H5N1 – could it cause a pandemic?
Research into how mutant forms of H5N1, or bird flu, could spread between humans has just been released. It was initially suppressed by US officials fearful that the information could be used by terrorists to create biological weapons. Although H5N1 mainly infects birds, it can spread from them to humans and when it does, about 60% of those people die. Scientists worry that a mutation in the virus could lead to human to human transmission. Research into how likely that is to happen was what was withheld. Now that it was been published we can assess those risks. Roland Pease from our science team has been following this story.
Rio+20 and restoration
The Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro is hosting the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development this week, otherwise known as Rio+20. Its aim is to make the global economy more sustainable, to continue with economic growth, but without taking such a toll on nature as we do now. Brazil is of course famous for the Amazon forest. But it used to have another, the Atlantic Forest, that was pretty much as big. The buildings of Rio, for example, stand where once stood Atlantic Forest trees. Now, only tiny fragments remain, chopped down for coffee plantations, charcoal and cattle ranching. Our environment correspondent Richard Black escaped from the summit itself to visit a project that is trying to restore some of the forest's former glory, while also generating employment for local people.
Evolution of music
The music that we listen to is usually carefully crafted by someone with talent and artistry. But we, the average listener, also have a role to play. By choosing the music that we find most pleasant, we influence the way that musical taste spread and the way that musicians modify what they create. We help music to evolve. Researchers say it is evident in the way music varies from Bach to Beethoven for example, or from the Beatles to Oasis. Dr Bob MacCallum, a mosquito genome bioinformaticist by day and a music evolution researcher by night, from Imperial College in London, came into our Science in Action studios to explain how he tested this theory.
(Image: Avian (bird) influenza virus strain H5N1 - virus as seen through a microscope. Credit: Associated Press)