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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

  • Destination Asteroid Apophis

    There’s an update from asteroid expert Patrick Michel about the European Space Agency’s Rapid Apophis Mission for Space Safety. The ESA have received permission to begin preparatory work for the planetary defence mission which will rendezvous with the asteroid Apophis, that will be passing by the Earth on Friday, April 13th 2029.

    And in news from the Moon this week – a massive cave has been discovered on its surface that might be a window into the body’s sub-surface, and even a ready-made lunar base for future astronauts to use. The claim was made in Nature Astronomy by a team of Italian planetary scientists, and two experts in remote sensing who have been re-interpreting radar data from a NASA orbiter - Leonardo Carrer and Lorenzo Bruzzone from University of Trento in Italy. In the magazine Science, there’s a call for a re-doubling of efforts to tackle malaria in Africa as signs grow that a leading treatment, Artemisinin, is becoming less effective. Deus Ishengoma, a malaria expert with the Tanzanian National Institute for Medical Research, is worried, having seen the transformation Artemesinin made in the past.

    Tiny solar-powered flying robots - an ultra-lightweight, solar-powered micro aerial vehicle capable of sustained flight is described in a paper published in Nature. Peng Jinzhe of the School of Energy and Power Engineering at Beihang University was part of the team behind the 8 millimetre robot.

    Presenter: Roland Pease Producer: Jonathan Blackwell Production Coordinator: Jana Bennett-Holesworth

    (Image: ESA’s Ramses mission to asteroid Apophis. Credit: The European Space Agency)



  • Hurricane Beryl’s trail of destruction

    The 2024 north Atlantic hurricane season has started with a bang, with Hurricane Beryl traversing the whole ocean, and leaving a trail of destruction across the Caribbean, into Mexico and Texas. Presenter Roland Pease speaks to climate expert Michael Mann of Pennsylvania University about this hurricane season and the role of climate change.

    And Roland speaks to Amie Eisfeld of the Influenza Research Institute at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, who has been looking at the infection and transmission of bovine H5N1 influenza (bird flu). The virus is shown to be transmitted through the milk of cows with bovine flu to mice and by intranasal exposure to mice and ferrets. The findings are published in Nature this week.

    Ancient genomics: Neolithic farmers hit hard by the plague. Repeated outbreaks of plague may have contributed to the decline in Neolithic populations in Scandinavia, a Nature paper suggests. The analysis of ancient DNA from more than 100 individuals sheds light on the fate of these farmers around 5000 years ago. Roland speaks to geneticist Frederik Seersholm of the Lundbeck Foundation GeoGenetics Centre in Copenhagen.

    And a cheap coating that can be painted easily onto the glass of greenhouses converts part of the sunlight spectrum into red light that should boost the rate at which plants grow. Roland joins the chemists and crop scientists to see if there really is a difference with tomatoes and strawberries.

    Presenter: Roland Pease Producer: Jonathan Blackwell Production Coordinator: Jana Bennett-Holesworth

    (Image: Hurricane Beryl batters northern Jamaica after killing 7 people in southeast Caribbean. Credit: Anadolu/Getty Images)



  • Cleaner mining, cleaner batteries

    Science in Action is at the UK's Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition, hunting for dark matter, melting ancient ice, cleaning up disused mines and looking for the batteries of the future.

    Presenter: Roland Pease Producer: Alex Mansfield Production Coordinator: Jana Bennett-Holesworth

    (Image: Pile of used batteries ready for recycling. Credit: Mindful Media via Getty Images)



  • On the road to halting HIV

    An injectable antiviral "PrEP" therapy that gives 100% protection against HIV infection. Trials among young women in South Africa and Uganda proved so effective, they were wound up early to accelerate its use. Linda-Gail Bekker of the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation shares her excitement.

    A new kind of gene therapy that uses the cell's own “epigenetic” mechanisms to silence troublesome portions of our DNA, tested against the prion protein responsible for some brain diseases. Jonathan Weissman led the research at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research in Massachusetts.

    Accelerated evolution is being tested in Matthew Nitschke’s labs in the Australian Institute for Marine Science to see if it can help protect natural corals against future global warming.

    The amazing 4.200 km transatlantic flight of some Painted Lady butterflies – and the extraordinary detective work ecologist Gerard Talavera and team needed to prove it.

    Presenter: Roland Pease Producer: Jonathan Blackwell Production Coordinator: Jana Bennett-Holesworth

    (Image: HIV Vaccine Efficacy Trial Conducted In Uganda. Credit: Luke Dray / Stringer via Getty Images.)



  • China: Scientific superpower

    How has China reached the top spot of scientific research so quickly? Science editor of The Economist, Ainslie Johnstone, gives us the CCPs grand, broad plans whilst senior reporter for Nature, Gemma Conroy, digs into the specifics of China’s future particle collider.

    Also, Gene Kirtsky, who has been studying cicadas for 50 years, discusses the spectacle of the millions of insects which have been emerging across the USA this summer.

    And Unexpected Elements' Marnie Chesterton gets close and personal with the stinkiest plant in the world at Kew Garden in London. Presenter: Roland Pease Producer: Ella Hubber Production co-ordinator: Jana Bennett-Holesworth

    (Photo: Jiangmen Underground Neutrino Observatory under construction. Credit: VCG/Getty Images.)