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The Science Hour

Podcast The Science Hour
Podcast The Science Hour

The Science Hour

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5 de 159
  • Bird flu (H5N1) outbreak in mink
    An outbreak of pathogenic bird flu, H5N1, in a Spanish mink farm could be a cause for concern. Some experts fear the virus may now spill over to other mammals without strict surveillance. Marion Koopmans, professor of virology at Erasmus Medical Centre, talks Roland through the potential risks. India’s caste system affects all aspects of society, but how does the hierarchy influence representation of marginalised groups in academia? Science journalist Ankur Paliwal believes that, despite efforts to combat discrimination, not enough is being done, and he has the data to prove it. Imagine a robot... Is it hard, metallic and humanoid? Professor Carmel Majidi from Carnegie Mellon University and his colleagues are thinking outside the robotics box. Their new material, magnetic in nature, can shift between solid and liquid states. It’s even capable of breaking out of robotic jail... From Lawrence of Arabia to Star Wars via tales of intrepid adventurers traversing lonely sandswept landscapes, deserts have always had a powerful pull on the popular imagination. But if a desert is full of sand, where did all that sand come from in the first place? That’s what CrowdScience listener Andy wants to know, so presenter Caroline Steel heads off into the dunes to try and find out. Along the way she’ll be wondering what a desert is anyway and whether it’s always sandy, as well as tracing the flow of material across the huge, ever-shifting sand seas of the Sahara. From deserts fed by sand from mountains thousands of kilometres away, to dunes migrating across the entire continent of Africa, we’ll discover how sand has just the right properties to be carried along by the wind. We’ll also explore how the sand in every desert has a unique fingerprint, and find out how fish bones in the Sahara tell the story of its lush, green past. Image credit: Ole Jensen/Getty
    1/29/2023
    51:05
  • Climate science activism
    Climate researcher, Rose Abramoff took to the stage at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) fall meetings, not as a guest speaker but in protest. Whilst her demonstration only lasted 15 seconds, she found her employment terminated from Oak Ridge National Laboratory and research stripped from the AGU programme. She was attempting to persuade other climate scientists to ‘get out of the lab and into the street’. Whilst Rose’s protest hit the headlines in the media, potentially less attention was paid to the session that was taking place at the conference, hosted by Mika Tosca, climate scientist-turn-artist, Associate Professor of Liberal Arts at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Ronald brings the two together to discuss the event and how climate scientists should approach activism. Although there is no one solution to the climate crisis, Roland loves a brainstorm on Science in Action. Climate activist Stuart Capstick, a Cardiff University psychologist specialising in public attitudes to environmental issues and environmental scientist Robert Young from Western Carolina University take the conversation one step further. Questioning how public perceptions of scientists change when they take evasive action and protest. And finally, we usually hear of seismology reports coming from dense, urban areas prone to earthquakes, delicately perched atop of tectonic plates. But this week, Roland speaks to Professor of Geophysics Zhongwen Zhan from the California Institute of Technology, who’s collecting data from a very unusual place... When CrowdScience listener Eric spotted a few gnats flying around on a milder day in mid-winter it really surprised him - Eric had assumed they just died out with the colder weather. It got him wondering where the insects had come from, how they had survived the previous cold snap and what the implications of climate change might be for insect over-wintering behaviour? So he asked CrowdScience to do some bug investigation. CrowdScience presenter Marnie Chesterton takes up the challenge and heads out into the British countryside – currently teeming with buzzes and eight legged tiny beasties - to learn about the quite amazing array of tactics these small creatures use to survive the arduous days of cold. She hears how some insects change their chemical structure to enhance their frost resistance whist others hanker down in warmer microclimates or rely on their community and food stocks to keep them warm. But cold isn’t the only climatic change insects have to endure, in the tropics the seasons tend to fluctuate more around wet and dry so what happens then? Marnie talks with a Kenyan aquatic insect expert who describes how mosquitoes utilise the rains and shares his worry climate change could have a big impact on insect populations.
    1/22/2023
    53:42
  • Atmospheric rivers
    Flood warnings in parts of California have seen some of the state’s best known celebrities flee their homes. The current weather conditions are in part the result of ‘Atmospheric rivers’ – literally fast flowing rivers of water vapor in the atmosphere. Marty Ralph from the Scripps Institute has been studying this phenomenon for years, he explains what atmospheric rivers are, and tells us how a greater understanding of the phenomenon is now informing weather forecasting and evacuation plans. Over the past year several million people have fled Ukraine, amongst them many scientists. Nataliya Shulga from the Ukraine Science Club is working on a wide ranging initiative to attract them back. She tells us of plans not just to reconstruct Ukrainian science facilities after the war, but to offer a philosophical change which breaks with the Soviet past - a more global, collaborative environment for scientists returning to the Ukraine. Last December the Afghan Taliban banned women from attending university, its just one of the many moves denying education to women since the Taliban returned to power. Particle physicist Kate Shaw had been working with Afghan physicists in the years before the Taliban’s comeback, she is now developing an initiative with scientists and institutions around the world to offer places to Afghan women keen to study physics. She