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The Naked Scientists Special Editions

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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


New antimicrobials show promise in battle against superbug

C. diff - or Clostridium difficile - is a superbug that can cause major problems in hospitals. It leads to life-threatening diarrhoea and intestinal inflammation in patients who catch it, it spreads easily, and patients who do recover often relapse many times afterwards because the spectrum of so-called "good bacteria" in the bowel also goes off-kilter when you treat the infection. What's needed are highly-targeted antibiotics that can hit exclusively c. diff and not affect the good bacteria...

Duration: 00:05:56

Where do new drugs come from?

Finding new drugs for our various diseases and ailments is one of the biggest industries in the world. But how does so called big pharma operate - how do they choose what to work on and how does an idea get from the lab to your local chemist? Astra Zeneca, one of the world's leading pharmaceutical companies, have recently moved to Cambridge, so Chris Smith took the opportunity to ask Mene Pangalos, Executive Vice-President of AstraZeneca's Innovative Medicines and Early Development Biotech...

Duration: 00:15:47

Old maps highlight new understanding of coral reef loss

Known as the 'forests of the ocean', coral reefs represent an entire underwater ecosystem, teeming with life. But this ecosystem is under threat. Researchers from The University of Queensland and Colby College in the USA have used old 18th century nautical charts and compared them to modern satellite data as a novel way to understand coral loss over a period of 240 years. Michael Wheeler spoke with lead researcher Loren McClenachan, assistant professor at Colby College to find out more.

Duration: 00:05:35

Uterus age may affect pregnancy success

It's well known that older mothers have more complicated pregnancies. For a long time scientists thought that old eggs were the reason for this and many women have made the decision to freeze their eggs to circumvent this problem. But new research from the Babraham Institute in Cambridge suggests that the age of the uterus is important too. Alexandra Ashcroft spoke to Laura Woods to find out more

Duration: 00:03:53

Can bacteria affect the sex life of animals?

Bacteria produce a molecule that stimulates sexual reproduction in the closest living relatives of animals, according to researchers at UC Berkeley and Harvard Medical School.

Duration: 00:05:48

Our hairy insides

Our hairy insides protect us from the full force of fluids racing through our bodies and may inspire future robotic design

Duration: 00:04:53

What's behind the rise in arthritis?

Osteoarthritis is a common, painful joint condition that affects about 8 million people in the UK, and many others across the world. It stems from a breakdown of the protective cartilage at the ends of bones causing pain, swelling and movement problems, commonly in the knee. Osteoarthritis cases have been on the rise, but not for the reasons you might think. Katie Haylor spoke to palaeoanthropologist Ian Wallace from Harvard University, who has taken a historical perspective on finding out...

Duration: 00:06:15

Foraging for food

What kinds of food might you be able to forage in a city green space? Katie Haylor went out to explore what wild food Cambridge in the UK has to offer with lifelong forager Antony Bagott....

Duration: 00:12:16

New Alzheimer's Culprit Identified

More than half a million people in the UK suffer from Alzheimer's disease. Symptoms of this disease, including memory loss and communication problems, are due to sticky protein build ups within the brain, called amyloid plaques. These plaques cause damage to nerve cells and are a hallmark feature of the disease. Currently, there is no cure for Alzheimer's disease. However, researchers at Yale University School of Medicine have made a striking discovery about the role of cellular garbage...

Duration: 00:06:48

Violence weakens short term memory

Short term memory is incredibly important in day to day life, whether you're driving to work, having a conversation, or reading through the Naked Scientists website. However, scientists from Princeton University have found evidence that exposure to violence reduces short term memory, even if the violent incident occured more than a decade ago. Alexandra Ashcroft spoke to Pietro Ortoleva to find out more...

Duration: 00:06:24

How Does Sleep Affect Dementia?

