Science in Action

Science in Action

United States

Jack Stewart and guests discuss the latest science research and news stories from all over the world.


Has the Latest Mars Lander Failed?  

At the time of transmission, the European Space Agency still have no contact with the Schiaparelli Mars lander Banning HFCs In 1985 scientists reported that there was a depletion of the amount of ozone in the stratosphere, and that there was a giant hole of ozone above the Antarctic. Ozone - a form of oxygen absorbs most of the UV radiation from the sun. The cause of the hole was the release of chemicals used in refrigeration, and in expanding foams – halons, freons and Chlorofluorocarbons or CFCs. As a result, the Montreal Protocol, dictated that CFCs were systematically phased out, and as a result, the hole is recovering. CFCs were replaced with HFCs – hydro fluorocarbons, which have little effect on Ozone. But they are potent greenhouse gases. The latest update to the Montreal protocol has just taken place in Rwanda, and now HFCs are on the banned list too. So what’s the alternative? New Cell Atlas It may be a surprise to discover that we don’t know how many cell-types we have in our bodies. The Human Cell Atlas project is a huge international consortium aims to identify every single one and map them across the body – the medical benefits could be huge. Picture: Artwork: The retrorockets should have fired for about 30 seconds, credit: ESA Presenter: Marnie Chesterton Producer: Fiona Roberts

The Earliest Birds Probably ‘Quacked’  

The oldest fossilized remains of a syrinx, a bird’s equivalent of a voice box, has been described. The remains of the extinct bird specimen (Vegavis iaai), which lived about 66-68 million years ago, were found on Antarctica - confirming that the syrinx had evolved at the time of the dinosaurs. Drilling the ‘Dinosaur Crater’ Scientists have obtained remarkable new insights into the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs. They have been examining rock drilled from the Chicxulub Crater that the 15km-wide asteroid, dug out of what is now the Gulf of Mexico some 66 million years ago. Stratolites Many of us would love to go into space but, almost 60 years after the dawn of the space age, very few can afford it. But there might soon be a cheaper option. BBC Future Space Correspondent, Richard Hollingham, reports from Tucson, Arizona, where a balloon company is planning to fly tourists high into the stratosphere and also take on services provided by satellites - such as communications and weather forecasting - with 'stratolites'. Wooden Skyscrapers New ways to engineer and build with wood, a huge demand for housing and concerns about the high carbon cost of steel and concrete mean architects and engineers are looking to sustainable wood to build our high rise buildings. Picture: The fossil syrinx is from an extinct species related to ducks from the late Cretaceous of Antarctica, Credit J. Clarke/UT Austin Presenter: Marnie Chesterton Producer: Fiona Roberts

Nobel Prizes for Science 2016  

This week the Nobel Prizes were announced. The Chemistry prize was for mini machines, the Medicine award went to a scientist who discovered autophagy, or the process of clearing up cellular rubbish, and researchers who predicted strange materials were the Physics’ recipients. Roland Pease explains the relevance of these to Marnie Chesterton. Jonathan Amos and Roland Pease discuss new research into how eels migrate to the Sargasso Sea and why there appears to be a limit to longevity in humans at around 120 years. When a fire starts underground, the consequences can be deadly, particularly as the fire’s behaviour is an unknown quantity. Kieran Brophy reports from a lab in Cambridge in the UK, where Professor Andy Woods is modelling how fire develops in tunnels. Image caption: Innovations have included this nano car, produced by Bernard Feringa's team. Credit: University of Groningen Presenter: Marnie Chesterton Producer: Deborah Cohen

