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, December 7, 2016 6:00pm
    When the Mars rover Spirit recorded rocks in the Gusev crater back in 2007. It detected small lighter-coloured lumps. Geologists think these could be fossilised stromatolites in the form of opal. Back on Earth, these structures are made by films of blue-green algae and other microbes. Now, a decade later, geologists have found very similar features in the highland deserts of northern Chile, which have bacterial structures in them. Which all go to make compelling reasons to go back to the Martian crater in 2010. 100 Women As part of BBC 100 Women 2016 we’re asking the question is the internet sexist? Only 15% of Wikipedia editors are women and less than 15% of notable profiles are of women. Half of the BBC’s 100 women over 3 years still do not have a Wikipedia page. Science in Action reporter, Tracey Logan, has a go at editing Wikipedia pages for notable female scientists – Frances Micklethwait and Rachel McKendry - as part of a Wiki Editathon. Synthetic Biology Solutions for Diabetes Scientists have designed synthetic cells that can sense glucose levels in blood and produce insulin when it’s needed. The cells have been demonstrated in mice. If human trials are successful, it could mean a four-monthly implant stops the symptoms of types 1 and 2 diabetes. Photo: Surface of Mars @ NASA, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Cornell University Presenter: Roland Pease Producer: Fiona Roberts
  • Wednesday, November 30, 2016 6:00pm
    Detailed analysis of the fossilised bones of the 3.18 million year old hominin, known as Lucy, show she may have walked upright, but she still spent a lot of time climbing trees. Measuring the strength, and dimensions, of Australopithecus afarensis’ arm and leg bones, using high-powered CT scans, and comparing these to chimpanzees and modern humans, the team at University of Texas in Austin, show Lucy was more Chimpanzee-like in anatomical structure than modern humans. Batteries from Radioactive Waste Given that 1 gram of waste radioactive carbon contains as much energy as one billion AA batteries, why not harness this? This is exactly what scientists at the University of Bristol have been doing. They have been making diamonds out of the waste carbon from Magnox reactors, wrapping them in non-radioactive diamond and harnessing the electron flow to make batteries which could last thousands of years. Bats and Birds For the first time, nest-hole cameras have captured two different types of animals using the same nest hole. Noctule bats and Common starling chicks are bunking up in the same hole. Is this down to a shortage of suitable nesting holes? Or are they happy to share warmth and protection? Mongoose Cooperation Dwarf mongooses are a noisy lot. They communicate with different squeaks within their pack. Some calls are used by pups to beg for food, others let the rest of the group know that sentinels are guarding them, and alarm calls can spell out threats from different predators. Researchers at the University of Bristol have been in Africa teasing mongoose packs with rubber snakes to try and understand why when one mongoose calls ‘snake’ only his closest friends in the group respond. Image: A sculptor's rendering of the hominid Australopithecus afarensis, © Dave Einsel/Getty Images
  • Wednesday, November 23, 2016 6:00pm
    Heart Patch A soft electronic skin plaster has been developed that can capture the detailed sound of valves opening and closing in the heart. It could help monitor heart murmurs in people with defective hearts. When the patch is placed on the throat however, it can help gamers give clear voice commands in a noisy room. When the PIG Lifted Off The Pine Island Glacier, or PIG, flows into the Amundsen Sea in West Antarctica. It a huge mass of ice pushing into the sea, that has been melting at an alarming rate. The PIG was once pinned to the seafloor by an underwater ridge. When it melted off this ‘anchor’, the warmer water was able to get under the ice and increase the melt rate. New work by the British Antarctic Survey has been looking at when this accelerated melting started. Turns out it was as recently as the mid 1940’s. Silicon-Carbon Life Life on Earth is carbon-based, that means the major chemical building block is carbon. Why isn’t it silicon? They are very similar and sit together on the periodic table. Yet silicon-based molecules in nature are unheard of. Now researchers at Caltech, in the US, have directed the evolution of proteins that can now act as enzymes or catalysts to make compounds of carbon and silicon bond together in nature. It could spell a whole new field of synthetic biology with a different kind of chemistry. It’s All in the Poop Dung beetles that live on cow pats have been shown to help stop the lifecycle of parasitic worms that infects cows. Experiments using artificially-made cow pats, some with and some without dung beetles has shown that the industrious insects clear up 30% of parasite infections. (Image: A cow-pat)
  • Wednesday, November 16, 2016 6:00pm
    The results from drilled geological samples of the Chicxulub crater have just been published. The crater off the coast of Mexico is thought to have been made by a meteor striking the Earth 66 million years ago. The strike and resultant ‘sterilisation effects’ on the planet are thought to play a major role in the demise of the dinosaurs. Core samples from the inner ring of the crater show that the impact was massive. Rocks from over 20 km down were brought up to the surface. Oldest Ice This week marks the start of a three stage mission to drill for the oldest ice cores on Earth. The current oldest ice-cores reveal what the climate was like 800,000 years ago. But scientists from 10 European countries, including the British Antarctic Survey, want to drill further back in time to 900,000 to 1 million year old ice. This is because they think these ice-cores might hold atmospheric clues as to why the periodicity of ice ages switched from 40,000 year cycles to 100,000 year cycles. Insects and LED Light Annoying biting midges are less attracted to LED light than they are to the older "incandescent" lights. Researchers think this could be due to the heat output of older lights being higher than the modern, energy efficient LED lights. Red Light and Bees Red light can help cure bumblebees. Researchers found that shining, very long wavelength, red light on bumblebees, reverses the damage to the cell’s energy mechanism caused by neonicotinoid pesticides. Animal-free Food A group of Chilean scientists are on a mission to change the way that we make food and reduce the impact of animal faming on the environment in the process . The researchers have set up a company that uses artificial intelligence to find a way to replicate animal-based products like milk, yoghurt, cheese and mayonnaise, using plant based ingredients. Picture: Recovered core from the Chicxulub impact crater, credit: @ECORD_IODP Presenter: Roland Pease Producer: Fiona Roberts
  • Wednesday, July 27, 2016 7:00pm
    Last week Kuwait experienced a temperature of 54 degrees Celsius and the East Coast of the US had a heatwave. Roland Pease talks about the reasons for this extreme weather with Dr Gavin Schmidt, director of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York. The first transatlantic telegraph cable to successfully link Ireland and Newfoundland is 150 years old this week. Rob Thompson visits John Liffen at the Science Museum in London to see some off cuts of the original cable. Professor Mark Miodownik explains how those pioneering engineers overcame problems and got the cables to work and Prof Polina Bayvel talks about how they transformed the Victorians’ lives. Jonathan Amos and Jonathan Webb of the BBC News Science team discuss with Roland Pease the legacy of the first round the world solar powered flight, Solar Impulse, and the discovery that the Great Red Spot on Jupiter is hot. Dolly the cloned sheep had a number of health problems. Professor Kevin Sinclair of Nottingham University and colleagues has now cloned sisters of Dolly to see if they have the same issues. Engineers at the Italian Institute of Physics are trying to get robots to learn in the way that children do. Rather than programming them, they give them the basic ability to toy with objects – and this way have got one to discover Archimedes principle – the idea that a heavy object dropped into a bucket will displace water and raise the surface. Vishuu Mohan is one of the masters, and iCub, his pupil, is built like a 30-month old. (Photo: The sun sets behind people taking a dip in the sea, Kuwait City. Credit: Yasser al-Zayyat/AFP/Getty Images)