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Science in Action on KTTZ HD2
Wednesday, June 24, 2015 7:00pmMore people will need to be fed tomorrow than today. New drugs will be needed for old – and new diseases. To meet the world’s growing demand for food and medicines requires a new approach to bioscience, where plant and animal researchers come out of their scientific silos and swap their best ideas. That is why, in the UK, the National Institutes of Bioscience – the NIB - has been launched. Who Really Should Be in Control of Driverless Cars? It is generally assumed that the introduction of autonomous or self-driving vehicles is going to make the roads safer, but there are still a number of critical questions about how we humans will adapt to being driven by a robot. Will we relax and unwind, or hover with our hands over the wheel? This is an important question right now, when cars are getting smarter, but are not 100% self-driving. What happens when these driver assistance tools need the human to take over in an emergency, but that person’s eyes are not on the road? Researchers at the Transportation Research Institute, or UMTRI, at the University of Michigan, near Detroit, have built an incredibly realistic driving simulator, a full sized car in a room of high definition screens – to monitor the behaviour and reaction times of drivers. Mind-bending Pathogens The choice is yours. But is it? Do we really have total control over how we lead our lives? Research is starting to reveal the various facets of animal and human behaviour that are under the potential control of the bacteria, parasites and viruses that infect us. For example, the parasitic protozoan – Toxoplasma gondii changes the behaviour of mice, making them more attracted to cats. The parasite needs life stages in cats and mice to help aid its spread - it also has some strange effects on human behaviour. Satellites Watching the Planet You are being watched! Nations are clamouring to fill the skies with satellite networks, swarms of eyes in the sky spying on the condition of our planet. But do not be alarmed, an important aim is to inform people so that this information can be used for a range of purposes - to predict crop yields, parasite outbreaks and so much more. (Photo: Jack Stewart testing out the driving simulator at the Transportation Research Institute, University of Michigan © Jack Stewart)
Wednesday, June 17, 2015 7:00pmElephant poaching is on the rise. Worst hit is the African elephant – with 51,000 reportedly killed for their ivory in 2013. New research in the journal Science has shown that the poaching is not localised and scattered throughout Africa. But rather concentrated in two main hotspots – notably Tanzania and into Mozambique, and the Tridom protected ecosystem (Tri-national Dja-Odzala-Mikebe) that includes part of Gabon, DRC, Cameroon and the adjacent Dzanaga reserve in Central African Republic. Conservation biologist, Dr Sam Wasser, at the University of Washington in the US came to these conclusions after analysing the DNA in the seized ivory, and then matching it to elephant material found in their dung, to tie the elephant’s origin back to one particular place. Testing for TB in Badger Poo Catching European badgers to test for the presence of tuberculosis (TB) bacteria can be tricky. These animals are nocturnal and can be aggressive when threatened. But scientists at the University of Warwick in the UK have carried out rigorous comparison tests and discovered that you can get the information you need about TB in badgers by analysing their droppings. Rather than having to catch them and take samples from their nose and throats the scientists had something far more accessible. Luckily badgers use a latrine, a common toilet area just outside their setts – so it is not hard to find, and this provided the perfect source of samples for their work. Effects of Stress on Endangered Tiger Populations Tiger populations are still under pressure from hunting and habitat loss, and reintroducing the species into suitable areas is one way conservationists are attempting to increase their numbers. Indian scientists have been sifting through big cats looking for traces of stress hormones, and their findings suggest that human conflicts might be responsible for a lack of breeding success. Viral Resistance in Chimpanzees A team, led by scientists from Stanford University have shown that the immune system of animals where HIV-like infection is rife have striking genetic changes; similar to that seen in people resistant to the effects of HIV. Discovered by analysing chimp faeces, it shows just how much the genetic diversity in animal populations might be shaped by infection. Science Spin-offs of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organisation The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) has a massive global monitoring network set up to detect nuclear explosions and guard against test ban treaty violations. The system is now also being used as a “giant stethoscope that is looking, listening, feeling and sniffing for planetary irregularities” collecting seismic, infrasound, hydro-acoustic and radionuclide data. It is the only global network which detects atmospheric radioactivity and sound waves which humans cannot hear. New Potential Antimalarial Drug The malaria parasite, transmitted by mosquitoes, has developed resistance to many of the current drugs, including a growing resistance to Artemisinin. So there is excitement at the news that researchers have found a new compound that is showing great promise at tackling the killer disease. The compound – DDD107498 – affects protein synthesis in the pathogen, which means that it affects many of the life-stages of malaria when it is in its human host. Therefore it can be given in one single dose. It is also proving in mouse models to have prophylactic effects as well as being able to treat the disease. The Medicines for Malaria Venture have taken the drug that was discovered by scientists at the Drug Discovery Unit at the University of Dundee in Scotland, with the aim to set up human trials within a year. If it is successful, it could be available within five years at a cost of $1 per treatment. (Photo: A pile of 15 tonnes of elephant ivory seized in Kenya is displayed at Nairobi National Park, 2015. Credit: Carl de Souza/AFP/Getty...
