Explorations in the world of science.
The Life Scientific: Jane Hurst
Mice, like humans, prefer to be treated with a little dignity, and that extends to how they are handled.
Pick a mouse up by its tail, as was the norm in laboratories for decades, and it gets anxious. Make a mouse anxious and it can skew the results of the research it’s being used for.
What mice like, and how they behave, is the focus of Professor Jane Hurst’s research. Much of that behaviour, she’s discovered, can be revealed by following what they do with their noses - where they take them and what’s contained in the scent marks they sniff.
Now William Prescott Professor of Animal Science at the University of Liverpool, Jane has unravelled a complex array of scent signals that underpin the way mice communicate, and how each selects a mate.
Within this heady mix of male scent, she’s identified one particular pheromone that is so alluring to females that she named it Darcin, after Mr Darcy in Pride and Prejudice.
Producer: Beth Eastwood
The Life Scientific: Cath Noakes
Professor Cath Noakes studies how air moves and the infection risk associated with different ventilation systems. Early in the pandemic, she was invited to join the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, SAGE and asked to study the transmission routes for Covid-19. In July, together with many other scientists, she urged governments around the world and the World Health Organisation to recognise that Covid-19 could be transmitted in tiny particles in the air, even if the risk of getting infected in this way was much smaller than the risk from larger particles that travel less far. Her research highlights the importance of good ventilation as a way to stop the spread of infection in indoor environments. Being in a well ventilated space can reduce the risk of inhaling tiny airborne pathogens by 70%. Cath talks to Jim Al-Khalili about her journey from studying industrial processes to infection risk, her work on the airborne transmission of diseases and the challenge of designing buildings that are both well ventilated and energy efficient.
Producer: Anna Buckley
Photo credit: University of Leeds
The Evidence: Keeping out Covid-19
From flight bans and entry bans to compulsory quarantine and virus testing, most countries have introduced travel restrictions in an effort to control the spread of the virus. But for a virus that knows no borders, do cross-border health measures actually work?
Claudia Hammond and her panel of global experts answer listeners’ questions and discuss the very latest science about the use of border controls in this pandemic.
The countries we can all learn from, researchers say, include Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan, Vietnam, Thailand and South Korea. Their border policies are said to be consistent and, crucially, integrated with strong domestic public health measures.
So while we wait for vaccinations, it seems an international vaccination passport will be rolled out very soon, maybe as early as Spring. A digital passport – a golden ticket to travel – could give privileged access to those who have been inoculated. But what are the ethical and scientific concerns of such a move?
The panel with the answers include Kelley Lee, Professor of Public Health at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, Canada who is leading an international project to assess cross border health measures, Pandemics and Borders, Dr Voo Teck Chuan, Assistant Professor at the University of Singapore Centre for Biomedical Ethics and a member of the WHO Working Group on Ethics and Covid-19, Dr Birger Forsberg, Associate Professor of International Health at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden and senior physician and health planner at the regional health authority of Stockholm and Marc Lipsitch, Professor of Epidemiology at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health and Director of the Centre for Communicable Disease Dynamics in the USA.
Produced by: Fiona Hill, Samara Linton and Maria Simons
Editor: Deborah Cohen
Technical Support: Sarah Hockley
The Life Scientific: Giles Yeo
Professor Jim Al-Khalili talks to leading scientists about their life and work.
The power of night
Lucy Cooke meets some of the animal kingdom’s nocturnal inhabitants to understand why it pays to stir once the sun goes down.
She examines some of the extraordinary nocturnal adaptations from the largest group of mammals, the bats, to the mysterious long fingered lemur, the Aye Aye, to hear why the dark has proved evolutionarily advantageous. In an increasingly crowded planet, could future survival for many diurnal animals depend on a nightlife?
Producer Adrian Washbourne
Picture: Honey Badger, Credit: Cindernatalie/Getty Images
The power of one
We humans are a supremely social species, but the coronavirus pandemic has forced many of us into solitary confinement.
It feels like an unnatural, regressive move, that goes against our collective nature. So why do some species embrace the power of one? And how do they make a success of a solo existence?
Lucy Cooke meets some of the animal kingdom’s biggest loners - from the Komodo Dragon, to the Okapi and the Black Rhino - to explore the lure of solitude.
Producer: Beth Eastwood
Picture: Okapi (Okapia johnstoni), forest giraffe or zebra giraffe, Credit: Jiri Hrebicek/Getty Images
Customer ReviewsSee All
Better not talk abt Asia if can’t find the right expert
I used to like this show a lot but got quite disappointed recently when it talks about the covid situation in Asia. The “experts” don’t seem to know enough detail but were still confidently commenting about the situation in Asia. For example, no one calls a lockdown a “circuit breaker” other than Singapore, but an “expert” generalized that term for the entire Asia. An expert also said that Hong Kong only locked down the night life industry when the second/third wave hits without mentioning that schools in HK have been closed since Feb and will not reopen for the remaining school year. The comments were anecdotal and misleading, not professional at all.