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Sideways Podcast

English, Old Time Radio, 1 season, 77 episodes, 1 day, 8 hours, 18 minutes
About
Matthew Syed explores the ideas that shape our lives with stories of seeing the world differently.
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A New Frontier: 3. Life on Mars

Matthew Syed continues his four-part mini-series from Sideways examining the ethics of space exploration in a rapidly expanding era of travel and transformation.In this episode, he explores the role and ambitions of the new actors in space exploration. More people than ever before can now aspire to travel into space with private companies like SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic. This democratisation of space allows those who can afford it to become astronauts and view our world from a different perspective.But new actors and new purposes bring new challenges. Spacefaring billionaires like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos openly share their ambitions to settle on celestial bodies like the Moon or Mars. With a limited body of space laws, questions about land ownership and governance in space - and on Earth - arise. With sculptor and new astronaut Ed Dwight, anthropologist Deana Weibel, NASA consultant Linda Billings and space Lawyer Michelle Hanlon. Presenter: Matthew Syed Producers: Vishva Samani and Julien Manuguerra-Patten Series Editor: Katherine Godfrey Sound Design and Mix: Rob Speight Theme music by Ioana Selaru A Novel production for BBC Radio 4
7/24/202428 minutes, 34 seconds
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A New Frontier: 2. For All Humankind?

Matthew Syed continues his four-part mini series exploring the ethics of space exploration, by returning to the origins of the space race, which saw America and the USSR battling for supremacy. He takes a hard look into the reasons why we go to space and whether it has really benefited all humankind. When Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon in July 1969, humanity as a whole felt like we’d reached a new frontier. The two astronauts left a plaque behind them, at the bottom of their lunar module. It said “we came in peace for all mankind”. But while Armstrong and Aldrin were ambassadors of the entire species, it was an American flag which was planted on the surface of the moon. This was a time of fear of Cold War competition amidst fear of nuclear annihilation. Despite the altruistic ideals encapsulated in NASA’s motto "for the benefit of all", the geopolitical stakes of the space race were paramount. Matthew explores how this combined with America's perception of its exceptionalism and how the post-war period was filled with nationalistic ambitions and controversies. With historians Roger Launius and Neil Maher, Science and Religion Professor Catherine Newell, Space Lawyer Michelle Hanlon and retired astronaut John Herrington. Presenter: Matthew Syed Producer: Julien Manuguerra-Patten Series Editor: Katherine Godfrey Sound Design and Mix: Rob Speight Theme music by: Ioana Selaru A Novel production for BBC Radio 4Featuring archive from: Apollo moon landing archive: NASA, Apollo 11 Moonwalk - Original NASA EVA Mission Video - Walking on the Moon, 1969. Archive Rev Ralph Abernathy at Cape Kennedy. From Library of American Congress and WGBH. Extract from the 3 parts documentary series “Chasing the Moon” directed by Robert Stone for PBS, 2019. Wernher Von Braun - extract from “Disneyland, Man on the Moon” documentary produced by Walt Disney and directed by Ward Kimball, ABC tv 1955. Archive JF Kennedy at the United Nation. From the United Nations Archives. General Assembly (20 September 1963) First International crew arrives at Space Station - CNN reports, 2 November 2000. Archive Space Treaty - British Pathé, Space Treaty February 1967 NASA Artemis launch - @NASA, produced by Sonnet Apple, 2022.
7/17/202429 minutes, 4 seconds
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A New Frontier: 1. A Message to Ourselves

In this special series from Sideways, called A New Frontier, Matthew Syed explores the most out of this world ethical questions posed by the evolution of human space exploration. He takes us into the cosmos with stories from astronauts who’ve been there and those who can only dream of going, to explore the moral debates that have permeated space exploration since before the moon landings, and are evolving dramatically today in a new era of commercial space flight, of asteroid mining and almost daily satellite launches. Matthew begins the series by diving into the ethics of humanity’s search for extra-terrestrial life. In 1974, Richard Isaacman was a young graduate, studying to become an astronomer, from some of the field's biggest names - like Carl Sagan and Frank Drake. At just 21-years-old, he’s asked to contribute to humankind's first ever deliberate attempt to send a targeted radio transmission to a cluster of stars in the outer reaches of the galaxy. A rudimentary picture, designed to be intercepted and decoded by aliens. Delving into our obsession with aliens, science fiction and the vastness of space, Matthew discovers how asking questions about space ethics can often lead us to answers that tell us much more about the ways we treat our own environment, other animals, and each other, than it does about little green men.With former NASA astronaut John Herrington, York University astronomer Sarah Rugheimer and space ethicist, podcaster and author Erika Nesvold. Presenter: Matthew Syed Producer: Leona Hameed Series Editor: Katherine Godfrey Sound Design and Mix: Rob Speight Theme music by Ioana Selaru A Novel production for BBC Radio 4
7/10/202428 minutes, 59 seconds
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Introducing – A New Frontier

Travel into the cosmos for a four-part series about the ethics of space exploration. Matthew Syed invites you to enter the vast wilderness of the galaxy to explore the moral dilemmas that sit at the heart of space exploration, and why they should matter to you.When the space race began in the 1960s, the United States and the Soviet Union dominated. Today, multiple commercial entities and many more governments vie for space in the skies above us. Now we may go to other planets not in order to bring back knowledge that will benefit humankind on earth, but potentially to stay and make a new life for the human race… out there. Exploration is turning to colonisation. In this series, Matthew Syed explores the moral underpinning of space exploration beginning with the space race and early attempts to send a message to little green men. He will ask who gets to go to space, how should we behave when we're there, and whether we have the ethical and legal framework to avoid replicating the conflicts we face on earth, up in the skies above us.Despite all the complexities and necessary moral questions to be wrangled with in this new era, Matthew explores the profound experiences to be had by standing outside our planet. It may offer a unique vantage point to ask questions about who we are, what we owe to each other, where we’re going, and why.Listen from Weds 10 July 2024.Producers: Leona Hameed, Julien Manuguerra-Patten, Vishva Samani Series Editor: Katherine Godfrey Sound design and mix: Rob Speight Theme tune by Ioana Selaru A Novel production for BBC Radio 4
7/3/20242 minutes, 36 seconds
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62. Lost and Found

In 1984, on the eve of the Winter Olympics, Joe Boylan gets lost in a blizzard on an Austrian mountainside. Joe will have to fight with everything he has to survive and be reunited with his family. How he does it reveals often typical patterns of behaviour exhibited by lost people in similar situations.Through the story of Joe’s extraordinary 48-hour battle against the wilderness, Matthew Syed examines the fascinating area of study called Lost Person Behaviour, which has changed the way search and rescue teams operate, world over.Featuring Joe Boylan, Robert J Koester, mathematician and author of Lost Person Behavior, Alistair Read from Mountain Rescue England and Wales, Neil Balderson of Lowland Rescue and Maura O'Connor, science journalist and author of Wayfinding: The Science and Mystery of How Humans Navigate the World.Presenter: Matthew Syed Producer: Leona Hameed Series Editor: Katherine Godfrey Sound Design and Mix by Daniel Kempson Theme Tune by Ioana Selaru A Novel production for BBC Radio 4
3/27/202428 minutes, 54 seconds
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61. Brain Strain

In 1972, at the liberal Vassar College in New York, 18-year-old Rick Shenkman stood out for his unwavering support of Richard Nixon, especially as the Watergate scandal unfolded. His unconditional allegiance raises a perplexing question - why would a bright, well-educated student overlook the facts and maintain blind faith in the president?In this episode, Matthew Syed delves into one of the most intriguing facets of human psychology - cognitive dissonance. Conceptualised by Leon Festinger in the 1950s, cognitive dissonance refers to the mental discomfort a person experiences when they hold contradictory beliefs, values, or attitudes simultaneously, or when their behaviour conflicts with their beliefs or values. While we all encounter cognitive dissonance in our daily lives, its underlying mechanisms often remain unnoticed despite their profound impact. Featuring journalist and historian Rick Shenkman, Professor Elliot Aronson, Professor Matt Johnson and Princeton University graduate student, Logan Pearce. Presenter: Matthew Syed Producer: Julien Manuguerra-Patten Series Editor: Katherine Godfrey Sound Design and Mix: Daniel Kempson Theme Tune by Ioana Selaru A Novel production for BBC Radio 4
3/20/202429 minutes, 11 seconds
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60. For the love of maths

As a child, Kate Ertmann starred in commercials, in soap operas and on Broadway. But acting wasn’t her first love - mathematics was. She considered it to be “a balm" for her brain. And yet societal and teenage pressures made her turn away from maths.Growing up in Sweden, Sebastian Nillson Qvist loathed maths and found it a real struggle. But he still challenged himself to study it as part of a Political Science and Economics degree. It did not go well.But still, maths came back into their lives. In this episode of Sideways, we find out what led them back to mathematics and the impact it had on them. Something host Matthew Syed experienced first hand when a desire to understand inflation and economics led him back to studying for a maths A-Level in his own time and finding it actually enjoyable, rather than a chore as he had at school.We hear how determination to dominate in the sport of darts can lead to incredible mastery of mental arithmetic from Professor Marcus du Sautoy, who also suggests a novel approach to maths education which he believes could inspire and motivate children. And Field’s Medal winner Professor Efim Zelmanov introduces us to a brilliant young mathematician who was killed in a duel 150 years ago but left behind a theory which keeps all online banking safe.With Kate Eartmann of katelovesmath.com, Sebastian Nillson-Qvist, Professor Marcus du Sautoy - Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science and Professor of Mathematics, and Professor Efim Zelmanov - Field’s Medallist and Director of the Shenzhen International Center for Mathematics.Presented by Matthew Syed Producer: Marilyn Rust Series Editor: Katherine Godfrey Sound Design and Mix: Daniel Kempson Theme Tune: Ioana Selaru A Novel production for BBC Radio 4
3/13/202429 minutes, 5 seconds
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59. What's Your Name?

