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Scientifically... Podcast Profile

Scientifically... Podcast

English, Sciences, 1 season, 63 episodes, 1 day, 6 hours, 21 minutes
The home of the best science programmes from BBC Radio 4 introduced by Dr. Alex Lathbridge.
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28ish Days Later - Day One: Power

Discover more episodes in the series by searching for 28ish Days Later on BBC Sounds. What do you really know about the menstrual cycle? India Rakusen explores the whole bloody story, discovering facts that could change your life. Periods are just the beginning. India Rakusen journeys into the womb with Dr. Dornu Lebari, and Dr. Jackie Maybin. We peel back the layers and meet the fallopian tubes, ovaries, cervix and the endometrium. India is also joined by Dr. Elinor Cleghorn to discuss the ancient theories of wandering wombs, evil uterus’ and the myths that surround the womb in history. Credits: Presented by: India Rakusen. Assistant Producer: Jorja McAndrew. Producer: Ellie Sans. Executive producer: Suzy Grant. Original music composed and performed by Rebekah Reid. Sound Design by Olga Reed. Special thanks to all contributors and audio diarists. A Listen Production for Radio 4 and BBC Sounds.
4/1/202215 minutes, 9 seconds
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Political Animals: Sex-Switching Fish and Non-Binary Brains - 3/3

Zoologist Lucy Cooke is on a mission: to break down the 'sexist stereotype' she believes has permeated our understanding of the natural world. In Political Animals, she sets out to prove that females of the species can be just as fiesty, ardent, manipulative, aggressive, strategic, varied and political as males - questioning some of the theories laid out by the 'father of evolution', Charles Darwin, and hearing from pioneering scientists moving evolutionary biology beyond a male-centric narrative. In the final episode of the series, Lucy considers the latest research into sex, sexuality and sexed behaviour in animals, and what that can tell us about purported differences between male and female brains. On a twilight trip into the jungle, Brian Kubicki of the Costa Rican Amphibian Research Center explains why some male frogs could arguably be nature's best dads; Lindsay Young from Pacific Rim Conservation shows Lucy round an albatross colony at Kaena Point in Hawaii, where she discovered a trend of female-female life-long partnerships; and Justin Rhodes from the University of Illinois takes us on a remote tour of his lab, where he studies the sex-changing anemone fish. Lucy also speaks to scientists Lauren O’Connell, Malin Ah-King and Rebecca Kilner; and considers how everyone engaged in evolutionary biology, from researchers to educators, can help build a better understanding of female experiences - and indeed all experiences - in the natural world. Featuring excerpts from ‘The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex’ by Charles Darwin, read by Derek Frood. Produced for BBC Audio in Bristol by Lucy Taylor. First broadcast on Friday 4 March 2022.
3/3/202228 minutes, 42 seconds
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Political Animals: Mole-Rat Queens and Genital Power - 2/3

Zoologist Lucy Cooke is on a mission: to break down the 'sexist stereotype' she believes has permeated our understanding of the natural world. In Political Animals, she sets out to prove that females of the species can be just as fiesty, ardent, manipulative, aggressive, strategic, varied and political as males - questioning some of the theories laid out by the 'father of evolution', Charles Darwin, and hearing from pioneering scientists moving evolutionary biology beyond a male-centric narrative. In this second instalment, Lucy explores ways in which female animals wield authority; with examples ranging from repressive mole-rat queens to ducks with deceptive vaginas, all proving that power can be about more than physical strength. This involves a visit to the UK's only colony of naked mole-rats, overseen by Chris Faulkes at the University of London’s Queen Mary College; an introduction to the world of labyrinthine animal vaginas and their evolutionary benefits with Patricia Brennan from Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts; and assisting with feeding time at Twycross Zoo's bonobo enclosure, as Amanda Addison and Becca Biddle explain the power of the ape sisterhood... Meanwhile Joe Cain from University College London sheds more light on Darwin’s attitude towards females. Featuring excerpts from ‘The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex’ and personal notes written by Charles Darwin, read by Derek Frood. Produced for BBC Audio in Bristol by Lucy Taylor. First broadcast on Friday 25 February 2022.
3/3/202229 minutes, 13 seconds
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Political Animals: Sex, Monkeys and the 'Coy Female' Myth - 1/3

Zoologist Lucy Cooke is on a mission: to break down the 'sexist stereotype' she believes has permeated our understanding of the natural world... In Political Animals, she sets out to prove that females of the species can be just as fiesty, ardent, manipulative, aggressive, varied, strategic and political as males - questioning some of the theories laid out by the 'father of evolution', Charles Darwin, and hearing from pioneering scientists moving evolutionary biology beyond a male-centric narrative. For the opening episode, Lucy focuses on sex: uncovering stories of the female animals defying Darwin’s “coy” label, and using sexual strategies to further their own evolutionary influence. This takes her on a journey from soliciting capuchin monkeys in the forests of Costa Rica, to studies of promiscuous fruit flies, to the northern jacana bird in Nicaragua, which relies on a harem of males to raise her chicks. Lucy also hears from scientists and specialists including Megan Mah, Joe Cain, Sarah Blaffer Hrdy, Patricia Gowaty, Robert Trivers and Salvador Mirales. Featuring excerpts from ‘The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex’ by Charles Darwin, read by Derek Frood. Produced for BBC Audio in Bristol by Lucy Taylor. First broadcast on Friday 18 February 2022.
2/24/202228 minutes, 59 seconds
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Wild Inside: The Ocean Sunfish

Ben Garrod and Jess French get under the skin of Mola mola the world's largest bony fish to unravel this bizarrely shaped predator's ability to swim to a huge range of depths. Produced by Adrian Washbourne. First broadcast on Tuesday 21 December 2021.
12/22/202129 minutes, 6 seconds
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Wild Inside:The Burmese Python

Ben Garrod and Jess French delve deep inside the predatory Burmese python to examine its extraordinary body plan that enables it to catch, constrict and consume huge prey whole. Presented by Prof Ben Garrod and Dr Jess French and produced by Adrian Washbourne. First broadcast on Tuesday 14 December 2021.
12/17/202129 minutes, 11 seconds
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Wild Inside: Jungle Royalty - The Jaguar

Wild Inside embarks on something we hardly ever witness – a look inside some of nature’s most wondrous animals. Its a rare chance to delve deep into some enigmatic and very different wild animals – from a reptile, to a mammal to a fish – unravelling the intricate internal complexity inside three of the most amazing animals ever to evolve. What makes the ultimate predator? What are the keys to successful survival in an ever-changing environment? Whilst we’ve gained a lot by observing their behaviour from the outside, to truly understand these animals, we need to look at what’s on the inside too. Ben Garrod, Professor of Evolutionary Biology and Science Engagement at the University of East Anglia, together with friend and expert veterinary surgeon Dr Jess French, open up and investigate what makes each of these animals unique. During each animal post mortem, they’re joined by experts in comparative anatomy, evolution and behaviour as they put these enigmatic animals under the knife. Along the way they reveal some unique adaptations which give each species a leg (or claw) up in surviving in the big wild world. The series begins with one of the truly exotic loaners of the cat family – which at just over two metres long, covered with beautiful gold and black rosette markings, is pure jungle royalty - the greatest of the South American big cats - the Jaguar Part 2: One of the largest predatory reptiles - the Burmese Python whose extraordinary singular body plan has enabled nearly 4000 species of snakes to succeed in inhabiting nearly every part of the planet, Part 3: The largest bony fish you might never have heard of – the bizarre-looking Oceanic Sunfish which is being spotted increasingly in UK waters Presented by Prof Ben Garrod and Dr Jess French and produced by Adrian Washbourne. First broadcast on Tuesday 7 December 2021.
12/7/202129 minutes, 8 seconds
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A Good Read with Adam Rutherford and Farrah Jarral

