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Personal genome; Solar cells and music; Asteroids; Alfred Russel Wallace

30 minutes
First broadcast:
Thursday 07 November 2013

A hundred thousand Britons are being asked to donate their sequenced DNA, their personal genome, to a vast database on the internet, so scientists can use the information for medical and genetic research.
The Personal Genome Project-UK was launched today and participants are being warned, as part of the screening process, that their anonymity won't be guaranteed. Stephan Beck, Professor of Medical Genomics at University College London's Cancer Institute and the Director of PGP-UK, tells Dr Lucie Green that anonymised genetic databases aren't impregnable, and that it is already possible for an individual's identity to be established using jigsaw identification. This new "open access" approach, he says, will rely on altruistic early-adopters who are comfortable with having their genetic data, their medical history and their personal details freely available as a tool for research. Jane Kaye, Director of the Centre for Law, Health and Emerging Technologies at the University of Oxford, describes the rigorous selection procedure for would-be volunteers.

Scientists at Queen Mary University London and Imperial have created Good Vibrations by playing pop songs to solar panels. Exposing zinc oxide PV cells to noise alongside light generated up to 50% more current
than just light alone. Pop and rock music had the most effect, while classical was the least effective genre.

Thanks to the Russians' enthusiasm for dash-cams in their cars, the twenty metre asteroid that came crashing into the atmosphere above the town of Chelyabinsk, East of the Urals in February this year, was the most filmed and photographed event of its kind. Mobile phones and cameras captured the meteor, moving at 19 kilometres a second (that's 60 times the speed of sound) and the enormous damage caused by the airblast. The plethora of footage allowed researchers to shed light on our understanding of asteroid impacts and in a new study, published in Nature, Professor Peter Brown from the University of Western Ontario in Canada questions whether using nuclear explosions is an appropriate way to model these airbursts and whether telescopes could underestimate the frequency of these events.

Seventh November this year is the hundredth anniversary of the death of Alfred Russel Wallace. As the Natural History Museum in London unveils the first statue of him, we ask why, as co-discoverer of the theory of evolution by natural selection, Wallace doesn't share Charles Darwin's spotlight. Dr George Beccaloni, from the NHM, explains to Lucie why Wallace deserves both glory and commemoration.

Producer: Fiona Hill.


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