166 episodes

The BBC brings you all the week's science news.

Science In Action BBC World Service

    • Science
    • 4.7 • 49 Ratings

The BBC brings you all the week's science news.

    Synthetic mouse embryos with brains and hearts

    Synthetic mouse embryos with brains and hearts

    This week two research groups announced that they have made synthetic mouse embryos that developed brains and beating hearts in the test tube, starting only with embryonic stem cells. No sperm and eggs were involved. Previously, embryos created this way have never got beyond the stage of being a tiny ball of cells. These embryos grew and developed organs through 8 days – more than a third of the way through the gestation period for a mouse. Roland Pease talks to the leader of one of the teams, developmental biologist Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz of Cambridge University and Caltech about how and why they did this, and the ethical issues around this research.

    Also in the programme: the latest research on how we spread the SARS-CoV-2 virus when we breathe. Infectious disease researcher Kristen Coleman of the University of Maryland tells us about her experiments that have measured the amounts of virus in the tiny aerosol particles emanating from the airways of recently infected people. The results underscore the value of mask-wearing and effective ventilation in buildings.

    We also hear about new approaches to vaccines against the virus – Kevin Ng of the Crick Institute in London talks about the possibility of a universal coronavirus vaccine based on his research, and immunologist Akiko Iwasaki of Yale University extolls the advantages of nasal vaccines against SARS-CoV-2.


    (Image: Stem cell built mouse embryo at 8 days. Credit: Zernicka-Goetz Lab)

    Presenter: Roland Pease
    Producer: Andrew Luck-Baker

    • 29 min
    The first galaxies at the universe's dawn

    The first galaxies at the universe's dawn

    In the last week, teams of astronomers have rushed to report ever deeper views of the universe thanks to the James Webb Space Telescope. These are galaxies of stars more than 13.5 billion light years from us and we see them as they were when the universe was in its infancy, less than 300 million years after the Big Bang. As University of Texas astronomer Steve Finkelstein tell us, there are some real surprises in these glimpses of the cosmic dawn. The super-distant galaxy that Steve's group has identified is named after his daughter Maisie.

    Also in the programme: a 550 million year old fossil which is much the oldest representative of a large group of animals still with us today. The early jellyfish relative lived at a time known as the Ediacaran period when all other known complex organisms were weird, alien-looking lifeforms with no surviving descendants. Roland Pease talks palaeontologist Frankie Dunn at the University of Oxford who's led the study of Auroralumina attenboroughii.

    Did the cultural invention of romantic kissing five thousand years ago lead to the spread of today's dominant strain of the cold sore virus (Herpes simplex 1) across Europe and Asia? That's the hypothesis of a team of virologists and ancient DNA experts who've been studying viral DNA remnants extracted from four very old teeth. Cambridge University's Charlotte Houldcroft explains the reasoning.

    Image: Maisie's Galaxy aka CEERSJ141946.35-525632.8.
    Credit: CEERS Collaboration

    Presenter: Roland Pease
    Producer: Andrew Luck-Baker

    • 27 min
    Heat waves in the Northern Hemisphere

    Heat waves in the Northern Hemisphere

    The extreme heat wave in western Europe over the last couple of weeks is just one of many in the Northern Hemisphere in 2022. How is global warming changing the atmosphere to make heat waves more frequent and more intense? We talk to climatologists Hannah Cloke, Friederike Otto and Efi Rousi.

    If we want to stabilise global warming to two degrees by the end of the century, how are we going to do that? One novel idea is to harness the world's vast railway infrastructure and equip freight and passenger trains with an additional special wagon or two. These extra cars would be designed to suck carbon dioxide out of the air, liquify it and transport it to sequestration sites. Critically all the energy to capture the carbon dioxide comes free from regenerative braking on the trains. University of Toronto chemist Geoff Ozin and Eric Bachman, founder of the start-up CO2 Rail, explain the vision.

    On the 40th anniversary of the International Whaling Commissions announcing an end to commercial whaling, we hear from Greenpeace co-founder Rex Weyler about the high seas campaign in the 1970s that helped prevent the extinction of the great whales. He talks about the contribution to the cause made by the discovery of whale song, and the release of humpback whale recordings as a commercial disc.

