Podcast

Discovery

Explorations in the world of science.

Episodes

  • Introducing The Bomb

    Aug 12 2020

    Emily’s grandad worked on the bomb that fell on Hiroshima. Could another man – Leo Szilard - have stopped it? This is the new series from the BBC World Service – search for The Bomb wherever you get your podcasts.

  • On the menu

    Aug 10 2020

    Shark, bear and crocodile attacks tend to make the headlines but humans fall prey to a much wider variety of predators every year, from big cats and snakes, to wolves, hyenas and even eagles that’ve been known to snatch the odd child. The details can be grim and gory as many predators have developed specific techniques for hunting us humans down. But it was always so, as biologist Professor Adam Hart discovers. Archaeological evidence suggests early hominins in Africa were more hunted than hunte...more

  • Human Genome Project's 20th Anniversary

    Aug 03 2020

    Adam Rutherford celebrates the 20th anniversary of one of the most ambitious and revolutionary scientific endeavours of all time - the Human Genome Project. Its scope and scale was breath-taking, set up to read every one of the 3 billion nucleotides, or letters of genetic information, contained within the DNA in every cell of the human body. It took seven years, hundreds of scientists, cost almost $3 billion and, amazingly, came in under budget and on time. Adam reflects back on that momentous...more

  • Brian Greene

    Jul 27 2020

    Brian Greene studies the universe at the largest and smallest scales imaginable. When he was just twelve years old, Brian wandered round Columbia University in New York looking for someone to teach him mathematics, with a letter of recommendation from his school teacher. While his mother wanted him to make money, his father encouraged Brian to pursue his passion, which was trying to understand the nature of the universe. He studied physics at Harvard University and won a Rhodes Scholarship to ...more

  • Jane Goodall

    Jul 20 2020

    Jane Goodall, aged 86, reflects on the years she spent living with the wild chimpanzees in Gombe in eastern Tanzania and tells Jim Al Khalili why she believes the best way to bring about change is to ‘creep into people’s hearts’. Jane shot to fame when she appeared on the cover of National Geographic magazine in 1963 and appeared in a documentary film directed by Orson Welles. Her ground breaking observations introduced us to the social and emotional lives of wild chimpanzees and changed our vie...more

  • Bed

    Jul 13 2020

    After a long journey, there’s nothing nicer for Katy than climbing into her own bed. It’s often the first major purchase we make when we grow up and leave home. Its significance was not lost on our ancestors. The bed was often the place where societal attitudes to sleep, superstition, sex, and status were played out, sometimes in dramatic form. So where did the bed come from, and what can this everyday object tell us about ourselves? A sleeper in early modern times believed that sleep was aki...more

  • Covid-19: Recovery

    Jul 11 2020

    Claudia Hammond and a panel of international experts look at the latest research into Covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus which is sweeping through the world. Our panel of experts discuss how many people make full recoveries but others are finding that life hasn’t yet returned to normal months after infection. In India and Sweden, clinics are being set up to follow survivors of the virus and doctors are discovering that people are having difficulties assimilating what happened ...more

  • Toilet

    Jul 06 2020

    You may call it the toilet, the loo, the privy, the potty, the can or even the bathroom, but whatever you call it, this everyday object has its roots in Bronze Age Pakistan. It even had a seat! But how did the toilet come to be? Given one third of the world’s population still live without one, how much is our embarrassment around toilet habits to blame? And what scientific developments are underway to help make them truly universal? Water and Sanitation Expert, Alison Parker, from Cranfield Un...more

  • Wine glass

    Jun 29 2020

    Have you got one of those wine glasses that can hold an entire bottle of wine? Katy Brand does and she’s even used it for wine - albeit because of a sprained ankle, which would have stopped her from hobbling back and forth to the kitchen for refills. But if we skip back a few hundred years, the wine glass was tiny. Footmen brought their masters what was essentially a shot glass. They quaffed back their wine in one. So how did we go from those dinky little things to the gargantuan goblets we hav...more

  • The Evidence: Covid 19: vaccines and after lockdown

    Jun 27 2020

    Claudia Hammond and a panel of international experts look at the latest research into Covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus which is sweeping through the world. We look at vaccines to stop the spread of the coronavirus. And as travel opens up in many countries and visiting family and friends is allowed, how do we navigate this new world while avoiding catching the virus. On the panel are Dr George Hu, clinical psychologist & Section Chief of Mental Health at Shanghai United Fam...more

  • Fork

    Jun 22 2020

    The fork is essential. Even camping without one is a false economy, in Katy’s experience. Even a spork - with a spoon at one end and a fork at the other, with a knife formed along one prong - just won’t do. You need both - a fork to steady the meat and a knife to cut it with. So how did the fork come to be so indispensable? We didn’t always love the fork. Public historian, Greg Jenner, reveals how it was abandoned for the chopstick in Ancient China, and greeted with scorn in Western Europe whe...more

  • High heel

    Jun 15 2020

    Katy Brand loves a high heel. Once known by friends and family for her ‘shoe fetish’, her dad even gave her a ceramic heel that could hold a wine bottle at a jaunty angle. These days, Katy’s cherished heels from her torture days live in her cupboard. She has traded the pain for the statement trainer. But their art, history and construction still fascinate her. So what is it about the high heel that has made it stand the test of time? With the help of resident public historian, Greg Jenner, Ka...more

  • The Evidence: Covid 19: Transmission and South America

    Jun 13 2020

    Claudia Hammond and a panel of international experts look at the latest research into Covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus which is sweeping through the world. As the disease spreads how is South America handling the pandemic? How are the indigenous people of the Amazon protecting themselves? We also look at the aerodynamics of infection - if the air in an ITU room is changed 12 times and the virus still lingers what hope do offices have? On the panel are Professor Lydia Bour...more

  • Toothbrush

    Jun 08 2020

    What is the most personal item you own - one you don’t want anyone else using? For Katy Brand it’s her toothbrush. So how did the toothbrush become one of life’s essentials? With the help of resident public historian of Horrible Histories fame, Greg Jenner, Katy goes back to ancient times, when the toothbrush was merely a stick. But the brush, as we know it, only came into being much later when a convict spied a broom in his cell and had a bright idea. But how has ingenuity and innovation sha...more

  • Helium

    Jun 01 2020

    Andrea Sella, Professor of Inorganic Chemistry at University College London, celebrates the art and science of the chemical elements. Today he looks at helium. Helium is a finite resource here on Earth and many branches of science need it. Doctors need it to run MRI machines to diagnose tumours and engineers test rockets for leaks with it. The story of helium starts with a solar eclipse in 1868. The event had many astronomers' eyes fixed on the sun. Two astronomers, nearly simultaneous and in...more

  • The Evidence: Covid 19: Sub-Saharan Africa and Testing

    May 30 2020

    Claudia Hammond and a panel of international experts look at the latest research into Covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus which is sweeping through the world. As the disease spreads how is sub-Saharan Africa handling the pandemic? We also look at tests – how accurate are they? Should we be testing ourselves at home? On the panel are Folasade Ogunsola, Professor of Clinical Microbiology at the University of Lagos in Nigeria, Ravi Gupta, Professor of Microbiology at the University ...more

  • Aluminium and strontium

    May 25 2020

    Andrea Sella, Professor of Inorganic Chemistry at University College London, celebrates the art and science of the chemical elements. Today he looks at aluminium and strontium, elements that give us visual treats. At the time of Emperor Napoleon the Third in 19th century France aluminium was more valuable than gold and silver. The Emperor liked the metal so much he had his cutlery made out of it. But once a cheaper way was discovered to extract aluminium it began to be used for all kinds of ob...more

  • Gold and silver

    May 18 2020

    Andrea Sella, Professor of Inorganic Chemistry at University College London, celebrates the art and science of chemical elements. In this episode he looks at two elements we have valued for millennia – gold and silver. Nina Gilbey at the London Jewellery Workshop teaches him how to work the metal and make a silver ring, and Rupert Cole, Curator of Chemistry at the Science Museum, shows him the handiwork of silversmiths who fashioned an elaborate microscope for King George the Third and a silv...more

  • The Evidence: Covid 19: ending lockdowns

    May 16 2020

    Claudia Hammond and her panel of scientists and doctors analyse the latest science on the coronavirus and answer the audience’s questions on the impact of the pandemic. Dr Lucy van Dorp of UCL explores the genetics of the virus and what they can tell us about how far it’s spread and how is it evolving. Can we be sure that vaccines being developed now will still work in the future? Professor Guy Thwaites of the Oxford University Clinical Research Unit in Vietnam explains how the country has suc...more

  • Science of Dad

    May 13 2020

    Whilst most men become fathers, and men make up roughly half the parental population, the vast majority of scientific research has focused on the mother. But studies have started to reveal the impact of fatherhood on both dads themselves and on their children. We're seeing how fathers play a crucial role in children's behaviour, happiness, and even cognitive skills. Oscar Duke, a doctor, new dad and author of How To Be A Dad, discovers how pregnancy, birth and childcare affect the father, brin...more

  • Ignaz Semmelweiss: The hand washer

    May 04 2020

    Lindsey Fitzharris tells the story of Ignaz Semmelweiss, the hand washer. In a world that had no understanding of germs, he tried to apply science to halt the spread of infection. Ignaz Semmelweis observed that many young medical students at his hospital in Vienna went directly from an autopsy, still covered in contaminated dead flesh, to attend pregnant women. Could this be the reason for such high maternal mortality rates from conditions like puerperal fever? Believing that the disease was cau...more

  • The Evidence: Mental health and Covid 19

    May 02 2020

    Now that more than half the population of the world has been living for a time in lockdown, Claudia Hammond and her panel of psychologists and psychiatrists answer the audience’s questions on the impact of the pandemic on our mental health. Dr George Hu, clinical psychologist & Section Chief of Mental Health at Shanghai United Family Pudong Hospital, tells us what he’s seen in China, as it comes out of lockdown. Professor Vikram Patel gives us a picture of mental health in India, which went ver...more

  • Desert locust swarms

    Apr 27 2020

    The pictures coming in from East Africa are apocalyptic. Billions of locusts hatching out of the wet ground, marching destructively through crops, and launching into flight in search of new terrains. "This is certainly the worst situation we have seen in the last 15 years," FAO locust specialist Keith Cressman tells Discovery. And in East Africa there has been nothing like this for 70 years. As the region braces itself for another cycle of egg laying and hatching, Roland Pease hears from the sci...more

  • Anne Magurran

    Apr 20 2020

    Anne Magurran started her career as an ecologist counting moths in an ancient woodland in northern Ireland in the 1970s, when the study of biological diversity was a very young science. Later she studied piranas in a flooded forest in the Amazon. Turning descriptions of the natural world into meaningful statistics is a challenge and Anne has pioneered the measurement of bio-diversity. It’s like an optical illusion, she says. The more you think about bio-diversity the more difficult it is to defi...more

  • The Evidence: Young people, lifting lockdowns, USA and Kenya updates

    Apr 18 2020

    Claudia Hammond and a panel of international experts look at the latest research into Covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus which is sweeping through the world. As the disease spreads, younger people have perhaps not been getting the attention they deserve. How will this pandemic impact young people and do they feel included in government messaging? As lockdowns are lifted in China – how can they prepare for what comes next? And country updates on the USA and Kenya. On the pan...more

  • Richard Wiseman

    Apr 13 2020

    How do you tell if someone is lying? When Richard Wiseman, Professor of the Public Understanding of Psychology at the University of Hertfordshire, conducted a nationwide experiment to identify the tell-tale signs, the results were surprising. If you want to spot a liar, don’t look at them. Listen to what they say and how they say it. in If you want to distinguish fact from fiction, radio, not TV or video is your friend. Visual cues distract us from what is being said and good liars can co...more

  • Professor Saiful Islam

    Apr 06 2020

    Not so long ago, all batteries were single use. And solar power was an emerging and expensive technology. Now, thanks to rechargeable batteries, we have mobile phones, laptops, electronic toys, cordless power tools and other portable electronic devices. And solar power is reducing our reliance on carbon-based fossil fuels. None of this would have been possible without a deep understanding of the chemistry of materials that have particular properties – the ability to turn sunlight into energy f...more

  • The Evidence: Taiwan, Vaccines, Africa Preparedness

    Apr 04 2020

    International experts discuss the latest research into Covid-19

  • Elizabeth Fisher: Chromosomes in mice and men

    Mar 30 2020

    Elizabeth Fisher, Professor of Neurogenetics at University College London, spent 13 years getting her idea – finding a new way of studying genetic disorders – to work. She began her research career at a time, in the 1980s, when there was an explosion of interest and effort in finding out what genes did what, and which of them were responsible for giving rise to the symptoms of various neurodegenerative conditions. Elizabeth has been particularly interested in those in which there are chromosomal...more

  • Adrian Owen

    Mar 24 2020

    Neuroscientist Adrian Owen has spent much of his career exploring what he calls ‘the grey zone’, a realm of consciousness inhabited by people with severe brain injuries, who are aware yet unable to respond to those around them. It's this inability to respond which has led doctors to conclude that they are unaware. In the late 1990's, Adrian started to question the assumption that they lacked awareness and a chance discovery set him on a novel path of enquiry - could some of these patients be c...more

  • The Evidence: Coronavirus Special

    Mar 21 2020

    A panel of international experts take a global look at the science of Covid-19. We hear about vaccines, treatments, strategies to contain the virus and the role of big data.

  • Professor Martha Clokie

    Mar 16 2020

    Professor Martha Clokie tells Jim Al-Khalili how she found viruses that destroy antibiotic-resistant bugs by looking in stool samples, her son's nappies and estuary mud. Could viruses improve our health where antibiotics have failed? As a child, Martha Clokie spent a lot of time collecting seaweed on Scottish beaches. She loves plants and studied botany for many years. But mid-career, she learnt about all the viruses that exist in nature. We tend to focus on the viruses that make us ill but th...more

  • Demis Hassabis

    Mar 10 2020

    Jim Al-Khalili finds out why Demis Hassabis wants to create artificial intelligence and use it to help humanity. Thinking about how to win at chess when he was a boy got Demis thinking about the process of thinking itself. Being able to program his first computer (a Sinclair Spectrum) felt miraculous. In computer chess, his two passions were combined. And a lifelong ambition to create artificial intelligence was born. Demis studied computer science at Cambridge and then worked in the computer ...more

  • Isaac Newton and the story of the apple

    Mar 02 2020

    The story of how Newton came up with his gravitational theory is one of the most familiar in the history of science. He was sitting in the orchard at Woolsthorpe, thinking deep thoughts, when an apple fell from a tree. And all at once, Newton realised that the force of gravity pulling the apple down to the ground must be the same as the force that holds the moon in orbit around the earth. But was that really how he came up with his great idea? These days, historians of science don’t fall for cos...more

  • Science Stories - Sophia Jex-Blake

    Feb 24 2020

    Naomi Alderman tells the science story of Sophia Jex-Blake, who led a group known as the Edinburgh Seven in their bid to become the first women to graduate as doctors from a British university. Her campaign was long and ultimately personally unsuccessful as she had to go to Switzerland to gain her qualification. Although Edinburgh University allowed the Seven to attend some lectures, they had to be taught apart from the male students. There was great antipathy to the women which culminated in...more

  • Science Stories - Mary Somerville, pioneer of popular science writing

    Feb 17 2020

    Mary Somerville was a self-taught genius who wrote best-selling books translating, explaining and drawing together different scientific fields and who was named the nineteenth century's "queen of science". Born Mary Fairfax in 1780, she was an unlikely scientific hero. Her parents and her first husband did not support her scientific pursuits and it was only when she became a widow at 28 with two small children that she began to do novel mathematics. With her second husband, William Somerville, s...more

  • Stem cells: Hope and hype

    Feb 10 2020

    Lesley Curwen reports on the magical aura that has been drawing so many people around the world to pay for “regenerative” therapies which harness the healing power of stem cells. In this programme, she reports on the battle of regulators in the USA and in Australia to stop unproven and risky therapies harming patients. Featuring: Texas lawyer Hartley Hampton; Galen Dinning; stem cell researcher and host of The Niche blog, Professor Paul Knoepfler from the University of California, Davis School ...more

  • Stem cell hard sell

    Feb 03 2020

    Stem cells are cells with superpowers. They can become many different types of cells in our bodies, from muscle cells to brain cells, and some can even repair tissue. But the remarkable promise of this exciting new field of medicine has led to a new booming market of private clinics, which offer to treat a range of conditions (from arthritis to autism) using regenerative therapies which they claim harness the healing powers of stem cells. In this first of two programmes, Lesley Curwen investigat...more

