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Climate records and Maya civilisation

Duration:
18 minutes
First broadcast:
Thursday 08 November 2012

Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Climate Records and Maya Civilisation
What caused the collapse of the sophisticated Maya civilisation is something of a mystery. A change in climate has always been suspected, but controversial, because of a lack of well-dated climate and archaeological evidence. Now a new analysis of rainfall using stalagmite samples taken from a cave in Belize compared with scrupulous records kept by the Mayan people, is helping us figure out what happened.

World's Rarest Whale
This week the first ever sighting of the world's rarest whale was reported. A mother calf pair of spade-toothed beaked whales were stranded on Opape Beach in New Zealand in December 2010, but it was only after a DNA tissue analysis was done that the biologists realised their great discovery.

Super Biofuels
Biofuels are widely used around the world, but at the moment they are still not very efficient as they need to be mixed with conventional oil-based fuels in order to provide enough energy and cannot be transported using existing gasoline pipelines. In this week's Nature, scientists describe a new integrated biological and chemical process to make fuels similar to those used in jet or diesel engines.

Fingerprint Advances
The fingerprints we leave behind are mainly composed of sweat. On porous surfaces like paper, which is one of the most frequently tested surfaces for fingerprint detection, sweat is absorbed and there is commonly not enough material to be analysed. So to solve this problem, forensic chemists decided to develop the paper around the fingerprints instead of the prints themselves. The end result was a negative of the print.

Intelligent Fingerprinting, a spin-out company from the University of East Anglia, has developed a device that can detect what drugs we have been taking by analysing our fingerprint sweat. The first application of the device will be used in hospitals in the UK, but many other pilot projects are also planned.

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