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tv   Review 2020  BBC News  January 1, 2021 8:30pm-9:01pm GMT

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milestone in the coronavirus pandemic — it's the first country to record more than 20 million cases of covid—19. research confirms the the new coronavirus variant discovered in the uk has a much quicker rate of transmission. the imperial college study suggests transmission of the new variant tripled during england's november lockdown it's been confirmed that all primary schools in london are to remain closed for the start of term — after a u—turn by the uk government. leaders of nine london local authorities had written to the uk education secretary gavin williamson urging him to rethink the decision. a new era begins, as the brexit transition period ends and the uk completes its formal separation from the european union. borisjohnson said the uk had "freedom in our hands" and the ability to do things "differently and better". now the long brexit process was over. but opponents of leaving the eu maintain the country will be worse off. now, rebecca morelle looks back on how scientific endeavour reached new heights over the past
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twelve months — in review 2020: the year in science. it was the year that would put science to the ultimate test, battling a pandemic that swept across the globe. as cities locked down, the air became cleaner, but not for long, and the impacts of climate change are still accelerating. away from earth, we entered a new era for space flight with the first private mission to carry astronauts into space. and there was a surprise discovery on venus, with scientists asking
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if they had found signs of life. and in 2020, an expedition to one of the most remote places on the planet to study a colossal melting glacier whose fate could affect us all. and as the year came to a close, the news of effective vaccines, as hopes rose that the pandemic could finally have an end in sight. welcome to review 2020: the year in science. i'm at the royal 0bservatory greenwich in london. usually it is packed with visitors here, but like so many other places around the world, the arrival of the coronavirus transformed everything. the pandemic has been an extraordinary challenge for scientists, but not only have researchers been throwing everything they have got at fighting this virus,
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they also found time to make history in the skies above. the first steps towards a breakthrough for space flight. nasa's doug hurley and bob benkin getting ready for a remarkable journey. and this is the rocket — built by spacex, the first private company to carry people into space. bob, doug, have an amazing flight and enjoyed those views of our beautiful planet. three, two, one, zero. ignition. lift off. go nasa, go spacex. godspeed, bob and doug. this is a huge step for us. it is a huge step for the commercial ventures, and i think it's important for the world to realise that we're going into space to stay. it looks like we saw a zero g indicator floating around. about ten minutes into the flight,
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and the pull of the earth is gone. dragon separation confirmed. separation confirmed. then, the final stage of the rocket gently detaches. bob and doug are on their way to the international space station. the united states has had a long history of space flight. we have lift off. from the apollo missions which took astronauts to the moon to the space shuttle programme which ferried men and women to low earth orbit and back. the shuttle has cleared the tower. but with two flights ending in disaster and high running costs, the fleet was retired and the shuttle‘s last flight touched down nearly a decade ago. since then, nasa's astronauts have had to buy seats on russian rockets instead. now, outsourcing flights like this to spacex marks a big change for the us space agency. nasa has said basically we will give you the money, and you give us a space flight, and then that releases nasa to use
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its resources to do other things, and that is where we can start really thinking big. we're ready to get dragon docked to the international space station. after nearly 19 hours in the capsule, the astronauts close in on their destination. soft capture confirmed. stand by for retraction and docking. they have made it — the future of private space flight has truly arrived. from the royal 0bservatory, there's a stunning view of the london skyline, but at the start of this year — as a national lockdown was imposed — overnight, the city came to a standstill. in many countries around the world, normal life was put on hold to try and stop the spread of the coronavirus. but this sudden stop had another dramatic effect — a dramatic drop in emissions. the world was transformed. roads were empty, planes grounded
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and the demand for electricity fell. in india, choked streets suddenly became easier to breathe in and the most famous landmark in china became clear. the impact was dramatic. the fall in emissions, we're seeing i7% per day. it's enormous. we haven't experienced something like this before as far as we can tell. but as early lockdown was lifted, emissions rose again and the temporary restrictions had done little to slow the impacts of climate change. in 2020, wildfires raged in california in the worst season on record. and greenland continued to melt. hundreds of billions
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of tonnes of ice were lost. in siberia, the frozen ground, the permafrost, thawed leaving ponds and lakes. in a meeting planned in glasgow, scotland 2020 was supposed to be the year of climate action, but as the virus spread, the conference was postponed. however, there has been one major shift. donald trump took the united states out of the global climate agreement. the united states will withdraw from the paris climate accord. butjoe biden is now america's president—elect. the battle to save our planet by getting climate under control. and he believes climate change is an urgent threat and says the us will rejoin the paris pledge to cut greenhouse gases. this could make a big difference. unless we all address climate change, we will all be vulnerable to climate change.