  • The road to Glasgow

    Jan 27 2020

    Climate change is upon us. In 2018 the IPCC published a report with the most significant warning about the impact of climate change in 20 years. Unless the world keeps warming to below 1.5% degrees Celsius the impact on the climate will be severe. Sea levels will rise, leading to flooding, and extremes of temperature will become more common. The UK Met Office has forecast that the global average surface temperature for the five-year period to 2023 is predicted to be around 1.0 °C above pre-ind...more

  • Ecological grief

    Jan 20 2020

    As the Earth experiences more extreme weather, and wildlife is dying, from corals, to insects, to tropical forests, more people are experiencing ecological anxiety and grief. Science journalist Gaia Vince has been reporting on the growing crisis across our planet’s ecosystems, and has met many who are shocked and saddened by the enormity of the environmental changes taking place. She talks to scientists and medics working at the frontline of environmental change, and hears that, despite being ex...more

  • The misinformation virus

    Jan 13 2020

    In this online age, the internet is a global megaphone, billions of messages amplified and shared, even when they're false. Fake science spreads faster than the truth ever could, unhindered by national boundaries. Mainstream scientists are struggling to respond. The science journalist and writer, Angela Saini, is fascinated by how bad ideas spread and in this programme she investigates the very real impact of online scientific misinformation. From the dangerous anti-vaccination campaigns to thos...more

  • The silence of the genes

    Jan 06 2020

    In summer of 2019 NICE approved the use of a completely new class of drugs: the gene silencers. These compounds are transforming the lives of families who have rare debilitating – and sometimes fatal - diseases such as amyloidosis and porphyria. James Gallagher, BBC Health and Science Correspondent, reveals the ups and downs in the story of how a Nobel prize winning discovery of RNA interference has become a useful drug in less than a quarter of a century. Professor Craig Mello, one of the winn...more

  • Alexis Carrel and the immortal chicken heart

    Dec 30 2019

    Philip Ball tells the story of Alexis Carrel, the French surgeon who worked to preserve life outside the body and create an immortal chicken heart in a dish. His quest was to renew ageing flesh, repair and rebuild our bodies and keep them healthy far beyond the usual human lifespan. In the early twentieth century his science was pioneering but his mission to achieve eternal life was underpinned by a dark and terrifying agenda. Carrel was a racist who advocated eugenics to preserve the superior c...more

  • Ramon Llull: Medieval prophet of computer science

    Dec 23 2019

    Philip Ball tells the story of Ramon Llull, the medieval prophet of computer science. During the time of the Crusades Llull argued that truth could be automated and used logic over force to prove the existence of the Christian God. It was a dangerous idea that got him thrown into prison and threatened with execution but today he is hailed, not as a prophet of the Christian faith, but of computer science. Philip Ball talks to historian Pamela Beattie of the University of Louisville in Kentucky a...more

  • Ignaz Semmelweiss: The hand washer

    Dec 16 2019

    Lindsey Fitzharris tells the story of Ignaz Semmelweiss, the hand washer. In a world that had no understanding of germs, he tried to apply science to halt the spread of infection. Ignaz Semmelweis observed that many young medical students at his hospital in Vienna went directly from an autopsy, still covered in contaminated dead flesh, to attend pregnant women. Could this be the reason for such high maternal mortality rates from conditions like puerperal fever? Believing that the disease was cau...more

  • Madame Lavoisier's Translation of Oxygen

    Dec 09 2019

    Philip Ball tells the story of Madame Lavoisier; translator of oxygen. At a time when science was almost a closed book to women, Madame Marie Anne Lavoisier’s skills were indispensable. A translator, illustrator and critic of scientific papers, she learnt chemistry herself and helped her husband Antoine Lavoisier develop his theory of the role played by oxygen in combustion. As modern science was taking shape it lacked any universal language, so communication in many tongues was vital to stay ah...more

  • Galileo's lost letter

    Dec 02 2019

    Galileo famously insisted in the early 17th Century that the Earth goes round the Sun and not vice versa – an idea that got him into deep trouble with the Catholic Church. In 1633 Galileo was put on trial for heresy by the Inquisition, and was threatened with imprisonment, or worse, if he did not recant. Galileo spent the rest of his days under house arrest and is now seen by some as a near-martyr to science in the face of unyielding religious doctrine. But the discovery of a letter questions th...more

  • Robin Dunbar

    Nov 25 2019

    Maintaining friendships is one of the most cognitively demanding things we do, according to Professor of Evolutionary Psychology Robin Dunbar. So why do we bother? Robin has spent his life trying to answer this deceptively simple question. For most of his twenties, he lived with a herd of five hundred gelada monkeys in the Ethiopian highlands. He studied their social behaviour and concluded that an ability to get on with each other was just as important as finding food, for the survival of the...more

  • Katherine Joy

    Nov 18 2019

    Katherine Joy studies moon rock. She has studied lunar samples that were brought to earth by the Apollo missions (382kg in total) and hunted for lunar meteorites in Antarctica, camping on ice for weeks on end and travelling around on a skidoo. Working at the forefront of the second wave of lunar exploration, she studied remote sensing data from Europe’s first mission to the moon, Smart 1 which launched in 2003 and data from many subsequent missions. She tells Jim Al-Khalili why she believes th...more

  • Sir Gregory Winter

    Nov 11 2019

    In an astonishing story of a scientific discovery, Greg Winter tells Jim Al-Khalili how decades of curiosity-driven research led to a revolution in medicine. Forced to temporarily abandon his work in the lab when a road rage incident left him with a paralysed right arm, Greg Winter spent several months looking at the structure of proteins. Looking at the stunning computer graphics made the pain in his arm go away. It also led him to a Nobel Prize winning idea: to ‘humanise’ mouse antibodies. A ...more

  • Turi King: Solving the mystery of Richard III through DNA

    Nov 04 2019

    When a skeleton was unearthed in 2012 from under the tarmac of a car park in Leicester in the English East Midlands, Turi King needed to gather irrefutable evidence to prove that this really was the body of Richard III, England's infamous medieval monarch. Under the microscope was not only the king's genetic identity, but his entire reputation. Was Richard a ruthless villain, as depicted by Shakespeare? Or did the incoming Tudors spread 'fake news' to besmirch his name? As presenter Jim al-Kha...more

  • Plastic pollution with Richard Thompson

    Oct 28 2019

    A Professor of Marine Biology who was not particularly academic at school, Richard Thompson went to university after running his own business selling greetings cards for seven years. When the rest of the world was waking up to the harm caused to marine life by larger plastic items, such as plastic bags, he searched for tiny fragments of plastic, some no bigger than a human hair; and found them in oceans and on beaches all over the world. He has spent decades studying the harm these micro-plastic...more

  • Protecting heads in sports

    Oct 21 2019

    The death last week of boxer Patrick Day, four days after he was stretchered out of the ring in a coma, is the latest reminder of how vulnerable sportsmen and women are to traumatic brain injury. During the latest Ashes series the Australian batsman Steve Smith was temporarily retired for one test after being struck on the helmet by a bouncer. The current World Cup Rugby has been affected too, with Welsh fly half Dan Biggar withdrawn from a game against Uruguay having received head injuries in t...more

  • Early diagnosis and research

    Oct 14 2019

    James Parkinson described a condition known as the “shaking palsy” over 200 years ago. Today there are many things that scientists still don’t understand explaining why diagnosis, halting the progression or finding a cure for Parkinson’s can seem elusive. But how close are researchers to developing better treatments? Better understanding seems to suggest that Parkinson’s is not one condition but several, with different causes and symptoms in different people. Many researchers think that early d...more

  • Exercise

    Oct 07 2019

    Can exercise help people living with Parkinson’s, a neurodegenerative condition, with symptoms such as loss of balance, difficulty walking and stiffness in the arms and legs. Jane Hill travels to the Netherlands to meet Mariëtte Robijn and Wim Rozenberg, coaches at Rock Steady Boxing Het Gooi and co-founders of ParkinsonSport.nl, a unique sports club ran 100% by and for people with Parkinson’s. It doesn’t take long before a transformation begins to take place in the gym. Boxing is popular in t...more

  • Living with Parkinson's

    Sep 30 2019

    BBC newsreader Jane Hill knows all about Parkinson’s. Her father was diagnosed in t1980s and lived with the condition for ten years — her uncle had it, too. She’s spoken about the dreadful experience of watching helplessly as the two men were engulfed by the degenerative disease, losing their independence and the ability to do the things that they once enjoyed. “I remember feeling how cruel Parkinson’s is. The number of people living with Parkinson’s disease is set to double over the next few d...more

  • Preventing pesticide poisoning

    Sep 23 2019

    Thanks to a ban on several hazardous pesticides Sri Lanka has seen a massive reduction in deaths from pesticide poisoning, and the World Health Organisation is recommending other countries should follow this example. As Health Correspondent Matthew Hill discovers, hospitals which used to deal with many pesticide related deaths are now seeing fewer cases, and more survivors. However, a lack of mental health services means, for many in rural communities, taking pesticides is still a way of drawi...more

  • The power of peace

    Sep 16 2019

    “Nature red in tooth and claw”. “Dog eat dog”. “Fighting for survival". You may well think that the natural world is one dangerous, violent, lawless place, with every creature out for itself. And it can be, but it can also be peaceful, democratic and compassionate. Lucy Cooke seeks out the animal communities that adopt a more peaceful and democratic way of life and asks why it works for them. Despite being fierce predators, African wild dogs are cooperative and compassionate within their packs,...more

  • The power of petite

    Sep 09 2019

    Bigger is better, right? An ancient lore in biology, Cope's rule, states that animals have a tendency to get bigger as they evolve. Evolution has cranked out some absolutely huge animals. But most of these giants are long gone. And those that remain are amongst the most threatened with extinction. Scientists now believe that while evolution favours larger creatures, extinction seems to favour the small. If you look at mammals, at the time of the dinosaurs, they were confined to rodent-sized sca...more

  • The power of deceit

    Sep 02 2019

    Lucy Cooke sets out to discover why honesty is almost certainly not the best policy, be you chicken, chimp or human being. It turns out that underhand behaviour is rife throughout the animal kingdom, and can be a winning evolutionary strategy. From sneaky squid, to cheating cuckoos, some species will resort to truly incredible levels of deception and deviousness to win that mate, or get more food. And when it comes to social animals like we humans, it turns out that lying, or at least those litt...more

  • Patient Undone

    Aug 26 2019

    Professor Deborah Bowman reveals how a diagnosis of cancer has transformed her view of medical ethics and what it means to be a patient. As Professor of Ethics and Law at St George's, University of London, Deborah has spent the past two decades teaching and writing about medical ethics, the moral principles that apply to medicine. It's taken her down countless hospital corridors, to the clinics and the wards where medical ethics plays out in practice, behind closed doors, supporting healthcare...more

  • The Great Science Publishing Scandal

    Aug 19 2019

    Matthew Cobb, Professor of Zoology at the University of Manchester, explores the hidden world of prestige, profits and piracy that lurks behind scientific journals. Each year, hundreds of thousands of articles on the findings on research are published, forming the official record of science. This has been going on since the 17th century, but recently a kind of war has broken out over the cost of journals to the universities and research institutions where scientists work, and to anyone else wh...more

  • Erica McAlister

    Aug 12 2019

    Dr Erica McAlister, of London's Natural History Museum, talks to Jim Al-Khalili about the beautiful world of flies and the 2.5 million specimens for which she is jointly responsible. According to Erica, a world without flies would be full of faeces and dead bodies. Unlike, for example, butterflies and moths, whose caterpillars spend their time devouring our crops and plants, fly larvae tend to help rid the world of waste materials and then, as adults, perform essential work as pollinators. Yet...more

  • Richard Peto

    Aug 05 2019

    When Sir Richard Peto began work with the late Richard Doll fifty years ago, the UK had the worst death rates from smoking in the world. Smoking was the cause of more than half of all premature deaths of British men. The fact that this country now boasts the biggest decrease in tobacco-linked mortality is in no doubt partly due to Doll and Peto's thirty year collaboration. Professor of Medical Statistics and Epidemiology at the University of Oxford and until last year co-director of the Clinica...more

  • Lovelock at 100: Gaia on Gaia

    Jul 29 2019

    James Lovelock is one of the most influential thinkers on the environment of the last half century. His grand theory of planet earth, Gaia, the idea that from the bottom of the earth's crust to the upper reaches of the atmosphere, planet earth is one giant inter-connected and self-regulating system, has had an impact way beyond the world of science. As James Lovelock, celebrates his hundredth birthday (he was born on 26th July 1919) he talks to science writer Gaia Vince about the freedom and f...more

  • What next for the Moon?

    Jul 22 2019

    The Moon rush is back on. And this time it’s a global race. The USA has promised boots on the lunar surface by 2024. But China already has a rover exploring the farside. India is on the point of sending one too. Europe and Russia are cooperating to deliver more robots. And that’s not to mention the private companies also getting into the competition. Roland Pease looks at the prospects and challenges for all the participants. (Image caption: Chinese lunar probe and rover lands on the far side o...more

  • Irene Tracey on pain in the brain

    Jul 15 2019

    Pain, as we know, is highly personal. Some can cope with huge amounts, while others reel in agony over a seemingly minor injury. Though you might feel the stab of pain in your stubbed toe or sprained ankle, it is actually processed in the brain. That is where Irene Tracey, Nuffield Professor of Anaesthetic Science at Oxford University, has been focussing her attention. Known as the Queen of Pain, she has spent the past two decades unravelling the complexities of this puzzling sensation. She go...more

  • Paul Davies on the origin of life and the evolution of cancer

    Jul 08 2019

    Physicist Paul Davies talks to Jim al-Khalili about the origin of life, the search for aliens and the evolution of cancer. Paul Davies is interested in some of the biggest questions that we can ask. What is life? How did the universe begin? How will it end? And are we alone? His research has been broad and far-reaching, covering quantum mechanics, cosmology and black holes. In the 1980s he described the so-called Bunch-Davies vacuum - the quantum vacuum that existed just fractions of a second ...more

  • Can psychology boost vaccination rates?

    Jul 01 2019

    In the 1950s a batch of polio vaccine in the US was made badly, resulting in 10 deaths and the permanent paralysis of 164 people. Paul Offit, a paediatrician in Philadelphia, says the disaster did not turn people away from vaccines. He believes that current vaccine hesitancy needs to be tackled online - where fake news spreads quickly. The German state of Brandenburg wants to make pre-school vaccinations compulsory - like neighbouring France and Italy - because immunisation rates there dropped...more

  • Global attitudes towards vaccines

    Jun 24 2019

    Global attitudes towards vaccinations are revealed in the Wellcome Trust’s Global Monitor survey. Our guide through the new data is Heidi Larson, Professor of Anthropology, Risk and Decision Science at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine who also leads the Vaccines Confidence Project. She says the most vaccine-sceptical country is France – because of past scares around different vaccines. The success of vaccines means people have forgotten how measles can be fatal – and parents a...more

  • Why do birds sing?

    Jun 17 2019

    "What happens to the human voice as we age? If I hear a voice on the radio, I can guess roughly how old they are. But singer's voices seem to stay relatively unchanged as they age. Why is this?" All these questions were sent in by Jonathan Crain from Long Island in New York. Doctors Adam Rutherford and Hannah Fry discover how the human voice is produced and listen to how our voice sounds when it emerges from our vocal cords. Acoustic engineer Trevor Cox, author of Now You're Talking, explains w...more

  • Does infinity exist?

    Jun 10 2019

    “Is anything in the Universe truly infinite, or is infinity something that only exists in mathematics?” This question came from father and son duo from Edinburgh in Scotland, Tom and Sorely Watson. First, we investigate the concept of infinity in mathematics with a story of mathematics, music and murder from Steven Strogatz from the Cornell University. Did you know that there are some infinities that are bigger than others? We discuss the mind-bending nature of infinity with mathematician Eug...more

  • Why do we get déjà vu?

    Jun 03 2019

    4/6 Part 1: Déjà vu "Do we know what causes déjà vu?" asks Floyd Kitchen from Queenstown in New Zealand. Drs Rutherford and Fry investigate this familiar feeling by speaking to world-leading reseacher Chris Moulin from the University of Grenoble in France and memory expert Catherine Loveday from Westminster University. Plus, they find out why early investigations classed déjà vu as a type of paranormal phenomenon. For most of us, it's a fleetingly strange experience, but for some people it ca...more

  • Will we ever find alien life?

    May 27 2019

    3/6 In this instalment of The Curious Cases of Rutherford & Fry, Hannah and Adam boldly go in search of scientists who are hunting for ET, spurred on by questions sent in by listeners across the globe, from Australia to Columbia. They start by asking how we define life and why we are obsessed with finding it on Mars. Should we be looking further out in the Solar System, and could we find space squid on the icy moon Europa? When it comes to intelligent life we may have to scout even further i...more

  • Why people have different pain thresholds

    May 20 2019

    2/6 "How fast can a human run and would we be faster as quadrapeds?" This question flew in via Twitter from Greg Jenner. Is there a limit to human sprinting performance? In this episode we investigate the biomechanics of running, statistical trends in human performance and which kind of monkey runs the fastest. But first, an experiment. Due to some spurious and possibly fictional injuries, neither Hannah nor Adam are fit enough to take part in a sprint trial at the University of Bath. So long-...more

  • How do instruments make music?