says institutions and individuals who may be able to help should contact Physics without Frontiers at the International Centre for Theoretical Physics. And Gibbons sing with synchronicity, a new study led by Teresa Raimondi, from the University of Turin shows the ability of couples to chorus together to be rather human like. When CrowdScience listener Eric spotted a few gnats flying around on a milder day in mid-winter it really surprised him - Eric had assumed they just died out with the colder weather. It got him wondering where the insects had come from, how they had survived the previous cold snap and what the implications of climate change might be for insect over-wintering behaviour? So he asked CrowdScience to do some bug investigation. CrowdScience presenter Marnie Chesterton takes up the challenge and heads out into the British countryside – currently teeming with buzzes and eight legged tiny beasties - to learn about the quite amazing array of tactics these small creatures use to survive the arduous days of cold. She hears how some insects change their chemical structure to enhance their frost resistance whist others hanker down in warmer microclimates or rely on their community and food stocks to keep them warm. But cold isn’t the only climatic change insects have to endure, in the tropics the seasons tend to fluctuate more around wet and dry so what happens then? Marnie talks with a Kenyan aquatic insect expert who describes how mosquitoes utilise the rains and shares his worry climate change could have a big impact on insect populations. Image Credit: Josh Edelson Presenter: Roland Pease Producer: Julian Siddle
    1/15/2023
    1:00:30
  • One year on from the Tonga eruption
    We’re taking a look back at the January 2022 eruption of Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai, which literally sent shockwaves around the world. One year on, and we’re still uncovering what made the volcano so powerful, as well as unpacking its long lasting impacts. Roland is joined by Professor Shane Cronin from the University of Auckland and Dr Marta Ribó from the Auckland University of Technology to share their findings from their latest trip to survey the volcano. The impacts of the eruption weren’t just felt on Earth – they also reached all the way to space. Physicist Claire Gasque from the University of California, Berkeley, has been analysing how the eruption affected space weather. Amongst all the material ejected by Hunga Tonga was a huge amount of water. The massive water vapour cloud is still present in our atmosphere, as Professor Simon Carn from the Michigan Technological University tells us. The volcano also triggered tsunamis worldwide. Disaster sociologist Dr Sara McBride from the US Geological Survey has been using video footage of the event to analyse how people responded and how we can better prepare for future eruptions. How do we stay up when we ride a bicycle? Lots of us can do it without even thinking about it, but probably very few of us can say exactly HOW we do it. Well, CrowdScience listener Arif and his children Maryam and Mohammed from India want to understand what’s going on in our heads when go for a cycle, and how we learn to do it in the first place. Presenter Marnie Chesterton is on the case, tracking down a neuroscientist studying how our brains and bodies work together to keep us balanced whether we’re walking or trying to ride a bicycle. She learns about the quirks of bicycle engineering from researchers in the Netherlands who are part of a lab entirely devoted to answering this question. In the process falling off of some unusual bicycles and uncovering the surprising truth that physics might not yet have a proper answer. And we peer deeper into our brains to find out why some memories last longer than others, whether some people can learn quicker than others and the best way to learn a new skill. Image Credit: Tonga Geological Services
    1/8/2023
    56:42
  • The James Webb Space Telescope - the first 6 months
    NASA's James Webb Space Telescope has produced amazing images in its first 5 months, but amazing science as well. Roland hears from one of the leading astronomers on the JWST programme, Dr Heidi Hammel, as well as other experts on what they are already learning about the first galaxies in the Universe, the birth places of stars, the strange behaviour of some other stars, and the first view of Neptune's rings in over 30 years. Over the past 12 months, CrowdScience has travelled the world, from arctic glacierscapes to equatorial deserts, to answer listeners’ science queries. Sometimes, the team come across tales that don’t quite fit with the quest in hand, but still draw a laugh, or a gasp. In this show, Marnie Chesterton revisits those stories, with members of the CrowdScience crew. Alex the Parrot was a smart bird, with an impressive vocabulary and the ability to count and do basic maths. He was also intimidating and mean to a younger parrot, Griffin, who didn’t have the same grasp of the English language. Scientist Irene Pepperberg shares the consequence of this work-place bullying.  Take a tour of the disaster room at ICPAC, the IGAD Climate Prediction and Applications Centre (ICPAC) based in Nairobi, Kenya. It’s a new building where scientists keep watch for weird new weather and passes that information to 11 East African countries. Viola Otieno is an Earth Observation (EO) Expert and she explained how they track everything from cyclones to clouds of desert locust. Malcolm MacCallum is curator of the Anatomical Museum at Edinburgh University in Scotland, which holds a collection of death masks and skull casts used by the Edinburgh Phrenological Society. Phrenology was a pseudoscience, popular in the 1820s, where individuals attempted to elucidate peoples’ proclivities and personalities by the shape of their heads. We see what the phrenologists had to say about Sir Isaac Newton and the “worst pirate” John Tardy. While recording on Greenland’s icesheet, the CrowdScience team were told by Professor Jason Box about “party ice.” 40,000 year old glacial ice is a superior garnish for your cocktail than normal freezer ice, apparently. This starts a quest for the perfect Arctic cocktail. Image: An image from the James Webb Space Telescope (Credit: Nasa via PA)
    1/1/2023
    1:03:30

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