Shaun The Sheep Jumps Over The Moon, Bronze Age Kissing and PPE Rubbish

09.01.2022 - By BBC Inside Science

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ESA announce that Shaun The Sheep will fly around the moon this month aboard Artemis-1 mission. Philippe Deloo tells Gaia Vince what's in store for the woolly astronaut this month. Philippe is the team lead on the European Service Module, the part of NASA's Orion spacecraft which will be the workhorse of the new moon missions, ferrying four astronauts at a time to the moon and perhaps even beyond one day. This first Artemis mission, slated for launch 29th August, will check all the engineering bravado of the new launch and orbital systems ready for subsequent human passengers in a couple of years.

Christiana Scheib, of the Universities of Cambridge and Tartu, is part of a team who seem to have pinpointed in time the moment the Herpes virus that causes cold sores first spread across human populations. By obtaining genomes of HSV1 from four individuals who died between the iron age and medieval times, their analysis suggests an initial emergence sometime in the Bronze age. The intriguing hypothesis that accompanies the discovery is that the variant's emergence was facilitated by a new trend among bronze age folk of romantic kissing. But as she describes, it's hard to be certain for "there is no gene for kissing".

One way of restricting the spread of many viruses is of course various forms of PPE. The last few years have seen billions more items of PPE used on our planet, often without a clear plan for their disposal, and they get accidentally dropped and even deliberately dumped all over the world. Alex Bond of the Natural History Museum at Tring observes and catalogues rubbish affecting wildlife. He took the BBC's Victoria Gill on a walk down a canal in Salford to discuss the issues with the tissues.

Presented by Gaia Vince
Produced by Alex Mansfield

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