Rosetta’s Mission Ends  

The European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission is about to end (Friday 30th September). The audacious mission to rendezvous with Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko and study its nucleus and environment, and land a probe on its surface has been hailed a huge scientific and technical success, despite the lander Philae losing contact shortly after landing on the surface The orbiter Rosetta will be control-crashed, at very slow speeds, onto the comet, where the final scientific measurements and observations will hopefully be made. The mission may be over, but the wealth of scientific data is still to be analysed and will provide insight into these early remnants of our solar system for decades to come. Water Spurting on Europa Jupiter’s moon Europa has been observed spurting plumes of water into space. Ultraviolet spectrometers, on the Hubble Space Telescope, have recorded intermittent clouds of hydrogen and oxygen, in ratios that suggest its water. It’s already known that Europa has a large ocean under its icy crust. But these water spouts could provide a way of sampling the water for organic matter and possible life without having to land and drill through the moon’s surface. Irish Giants Northern Irish folklore is littered with tales of giants. Genetic work has established a link between people of Northern Irish origins with the genetic disorder, pituitary gigantism and some of these giants of old. Michael Brendan Holland, is one such modern day giant and genetic detective work has linked him to 18th century giant, Charles Byrne. New work suggests that the genetic variant which gives rise to big people is relatively common in Northern Ireland and not at all common in Eire and England…so the legends of Irish giants perhaps rooted in truth. Picture: Rosetta and comet 67P © ESA Presenter: Marnie Chesterton Producer: Fiona Roberts

The Antikythera Mechanism and the Ship Wreck  

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

Making Babies Without Eggs?  

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

Emotional Breath in the Cinema  

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

The Oldest Life on Earth  

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)

Nearest Star has Earth-Sized Planet  

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. 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. 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. (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

Tracking Poverty  

A tin roof and a paved road can be a sign of an area coming out of poverty in parts of Africa. Identifying poor regions in Africa using satellite data could save massive survey efforts and help identify regions where help is needed most. Wristbands That Monitor Pesticide Exposure By providing silicon wristbands to famers in West Africa, scientists at the University of Oregon State have been able to monitor their exposure to toxic pesticide. In the future these bands could also be used to detect exposure to other organic chemicals. Birds Sing of Climate Change Zebra finch parents may be helping their young to prepare for climate change by calling to them before they have hatched. These finches are born lighter and produce more offspring than usual, helping these finches to adapt to climate change. Thieving Star A small star which ran out of fuel began to steal matter from a nearby star, ultimately leading to a classical nova explosion. Scientists at the University of Warsaw studied the lead up to and duration of this explosion, something that has not been done before. Ottawa’s Outdoor Lab Ottawa is the only capital city in the world with a farm right in the middle of it. The Central Experimental Farm is a 4 kilometre square sized facility with fields full of crops like corn and wheat currently in bloom. This farm is in fact a big, living, outdoor laboratory. Its 75 scientists carry out research aimed at helping farmers increase their yields. But they are also keen to discover more about the impacts of climate change. (Photo: © Ethiopian landscape by Paul F. Donald) Presenter: Marnie Chesterton Producer: Fiona Roberts

Nerve Recovery in Brain Machine Interface Patients  

A small sample of paraplegic patients, who have spent from 3 to13 years paralyzed from spinal cord injuries, have regained partial sensation and muscle control in their lower limbs after training with brain-controlled robotics. The patients used brain-machine interfaces, including a virtual reality system that used their own brain activity to simulate full control of their legs. The return of even a tiny bit of feeling to their limbs below the spinal cord lesion is surprising and promising. Clever Ravens The Ravens at the Tower of London are helping research into bird intelligence. Ravens are Corvids, known to have big, neuron packed, brains, especially for their body size. Dr. Nathan Emery at Queen Mary University London, is an expert in avian intelligence. He explains that because these birds are very sociable and eat a whole range of different foods and have to figure out how to find it, they have become very good at problem solving. Tool-making birds In 2002 Betty, a New Caledonian Crow, astonished the world when she bent a piece of wire to make a hook to get food out of a narrow tube. Demonstrating advanced problem-solving in birds at its best. But do captive birds behave the same way in the wild? New research on wild New Caledonian crows have been observed bending twigs to make tools to grub out food. Dark Matter Dark matter is the stuff that glues the Universe together. It stops the Universe from rapidly expanding and tearing galaxies and the Earth apart. But scientists still don’t know what dark matter is made of. There are two main contenders for particles of dark matter: WIMPs (Weakly Interacting Massive Particles) and sterile neutrinos. The trendy particle at the moment is the sterile neutrino, and scientists all over the world are racing each other to be the first to find it. After CERN reported that they haven’t found any evidence for this sterile neutrino, Ice Cube in the North Pole has released their exciting results: they found…nothing! So is the hunt for the sterile neutrino over or is this just the beginning? (Photo: Patient using the exoskeleton © AASDAP/Lente Viva Filmes) Presenter: Marnie Chesteron Producer: Fiona Roberts

