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

BBC Inside Science

By BBC Radio 4

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

Thursday, 16 November

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.
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