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The Naked Scientists Special Editions


Special items and features produced by the Naked Scientists team including coverage of the Cambridge Science Festival, the BA Festival of Science and the AAAS Conference.

Special items and features produced by the Naked Scientists team including coverage of the Cambridge Science Festival, the BA Festival of Science and the AAAS Conference.
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Barrington, United Kingdom




Special items and features produced by the Naked Scientists team including coverage of the Cambridge Science Festival, the BA Festival of Science and the AAAS Conference.




Dr. Chris Smith The Naked Scientists 36 West Green Barrington Cambridgeshire CB2 5SA +44 (0) 7092 01 96 9


Ivory, bear bile and tiger skins: Confiscated contraband

When people take wildlife products over a border that is under the control of CITES. Some of it is illegal, and this is when Border Force step in, confiscating the items in question and when possible, returning them to the wild. But what do people bring through? Georgia Mills was shown the Dead Shed, by senior Border Force officer Grant Miller, a horrific stash of animal and plant products that had been confiscated at Heathrow Airport. This content may be upsetting to some people.


Reprogramming skin cells to treat Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple Sclerosis, or MS, affects hundreds of thousands of people. It's a condition where the body's own immune system attacks a protective layer around nerve fibres called myelin. This prevents messages being conveyed quickly and faithfully through the brain producing symptoms that can include difficulty with vision, movement, speech, balance and sensation. In recent years scientists have begun to explore the use of stem cells to combat the progression of the disease. As author Stefano...


Is walking with friends better than walking alone?

Was exercising more one of your new year's resolutions? Has it ended up a broken promise at the bottom of your to-do list? Georgia Mills spoke to Catherine Meads from Anglia Ruskin University, who may be able to help.


New treatment for heavy periods

Up to a third of women experience debilitatingly heavy periods. This can cause significant disruption. It can also lead to depression; time off work; and, in severe cases, even lead to a low blood count or anaemia. Currently, heavy periods are treated hormonally or surgically, but these options have side effects and can affect fertility. So is there a better treatment? Edinburgh University's Jackie Maybin thinks so.


Toothpaste ingredient fights malaria

Scientists have shown that a toothpaste ingredient could be used as an anti-malarial drug. Spread by mosquitoes, malaria is caused by Plasmodium parasites, and kills over half a million people every year, 70% of them children. In recent years the parasite has also become resistant to most of the existing anti-malarial compounds. This new discovery, by researchers at the University of Cambridge, was aided by Eve, an artificially-intelligent 'robot scientist'. Chris Smith was joined by Steve...


Find out about flu

It's winter time again in the northern hemisphere and the influenza virus - the 'flu - is making its seasonal rounds. The virus infects millions of people every year, and vulnerable individuals with underlying health complaints including heart disease, kidney problems and diabetes, as well as pregnant women, the very young and the over 65s are at higher risk of developing a severe infection. To find out how flu spreads and causes disease, and how you can protect yourself, Naked Scientists...


Tinnitus therapy trial success

Around one in ten people have to live with tinnitus, this is a persistent noise ringing in the head when there's nothing external causing it. The severity of tinnitus can range from irritating to completely life-changing, by making it nearly impossible to work or sleep, and there is no cure. But now, scientists have come up with a way to reduce the severity of symptoms, by stimulating parts of the brain responsible for causing the phantom sounds. Georgia Mills spoke to Susan Shore, from...


How life could have come from space

The question of where life began is a difficult one to answer. While many scientists believe that life began on earth, others believe that life, or at least its building blocks, first formed in space. A recent study from the University of Sherbrooke, in Canada, has shown how complex organic molecules could form on icy comets - from nothing more than simple molecules and radiation. And it's possible that this could explain how complex molecules like amino acids - which are the building...


Environmental implications of healthier eating

In the run up to Christmas, shops are bursting at the seams with delicious treats, appealing platters and indulgent morsals, which can make sticking to a healthy diet rather unlikely. And food consumption has consequences for our "waist" in more ways than one! According to the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the UN, over a third of all the food made globally each year goes un-used, that's around 1.3 billion tonnes. But could adhering to a healthier diet in the food we do eat make a...


