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BBC Inside Science

Podcast BBC Inside Science
Podcast BBC Inside Science

BBC Inside Science

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  • The Rutland ‘Sea Dragon’, An Astronomer's Christmas and some Animal Magic
    After 20 years of planning, preparation and a nail-biting build up fraught by delays The James Webb Space telescope finally launched on Christmas day 2021. Anxious astronomers across the globe looked on as the JWST then completed even riskier manoeuvres to unfurl the 18 hexagonal components that make up its 6.5 meter diameter primary mirror. Cosmologist Dr Sheona Urquhart from the Open University tells us about the astronomical community’s tense Christmas day. Fresh from a TV spot on BBC Two’s Digging for Britain this week, Dr Dean Lomax and PhD candidate Emily Swaby share their excitement unearthing Rutland’s ‘Sea Dragon’ and explore what this find could tell us about Ichthyosaurs. At over 10 meters long this ancient ocean predator is the largest complete fossil of its kind to be discovered in the UK. Ichthyosaurs are commonly associated with Dorset and Yorkshire coastlines where fossils are often revealed as surrounding rock is eroded by the elements. Finding an ichthyosaur fossil inland is unusual but not unexpected as the higher sea levels 200 million years ago would put the east midlands underwater. And whilst the palaeontologists have been struggling through the Jurassic mud, cognition researchers at the University of Cambridge have been wowing their birds with magic tricks. Professor Nicky Clayton FRS, Professor of Comparative Cognition, explains what we can learn about the way jays think by assessing their reaction to different sleight-of-hand tricks. Corvids, the family to which these feathered friends belong, have long interested researchers due to their impressive cognitive abilities and Nicky’s team has shown that their Jays are not fooled by all of the same mis-directions as we are, but are fooled by some. And it could be down to not being able to tell the difference between a finger and a feather. Presented by Marnie Chesterton Produced by Alex Mansfield Assistant Producer Emily Bird Made in association with The Open University
    1/13/2022
    28:02
  • Deep ocean exploration
    UCL oceanographer Helen Czerski explores life in the ocean depths with a panel of deep sea biologists. They take us to deep ocean coral gardens on sea mounts, to extraordinary hydrothermal vent ecosystems teeming with weird lifeforms fed by chemosynthetic microbes, to the remarkable biodiversity in the muds of the vast abyssal plains. Helen's guests are Adrian Glover of the Natural History Museum in London, Kerry Howell of Plymouth University and Alex Rogers, scientific director of REV Ocean. They discuss the dramatic revelations made by deep ocean explorers in just the last forty years, and the profound connections that the deep sea floor has with life at the Earth's surface. They also consider the threats to the ecosystems down there from seabed mining and climate change. Producer: Andrew Luck-Baker BBC Inside Science is made in association with the Open University.
    1/6/2022
    37:16
  • A new space age?
    Dr Kevin Fong convenes a panel of astronautical minds to discuss the next decade or two of space exploration. 2021 was an eventful year in space. Captain James Kirk a.k.a William Shatner popped into space for real for a couple of minutes, transported by space company Blue Origin's tourist rocket New Shepard. Elon Musk's Space X ferried more astronauts and supplies between Earth and the International Space Station, using its revolutionary resuable launchers and Dragon spacecraft. On Mars, the latest NASA robot rover landed and released an autonomous helicopter - the first aircraft to fly on another planet. 2022 promises even more. Most significantly NASA plans to launch the first mission of its Artemis programme. This will be an uncrewed flight of its new deep space vehicle Orion to the Moon, propelled off the Earth by its new giant rocket, the Space Launch System. Artemis is the American space agency's project to return astronauts to the lunar surface and later establish moon bases. China has a similar ambition. Are we at the beginning of a new space age and if so, how have we got here? When will we see boots on the Moon again? Could we even see the first people on Mars by the end of this decade? Even in cautious NASA, some are optimistic about this. Kevin's three guests are: Dr Mike Barratt, one of NASA's most senior astronauts and a medical doctor, based at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas Dr Anita Sengupta, Research Associate Professor in Astronautical Engineering at the University of Southern California Oliver Morton, Briefings editor at The Economist and the author of 'Mapping Mars' and 'The Moon' Producer: Andrew Luck-Baker BBC Inside Science is made in association with the Open University
