Science in Action on KTTZ-HD2

Science in Action is a magazine program pulling together the science issues of the week and delivering breaking science news.


  • Thursday, October 11, 2018 2:32pm
    With the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change announcing that we need to keep global warming under 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels, Science in Action explores the impact of food production on the environment. A new study calculates the current and predicted impact of land and fresh water use, fertiliser pollution and the change to more Western meat and dairy-based diets by 2050 and concluded that our current mitigation measures are not going to be enough. And that our planet will not be able to sustain this level of environmental cost. Windfarms and Warming A study of wind power generation across the continental United States calculates that the warming effect of wind turbines, due to possible circulatory changes in the atmosphere at night, could be enough to cause a 0.24 °C rise if the US switched to wind power for all their energy demands. It’s a small change, but coupled with other environmental impacts of sustainable energy production, it has to be factored in. Science Publishing and Copyright Two scientific publishers are suing the academic networking site ResearchGate for breaking copyright laws. ResearchGate asks scientists to publish papers and articles on their site. The claim is that they are not putting enough checks in place to stop work that is copyrighted to pay-walled science journals being uploaded. Is social media, and greater connectivity on the internet, changing the way science publishing works and how profits are made? Drugs from Fingerprints Illegal drug-use often has a contributing factor in cause of death. Testing for drug-use in both living and dead people relies on detecting the breakdown products (metabolites) for drugs such as cannabis, cocaine, opiates or amphetamines in bodily fluids (blood, urine, saliva) or tissue samples. These are invasive and take time. Now a University of East Anglia spin out company “Intelligent Fingerprinting” have developed a device called the fingerprint drug screening cartridge that can detect metabolites of illicit drugs in the sweat found in fingerprints. And furthermore they can do this on dead bodies as well as living people. Picture: Vegetables and fruits, Credit: Bojsha65/Getty Images Presenter: Roland Pease Producer: Fiona Roberts
  • Thursday, October 4, 2018 2:32pm
    The Indonesian Island of Sulawesi has been battered by natural forces. First an earthquake, followed by a devastating tsunami and now a volcanic eruption. Science in Action looks at the multiple geological factors that put the people of Sulawesi in such danger. Hayabusa 2’s MASCOT Lander The Japanese spacecraft has successfully dropped the German-French observation robot and landed it on an asteroid, 300 million kilometres away, as part of a research effort that could find clues to the origin of the solar system. The Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout, or MASCOT, was released from the unmanned spacecraft Hayabusa 2 and headed to the asteroid Ryugu. 2018 Nobel Prizes for Science The research that has earned the highest accolades in science this year include immunotherapy for cancer, directed evolution in the lab and optical tweezers. Picture: A aerial view of the destruction caused by an earthquake and tsunami in Wani, Donggala, north of Palu, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia, Credit: Reuters/Darren Whiteside Presenter: Roland Pease Producer: Fiona Roberts
  • Thursday, September 27, 2018 2:32pm
    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 travel away from Earth, so much of the mission has been carried out autonomously. Killer of Killer Whales Despite being banned in the 1980’s the organophosphate PCB is killing the world’s killer whales. As top predators, killer whales, or Orca, bioaccumulate the toxin in their fat reserves and then nursing mothers pass on the chemical to the young in their fat-rich milk. PCBs are endocrine disruptors and affects breeding success, so researchers are seeing fewer and fewer calves being born. And the worst part is that the chemicals, despite the 40 year ban, are still very persistent in the oceans. Ionosphere and World War 2 Bombs The bombs used by Allied forces during the Second World War were big enough to weaken the Earth's upper atmosphere. By calculating the energies of the Allied bombing raids over Europe between 1943 and 45 and referring back to ionospheric measurements made at the time over Slough in the South of England. The team at Reading University can calibrate the ionospheric wobbles and use this to work out how much energy is in natural events such as earthquakes and thunder storms which also perturb this atmospheric layer at the edge of space. Picture: The tiny shadow of Hayabusa 2 on asteroid Ryugu, Credit: JAXA Presenter: Roland Pease Producer: Fiona Roberts