    (Image: Firefighter trucks burning during a wildfire on the Mont d'Arrees, outside Brasparts, western France, 19 July 2022. Credit: LOIC VENANCE/ AFP via Getty Images)

    Presenter: Andrew Luck-Baker
    Producer: Andrew Luck-Baker

    • 29 min
    First images from the James Webb Space Telescope

    First images from the James Webb Space Telescope

    Roland Pease talks to two astronomers who began working on the James Webb Space Telescope more than two decades ago and have now seen the first spectacular results of their labours. Marcia Rieke of the University of Arizona and JWST's senior project scientist John Mather discuss the highlights of the first four images.

    Also in the programme, geologists discover precisely where on the Red Planet the most ancient Martian meteorite came from - we speak to Anthony Lagain whose detective work identified the crater from which the rock was ejected into space. And what causes vast areas of the Indian Ocean to glow with strange light - a rare and mysterious phenomenon known as 'milky seas'? The world is a step closer to understanding this centuries' old maritime enigma thanks to the crew of a yacht sailing south of Java, atmospheric scientist Steven Miller and marine microbiologist Kenneth Nealson.

    Image: The Southern Ring Nebula
    Credit: NASA/STScI

    Presenter: Roland Pease
    Producer: Andrew Luck-Baker

    • 31 min
    Long Covid ‘brain fog’

    Long Covid ‘brain fog’

    Following a bout of Covid-19, a significant number of people suffer with weeks or months of 'brain fog' - poor concentration, forgetfulness, and confusion. This is one of the manifestations of Long Covid. A team of scientists in the United States has now discovered that infection in the lung can trigger an inflammatory response which then causes patterns of abnormal brain cell activity. It’s the kind of brain cell dysregulation also seen in people who experience cognitive problems following chemotherapy for cancer.

    Also in the programme, the latest discoveries about the asteroid Bennu from the Osiris Rex mission, how Malayasian farmers led US researchers to a botanical discovery, and a new explanation for why dinosaurs took over the world 200 million years ago.


    (Image: System of neurons with glowing connections. Credit: Getty Images)

    Presenter: Roland Pease
    Producer: Andrew Luck-Baker

    • 30 min
    Extreme heat death risk in Latin America

    Extreme heat death risk in Latin America

    A new analysis of deaths in cities across Latin America suggests rising global temperatures could lead to large numbers of deaths in the region and elsewhere in the world. Even a 1-degree rise in extreme heat can add 6% to the risk of dying. Lead researcher Josiah Kephart at Drexel University tells Roland Pease the lessons from Latin America should apply to cities across the global south.

    Brazilian ecologist Andreas Meyer talks about the troubling prospects for the health of ecosystems, particularly in tropical regions, if the world does not cut its fossil fuel emissions hard and fast in the next few years.

    In the USA, a team of engineers and neurosurgeons are developing a radical new approach for targeted pain relief – in the first instance, for patients recovering from surgery. It’s a flexible implant that wraps around a nerve and cools it to prevent it from transmitting pain signals. What’s more, says bioengineer John Rogers, the implant is made of a material designed to have dissolved safely into the body by the time its pain-killing work is done.

    Geologist Bob Hazen has spent more than a decade producing a new classification system for the 5,700 minerals known to exist on the Earth. It improves on the pre-existing scheme by taking into account the myriad ways that many minerals have come into being. He tells Roland that this new way of categorising minerals lays bare a 4.5 billion-year history of remarkable chemical and biological creativity.


    (Image: Rio de Janeiro City. Credit: Pintai Suchachaisri/Getty Images)


    Presenter: Roland Pease
    Producer: Andrew Luck-Baker

    • 32 min

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5
49 Ratings

49 Ratings

Callum456 ,

Great Podcast

Top science podcast, new stories weekly range of disciplines and always up to date with all the newest findings.

Galaxy Watcher ,

Great! Love listening to this

Very interesting stories. Great presenters and overall excellent production.

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