HiQuake, Plate Tectonics@50, Sonic Weapon Puzzle, The Chinese Typewriter

Mining, reservoirs, fossil fuel extraction, skyscrapers, tunnelling operations - they all appear in the world's largest database of human-induced earthquakes.

Gareth Mitchell talks to Gillian Foulger of Durham University about HiQuake, the world's largest database of human-induced earthquakes. Professor Foulger and her colleagues have so far compiled close to 750 seismic events for which there are reasonable cases to be made for anthropogenic triggers. Triggers include mining operations, fossil fuel extraction, reservoir filling, skyscraper construction and tunnelling. Among the surprises is the fact that the US state of Oklahoma is more seismically active than California because of quakes and tremors set off by the local oil and gas industry.

The theory of plate tectonics is 50 years old. It's as fundamental to understanding the Earth as evolution by natural selection is to understanding life. Roland Pease meets geologists such as Dan McKenzie, John Dewey and Xavier Le Pichon who played key roles in proving the hypothesis in the late 1960s.

The United States has removed more than half of its diplomats from its embassy in Havana, Cuba. A signficant number of staff have complained of ailments such as hearing loss, dizziness, headaches and nausea, and there has been speculation that some kind of sonic or acoustic weapon might be responsible. Trevor Cox, professor of acoustic engineering at the University of Salford, discusses the likelihood with Gareth.

Stanford University's Tom Mullaney is the author of 'The Chinese Typewriter: A History'. He talks to Gareth about the great engineering and linguistic challenge in the 19th and 20th centuries of getting the Chinese language onto a table top machine. The survival of the ancient language or China's entry into the modern world depended on the success of numerous inventors. In fact one consequence was the development of predictive text in the Chinese IT world long before it appeared in the West.

Note: In the podcast version of this programme, there is an additional item on new research on the role of the world's botanical gardens in global plant conservation. One of the scientists involved, Dr Paul Smith of Botanical Gardens Conservation International, tells Gareth that there's good news about these institutions' contributions and there are areas where there is room for improvement.

Producer: Andrew Luck-Baker

Available now

30 minutes