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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.
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Listen to 9 June
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GEOFF WATTS
Geoff Watts
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Thursday 9 June 2005
African penguins on Robben Island

This week on Leading Edge - African penguins, blue brain project, dolphins using sponges and sounds of space.
 
Blue Brain

Scientists in Switzerland and the United States have started the ambitious task of building a computer simulation of the entire human brain, right down to the molecular level.

The "Blue Brain" project will use IBM technology to create a simulation of one of the brain's building blocks - a neocortical column.

Hopefully this will shed light on human cognition such as memory, perception and perhaps even consciousness as well as providing a means to investigate brain disorders in the virtual world.

Dolphins using sponges

Bottlenose dolphins living in Shark Bay off Western Australia have been observed using sponges as an aid to feeding. The sponges are thought to protect their snouts from sharp and stinging coral.

Scientists from the University of Zurich, have discovered that this is an almost exclusive female trait that is not genetically inherited but is rather learned from mother to daughter and is the first instance of cetaceans using tools.

Sounds of Space

The old adage, "in space no one can hear you scream" relies on the fact that space is a vacuum where sound cannot travel. But astronomers from the Institute of Astronomy in Cambridge travelled to the Cheltenham Science Festival to show that this isn't quite the case.

Michelle Martin investigates just how noisy the universe really is - and listens to space sounds such as howling winds on Titan, the rumble of black holes and even the "bang" of the Big Bang itself!

Do not disturb the penguins

Geoff travels to South Africa to meet Dr Marienne DeVilliers, who's been looking at the effects of human disturbance on African penguins.

Everyone loves to see penguins, but it seems that the penguins on Robben Island can be put off laying and rearing their chicks by their constant human visitors.

In order to measure the effects of the disturbance Marienne has been planting fake eggs, which can measure and record the penguin's heart rates giving her some idea of how near a human can get to the birds before they get distressed.

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