What's your name? You might think you know, but in this episode of Sideways, Matthew Syed discovers the answer could be more complicated than you first assume. That's what Hajar found out, after spending her whole life searching for a name to truly call her own.This is the story of our names, and the influence they have over who we are and who we choose to become. With Hajar Woodland, Eva Echo, Emilia Aldrin, David Zhu and Arjee Restar.Presenter: Matthew Syed Producer: Leigh Meyer Series Editor: Katherine Godfrey Sound design and mix by Daniel Kempson Theme tune by Ioana Selaru A Novel production for BBC Radio 4
3/6/202429 minutes, 7 seconds
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58. The Keeper of Lost Memories

In 2020, David Gutenmacher began to buy old photographs and videos that he came across in second hand shops. He was sad about the prospect that families had been severed from their treasured memories, and so he founded the Museum of Lost Memories to try and reconnect people with their personal archives. But when he came across a video of a family on a safari holiday he realised that finding out who was in these videos might not be all that straightforward.Matthew Syed considers the role of photography and video in personal memory making, and how we go about using photos to leave a record of our existence on earth.Featuring: David Gutenmacher, Founder and curator of the Lost Memory Museum Jono Marcus Lina Henkel, professor of psychology at Fairfield UniversityPresenter: Matthew Syed Producer: Nadia Mehdi Series Editor: Katherine Godfrey Music, Sound Design & Mix: Daniel Kempson Sideways theme by Ioana Selaru A Novel production for BBC Radio 4
2/28/202429 minutes
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57. Grudge Match

Lee and Drew have been like brothers ever since adolescence. So when Drew betrays Lee in the heat of a tumultuous night in Glasgow, the two men find themselves entangled in a bitter grudge that went way beyond what they could imagine, as the violence and bitterness of the wrestling ring, spilled over into the real world.Grudges are typically seen as dangerous, negative emotions. But is there a glimmer of light to be found amid the darkness of resentment? Matthew Syed questions both the hidden values and harsh consequences of grudges.Featuring WWE superstar Drew McIntyre, ICW champion and professional wrestler Lee Greig, Pr Robert Enright from University of Wisconsin and writer Sophie Hannah. Presenter: Matthew Syed Producer: Julien Manuguerra-Patten Series Editor: Katherine Godfrey Sound Design and Engineering: Daniel Kempson Theme tune by Ioana Selaru. A Novel production for BBC Radio 4.
2/21/202428 minutes, 38 seconds
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Sideways: Season nine - coming soon...

Matthew Syed kicks off the new season of Sideways with a story of one of the most brutal grudges ever seen in pro wrestling. Matthew asks us to consider when it's time to let go of a grudge and how. The new season starts on Wednesday 21 February 2024, with other episodes exploring the meaning of photo and video memories, the significance of our names and the creativity of mathematics.
2/15/20241 minute, 31 seconds
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56. A Cinderella Story

On a summer's day in 1974, Norwegian actor Knut Risan steps up to the mic for a voiceover job. It's for a Cinderella movie that's just been acquired by the Norwegian broadcaster NRK, from the country known at the time as Czechoslovakia. NRK want him to dub the film into Norwegian. Knut's just having fun. He's doing all the voices, even the young Cinderella. But he's about to become Norway's "Voice of Christmas" when NRK decides to put the film out as part of its festive line up.Tři oříšky pro Popelku or, as it's often translated, Three (Hazel)nuts for Cinderella, remains an essential part of many Europeans' seasonal viewing to this day. Not least in Norway, where it is shown at 11am on Christmas Eve every year. Knut's son, Olav, used to feel a little embarrassed around this time of year - everyone knew he was the son of the most famous voice on TV. He'd get strange looks in supermarkets. But today, and in this episode of Sideways, he reflects on the special place his father's voice occupies in Norway's Christmas and in his own family.Through the story of a film that straddles the line between fairy tale fun and the realities of the Iron Curtain, Matthew Syed explores the origins, meaning and persistence of this cross-cultural tradition and celebrates the role of Christmas films in many families' celebrations, including his own.Featuring musician Olav Risan and author Kathrin Miebach of the Drei Haselnüsse für Aschenbrödel website. With fairy tale expert Professor Claudia Schwabe of Utah State University and Michal Bregant, Director of Národního Filmového Archivu. Including clips from Tři oříšky pro Popelku (Czech language version) and Tre nøtter til Askepott (Norwegian language version, featuring the voice of Knut Risan). Tři oříšky pro Popelku directed by Václav Vorlícek and starring Libuse Safránková and Pavel Trávnícek. Written by Božena Němcová (story) and František Pavlíček (screenplay), produced by Jiří Krejčík and with a score by Karel Svoboda. Distributed by Ústřední půjčovna filmů.Presenter: Matthew Syed Producer: Amalie Sortland Series editor: Katherine Godfrey Sound design and mix: Naomi Clarke Theme tune by Ioana Selaru A Novel production for BBC Radio 4
12/6/202328 minutes, 40 seconds
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55. Perfectly Mediocre

Cornell University is known for it's elite a cappella scene. It was even the inspiration for the hit film Pitch Perfect. But in 2018 a new group arrived on the scene - Mediocre Melodies. This is the story of how one small group of average singers made a huge impact, as Matthew Syed explores the potential benefits of embracing mediocrity and getting comfortable with being average.Featuring Andrew Greene & Maggie Meister of Mediocre Melodies. With Dr Thomas Curran and Dr Leonaura Rhodes.Presenter: Matthew Syed Producer: Leigh Meyer Series Editor: Katherine Godfrey Mix and sound design: Naomi Clarke Theme tune by Ioana Selaru A Novel production for BBC Radio 4.
11/29/202328 minutes, 50 seconds
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54. Copy Cat

David Henty had a talent for art from a young age. He grew up poring over Hogarth drawings. For a long time, it didn’t feel like something that he could easily pursue. But after two prison sentences spent painting as much as he wanted, there was no looking back. David was set on making a living as an artist. The thing is… the only paintings he could manage to sell for any profit, were all forgeries of famous artists like Lowry, Bacon and Picasso. Matthew Syed explores how David's copy cat approach to art allowed him to unlock his own creativity. Matthew delves into the world of art forgery to explore how this practice blurs lines between creativity and imitation, and challenges notions of authenticity in the art world. He considers whether copying is actually a necessary step on the way to becoming skilled at a particular craft, and whether forgers - as pranksters - might even qualify as modern conceptual artists, and also ponders how the rise of artificial intelligence platforms might make forgers of us all. Featuring: David Henty, artist and writer, Austin Kleon, artist and philosopher, Jonathon Keats, and BBC journalist and AI expert Lara Lewington. Presenter: Matthew Syed Producer: Nadia Mehdi Series editor: Katherine Godfrey Sound design and mix: Naomi Clarke Theme tune by Ioana Selaru A Novel production for BBC Radio 4
11/22/202328 minutes, 44 seconds
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53. Stories of a Father

Violinist and composer Diana Yukawa lost her father, Akihisa Yukawa, in the Japan Air Lines Flight 123 plane crash of August 1985. The crash was just five weeks before she was born. As she grew up, Diana wanted to get to know her father. Matthew Syed, explores the profound relationship that can exist between parent and child separated by a loss of this kind, and the role of storytelling in creating those connections. Writer Ashley Reese’s husband, Rob, died of cancer in 2022. Ashley is planning to get pregnant with hers and Rob’s child using IVF. She is making plans for their future child to know their father. Featuring Diana Yukawa, Ashley Reese and clinical psychologist Dr Emma Svanberg. Presenter: Matthew Syed Producer: Amalie Sortland Series editor: Katherine Godfrey Sound design and mix: Naomi Clarke Theme tune by Ioana Selaru A Novel production for BBC Radio 4
11/15/202328 minutes, 59 seconds
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52. First Loves

