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, November 18, 2015 6:00pm
    Scientists in England and France have collaborated to identify the key constraints which could lead to inaccuracies in previous models of potential sea-level rise from the Antarctic ice-sheet. Their updated model suggests that the rise in sea-levels by 2100 could be just 30cm as opposed to the worst case scenario calculations of 1m from previous studies. The research is published in the journal Nature this week. Artificial vocal cords 20 million Americans suffer from voice impairments and many have damaged vocal cords. Scientists from The University of Wisconsin, Madison, bioengineered vocal cord tissue in the lab. The engineered tissue performed better than existing treatment options. With further development, the lab-grown, transplantable vocal cord tissue could offer a promising treatment option for patients with voice disorders. Tap-dancing birds Male and female blue capped cordon-bleu songbirds tap dance as part of their courtship ritual. Scientists have uncovered this by watching videos of the birds’ mating rituals in slow motion. Why are cats such picky eaters? A recent study has shown that despite being carnivores, cats possess genes that protect vegetarian animals from ingesting poisonous plants by allowing them to detect bitterness. It is suggested that this heightened sensitivity to bitter tastes could shed some light on why they are such picky eaters. How do bats land upside down Research from Brown University suggests bats’ ability to land upside down - onto the ceiling of a cave, for example - has to do with the way they use their disproportionately large wings. History of the Future BBC News journalist Melissa Hogenboom continues her exploration of the history of the future at the Science Museum in London. This week, she unravels the story of the gyroscope. (Photo: Caption: An iceberg in the Amundsen Sea. Credit: Pierre Dutrieux, British Antarctic Survey) Presenter: Jack Stewart Producer: Ania Lichtarowicz Assistants: Andrea Szöllössi, Lauren Windle
  • Wednesday, November 11, 2015 6:00pm
    The discovery of a rocky planet similar to Earth in size and density was published in the journal Nature this week. Professor Drake Deming from the University of Maryland explains why this is arguably the most important planet ever found outside the Solar System. Single Shot Sterilisation Injection A single shot injection that can sterilise both male and female animals has been developed by US researchers. The method works in mice, and could provide a quick, simple, and effective alternative to spaying and neutering. Jack Stewart went to meet the mice making history. Analysing Burnt Bones BBC Science News correspondent Jonathan Webb talks about how scientists are trying to extract forensic information from burnt bones. Largest Crystal Structure Model The largest crystal structure model in the world is being built in the courtyard of the Vienna City Hall. SeaWorld Cuts Killer Whale Display Controversial displays by killer whales will cease in California after 2017. Shrinking Snowpacks Declining snowpacks could reduce freshwater availability for 2 billion people in the northern hemisphere. Dr Justin Mankin discusses the research and the implications for water management in the critical areas to prevent water shortages. The research is published in the journal Environmental Research Letters. History of the Future BBC News journalist Melissa Hogenboom continues her exploration of the history of the future at the Science Museum in London. This week, she looks at the development of the disposable plastic hypodermic syringe. Photo: Artist's rendering of GJ 1132b, a rocky exoplanet very similar to Earth in size and mass © Dana Berry)
  • Wednesday, November 4, 2015 6:00pm
    The annual devastating and deadly haze across South-East Asia is been caused by smoke from forest and peatland fires and is the strongest in the last 20 years. These fires were started deliberately to clear land for plantations. At its height, the haze spread to Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, and The Philippines, causing an environmental and health disaster. Susan Minnemayer from the World Resources Institute explains why the haze is so much worse than other years. Brain Cells that Tell Time The 2014 Nobel Prize was awarded to the discoverers of brain cells that encode our position in space. Scientists from Boston University have now shown that the same cells also encode time. Professor Howard Eichenbaum, senior author of the study, talks about how rats running on treadmills helped tease apart time and space, and how this new insight improves