30th May 2010

Last updated: 30 May 2010

What goes up...

... must eventually come down. And that includes the ash being thrown out of an erupting volcano. As the dust begins to settle from the current Icelandic eruption, Adam Walton talks to Dr. Siwan Davies from Swansea University. As a member of the international NEEM project (North Greenland EEMian ice drilling) she's hoping to recover the ash from a series of volcanic blasts which took place 130 thousand years ago, during a period between two ice ages known as the Eemian. Her research will give us a better picture of volcanic activity and the climate during the last time the planet was as warm as it is now.

Snowball Earth

The ice age which followed the Eemian was the one which shaped parts of the Welsh landscape - particularly Snowdonia - as glaciers slid across the British Isles. But that most recent cool period was pretty tame compared with earlier ice ages, some of which were so severe that the entire planet froze over for millions of years at a time. Tom Sharpe, Senior Curator in Geology at the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff joins Adam to look back at the Big Freezes of the past.

Avatar

Computer technology is creating increasingly powerful virtual worlds - for gaming, entertainment and a whole variety of professional uses including military applications. But how do our brains adapt to bodies which don't physically exist? Dr. Fay Short of Bangor University has been investigating the way our brains can be 'tricked' into manipulating virtual hands as though they're a part of us. And the paper she wrote as a result of her experimental work has just earned her a prestigious award from the American Psychological Association. She talks to Science Cafe reporter Jeremy Grange in this week's programme and puts him through one of her experiments.

Frankenstein Foods?

One of the hottest topics of scientific debate in the late 1990s was genetically modified foods. Amid widespread concern about the safety of GM and the media image of 'Frankenstein foods', most British supermarkets banned them from their shelves. But a decade on, is it time to re-open the debate? Is GM actually the only way to secure our food supplies as the world population nears 7 billion? Or is there other technology we can use to improve crops? 'GM Foods: Monster or Marvel' is the title of a talk being given at the Cardiff Science Café this week by Denis Murphy, Professor of Biotechnology at the University of Glamorgan and he joins Adam on this week's programme to discuss the issue.

Links

NEEM Project

Science Cafe Wales


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