Bbc Inside Science



Dr Adam Rutherford and guests illuminate the mysteries and challenge the controversies behind the science that's changing our world.


  • EU membership and UK science, Quantum games, Fixing genes

    21/04/2016 Duración: 27min

    The UK science community draws vital benefits from EU membership and could lose influence in the event of an exit, says a House of Lords report out this week. UK researchers placed a high value on collaboration opportunities afforded by EU membership. A number also believe the UK would lose its ability to influence EU science policy in the event of leaving - something that's disputed by pro-Brexit campaigners. To debate the ins and outs of being in or out of the EU, Adam is joined by Viscount Matt Ridley, a member of the committee, and Professor Paul Boyle, the Vice Chancellor of Leicester University and former president of Science Europe. Scientists at Aarhus University in Denmark are developing a quantum computer. To help them solve a particular problem, they have turned to human brain power, harnessing our ability to play computer games. The team have designed video games, such as Quantum Moves - that are helping them to understand the problem of 'slosh'- that atoms move about, when moved, like water slo

  • Breakthrough Starshot, Moon mining, QB50, Solar Q&A

    14/04/2016 Duración: 28min

    This week Russian internet billionaire Yuri Milner announced a project to send tiny spaceships to Alpha Centauri. Milner, alongside Stephen Hawking, announced a $100 million project to develop and launch a cloud of spaceships with sails. They'll be powered by giant lasers based on earth, and will fly at one fifth the speed of light. The Breakthrough Starshot project sounds like science fiction - Adam is joined by Professor Andrew Coates from UCL's Mullard Space Science Laboratory to sort the feasible from the fantasy. Space travel is expensive. Scientists and engineers met recently to discuss a way of making it cheaper. Sending men back to the moon to mine it may sound like a hugely costly process, but as reporter Roland Pease discovers, when it comes to future space missions, it might become an essential part of the process. Closer to home than the moon is a section of the atmosphere called the thermosphere that is poorly understood. A European project called QB50 plans to change this, by sending 50 small

  • Air pollution monitoring, Britain breathing, Tracking Hannibal

    07/04/2016 Duración: 27min

    This week a "Faraday Discussion" - a unique way of presenting and sharing cutting edge science - is underway at the Royal Society of Chemistry in London looking specifically at Chemistry in the Urban Atmosphere. As Prof Ally Lewis of York University tells Adam Rutherford, atmospheric chemistry is so complex, and detector standards so variable - in particular the cheaper commercial brands - that it can be hard to check whether our environmental policies are working. Whilst local and national governments spend precious public money checking for compliance with a number of common pollutants, atmospheric chemists would like a more investigative approach, looking at the chemistry in action, rather than the end products. Do you suffer in the spring and summer? Allergies are on the increase in the UK. And scientists don't know why. But the environment, and what we breathe from it, is thought to be key. A new app for smartphones called Britain Breathing has been developed by scientists at Manchester University worki

  • Solar farm, Gravity machine, Kakapo

    31/03/2016 Duración: 31min

    The world's second largest floating solar farm has just started generating power. Built on the Queen Elizabeth II reservoir in West London, it's the size of eight football pitches and can provides enough power for 1,800 homes. Its construction was a race against time, because the UK government cuts subsidies for new solar farms from April. Adam Rutherford talks to Leev Harder from Lightsource Renewable Energy about the project. Dr Iain Staffel is a sustainable energy expert at Imperial College London and he explains the main issue with solar: the difficulties in storing the electricity produced until it's needed. A team from Glasgow University has invented a portable gravity detector. Volcanologist Hazel Rymer from the Open University discusses how this cheap and portable device can detect tiny changes in gravity in the ground. She hopes to use this kind of device to monitor what's happening inside volcanoes soon. In New Zealand, the near-extinct kakapo will become the first species to have the genome of ev

  • Flu, Coffee yeasts, Wave machine, Cochlear implants

    24/03/2016 Duración: 27min

    The flu season is running later this year. And it has been unusually virulent. Professor Wendy Barclay, virologist at Imperial College London, tells Tracey Logan about the constant race to keep up with flu mutations in order to build an effective vaccine. Wine has a microbial terroir which is thought to affect its taste. A new paper suggests coffee and chocolate might do too. Aimee Dudley from the Pacific Northwest Diabetes Research Institute in Seattle has studied global populations of yeast found on cacao and coffee beans. She explains that these yeast varieties are genetically diverse. Tracey Logan travels to coffee supplier Union, to meet scientist-turned-coffee-buyer, Steve Macatonia, and unpick the flavours of coffee. In Delft, the world's biggest artificial waves are pitted against a new kind of super-strong sea wall. The Delta Flume team, led by Mark Klein Breteler, has created a giant concrete channel with a wave generator. Reporter Roland Pease turns up in time to see the team testing their artifi

