Science in Action on KTTZ-HD2

Science in Action is a magazine program pulling together the science issues of the week and delivering breaking science news.


  • Thursday, May 19, 2016 5:00pm
    In some parts of the world, the worst types of particulate air pollution, the sort of thing that causes around 7 million deaths a year, are due not just to belching engines and factories, but to agriculture. And in certain parts of the world, agriculture causes more pollution than all other anthropogenic sources. This is suggested by a Susanne Bauer from the Earth Institute of Columbia University New York and colleagues in a paper this week published in Geophysical Research letters. In Naples, archaeologists have been looking at lead isotopes in the layers below the harbour floor, and can detect the moment, after the eruption of Vesuvius that roman plumbers had their work cut out replacing and rebuilding the sewers. On Mars, scientists looking at satellite imagery suggest ancient tsunamis were responsible for removing obvious signs of a coastline around any ocean of water that may once have existed. Meanwhile, a single tumour on a dog’s genitals 11000 years ago went on to infect dogs the world over, and its movements have now been mapped. The infectious and prolific cancer, CTVT, is a very serious disease for unfortunate dogs but is regarded as the oldest such lineage known in nature. Researcher Patrick Mutchler and colleagues at Stanford University used cunning and guile, but not that much, to expose how much personal information can be gleaned from so-called telephone metadata (call times, numbers, durations) without knowing anything of the content of a call. This sort of data is often less well protected than the actual content of an individual’s calls, yet this paper aimed to show that legislators may have got that wrong. And last week, at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in leafy west London a symposium looked at the likely impacts of climate change on global plant health and biodiversity. The BBC’s Cathy Edwards went along. Presenter: Roland Pease, with comments from Jonathan Amos and Jonathan Webb Producer: Alex Mansfield (Photo credit: TONY RANZE/AFP/Getty Images)
  • Thursday, May 12, 2016 5:00pm
    The shorebird , the red knot is shrinking due to warming in the Arctic, and because its beak is getting shorter, it’s struggling to find food in its Tropical wintering grounds. The subspecies being studied has declined by 50% in the past 33 years of study. It’s all to do with the careful balance of nature being shifted, a ‘trophic mismatch’ – the snow melts and the food insects erupt before the chicks have hatched and can eat them. Forest Fires in Himalaya Region Loss of forest to fires in the Himalayan region is estimated to be the biggest in 15 years. Nepal has recorded the largest loss with nearly 250,000 Hectares. High temperatures, poor monsoon rains, reduced snow cover and strong winds are thought to have exacerbated the situation. It’s very likely the strong El Nino even played a part. Insights into REM Sleep and Memory Formation It’s long been suspected that rapid eye movement, or REM, sleep helps us consolidate our memories while we slumber. But it’s not something that’s easy to prove. REM sleep is transient, and there are ethical concerns surrounding sleep-deprivation experiments on humans. Now researchers have got a much better idea that it indeed does with new work using optogenetics on mice….By lighting up the brain activity in sleeping rodents, the scientists think they can see memory formation in action. Fizzy Rocks Yield Clues to Early Earth’s Atmosphere Bubbles in rocks formed when lava was fizzing before it solidified are clues to Earth's early atmosphere. The orientation and size of bubbles of gas (captured when molten lava sets) can tell geologists how thick our atmosphere was 2.7 billion years ago and give clues as to its composition. And from this we can make inferences about life on that early Earth. Photo: Foraging red knot in Mauritania. Credit: Jan van de Kam Presenter: Roland Pease Producer: Fiona Roberts
  • Thursday, May 5, 2016 5:00pm
