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Subglacial Lakes -

26 minutes
First broadcast:
Thursday 07 August 2008

Subglacial Lakes
Radar surveys in the 1970s identified a number of liquid water lakes beneath the Antarctic ice sheet. In recent years the number of ‘sub-glacial lakes’ we know about has risen to over 160.

Now the British Antarctic Survey has carried out the first geophysical survey on Lake Ellsworth – more than 2km below the ice sheet. The lakes exist in complete darkness, with ecosystems that have been isolated from the rest of the world for hundreds of thousands of years. The question is how do you explore them without contaminating them?

A UK university consortium is planning to explore Lake Ellsworth. Quentin Cooper talks to Dr. Martin Seigert from the University of Edinburgh who is leading the consortium and Dr. Andy Smith from the British Antarctic survey who led the geophysical team studying Lake Ellsworth. What can subglacial lakes on Earth tell us about life in extreme conditions on other planets?

For the first time the UK is hosting the eleventh world Artificial Life conference: ALIFE XI. Artificial life ‘attempts to understand the general properties of living systems by synthesizing life-like phenomena in software, hardware, and wetware’. The conference is being hosted by Southampton University in Winchester and has contributions from scientists around the world.

Quentin is joined by conference chair Dr. Seth Bullock, School of Electronics and Computer Science, University of Southampton and Professor Mark A. Bedau, Professor of Philosophy and Humanities at Reed College, USA. What kind of new scientific advances can we expect from ‘artificial life’?


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