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with Alison Ballance, Ruth Beran & Veronika Meduna
Thursdays 9-10pm, repeated at 1:05am Sundays. Two features play at 3:35pm on Mondays and Thursdays.
Univeristy of Wisconsin geophysicist Harold Tobin onboard the Japanese drill ship Chikyu, which is equipped to drill deeper into the seafloor than has ever been achieved in scientific drilling projects.
Most of the Earth’s largest earthquakes occur beneath the ocean along tectonic plate boundaries called subduction zones. The Sumatran earthquake and tsunami of 2004 and the magnitude 9 Tōhoku earthquake earlier this year demonstrated how devastating these events can be. However, geologists don’t fully understand the process of how these faults suddenly rupture in a catastrophic earthquake after building up stress for hundreds of years.
Harold Tobin (above), a geophysicist at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, and Lisa McNeill (right), a marine geologist at the University of Southampton, are part of an international team that has been drilling into the deep-sea trench off the coast of Japan called the Nankai Trough, with the aim of examining the fault zone close up, collecting samples and placing monitoring instruments in the drill holes. The Nankai Trough Seismogenic Zone Experiment (NanTroSEIZE) (PDF) will be conducted over several years and represents the first attempt to explore the seismogenic portion of Earth’s crust, where such violent earthquakes have occurred repeatedly in the past. One of the team's goals is to determine whether earthquakes have any precursor signals that could provide an early-warning system for people on land.
A rifleman having coloured leg bands fitted (left, photo by Denise Fastier), and having leg length measured with calipers (right, photo by Marleen Baling)
The rifleman, or titi pounamu, is New Zealand’s smallest bird, weighing in at just 6 grams. The forest-living rifleman and the sub-alpine rock wren are the only two surviving species in a group of ancient Acanthasittid wrens (five other species of flightless wren from the same group are now extinct). At the moment the rifleman is considered to have a North Island and South Island sub-species.
PhD student Sarah Withers, from the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Auckland is looking at isolated populations around the North Island (such as the Boundary Stream mainland island) to see how variable they are, and whether further sub-species should be identified. She tells Alison Ballance about her research, plays some of the rifleman’s very high-pitched calls and explains what their purpose is.
In this preview of her presentation in the Marie Curie Lecture Series, theoretical chemist Nicola Gaston (pictured on the right) explores the complexity and beauty of the periodic table of chemical elements. She explains how elements are arranged by their physical properties, and how theoretical predictions of such characteristics help in the ongoing effort to expand the limits of the periodic table.
When Dmitri Mendeleev published the first table in 1869, a total of 63 elements had been described by scientists such as Antoine-Laurent de Lavoisier, who is credited with discovering oxygen. In this interview and her lecture, Nicola Gaston introduces the newest member of the periodic table, the short-lived element number 112 called Copernicium.
Gaston's lecture (to be held on Tuesday, September 6, at 7.30pm at Scion Research in Rotorua) is part of a year-long national tour of talks by female New Zealand chemists (PDF) in honour of Curie's Nobel Prize in Chemistry for her ground-breaking work on radium and polonium.
Also as part of the same series, University of Canterbury chemist Juliet Gerrard will discuss promiscuous proteins and their potential applications in antibiotic design, nano-scale devices, counter-terrorism and fluffy croissants. Gerrard will speak on Thursday, September 8, at 1pm in the main school hall at Timaru Boys' High School. This lecture is suitable for students from years 12 and 13.
Invisibility cloaks are no longer just magical objects or science fiction, they are science fact. While it’s unlikely there’s going to be an invisibility cloak that can make a human vanish in the visible spectrum anytime soon, the first cloaking device was created in the lab at Duke University in 2006. A rigid structure, it was made from metamaterials which rendered the object invisible to microwaves.
University of Otago’s Robert Thompson (left) is working on the theoretical aspects of cloaking, and as he tells Ruth Beran, the mathematics of transformation optics is similar to that of general relativity.
University of Otago biochemist Warren Tate has been delivering this year's Rutherford Lecture on "How to Make Life from the Primordial Soup". Due to recent weather events, some lectures had to be rescheduled:
Rotorua: Tuesday, September 13, 7.30pm at the Concert Chamber, Rotorua Convention Centre
Palmerston North: Wednesday, September 14, 7.30pm at the Speirs Centre, Palmerston North Boys' High School
Christchurch: Thursday, September 15, 6.30pm at C1 Central Lecture Theatre, University of Canterbury
The 2011 S.T.Lee Lecture in Antarctic Studies will be presented by Steven Chown, a zoologist and the director of the Centre for Invasion Biology, at Stellenbosch University in South Africa. His talk will focus on how environmental changes are influencing even such apparently pristine ecosystems such as terrestrial Antarctica, on Thursday, September 8, at 6pm, Lecture Theatre 1 in Rutherford House, Victoria University, Wellington.
Weta ears, promiscuous proteins, a wound-healing device and the future of coral reefs.
Not all audio is available due to copyright restrictions.
Geologists explain an ambitious drilling project to explore a tectonic plate boundary off Japan. (15′53″)
University of Auckland PhD student Sarah Withers introduces the rifleman, NZ's smallest native land bird. (12′39″)
Theoretical chemist Nicola Gaston explores the complexity and beauty of the periodic table of chemical elements. (12′39″)
Robert Thompson is working on the theoretical aspects of cloaking, otherwise known as transformation optics (12′53″)
Produced and presented by Veronika Meduna, Ruth Beran & Alison Ballance
Each week Our Changing World features an eclectic mix of sound-rich stories about science, the environment and medical research, recorded around New Zealand in labs and in the field.
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