Cover image of Science in Action
(224)

Rank #100 in Science category

Science

Science in Action

Updated 2 months ago

Rank #100 in Science category

Science
Read more

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

Read more

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

iTunes Ratings

224 Ratings
Average Ratings
172
30
7
10
5

Great podcast! Love every episode of it.

By Davo91 - Feb 06 2015
Read more
Great podcast! Love every episode of it.

Great for science-phobes like me!

By Uptown Lakes - Apr 17 2011
Read more
Thank you for making science so accessible. Love it!

iTunes Ratings

224 Ratings
Average Ratings
172
30
7
10
5

Great podcast! Love every episode of it.

By Davo91 - Feb 06 2015
Read more
Great podcast! Love every episode of it.

Great for science-phobes like me!

By Uptown Lakes - Apr 17 2011
Read more
Thank you for making science so accessible. Love it!
Cover image of Science in Action

Science in Action

Latest release on Jul 30, 2020

Read more

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

Rank #1: Is quantum supremacy ‘garbage’?

Podcast cover
Read more
A quantum computer has performed a calculation considered impossible for conventional computers, but how meaningful is the result? As our guest reveals, this quantum state can be hugely significant and garbage – at the same time.

Also we look at a new method of gene editing, which avoids cutting up DNA, get to grips with where the worlds worms live and watch elements being created in distant solar collisions.
(Photo: A quantum circuit from Google's Sycamore computer. Credit: Google)
Presenter: Roland Pease
Producer: Julian Siddle

Oct 24 2019

37mins

Play

Rank #2: CRISPR babies scandal – more details

Podcast cover
Read more
Extracts from unpublished papers on the methods used by a Chinese scientist to genetically modify the embryos of two girls reveal a series of potentially dangerous problems with the procedure and ethical shortcomings.

We look at the mechanism behind the formation of our facial features and how this is linked to our evolution, scrutinise the impact of current emissions on global climates and see why lithium, used in batteries and medicines, is now a potentially widespread pollutant.

(Photo: He Jiankui, Chinese scientist and professor at Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen. Credit:Reuters)

Presenter: Roland Pease
Producer: Julian Siddle

Dec 05 2019

35mins

Play

Rank #3: Presidents and pandemics

Podcast cover
Read more
President Trump has repeated unfounded claims that scientists created Covid-19 in a lab. Rigorous scrutiny of the genetics of the virus reveals no evidence for such a claim.

And Brazil’s President Bolsonaro is at odds with his own health advisors – splitting public opinion and action over lockdown measures needed to control the virus.

We also look at why Covid -19 seems to be associated with so many different symptoms, from diarrheal infections to complicating kidney disease, to heart attacks

And some potentially good news from HIV research, a new target to stop that virus in its tracks, which might also be useful in the fight against other viruses.
(Image: President Trump with Brazilian President Bolsonaro. Credit: Getty Images)

Presenter: Roland Pease
Producer: Julian Siddle

Apr 23 2020

43mins

Play

Rank #4: US foetal tissue research ban

Podcast cover
Read more
The US has withdrawn funding for scientific research involving foetal tissue.
Scientists point to the lack of feasible alternatives to using foetal tissue – which comes from embryos donated to scientific research via abortion clinics.
They say the move to halt this kind of research will have a negative impact on the ability of US medical institutions to develop new treatments for a range of diseases from diabetes to cancer.

More controversy from the ‘Crispr babies ‘ scandal – with a new analysis showing the modified gene may have a wide impact on the health of the children it was claimed to have been implanted into.

A reassessment on North Korea’s Nuclear tests using cold war methodology suggest the last explosion was more powerful than previously thought.

And we investigate a small British Earthquake south of London.
(Picture: Donald Trump, Credit:SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

Presenter: Roland Pease
Producer: Julian Siddle

Jun 06 2019

34mins

Play

Rank #5: Covid -19 how infectious is it really?

Podcast cover
Read more
Covid- 19 cases seem to be multiplying daily and there is now a growing body of scientific evidence both on its spread and the effectiveness of measures to try and control it. We look at what’s working, what’s not and why.

And we look to the potential for coronavirus drug treatments, why despite the hype there really isn’t anything round the corner.

Australia’s recent fire season was intense; a new study looks back over 500 years of the weather pattern partly responsible, the Indian Ocean Dipole. The findings show the most extreme years occurred recently – under the influence of man-made climate change.

And we look at life deep below the sea floor, microbes which multiply slowly over centuries and eat their neighbours.
(Image: Coronavirus test. Credit: iStock / Getty Images Plus)

Presenter: Roland Pease
Producer: Julian Siddle

Mar 12 2020

38mins

Play

Rank #6: 'Free' water and electricity for the world?