04/08/2016 GMT  

The BBC brings you all the week's science news.

Record Temperatures in Kuwait and US  

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)

Smashing into the Moon  

Space ballistics has shown that the eye of the ‘Man in the Moon’ - the huge crater Mare Imbrium was most likely made by the impact of a huge proto-planet smashing into it. London’s Geological Secrets Dr Ruth Siddall from UCL and London Pavement Geology takes Roland on a whistle stop tour around London. They check out some geological sites, and there’s not a mountain, river bed or quarry in sight. We see granite that’s been impacted by comets, 400 million year old squid fossils on the steps of St Paul’s, a Jurassic beach right here at the BBC and finish with a geological pub stop. Preserving the Local Taste of Cheese The taste, smell and appearance of a cheese come from the native bacteria in the initial raw milk. Due to increasing regulations for milk pasteurization, cheeses are losing their particular flavours and authenticity. In Normandy, in France, cheesemakers started working with researchers to set up a microbial bank in order to save the microorganisms responsible for the cheesy flavours. [Photo: ‘The Man in the Moon’ - open eye is Mare Imbrium crater. Credit: BBC]

Wildfires – What Can Science Tell Us About Them?  

Wildfires have been hitting the headlines this year. But is the frequency and intensity of wildfires on the increase? Can science and mapping be used more globally to mitigate the devastation and understand the causes and effects? And will a warming climate mean bigger risk? Coral Microscope The invention of an underwater microscope is allowing scientists to see how corals behave in their natural environment in great detail. Primate Archaeology Researchers from Oxford University, working in Brazil, found ancient "nut-cracking tools" - 700-year-old stone hammers that capuchin monkeys used to open cashew nuts. Faecal Transplants Faecal transplants are becoming more and more popular to treat gut syndromes and auto-immune diseases. Bacteria are suspected to be the main actors behind the beneficial effects. However, stool actually contains an extremely diverse ecosystem and studying each species separately might be misleading. Neutrinos Results from an experiment that fires neutrinos across the width of Japan could explain the tiny differences in matter and anti-matter that allow the Universe to exist. According to our current understanding at the Big Bang equal amount of matter and antimatter were created. But this provides a problem, because when a matter particle meets its antimatter counterpart they disappear leaving behind just a flash of energy. Professor Hirohisa Tanaka explains that a tiny difference between neutrinos and their antimatter counterparts could be showing the difference that allowed 1 ten billionth of the matter at the Big Bang to survive and create everything we see around us today Past and Future of Zika Virus The Zika virus outbreak in Latin America and the Caribbean has been raging for over a year, and some scientists are thinking that the outbreak might have hit its peak. But what will happen in the future, will this be an end to the outbreak or will Zika continue to cause problems in the area for decades to come. Understanding where the virus came from and knowledge of how related viruses, like dengue and Yellow Fever, behaved when they were introduced into the Americas may provide some important insights. Picture: US Fires, credit: Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Image Presenter: Roland Pease Producer: Fiona Roberts

