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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.
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LISTEN AGAINListen 30 min
Listen to 20 January
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QUENTIN COOPER
Quentin Cooper
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Thursday 20 January 2005
Moai statues on Easter Island
Moai statues on Easter Island

The Collapse of Civilisations

Why do some societies flourish whilst others fail?

Quentin talks to social scientist and Pulitzer Prize winning author, Jared Diamond, about his new book Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Survive.

Today, the treeless landscape of Easter Island is testament to the environmental disaster that befell its ancient settlers. Total deforestation led to erosion, food shortages and rampant cannibalism.

But why did the islanders cut down their trees and destroy themselves?

Jared also draws parallels between the collapse of ancient societies and modern crises, such as genocide in Rwanda.

What can we learn from our past to prevent future catastrophes?

Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Survive  is published by Penguin ISBN: 0-713-99286-7

Bird navigation

Do migrating birds use "mental maps" to navigate the world?

Quentin talks to Professor of Behavioural Science Verner Bingman at Cardiff University and Dr. Tim Guilford from Oxford University.

Do birds use the same processes for long and short distance trips? How do they use magnetism and astronomy to orientate themselves?

New technologies are making it easier to use satellites to track bird movements. They are solving avian mysteries such as how homing pigeons follow roads, rivers and smells to find their way home.

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