Fracking; Purple GM tomatoes; Bionic humans; Shark attacks


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School Report on Fracking This week, Inside Science is taken over by BBC School Reporters and Melissa Hogenboom eavesdrops on a school in Lancashire, preparing their report on fracking. They discuss the issues very local to them, as well as the wider international angles and how best to present the story.

Purple GM tomatoes The chemical that gives blackberries, blackcurrants, blueberries and some red grape varieties their distinctive purple colour is Anthocyanin. It’s been shown to have some possible anti-cancer properties as well as some protection against cardiovascular disease. So scientists at the John Innes Centre have inserted the ‘purple gene’ into tomatoes to try and boost their health-giving properties. This step is relatively easy, compared to navigating the rules and regulations of getting to the stage of producing purple ketchup. Gareth Mitchell asks the School reporters what they think about Genetic Modification of food crops.

Artificial humans With progress in 3D printing of organs, brain-machine interfaces and even artificial skin. Materials scientist at University College London, Professor Mark Miodownik, thinks that the future really could be bionic. Would the School Reporters want to become half human, half machine? And would these technological advances just be used for repairing people who have been injured or really need it, or will it mean that those with enough money could enhance themselves to superhuman states?

Shark Attacks Potentially dangerous sharks are being culled off the coast of Western Australia. The government claim it’s as a result of a rise in the number of deaths by shark attack. Many people are outraged by the killings. Shark attacks are still really rare compared to car accidents or even deaths from bee stings – so do the School Reporters think this is a good idea? Or do they think listening to what the scientists studying shark behaviour and developing shark deterrents say, is a better way to go?