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Did the Climate Add to the Demise of Angkor?

Angkor, in what is now modern Cambodia, was the capital city of the Khmer Empire. It flourished from approximately the 9th to 15th centuries. Angkor was a megacity supporting at least a million people (0.1% of the global population) during 1010–1220. The city houses the magnificent temple Angkor Wat, one of Cambodia's popular tourist attractions. The city established a vast network of canals, embankments, moats and reservoirs to capture, store and distribute surface water resources. It was very extensive, covering up to 1200 The city foundered during the 15th Century and was largely, but not completely, abandoned by 1431. Did monsoon-driven flooding weaken the infrastructure of water management in the city and contribute to its demise?

Antimicrobials in Livestock Feed
Global pharmaceutical companies are selling antibiotics as performance enhancers and artificial fatteners to livestock farmers in India. This unnecessary use of antibiotics has been made illegal in the US and Europe, as it is thought to increase the risk of antibiotic resistance. The practice is not illegal in India, but with the subcontinent suffering from the highest incidence of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) it’s something the whole world needs to worry about.

Facing Hurricane Michael
Hurricane expert Professor James Elsner, at Florida State University, has studied these tropical cyclones for most of his career. He advocates for a higher Category 6 to be created for the stronger and stronger storms we are seeing. He lives in Tallahassee in Florida and has just faced Hurricane Micheal – is this the first time the expert has been face to face with a Cat 5 storm?

Refuting Claims for Earliest Life
Two years ago, a paper was published, in the journal Nature, stating that the earliest evidence of life on Earth had been discovered in rocks from Greenland’s Supercrustal Belt in Isua. Stromatolites - fossils of conical structures created by bacterial action were thought to have been identified in rocks that were at least 3.8 billion years old. However this week, also in the journal Nature, is a study refuting these claims and describing the conical structures as mere folds in the metamorphic rock.

Picture: Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia, Credit: rickwang/Getty Images

Presenter: Roland Pease
Producer: Fiona Roberts

Will Earth Run Out Of Food?

With the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change announcing that we need to keep global warming under 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels, Science in Action explores the impact of food production on the environment. A new study calculates the current and predicted impact of land and fresh water use, fertiliser pollution and the change to more Western meat and dairy-based diets by 2050 and concluded that our current mitigation measures are not going to be enough. And that our planet will not be able to sustain this level of environmental cost.

Windfarms and Warming
A study of wind power generation across the continental United States calculates that the warming effect of wind turbines, due to possible circulatory changes in the atmosphere at night, could be enough to cause a 0.24 °C rise if the US switched to wind power for all their energy demands. It’s a small change, but coupled with other environmental impacts of sustainable energy production, it has to be factored in.

Science Publishing and Copyright
Two scientific publishers are suing the academic networking site ResearchGate for breaking copyright laws. ResearchGate asks scientists to publish papers and articles on their site. The claim is that they are not putting enough checks in place to stop work that is copyrighted to pay-walled science journals being uploaded. Is social media, and greater connectivity on the internet, changing the way science publishing works and how profits are made?

Drugs from Fingerprints
Illegal drug-use often has a contributing factor in cause of death. Testing for drug-use in both living and dead people relies on detecting the breakdown products (metabolites) for drugs such as cannabis, cocaine, opiates or amphetamines in bodily fluids (blood, urine, saliva) or tissue samples. These are invasive and take time. Now a University of East Anglia spin out company “Intelligent Fingerprinting” have developed a device called the fingerprint drug screening cartridge that can detect metabolites of illicit drugs in the sweat found in fingerprints. And furthermore they can do this on dead bodies as well as living people.

Picture: Vegetables and fruits, Credit: Bojsha65/Getty Images

Presenter: Roland Pease
Producer: Fiona Roberts

2 episodes