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Chimps consol each other after fighting

Chimps consol each other after fighting

Orlaith Fraser has studied post-conflict behaviour in chimpanzees, looking at how friendly
interactions after a conflict can mitigate the costs of aggression. Hugging and embracing by chimps
after fighting reduces their stress levels and calms them down. In chimps, this is indicated by the
degree of scratching and grooming. Her research was conducted at Chester Zoo. The behaviour also
occurs in the wild.


Robyn Williams: With me is Dr Orlaith Fraser. Now, Orlaith is a wonderful name, where does it come

Orlaith Fraser: It's an Irish name.

Robyn Williams: And you study chimpanzees and (let's get this right) consolation behaviour. In
other words, making upset chimps feel better when they've had a fight.

Orlaith Fraser: We've just shown that this behaviour; actually approaching a victim after a fight
and hugging them or embracing them; reduces their stress levels and calms them down. This is the
first time that we've actually been able to show that this behaviour has this calming function.

Robyn Williams: Where did you do this study amongst the chimps? In the wild?

Orlaith Fraser: No, this is actually done in captivity at Chester Zoo on 22 adult chimpanzees
housed there.

Robyn Williams: I suppose you got to know them quite well over the 18 months with names and so on?

Orlaith Fraser: Yes, I know them very well, better than my own family sometimes.

Robyn Williams: What kind of pattern did you get? Was it just the family consoling its relatives or
was it amongst mates?

Orlaith Fraser: It was mainly, yes, between friends. So those individuals who shared food with each
other or spent time grooming each other were more likely to offer this consolation.

Robyn Williams: In what kind of situations did it occur?

Orlaith Fraser: It could be a fight between two chimpanzees, it could be over anything such as
somebody sitting in your place, perhaps, it might be over a female, more likely. This can range in
how aggressive it is; they might hit each other, bite each other, trample on each other. It's all
very noisy with chimpanzees and doesn't really involve that much actual aggression, it's mainly for
show. But after this fight the victim can be really quite stressed, it's worrying after a fight has
taken place. So you might have a third party, somebody who wasn't involved in the fight will
approach the victim and then actually console them by embracing them and hugging them and reducing
their stress, calming them down again.

Robyn Williams: How do you know it calms them down and reduces stress?

Orlaith Fraser: We looked at their levels of self-directed behaviour, levels of scratching or
self-grooming. Just as in humans, if you get very nervous you might perhaps scratch your head, you
might bite your nails. In chimpanzees you can also do very similar behaviour. So they scratch more
when they're stressed. So we looked at how often they scratched after a fight and then we looked at
what happened after they were consoled and we found that their levels of scratching were actually
reduced back to normal levels after this consolation had taken place.

Robyn Williams: This means that chimps could actually recognise distress. They have a sort of
theory of mind perhaps?

Orlaith Fraser: Yes, it suggests that they're able to recognise distress and to know what to do in
order to relieve that stress. So it's possible that this is actually an expression of empathy, that
they're able to do something to console another individual.

Robyn Williams: Do they do this in the wild as well?

Orlaith Fraser: Yes, they do this in the wild as well.

Robyn Williams: Presumably from your name you come from Ireland?

Orlaith Fraser: My mother comes from Ireland I was actually brought up in Luxembourg.

Robyn Williams: I see. How long have you been in Liverpool?

Orlaith Fraser: The last four years.

Robyn Williams: And would you accept that it's a 'capital of culture'?

Orlaith Fraser: I think it is, I think it's done a very good job this year of actually showing how
cultural it is. There has been a tremendous amount of cultural events put on for this particular
year. Yes, I think we should be proud of our capital of culture this year.

Robyn Williams: Yes, it's a very lively town, I must say, and it's appropriate that our first
discussion should be about creating loving care. I wonder whether this was an evolutionary way that
led to us, the way that we can recognise distress and do something about it, so you actually make
society cohere rather than fall apart.

Orlaith Fraser: It seems that way, yes. These chimpanzees behave the same way small children do. So
it seems as if it has evolved very early on in that our closest relatives, the chimpanzees, can
perform these behaviours just as we do, and indeed this is an important part of keeping groups
together. Groups need to stay together in order to find food together and to protect themselves
from predators. So this is all part of an important way of stopping fights from escalating and
causing damage to relationships.

Robyn Williams: And of course the first about this is that you've shown it reduces distress, but
this kind of behaviour does occur in other creatures, does it?

Orlaith Fraser: It does, yes, it also occurs in bonobos who are equally closely related to us, and
in gorillas. Recently it's been shown in rooks and in dogs as well actually, though we don't know
that it actually reduces distress in those species.

Robyn Williams: Isn't it interesting, rooks, the crow family, which is shown more and more to have
this amazing intelligence.

Orlaith Fraser: Indeed, they're very intelligent animals and it's fascinating. In fact one of my
next steps is to look at whether this behaviour occurs in ravens, also a clever member of the
corvid species.

Robyn Williams: From John Moores University in Liverpool, Orlaith, thank you very much.

Orlaith Fraser: Thank you.

The next 50 years

The next 50 years

The next 50 years, next 100 years and beyond will be unique in history in that one species, us,
will have the power to affect the future of the entire planet. If we continue burning coal, then by
2050, the risk of serious climate change from carbon dioxide building up in the atmosphere will be
very real. Martin Rees is calling for a huge effort for research on carbon capture and storage.


Martin Rees: Hello, this is Professor Marin Rees at Cambridge University and here we are in Trinity

Robyn Williams: And you're said you weren't going to be Astronomer Royal but you still

Martin Rees: I still am, yes.

