Exploding Jellyfish, Marine Conservation and Sharks-3D

23 July 2006
Presented by Chris Smith, Helen Scales.

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Marine biology and conservation specialist Dan Laffoley, from English Nature, and Chris Lynam, from the University of St Andrews join us to dissect the state of the world's oceans and marine protected areas. From the conservation science institute in Alaska, Bruce Wright takes us on a tour of the world of salmon sharks, and in kitchen science we do battle against the atmosphere using a Magdeburg sphere.

In this episode

Heavanly Hotel

With an eye on the tourist industry of the future, US space company Bigelow aerospace have successfully deployed in orbit 550km above the Earth the first example of an inflatable space station. The company plan to launch a series of ten test craft which will test the feasibility of producing an inflatable space hotel to accommodate the next generation of thrill seekers and space explorers. The prototype, dubbed Genesis 1 and consisting of a 3 x 2.4 metre cylindrical tube, inflated and opened its solar panels correctly after it was carried aloft by a Russian Dnepr rocket, a converted former inter-continental ballistic missile. The interior was maintained at an agreeable 26 degrees C. Bigelow Aerospace hope to launch the next test-craft, Genesis II, later this year and if all goes according to plan the real-Dr McCoy could be in orbit by 2012. The only thing currently missing is the celestial tour bus to take future "hotelonauts" to and from their heavenly lodgings. This unfortunately still needs to be developed...

Tooth for a Tooth, buy an Eye for Virtual Reality...

Allegedly 1 million people in the UK fail to visit the dentist because of a phobia, but perhaps they'd be more willing to attend if they could use Finnish inventor Ismo Kartunnen's virtual reality headset. The device consists of a pair of goggles equipped with miniature TV screens which show distracting images or movies acompanied by sound. They leave a small area around the periphery to avoid users feeling claustrophobic but critically they block out the central field of view so that wearers are spared the sight of the dentist baring down on them with a drill. In initial trials users of the headset needed less or no anaesthetic for some dental procedures, and trials of the gadget during minor surgical procedures at a hospital revealed the same result. Apparently the most popular viewing on the ehadset is Robbie Williams, and Sting. No wonder, after 20 minutes of Robbie Williams most people would be willing to pull their own teeth out.

Seaweed Trips up Cancer Causing Virus

US researchers have found that carrageenan, a sulphur-containing sugary molecule widely used as a food thickening agent and extracted from a type of red algae, is extremely potent at blocking infections by human papilloma virus (HPV), the agent which causes cervical cancer. Writing in the July edition of PLOS pathogens, the National Cancer Institute's John Schiller and his team think that carrageenan achieves this effect partly through a decoy effect, fooling the virus into locking onto the sugar instead of a target cell. This is partly down to the fact that the carrageenan molecule looks similar to heparan sulphate, a substance present on the cell surface which HPV anchors itself to before infecting the cell. Because carrageenan is already in widespread commercial use as a thickening agent in cosmetics and foods and is therefore already accepted to be safe, the researchers suggest that it could make a significant contribution to preventing HPV infection and that trials are needed to find out.

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