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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 18 January
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QUENTIN COOPER
Quentin Cooper
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Thursday 18 January 2007
Rescuers try to help the stranded Whale in the Thames.
Rescuers attempt to save the Thames whale in January 2006.

The Thames Whale

On Thursday January 19th 2006, millions of people around the world watched a lost Northern bottle nosed whale try in vain to swim up the river Thames.

Over 1000 kilometres from home and far from deep Arctic seas and a source of food she died 2 days later on January 21st from thirst, hunger and exhaustion.

Quentin Cooper talks to marine biologist Trevor Day, author of ‘Whale Watcher: A Global Guide to Watching Whales, Dolphins and Porpoises in the Wild’, about why whales strand. Is it a navigational error, acoustic interference or warming seas?

Colin MacLeod, from The University of Aberdeen explains what we can learn from stranded whales. He performed the autopsy on the whale and explains how her stomach contents revealed exactly where she had her last meal, where she was before she stranded and how her teeth like tree rings, revealed her age. .

All UK strandings should be reported directly to the Natural History Museum (0207 942 5155). You can also contact HM Coastguard, the Police, Local Authorities and the RSPCA. If an animal is still alive then the RSPCA should be contacted first with a view to keeping the animal alive and returning it to the sea (the appropriate telephone number should be obtained from the local telephone directory).

Mass Extinctions

In Earth’s history several mass extinctions have wiped out nearly all life on the planet. A new theory about why these cataclysmic events happened could suggest that far from being caused by a meteorite the events that wiped out life on land and sea came from deep inside the Earth’s core.

Quentin Cooper is joined by Professor Andy Saunders and Dr Marc Reichow from Leicester University to find out how vast eruptions of lava spread over 1000s of kilometres lasting up to ten years might have caused the most catastrophic events in planet Earth’s history.

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