As part of Radio 4's Day of the Scientist Harriett Gilbert asks two scientists and broadcasters to choose a book on a science theme. Adam Rutherford chooses Kazuo Ishiguro's dystopian love story Never Let Me Go. Dr Farrah Jarral says when she first read the novella she has chosen - Octavia Butler's Bloodchild - it blew her mind dealing as it does with interspecies procreation and with underlying themes of control and power imbalance. Harriett Gilbert's choice is Piranesi by Susanna Clarke in which the character 'Piranesi' lives in The House populated by endless corridors and statues and The Other. Producer: Maggie Ayre for BBC Audio, Bristol. First broadcast on Tuesday 12 October 2021.
10/12/202128 minutes
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The Life Scientific at 10: What does it take to be a scientist?

How damaging is the stereotype of white males in white coats? Do scientists think differently? Or do the qualities we associate with being a nerd do them a disservice? Is specialism the best way to solve 21st century problems when so many great discoveries are made in the cracks between the disciplines? In short, what makes a scientist, a scientist? Jim and distinguished guests consider the lessons learnt from nearly 250 leading scientists talking with extraordinary honesty about their life and work. And ask: has the job description changed? Success in science is often defined by making discoveries and publishing papers but, as the pandemic made clear, we also need scientists who can interact with decision makers in government and elsewhere. Do scientists need to learn new skills to participate in the decision making process? Do they (or at least some of them) need to be more outward looking, aware of the world beyond their laboratories and ready to engage? Or do the corridors of power need to open their doors to more people with a scientific training? And, if Britain is to become a science superpower, is it time that scientists stopped being squeamish about making money? Jim's guests are Chief Executive of UK Research and Innovation, Prof Dame Ottoline Leyser; Nobel Prize winning biologist and Director of the Crick Institute, Prof Sir Paul Nurse; geologist and Royal Institution Christmas Lecturer, Prof Christopher Jackson; and forensic scientist and member of the House of Lords, Prof Dame Sue Black. Produced by Anna Buckley. First broadcast on Tuesday 12 October 2021.
10/12/202156 minutes, 46 seconds
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The Sir Patrick Vallance interview

As Chief Scientific Advisor to the government during a pandemic, Sir Patrick Vallance's calm, clear summaries of the state of our scientific understanding of the virus were welcomed by many. But what was going on behind the scenes? In this extended interview with Jim Al-Khalili on Radio 4's Day of The Scientist, Sir Patrick opens up and together they explore that trickiest of relationships - the one between scientists and politicians. How do we make sure we get evidence-based policy not policy-based evidence? Scientists tend to gain prominence during a crisis but the need for scientific input to government is ever present. And as head of the new Office for Science and Technology Strategy, based in the Cabinet Office, Sir Patrick hopes to put science and technology at the heart of policy making in government. However, only about 10% of the recent fast stream civil service intake have a scientific degree. That needs to change, says Sir Patrick. What science and technology do we need to invest in to deal with the big science-based challenges ahead, such as achieving carbon net zero, preserving a diversity of species, and protecting our privacy and slowing the spread of misinformation online? What does the UK need to do to capitalise on our scientific expertise and make Britain the science superpower that the Prime Minister hopes it will become? Produced by Anna Buckley. First broadcast on Tuesday 12 October 2021.
10/12/202137 minutes, 23 seconds
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The Men in the White Coats

Prof Andrea Sella on the shifting image of the scientist in popular culture, from Victor Frankenstein to Iron Man via victorious post-war boffinry and megalomanical Bond villainry. The monster unleashed by Mary Shelley in her 1818 tale of gruesome gothic horror was in many senses not the creature itself, but the image of its careless creator. The recklessness of the lone scientist whose blind ambition fails to foresee the societal and practical consequences of his discovery or invention. Throughout the last 150 years, the scientists in our science fictions have embodied the contemporary societal attitudes to science itself, sometimes in celebration, but often as a cartoon of our fears. At the same time professional scientists and science communicators have tried to share their work with wider audiences in an effort to democratize and enliven the endeavour. These two approaches haven't always been in synchrony. Presented by Prof Andrea Sella Produced by Alex Mansfield First broadcast on Saturday 9 October 2021.
10/12/202157 minutes, 9 seconds
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Celebrating the life of Sir Clive Sinclair: Computers at home

This week in Scientifically… we celebrate the life of Sir Clive Sinclair with this episode from the series Computing Britain that looks at how 'micro computers' invaded the home in the 1980s. In this episode, Hannah Fry discovers how the computer was transported from the office and the classroom right into our living room. From eccentric electronics genius Clive Sinclair and his ZX80, to smart-suited businessman Alan Sugar and the Amstrad PC, she charts the 80s computer boom - a time when the UK had more computers per head of population than anywhere else in the world. Presented by Hannah Fry Produced by Michelle Martin First broadcast on Tuesday 22 September 2015.
9/17/202114 minutes, 2 seconds
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Jim Al-Khalili's Life Scientific

In an ideal (quantum) world, Jim Al-Khalili would be interviewing himself about his life as a scientist but since the production team can’t access a parallel universe, Adam Rutherford is stepping in to ask Jim questions in front of an audience at The Royal Society. Jim and his family left Iraq in 1979, two weeks before Saddam Hussein came to power, abandoning most of their possessions. Having grown up listening to the BBC World Service, he had to drop his ts to fit in at school in Portsmouth where he was one of just three boys in a class of more than a hundred girls. He specialised in nuclear physics and spent fifteen years in front of a computer screen trying to understand an exotic and ephemeral sub-atomic phenomenon known as the halo effect. His ‘little eureka moment’ came in 1996 when Jim discovered that, for the mathematics to add up, these halo nuclei had to be a lot bigger than anyone had thought. It isn’t going to lead to a new kind of non-stick frying pan any time soon but it was exciting, nonetheless. More recently he has become interested in quantum biology. It started as a hobby back in the 1990s when physicists were sceptical and many biologists were unconvinced. Since then evidence has been stacking up. Several studies suggest that lasting quantum mechanical effects could explain photosynthesis, for example. 'It maybe a red herring’ Jim admits but Jim and his team at the University of Surrey are determined to find out if the idea of quantum biology makes sense. Could life itself depend on quantum tunnelling and other bizarre features of the sub-atomic world? Produced by Anna Buckley. First broadcast on Tuesday 5th February 2019.
9/3/202135 minutes, 27 seconds
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Genetic Dreams, Genetic Nightmares - Episode 3