Podcast cover
Read more
Researchers in Saudi Arabia have developed a prototype solar panel which generates electricity and purifies water at the same time. The device uses waste heat from the electricity generating process to distil water. An individual panel for home use could produce around 4 litres and hour. The researchers suggest use of such panels would help alleviate water shortages.

A long running study of gorilla behaviour in the DRC has found they exhibit social traits previously thought to only be present in humans. This suggests such traits could have developed in the prehistory of both species.

More than 500 fish species can change sex. Analysis of the underlying mechanism shows how sex determination is heavily influenced by environmental and in the case of one species social factors.
(Picture: Future PV farm: not just generating electricity, but also producing fresh water. Credit: Wenbin Wang)
Presenter: Roland Pease
Producer: Julian Siddle

Jul 11 2019

29mins

Play

Rank #7: Covid -19, are you carrying the virus?

Podcast cover
Read more
In Italy the entire population of a small town was tested for Covid 19. Of those infected, one in three people with no symptoms had the virus. And from China researchers found many people carried the virus – even before authorities there began tracking its spread. The findings suggest vulnerable people may contract the virus from those without symptoms.

And we’ve news of a breakthrough - new tests looking at Covid 19 antibodies, These should help provide a picture of developing immunity to the virus.
However as growing numbers of people fall ill there are concerns over a potential shortage of hospital ventilators globally, These are needed to treat the most severe cases. However a crowdsourcing project has been set up to try and kick start the manufacturing of a variety of different types of ventilator that could be built around the world. If you have knowledge of ventilators or their use and would like to get involved more information is available here. http://bit.ly/frontiertech4COVIDaction
(Image: AFP/Getty Images)

Presenter: Roland Pease
Producer: Julian Siddle

Mar 19 2020

32mins

Play

Rank #8: New Coronavirus

Podcast cover
Read more
The way in which a new virus has emerged in China is reminiscent of SARS, a highly infectious virus that spread rapidly. It’s so similar that Health officials demanded action as soon as its existence became known. And the Chinese authorities and global medical community have acted to try and stop the spread.
Events were still developing, even as we were in the studio making this programme, new reports of suspected cases were coming in. The WHO was yet to give its view on the severity of the outbreak. This week’s edition is very much a snapshot of what we know or knew about this virus on the afternoon of Thursday January 23rd 2020.
(Image: Wuhan Residents wear masks to buy vegetables in the market. Credit: Getty Images)

Presenter: Roland Pease
Producer: Julian Siddle

Jan 23 2020

27mins

Play

Rank #9: White Island volcano eruption

Podcast cover
Read more
This week’s programme comes from the world’s largest earth sciences conference, the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco.
Roland Pease talks with Diana Roman of the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington DC about the tragic White Island volcanic eruption in which at least eight tourists died.
Aurora Elmore of National Geographic and Arbindra Khadka of Tribhuvan University in Kathmandu Nepal discuss the state of Himalayan glaciers and climate change.

Robert Hazen of the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington DC tells Roland about the research area called geobiochemistry and Hilairy Hartnett of Arizona State University explains why it may not be easy to find life on extra solar planets.
(Image: Smoke from the volcanic eruption of Whakaari, also known as White Island. Credit: Reuters)
Presenter: Roland Pease
Producer: Julian Siddle

Dec 12 2019

26mins

Play

Rank #10: Adapting California

Podcast cover
Read more
Roland Pease is joined by California based science Journalist Molly Bentley as we examine the impact of earthquakes and fires. California has experienced both in the last year - What’s it like to live with a constant threat from these extreme events? We also take a look at NASA’s plans for a new mission to Mars – to look for signs on life.

Picture: Roland Pease with science journalist Molly Bentley, Credit: BBC

Jan 02 2020

26mins

Play

Rank #11: The science of social distancing

Podcast cover
Read more
The strong social distancing policies introduced by China seem to have been successful in stopping the spread of Covid 19. Without any effective drug treatments, reducing our number of contacts is the most effective way to prevent viral transmission.

We also look at the similarities been policies in Russia and the US on how best to deal with the virus. In both cases there are contradictions and disagreements between medical professionals and politicians.

And a warning from Polio, how vaccines may create problems when immunisation campaigns do not reach everyone.
(Image: Getty Images)

Presenter: Roland Pease
Producer: Julian Siddle

Mar 26 2020

29mins

Play

Rank #12: Gaming climate change

Podcast cover
Read more
The latest round of climate negotiations, COP25, have ended without agreement on many fundamental issues. We join researchers from Perdue University in the US who have developed a role-playing game to encourage climate negotiators and others to take a long-term view. Key to this research project is the concept of tipping points, where an environment changes irreversibly from one state to another. This is accompanied by the loss of ecosystems - for example, the widespread melting of Arctic sea ice, rainforest burning or coral bleaching.