After Kate and Guenther shared their first kiss on Torquay's pier in the summer of 1989, their blossoming love was soon interrupted by the distance between Yorkshire and Bavaria. Two years later, they had to let go of their early romance. In this episode, we explore rekindled loves, for better or worse, and the challenges we can face when the ghost of an old romance resurfaces. As Matthew Syed reminisces about his own experiences, he delves into the reasons why our first loves are unforgettable. Featuring Professor Catherine Loveday, Jeannie Thompson, and Professor Adam Fetterman. Presenter: Matthew Syed Producer: Julien Manuguerra-Patten Series Editor: Katherine Godfrey Sound design and mixing: Naomi Clarke Theme tune by Ioana Selaru A Novel production for BBC Radio 4
11/8/202328 minutes, 55 seconds
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The One Star Chef

When chef and independent restaurateur Davide Cerretini first opened his restaurant, it was a dream come true. But that dream quickly soured when he came head to head with ever more pushy and demanding customers. And then online reviews came along... In this story of how one man took on his critics, Matthew Syed examines the role of online reviews - good and bad- in modern consumer culture and delves into whether the customer really is "always right". Featuring Davide Cerretini, restaurant critic Jay Rayner, Dr Jo Cohen and Ewa Maslowska. Presenter: Matthew Syed Producers: Leigh Meyer and Pippa Smith Series Editor: Katherine Godfrey Sound design and Mix: Naomi Clarke Sideways theme by Ioana Selaru A Novel production for BBC Radio 4
11/1/202328 minutes, 34 seconds
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Sideways: Season eight - coming soon...

First loves, harsh critics and a celebration of mediocrity - Sideways returns with six new stories about seeing the world differently and the ideas that shape our lives. Presented by Matthew Syed.
10/30/20232 minutes, 15 seconds
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Introducing... The Today Podcast

Amol and Nick's take on the biggest stories of the week. With insights from behind the scenes at the UK's most influential radio news programme. Listen and subscribe to The Today Podcast on BBC Sounds. New episodes every Thursday. In this episode, Amol and Nick discuss their first mornings on Today and their most memorable interviews. Get in touch by sending us a message or voice note via WhatsApp to +44 330 123 4346 or email [email protected]

 The Today Podcast is presented by Amol Rajan and Nick Robinson. The producers are Tom Smithard and Stephanie Mitcalf. The editors are Jonathan Aspinwall and Louisa Lewis. The executive producer is Owenna Griffiths.
10/9/202314 minutes, 56 seconds
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Introducing… Uncharted with Hannah Fry

Behind every line on a graph, there lies an extraordinary human story. Mathematician Hannah Fry is here to tell us ten of them.
10/2/202314 minutes, 26 seconds
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50. Take the First Step

In 2014 Angela Maxwell was feeling stuck. She wanted something fresh, something exciting. After a chance encounter she landed upon her goal - she was going to set off on one of the largest adventures imaginable: a walk around the world. She didn't know exactly how the journey would play out, but that was part of the appeal - the whole planet was waiting for her to just take the first step. In this episode, Matthew Syed hears from Angela about her 6 year walk around the world, from the misery of freezing cold nights, to finding beauty in solitary nights sleeping under the stars. And Angela explores her ideas about courage - after she was raped during her expedition, she chose to continue her journey around the world. Over the six years she walked, she would find deep connection to herself and to others, making lifelong friends and sinking into the places, slowly, just placing one foot in front of the other. We hear from Susan Houge Mackenzie, a professor of psychology at the University of Otago, about the benefits of adventure to our mindset, even 'micro adventures' which take place much nearer to home, and from naturalist and conservationist Nadia Shaikh, who is a land justice activist working with the Right to Roam campaign, who makes a case that we need far greater access to nature to be able to undertake micro adventures in our local area. Matthew considers how adventures big and small can clarify our goals for our lives, and asks us to consider whether we ought to all be heading out on adventures a little more often. If you have been affected by sexual abuse or violence, details of help and support are available at bbc.co.uk/actionline Presenter: Matthew Syed Producer: Nadia Mehdi Series Editor: Katherine Godfrey Sound design and mix: Rob Speight Theme tune by Ioana Selaru. A Novel production for BBC Radio 4
8/9/202328 minutes, 28 seconds
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49. Inside Marjorie's Parlour

Every Sunday afternoon for over 30 years now, Marjorie Eliot has played a jazz concert in her Harlem apartment for anyone who comes. It all began on a Sunday morning back in 1992, after she was faced with an unimaginable loss. In this episode of Sideways, Matthew Syed explores how music has allowed Marjorie Eliot to look for joy within the deepest of losses. And through the history of jazz itself, he tries to understand how music can become such a powerful, even transcendental force. With actress, playwright and musician Marjorie Eliot; singer, composer, actor - and Marjorie’s son - Rudel Drears; and Dr Tammy Kernodle, musicologist and Professor of Music at Miami University in Ohio. Presenter: Matthew Syed Producer: Jake Otajovic Series Editor: Katherine Godfrey Executive Producer: Max O'Brien Sound Design and Mix: Rob Speight A Novel production for BBC Radio 4
8/2/202328 minutes, 44 seconds
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48. Love Thy Villain

Three different women, who lead three very different lives, but all became villains...or did they? In this episode of Sideways, Matthew Syed explores what happens when we indulge in the darker, supposedly more "villainous" parts of ourselves. He looks at the TikTok trend for embracing your so-called villain era and what might happen when we shake off expectations and niceties. With comedian Chelsea Birkby, musician Mala Waldron, Amanda Lovett who became part of the hit TV show Traitors, Dr Margrethe Brun Vaage, and author and executive coach Rachel Simmons. Presenter: Matthew Syed Producer: Leigh Meyer Series Editor: Katherine Godfrey Sound design and mix: Rob Speight Theme tune by Ioana Selaru. A Novel production for BBC Radio 4
7/26/202328 minutes, 27 seconds
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47. China's Ping Pong Power: Episode 3

In the final episode of this mini series from Sideways, former professional ping pong player, Matthew Syed, tells the story of how ping pong fared in a more open China. After Chairman Mao's death in 1976, his successor Deng Xiaoping introduced privatisation, contracting out, and a host of reforms that freed key parts of the economy from central control. At the same time, China's table tennis team were starting to lose their primacy in the game, with challenging new styles of play emerging from Sweden in particular. But alongside more economic freedom and openness, came a relaxation and innovation in Chinese ping pong style which ushered in a glittering new era of Olympic glory for the Chinese national team. From a sport that brought Mao's China such national pride in the early decades of the PRC, and then laid the groundwork for the rapprochement with the United States, ping pong today is no longer the popular sport of young people in China, and the Communist Party has its sights on prestige in other sporting arenas too. As the series draws to a close, Matthew explores the changing nature of Chinese sporting diplomacy and how sport, and table tennis, are still deeply entwined with the country’s wider ambitions. Presented by Matthew Syed Producer: Pippa Smith Series Editor: Katherine Godfrey Script consultation: Dr Olivia Cheung, SOAS, University of London Sound Design and mix: Rob Speight Archival research: Nadia Mehdi With thanks to Zhijie Shao from the BBC World Service and to the International Table Tennis Federation A Novel production for BBC Radio 4
7/5/202329 minutes
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46. China's Ping Pong Power: Episode 2

Former England international table tennis player, Matthew Syed, continues this three-part mini series from Sideways, with a moment that changed the course of China-US relations - when the hippie American player Glen Cowan met the world's greatest table tennis star Zhuang Zedong. This event would usher in rapprochement between the two nations and lay the groundwork for both Henry Kissinger and Richard Nixon's landmark visits to the once isolated China. In China's Ping Pong Power, Matthew explores the vital role played by the little game of ping pong in the rise of this great power, taking us from the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, to the thawing of US-China relations during the Cold War, to Olympic glory and the sporting ambitions of the country today. Presented by Matthew Syed Producer: Katherine Godfrey Series Lead: Pippa Smith Series Editor: Katherine Godfrey Script consultation: Dr Olivia Cheung, SOAS, University of London Sound Design and mix: Rob Speight Archival research: Nadia Mehdi With thanks to Zhijie Shao from the BBC World Service and to the International Table Tennis Federation A Novel production for BBC Radio 4
7/5/202329 minutes, 18 seconds
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45. China's Ping Pong Power: Episode 1