    May 13 2019

    1/6 "We play many musical instruments in our family. Lots of them produce the same pitch of notes, but the instruments all sound different. Why is this?" asks Natasha Cook aged 11, and her Dad Jeremy from Guelph in Ontario, Canada. In this new series of The Curious Cases of Rutherford and Fry, Hannah and Adam are joined by the Curious Cases band - Matt Chandler and Wayne Urquhart - to play with today's question. Bringing the science we have acoustic engineer and saxophone player Trevor Cox. Pl...more

  • A sense of time

    May 06 2019

    Our senses create the world we experience. But do animals have a ‘sense’ of time, and does that differ between species, or between us and other animals? We know that animal senses reveal a wealth of information that humans can't access. Birds can see in ultra violet, and some fish can 'feel' electricity. So perhaps their sense of time is similar. If you've ever tried to swat flies, you'll know that they seem to have super-powered reactions that let them escape before you can blink. Presenter ...more

  • Cat Hobaiter on communication in apes

    Apr 29 2019

    Dr Catherine Hobaiter studies how apes communicate with each other. Although she is based at the University of St Andrews in Scotland, she spends a lot of her time in the forests of Uganda, at the Budongo Research Centre. There, she is endlessly fascinated by the behaviour of great apes. Cat Hobaiter tells Jim al-Khalili about the difficulties of carrying out research on chimps in the wild. It can take years to win the trust of the apes. She says that her approach is to adopt the attitude of a...more

  • Carlo Rovelli on rethinking the nature of time

    Apr 22 2019

    Carlo Rovelli is a theoretical physicist who became a household name when his book Seven Brief Lessons on Physics became an unexpected international bestseller. His concise, and poetic, introduction to the laws and beauty of physics has sold more than a million copies. He’s also a pioneer of one of the most exciting and profound ideas in modern physics, called loop quantum gravity. Carlo Rovelli tells Jim al-Khalili how he first became interested in the nature of time when he took LSD as a y...more

  • Corinne Le Quéré on carbon and climate

    Apr 15 2019

    Professor Corinne Le Quéré of University of East Anglia talks to Jim Al-Khalili about tracing global carbon. Throughout the history of planet Earth, the element carbon has cycled between the atmosphere, the oceans and the biosphere. This natural cycle has maintained the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and has allowed life to exist for billions of years. Corinne Le Quéré is a climate scientist who keeps track of where the carbon comes from and where it goes – all on a truly global sca...more

  • Ken Gabriel on why your smartphone is smart

    Apr 08 2019

    Jim Al-Khalili talks to Ken Gabriel, the engineer responsible for popularising many of the micro devices found in smartphones and computers. Ken explains how he was inspired by what he could do with a stick and a piece of string. This led to an engineering adventure taking in spacecraft, military guidance systems and the micro-mechanical devices we use every day in our computers and smartphones. Ken Gabriel now heads up a large non-profit engineering company, Draper, which cut its teeth buildin...more

  • Donna Strickland and extremely powerful lasers

    Apr 01 2019

    Donna Strickland tells Jim Al-Khalili why she wanted to work with lasers and what it feels like to be the first woman to win a Nobel Prize for Physics in 55 years. When the first laser was built in 1960, it was an invention looking for an application. Science fiction found uses for these phenomenally powerful beams of light long before real world applications were developed. Think Star Wars light sabres and people being sliced in half. Today lasers are used for everything from hair removal to st...more

  • Unbottling the past

    Mar 25 2019

    Imagine finding a notebook containing the secret recipes of some of the world’s most iconic perfumes? Formulas normally kept under lock and key. That’s what happened to medical research scientist and trained chemist Andrew Holding. His grandfather Charles “Rex” Holding had been Chief Perfumer at the Bourjois Chanel factory in Croydon, near London, during the 1960s. After his death, he left behind a lifetime of perfume memorabilia; bottles of Chanel perfume, rare ingredients, fragrant soaps, ...more

  • California burning

    Mar 18 2019

    When Paradise burned down last year, it made the Camp Fire the most destructive and deadly in Californian history. A few months earlier the nearby Ranch Fire was the largest. In southern California, a series of chaparral fires have brought danger to towns along the state’s coast. And the statistics show that large, dangerous fires have been increasing for decades. But the reasons are not simple. Roland Pease meets some of the experts trying to work out what is to be done. Producer: Roland Peas...more

  • ShakeAlertLA - California’s earthquake early warning system

    Mar 11 2019

    Los Angeles is a city of Angels, and of earthquakes. Deadly earthquakes in 1933, 1971 and 1994 have also made it a pioneer in earthquake protection – for example with tough engineering standards to save buildings. Since 2013, with the help of scientists at the US Geological Survey, the city has been developing a resilience plan which culminated in the release of an app that should give residents precious seconds of warning when an earthquake starts. Roland Pease meets the scientists, the Mayor a...more

  • From the Cold War to the present day

    Mar 04 2019

    For more than 100 years chemical weapons have terrorised, maimed and killed soldiers and civilians alike. As a chemist, the part his profession has played in the development of these weapons has long concerned Andrea Sella, professor of chemistry at University College London. In this programme he examines the motivation of chemists like Dr Fritz Haber, who first encouraged the German military to deploy chlorine gas in World War One for the sake of “The Fatherland” and of Dr Gerhard Schrader, w...more

  • From the Crimean War to the end of World War Two

    Feb 25 2019

    In the first of two programmes he looks back to the first attempts to ban the use of chemical weapons at the end of the 19th century. Heavily defeated in the Crimea, Russia succeeded in getting unanimous agreement at the 1899 Hague Convention that poison and poison weapons should be banned from warfare. But chemicals such as chlorine, phosgene and mustard gas were heavily used in the First World War by both sides. More substances were developed in the 1930s and 1940s but weren’t used in the batt...more

  • Tracks across time

    Feb 18 2019

    In a dry creek bed in the middle of the Australian outback is a palaeontological prize like no other: 95-million-year-old footprints stamped in a sandstone slab by three species of dinosaur. One of the beasts was a massive, lumbering sauropod that measured 18 metres from nose to tail. But the precious trackway is in danger of being damaged by the next floods, so must be moved. In the final episode of the four-part series The Chase, science journalist Belinda Smith from the ABC in Australia d...more

  • Trouble in paradise

    Feb 11 2019

    The atoll of Tetiaro is a string of tiny islands in French Polynesia, about 60km away from Tahiti. The islands – known as ‘motus’ to local Polynesians – are unique ecosystems that are crucial nesting sites for native seabirds. But invasive species threaten to disrupt these fragile environments – a fate seen across many islands in the Pacific. Rats arrived with early human settlers and have driven bird species off some of the islands. Meanwhile introduced mosquitoes have thrived in the warm con...more

  • Back from the Dead

    Feb 04 2019

    The Night Parrot was supposed to be extinct and became a legend among birdwatchers in Australia: a fat, dumpy, green parrot that lived in the desert and came out at night. The last bird seen alive was promptly shot dead in 1912. Over 90 years later, a decapitated Night Parrot was found beside a fence in outback Australia, and the hunt for a living bird was on. Ornithologists descended onto the arid plains of Australia’s vast arid interior, but it took another seven years for a single photograp...more

  • Eye in the Sky

    Jan 28 2019

    On this mission, SOFIA is setting out to study Titan, Saturn’s biggest moon, by flying into the faint shadow that it casts as it blocks the light from a faraway star. It’s a phenomenon called an occultation, and if the mission succeeds, it will reveal new details about Titan’s atmosphere. SOFIA is a very unusual observatory. It is a 747 aircraft with a hatch in the side, which opens in flight to reveal a large, custom-built telescope – carefully engineered to work inside a moving jet plane. Its...more

  • Kepler's Snowflake

    Jan 14 2019

    The Six Cornered Snowflake, a booklet written by Johannes Kepler as a New Year's gift, sought to explain the intricate and symmetrical shape of winter's tiny stars of snow. His insightful speculations about minerals and geometry were the beginning of the modern understanding of crystals. Philip Ball tells the story of how Kepler became a key figure in the scientific revolution of the 17th Century. He was a precocious mathematician who became an adviser to Emperor Rudolf II in 1600. Although he...more

  • Lucretius, Sheep and Atoms

    Jan 07 2019

    2000 years ago Lucretius composed a long poem that theorised about atoms and the natural world. Written in the first century BCE, during a chaotic and frightening time when the Roman Republic was collapsing, Lucretius encouraged people to feel free through contemplating the physics of the Universe. He said that despite living through a time of bloody civil wars and dictatorship people should not believe they were sheep who had to follow those in power. Naomi discovers that the poem is an epic,...more

  • Eddington's eclipse and Einstein's celebrity

    Dec 31 2018

    Philip Ball's tale is of a solar eclipse 100 years ago observed by Arthur Eddington, a British astronomer who travelled to the remote island of Principe off the coast of West Africa and saw the stars shift in the heavens. His observations supplied the crucial proof of a theory that transformed our notions of the cosmos and turned a German physicist named Albert Einstein into an international celebrity. But this is also a tale of how a Quaker tried to use science to unite countries. The reparatio...more

  • Earthrise

    Dec 24 2018

    On Christmas Eve in 1968 Bill Anders was in orbit around the moon in Apollo 8 when he took one of the most iconic photos of the last fifty years: Earthrise. The image got to be seen everywhere, from a stamp issued in 1969 to commemorate the success of Apollo 8, to posters that are still available today. Gaia Vince explores the impact of this image on the environmental movement and our understanding of our place in the universe. “Oh my God. Look at that picture over there. Here’s the earth com...more

  • The Supercalculators

    Dec 17 2018

    Alex Bellos is brilliant at all things mathematical, but even he can't hold a candle to the amazing mathematical feats of the supercalculators. Alex heads to Wolfsburg in Germany to meet the contestants at this year's Mental Calculation World Cup. These men and women are the fastest human number crunchers on the planet, able to multiply and divide large numbers with no need to reach for a smart phone, computer or calculator. So how do they do it, and is it a skill that any of us can learn? Alex ...more

  • The China Syndrome

    Dec 10 2018

    Plastic waste and pollution have become a global problem but is there any sign of a global solution? And how did we allow this to happen in the first place? Materials scientist and broadcaster, Professor Mark Miodownik, explores how we fell in love with plastic, why we've ended up with oceans of waste blighting the environment and what science and society can do about it. Programme Three: Roland Pease hears from Kenya where one of the most stringent bans on plastic bags has been in force for ...more

  • How Much Plastic Can We Recycle?

    Dec 03 2018

    Plastics are fantastically versatile materials that have changed our lives. It is what we do with them, when we no longer want them, that has resulted in the global plastic crisis. Mark Miodownik explores our love hate relationship with plastics. Programme Two: Things begin to go stale Plastic waste has been a global crisis waiting to happen. To date it's estimated that around 8.3 billion tonnes of waste plastic exists. That's 25 Empire State Buildings or 1 billion elephants. Incredibly around...more

  • Why We Fell In Love with Plastic

    Nov 26 2018

    Plastic waste and pollution have become a global problem but is there any sign of a global solution? And how did we allow this to happen in the first place? Materials scientist and broadcaster, Professor Mark Miodownik, explores how we fell in love with plastic, why we've ended up with oceans of waste blighting the environment and what science and society can do about it. Programme One: First Flush of Love We may not be on speaking terms right now. But we do have a love affair with plastic, ...more

  • Finding the Coelacanths

    Nov 19 2018

    The first Coelacanth was discovered by a woman in South Africa in 1938. The find, by the young museum curator, was the fish equivalent of discovering a T- Rex on the Serengeti, it took the Zoological world by storm. Presenter Adam Hart tells the story of this discovery, and the steps taken by Coelacanth biologists in the decades since to find more fish, in other populations, and record them for science. Adam hears personal accounts from a deep diver who swam with Coelacanths, Eve Marshall, conse...more

  • The Big Bang and Jet Streams

    Nov 12 2018

    Evidence for the big bang was initially thought to be a mistake in the recording. Jet streams in the upper atmosphere were revealed by the dust emitted by Krakatoa and a collection of interested citizen scientists. In the second three episodes about the genius of accidents in science, presenter Adam Hart explores two stories of unexpected observations. Sometimes accidental discoveries are bigger than you might expect. Picture: Moonlit Coast, Credit: shaunl/Getty Images

  • Viagra and CRISPR

    Nov 05 2018

    Viagra’s effects on men were first discovered as an unexpected side-effect during trials for a medication meant to help patients with a heart condition. CRISPR cas– 9 is now a tool that can be used to modify and replace genes – but it was first noted as a random collection of genes. In the first of three episodes about the genius of accidents in science, Professor Adam Hart explores how, sometimes, the results you’re looking for are not as important as those that appear unexpectedly. Picture: ...more

  • Tracking the First Animals on Earth

    Oct 29 2018

    What were the earliest animals on Earth? The origin of the animal kingdom is one of the most mysterious chapters in the evolution of life on Earth. Our animal ancestors appeared and began to diversify about half a billion years ago. What might they have looked like, and which creatures alive today can be traced to these primordial times? Answers are beginning to come with new techniques for both studying ancient fossils and for reading evolutionary history from the DNA of animals alive today. Zo...more

  • Mary Anning and Fossil Hunting

    Oct 29 2018

    Mary Anning lived in Lyme Regis on what is now known as the Jurassic Coast in the first half of the 19th century. Knowing the shore from childhood and with a remarkable eye for detection she was extremely successful in finding fossils. In 1812 she unearthed parts of an Icthyosaur and in 1823 she discovered the first skeleton of what became known as a Plesiosaurus – a long-necked, flippered creature with a tiny head. It looked a bit like an elongated turtle with no shell. Naomi Alderman tells...more

  • Cooling the City

    Oct 22 2018

    The summer of 2003 saw the largest number of deaths ever recorded in a UK heatwave - but by 2040 climate models predict the extreme summer temperatures experienced then will be normal. We will also be experiencing colder winters, and droughts and floods will become more common. Our infrastructure, housing, water, sewerage, transport and public buildings are not designed for such conditions. Gaia Vince asks how we can adapt and prepare our cities, where most people live and work, for the new no...more

  • Tourism and Transparency

    Oct 15 2018

    In the second programme exploring the Chinese approach to organ transplantation, Matthew Hill looks at what is happening today. Where are the organs coming from today? Have the Chinese overcome their traditional opposition to donating them? There is still a lack of transparency about the sources. Some critics have suggested that there is still a trade in organs and there are reports that transplant tourism is still going on. Matthew Hill talks to Chinese and international transplant doctors abou...more

  • Who To Believe?

