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Science
THE MATERIAL WORLD
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Thursday 16:30-17:00
Quentin Cooper reports on developments across the sciences. Each week scientists describe their work, conveying the excitement they feel for their research projects.
material.world@bbc.co.uk
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QUENTIN COOPER
Quentin Cooper
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Thursday 4 November 2004
Hobbit and Modern Human skulls
© Peter Brown

Island Evolution
 
Scientists last week announced the discovery of a new, tiny species of human that lived 12 000 years ago on the Island of Flores in Indonesia.

At only 1 metre high the hominid has been nicknamed the Hobbit.

Other fossils from Flores already indicate that huge rats and monstrous lizards lived alongside pygmy elephants.
 
Why are islands the evolutionist's perfect natural laboratory? Why does their isolation mean plants and animals evolve in unique ways tending to either gigantism or dwarfism?
 
Quentin talks to Professor Roger Thorpe, biologist from the University of Wales in Bangor, about why evolution on islands can lead to such dramatic species diversity in the animal kingdom and Professor Leslie Aiello, palaeoanthropologist from University College London about how finding the 'Hobbit' means we may have to rewrite the book on human evolution. 
 
Art Fraud
 
What is the role of science in fighting art fraud? How can a real master piece be distinguished from its counterfeit counterpart?

A technique which looks at how light is scattered from paint is providing the art world with a non destructive way to find out.

Material from a gentle touch of a cotton swab on a canvas can take a 'fingerprint' of the pigments used to find out if they are the original or a modern copy.
 
Quentin Cooper is joined by Robin Clark, Professor of Chemistry at University College London and expert in Raman Spectroscopy and by Dr Nicholas Eastaugh, head of the Pigmentum project and a specialist in authenticating fine art to find out how to distinguish between the old masters and their modern copies.
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