Hormones are blamed for everything from weight gain to mood swings and this December, Horizon takes a closer look at these chemical regulators and their effects on our bodies and minds. We explore the impact of the so-called love hormone on the human-dog relationship and what it can tell us about social disorders. We find out what’s being done to neutralise the hormone-disrupting chemicals that are found in water and sewage, and we discover the importance of hormonal rhythms in tracking disorders that can lead to obesity, heart disease and osteoporosis.
Hormonal disorders can affect people's immune systems, metabolism and even bones, and unravelling the mystery around something called ultradian rhythms could help improve diagnosis and lead to better treatments, according to Professor Eystein Sverre Husebye, who works at the Department of Clinical Science at the University of Bergen (UiB) in Norway.
The chemistry behind social behaviour in animals, including the bond between people and dogs – and the lack of one between humans and wolves – could help scientists identify new ways of treating social disorders such as autism and schizophrenia.
The construction industry has a heavy carbon footprint, accounting for some 40% of global emissions, and yet, as the world’s population grows, demand for housing and building is only soaring. We kick off 2021 by looking at how the construction sector can become greener and some of the radical solutions required. We speak to sustainable architecture expert Dr Catherine De Wolf about the need to design recyclable buildings and how that will require a fundamental restructure of the way the construction industry works. We look at nearly zero energy wooden homes and investigate whether this material can help us kick our concrete habit – concrete being the most used substance on Earth. We home in on techniques to make cement greener and piezoelectric to light up spaces with the addition of vegetable waste, and at how self-healing building materials can prolong the life of civil infrastructures. And we explore the promise of fungal architecture to see whether structures grown from fungus can green the way we build.
In December, as the European Space Agency’s Gaia mission to create a precise 3-D map of a billion objects in the Milky Way releases its next tranche of data, we take an in-depth look at what we know – and what we don’t – about our home galaxy. We speak to astrophysicist Prof. Ralf Klessen about why it might enhance our understanding of the Milky Way to consider it as a constantly evolving ecosystem rather than studying different parts in an isolated way. We speak to scientists who are trying to image the centre of the galaxy, which is hidden from view behind giant dust and gas clouds, and we explore the latest research into how stars are formed. And finally, we find out what the galaxies surrounding the Milky Way can tell us about our home system.
Stone and concrete structures with the ability to heal themselves in a similar way to living organisms when damaged could help to make buildings safer and last longer.
Artificial intelligence (AI) used by governments and the corporate sector to detect and extinguish online extreme speech often misses important cultural nuance, but bringing in independent factcheckers as intermediaries could help step up the fight against online vitriol, according to Sahana Udupa, professor of media anthropology at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, Germany.
Bacteria can give structures an ‘in-built immune system’ to help them last longer.
Independent factcheckers can bring context to AI tools, says media anthropologist.
Dr Kate Rychert studies ocean plate structures.