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The Science Hour

BBC

Science news and highlights of the week

Science news and highlights of the week

Location:

United Kingdom

Networks:

BBC

Description:

Science news and highlights of the week

Language:

English


Episodes

The final moments of DART

10/1/2022
NASA’s latest mission, DART hit the headlines this week after the space agency’s satellite successfully collided with a far off asteroid. The mission acts as a demonstration of Earth’s first planetary defence system. Jon Amos, one of BBC’s Science correspondents, talks Roland through the final moments of the DART satellite. Although the collision was a success, we may have to wait a little longer before we know if the asteroid’s trajectory has been altered… Simone Pirrotta, project manager...

Duration:00:54:29

Should we mine the deep sea?

9/24/2022
The first license of its kind has been granted for deep-sea mining. It will be used to run early tests to see whether the seabed could be good place to harvest rare earth materials in the future. These earth minerals are what powers much of our modern technology, and the demand is growing year on year. The license raises ethical questions about whether anyone has ownership over the seabed, and whether we could be disrupting ecosystems under the sea in doing so. We have two experts joining us...

Duration:00:53:51

Science and the causes behind Pakistan’s floods

9/18/2022
A new report by the World Weather Attribution consortium demonstrates the impact of global warming on flooding in Pakistan. The consortium are helping to assess the link between humanitarian disasters and global change, faster than ever before. The work, conducted by a team of statisticians, climate experts, and local weather experts, is part of an emerging field in science called Extreme Event Attribution, and can reliably provide assessments in the immediate aftermath of an extreme weather...

Duration:00:57:15

The genetics of human intelligence

9/10/2022
Early humans and Neanderthals had similar-sized brains but around 6 million years ago something happened that gave us the intellectual edge. The answer may lie in a tiny mutation in a single gene that meant more neurons could develop in a crucial part of the brain. Post-doctoral research scientist at the Max Plank Institute of Molecular Biology and Genetics, Anneline Pinson, did the heavy lifting on the research under the supervision of Wieland Huttner. They discuss with Roland how this...

Duration:00:31:03

The China Heatwave and the New Normal

9/4/2022
Hot on the tail of China’s heatwave comes the other side of the extreme coin – tragic flooding. Also, a coming global shortage of sulfur, while scientists produce useful oxygen on Mars in the MOXIE experiment. Prof Chunzai Wang is the Director of the State Key Laboratory of Tropical Oceanography in Guangzhou, China. He tells Roland about the surprising nature of the extreme temperatures and droughts much of China has been experiencing, and how they are connected to so many of the...

Duration:00:55:26

Surprises from a Martian Lake Bed

8/28/2022
The Jezero Crater on Mars was targeted by Nasa’s Perseverence rover because from orbit, there was strong evidence it had at some point contained a lake. When the Mars 2020 mission landed, it didn’t take long to spot rocks protruding from the bottom that looked for all the world like sedimentary rocks – implying they were laid down from the liquid water and maybe perhaps even contain signs of past life. This week, the science team have published some of their analysis from the first 9 months...

Duration:00:54:29

Deadly drought

8/20/2022
East Africa has endured more than two years on continuous drought. The latest predictions suggest the drought is not likely to end any time soon. We look at why climate change and weather patterns in the Pacific and Indian oceans are largely to blame. Andrea Taschetto, chief investigator at the Centre on Climate Extremes at the University of New South Wales discusses the latest predictions Drought has also been an issue in Europe, comparable with events nearly 500 years ago. Chantal...

Duration:00:55:21

Icelandic volcano erupts again

8/14/2022
We talk to volcano scientist Ed Marshall in Iceland about working at the volcano which has burst into life spectacularly again after a year of quiet. Also in the programme, we'll be following migrating moths across Europe in light aircraft to discover the remarkable secrets of their powers of navigation, and hearing how synthetic biology promises to create smarter and more adaptable genetically engineered crops. Imagine waking up to the smell of freshly baked bread. Doesn’t it make your...

Duration:00:55:25

Synthetic mouse embryos with brains and hearts

8/7/2022
This week two research groups announced that they have made synthetic mouse embryos that developed brains and beating hearts in the test tube, starting only with embryonic stem cells. No sperm and eggs were involved. Previously, embryos created this way have never got beyond the stage of being a tiny ball of cells. These embryos grew and developed organs through 8 days – more than a third of the way through the gestation period for a mouse. Roland Pease talks to the leader of one of the...

Duration:00:56:40

The first galaxies at the universe's dawn

7/30/2022
In the last week, teams of astronomers have rushed to report ever deeper views of the universe thanks to the James Webb Space Telescope. These are galaxies of stars more than 13.5 billion light years from us and we see them as they were when the universe was in its infancy, less than 300 million years after the Big Bang. As University of Texas astronomer Steve Finkelstein tell us, there are some real surprises in these glimpses of the cosmic dawn. The super-distant galaxy that Steve's group...

