The Asian Eclipse, the origin of sexual reproduction in snails, the secret life of trees a revolutionary new kind of super-bright LED
Jon Stewart looks forward to next week’s Asian eclipse, likely to be the most observed in human history as it passes over India, China and Japan. And as well as being amazing to witness, eclipses are great opportunities to learn more about our nearest star. Despite advances in satellites and astronomy – nothing beats seeing the moon, the Earth, and the sun fall perfectly into alignment. Quentin Cooper speaks to satellite astronomer Lucy Green, and solar physicist, Ken Phillips, from the Mullard Space Science Laboratory in the UK, both of whom will be in ‘zone of totality’.
SNAILS AND SEX
It’s question that puzzled Darwin and one which biologists today still can’t fully explain: why do most organisms reproduce sexually using a male and a female rather than simply reproduce by dividing into identical clones, like bacteria?
Researcher Jukka Jokela of the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology in Zurich, has spent 20 years watching snails reproduce both ways and thinks that sexual reproduction has survived because in the long term it can lead to genes with better protection against parasites which would otherwise wipe out all identical clones. Professor Steve Jones also comments on the research.
WHEN TREES NEED HELP
Researchers at Germany’s Max Planck Institute have discovered that trees have the ability to send out a chemical SOS to get help from friendly insects and this trick may have huge implications for creating naturally pest-resistant crops. Science in Action’s Anna Lacey joined scientists out in a former military zone between Germany and Poland where the research is being carried out.
E COLI ADVANCE
E. coli is a bacterium than can cause food poisoning in humans but it’s also one of the most studied organisms in all of biology. Its genetic code was unravelled more than a decade ago and now, new research has uncovered genes which might help protect us against cancer. Jon Stewart spoke to Tracy Palmer from the University of Dundee in Scotland.
LEADING THE WAY FOR LEDs
LEDs, or light emitting diodes, could revolutionise the way we light our homes, offices, streets, cars, or just about anything else. Invented in Russia in the 1920s, the big advance in LEDs came relatively recently when scientists developed white ones, opening the way for super-bright office and home lighting with vastly improved efficiency compared to traditional light bulbs and at a lower cost. Jon Stewart spoke to Professor Colin Humphreys of Cambridge University.