluto, would likely erupt an icy slush of substances such as water, nitrogen, ammonia or methane. Sellafield's plutonium The nuclear reprocessing plant in Cumbria has amassed around 140 tonnes of plutonium on site. This is the largest stockpile of civil plutonium in the world. For now it is being stored without a long-term plan, which is costly and insecure. At some point a decision will need to be taken on how it is dealt with. The estimated clean-up costs are between £90-250 billion, which means the pressure to make the right decision is massive. Should we convert it into useable fuel or get rid of it? And how secure is it in its current state? Ant super-organisms Ants behave as a super-organism when under predation threat - complex chemical communication in rock ants are key to how they behave as a unit to different threats. Producer: Fiona Roberts.
12/11/1528m 6s

Grid cells and time, Boole, How your brain shapes your life

Grid cells and time Animals navigate by calculating their current position based on how long and how far they have travelled and a new study on treadmill-running rats reveals how this happens. Neurons called grid cells collate the information about time and distance to support memory and spatial navigation, even in the absence of visual landmarks. New research by Howard Eichenbaum at Boston University has managed to separate the space and time aspects in these cells challenging currently held views of the role of grid cells in the brain. Boole It's the 200th anniversary of the birth of George Boole. We speak to Professor Des MacHale, his biographer at Cork University, and Dr Mark Hocknull, historian of science at University of Lincoln, where he was born, to uncover Boole's unlikely rise to Professor of Mathematics, given his lack of formal academic training. We discuss the impact of his work at the time, and his legacy for the modern digital age. How your brain shapes your life It weighs 3lbs, takes 25 years to reach maturity and, unique to bits of our bodies, damage to your brain is likely to change who you are. Neuroscientist David Eagleman's new book, The Brain: The Story of You, explores the field of brain research. New technology is providing a flood of data. But what we don't have, according to Eagleman, is the theoretical scaffolding on which to hang this. Why do brains sleep and dream? What is intelligence? What is consciousness? Producer: Fiona Roberts.
05/11/1527m 45s

Oxygen on comet 67P; Bees and antimicrobial drugs; Reproducibility of science experiments; Reintroduction of beavers

Oxygen on comet 67P Molecular oxygen (O2) detected on comet Churymov-Gerasimenko 67P, has scientists baffled. Current models of the formation of our Solar System do not predict conditions that would allow for O2. Bees and antimicrobial drugs The antibacterial properties of honey have been exploited for thousands of years, but now scientists at the University of Cardiff are using honeybees to collect and identify plant-derived drugs which could be used to treat antibiotic resistant hospital pathogens. By screening honey for these plant compounds and identifying the plant through the pollen grains in the honey, researchers can narrow down the active ingredients and even exploit this to get bees to make medicinal honey. Reproducibility of science experiments A lot of science experiments, when redone, produce different result. Professor Dorothy Bishop chaired a report, out this week, on reproducibility in science. She explains why reproducibility is important, why failures are due to many factors beyond fraud, and how measures, such as pre-registration and collaboration on large expensive experiments, can help make science more robust and repeatable. Reintroduction of beavers In National Mammal Week and the Mammal Society UK is giving a whole day of its national conference at Exeter University over to the reintroduction of European beavers. In February last year a group of beavers were spotted apparently having been living and breeding on the River Otter in Devon for quite some time. By March this year an attempt by DEFRA to remove them had been challenged by local campaigners and now a 5 year watch period has been set up over which time the effects of the beavers on the ecosystem will be monitored. But how might the renegade rodents have been influencing the ecosystem? And with another project currently underway to reintroduce the Pine Marten, a large relative of the weasel, to Wales is there a new public focus on mammal reintroductions in the UK? Producer: Fiona Roberts
29/10/1528m 0s

