In January, we examine how the cryosphere - ice sheets, glaciers, sea ice and other frozen parts of the planet - is changing and what this means for our planet. Earth’s cryosphere reflects the sun’s heat, regulating climate. But as the cryosphere melts, sea levels are rising and there are other impacts too – such as glacier collapse, which can generate massive avalanches. We speak to glacier expert Professor Andreas Kääb about the current state of the planet’s ice and snow and how better satellite measurements can help us understand the impacts of melting. We look at Earth’s so-called 'third pole’ of the Tibetan plateau and how ice melt will affect the millions who live in the mountains and those who depend on its run-off for water. We look at a project drilling in the Antarctic for what could be the world’s oldest ice (1.5 million years old) to see what it can reveal about climate history. And we speak to sea ice scientist Polona Itkin to get a glimpse into a day in her life aboard German icebreaker Polarstern, currently carrying out the largest Arctic expedition in history.
Seven years after scientists successfully managed to adapt a gene editing system used by bacteria into one that can be easily used in labs to edit human genes, we take a look at some of the emerging applications and ethical issues of CRISPR-Cas9. We talk to the head of the European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies about whether the simplicity and low cost of CRISPR means that there is potential for misuse and what should be done about this. We find out how scientists have used CRISPR to create cows lacking two sugars that trigger the human immune system, leading to hopes of longer-lasting heart valves for transplant patients and healthier red meat. And we speak to researchers who are using CRISPR to improve other gene editing technologies.
On December 17th, the European Space Agency’s CHEOPS telescope will blast into space to take a closer look at some of the potentially habitable planets we’ve found beyond our solar system. Ahead of its launch, Horizon takes an in-depth look at what we already know about such exoplanets and what’s still to learn. We speak to Dr Michaël Gillon, who in 2017 was instrumental in discovering a system of seven Earth-like planets outside our solar system, about the diversity of the thousands of exoplanets we’ve found so far and next steps for research. We talk to scientists who are trying to understand the structure of Super-Earths – planets up to 10 times the size of Earth – by recreating elements of planetary cores in their labs, and others who are trying to understand how different planetary systems formed in the first place. Finally, we delve into one of the most important conditions for life to exist on exoplanets – their atmospheres – and find out how scientists are trying detect the biosignature gases that indicate the presence of life.
All over the world, bacteria are becoming resistant to antibiotics, making infections more difficult – and in some cases impossible – to treat. It’s one of today’s biggest public health challenges and this month Horizon examines how scientists are working to overcome this growing issue. We speak to microbiologist Dr Nassos Typas about how we got here, what causes resistance to antibiotics and the different approaches being explored to combat resistance. We look at renewed efforts to find new antibiotics and ask whether it’s possible to reverse antibiotic resistance. And with dairy being a huge food source and also an antibiotic-intensive industry, we speak to scientists who are developing alternative therapies for treating cows for mastitis as a way of curbing antibiotics from coursing through our food chain.
The next decade sees Europe facing some urgent challenges: climate change, biodiversity loss and feeding a growing population, to name but a few. At the same time, technology is developing apace, presenting both opportunities for novel solutions and worries about how to ensure it’s used for good. In September, as plans for the EU’s next research funding programme start to crystallise, we take a look at some of the pressing issues facing Europe and how the next research agenda should be designed to best serve people and planet. We will also be covering the EU’s Research and Innovation Days event at the end of the month, where policymakers, academics, business people and civil society organisations will gather to finalise priorities for Horizon Europe, the EU’s €100 billion research programme which runs from 2021 to 2027.
In August, Horizon takes a look at the quest to make Europe’s cities environmentally sustainable, while also ensuring a healthy and prosperous population. We speak to geographer Professor Harriet Bulkeley on why cities have such an important role in fighting climate change, what it means for a city to be sustainable and the big challenges that lie ahead. We look at the construction of zero-energy housing, homing in on the case of Nottingham, UK, and find out how scientists are putting nature back into the old Spanish capital of Valladolid. We also talk to the city officials breathing new life into historical buildings in Bologna, Italy, and learn how urban planners and architects are taking emotional feedback into account when designing new public spaces and homes.
How can science help refugees to successfully make a new home in Europe? In July, Horizon examines what we mean when we talk about integration and how research can help refugees build a better future. We speak to Dr Dominik Hangertner at ETH Zurich, Switzerland, about defining integration in order to measure it, the impact of current asylum policies and how big data can help resettlement decisions. We examine how researchers are looking into specific programmes that schools can establish to support adolescent refugees and how media literacy is one such area that can empower young newcomers. We also look at how longer-term mental health needs are being addressed and we speak to researchers and scientists who came to the EU as asylum seekers about the challenges of starting over in a new country.
The so-called second quantum revolution is in full swing, with scientists not only able to understand what happens at a sub-atomic level but also control this quantum behaviour enough to develop new technologies. Six months after the launch of the EU’s €1 billion quantum flagship initiative to kickstart a European quantum technologies industry, we take a look at the potential of quantum to revolutionise our future. We speak to one researcher who is helping to build a quantum computer about the global race to do this and how Europe is faring. We take a look at the threat and promise of quantum technologies in the field of cryptography and find out how quantum simulators can be used to solve non-quantum problems. And finally, we speak to the scientists who are using quantum mechanics to improve the performance of brain scanners and better diagnose medical conditions.
How did European eating habits go so wrong? We have a plentiful supply of fresh food yet, according to Eurostat, one in every two people in Europe is either overweight or obese, leading to problems such as cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and lifestyle-related diabetes. In May, we delve into the complex science of healthy eating to understand how to tackle modern-day malnutrition. We speak to public health expert Knut-Inge Klepp about the complex factors determining food choice and how to improve the diet of teenagers. We find out how scientists are working to improve the zinc content of crops to prevent the ‘hidden hunger’ of micronutrient deficiency and look at the importance of widening the diversity of grains that we eat – both for our health and for the environment. We also explore what’s behind the nutritional self-sabotage of eating disorders.
As May’s European elections approach, Horizon takes a step back to see what science can tell us about European politics. We look at the latest research into people’s opinions about the EU and how they’ve changed, particularly in response to the financial crisis of 2008, and ask what needs to be done to bring the public closer to politicians. We speak to cryptography expert Dr Steve Kremer about why most of us can’t vote online yet, and democracy specialist Prof. Wolfgang Merkel about the changing political party structures in Europe and whether this is a threat to democracy. We also find out how scientists are working to detect and flag fake news on social media in order to increase the transparency of the information people encounter online.
Problems have dogged its floodgates but other measures have been successful.
Sea ice researcher Dr Polona Itkin spoke to Horizon about life aboard a research vessel drifting in the Arctic.