Matthew Syed is a former Olympic table tennis player for Great Britain. As Matthew travelled in China, competing against some of the world’s greatest players, he realised that ping pong is a game that has played a huge and fascinating role in the rise of a great power, taking us from the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949 to the sporting ambitions of the country today. Matthew begins this three-part mini series from Sideways, with the story of the rise and tragic death of Rong Guotuan - an extraordinary player and China's first world champion in any sport. Chairman Mao and Zhou Enlai were keen ping pong players, and in the early years of the PRC the sport was a way of cementing national pride. And where better to showcase a new China and its sporting prowess than at the 1961 Beijing World Table Tennis Championships? But hidden behind the veneer of a newly built stadium and comforts for the visiting teams from all over the world, was a much darker experience for the people of China - an avoidable famine that's estimated by 1961 to have killed at least 36 million. Presented by Matthew Syed Producer: Pippa Smith Series Editor: Katherine Godfrey Script consultation: Dr Olivia Cheung, SOAS, University of London Sound Design and mix: Rob Speight Archival research: Nadia Mehdi With thanks to Zhijie Shao from the BBC World Service and to the International Table Tennis Federation A Novel production for BBC Radio 4
7/5/202329 minutes, 15 seconds
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Introducing - China's Ping Pong Power

Matthew Syed is a former Olympic table tennis player for Great Britain. As Matthew travelled in China, competing against some of the world’s greatest players, he realised that ping pong is a game that has played a huge and fascinating role in the rise of a great power. In this three-part mini series from Sideways, Matthew tells the stranger-than-fiction story of how this little sport transformed China’s international standing. Available from Wednesday 5 July 2023.
6/28/20232 minutes, 10 seconds
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44. Matthew’s been telling tales

There’s a story Matthew Syed likes to tell. And he’s told it a lot. It’s about a turning point in his life. It’s about learning from a failure and working hard to overcome his shortfalls and come back stronger. Except - he’s realised he’s been getting the story wrong. A key detail in the timeline is off. The turning point he thought was so important, might not be quite as significant after all. And the story just isn’t as neat… In this episode of Sideways, Matthew’s exploring how we use stories to make sense of our lives, and why that means they might not always be completely accurate. With Alexandra Georgakopoulou, Professor of Discourse Analysis and Sociolinguistics at King's College London; Robyn Fivush, Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of Psychology and the Director of the Institute for the Liberal Arts at Emory University; and bestselling ghostwriter Shannon Kyle. Presenter: Matthew Syed Producer and Series Editor: Katherine Godfrey Executive Producer: Max O’Brien Additional Production: Pippa Smith and Leigh Meyer Sound Design and Mix: Naomi Clarke A Novel production for BBC Radio 4
3/22/202328 minutes, 49 seconds
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43. Do I really sound like that?

Julie Matthias is in the middle of a regular shift at her hairdressing salon when she begins to feel really strange. Julie is taken to hospital with the symptoms of a stroke, but doctors can find no evidence she has had one. Initially, Julie is unable to speak properly at all. But when her voice returns, friends start to notice something strange. Julie’s standard Southern British accent, typical for the Medway area of Kent where she lives, has disappeared. In its place is a new voice, a new accent, which leads strangers to think she's from another country entirely. In this episode of Sideways, Matthew Syed wants to understand how our accents evolve, and what happens when they change. Charting Julie’s journey to understand the condition she has developed, and why her accent has disappeared, Matthew uncovers the intricacies of our accents and how they form a part of our identity. Delving into our obsession with accents, and the stereotypes we associate with them, Matthew discovers how our accents change throughout our lives, and how this can impact the way we are treated. As it turns out, the accent is not just in the voice of the speaker, but crucially, in the ear of the listener too. With Jane Setter, Professor of Phonetics at the University of Reading; Nick Miller, Emeritus Professor of Motor Speech Disorders at Newcastle University; and Alex Baratta, Senior Lecturer in Language, Linguistics and Communication at the University of Manchester. Presenter: Matthew Syed Producer: Pippa Smith Series Editor: Katherine Godfrey Sound Design and Mix: Naomi Clarke Theme music by Ioana Selaru A Novel production for BBC Radio 4
3/15/202329 minutes, 12 seconds
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42. The Big Reward

When Kevin Burkart dove into a murky lake to find a lost wedding ring, he did it for nothing. But did he really gain something much more? In this episode of Sideways, Matthew Syed explores our preoccupation with rewards and their impacts. With author and lecturer Alfie Kohn, Headteacher of Barrowford Primary Rachel Tomlinson, Felicia Schaefer and Kevin Burkart. Presenter: Matthew Syed Producer: Leigh Meyer Series Editor: Katherine Godfrey Sound Design and Mix by Naomi Clarke A Novel production for BBC Radio 4
3/8/202329 minutes, 18 seconds
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41. A Small Bowl of Rocket

Lydia Harris has always struggled with food. For as long as she can remember, she has avoided fruit and vegetables - their texture simply disgusts her. But one day, that began to change, with a small bowl of rocket leaves. Eating is one of the greatest pleasures in life for many of us - but, at the same time, it's an arena fraught with choice and decision. No wonder that, as creatures of habit, many of us settle staunchly upon a shopping list of likes, and a mental bank of dislikes. But in this episode, Matthew Syed sticks his fork into the delicious world of food, reminding us that taste is malleable. With an appetite for curiosity, Matthew thinks about how we can find greater joy in our three daily meals. With thanks to food writer Ruby Tandoh, Carolyn Korsmeyer (Professor of Philosophy at Buffalo University, New York) and Charles Spence (Professor of Experimental Psychology at the University of Oxford). Presenter: Matthew Syed Producer: Nadia Mehdi Series Editor: Katherine Godfrey Sound Design and Mix: Naomi Clarke Theme music by Ioana Selaru A Novel production for BBC Radio 4
3/1/202329 minutes, 15 seconds
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40. The Embodiment of Music

A musician is halfway through a public performance when they realise they might not make it to the end. Their body is fighting them, they’re in extreme pain. But stopping is not an option so they push on. No one would know. But boy does the musician know it. When they come off stage, they are in agony. It feels like their career is at an end. In this episode of Sideways, Matthew Syed explores the connection between the musician and their instrument and what happens when that precious relationship is severed by injury. He considers what happens when the thing we love to do most in the world begins to hurt us, and how being unable to do it can tear at the fabric of who we are. But in experiencing that loss, how we may find new ways of understanding ourselves? With cellist Corinne Morris, Artina McCain (pianist and Associate Professor of Piano, University of Memphis), and clarinetist Professor Dr Luc Nijs (University of Luxembourg). Featuring recordings of Artina McCain from her album Heritage: an American Musical Legacy, performing The Vale of Dreams, composed by Charles Griffes, and Troubled Water from Spiritual Suite, composed by Margaret Bonds. And also featuring recordings of Corinne Morris from her album Chrysalis with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, performing Siciliène, composed by François Couperin, and the final movement from Joseph Haydn's Cello Concerto No, 1 In C Major. Mstislav Rostropovich is the solo cellist for Tchaikovsky's Variations on a Rococo Theme. Presenter: Matthew Syed Producer and Series Editor: Katherine Godfrey Executive Producer: Max O'Brien Sound Design and Mix: Rob Speight A Novel production for BBC Radio 4
2/22/202329 minutes, 6 seconds
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39. Please, I beg you.

When Ben Taylor receives a Facebook message from a stranger in Liberia, asking in badly spelled English for financial or business assistance, he quickly assumes it’s a scam. But instead of just ignoring the message, he decides to find out about the person behind it. In this episode, Matthew Syed explores what happens when you let your guard down and make a leap of trust. With author and Oxford University trust fellow Rachel Botsman, philosopher Julian Baggini, Ben Taylor and Joel Mentee-Willie. Presenter: Matthew Syed Producer: Eliza Lomas Series Editor: Katherine Godfrey Sound Design and Mix: Rob Speight Theme music by Ioana Selaru A Novel production for BBC Radio 4
2/15/202329 minutes, 13 seconds
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38. Past Your Peak

John Nunn learnt to play chess aged four. Since before he can remember, he’s had an exceptional talent for maths. In 1970, aged just 15, he started a degree in mathematics at the University of Oxford. In this episode of Sideways, Matthew Syed ventures into the world of child prodigies. Often depicted as freakish talents with pushy parents, Matthew uncovers the falsehoods and fascinations associated with young brilliant minds. Charting John Nunn’s career, from maths lecturer to chess grandmaster, Matthew explores how our performance peaks, plateaus and declines and whether age and innovation are really inextricably linked. With Dr Ellen Winner, Professor of Psychology at Boston College and Dr Bruce Weinberg, Professor of Economics at Ohio State University. Presenter: Matthew Syed Producer: Pippa Smith Series Editor: Katherine Godfrey Sound Design and Mix: Rob Speight Theme music by Ioana Selaru A Novel production for BBC Radio 4
2/8/202328 minutes, 43 seconds
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Season Six – Coming soon…

Matthew Syed introduces season six, which explores stories about letting your guard down and making a leap of trust, reaching the peaks of our powers, and finding what truly motivates us to do good things.
2/1/20233 minutes, 12 seconds
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37. My Last 5p