CRISPR is the latest and most powerful technique for changing the genetic code of living things. This method of gene editing is already showing great promise in treating people with gene-based diseases, from sickle cell disease to cancer. However, in 2018 the use of CRISPR to edit the genes of two human embryos, which were subsequently born as two girls in China, caused outrage. The experiment was done in secrecy and created unintended changes to the children's genomes - changes that could be inherited by their children and their children's children. The scandal underlined the grave safety and ethical concerns around heritable genome editing, and called into doubt the ability of the scientific community to self-regulate this use of CRISPR. CRISPR gene editing might also be used to rapidly and permanently alter populations of organisms in the wild, and indeed perhaps whole ecosystems, through a technique called a gene drive. A gene drive is a way of biasing inheritance, of getting a gene (even a deleterious one) to rapidly multiply and copy itself generation after generation, sweeping exponentially through a population. In theory, this could be used to eradicate species such as agricultural pests or disease-transmitting mosquitoes, or to alter them in some way: for example, making mosquitoes unable to carry the malaria parasite. But do we know enough about the consequences of releasing a self-perpetuating genetic technology like this into the environment, even if gene drives could, for example, eradicate insects that spread a disease which claims hundreds of thousands of deaths every year? And who should decide whether gene drives should be released? First broadcast on Tuesday 3rd August 2021.
8/11/202129 minutes
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Genetic Dreams, Genetic Nightmares - Episode 2

Professor Matthew Cobb looks at how genetic engineering became big business - from the first biotech company that produced human insulin in modified bacteria in the late 1970s to the companies like Monsanto which developed and then commercialised the first GM crops in the 1990s. Were the hopes and fears about these products of genetic engineering realised? First broadcast on Tuesday 27 July 2021.
7/28/202129 minutes, 1 second
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Genetic Dreams, Genetic Nightmares - Episode 1

Biologist Matthew Cobb presents the first episode in a series which looks at the fifty year history of genetic engineering: from the concerns around the first attempts at combining the DNA of one organism with the genes of another in 1971, to today’s gene editing technique known as Crispr. The first experiments to combine the DNA of two different organisms began at Stanford University in California in 1971. The revolutionary technique of splicing genes from one lifeform into another promised to be a powerful tool in understanding how our cells worked. It also offered the prospect of a new cheap means of manufacturing life-saving drugs – for example, by transferring the gene for human insulin into bacteria, growing those genetically engineered microbes in industrial vats and harvesting the hormone. A new industrial revolution based on biology looked possible. At the same time some scientists and the public were alarmed by disastrous scenarios that genetic engineering might unleash. What if microbes engineered with toxin genes or cancer genes escaped from the labs and spread around the world? In early 1974, responding to the public fears and their own disquiet about how fast the techniques were developing, the scientists leading this research revolution called for a global moratorium on genetic engineering experiments until the risks had been assessed. This was followed by an historic meeting of 130 scientists from around the world in February 1975 in California. Its purpose was to decide if and how the genetic engineering research could be done safely. It was a rancorous affair but the Asilomar conference is held up as an idealist if imperfect example of scientists taking responsibility as they developed a powerful new technology. First broadcast on Tuesday 20 July 2021.
7/21/202129 minutes, 2 seconds
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The Blind Astronomer

This is the story, and the sound, of Puerto Rican scientist Wanda Díaz-Merced, who is revolutionising astronomy by turning data from space into audio that can be explored by ear. This process, ‘sonification’, is not only making the universe accessible to people with visual disabilities, it takes advantage of the human ear’s ability to explore vast ranges of data and spot patterns that could be missed by other means. It’s already proved its worth scientifically, with discoveries being made that are complementary to those found by traditional analysis. Growing up, Wanda was always focused on a career in science, but when she began losing her sight at university, she realised that most areas of science were becoming impossible for her. An epiphany came when she encountered NASA’s Radio Jove and was able to hear the sound of radiation from the Sun. She knew immediately that this was her new direction, but also that if she wanted astronomy to develop into audio, she was going to have to make it happen herself. Her drive and ambition led to her working with NASA, followed by a doctorate in computer science, so as to learn and experiment with creating tools that would allow astronomers to analyse data by simply listening to it. Having achieved success and recognition for her work over several years, her next project takes her into one of the hottest areas of current astronomy, the hunt for gravitational waves. These tiny ripples in space-time were found for the first time only in 2015. As technology improves, more signals will be detected but these will be surrounded by masses of non-gravitational wave signals. The human ear is better than any computer at categorising these signals, so through a huge citizen science project, Reinforce, Wanda and her team aim to work with many thousands of volunteers to listen to and analyse reams of data, to help progress this new area of science. The future, as Wanda says, is not just about sound, or vision, it is multisensory – the more senses we can use to explore the world, the more we discover. Contributors to the programme are: Wanda Diaz Merced, Professor Steve Brewster (University of Glasgow), Professor Martin Hendry (University of Glasgow), Professor Katrien Kolenberg, and Grant Miller (Zooniverse/Oxford University). Specially composed music: Thomas Hoey Presenter: Kate Molleson Producer: Anne McNaught First broadcast on Tuesday 15 June 2021.
6/24/202128 minutes, 26 seconds
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Dare to Repair: Fixing the Future - Episode 3

Mark Miodownik, explores the environmental consequences of the throwaway society we have become and reveals that recycling electronic waste comes second to repairing broken electronics. He asks what we can learn from repair cultures around the world , he looks at manufacturers who are designing in repair-ability, and discovers the resources available to encourage and train the next generation of repairers. Presented by Mark Miodownik and produced by Fiona Roberts. First broadcast on Monday 10 May 2021.
5/12/202135 minutes, 33 seconds
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Dare To Repair: The Right to Repair - Episode 2

Many electronics manufacturers are making it harder and harder for individuals and independent repairers to fix their broken kit. There are claims that programmed obsolescence is alive and well, with mobile phone batteries designed to wear out after just 400 charges. The manufacturers say it's for safety or security reasons, but it drives the consumer model of constant replacement and upgrades. But people are starting to fight back. Episode 2 - The Right to Repair Mark Miodownik talks to the fixers and repairers who are heading up the Right to Repair movement which is forcing governments to act and making sustainability and value for money part of the consumer equation. He goes online for help replacing his broken mobile phone screen and dead battery and finds out how easy it is to dare to repair. Presented by Mark Miodownik and produced by Fiona Roberts. First broadcast on Tuesday 4 May 2021.
5/5/202135 minutes, 36 seconds
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Dare To Repair: How We Broke the Future - Episode 1

