01/01/2010

The best of Science in Action reports

PRIVATE ROCKETS IN SPACE
NASA's Space Shuttle is approaching the end of its run. The exact date for its retirement is still being debated, but private companies are stepping up to fill the role once performed only by governments – the transport of cargo and even people into orbit. They believe they can do it at a fraction of the cost. A recent review of human spaceflight plans in the US suggested that commercial companies should take over the job of ferrying astronauts to the International Space Station. Jon Stewart has visited one of these firms SpaceX which is based in Los Angeles. The BBC Science Correspondent Jonathan Amos also joined Jon on the programme to explain why these companies are able to compete with NASA.

ZERO GRAVITY
The programme also takes a zero gravity ride on a roller coaster aircraft in the cause of advancing space science, and gets a personal view on the ex-astronaut chosen to be Nasa’s first African-American chief administrator, Charles Bolden.

BUENOS AIRES WAITERS' SUPER-MEMORY
The waiters of Buenos Aires in Argentina are world famous at remembering complex orders without having to write anything down. Jon Stewart talks to the scientist who has looked into how they do this. Could the technique be used to help people with memory problems?

LIONFISH INVADE THE BAHAMAS
The Bahamas consists of a collection of islands in the Atlantic, 60 miles off the coast of Florida, known for its tax haven status, relaxed lifestyle, coral reefs and beautiful clear seas that sustain the local fishermen and attract the tourists – but there's a predator in the water that shouldn’t be there. Lionfish are supposed to live in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. They were first spotted in the Atlantic in the early 1990s. It's thought they probably escaped from aquariums when Hurricane Andrew destroyed homes and released them into the wild. They have long venomous spines that inflict a nasty sting, and they've been menacing the Bahamas' reefs since 2003, as Science in Action's Pauline Newman discovered.

WHEN TREES NEED HELP
Researchers at Germany's Max Planck Institute have discovered that trees have the ability to send out a chemical SOS to get help from friendly insects and this trick may have huge implications for creating naturally pest-resistant crops. Science in Action's Anna Lacey joined scientists out in a former military zone between Germany and Poland where the research is being carried out.

"THE COMPUTATION OF EMOTION IN MAN AND MACHINES" AT LONDON'S ROYAL SOCIETY
We find out what happened at a meeting on "The Computation of Emotion in Man and Machines" held at London's Royal Society. And ask whether computers will ever be able to understand human feelings.

Available now

28 minutes

Last on

Sun 3 Jan 2010 04:32 GMT

Gravitational Waves

'Ripples' from black holes detected

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