02/10/2009

EARTHQUAKES AND TSUNAMIS
Yet again, the world has been shaken by a series of earthquakes and tsunamis. On Tuesday a powerful 8.0 magnitude earthquake in the Pacific off the Samoa Islands region generated a tsunami 4 and a half metres tall in some areas of the islands. Then there have been two more large earthquakes in Sumatra 7.6 and 6.9 magnitudes. The devastation and loss of life is still being assessed. But it's not unusual to have seismic activity in these parts of the world because they're on sites of massive geological shift. Roland Pease from our science team explains why these happen and whether scientists can predict when they will happen.

MOSQUITOES AND MALARIA
Malaria infects more that 500 million people globally each year, and kills more than a million. One person dies about every 30 seconds. In Africa it's the leading killer of children. Scientists are always looking for chinks in the armour of the malaria parasite or the mosquito that carries it. This week researchers in Germany and France have discovered that variations in a single gene affects mosquitoes' resistance to the malaria it carries and Jon asks whether this could be used as a way of killing the parasite before it gets passed on to humans?

There's more work on mosquitoes in the journal Science this week. Researchers at the University of Oxford have been looking at the effects of the bacteria Wolbachia. When it infects mosquitoes, it halves their lifespan – which means parasites such as the filariasis nematode that causes elephantiasis cannot complete their incubation and die off before they can become infective. Will it work for malaria too? And could it be a way of eradicating the disease without having to use insecticides?

ARDIPITHECUS
An almost complete skeleton of one of the earliest hominids know has been described in massive detail by an international team of scientists in this week's journal Science. Ardipithecus ramidus who lived over 4.4 million years ago in what is now known as Ethiopia gives us a new insight into human evolution by extending our knowledge back further, only a few million years after the human line divided from chimpanzees. It's another step in the journey to understanding our origins.

DIY SPACE PHOTOGRAPHY
Last week on Science in Action we heard from the do-it-youself biologists, genetically engineering organisms in their bedrooms. This week, we have do-it-yourself space exploration. If you go to http://space.1337arts.com/?page_id=47 you’ll see some amazing time-lapse footage of the curvature of the Earth. The photos were taken by students in the US who pieced together some readily available equipment which enabled them to launch a camera not quite into space, but to the very edge. What's really amazing is that they did it for around $150. They didn't need huge expensive rockets, they used a helium filled balloon, a digital camera, and a mobile phone. One of those students, Oliver Yeh, a Computer Science and Electrical Engineering student at MIT, is planning more DIY science projects in the future.

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28 minutes

Last on

Sun 4 Oct 2009 03:32 GMT

Gravitational Waves

'Ripples' from black holes detected

Gravity and ripples in the fabric of space time - what do these mean for us?