Science Interviews


Fri, 22nd Jun 2012

Transmitting H5N1 and A 50 Gigapixel Camera!

Ron Fouchier, Erasmus Medical Centre
David Brady, Duke University
Steve Nowicki, Duke University
Bob MacCallum, Imperial College London

Listen Now    Download as mp3 from the show Exposing Explosives

Transmitting H5N1

Sneeze 4The H5N1 bid flu virus could evolve into a form that is transmissible in humans according to research published in the journal Science.

In this controversial project, Ron Fouchier from the Erasmus medical centre in the Netherlands infected ferrets with versions of the virus that were genetically modified to increase their affinity to mammalian cells and monitored how the virus continued to mutate upon infection.

The team found that just five mutations in total were enough for an airborne and transmissible strain of the virus to develop.


A 50,000 Megapixel CameraAWARE-

A 50,000 megapixel camera has been created by scientists at Duke University in the US.

Using improved optical elements, electronics and processors, the camera uses an array of 98 microcameras within a spherical lens each capturing visual information from a specific point. Computer processors then stitch the information together to create images covering a 120 degree field of view with 5 times greater resolution than the human eye.

David Brady led the work published in Nature.


Songs through the Noise

SparrowThe calls learned by songbirds vary in response to noise in their environment.

Publishing in the journal Biology Letters, Steve Nowicki from Duke University investigated how noise from nature and humans affects the calls learned by baby songbirds by raising 9 male swamp-sparrow nestlings in a sound-proof room and exposing them to recordings of song types sung by adult males of their species.

The songs played were either clear...

Click this button to hear the clear birdsong 

Or degraded...

Click this button to hear the degraded birdsong

The team found that when the birds matured and began to sing, only the clear recordings had been learned.


Selecting your Music

And finally, the process of natural selection has been used to compose and refine pieces of music enjoyed by the masses.

The website Darwin tunes, which has been online since 2009, invited online users to listen to a range of short audio loops and rate them, with the highest ranking then combined to produce the next generation of sounds for rating again, resulting in over 2500 generations in their paper in the journal PNAS.

One of the more popular loops was...

Click this button to hear the popular song

Each successive generation created more recognisable and rhythmical versions of the tunes enabling the sounds to evolve from noise to music.

Bob MacCallum from Imperial College London led the work published in the journal PNAS.

If you’d like to add to the next generations of music, which has now reached nearly 4200, visit


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