Robyn Williams: Let me ask you questions about your article on the future. You wrote a book called
Our Final Century with no question mark. I'm delighted to see you're writing about our next 50
years. What's your overview of the next 50 years? Should be buckle down for a bumpy ride?

Martin Rees: I've never been that pessimistic, but I think in the next 50 years and the next 100
years of course we are entering an era which is unique in human history, unique in the planet's
history, where one species (namely, ourselves) has the power to affect the future of the entire
planet. And we're well aware of the consequences of a growing population, consuming more energy and
resources, more empowered by potentially dangerous technology. I think the key question is to
handle these issues optimally and to ensure that the benefits of globalisation are fairly shared
between the developing and the developed world.

One of the most worrying issues is projected population growth is going to be largest
percentage-wise in Africa which is the area that can least cope with it, and that's going to lead
to great inequalities between Africa and the rest of the world. But also of course we have the
challenge of food supplies, the challenge of energy and the need to derive our energy by ways that
don't produce CO2 because if we go on as we are now with the dominant energy supplies coming from
burning fossil fuels, then the straight projections say that by 2050 the CO2 concentration will be
double the pre-industrial level and still going up, and according to the best climate models of
course that is a circumstance which gives a real risk of really serious climate change. And if you
want to insure against that serious risk then we need to take action sooner.

Obviously we hope that in the second half of the century renewable energy will have taken over, but
what worries me most is the risk that the takeover by clean energy won't be soon enough to prevent
the CO2 from having risen dangerously high. That's why I think it's very important to keep banging
on about the urgency of developing carbon capture and storage technology because, as we know very
well, there are huge numbers of coal-fired power stations being built, nearly 100 last year in
China, for instance, and they have lifetimes of 30 years. If they continue to spew out carbon
dioxide over that whole lifetime then that is going to be bad news.

So I think it's very important to have a Manhattan Project scale international scheme to develop
CCS technology so that we can advance as early as possible the date after which we could insist
that all coal-fired power stations have that facility installed.

Robyn Williams: It is in principle doable, is it, this sort of technology?

Martin Rees: There are demonstration scale models. There's one coming online in Germany just this
week in fact. But what has not been done is to build full-scale power stations with the technology,
and what needs to happen as urgently as possible is for the wealthy countries collectively to make
about 20 of these demonstration plants, each costing maybe a billion dollars, which will test the
various options for the technology, both for the capture and for the storage. The sum involved
would have to come partly from the public purse because it's too long-term for private industry to
invest in it. But in the perspective of a world that's spending $7 trillion a year on energy and
infrastructure and the scale of the problem, then this R&D expenditure seems very modest.

Robyn Williams: The Royal Society has just had a meeting about dealing with it in terms of sky, you
know, climate control, by putting things up there, sulphates and so forth. You operate in the sky
so you would probably have a certain sensitivity about the sky being used in this way. Apart from
your personal opinion, what was the general feeling in the Royal Society about the feasibility of
some of that operation?

Martin Rees: Just a bit of background of course, we need to explore all possible options to see
which work and to dismiss those that don't work. But there is discussion around the world of what's
called geo-engineering, in a sense a sort of fallback position that accepts that CO2 is going to
rise and that would otherwise lead to a rise in global temperatures and changing global weather
patterns, but could we do something about this in a more direct way by, say, cutting out 2% of the
sunlight by putting sulphur in the upper atmosphere, even putting mirrors in space, or could we do
things to the oceans that would cause algae to bloom with great concentration et cetera.

Robyn Williams: Like putting iron in, yes.

Martin Rees: That's right, there are lot of ideas of this kind, and I think it's good to study
them. But I think technical problems on the scale that's needed are rather daunting. Even if it
could be done then of course the political problems are very severe. So I think it's important to
study them. The Royal Society recently published a special edition of one of its journals
containing some articles on these subjects. But I think we're going to go one step further in that
the Royal Society, which collaborates a great deal with other academies, is probably going to carry
out a study with its American counterpart, the National Academy of Sciences, in order to assess the
feasibility of these various geo-engineering schemes. I suspect that we will end up putting a
damper on the enthusiasm because it's clear that there would be a whole lot of problems of all
kinds in implementing these, but it's very important to make sure that any future decisions are
based on the optimum scientific input. But it's well worthwhile studying all these possibilities,
in my opinion, because the challenge is so great.

Robyn Williams: You mentioned a doubling of the CO2 just now, some critics suggest that there is no
proven link between CO2 increase and temperature rise, and Freeman Dyson is one of them, he's
written quite recently in The New York Review of Books a beautifully written article which, among
other things, criticised that link. Do you think the connection is effectively proven?

Martin Rees: I'm not an expert, any more than Freeman Dyson is, but I think first we do have the
very detailed studies encapsulated in the IPCC reports which try to quantify the temperature rise
associated with the given rise in the concentration of CO2. The uncertainties are substantial, of
course, a factor of two or three uncertainty in how much temperature rise. But it seems to me that
it would be astonishing if there were not a major temperature rise as a consequence of this CO2
concentration change because the basic theory goes back to Tyndall, a British scientist in the mid
19th century.

We know that CO2 is a greenhouse gas and if we had no more than that basic idea coupled with the
completely uncontroversial evidence of the so-called Keeling curve that the carbon dioxide
concentration is rising and that it's now at a level that's higher than ever in the last
half-million years, then those two facts themselves would in my opinion be sufficient to justify
precautionary action. And of course, as I say, we do have the IPCC reports which give more detailed
estimates of what will happen. So I think it would be perverse to dismiss potential risk, even
though to quantify it is still rather hard.