Duration:00:55:12

Heat waves in the Northern Hemisphere

7/23/2022
The extreme heat wave in western Europe over the last couple of weeks is just one of many in the Northern Hemisphere in 2022. How is global warming changing the atmosphere to make heat waves more frequent and more intense? We talk to climatologists Hannah Cloke, Friederike Otto and Efi Rousi. If we want to stabilise global warming to two degrees by the end of the century, how are we going to do that? One novel idea is to harness the world's vast railway infrastructure and equip freight and...

Duration:00:56:38

First images from the James Webb Space Telescope

7/16/2022
Roland Pease talks to two astronomers who began working on the James Webb Space Telescope more than two decades ago and have now seen the first spectacular results of their labours. Marcia Rieke of the University of Arizona and JWST's senior project scientist John Mather discuss the highlights of the first four images. Also in the programme, geologists discover precisely where on the Red Planet the most ancient Martian meteorite came from - we speak to Anthony Lagain whose detective work...

Duration:01:03:24

Long Covid ‘brain fog’

7/11/2022
Following a bout of Covid-19, a significant number of people suffer with weeks or months of 'brain fog' - poor concentration, forgetfulness, and confusion. This is one of the manifestations of Long Covid. A team of scientists in the United States has now discovered that infection in the lung can trigger an inflammatory response which then causes patterns of abnormal brain cell activity. It’s the kind of brain cell dysregulation also seen in people who experience cognitive problems following...

Duration:01:05:04

Extreme heat death risk in Latin America

7/3/2022
Audio for this episode was updated on 8th July. A new analysis of deaths in cities across Latin America suggests rising global temperatures could lead to large numbers of deaths in the region and elsewhere in the world. Even a 1-degree rise in extreme heat can add 6% to the risk of dying. Lead researcher Josiah Kephart at Drexel University tells Roland Pease the lessons from Latin America should apply to cities across the global south. Brazilian ecologist Andreas Meyer talks about the...

Duration:01:03:43

Monster microbe

6/26/2022
Researchers have discovered a species of bacteria which dwarfs all others by thousands of times. Normally you need a microscope to see single-celled bacteria, but Thiomargarita magnifica is the length and width of an eyelash. It's been found growing in mangrove swamps in the Caribbean. Roland Pease talks to Jean Marie Volland about what makes this Godzilla of the microbial world extra-special. Also in the programme, a new study published in the journal Nature has discovered that women...

Duration:01:09:14

Thirty years after the Earth Summit

6/18/2022
Thirty years ago, world leaders met at the United Nations Earth Summit in Rio and appeared to commit to action to tackle two of the world's greatest environmental threats. The Earth Summit launched the UN Climate Change Convention and the Convention on Biological Diversity. Science in Action assesses their success by talking to atmospheric scientist Sir Bob Watson, a former chair of the International Panel of Climate Change, and to Tom Oliver, professor of applied ecology at the University...

Duration:01:02:28

Body scan reveals HIV's hideouts

6/11/2022
Researchers have developed a medical imaging technique which reveals where in the body HIV lies hidden, even when people have their infection well controlled by antiviral drugs. The team at the University of California, San Francisco hope this will lead to better treatments and even cures for HIV. As Timothy Henrich told us, they are also going to use the technique to investigate the notion that Long Covid is caused by the coronavirus persisting deep in the body's tissues. Also in the...

Duration:01:01:01

Should we worry about the latest Omicron subvariants?

6/4/2022
Should we worry about the most recent Omicron subvariants, BA 4 and BA5? They are the subtypes of the Covid-19 virus now dominant in southern Africa and spreading elsewhere. New research suggests that they are better at evading our antibody defences than other forms of the virus. Columbia University virologist David Ho explains the findings and what they means for us. Also, reducing air pollution makes agricultural crops grow better, how large wildfires warm the upper atmosphere, and the...

Duration:00:57:03

Heat death by volcano and other stories

5/28/2022
This week Science in Action comes from a vast gathering of earth scientists in Vienna, at the general assembly of the European Geosciences Union. Roland Pease hears the latest insights into the cataclysmic eruption of Hunga Tonga in the Pacific ocean from volcanologist Shane Cronin of the University of Auckland. He also talks to NASA's Michael Way about how the planet Venus might have acquired its hellish super-greenhouse atmosphere, and how the same thing could happen to planet Earth....

Duration:00:56:47

Death in the rainforest

5/21/2022
Tree mortality in tropical moist forests in Australia has been increasing since the mid 1980s. The death rate of trees appears to have doubled over that time period. According to an international team of researchers, the primary cause is drier air in these forests, the consequence of human-induced climate change. According to ecologist David Bauman, a similar process is likely underway in tropical forests on other continents. Also in the programme: the outbreaks of monkeypox in Europe and...

Duration:00:58:55