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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 to 2 June
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QUENTIN COOPER
Quentin Cooper
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Thursday 2 June 2005
People in front of a huge termite mound
Dr Rupert Soar inspects a termite mound

Termite engineering

Termite mounds are the most complex structures found in nature.

These giant soil towers hide an intricate maze of veins and chimneys that exchange gas and moisture with the outside environment.  This allows the mound to 'breathe', providing a cool, constant habitat.

But how do termites construct these amazing abodes that battle with extremes of heat, wind and rain?

Quentin Cooper talks to engineer Rupert Soar and termite expert Scott Turner. They're building the world's largest scanning machine, the size of a two storey building, to explore the termites' inner world.

Could these tiny builders inspire energy-free systems to heat and cool our homes?

Sugar science

Sugars provide fuel for our bodies. They also have a vast array of other uses, decorating the surface of each human cell like icing on a cake.

Can sugars explain why we are more complex than fish, although we share a similar number of genes?

Joining Quentin to unwrap sugar science are Dr Ben Davis from Oxford University and Prof Ann Dell from Imperial College, London.

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