Robyn Williams: Lord Martin Rees, the professor of astrophysics at Cambridge, talking about the
next 50 years. He's the author of Our Final Century.

Call for scientists to focus on big problems

Call for scientists to focus on big problems

Roland Jackson cites President of the British Association for the Advancement of Science Sir David
King who calls for young scientists to focus on the big problems which confront the world such as
climate change and disease rather than pursuing pure research.

Roland Jackson describes the aim of the BAAS meeting in Liverpool England. The association hopes to
present the latest in science and engineering to the public directly and through the media.

Liverpool is the home of The Beatles. One study used The Beatles' music to find out about people's
autobiographical memories. That is, what types of memories people have of The Beatles, when they
first became aware of the group and in what context, and how it ties up with their emotions and
lives at the times.


Robyn Williams: We're at the British Association Festival in Liverpool, The Beatles' city, the
European Capital of Culture. With me is Roland Jackson. Shall I call you 'Sir Roland'?

Roland Jackson: You can call me what you like.

Robyn Williams: Sir Roland Jackson is the chief executive of the British Association for the
Advancement of Science, and your festival here in Liverpool. I'm in the hands-on exhibition centre
with a whole lot of young people actually throwing paper planes. Why are they doing that?

Roland Jackson: Well, they're next to a stand that had been brought here by BAE Systems who are
trying to persuade them, I think, to become the engineers of the future, and clearly this is a way
of engaging them.

Robyn Williams: I remember you once said the BA had something on the silent aircraft being
developed in Cambridge, that sort of thing.

Roland Jackson: Exactly. What we try to do at this event is present to the public directly and
through the media the latest and the most interesting things in science and engineering, to present
them, to talk about them, to debate them, and that includes an audience of all ages. So in front of
you you've got, I would guess looking at them, 13, 14, 15-year-olds and we go here from age eight
up to 80.

Robyn Williams: What's this about The Beatles and memory with which you launched, even before the
BA started? What's that about?

Roland Jackson: That is a psychology experiment, research essentially, looking at using The Beatles
and their music as a way of finding out more about people's autobiographical memories.

Robyn Williams: So each song triggers something from when you grew up.

Roland Jackson: What they're looking at is what types of memory people have of The Beatles and when
they first became aware of The Beatles and in what context and how that ties up to emotions and
life in the times, and the results of that are being reported later on this week.

Robyn Williams: That coincides almost exactly with the Large Hadron Collider. Are you slightly
resentful that they're pressing the button at the same time as you're having your festival?

Roland Jackson: Actually that's causing a little bit of a stir in the media here because our
president, Sir David King, is making quite a point in his presidential address that scientists
(some of whom you see in front of you) should be concentrating more on solving the problems that
really matter in the 21st century, the sort of problems that have been, in one sense, caused by our
tremendous increase in scientific knowledge and technology over the past century, that we should be
concentrating on that rather than on the pure research. So he's making the point that we seem to
want to land people on Mars and build this huge machine under Geneva to probe the furthest secrets
of the universe, but actually we'd be better off diverting our really best brains onto solving the
questions that matter to humanity.

Robyn Williams: That's very significant because Sir David King was Chief Scientist, before that a
chemist at Cambridge, and now he's concentrating on these very strong environmental questions, just
as you mentioned.

Roland Jackson: Yes, obviously he's not saying that we should stop fundamental blue skies research
but I think he's calling for a culture, if you like, to say that all of us should be concentrating
on these big issues of climate change, disease, and the rest, and that's where science can make a
difference as part of the solution, and that's where we want some of our best brains to

Robyn Williams: Yes, just as Martin Rees was saying, treating carbon capture and storage a bit like
doing the Manhattan Project or indeed when Florey was working on penicillin to really solve a
problem as a matter of international emergency in three, four, five years rather than at some time
down the line.

Roland Jackson: Exactly. He made an interesting point about the World Wide Web and CERN, and people
point to the existence of a place like CERN and say, well, this blue skies research led to this
spin-off of the invention of the World Wide Web, isn't that fantastic? I guess his point is that
that invention was the invention of a brain, the brain of Tim Berners-Lee, and it did happen to
take place at CERN, but if he'd happen to be working on solar energy generation at the time he
might well have had the same idea. So you can't simply say that great breakthroughs 'might' come
out of fundamental research. Let's particularly concentrate on applying that research to areas that
we know matter to humanity now.

Robyn Williams: Okay, I'll let you get on with your executive duties. Thanks very much.

Roland Jackson: Thank you.

Robyn Williams: That was Sir Roland Jackson who is the chief executive of the British Association
for the Advancement of Science based in London, and he's running this show.

Giant spider crawls over Liverpool

Giant spider crawls over Liverpool

Colin Macilwain describes a huge mechanical spider which greeted Liverpudlians during the British
science festival this year. The newsletter he edits covers issues of research policy.


Robyn Williams: I met an old friend, Colin Macilwain. You used to be at Nature, but now you've
joined who?

Colin Macilwain: Research Fortnight, a science policy newsletter.

Robyn Williams: The reason I bailed you up, you saw the spider as well, didn't you. What did you
make of it?

Colin Macilwain: I thought it was extraordinary. It was just incredible to see the public's
imagination so grasped by this device, and to witness tens of thousands of people running about
Liverpool all weekend chasing it, the kids and everything like that, I've never seen anything like

Robyn Williams: Yes, when I came out of Lime Street Station I arrived to see what looked like half
a million people staring up into the sky and there on the side of a building, a building that's
going to be torn down I think, there was the's huge, isn't it!

