The prospects for further major finds of oil and gas in the Irish offshore are good [Credit: Providence Resources]
News that a commercially viable oil field has been found off the southwest coast of Ireland made headlines at home and abroad at the end of July and begged the question; how much oil and gas can be exploited in the large Irish offshore?
The potential of the Ballyroe field ( see image on the right) licensed to Providence Resources had been known about for years, but what was significant about the recent news was that the company said the find was far larger than had been previously thought.
The difficult, deep waters off the Irish coast are not the easiest places to search for oil, but with oil prices surging, and a lack of major new finds worldwide, it seems that Ireland’s oil and gas ‘ship’ might finally have come in.
Unlike in times past, exploration companies have the technology and the motivation to exploit Irish hydrocarbon reserves. So, what might they find? We asked Dr Andrew Wheeler, Head of Geology at University College Cork.
LISTEN: Interview with Dr Andrew Wheeler
Broadcast on 09.08.2012 on Science Spinning on 103.2 Dublin City FM
Epileptic seizures are the result of a storm of electrical activity in the brain which can last from a few seconds up to several minutes (Credit: NYU Langone Medical Center).
The discovery by scientists in Dublin of an ‘epilepsy gene’ that is present in “unusually high amounts” in people with epilepsy opens the door for the development of new and better drug treatments for epileptic seizures.
Epilepsy is a disease that affects 37,000 Irish adults, as well as an estimated 50 million people worldwide, but little is known about why epileptic seizures occur, or why a significant number of people do not respond to drug therapies.
One in three people with epilepsy have a problem with the currently available drug therapies. This group of people either do not respond at all to the drugs, or they experience severe side effects.
The reasons why epilepsy occurs in certain people, and why fits happen only occasionally are poorly understood. There is a genetic link, but drug and alcohol abuse, as well as sleep deprivation are also causative factors, say scientists.
The finding of a new gene linked to epilepsy by Professor David Henshall and his team at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland was reported in the scientific journal, Nature Medicine.
LISTEN: Interview with Professor David Henshall
This interview was broadcast on the 26th July 2012 on Science Spinning on 103.2 Dublin City FM
The West Antarctic is warming faster than any other region on Earth and Dr Louise Allcock NUIG, said it is also untouched and a perfect natural laboratory to study the impact of climate change on biological species (Credit: UNEP)
DNA, the famous ‘code for life’ can help catch a criminal, prove parentage, or link someone with a long-lost cousin. It can also provide clues as to what species of plants and animals might survive or disappear with global warming.
The Earth has been a lot cooler, and warmer at various times in its past, and such changes have often led to large-scale extinctions of many species. The question for scientists is: Why did some survive, while others perished?
Dr Louise Allcock, a zoologist based at NUI Galway, has been using DNA to determine what exactly happened to the number and distribution of particular animal species during past Ice Ages in Antarctica.
This evidence from the past can provide a clue as to what might happen to animals worldwide with global warming.
It could provide an early warming system for species that are likely to get in trouble with global warming, and, thereby, allow some time for experts to put a conservation strategy in place.
LISTEN: Interview with Dr Louise Allcock
Broadcast on 2nd August 2012 on Science Spinning on 103.2 Dublin City FM.
The use of stem cells to replace damaged or diseased bone tissue would be a less risky and invasive approach than using surgical bone grafts, as depicted in this image (Credit: Wikipedia)
Stem cells, the body’s most flexible cells, have been ‘tricked’ into producing bone cells by a team of researchers based at the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin, led by Professor Fergal O’Brien.
The significance of this work is that it provides a way for scientists to generate new bone tissue where it has been damaged, or destroyed by disease, and avoid the need for surgical bone grafts.
Surgical bone grafts, either from another part of the person’s body, or from a donor, carry the risk of infection, and also, there is no guarantee that the grafted bone will not properly ‘take’ at the site where it’s required.
Surgery causes stress on the body, and, where possible, medics try to avoid it.
The use of stem cells to produce bone could provide the means for producing exactly the right amount of bone, at the location where it is required.
The article below was published in The Sunday Times 22.07.2012
The $2.5 billion nuclear-powered Mars Curiosity rover is the size of a small car, and is packed with scientific tools, cameras and even a weather station (Credit: NASA).
The Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) has landed safely on Mars, and it has begun its primary scientific job – to assess whether life ever existed on Mars, or whether it still does exist there.
The robotic rover, Curiosity, pictured here on the right, will travel over the surface, carrying out a number of experiments. The mission is part of NASA’s long term Mars Exploration Programme, using robots to explore the Red Planet.
Scientists believe the MSL is a huge step forward in Martian exploration because it demonstrates NASA’s ability to land a very heavy rover on the surface, and helps pave the way for planned future manned mission.
LISTEN: Interview with Dr Paul Callanan (Astronomer and Physicist based at University College Cork).
This interview was broadcast on 2nd August 2012 on Science Spinning on 103.2 Dublin City FM
WATCH: NASA TV video representation of the MSL landing