The Science Hour

By BBC World Service

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Science news and highlights of the week

Episode Date
Antarctic Ice Melt
Antarctic ice melt The rate of sea level rise from melting ice sheets and ice shelves in Antarctica has trebled in the past 5 years due to global warming. Satellite data is showing that ice loss from Antarctica has increased global sea levels by 7.6mm since 1992 and could reach 15 cm by the end of the century. Andy Shepherd from IMBIE, which stands for Ice-sheet Mass Balance Intercomparison Exercise, talks to Roland Pease about the problem. Hip Impingement The World Cup has started and one condition that tends to affect one or two footballers in each squad is Femoroacetabular impingement syndrome or “hip impingement syndrome”. We are born with a round ball in a round socket, but sometimes the ball becomes more egg-shaped or is not perfectly round, which means it can jam in the socket. One option is physiotherapy, surgery is another, but it is a major operation and has a long recovery time. So Damian Griffin, Professor of Trauma and Orthopaedic Surgery at the University of Warwick and an international team have been developing a new keyhole surgery technique. He spoke to Claudia Hammond about it. e-Waste China is exporting 20,000 tonnes of electronic waste to Nigeria every year, according to a new study. This is the first time that e-waste has been traced from Asia to Africa. Researchers monitored two ports in Lagos and found that almost 70% of the e-waste reaching Lagos arrived inside vehicles destined for Nigeria's second hand auto market. Professor Percy Onianwa from the Basel Convention Coordinating Centre for Africa spoke to Gareth Mitchell about the problem. Earthquake prediction Earth scientists can’t forecast earthquakes but they can give generalised forecasts. The simplest approach has always been to look at what’s happened in the past. Nowadays, because we know earthquakes mostly (but not uniquely) happen where the Earth’s plates grind against each other, maps of plate motions can show where the danger is building up most. Thousands of GPS stations have made those maps very accurate. Ross Stein, founder of the quake awareness foundation TEMBLOR, has been backing a model called GEAR – the Global Earthquake Activity Rate model and this week, we’ve been able to see the forecast of quake activity made in 2015 and to compare it with what’s actually happened since. He spoke to Roland Pease. Male anatomy A German urologist called Dr Oliver Gralla is determined that men should become more comfortable with talking about their penises. His new book “Happy Down Below” was prompted by some of the more unusual cases he came across whilst working night shifts in the emergency room. He spoke to Claudia Hammond. "The exercise of singing is delightful to nature, and good to preserve the health of man". Four hundred years ago the English Composer, William Byrd, knew something that researchers working in the 21st century have now confirmed with evidence; that singing is good for our health, both mentally and physically. The latest findings were on display at the National Centre for Early Music in York in the North of England. Jack Meegan went to find out more. What Shapes Our Musical Taste? What sounds heavenly to one person might sound like boring noise to another - but why are our musical preferences so different? Marnie Chesterton asks Dr Catherine Loveday, a Principal Lecturer in Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Westminster, about what influences our musical tastes. The Science Hour was presented by Claudia Hammond with comments from Clare Wilson from the New Scientist. Producer: Katy Takatsuki (Photo: Summer clouds swirl in around the Staccato Peaks of Alexander Island, Antarctic Peninsula. High snowfall and strong weather gradients in this mountainous area make assessment of glacier mass balance particularly challenging. Credit: Hamish Pritchar)
Jun 16, 2018
Dinosaur Auction
This week an auction of a 70% complete dinosaur skeleton took place in Paris. The Therapod species, dating from the late Jurassic period about 155m years ago is scientifically very interesting. It’s an unknown predator which, argues the Society of Vertebrate Palaeontologists, is why it should not be owned by the highest bidder, but made available to palaeontologists for more scientific study. Roland Pease reports. Cancer Test If a doctor suspects cancer is behind a patient’s symptoms, blood tests and scans can help to detect tumours. Tiny bits of tissue can also be extracted in biopsies to see how advanced the disease is. Detecting cancer early offers a better chance of a cure. So news of a potential blood test to detect ten different types has been welcomed this week. Claudia Hammond spoke to Jacqui Shaw, Professor of Translational Cancer Genetics at Leicester University in the UK. Atlantic Hurricanes The 1st of June marks the start of the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season. Leading climate scientists debate whether we will see fewer or more tropical cyclones in the Atlantic as a consequence of anthropogenic climate change. There is a mounting consensus, however, that we will see more intense hurricanes. So do we need to add a more severe Category 6 to the Saffir-Simpson hurricane intensity scale? Roland Pease put this to climate scientist Michael Mann from Penn State University. Cancer Immunotherapy Treatment Immunotherapies for cancer have been in the news in the last week. Adam Rutherford talks to cancer researchers Sophie Papa of Kings College, London and Samra Turaljik of the Royal Marsden Hospital about the principles behind immunotherapy about the different approaches in the clinic and under clinical trials. Kenya Food App Getting access to loans in Kenya for small retailers can be tricky, but now cryptocurrency could solve this problem. Twiga Foods already provides marketplaces via an