Colin Macilwain: It's absolutely huge, and when it walks it's 60 or 70 feet high, I would say, and
just about as wide as that, and all the people...the crowds have to be cleared out of the front of
it as it goes along the street, and the mechanical intricacy of it is incredible to behold.

Robyn Williams: You can ride on it. There were people on it too up the building.

Colin Macilwain: Yes, there must be about 20 staff who are on it at any given time. It also spits
all the time, hosing down water on people as they go by. It really is amazing, but the thing which
is unprecedented about it is the extent to which the city is intrigued about it, everybody is
talking about it; taxi drivers and hotel staff and everybody in the street trying to figure out
when it's going to move. I've just never known anything like that in regard to a work of art.

Robyn Williams: Who put it on?

Colin Macilwain: I think the artist came here as part of the European City of Culture event, but of
course Liverpool is a very warm and friendly city anyway, it's a very communal city for such a big
city, and therefore it's become like this big community thing and everybody is out there seeing it.
It's quite fun to behold.

Robyn Williams: What's the fortnightly publication that you're involved in?

Colin Macilwain: Research Fortnight covers research policy questions, what the government is up to
and who's shafting whom, that kind of thing. We do that in some detail for senior people at
universities who like to read about that kind of stuff.

Robyn Williams: Sir Roland was just saying that David King said, vis-a-vis the Hadron Collider,
that perhaps we should concentrate as much on real big issues that we need to solve like climate
and food and those sorts of things rather than so much on these basic questions. Do you think there
is a straightforward choice like that?

Colin Macilwain: Yes, I do actually, and in fact we're writing an editorial about that, supporting
what he said in that particular regard because there's a sense that the particle physicists have
had an awful lot of resources and there may be more pertinent things that need to be done now. I
think there's a lot of hype about the LHC starting up. It is a fact, I think, that there won't be
another machine like that, but we have to realise that the actual fruits of this kind of can only get diminishing returns because the money involved to create meaningfully
higher levels of energy is just unthinkable. People are going to have to turn to a different set of
problems. You've got to remember that CERN was set up in the first place because of the Cold War
and the extent to which people held nuclear and particle physics in awe in the 1950s and 1960s.
Well, these days I think there are different problems that people are a little bit more concerned

Robyn Williams: Mind you, they did say that someone from Hadron Collider said that per capita it
works out at one beer per person per year in terms of cost.

Colin Macilwain: Does that take into account the fact that none of the staff there pay any tax or
is that assuming that they do? I'm not quite sure. You'd have the cost if they started paying their
taxes, I think would be one thing.

Robyn Williams: Good to meet you again. Thank you.

Colin Macilwain: Nice to see you too, Robyn.

Robyn Williams: Colin Macilwain.

Birds of prey

Birds of prey

A demonstration at the British Association Science Festival showed bords of prey. Alaska, a
17-year-old female Bald Eagle from Canada is shown hunting, catching and eating its catch. Birds of
prey need to be taught to hunt. This happens in the first three months of life. After this they
really don't learn much at all!


Robyn Williams: And further down here we've got animals. I'm looking at a bald eagle, and you're
looking after him, what's your name?

Micky: My name's Micky and this is Alaska. She's from Canada, she's about 17 years old and she's a
particularly large female. We're doing some demonstrations in the hall this morning and we're
hoping to fly her over the heads of some very small children. She'll fly particularly low and we're
hoping for some excitement in there.

Robyn Williams: And the children will duck and scream.

Micky: The children will duck, it just encourages her to fly a little lower.

Robyn Williams: She doesn't actually grab a mop of hair or..?

Micky: No, she might take someone's wig off, but she's quite well trained. What we're trying to do
is to show different species of birds of prey and demonstrate the different methods they use to
hunt, catch and eat their food. So we brought a falcon with us. The bird on the end is a peregrine
falcon, a British species, his name is Billy Bob. He's a male and he's wild disabled. He came from
a power station near our centre in Kent where he was rescued by the lads who work there
because...he was not looking too clever when he came in, his mum and dad were feeding him on rancid
pigeons and he caught a fungal disease of his mouth called frounce, and he was given a lot of
medication. He's had a small part of his mouth cut out, and unfortunately this process went on when
his own parents would have been teaching him to fly and to catch food, so he's lost that part.
He'll do quite well with us. We've taught him to fly and to hunt to the lure, but he can't really
be released back into the wild.

Robyn Williams: I see. So is there a particular period during which you have to learn to hunt
otherwise you miss out?

Micky: Yes, their imprinting period, it's from the time they leave the nest at about 12 weeks to
maybe about three or four months old is very crucial to them. Once that period is gone you cannot
teach them anything. It's gone in, that's the blueprint for life, you cannot teach them anything

Robyn Williams: A bit like me, I haven't learnt anything in the last 30 years!

Micky: Well, that may be true, but with birds of prey there is no right or wrong. It's not like a
dog, you can't scold them if they're doing wrong. You have to teach them the right way, and after
that if they do do something wrong, it kills them. So that's Billy Bob, that's the falcon at the
end. Next one you see is a barn owl, his name is Casper. He's now 12 years old. We bred him, he's
been with us ever since, he's fully imprinted on humans, he believes he's a human and he's
extremely used to having people around him. In fact if you go towards him, rather than cower and
try and get away, he will jump towards you.

Robyn Williams: Doesn't mind being up during the daylight?