Robotic Ray  

The latest soft-bodied robot mimics marine life. A ray, built from a gold skeleton with a layer of heart cells. The cardiac cells, originating from a mouse, have their DNA engineered to be responsive to light. Specific wavelengths are able to trigger heart cells to contract, leading to forward thrust and spin. The robot is able to be guided through a small obstacle course. It is the result of a multi-disciplinary project involving optogenetics, robotics, biomaterials and art. This robot aims to better understand the ability of cardiac cells to act on fluids like blood. Juno There was great excitement this week, as NASA’s Juno Probe arrives at Jupiter. The daring mission to get close to the giant planet, has taken more than 5 years to reach the point of orbit. Juno is constructed like an armoured tank, to protect it from Jupiter’s intense radiation, which could disrupt most spacecraft electronics. Dolly the Sheep 20 years ago this week, Dolly the first cloned sheep was born, this was heralded as a huge breakthrough in biomedical science. The Science in Action team discuss where we are we now with animal cloning. the Universe In order to understand our Universe, and try to work out what things like dark energy and dark matter are, we have to build simulation models. The universe is just too big to observe everything directly. The problem with the current models though, is they are prone to inaccuracies because of the chaotic nature of the Universe and they have to be run on huge super-computers, many hundreds of times, to get any accurate results. But researchers at UCL have come up with a clever way to model the universe where you only have to run two models – so long as one is the mirror opposite of the other. Freeing up time and computer power to test ideas more fully. Picture credit: Tissue-engineered soft-robotic ray/[Karaghen Hudson and Michael Rosnach Presenter: Roland Pease Producer: Fiona Roberts

Antarctic Ozone Hole Is Finally Closing  

Thirty years ago researchers linked the Ozone Hole in Antarctica with the use of chlorine- and bromine-based sprays. There followed an immediate worldwide ban. Scientists only very recently detected the slow healing process in the Ozone layer at the South Pole. However, external factors, such as atmospheric particles resulting from recent volcanic eruptions, are disrupting this recovery. Amazon Rainforest The Amazonian rainforest is at risk from human activities even in protected areas. Quantification of biodiversity reveals a significant drop near the site of human activities compared to pristine areas. Current management standards and climate change also leave the forest much more prone to large-scale fires. Helium Discovery Helium is becoming a scarce resource on Earth. It’s critical for the medical and nuclear industries. The ultra-light gas is easily lost to the atmosphere and space. The gas is usually discovered by accident during oil and gas drilling. But now, a team of UK scientists and Norwegian prospectors have been specifically looking for helium and they have just detected a large helium gas field in the African Rift Valley, probably of volcanic origin. Undead genes Researchers at the University of Washington measured unexpected post-mortem activity of genes linked to embryonic development and cancer in animal tissues. The causes are unknown but they suspect a slow unravelling of the DNA three-dimensional structure, exposing these previously hidden genes. Gene activity last up to four days post-mortem and could have applications in forensics to accurately pinpoint the time of death. Programme image: Results of a new study show that the Montreal Protocol’s efforts to control ozone-depleting substances are helping to “heal” the Antarctic ozone hole. Presenter: Roland Pease Producer: Fiona Roberts

Electric Wind on Venus  

Results from the NASA/ESA Venus Express mission reveal that the planet has an unusually strong ‘electric wind’ which could explain why there is so little water on the surface. The electric wind is the force that holds onto negatively charged electrons in the Venusian atmosphere and sucks positively charged hydrogen and oxygen ions (from water) off into space. Coupled with other atmosphere stripping factors, such as solar wind, it could help explain why Venus is so different from its near neighbour Earth. Oldest Antarctic Ice Found The importance of analysing the trapped past atmospheres contained in bubbles in ice cores is invaluable to our understanding of our climate. Until now, ice cores drilled in Antarctica only go back to 800,000 years old. But geologists exploring a little known valley, high up in the Trans-Antarctic Mountain chain have discovered ice that is more than a million years old. And they did not have to use expensive drills to get it, just a shovel! The ice was under a thin layer of debris, pushed up from the deep. Nuclear Fusion Disappointment This week spells bad news for the National Ignition Facility (or NIF) in California. The project, which aims to reproduce the fusion processes of the Sun with the help of the most powerful lasers on Earth has been called into doubt. An external official enquiry has just said that after seven years experimenting, the fusion will not catch light. Dating Extinction How can you say when a species went extinct when there are so many gaps in the fossil record? And why does it matter? (Image caption: Artist's concept of the electric wind at Venus. Rays represent the paths that oxygen and hydrogen ions take as they are pulled out of the upper atmosphere © NASA/Goddard/Conceptual Image Lab, Krystofer Kim) Presenter: Roland Pease Producer: Fiona Roberts