We love our electronic gadgets, gizmos and appliances. But when it comes to repairing and caring for them, UK citizens are second only to Norway when it comes to producing electronic waste. We have a culture of buying single-use, throwaway, cheaper-the-better, irreparable electronic goods. But the Age of Consumerism is over. If the kettles, toasters, phones and fridges we buy aren’t made to be repairable, and aren’t repaired, we are going to run out of things to buy, stuff to make them from and money to buy them with. Dare to Repair explores how we got to this unsustainable state, explores the fightback, whether it’s through global legislation or individual groups, and empowers listeners to prolong the life of their electronics and mechanical goods by fixing them. Episode 1- How We Broke the Future Materials scientist Professor Mark Miodownik of UCL looks back to the start of the electronics revolution to find out why our electronic gadgets and household goods are less durable and harder to repair now. As he attempts to fix his digital clock radio, he reveals that the drive for cheaper stuff and advances in design and manufacturing have left us with a culture of throwaway technology and mountains of electronic waste. Presented by Mark Miodownik and produced by Fiona Roberts. First broadcast on Tuesday 27 April 2021.
4/30/202134 minutes, 18 seconds
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Gagarin and the lost Moon

On 12 April 1961, cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became an explorer like none other before him, going faster and further than any human in history, into what had always been the impenetrable and infinite unknown. Raised in poverty during the Second World War, the one-time foundry worker and a citizen of the Soviet Union became the first human to fly above the Earth in the vastness of space. In doing so he became an instrument in The Cold War – an ideological battle between the superpowers: East versus West, communism versus democracy. Dr Kevin Fong tells the story of how 27 year old Yuri Gagarin came to launch a new chapter in the history of exploration and follows the cosmonaut’s one hour flight around the Earth. The Soviet Union's triumph in 1961 was the event that galvanised the United States to win the Space Race: to send the first people on the Moon by the end of the decade. Yuri’s own ambitions to voyage to the Moon were frustrated by his political masters, a faltering Soviet lunar space program and two tragic accidents. As well as presenting archive recordings, Kevin talks to space historians and writers: Tom Ellis, historian at the London School of Economics Stephen Walker, author of ‘Beyond’ Slava Gerovitch, author of Soviet Space Mythologies’ and ‘Voices of the Soviet Space Program’ Andrew Jenks, author of 'The Cosmonaut who couldn’t stop smiling’ Cathleen Lewis, curator at the National Air and Space Museum Actor Stewart Campbell is the voice of Yuri Gagarin. Tony Turner is Soviet space program founder Sergei Korolev. Nicholas Murchie is General Nicolai Kaminin, head of cosmonaut training. Technical production is by Giles Aspen and Jackie Margerum. Co-writer and producer: Andrew Luck-Baker of the BBC Audio Science Unit. (Picture: Russian Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin. Photo credit: Imagno/Getty Images.) First broadcast on Saturday 10 Apr 2021.
4/21/202157 minutes, 41 seconds
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Hardware, Software, Anywhere: Anywhere - Episode 3

Nick Baker’s collection of programmes and interviews reflects on how the impact of technology has changed, from the dawn of language to the age of virtual reality. In this final episode, ‘Anywhere’, Nick looks at bigger changes in our physical perceptions, and experiences a new medium – Virtual Reality, as developed in the BBC Virtual Reality hub. But there’s a different, more subtle way in which digital technology changes our perception of personal space, and that idea’s probed in an edition of ‘The Digital Human’ presented by Aleks Krotoski, called ‘Between’. Then, a warning from literature, and from history. Stephen Fry and Nick Baker discuss E.M. Forster’s 1909 novella, ‘The Machine Stops’, which envisages a physical world changed, if not destroyed by technology. But what happens when that technology breaks down? Presenter: Nick Baker Produced by Stephen Garner. Made for BBC Radio 4 Extra and first broadcast in 2019.
4/7/20211 hour, 7 seconds
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Hardware, Software, Anywhere: Hardware - Episode 2

Nick Baker’s collection of programmes and interviews reflects on how the impact of technology has changed, from the dawn of language to the age of virtual reality. In this episode, Software, Nick revisits two of the past music software formats that used to dominate. In The Curse of the Cassette [from 1997], he recalls the downside of a much reviled format. Then, in the AB of CD [from 1988] Simon Bates looks at what the then revolutionary medium would bring to pop music. Nick also meets Simon Rooks from the BBC archives. Presenter: Nick Baker. Produced by Stephen Garner. Made for BBC Radio 4 Extra and first broadcast in 2019.
3/31/202159 minutes, 18 seconds
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Hardware, Software, Anywhere: Software - Episode 1

Nick Baker’s three-part collection of programmes and interviews reflects on how the impact of technology has changed, from the dawn of language to the age of virtual reality. This first episode, Hardware, features Stephen Fry along with an edition of Fry’s English Delight about the physicality of written language, from its earliest scrawlings to the digital age. Also, in The Persistence of Analogue, tech writer Leigh Alexander says despite all the boundless conveniences of the digital world, it can sometimes feel as if something has been lost in the transition to an always-on virtual society. Presenter: Nick Baker Produced by Stephen Garner made for BBC Radio 4 Extra. First broadcast in November 2019.
3/25/20211 hour, 9 seconds
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Laws That Aren't Laws: Stigler's Law - Episode 5

Stephen M. Stigler's Law of Eponymy states that no scientific discovery is named after its original discoverer. Professor Stigler, a statistician at Chicago University, defined his own law in a tributary paper to his friend, the sociologist Robert Merton, in 1980. Merton had been famous in sociology for writing about the "self-fulfilling prophecy", amongst other things, and also for a long treatise about how often the same law or principle in science has been discovered multiple times by different people. Merton also wrote about how Isaac Newton's famous phrase "Standing on the Shoulders of Giants" was not itself even his own metaphor. Stigler's amusing and humble paper was thus, despite including some new statistical insights into the phenomenon (and even a reasoned suggestion as to its cause), more of a jovial tribute to his friend's earlier insights than an aggressive assertion of nominative priority. It self-fulfilled its own eponymous point. But the joke, and the law, stuck. And it continues to ask important questions about the nature of knowledge, the sociology - and the popular history - of science itself. Presenter: Robin Ince Produced by Alex Mansfield-Sella. First broadcast on Thursday 3 September 2020.
2/15/202114 minutes, 19 seconds
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Laws That Aren't Laws: The Peter Principle - Episode 4

n 1969, Canadian educationist Lawrence J. Peter developed an unorthodox concept that became known as The Peter Principle: “In a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence". His satirical insights into business struck a chord with many subordinates across a range of organisations. Peter went on to develop his theory further, claiming that "in time, every post tends to be occupied by an employee who is incompetent to carry out his duties". So how is any work achieved? Are companies giant machines for sorting people into precisely the jobs they can't do? And to what extent are brilliant people really promoted until they become awful managers? Robin Ince decodes the humorous jargon that ensured Peter's book remained on best seller list for months after its publication. He hears from Yale Professor of Finance Kelly Shue, who offers the first empirical evidence for the Peter Principle in action, and Prof Robert Sutton of Stanford University on how to evade this law of hierarchy and dodge ever reaching your level of incompetence. Produced by Adrian Washbourne. First broadcast on Thursday 27 Aug 2020.
2/15/202114 minutes, 33 seconds
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Laws That Aren't Laws: Betteridge's Law of Headlines - Episode 3