The idea is that such tipping points provide a more meaning full focus for the implication of climate change than abstract concepts like temperature rise.

Image: Polar bear in the Arctic Sea (Credit: Coldimages/Getty)

Dec 26 2019

26mins

Play

Rank #13: From batteries to distant worlds

Podcast cover
Read more
Nobel prizes this week went to a range of discoveries that you might be familiar with, in fact you might be using one of them right now – the lithium ion battery. The scientists credited with its Invention got the chemistry prize. And the tantalising prospect of life on other planets plays into the physics prize win.

And we also see what salamanders have to offer in the treatment of arthritis
(Picture: Illustration of the Earth-like exoplanet Kepler-452b and its parent star Kepler-452. Credit: NASA/Ames/JPL-Caltech/Science Photo Library)

Presenter: Roland Pease
Producer: Julian Siddle

Oct 10 2019

29mins

Play

Rank #14: Australia’s extreme fire season

Podcast cover
Read more
2019 was Australia’s hottest year on record, a major factor behind the bush fires which have been far worse than usual. We look at the patterns of extreme weather that have contributed to the fires but are also linked to floods in Africa. And the way in which thunderstorms have helped to spread the fires.
The armpit of Orion is changing. The star Betelgeuse is dimming some claim this is readying it for a major explosion others are more sceptical, we weight up the arguments.

And an Iron Age brain may hold some clues to modern neurodegenerative disease. Protein fragments have been extracted from the brain tissue found inside a 2,500 year old human skull.
(Image: Australia fires. Credit: Getty Images)

Presenter: Roland Pease
Producer: Julian Siddle

Jan 09 2020

26mins

Play

Rank #15: Climate in crisis

Podcast cover
Read more
Pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are largely unachievable says a major audit of commitments to the Paris Climate Accord.

Air pollution in Delhi is so bad, breathing the toxic particles has been likened to smoking. Can a scientific assessment of the multiple causes help provide a way forward?

We examine a new way of making new plastic – from old plastic.

And why sending some stem cells to the international space station might help astronauts travel further.
(Image: Tourists wearing masks to protect themselves from smog in New Delhi, India. Credit: Sushil Kumar/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)
Presenter: Roland Pease
Producer: Julian Siddle

Nov 07 2019

29mins

Play

Rank #16: Italy, getting Covid-19 under control

Podcast cover
Read more
Italy is beginning its first tentative steps towards ending its lockdown. These are small steps, opening a few shops in areas where virus transmission has seen big falls. Part of the reason for this controlled strategy is that there are real concerns over a potential resurgence of the virus,

Around the world there are now hundreds of trials on drug treatments for Covid-19. Results so far are mixed, with antivirals developed for Ebola and HIV showing positive signs, but antimalarial drugs, championed by President Trump in particular have been shown to have dangerous potentially life threatening side effects.

A warning from history, more than 500 years ago suggests the western US in particular is entering an extreme drought, a ‘Megadrought’. When this last happened it led to war, depopulation and the spread of disease.

And its 10 years since the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Studies of fish in the region suggest they are still affected by oil from that spill and more recent lesser known pollution events.

(Photo: Italy, shops begin to open. Credit: European Photopress Agency)

Presenter: Roland Pease
Producer: Julian Siddle

Apr 16 2020

32mins

Play

Rank #17: Australia burning

Podcast cover
Read more
Australia’s annual wild fires have started early this year, drought is a factor but to what extent is ‘Bush fire weather’ influenced by climate change?

A two million year old fossil tooth reveals some biological answers to who its owner was.

Why Climate change may have killed off the world’s first superpower

And a hologram produced from sound waves.
(Image: Firefighters tackle a bushfire to save a home in Taree, Australia. Credit Peter Parks/AFP via Getty Images)
Presenter: Roland Pease
Producer: Julian Siddle

Nov 14 2019

29mins

Play

Rank #18: Wildfires and winds in California

Podcast cover
Read more
The Santa Ana in the south, and the Diablo in the north, are winds that are fuelling the terrible fires raging in California this week. They’re also blamed for bringing down power lines that sometimes start the fires. Roland Pease talks to Janice Coen of the National Center for Atmospheric Research NCAR who has been developing a highly detailed model to forecast how wind, mountains, and flames interact during a wildfire.

The glaring gaps in human genetics are in Africa – much overlooked because the companies and universities sequencing DNA are mostly based in Europe, the US and other advanced economies. A ten-year attempt to fill in some of those gaps came to fruition this week, with the release of a study covering thousands of individuals from rural Uganda. Deepti Gurdasani, of Queen Mary University London, explains the data reveal both new medical stories, and the scale of past migration within Africa.

