Image for 08/03/2012

Play now 18 mins

08/03/2012

Duration:
18 minutes
First broadcast:
Thursday 08 March 2012

Antarctic invasion
The pristine Antarctic environment may not be so unspoilt as many people think. The icy continent is under threat from invading plants, brought in as seeds on clothing. Tourists and also scientists visiting Antarctica are bringing in invasive species of plants. Professor Steven Chown, from the Centre for Invasion Biology at the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa, carefully checked and even vacuumed the clothes and shoes of people visiting the Antarctic, and found that seeds were hitching a ride. And perhaps more worryingly some of them are taking root, and threatening the unique ecosystem. Professor Chown says the problem is likely to get worse as the number of visitors increases.

The Titanic, the Sun and the moon
It is an iceberg from our other pole, the Arctic, that is blamed for the sinking of the Titanic, one hundred years ago. It was the night of April 14th 1912 when the apparently unsinkable ship sank. So why did it happen? A number of factors have been looked at, but now Russell Doescher from Texas State University says the moon is to blame. Apparently an incredibly rare astronomical alignment may have led to the iceberg being in the Titanic's path.

Animal extinction
The world around the time when humans emerged onto the scene was a very different looking place. It was a time of megafauna, literally giant animals. Creatures like the woolly mammoth, mastodons, giant kangaroos, wombats and sabre tooth tigers. They are fairly obviously not around any more, but why did they die out? The main theories are either climate change, or humans hunting them to extinction. A new report in the journal PNAS says actually, it was probably a combination of the two. David Williams is one of the scientists behind the research.

Silky Violin strings
A Japanese scientist with a long-standing interest in the amazing properties of spider silk has hit on a musical application for it: violin strings. Shigeyoshi Osaki of Japan's Nara Medical University has fashioned a set of strings from thousands of strands of silk from the golden orb weaver spider. BBC science reporter Jason Palmer has been listening to the result.

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