    Oct 08 2018

    For many years the Chinese sourced organs for transplant from executed prisoners. Around a decade ago the authorities acknowledged that this practice had gone on and announced that it was to be stopped. In the first programme exploring the Chinese approach to organ transplantation Matthew Hill tells the grim story of the revelation of the source of organs, he meets a surgeon with first-hand experience of removing organs from executed prisoners. We talk to campaigners who believe the practice is ...more

  • The Long Hot Summer - Part Two

    Oct 01 2018

    This summer the Northern Hemisphere has been sweltering in unusually high temperatures. It has been hot from the Arctic to Africa. This has led to increased deaths, notably in Canada, and more wildfires, even in Lancashire and in Sweden. Can we say that this heatwave – and the extreme drought in Australia - is a result of climate change? Or is just part of the variable weather patterns we have on our planet? Roland Pease gets answers to these questions from the world’s leading climate and weat...more

  • The Long Hot Summer

    Sep 24 2018

    This summer the Northern Hemisphere has been sweltering in unusually high temperatures. It’s been hot from the Arctic to Africa. This has led to increased deaths, notably in Canada, and more wildfires, even in Lancashire and in Sweden. Can we say that this heatwave – and the extreme drought in Australia – is a result of climate change? Or is just part of the variable weather patterns we have on our planet? Roland Pease gets answers to these questions from the world’s leading climate and weathe...more

  • Sodium

    Sep 17 2018

    Sophie Scott on why sodium powers everything we do, and why it might be the key to a new generation of pain killers. Putting sodium into water is one of the most memorable experiments from school chemistry lessons. It's this ability to react ferociously with water which is the starting point for sodium's key role in powering all of biology. Simply, without sodium we wouldn't exist. It helps provide the electricity that allows us to move, breathe, think. Our understanding of sodium could help ...more

  • Iron

    Sep 10 2018

    Beyond war and peace, Dr Andrew Pontzen explores how iron has shaped human biology and culture. From weapons to ploughshares, iron holds a key place as the element for the tools of the rise and destruction of human civilisations. As a grand scale shaper of our towns and ciities and our culture it is unmatched. And yet it also has a major role to play in living cells. Andrew Pontzen, Reader in Cosmology at University College London. explores iron's sometimes ambivalent history and also del...more

  • Fluorine

    Sep 03 2018

    Chemist Andrea Sella tells the story of how the feared element ended up giving us better teeth, mood and health. Many chemists have lost their lives trying to isolate the periodic table’s most chemically reactive element – hence the nickname “the tiger of chemistry”. Fluorine can react with almost all elements. As an acid, hydrofluoric acid, it will dissolve glass. Yet chemists have been able to tame the beast – creating remarkable and safe uses for it by utilising its reactive nature that le...more

  • Hypatia: The Murdered Mathematician

    Aug 20 2018

    Naomi Alderman's tale is a murder mystery, the story of Hypatia, the mathematician murdered by a mob in the learned city of Alexandria, around the year 415 CE. Hypatia was a communicator of science, tackling difficult maths and teaching it to her students. This was incredibly important work. It was enough, at the time, to make her Alexandria’s pre-eminent mathematician, and probably therefore the leading mathematician in the world. And there’s historical evidence that Hypatia made some disco...more

  • Descartes' "Daughter"

    Aug 13 2018

    There's a story told about French philosopher René Descartes and his daughter. He boards a ship for a voyage over the North Sea with a large wooden box which he insists be handled with such great care that the sea captain’s curiosity is aroused. When Descartes is out of his cabin the sea captain opens the box and is horrified to find a life sized automaton inside. He's so shocked he throws the "daughter" overboard. Descartes championed a view of nature in which everything happened because of...more

  • Making Natural Products in the Lab

    Aug 06 2018

    Philip Ball tells the science story of German chemist Friedrich Wöhler’s creation of urea, an organic substance previously thought only to be produced by living creatures. Yet in 1828 Wöhler created urea from decidedly non-living substances. It was exciting because the accidental transformation seemed to cross a boundary: from inorganic to organic, from inert matter to a product of life. It’s a key moment in the history of chemistry but like many scientific advances, this one has also been turne...more

  • The Real Cyrano de Bergerac

    Jul 30 2018

    Philip Ball reveals the real Cyrano de Bergerac - forget the big nosed fictional character - and his links to 17th Century space flight. Cyrano was a soldier, gambler and duellist who retired from military exploits on account of his wounds around 1639, at the grand old age of 20. But he studied at university and, to judge from the books he went on to write, he was well versed in the philosophical and scientific debates of his day. He designed spaceships to travel to the moon and to the sun. Phi...more

  • The Nun’s Salamander

    Jul 23 2018

    A convent of Mexican nuns is helping to save the one of the world's most endangered and most remarkable amphibians: the axolotl, a truly bizarre creature of serious scientific interest worldwide and an animal of deep-rooted cultural significance in Mexico. The Sisters of Immaculate Health rarely venture out of their monastery in the central Mexican town of Patzcuaro. Yet they have become the most adept and successful breeders of their local species of this aquatic salamander. Scientists marve...more

  • The Aztec Salamander

    Jul 16 2018

    Victoria Gill tells the extraordinary story of the Mexican axolotl: an amphibian that is both a cultural icon and a biomedical marvel. In its domesticated form, the aquatic salamander is a valuable laboratory animal and a popular pet around the world. But in the wild, the species is on the very edge of extinction. Victoria visits one of its last hold-outs among the polluted canals in the south of Mexico City, where she meets the scientists and farmers working to save it. Producer: Andr...more

  • Gateway to the Mind

    Jul 09 2018

    The microbiome is the strange invisible world of our non human selves. On and in all of us are hoards of microbes. Their impact on our physical health is becoming clear to science, but a controversial idea is emerging too - that gut bacteria could alter what happens in our brains. In this final episode of the series BBC Science and Health correspondent James Gallagher examines a growing body of research into the gut as a gateway to the mind and why some scientists believe we could be o the cu...more

  • Dirt and Development

    Jul 02 2018

    BBC Health and Science correspondent James Gallagher explores the latest research into how our second genome, the vast and diverse array of microbes that live on and in our bodies, is driving our metabolism and our health and how we can change it for the better. In this second episode he explores how researchers are uncovering a vital relationship between the healthy bugs we accumulate in our gut and our immune system . We have over the past 50 years done a terrific job of eliminating infecti...more

  • Manipulating Our Hidden Half

    Jun 25 2018

    Are we on the cusp of a new approach to healthy living and treating disease? BBC Health and Science correspondent James Gallagher explores the latest research into how our second genome, the vast and diverse array of microbes that live on and in our bodies, is driving our metabolism and our health. Recent DNA analysis by the Human Microbiome Project detailed the vast and diverse array of microbes in and on our body - bacteria, archaea, fungi and viruses. It has been described as our second g...more

  • Do Insects Feel Pain?

    Jun 18 2018

    Insects such as fruit flies provide important insights into human biology and medicine. But should we worry whether insects experience pain and suffering in scientists’ hands? Entomologist Adam Hart visits the Fly Facility at the University of Manchester where researcher Andreas Prokop describes the many insights that experiments on the fruit fly Drosophila have provided on aspects of human biology and health. Globally billions of these little flies have died in the pursuit of this knowledg...more

  • Killing Insects for Conservation

    Jun 11 2018

    Prof Adam Hart stirred a hornet’s nest of controversy by asking the public to kill wasps for science. He explores why scientists kill insects to save them from extinction. The work of the entomologist often involves the killing of insects in large numbers. This happens in the search for new species in the exploration of the planet’s biodiversity and in ecological research to monitor the health of wild insect populations and the impact that we are having on the environment. But the methods o...more

  • What’s the Tiniest Dinosaur?

    Jun 04 2018

    Two small creatures are at the heart of today’s questions, sent in to curiouscases@bbc.co.uk. The Tiniest Dinosaur "What is the tiniest dinosaur?" asks young listener Ellie Cook, aged 11. Our hunt takes us from the discovery of dinosaurs right up to the present day, which is being hailed as a 'golden age' for palaeontology. Currently, one new species of dinosaur is unearthed on average every single week. But what's the smallest dino? And what can size reveal about the life of extinct anim...more

  • Can Anything Travel Faster Than Light?

    May 28 2018

    Two astronomical questions today sent in to curiouscases@bbc.co.uk for Drs Hannah Fry and Adam Rutherford to answer. The Cosmic Speed Limit "We often read that the fastest thing in the Universe is the speed of light. Why do we have this limitation and can anything possibly be faster?" asks Ali Alshareef from Qatif from Saudia Arabia. The team grapples with Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity, with help from cosmologist Andrew Pontzen and a British train, travelling somewhat slower than t...more

  • Why Do We Dream?

    May 21 2018

    Adventures in Dreamland "Why do we dream and why do we repeat dreams?" asks Mila O'Dea, aged 9, from Panama. Hannah Fry and Adam Rutherford delve into the science of sleep. From a pioneering experiment on rapid eye movement sleep, to a brand new 'dream signature' found in the brain, they discover how scientists are investigating our hidden dreamworld. Featuring sociologist Bill Domhoff from the University of California Santa Cruz, sleep psychologist Mark Blagrove from the University of Swans...more

  • Can We Use Chemistry to Bake the Perfect Cake?

    May 14 2018

    Domestic science is on the agenda today, with two culinary questions sent in by listeners to curiouscases@bbc.co.uk The Curious Cake-Off Can chemistry help us bake the perfect cake? Listener Helena McGinty aged 69 from Malaga in Spain asks, "'I have always used my mother's sponge cake recipe. But is there a noticeable difference in the outcome if you vary some of the ingredients, or the method?" Hannah and Adam go head to head in a competition to create the perfect cake using the power of...more

  • Why Do Some Songs Get Stuck in Your Head?

    May 07 2018

    Two very annoying cases today sent in by listeners to curiouscases@bbc.co.uk to our scientific sleuths, mathematician Dr Hannah Fry and geneticist Dr Adam Rutherford. The Sticky Song Why do songs get stuck in our heads? And what makes some tunes stickier than others? Drs Rutherford and Fry investigate 'earworms', those musical refrains that infect our brains for days. Every morning BBC 6Music DJ Shaun Keaveny asks his listeners for their earworms, and Hannah finds out which tunes keep c...more

  • Behaving Better Online

    Apr 30 2018

    Humans have become the most successful species on earth because of our ability to cooperate. Often we help strangers when there is no obvious benefit to us as individuals. But today in the age when social media and the internet could be seen as a way of bringing people together more than ever, the opposite is happening. In this two-part series for Discovery science writer Gaia Vince meets the psychologists, evolutionary biologists and neuroscientists who are studying our built in human behaviour...more

  • The Cooperative Species

    Apr 23 2018

    People are incredibly rude to each other on social media. Much ruder than they would ever be face to face. The great potential of the internet to bring humanity together in a glorious collaborating network seems naïve – instead of embracing a massive extension of our social circles, we seem to revert to tribalism and conflict online. And while we generally conduct our real-life interactions with strangers with politeness and respect, online, we can be horrible. But it was our human ability t...more

  • Bringing Schrodinger's Cat to Life

    Apr 16 2018

    Schrodinger's cat is the one that's famously alive and dead. At the same time. Impossible! Roland Pease meets the quantum scientists hoping to bring one to life in the laboratory. Not a real cat, to be fair. But large biomolecules, viruses, even bacteria, that can exhibit the quantum duality parodied in the paradox first described by one of the fathers of quantum physics. Because if they succeed, they may learn something about the interface between the quantum world, and the human world we live ...more

  • Barbara McLintock

    Apr 09 2018

    Barbara McClintock’s work on the genetics of corn won her a Nobel prize in 1983. Her research on jumping genes challenged the over-simplified picture of chromosomes and DNA that Watson and Crick’s discovery has all too often been used to support. During the half century that she worked at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory she became something of a living legend, a pioneer in a time when women weren’t expected to take much interest in science. In that story, she made a profound discovery that her...more

  • D'Arcy Thompson

    Apr 02 2018

    One hundred years ago D'Arcy Wentworth Thompson published On Growth and Form, a book with a mission to put maths into biology. He showed how the shapes, forms and growth processes we see in the living world aren’t some arbitrary result of evolution’s blind searching, but are dictated by mathematical rules. A flower, a honeycomb, a dragonfly’s wing: it’s not sheer chance that these look the way they do. But can these processes be explained by physics? D'Arcy Thompson loved nature’s shapes and inf...more

  • The Far Future

    Mar 26 2018

    How do we prepare for the distant future? Helen Keen meets the people who try to. If our tech society continues then we can leave data for future generations in huge, mundane quantities, detailing our every tweet and Facebook 'like'. But how long could this information be stored? And if society as we know it ends, will our achievements vanish with it? How do we plan for and protect those who will be our distant descendants and yet may have hopes, fears, languages, beliefs, even religions that...more

  • Why We Cut Men

    Mar 19 2018

    Male circumcision is one of the oldest and most common surgical procedures in human history. Around the world, 1 in 3 men are cut. It’s performed as a religious rite in Islam and Judaism; in other cultures it’s part of initiation, a social norm or marker of identity. Some individuals think it’s cleaner, sexier or safer. In this documentary, anthropologist Mary-Ann Ochota explores the reasons we cut men. She meets people who passionately promote the practice – and others who protest against it. ...more

  • Iodine

    Mar 12 2018

    The phrase 'essential 'element' is often incorrectly used to describe the nutrients we need, but can aptly be applied to iodine - without it we would suffer severe developmental problems. Iodine is a key component of thyroid hormones, responsible for the regulation of our metabolism. And yet most of us have no idea how much we need, nor where it comes from. In her research, Margaret Rayman, Professor of Nutritional Medicine at Surrey University, has found pregnant women in particular are at ...more

  • Phosphorus

    Mar 05 2018

    What links trade unions with urine, Syria with semiconductors, and bones and bombs? The answer is phosphorus, UCL Inorganic Chemistry Professor Andrea Sella, who is himself engaged in researching new phosphorus based materials, looks at this often rather frightening element. We hear how the health impact of phosphorus on a group of Irish girls changed politics, how the element has been used as a weapon of war and we peer into the future, as chemists break new ground on what might be possible w...more

  • Lead

    Feb 26 2018

    From the plumbing of ancient Rome, to lead acid batteries, paint, petrol and a dangerous legacy, the metal lead has seen a myriad of uses and abuses over thousands of years. In bullets, and poisons it has killed us both quickly and slowly, and yet its malleability, low melting point and resistance to corrosion make it a fantastic material for all kinds of containers and water proofing. And it is key to one of the most commonly used, and ignored, devices on the planet, the car battery. However...more

  • The Power of Sloth

    Feb 19 2018

    Zoologist and founder of the Sloth Appreciation Society, Lucy Cooke, unleashes her inner sloth to discover why being lazy could actually be the ultimate evolutionary strategy. The explorers of the New World described sloths as ‘the lowest form of existence’, but sloths are actually some of the most enduring of all tropical mammals. They make up one third of the mammalian biomass in rainforests and have survived some 64 million years - outliving far flashier animals like sabre tooth tigers. ...more

  • Pain of Torture

    Feb 12 2018

    Does knowing that someone is inflicting pain on you deliberately make the pain worse? Professor Irene Tracey meets survivors of torture and examines the dark side of pain. Producer: Geraldine Fitzgerald (Photo: A woman mourns during the funeral procession of Abdulrassul Hujairi. Credit: Joseph Eid/AFP)

  • Controlling Pain

    Feb 05 2018

    What if your brain could naturally control pain? Professor Irene Tracey and her colleagues are trying to unlock the natural mechanisms in the brain that limit the amount of pain we feel. We hear about how children learning judo are taught special techniques and from ex-marine Chris Shirley who ran a marathon carrying a 45kg rucksack and could ignore the pain of the blisters and torn shoulder muscles. One study found that religious people feel less pain than agnostics by looking at a pic...more

  • Knowing Pain

    Jan 29 2018

    Scientists reveal why we feel pain and the consequences of life without pain. One way to understand the experience of pain is to look at unusual situations which give clues to our everyday agony. Phantom limb pain was described in ancient times but only after WWI did it gain acceptance in modern medicine. For those living with it, it can be a painful reminder of a lost limb. New studies are now unravelling why the brain generates this often unpleasant experience and how the messages can be us...more

  • Seeing Pain

    Jan 22 2018

    Mystery still surrounds the experience of pain. It is highly subjective but why do some people feel more pain than others and why does the brain appear to switch off under anaesthesia so we are unaware of the surgeon’s scalpel? Professor Irene Tracey uses brain scanners to ask if we can actually see pain in the brain. On air we hear for the first time the results of the latest research into diabetes and nerve pain. Promising new techniques means scientists are able to see regions in the brain wh...more

  • Humphry Davy

    Jan 15 2018

    In Bristol in 1799, a young man started to experiment with newly discovered gases, looking for a cure for tuberculosis. Humphry Davy, aged 20, nearly killed himself inhaling carbon monoxide. Nitrous oxide was next. It was highly pleasurable, ‘particularly in the chest and extremities’ and he began to dance around his laboratory ‘like a madman’, before passing out. By day, he gave the gas to patients, carefully noting their reactions. In the evenings, he invited his friends over to have a laugh (...more

  • Lise Meitner

    Jan 09 2018

    Philip Ball reveals the dramatic tale of Lise Meitner, the humanitarian physicist of Jewish descent, who unlocked the science of the atom bomb after a terrifying escape from Hitler's Germany. One of the most brilliant nuclear scientists working in Germany her flight from terror cost Hitler’s regime dearly. In the early 20th Century it was barely possible for women to work in science at all and yet Einstein once called Meitner Germany’s own Marie Curie. It was Meitner’s insight that began the ...more

  • The Day the Earth Moved

    Jan 01 2018

    Roland Pease tells the story of how fifty years ago geologists finally became convinced that the earth’s crust is made up of shifting plates. The idea of mobile continents, continental drift, had been talked about, for example because it looked like Africa and South America had once been joined, and were now separated by the Atlantic. But given the solidity of rocks and the vastness of continents, that idea made no sense. Until plate tectonics, as it became known, gave it a scientific basis and ...more

  • Maria Merian

    Dec 25 2017

    Maria Merian was born in 1647. At the time of her birth, Shakespeare had been dead for 30 years; Galileo had only just stood trial for arguing that the Earth moved around the Sun. And yet, here in Germany, was a child who would become an important but oft-forgotten figure of science. Aged 13, she mapped out metamorphosis, catching caterpillars from her garden and painting them in exquisite detail. At that point, most believed that caterpillars spontaneously generated from cabbages and maggots...more

  • Alcuin of York

    Dec 18 2017

    The Dark Ages are often painted as an era of scholarly decline. The Western Roman Empire was on its way out, books were few and far between, and, if you believe the stereotype, mud-splattered peasants ran around in rags. However, it was far more intellectually vibrant than you might imagine. Out of this era emerged a set of ‘problems to sharpen the young,’ including the famous river crossing puzzle that’s still taught in maths today. The presumed author of these riddles is Alcuin of York – ‘t...more

  • Cheating the Atmosphere

    Dec 11 2017

    All countries are supposed to measure and report their greenhouse gas emissions but BBC environment correspondent, Matt McGrath, reveals there are gaping holes in national inventories. He uncovers serious failings in countries’ accounts of warming gases with many not reporting at all. There are disturbing signs that some banned warming chemicals, which are supposed to have been phased out completely, are once again on the rise. And evidence that worthless carbon credits are still being traded. ...more

  • Better Brains

    Dec 04 2017

    Every three seconds someone is diagnosed with dementia, and two thirds of the cases are Alzheimer’s Disease. As the global population ages, this is becoming an epidemic, and with no cures currently available for the collection of neurodegenerative conditions that include Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Motor Neurone Disease the public and personal cost is escalating. Sue Broom reports on new efforts to find ways to stop the progress of these diseases for the first time, and to bring treatment for n...more

  • What would happen if you fell into a black hole?

