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The Science Hour


Science, health and technology news and highlights of the week.

Science, health and technology news and highlights of the week.
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Science, health and technology news and highlights of the week.




Trump’s Hubble Trouble

As federal employees many US scientists have been affected by the US government shutdown. They are not being paid, can’t talk about their work or go to scientific conferences. We look at how this US political stand-off is affecting scientific research. One of the casualties is the Hubble space telescope, in need of repairs, which cannot start until its federal employed engineers can get back to work. Meanwhile, in Antarctica a US led team have extracted microbes, water and rock samples from...


Beyond the Planets

It’s been years in the planning and involved a tiny window of opportunity. NASA’s New Horizons mission launched in 2006 has reached its far flung destination, a couple of outer space snowballs known as Ultima Thule. The mission aims to shed light on the formation of our solar system. And just days later an unmanned Chinese mission has landed on the moon, on the far side, they’ll be examining rocks and also seeing if simple plants and animals survive in a biosphere there. We also look at the...


A Year of Space Firsts

The Parker Solar Probe has flown nearer to the sun than any other mission. The probe is now sending back data on the behaviour of electromagnetic waves emitted from the coronal mass. Fluctuations in these waves can lead to solar flares ,which in turn can have a huge impact on earth, including the potential to knock out global communications. The Japanese space agency’s Hayabusa mission successfully landed two robots on an asteroid 4 years away from earth. Next year the mission will return to...


Is This Fungus the World’s Biggest Organism?

The ‘Humungous Fungus’ is older and bigger than previously thought. This enormous honey fungus has been revisited and reanalysed using scientific techniques that had yet to be invented when it was first discovered in the 1980s. Genomic analysis and GPS show how far the fungus has spread, and surprisingly how little genetic variance it has developed in its long lifespan. The fungus is now thought to be at least 2,500 years old. Researchers say understanding why it lacks genetic mutation might...


Mega Microbes

Investigations beneath our deep oceans have revealed an immense variety of incredibly hardy microbial life. Investigators even found life after drilling 2.5 km into the rock beneath the oceans. They found microbes that can resist immense pressure and incredible temperatures. They say it’s plausible that life itself could have developed under such conditions. Comparisons between central and southern Africans, the latter with lighter skins, show that Eurasian genes with an impact on skin...


Climate Change Missing Target

The latest climate talks have heard that emissions this year and last have increased - they fell in the 3 years previously. Development of electric vehicles and energy generation with renewable technologies have helped reduce emissions, but it’s not enough according to the latest analysis. The growth of conventional energy generation using fossil fuels has dwarfed reduction from using cleaner technologies. Ammonia pollution is a serious issue for health globally. New satellite observations...


Gene Editing Controversy

A researcher in China claims to have modified the genes of two baby girls. His announcement at a genetics conference in Hong Kong caused outrage. Experts in the field were quick to point out the dangers of the technique he had used and questioned the ethics of doing such an experiment. Scientists in Cambridge have successfully grown human placental tissue. This is not for transplant into humans, but to provide a model to help understand problems in early pregnancy which can affect both...


Goodbye Jet Engine?

The 1960s concept of ‘Ionic Wind’ has been successfully put to the test in a new kind of electric airplane. The plane has no motors and uses the exchange of ions in the air to propel itself. Larger versions could carry goods and passengers and would produce far less pollution than conventional aircraft. The death of the kilogram. The ancient lumps of metal that provided the standard measures. have been replaced with a mathematical formula that should not deteriorate over time. Whale music,...


Science in Trump’s America

In the US mid-term elections, the Democrats gained a majority in the lower house, this means they take control of key committees – including the House Science Committee. Over recent years this once bipartisan committee has been used by Republicans to push a climate change denying agenda. Now the democrats will regain control and the chair elect says she will be reinforcing that climate change is real and doing more to encourage participation in science at a grassroots level particularly with...


Geological Junk

The junk and geology of the Anthropocene, how mankind’s influence of the planet is now producing more erosion than natural forces, and how the materials we’ve used for mining and building in the past provides a snapshot of our geological influence of the planet. Finland’s Water shortage: Even in places where water is seemingly plentiful there can be issues, particularly caused by growing populations. In Finland to try balance the needs of rural and urban communities, authorities have...


A Milky Way Merger

An impact with galaxy Enceladus, around 10 billion years ago filled, our home galaxy, the Milky Way’s inner surrounding halo with stars and made the galactic disk much thicker, and starrier than it ought to be. Carbon tetrachloride is one of several man-made gases that contribute to the depletion of the ozone layer high in the atmosphere. Because of this, restrictions were introduced on the use of this gas under the Montreal Protocol. Concentrations of the gas in the atmosphere should be...


Indonesia Earthquake

The Indonesian island of Sulawesi has been battered by natural forces. First an earthquake, followed by a devastating tsunami and now a volcanic eruption. Roland Pease talks to Geologist Phil Cummins from the Australian National University in Canberra about the multiple geological factors that put the people of Sulawesi in such danger. Could Tech Warn of Future Tsunami? Could a complex prototype system of sensors and cables on the sea floor in Indonesia warn scientists of future tsunamis?...



India has launched an ambitious new health funding scheme, Modicare. Taxes on the middle and upper classes will fund the world’s biggest government-funded health care project – paying for hospital treatment for the country’s 100 million poorest families Claudia Hammond hears from the BBC’s reporter in Delhi, Devina Gupta. Hayabusa-2 The audacious Japanese space mission has successfully landed two rovers (Minerva II 1a + b) on the surface of asteroid Ryugu. The asteroid is currently 4 years...


Early Humans

Early Humans Archaeologists in China have ‘peeled back’ 17 layers of sediment and fossil soils formed during a period spanning almost a million years. They’ve revealed stone tool fragments and animal bones at the site in Shangchen in the southern Chinese Loess Plateau. Prof John Kappelman tells Roland Pease about a Chinese team that has dated the discoveries and finds that the timing of when early humans left Africa and arrived in Asia is earlier than previously thought – now over two...


Hazard Mapping the Guatemalan Volcano

Hazard Mapping the Guatemalan Volcano Volcanologist Eliza Calder explains why the eruption of Volcán de Fuego in Guatemala on 3rd June was so devastating. It left at least 110 people dead and over 200 people missing. It’s thought that the local populations were so acclimatised to the rumblings and explosions of the ‘persistently active’ volcano, that they were slow to take action when it violently erupted. Voltaglue Medical surgeons routinely stitch or pin organs and blood vessels with...