Science in Action

BBC World Service

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The Latest Pictures of Pluto

September 17th, 2015

Episode 55 of 158 episodes

Yet more pictures of Pluto are being downloaded and analysed from Nasa’s New Horizons mission to the outer reaches of the Solar system. The latest batch show strange ‘dune like’ features which could indicate wind erosion. What Birds See in Their Mates We know that genetic compatibility plays a role when looking for a mate. But is there anything else that animals look for when they choose their partner? Scientists set out to find out in a study of small birds. Zebra finches, are similar to humans in that they mate for life and both parents look after the offspring. So when scientists swapped the chosen mate of one finch with the chosen mate of another, they wanted to see how well these ‘assigned’ pairs got on compared to pairs of birds that had partnered up naturally. The results were surprising. Do Elite Athletes Use Special Visual Processing to Catch the Ball? Elite sportsmen and women, like cricketers and tennis players often have less than half a second to respond and catch or hit a ball travelling, at speed, towards them. And if you think about what processing needs to be done by the brain and the manipulation of the hand, arm in fact whole body to position itself in the exact position to grab that ball out of the air – it’s a pretty remarkable feat. Professor of Visual Development at Bradford University, Brendan Barrett, has developed some special spectacles to test whether it is something in the visual processing part of the eyes and brain, that makes some people are better at catching a ball than others. The History of the Future In a new short series on Science in Action, Melissa Hogenboom goes behind the scenes at the Science Museum in London to explore how our understanding of ourselves and the world around us has changed over time, and often in unexpected ways. She starts with the brain, and how we have studied the mind over the years, from phrenology to EEG and FMRI. (Photo caption: This 220-mile (350-kilometer) wide view of Pluto from Nasa’s New Horizons spacecraft illustrates the incredible diversity of surface reflectivities and geological landforms on the dwarf planet. Credits: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute) Presenter: Jack Stewart Producer: Fiona Roberts

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