Mapping the Ocean Floor  

We still know less than 95% of what the sea floor looks like. Even shallow coastal waters are poorly mapped. Oceanographers are meeting in Monaco this week to discuss how to measure the landscape under the world’s oceans. Predicting The Indian Monsoon Robots dive into the Bay of Bengal to understand the Indian Monsoon. The weather system that creates the Indian Monsoon is notoriously difficult to model, this leads to inaccurate forecasts of start date and intensity that can lead to devastation for local residents and farmers. A team of oceanographers and scientists from the University of East Anglia are going to be out at sea during the monsoon and using underwater robots to map current flows and measure sea temperature. The Monsoon is driven by moisture and temperature being picked up by the atmosphere as it passes over the Bay. By measuring how currents mix salty water from Arabian Sea with fresh colder water from the Ganges a better understanding of how the Monsoon is driven can be gathered. Gravitational Wave Detected Again The team at LIGO (The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory) have done it again with a Christmas day detection of two black holes colliding. Leading on from the first detection last September the team have this time detected gravitational waves from two smaller black holes where the collision lasted for a longer time. With the prolonged collision more information could be gathered and one of the black holes was seen to be rotating, the first such observational proof that black holes spin. Green Mining Wales in the UK has 1300 rivers with illegal levels of heavy metals. Toxic metals like lead, zinc and copper are a legacy left over from when the area was heavily mined. Natural Resources Wales and Innovate UK set a competition to look for technology that would clean up these rivers. One of the winners was Steve Skill from Swansea University, who has come up with some biotechnology that uses algae to suck the poison out of the rivers. Presenter: Roland Pease Producer: Fiona Roberts Image: 2005, from the HOTRAX (Healy-Oden Trans Arctic Expedition), credit: Martin Jakobsson

Fast Storage of CO2 in Volcanic Rock  

Atmospheric carbon dioxide injected into volcanic rock as part of a pilot project in Iceland was almost completely mineralized, or converted to carbonate minerals, in less than two years. The results suggest that basaltic rocks may be effective sinks for storing carbon dioxide removed from the atmosphere. New Flores Hominin Fossils An international team of researchers has uncovered the fossilised remains of ancient hominins in Indonesia, which appear to be the ancestors of Homo floresiensis, the tiny species of human, affectionately dubbed the ‘Hobbit’, that stood at just one metre tall. Hatching Shell-less Eggs Japanese school kids from Oihama High School near Tokyo have put up a video online showing how they hatched chickens from shell-less eggs. By following a scientific protocol, published 2 years ago in Japan’s Journal of Poultry Science, the technique involves a plastic cup, some air-permeable plastic wrap, calcium supplements in distilled water, pure oxygen and a standard incubator. The video, the pupils posted online, shows the embryo developing. Very early on you can see the eye forming and the tiny heart beating. They managed to hatch 8 of the 14 eggs they tried. Other Uses for Egg Shells Egg shells can be used as a disinfectant. When they are ground up, heated and put in water, they increase the pH and deter microbial growth. When egg shells are ground up to the nanoscale, they can be used with polymers to improve the strength of biodegradable plastic. Lisa Pathfinder Success The mission to demonstrate technologies needed to detect gravitational waves in space has been a stunning success. The Lisa Pathfinder satellite was sent into orbit to test elements of the laser measurement system that would be used on a future observatory. Performance objectives were exceeded on the very first day the equipment was switched on. Algal blooms in Chile Chilean scientists are trying to work out whether bad practice at salmon fisheries, themselves devastated by an algal bloom, is responsible for the poisoning of the shell fisheries. Or was the devastating ‘red tide’ a natural phenomenon, made worse by El Nino conditions? Image: CarbFix pilot CO2 injection site during CO2 injection in March 2011. Credit: Martin Stute

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