Dissolving teaspoons: Naked in Wellington

06 January 2015
Presented by Chris Smith.

Dissolving teaspoons, plants that sunbathe, stopping multiple sclerosis, the ARGO floats that monitor the oceans, global warming in Antarctica, and using computers to find Kiwis. Chris Smith and Simon Morton meet some of Wellington's finest researchers, including nanoscientist Nicola Gaston, plant scientist Jason Wargent, MS specialist Anne La Flamme, ocean scientist Philip Sutton, climate researcher Tim Naish and computer scientist Ed Abraham...

In this episode

01:02 - Gallium nanoparticles and better chips

Apart from a dissolving teaspoon, the element gallium might hold the key to making more powerful processors for computers...

Gallium nanoparticles and better chips
with Nicola Gaston, Victoria University of Wellington

Gallium teaspoonNicola Gaston is a materials scientist at Victoria University of Wellington. Talking to Chris Smith and Simon Morton, she explains how she works on nanoparticles - in other words the science of the very small. Nicola's looking for ways to make superior computer processors, but she's also engineered a dissolving teaspoon using her favourite element, gallium...

09:26 - Why plants love UV

Plants thrive on UV, but why? And how can their responses to these high-energy wavelengths of light be used to boost growth and yield?

Why plants love UV
with Jason Wargent, Massey University Institute of Agriculture & Environment

Plants thrive on UVof skin cancer are up over 100% among young people and this is down to exposure to ultraviolet or UV rays present in sunlight, which damages DNA in the skin. But despite being natural sunbathers, plants don't suffer the same fate; in fact, UV light boosts plant growth, a discovery which could have major commercial advantages, as Dr Jason Wargent, from Massey University Institute of Agriculture and Environment, explains to Simon Morton and Chris Smith...

16:13 - New drugs for multiple sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is a condition caused by immune cells attacking parts of the nervous system. Now there are two new drugs to treat it...

New drugs for multiple sclerosis
with Anne la Flamme, Malaghan Institute of Medical Research, Wellington

Multiple sclerosis is a condition caused by immune cells attacking parts of the nervous system. New Zealand has one of the highest incidences of the disease in the world. Dr Anne La Flamme is based at Wellington's Malaghan Institute of Medical Research where she's trying to understand why, and working on new ways to treat the disease, as she explains to Chris Smith...

23:47 - Project ARGO - monitoring Earth's oceans

Argo is a system of 3600 floating mini-laboratories observing the temperatures, salinity, and currents in the oceans. What are they finding?

Project ARGO - monitoring Earth's oceans
with Philip Sutton, National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, New Zealand

"Argo" is a system for observing the temperature, salinity, and currents in the Earth's oceans. Operational since the early 2000s, the data it provides are used in climate and oceanographic research and a special research interest is to quantify the ocean heat content (OHC). It consists of a fleet of 3600 drifting profiling floats deployed worldwide. Each Argo float weighs 20-30 kg, as oceanographer Philip Sutton, from New Zealand's National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, explains to Chris Smith and Simon Morton...

33:39 - Taking Earth's temperature

June 2014 was the hottest since records began. Why, and how is this impacting on conditions in Antarctica?

Taking Earth's temperature
with Tim Naish, Antarctic Research Centre, Victoria University, new Zealand

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced that June 2014 was the hottest since records began. The average global temperature was 16.2C, 0.7C higher than the 20th-Century average and one-twentieth of a degree higher thanThermometer the previous warmest June in 2010. May was also a record breaker. Tim Naish is at the Antarctic Research Centre at Victoria University in Wellington where he's looking at the effects of these high temperatures on the Antarctic ice sheet, as he explains to Chris Smith and Simon Morton...

41:52 - Using dark data to track down Kiwis...

Dark data lurking on peoples' hard disk drives can be used to monitor endangered wildlife...

Using dark data to track down Kiwis...
with Ed Abraham, Dragonfly Science, New Zealand

The kiwi is the national symbol of New Zealand. It's about the same size as a chicken, with a long curved beak, and it can't fly! But unlike chickens, the kiwi is an endangered species, which means keeping tabs on the population is critically important so scientists can monitor the effects of conservation efforts. KiwiEd Abraham, of Dragonfly Science, is a computer scientist who began life as a theoretical physicist working with Stephen Hawking in Cambridge. He's developed a neat way of measuring kiwi populations using what he dubs dark data, as he explains to Chris Smith and Simon Morton...

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