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Science in Action

Science in Action

The BBC brings you all the week's science news.


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South Asia heatwave and climate change

South Asia has experienced a heatwave where the monsoon has been delayed and temperatures have reached over 50 degrees. Despite this the extreme heat has led to far fewer fatalities than previous heatwaves; we look at why that is. Research into the origins of almonds shows they were domesticated in Asia before spreading worldwide. It?s a bitter sweet story, with sweet varieties being selected over bitter ones. In fact the bitter ones contain poisons which can kill.. As with almonds cannabis as a drug seems to have spread via silk routes. The discovery of ancient burnt wooded bowls suggests it was smoked millennia ago in China ? as part of funeral rituals. And we investigate California?s cannabis farming industry, there are concerns over the environmental impact of this now legal cash crop. (Photo: Indian boatman walks amid boats on the dried bed of a lake at Nalsarovar Bird Sanctuary. Credit: Sam Panthaky/AFP/Getty Images) Presenter: Roland Pease Producer: Julian Siddle
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US foetal tissue research ban

The US has withdrawn funding for scientific research involving foetal tissue. Scientists point to the lack of feasible alternatives to using foetal tissue ? which comes from embryos donated to scientific research via abortion clinics. They say the move to halt this kind of research will have a negative impact on the ability of US medical institutions to develop new treatments for a range of diseases from diabetes to cancer. More controversy from the ?Crispr babies ? scandal ? with a new analysis showing the modified gene may have a wide impact on the health of the children it was claimed to have been implanted into. A reassessment on North Korea?s Nuclear tests using cold war methodology suggest the last explosion was more powerful than previously thought. And we investigate a small British Earthquake south of London. (Picture: Donald Trump, Credit:SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images) Presenter: Roland Pease Producer: Julian Siddle
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The eclipse that made Einstein famous

One hundred years ago, a solar eclipse proved Einstein?s theory of general relativity was onto something. Known as the Eddington expedition, in 1919 two teams of astronomers set forth to witness a total solar eclipse from either side of the Atlantic. The photographs, once developed, showed that the background stars, made visible by the moon shading the sun, appeared to be a tiny bit closer towards the sun?s disc than they normally appeared in the night sky. The triumphal announcement was the first new evidence, predicted by Einstein, that large masses in the universe are accompanied by a bending of spacetime, and made Einstein the most famous scientist of the twentieth century. At a special event held by London?s Royal Astronomical Society, where Eddington worked at the time, astronomers and archivists explain more to Science in Action, as does this year?s recipient of the prestigious Eddington Medal, Bernard F. Shutz, who is hoping gravitational waves will point us in the direction of the next big breakthrough in cosmology. Murray Gell-Mann A week ago we learned of the death of physicist Murray Gell-Mann. His Nobel prize was awarded exactly 50 years after the Eddington expedition in 1969, for work elucidating the particles now known as quarks. Oxford emeritus prof Frank Close gives his evaluation of Gell-Mann?s influence on particle physics. Apples were big long before humans Robert Spengler, of the Max Planck Institute in Jena, spends his time thinking about the evolutionary origins of certain crops we eat every day. His recent work suggests that apples, rather than being bred to be large by human beings, may well have evolved long before that to be big. Human beings? influence on the domesticated crops we now eat came much later. (Photo: Image of the 1919 Solar eclipse taken by Arthur Eddington (1882-1944), Credit: Science Photo Library) Presenter: Roland Pease Producer: Alex Mansfield
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The birth of a new volcano

A new undersea volcano has appeared off the coast of East Africa. The sea floor between Madagascar and Mozambique has become increasingly seismically active in the last year. As well as the appearance of this active volcano, local islands are now experiencing frequent earthquakes. The causes of Indonesia's Palu Bay tsunami last year are being examined thanks to social media. Videos taken as the tsunami hit have been analysed to determine wave heights and speeds and suggest possible causes. Scientists at a massive underground physics research facility in Italy are to stand trial over safety risks. The facility uses poisonous chemicals. There are concerns these could leak into drinking water supplies in the event of an earthquake. India has a new government, but problems with pollution remain, we examine the reasons why electricity distribution is so inefficient. Presenter: Roland Pease Producer: Julian Siddle (Image caption: Multibeam sonar waves, reflecting off the sea floor near the French island of Mayotte, reveal the outline of an 800-meter-tall volcano (red) and a rising gas-rich plume. Credit: MAYOBS team (CNRS / IPGP -Université de Paris / Ifremer / BRGM)
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