Wednesday, February 15, 2017 6:00pm
The Arctic sea ice should be reaching its maximum extent about now, but following a continuing trend and unusually warm weather at the North Pole, the growth of sea ice has stopped. What will this mean for ice cover in the Northern hemisphere summer? Are we heading for an ice free Arctic sooner than we thought?
India Launches 104 Satellites
India has created history by successfully launching 104 satellites on a single mission, overtaking the previous record of 37 satellites launched by Russia in 2014. Observers say it is a sign that India is emerging as a major player in the multi-billion dollar space market.
First Live Birth Evidence in Dinosaur Relative
The Achosaurs are the animal group that contain dinosaurs, crocodiles and birds, and all examples of this group, extinct and alive today, lay eggs. Or so we thought! When scientists uncovered the fossil of a Dinocephalosaurus with what looked like the bones of an embryo in its belly, they were surprised. Dinocephalosaurs are a long-necked, marine reptile living 245 million years ago.
Ebola Virus Super Spreaders
With over 28,000 confirmed or suspected cases and more than 11,000 deaths, the recent West African Ebola virus outbreak was unprecedented. But why was the epidemic so immense and what lessons have we learned? Using outbreak records, researchers have been able to model the spread of the virus through communities, and their work reveals that the vast majority of transmissions were seeded by a surprisingly small number of infected individuals. Although the reasons for 'superspreading' are unclear, the scientists hope that their findings can help prevent future outbreaks from being so widespread.
A plant or animal in the wrong place gets called an alien species. A new report looking at the movement of plants and animals around the world gives details of the introduction of alien species over the past 500 years. Perhaps, unsurprisingly, the rate of alien introductions increased over the past 40 years.
(Photo: Extent of Arctic sea ice in September 2016 versus the 1981-2010 average minimum extent (gold line). Credit: Nasa)
Wednesday, February 8, 2017 6:00pm
NASA’s rover Curiosity reached 1600 Sols on Mars last week. Since it landed in 2012, we’ve been bombarded by discovery after discovery on the Red Planet. But are we any closer to solving the conundrum of a warm planet with a faint young Sun? 3-4 Billion years ago, our Sun was only 70% as bright and warm as it is today, yet there is evidence of liquid water on the surface of Mars around this time. Ideas about the sort of Martian atmosphere needed for this to occur, never seem to fit the geological observations. And the latest analysis of the sediment in Gale Crater is not helping to solve the problem either.
Carbon Dioxide Fermentation
More news on harnessing the special abilities of microorganisms which don’t live by using oxygen but have different metabolisms for converting carbon dioxide to make biofuels. These microbes which, like plants, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide or methane - so called C1 carbons - because they have only carbon atom – as their food. By bolting these microbial fermenters onto the waste pipes of industrial processes such as steel foundries, researchers think they could reduce greenhouse gas emissions and make fuel.
With bees and other insect pollinators under threat from disease, pesticides and intensive agriculture, could technology provide a helping hand? A discarded ionic sticky gel was the inspiration for Japanese scientists to create tiny remote-controlled drone pollinators. They used the sticky gel to coat horsehairs on the drone. This allows the pollen from one flower to be lifted up carefully and then deposited on the next flower.
If you look up the element helium, one of the first things you’ll read is that it’s the most unreactive element in the periodic table. It’s so stable, that helium that’s used by astronomers as a golden standard to measure the chemical signatures of other planets. But now, chemists here on Earth have forced Helium to react with sodium. Under immense temperatures and pressures the Russian and US team have created Na2He.
New work monitoring fear in the brains of volunteers using MRI scanners is helping us understand phobias. People who are scared of spiders – arachnophobes – have been shown flash pictures of spiders to encourage the subliminal, sub conscious part of the brain deal with the fear.
Picture: This artist’s concept depicts the early Martian environment (right) – believed to contain liquid water and a thicker atmosphere – versus the cold, dry environment seen at Mars today (left)., Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
Presenter: Professor Adam Hart
Producer: Fiona Roberts
Wednesday, February 1, 2017 6:00pm
It is relatively easy to understand the natural selection pressures on the Galapagos finches which led to the evolution of a diverse range of beaks, which so intrigued Darwin. Each species evolved a beak size and shape perfectly suited to the food most available to them. But what about the evolution of bird beaks over the entire group? From the flip-top bin beaks of pelicans, to the fine sword-like Scimitar bills and the spoon-shaped Spoon-billed sandpiper, when did these species diversify from their bird-like dinosaur ancestors 150 million years ago? A new study harnessing the deductive power of the public sheds light on the whole process.
A new project to search for meteorites in Antarctica has been announced. Meteorites can tell us so much about the formation of the Solar System. They can be found all over our planet. But the best place to look is Antarctica. They are black, so they show up on the white ice; the region is protected, so they have not already been poached and the conditions are suited to preserving these space rocks. But the best bit, is the way ice moves in a conveyor-like action, it draws the meteorites from the centre of the frozen continent to the edges, often collecting at the edges of mountain ranges.
The Evolution of Invasive Behaviour
Understanding how invasive species move in the environment is important in helping us mitigate the damage they can cause. In order to do this, it would be helpful if invading species dispersed through an environment at a constant rate. But nature is nothing if it’s not complex! A new study looking at beetles moving around a board-game like set up in the laboratory has shown that individuals at the edge of an invading colony readily evolve to be better at dispersing. The effect is quite variable, but this snowball effect makes understanding how organisms disperse in a new environment all the more difficult.
(Photo: Bird beak montage. Credit: Dr. Paul F. Donald)
Wednesday, January 25, 2017 6:00pm
For more than 80 years, it has been predicted that hydrogen will adopt metallic properties under certain conditions, and now researchers have successfully demonstrated this phenomenon. Theoretically, metallic hydrogen will have many qualities important in the realm of physics, including high temperature superconductivity and super-fluidity, which could hold valuable implications for solving energy problems.
Efforts to grow the first embryos containing cells from humans and pigs are proving more challenging than anticipated. Human/animal chimeras are not without controversy. However, supporters say they can offer insights into early human development and disease onset and provide a realistic drug-testing platform. And they may also someday provide a means of growing human cells, tissues, and organs for regenerative medicine.
Quantum Brain Sensors
Roland sees the new laser-based sensors that can peer into the electrical activity of the brain.
The Falklands Island Wolf
Scientists unravel the mysterious natural history of the Falklands Island Wolf. It was first spotted and described by Charles Darwin. The now extinct ‘wolf’ is thought to be an ancestor of a jackal-like creature which crossed the shallow, sometimes frozen sea from South America.
Image of diamond anvils compressing molecular hydrogen. At higher pressure the sample converts to atomic hydrogen, as shown on the right.
[Credit: R. Dias and I.F. Silvera]
Presenter: Roland Pease
Producer: Fiona Roberts