Sea ice coverage hit a recording-breaking low in the Antarctic this week, but what does this mean for the rest of the world? Why is the region so difficult to predict? And what could further changes in climate mean for the South Pole?
Often the Arctic dominates conversations around polar warming but this week, with the help of climate modelling expert Tamsin Edwards, Kings College London, we’ll be tackling these questions and more. We’ll hear from British Antarctic Survey researcher Nadia Frontier, a marine biologist spending the summer at Rothera research base in the Antarctic. We join her as she traverses snow and ice to study the inhabitants of Adelaide island and the surrounding waters. Rachel Tilling from the Cryospheric Sciences Lab at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center helps us explore the continent from a different vantage point, explaining her work using satellite data to understand sea ice thickness. And climate reporter Georgina Rannard takes us through an artistic interpretation of polar sounds, Dr Geraint Rhys Whittaker uses underwater microphones to capture the impact of human activity on polar wildlife.
Presenter: Victoria Gill
Producers: Julian Siddle and Emily Bird
BBC Inside Science is produced in collaboration with The Open University.
Gene Editing Ethics, Killer Whale Mummy's Boys and Ancient Hippo Butchery
Chinese biophysicist He Jiankui caused international outrage when in 2018 when he used the gene-editing tool known as CRISPR Cas-9 to edit the genomes of two human embryos. That experiment, described by the Chinese Academy of Science and Technology described as ‘abominable’, resulted in the birth of twin girls. The experiment also landed Dr He in prison for three years. Now, out of prison and working for a company in Beijing that proclaims to offer “affordable gene therapy” – He Jiankui has been speaking in public. At an open bioethics event at the University of Kent last weekend, organisers invited the scientist to present his research and to face questions about his past experiments and his future plans. We spoke to event organiser Dr Joy Zhang about the reaction to event and to Professor Robin Lovell-Badge at the Crick Institute about the implications of CRISPR-CAS9 technology.
A Hippo butchery site reveals that distant human ancestors have been using stone tools far longer than researchers previously thought. This archaeological site in Kenya revealed that ancient hominins Paranthropus have probably been using stone tools to prepare food and weapons since 2.9 million years ago. Professor Tom Plummer at Queens College, City University of New York take us through the discovery and what it reveals about hominin evolution.
A study released this week reveals just how much of a burden sons are on killer whale mothers. Michael Wiess, research director at the centre for whale research, fills us in on their findings which are a product of nearly 40 years studying the southern resident Orca population. This long-term Whale census project began in the 70s, championed by researcher Ken Balcomb, who was passionate about understanding and protecting killer whales and who sadly passed away late last year. We hear from Ken and his team out on the water studying the southern residents, more of which can be found in BBC Radio 4 documentary The Whale Menopause.
Presenter: Victoria Gill
Producer: Emily Bird
BBC Inside Science is made in collaboration with the Open University
This week’s programme is a thought experiment: What would the world be like if energy became superabundant and very cheap?
Energy is vital for every aspect of our society, and the energy cost of extraction, processing, manufacture and transport is priced into every product we buy.
Today’s energy crisis is having a huge impact, from affecting diplomatic relations between nations to the availability of food.
How can our energy systems evolve and what could cheap abundant energy mean for us, our relationship to the natural world, and each other?
We discuss these issues and more with;
Rachel Kyte CMG, Dean of The Fletcher School at Tufts University, who has previously worked for the UN on sustainability issues.
Jim Watson, Professor of Energy Policy at UCL. He’s advised government on the low carbon energy transition.
And Dr Hannah Richie, Head of Research at Our World in Data, based at Oxford University, who looks at food, agriculture and energy in relation to global development trends.
BBC Inside Science is produced in partnership with the Open University.
Exploring the New Environmental Improvement Plan
Defra, the department for Environment, food and Rural affairs, released its latest Environmental Improvement plan this week. Many environmental groups have criticised the plan for having vague commitments, and landowners are asking where the money is going to come from if say farmers are going to move land out of production and into conservation. For a view away from these vested interests we’ve turned to the Office of Environmental protection – the body set up after Britain left the EU to scrutinise government environmental policy. Chief Executive Dame Glenys Stacey, and Chief Insights Officer, Professor Robbie McDonald.
Last week the UK passed an emergency exemption allowing sugar beet farmers to use a controversial neonicotinoid pesticide called Thiamethoxam. This is the third year in a row that the exemption has been in place and the decision came just days after the EU banned such exemptions across Europe. A discussion in parliament yesterday saw MPs criticise the move due to the impacts of neonicotinoids on already crashing Bees populations. We spoke to Dr Richard Gill at Imperial College London about exactly how these insecticides impact bees.
There are volcanic islands dotted across the globe but exactly what caused their formation and how might they change in the future? Professor Ana Ferreira at University College London is a seismologist leading an ambitious study to measure deep vibrations and disturbances around volcanic islands in the Atlantic Ocean. She told us about the challenges of recording from the ocean floor and the other unexpected disturbances they detected.
As humans our eyes are one of our most valuable and expressive social tools. The whites of our eyes or sclera enable us to follow each others gaze and look our for minute changes in mood, a feature that until recently was thought to be unique to humans setting us apart from animals in our ability to communicate. But Anthropologist Aaron Sandel at The University of Texas in Austin has noticed that white sclera is in fact present in one of our closest relatives; the chimpanzee.
Presenter: Gaia Vince
Producers: Julian Siddle and Emily Bird
Inside Science is produced in Collaboration with the Open University
Vegetarian school dinners
What if all schools offered only plant-based options for 3 out of 5 lunches a week? Would that be enough to trigger a broader societal shift to eating less meat, and allow us to meet our sustainability commitments?
We’re not talking about making school dinners entirely vegetarian — just 3 lunches a week.
We discuss the benefits and practicalities of such a shift with :
Tim Lenton, Professor of Climate change at the University of Exeter.
Economist Marco Springmann Senior Researcher, Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food, University of Oxford.
Nutritionist Collete Fox from Proveg international an organisation working directly with schools in the UK to encourage the provision of healthier school meals.
And Henry Dimbleby founder of the Leon fast food chain is now an advisor to government, responsible for drawing up national rules on school dinners.
We also visit Barrowford primary in Lancashire, which has successfully rolled out more vegetarian school dinners.
BBC Inside Science is produced is partnership with the Open University.