    Nov 21 2017

    Two deadly cases today sent in by listeners to curiouscases@bbc.co.uk The Dark Star "What's inside a black hole and could we fly a spaceship inside?" asks Jorge Luis Alvarez from Mexico City. Astrophysicist Sheila Rowan explains how we know invisible black holes actually exist. Plus cosmologist Andrew Pontzen is on hand to help cook one up. But which of our intrepid doctors will volunteer to fly into the heart of a black hole? Kate Bush’s Sonic Weapon "It started while listening to the excel...more

  • What will happen when the Earth’s poles swap?

    Nov 20 2017

    The Polar Opposite No one knows why the Earth's magnetic North and South poles swap. But polar reversals have happened hundreds of times over the history of the Earth. John Turk emailed curiouscases@bbc.co.uk to ask, “when is the next pole swap due and what will happen to us?” Featuring Prof Lucie Green from Mullard Space Science Laboratory and Dr Phil Livermore from the University of Leeds. Plus, astronaut Terry Virts, author of The View from Above, describes his experiences of a strange magne...more

  • Why can’t we remember being a baby?

    Nov 13 2017

    The Astronomical Balloon "How far up can a helium balloon go? Could it go out to space?" asks Juliet Gok, aged 9. This calls for an experiment! Dr Keri Nicholl helps Adam launch a party balloon and track its ascent. But their test doesn't quite go to plan. Meanwhile, Hannah discovers where space begins by asking Public Astronomer Dr Marek Kukula, from the Royal Observatory Greenwich. Send your Curious Cases to the team: curiouscases@bbc.co.uk The Forgetful Child "Why don't we remember the first...more

  • Why can’t we remember being a baby?

    Nov 13 2017

    The Astronomical Balloon "How far up can a helium balloon go? Could it go out to space?" asks Juliet Gok, aged 9. This calls for an experiment! Dr Keri Nicholl helps Adam launch a party balloon and track its ascent. But their test doesn't quite go to plan. Meanwhile, Hannah discovers where space begins by asking Public Astronomer Dr Marek Kukula, from the Royal Observatory Greenwich. Send your Curious Cases to the team: curiouscases@bbc.co.uk The Forgetful Child "Why don't we remember the first...more

  • How do cats find their way home?

    Nov 06 2017

    “How on earth do cats find their way back to their previous home when they move house?" asks Vicky Cole from Nairobi in Kenya. Our enduring love for our feline friends began when Egyptian pharaohs began to welcome domesticated moggies into their homes. Pictured reclining in baskets at the feet of royalty, pet cats soon became fashionable throughout society in Egypt. Today they are the most popular pet in the world, and home is definitely where their hearts lie. "Whereas dogs are bonded to pe...more

  • How much of my body is bacteria?

    Oct 30 2017

    Science sleuths Drs Rutherford & Fry take on everyday mysteries and solve them with the power of science. Two cases in this episode concerning the inner workings of our bodies, and not for the faint hearted! The Broken Stool "Science tells us that our body houses microbial organisms. Then how much our weight is really our weight? If I am overweight, is it because of my own body cells or excess microflora?" asks Ajay Mathur from Mumbai in India. Adam bravely sends off a personal sample to the ...more

  • Sydney Brenner: A Revolutionary Biologist

    Oct 23 2017

    Sydney Brenner was one of the 20th Century’s greatest biologists. Born 90 years ago in South Africa to impoverished immigrant parents, Dr Brenner became a leading figure in the biological revolution that followed the discovery of the structure of DNA by Crick and Watson, using data from Rosalind Franklin, in the 1950s. Brenner’s insights and inventive experiments laid foundation stones for new science of molecular biology and the genetic age in which we live today, from the Human Genome Projec...more

  • SOS Snail

    Oct 16 2017

    This is a big story about a little snail. Biologist Helen Scales relates an epic tale that spans the globe and involves calamity, tragedy, extinction and we hope, salvation. It stars the tiny tree-dwelling mollusc from French Polynesia, Partula, a snail that has captivated scientists for centuries. Like Charles Darwin studied finches on the Galapagos, Partula became an icon of evolution because, in the living laboratories of the Pacific islands, it had evolved into multiple species. But a calami...more

  • Indian Science – The Colonial Legacy

    Oct 09 2017

    For more than 200 years Britain ruled India, bringing many aspects of British culture to India - including European science developed during the enlightenment. However centuries earlier India had already pioneered work in astronomy, mathematics and engineering. How was India’s scientific progress affected by colonialism? Did British rule hold the country back, or did it drive it forward? Presented by Angela Saini. Picture: The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) communication satel...more

  • India's Ancient Science

    Oct 02 2017

    We go behind the scenes of a new exhibition on India at London’s Science Museum. What can historical objects tell us about India’s rich, and often hidden scientific past? We look at the influential mathematics, metallurgy and civil engineering of ancient India. The exhibition also contain artefacts from India’s time under the British Empire. We ask how the many years of colonial rule shaped the more recent scientific development of India. Science journalist Angela Saini presents. Imag...more

  • Africa’s Great Green Wall

    Sep 25 2017

    Can Africa’s Great Green Wall beat back the Sahara desert and reverse the degrading landscape? The ambitious 9 miles wide and 5000 miles long line of vegetation will stretch all the way from Dakar in the west to Djibouti in the east. Thomas Fessy is in Senegal where the wall has already begun to evolve into a series of forests and garden communities. He meets the planners, planters, ecologists and local villagers to hear how its early progress is reversing years of poor land use, turning no...more

  • Internet of Things

    Sep 18 2017

    Can we Control the Dark Side of the Internet? The Internet is the world's most widely used communications tool. It’s a fast and efficient way of delivering information. However it is also quite dumb, neutral, treating equally all the data it passes around the world. From data that forms scientific research papers, the wealth of social media to keep us all connected with friends and relatives, entertainment or material we would rather not see- from political propaganda to horrific violence, th...more

  • Dark Side of the World Wide Web

    Sep 11 2017

    With the coming of the World Wide Web in the 1990s internet access opened up to everybody, it was no longer the preserve of academics and computer hobbyists. Already prior to the Web, the burgeoning internet user groups and chat rooms had tested what was acceptable behaviour online, but access was still limited. Aleks Krotoski asks whether the Web through enabling much wider use of the internet is the villain of the piece in facilitating not just entertainment and commerce, but all aspects ...more

  • The Origin of the Internet

    Sep 04 2017

    Just how did the Internet become the most powerful communications medium on the planet, and why does it seem to be an uncontrollable medium for good and bad? With no cross border regulation the internet can act as an incredible force for connecting people and supporting human rights and yet at the same time convey the most offensive material imaginable. It has become the most useful research tool on earth but also the most effective way of delivering threats to the security of governments, the ...more

  • Silicon - The World's Building Block

    Aug 28 2017

    Silicon is literally everywhere in both the natural and built environment, from the dominance of silicate rocks in the earth crust, to ubiquitous sand in building materials and as the basis for glass. We've also harnessed silicon's properties as a semiconductor to build the modern electronics industry - without silicon personal computers and smartphones would simply not exist. Silicon is also found widely across the universe. It is formed in stars, particularly when they explode. And the ...more

  • The Day the Sun Went Dark

    Aug 21 2017

    For the first time in almost 100 years the USA is experiencing a full solar eclipse from coast to coast on August 21st 2017. Main image: Totality during the solar eclipse at Palm Cove on November 14, 2012 in Palm Cove, Australia. Credit: Ian Hitchcock / Getty Images

  • Carbon - the backbone of life

    Aug 14 2017

    Carbon is widely considered to be the key element in forming life. It's at the centre of DNA, and the molecules upon which all living things rely. Monica Grady, Professor of Planetary Science at the Open University, explores the nature of carbon, from its formation in distant stars to its uses and abuses here on earth. She looks at why it forms the scaffold upon which living organisms are built, and how the mechanisms involved have helped inform the development of new carbon based technol...more

  • And then there was Li

    Aug 07 2017

    From the origins of the universe, though batteries, glass and grease to influencing the working of our brains, neuroscientist Sophie Scott tracks the incredible power of lithium. It's 200 years ago this year that lithium was first isolated and named, but this, the lightest of all metals, had been used as a drug for centuries before. From the industrial revolution it proves its worth as a key ingredient in glass and grease, and as the major component in lithium ion batteries it powers ever...more

  • Oxygen: The breath of Life

    Aug 01 2017

    Oxygen appeared on Earth over two billion years ago and life took off. Now it makes up just over a fifth of the air. Trevor Cox, professor of acoustic engineering at the University of Salford, England, tells the story of oxygen on Earth and in space. Without oxygen, there would be no life on Earth, yet it was not discovered until late in the 18th Century. During the Great Oxidation Event, three billion years ago, cyanobacteria, thought to be the earliest forms of life on our planet, started ...more

  • Mercury - Chemistry's Jekyll and Hyde

    Jul 24 2017

    The most beautiful and shimmering of the elements, the weirdest, and yet the most reviled. Chemist Andrea Sella tell the story of Mercury, explaining the significance of this element not just for chemistry, but also the development of modern civilisation. It's been a a source of wonder for thousands of years - why is this metal a liquid? and what is its contribution to art, from the Stone Age to the Renaissance? We look at how Mercury is integral to hundreds of years of scientific dis...more

  • Eating Well in Lyon: Healthy Diets to prevent Bowel Cancer

    Jul 17 2017

    Anu Anand is in Lyon, looking at what we eat and drink and the risk of bowel cancer

  • Catching Prostate Cancer Early in Trinidad

    Jul 10 2017

    Anu Anand on detecting and treating prostate cancer in Trinidad and Tobago.

  • The USA’s Deadly Racial Divide: Black Women & Breast Cancer

    Jul 03 2017

    Anu Anand explores why more black women are more likely to die of breast cancer in the US

  • Screening and Treating Cervical Cancer in Tanzania

    Jun 26 2017

    Anu Anand on how vinegar and a head torch are used to tackle cervical cancer in Tanzania

  • Taking On Tobacco - Lung Cancer in Uruguay

    Jun 21 2017

    For more than 65 years we have known that smoking kills. So how can it be that a Mexican wave of tobacco use, disease and death is heading at breakneck speed towards the world’s poorest people? Millions will die of lung cancer and it is hard to grasp that this is a largely preventable disease. Uruguay in South America could hold the key to breaking this wave. Under a President who is a cancer specialist they introduced some of the most radical tobacco control policies in the world and attrac...more

  • Dying in Comfort in Mongolia

    Jun 16 2017

    The Mongolian matriarch who is helping people with terminal liver cancer die in comfort

  • Can Robots be Truly Intelligent?

    Jun 05 2017

    From Skynet and the Terminator franchise, through Wargames and Ava in Ex Machina, artificial intelligences pervade our cinematic experiences. But AIs are already in the real world, answering our questions on our phones and making diagnoses about our health. Adam Rutherford asks if we are ready for AI, when fiction becomes reality, and we create thinking machines.

  • Robots - More Human than Human?

    May 29 2017

    Robots are becoming present in our lives, as companions, carers and as workers. Adam Rutherford explores our relationship with these machines. Have we made them to be merely more dextrous versions of us? Why do we want to make replicas of ourselves? Should we be worried that they could replace us at work? Is it a good idea that robots are becoming carers for the elderly? Adam Rutherford meets some of the latest robots and their researchers and explores how the current reality has been influe...more

  • History of the Rise of the Robots

    May 22 2017

    The idea of robots goes back to the Ancient Greeks. In myths Hephaestus, the god of fire, created robots to assist in his workshop. In the medieval period the wealthy showed off their automata. In France in the 15th century a Duke of Burgundy had his chateau filled with automata that played practical tricks on his guests, such as spraying water at them. By the 18th century craftsmen were making life like performing robots. In 1738 in Paris people queued to see the amazing flute playing automaton...more

  • Quantum Supremacy

    May 15 2017

    IBM is giving users worldwide the chance to use a quantum computer; Google is promising "quantum supremacy" by the end of the year; Microsoft's Station Q is working on the hardware and operating system for a machine that will outpace any conventional computer. Roland Pease meets some of the experts, and explores the technology behind the next information revolution. Picture: Bright future for Quantum Computing, credit: Jonathan Home @ETH

  • Re-engineering Life

    May 08 2017

    Synthetic biology, coming to a street near you. Engineers and biologists who hack the information circuits of living cells are already getting products to the market. Roland Pease meets the experts who are transforming living systems to transform our lives. Picture: MIT spinout Synlogic is re-programming bacteria found in the gut as "living therapeutics" to treat major diseases and rare genetic disorders, courtesy of Synlogic

  • Hunting for Life on Mars

    May 01 2017

    As a small rocky planet, Mars is similar in many respects to the Earth and for that reason, many have thought it may harbour some kind of life. A hundred years ago, there was serious talk about the possibility of advanced civilisations there. Even in early 1970s, scientists mused that plant-like aliens might grow in the Martian soil. The best hope now is for something microbial. But the discovery that even simple life survives there or did some time in its history would be a profound one. We wou...more

  • Lifechangers: Charles Bolden

    Apr 24 2017

    In Lifechangers, Kevin Fong talks to people about their lives in science. Major General Charles Bolden – a former NASA administrator – talks to Kevin Fong about his extraordinary life, from childhood in racially segregated South Carolina to the first African American to command a space shuttle. He had originally hoped to join the Navy, but was unable to as an African American. Although Charles refused to take no for an answer and after much petitioning he was accepted. From there he reached f...more

  • Lifechangers: Neil deGrasse Tyson

    Apr 17 2017

    In Lifechangers, Kevin Fong talks to people about their lives in science. Astrophysicist and Director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York City, Neil deGrasse Tyson is well known in the US since he presented the TV series Cosmos: a spacetime odyssey. He talks to Kevin Fong about growing up in Brooklyn, becoming obsessed with the night sky and how he became a broadcaster and writer. Image: Neil deGrasse Tyson, © Cindy Ord/Getty Images for FOX

  • Lifechangers: George Takei

    Apr 10 2017

    In the start of a new series of Lifechangers, Kevin Fong talks to three people about their lives in science. His first conversation is with a man better known for his life in science fiction, George Takei, the Japanese American actor who played Sulu in the TV series, Star Trek. They discuss the voyages of the Starship Enterprise and the ideas of other worlds featured in Star Trek. He talks about his own epic life journey – how his family was imprisoned when the US joined the Second World War ...more

  • The Bee All and End All

    Apr 06 2017

    Bees pollinate and can detect bombs and compose music. What would we do without them? The world owes a debt of gratitude to this hard working but under-appreciated insect. One third of the food we eat would not be available without bees, meaning our lives would be unimaginably different without them. Bee populations are dropping by up to 80% in some countries and the consequences are potentially catastrophic. The use of neonics pesticides in farming has been one of the main causes in the decl...more

  • Extending Embryo Research

    Mar 27 2017

    Since the birth of Louise Brown - the world’s first IVF baby - in England in 1978, many children have been born through in vitro fertilisation. IVF doesn’t work for everyone but over the last few decades basic research into human reproduction has brought about huge improvements. In the UK the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act, passed in 1990, made it illegal for research on human embryos to be permitted beyond 14 days. In a dozen other countries, from Canada and Australia to Iceland and...more

  • The Split Second Decision

    Mar 20 2017

    As the pace of technology moves at ever greater speeds, how vulnerable are we when making split second decisions? Kevin Fong flies with the Helicopter Emergency Medical Service, making split-second, life-or-death decisions. He examines how we can come to terms with the growing challenge of quick and accurate front line decision making. Picture: Presenter, Kevin Fong in air ambulance, Credit: BBC

  • Human Hibernation

    Mar 13 2017

    Ever wished you could miss an entire cold dark winter like bears or dormice? Kevin Fong explores the possibilities than humans could hibernate. This ability could help us recover from serious injury or make long space flights pass in a flash. The first report on human hibernation in a medical journal was in the BMJ in 1900. It was an account of Russian peasants who, the author claimed, were able to hibernate. Existing in a state approaching "chronic famine", residents of the north-eastern Psk...more

  • Delivering Clean Air

    Mar 03 2017

    Internet shopping continues to rise worldwide. That means a lot more delivery vans on the streets of our towns and cities. Those vans and trucks, often powered by dirty diesel engines, are contributing to air pollution problems that can cause significant increases in premature death and great discomfort for people suffering from heart and lung conditions. As part of the BBC’s So I Can Breathe season Tom Heap sets out to find innovative solutions. Could drones or robots be the answer? Could we...more

  • Make Me a Cyborg

    Feb 27 2017

    Frank Swain can hear Wi-Fi. Diagnosed with early deafness aged 25, Frank decided to turn his misfortune to his advantage by modifying his hearing aids to create a new sense. He documented the start of his journey three years ago on Radio 4 in 'Hack My Hearing'. Since then, Frank has worked with sound artist Daniel Jones to detect and sonify Wi-Fi connections around him. He joins a community around the world who are extending their experience beyond human limitations. In 'Meet the Cyborg...more

  • Why do some people have no sense of direction?