Wednesday, June 10, 2015 7:00pmThe Middle East Respiratory Syndrome or Mers virus is causing chaos in South Korea. The main focus of infections is the Arabian Peninsula, although sporadic cases have cropped up around the world. What caused Mers to emerge in humans is still a contentious issue. Recent evidence puts juvenile dromedary camels in the frame. Are there wider issues around camel husbandry and the international trade of these beasts that might point a way to eradicating this disease? Contacting Isolated Peoples In Peru and Brazil communities of 'uncontacted' groups of people living in the Amazon forest have increasingly been emerging from their self-isolation and contacting the indigenous groups around them. These unplanned interactions bring serious health risks to these isolated communities who have little to no immunity against common illnesses like the common cold. These contact events raise interesting questions about the ethics of planned contact by governments, anthropologists and health officials. We explore the many facets of this controversial area. Pumping Water to Cause Earthquakes Hydraulic fracking is a method of extracting natural gas from shale rock and its being widely used in the USA. Some question the safety of this practice and blame fracking for increasing localised earthquakes and tremors. It turns out it is not the fracking, but the disposal of the waste water used in the process that causes the earth to shake. Now a team of scientists in France are actually causing their own mini-fracking type earthquakes, by pumping water into faults in the Earth’s crust and hoping their experiments will help control and prevent major future earthquakes. (Photo caption: A Saudi wears a mouth and nose mask as he leads camels at his farm outside Riyadh. Saudi Arabia has urged its citizens and foreign workers to wear masks and gloves when dealing with camels to avoid spreading the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus as health experts said the animal was the likely source of the disease © FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP/Getty Images) Presenter: Jack Stewart Producer: Fiona Roberts
Wednesday, June 3, 2015 7:00pmAn analysis using updated global surface temperature data disputes the existence of a previously reported 21st century global warming slowdown. The new analysis suggests that there has been no discernible decrease in the rate of warming between the second half of the 20th century up to the present day. This period has been dubbed a global warming "hiatus." This new analysis is sure to cause more controversy and debate. Discovering Your Viral History How useful would it be to know what viruses you have been infected with throughout your life? It could help us to understand the complex relationship our viruses or 'virome' has with our immune system and even shed light of diseases like Type 2 diabetes. With less than a drop of blood, a new technology called VirScan can identify all of the viruses that individuals have been exposed to over the course of their lives. Mass Die-off of Saiga Antelope A bacterial epidemic is sweeping through the population of critically endangered Saiga Antelope in Kazakhstan. Over half the global population of these unusual-looking animals have died. The cause is not certain, but there is evidence that it is a non-infectious bacterial infection that could have been triggered by external environmental conditions. (Image Credit: used with the kind permission of NOAA) Presenter: Roland Pease Producer: Fiona Roberts