Dr Adam Rutherford and guests illuminate the mysteries and challenge the controversies behind the science that's changing our world.
Vaccine Hesitancy and Ethnicity; The Joy of catnip; Lake Heatwaves
Reports this week talk of some BAME ethnic minorities being significantly less likely to take a covid vaccine if offered. Vittal Katikireddi and Tolullah Oni both sit on the SAGE ethnicity subgroup, and they discuss with Alex Lathbridge where the figures come from and quite what they might mean. And yet some of these same groups have suffered some of the worst outcomes from infection. Addressing any underlying problems that bely the figures will take a nuanced approach.
Researchers in Japan and Liverpool have been investigating cat's prediliction for the Herb Catnip and Silver Vine. It turns out that there may well be a deep evolutionary reason they have evolved to love rubbing it in their fur so much - a key ingredient is a good mosquito repellent. As Professors Masao Miyazaki and Jane Hurst describe. It might keep the mozzies away but you might end up being talied by cats.
And researcher Iestyn Woolway of the Euroopean Space Agency Climate Group, at Didcot UK, describes his work modelling the world's lakes' reaction to a warming climate over coming decades. It's not very comforting, with increased duration and intensity of what he calls "Lake Heatwaves".
UK Science post Brexit; GMOs vs Gene Editing regulation; Identical Twins That Aren't Indentical
In the new EU-UK deal, the UK is to be an associate member of the latest EU research funding round, known as Horizon Europe. Costing around £2bn to take part, what can UK scientists now do and what has changed? UKRI CEO Otteline Leyser and the Wellcome Trust EU specialist Beth Thompson discuss ways in which UK researchers are breathing a sigh of relief.
Of all the ways the UK can now diverge from the EU, DEFRA is currently holding an open consultation on whether to tweak the current GMO regulations so as not to include CRISPR-style Genetic Editing. The EU is coincidentally looking at the same issue. John Innes Centre's Janneke Balk works on making strains of wheat that have a higher level of iron for nutritional fortification. Interim head of the Roslin Institute in Scotland Bruce Whitelaw thinks developing disease resistance in farm animals is a potentially profitable area. Both agree the GMO regulations should be more tightly specified to bring clarity and opportunity for innovation.
In Iceland, Kari Stefansson's company Decode Genetics analyze the genetic codes of most of the population of Iceland. This has allowed them to look at the parents, siblings, and offspring of identical twins, and identify how early genetic differences between them develop. And it's very early indeed. Given that identical twins studies are so often used to address issues surrounding the so-called Nature-vs-Nurture debate, the findings, published in the Journal Nature, are striking.
Presenter by Marnie Chesterton
Produced by Alex Mansfield
Made in association with the Open University.
Vaccine Dosing and Biodiversity Soundscape Monitoring
After the decision by the UK government last week to change the spacing between dosings of vaccine from the recommended 3 weeks to 12 weeks, immunologists around the world have been discussing with some urgency the wisdom of such a move. The FDA and the WHO are deeply sceptical, and the manufacturers have distanced themselves to some extent, by cautioning not to deviate from the regime tested in last year's phase III trials. The thinking behind the move is to get more people injected with a single dose in a shorter time, and that the longer wait for the second shot is worth the risk, if it means more people receive some level of protection in the short term.
Clinical Epidemiologist Dr Deepthi Gurdasani and Immunoligist Prof Danny Altmann of Imperial College describe to Marnie how evidence, experience and hunch are combining in the face of the covid crisis, and quite what we know, what we don't and what we could, about this nationwide experiment.
Increasingly, ecologists wanting to monitor remote areas are relying on such things as solar powered audio recorders to measure biodiversity in the sounds of the wild. But how to scrutinize years and years worth of 24 hour, multi-site recordings? Sarab Sethi and colleagues have not only been leaving solar-powered Raspberry Pi recorders out in the jungles of Borneo, they've been using machine learning techniques to look out for species and biodiversity changes from afar. You can listen to some of the Borneo work at the SAFE acoustic website (link on BBC page below).
Presented by Marnie Chesterton
Produced by Alex Mansfield
Made in collaboration with the Open University.
Brian Cox and Alice Roberts on a decade of extraordinary science
As a new decade ticks over, Dr Adam Rutherford, Professor Alice Roberts and Professor Brian Cox look back on a decade of science that has transformed perceptions of our medicine, our history and our universe.
From advances in genetics that have brought personalized medicine to reality, and revealed the ghosts of ancestral human species never before identified, to quantum computing lessons that hint at the nature of existence and causation throughout the universe, it has been an interesting time. New observational technologies have revealed fresh windows in time and space. And all of it has been reported by BBC Inside Science.
But what of the next decade?
Programme may contain traces of informed speculation, but (almost) no references to Covid.
Presented by Adam Rutherford
Produced by Melanie Brown
Made in association with The Open University.
Space Rocks, Aquatic Dinosaurs and Global Temperatures; 2020 science reviewed
Nobody could have failed to notice the one story dominating the science news this year - but what about the discoveries that have been overshadowed in 2020? This week, Dr Adam Rutherford eschews all mentions of the pandemic as he invites dinosaur researcher Dr Susie Maidment, climate scientist Dr Tamsin Edwards and astrophysicist Dr Emma Chapman to share their science highlights of the year.
We journey to the moon and beyond to discuss the many missions that have been blasting and grabbing bits of space rock to bring back to earth and tackle the ongoing debate about whether signs of life have been found on Venus.
Back down on earth, this year could be one of, if not the, hottest years on record, with particularly high temperatures in the Arctic Circle. What might a warming world mean for ice-shelf collapse in Antarctica and how are governments responding? We discuss Joe Biden’s presidency, UK carbon emissions and what China’s recent announcements of net zero by 2060 might mean for the future of the planet.
And despite limitations on travel this past year, exciting discoveries in the dinosaur world have nonetheless continued with what is believed to be the first aquatic dinosaur. The detection of soft shell eggs is also changing understandings of how dinosaurs reared their offspring.
And if that wasn’t enough, Dr Adam Rutherford challenges our experts to predict what big science stories might lie on the horizon in 2021.
Covid mutation; On the facial expression of emotions; A mystery object
Dr Alex Lathbridge with your peek at the week in science.
This week in the House of Commons Matt Hancock announced a new variant in the Covid virus, discovered to be spreading through the south east of the UK. As Professor Jonathan Ball of the University of Nottingham describes, there have been many slight mutations and changes to the DNA in the virus since it first emerged, and most are of no added danger. But it is important that new ones - and new combinations of them - are tracked through collaborations and networks such as COG-UK, who provide an almost real-time track of the spread of new mutations. The new one this week is of some interest as it involves a slight change to the protein of the binding area on the virus, but much lab work remains to be done,
Is an angry face always an angry face? A paper in the Journal Nature this week uses Machine Learning to scan millions of videos of faces on YouTube to shed light on an old problem - the universality of facial expressions in people. The authors - working with Google - suggest that broadly speaking, in a number of contexts such as weddings and sporting events, people in much of the world tend to pull the same faces. But as Lisa Feldman Barrett - who wrote an accompanying commentary in the same journal - suggests, the way Machine Learning approaches in this area require very human perceptions to train the algorithm in the first place, means care must be taken before inferring too much.
This year BBC Inside Science has been showcasing some of the mystery objects the Science Museum has uncovered in the course of moving its collections to a new home in Wroughton, Wiltshire. Jessica Bradford talks to Alex about our next one. If you have any ideas what it might be for, you can let them know by dropping a note or memory to firstname.lastname@example.org
Presented by Alex Lathbridge
Produced by Alex Mansfield
Made in Association with The Open University