    Feb 21 2017

    Two challenges for the team today involving singing and navigating. The Melodic Mystery "Why is my mother tone deaf?" asks listener Simon, "and can I do anything to ensure my son can at least carry a tune?" Hannah admits to struggling to hold a tune and has a singing lesson with teacher Michael Bonshor, although it doesn’t go quite to plan. We meet Martin who hates music because he has the clinical form of tone deafness, known as amusia. Just as people with dyslexia see words differently to ...more

  • Why am I left-handed?

    Feb 13 2017

    Neal Shepperson asks, "What determines left or right handedness and why are us lefties in the minority?" One in ten people are left-handed, but where does this ratio come from and when did it appear in our evolutionary past? Hannah talks to primatologist Prof Linda Marchant from Miami University about why Neanderthal teeth could hold the answer. Prof Chris McManus from University College London tells Adam about his quest to track down the genes responsible for whether we're right or left hand...more

  • Does the full Moon make us act oddly?

    Feb 06 2017

    Listener Paul Don asks: "I'm wondering what's the feasibility of terraforming another planet ie Mars and if it is possible to do the same thing with something like the moon? Or, why isn't there already a moon-base? Surely that is easier." Dr Adam Rutherford and Dr Hannah Fry consider moving to another planet, and discover what challenges they would need to overcome to live in space. They consult engineer Prof Danielle George from the University of Manchester and Dr Louisa Preston, UK Space Agen...more

  • Why do we get middle-aged spread?

    Jan 30 2017

    Two cases today for Drs Adam Rutherford & Hannah Fry to investigate, involving strength and weight. The Portly Problem "Why do we have middle aged spread?" asks Bart Janssen from New Zealand. In this episode we ponder the science of fat, from obese mice to big bottoms. Why do we put on weight in middle age? And are some types of fat better than others? Hannah meets Prof Steve Bloom at Imperial College, London to discuss why pears are better than apples when it comes to body shape. And Adam t...more

  • Does nothing exist?

    Jan 23 2017

    "Is there any such thing as nothing?" This question from Bill Keck sparked a lot of head scratching. Dr Adam Rutherford and Dr Hannah Fry first consider the philosophy and physics of nothing. As Prof Frank Close, author of Nothing: A Very Short Introduction explains, nothing has intrigued great thinkers for thousands of years, from the Ancient Greeks to today's particle physicists. Otto Von Geuricke, the Mayor of Magdeburg in Germany, invented the artificial vacuum pump in the 17th Century a...more

  • Sesame Open

    Jan 16 2017

    There's a new light of hope in the Middle East. It's a scientific experiment called SESAME - intended to do world-class science and bring together researchers from divided nations. Its members include Palestine and Israel, Pakistan and Iran, Jordan, Egypt, and more. First conceived in the late 1990s, it has just seen the first spark of electricity flow through its high-vacuum steel pipes, last week, and first science should follow soon. The BBC’s Roland Pease paid his second visit to the SESAME...more

  • The Future of the Climate Deal

    Jan 09 2017

    The incoming administration of President Trump has frightened many in the international environmental community. The result of US election in November was announced during the 2016 Marrakech UN Climate Change Conference, a meeting where most delegates were working to deliver on the promises of the previous Paris accord. Instead, a new US direction seemed to have emerged, with some in the new US cabinet going so far as to suggest the US should withdraw altogether from Paris, scrap the US’s own Cl...more

  • Science Stories: Series 3 - Mesmerism and Parapsychology

    Jan 02 2017

    Anton Mesmer was a doctor who claimed he could cure people with an unknown force of animal magnetism. He was the subject to a committee that found there was no evidence for his powers. Phil Ball tallks to Simon Shaffer, Professor of History of Science at Cambridge University, about the rise of showmanship in science at the time of Mesmer in the later 18th Century, and to Professor Richard Wiseman of Hertfordshire University about contemporary parapsychology. Image: 1784: Franz Friedrich Anton M...more

  • Science Stories: Series 3 - The Woman Who Tamed Lightning

    Dec 26 2016

    Naomi Alderman tells the story of Hertha Marks Ayrton, the first woman to be admitted to the Institution of Electrical Engineers, who improved electric arc lights. Photo: Street lamps light up a road in Colombo, credit: Ishara S.KODIKARA/AFP/Getty Images

  • Science Stories: Series 3 - Testosterone: Elixir of Masculinity

    Dec 19 2016

    Testosterone has been claimed as one of the most important drivers of human life – through the agency of sex and aggression. In the 19th century, Charles-Eduoard Brown-Séquard injected himself with extracts from ground-up animal testicles, and made startling claims for its rejuvenating properties and its ability to enhance virility. But the amount of testosterone derived from the injection was actually so small that it could only have been a placebo effect. Today synthesised testosterone is incr...more

  • Science Stories: Series 3 - Making the Earth Move

    Dec 12 2016

    Prior to 1543 it was generally believed that the earth lay static in the centre of the universe, while the Sun, moon, planets and stars revolved around it in various complex paths, some even looping back and forth, as described by the Egyptian astronomer Ptolemy over a millennium before. This Ptolemaic system sat comfortably reconciled with philosophy and biblical scripture, not to mention immediate experience and observations. In the 16th century astronomy and astrology were closely intertwine...more

  • Origins of Human Culture

    Dec 05 2016

    We humans are such a successful species. Homo sapiens have been around for only around 100 000 years and in that time we have utterly transformed the world around us. Our shelters allow us to live in all climates and from the poles to the tropics; our technology lets us communicate across the planet. We’ve created art and music and literature; and our agriculture has changed global biodiversity, shifting forever the way we feed ourselves. In other words, human culture dominates the earth. Gaia...more

  • Mind Reading

    Nov 28 2016

    Whether it's gossiping over a drink, teaching our children, or politicians debating we use words to communicate with each other and share ideas. It’s what makes us human. But what if we can’t? Could it be possible to broadcast our thoughts directly from our brains without the need for speech? Gaia Vince meets the scientists who say they are getting close to being able to read minds. For the last decade neuroscientists have been using fMRI brain scanners and EEG to try to communicate with peo...more

  • Custom of Cutting

    Nov 21 2016

    More than 200 million women and girls alive today have undergone female genital mutilation, or cutting. It is where parts or all of a girl's genitals are damaged or removed. There are no medical benefits to FGM, and people who undergo the practice can face problems in later pregnancies, infections and even death due to blood loss. FGM is recognised internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women. The head of the UNFPA recently described it as child abuse. The BBC's Global H...more

  • The Inflamed Mind

    Nov 14 2016

    Depression or psychotic illness is experienced by hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of people in the UK. James Gallagher talks to the psychiatrists investigating this new understanding of mental illness and to people who may benefit from treatments aimed at the immune systems rather than their brain cells. “I believe this is one of the strongest discoveries in psychiatry in the last twenty years”, says Professor Carmine Pariante of his and other research on the immune system and depres...more

  • The City that Fell into the Earth

    Nov 07 2016

    How do you move a city? Lesley Riddoch travels to Arctic Sweden to find out. Kiruna is gradually sliding into Europe's biggest iron ore mine. The city has to be rebuilt two miles away. That requires an extraordinary blend of planning, architecture, technology and stoicism. If anyone can do it then it's the Swedes.

  • The Sun King of China

    Oct 31 2016

    Meet Huang Ming, the Chinese inventor who describes himself as, 'the number one crazy solar guy in the world'. One of the prize exhibits of his museum in northern China is a vintage solar panel. It is a water heater, installed by President Jimmy Carter on the roof of the West Wing of the White House. Back in 1979 the installation was meant to symbolise a new solar-powered future for America. Instead, oil prices fell and Ronald Reagan removed the White House panels. Thirty-seven years on and ...more

  • The Mars of the Mid-Atlantic

    Oct 24 2016

    Ascension Island is a tiny scrap of British territory, marooned in the tropical mid-Atlantic roughly halfway between Brazil and Africa. It is the tip of a giant undersea volcano – rugged, remote and, up until around 150 years ago, almost completely devoid of vegetation. Peter Gibbs visits to learn how 19th Century botanist Joseph Hooker, encouraged by Charles Darwin, planted a forest on the island’s summit to trap moisture brought by the trade winds, introducing a panoply of flora from around...more

  • Creating the Crick

    Oct 17 2016

    The Francis Crick Institute, in the centre of London, is the UK’s brand new, game-changing centre for biology and medical research. Roland Pease joins the scientists as they move into the building. Sir Paul Nurse, Nobel Laureate, one of the UK’s top biologists and director of the Crick explains what makes the new institute so special. Professor Richard Treisman, who helped shape its vision, shows Roland how the building is designed to encourage collaboration. And Roland learns how cancer researc...more

  • Black Holes: A Tale of Cosmic Death and Rebirth

    Oct 10 2016

    The discovery of gravitational waves by the LIGO observatory opens up a new form of astronomy, which will allow scientists explore the ultimate fate of dead stars, Black Holes. Roland Pease reports. (Photo: Gravitational waves © Nasa)

  • The Whale Menopause

    Oct 03 2016

    Killer whales and humans are almost unique in the animal kingdom. The females of both species go through the menopause in their 40s or 50s, and then live for decades without producing any more offspring themselves. It is an extremely rare phenomenon. No other mammal does this, including other apes, monkeys and elephants, with the exception of another species of toothed whale. There are good grounds for thinking the menopause evolved for a reason, but why? BBC science reporter Victoria Gill ta...more

  • Reversing Parkinson's

    Sep 26 2016

    Parkinson’s Disease is one of the major neurodegenerative conditions. Cells die, for reasons not fully understood, causing a reduction in the production of the neurotransmitter, dopamine, and a raft of physical and behavioural problems. Although effective drug treatments are available, they wear off over time and have side effects. The highly individual nature of the condition and variation in its progression also makes dosage difficult. Sue Broom reports on two new approaches that could lead to...more

  • Could we send our litter into space?

    Sep 19 2016

    Two spacey cases today for doctors Rutherford and Fry to investigate, both sent in to BBC Future via Facebook. The Stellar Dustbin 'Can we shoot garbage into the sun?' asks Elisabeth Hill. The doctors embark on an astronomical thought experiment to see how much it would cost to throw Hannah's daily rubbish into our stellar dustbin. From space elevators to solar sails, they explore the various options that could be used to send litter to the Sun. Featuring space scientist Lucie Green and astroph...more

  • Why do we faint?

    Sep 13 2016

    Swooning maidens and clever horses feature in today's Curious Cases, sent in by listeners to curiouscases@bbc.co.uk. The Squeamish Swoon Science sleuths Hannah Fry and Adam Rutherford investigate the following question sent in by Philip Le Riche: 'Why do some people faint at the sight of blood, or a hypodermic needle, or even if they bash their funny bone? Does it serve any useful evolutionary purpose, or is just some kind of cerebral error condition?' Adam is strapped onto a hospital tilt ta...more

  • Why do people shout on their cellphones?

    Sep 05 2016

    How does traffic jam? And, why do some people shout into their cellphones in public places? Two subjects guaranteed to annoy even the most patient listeners. The Phantom Jam Listener Matthew Chandler wrote to us: "I travel on the motorway for work and often I find myself sitting in a traffic jam for ages, thinking there must be roadworks or an accident ahead, then suddenly the jam mysteriously disappears to reveal… nothing! There's no apparent reason whatsoever." Doctors Rutherford and Fry dis...more

  • How do you make the perfect cup of tea?

    Aug 29 2016

    A story of sorrow and comfort today, as Doctors Adam Rutherford and Hannah Fry investigate two mysteries sent in by listeners. The Psychic Tear Edith Calman challenges our scientific sleuths to answer the following question: “What is it about extreme pain, emotional shock or the sight of a three-year-old stumbling their way through an off-key rendition of Away in a Manger that makes the brain send messages to the lacrimal glands to chuck out water?" Hannah discovers how the eye produces tears,...more

  • What makes gingers ginger?

    Aug 22 2016

    Doctors Adam Rutherford and Hannah Fry set out to solve the following perplexing cases sent in by listeners: The Scarlet Mark Sheena Cruickshank in Manchester asks, "My eldest son is ginger but I am blonde and my husband brunette so we are constantly asked where the red came from. Further, people do say the 'ginger gene' is dying out, but how good is that maths or is it just anecdotal?" Our science sleuths set out to discover what makes gingers ginger with a tale of fancy mice, Tudor queens an...more

  • China Science Rising

    Aug 15 2016

    China is super-sizing science. From building the biggest experiments the world has ever seen to rolling out the latest medical advances on a massive scale and pushing the boundaries of exploration in outer space - China’s scientific ambitions are immense. Just a few decades ago the nation barely featured in the world science rankings. Now, in terms of research spending and the number of scientific papers published, it stands only behind the US. But despite this rapid progress, China faces a ...more

  • The Power of Cute

    Aug 08 2016

    Zoologist and broadcaster Lucy Cooke explores the science behind our seeming obsession with all things adorable. There has been an explosion in interest in cuteness, particularly online, with an ever growing number of websites dedicated to pandas, kittens, puppies and of course babies. If you are feeling a bit down in the dumps, what better way to brighten your day than looking at some cute baby animal frolicking about. But what is it that makes these creatures so darn attractive to us and can y...more

  • Failing Gracefully

    Aug 01 2016

    Dr Kevin Fong concludes his exploration of the boundaries between the medical profession and other industries for valuable lessons that might be of use to us all. In this final episode, Kevin talks to people who have spent their lives investigating what it takes to make high-performance, high-reliability systems work safely when lives are on the line. Since the days of Project Apollo, People have come to rely more and more heavily upon the digital computer. Whether it’s aerospace, the au...more

  • Going Lean: Health and the Toyota Way

    Jul 25 2016

    In the third programme in the series, Dr Kevin Fong explores the concept of ‘lean’ in healthcare. He visits Toyota’s largest car assembly plant in the United States and discovers how the company’s legendary management philosophy – the Toyota Production System – is being implemented in hospitals, in an effort to improve patient care. Toyota’s philosophy of continuous improvement aims to increase quality and flow whilst decreasing cost. But whilst this may work well for the mass production of cars...more

  • “Faster, Better, Cheaper”

    Jul 18 2016

    Kevin Fong explores the success and failure of NASA’s missions to Mars

  • The Business of Failure

    Jul 12 2016

    Dr Kevin Fong flies with a US air ambulance crew and discovers why it’s seen as one of the most dangerous occupations in America.