Micky: No, no, not at all, it's quite false really that people look at owls and think they should
be asleep at this time of day, but if you consider that if he was living in the wild, if it had
been raining for two or three days he would have to be out and about, no matter what the time was,
in order to find his dinner. And if he had young chicks, six or seven maybe, as they can do, he'd
have to be out almost permanently. This is why a lot of birds do well in these latitudes because in
the summer we get 16, 17, 18 hours of daylight, which helps them to find their food. It's why they
fly north in the summer and south in the winter so they get these extended hours of daylight.

Robyn Williams: Your hawk is missing, the hawk was here before, he's a catcher of rabbits.

Micky: Yes, the Harris hawk is in the hall at the moment doing its demonstration, and he's from
Central America from a unique species, they actually live in a family group, and they're extremely
successful; they have a fantastic kill rate and they're known as the wolf of the skies, and they
act exactly like a wolf pack.

Robyn Williams: So they will catch more than they actually need.

Micky: They will, and they will share food, and indeed in order to stir the gene pool up they will
offer food to a neighbouring tribe's youngsters to call them away, 'Come and live with us, life is
better with us, you will get more food.' You can imagine, if you live in a small group and you
don't mix your gene pool up you get inbreeding problems, so that's the way nature gets round that,

Robyn Williams: I see. So how many rabbits could they kill a day?

Micky: They've only got a need, obviously, to kill one. If a Harris hawk caught a rabbit it
probably weighs twice as much as it does and there's enough food there for three or fours days, but
if you were to take that rabbit away from it, it will go and kill maybe five or six more. If
they're feeing young they can...

Robyn Williams: Oh! That was a wonderful...

Micky: Yes, lightening the load. I'm sorry, I have to go now because I've got to take that other
bird in and swap it...

Robyn Williams: We just had this wonderful demonstration of backward poo from the bald eagle
lifting up its bum and doing a squirt. Thank you very much indeed.

Micky: Thank you very much.

Robyn Williams: That was Micky with his birds. They're a regular visitor to the BA Festival and
tremendous interest from all ages, as you can imagine, looking at these great big raptors and how
they live.

Priorities for science in the twenty-first century

Priorities for science in the twenty-first century

The twenty-first century presents challenges unprecedented in human history. These challenges arise
due to the successes of science, engineering, technology and medicine. Current world population is
6.8 billion. Mid-century there will be 9 billion people. David King calls for a re-thinking of
priorities and questions our funding for big physics and cosmology projects over funding for solar
energy and new technologies for food production.


Robyn Williams: Earlier on in The Science Show we mentioned Sir David King who is president of the
BA, how he made the statement in his presidential address that maybe we should concentrate more on
really urgent issues in science rather than the basic stuff that may or may not lead to something
in 10 or 20 or 30 years time. I've caught up with Sir David who of course was the advisor to Her
Majesty's government here in Britain on science policy. It's a fairly far-reaching thing to say,
Sir David, what did you mean by that, if I got it right?

David King: We are faced with a series of enormous challenges in this century. These challenges are
quite different from anything our civilisation has had to face up to before and in an interesting
sense these challenges arise because of the successes of what science, engineering, medicine,
agriculture delivered in the 19th and 20th centuries. The result of all those successes is that we
have a lifespan of around 75 to 80 years whereas at the beginning of the century it was about 40 to
45. The consequence of that is that we started adding another billion people to the planet every 12
years, and so we entered the 21st century at six billion, we're today at 6.8 billion, and by
mid-century we're going to be at nine billion. There's the new challenge. This means that we really
need to regear our thinking.

What is critically important is that we mainstream this into all of our thinking, not just science,
I mean into political decision making, economics. Growing our GDP may be important but controlling
emissions of carbon dioxide is even more important. We need a cultural rethink. In terms of science
we need to also then examine what our priorities are. I'm really appealing to young people and
saying the opportunities in science, engineering, plant sciences, right across the board, are
enormous. We've got to feed nine billion people, all with the aspiration to live at the standard of
living of the average Australian. Every Chinese, every Indian wants to have that and so does every

Our ability to understand the role of the Higgs Boson, our ability to understand very esoteric
aspects of scientific interest is far greater, I would suggest, than our ability to understand how
to generate efficiently more usable energy from sunlight, to deal with problems of malaria,
HIV/AIDS which are causing millions of deaths in Africa every year. Our abilities, in other words,
have skewed away from meeting these challenges. So I think we need to rethink funding in science,
engineering, medicine, technology, and reprioritise so that we encourage the most brilliant minds
to tackle these problems.

Robyn Williams: So, if I may say, if the Large Hadron Collider came up for funding and you were
still advising the Prime Minister, if the space station came up for funding, enormous costs, you'd
say no?

David King: I certainly worry about the fact that we find it easier to think about landing a man on
Mars than to think about dealing with these problems that I'm mentioning. So the Large Hadron
Collider, I wouldn't switch it off, massive investment, very exciting, you can get young people
interested in science because we're all interested in cosmology, but where is the point at which we
have to say to particle physicists, 'That's enough'? Because they could go on building bigger and
bigger machines. Eventually do they go right around the planet, right round the equator, and then
we say 'that's enough', or do we let them circle it around the Moon as well?

It may sound absurd but there's got to be a point at which we say 'enough of that, let's refocus
our energy'. People say to me, but what about the World Wide Web, for example, the spin-off from
CERN? Well, I would say, what about taking the brilliant new imitator of Tim Berners-Lee who
developed the World Wide Web while he was at CERN, and getting him to work on these problems? He'll
spin out the same things.

Robyn Williams: Another thing that has been obviously an issue in this festival has been your
statement on genetically modified crops and suggesting in fact that with all those people you
mentioned in the beginning who will have to be fed and have to be fed now, it is too late to put
off the GM opportunity. How far would you go with that?

