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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 06 November 2008
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QUENTIN COOPER
Quentin Cooper
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Thursday 06 November 2008
Volcanic gasses and diamonds: two of the products of the deep carbon cycle.
Volcanic gasses and diamonds: two of the products of the deep carbon cycle.

The Deep Carbon Cycle

We all know about carbon dioxide these days – the way plants take it up from the air, the way animals and especially human animals release it again.

And the way it gets stored for a few years in forest timber and soils, and perhaps for a few million years in oil and coal.

But the carbon cycle goes much deeper.

Quentin Cooper hears that the deep  carbon cycle could have a critical role in the evolution and maintenance of terrestrial systems.

Volcanologist Professor Stephen Sparks from Bristol University studies the role of carbon from volcanoes in the Earth’s atmosphere and Dr Graham Pearson of Durham University is researching the ancient carbon cycle.

Like its shallow counterpart, the deep cycle begins in the atmosphere with carbon dioxide.

That gets absorbed into the skeletons of tiny marine plants, which sink to the ocean floor.

Eventually, the ocean rocks themselves sink down into the Earth’s mantle where some of the carbon returns as carbon dioxide in volcanic gasses – far more than previously thought.

Some deep carbon even goes on a billion year journey through the Earth’s mantle before the incredible pressures turn it into diamond.

Surname Genetics

Just what's in a surname?

We share them with our close relatives and pass them down the family line.

But what about the man up the road who shares your name?

Could he be a long-lost cousin?

New research looking at 500 British surnames suggests that he might – and the key is in our genes.

It's not just names that are passed from father to son, because for a male to be male, he has to inherit 'male genes'.

These genes are all stored on the Y chromosome, meaning that all related men will have the same Y chromosome.

This information led Oxford geneticist Bryan Sykes to start investigating his own surname.

After writing to every Sykes in the phone book and looking at their genes, he found that 70% had the same distant ancestor.

Since this discovery, Turi King from the University of Leicester has expanded the study to include 500 British surnames.

This is not only revealing the history of individual families, but that the UK population has wider genetic links from John O'Groats and Land's End to the rest of the world.

Next week: realising our creative potential via the fruit fly ...
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