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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 AGAINListen 30 min
Listen to 27 July
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GEOFF WATTS
Geoff Watts
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Thursday 27 July 2006
Faint Red Galaxy [courtesy of UKIDSS Ultra-Deep Survey & the Subaru Telescope]
A Faint Red Galaxy in the UKIDSS Ultra-Deep Survey

WIDEST INFRA-RED VIEW OF THE CHILDHOOD OF THE UNIVERSE

UK astronomers are compiling the widest and deepest survey of the Universe in infra-red light, using a telescope on Hawaii.

They've just released the first large amount of data from their deep space scanning, called UKIDSS, much to the excitement of European astronomers, who are using it to discover faint galaxies as far away as 12 billion light years.

UKIDSS researchers Andy Lawrence and Omar Almaini explain why such objects reveal the childhood of the Universe, and why some of their discoveries are rather unexpected.

FLARING STAR ABOUT TO GO SUPERNOVA

In February, a white dwarf star called RS Ophuichi set off a huge nuclear explosion called a nova from its surface.

By studying the minutiae of this spectacle, Jennifer Sokoloski and her colleagues have been able to work out the mass of the white dwarf. They've found it is as heavy as a white dwarf can grow before it collapses catastrophically under its own weight and self-destruct in a huge supernova explosion.

Being a white dwarf, the star will die as a so-called type 1a supernova. This class of stellar explosion is an extremely valuable tool for measuring the expansion of the Universe. In recent years, surveys of them allowed the shock discovery that the Universe has been getting bigger faster in the last few billion years.

TOAD FISH IN SPACE

Toad fish are ugly, aggressive and make strange grunting noises. They also have an internal balance system very much like ours.

Richard Hollingham reports from the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, USA on how launching toad fish into space has helped research on the sickness astronauts experience when in orbit.

A SUBMARINE WITH FINS?

At the University of Bath, William Megill is inspired by a knifefish called Stanley. Knifefish swim not by flexing their bodies like other fish.

Their bodies remain completely rigid but they have a fin that runs the length of their underside, which undulates producing forward or backward thrust. They can propel themselves very elegantly backwards as well as forwards.

They are also 98% energy efficient, compared to the 75% energy efficiency for a submarine propeller. The engineers at Bath have made a mechanical fin from crankshafts and plastic triangles which works in a similar way to Stanley's. In due course, William Megill envisages subs with knifefish like fins rather than propellers for underwater vehicles with ultra-fine manoeuvrability.
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