It’s December 2013 and Toni Osborne is struggling, emotionally and financially. She’s five pence short of keeping her electricity on over Christmas. As she heads out into the night to ask her local shopkeeper for help, a homeless man appears and asks for some change. This is Jack Richardson, and when she bursts into tears, it prompts him to give Toni his last five pence. This simple act of giving would alter both their lives in profound ways. In this episode, Matthew Syed explores how the effects of a seemingly small moment of generosity can ripple outwards, with significant consequences. He considers where this impulse to give to other people comes from and why we go out of our way to help others, sometimes at a cost to ourselves. With Felix Warneken, Professor of Psychology at the University of Michigan; Dr Michael Rees, kidney transplant surgeon and founder of the Alliance for Paired Kidney Donation; and psychologist Scott Kaufman. Presenter: Matthew Syed Producer: Eliza Lomas Series Editor: Katherine Godfrey Sound Design and Mix: Rob Speight Theme music by Ioana Selaru A Novel production for BBC Radio 4
12/7/202229 minutes, 49 seconds
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36. All in a Name

In the 1970s, Sandra Bundy was working hard at her job at the Department of Corrections in Washington DC. She loved her job, but just turning up to work was becoming unbearable. Sandra’s male supervisors kept propositioning her for sex, asking her out on dates and making inappropriate comments. When she reported the problem to her boss’s boss, he tried to proposition her too. As the situation escalated, the language of sexual violence was used. Sandra knew what she was experiencing was wrong, but she didn’t have the words to describe what she was going through, let alone try and seek justice. In this episode of Sideways, Matthew Syed delves into the history of the anti-sexual harassment movement in the US in the 1970s to understand how finding the right words can help us tackle big wrongs. He’ll discover how culture, politics and the law intersect to bring about new ideas, and how these ideas filter down into our everyday understanding of the world. With Sandra Bundy, philosopher Miranda Fricker, social historian Linda Hirshman, lawyer Arthur Chotin and anthropologist Alex Bentley. Presenter: Matthew Syed Producers: Nadia Mehdi & Pippa Smith Series Editor: Katherine Godfrey Sound Design and Mix: Rob Speight Special thanks to: Luke Mullins and Ellen Rolfes Theme music by Ioana Selaru A Novel production for BBC Radio 4
11/30/202229 minutes, 55 seconds
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35. The Riddle

In 2113, a riddle will be solved under the Eiffel Tower. Matthew Syed tells the story of a riddle hidden in the video game Trials Evolution (Ubisoft Redlynx) that became a worldwide treasure hunt that’s yet to be solved, as he considers the role of legacy. Matthew asks how thinking beyond our lifetimes could make life in the present more impactful and might also challenge us to consider how we meet the problems of the future. With Antti Ilvessuo, creator of the riddle, co-Founder and ex-creative director of RedLynx; Brad Kirby, Trials Evolution super fan and expert aka Professor FatShady; Dr Philip Cozzolino, University of Essex; and Kimberly Wade-Benzoni, Professor of Management and Organizations and Center of Leadership and Ethics Scholar at the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University. Presenter: Matthew Syed Producer and Series Editor: Katherine Godfrey Executive Producer: Max O'Brien Sound Design and Mix: Rob Speight Sideways music theme by Ioana Selaru A Novel production for BBC Radio 4
11/23/202229 minutes, 23 seconds
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34. It Takes a Village

In the early 1970s, Al Garthwaite and some friends move in together in Leeds. They’re about to embark on a big experiment.  They’re living communally, sharing clothes, cooking, and housework. But that’s not all. Inspired by that oft repeated phrase, “it takes a village to raise a child”, they’ve decided to share parenting, helping to raise each other's offspring. What follows is an unconventional family but one full of love and care nonetheless.  In this episode of Sideways, Matthew Syed explores their story to think about how we might get more of the good stuff out of family. We hear from Al, and her daughter Shelley, about life in their collective house. Marriage and family historian Stephanie Coontz reveals some surprising facts about the history of the nuclear family while the writer Sophie Lewis pushes us to rethink the ways in which we care for one another. With thanks to contributors Al Garthwaite, Shelley Wild, Sophie Lewis and Stephanie Coontz. Presenter: Matthew Syed Producer: Nadia Mehdi Series Editor: Katherine Godfrey Sound Design and Mix: Rob Speight Theme music by Ioana Selaru A Novel production for BBC Radio 4
11/16/202228 minutes, 52 seconds
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33. Doc and Jim: A Beautiful Partnership

The story of how Dr William Key and his super smart horse “Beautiful” Jim Key became one of the biggest acts in America, only to disappear into historical obscurity. But not before they made a profound impact on millions of American children, who pledged to always be kind to animals, as a result of witnessing their extraordinary partnership. Dr William Key was a former enslaved man who became a wealthy entrepreneur before turning his hand to patiently training a sickly foal to do maths and spell. They took their act on the road to the delight of millions of Americans and the attention of the American humane movement. Matthew Syed invites us to dive into this extraordinary story of America in a moment of new understanding, and asks us to consider the possibilities offered by our relationship to animals. With Mim Eichler Rivas, Eric Collins, Dr Bill Samuels, Dr Elizabeth Ormerod Presenter: Matthew Syed Producer and Series Editor: Katherine Godfrey Sound Design and Mix: Rob Speight Theme tune by Ioana Selaru A Novel production for BBC Radio 4
11/9/202229 minutes, 5 seconds
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32. The Social Contagion

On Armistice Day 2015, Mel gets a phone call from her son’s school, asking her to come in. When she arrives, she finds the car park filled with ambulances and police cars, emergency services buzzing around. It began with someone fainting in assembly and then, like dominoes, more teenagers began to collapse. Students were sent back to their classrooms, but the outbreak spread, with more and more people feeling dizzy and sick. In this episode of Sideways, Matthew Syed tells the story of a strange fainting outbreak at a school and delves into these types of events which affect dozens - sometimes hundreds - of people. What looks unexplained turns out to have a fascinating psychological explanation. But, as Matthew discovers, sometimes our desire to explain things can lead to us explaining them away. With Professor Sir Simon Wessely, psychiatrist and epidemiologist at Kings College, London and Dr Johanna Braun, artist and researcher at the Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna. Presenter: Matthew Syed Producer: Pippa Smith Series Editor: Katherine Godfrey Sound Design and Mix: Rob Speight Theme music by Ioana Selaru A Novel production for BBC Radio 4
11/2/202228 minutes, 43 seconds
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Sideways Season Five – Coming soon…

Matthew Syed introduces season five, which looks at being less cynical, family and legacy.
10/26/20223 minutes, 23 seconds
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31. To Absent Friends

Nicosia, Cyprus, 2018. Kiri Sofocleous sits down to write a Facebook message to a man she has never met. It has been 40 years since Kiri saw her childhood best friend but she has never forgotten her. Could this be the key to reuniting? Matthew Syed tells the story of one woman’s determination to find a beloved friend, lost for four decades due to a move abroad, a political divide and a mislaid address. It prompts him to explore why we make friends and how they influence the rest of our lives, even after losing touch. Professor Catherine Bagwell of Oxford College - Emory University, reveals how playground squabbles equip us with life skills and how making friends can be good for our mental health. Professor Robin Dunbar explains that we are looking for matches from a pre-programmed personal checklist. Building on Dunbar’s Number, the theory that each of us has 150 meaningful relationships, the Emeritus Professor of Evolutionary Psychology at Oxford University, sorts our connections into circles of friendship. Through Professor William Rawlins, Matthew learns how the friends of our young adulthood help us become ourselves, but ultimately write themselves out of our life story by encouraging us to follow our dreams. Contributors include firm friends Kiri Sofocleous and Sonya Foxsmith, Professor Catherine Bagwell of Oxford College - Emory University, Professor William Rawlins of Ohio University and Robin Dunbar, Emeritus Professor of Evolutionary Psychology at Oxford University. Presenter: Matthew Syed Producer: Marilyn Rust Executive Producer: Claire Crofton Researcher: Nadia Mehdi Series Editor: Katherine Godfrey Music, Sound Design and Mix: Nicholas Alexander. Theme Music: Seventy Times Seven by Iona Selaru A Novel production for BBC Radio 4
8/24/202228 minutes, 31 seconds
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30. The Woman in the Portrait

Matthew Syed follows the story of Bernice Bennett, a woman driven to uncover the truth behind a treasured family portrait. When Bernice was growing up, she was always told how much she looked like her grandmother, Mattie Kemp Alexander. Looking at her grandmother’s portrait, she saw her own eyes looking back. This woman’s face was familiar, and yet Bernice knew so little about her. Feeling the call to know more, Bernice set out on a journey to uncover the stories of her family tree. Through the course of her investigations, Bernice uncovers the traumas etched into her family’s past and is drawn into America's legacy of slavery. Her discoveries are painful, but they also lead to some surprisingly joyous new relationships and renewed understanding of her own identity. So why do we search for the secrets of the past, when we know how much the truth may hurt? Genetic Counsellor Brianne Kirkpatrick talks about how people might prepare themselves for what they could find in their family histories, and genealogist Nicka Sewell-Smith explores how the traumas experienced by our ancestors can ripple through to the present day. Contributors: Brianne Kirkpatrick - Genetic Counsellor Nicka Sewell-Smith - Genealogist Bernice Alexander Bennett - Genealogist Presenter: Matthew Syed Producer: Sandra Labady Executive Producer: Claire Crofton Researcher: Nadia Mehdi Series Editor: Katherine Godfrey Music, Sound Design and Mix: Nicholas Alexander Theme Music: Seventy Times Seven by Ioana Selaru A Novel production for BBC Radio 4
8/17/202228 minutes, 36 seconds
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29. Fooling the Opposition

