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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 20 February
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GEOFF WATTS
Geoff Watts
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Thursday 20 February  2003
Biometric devices could identify you from your iris

Biometrics

Biometrics is the field of science and engineering that uses peoples' unique physical or behavioural characteristics to identify them. The idea of being able to verify identity by someone's iris, hand size, facial characteristics and so on is attractive for anyone protecting money, data or secure buildings - especially as more conventional methods, such as pin codes and passwords, are often all too fallible.

Biometrics has promised much over the years but what has it actually delivered? And where is the field going now? One of the UK's leading research centres for Biometrics is at the University of Kent, so we sent Gareth Mitchell there to meet some of the people and devices involved.

Bioterror

A group of leading scientific journals has announced measures aimed at restricting the publication of research which could be used by bioterrorists. In a joint statement, the journals' editors say it is crucial that concerns over terrorism do not affect the release of valuable medical research. But they say they recognise there may be occasions when new research data should be withheld from publication because it could be abused.   Geoff finds out more.
songbirds

Why Birds Sing…

Scientists are homing in on some of the key brain circuitry that enables certain birds to produce beautifully complex songs. They have identified a key set of genes in the animals which seems essential for them to construct and modify their songs in much the same way as humans are able to mix up their words to make different sentences.

The songs of some birds - such as canaries, parrots and humming birds - are incredibly complex, and to some extent they are like human speech. The order of sounds is important, like the syntax and grammar of human languages and some bird species can change their songs, learning new sounds from the world around them.

Geoff speaks to Erich Jarvis from DukeUniversity in America who thinks he has now finally discovered what part of the bird’s brain is responsible. They are called glutamate receptors, and are responsible for building connections between nerve cells.
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