  • Recovering lost memories, Storks eat junk food, Oldest pine fossil, Spring flowering

    17/03/2016 Duración: 27min

    Research in Nature this week shows that lost memories in mice can be rescued by reactivating a group of memory cells in the brain called 'engram' cells. The team suggests that their research might prove useful for Alzheimer's patients in the future. Professor John Hardy, neuroscientist at University College London and Dr Prerana Shrestha from the Center for Neural Science at New York University discuss the work with Tracey. The migrating white stork is well-known in folklore as the bringer of babies. In recent years, large numbers of them have decided to stop flying to Africa for winter, and live all year round, feasting on food from landfills in Portugal. Dr Aldina Franco from the University of East Anglia has been studying these birds and talks to Tracey about these adapting birds. A scientist at Royal Holloway University in London has discovered the oldest-known fossil of a pine tree. Howard Falcon-Lang discovered the fossils in Nova Scotia, Canada, and brought some back to his office. 5 years later, he

  • Gain-of-function research, Mindfulness, Women in science, Snake locomotion

    10/03/2016 Duración: 27min

    This week in the US, public discussions are taking place into controversial Gain of Function research. Who should decide the limits of studies where scientists make new, deadlier viruses in the laboratory? Dr Filippa Lentzos, biosecurity expert from King's College, London, lists a litany of accidental security breaches from the past. Should we stop this kind of dangerous research, or encourage it, in the interests of national security? Mindfulness is a hot topic at the moment. As part of BBC School Report, students from Connaught School for Girls in Leytonstone have tested themselves to see whether meditation helps with their studies. Tracey Logan discusses the scientific research underpinning this trend with psychologist Claudia Hammond. The Royal Society released a report this week entitled "Parent, Carer, Scientist." The idea is to encourage an environment in research institutions where scientists can have a life as well as a vocation. Professor Ottoline Leyser, Professor of Plant Development and Direct

  • UK's longest-running cohort study, The Brain prize, Hairy genetics

    03/03/2016 Duración: 28min

    This week is birthday time for the 3000-strong group of 70 year olds who might qualify for the title of longest-serving science guinea pigs. Participants in The National Survey for Health and Development cohort study have been closely monitored since their birth in 1946. Joining Adam Rutherford to discuss how this and other similar studies have influenced our lives, and what data we should collect on today's babies, are the Head of the National Survey for Health and Development at MRC's Unit for Lifelong Health and Ageing at University College London, Professor Diana Kuh, and Professor Debbie Lawlor, programme lead at the Medical Research Council's epidemiology unit at Bristol University. A team of British team has picked up £1 million from The Brain Prize, which is issued by a Danish Charity annually. Tim Bliss, Graham Collingridge and Richard Morris have won for their work on how memories are formed. BBC science reporter Jonathan Webb is a former neuroscientist and brings us up-to-date with the latest thi

  • UK science and the EU, Sex of organs, Artificial colon, Gorillas call when eating

    25/02/2016 Duración: 27min

    Britain faces a referendum on whether to leave Europe. Science, and scientists, often cross borders in collaborations, so what would the implications be for a British exit from the EU? The House of Lords Science and Technology Committee have an ongoing inquiry into how EU membership influences British science. Inside Science condenses the pertinent points. The stem cells that make up our organs 'know' whether they are 'male' or 'female', and that this sexual identity could influence how they grow and behave. Dr Irene Miguel-Aliaga, at the MRC Clinical Sciences Centre at Imperial College London, wanted to ask a very basic question: whether it is just the cells of the sex organs of a fully developed organism that 'know' their sexual identity, or whether this is true of cells in other organs too - and whether that matters. It was previously thought that non-reproductive organs are the same in both sexes, and function differently because of the differences in circulating hormones, but her new research suggests

  • Gravitational Waves, UK Spaceport, Big Brains and Extinction Risk, Conservation in Papua New Guinea

    18/02/2016 Duración: 27min

    Gravitational waves were announced last week, in what may be the science discovery of the decade. The Ligo detector, the most sensitive instrument on the surface of the planet, detected the ripples given off by the collision of two black holes. Adam Rutherford puts a selection of listener questions to UCL cosmologist Dr Andrew Pontzen. In March 2015, Campbeltown, Glasgow Prestwick, Stornoway, Newquay, Llanbedr and Leuchars were shortlisted by the government as possible sites for a "cosmodrome" or spaceport. With the UK space industry worth an estimated £40 billion by 2030, various stakeholders met for the UK spaceport conference at the Royal Aeronautical Society in London to discuss the progress of the project. What would the impact be for scientists, industry and the public? Big brains have traditionally been considered an advantage. Animals with larger brains are better at using tools, working as a social group and assessing how to react to predators. But when Dr Eric Abelson cross referenced relative bra

