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.


  • Wednesday, August 26, 2015 7:00pm
    Modern trawlers are like vacuum cleaners – they scoop up everything underneath them – so their impact goes far beyond the species of fish that they are trying to catch. Dr David Bailey of the University of Glasgow, in Scotland, and colleagues, concerned about the devastation to marine life this causes, have looked at when things get really bad for the ecosystem in the North Atlantic. Their latest work shows that a depth limit could have real benefits, both to the fisherman, but crucially to the extremely bio-diverse, deep-water marine life. Genetic Mechanism Underlying Obesity Scientists at MIT and Harvard Medical School have found that there is a genetic switch that either causes fat to be stored or to be used. People with a gene called FTO are likely to store fat. Dr Manolis Kellis explains how the team used genetic techniques to turn cells from mice and from humans in the test tube from fat storers to fat burners. What does this mean in the fight against one of the biggest public health challenges of the 21st century? CRISPR – Precise Editing of DNA James Gallagher joins us in the studio to talk about CRISPR, one of the most important biological breakthroughs of recent years. This technique for editing DNA sequences has taken the genetic engineering world by storm. Turkish Whistling Language How does the brain process non-verbal languages? Jonjo Harrington explains a form of long distance communication used by people in mountainous regions of Turkey. Looking at non-verbal languages may help us better understand how the brain works. 3D Printed Beak The Toucan who got a new prosthetic beak. Citizen Science on Safari Fiona Roberts talks to Professor Craig Packer about the success of his citizen-science project Snapshot Serengeti and what future projects might be on the horizon. (Photo: Fishermen aboard a trawler. Credit: Marcel Mochet/AFP/Getty Images) Presenter: Jack Stewart Producer: Deborah Cohen
  • Wednesday, August 19, 2015 7:00pm
    Ten years on from Hurricane Katrina we look at how the changes in management strategy of the United States’ Gulf coastline can be applied in other parts of the world. Could low lying coastal zones around the world learn from the Louisiana coastal protection plan and start planning for disaster now? Islamic Climate Declaration Islamic environmental and religious leaders have drafted a declaration on climate change. The Declaration calls for “all people, leaders and businesses, to commit to 100% renewable energy" and focusses on "well-off nations and oil-producing states," to lead the way in phasing out greenhouse gases, no later than the middle of this century. We discuss the significance of this latest involvement of a world religion in the climate change debate. West Antarctic Ice Sheet New research published in the journal The Cryosphere this week suggests that the west Antarctic Ice Sheet could contribute up to 6cm to global sea level rise by the end of the century. The work adds to the growing body of evidence that the west Antarctic ice sheet will play a role in rising sea levels. Deep Sea Coral By the end of the century, rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere could weaken the foundations of deep sea corals, according to a new study. The weakened structures could impact on other life in the ocean according to research from Heriot-Watt University in Scotland. American Chemical Society Jonathan Webb brings us the latest news from the 250th national meeting of the American Chemical Society. Crop Monitoring Mobile Phones Cameras on mobile phones could help farmers in the developing world to detect drought stress or diseases on crops. Research from the UK could help improve crop yield and reduce costs by detecting problems early. (Photo caption: Firefighters arrive at a store on fire on Canal Street August 31, 2005 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Credit: Mark Wilson/Getty Images) Presenter: Jack Stewart Producer: Ania Lichtarowicz
  • Wednesday, August 12, 2015 7:00pm
    Following the discovery of the possible wing portion of flight MH370 at the end of July, scientists have come forward with a number of different methods to extract clues from the debris that could tell us where the plane crashed last year. Using barnacles attached to the debris and detailed modelling of Indian Ocean currents, we could be getting closer to solving the mystery of the flight’s disappearance. Ecological Worries about Suez Canal Extension With the recent expansion of the Suez Canal, ecologists have voiced worries about the possible increase in the number of invasive species that travel between the Red Sea and the Mediterranean, which already impact tourism, fishing and even power production in the region. Dogs Sniffing for Invasive Species Dogs are being used to seek out invasive mussel species on the hulls of boats that cross the Great Lakes between the US and Canada. Tasmanian Devils Could be Reintroduced to the Mainland The culling of dingoes on mainland Australia