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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

  • Detecting earthquakes with Fibre Optics
    Los Angeles is famously earthquake prone, but it is also known for its technological advancement, being close to the heart of the computer industry. Seismologists have developed a new system which uses redundant capacity on fibre optic networks across the city to detect earthquakes. Also in the programme the end of Opportunity – the legacy of the Mars Rover designed to have a working life of just 3 months, which continued to explore the Martian surface for 14 years. And we look at fish and coral. How best can coral reefs be encouraged to regrow after destructive extreme weather events, and why fish farming may be a useful conservation tool as well as a lucrative business. (Photo:Los Angeles, California: Earthquake Aftermath. Credit David Butow/Corbis via Getty Images) Presenter: Roland Pease Producer: Julian Siddle / Deborah Cohen

  • Why Speed Matters in Earthquakes
    Last September’s earthquake in Indonesia hit the Sulawesi city Palu and caused a tsunami – yet conventional analysis suggests it simply wasn’t powerful enough to cause the damage it did. A new analysis shows that the quake was fast, about 4 times the speed of sound and unusually wasn’t slowed down by the objects in its way. The narrow shape of the Palu bay also contributed to the tsunami, amplifying its effects. Researchers in France and Australia have taught honey bees to do simple addition and subtraction. Bees seem to be capable of a number of mathematical feats, the researchers think such abilities might help them negotiate their environment, e.g. the best nectar is past the 3rd tree on the left. More than half the daily food input of all people on the planet comes from just 4 crop species. All of these are affected by pests. It’s a particular issue for places where food is in short supply and people rely on imported food. Attempts to scale up local production are accompanied by a huge growth in local pest species. And in places with food surpluses, there is a lack of focus on targeting pests. Temperature regulating clothes. US researchers have invented a new kind of material which adjusts to the temperature requirements of the user, fibres within the cloth can tighten to increase warmth ore loosen to allow cooling and evaporation. The system works automatically. (Picture: Aftermath of the Indonesia quake-tsunami in Palu. Credit: Getty Images) Presenter: Roland Pease Producer: Julian siddle

  • Brazil’s Mining Disaster
    A ‘tailings dam’ collapse in Brazil has killed many people, burying them alive. We ask why and how such dangerous structures are built and discuss the humanitarian and environmental risk they pose. Denisovans, a Siberian cave is revealing more about this early human species, a range of dating techniques show evidence that ancient tools and jewellery found there go back to the era before modern humans dominated the earth. And going back further, 550 million years to a moment in time when the earth’s magnetic field seemed to temporarily weaken dramatically. Intriguingly this coincides with an evolutionary explosion – could the two events be connected? And we look at a plane called SOFIA, its actually a flying telescope, but why put a telescope on a plane? Presenter: Roland Pease Producer: Julian Siddle (Photo: Members of a rescue team search for victims after a tailings dam owned by Brazilian mining company Vale SA collapsed. Credit: Reuters)

  • A Path to Malaria Eradication
    Through a country wide programme involving education, drug treatment and the mass distribution of bednets and insecticides, Zambia has reduced malaria infections by 96 percent. However getting down to zero is proving elusive. We look at how mosquitos have adapted to thwart efforts and how visitors to Zambia might now be part of the problem. And we learn how new information from the human genome is challenging widely held views on older mothers. The study shows that genetic mutations are more likely to be passed on from older fathers. The researchers say such mutations are not necessarily harmful, but they do increase with the age of the father. We also look to Mexican salamanders for some genetic clues on regeneration, could understanding how they can grow back limbs and digits help human neuroscience? Globally we all use data from weather forecasting and are used to getting this for free. Could paying for such information become more common, and what kind of problems could that cause for those who can’t pay? Picture: Mosquito, Credit: Getty Images Presenter: Roland Pease Producer: Julian Siddle