If a newspaper headline ends in a question mark, is the answer always no? And if so, are journalists who use them being lazy and cynical? Ian Betteridge described what is now known as Betteridge's Law of Headlines in a small blog post in 2009. Is it still relevant in our current age of clickbait and media bubbles? Robin Ince puts these questions to Caroline Frost, an ethicist, entertainment journalist and broadcaster, often seen reviewing the papers on a Sunday night on the BBC News Channel, and to Gemma Milne, a tech journalist and author of a book about the dangers of hype in science journalism called "Smoke and Mirrors". Produced by Alex Mansfield. First broadcast on Monday 24 August 2020.
2/15/202114 minutes, 32 seconds
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Laws That Aren't Laws: Parkinson's Law - Episode 2

Cyril Northcote Parkinson may have trained as a naval historian, but it was his succinct humorous essay for the Economist magazine in 1955 that was to overshadow much of his career. In it, he laid out his fundamental law of bureaucracy - "work expands to fill the time available" - and he went on to explain how organisations become bloated regardless of the work in hand. It was instantly recognised by subordinates, and made for uncomfortable reading for those near the top of any institutional hierarchy. Robin Ince explores how the law and its corollaries have taken on a life of their own, and are now being reinterpreted as remote working becomes the new normal for many. Produced by Adrian Washbourne. First broadcast on Thursday 20 August 2020.
2/15/202114 minutes, 28 seconds
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Laws That Aren't Laws: Murphy's Law - Episode 1

“If anything can go wrong, it will go wrong.” Murphy’s Law is now a part of our culture, used to describe wrong outcomes of every sort, from how buttered toast falls to the way catastrophes strike. People have uttered similar laments since time immemorial. But the modern origin of the phrase traces back to two men on one fateful day in 1949 at Edwards Air Force Base in California: Colonel John Stapp whose work would later save countless lives in safer cars and airplanes and Captain Ed Murphy whose contributions would lead to safer cockpit controls and foretell the development of better computers and software. Robin Ince uncovers their tangled tale which sprang from a series of mishaps when what could go wrong did go wrong, risking life and limb for the rider, and how, ironically, the origin of Murphy’s Law went unnoticed by Murphy himself. But does this law simply tap into our tendency to dwell on the negative and overlook the positive? Or are the rules of probability - the mathematical likeliness that something will occur - sufficient to support it? We hear how the mathematician whose car’s clutch ceased to function 100km from home, at night in the middle of a rainstorm with no phone and a flooded tool kit, came up with the definitive equation to predict how often things really do go wrong for no good reason. Produced by Adrian Washbourne. First broadcast on Monday 17 August 2020.
2/15/202114 minutes, 27 seconds
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Long Covid

After becoming ill with covid six months ago, Inside Science presenter Adam Rutherford is only now getting back to normal. He didn’t go to hospital and, like many, thought he’d be back on his feet within a week or two. But his symptoms of fatigue and shortness of breath are taking months to subside and he’s still not 100%. He is not alone. The scale of what’s become known as ‘long covid’ is only now coming to light. Tens of thousands of people are still enduring serious and oddly diverse symptoms, having been initially infected several months ago, from fatigue and muscle aches, to blood clots and kidney failure. One of the most striking aspects of the disease is the stark differences in people’s experiences. Some recover quickly, while others battle with distressing and long-lasting symptoms. What are the underlying mechanisms driving these symptoms? What is it about the virus SARS-CoV-2, and the immune response it triggers, that could explain such widespread destruction in the body? Could there be several subtypes of the disease? A nationwide study, called PHOSP-COVID, is now underway to answer these questions. It’s taking the long view - recruiting ten thousand patients who were hospitalised with covid and following them up for at least a year and, many, for much longer. Adam explores the emerging science behind ‘long covid’ and asks what the repercussions might be for patients, for the NHS and for society. Produced by Beth Eastwood. First broadcast on Tuesday 29 September 2020.
9/30/202028 minutes, 2 seconds
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The Genius of Accidents: CRISPR - Episode 5

Having a fast and easy way to cut out and replace genes could revolutionise areas of biology as diverse as medicine and agriculture. And the discovery of the gene editing tool using CRISPR-cas9 makes that revolution a present reality. But the teams that revealed this gene editing tool piece by piece were not looking for anything to do with genetic engineering: instead they were curious to know more about how bacterial immunity works. Presenter Adam Hart speaks with Professor Jennifer Doudna of the University of California, Berkeley, and Dr Rodolphe Barrangou of North Carolina State University to reveal the story of how scientific curiosity can accidentally change the world. Produced by Rory Galloway. First broadcast on Friday 27 July 2018.
8/27/202014 minutes, 21 seconds
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The Genius of Accidents: Jet Streams - Episode 4

Before the eruption of Krakatoa in 1883, nobody knew about the invisible streams of air in the middle atmosphere that are important for air travel and meteorology. Adam Hart explores the archives of the Royal Society in London to reveal a story of how global observations of the atmospheric effects caused by the ejected smoke from Krakatoa unexpectedly revealed the presence of the jet streams. Produced by Rory Galloway. First broadcast on Thursday 26 July 2018.
8/19/202014 minutes, 16 seconds
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The Genius of Accidents: The Coelacanth - Episode 3

The coelacanth is a fish that, until 1938, was only known from the fossil record until a young South African curator named Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer found one - only just deceased - on the deck of a fishing boat. Presenter Adam Hart speaks with ichthyologists and curators who knew Marjorie, putting together the story of how a curious mind, determination and a bit of luck saved this 'living fossil' for science. Produced by Rory Galloway. First broadcast on Wednesday 25 July 2018.
8/12/202014 minutes, 29 seconds
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The Genius of Accidents: The Big Bang - Episode 2

Evidence for the Big Bang at the start of the universe was discovered by accident, using technology developed to record radio waves from space, that were themselves found by accident. Adam Hart explores serendipity in radio astronomy with Professor Nial Tanvir of Leicester University, and Professor Sarah Bridle of Manchester University, in a story involving not a small amount of pigeon poo, and a persistent odd noise detected from space. Produced by Rory Galloway. First broadcast on Tuesday 24 July 2018.
8/5/202014 minutes, 35 seconds
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The Genius of Accidents: Viagra - Episode 1

Viagra was supposed to be a treatment for the heart condition angina, but during clinical trials an unexpected side effect was noticed by the young male participants. Telling the story of this unexpected discovery, presenter Adam Hart speaks with the Pfizer scientists Sir Simon Campbell and Dr Peter Ellis who were part of the team that noticed the unusual side effects, and brought Viagra forward as a treatment for erectile dysfunction. Sex journalist Alix Fox discusses the importance of this little blue pill to patients. This is the story of the accident that changed sex. Produced by Rory Galloway. First broadcast on Monday 23 July 2018.
7/29/202014 minutes, 24 seconds
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Aleks in Wonderland: Attack of the Zombie Baby Monitors - Episode 3