  • Thursday, September 20, 2018 2:32pm
    The earliest known animal – Ancient fat molecules shed light on what is the earliest known animal on Earth. Dickinsonia were strange creatures, ranging from a few millimetres to over a metre in diameter. These oval ‘quilted’ mattress like animals swam in ancient seas over 571 million years ago. When an extremely well-preserved fossil turned up in North Western Russia with steroidal fat molecules attached, the scientists could conclude that this fat cannot come from bacteria and is a marker for higher life, establishing the Dickinsonia as the earliest animal on Earth known so far. Weighing the Water from Tropical Cyclones When storms such as Hurricane Florence or Typhoon Mangkhut hit land, they bring extraordinary amounts of water in the form of rain. The strong winds cause havoc, but it’s the subsequent flooding and storm surges that are often responsible for the most fatalities and financial losses. With a warming atmosphere leading to these tropical storms carrying more and more water, we seriously need to understand what happens to the water when it’s dropped in such sudden events. By studying what happened to the water in Texas, last year when Hurricane Harvey made landfall, scientists hope to get a better idea for flood mitigation strategies and flood preparation. And to do this they measure location, flow and amount of water on land using GPS measurements taken from satellites to see the actual weight of water pressing down on the Earth’s surface. Adapting the Thumb Piano to Identify Counterfeit Drugs A new sensor based on a 3000 year old African musical instrument, the Mbira, Karimba or thumb piano, can be used to identify substances, including a poisonous chemical sometimes mistakenly added to medicines. The mbira sensor swaps the solid metal prongs for tubes that can be filled with the suspect fluid and the subsequent note when twanged changes with different densities of liquid. This can then provide an audible comparison to identify counterfeit or adulterated drugs. Robotic Trousers How can a pair of trousers help you walk? Scientists at the University of Bristol are testing out different artificial muscles, sensors and controls which can be built into special trousers to help the elderly, and people with impaired mobility, get around better. Picture: Artists impression of Dickinsonia, Credit: Nasa Presenter: Roland Pease Producer: Fiona Roberts
  • Thursday, September 13, 2018 2:32pm
    Despite the threat of Hurricane Florence to the US Eastern Seaboard, and the recent succession of tropical cyclones around the world, this current Atlantic hurricane season looks like it’ll just be an average storm season, after a slow start. Dr. Jill Trepanier, a climate scientist at Louisiana State University, studies the processes that create and sustain hurricanes, and explains why Florence is taking its unusual track to the North and South Carolina coast. Earliest Drawing A 73,000-year old ochre drawing in a cross-hatch design has been discovered in Blombos Cave on the southern coast of South Africa. It is now the earliest known human drawing in history. It completes a suite of discoveries revealing early human culture from the same cave: paint and paintbrush, ochre crayons, engravings, and shell beads. The cross-hatch drawing, found on a flake from a grindstone, pushes drawing, as an indicator of modern human behaviour and cognition, nearly twice as early as previously known. Arctic Expedition Update from physicist Helen Czerski. She is part of a group of scientists on board the Oden, a Swedish icebreaker and scientific research vessel currently in the high Arctic. The international team of researchers have spent nearly a month anchored to Arctic sea ice near the North Pole. The mission is to study the interaction between sea, ice and atmosphere at the North Pole. Helen’s job is to study the bubbles forming between ocean and atmosphere to see whether cloud-seeding organic particles are crossing from sea to air. Making the Grasspea a Safer Staple Crop The legume – grasspea - is grown in India, Bangladesh and Ethiopia. It’s a high protein crop which can withstand droughts and floods. So why don’t more countries grow it? If it’s eaten in too large quantities it can make you very sick. Researchers are now looking for varieties with lower levels of the poisonous compounds in a race to make the robust crop popular again. Picture: Satellite image of Hurricane Florence, Picture: Credit: NOAA/Getty Images Presenter: Roland Pease Producer: Fiona Roberts