138 episodes

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

Science In Action BBC

    • Science
    • 4.7 • 52 Ratings

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

    Tonga eruption – how it happened

    Tonga eruption – how it happened

    The effects of the Tonga eruption could be felt around the world, many heard the boom of a sonic shock, and tsunami waves travelled far and wide. Volcanologist Shane Cronin from the University of Auckland in New Zealand is one of only a handful of people to have landed on the tiny islands above the volcano where the eruption took place. Those islands have now sunk beneath the waves but Shane tells us what he found when he went there and how his findings could inform what happens next.

    Stephan Grilli from the School of Ocean Engineering at the University of Rhode Island joins us from Toulon in France where he felt the effects of the shockwave and Tsunami. He says the force of the shockwave drove those waves worldwide.

    The oceans have continued to warm, producing continuous record temperature rises for several years now. That’s the finding of Michael Mann of the University of Pennsylvania and author of The New Climate Wars. He says warming occurred last year despite the presence of global weather patterns which would usually have a cooling effect.

    The long-term effects of covid-19 on health are a cause of growing concern even though in many places the virus itself now appears to be taking on a milder form. Yale University neuroscientist Serena Spudich is particularly concerned with covid’s impact on the brain. She says while the SARS- CoV-2 virus might not be found in brain cells themselves there are neurological impacts.


    (Image: Tonga Geological Services/via Reuters)


    Presenter: Roland Pease
    Producer: Alex Mansfield

    • 29 min
    Have we got it wrong on Omicron?

    Have we got it wrong on Omicron?

    Studies using swabs from coronavirus patients seem to contradict earlier findings from cell cultures which showed Omicon replicated faster than earlier variants. As Benjamin Meyer from the centre for Vaccinology at the University of Geneva, explains there may be other reasons why omicron is spreading faster not just how quickly it reproduces.

    Predicting how the pandemic will develop is not possible, however predicting what individual mutations in the virus may develop and the impact they might have individually and collectively is getting closer,
    Cyrus Maher and Amalio Telenti of the biotech company Vir, have developed a way to model potential future viral mutations which they hope will now be used by many scientists worldwide looking to understand the virus.

    There are concerns that other viruses may be on the rise, bird flu in particular, which as Nicola Lewis of the Royal Veterinary College explains is now spreading to part of the world where it is not usually seen, and infecting other animals as well as birds.

    And we’ve news of a massive collection of nests – at the bottom of the sea, Deep sea Ecologist Autun Perser describes how he found them in Antarctica.

    (Image: Getty Images)


    Presenter: Roland Pease
    Producer: Julian Siddle

    • 28 min
    Corbevax – A vaccine for the world?

    Corbevax – A vaccine for the world?

    Corbevax, which is being produced in India, is grown in yeast in a similar way to several other widely available vaccines. The technology used to make it is far simpler and much more readily available than that used to produce mRNA vaccines. In theory, Corbevax could be produced cheaply in large quantities to improve Covid-19 vaccine availability around the world. It was developed by a team from Baylor College of Medicine in Texas, including Maria Elena Bottazzi.

    Antibiotic-resistant superbugs are thought to have emerged in response to the use of antibiotics. The discovery of a superbug living on the skin of hedgehogs has challenged this view. The superbug is thought to have been living with hedgehogs long before antibiotics were discovered. Jesper and Anders Larsen at the Danish State Serum Institute in Copenhagen explain.

    Modifying viruses, using them to infect or kill pest organisms is an attractive proposition. However, there are concerns about what might happen when they are released, particularly over their ability to mutate and evolve, says Filippa Lentzos from Kings College Department of Global Health and Social Medicine in London.

    And The Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew have released the names of over 200 new species of plants and fungi discovered last year. Mycologist Tuula Niskanen and botanist Martin Cheek tell us more.

    (Image: Getty Images)


    Presenter: Roland Pease
    Producer: Julian Siddle

    • 27 min
    2021: The year of variants

    2021: The year of variants

    In our first programme of the year, we gathered a group of scientific experts directly involved in analysing the structure and impact of the SARS- Cov-2 coronavirus. There were concerns over the emergence of two new variants, Alpha and Beta, especially whether these variants might spread more quickly, or outmanoeuvre the suite of new vaccines that were about to be rolled out.
    Now the same questions are being asked about the Omicron variant’s ability to spread and overcome our defences.