There are also gaps in the climate record from Africa. Knowing past climates could help massively in understanding the prospects for climate change in coming years on the continent. Journalist Linda Nordling has just published an article in Nature that shows that the records exist – old weather data collected since the 19th Century. It’s just they’re scattered, unexamined, in vaults and collections across Africa.

Adam McKay of Nasa and Alan Fitzsimmons of Queens University Belfast talk to Roland Pease about the latest observations of the interstellar interloper Comet Borisov.

(Photo: A firefighter sets a back fire along a hillside during operations to battle the Kincade fire in Healdsburg, California. Credit: Philip Pacheco/AFP/Getty Images)

Presenter: Roland Pease
Producer: Deborah Cohen

Oct 31 2019

28mins

Play

Rank #19: Politics and Amazonia’s fires

Podcast cover
Read more
This year’s Amazon fires have been worse than since 2010, scientists blame a government attitude which they say has encouraged deforestation. Government funded scientists have contributed anonymously to the finding – fearing for their jobs.

Food crops and fungus are not normally seen as compatible, but a mutually beneficial relationship between these organisms may help reduce the need for chemical fertilisers and combat climate change.

Hayabusa 2, the Japanese space mission is returning to earth after its mission to blast a crater in a distant asteroid.

And how the chemistry of protein analysis is helping psychiatrists and emergency medics deal with the effects of the street drug spice.
(Image: A Brazilian Institute for the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA) fire brigade member is seen as he attempts to control hot points during a fire. Credit: Reuters/Bruno Kelly)
Presenter: Roland Pease
Producer: Julian Siddle

Nov 21 2019

27mins

Play

Rank #20: Nanotube computer says hello

Podcast cover
Read more
A computer processor made of carbon nanotubes is unveiled to the world. Also, the continuing quest for nuclear fusion energy, and the stats on crocodile attacks since the 1960s.
(The world's first 16 bit microprocessor made of carbon nanotubes. Credit: Max Shulaker)

Aug 29 2019

31mins

Play

NASA rover heads for Mars ancient lake

Podcast cover
Read more
NASA launches its new robotic mission to Mars. The rover, Perseverance, will land in a 50 kilometre wide crater which looks like it was filled by a lake about 4 billion years ago – the time when life on Earth was getting started. Mission scientist Melissa Rice explains why this is one of the most promising places on Mars to continue the search for past life on the red planet.

Japanese and US scientists have revived microbes that have been buried at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean for 100 million years. Sampled from compacted mud 70 metres below the seafloor and beneath 6 kilometre of water, Yuki Morono and Steve D’Hondt admit they struggle to understand how the bacteria have survived for so long.

Science in Action celebrates the little unknown oceanographer Marie Tharp who in the late 1950s discovered the mid-Atlantic ridge which helped to launch the plate tectonics revolution in earth sciences. It would be Tharp’s 100th birthday this week.

New research this week suggests that coronaviruses capable of infecting humans have been in bats for 40 to 70 years, and that there may be numerous and as yet undetected viruses like the Covid-19 virus in bat populations with the potential to cause future pandemics. Their message is that we should be sampling and testing wild bat colonies much more extensively than currently. Their findings provide further evidence against the unfounded claim that the Covid-19 virus originated from the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China. Roland Pease talks to Dr Maciej Boni at Pennsylvania State University.

(Image: NASA's Perseverance Mars rover. Credit: Illustration provided by Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. NASA/JPL-Caltech/Handout via REUTERS)

Producer: Andrew Luck-Baker

Jul 30 2020

35mins

Play

Making a Covid-19 vaccine for two billion people

Podcast cover
Read more
There’s been encouraging news about the Oxford Covid-19 vaccine this week from a trial involving about 1,000 people. But how great is the challenge in scaling up from making a few thousand doses of the vaccine to manufacturing two billion by the end of this year? Sandy Douglas of Oxford’s Jenner Institute explains how they plan to mass-produce the vaccine safely given the speed and magnitude of the scale up.

A new kind of treatment for Covid-19 may come from an unlikely source: llamas and alpacas, the South American relatives of the camel. Camelids produce unusually small and simple antibodies against viruses, including the coronavirus. This feature may make these molecules an effective Covid-19 therapy. Jane Chambers reports on research in Chile and the UK.