  • Cleaning Up the Oceans

    Jul 04 2016

    More than five million tonnes of plastic waste ends up in the oceans every year. The abandoned fishing gear and bags and bottles left on beaches can smother birds and sea life. Now there is also evidence that the small particles created as the plastics are eroded by the waves and sunlight are eaten by all kinds of marine species. Roland Pease is on a beach in Devon in south-west England with professor Richard Thompson of Plymouth University finding the plastic debris before it gets into the ...more

  • Life on the East Asian Flyway - Part 4: The Arctic

    Jun 27 2016

    After flying thousands of kilometres from faraway Bangladesh and New Zealand via the Yellow Sea, the shorebirds of the East Asian Flyway complete their northward migration. They touch down in the Arctic Russia and Alaska to breed. In May and June, birds such as the endangered spoon-billed sandpiper and red knot fill the air of the Russian tundras with their mating calls and display flights. But why travel so far to raise the next generation? Presenter Ann Jones also discovers why Russia...more

  • Life on the East Asian Flyway - Part Three: Yellow Sea North

    Jun 20 2016

    Can China’s new generation of birdwatchers and North Korea’s weak economy save migratory birds from extinction? Habitat loss for shorebirds in the Yellow Sea is rapid as the mudflats on which they depend are converted to farmland, factories, ports, oil refineries and golf courses. But all is not lost on the East Asian Australasian Flyway. Ann Jones travels around the northern end of the Yellow Sea, talking to the world’s leading shorebird researchers and Chinese nature lovers about the...more

  • Life on the East Asian Flyway – Part Two: Yellow Sea South

    Jun 13 2016

    Ann Jones flies north to Shanghai as shorebirds from as far away as Australia, Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar and Bangladesh arrive on the coast of the Yellow Sea. Here she meets a traditional whistling bird hunter who used to catch shorebirds for the pot but now does it for science. Bird mimic Mr Jin Weiguo demonstrates his centuries-old technique of bird trapping - luring them into nets by copying the different calls of the many different species. Scientists can then attach ID rings and GP...more

  • Life on the East Asian Flyway

    Jun 06 2016

    One of the great wonders of the natural world is in deep trouble. Millions of shorebirds fly from Australia and Southeast Asia to the Arctic every year. They follow the planet’s most gruelling migratory route – the East Asian Australasian Flyway. Join Ann Jones as she watches wading birds such as curlews, godwits and sandpipers prepare for their epic journey. They fatten up on clams to the point of obesity, to fuel the flight. They grow bigger hearts and flight muscles. Just before d...more

  • The Neglected Sense

    May 30 2016

    We may fear going blind, deaf or dumb, but few of us worry about losing our olfactory senses. And yet more than 200,000 people in the UK are anosmic - they cannot smell. Kathy Clugston is anosmic and gives a first hand account of the condition.She sets out on a personal mission to discover why she cannot smell. She has never before researched the extent to which smell guides and shapes our lives, how we smell and what parts of the brain are affected. For example, is her 'terrible memory' conn...more

  • After Ebola

    May 23 2016

    Last November Sierra Leone was declared Ebola free. By then, the epidemic had killed over 11,000 people in West Africa. The speed at which it took off highlighted the poor state of healthcare in the affected countries. Now in Sierra Leone some of the facilities created to deal with Ebola are being repurposed, to take in wider health care needs. The capital Freetown’s main hospital now has a new accident and emergency department, developed from the facilities created there to deal with Ebola....more

  • Benefits of Bilingualism - Part Two

    May 16 2016

    More than half the world speaks more than one language. New research is showing that being multilingual has some surprising advantages – it can help us keep healthier longer. Gaia Vince finds out how knowing many languages can protect our brains over our lifespan, and even stave off the appearance of some diseases, including dementia. Gaia attempts the Flanker Task at Lancaster University and then talks to Professor Panos Athanopolous about why bilinguals do better at it than monolinguals. ...more

  • Benefits of Bilingualism - Part One

    May 09 2016

    More than half of the world's people speak more than one language. Some people may have been forced to learn a language at school or had to pick up one because they moved to a new country. Others may just love learning new tongues and do so before they visit a new place. Recently, psychologists have discovered that knowing more than one language helps us in some surprising ways. The skill of bilinguals to switch focus by filtering out or inhibiting one language to concentrate on the relevant ...more

  • Our Unnatural Selection

    May 02 2016

    Humans have been altering animals for millennia. We select the most docile livestock, the most loyal dogs, to breed the animals we need. This 'artificial selection' is intentional. But as Adam Hart discovers, our hunting, fishing and harvesting are having unintended effects on wild animals - the age of "unnatural selection". This accidental, inadvertent or unintentional selection pressure comes form almost everything we do – from hunting, fishing, harvesting and collecting to using chemicals...more

  • Science Stories: Series 2 - Margaret Cavendish

    Apr 25 2016

    In the spring of 1667 Samuel Pepys queued repeatedly with crowds of Londoners and waited for hours just to catch a glimpse of aristocrat writer and thinker Margaret Cavendish. Twice he was frustrated and could not spot her, but eventually she made a grand visit to meet the Fellows of the newly formed Royal Society. She was the first woman ever to visit. Pepys watched as they received her with gritted teeth and fake smiles. They politely showed her air pumps, magnets and microscopes, and she pol...more

  • Science Stories: Series 2 - Orgueil Meteorite

    Apr 18 2016

    In 1864 a strange type of rock fell from the sky above Orgueil in rural France. Shocked and frightened locals collected pieces of the peculiar, peaty blob from the surrounding fields, and passed them on to museums and scientists. At that time, a debate had been raging over the origin of life; Could life possibly form from mere chemicals? Or did it need some strange unidentified vital substance? Into this debate fell the Orgueil meteorite, and because it seemed remarkably similar to loamy soil...more

  • The Horn Dilemma

    Apr 11 2016

    The majority of white and black rhinoceros are found in South Africa. This stronghold for these magnificent creatures is now being threatened by poachers killing rhino for their horns. Rhino horn, traded illegally in parts of Asia, is thought to be a cooling agent in traditional Chinese medicine. It's recently been hailed as a cure for cancer, and is seen as a status symbol in Vietnam. Made from keratin, the same stuff as hair or fingernails rhino horn has negligible medical properties, yet p...more

  • African Einsteins

    Apr 01 2016

    Will Einstein’s successors be African? It’s very likely - and some of them will be women. Back in 2008 South African physicist Neil Turok gave a speech in which he declared his wish that the next Einstein would be from Africa. It was a rallying call for investment in maths and physics research in Africa. The ‘Next Einstein’ slogan became a mission for the organisation Neil Turok had founded to bring Africa into the global scientific community - through investment in maths and physics, the...more

  • Feeding the World - Part Two

    Mar 28 2016

    As the world’s population grows and the climate challenges our ability to grow crops, how can agriculture provide enough food? Can we get more from our current food crops for less? Scientists and farmers alike have been increasingly haunted by the environmental effects of high-intensity farming over the last half century. There is now an urgent need to be more mindful of the landscape and our finite ecological resources. Professor Kathy Willis, science director of Kew Gardens, looks at how...more

  • Feeding the World - Part One

    Mar 21 2016

    As the world’s population grows and the climate challenges our ability to grow crops, how can agriculture provide enough food? Can we get more from our current food crops for less? Scientists and farmers alike have been increasingly haunted by the environmental effects of high-intensity farming over the last half century. There is now an urgent need to be more mindful of the landscape and our finite ecological resources. Professor Kathy Willis, science director of Kew Gardens, looks at ho...more

  • Editing the Genome - Part Two

    Mar 14 2016

    There is a new genetic technology which promises to revolutionise agriculture and transform our influence over the natural world. Research is well underway to create pigs and chickens immune to pandemic influenza, cereals which make their own fertiliser and mosquitoes engineered to wipe out wild populations of the insects which transmit diseases to humans. These are just three examples of what we could create with CRISPR gene editing. Should we be worried about this unprecedented power over a...more

  • Editing the Genome

    Mar 07 2016

    Over the last four years, scientists have discovered a simple and powerful method for altering genes. This will have massive implications for all of us as it raises the possibility of easily changing the genetic code in animals, plants and ourselves. The potential for good is enormous. The ethical challenges are profound. Professor Matthew Cobb explores the brave new world of CRISPR gene editing. Producer: Andrew Luck-Baker Image: Model of human DNA strand, BBC Copyright

  • Science Stories: Series 1 - Einstein’s Ice Box

    Feb 29 2016

    In the late 1920s Einstein was working on a grand unified theory of the universe, having given us E=mc2, space-time and the fourth dimension. He was also working on a fridge. Perhaps motivated by a story in the Berlin newspapers about a family who died when toxic fumes leaked from their state-of the-art refrigerator, Einstein teamed up with another physicist Leo Szilard and designed a new, safer refrigerating technology. And so it was that in 1930, the man who had once famously worked in the p...more

  • Science Stories: Series 1 - Eels and Human Electricity

    Feb 22 2016

    Naomi Alderman presents an alternate history of electricity. This is not a story of power stations, motors and wires. It is a story of how the electric eel and its cousin the torpedo fish, led to the invention of the first battery; and how, in time, the shocking properties of these slippery creatures gave birth to modern neuroscience.Our fascination with electric fish and their ability to deliver an almighty shock - enough to kill a horse – goes back to ancient times. And when Alessandro Volta i...more

  • Science Stories: Series 1 - Cornelis Drebbel

    Feb 15 2016

    Philip Ball dives into the magical world of Cornelis Drebbel , inventor of the world's first submarine in 1621. How did the crew of this remarkable vessel manage to breathe underwater, completely cut off from the surface, 150 years before oxygen was officially discovered? King James I of England and thousands of his subjects lined the banks of the River Thames in London to watch the first demonstration. The strangest boat they had ever seen sank beneath the waves and stayed there for three h...more

  • El Nino

    Feb 08 2016

    Floods in South America, fires in Indonesia, famine threatened in Ethiopia, yet more drought in Southern Africa and central America. Plus, a stunning peak in global temperatures for 2015. The current El Nino, just past its peak, has a lot to answer for. Roland Pease talks to the experts who forecast, track and analyse the events in the Pacific Ocean associated with this powerful climate phenomenon. And seeks answers to some burning questions. (Photo: Indonesia forest fire burning, 2015. Credi...more

  • An Infinite Monkey's Guide to General Relativity

    Feb 01 2016

    Brian Cox and Robin Ince explore the legacy of Einstein's great theory, and how a mathematical equation written 100 years ago seems to have predicted so accurately exactly how our universe works. From black holes to the expanding universe, every observation of the universe, so far, has been held up by the maths in Einstein's extraordinary work. So how was he able to predict the events and behaviour of our universe, long before the technology existed to prove he was right, and will there ever be ...more

  • An Infinite Monkey's Guide to General Relativity

    Jan 25 2016

    It is 100 years since the publication of Einstein's great theory, and arguably one of the greatest scientific theories of all time. To mark the occasion, Brian Cox takes Robin Ince on a guided tour of General Relativity. With the help of some of the world's leading cosmologists, and a comedian or two, they explore the notions of space time, falling elevators, trampolines and bowling balls, and what was wrong with Newton's apple. It is a whistle stop tour of all you will ever need to know about g...more

  • Scotland’s Dolphins

    Jan 18 2016

    The chilly waters of north-east Scotland are home to the world’s most northerly group of bottlenose dolphins. They are protected by EU conservation laws and despite being a small population, appear to be thriving. Euan McIlwraith heads out into the Moray Firth on a research boat to discover how photo-ID techniques are used to record the dolphins’ movements around the coast, and visits the University of St Andrews to find out more about their communications underwater. As he discovers, ev...more

  • Nature's Numbers

    Jan 11 2016

    Mathematics is one of the most extraordinary things humans can do with their brains but where do our numerical abilities come from? Maths writer Alex Bellos looks for answers from a tribe in the Brazilian Amazon which has no words for numbers in its language. He also meets a budding mathematician who is only seven months old. Image credit: Edward Gibson

  • Nature's Numbers

    Jan 04 2016

    Lemurs and parrots accompany maths writer Alex Bellos as he explores the foundations of our ability to understand numbers. What are the fundamental numerical skills we share with other animals? What accounts for our species’ unique abilities to do calculations which other creatures cannot? Alex meets Teres the lemur as the Madagascan primate undergoes a maths test. He also tells the amazing story of Alex, the African grey parrot, and meets professor Irene Pepperberg who guided her feathered pupi...more

  • Future of Energy

    Dec 28 2015

    Professor Jim Skea, from the Faculty of Natural Sciences, Centre for Environmental Policy at Imperial College London, joins Jack Stewart in the studio and brings his insight from the Paris climate talks. Paul Younger, the Rankine Chair of Engineering and Professor of Energy Engineering at the University of Glasgow, talks about geothermal energy and its potential as a renewable energy source, particularly in Ethiopia. Mark Jacobson, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the Unive...more

  • The Power of Equations

    Dec 21 2015

    Jim al-Khalili was sitting in a physics lecture at the University of Surrey when he suddenly understood the power of equations to describe and predict the physical world. He recalls that sadly his enthusiasm was lost on many of his fellow students. Jim wants to persuade the listeners that equations have a beauty. In conversation with fellow scientists he reveals the surprising emotions they feel when describing the behaviour of matter in the universe in mathematical terms. For Carlos Fre...more

  • Enceladus: A second genesis of life at Saturn?

    Dec 14 2015

    Discovery invites you on a mission to the most intriguing body in the solar system – Saturn’s moon Enceladus. It’s a small icy world with gigantic geysers, blasting water into space at supersonic speeds. It’s also become the most promising place among the planets to search for extra-terrestrial life. These astonishing discoveries come from Nasa’s Cassini mission to Saturn launched 18 years ago and still underway. The BBC’s Jonathan Amos talks to scientists who have been at the centre of t...more

  • Humboldt - the Inventor of Nature

    Dec 07 2015

    Alexander Von Humboldt - the forgotten father of environmentalism - warned of harmful human induced climate change over 200 years ago. Explorer, nature writer and scientist he climbed the world’s highest volcanoes and delved deep into the rainforests devising his radical new ideas of nature in flux. Darwin set sail on the Beagle because of Humboldt’s books. Roland Pease talks to author Andrea Wulf, who has retraced the footsteps of this remarkable lost hero of science. (Photo credit: Wellco...more

  • Unbreathable: The Modern Problem of Air Pollution

    Nov 30 2015

    The shock news three months ago, that Volkswagen had used defeat devices to circumvent emissions tests in the United States, has brought back into the news a continuing problem of modern life - air pollution. The traces of pollutants coming out of tail pipes may seem to be little more than a nuisance, but it is actually a matter of life and death. One expert has estimated that this deception by Volkswagen has contributed to the deaths of 59 people in the States, their lives shortened by the dama...more

  • Future of Biodiversity

    Nov 23 2015

    "I'm determined to prove botany is not the 'Cinderella of science'". That is what Professor Kathy Willis, director of Science at the Royal Botanic Garden in Kew, told the Independent in 2014. In the two years since she took on the job at Kew she has been faced with a reduction in government funding. So, Kathy Willis has been rethinking the science that is to be done by the staff of the Gardens and has been criticised for her decisions. But as well as leading this transformation, Kathy has a d...more

  • Problems of Developing Drugs

    Nov 16 2015

    Patrick Vallance is something of a rare breed - a game-keeper turned poacher; an academic who has moved over into industry. And not just any industry, but the pharmaceutical industry. At the time, Patrick Vallance was professor of Clinical Pharmacology and head of the Department of Medicine at University College London. A pioneer of research into some of the body’s key regulatory systems, he had also been publicly critical of big Pharma for “funding studies more helpful to marketing than to adva...more

  • The Genetics of Intelligence

    Nov 09 2015

    Professor Robert Plomin talks to Jim al-Khalili about what makes some people smarter than others and why he is fed up with the genetics of intelligence being ignored. Born and raised in Chicago, Robert sat countless intelligence tests at his inner city Catholic school. College was an attractive option mainly because it seemed to pay well. Now he is one of the most cited psychologists in the world. He specialized in behavioural genetics in the mid '70s when the focus in mainstream psychology was ...more

  • How to Make an Awesome Surf Wave

    Nov 02 2015

    Can we make better surfing waves than the wild ocean, asks marine biologist and writer Helen Scales. Helen loves surfing but she describes it as an extreme form of delayed gratification, especially around the British coast. Nature does not make great surfing waves to order. Waiting for the perfect wave demands patience, a warm wet suit and a cool head (especially if somebody jumps the queue and steals your ride). Becoming skilful on a surf board takes years if you can only practise on wha...more

  • Lion Hunting in Africa

    Oct 26 2015

    In June 2015 the death of Cecil the lion was international news and a social media sensation. Yet trophy hunting of lions and other species is common in Africa. Foreigners pay big money to adorn their walls with heads and skins. Many find it abhorrent, angry that it exists at all. Hunters claim it is vital, providing money to fund conservation. With hunters claiming that a ban would be "catastrophic" for wildlife, what is the truth? Biologist professor Adam Hart explores this explosively controv...more

  • The Infinite Monkey Cage USA Tour: San Francisco

    Oct 19 2015

    Brian Cox and Robin Ince take to the stage in San Francisco for the last of their USA specials. They talk alien visitations, UFOs and other close encounters with astronomer Dr Seth Shostack, NASA scientist Dr Carolyn Porco and comedians Greg Proops and Paul Provenza.

