Episode: Gravitational Waves, UK Spaceport, Big Brains and Extinction Risk, Conservation in Papua New Guinea


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Gravitational Waves, UK Spaceport, Big Brains and Extinction Risk, Conservation in Papua New Guinea
Gravitational waves were announced last week, in what may be the science discovery of the decade. The Ligo detector, the most sensitive instrument on the surface of the planet, detected the ripples given off by the collision of two black holes. Adam Rutherford puts a selection of listener questions to UCL cosmologist Dr Andrew Pontzen. In March 2015, Campbeltown, Glasgow Prestwick, Stornoway, Newquay, Llanbedr and Leuchars were shortlisted by the government as possible sites for a "cosmodrome" or spaceport. With the UK space industry worth an estimated £40 billion by 2030, various stakeholders met for the UK spaceport conference at the Royal Aeronautical Society in London to discuss the progress of the project. What would the impact be for scientists, industry and the public? Big brains have traditionally been considered an advantage. Animals with larger brains are better at using tools, working as a social group and assessing how to react to predators. But when Dr Eric Abelson cross referenced relative brain size against the mammals on the endangered list, he found something surprising. Many animals with the bigger brains are threatened within extinction. He talks to Adam about why that may be. Tim Cockerill, ecologist and adventurer, returns from Papua New Guinea to discuss how one group of indigenous people have decided to work with scientists in order to conserve and study their local environment.

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