Also in the programme: Roland talks to Noah Rose and Lindy McBride of Princeton University about what has made just a few mosquito species evolve a preference for biting humans, and the theory that 800 million years ago. He also talks to Professor Kentaro Terada of Osaka University and David Kring of the Lunar and Planetary Institute in the USA about evidence that the Moon and the Earth were bombarded by a shower of asteroids which plunged the Earth into a global ice age – an event which may have changed the course of the evolution of life.

(Image: A team of experts at the University of Oxford are working to develop a vaccine that could prevent people from getting Covid-19 Credit: Press Association)
Presenter: Roland Pease
Producer: Andrew Luck-Baker

Jul 23 2020

34mins

Play

How long do Covid-19 antibodies last?

Podcast cover
Read more
Science in Action looks at some of the latest research on the response of our immune system to infection by the coronavirus. Researchers at Kings College London find that protective antibodies appear to fade away after about three months following infection whereas a team at the Karolinska Institute has discovered that although antibodies may decline, other important players called T cells in our defences do not. Doctors Katie Doores and Marcus Buggert talk about the implications of these discoveries for the quest for a vaccine against the coronavirus.

Roland Pease also talks to Dr Barney Graham of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in the United States about the results from the Phase 1 trial of a novel type of vaccine against the virus. NIAID have partnered with biotech company Moderna to produce the first mRNA vaccine in the Institute’s pandemic preparedness program.

Biologist Dr Sonja Wild tells Roland about the remarkable fishing strategy devised by dolphins in Shark Bay, Australia. They chase fish into the empty shell of giant sea snails, then take the shells to the surface and tip the fish into their mouths. Dr Wild’s 7 years of research has revealed how the dolphins have learned to do this.
(Image: Getty Images)
Presenter: Roland Pease
Producer: Andrew Luck-Baker
Correction: The audio of this edition has been edited since its initial broadcast. This was to correct an error in Barney Graham’s interview. The phase 3 of the Moderna mRNA vaccine trial is scheduled to begin on 27 July, not 27 January as originally broadcast.

Jul 16 2020

34mins

Play

Rwanda’s game changing coronavirus test

Podcast cover
Read more
African scientists have developed a reliable, quick and cheap testing method which could be used by worldwide as the basis for mass testing programmes.

The method, which produces highly accurate results, is built around mathematical algorithms developed at the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences in Kigali. We speak to Neil Turok who founded the institute, Leon Mutesa Professor of human genetics on the government coronavirus task force, and Wilfred Ndifon, the mathematical biologist who devised the algorithm.

The virus is mutating as it spreads, but what does this mean? There is particular concern over changes to the spike protein, part of the virus needed to enter human cells. Jeremy Luban has been analysing this mechanism. So far he says ongoing genetic changes seem unlikely to impact on the effectiveness of treatments for Covid -19.

And Heatwaves are increasing, particularly in tropical regions, that’s the finding of a new analysis by climate scientist Sarah Perkins – Kirkpatrick.

Presenter: Roland Pease
Producer: Julian Siddle

Main image: People stand in white circles drawn on the ground to adhere to social distancing in Kigali, Rwanda, on May 4, 2020, Photo by Simon Wohlfahrt / AFP via Getty Images

Jul 09 2020

30mins

Play

Covid -19 and Children

Podcast cover
Read more
Studies in Children who have been severely affected by Covid 19 in Italy, Britain and the US are showing the same thing – a range of symptoms linked to an overactive immune system. Elizabeth Whittaker from London’s Imperial College discusses the similarities in these cases and possible reasons for this syndrome with Shanna Kowalsky from Mount Sinai hospital in New York.

How much should drugs for Covid 19 cost? Remdesivir which has shown promise against the virus has been priced at over $2000 for a course of treatment, but Drug price analyst Andrew Hill says the cost of production is actually below $10.

And how about some really alternative energy? Marion Cromb at Glasgow University has run an experiment to simulate a spinning black hole. In theory a rocket sent to an equivalent real black hole could use its rotation as a power source
(Image: Getty Images)

Presenter: Roland Pease
Producer: Julian Siddle

Jul 02 2020

31mins

Play

Record high temperatures – in the Arctic

Podcast cover
Read more
A record summer temperature in Siberia is an indication of major changes in the Arctic climate. Changing weather patterns there have a knock on effect for other parts of the planet says Climatologist Steve Vavrus

Chile appeared to get Covid-19 under control, but in reality the virus was spreading uncontrollably through poor areas, As we hear from our correspondent in Santiago Jane Chambers, the lockdown has tightened but cases continue to rise.

And could mass testing using new saliva tests help control or even end the epidemic? Epidemiologist Julian Peto tells us about his plan which is designed to contain the virus within individual households and stop community spread.

Experiments to investigate dark matter have produced some tantalising results, Physicist Laura Manenti says it’s not confirmation of detection, but potentially close.

