Series 2: Prog 5: 04/05/08
This week Adam Walton looks into gene therapy, the science of wildfires, dark skies and red skies.
Sunday 4th May at 5.03pm
(Repeated Wednesday 7th May at 9.30pm)
We're all familiar with television images of wildfires rampaging across parts of California and Australia, destroying homes and displacing communities. The human costs are well documented but wildfires also have a substantial environmental cost. It's estimated that across the globe more than 100 million hectares of land are burnt by wildfires every year, producing the equivalent of 40% of the annual global carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels. Dr. Stefan Doerr of the Institute of Environmental Sustainability at Swansea University has just been appointed Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal of Wildland Fire and he joins Adam on this week's programme to discuss the environmental costs of wildfires.
Gene therapy is set to be one of the fastest-growing and most important medical treatments of the 21st century. Last week a team at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London revealed the results of a pioneering gene therapy treatment they'd used to reverse a degenerative eye condition in eighteen year-old Steven Howarth. Gene therapy, which involves introducing genes to body tissues, is being used for a growing number of conditions and diseases. Dominic Wells, Professor of Gene Transfer at Imperial College London uses the technique to treat muscular dystrophy and he appears on this week's programme to give a beginner's guide to gene therapy.
Finding somewhere that's genuinely dark at night is becoming increasingly difficult in 21st century Britain. Light pollution from streetlights, sports stadiums, offices and factories illuminates the night skies and is creating a generation of children who hardly ever see the stars. That's why the Kielder Observatory which has just opened in Northumberland chose its location very carefully - in the least light-polluted place in England. In Wales, of course, we're luckier because there are large areas of rural mid-Wales which suffer very little light pollution but even here the darkness is diminishing. 'Shining a light' on the subject of dark skies for this week's Science Cafe are Bob Mizon, UK Co-ordinator of the British Astronomical Association's Campaign for Dark Skies and Jay Tate of the Spaceguard Centre, an observatory based in unpolluted Powys.
This week's Espresso Science from the Techniquest @ NEWI Science Discovery Centre is a real shepherd's delight as John Griffith uses a torch, a fishtank and some milk powder to demonstrate why the setting sun is red.
Listen to this week's Espresso Science
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