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, the Internet makes no distinction. Is it time to change that? And can we? In this programme Aleks Krotoski looks at whether it's possible to use technological fixes to regulate the internet or whether a more political approach is needed to governance of this vital but flawed communications medium. Produced by Julian Siddle. First broadcast on Wednesday 30 August 2017.
7/22/202028 minutes, 56 seconds
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Aleks in Wonderland: The World Wide Villain - Episode 2

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 chatrooms 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 of the darker side, from malicious computer hacking attacks, worms and viruses, to new channels for criminality, online extortion and identity theft. Produced by Julian Siddle. First broadcast on Wednesday 23 August 2017.
6/12/202029 minutes, 5 seconds
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Aleks in Wonderland: The International League of Geeky Gentlemen - Episode 1

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 health service and on a personal level our own identities. In this series Aleks Krotoski unravels the complexity of the internet, meeting the people who really invented it, looking behind the myths and cultural constructs to explain what it actually is and how it came to exist outside of conventional regulation. We'll ask whether the nature of the net itself really is cause for concern - and if so what can be done to reign in the negatives of the internet without restricting the positives? In this first episode we go back to the days before the internet to look at the cultural and technological landscape from which it grew, and unravel some of the key moments - now lost in time and obscured by technology folklore, which mark when the internet lost its innocence. Produced by Julian Siddle. First broadcast on Wednesday 16 August 2017.
6/3/202029 minutes, 6 seconds
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Climate Change and Me: Richard Dawson - Episode 5

Richard Dawson, Professor of Earth System Engineering at Newcastle University, was the lead author of the Infrastructure section of the UK Climate Change Risk Assessment 2017. He reflects on how he and his fellow civil engineers now view flooding from a variety of sources the main threat to our infrastructure. Produced by Anna Buckley for the BBC Radio Science Unit. First broadcast on Friday 25 May, 2018.
3/31/202014 minutes, 17 seconds
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Climate Change and Me: Professor Jennifer Leaning - Episode 4

Five scientists, working in different parts of the world, bear witness to some of the dramatic changes to our planet that have occurred in their lifetimes, as the global climate warms. 4. In May 2004, Professor Jennifer Leaning of Harvard University's FXB Center for Health and Human Rights, led a two-person human rights investigation into the reported widespread attacks and killings against agrarian villagers in Darfur, in Western Sudan. The villagers became refugees in neighbouring Chad. Jennifer Leaning explains how this trip lead her to realise that climate change has a crucial part to play in human migration. Produced by Geraldine Fitzgerald for the BBC Radio Science Unit. First broadcast on Thursday 24 May, 2018.
3/18/202014 minutes, 16 seconds
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Climate Change and Me: Professor Mary Edwards - Episode 3

Five scientists, working in different parts of the world, bear witness to some of the dramatic changes to our planet that have occurred in their lifetimes, as the global climate warms. They share their hopes and fears and report on some ingenious local solutions to rapidly changing conditions. 3. 3 million square kilometres of ice has been lost in the Arctic since 1979. Geographer, Professor Mary Edwards lived in Alaska for many years. She has witnessed a cruise ship navigating the Northwest Passage for the first time and seen villages in the Arctic disappear, as melting ice has led to a dramatic loss of landmass too. Produced by Anna Buckley for the BBC Radio Science Unit. First broadcast on Wednesday 23 May, 2018.
3/11/202013 minutes, 42 seconds
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Climate Change and Me: Sir John Lawton - Episode 2

Five scientists, working in different parts of the world, bear witness to some of the dramatic changes to our planet that have occurred in their lifetimes, as the global climate warms. Professor Sir John Lawton is an ecologist and Vice President of the RSPB. He has been bird-watching in the UK since he was a boy. He remembers bird populations that have now collapsed and has seen Mediterranean species that were once rare in the UK become commonplace: multiple canaries in the global climate coal-mine, he says. Produced by Anna Buckley for the BBC Radio Science Unit. First broadcast on Tuesday 22 May, 2018.
3/4/202014 minutes, 12 seconds
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Climate Change and Me: Callum Roberts - Episode 1

Five scientists, working in different parts of the world, bear witness to some of the dramatic changes to our planet that have occurred in their lifetimes, as the global climate warms. 1. Marine biologist and underwater diver, Professor Callum Roberts of the University of York, has seen coral reefs that were once multi-coloured and teeming with life reduced to grey, lifeless underwater landscapes with devastating consequences for marine bio-diversity. Just 0.1% of the ocean life is coral reefs but they support more than a quarter of all the species that live in the sea. Produced by Anna Buckley for the BBC Radio Science Unit. First broadcast on Monday 21 May, 2018.
2/20/202014 minutes, 19 seconds
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What's the Solution?: Plastic Fantastic - Episode 3

The solutions to the problem of plastic pollution and plastic waste lie in many directions. A global plan to stop littering will go a long way. But human behaviour change often needs some economic intervention. One idea by the UK government and many others around the world, is to give a little financial incentive in the form of deposits on plastic bottles, or taxation on single use plastic like coffee cups, food wrapping and plastic bags. Mark Miodownik investigates some of the scientific solutions such as alternatives to petrochemical plastic using microbes or plant materials, clever waste sorting technologies to help make the process easier, even using less plastic. And he hopefully untangles some of the confusing messages about plastic and comes up with ways to be plastic smart. Producer: Fiona Roberts First broadcast on Tuesday 29 May, 2018.
2/11/202028 minutes, 20 seconds
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Things Start to Go Stale: Plastic Fantastic - Episode 2

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 half of this has been generated in just the last 14 years, despite mass production having begun in the 1950s. Events such as China's recent refusal to take any more "foreign rubbish" and Sir David Attenborough's graphic portrayal of the devastation that plastic waste is causing in our oceans, has prompted political and media discussion like never before. We are at a critical moment where, if we're to turn the tide on plastic pollution, it will require science and society to come together to create real change. But it won't be easy. One major area that needs an overhaul is recycling. In the UK only 14% of plastic collected is recycled. We, and the rest of Europe tend to burn our waste for energy, and plastic has a calorific value similar to that of coal. But proponents of the circular economy say we should never consider plastic as waste at all and we should think of it as 'Buried Sunshine' - a resource that needs conserving - by reusing and recycling again and again. Producer: Fiona Roberts First broadcast on Tuesday 22 May, 2018.
2/11/202028 minutes, 28 seconds
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First Flush of Love: Plastic Fantastic - Episode 1

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? Across three programmes, 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 1 - First Flush of Love We may not be on speaking terms right now. But we do have a love affair with plastic, in fact it can be all consuming. Adaptable, lightweight, cheap and hygienic - fantastic plastics started to win our affection back in the late 19th century. Bakelite was an early plastic invented to replace expensive wood. Celluloid was one of the earliest plastics, failing to replace ivory in billiard balls, but revolutionising the world as movie film. Plastic really did change our world. Plastic radar insulation played a role in helping the Allied forces win the Second World War and after the conflict, factories start to churn out cheap, mass-produced goods in the new synthetic polymers. But some of the key virtues of plastic may now have paradoxically poisoned the relationship. Being virtually indestructible, has led to a build-up of toxic micro-plastic in the oceans and environment. We've grown to regard many plastics as cheap and disposable, we take it for granted, rely on it too much, value it too little and are too ready to cast it aside after one single use. Producer: Fiona Roberts First broadcast on Tuesday 15 May, 2018.
2/7/202028 minutes, 17 seconds
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The Science of Addiction