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so it is very refreshing to know that we are going back into a collaborative frame of mind that helps everyone. across the globe, the pandemic has been the priority this year, but what about after covid? as the world recovers, scientists say we need to push for a greenerfuture, because the window to act on climate change is closing fast. this year, in a refugee camp in the jordanian desert, an innovative recycling project made a big difference. families there were able to grow their own healthy fresh food using old mattress foam. translation: it makes me feel like i'm in my home village back in syria. around 80,000 people live in the camp, but growing
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anything there is hard, with limited space and poor soil. everything gets reused, re—purposed. nothing gets thrown away. scientists from the university of sheffield worked with people in the camp to find a solution, then found that discarded mattresses could hold the key. there was a warehouse full and it was, "we don't know what to do with these." there was no disposal mechanism. i'd been to a landfill site and seen a tomato plant growing on an old sofa. really? yeah. that's why i knew it would work. it's called hydroponics. the mattress foam holds the plants instead of soil and it requires much less water because liquid stays where it's needed rather than draining away. this sustainable fix is already helping many in the camp. and finding a way to grow food in this most challenging environment
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could also offer lessons to the rest of the world. this wasn't the only demonstration of clever tech in 2020. especially in response to the pandemic. these robots have been deployed at heathrow airport. working overnight, they disinfect using uv light to kill off viruses. scientists also turned their attention to sewage. by testing waste water, they could see if signs of coronavirus were present, creating an early alert for a new outbreaks. and in italy, a new way to stay socially distanced. visitors to florence cathedral are asked to wear these sensors, and if they get too close to someone
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else, they buzz. for hundreds of years, astronomers have been coming here to gaze up at the heavens, discovering the wonders of the cosmos. many of them must have asked themselves that big question. is there any of life out there? this year, a new discovery suggested the answer could be yes, and it was found in a most unlikely place. it's one of earth's closest neighbours. but until now, venus has been seen as inhospitable. this year, though, possible signs of life were found. astronomers detected a gas called phosphine, a chemical associated with biological activity. and researchers think it could have been produced by tiny living organisms in venus‘s clouds. the researchers have tried to find another explanation for the gas,
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but they're struggling to identify a process that doesn't involve life. everything we've tried — maybe it is puffed out by volcanoes or brought in by meteors, or bits of grit blown up from the surface and had some chemical reaction, none of those things worked. i think we're excited because phosphine is really distinctive, something we know life can make, and we know other mechanisms can't readily make on venus. what makes this so surprising are the extreme conditions of the planet. temperatures there can reach more than a50 celsius, and in the atmosphere, there are clouds of concentrated sulphuric acid. but even so, some think life could still find a way to survive. as you go higher, up through the atmosphere, just as you do on earth climbing a mountain, it gets cooler and cooler. so there is a habitable zone. a range of altitudes on venus where it's not too hot and not too acidic,
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that life we could understand on earth — so—called extremophile life, extremely hardy, survival super—hero—type cells — could survive in that environment in the venusian clouds. the findings have now been turned over to the wider scientific community, but until a better explanation is found, we cannot rule out that life could exist elsewhere in our solar system. and this wasn't the only time space offered up the perfect distraction from the pandemic. these are the closest ever pictures of the sun, taken by a spacecraft called solar 0rbiter. they're help to reveal the inner workings of our star. also in 2020, a daring landing on an asteroid more than 300 million kilometres away.
