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BBC World Service

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Shockingly Sophisticated Electric Eels

October 29th, 2015

Episode 61 of 158 episodes

The electric eel - actually part of a family of small electric fish mostly found in South America - stands out for its ability to generate hundreds of volts. This made it the favourite experimental subject for pioneering studies of electricity in the 17th and 18th Centuries. Professor Ken Catania from Vanderbilt University explains how using modern equipment helped unveil sophisticated ways in which the electric eel uses its high power output to kill prey. Clams Giant clams have evolved to become living greenhouses by growing symbiotic algae as a source of food. Professor Alison Sweeney of the University of Pennsylvania explains how we can learn about efficient solar energy harvesting from these clams. This research could lead to new types of solar panels or improved reactors for growing biofuel. Why Do we Dance? It may be hard to imagine what evolutionary advantage moving around to music might possibly have. It has been suggested that it has to do with social bonding. Dr Bronwyn Tarr from the University of Oxford has figuring out why we dance. A sonic tractor beam has been invented! BBC Science News journalist Jonathan Webb talks about the system that can grab, hold and move small objects without touching them, using sound waves. A compound effective against MRSA has been found in honey. Fiona Roberts talks about the origin of this compound and how people in Cardiff are planning to get more. Oxygen was discovered on a comet. Tracey Logan talks about how this changes our view of the origin of our solar system. (Photo Professor Ken Catania)

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