Iran’s nuclear programme is at the centre of a political row, with the country suggesting it could increase uranium production to above the levels permitted under an international agreement. We look beyond the rhetoric, discuss Iran’s covert history of nuclear development and ask scientifically what this latest move involves.
Fish are no respecter of international borders and when it comes to spawning, research reveals up to $10bn worth of potential fish stocks move between different political territories.
Ancient trees in the Eastern US are yielding clues to the climate going back more than 2000 years, they reveal there has been more rain recently.
Breathing is automatic: awake or asleep, running or resting, our bodies unconsciously make sure we get enough oxygen to function. But - unlike other bodily functions such as heart rate and digestion - it’s not hard to control our breathing consciously. If you’ve ever been to an exercise, meditation or yoga class, you’re probably familiar with instructions about how and when to breathe.
Sports scientist Mitch Lomax takes us through the biology, chemistry and physics of breathing, and shows us how to train our respiratory muscles. We meet yoga guru Hansa Yogendra in India, where the study of pranayama - literally “breath control” in Sanskrit - is thousands of years old; and find out what scientists have discovered about the effects of these ancient techniques on the body and mind.
(Photo: President Hassan Rouhani and the head of Iran nuclear technology organization Ali Akbar Salehi inspecting nuclear technology. Credit: Office of Islamic Republic President via EPA)
South Asia heatwave and climate change
South Asia has experienced a heatwave where the monsoon has been delayed and temperatures have reached over 50 degrees. Despite this the extreme heat has led to far fewer fatalities than previous heatwaves; we look at why that is.
Research into the origins of almonds shows they were domesticated in Asia before spreading worldwide. It’s a bitter sweet story, with sweet varieties being selected over bitter ones. In fact the bitter ones contain poisons which can kill..
As with almonds cannabis as a drug seems to have spread via silk routes. The discovery of ancient burnt wooded bowls suggests it was smoked millennia ago in China – as part of funeral rituals.
For decades, people suffering from chronic depression have relied on medicines that affect the levels of chemicals in the brain like serotonin, which regulate mood and emotion. But ten percent of people don’t benefit from any of the existing treatments for this devastating condition.
Sisters Annie and Kathryn have both been diagnosed with long-term depression that makes it hard for them to experience pleasure as others do. But they’re interested in whether there are new solutions on the horizon that could improve their wellbeing, in particular ones that don’t necessarily involve conventional medication.
Datshiane Navanayagam learns how a technique called mindfulness could strengthen neural connections in bits of the brain that communicate with each other. This, it’s said, may harness the ability of the brain to adapt and self-repair which can change people’s emotional responses to life’s ups and downs. She hears about cutting edge research into the use of psychedelics as potential treatment for depression and heads to the UK’s only centre for ketamine therapy, where patients say a drug once popular with partygoers, is having a profound effect on their mental health.
(Photo: Indian boatman walks amid boats on the dried bed of a lake at Nalsarovar Bird Sanctuary. Credit: Sam Panthaky/AFP/Getty Images)
US Foetal tissue research ban
The US has withdrawn funding for scientific research involving foetal tissue. Scientists point to the lack of feasible alternatives to using foetal tissue – which comes from embryos donated to scientific research via abortion clinics.
They say the move to halt this kind of research will have a negative impact on the ability of US medical institutions to develop new treatments for a range of diseases from diabetes to cancer.
More controversy from the ‘Crispr babies ‘ scandal – with a new analysis showing the modified gene may have a wide impact on the health of the children it was claimed to have been implanted into.
A reassessment on North Korea’s Nuclear tests using cold war methodology suggest the last explosion was more powerful than previously thought.
Singing can lift our spirits, but research suggests it could also benefit our health, improving breathing for people with lung conditions and helping us cope with dementia. Could it even have a preventative effect?
We head to Cheltenham Science Festival in the UK county of Gloucestershire - one of the first places to pioneer this kind of “social prescribing” - to find out. We are joined by panellists Dr Daisy Fancourt, Senior Research Associate in Behavioural Science, Dr Simon Opher, family doctor and Clinical Lead for Social Prescribing, and Maggie Grady, Director of Music Therapy at charity Mindsong to learn more.
The eclipse that made Einstein
One hundred years ago, a solar eclipse proved Einstein’s theory of general relativity was onto something. Known as the Eddington expedition, in 1919 two teams of astronomers set forth to witness a total solar eclipse from either side of the Atlantic. The photographs, once developed, showed that the background stars, made visible by the moon shading the sun, appeard to be a tiny bit closer towards the sun’s disc than they normally appeared in the night sky. The triumphal announcement was the first new evidence, predicted by Einstein, that large masses in the universe are accompanied by a bending of spacetime, and made Einstein the most famous scientist of the twentieth century. At a special event held by London’s Royal Astronomical Society, where Eddington worked at the time, astronomers and archivists explain more to Science in Action, as does this year’s recipient of the Eddington Medal, Bernard F. Shutz, who is hoping gravitational waves will point us in the direction of the next big breakthrough in cosmology.
A week ago we learned of the death of physicist Murray Gell-Mann. His Nobel prize was awarded exactly 50 years after the Eddington expedition in 1969, for work elucidating the particles now known as quarks. Oxford emeritus prof Frank Close gives his evaluation of Gell-Mann’s influence on particle physics.
Apples were big long before humans
Robert Spengler, of the Max Planck Institute in Jena, spends his time thinking about the evolutionary origins of certain crops we eat every day. His recent work suggests that apples, rather than being bred to be large by human beings, may well have evolved long before that to be big. Human beings’ influence on the domesticated crops we now eat came much later.
How are we evolving?
Medical intervention has disrupted natural selection in humans as many more children survive into adulthood than did a few centuries ago. And as our DNA continues to evolve, in order to adapt to our environment, how might human beings of the future be different from us? Anand Jagatia explores how some humans, over just a few thousand years, have adapted genetically to live at high altitudes of the Tibetan Himalayas or in the cold climates of Inuit Greenland.
(Photo: Image of the 1919 Solar eclipse taken by Arthur Eddington (1882-1944). Credit: Science Photo Library/RAS)
Producer: Alex Mansfield
Presenters: Roland Pease and Anand Jagatia
The birth of a new volcano
A new undersea volcano has appeared off the coast of East Africa. The sea floor between Madagascar and Mozambique has become increasingly seismically active in the last year. As well as the appearance of this active volcano, local islands are now experiencing frequent earthquakes.
The causes of Indonesia’s Palu Bay tsunami last year are being examined thanks to social media. Videos taken as the tsunami hit have been analysed to determine wave heights and speeds and suggest possible causes.
Scientists at a massive underground physics research facility in Italy are to stand trial over safety risks. The facility uses poisonous chemicals. There are concerns these could leak into drinking water supplies in the event of an earthquake.
As scientists keep finding ever more fascinating facts about the invisible housemates that share our homes, we investigate what might be lurking in quiet household corners or under our beds.
We head out on a microbial safari with expert tour guide Dr Jamie Lorimer from the University of Oxford to find out what kind of creatures are living in our kitchens, bathrooms and gardens - from bacteria normally found in undersea vents popping up in a kettle, to microbes quietly producing tiny nuggets of gold. For so long this hidden world has been one that we’ve routinely exterminated - but should we be exploring it too?
(Image: Multibeam sonar waves, reflecting off the sea floor near the French island of Mayotte, reveal the outline of an 800-meter-tall volcano (red) and a rising gas-rich plume. Credit: MAYOBS team (CNRS / IPGP -Université de Paris / Ifremer / BRGM)