(Image: Rural Scene in Verkhoyansk. Credit: Dean Conger/Corbis via Getty Images)
Presenter: Roland Pease
Producer: Julian Siddle

Jun 25 2020

26mins

Play

Covid -19 hope for severe cases

Podcast cover
Read more
A multi arm trial testing a range of drugs has shown that readily available steroids can be lifesaving for people severely ill with Covid-19. Max Parmar, head of the UK Medical Research Council’s clinical trials unit says the trial design, where many potential drugs can be tested against the same controls, is key to producing results quickly.

As it spreads around the world SARS-CoV-2 is mutating. But what does this mean? These mutations are part of a natural process and some researchers are finding they make no real difference to patient outcomes so far, but others are concerned the virus may become more dangerous. Neville Sanjana from New York University has been running lab tests on the mutant virus.

Measles mutated from an animal virus, developing the ability to jump from cattle to human around 2,500 years ago. Sebastien Calvignac-Spencer from Germany’s Robert Koch Institute tracked its origins using preserved lung samples from centuries old measles victims.

Covid -19 has become a magnet for conspiracy theorists. A common unfounded claim is that the virus was deliberately manufactured. During the boredom of lockdown such ideas have taken off online, with conspiracy videos receiving millions of views. We speak to scientists who have been targeted, and become the subject of this online misinformation.
(Image: Doctor examines Covid-19 virus patient. Credit: Getty Images)
Presenter: Roland Pease
Producer: Julian Siddle

Jun 18 2020

34mins

Play

Food security, locusts and Covid -19

Podcast cover
Read more
Despite the Covid-19 pandemic efforts to counter massive swarms of locusts across East Africa have continued. In many places this has been very effective, killing up to 90% of locusts. However, the threat of repeated waves of locusts remains says Cyril Ferrand, who leads the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation's Resilience Team in East Africa.

Conversely West Africa is unaffected by locusts and with a block on imports local producers have seen demand grow for their produce, an unusual positive effect from the pandemic according to Sandrine Dury from the French agricultural research agency CIRAD.

We examine the potential for a second wave of coronavirus as many countries relax lockdown measures, businesses reopen and mass protests take to the streets. Epidemiologist Carl Bergstrom is interested in working out which of these movements is likely to have the most impact.

And from South Africa, how radio telescope engineers there have turned their hands to developing new ventilators appropriate for regional needs.
(Image: Desert locust. Credit: Reuters)

Presenter: Roland Pease
Producer: Julian Siddle

Jun 11 2020

27mins

Play

The medical complexity of Covid -19

Podcast cover
Read more
Autopsies show Covid 19 can affect the brain and other organs. Pathologist Mary Fowkes from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai found the signs of stroke - unusually in young people, as well as a disruption of the immune system throughout the body.

And studies of heart stem cells show these can be killed by the virus. Cell Biologist Stefanie Dimmeler from the University of Frankfurt says this finding could prove useful in providing treatment and preventative medicine.

A massive research project in China has identified over 700 different types of coronavirus carried by bats, some of these obscure virus sequences are thought to have already jumped from bats to human and animals such as pigs. In a similar way to SARS-CoV-2 they present a potential threat as a source of future pandemics says Peter Daszak from the EcoHeath Alliance which conducted the research in collaboration with Chinese scientists.

And is there racism in the way people with Covid -19 infections are categorised? It’s an issue which concerns toxicologist Winston Morgan from the University of East London. He says as race is a social construct it’s an inappropriate measure to use when trying to work out who is vulnerable to the virus.

(Image: Illustration showing the virus structure of SARS-CoV-2. Credit: CDC HO via AFP / Getty)

Presenter: Roland Pease
Producer: Julian Siddle

Jun 04 2020

31mins

Play

Brazil’s Covid chaos

Podcast cover
Read more
The number of cases of Covid -19 infections in Brazil and deaths related to the pandemic may be much higher than official figures show. Testing of the living is not widespread and there are few resources for analysing the potential role of the virus as a cause of death. Virologist Fernando Spiliki gives us his bleak assessment.

A remarkable study from South Africa shows just how easily the virus can spread around a hospital, with a single infected person infecting many. However the route of infection is not necessarily direct person to person transmission says investigator Richard Lessells from the University of KwaZulu Natal.
And from London a study in a hospital with many Covid patients at the height of the pandemic supports the South African findings; Researchers found viral particles on surfaces and in the air says Professor Wendy Barclay from Imperial College.