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the nasa robot collected samples of rock. the next step is to bring them back to earth. and a discovery on the moon. an abundant supply of water was found, boosting hopes it could one day sustain a lunar base. china also embarked on its latest mission to the moon. a robotic lander gathered up rocks. it then docked with an orbiting spacecraft to return these precious samples to earth. they're the first collected in more than a0 years. china left behind its flag. there's no doubting now that it's a major new power in space. this was the year that would challenge science like never before. from the first reports
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of a new virus in china, prompting a race against time to understand this new deadly enemy, scientists sequenced dna, revealing the genetic make—up of the virus, and developed tests that could show if someone was infected or not. and they discovered the environments where the virus was most likely to spread — our knowledge of covid was growing fast. we need to concentrate on limiting these large cluster super—spreading events which we know are linked to indoor poorly ventilated environments and gatherings. scientists focused on how our immune system responded, and whether you could catch covid twice. and delved into our genes to see why some people with the virus had no symptoms, and others got severely sick. and in hospitals, as they started
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to admit the seriously ill, huge clinical trials got underway, revealing a steroid called dexamethasone that could help covid patients in intensive care. not only is this the first drug that has improved survival, but it is available worldwide, immediately, and is affordable. that's fantastic news for patients. but the biggest push was for a vaccine, and soon more than 200 were in development around the world. with research and trials taking place at unprecedented speed, what would usually take years was taking months. then, the news — that a vaccine developed by pfizer and biontech was more than 90% effective. i've never felt professionally such a moment ofjoy, and we werejustjumping up and down in the chairs, forjoy for humanity and medical advances to put an end
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to this dreadful pandemic. soon other vaccine candidates began to report impressive results, too. it was a watershed moment in the fight against covid—i9. this, though, was just the start. the virus is still ranging in many countries, and getting vaccines to everyone across the globe will be one of the biggest logistical challenges of our age. but thanks to the remarkable efforts of scientists this year, there is hope that an end may be in sight. now to one of the most remote parts of the planet, antarctica. scientists call this the domesday glacier. it's roughly the size of britain, but the ice is vanishing fast. billions of tonnes of melt water
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pouring into the sea every year. to assess the damage, the biggest science survey in antarctic history got under way. the glacier holds a colossal amount of water, and if it collapses, cities around the world could be swamped by the rising seas. the ice here is very accessible to change, and so if we are thinking about what the sea level is going to look like in ten years, this glacier is the place to be, and this is the location to be asking these questions at. we're standing right on it. scientists drill down into the glacier. instruments are carefully lowered, heading 600 metres down until they get to the point where the ice meets the ocean. it's the first time that scientists have reached here, and it means they can measure how fast the glacier is melting. antarctica is the big unknown. antarctica has so little
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understanding about the future contribution that the ice sheet is going to make to sea level, that it's actually sometimes left out. that contribution is sometimes actually left out of estimates going into the future. it's a feat to operate in these hostile conditions, but understanding what's happening here is vital for everyone around the world. with the uncertainty of the pandemic, green spaces have become a refuge. for a few moments each day, we can stop and watch the wildlife, see the seasons change. but with this renewed focus on our environments, the threats the natural world is facing have become ever more apparent — with serious consequences for us all. from the oceans to the land, from insects to exotic plants, life on earth is declining
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at an astonishing rate. and time is running out to repair this damage, according to a un report published this year. and the pandemic, too, is linked to this destruction. coronavirus is thought to have first emerged in bats, and eventuallyjumped to humans, perhaps via another species in between. we're fairly confident that the driving forces that have led to the spread of the virus came through a combination of expansion into habitats, illegal wildlife trade, the removal of wildlife, and we are going to see those threats increase. we have had a very clear warning that impacts on wildlife overseas, directly affect us at home. experts say we urgently need to turn the tide. but there are signs of hope for the natural world. in antarctica, there was good news
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for emperor penguins. a raft of new breeding sites have been discovered on the ice, providing a boost to their numbers. and in australia, an incredible discovery at the great barrier reef. coral stretching more than 500 metres high — that's taller than the empire state building. and the largest animals on the planet also made a surprise comeback. blue whales almost vanished from our oceans, wiped out by hunting in the early 20th century, but this year there were signs of recovery. scientists are surveyed in the waters around south georgia and in one month spotted nearly 60 of the whales. in half a century of surveys, only a handful have ever been seen. the team says that the new count is astonishing. it is absolutely thrilling, because they are critically endangered. so just seeing this many animals in south georgia waters suggest that it is becoming an important