David King: My point is that agricultural technology can be geared up to deliver food for nine
billion people at a level that would satisfy them, but if we went down the route of organic
farming, if we go down the route of rejecting modern technology, not only will we struggle to do
that but actually we will have to use more of our land mass to deliver the food, which means that
the human footprint will actually wipe out the biodiverse system. So I'm actually putting forward
the rather radical idea that we should have intensive farming of some areas of our global land and
then maintain the other areas of the land for managing the biodiverse system.

Robyn Williams: How much does the green opposition to this sort of technology frustrate you?

David King: Enormously because I see people in Africa starving, year on year, I see the fatality
rate from malnutrition and from disease from poor water conditions and poor hygiene with food,
around 700,000 Africans a year dying, and we need to focus on that as quickly as we can. In other
words, to develop new crops that are drought resistant (and maybe the state of Victoria in
Australia could do with these), to deal with rice that is flood resistant, to deal with saline
resistant plants as well, to develop these new crops and keep ahead of the diseases the crops are
exposed to. To keep ahead of those we need a quick tool, and GM is just such a tool.

If we eschew GM technology, we can get there, we can get our knees into mud, our arms up to the
armpits in mud and year after year slowly develop the new crops, but I would suggest it would take
20 years by that route compared with a couple of years by the GM route. Why would we reject that? I
say this because, yes, we need good regulation on GM products, but at the same time I don't know of
any single example of a human being ever suffering from eating GM foods, despite the fact that six
million farmers around the world now farm GM products. So there are a large number of people eating

Robyn Williams: You've just become a head of a school of enterprise and environment. Is the job of
that school to look at these very sorts of things where it's a green business opportunity, that you
want to see how best you can put things together without paying the penalty perhaps of allowing the
usual corporate route to run away with things as they have done, to some extent, as Monsanto has
confessed that it did in the beginning with GM crops. So, in other words, what is the remit that
you have in your school?

David King: You describe it quite well. We have two sides to the remit, and it may be surprising.
Here's the oldest university in Britain, possibly in the world, facing the 21st century. In
establishing the school, the university is saying every undergraduate coming to study whatever
subject, whether it's philosophy, politics, economics, physics or engineering will be exposed to
the 21st century challenges I've been talking about, so I have to mainstream these environmental
issues into all parts of the university. This will involve establishing new chairs of environmental
economics, env ironmental philosophy, environmental engineering et cetera.

At the same time we're creating a global hub, under the brand name of Oxford, to bring together the
private sector, governments and academics to find solutions to our 21st century problems and to
assist other people to find solutions. The idea is not that we will produce all the solutions but
that we will become a hub where people can gather and discuss how these solutions may emerge. A
critical part of this (and I know of no other part of a university in the world which is doing
this) is bringing the private sector heavily on board. So I'm developing a very big partnership
board with the world's main companies sitting on it, so that we can deliver. Of course the private
sector needs the legislation from governments to drive this though, which is why we're also working
with government.

I'm also establishing within the school a new futures laboratory, and the futures laboratory will
have two parts to it; one is developing futures methodologies. We're not predicting the future,
we're working on developing scenarios into the future so that we can become more robust in
government and private sector decision making. And then the other half of the futures laboratory
will be working on futures programs. So a program of work might be; what is the appropriate mix on
the electric grids for each country in Europe after 2050? And then of course we'd be working with
all of the utilities around Europe, with the energy companies.

Robyn Williams: How have you found the recruits, both in business and in the environmental
movement? Who's the most reluctant to join you?

David King: Interestingly my biggest problem in the first six months in the job of establishing the
school has been managing expectations because I've had literally 100 emails a day, still coming in,
from people around the world. So quite clearly there is a general recognition that what we're doing
is needed. So in October we will officially launch the new Smith school of enterprise and the
environment at Oxford, and when we launch it I will have got 25 staff on board. I will then, I
think, begin to be able to deliver into what everyone feels is necessary.

Robyn Williams: Sir David, when I arrived in Liverpool just now I saw a giant spider crawling up a
building. How much in Britain have you had these giant objects running around and what effect have
they had?

David King: This is a French company. The first giant object they developed was a giant elephant,
the sultan's elephant that had a building on top of its back. The elephant, about three storeys
high, walked all around London for about three days. No prior announcement was made, but one day in
the middle of London a great big hole appeared in one of the main roads with the tar all burnt
around the edges of the hole where a rocket had apparently smashed into London and this elephant
and somebody called a 'little girl' emerged.

Now, the little girl is also about three storeys high, and these puppets, managed with the most
amazing engineering, spent three days walking around London. And in the end, Saturday and Sunday
that week, there were about half a million people following them as they walked around. The spider
is, again, wonderful that it's happening during our festival of science because it's a wonderful
piece of engineering. There was this enormous creature hanging off the side of a building as you
arrived at the railway station.

Robyn Williams: It was really sensational. You come from Liverpool actually, originally South
Africa which is why you're speaking about the African problem with creating food and so on. What
was your experience like here at the university?

David King: I spent 14 years here, arriving as a young man aged 34, I was a professor of physical
chemistry, and Liverpool had got itself into the doldrums, frankly. This great was once
the richest city in Europe and, I have to say, largely because of the slave trade, but also because
the trade with America was largely through Liverpool. But the manufacturing base had been lost, the
dockyards had been lost, and so the city was in the doldrums.