    We are coming to the end of the strong El Niño event, which is associated with a warming of the central and eastern tropical Pacific. But now should we expect an equally strong La Niña event to follow? Mike McPhaden, NOAA’s El Niño expert explains what this will mean to our climate? Edible Bale Wrapping Did you know that hay, straw and silage bales are often bound in plastic? This needs to be removed before the bales can be used for livestock food and bedding. The process is arduous, and the waste, non-biodegradable - plastic ends up in a landfill. The plastic is also potentially harmful, or fatal, to livestock, if accidentally ingested. It is a problem a group of young chemists at Imperial College London set their minds to and they have come up with an ingenious and secret formula for edible hay bale wrapping. Dementia Game Dementia researchers have developed a video game that could lead to the development of early diagnostic tests for the disease. The way players navigate the 3D levels in Sea Hero Quest will be anonymously tracked and sent to the researchers. Understanding how people navigate 3D environments is important because the skill is often one of the first lost by people who have dementia. Researchers say the game could generate an unprecedented amount of data. Transit of Mercury Thirteen or 14 times a century, a little dark spot crosses the Sun. It is happening on Sunday GMT. The planet Mercury will transit our Sun. You will need to protect your eyes to see it. But during the transit, scientists will have a rare opportunity to study the composition of Mercury's atmosphere - the thinnest in the solar system - as the sun shines through it. Satellite to Map Earth’s Biomass British industry is to lead the construction of a satellite that will weigh the world's trees. The Biomass mission's novel space radar will make 3D maps of forests, improving our understanding of how carbon is cycled through the Earth system. Its data will be important for climate research, and will create a baseline for treaties that seek to monitor the status of global forest resources. Coral Bleaching in the Great Barrier Reef A group of marine scientists have just returned from nearly a month at sea studying the wider implications of the worst coral bleaching event to have ever hit the Great Barrier Reef. Strongly linked to El Niño, this devastating loss of corals will take a long time to recover. It’s hoped the findings from this latest trip will also help scientists better understand what species if any, are more resilient to bleaching events like these. (Photo: Ethiopia struggles to combat its worst drought for 30 years, with at least 10.2 million people needing food aid. © Vincent Defait/AFP/Getty Images)
  • Thursday, April 28, 2016 5:00pm
    Genetically modified Bt crops have been hailed as one of the success stories of GM crops. Cotton, maize and soybeans which have the ‘insecticide gene inserted’ are thought to be responsible for increases in global agricultural productivity of US$78 between 1996 and 2013. But now farmers are starting to see crop pests developing resistance to the Bacillus thuringiensis toxin. It’s one of the evolutionary arms races that nature is so famous for. But now scientists at Harvard University are harnessing evolution in the lab to fast-track themselves to a new generation of the insecticidal toxin. Cricket Calls Cricket songs get higher as the temperature rises – Crickets ‘sing’ to attract mates and ward off rivals. The problem is lots of other insects make noises for the same reason. So how does the cricket make sure other crickets can hear him? He broadcasts on a particular frequency. But, as tree crickets make sound by rubbing their wing cases together, when the temperature rises during the day, their muscles twitch faster and the sound gets higher. New research shows that they can tune the sound back to the correct frequency. Ice Sails On Science in Action, we like phenomena, especially ‘ephemeral phenomena’ – strange things that pop up, then disappear. Like ice sails - oddly beautiful structures you may come across if you’re lucky enough to be walking along one of the glaciers streaming in slow motion off the Karakoram mountain range spanning the borders between Pakistan, India, China and Afghanistan. Ice sails are huge sail-shaped chunks of ice, only found in this region and only found between certain altitudes. Now scientists have worked out how they are made and why they are so unusual. It’s important as it tells us about how the glaciers works and these glaciers provide a lot of drinking water for a lot of people. Wildlife in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone In the 30 years since the Chernobyl nuclear accident, what has happened to the wildlife in the 30Km exclusions zone? LA’s Wildlife Pink glow worms and 3 new species of snail have been discovered in the unlikely ‘concrete jungle’ that is Los Angeles. All thanks to an army of citizen scientists searching for and reporting the wildlife in Southern California. The work is part of the new Urban Nature Research Center launched by the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County and they say it’s “the largest urban biodiversity study in the world.” (Photo: A cotton field waits to be harvested on BTC farm which raises 1000 acres of cotton, 80% of which is genetically modified (GM) Bt, Roundup Ready cotton. © Scott Olson/Getty Images) Presenter: Jack Stewart Producer: Fiona Roberts