300 episodes

A weekly programme that illuminates the mysteries and challenges the controversies behind the science that's changing our world.

BBC Inside Science BBC

    • Science

A weekly programme that illuminates the mysteries and challenges the controversies behind the science that's changing our world.

    Predicting Long Covid, and the Global Toll of Antimicrobial Resistance

    Predicting Long Covid, and the Global Toll of Antimicrobial Resistance

    Promising results suggest two blood markers could rate the risk of developing Long Covid, plus reports of how Antibiotic Microbial Resistance is already a serious global killer.

    • 36 min
    The 'perfect' depth for a destructive eruption

    The 'perfect' depth for a destructive eruption

    Why was the blast from the Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha'apai volcano so explosive? Where are we on the global climatic thermostat? And how you can get involved in the Big Repair Project.

    Gaia Vince speaks with Auckland University volcanologist Prof Shane Cronin, one of the few human beings to have visited the now-disappeared volcanic land bridge that stretched until last week between the islands of Hunga-Tonga and Hunga-Ha'apai. It was destroyed in the disastrous eruption of the volcano beneath it last week that has wrought such devastation to the nation of Tonga, and whose effects were felt in the Americas and detectable all around the world. Why was this submarine eruption quite so explosive, given that the eruption itself was not one of the biggest or longest in living memory?

    Previous eruptions - notably Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines in 1991 - released huge amounts of particles and sulphates into the stratosphere such that they had a cooling effect on the atmosphere globally, lasting 2-3 years. Prof Richard Betts, Head of Climate Impacts at the UKs Met Office tells Gaia how current estimates of the recent eruption's emissions suggest it will not have such an affect, their being around ten times less than the 1991 event.

    Richard was one of the contributors to the UK Government’s Climate Risk Assessment 2022 which was published this week. He describes to Gaia some of the modelling that went into it, and the urgency of cutting CO2 and similar emissions it describes.

    Last year Prof Mark Miodownik, head of the Institute of Making at UCL made a series for Radio 4 called Dare to Repair, looking at the vanishing art and practice of repairing our old and malfunctioning consumer devices, rather than binning them and buying new ones as most of us do these days.

    At the end of 2021 Mark, together with representatives from manufacturers, consumers, and other groups, took part in a round-table meeting to discuss possible challenges and measures to increase the so-called Right to Repair, towards building a circular economy in the UK for recycling plastic and metals. In this week's show he launches a new citizen science project aimed at gathering granular data on UK citizens views and practices when it comes to "disposable" electronic devices. To take part in The Big Repair Project, to record successes and failures, even to share how impossible it can be sometimes to change a battery, follow the link on the BBC Inside Science homepage.

    Presenter Gaia Vince
    Producer Alex Mansfield
    Assistant Producer Emily Bird

    Made in Association with The Open University

    • 37 min
    The Rutland ‘Sea Dragon’, An Astronomer's Christmas and some Animal Magic

    The Rutland ‘Sea Dragon’, An Astronomer's Christmas and some Animal Magic

    After 20 years of planning, preparation and a nail-biting build up fraught by delays The James Webb Space telescope finally launched on Christmas day 2021. Anxious astronomers across the globe looked on as the JWST then completed even riskier manoeuvres to unfurl the 18 hexagonal components that make up its 6.5 meter diameter primary mirror. Cosmologist Dr Sheona Urquhart from the Open University tells us about the astronomical community’s tense Christmas day.

    Fresh from a TV spot on BBC Two’s Digging for Britain this week, Dr Dean Lomax and PhD candidate Emily Swaby share their excitement unearthing Rutland’s ‘Sea Dragon’ and explore what this find could tell us about Ichthyosaurs. At over 10 meters long this ancient ocean predator is the largest complete fossil of its kind to be discovered in the UK. Ichthyosaurs are commonly associated with Dorset and Yorkshire coastlines where fossils are often revealed as surrounding rock is eroded by the elements. Finding an ichthyosaur fossil inland is unusual but not unexpected as the higher sea levels 200 million years ago would put the east midlands underwater.

    And whilst the palaeontologists have been struggling through the Jurassic mud, cognition researchers at the University of Cambridge have been wowing their birds with magic tricks.

    Professor Nicky Clayton FRS, Professor of Comparative Cognition, explains what we can learn about the way jays think by assessing their reaction to different sleight-of-hand tricks. Corvids, the family to which these feathered friends belong, have long interested researchers due to their impressive cognitive abilities and Nicky’s team has shown that their Jays are not fooled by all of the same mis-directions as we are, but are fooled by some. And it could be down to not being able to tell the difference between a finger and a feather.