Since 1970 or thereabouts, the city has been rebuilding itself. It's no fluke that this is the city
where the Beatles emerged. Many, many playwrights, poets, musicians, it's an international, global
docklands city with all of these cultures mixing, and that has remained. So it's still culturally a
very lively city. It's very appropriate that this year it's Europe's City of Culture.

Robyn Williams: It's really vibrant. My final question to you...Lord Martin Rees, the president of
the Royal Society, did a book called Our Final Century with no question mark. How do you feel about
our prospect for solving these global problems? Are we going to make it?

David King: Yes, we are going to make it and I say that almost with the same certainty as the way
he omitted the query at the end of his title. I think we are already seeing a tremendous interest
around the world in the climate change problem, the biggest problem we've ever been faced with. We
have to decarbonise our energy sources around the world within 50 years if we're going to manage
this problem. I think we can do it. The excitement that this will generate in the scientific,
technological, engineering community is enormous, but also the excitement in the private sector
because this is a new opportunity for the private sector. Those people who read the opportunity
correctly will be doing very well for themselves, and I think this is already happening.

Just a final aside on that, we have a European Union trading scheme in carbon dioxide, a cap and
trade scheme, and there were many sceptics. Last year the total amount of money traded through the
city of London was around five billion euro. I thought that was quite a lot. Let me tell you, it's
just beginning to take off. Today it's 60 billion euro. I believe in no more than ten years we'll
see the global trade valued at around one trillion dollars and this means that we will have a new
commodity, and it will be the only fully internationally traded commodity. The reason I'm raising
this is because this would have been unthinkable ten years ago, and here we are already moving
rapidly into a new cultural sphere in which we're trading in a negative commodity in a way we've
traded nothing else before.

Robyn Williams: Sir David, good to see you again.

David King: Thank you very much, Robyn, wonderful to see you too.

Robyn Williams: That was Dr David King who happens to be president of the British Association, and
formally he was Chief Scientist to the British government, and now he runs the new school in Oxford
of business and environment.

Twin Towers toppled by weakened steel columns

Twin Towers toppled by weakened steel columns

At high temperature, the strength of steel is controlled by magnetic properties. It is a quantum
effect, and explains why the Twin Towers in New York collapsed in 2001. The thermal insulation
panels on the columns were knocked off by the impact from the aircraft, exposing the steel to the
high temperatures of the fire. The solution is applying the insulation in a different way, or using
new steels with additives, allowing them to maintain strength at high temperatures.


Robyn Williams: You may have noticed that we're around the time of the anniversary of September
11th and the crash into the Twin Towers. One of the most interesting papers at the conference in
Liverpool was presented by Dr Sergei Dudarev of the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority. This
was about the ways in which steel is deformed by high temperatures in a way that hadn't been
appreciated before and could well account for the reasons that they collapsed. What in fact have
you found about what takes place with steel over temperatures of 500 degrees Celsius?

Sergei Dudarev: The most interesting aspect of steels at high temperature is that their strength
turns out to be controlled by their magnetic properties, and you would not normally associated
quantum mechanics with such large-scale events as building collapse. But it turns out (and this is
the result of the most recent research) that the properties of steels and their mechanical strength
is controlled fundamentally by their magnetic properties, and this offers an explanation for the
loss of strength of construction steels in the Twin Towers, but also offers a very positive way
forward because we now understand what happened in designing steels that would be resistant to this

Robyn Williams: In fact they thought that the steel should be okay up to about 1,500 degrees C.

Sergei Dudarev: Fifteen-hundred degrees centigrade is the temperature at which iron or steel melts.
In the case of the Twin Towers, temperatures rarely go above 500 or 600 degrees centigrade. What
actually happened in the Twin Towers is unfortunately the thermal insulation panels were knocked
off by the impact. Had they stayed in place the buildings would have survived and nothing would
have happened. It was just an unfortunate direct exposure of steel structures to temperatures of
500 or 600 degrees centigrade that caused the collapse.

Robyn Williams: Is it surprising that people hadn't realised this before? A material like steel is
very, very common, it's been used for thousands of years and blacksmiths had taken advantage of the
fact that it's malleable at certain temperatures, that's how they fashion it. Why wasn't it known
that this catastrophic change could occur?

Sergei Dudarev: In fact it was known to engineers that if you raise temperature above, say, 600
degrees centigrade that it is not good news for the structural steels, and this is why the thermal
insulation panels were installed to protect the building from events like normal fire in the office
where somebody dropped a cigarette in a paper basket. But from the perspective of fusion research
which looks at the possibility of using steels at temperatures as high as 1,000 degrees centigrade,
there is no possibility of installing the thermal insulation panels.

Robyn Williams: This is fusion research like nuclear reactors and so on.

Sergei Dudarev: Indeed, it is very similar, and what is really a new aspect is the identification
of the microscopic cause of the collapse. Now, knowing this, we can design new chemically different
steels where we deliberately control the behaviour of magnetic moments at high temperatures and
hence control the mechanical properties.

Robyn Williams: I must say, the live pictures you've got of those wobbling molecules are quite
compelling. But what do you have to do add...which chemicals, and do you know yet how to make this
super steel?

Sergei Dudarev: Well, it is a large European project, colleagues from Germany, Switzerland, France,
ourselves, where we do experiments on various steel compositions, but what we learned from the
research we've just accomplished is we definitely need to take a broader view at what we call
steels. Most likely quite common elements could be used in order to control the magnetic properties
and hence the mechanical properties.

Robyn Williams: Does this scotch some of those many conspiracy theories (I'm sure you're familiar
with them) and explain actually what happened?

