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30 minutes
First broadcast:
Thursday 30 September 2010

Quentin Cooper presents the week's digest of science in and behind the headlines. In this edition: the latest planet capable of supporting life; how the World Wide Web unveils the laws of our collective behaviour; 'dry water' - a powder that's 95% H2O; and the discovery of Francis Crick's lost correspondence, revealing the fractious exchanges between the rival parties hunting the structure of DNA.

The producer is Roland Pease.

  • The Goldilocks planet

    The Goldilocks planet

    Artist's impression of the planetary system around the red dwarf Gliese 581. Copyright: European Southern Observatory

    The latest planet to be discovered is also the most likely yet to support. Its name is Gliese 581g, and its mass is approximately three times that of Earth. Nicknamed the Goldilocks planet because it’s neither too hot, nor too cold, it’s thought there’s a chance that life could exist on its surface. But is it any more likely to support life than all the other recently found planets with the same claim to fame? Astronomer Professor Andrew Cameron from the University of St Andrews takes Quentin through the arguments.

    Andrew Cameron
  • Dry Water

    Dry Water

    Picture credit: Ben Carter.

    It’s 95% water, but flows like a dry powder – dry water has applications ranging from jumpstarting and speeding up chemical reactions, transporting potentially harmful materials and storing gases and liquids. Joining Quentin to demonstrate the properties of this unlikely material is Professor Andrew Cooper, Director of the Centre for Materials Discovery at the University of Liverpool.

    Andy Cooper
  • Patterns in mobile phone and the internet usage

    Patterns in mobile phone and the internet usage

    Picture: Spot the difference – mobile phones reveal underlying behaviour.

    Mobile phones and the internet have transformed modern life over the past ten years, but bit by bit, scientists are using their digital data to reveal the patterns in our behaviour. Although the way we use the our mobile phones and browse the internet comes down to the way we exercise our free will, new research suggests we all follow the same underlying patterns. Albert-László Barabási, from Northeastern University’s Center for Complex Network Research explains how modern communication networks can be seen as a metaphor for other complex systems and examines whether this is a useful tool looking at the laws of collective behaviour.

    Albert-László Barabási
  • Francis Crick’s lost letters

    Francis Crick’s lost letters

    Nine archive boxes of letters and documents belonging to Francis Crick have been found mixed in with the papers of Sydney Brenner with whom he shared an office. The lost files date from 1950 to 1976 and include details of the correspondence between the rival parties searching for the structure of DNA. Alexander Gann from the Watson School of Biological Sciences at Cold Spring Harbour Laboratory talks to Quentin from New York about the findings.

    Alexander Gann


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