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, September 22, 2016 4:32pm
    It may sound like the plot of a bad thriller, but it’s a fascinating tale of a 2000 year old shipwreck off the Greek island of Antikythera. Archaeologists have already discovered what they think is the earliest proto- computer – the Antikythera Mechanism – a clockwork device that modelled the motion of the Sun. Other than this, very little is known about the ship and its contents. Now divers have found a leg bone of one of the ship’s passengers. They hope DNA analysis will shed more light on the mystery. Out of Africa and Into Australia The result of in depth analysis of the genomes of the world’s most diverse populations reveals that all modern human ancestry outside of Africa including Australasians is consistent with descending from a single founding population. Kuwait’s Controversial DNA Law Last year, after a terrorist attack, Kuwait passed a law requiring all its citizens, residents and visitors to provide DNA samples, for a National Database. The law is about to be enforced in November, and scientists and human rights advocates argue that there needs to be more clarification and legislation checks and measures to avoid any abuse of an individual’s privacy. Humming Fish At night, underwater, the male Midshipman fish woos his mate by humming. We now know that this unusual behaviour is down to an inner biological clock, regulated by the hormone melatonin. It doesn’t make the humming any more tuneful though! Picture credit © Brett Seymour, EUA/WHOI/ARGO Presenter: Marnie Chesterton Producer: Fiona Roberts
  • Thursday, September 15, 2016 8:03am
    Could it be possible to make babies without an egg? Early experiments from a team at the University of Bath suggest it might be. Scientists have succeeded in creating healthy baby mice by tricking sperm into believing they were fertilising normal eggs. Instead, they used “pseudo-embryos.” These "fake" embryos share much in common with ordinary cells, such as skin cells, in the way they divide and control their DNA. These embryos normally die without the addition of sperm to make up a complete genome. Until now, it was thought that only eggs could unravel sperm’s DNA in order for fertilisation to occur, but these special embryos can do it too. This suggests that other cells are capable of being fertilised. Cybathlon – the Bionic Olympics The first ever Cybathlon takes place in Switzerland on 8 October. This championship for users of assistive technology makes rehabilitation engineering the star. Featuring events such as brain-computer interface races and stair-climbing wheelchairs races, it ultimately could drive innovation in disability technology. Mapping the Milky Way The spaceship Gaia launched in 2013 on a mission to create the most accurate 3D map of the Milky Way ever. This will help answer questions about dark matter, how the Milky Way formed and test general relativity. This week the first data dump was released to the world, containing new information on more than a billion stars. Robot-built DNA This summer a fully automated DNA-making facility began operation in Scotland. Scientists at the Edinburgh Genome Foundry are teaching robots how to do manual laboratory tasks in order to be able to produce DNA much faster than before. Fish Lose their Personality When at Risk When at risk, fish suppress their individual personalities to conform to the group behaviour of others around them. This can make being a bold fish, such as a leader, a very dangerous activity. Photo: Sperm approaching an unfertilized egg prior to conception, credit: Science Photo Library Producer: Fiona Roberts Presenter: Marnie Chesterton
  • Thursday, September 8, 2016 9:38am
    Did you know that our emotions can be detected on our breath? We broadcast whether we feel scared, happy or sad out into the air in the form of chemical signals. A recent study showed that when, audiences jumped out of their seats with the shock of a scary scene, they exhaled high levels of the chemical isoprene. With a list of potential applications from advertising to film rating, could crowd breath analysis become the new way to measure responses in large groups of people? River Conflict With increasing rates of ice melt, water is building up high on the Tibetan Plateau. This means flooding downstream is more likely. Early warning of events, such as dams breaking and glacial lakes over-topping, could help save lives and property downstream. However Nepalese and Indian authorities are claiming that the Chinese are not sharing information about what is happening in Tibet. Untangling Quantum Entanglement It’s difficult to find the perfect metaphor for the strange phenomenon of quantum entanglement. Two particles created from the same source have a sort of hidden connection, so that when something happens to one particle, it happens to the other. But how does it work? Do we actually need to understand quantum entanglement in order to use it in future technologies? Weather Pains Sufferers often complain that chronic pain gets worse in cold, damp conditions. Scientists have been using an app to collect data relating chronic conditions to weather systems. Sonic Kayaking Exciting science news from the British Science Festival – what can we learn from hydrophones on the Welsh coast? (Photo: Laughing Audience © Erich Auerbach/Getty Images) Presenter: Marnie Chesterton Producer: Fiona Roberts
  • Thursday, September 1, 2016 5:00pm
    Snow on Isua Supercrustal Belt in Greenland has melted to reveal something quite unexpected. Scientists think the uncovered rock could contain signs of very early life, dating back to as far as 3.7 billion years ago. The evidence is thought to represent stromatolite fossils, the longest-lived lifeforms made up of sediment and bacterial growths. The work suggests that life might have formed 200 million years earlier than we previously thought. Lucy Fell from Tree Lucy was a hominin - Australopithecus afarensis - an early human species, who died over 3 million years ago. With 40% of her fossilised bones recovered, scientists have been examining them to learn more about her life and death. A recent, highly detailed, CT scan has revealed some surprising results, Lucy could have died from falling out of a tree. Methane from Cows Cows produce large quantities of the greenhouse gas methane. As part of the EU-funded RuminOmics project led by the University of Aberdeen, scientists have been measuring the methane production and energy efficiency of a group of cows. Could breeding cows that produce less methane be a more environmentally friendly way to farm in the future? Alien Signals There have been a lot of headlines and tweets recently about alien radio signals from a distant star. The signal was so powerful that if it were from aliens, the aliens would have spectacularly harnessed the entire power of the sun. However, it seems more likely that this signal is from here on Earth than from a star 94 million light years away, so let’s not get too excited yet. Gravitational Waves About to be switched back on, LIGO, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory, led to the momentous detection of gravitational waves. These are mysterious ripples in space generated from the collision of two black holes. The European equivalent - VIRGO is also being upgraded. And there’s still talk of LISA – a gravitational wave detector in space. So what does the future hold in gravitational wave research? Presenter: Marnie Chesterton Producer: Fiona Roberts (Photo: Stromatolites found in ancient rocks from Greenland. Credit: UOW)
  • Thursday, August 25, 2016 4:32pm
    Life on other planets is often considered to be the stuff of science fiction. But we are one step closer in the hunt for extra-terrestrial life as an Earth-sized planet has been found to be orbiting our nearest star, Proxima Centauri. Weather Bombs Help Us Look at Earth’s Interior Large storms called weather bombs send pressure waves through the Earth’s core. A new part of this wave has been detected, enabling us to find out more about the mysterious structure of the Earth’s interior. Trump’s Wall and Wildlife US presidential candidate, Donald Trump’s plan to build a wall across the entire US-Mexican border would mean bad news for the fragile ecosystem of this important wildlife area. The border area is home to a diverse population of mammals, birds and plants—including a number of iconic and rare species. Freedom of movement across the border is crucial for habitat connectivity and genetic diversity. A number of species, including Desert bighorn sheep, black bears and the iconic roadrunner, would be at risk from the proposed construction. Hidden in a Name The names we give things in the natural world often contain clues about what they look like, how they behave or where they come from. But with thousands of human languages approaching extinction, important plant knowledge may die with them. (Photo: © ESO/M. Kornmesser, A view of the surface of the planet Proxima b orbiting the red dwarf star Proxima Centauri, the closest star to our Solar System, is seen in an undated artist's impression) Presenter: Marnie Chesterton Producer: Fiona Roberts