    12/30/2021
    41:56
  • The Origin of Celtic Culture in Britain?
    Victoria Gill hears of ancient DNA evidence for an unrecognised mass migration from continental Europe 3,000 years ago that may even have brought the Celtic languages with it. In a paper in the journal Nature, an international team of researchers have gathered hundreds of middle-late Bronze Age DNA samples to identify a moment in pre-history when half the ancestry of people living in southern Britain became continental European. Sometime around 1000 BC, continental Europeans living in Kent spread rapidly into what is now England and Wales. As Prof Ian Armit tells Vic, the spread need not have been one event, and likely spanned around 200 years, but by the start of the Iron Age, Britons' DNA was 50% changed. The researchers suggest further that this may have been the time when Celtic languages spread from the continent into the islands too. Data are starting to be published that suggest the Omicron variant of SARS CoV-2 may be a little less awful than was first feared, though it clearly is still a lethal foe. Prof Penny Moore, one of the scientists in South Africa who helped alert the world to the new virus is very tentatively relieved that death and hospitalisation numbers there and in the UK are beginning to show clinically some of the resilience that earlier strains and vaccines may have bestowed on populations. Three "Glimpses of Spike", either through prior infection and survival or vaccination and boosting seem to be accompanied by improved survival rates. Gaia Vince has been to the Arctic Circle to talk climate change and reindeer. Sami language and culture in Lapland is under strain as climate change rapidly changes alters the predatory threats reindeer farmers face, increasing numbers of wolves and even sea-eagles that prey on young reindeer calves. And over at UCSC in California, recordings of elephant seal pups have been played to maternal harems to ascertain how well mothers recognize their own. Caroline Casey and colleagues report in Royal Society journal Biology Letters, how they can spot their own offspring from their call alone in as little as two days after birth. But if they can do that, why then do so many lactating females feed pups that aren’t their own? Elephant seal mothers fast throughout lactation and lose a huge percentage of their own body weight, quite what the evolutionary driver is for this behaviour remains uncertain, but it can’t now be a case of mistaken identity. Presenter Victoria Gill Producer Alex Mansfield Assistant Producer Emily Bird Made in Association with The Open University
    12/23/2021
    38:15
  • The James Webb Space Telescope
    The launch of the James Webb Space Telescope is only days away. Scheduled for lift off on 24 December, the largest and most complex space observatory ever built will be sent to an orbit beyond the moon. James Webb is so huge that it has had to be folded up to fit in the rocket. There will be a tense two weeks over Christmas and the New Year as the space giant unfurls and unfolds. Its design and construction has taken about 30 years under the leadership of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. With its huge 6.5 metre-wide primary mirror, the giant observatory promises to extend our view across the cosmos to the first stars to shine in the early universe. That’s a vista of Cosmic Dawn: the first small clusters of stars to form and ignite out of what had been a universe of just dark clouds of primordial gas. If the James Webb succeeds in capturing the birth of starlight, we will be looking at celestial objects more than 13.5 billion light years away. Closer to home, the telescope will also revolutionise our understanding of planets orbiting stars beyond the solar system. BBC science correspondent Jonathan Amos reports from the European Space Agency’s launch site in French Guyana from where James Webb will be sent into space. He talks to astronomers who will be using the telescope and NASA engineers who’ve built the telescope and tested it in the years leading to launch. Producer: Andrew Luck-Baker BBC Inside Science is made in association with the Open University. Image: James Webb Space Telescope. Credit: Adriana Manrique Gutierrez, NASA animator
    12/16/2021
    33:49

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