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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 May
PRESENTER
GEOFF WATTS
Geoff Watts
PROGRAMME DETAILS
Thursday 20 May  2004
Caterpillar robot
A computer-generated caterpillar

This week on Leading Edge - coffee, caterpillars and plenty of pigs.

Creepy crawly robots

Caterpillars are the most successful climbing insects, able to navigate very complex structures.

This fact led biologist Barry Trimmer from Tufts University in Boston, Massachusetts to wonder how a tiny brained insect can co-ordinate such complex locomotion.

He’s been using a method adapted from the film industry – motion capture – to investigate how they move.

Soon the research will be used to create ‘soft-bodied’ robots. Tiny version of these robots could eventually crawl inside our bodies to clear blocked arteries, or giant ones may be used to fix the space station.

Nutrigenomics

Nutrigenomics is an emerging new field which could totally transform our view of nutrition. Researchers are investigating how our personal genetic make-up controls how we react to food.

Ahmed El-Sohemy from the University of Toronto is investigating whether coffee could be good for some people, but bad for others, depending on your DNA.

Japanese chops

‘Black pork’ is a delicacy in Japan and consequently it's more expensive than other pork products.

Although the meat itself isn’t black, the skin of the pig that produced it is. But because the meat looks the same, backstreet butchers can easily substitute cheap white chops for the more expensive black variety.

Now food scientists are using genetic fingerprinting to enable butchers to trace the meat right back from the packet to the pig.

Pig pong

Geoff visits the agricultural centre in Montreal, where they’ve found a novel way of reducing the pong from their pig poo.

Suzelle Barrington from McDonald farm at McGill University has installed a giant inflatable dome around their vat of pig manure.

Shutting off the oxygen supply changes the chemical breakdown of the decomposing dung and stops the unpleasant odour. So now local residents can breathe a sigh of relief.


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