    We’ve invited the same scientists back to give us their assessment of our journey with Covid-19 over the past year, and discuss their findings on Omicron.

    The programme features:
    Ravi Gupta, Professor of Clinical Microbiology at the University of Cambridge
    Tulio de Oliveira, Professor of Bioinformatics, Stellenbosch University, South Africa
    Dr Allie Greaney from the Medical Scientist Training Program at the University of Washington School of Medicine
    Professor Jeremy Luban from the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard

    Presenter: Roland Pease
    Producer: Julian Siddle

    Image: Local residents queue to receive a dose of the Covid-19 vaccine in Parkhurst, Johannesburg (Credit: Luca Sola/AFP via Getty Images)

    • 27 min
    Omicron – mild or monster?

    Omicron – mild or monster?

    Studies from South Africa and the UK suggest Omicron may be a mild infection for the majority of people. Hospital admissions are down when compared with other variants. However, the virus is replicating at a much faster rate than earlier variants and is able to overcome vaccines to some extent. Cases studies so far have mainly been in young people. There is concern over what will now happen as Omicron spreads across Europe and the US where there are older unvaccinated populations.
    Anne von Gottberg from South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases tells us what early results from studies there show and discusses the implications.

    Typhoon Rai in the Philippines led to the loss of many lives and even destroyed buildings designed to resist such extreme weather events. Could more have been done either to predict the ferocity of the typhoon or to prepare for its impact?
    Liz Stephens, Associate Professor in Climate Risks and Resilience from the University of Reading discusses these issues.

    Beavers are making a comeback – in the Arctic. Their activity in engineering the landscape, building dams, and changing water courses is so widespread it can be picked out by satellites. However, this is not entirely welcome says Helen Wheeler Senior Lecturer in Zoology at Anglia Ruskin University. who has been working with local people concerned about the beavers impact on their livelihoods.

    And the James Webb telescope is finally launching. Heidi Hammel, who has been involved in the project for over 20 years tells us what it’s all about.



    (Image: Getty Images)

    Presenter: Roland Pease
    Producer: Julian Siddle

    • 28 min
    Omicron’s rapid replication rate

    Omicron’s rapid replication rate

    A study from Hong Kong university shows Omicron replicates 70 times faster than two earlier variants of the SARS-Cov-2 virus. Virologist Malik Peiris, explains how tests using cells from the wind pipe showed the dramatic difference, which supports observations of increased transmission. In contrast Omicron replicated less well than other variants on cells from dep in thre lung – offering some possibility that it may produce mild infections.

    Tornados in the US do not normally occur in December. The one which swept across Kentucky and 3 other states was fuelled by weather patterns likely to have been influenced by long term climate change says Geographer James Elsner of Florida State University.

    The Parker Solar probe continues its mission of flying closer and closer to the sun. Results just published show what the data the probe picked up when it dipped into the surrounding plasma. NASA’s Nicky Fox is our guide.

    And how many legs does a millipede have? Until now not as many as you might think. Entomologist Paul Marek of Virginia Tech reveals the Australian specimen with more legs than ever seen before.

    (Image: Omicron variant (B.1.1.529): Immunofluorescence staining of uninfected and infected Vero E6 cells. Credit: Microbiology HKU/BSIP/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

    Presenter: Roland Pease
    Producer: Julian Siddle

    • 30 min

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5
52 Ratings

52 Ratings

Peachy🍑Jess ,

Superb journalism and science communicator

A great way to communicate science for a broad range of the public to understand. The host presents the situation in a easily understandable way, introduces the guests and subjects well, he shares the important points of complex concepts while never neglecting the the excitement and meaning behind said discovery, asks the right question and the experts provide not only a concise answer but often add little tangents which are just nuggets of gold and sometimes those are what makes the episode for me. Keep up the amazing journalism work, love from montreal xx

Lenkabuben ,

Love science

Interesting. Great interviews. Informative. Love it.

Bob Bass ,

Entertaining and Educational

A consistently high quality source for objective science news updates. Detailed but understandable; and most important, not dumbed down into a quick sound bite.

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