  • Gravitational Waves Special

    11/02/2016 Duración: 27min

    The universe is silent no longer - physicists at the LIGO observatory have detected gravitational waves. LIGO, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory, with its giant laser beam arms totalling 5 miles across the remote Hanford desert, is the largest lab on the surface of the planet. It was constructed in the Columbia Basin region of south-eastern Washington specifically to detect gravitational waves -- ripples in the fabric of space-time. First predicted a century ago by Einstein in his theory of general relativity, gravitational waves are produced by exotic cosmic events, such as when 2 black holes collide. Scientists have hunted for them for decades with increasingly sensitive equipment. The laser beam tubes of the observatory have proved sensitive enough to detect the signal from deep space as small as a thousandth the diameter of a proton. Tracey and studio guest Dr Andrew Pontzen from UCL examine the science of gravitational waves, and how LIGO is both an eye and an ear on the motion

  • UK pollinators' food, Brain implant, Holograms, Lunar 9

    04/02/2016 Duración: 27min

    Some much-needed good news for our troubled bees and other pollinators: between 1998 and 2007, the amount of nectar produced from Britain's flowering plants rose by 25%. A new study suggests this may be due to reductions in atmospheric pollution. But researchers looked at records spanning over 80 years, and also found that the UK flowers which provide nectar suffered substantial losses during the 20th century. Considering the services that nectar-feeding pollinators perform for agriculture and our ecosystems, this is something worth knowing. Professor Jane Memmott, ecologist at the University of Bristol, explains how bad things really are for Britain's pollinators and what lessons conservation could learn from her team's latest findings about nectar. In 2014, neuroscientist Dr Phil Kennedy flew to Belize and paid a surgeon to insert electrodes into his otherwise healthy brain, in order to experiment on himself. His aim was to unpick the electrical signals given from his brain during speech. BBC science repor

  • Zika, Penguins, Erratum, Fossil fish

    28/01/2016 Duración: 28min

    The Zika virus is dominating the news this week. The latest data says it's been found in 21 countries so far. The symptoms are generally mild, but the possibility of a link to microcephaly has been raised in Brazil. Microcephaly is a serious condition where children are born with abnormally small heads and sometimes incomplete brain development. Trudie Lang, Professor of Global Health at Oxford University, and virologist Professor Jonathan Ball from Nottingham University discuss what we know so far. All the way from Antarctica our reporter Victoria Gill brings us the latest news about the citizen science project 'Penguin Watch'. Victoria installed new cameras with Dr Tom Hart and collected guano with Hila Levy. Gemma Clucas (Oxford and Southampton University) gives an update on what will happen with the collected data. Back in October we featured a major paper by a team of scientists lead by Dr Andrea Manica from Cambridge University. By comparing the 4500 year-old genome of a prehistoric man called Mota t

  • Ancient Britons' DNA, Concorde's 40th Anniversary, Giant dinosaur, New planet?

    21/01/2016 Duración: 28min

    Our ability to extract DNA from old bones is improving, giving us a much clearer picture of who our ancestors were, and what they did. Two new papers out this week in Nature Communications are filling in some gaps in our knowledge of the history of Britain. One of the pieces of research - led by Professor Dan Bradley from Trinity College Dublin - examines DNA from individuals who died in northeast England at the beginning of the first millennium of the current era. The other paper analyses the genomes of East Anglian people who lived at a similar and slightly later time, and the lead author is Dr Stephan Schiffels. He worked at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute near Cambridge at the time of this research, and is now based at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. Professor Mark Thomas from University College London is a co-author on Dan Bradley's paper and joins Adam Rutherford to discuss this research in the context of its rapidly changing field. Concorde flew its first commercial flig

  • The 100,000 Genome Project, Stem cell doping, Nuclear waste, Dinosaur sex

    14/01/2016 Duración: 28min

    The 100,000 Genome Project aims to sequence the DNA of 100,000 patients. One of those patients is four-year-old Georgia Walburn-Green. Her symptoms did not fit into any known disease category. Prof Maria Bitner-Glindzicz at University College London used early results from the 100,000 Genome project to diagnose Georgia's condition. Roland Pease reports on helping stem cells survive using a kind of 'blood paint'. By dipping the cells in myoglobin, researchers at Bristol University have found a way to improve both the vigour and survival of stem cells. The expanding nuclear programme in the UK will continue to produce nuclear waste - in lower volumes than previously produced, but we already have a large stockpile that has already been produced over the last 50 years. Countries around the world are facing a similar challenge: What do we do with the waste? Dame Sue Ion, engineer and expert advisor to the nuclear industry, discusses common practices and alternative approaches to nuclear waste disposal. Many din

