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Weed-killer – ‘Roundup’, Science and the Law

A jury in San Francisco has ruled that, agricultural chemical giant, Monsanto, should pay a groundskeeper over $280 million in compensation after the individual developed a form of cancer after using the weed-killer - Roundup. It’s a complex case that involves allegations of undermining efforts to evaluate a potential link between the active ingredient glyphosate. Accusations of punitive fines and unproven links between the herbicide and the disease. We explore how science goes about proving cause and effect in cases like this?

Bubbles in the Arctic

Physicist, Helen Czerski, is part of a group of scientists on board a Swedish icebreaker and scientific research vessel in the high Arctic called the Oden. The team hopes to spend a month anchored to Arctic sea ice near the North Pole. They will be looking at how microbiological life in the ocean and ice is connected to cloud formation in the region. Helen’s speciality is in the bubbles between the sea and the atmosphere. She is looking to see if microscopic specks of microbial life from the ocean are released into the atmosphere form bubbles where they can then go on to seed clouds in the sky.

Clues to the Mystery of the Oldest Earth Rock

The oldest surviving rock on Earth is ‘Acasta gneiss’ at 4.03 billion years old. The lump of stripy granite-like rock was found in Northern Canada. This type of rock is thought to be the seed of our continents. The trouble is, for this rock to be created from the ubiquitous basalt you needed water and high temperatures, but not the high-pressures found deep under the crust. So how was it made? New work suggests bombardment from huge meteorites provided the perfect conditions.

Apoptosis or Cell Death

We know a bit about how a cell dies. But not so much about the mechanism. New research, on usefully large, Xenopus frog egg cells shows that the way death is communicated throughout the cell is much more targeted than mere diffusion of the deadly message of apoptosis. Giving possible clues to how cells communicate other messages as well.

Picture: Tractor working in a field of wheat, Credit: CactuSoup/Getty Images

Presenter: Roland Pease

Producer: Fiona Roberts

Nasa's Solar Probe Launch

Nasa is just a few days away from launching its next science mission, a spacecraft called the Parker Solar Probe that will eventually "touch the sun." If all goes to plan, the probe will take off aboard a rocket on Saturday 11 August from Cape Canaveral in Florida. On its final close approach, in 2025, the Parker Solar Probe will get within six million kilometres of the Sun's surface — so close that it will actually fly through the star's incredibly hot atmosphere, called the corona. It is hoped the mission will provide answers to some of the Sun’s mysteries - why its atmosphere becomes hotter further away from the surface of the sun? How the solar wind of charged particles streaming out into space is born? And what causes the gigantic outbursts scientists call coronal mass ejections?

One Hundred and Fifty Years Since the Discovery of Helium

Helium, the second most abundant element in the universe, was discovered on the Sun before it was found on the Earth. Pierre-Jules-César Janssen, a French astronomer, noticed a yellow line in the Sun's spectrum while studying a total solar eclipse in 1868. Sir Norman Lockyer, an English astronomer, realised that this line, could not be produced by any element known at the time. It was hypothesised that a new element on the sun was responsible for this mysterious yellow emission. This unknown element was named helium by Lockyer.

The Trouble with Doing Science

Marnie Chesterton takes an inside look at the hoops some scientists have to jump through to get their experiments running. In an experiment to look for dark matter, Polish scientist, Pawel Majewski, at Rutherford Appleton Lab has spent 5 years orchestrating the fabrication of a test chamber, a flask called a Cryostat. For the experiment to work the chamber has to be as radiation-free as possible. The trouble is the natural radiation from Earth during the manufacture and transport keep contaminating the metal.

New Horizons to Visit Ultima Thule

Ultima Thule is the name given to an asteroid, or pair of asteroids, in the Kuiper Belt – a ring of rocky bodies at the edge of the Solar System. The New Horizons mission, which captured such amazing data on Pluto, got a mission extension to travel further out. This week the asteroid passed in front of a distant star, giving the team a chance to see more detail of the rocky body, ...

Understanding the Kilauea Volcano

As the Kilauea volcano continues to erupt and spew molten lava over the Island of Hawaii, volcanologists from the UK are setting up monitors on the slope in the hope of understanding the shield volcano better. They are measuring the micro-earthquakes and are hoping to record the moment the volcano quiets.

Eukaryote Genome

The Earth Biogenome Project aims to sequence the DNA of all the planet's eukaryotes, some 1.5 million known species including all known plants, animals and single-celled organisms. The ambitious project will take 10 years to complete and cost an estimated $4.7 billion.

Air pollution in Africa

How the residents of Mukuru in Nairobi are trying to tackle the growing health problems caused by particulate air pollution.

Presenter: Roland Pease

Producer: Fiona Roberts

(Image: Lava flows into the ocean, in the Kilauea Lower East Rift Zone, on Monday, July 2, 2018 in Pahoa, Hawaii Credit: Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

3 episodes