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Science
LEADING EDGE
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Thursday 21:00-21:30
Leading Edge brings you the latest news from the world of science. Geoff Watts celebrates discoveries as soon as they're being talked about - on the internet, in coffee rooms and bars; often before they're published in journals. And he gets to grips with not just the science, but with the controversies and conversation that surround it.
radioscience@bbc.co.uk
LISTEN AGAINListen 30 min
Listen to 12 December
PRESENTER
GEOFF WATTS
Geoff Watts
PROGRAMME DETAILS
Thursday 12 December 2002
Baghdad

The Science Behind the UN Weapons Inspection in Iraq

One of the more dramatic findings of the weapons inspections of the 1990s was the discovery of a secret uranium enrichment programme. At first denied by the Iraqi regime and then dismantled by the UN as a suspected production process leading to nuclear weapons. The irrefutable evidence of enrichment was uncovered by inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency, the IAEA, in samples taken at sites in Iraq and then sent back for analysis by scientists at the IAEA laboratory in Austria. It’s this team which is now eagerly awaiting the arrival of samples from the new round of weapons inspections. As they prepare for this momentous task, Gerry Northam went to meet the team for Leading Edge.

The science of analysing suspected nuclear samples is well-established, but since the Gulf War the relevant technology has had to be developed to deal with huge numbers of samples – collected by inspectors in wipe after wipe over walls, ledges and equipment surfaces at suspected sites. David Donohue the Operational Head, and Gabrielle Voigt the Director of the IAEA laboratory, have prepared for this meticulously knowing that the world will be watching.
Butterfly

Insect flight may help engineers construct micro air vehicles

Butterflies pull off some surprising tricks to generate lift. Often, successive strokes are different -they can clap their wings together, fling them apart and twist them to capture air vortices and wakes, changing their stroke from one wing beat to the next. Geoff Watts talks to Zoologist Adrian Thomas from the University of Oxford who has been painstakingly studying these insects in free-flight. He’s found that there seems to be no single key to insect flight. Insects rely on a wide array of aerodynamic mechanisms to take off, manoeuvre, maintain steady flight and land. Understanding insect flight is not just an intellectual pursuit. Aerodynamicist Ismet Gursul tells Leading Edge how he exploits select characteristics of their wing motion to build flapping micro air vehicles.

Novel helmet sheds new light on premature infant brain

Researchers at University College London have generated three-dimensional images of a newborn infant brain for the first time using measurements of transmitted light. Jeremy Hebden and a team of Physicists, Computer Scientists and Paediatricians are using a novel helmet device to acquire the images. The technique may be useful in detecting abnormalities in babies born prematurely.
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