our understanding of episodic memories. What is it Like Living on the ISS? Nasa is to open up an astronaut recruitment drive from December. Sound Traps New sound traps are a simple and effective tool to keep track of mosquitoes that cause dengue fever. Human Waste to Energy Human waste could create enough electricity for millions of homes worldwide, as well as improving health and protecting the environment. Scientists at the UN Institute for Water, Environment and Health in Canada have calculated that biogas made from human waste worldwide could provide up to $9.5 billion worth of natural gas a year as well as producing electricity for as many as 138 million homes. In addition, the charred residue can be used as a coal/charcoal equivalent and it would also provide huge health and environmental benefits – currently 2.4 billion people lack access to toilets, and about one billion so will defecate in the open (60% of these are in India). Dr. Corinne Schuster-Wallace tells us more about the report. (Photo: People eating breakfast at a roadside stall shrouded in thick haze in downtown Palangkaraya, Indonesia © Getty Images )
  • Wednesday, October 28, 2015 7:00pm
    The electric eel - actually part of a family of small electric fish mostly found in South America - stands out for its ability to generate hundreds of volts. This made it the favourite experimental subject for pioneering studies of electricity in the 17th and 18th Centuries. Professor Ken Catania from Vanderbilt University explains how using modern equipment helped unveil sophisticated ways in which the electric eel uses its high power output to kill prey. Clams Giant clams have evolved to become living greenhouses by growing symbiotic algae as a source of food. Professor Alison Sweeney of the University of Pennsylvania explains how we can learn about efficient solar energy harvesting from these clams. This research could lead to new types of solar panels or improved reactors for growing biofuel. Why Do we Dance? It may be hard to imagine what evolutionary advantage moving around to music might possibly have. It has been suggested that it has to do with social bonding. Dr Bronwyn Tarr from the University of Oxford has figuring out why we dance. A sonic tractor beam has been invented! BBC Science News journalist Jonathan Webb talks about the system that can grab, hold and move small objects without touching them, using sound waves. A compound effective against MRSA has been found in honey. Fiona Roberts talks about the origin of this compound and how people in Cardiff are planning to get more. Oxygen was discovered on a comet. Tracey Logan talks about how this changes our view of the origin of our solar system. (Photo © Professor Ken Catania)
  • Wednesday, October 21, 2015 7:00pm
    Atlantic seabed drilling The Royal Research Ship James Cook, will be sailing off at 9.30 am on Monday carrying several teams of scientists and 100 tonnes of equipment. The vessel is sailing to the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, just above the Atlantis Massif, to recover rock specimens using state-of-the-art drilling technology. Scientists hope to gain insights into microbial life, chemistry, and geochemistry found there from analysing the rocks. Mars BBC Science Correspondent Jonathan Amos explains how these Atlantic rock samples could give us clues to rocks on Mars. Why snakes are slippery BBC Science reporter Jonathan Webb explains why snakes may have a slippery belly Crocodiles always keep an eye out Birds, water mammals, and now reptiles have been shown to sleep with one eye open. Land mammals, ourselves included, seem to be the odd ones out. Einstein’s “spooky action at a distance” Scientists from Delft in the Netherlands confirm - without any of the usual caveats - that the phenomenon Einstein called “spooky action” is real. Slippy steel Steel surfaces are prone to corrosion by water and salt, and abrasion by materials such as sand. They can also host microorganisms, which could lead to deadly infections. All this can be offset by a new surface coating which is the most durable anti-fouling and anti-corrosive material to date. It repels any kind of liquid even after sustaining intense mechanical abuse. If scaled to industrial levels, this coating will provide safer medical tools and implants, improve to 3D printing technology, and lead to cleaner and more cost-efficient ships. Keeping food fresh Melissa Hogenboom visits the Science Museum in London to find out more about the history and future of refrigeration. (Photo caption: RRS James Cook © National Oceanography Centre ) Presenter: Jack Stewart Producer: Ania Lichtarowicz Assistant: Andrea Szöllössi