In 1980, underdog English table tennis player John Hilton stunned audiences with his style of play, effortlessly confounding talented European opponents. In this episode of Sideways, Matthew puts his tactics under the microscope to discover how Hilton used deception to fool his opponents, and use their strengths against them. Deception in sport, Matthew argues, is not underhand, so long as it’s within the rules - and it’s everywhere. With the help of sports psychologist Dr Robin Jackson and goalkeeper Chloe Morgan, Matthew examines the high velocities and ultra-fast reaction times of elite sport which make deception so prevalent, and effective. And he charts the rise of data analysis in British sport, from its strange origins on the football terraces to today’s high tech data collection and teams of analysts. Swathes of data mean today’s athletes can set out more informed than ever about their opponents. But as Matthew discovers, this doesn’t necessarily make them immune to deception. In fact, it could make them more vulnerable. With former European table tennis champion John Hilton; Dr Robin Jackson, reader in Sport Psychology at Loughborough University; Crystal Palace Women’s Goalkeeper Chloe Morgan; Statistician Richard Pollard; and Maria Konnikova, journalist and author of The Confidence Game. Presenter: Matthew Syed Producer: Pippa Smith Series Editor: Katherine Godfrey Sound Design and Mix: Rob Speight Theme music by Ioana Selaru A Novel production for BBC Radio 4
8/10/202228 minutes, 27 seconds
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28. Exiting the Bunker

A pigeon sparks a spy hunt. The clock is ticking and the bunker is calling. In this final episode of our four part nuclear series, Matthew Syed examines the current nuclear landscape. In this complex, multiplayer context how do we create a safer world? We begin in Kashmir, the disputed territory between India and Pakistan, where mutual suspicion has led to nuclear expansion and a delicate balance of power. With our sights understandably on the Ukraine crisis, Matthew argues that while our current nuclear ecosystem persists, there could be other flashpoints that we’re not paying enough attention to. Matthew enters the worrying world of nuclear modelling and hears about research that suggests the threshold for catastrophic nuclear damage is lower than we might think. And we’re taken down into the bunker to understand why some people believe safety really lies in their own hands. But is bunkering down the solution? And is planning for the worst actually a hopeful act - you are planning for there to be a world to re-join in the end? As our series ends, Matthew asks whether we can reconcile different ideas about how to contain nuclear weapons, wake up and regain agency, to chart a path to a safer future. Guest list: SJ Beard, Academic Programme Manager at the Cambridge Centre for Existential Risk Dr Annie Waqar, Academic Consultant, UK & South Asia and nuclear arms control researcher Bradley Garrett, author of Bunker: Building for the End Times and Assistant Professor of Geography at University College Dublin Professor Brian Toon, University of Colorado. Paul Ingram, Academic Programme Manager at the Cambridge Centre for Existential Risk Beatrice Fihn, Executive Director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons Sir Lawrence Freedman, Emeritus professor of War Studies at King’s College London and nuclear strategy expert. Presenter: Matthew Syed Producer: Pippa Smith Researcher: Nadia Mehdi Series editor: Katherine Godfrey Sound design and mix: Rob Speight Theme tune by Ioana Selaru A Novel production for BBC Radio 4.
8/3/202228 minutes, 44 seconds
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27. A Blip on the Radar

Angie Zelter is on her way to Loch Goil in Scotland. It’s a beautiful summer’s day, and her friends have packed a picnic. But that’s not the real reason they’re there. Angie has an urgent message to deliver to the world about nuclear weapons. And she’s going to deliver it through an act of destruction. In this episode, Matthew Syed looks at the danger that nuclear weapons pose, even if nations never use them in a deliberate act of war. He hears about the moments we came within a hair’s breadth of disaster through misunderstanding, negligence, accident and even a blackbrown bear. It’s simple - the more weapons there are in the world, the more risk increases. But how to deal with this problem throws up complex solutions and viewpoints. Some would like the total eradication of nuclear weapons, arguing that disarmament across the world is the only way to avoid catastrophic risk. But others worry about disrupting the delicate balance of nuclear deterrence. As Matthew hears, history shows us that scaling back the numbers is possible - even at the height of the Cold War. He asks whether the possibilities for non-proliferation and scaling back through treaties and verification could be a way forward today. Contributors: Angie Zelter - Founder of the Trident Ploughshares movement in the UK, anti-nuclear weapons activist and Peace and Environmental Campaigner Eryn MacDonald - Global Security Analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists Patricia Lewis - Research Director for Conflict, Science and Transformation and Director, International Security Programme Mariana Bujeryn - Global Fellow with the Wilson Center's Nuclear Proliferation International History Project and Research Fellow at the Project on Managing the Atom and International Security Project at the Harvard Kennedy School's Belfer Center Presenter: Matthew Syed Producer: Nadia Mehdi Series Editor: Katherine Godfrey Sound Design and Mix: Rob Speight Theme tune by Ioana Selaru A Novel production for BBC Radio 4
7/27/202229 minutes, 55 seconds
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26. War Games in the Pink Tower

In 1961, a group of American officials decided to play a game of war. Sitting around a table, they tried imagining a nuclear crisis - and how it could be resolved. The outcome of their thought experiment surprised them all, raising far reaching questions about the strength of America’s nuclear strategy. Once nuclear weapons were unleashed into our world in the 1940s, it was obvious that a completely new set of rules of war had to be designed to prevent nuclear annihilation. In this episode, Matthew travels back to 1940s Santa Monica Beach to explore the origins of an idea that would become the guiding principle of nuclear strategy - deterrence. The threat posed by these new weapons had to be used to avoid war, not to start it. Matthew learns about the original think tank - the RAND corporation - where nuclear strategists first gave shape to nuclear deterrence and came up with ways to strengthen the credibility of the US government’s deterrence strategy. The most bombastic thinker amongst them was Herman Kahn - the inspiration for Stanley Kubrick’s Doctor Strangelove. Kahn’s ideas were provocative in the way they urged leaders to consider just how many people they would be willing to kill in a nuclear war in order to make their nuclear threats appear credible. And as the 1960s progressed, the nuclear stockpile grew and tensions ratcheted up. The strategists gained more ground with successive US administrations, wargaming out scenarios in order to test the validity of deterrence. The ‘godfather of nuclear deterrence’ and Nobel prize winning economist, Thomas Schelling, enters the frame just at the right time. Through Schelling’s innovative work on nuclear deterrence, Matthew reflects on the importance of communication in nuclear crises. But in the 1980s, the Reagan administration played a new game. With a shocking outcome. Perhaps nuclear deterrence wouldn’t always prevent war. Guests: Fred Kaplan - The national security columnist at Slate, the author writing about the history of nuclear strategy. Sir Lawrence Freedman - Emeritus professor of war at King’s College London and nuclear strategy expert. Sharon Ghamari-Tabrizi - A historian of science and technology and the author of ‘The Worlds of Herman Kahn’. Graham Allison - Former dean of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and nuclear expert. Paul Bracken - Professor of political science and business at Yale University and nuclear expert. A special thanks to Stephen Downes-Martin of the Connections War Gaming Conference for his generous help in sourcing archival footage of Thomas Schelling’s keynote speech. Presenter: Matthew Syed Producer: Jake Otajovic Series Editor: Katherine Godfrey Researcher: Nadia Mehdi Sound Design: Rob Speight Theme tune by Ioana Selaru A Novel production for BBC Radio 4.
7/20/202229 minutes, 15 seconds
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25. A Nuclear Awakening