Falcon-inspired drone technology

New research shows that peregrine falcons hunt their prey using strategies similar to those used by guided missiles. Could this information be useful in downing drones that are flying where they shouldn't?


The future of HIV research

December 1st is World AIDS Day. HIV AIDS affects 35 million people worldwide, and although the number of new infections is slowly decreasing, last year it still caused one million deaths. The virus, HIV, attacks the body's immune system by infecting white blood cells, also called "lymphocytes". Lewis Thomson has been finding out what the future holds for treatment, and what it's like to be diagnosed with the virus, and met with Professor Andrew Lever from the University of Cambridge, who...


Could reflective particles limit global temperature rise?

This week the UN Climate Change Conference has been happening in Bonn. This meeting is the next step for governments to implement the Paris Climate Change Agreement, which entered into force last November and sets out strategies to try to limit the rise in global temperatures to below 1.5 degrees C. With these targets in minds researchers the world over have been exploring various ways to reverse global warming. One suggestion is to spray about 5 million tonnes of reflective sulphur...


Type 2 Diabetes Reversed in Rats

Last year, Diabetes UK reported that almost 4 million people in the UK are living with diabetes. Around 90% of these cases are classed as Type 2, which is often linked with obesity. Interestingly, Type 2 diabetes has been reversed in people undergoing weight loss surgery, who have been able to leave hospital after only a few days no longer needing their diabetes medication. Studies have suggested it's not the surgery itself, but the calorie restricted diet that follows which is...


Sleep and fear learning

Traditionally, researchers have recognised the importance of sleep in modulating the fear learning response when the sleep occurs after fear learning. To understand how sleep, prior to a fear learning task, may be important; researchers looked at the sleep of participants in the lab and at home by measuring brain wave activity. They discovered that a particular stage of sleep called rapid eye movement stage sleep may be protective against fear learning when it occurs prior to fear...


AI learning without human guidance

In 2016, the world champion Lee Sedol was beaten at the ancient boardgame of Go - by a machine. It was part of the AlphaGo programme, which is a series of artificially intelligent systems designed by London-based company DeepMind. AlphaGo Zero, the latest iteration of the programme, can learn to excel at the boardgame of Go without any help from humans.So what applications could AI learning independently have for our day-to-day lives? Katie Haylor spoke to computer scientist Satinder Singh...


Cholesterol-like drug could protect your heart

A drug based on a form of cholesterol might be able to reduce the damage done by heart attacks. Working with experimental mice, scientists in Australia have found that so-called good cholesterol, also known as "HDL", if injected into the bloodstream shortly after a heart attack can prevent heart cells from dying. The experiments suggest that the HDL temporarily alters the way heart cells burn glucose, giving them more energy and improving their survival. Chris Smith spoke to Sarah Heywood,...


Voice in the crowd

Imagine it's a Friday night, you're in the pub it's and really noisy. Your friend though is telling a great story, and you really want to hear it. But how do you separate their voice from the din going on around you? This week scientists at Imperial College have sussed out the answer.


LiFi one step closer to our homes

We all use Wi-fi nearly every day. It is short for wireless fidelity, using microwaves frequencies to transmit data to and from your phone. But, visible light can be used to for the same purpose - with a technology being developed at Edinburgh University called Li-Fi, which would be faster and more secure. It works by making the lights in a room flash incredibly quickly to send signals. It's too fast for us to see, but does it nonetheless affect us, or the performance of the lights?...


Molecule dashes hopes for interstellar signs of life

Astronomers are trying to understand where our solar system came from, how life got started here, and where else in the galaxy life may be lurking. Chemistry is very important in these processes both in terms of providing chemical building blocks from which things can form, but also providing chemical signatures that highlight that something - like life - is happening. We had thought that one compound, called methyl chloride, was a surefire sign of life, but now astronomers in America and...


Neonicotinoids in majority of world's honey

Three quarters of the world's honey is laced with neonicotinoid insecticides, a new study from scientists in Switzerland has shown this week. The findings are based on an analysis of nearly 200 honey samples collected from around the world with the help of citizen scientists on every continent (except Antarctica!). Neonicotinoids are the most widely used pesticides in the world now and scientists suspect that, by getting into pollen and nectar, they're also having off-target effects on...


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