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BBC World Service - Science in Action

Science in Action

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

Science in Action

  • Climate Change Missing Target
    The latest climate talks have heard that emissions this year and last have increased - they fell in the 3 years previously. Development of electric vehicles and energy generation with renewable technologies have helped reduce emissions, but it’s not enough according to the latest analysis. The growth of conventional energy generation using fossil fuels has dwarfed reduction from using cleaner technologies. Ammonia pollution is a serious issue for health globally. New satellite observations are able to pinpoint sources from factories to chicken farms worldwide. Changes in laws in the Amazon designed to make the conservation of forests in private hands easier could have the opposite effect. In a strange statistical quirk, if a state is successful in its conservation efforts more private forestry could be made available for development. And the maths of Democracy, can analytical systems developed to help understand stem cell growth or the behaviour of social insects be used to help understand the function and dysfunction of political systems? Researchers suggest such analysis could even be used to predict a change in political direction, in the run up to elections for example. (Picture: Wind turbine, Credit: Getty images) Presenter: Roland Pease Producer: Julian Siddle

  • Gene Editing Controversy
    A researcher in China claims to have modified the genes of two baby girls. His announcement at a genetics conference in Hong Kong caused outrage. Experts in the field were quick to point out the dangers of the technique he had used and questioned the ethics of doing such an experiment. Scientists in Cambridge have successfully grown human placental tissue. This is not for transplant into humans, but to provide a model to help understand problems in early pregnancy which can affect both mother and baby. Mercury in the Arctic is a toxic problem for people and wildlife. It’s not produced there, but comes from industrial processes around the world. Scientists have discovered about half the mercury transported to the Arctic each year comes from Russian rivers after it is released from melting permafrost (Picture: He Jiankui. Credit: Getty images) Presenter: Roland Pease Producer: Julian Siddle

  • Goodbye Jet Engine?
    The 1960s concept of ‘Ionic Wind’ has been successfully put to the test in a new kind of electric airplane. The plane has no motors and uses the exchange of ions in the air to propel itself. Larger versions could carry goods and passengers and would produce far less pollution than conventional aircraft. The death of the kilogram. The ancient lumps of metal that provided the standard measures. have been replaced with a mathematical formula that should not deteriorate over time. Whale music, how Humpbacks learn new tunes. How ancient teeth helped track the development of dairy farming. From the Vikings to the Mongols, the plaque on Bronze Age teeth reveals a milk based diet. (Picture: The futuristic electric aircraft with no motors powered by ‘Ionic Wind’. Credit: Credit: Steven Barrett (MIT) Presenter: Roland Pease Producer: Julian Siddle

  • Science in Trump’s America
    In the US mid-term elections, the Democrats gained a majority in the lower house, this means they take control of key committees – including the House Science Committee. Over recent years, this once bipartisan committee has been used by Republicans to push a climate change-denying agenda. Now the Democrats will regain control and the chair elect says she will be reinforcing that climate change is real and doing more to encourage participation in science at a grassroots level particularly with minorities who are currently under represented. We ask what this and other changes to science administration mean for the future of science under Donald Trump’s presidency. Environmental policies and his generally anti-science attitude are likely to come under greater scrutiny. We’ll also look at the California fires, which seem to be increasing in frequency. Is this due to climate change or other human intervention or changes in natural processes? And new research into hurricanes suggests human activity is making them more severe than they would otherwise be. In this case the built environment has become part of the problem, with the density of buildings in cities contributing to increases in wind speeds and a reduction in drainage for floodwaters. (Picture: Donald Trump. Credit: Getty images) Presenter: Roland Pease Producer: Julian Siddle