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Science

Science in Action

Updated 7 days ago

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

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

iTunes Ratings

208 Ratings
Average Ratings
156
30
8
10
4

Great podcast! Love every episode of it.

By Davo91 - Feb 06 2015
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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

208 Ratings
Average Ratings
156
30
8
10
4

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 Feb 13, 2020

The Best Episodes Ranked Using User Listens

Updated by OwlTail 7 days ago

Rank #1: Is quantum supremacy ‘garbage’?

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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

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Rank #2: CRISPR babies scandal – more details

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Extracts from unpublished papers on the methods used by a Chinese scientist to genetically modify the embryos of two girls reveal a series of potentially dangerous problems with the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

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Rank #3: US foetal tissue research ban

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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

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Rank #4: 'Free' water and electricity for the world?

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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

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Rank #5: Understanding the Anak Krakatau eruption

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We have the latest from a year long investigation into the causes of the December 2018 Indonesian Tsunami. And we get a look at the first pictures from the Mayotte undersea volcano, which emerged earlier this year off the coast of East Africa.
(Anak Krakatau volcano. Credit: AFP/Getty Images)
Presenter: Roland Pease
Producer: Julian Siddle

Dec 19 2019

26mins

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Rank #6: Nanotube computer says hello

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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

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Rank #7: From batteries to distant worlds

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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

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Rank #8: New evidence of nuclear reactor explosion

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An isotopic fingerprint is reported of a nuclear explosion in Russia last month. Researchers ask people living in the area or nearby to send them samples of dust or soil before the radioactive clues therein decay beyond recognition. Also, a near miss between an ESA satellite and a SpaceX/Starlink module in crowded near space strengthens the case for some sort of international Space Traffic Management treaty, whilst in the arctic circle, melting permafrost is disinterring the graves of long-dead whalers.

(Photo:Tell-tale radioactive isotopes could still be in dust on cars near the site of the blast. Credit: Humonia/iStock / Getty Images Plus)

Presenter: Roland Pease
Producer: Alex Mansfield

Sep 05 2019

34mins

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Rank #9: White Island volcano eruption

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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

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Rank #10: Adapting California

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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

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Rank #11: Cracking the case of the Krakatoa volcano collapse

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Scientists this week are on expedition around the volcano Anak Krakatoa, which erupted and collapsed in 2018 leading to the loss of some 400 lives on the island of Java. The scientists, including David Tappin and Michael Cassidy, are hoping that their survey of the seafloor and tsunami debris will allow them to piece together the sequence of events, and maybe find signs to look out for in the future.

Wyoming Dinosaur trove
The BBC got a secret visit to a newly discovered fossil site somewhere in the US which scientists reckon could keep them busy for many years. Jon Amos got to have a tour and even found out a tasty technique to tell a fossil from a rock.

Bioflourescent Aliens
Researchers at Cornell University’s Carla Sagan Institute report their work thinking about detecting alien life on distant planets orbiting other stars. Around 75% of stars are of a type that emits far more dangerous UV than our own sun. What, they argue, would a type of life that could survive that look like to us? Well, just maybe it would act like some of our own terrestrial corals, who can protect their symbiotic algae from UV, and in doing so, emit visible light. Could such an emission be detectable, in sync with dangerous emergent UV flares around distant suns? The next generation of large telescopes maybe could…

Exopants
Jinsoo Kim and David Perry of Harvard University tell reporter Giulia Barbareschi about their new design for a soft exosuit that helps users to walk and, crucially also to run. They suggest the metabolic savings the suit could offer have numerous future applications for work and play.

(Photo: Volcano Anak Krakatoa. Credit: Drone Pilot, Muhammad Edo Marshal, ITB university in Bandung, Indonesia)

Presenter: Roland Pease
Producer: Alex Mansfield
Reporter: Giulia Barbareschi

Aug 15 2019

33mins

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Rank #12: Climate in crisis

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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

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Rank #13: Wildfires and winds in California

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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

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Rank #14: Embryoids from stem cells

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Scientists know very little about the first few days of the life of a human embryo, once it's been implanted in the womb. Yet this is when the majority of pregnancies fail. Professor Magdalena Zernika-Goetz at Cambridge University is a leader in the field of making 'model embryos' in both mice and humans. Model embryos until now have been grown in the lab from donated fertilised eggs, but these are hard to come by and governed by strict laws and ethical guidelines. Now researchers in the University of Michigan have used human pluripotent stem cell lines (originally isolated from embryos, but kept and nurtured as clumps of dividing cells in petri-dishes for many years) to make a model embryo that has shown signs of development and organisation in the crucial 7-10 day window. Magdalena and Roland Pease discuss how helpful these will be to understanding crucial early stage pregnancies and as a tool to test drugs, treatments and disease processes. The ethical side of growing human embryos from stem cells is addressed by Stanford University ethicist Professor Hank Greely.

Astronomers have detected water vapour in the atmosphere of a planet called K2-18b orbiting within the habitable zone of a distant star. The lead scientist, Professor Giovanna Tinetti of University College London, talks to Roland about the discovery and what she hopes to explore when a satellite telescope called ARIEL is launched by ESA in around a decade.

And an amateur astronomer has discovered a comet that appears to have arrived from outside our Solar System. This observation follows on from that of Oumuamua which looked like it was an asteroid that had escaped from an exoplanetary system. Roland asks professional astronomers Alan Fitzsimmons of Queens University Belfast and Simon Porter from South West Research Institute in Colorado what they make of the latest interstellar visitor.
(Picture: A set of five embryo-like structures in a microfluidic device developed in the lab of Jianping Fu. The top row consists of “immunostaining” images in which key proteins are tagged with dyes to label different cell types, whereas the bottom row shows standard photos taken through a microscope. Parts of the bottom images were blurred to more clearly show a correlation between the rows. Image credit: Fu Lab, Michigan Engineering)
Presenter: Roland Pease
Producer: Deborah Cohen

Sep 12 2019

26mins

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Rank #15: Analysing the European heatwave

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The recent European heatwave broke records, but how severe was it really and what were the underlying causes? Having run the numbers, climate scientists say global warming played a large part, and makes heatwaves in general more likely.

And we look at what seems an incredibly simple idea to counter the effects of global warming – plant more trees, but where and how many?

(Photo: People cool themselves down in the fountain of the Trocadero esplanade in Paris. Credit: AFP/Getty Images)

Presenter: Roland Pease
Producer: Julian Siddle

Jul 04 2019

28mins

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