Science in Action

Science in Action

United States

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


North Korean Nuclear Bombs  

What we know and don’t know about North Korea’s nuclear programme. Last week North Korea tested their sixth nuclear warhead since 2006. The bomb they detonated in an underground cave was the biggest one yet. North Korean state media claimed they have developed a hydrogen bomb. Scientists from all over the world are looking for signs and signals to help determine exactly what’s going on in the secretive state and to see how developed their nuclear weapons programme actually is. The trouble is, they don’t have much to go on. Seismic shaking and possible radioactive elements released into the atmosphere coupled with pictures put out by Korean media are adding up to a worrying picture of a possible 100 kiloton thermonuclear weapon. Aquaponics Roland Pease visits Benz Kotzen at the EU Aquaponics Hub to learn how a contained system of growing fish and plants can provide a sustainable way of feeding people in developing nations. Recycling Waste disposal is a growing concern as nations run out of space and ecosystems are increasingly polluted. How do we safely get rid of non-biodegradable plastics? Microorganisms may hold the key for turning household waste into biodegradable plastic and perhaps one day even into food. Picture: North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un looking at a metal casing with two bulges at an undisclosed location, Credit: STR/AFP/Getty Images

Forecasting Hurricane Harvey  

Hurricane Harvey has killed at least 31 people so far. Global collaborations enabled scientists to accurately predict Harvey four days before it hit Houston. This is a huge improvement in predictions since hurricane Katrina in 2005. How have these improvements come about and can we expect even better predictions in the future? A flood-damaged plant near Houston has exploded and emitted chemicals. What caused the explosion and what can we expect to happen? Two weeks from its death-plunge into Saturn’s atmosphere, the Cassini spacecraft has approached a completely unexplored region between Saturn’s rings. Data sent backs reveals that the rings are younger than expected. New research reveals that birds may be able to sing intricate melodies thanks to their physiology rather than because of neural complexity as previously believed. Moving beyond anecdotal knowledge, science has finally found the neural basis for contagious yawning. The PETM was the greatest warming event in Earth’s history. New research reveals that the warming was caused by a large volcanic event. How far can we use the PETM to better our understanding of our current warming event? Picture: Epic Flooding Inundates Houston After Hurricane Harvey, credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images Presenter: Roland Pease Producer: Caroline Steel

Preventing Flood Damage in South Asia  

Floods in South Asia have claimed the lives of over 800 people. International collaboration is required to repair rivers and coasts in order to avoid such a high toll in the future. The first legal online rhino horn auction opened yesterday. South African rhino breeders often de-horn their animals in order to avoid poaching, they hope to legally sell these horns to raise funds for protecting rhino against poaching. A new study urges scientists to consider cultural superstitions, legends and myths when working to conserve animals and habitats. The Amazon pink river dolphin is heralded as a shape-shifter, and in the Caribbean, owls are thought to be witches that suck out the brains of sleeping locals. These myths should be respected and understood to enable scientists to work with local people to conserve species. A new study reports using virtual reality to study the physiology and behaviour of fish, mice and flies. These animals aren’t wearing tiny VR glasses, but instead are living in a world made up of projections. When a dairy cow becomes infected with bacteria causing bovine mastitis, the milk must be disposed of and the cow treated with expensive antibiotics. Farmers in Chile are reducing infection rates by lining milking tanks with copper which has antibacterial properties. (Photo caption: An Indian man wades along a flooded street during a heavy downpour in Agartala © Arindam Dey/AFP/Getty Images) Presenter: Roland Pease Producer: Caroline Steel

The Algae that Changed the Earth  

The earliest life forms on Earth were bacteria, but three billion years ago, life was suddenly transformed. Eukaryotes - precursors to all plants and animals - took over. The evidence has only just been found in algae microfossils. In August and September 1977, Nasa's probes Voyager 2 and Voyager 1 were launched. Since then the two spacecraft have been exploring our Solar System and interstellar space. Exceeding all expectations, the probes have taught us so much about our planets and beyond. The Voyager mission's chief scientist, Professor Ed Stone, looks back over Voyager's highlights. Much like Europe, South Africa is experiencing an increase in the number of undocumented migrants. Who, when they die, can be hard to identify. Forensic scientists are looking at radioisotopes to try to work out the origin of migrants whose journey has tragically ended in the mortuary. On Monday 21st of August 2017, a 70km wide stripe of the continental United States will go dark, as the Moon blocks out the Sun. It has been nearly a century since the United States experienced a total solar eclipse from coast to coast. Presenter: Roland Pease Producer: Caroline Steel Main image: Algae floods in a pond (Credit: Getty Images, Alex Wong)

The Biggest Explosions in the Universe  

An international team of scientists have captured the biggest explosions in the Universe in unprecedented detail for the first time. These Gamma Ray Bursts sometimes last for just a few milliseconds, but for that time are trillions of times brighter than our Sun. The chance of capturing one of these rare bursts, which occur just as a dying star collapses into a black hole, is just an incredible one-in-10,000. Sight and Sound Despite the intuitive feeling that we can listen to something whilst looking elsewhere, our visual and auditory perceptions are - from the earliest points - processed together in the brain. Sight and sound work together to build up a picture of the world around us, and when the two senses aren’t aligned our brains have to work much harder to filter out distractions. Although this relationship is largely unexplored, it could tell us more about how to aid those with hearing impairments and even what effect technology, such as smartphones, might be having on our ability to concentrate. Old animals We humans like to think we live long lives, some of us are lucky enough to make it into triple digits. But we can’t compare to the humble tubeworm, casually hanging around on the ocean floor and researchers have discovered that they can live up to 300 years old! Iceland’s Molten Rock Origins Iceland’s volcanoes are one of the country’s most famous geological features. The island sits on a volcano hot spot and straddles two tectonic plates, the Eurasian and North American plates, otherwise known as the North Atlantic Ridge - making it highly volcanically active. New research into the Volcano Hot Spot under Iceland has revealed something unusual. New measurements of the Mantle region within Earth, appears to be feeding material in the form of a plume to the surface, where Iceland is located. Picture: Star being destroyed, Credit: Nasa Presenter: Roland Pease Producer: Jack Meegan

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