An early warning system for outbreaks of the virus or second waves may come from analysis of sewage, Jordan Peccia from Yale University analysed waste from his local sewage treatment works and found peaks in concentrations of the virus in the sludge occurred a few days before increases in hospital admissions.
(Image: Supporters of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro wear face masks as they demonstrate against quarantine and social distancing measures imposed by governors and mayors to combat the new coronavirus outbreak and demand military intervention. Credit: SERGIO LIMA/AFP via Getty Images)

Presenter: Roland Pease
Producer: Julian Siddle

May 28 2020

32mins

Play

Covid-19 vaccines

Podcast cover
Read more
There are more than 100 different Covid-19 vaccine trials currently going on. We look at which seem to be the most promising with Helen Branswell from Stat News.

And we examine a very old idea, using antibodies from one virus – in this case Sars, to counter another virus Sars-CoV-2 , which causes Covid-19. Davide Corti from Vir Biotechnology says a version of these antibodies offers potential for both vaccination and treatment.

Race and Covid-19, there seems to be a link between ethnicity and susceptibility to the virus which can’t be easily explained away by economic factors. That's the finding from a study of nearly six million people in the US conducted by epidemiologist Chris Rentsch from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

And social distancing in ancient times, how plagues and pandemics in the past seem to have been defeated using similar behavioural adaptations to those we are current employing. Archaeologist Shadreck Chikure has seen the evidence in sites across Africa.
(Image:Vaccine trials Credit: Getty Images)
Presenter: Roland Pease
Producer: Julian Siddle

May 21 2020

31mins

Play

Loosening lockdown

Podcast cover
Read more
How is Covid -19 spread? Who is most at risk and what are the circumstances under which it is most likely to be transmitted? These questions need answers for the implementation of effective and safe strategies to end lockdown. We look at what research is showing.

And if you have to go back to work what’s the best way to protect yourself, how should we be using face coverings for example? There are lessons from research on fluid dynamics.

Also key is reducing the rate of infection, the R number, Italy relaxed lockdown a few weeks ago we look at early findings on the impact.

It’s clear more widespread and effective testing will be needed to reduce transmission, A new test which should be quicker has been developed using synthetic biology and gene editing techniques.
(Image: Commuters wear masks whilst travelling on a London Underground train. Credit: Tolga Akmen/Getty Images)
Presenter: Roland Pease
Producer: Julian Siddle

May 14 2020

37mins

Play

Covid -19 new hope from blood tests

Podcast cover
Read more
Research from New York examining the blood of people who have recovered from Covid – 19 shows the majority have produced antibodies against the disease, The researchers hope to soon be able to establish whether this confers long term immunity as with more common viral infections.

And Research in Berlin and London has identified biomarkers, minute signs of the disease which may help clinicians identify who is likely to develop severe symptoms and what kind of treatment they might need.

Mutations have been much in the headlines, these are a natural processes of evolution and not just in viruses, but the term is misunderstood, two studies focusing on different aspects shed some light on what mutation in SARS-CoV-2 really means.
(Image: People wear face masks as they cross a street in Times Square in New York City. Credit: Kena Betancur/AFP via Getty Images)
Presenter: Roland Pease
Producer: Julian Siddle

May 07 2020

43mins

Play

Ebola drug offers hope for Covid-19

Podcast cover
Read more
Remdesivir a drug eventually rejected as a treatment for Ebola seems to have aided recovery in a trial with more than a thousand Covid -19 patients. Researchers are cautious but hopeful; a leading health official in the US has made comparisons with the impact of game changing drugs used to treat HIV.

In contrast an organisation researching the mechanisms by which bat coronaviruses infect humans has had its funding cut following criticism from President Trump.

A scheme to help manufacture ventilators and protective equipment worldwide has seen some success with a simple ventilator they developed, now in use in hospitals.

And we look at climate change –with this year set for extreme weather
(Image: Liberian photographer Alphanso Appleton took this picture of a schoolgirl and sent it to the Wellcome Trust, to express thanks for their and others’ efforts to develop an Ebola vaccine. Credit: Alphanso Appleton/Wellcome Trust)

Presenter: Roland Pease
Producer: Julian Siddle

Apr 30 2020

48mins

Play

Presidents and pandemics

Podcast cover
Read more
President Trump has repeated unfounded claims that scientists created Covid-19 in a lab. Rigorous scrutiny of the genetics of the virus reveals no evidence for such a claim.

And Brazil’s President Bolsonaro is at odds with his own health advisors – splitting public opinion and action over lockdown measures needed to control the virus.

