First Designer Chromosome

Scientists have synthesised the first functional chromosome in yeast. Previously they had only done this in simple organisms like bacteria. This is a significant step in synthetic biology. The researchers believe their work will lead to improvements in food production, new medicines and vaccines. Dr Tom Ellis from Imperial College London is using the same technique to synthesize another of yeast’s chromosomes. He joins us in the Science in Action studios.

Sense of Smell
Humans can differentiate between several million different colours and almost half a million different tones. However, research suggests they can only smell about 10,000 unique scents. A study published in the journal Science sheds another light on our olfactory capacities - that humans can discriminate between at least one trillion olfactory stimuli, far more than can be detected by the eye or ear. Dr Andreas Keller from Rockefeller University, who led the team behind the work, tells us more.

Quantum Cryptography
In the history of secret communications, the brilliant efforts of code-makers have been matched by the ingenuity of code-breakers. And recently, revelations of the extent of government surveillance have thrown a spotlight on the security – or lack thereof – of our digital communications. Strictly private communications should be possible in the future however, thanks to recent developments in quantum cryptography, according to research published in the journal Nature. Professor Renner from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich explains the idea.

Picture credit: Synthetic yeast chromosome. Illustration by Lucy Reading-Ikkanda, from Science Express, 27.03.14

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18 minutes

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Fri 28 Mar 2014 09:32 GMT

Gravitational Waves

'Ripples' from black holes detected

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