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BBC World Service - Science in Action

Science In Action

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

Science In Action

  • More likely, more intense
    Storm Daniel devastated the city of Derna in Libya after heavy rainfall broke a dam, causing extreme flooding downstream. The World Weather Attribution (WWA) reports that severe flooding in Libya and across the Mediterranean has been made more likely and more intense due to human induced climate change. WWA scientist Friederike Otto gets into the report. Back in 2020, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx scooped up rock and dust samples from asteroid Bennu and on Sunday September 24th, 2023 the sample capsule will finally be released 100,000 kilometres above Earth, delivering it to the Great Salk Lake Desert. OSIRIS REx engineer Anjani Polit tells us about the nail-biting return. Also this week, Dr Peter Hotez warns us about the dangerous and rapid rise of anti-science sentiment in the United States. It’s all in his new book "The Deadly Rise of Anti-Science". And the remnants of what is thought to be the oldest wooden structure have been found in Zambia. Professor of Archaeology Lawrence Barham talks about the simple structure made by our ancestors almost 500,000 years ago. Presenter: Roland Pease Producer: Ella Hubber Editor: Martin Smith Production Co-ordinator: Jana Bennett-Holesworth (Image: Building collapsed and surrounded by rubble following floods in Derna. Credit: RICARDO GARCIA VILANOVA / Getty Images)

  • Deadly floods in Derna
    Earlier this week the deadly Mediterranean cyclone, Storm Daniel, swept through the small city of Derna in Libya, collapsing a 50-year-old dam in its wake, and triggering devastating floods which have killed over 5000 people. We speak to atmospheric scientist, Stavros Dafis, about the cyclone’s characteristics and to civil and structural engineer, Lis Bowman, about the dam collapse. Unsurprisingly, it all comes back to climate change. Far, far from Earth, the James Webb Space Telescope has set its site on the atmosphere of exoplanet K2-18b where the presence of methane and carbon dioxide offer the tantalising possibility of an extraterrestrial Ocean. Astrophysicist Nikku Madhusudhan discusses his exciting results. And an even less expected presence in space: the ancient remains of our ancestors. Archaeologist Lee Berger has come under fire after sending precious bone samples on a Virgin Galactic space flight. South African archaeologist, Robyn Pickering, expresses the frustration that is on everyone’s mind. Also expressing their anger, two young climate protesters recently stormed the stage during an orchestral performance at a Swiss music festival. But, to everyone’s surprise, conductor Vladimir Jurowski allowed them to speak to his audience. We hear from the Renovate Switzerland protestors, Anthony and Selina, on their unlikely experience. Presenter: Roland Pease Producer: Ella Hubber Editor: Martin Smith Production Co-ordinator: Jana Bennett-Holesworth (Image: Collapsing buildings and flooded land in the aftermath of the Derna floods. Credit: Anadolu Agency / Getty Images)

  • Returning to the North Pole
    In September 2012 Arctic sea ice melted to its minimum ever recorded and the German research ice breaker, Polarstern, ventured deep into the region North of Russia to record findings. It’s now retracing its steps, over a decade later, to observe how things have progressed. Autun Purser and Antje Boethius describe the journey and the importance of documenting developments in the face of climate change. Some 75 million individuals are believed to live with Long Covid and, in order to treat the plethora of symptoms presented by patients, researchers continue to search for the root source of the condition in the hope of better prescribing broad therapeutics. Akiko Iwasaki, Professor of Immunobiology at Yale University, updates Roland on the working hypotheses. And one year on from the Hunga Tonga eruption, where a shockwave circled the globe four times, researchers have been able to calculate the speed of the currents in the southern Pacific Ocean. BBC correspondent Jon Amos caught up with Michael Clare to hear how other South Pacific Islands can learn from the most explosive volcanic eruption in 100 years. Presenter: Roland Pease Producer: Harrison Lewis

  • Drowning coastal ecosystems
    Global sea levels are rising more than 3mm per year under current climate conditions. At this rate we are due to hit an alarming 7mm rise per year by the end of the century. If this is not slowed, it could lead to the drowning of essential coastal ecosystems like mangroves and lagoons, professor of environmental science Neil Saintilan tells Science in Action. The seas are also heating up. We’ve covered the devastating effect of marine heatwaves on vibrant sea life like coral reefs before. But what about the less glamourous bottom-dwelling fish? Ecologist Alexa Fredston has found that they may be more robust than we think. Also this week, bird virus expert Michelle Wille tells us about the imminent threat of bird flu spreading from South America to Antarctica where hundreds of thousands of sea birds are at risk. And from one south pole to another, we have an update on how India’s mission on the lunar south pole is going with Lunar and Planetary Institute scientist David Kring. Image Credit: Marie Hickman Presenter: Roland Pease Producer: Ella Hubber Editor: Richard Collings

  • Brain-computer interfaces
    Advances in brain-computer interfaces have allowed patients with paralysis to communicate faster, more accurately and more expressively with direct brain to speech translation. Co-author of an exciting new paper in the field, bioengineer Alex Silva, tells Science in Action about his team’s work with patient Ann. The world has been following the Indian and Russian race to land on the lunar south pole. Producer Ella Hubber gives a timeline of the events leading up to that historic landing. Also this week, a new prediction model allows us to better prepare for future extreme weather events. But is this worst-case scenario model scaremongering? Roland talks to author Erich Fischer about the projections. And virologist Connor Bamford talks detecting bird flu in wastewater for betting monitoring. Image Credit: Noah Berger Presenter: Roland Pease Producer: Ella Hubber Editor: Richard Collings