    Presented by Marnie Chesterton
    Produced by Alex Mansfield
    Assistant Producer Emily Bird

    Made in association with The Open University

    • 28 min
    Deep ocean exploration

    Deep ocean exploration

    UCL oceanographer Helen Czerski explores life in the ocean depths with a panel of deep sea biologists. They take us to deep ocean coral gardens on sea mounts, to extraordinary hydrothermal vent ecosystems teeming with weird lifeforms fed by chemosynthetic microbes, to the remarkable biodiversity in the muds of the vast abyssal plains.

    Helen's guests are Adrian Glover of the Natural History Museum in London, Kerry Howell of Plymouth University and Alex Rogers, scientific director of REV Ocean.

    They discuss the dramatic revelations made by deep ocean explorers in just the last forty years, and the profound connections that the deep sea floor has with life at the Earth's surface. They also consider the threats to the ecosystems down there from seabed mining and climate change.

    Producer: Andrew Luck-Baker

    BBC Inside Science is made in association with the Open University.

    • 37 min
    A new space age?

    A new space age?

    Dr Kevin Fong convenes a panel of astronautical minds to discuss the next decade or two of space exploration.

    2021 was an eventful year in space. Captain James Kirk a.k.a William Shatner popped into space for real for a couple of minutes, transported by space company Blue Origin's tourist rocket New Shepard. Elon Musk's Space X ferried more astronauts and supplies between Earth and the International Space Station, using its revolutionary resuable launchers and Dragon spacecraft. On Mars, the latest NASA robot rover landed and released an autonomous helicopter - the first aircraft to fly on another planet.

    2022 promises even more. Most significantly NASA plans to launch the first mission of its Artemis programme. This will be an uncrewed flight of its new deep space vehicle Orion to the Moon, propelled off the Earth by its new giant rocket, the Space Launch System. Artemis is the American space agency's project to return astronauts to the lunar surface and later establish moon bases. China has a similar ambition.

    Are we at the beginning of a new space age and if so, how have we got here? When will we see boots on the Moon again? Could we even see the first people on Mars by the end of this decade? Even in cautious NASA, some are optimistic about this.

    Kevin's three guests are:

    Dr Mike Barratt, one of NASA's most senior astronauts and a medical doctor, based at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas
    Dr Anita Sengupta, Research Associate Professor in Astronautical Engineering at the University of Southern California
    Oliver Morton, Briefings editor at The Economist and the author of 'Mapping Mars' and 'The Moon'

    Producer: Andrew Luck-Baker

    BBC Inside Science is made in association with the Open University

    • 41 min
    The Origin of Celtic Culture in Britain?

    The Origin of Celtic Culture in Britain?

    Victoria Gill hears of ancient DNA evidence for an unrecognised mass migration from continental Europe 3,000 years ago that may even have brought the Celtic languages with it.

    In a paper in the journal Nature, an international team of researchers have gathered hundreds of middle-late Bronze Age DNA samples to identify a moment in pre-history when half the ancestry of people living in southern Britain became continental European. Sometime around 1000 BC, continental Europeans living in Kent spread rapidly into what is now England and Wales. As Prof Ian Armit tells Vic, the spread need not have been one event, and likely spanned around 200 years, but by the start of the Iron Age, Britons' DNA was 50% changed. The researchers suggest further that this may have been the time when Celtic languages spread from the continent into the islands too.

    Data are starting to be published that suggest the Omicron variant of SARS CoV-2 may be a little less awful than was first feared, though it clearly is still a lethal foe. Prof Penny Moore, one of the scientists in South Africa who helped alert the world to the new virus is very tentatively relieved that death and hospitalisation numbers there and in the UK are beginning to show clinically some of the resilience that earlier strains and vaccines may have bestowed on populations. Three "Glimpses of Spike", either through prior infection and survival or vaccination and boosting seem to be accompanied by improved survival rates.

    Gaia Vince has been to the Arctic Circle to talk climate change and reindeer. Sami language and culture in Lapland is under strain as climate change rapidly changes alters the predatory threats reindeer farmers face, increasing numbers of wolves and even sea-eagles that prey on young reindeer calves.

    And over at UCSC in California, recordings of elephant seal pups have been played to maternal harems to ascertain how well mothers recognize their own. Caroline Casey and colleagues report in Royal Society journal Biology Letters, how they can spot their own offspring from their call alone in as little as two days after birth. But if they can do that, why then do so many lactating females feed pups that aren’t their own? Elephant seal mothers fast throughout lactation and lose a huge percentage of their own body weight, quite what the evolutionary driver is for this behaviour remains uncertain, but it can’t now be a case of mistaken identity.

    Presenter Victoria Gill
    Producer Alex Mansfield
    Assistant Producer Emily Bird

    Made in Association with The Open University

    • 38 min

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