has led to a great ecological imbalance, with large numbers of foxes and cats running wild. Could reintroducing the Tasmanian devil as top predator help restore the health of the ecosystem? Clues about REM Seep The discovery that certain neurons fire at the same time as the rapid eye movements of sleep suggests that this action is linked to a changing environment within dreams, not the individual looking around the dreamscape. Finding Clues for Captive Breeding in Doucs Monkey Droppings Scientists in Vietnam are collecting and analysing Douc droppings to see if they can breed these endangered monkeys in captivity. (Photo caption: Local ecological association members and volunteers carry debris found in the eastern part of Sainte-Suzanne, on France's Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean. Credit: Richard Bouhet/AFP/Getty Images) Presenter: Tracey Logan Producer: Ania Lichtarowicz
  • Wednesday, August 5, 2015 7:00pm
    Since the first atomic bomb was dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima, scientists have been studying the effect of that huge dose of radiation on survivors. Seventy years on, professor Richard Wakeford tells Roland Pease that researchers have found a surprising lack of hereditary mutation risks, along with many lessons that can be learned about long term radiation risk. Nasa’s Quest for Quakes Predicting earthquakes has proved to be impossible. With the Quest for Quakes challenge, Nasa hopes to tease out a relationship between rock-generated electrical activity and devastating earthquakes. Provided with huge amounts of data from sensors across the Americas, entrants are going to see if there is such a relationship, of which many are unsure if there is one there to be found. Gerard Bawden explains. Earthquakes Jumping Balancing Rocks A collection of rocks near the extremely active San Andreas fault has never been toppled by an earthquake, despite huge numbers in the area. It appears that the quakes can stop or “jump” the area due to interactions with another nearby fault. Nepal Quake Update Recent work analysing in detail the Nepalese earthquake in April has illuminated how exactly it caused so much destruction, as well as uncovering some worrying data that suggests the fault is still locked further to the west and there’s a risk of another large quake in the future. Burning and Weather Patterns in Africa The cumulative effect of many small man-made fires in Northern Africa appears to be influencing the weather systems of the area, preventing clouds from forming, says Michael Tosca of Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Lab. Photo: An allied correspondent stands in a sea of rubble before the shell of a building that once was a movie theatre in Hiroshima © AP Presenter: Roland Pease
  • Wednesday, July 29, 2015 7:00pm
    Following its precarious landing on the comet 67P/Churyumov Gerasimenko last November, the first sets of data from the Philae Lander are presented in the journal Science. They reveal some unsurprising, but interesting results. There is a host of information about the physical characteristics of the comet. But it is the results from Philae’s two mass spectrometers, COSAC and Ptolemy, which are probably the most interesting. They managed to analyse the molecules present in the surface dust and nearby gases. Despite finding many expected molecules, the detection of what appears to be a carbon-hydrogen-oxygen polymer is great encouragement in the search for the prebiotic molecules that kick-started life on our own planet. Longhorn Crazy Ants Just Crazy Enough to Co-operate The erratic dashing of the longhorn crazy ant helps them live up to their name. But a study has shown that this unpredictable behaviour is vital in helping them unite to shift large pieces of food. Though most individuals will join together to drag a morsel in one direction, other scouting individuals will briefly join in and direct the group. The researchers think that this occasional steering only has an impact due to the inherent randomness in the movement of the group at large. Unique Dental Structure of Tyrannosaurus Rex’s Teeth A unique tooth structure, now discovered across the theropod group of dinosaurs, made the teeth of these meat-eaters even more powerful and effective. Shaped like steak knives, the serrations along the edge of their teeth extended inside the tooth itself, maximising the grip of the bite and enabling a vastly efficient feeding mechanism, which allowed the group to dominate the Mesozoic. Kirigami Graphene Upon discovering graphene’s stretchable properties to be incredibly similar to paper, a group of researchers have proceeded to apply the ancient Japanese art of paper-cutting or ‘kirigami’ to the single atom thick material. The ability to cut and stretch a sheet of graphene, like you would paper, infers promising uses for the material to create soft, stretchable electronics – at the nanoscale level. (Photo: Artist’s impression of Rosetta’s lander Philae (front view) on the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko © ESA/ATG Medialab)