It’s a little girl’s eighth birthday. She wakes to a sight that looks like the end of the world. A radioactive mushroom cloud rises 130,000 feet in the air. And the world wakes up to the devastating fallout of nuclear weapons. In this new mini series from Sideways, writer and Times columnist Matthew Syed is calling for a nuclear awakening. Since the end of the Cold War, when relations between two of the world’s nuclear superpowers - the former USSR and the USA - seemed more rosy, Matthew argues that many of us have slipped into a kind of comfortable amnesia about the presence of these destroyers of worlds. The wake up call came when President Vladimir Putin launched the invasion of Ukraine in February accompanied by veiled nuclear threats. It was a reminder of the mind bending fact that there are weapons in existence that are capable of eradicating our species. Over four episodes, Matthew explores the intellectual and strategic frameworks birthed by the bomb and the tensions of the Cold War, which sought to contain the ultimate destructive force. From deterrence to disarmament and non-proliferation, these ideas all aim at one goal - protection from catastrophic nuclear use. Understanding their origins and complexities is urgently needed, Matthew argues. Ultimately, Matthew will be asking if the actions of Putin in Ukraine call for a new intellectual framework to help make our world safe. Presenter: Matthew Syed Producer and Series Editor: Katherine Godfrey Researcher: Nadia Mehdi Sound Designer: Rob Speight Special thanks to Jessica A Schwartz for her recordings of Lijon Eknilang which form part of the material for her book Radiation Sounds. Also to Ali Raj and Susanne Rust, whose reporting for the LA Times informed this episode. Contributors: Evelyn Ralpho Jeadrik, daughter of Lijon Eknilang, Marshallese singer, composer and anti-nuclear activist. Ariana Tibon, Commissioner, Royal Marshall Islands National Nuclear Commission Alex Wellerstein, historian of science and nuclear weapons and a professor at the Stevens Institute of Technology. David Holloway, Raymond A. Spruance Professor of International History and author of Stalin and the Bomb: The Soviet Union and Atomic Energy, 1939-1956 A Novel production for BBC Radio 4
7/13/202228 minutes, 28 seconds
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The Nuclear Reckoning

In this new mini series from Sideways, Matthew Syed is calling for a nuclear awakening. Since the end of the Cold War, when relations between two of the world’s nuclear superpowers - the former USSR and the USA - seemed more rosy, Matthew argues that many of us have slipped into a kind of comfortable amnesia about the presence of these weapons, these destroyers of worlds. The wake up call came when President Vladimir Putin launched the invasion of Ukraine in February accompanied by veiled nuclear threats that were widely reported. It was a reminder of the mind bending fact that there are weapons in existence that are capable of eradicating our species. Over four episodes, Matthew explores the intellectual and strategic frameworks birthed by the bomb and the tensions of the Cold War, which sought to contain the ultimate destructive force. From deterrence, to disarmament and non-proliferation these ideas all aim at one goal - protection from catastrophic nuclear use. Understanding their origins and complexities is urgently needed, Matthew argues. Ultimately, Matthew will be asking if the actions of Putin in Ukraine call for a new intellectual framework to help make our world safe.
7/6/20223 minutes, 28 seconds
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24. Sweet Harmony

James Campbell's family were unusual. They were the 'singing family'. Everyone on their street knew it - and heard it. They would sing at the drop of a hat and James' father had a barbershop quartet. Every Monday evening James would listen attentively to the sumptuous close harmonies and his father taught him and his siblings to harmonise too. James took this into his adult years. It gave him a lifelong enjoyment and confidence to harmonise with other people, just for fun. One day, when his father is taken very ill, James realises the power of harmony at the hardest of times as he and his family join around his father's hospital bed to sing. In this episode, Matthew Syed explores the importance of harmony and asks whether bringing in musical ideas could help bring us a little more harmony in our lives. We get a lesson in close harmony singing with folk trio Lady Maisery and consider how the principles of close listening could carry beyond a musical setting. And Matthew explores Plato's ideas about the soul in harmony with Professor Angie Hobbs, the Professor of the Public Understanding of Philosophy at the University of Sheffield. And with Ian Cross, Emeritus Professor of Music and Science at the University of Cambridge, Matthew unravels the ways we communicate musically in conversation to signal agreement and to bond, showing the vital importance of musical interaction in bonding. Presenter: Matthew Syed Producer and Series Editor: Katherine Godfrey Executive Producer: Max O'Brien Music, Sound Design and Mix: Rob Speight Theme music by Ioana Selaru. A Novel production for BBC Radio 4.
12/22/202128 minutes, 56 seconds
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23. Oostvaardersplassen: A Wild Idea

Flevoland, the Netherlands, 1968. A new patch of land is being carved out of the sea. Destined initially for agriculture or industry, when nature begins to take over, authorities decide to protect the new Earth as a nature reserve - the Oostvaardersplassen. In this episode of Sideways, Matthew Syed uses the story of this pioneering nature reserve to reveal our conceptions, and misconceptions of the wild. Rich with reedbeds, the oostvaardersplassen soon becomes a haven for rare birds. But Dutch ecologist Frans Vera wants to take the oostvaardersplassen further. He wants to test the theory that Europe wasn’t covered with forest before humans arrived, but instead had vast grassy plains, much like the savannas of Africa. And so begins the introduction of herds of cattle, horses and deer to the reserve - a pioneering environmental effort which pre-dates the now familiar idea of rewilding. But when the project stumbles into controversy, it tests our understanding of the wild and how we look after it. And as opposition to the Oostvaardersplassen begins to shape its future, the heady dream of a self-sufficient Dutch serengeti is abandoned. With the urgency of restoring the earth’s natural spaces, Matthew questions whether our scientific failures can still lead to progress. With journalist and environmental campaigner George Monbiot, cultural geographer Dr Clemens Driessen and environmental philosopher Dr Andrea Gammon along with Frans Vera and campaigner Betty Den Engelsman. Producer: Pippa Smith Researcher: Nadia Mehdi Series Editor: Katherine Godfrey Music, Sound Design and Mix: Rob Speight Sideways theme by Ioana Selaru A Novel production for BBC Radio 4
12/15/202128 minutes, 58 seconds
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22. Inspiring Bill Strickland

Back in the 1960s, Bill Strickland was a listless teenager but life as he knew it was about to change forever. One afternoon, while skipping class, something caught his eye - the door to one of the art rooms was ajar and he could hear the whirring of a potters wheel. Stopping a moment to take a look, Bill beheld a sight that would change the course of his life. At the wheel was a ceramics teacher, Mr Frank Ross, spinning a lump of clay into a beautiful bowl. He was witnessing a profound metaphor - he could make his life into something beautiful as Mr Ross made bowls from clay. Mr Ross had lit a fuse within Bill. He went onto university and eventually set up the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild, an afterschool arts programme in his neighbourhood of North Side, Pittsburgh. The programme is designed to intercept the often difficult lives of teenagers in the area, to put them on a path toward a positive future with the help of inspirational teachers. And it works. Thousands of kids come through the programme each year and Bill’s work has been recognised by the White House, among others. Matthew Syed explores how teachers have the power to transform the world, one student at a time. It’s a big responsibility taken seriously by the likes of history teacher Shalina Patel. Shalina goes beyond the textbooks to engage her students. Professor Sarah-Jayne Blakemore explains why adolescence is such a formative time in terms of brain development and suggests we reconsider the way we talk about and teach teenagers. Presenter: Matthew Syed Producer: Claire Crofton Series Editor: Katherine Godfrey Music, Sound Design & Mix: Rob Speight Theme music by Ioana Selaru A Novel production for BBC Radio 4
12/8/202128 minutes, 47 seconds
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21. The Woman Who Brought Down the Mob

On a January night in Manhattan, a team of lawyers is working to crack open an organised crime case. And at the centre of it all, is Eunice Carter - the first black woman to graduate from Fordham Law and the first African-American woman to pass the New York state bar. Matthew Syed tells the story of how Carter’s brilliance and meticulous attention to detail blew open a case that would bring down the most notorious mobster - Lucky Luciano - and he explores the experience, the pressure and the role of being "a first". With Yun Li and Marilyn Greenwald, authors of the biography Eunice Hunton Carter: A Lifelong Fight for Social Justice; Dr. Tsedale M Melaku, sociologist and author of You Don't Look Like a Lawyer: Black Women and Systemic Gendered Racism; and Claude M Steele Professor of Psychology at Stanford University. Presenter: Matthew Syed Producer: Sandra Labady Series Editor: Katherine Godfrey Researcher: Nadia Mehdi Music, sound design and mix: Rob Speight Additional mixing: Alex Portfelix A Novel production for BBC Radio 4
12/1/202128 minutes, 51 seconds
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20. An appointment with Dr Leech

Boston, Massachusetts, 1985. Dr Joe Upton is struggling to reattach a severed ear onto a little boy. Using incredible skill and the best in modern equipment he re-attaches the arteries, but the veins are proving difficult. Blood keeps getting congested and the little ear is turning black. Just when it looks like all is lost, Joe remembers leeches. Once used to treat every malady imaginable, the vampiric worms fell out of favour when we gained a better understanding of how the body works. But, Matthew Syed wonders, did the medical backlash against leeches go too far, squandering the ancient wisdom contained in the worm? In seeking to find out what other potentially useful cures have been consigned to history, Matthew learns about an Anglo Saxon recipe for an eye balm which uses garlic and bovine bile and may have MRSA busting qualities. He learns how the chants and charms accompanying such potions had incredibly practical purposes but why the newly professional doctors of The Enlightenment were keen to deride homespun medicine as quackery. Matthew draws out why we dismiss certain knowledge and experience in favour of modernity and progress and asks what we risk losing as a result. With Microsurgeon Dr Joe Upton, Carl Peters-Bond of Biopharm Leeches, Micro-biologist Dr Freya Harrison of Warwick University, Nottingham University Anglo Saxon expert Dr Christina Lee and 18th Century Medical historian Dr Kathryn Woods of Goldsmith’s University. Presenter: Matthew Syed Producer: Marilyn Rust Series Editor/Exec: Katherine Godfrey Researcher: Nadia Mehdi Music Sound, Design & Mix: Rob Speight Additional mixing: Alex Portfelix Theme Music: Seventy Times Seven by Iona Selaru A Novel production for BBC Radio 4
11/25/202129 minutes, 52 seconds
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19. Is This What Success Looks Like?