  • The Infinite Monkey Cage USA Tour: Chicago

    Oct 12 2015

    Brian Cox and Robin Ince take to the stage in Chicago, Illinois, to discuss fossil records and evolution. They are joined on stage by host of NPR's "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me" Peter Sagal, comedian and Saturday Night Live alumnus Julia Sweeney, palaeontologist Paul Sereno and evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne. (Photo: Robin Ince (left) and Brian Cox)

  • The Infinite Monkey Cage USA Tour: Los Angeles

    Oct 05 2015

    Brian Cox and Robin Ince continue their tour of the USA, as they take to the stage in LA, as they ask what happens when science meets Hollywood. They ask why so many movies now seem to employ a science adviser, whether scientific accuracy is really important when you are watching a film about a mythical Norse god and whether science fact can actually be far more interesting than science fiction. They are joined by cosmologist Sean Carroll, comedian Joe Rogan, executive producer of Futurama, Davi...more

  • The Infinite Monkey Cage USA Tour: New York

    Sep 26 2015

    The BBC’s award-winning radio science/comedy show The Infinite Monkey Cage has transported itself to the USA bringing its unique brand of witty, irreverent science chat to an American audience for the first time. In the first of four specials, professor Brian Cox and comedian Robin Ince take to the stage in New York, to ask the question - is science a force for good or evil? They are joined on stage by Bill Nye the Science Guy, cosmologist Janna Levin, actor Tim Daly and comedian Lisa Lampa...more

  • Life Changers - Didier Queloz

    Sep 21 2015

    One night in 1995, PhD student Didier Queloz was running a routine test on a new detector they had just built at the Observatoire de Haute Provence in France, when he noticed something strange. They had pointed the detector, almost at random, towards 51 Pegasi, a star in the constellation Pegasus, about 50 light years from Earth. But the light from that star, which should have been constant, was in fact ‘wobbling’. Naturally, he assumed that the detector was faulty but after double-checking that...more

  • Life Changers - Anita Sengupta

    Sep 14 2015

    When Anita Sengupta was a little girl, she dreamed of time travel aboard the TARDIS, along with Tom Baker, her favourite incarnation of Dr Who. It was this and watching episodes of Star Trek with her dad, which led her to study science and later still, to gain a degree in aerospace engineering from an American University. If she could not build a TARDIS, she would build the next best thing – space craft, capable of reaching other planets. A few years later, still in her 20s, Anita was put in cha...more

  • Life Changers - Venki Ramakrishnan

    Sep 07 2015

    Kevin Fong talks to Venki Ramakrishnan, Professor of structural biology in Cambridge and joint-winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2009. Celebrated for his work on the ribosome, the remarkable molecular machine at the heart of all cell biology, Ramakrishnan was knighted for services to Science in 2012 and later this year, will become the first Indian-born president of the Royal Society, the oldest and most prestigious scientific body in the world. And yet, as Kevin discovers, his educatio...more

  • Life Changers - Kathryn Maitland

    Aug 31 2015

    Kathryn Maitland is a doctor with a burning passion to transform clinical research across Africa, where she has spent most of her career. Determined to improve the outcomes for critically sick children in hospital, she spent over a decade of her life raising funds for and then carrying out, the first ever scientific trial for fluid bolus resuscitation in children with shock. Fluid replacement is a pillar of medicine but the evidence base for this particular issue is weak, even though it is sta...more

  • Women on the ‘Problem with Science’

    Aug 24 2015

    Earlier in the year, the reported remarks about 'the problem with girls' by British biologist and Nobel Laureate Professor Tim Hunt' brought the issues facing women scientists into public spotlight. Although there have been questions about the reports of what exactly happened and what was said during Hunt's talk in South Korea, the story has given female researchers the rare opportunity to air the problems of gender bias in science to a much wider audience. What are the factors holding back ...more

  • Truth about the Body Mass Index

    Aug 17 2015

    Dr Mark Porter is a family doctor in the UK and in his 50s. He’s tall and slim and thinks he’s fit and healthy – after all he goes to the gym several times a week. Mark meets experts who measure his weight, height and body fat to find out if he is as healthy as he seems. He begins by finding out his BMI, or body mass index, a term more and more people are using all over the world. It’s an indicator of whether he is too fat, too thin or just right. It’s relatively easy to work out with a cal...more

  • The Great Telescopes and Evolution

    Aug 10 2015

    Today, astronomers believe the universe is a violent, constantly changing place. But it was not always the case. At the beginning of the 19th century, many believed fervently that the celestial sky was a constant, divinely perfected, completed creation. But as telescopes got larger, the mystery of the number, origin and role of the "nebulae" - those colourful, cloud-like smudges on the sky – grew and grew. Were they really vast clouds of gas and dust as they sometimes appeared? Or were t...more

  • The Colour Purple

    Jul 27 2015

    In 1856, a teenager experimenting at home accidentally made a colour that was more gaudy and garish than anything that had gone before. William Perkin was messing about at home, trying to make the anti-malarial Quinine - but his experiment went wrong. Instead he made a purple dye that took Victorian London by storm. Philip Ball tells the story of this famous stroke of serendipity. Laurence Llewelyn- Bowen describes the fashion sensation that ensued and chemist, Andrea Sella tells how Perkin's pu...more

  • Maurice Wilkins

    Jul 20 2015

    What does it take to be remembered well? The discovery of the structure of DNA is often attributed to James Watson and Francis Crick. But a third man shared the stage with them for the 1962 Nobel Prize for medicine - Maurice Wilkins. He was a brilliant physicist who after work on the Manhattan Project was determined to move from "the science of death to the science of life". He made his mark in the fast progressing world of x-ray crystallography and in the late 1940s was the first to propose tha...more

  • James Watt and Steam Power

    Jul 13 2015

    Naomi Alderman tells the story of James Watt and the steam engine that nearly never got made. A breath of steam hits cold metal. It cools suddenly and becomes a drop of water. There an idea. But the designs for Watt’s radically more efficient steam engine laid on the shelf in his workshop for years. Watt, a depressive, cautious perfectionist had no interest in actually making engines. Had it not been for his friend, the businessmen Matthew Boulton driving him on, his engine might never have left...more

  • Sounds Of Space: Deep Space

    Jul 06 2015

    A sonic tour of the universe, with solar scientist, Dr Lucie Green. In the previous episode, we listened in to the sounds of the Solar System. This week in Discovery, we travel further out into the cosmos to bring you more Sounds of Space. Some are recorded sound, others are data – like X-rays or radio waves - that have been sonified. All of them have inspired scientists and artists to help us understand our universe. Joining Lucie Green on this sonic journey through space are: - Pr...more

  • Sounds of Space: The Solar System

    Jun 29 2015

    The previously silent world of outer space is getting noisier. In this audio tour of the Solar System, Dr Lucie Green listens in to the Sounds of Space. You may have heard the famous ‘singing comet’ – the soundscape created using measurements taken by the Rosetta spacecraft. Now, we bring you more sounds that have come from our exploration of the cosmos. Some have been recorded by microphones on-board interplanetary spacecraft. Others have been sonified from space data, from lightning on Jupi...more

  • Future of European Science

    Jun 22 2015

    A debate about the state of scientific research in Europe, recorded in Brussels on the day when the European Research Council was celebrating its 5000th grant. Since 2007 the ERC has written cheques totalling the equivalent of around 10 Billion dollars. Presenter Gareth Mitchell is joined by biologist Dr Iva Tolic of the Ruder Boskovic Institute in the Croatian capital Zagreb and the 5000th grantee, European research commissioner Carlos Moedas, Dr Veerle Huvenne, who is originally from Belgium b...more

  • The Bone Wars

    Jun 15 2015

    Tracey Logan takes us back to the wild west of America, and looks at the extraordinary feud that came to be known as the Bone Wars. This is a tale of corruption, bribery and sabotage - not by cowboys, but by two palaeontologists, Edward Drinker Cope and Othniel Charles Marsh, who would stop at nothing in their race to find new dinosaur fossils. This was the golden age of dinosaur discovery, and their bitter war led to the discovery of some of our most iconic dinosaur species: Stegosaurus, Tricer...more

  • Stephanie Shirley: Software Pioneer

    Jun 08 2015

    As a young woman, Stephanie Shirley worked at the Dollis Hill Research Station building computers from scratch but she told young admirers that she worked for the Post Office, hoping they would think she sold stamps. In the early 60s she changed her name to Steve and started selling computer programmes to companies who had no idea what they were or what they could do, employing only mothers who worked from home writing code by hand with pen and pencil and then posted it to her. By the mid-80s he...more

  • Origins of War

    Jun 01 2015

    Is our desire to wage war something uniquely human or can its origins be traced much further back in our evolutionary past? To suggest that warfare is a regular feature of human civilization would be to state the obvious. But just how deeply rooted is our desire to kill others of our species? Is lethal aggression a fixed part of our genetic code, something that has evolved from a common ancestor – and something therefore that has adaptive value? Or is warfare – and more generally, a predilec...more

  • What the Songbird Said

    May 25 2015

    Could birdsong tell us something about the evolution of human language? Language is arguably the single thing that most defines what it is to be human and unique as a species. But its origins and its apparent sudden emergence around a hundred thousand years ago, remains mysterious and perplexing to researchers. But could something called vocal learning provide a vital clue as to how language might have evolved? T he ability to learn and imitate sounds - vocal learning - is something that huma...more

  • Shedding Light on the Brain

    May 18 2015

    Biologists are using light to explore the brain - and to alter it. Roland Pease meets some of the leading players in optogenetics, who use light-sensitive molecules to take direct control of neural systems in worms, flies, and maybe one day, humans. For some, it's a way of exploring the interplay of electricity and chemistry as neuron talks to neuron in complex brains. For others it opens the way to future therapies for conditions like motor neuron disease, in which dying nerves bring about par...more

  • Future of Solar Energy

    May 11 2015

    Roland Pease looks into perovskites - the materials enthusiasts say could transform solar power. Solar power is the fastest growing form of renewable energy. But most of it collected by panels made of silicon - the material that also goes into computer chips. But silicon is an old technology, and researchers have long sought a material that is both better at capturing sunlight. And cheaper to make. Perovskites, which first emerged into the lab just a few years ago, promise to be just that ma...more

  • Scotland's Forgotten Einstein, James Clerk Maxwell

    May 04 2015

    Dr Susie Mitchell hears the story of the 19th Century Scottish scientist James Clerk Maxwell. Maxwell's lifelong curiosity about the world and his gift for solving complicated puzzles led him to a string of discoveries. He was the first person to demonstrate a way of taking colour photographs, and he used mathematics to work out what the rings of Saturn were made of before any telescope or spacecraft was able to observe them close up. His most important achievement however was the discovery of e...more

  • Science of Stammering

    Apr 27 2015

    In this edition of Discovery, Erika Wright explores the science of Stammering, a widely misunderstood condition that occurs at the same level in all cultures, countries and languages. There is a window of opportunity in early childhood when stammering begins but is also a time of natural faltering when help may not be required, so therapists and parents have to decide when and whether to intervene. To add to the complexity many young children who stammer will recover naturally – although the...more

  • Jane Francis

    Apr 20 2015

    Just twenty years ago, the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) would not allow women to camp in Antarctica. In 2013, it appointed Jane Francis as its Director. Jane tells Jim Al-Khalili how an intimate understanding of petrified wood and fossilised leaves took her from Dorset’s Jurassic coast to this icy land mass. Camping on Antarctic ice is not for everyone but Jane is addicted, even if she does crave celery and occasionally wish that she could wash her hair. Fossils buried under the ice contain vi...more

  • The Teenage Brain: Sarah-Jayne Blakemore

    Apr 13 2015

    Until recently, it was thought that human brain development was all over by early childhood but research in the last decade has shown that the adolescent brain is still changing into early adulthood. Jim al-Khalili talks to pioneering cognitive neuroscientist professor Sarah-Jayne Blakemore who is responsible for much of the research which shows that our brains continue to develop through the teenage years. She discusses why teenagers take risks and are so susceptible to influence from their pee...more

  • Matt Taylor

    Apr 06 2015

    Matt Taylor talks to Jim Al-Khalili about being in charge of the Rosetta space mission to the distant comet, 67P. It is, he says, 'the sexiest thing alive', after his wife. He describes his joy when, after travelling for ten years and covering four billion miles, the robot, Philae landed on the speeding comet 67P; and turned the image tattooed on his thigh from wishful thinking into a triumph for science. Matt's father, a builder, encouraged him to do well at school. He wanted him to get a j...more

  • John O'Keefe

    Mar 30 2015

    John O'Keefe tells Jim al-Khalili how winning the Nobel Prize was a bit of a double-edged sword, especially as he liked his life in the lab, before being made famous by the award. John won the prize for his once radical insight into how we know where we are. When he first described the idea of ‘place cells’ in the brain back in 1971, many scoffed. Today it is accepted scientific wisdom that our spatial ability depends on these highly specialised brain cells. A keen basketball player,John...more

  • Does Money Make you Mean?

    Mar 23 2015

    Can money really make a person mean? In this second and final programme, Jack heads to Hong Kong to explore whether our preoccupation with money is affecting the way we treat other people. Jack hears about the growing body of evidence indicating that we behave with less empathy, kindness and generosity when exposed to the idea of money. Most of the research so far is from the United States, but Jack stages his own psychology experiment at the City University of Hong Kong to explore how...more

  • Does Money Make you Mean?

    Mar 16 2015

    Jack Stewart heads to Los Angeles, home to many of America's rich and famous, to explore what impact wealth has on our moral behaviour. Hollywood often has plenty to say about the corrupting influence of money, but can science tell us even more. Professor Paul Piff of the University of California explains his research, which finds that the richer a person becomes the more selfish, narcissistic and less generous they tend to be. However, not everyone is convinced that the American dream is a r...more

  • Finding Your Voice

    Mar 09 2015

    Comedy performer and broadcaster Helen Keen, explores a rare condition that she herself once suffered from - selective mutism or SM. It is an anxiety disorder that develops in childhood. Those affected by SM can usually speak fluently in some situations, notably a home, but remain silent elsewhere - such as in school, with extended family members, or even parents. Their inability to speak is so severe that it has been likened to a phobia of speaking, and is often accompanied by the physical...more

  • Placebo Problem

    Mar 02 2015

    In recent years the term 'placebo effect' - the beneficial effects on health of positive expectations about a drug or some other treatment - has become familiar. It has also been shown to be a powerful aid to medicine. The nocebo effect is simply its opposite - it’s ugly sister. One difference is that its breadth and magnitude have been much less studied. Another is that it may be even more powerful than the placebo effect. It is easier to do harm than good. And this is worrisome because nocebo’...more

  • Throwaway Society 2/2

    Feb 23 2015

    How can manufacturers of the world supply the growing demand for consumer products without breaking the planet’s bank of natural resources? By the middle of the century, there will be 2 billion more people in the world. Based on current trends, there’ll be many more consumers with the money to buy cars, washing machines, mobile phones, fashion – the shopping list goes on…. Discovery looks at new ideas and technologies to enable companies to make more stuff at an affordable environmental cos...more

  • Throwaway Society

    Feb 16 2015

    Hundreds of millions of computers, mobile phones and televisions are thrown away every year around the world. In this week’s Discovery Gaia Vince will be looking at the reasons behind this rapidly growing mountain of electronic waste and asking, who is responsible? The manufacturers or the consumers? When our gadgets break, maybe we should just be repairing them. And Gaia attends a party where people are fixing stuff for themselves. (Photo: Discarded laptops.)

  • The Science of Smell

    Feb 09 2015

    Pamela Rutherford explores our neglected sense of smell. How is the brain able to detect and tell apart the countless number of smells it comes across and what happens when the system goes wrong? She finds out how people can lose their sense of smell and why it’s the very strong associations between smell and memory that allow your sense of smell to come back. Not only can people lose their sense of smell and become ‘anosmic’ but in rare cases they can hallucinate smells, so called phantosmia....more

  • The Life Scientific: Richard Fortey

    Feb 02 2015

    Richard Fortey found his first trilobite fossil when he was 14 years old and he spent the rest of his career discovering hundreds more, previously unknown to science. He is a Professor of Palaeontology at the Natural History Museum and talks to Jim al-Khalili about why these arthropods, joint-legged creatures which look a bit like woodlice and roamed the ancient oceans for almost 300 million years, are so important for helping us to understand the evolution of life on our planet. These new tr...more

  • The Life Scientific: Margaret Boden on Artificial Intelligence

    Jan 26 2015

    Maggie Boden is a world authority in the field of artificial intelligence – she even has a robot named in her honour. As research professor of Cognitive Science at the University of Sussex, Maggie has spent a lifetime attempting to answer philosophical questions about the nature of the human mind, but from a computational viewpoint. “Tin cans”, as she sometimes calls computers, are information processing systems, the perfect vehicle, she believes, to help us understand, explore and analyse the m...more