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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

  • Physicist Stephen Hawking (1942 - 2018)
    Cosmologist Stephen Hawking died this week. We celebrate his life, and profound contributions to the knowledge of our Universe. Early Modern Humans were more innovative and sophisticated much earlier than we thought. Palaeoarchaeologists working in the Rift Valley region in Kenya have discovered a change in tool-making from roughly-hewn locally-sources stone axes to fines, well hones tools made out of stone that had to be imported from 50km away. From this, they can surmise that Early Modern Humans showed far more innovation and adaptability to variable climate much earlier than first thought. John B. Goodenough - When you next plug in your laptop, hearing aid or mobile phone to charge , spare a thought for Professor John B. Goodenough. He is widely credited with the identification and development of the Lithium-ion rechargeable battery. At 95, he’s still full of energy and ideas. Roland tried to keep up with him when he visited his labs recently and finds out what John has in store for the next generation of energy storage. Picture: Cosmologist Stephen Hawking (1942-2018) in NASA’s ‘Vomit Comet’, Credit: NASA Presenter: Roland Pease Producer: Fiona Roberts

  • Russia’s New Nuclear Age
    President Vladimir Putin has just announced a whole new suite of strategic nuclear systems being developed in Russia. One of these is a worrying nuclear-powered cruise missile. Worrying - because back in the 1960’s the US tried something similar with their Project’s Pluto and SLAM and it turned out the missiles were too dangerous even to test. We find out how likely experts in the field think these claims are. International Women’s Day (Thursday 8th March 2018) Around the world, more and more women are becoming farmers and responsible for small holdings. Climate change is impacting women globally more than men, a good example is women tend to fetch water and water sources are becoming more scarce, so they have to travel further each day. Agriculture is first in the firing line when it comes to the negative impact of climate change. Is anyone doing anything to mitigate this double-whammy impact on women around the world? Long-term Impact on Fisheries from Climate Change. Changes in the cycling of nutrients in the world’s oceans are already occurring. Global warming is having an impact on the marine food chain already. Nutrients needed to feed phytoplankton, the first organisms in the food chain, are being locked up at depth. This means less food for the larger organisms, including fish. The decline has been predicted to be low and slow for the next 100 years. But new work has pushed the models further into the future and have shown much greater declines in fish stocks around the whole world by 2300. Looking for Ice in Diamonds Diamonds look nice on rings and necklaces, but they can also have uses beyond ornamentation. In a recent study, geologists have found minute traces of a new form of ice in diamonds from deep within the Earth’s mantle. Could this be evidence of an untapped ocean beneath our feet? Picture: In May 1961 the world’s first nuclear ramjet engine, mounted on a railroad car, roared to life for just a few seconds at the Nevada Test Site’s Pluto Facility at Jackass Flats. Credit: Federal Government of the United States Presenter: Roland Pease Producer: Fiona Roberts

  • Cold Winter, Warm Climate
    A new study links a warming Arctic with sudden cold winters, like the one we’re experiencing right now. It’s all down to weakening of the polar vortex which a team in Potsdam in Germany have linked to climate change causing the Arctic sea ice to melt at much greater rates. The Largest Family Tree Ever Scientists have harnessed genealogy datasets to create a massive family tree with over 13 million members. The new dataset offers fresh insights into the last 500 years of marriage and migration in Europe and North America, and the role of genes in longevity. Skull Bashing Can we make any inferences about whether the world is more or less violent than in the past from scanning ancient remains? Wearable Technology Devices The latest on wearable technology. Roland tries the next generation of wearable technology – smart plasters that measure your heartbeat and sweat chemistry; flexible, wearable LED health displays and ultrathin, flexible electrodes. Picture: Car stuck in snow, Credit: JaysonPhotography/Getty Images Presenter: Roland Pease Producer: Fiona Roberts

  • Will Cape Town Run Out of Water?
    9th July - It’s being called Day Zero, the day the taps are turned off in drought stricken Cape Town in South Africa. After 3 years of unexpectedly dry weather leaving no water in the reservoirs that serve the city, we ask what could have been done better to mitigate the water shortage and how to prevent the same thing happening in other cities around the world. Gut Microbiome We are discovering more and more about how connected we are to the microbes that live in our gut. Their impact is not just on our digestive health, but in our brains, on our behaviour and on our immune function. So it stands to reason that we need better ways to monitor our gut microbiome. Roland finds out about a toilet that can monitor your health as you go to the loo, a microbiome grown in a lab and a tiny mini gut on a microchip. Watching a Planet Form With telescopes getting bigger and better at seeing what’s going on in our Universe, what better way to spend your time than watching the chemistry of a planet forming from the dust swirling around a new star? Ideally you need 100’s of millions of years to see the whole process, but the ALMA telescope allows researchers to watch snapshots of hundreds of planets forming at different stages, allowing a picture of planet formation at the molecular, chemical level. Picture: Cape Town the first major city in recent history to run out water, Credit: European Photopress Agency Presenter: Roland Pease Producer: Fiona Roberts and Samanta Oon

  • 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