online platform for farmers and urban retailers. Now it is branching out to provide micro-loans secured via blockchain technology. CEO of Twiga Grant Brooke explains more to Gareth Mitchell. The Science Of Disgust Encouraging people to be healthier can involve gentle persuasion or giving some kind of incentive. Harnessing the most visceral of emotions – disgust – might not seem an obvious approach. Professor Val Curtis from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine has carried out an online survey in order to categorise the commonest types of disgust in order to harness its effects to fight against the spread of disease. She spoke to Claudia Hammond. The Science Hour was presented by Marnie Chesterton with comments from Kerri Smith, Nature features editor. Producer: Katy Takatsuki (Image caption: A skeleton of an undeterminate carnivorous dinosaur on display at the first floor of the Eiffel Tower in Paris which went on auction © AFP / Getty Images)
Jun 09, 2018
Pluto Dunes
When the New Horizons space probe flew past Pluto three years ago, it revealed an expectedly exotic little world. The latest revelation from the data is that dunes creep across its surface. But as John Spencer of the South West Research Institute explains, these dunes are not made of sand grain, but tiny particles of frozen methane. Then again, it is minus 240 degrees Celsius on Pluto. Plenty, a Silicon Valley company plans to revolutionize farming by bringing it indoors and dramatically reducing water use. It has ambitious plans to replicate its warehouse farms in Japan, China and across Europe. Alison van Diggelen explores: the veracity of its technology; its environmental claims; its use of AI and automation; and how it plans to disrupt the agricultural industry. India is tackling an outbreak of the deadly Nipah virus. It has claimed at least 13 lives so far in the southern state, Kerala. The WHO has Nipah on its list as one of eight diseases that could cause a global epidemic. 40% of adults report that they have trouble falling asleep at least a couple of times a month. Common worries about the day’s events and what lies ahead can result in restlessness and low sleep quality. A new study shows that writing a to-do list before bed may help you to nod off faster A 10 kilometre wide asteroid wiped out 75% of life (including the dinosaurs) 66 million years ago. So it’s been a shock to discover this week that life rapidly returned, flourished and diversified at very place where the asteroid crashed into the Earth. Sean Gulick and Chris Lowery of the University of Texas in Austin talks about their discoveries and how they relate to today’s mass extinction crisis. Is Fasting Healthy? Marnie Chestherton cuts down on cookies and investigates the science behind low-calorie or time-restricted eating. She hears how some cells regenerate when we're deprived of food, which one researcher says could reduce breast cancer rates. The coldest place in the universe will be created shortly on the International Space Station. This will be in a box called the Cold Atom Lab installed on the station earlier this week. Lasers and magnets will cool a strange cloud of atoms to within a few fractions of a billionth of a degree above absolute zero. The Lab’s creator is physicist Rob Thompson of Nasa’s JPL in Pasadena. Picture: Image of Pluto taken by the New Horizons space probe. Credit: Credit the picture (note, don't capitalise names)
Jun 02, 2018
CO2 Impact on Rice
Increased CO2 and Rice Nutrition New research suggests that rice will be depleted in important B vitamins and minerals by rising CO2 levels in the atmosphere. Adam Rutherford to talks to Kristie Ebi of the University of Washington, one of the scientists behind the finding, and Marco Springmann of the Future of Food project at the University of Oxford. GDPR Legislation to greater protect individuals’ data in the EU has come into force. What does it mean, and will there be unexpected consequences for the use of metadata? Gareth Mitchell talks to Claire Bury from the EU commission and Luukas Ilves, Deputy Director at The Lisbon Council. Polio Vaccination As vaccinations start in the Democratic Republic of Congo to try to contain the ebola outbreak, scientists in the United States have published research which they hope will help to simplify immunisations against diseases like polio. Eradication is tricky because the vaccine needs to be given in multiple doses. However, researchers at MIT say they have successfully vaccinated animals with just one injection. Claudia Hammond speaks to researcher Ana Jaklenec. Feel Good Garden Claudia Hammond visits the RHS Feel Good Garden at the Chelsea Flower Show. The garden is part of the 70th birthday celebrations for the NHS and was proposed by occupational therapist Andrew Kingston and designed by Matt Keightley to highlight the benefits of gardening for mental health. African Bee Parasites The presence of queen bees in a hive prevents them from being taking over by ‘parasite’ bees, a new study has found. Fiona Mumoki of the University of Pretoria explains to Roland Pease how the parasitic bees take over queenless hives, eventually causing hive collapse, and how the presence of a queen can enable hive fight back against the parasites. Drone Dog Rescue An engineer in India repurposed a drone to rescue a puppy that had fallen into a gully in New Delhi. Milind Raj constructed a giant claw that was attached to the drone. Raj says it took him six hours to assemble the improvised aerial vehicle. He says he attached an Artificial Intelligence-controlled robotic arm and giant drone together in his Lucknow lab which was then used to rescue the dog. Picture: A man holds a handful of rice grains at a market on July 17, 2008 in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images The Science Hour was presented by Gareth Mitchell with comments from BBC science reporter Helen Briggs. Producer: Katy Takatsuki
May 26, 2018