The clean-up operation after the Hungarian toxic sludge spill is going well say experts; Microbiology – from microscope to cancer treatments; Rat attacks in Asia; Science Hack Day San Francisco
Hungarian toxic sludge
The industrial plant which was the source of the Hungarian toxic sludge spill, reopened this week. Nine people died after caustic red mud burst through a reservoir wall in October, and devastated towns and rivers in the west of the country. But since the spill scientists and engineers have been studying the disaster, to figure out how bad things might be, and to prevent anything similar happening again. Professor Paul Younger, the Director of the Newcastle Institute for Research on Sustainability, in the UK, returned from a trip to Hungary last week and talked to Science in Action about how the clean-up is going.
Moments of Genius: Anton van Leeuwenhoek – the birth of microbiology
Out of sheer curiosity, a Dutch tradesman working in the 1670s made a lens that was five hundred times more powerful than all other lenses at the time. With it, he revealed a previously unseen world of little "animacules" in a drop of pond water. But because he was just an amateur scientist, most of the more distinguished scientists of the day thought he might be hallucinating. British award winning author and publisher Jenny Uglow explains why she believes this was a moment of genius.
Microbiology today - using antibodies against cancer
But how far has microbiology come since that day when Anton van Leeuwenhoek looked through his microscope and saw single celled organisms for the first time? Last week we heard about a new Human Protein Atlas trying to pinpoint the exact location of all proteins in the human body. Understanding all of our proteins – the human proteome - where they are and how they make our bodies work the way they do, promises completely new medical treatments including new cancer treatments. Dr Mike Taussig of Cambridge University's Babraham Institute and the Chairman of the European Science Foundation's programme on Functional Genomics talked to Science in Action reporter, Tracey Logan about finding the proteins that make us sick.
Scientists are working to help farmers in Bangladesh and India, to help them overcome a threat to their food and livelihoods – Rat Floods. These terrifying sounding rodent attacks happen once every 50 years. The animals literally flood out of the bamboo forests and consume and destroy crops. The onslaughts have found their way into myths, and even the language of societies, in part because they are devastating, but infrequent. They happen when the bamboo forest flowers on a 50 year cycle, and the seeds the flowers produced, are the size of pears. With so much food the rats reproduce to plague levels, and once the seeds are all eaten they descend on the rice fields, leaving farmers with nothing. Dr Steven Belmain tells Jon Stewart about his efforts to manage the problem in Bangladesh.
Science Hack Day San Francisco
Sometimes a fresh pair of eyes on a problem can give us an important new perspective on it, but it is not often that scientists veer out of their very specialised fields to see their work through other people's eyes. But 100 people, from a mix of different backgrounds, have just descended on San Francisco for Science Hack Day. They joined forces, shared skills, and spent 24-hours together, in the hope of finding new ways to use established technologies, and new ways to get information from existing data. Kate Arkless went to find out what a Science Hack Day is all about.