Did you know there are 200 million insects for each human on the planet? This October, Horizon delves into the mysteries of this diverse set of creatures and their seemingly infinite survival skills. We talk to researchers about why it's vital to maintain the diverse range of insect species, find out how robots and ants can work together to solve problems and explore how the superpowers of bugs could be put to use for humans.
Herbivorous insects are estimated to be responsible for destroying one-fifth of the world's total crop production annually, but a new, natural approach to pesticides that turns insects' taste and smell preferences against them could help reduce this toll.
Insects have to cope with a wide range of environmental factors in order to thrive – disease, drought and habitat changes. Scientists hope that studying insect biology and behaviour could help humans cope with problems from climate change to disease control, shift work and even jet lag.
To many people, they are merely creepy-crawlies to be swatted away or avoided, but the planet we live on is dominated and run by insects, argues Professor Alexey Solodovnikov, curator of the beetle collection at the Natural History Museum of Denmark. He believes more must be done to understand and protect this hugely diverse group of animals.
Dumped waste, from used nappies to industrial by-products, have long wound up in landfills and can take hundreds of years to decay. In October we speak to the scientists figuring out how to keep such items in use to reduce rubbish and create a so-called circular economy. We learn about new efforts to mine industrial waste for the rare metals that go into making aircraft parts, pacemakers and bicycle gears, and find out about the culture shift needed to develop a zero-waste society. We also speak to the researchers building a biorefinery to turn soiled nappies into fertilisers and raw materials, and look at whether seaweed could become the next plastic.
The model of our universe as expanding at an accelerated rate has given rise to theoretical constructs such as dark energy and dark matter, which scientists believe could make up 95% of the universe. In September, Horizon takes a deeper look at what we really know about the expanding universe. We speak to Prof. Subir Sarkar, who believes that the Nobel-winning discovery that universe expansion acceleration could be a fluke, and the scientists who are trying to answer the question by allowing us to better measure the expansion rate. We also look at the significance of accurately measuring gravity in deep space, and what dark matter haloes can tell us about the existence of dark energy.
As wind turbines become increasingly familiar sights along shorelines, developers of offshore floating platforms, which harness the powerful winds further out to sea, are seeking to establish their technologies as a major viable source of clean energy.
Bill Gates and the European Commission have launched a €100 million investment fund designed to bring radical clean energy technologies more quickly to market in order to promote energy efficiency and cut greenhouse gas emissions.
Floating wind turbines could be a clean energy game changer.
Europe's leadership 'more important than ever', says Gates.
A circular economy needs new business models and reusable products, says Felipe Maya.