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feeding area for them again. and this is what they are eating — krill. the waters are teeming with these tiny creatures. and it's this abundance of food that has driven the recovery. scientists think there may be as many as 10,000 blue whales now. this giant of the deep is edging back from the brink. even though it has been a challenging year, the planets are at least were in perfect alignment. the orbit of mars brought it on a very close approach to earth, making it the perfect time for a mission to the red planet, or rather three missions. in 2020, a trio of spacecraft set their sights on mars. blasting off, the first of this year's martian missions, and the moment the united
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arab emirates made history. 51 years ago, on the 20th ofjuly, man first walked on the moon. and today, on the 20th ofjuly, for us, here, it marks a milestone, it marks a change and a transformation. that i hope will stimulate and push forward an entire generation to think differently. the spacecraft is called hope. until now, the uae has only launched satellites into earth's orbit. getting to mars is a huge leap. and it will study the martian atmosphere to tell us about the planet's weather and climate. we still see all these weather—type events. dust storms, clouds, fog, lightning even. so understanding the weather on mars will help us understand more about the weather on earth. next, it was china's turn. it's their first mission to mars, too. they're sending a six—wheeled rover
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and aiming to land itjust north of the red planet's equator. and then came nasa, who, in another first, are testing a mini mars helicopter to see if it can fly in the extremely thin martian air. it's another pair of eyes from a totally different vantage point. just being able to get to places that we simply can't get to today. very steep cliffs or crevasses, craters, places like that that a roverjust can't rove into. we're going to need to fly. and this is nasa's most advanced rover to date. it should help us to discover if there was ever life on mars. it will be collecting samples of rocks which will be stored and eventually brought back to earth. hopefully, in about ten or 15 years we will get those rocks back from mars, more missions will be sent to bring them back and we will be able to study
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those pieces of mars in laboratories on earth. all three of these ground—breaking missions are now closing in on their destination and will transform our understanding of mars when they arrive. it brings to a close a year that has brought science to the world's attention, and it's clear it will stay centre stage in the months to come. hello, good evening. there is no real sign of things warming up anytime soon. this cold weather certainly with us for the next few days but probably for the next week or more. there will be some wintry showers at times. 0n the earlier satellite picture, you can see speckled shower clouds being brought down on the northerly wind. some slightly more widespread cloudy
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weather that's been affecting parts of england and wales today, bringing some spots of rain, some bits and pieces of sleet and snow as well. that will tend to clear away southwards, although it will stay quite misty and murky, i think across parts of the south—east. and some showers still in that northerly wind, northern ireland, northern and eastern scotland. down the east coast of england, some of those showers will be wintry. where you see clear skies for much of the night, it's going to be very cold indeed, —7, maybe —8 in one or two sheltered spots. so into tomorrow, a bit cloudy and murky to start off across east anglia and the south—east. then, it is a sunshine and showers day. the showers again being blown in on that northerly wind. so, through northern ireland, west wales, devon and cornwall, parts of northeast scotland, the eastern side of england, but even if you keep sunshine through the day, it will feel chilly. those are the top temperatures through the afternoon, 2—5 celsius. these showers in eastern england are likely to drift further inland through parts of the midlands and into wales. could even get a brief
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covering of snow in places through saturday night. as we get into sunday, a subtle change. because this area of high pressure to the west shifts up to the north. as the high changes shape, the wind direction changes as well. instead of the northerly winds we are going to have a north—easterly wind. a subtle shift but it will focus the showers into eastern areas and provide a bit of shelter out west. so northern ireland, wales, the south—west should see drier weather with some sunshine on sunday. but that the north—easterly wind will be quite wet. it is to feel quite raw i think with temperatures on the thermometer 4—6 celsius. it could feel colder than that. into the start of next week, still high pressure to the north. quite a few white lines you'll see here on the chart. quite a few isobars that shows that we will keep that brisk north—easterly wind. the blue colours on the chart, the air is still coming from a fairly cold place. so, low temperatures to take us right through the coming week. and there is the chance of some rain, sleet and snow at times.
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this is bbc news with the latest headlines for viewers in the uk and around the world. a u—turn by the british government as it confirms all primary schools in london are to remain closed for the start of term. research confirms the the new coronavirus variant discovered in the uk has a much quicker rate of transmission. if the new variant is now present, with this increase in the r number, all of a sudden instead of this decrease of 30%, we get a massive increase, the number of cases over the same period could triple. so this is more or less the most serious change in the virus that we've seen. as the us struggles to roll out the covid vaccine, we look at which countries have responded best to the challenge. a new era begins, as the brexit transition period ends

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