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Science In Action (Bst) 1

Researchers switch off genes and film what happens; the state of GLONASS - Russia's GPS; space kite to clear up space junk; warm sun paradox answered; toads that predict earthquakes

Gene videos
If you can name a human gene, the chances are you can now go online and find a film showing what happens in a cell when that gene is switched off. Scientists at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg in Germany have been trying to find out which genes are involved in the cellular process known as Mitosis – when a cell divides, and to do that they've made a stunning 190,000 time-lapse videos of cells.

Everything from cars to cell phones now seems to offer it – GPS or satellite navigation. GPS stands for Global Positioning System, and the satellites it uses are owned by the US. But rivals to GPS are coming. With Europe's project Galileo underway and China starting to develop their own. The Russians has been trying to speed up their pace in the sat nav race as well. In early March, another three Russian satellites of the GLONASS global navigation system were launched into orbit, bringing the constellation to 21. This ensures total coverage of Russia as well as partial global coverage. While the system has been working relatively well for military use, the commercial side hasn't been going as smoothly. But the Russians say it's all about to change.

Katia Moskvitch went to Moscow for Science in Action to find out what's going on.

A new device is set to play a major part in cleaning up the dangerous clouds of metal debris hurtling around the Earth's lower orbit.

More than 5,500 tonnes of 'space junk' are now believed to be cluttering space around the planet as a result of years of abandoning spacecraft, satellites and launch material. The potential threat of large debris plummeting back to Earth, and obstructions to satellite TV signals is becoming a problem. The amount of debris is increasing by 5% each year.

The Surrey Space Centre has unveiled its solution to the problem - CubeSail, a solar powered sail which can be attached both to new satellites and to existing debris, dragging the debris and defunct spacecraft out of orbit. It's a low cost technology, the first CubeSail is to be ready for launch on new satellites next year, and is expected to be available for shifting existing debris from 2013.

Young Sun Paradox
This week a long-standing scientific paradox may have been answered in the journal Nature. The young sun paradox, first identified by the famous American astronomer Carl Sagan in the 1970's.

To put it simply, if the sun used to be much less intense, why wasn't the Earth much colder and the oceans frozen solid? Answering that could help us understand the intricacies of our atmosphere and global climate. Well in a paper published in the journal Nature this week Professor Minik Rosing geologist at the Natural History Museum of Denmark thinks he's finally struck on the answer and it's not the expected greenhouse effect.

Earthquake toads
European or Common toads (Bufo bufo) can detect impending seismic activity and alter their behaviour from breeding to evacuation mode, suggests a new study in the Zoological Society of London's (ZSL) Journal of Zoology.

Dr. Rachel Grant from The Open University in the UK experienced the earthquake that struck L'Aquila in Italy in 2009 and reported that 96 per cent of male toads in a population abandoned their breeding site five days before the earthquake. The breeding site was located 74 km from the earthquake's epicentre.

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28 minutes

Last on

Sun 4 Apr 2010 03:32GMT


Gravitational Waves

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