  • El Nino Special

    07/01/2016 Duración: 27min

    El Niño is releasing vast quantities of heat normally stored in the Pacific, causing floods, droughts and fires. Adam Rutherford discusses the latest with our El Niño expert Roland Pease. This weather event arrives every 2-7 years but it's hard to work out how profound it will be. Back in May last year, the Met Office climate scientist Adam Scaife correctly predicted an El Niño. He returns to give an overview of this phenomenon. How does an altered weather pattern in the Pacific end up altering the weather in Cumbria. Tim Stockdale at the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts and Richard Allan at Reading University explain the science behind the current events. The rains are coming to drought-ridden California as a result of El Niño. Jack Stewart explains why this is not entirely a good thing. Professor Sue Page from Leicester University and Professor Martin Wooster from KCL study the Indonesian fires exacerbated by an El Niño event. They describe the devastating effects of these fires. An es

  • 31/12/2015

    31/12/2015 Duración: 28min

    Adam Rutherford and guests oceanographer Dr Helen Czerski, astrophysicist Chris Lintott and zoologist Dr Tim Cockerill share their highlights of the science year and answer listeners' science questions. Producer: Adrian Washbourn.

  • New Horizons Pluto update; friendly predatory bacteria; Christmas in the lab; human ancestry

    24/12/2015 Duración: 27min

    Since the epic flyby of Pluto in July, NASA has been regularly downloading staggering images from the New Horizons mission. Pluto is not a dead rock, but a geologically active dwarf planet, with tectonic movements, ice plains, glaciers, dunes and cryo-volcanoes. For an end of year update on the observations and outstanding mysteries, Adam meets Alan Stern, the Principal Investigator on New Horizons, who is still marvelling at the success of this humble craft. Scientists have discovered how a potentially useful predatory bacterium called Bdellovibrio protects itself against its own weapons when it invades other bacteria. Professor Liz Sockett discusses how the work offers insights into early steps in the evolution of bacterial predators and how this will help to inform new ways to fight antimicrobial resistance Science stops for no one .So how are researchers nurturing their experiments over the festive period? Marnie Chesterton has gone on the hunt for scientists for whom Christmas Day will be yet ano

  • Tim Peake's mission to the ISS, Spaceman Chris Hadfield, AGU round-up, Air pollution, Human Evolution at the NHM

    17/12/2015 Duración: 34min

    Two times shuttle captain, and with 6 months on the ISS, Commander Chris Hadfield is best qualified to pass on his advice to Major Tim Peake about the science and life in general on the International Space Station. Polar bears walk further Polar bears are having to walk further to stay in the same place. As ice melts in the Arctic, the thin ice is blown around by the wind, making it harder for polar bears to stick to their traditional hunting grounds. Elephant Deterrent By combining a seismic element to the infrasound of recordings of elephant alarm calls, researchers hope to finally develop an audio deterrent to keep marauding elephants from destroying farmland in Africa. Tracking air pollution from space The US space agency satellite, Aura has been tracking trends in emissions of nitrogen oxides for over a decade. It's seen big falls in the pollutant in the US and Europe, while at the same time recording significant increases in some developing nations, such as China and Bangladesh. Air pollution Even i

  • Flooding, Scientific modelling, Magnetoreception, Escalators

    10/12/2015 Duración: 29min

    Flood modelling As parts of Cumbria and Somerset remain on flood alert, Adam looks at the science that predicts floods. Are our flood defences good enough and is climate change behind the recent cluster of '1 in 100 year' floods? Flood modeller Nick Reynard from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology explains. What is a scientific model? Prompted by a listener's question, Adam asks scientists what they mean when they say they "modelled the data". He explores the strengths and weaknesses of using models to represent things as diverse as the spin of planets and field choice of skylarks. Magneto-reception Is there a 6th sense? Since the 1960s, it has been generally accepted that animals have a sense of magnetism. This may help explain how some birds are able to migrate huge distances. However, ever since this discovery, the mechanism behind the reception of the Earth's magnetic field has remained a mystery. Scientists don't know which components are responsible for detecting the magnetism, hence the search for '

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