Animal experiments, Bees and diesel, Sense Ocean, Readability of IPCC report

Animal experiments Scientists are changing the way they measure animals used in research. The most recent Home Office report not only shows the numbers of animals used, it also grades how much each animal suffered. Dr Sara Wells from MRC talks to Adam about this new measure, and also the fact that the overall number of animals used in 2014 has declined for the first time in years. Bees and diesel The polluting power of diesel has been getting a lot of press recently. Now, new research has shown that the volatile nitrogen oxides in diesel exhaust (NOx) are preventing bees from finding their food flowers. The diesel chemically alters some of the most common floral scent compounds, rendering them unrecognisable to bees and other insect pollinators. The effect adds to the suite of environmental factors impacting bee survival. Sense Ocean Adam visits the National oceanography Centre in Southampton where they are working on Sense Ocean - A big Europe-wide project which is monitoring what is in the world's oceans. Professor Matt Mowlem, is Head of the Ocean Technology and engineering group, and he is in charge of making sensors, which measure the chemical and biological nature of sea water from small platforms and vehicles. Readability of IPCC Report A paper in Nature Climate change last week scored the IPCC Summary for Policy Makers report, very low for 'readability', Adam discusses the trade-off between writing science that is right, and writing science that is understandable. Producer: Fiona Roberts.
22/10/1527m 44s

Time Travel in Science and Cinema

In a special programme to mark, amongst other things, the centenary of Albert Einstein's General Theory of Relativity, Adam Rutherford is joined by The Film Programme's Francine Stock to explore the theme of time-travel - in science, in film and as film. With studio guest, science writer Marcus Chown, they'll discuss time-machines - as imagined by scientists and film-makers; the grandfather of all paradoxes; the notion of the multiverse and how the pioneers of cinema created their own 'time-machines' through the art of editing. And to mark Back the Future Day, otherwise known as 21 October 2015, they talk to director Robert Zemeckis about how and why he imagined a future with hover-boards but, oddly, no smart phones. Producers: Stephen Hughes and Rami Tzabar.
15/10/1527m 48s

Ethiopian genome, Coral nutrients, The hunt for gravitational waves, Seven Brief Lessons on Physics

As evidence grows about the vulnerability of our ocean corals to climate change, what's often overlooked are the more subtle changes in the ocean waters that contribute to coral resilience. Adam visits Southampton's Oceanography Centre where new research is showing how an imbalance of nutrients in reef waters is increasing the vulnerability of reef corals to high water temperatures which could help direct future coastal management. The long awaited hunt for gravitational waves gets underway as the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO) in the United States begins its first observational run. The waves, generated by some of the most dramatic events in space such as the explosion of stars and the merging of two black holes, were first postulated by Einstein in 1916. So far they've never been detected but if LIGO is successful it'll not only provide proof of Einstein's Theory of Relativity but also provide the first direct evidence of the existence of black holes. And Adam meets theoretical physicist Carlo Rovelli whose new book Seven Brief Lessons on Physics examines in seven short essays how 20th century physics is shaping our world view. In Italy, it's outsold 50 Shades of Grey and the Pope's Encyclical and has now been translated into English. What's been the key to its success?
08/10/1527m 54s

Write on Kew festival at Kew Gardens, Preserving global biodiversity

A special edition recorded in front of an audience at Write on Kew, the Royal Botanical Garden's new literary festival. Adam Rutherford examines the science behind the global challenges and innovative solutions to preserving the essential biodiversity of the planet. From new perspectives on how plant populations can be made more resilient, to the remarkable genetic diversity of plants just being revealed by new analytical techniques, to coffee - and how one of our most prolific yet threatened commodities be protected from a changing climate . Do we need a radical new approach - are the large scale climate fixes offered by geoengineering the right solution? Adam Rutherford is joined by panellists: Kew's Director of Science, Kathy Willis; evolutionary botanist, Ilia Leitch, Kew's research leader in plant resources, Aaron Davis and author Oliver Morton. Producer: Adrian Washbourne.
01/10/1527m 57s