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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 26 October
PRESENTER
SUE NELSON
Sue Nelson
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Thursday 26 October 2006
Snake Arm Robot
Snake Arm Robot (copyright OC Robotics)

Snake Arm Robot

Imagine trying to reach into a booby-trapped vehicle, repairing the inner recesses of a nuclear power station or performing surgery inside a person’s intestine. It would help to have a long arm as supple as a snake but controlled with an engineer’s precision. Sue Nelson meets a lightweight robot snake-arm that can reach the unreachable. She talks to Rob Buckingham, the man behind the snake-arm, and to David Sandeman, a brain surgeon who hopes one day to use the robot in place of the surgeon’s hands.

Insect Identification

Identifying insects can be a serious business, get it wrong and you could be condeming a country’s food crops to destruction or letting someone die from a spider bite.

It’s not always easy to tell insect species apart. Sometimes it can be subtle differences in the pattern of veins on a fly’s wing or a different head pattern on a wasp that separate them.

However, Dr. Mark O’Neill, from the University of Newcastle, a Fellow of the Royal Entomological Society and the British Computer Society has put both his skills to good use and come up with a computer programme that uses Pattern matching to help tell one insect from another. The Digital Automated Identification Software or DAISY.

Sue talks to Mark about how DAISY works and to Stuart Hine who manages the Natural History Museum’s insect information service, to see if DAISY is indeed better than the expert eye at identifying insects? Or is it ok for some species and can free up time for the busy entomologist to concentrate on the more difficult species?

The Best Science Book Ever

On Last week’s programme we asked you to send in your suggestions for the best science book ever. Here are a few:

The Blind Watchmaker – Richard Dawkins
A Brief History of Nearly Everything – Bill Bryson
Measuring the Universe – Kitty Ferguson
From Mark Askew Because all combine clarity of explanation to the lay person with a sense of excitement and wonder.”

Dialogue Concerning Two new Sciences – Galileo Galilei
The Sleepwalkers – Arthur Koestler
Science and the Modern World – Alfred North Whitehead
From C.D. Drake

Krakatoa and The Crack at the Edge of the World – both by Simon Winchester
From Christine Bridger Wonderfully written, pacey and fascinating on every page. These are the sort of books with which I drive my family mad saying “Wow did you know that…”
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