Alzheimer's Disease is one - very common - form of senile dementia. It usually affects older people and progressively robs them of their mental faculties. It occurs because a protein called beta amyloid builds up in the brain forming harmful deposits called plaques, which are toxic to nerve cells. What's confusing though is that the brain naturally makes beta amyloid all the time but seems to wash most of it away when we go to sleep. But what aspect of sleep is important for this clean-up...

Duration: 00:05:31

Searching for super-fast stars

Scientists now think they can explain why the hypervelocity stars - that's stars going at 600 - 1000 km per second are only spotted in one part of the sky, in the constellation of Leo, and it's down to their explosive origins. Douglas Boubert is a second year PhD student in the University of Cambridge, and he and his team used a computer model to try and work out what was going on. Georgia Mills heard what they found.

Duration: 00:04:37

Can brain training slow the progression to Alzheimer's disease?

Millions of people worldwide are affected by Alzheimer's Disease; Terry Pratchett was famously a victim of the condition, which progressively robs sufferers of their mental faculties. At the moment, no therapies are available to halt the disease, but it might be possible to keep patients functioning well, for longer, with a bit of brain-training. Cambridge University neuroscientists have invented a memory-boosting app called GameShow. Katie Haylor went to see the game's co-inventor Barbara...

Duration: 00:04:42

Why Do Beaches Disappear?

Our coasts are constantly changing. And whilst human impact can have a significant impact Mother Nature also plays her part, tides and storms can change a beach overnight. Continuing with Marine Month, Chris Smith spoke to Oceanographer Simon Boxall from the University of Southampton about what's driving these changes and can we prevent them?

Duration: 00:05:19

Magnetic control of vision

If you're up for a bit of practical experimentation, give this a go. Hold your finger out in front of your face, fix your gaze on the tip and then shake your head from side to side, or nodding up and down. Without you having to think about it, your eyes stay locked on their target by precisely matching the movements of your head. But for some people, maintaining a steady gaze like that is impossible because their eyes rhythmically drift off. Luckily a British team of doctors and eye...

Duration: 00:05:57

The Rise of Deadly Heatwaves

The third week of June had everyone searching for the suncream as temperatures reached record breaking heights. But while most of us enjoy fun in the sun, prolonged heatwaves can have significant health risks and can even be life-threatening. Izzie Clarke investigated just what is causing the surge in dangerous heatwaves and how we can stay cool as things start to heat up.

Duration: 00:05:28

What lies behind an egg's shape?

Many of us enjoy a boiled egg or two for breakfast, but why are hen's eggs round at one end and pointy at the other? Katie Haylor caught up with Mary Stoddard of Princeton University, who's trying to find out why eggs look the way they do.

Duration: 00:04:32

What is Wannacry?

In May 2017 hundreds of thousands of computers across the world were hit by a massive ransomware attack called Wannacry. The perpetrators encrypted the contents of users' computers and demanded payment to unscramble their data. What made the threat worse was that it had the ability to literally spread virally across the Internet by exploiting connections between computers on networks. But where did it come from, what can we do to mitigate the threat, and who is at risk of attacks like...

Duration: 00:12:33

Ancient protein thwarts virus attack

When viruses attack our crops they can wipe them out, and in some parts of the world, this can be a death sentence. So naturally, scientists are keen to find a way to provide protection against these infections. Viruses usually attack by using parts of the victim's own cell machinery against it, so in theory, if you can change this component or protein, the virus won't recognise it, and its attack will have been neutralised. But, if you fiddle about with the stuff inside a cell too much,...

Duration: 00:05:18

Methane to Methanol

Methane is 20 times worse than C02 as a greenhouse gas, so when it's created as a byproduct in oil rigs it's burned. This is better than releasing the methane into the atmosphere but it's not an ideal solution as it creates more C02. Jeroen Van Bokhoven and his team at ETH Zurich have found a new way to convert the methane into something cleaner, and a bit more useful. Tom Crawford found out what it's being turned it into

Duration: 00:04:25

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