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BICEP 2; Methane exoplanets; Driverless cars; Autism

55 minutes
First broadcast:
Sunday 22 June 2014

Scientists who claimed to have found a pattern in the sky left by the super-rapid expansion of space just fractions of a second after the Big Bang say they are now less confident of their result. The BICEP2 Collaboration used a telescope at the South Pole to detect the signal in the oldest light it is possible to observe. At the time of the group's announcement in March, the discovery was hailed as a near-certain Nobel Prize.
But the criticism since has been sharp. Rival groups have picked holes in the team's methods and analysis. On Thursday, the BICEP2 collaboration formally published its research in a peer reviewed journal - Physical Review Letters (PRL).

Polio Aunties
In 2006 India still accounted for half of all global cases of polio, but earlier this year it recorded three years without a new reported case. This achievement allowed the World Health Organization to finally declare its entire South East Asia region polio-free. This success is partly down to an army of women who, one step at a time, have criss-crossed the country on foot to give the under-fives polio vaccines. BBC Monitoring's Vikas Pandey went to the northern Indian city of Allahabad to meet some of the ‘polio aunties’, as they are affectionately known.

Methane exoplanets
We can now safely assume that planets are not unusual, since the first definitive detection in the 1990s numbers have risen steadily to about 2000. However we have yet to find a way of detecting if life exists on them. Finding water, carbon dioxide or methane would indicate the presence of extra-terrestrial life. Professor Jonathan Tennyson from the department of Physics and Astronomy at University College London explains how his team have developed a way of detecting methane in a planet’s atmosphere.

Antarctic Invasion
Antarctica is the most pristine place on Earth, having only been visited by humans in the last 200 years, and being tens of thousands of miles from the nearest land. But these days, around 40,000 tourists and hundreds of scientists visit the Antarctic every year, and with them come stowaways in the form of bugs, beetles and plants. As a result, the ice -free areas of the Antarctic are at severe risk of invasion. Is it too late to do anything about it?

Driverless Cars
Jack Stewart meets the engineers who are building vehicles that drive themselves. He has a ride in Google's driverless car, which has no steering wheel and no pedals. Google's Chris Urmson explains the company's approach to autonomous vehicles.
Jack visits Stanford University's driverless car project where professor Chris Gerdes shows him Shelley, an automated Audi that races around a track at speed as well as a human driver. Chris is collaborating with a philosopher to explore some of the difficult questions around autonomous vehicles, such as who is liable if there's an accident. Is it the human or the car? And ,Jack meets Josh Swirtes whose company, Peloton, is linking trucks together with the idea that they should have fewer accidents.

Autism in Girls
It’s long been known that autism spectrum disorder is diagnosed more often in boys than in girls, and at the higher-functioning end of spectrum there are ten times as many boys as girls. There are thought to be biological reasons for this, but some argue that, because it’s known to be more common in boys, some girls are not getting a diagnosis when they should – that no one is looking out for it, leaving some parents struggling to get any help. Professor David Skuse and Melanie Peeke discuss whether autism is underdiagnosed in girls.

Photo Credits: NASA:The measurements were taken using the BICEP2 instrument at the South Pole Telescope facility


6 items
  • BICEP 2

    Scientists who claimed to have found a pattern left by Big Bang are now less confident.

  • Polio aunties

    Earlier this year India recorded three years without a new reported case of polio.

  • Methane exoplanets

    Detecting methane in the search for life in a planet’s atmosphere.

  • Antarctic Invasion

    Ice-free areas of the Antarctic are at risk of invasion - can we do anything about it?

  • driverless cars

    Jack Stewart meets the engineers who are building vehicles that drive themselves.

  • Autism in girls

    Autism spectrum disorder is diagnosed more often in boys than in girls,



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