Sergei Dudarev: The answer to the terrible tragedy is had the thermal insulating panels been glued
better to the steel structures, nothing would have happened, or at least the buildings could have
been evacuated before they collapsed. It is a predictable outcome of very strong fire in a building
where a conventional steel proved to be unsuitable for the purpose, so partially the answer might
be in the use of different steel that remains mechanically stable at high temperatures, or
partially in the design of better protected structures using thermal insulation materials.

Robyn Williams: Dr Sergei Dudarev from the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority, thank you very
much indeed.

Sergei Dudarev: Thank you very much.

Memories of the Beatles

Memories of the Beatles

3,500 people responded to a web survey and emailed their memories of the Beatles. The most named
song was She Loves You. Others included Hey Jude, and I Want To Hold Your Hand. Music is processed
in various brain areas, including the temporal lobes which also process memory which could explain
why we often associate music with memory of past events.


Robyn Williams: And so where do you imagine we would finish this Science Show from Liverpool, the
BA Festival? Where else but...well, some people go to Mecca, some people go to Rome, other people
go to Lourdes, but folk of my generation come to this place, the Cavern Club where it all began
over 40 years ago.

I've come inside to a place where they're setting up actually to do a gig tonight, they're going to
play some music and they're going to talk about the ways in which these songs elucidate memories.
With me is Martin Conway from the psychology department at the University of Leeds.

Martin Conway, what's it like for you being in 'the Cavern'?

Martin Conway: I think you summed it up there well, it's tremendously atmospheric. It's a real
thrill for an academic to come to a fantastic place like this.

Robyn Williams: Have you been here before?

Martin Conway: No, I haven't. I did go to the replica Cavern Club that they'd built on Albert Dock.

Robyn Williams: But what about these memories, those songs that really bring people like us back to
memories of what it was like back in the 1960s? How many people did you talk to, to find out what
they felt?

Martin Conway: It was actually a web survey so we didn't talk, but about 3,500 people emailed in
with their memories and gave us some wonderful descriptions. The memories are so poignant, they're
so redolent of youth, of late adolescence and early adulthood, they're full of life, except, it has
to be said, for a group of memories which are related to the death of John Lennon and they're
actually the opposite, they're terribly sad memories.

Robyn Williams: I can imagine, yes. But which songs stood out? Did they name them?

Martin Conway: Yes, they did name them. There were some interesting findings there. The most named
song was She Loves You.

Robyn Williams: That's one way back at the beginning.

Martin Conway: It is way back at the beginning. Actually younger people in the survey (we're
talking about people in their 40s) tended to name Hey Jude more frequently than She Loves You but
overall it was She Loves You that won the race. And North Americans tended to name most frequently
I Wanna Hold Your Hand.

Robyn Williams: What do you think is going on there in the brain that has music-evoked memories in
a way that we kind of assume but is obviously wired in there somehow with nervous pathways and
chemicals...what's happening?

Martin Conway: Music is processed in various brain areas obviously. An important one is an area
called the temporal lobes which are kind of towards the middle of the brain on the floor, so you
won't be able to easily point to them. They're areas which are also very, very important in memory.
So, part of music is processed in areas which also process memory, and that probably facilitates
memory being a very powerful cue to recalling specific events from one's past.

Robyn Williams: It's amazing that it lasts so very long though, decades, it's still there in the
back of your head.

Martin Conway: Absolutely, and I recall some very well known cases of people who had brain damage
in the area of the temporal lobes, two people in particular, two very old ladies in their 80s, and
one of them suddenly (this is not uncommon in this disorder) thought she heard a radio on in her
home and it was playing old songs of her youth. She couldn't understand why it was playing this
music, and of course it was her memories of the music that were coming to mind. The same happened
for the other lady, and she started hearing all these jazz songs from the '20s which it turned out
she had really rather disliked at the time, so for her it wasn't a very pleasant experience at all.

Robyn Williams: Yes, Oliver Sacks talks about that, he's talked about it on The Science Show
before, and indeed the people who have brain damage, due sometimes to stroke or some other kind of
malady, where oddly enough the memory goes and the music is maintained somehow.

Martin Conway: Yes, it does, and it is quite a remarkable phenomena. We can't pretend we understand
it yet. I think probably what happens is when one's recalling a memory it engages many different
brain areas and so they're much more susceptible to brain damage because they're more complicated,
basically. So you might retain something like a tune or a song but lose the memories associated
with it.

Robyn Williams: What are you going to do tonight here in the Cavern Club?

Martin Conway: We've got a great night ahead of us. This is organised by the British Association
for the Advancement of Science, and my colleague and I, Dr Catriona Morrison, are going to report
back on our web survey of people's Beatles memories to the general public. We're expecting about
100 to 120 people here.

Robyn Williams: And there'll be music played too?

Martin Conway: There will be music played too, and I dare say there'll be a few Beatles songs
played in that music. It's live music and there'll be some food and wine as well.

Robyn Williams: Do you play?

Martin Conway: Actually I do, and I started to play in my early 50s. I have a music teacher who
could be my son, he's fantastic, and I can actually play Strawberry Fields.

Robyn Williams: Isn't that clever! From the later period somewhat. Is Strawberry Fields your
favourite song?

Martin Conway: It's one of my favourite songs from The Beatles era. I tend to be very much a John
Lennon sort of man, so I like Lennon's later work on his own, but I love the Beatles of the time,
and A Day in the Life remains to me one of the outstanding tracks.

Robyn Williams: What about All You Need is Love?

Martin Conway: That's a great track too, and the bit of French at the beginning has completely
inspired the French anthem.

Robyn Williams: Martin Conway from Leeds.