We also look at why Covid -19 seems to be associated with so many different symptoms, from diarrheal infections to complicating kidney disease, to heart attacks

And some potentially good news from HIV research, a new target to stop that virus in its tracks, which might also be useful in the fight against other viruses.
(Image: President Trump with Brazilian President Bolsonaro. Credit: Getty Images)

Presenter: Roland Pease
Producer: Julian Siddle

Apr 23 2020

43mins

Play

Italy, getting Covid-19 under control

Podcast cover
Read more
Italy is beginning its first tentative steps towards ending its lockdown. These are small steps, opening a few shops in areas where virus transmission has seen big falls. Part of the reason for this controlled strategy is that there are real concerns over a potential resurgence of the virus,

Around the world there are now hundreds of trials on drug treatments for Covid-19. Results so far are mixed, with antivirals developed for Ebola and HIV showing positive signs, but antimalarial drugs, championed by President Trump in particular have been shown to have dangerous potentially life threatening side effects.

A warning from history, more than 500 years ago suggests the western US in particular is entering an extreme drought, a ‘Megadrought’. When this last happened it led to war, depopulation and the spread of disease.

And its 10 years since the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Studies of fish in the region suggest they are still affected by oil from that spill and more recent lesser known pollution events.

(Photo: Italy, shops begin to open. Credit: European Photopress Agency)

Presenter: Roland Pease
Producer: Julian Siddle

Apr 16 2020

32mins

Play

Covid 19 - the threat to refugees

Podcast cover
Read more
Massively over crowded Moria refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos has seen numbers grow from 5 to 20 thousand in a matter of months. Hundreds of people share taps and toilets, there is little chance to implement measures designed to stop the spread of covid 19. So far the camp has not been hit by the epidemic, but aid agencies fear for the most vulnerable in the camp.

Covid 19 jumped from bats to humans, possibly via another wild animal. A study of zoonotic diseases has identified many other viruses that could do the same.

The skies are clearer, levels of pollution from traffic have dropped by up to 50 percent but how long will cleaner air remain?

And Comet Borisov makes a spectacular exit.

(Image: Moria refugee camp, Lesvos, Greece. Credit: Getty Images)
Presenter: Roland Pease
Producer: Julian Siddle

Apr 09 2020

26mins

Play

Covid 19 – The fightback in Africa begins

Podcast cover
Read more
Nigeria has seen a small number of Covid -19 cases, largely spread amongst the most affluent, people who travel abroad, However there is concern about the potential of the virus to spread to overcrowded slum areas. In such conditions social distancing measures would be difficult to enforce. What are the alternatives?

The US now has the majority of cases of the virus, New York has been heavily hit, medics have developed an app to help understand the spread of Covid 19 in the community.

The availability of test kits is an issue worldwide, we look at a novel idea, adapting a device made from paper that could help to see whether the virus is present in wastewater.

The WHO has launched international drug trials to tackle covid 19, but none of the drugs involved were developed specifically to target this virus we look at why they might just work.
(Image: Getty Images)

Presenter: Roland Pease
Producer: Julian Siddle

Apr 02 2020

32mins

Play

The science of social distancing

Podcast cover
Read more
The strong social distancing policies introduced by China seem to have been successful in stopping the spread of Covid 19. Without any effective drug treatments, reducing our number of contacts is the most effective way to prevent viral transmission.

We also look at the similarities been policies in Russia and the US on how best to deal with the virus. In both cases there are contradictions and disagreements between medical professionals and politicians.

And a warning from Polio, how vaccines may create problems when immunisation campaigns do not reach everyone.
(Image: Getty Images)

Presenter: Roland Pease
Producer: Julian Siddle

Mar 26 2020

29mins

Play

Covid -19, are you carrying the virus?

Podcast cover
Read more
In Italy the entire population of a small town was tested for Covid 19. Of those infected, one in three people with no symptoms had the virus. And from China researchers found many people carried the virus – even before authorities there began tracking its spread. The findings suggest vulnerable people may contract the virus from those without symptoms.

And we’ve news of a breakthrough - new tests looking at Covid 19 antibodies, These should help provide a picture of developing immunity to the virus.
However as growing numbers of people fall ill there are concerns over a potential shortage of hospital ventilators globally, These are needed to treat the most severe cases. However a crowdsourcing project has been set up to try and kick start the manufacturing of a variety of different types of ventilator that could be built around the world. If you have knowledge of ventilators or their use and would like to get involved more information is available here. http://bit.ly/frontiertech4COVIDaction
(Image: AFP/Getty Images)

Presenter: Roland Pease
Producer: Julian Siddle

Mar 19 2020

32mins

Play

iTunes Ratings

224 Ratings
Average Ratings
172
30
7
10
5

Great podcast! Love every episode of it.

By Davo91 - Feb 06 2015
Read more
Great podcast! Love every episode of it.

Great for science-phobes like me!

By Uptown Lakes - Apr 17 2011
Read more
Thank you for making science so accessible. Love it!