Is bitcoin finally going mainstream in the Midlands?

Bitcoin machine
Image caption The machine has a large touch screen and makes the process of buying and selling bitcoins pretty painless

Hanging around with bitcoin enthusiasts is intoxicating.

It's a seductive idea, free magic money from the internet.

And while purchasing, trading and selling bitcoin once was a complex and technical process it's all about to become a lot simpler.

But first if you want to understand more about bitcoin and other coins built on the same technology there's a BBC explainer here.

In Coventry you can now buy and sell and even spend bitcoins. All thanks to a nightclub and one of the country's first bitcoin ATM machines newly installed in a shop in the city.

Read full article Is bitcoin finally going mainstream in the Midlands?

Farming productivity puzzle a serious challenge

Farm machinery
Image caption More training and a better connection with researchers could boost farm productivity

Farmers are already making business decisions that will come to fruition after we leave the EU. But according to a new report, in a world outside Europe, our farmers are at a big disadvantage when it comes to competing in a global marketplace. They're just much less productive than farmers in other major economies.

Productivity is something economists like to try and measure. In this case as farmers try new ideas and invest in new technology then over time their productivity goes up. The difficulty is, even though it is rising, our productivity is pretty poor when compared with other countries.

Read full article Farming productivity puzzle a serious challenge

Wild parakeets take roost in Birmingham's Shard End

Ring necked parakeet
Image caption Although native to Africa and Asia the parakeets are more than capable of surviving our winters

A few years ago I was at a friend's barbecue in South London. Suddenly over the sizzle of the sausages I heard an extraordinary noise and a flock of about sixty bright-green birds flew squawking overhead.

Ring necked parakeets, our only naturalised parrot. In the South East large flocks of parakeets are now a common sight as escaped birds have formed breeding colonies. And now it seems they are spreading to the Midlands.

Read full article Wild parakeets take roost in Birmingham's Shard End

Tackling pollution from stubble burning in India

Pollution Image copyright Aston University
Image caption Pollution from burning fields makes the already bad pollution problem even worse

Stubble burning is an event that dominated my childhood.

When you lived in the countryside in the 1970s it was common for farmers to set fields of straw ablaze and living in a thatched cottage it was a nerve wracking time.

Read full article Tackling pollution from stubble burning in India

Allotment seed swapping may be vital to plant health

Man raking
Image caption Swapping seeds and plants is a vital part of life on Borneo Street Allotments in Walsall

Seed swapping is a way of life on many allotments, but it could be essential in protecting the food we all eat. Which is why scientists are so interested in it.

On a bright, cold, December day in Walsall I'm at Borneo Street allotments being shown some of the seeds that holders have been saving after a pretty good growing season.

Read full article Allotment seed swapping may be vital to plant health

Drones used to spot leaky pipes via satellite in space

  • 6 December 2017
  • From the section England
Drone
Image caption Severn Trent’s new drone equipped with thermal camera to detect water leaks

It's not a surprise that pushing water at pressure through sometimes elderly pipes can lead to leaks.

And for a while loss of water was perhaps just accepted as one of those problems that would be too difficult and too expensive to really crack down on. But in the face of increasingly tough leakage targets water companies are turning to technology to track down escaping water.

Read full article Drones used to spot leaky pipes via satellite in space

Top tips so you don't become a victim of cyber-crime

  • 29 November 2017
  • From the section England
Cyber-crime graphic
Image caption Staffordshire Police and Crime Commission say one in five of us take no steps to protect ourselves online

Cyber-crime is a huge term for a massive number of different online problems from trolling and abuse through to hacking, theft and fraud.

I spent the morning talking to experts at the first Staffordshire Online Fraud Conference taking place just north of Stafford.

Read full article Top tips so you don't become a victim of cyber-crime

Twycross Zoo says goodbye to its four Asian elephants

  • 28 November 2017
  • From the section England
Elephants at the zoo
Image caption Individual keepers are getting the animals ready to travel from Twycross to Blackpool

Twycross Zoo has taken the difficult decision to move their four female elephants to a new zoo. Early next year Minbu, Tara, Noorjahan and Esha will travel up the motorway to Blackpool and a brand new £2.5m elephant habitat. We've been given exclusive access to the whole project, to try and understand what's involved in moving such large animals and why Twycross Zoo has decided to say goodbye to its elephants.

It's certainly not been an easy decision to take.

Read full article Twycross Zoo says goodbye to its four Asian elephants

Do we need humanoid robots that look and move like us?

Robot
Image caption One of our robot friends enjoying a trip outside the lab

I want a robot butler as much as the next person, but the truth about robots is the ones that are really useful don't look like us at all.

In the past we've shown you motorised baskets on wheels that help out in a warehouse as well as a quick-moving sucker on a stick that packs a tray of chicken breasts to a set weight.

Read full article Do we need humanoid robots that look and move like us?

A stunning skylark breakthrough begins in the Midlands

Skylark
Image caption Getting to grips with skylark ringing

I had never actually seen a skylark up close.

Walking through stubbly fields, I have caught a glimpse of one or two out of the corner of my eye as they flash up into the sky. And of course I have seen them as small dots high in the air while they belt out their beautiful song. But I have never seen one up close let alone held one... until now.

Read full article A stunning skylark breakthrough begins in the Midlands