Addiction specialist Sally Marlow examines the science behind addiction to find out why so many people in Britain are hooked on drugs and alcohol. Neuroscientists now have a sophisticated understanding of the networks in the brain that can pull a person towards addiction and hold them there. Changes in the brain also help to explain why it can be so incredibly hard to quit. But brains don't act in isolation, and neuroscience doesn't explain everything. Why do some people get hooked in the first place while others, who use drugs recreationally, do not? How much of addiction is genetic, and how much does free will play a role? What about our social environments and life experiences? Addiction specialists have a good understanding of the complex web of factors that drive people towards addiction and know which treatments work. So why are addiction rates for many drugs at an all-time high? Does society even want to find the answers? Sally talks to some of the scientists who wrestle with these questions and to Mel, John, Lavinia and Kevin who reflect on their own experiences of addiction and recovery. Producer: Beth Eastwood First broadcast on Tuesday 24 September, 2019.
1/29/202028 minutes, 1 second
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Every Step You Take

With smartphones and fitbits, tracking elements of your life has moved on from the dedicated followers of the Quantified Self movement, to something that any of us can do. Accompanied at all times by her step-counting app which she can't help but check several times a day, Claudia Hammond asks whether tracking your every move can affect your behaviour in unexpected ways. Producer: Adrian Washbourne First broadcast on Tuesday 29 August, 2017.
1/22/202028 minutes, 5 seconds
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The Misinformation Virus

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 those who deny the reality of climate change, she assesses the scale and extent of the threat we face. And she discovers the sinister world of deliberate disinformation where an army of bots and trolls work to sow dissent and confusion in the online space. Producer: Fiona Hill First broadcast on Tuesday 17 November, 2019.
1/15/202037 minutes, 7 seconds
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Meet the Cyborgs

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 Cyborgs' Frank sets out to meet other people who are hacking their bodies. Neil Harbisson and Moon Rebus run The Cyborg Foundation in Barcelona, which welcomes like-minded body hackers from around the world. Their goal is not just to use or wear technology, but to re-engineer their bodies. Frank meets the creators of Cyborg Nest, a company promising to make anyone a cyborg. They have recently launched their first product - The North Sense - a computer chip anchored to body piercings in the chest, which vibrates when it faces north. "I'm a 51 year old bald guy, with no tattoos or piercings" says co-founder Scott Cohen. "This was never a place I thought I'd end up in. Everyone's talking about machine learning, but what we're trying to do is make our brains smarter." Of course, the marriage of technology and biology is commonplace in medicine, from pacemakers to IUDs. But now 'citizen hackers' are modifying their medical equipment to add new functions. Dana Lewis from Seattle has created her own 'artificial pancreas' to help manage her Type 1 diabetes and released the code online. But should limits be placed on self-experimentation? And will cybernetic implants eventually become as ubiquitous as smart phones? Features music composed for The North Sense by Andy Dragazis. Presenter: Frank Swain. Producer: Michelle Martin. First broadcast on Tuesday 31 January, 2017.
1/8/202028 minutes, 1 second
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Hack My Hearing

Aged 32, science writer Frank Swain is losing his hearing. Audiologists are concerned there may be a rising tide of 'hidden hearing loss' among young people. As electronic prices have fallen, sound systems have become cheaper and more powerful. At the same time, live music events and personal music players are more popular than ever, resulting in an increase in noise-related hearing damage. In this programme, Frank asks what the future holds for people like him, part of a tech-savvy generation who want to hack their hearing aids to tune in to invisible data in the world around them. Could these designers and hackers create the next supersense? Producer: Michelle Martin First broadcast on Monday 6 January, 2014. Credits: Sound files of tinnitus kindly provided by Action on Hearing Loss. Free Helpline: 0808 808 0123 Sonified data produced by Semiconductor, with audio courtesy of CARISMA, operated by the University of Alberta, funded by the Canadian Space Agency. Special thanks to Andy Kale. Colour music created by cyborg artist Neil Harbisson.
1/2/202028 minutes, 7 seconds
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The Supercalculators

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 talks to Robert Fountain, the UK's two-time winner of this prestigious prize, about his hopes for this year's competition and the mathematical magicians of the past who have inspired him. He also meets Rachel Riley, Countdown's number queen, to find out what it takes to beat the countdown clock. Produced by Alexandra Feachem. First broadcast on Tuesday 16 October, 2018.
12/11/201928 minutes, 18 seconds
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A Trip around Mars with Kevin Fong

The planet Mars boasts the most dramatic landscapes in our solar system. Kevin Fong embarks on a grand tour around the planet with scientists, artists and writers who know its special places intimately- through their probes, roving robots and imaginations. As we roam Mars' beauty spots, Kevin explores why the Red planet grips so many. Beyond its alien topographic grandeur, Mars inspires the bigger questions: are we alone in the cosmos, and what is the longer term destiny of humanity? Was there more than one life genesis? Will humans ever live on more than one planet? The itinerary includes the solar system's greatest volcano - Olympus Mons. It is an ancient pile of lavas more than twice the height of Everest, with a summit crater that could contain Luxembourg. The weight of Mars' gargantuan volcanic outpourings helped to create the planet's extreme version of our Grand Canyon. Vallis Marineris is an almighty gash in the crust 4,000 kilometres long and seven kilometres deep. That is more than three times the depth of Earth's Grand Canyon. In some place the cliffs are sheer from top to bottom. A little to the east lies an extraordinary region called Iani Chaos, a vast realm of closely spaced and towering rock stacks and mesas, hundreds to thousands of metres high. One researcher describes it as Tolkienesque. This unearthly shattered terrain was created billions of years ago when immense volumes of water burst out from beneath the surface and carved another giant canyon, known as Ares Valles, in a matter of months. Imagine a hundred Amazon rivers cutting loose at once, suggests Professor Steve Squyres. The catastrophically sculpted landscapes are part of the plentiful evidence that in its early days, Mars was, at time,s awash with water and, in theory, provided environments in which life could evolve and survive. That is what the latest robot rover on Mars - Curiosity - is exploring at the dramatic Gale Crater with its central peak, Mount Sharp. Expert Mars guides in the programme include scientists on the current Curiosity mission, and on the preceeding rover explorations by Spirit and Opportunity. Kevin talks to hard sci-fi novelist Kim Stanley Robinson whose rich invocations of Martian landscapes form th narrative bedrock of his Mars Trilogy. He also meets Bill Hartmann, a planetary scientist since earliest generation of Mars probes in the 1960s and 1970. Bill has a parallel career as an artist who paints landscapes of the Red Planet. Planetary scientist Pascal Lee of the Mars Institute begins Kevin's tour with a painting he created - an imagined view of Mars from the surface of its tiny moon, Phobos. Producer: Andrew Luck-Baker, BBC Radio Science Unit
12/4/201928 minutes, 13 seconds
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Inside the Killing Jar

