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Mega Microbes

Investigations beneath our deep oceans have revealed an immense variety of incredibly hardy microbial life. Investigators even found life after drilling 2.5 km into the rock beneath the oceans. They found microbes that can resist immense pressure and incredible temperatures. They say it’s plausible that life itself could have developed under such conditions.

Comparisons between central and southern Africans, the latter with lighter skins, show that Eurasian genes with an impact on skin colour were introduced into the Southern African population as recently as 2000 years ago. Researchers say the connection is not a direct one, and such genes probably arrived in Africa via the Middle East many years earlier.

Working on ways to improve rice, scientists have used a gene editing technique to encourage asexual reproduction. The idea is to ensure beneficial traits such as drought resistance and high yields are passed down through generations of seeds. This research is a proof of principle, but with the potential to change the nature of the world’s cereal crops.

And how do we assess ancient levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide to compare with today? One method is to look at plant fossils, in particular the size and shape of leaf pores used to exchange gasses.

Presenter: Roland Pease
Producer: Julian Siddle

(Picture: Hydrothermal vents, computer artwork. These type of vents are found on the seabed at faults in the tectonic plates that form the Earth's crust. Credit: Science Photo Library - SPL)

Climate Change Missing Target

The latest climate talks have heard that emissions this year and last have increased - they fell in the 3 years previously.
Development of electric vehicles and energy generation with renewable technologies have helped reduce emissions, but it’s not enough according to the latest analysis. The growth of conventional energy generation using fossil fuels has dwarfed reduction from using cleaner technologies.

Ammonia pollution is a serious issue for health globally. New satellite observations are able to pinpoint sources from factories to chicken farms worldwide.

Changes in laws in the Amazon designed to make the conservation of forests in private hands easier could have the opposite effect. In a strange statistical quirk, if a state is successful in its conservation efforts more private forestry could be made available for development.

And the maths of Democracy, can analytical systems developed to help understand stem cell growth or the behaviour of social insects be used to help understand the function and dysfunction of political systems?
Researchers suggest such analysis could even be used to predict a change in political direction, in the run up to elections for example.

(Picture: Wind turbine, Credit: Getty images)

Presenter: Roland Pease
Producer: Julian Siddle

2 episodes