The work of the entomologist very 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 investigations to monitor the health of wild insect populations and the impact we are having on the environment. But the methods of entomologists have come under criticism. Last August presenter and entomologist Adam Hart was involved in a citizen science project aimed at surveying the abundance and distribution of the various species of social wasp around the country. The survey entailed members of the public setting up wasp traps in their gardens for a week and then sending the dead insects to the lab running the project. Many people took part but the study also generated negative newspaper coverage and stinging criticism on social media. The reaction got Adam Hart thinking: can his profession really defend the death of thousands and sometimes millions of insects for the sake of science, especially when there's so much concern around insect conservation? How do entomologists feel about killing their subjects, and might the insects themselves feel something akin to pain and suffering themselves? Producer: Andrew Luck-Baker.
11/27/201928 minutes, 19 seconds
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A Sense of Time

Animal senses reveal a wealth of information that humans can't access. Birds can see in ultra violet, and some fish can 'feel' electricity. But how do different species sense time? 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 Geoff Marsh asks whether flies have some sort of super-power to see the world in slow motion. Are they watching your hand come down at what might appear a leisurely pace? Science reveals a window into the minds of different species and their temporal perceptions. Some flies have such fast vision that they can see and react to movement at four times the rate you can, and our vision works at more than six times the speed of one species of deep sea fish. This programme delves into each moment of experience to ask 'what is time, biologically?' When birds have to dodge through forests and catch flies on the wing, or when flies have to avoid birds, it would seem that a faster temporal resolution would be a huge advantage. So what is their sense of time? Geoff meets physicist Carlo Rovelli and asks him to jump outside of physics to answer questions on biology and philosophy. Geoff explores the mind of a bat with Professor Yossi Yovel in Israel, and dissects birdsong at super slow speeds with BBC wildlife sound recordist, Chris Watson. Getting deep into the minds of animals he questions whether our seconds feel like swordfish seconds, or a beetles' or birds' or bats..? Presenter: Geoff Marsh Producer: Rory Galloway
11/20/201929 minutes, 30 seconds
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The Sound of Space

The previously silent world of outer space is changing. In this audio tour around the Universe, Dr Lucie Green explores the sounds of space. Some sounds have been recorded by microphones on-board interplanetary spacecraft. Others have been detected by telescopes and sped up until their frequency is tuned to our ears. The rest are sonified X-rays, space plasma or radio waves that reveal tantalising secrets about the universe that our eyes cannot see. Everyone can recall the sound of the singing comet - a symphony created using measurements from the Rosetta mission. But many other sounds have been created from space data, from lightning on Jupiter to vibrations inside the Sun. From spinning pulsars to black holes and gamma ray bursts, outside our Solar System space becomes even stranger. Joining Lucie Green on this sonic journey through space are: - Prof Tim O'Brien (Associate Director of Jodrell Bank Observatory), - Honor Harger (Executive Director of the ArtScience museum in Singapore) and - Dr Andrew Pontzen (Cosmology Research Group, University College London) with archive from Dame Jocelyn Bell-Burnell. Producer: Michelle Martin.
11/13/201928 minutes, 17 seconds
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Toilet: The Origin of Stuff - Episode 6

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 University believes part of the solution lies in a waterless toilet which creates ash, water from the waste it receives, and the energy it needs to operate, from the waste it receives. Even in the UK, we don’t always have access to a toilet when we need one. Over the past decade, the number of public conveniences has dropped by a half, leaving older people and the disabled, who may need easy access, unable to leave their homes. Raymond Martin, Managing Director of the British Toilet Association, hopes to stop our public conveniences going down the pan. Also featuring resident public historian Greg Jenner. Producer: Beth Eastwood
10/31/201937 minutes, 9 seconds
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Bed: The Origin of Stuff - Episode 5

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 akin to death, with the devil waiting to pounce after darkness. So bed-time rituals were performed at the bedside and wolves’ teeth were often hung around the sleeper’s neck. Iron daggers were dangled over the cradles of infants at night to prevent them from being changed into demon babies. While we may have outgrown a fear of the devil, sleep expert and neuroscientist Prof Russell Foster fears the modern-day obsession that’s disrupting our sleep – our mobile devices. His advice? Prepare your bed for a good night’s sleep and defend it with a passion. Also featuring resident public historian Greg Jenner, and Prof Sasha Handley, expert on Early Modern History and sleep during this time. Producer: Beth Eastwood
10/31/201939 minutes, 30 seconds
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Wine Glass: The Origin of Stuff - Episode 4

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 have today? Is it because letting the wine breathe in a bigger glass makes it smell and taste better? Or is it a reflection of our drinking habits? Join Katy and the show's resident public historian, Greg Jenner, is glass expert Russell Hand from Sheffield University and Barry Smith, Director for the Study of the Senses at London University. Producer: Graihagh Jackson
10/31/201938 minutes, 14 seconds
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Fork: The Origin of Stuff - Episode 3

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 when a Byzantine princess ate with a golden double-pronged one. It was only after the traveller, Thomas Coryat, in 1608, celebrated its use by pasta-loving Italians that the English started to take note. By the mid-19th century, there was a fork for every culinary challenge – from the pickle and the berry, to ice-cream and the terrapin. The utensil transformed the dining experience, bringing the pocket knife onto the table in a blunt, round-tipped form, and ushering in British table manners. So is there a perfect version of the fork? With the help of tomato, milkshake and mango, Katy discovers that the material a fork is made from can drastically alter a food’s taste. Featuring material scientist, Zoe Laughlin, and food writer and historian, Bee Wilson. Producer: Beth Eastwood
10/31/201938 minutes, 29 seconds
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High Heel: The Origin of Stuff - Episode 2

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, Katy explores the heel’s fascinating passage through time, finding a place on the feet of men, as well as women, in high and low places. Heels donned the feet of men on horseback in 17th century Persia, were adored by King Louis XIV, and gained an erotic currency with the invention of photography. But how has science and engineering ensured the high heel’s survival? Footwear Technologist, Mike George, shows us how the high heel is engineered, and how he can test if a particular design is teetering on the edge of safety. Social scientist, Heather Morgan, reveals the perceived benefits of wearing heels, as well as the risks when she fell foul to when fell in heels and broke her ankle. Producer: Beth Eastwood
10/30/201941 minutes, 56 seconds
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Toothbrush: The Origin of Stuff - Episode 1

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 shaped the toothbrush and ensured its place in our lives? And given most are plastic, how environmentally friendly is the toothbrush’s legacy? Featuring designer and toothbrush collector, Sophie Thomas, and advocate for clean teeth, Peter Dyer, Chair of Hospital Dentists at the British Dental Association. Producer: Beth Eastwood
10/30/201941 minutes, 36 seconds
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Welcome to Scientifically...

The home of the best science programmes from BBC Radio 4 introduced by Dr. Alex Lathbridge.
10/30/20191 minute, 5 seconds