Lee Chambers is an undeniable success. From his parents' single bedroom, with the boiler humming away day and night, he founds an e-commerce video games business that gives him a healthy bank account in seven months. Next comes the car, the house, the fancy holidays with his wife. But all the time, Lee feels like a total failure. Everyone is telling him he’s a success, but he can’t see it. He’s on the verge of being overwhelmed, until his body intervenes to stop him in his tracks. In this episode of Sideways, Matthew Syed asks us to question the myths we’re fed about success and redefine its meaning for ourselves. Is it always about working harder? Can we pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, or, actually, do many more of us need a leg up from others? Matthew explores the way toxic myths about successful entrepreneurialism are sold to us, which often ignore the uneven access to risk-taking and the importance of timing. With philosopher Dr Gwen Bradford, of Rice University, Matthew asks us to reconsider what achievement really means. And, ultimately, asks us to create a healthier approach to what it takes to become successful. Presenter: Matthew Syed Producer and Series Editor: Katherine Godfrey Executive Producer: Max O’Brien Researcher: Nadia Mehdi Music, sound design and mix: Nicholas Alexander Additional mixing: Alex Portfelix Produced by Novel for BBC Radio 4
11/17/202129 minutes, 9 seconds
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18. Tongue-Tied

At a school assembly, 16-year-old Simon Day discovers an acute fear of public speaking. Faced with a crowd of expectant faces, panic begins to set in. Soon, Simon finds that words fail him at almost every turn, threatening his career, relationships and, ultimately, his happiness. Matthew Syed follows Simon’s journey to find his voice, uncovering the science of how we speak and the complex factors that leave us lost for words. With Joe Moran, author of Shrinking Violets: The Secret Life of Shyness; psycholinguistics expert Dr Alissa Melinger; and former palliative care consultant Dr Kathryn Mannix, author of Listen: How to Find the Words for Tender Conversations. Presenter: Matthew Syed Producer: Pippa Smith Series Editor: Katherine Godfrey Music, Sound Design and Mix: Nicholas Alexander Theme Music: Seventy Times Seven by Ioana Selaru A Novel production for BBC Radio 4
11/10/202128 minutes, 55 seconds
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17. The Endurance of Arlene Blum

Arlene Blum has scaled some of the most treacherous peaks in the Himalayas. When she’s not climbing mountains, she’s fighting to get toxic chemicals banned from everyday household goods. Arlene says that her experience leading expeditions has helped her acquire the personal skills and attributes required to push through bold new science policies. Matthew Syed asks whether transferable resilience from one field to another is the secret to reaching the top not just once, but throughout our lives. Arlene is not alone in her experience. Riteesh Mishra, a retired pro-footballer turned coach and talent manager, is a big advocate for “dual careers". Likewise, Professor Julia Richardson has led a study looking into how sportspeople can adapt their skills to second careers, drawing on their experiences in one area in order to excel in another. Living a dual life as a mountaineer and a chemist has equipped Arlene with resilience and determination, but there’s something else that’s led Arlene to the top, and that’s the ability to question the ways things have always been done. Professor Steven Nadler, a philosopher specialising in early modern philosophy, says that Arlene can be considered a modern heretic. Do we need a bit more heretical thinking to get to the top of our own mountains? Presenter: Matthew Syed Producer: Claire Crofton Series Editor: Katherine Godfrey Researcher: Nadia Mehdi Music, Sound Design and Mix: Nicholas Alexander Theme Music: Seventy Times Seven by Ioana Selaru A Novel production for BBC Radio 4
11/3/202128 minutes, 37 seconds
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Series 3 Coming Soon

Matthew Syed introduces the new series, which focuses on endurance, courage & resilience.
10/27/20212 minutes, 34 seconds
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16. Big Head

Matthew Syed has come to a horrible realisation about himself. He is in danger of becoming a big head. He’s worried that, with a successful podcast and best-selling books, every positive affirmation he receives is only serving to inflate his sense of entitlement. The Greeks had a word for this - hubris. In the final episode of this series, Matthew is on a mission to prevent his tragic downfall by exploring the line between over-confidence and useful pride, asking whether, with the right conditions, we could all be at risk of hubris - or whether it’s just him. He’ll explore how to spot and prevent hubristic leaders, remedies to this kind of arrogance and how we can access good confidence. With Eugene Sadler-Smith, Professor of Organisational Behaviour, University of Surrey; Joey T Cheng, Assistant Professor of Psychology, York University; Alessandra Tanesini, Professor of Philosophy, University of Cardiff. Presenter: Matthew Syed Producer/Series Editor: Katherine Godfrey Executive Producer: Max O’Brien Researchers: Nadia Mehdi and Alice Bloch Music, Sound Design and Mix: Nicholas Alexander Theme Music: Seventy Times Seven by Ioana Selaru A Novel production for BBC Radio 4
8/11/202129 minutes, 19 seconds
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15. Best Feet Forward

When the Danish men’s football team are called up to replace Yugoslavia in the 1992 European Championships, just 10 days before the start of the tournament, nobody fancied their chances, least of all the players themselves. In this episode of Sideways, Matthew Syed traces their fairy tale journey towards taking home the trophy and reveals what Denmark's story can teach us about the importance of prioritising team cohesion over individual stardom. For the Danish coach, Richard Møller Nielsen, it’s all about nurturing the ties between the players, putting the team ahead of the ego of any individual star. Møller Nielsen’s approach is unpopular with the press, the public and the players themselves. But as Matthew discovers, he’s hit upon a crucial element of social cohesion, one that has been powering our societies for centuries. While we often construct our sports teams, our businesses and our lives assuming that we need to motivate individuals, are we overlooking the importance of human connection? And is this connection the secret to success? With journalist and football writer Lars Eriksen, former Danish international player and commentator Morten Brunn, Alexandra Michel, leadership development expert and Adjunct Professor at Graduate School of Education, University of Pennsylvania, Greg Walton, Associate Professor of Psychology at Stanford University and Professor Josef W Meri, historian in interfaith relations at the College of Islamic Studies, Hamad Bin Khalifa University. Presenter: Matthew Syed Producer: Pippa Smith Series Editor and Executive Producer: Katherine Godfrey Music, Sound Design and Mix: Nicholas Alexander Theme Music: Seventy Times Seven by Ioana Selaru A Novel production for BBC Radio 4
8/4/202128 minutes, 36 seconds
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14. Let's All Be Batman

When Amrou Al-Kadhi steps into a pair of heels and takes the stage, they step into another world, another persona where they can be whatever they want. In this episode of Sideways, Matthew Syed asks whether creating an alter ego is the key to finding our true self. For Amrou Al-Kadhi, performing as their drag alter-ego, Glamrou started out as an escape. Struggling with mental health issues, feeling like they had to suppress their femininity in some contexts, their Arab identity in others, it was a relief to take a break from it all and get into the mindset of a fearless woman who didn’t give a damn. But soon, Glamrou became so much for than an act. As Matthew discovers, alter egos might start out feeling like role play, but they have the power to transform us in profound and lasting ways. And it turns out that some of the most successful people around have used them to get the edge, from Beyoncé to Rafael Nadal. But the benefits of alter egos aren’t limited to the stage or the sports field. Studies show that even children can benefit from taking on alter-egos, and you might just find there are already things you do to harness other identities and shift your perspective when the moment calls for it. With screenwriter, author and drag performer Amrou Al-Kadhi (drag name Glamrou), author and coach, Todd Herman, and Ethan Kross, Professor of Psychology and Business at the University of Michigan and the director of the Emotion and Self Control Laboratory. Presenter: Matthew Syed Producer: Claire Crofton Series Editor and exec producer: Katherine Godfrey Music, Sound Design and Mix: Nicholas Alexander Theme Music: Seventy Times Seven by Ioana Selaru A Novel production for BBC Radio 4
7/28/202129 minutes, 7 seconds
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13. A Question Of Justice

When Ray and Vi Donovan left court after the sentencing of three boys who murdered their 18-year-old son, Christopher, they said they had justice for Chris, but not the truth. They still didn’t know why Christopher was murdered on a May evening in 2001. That was a question the trial didn’t answer and only Christopher’s killers could. Years later, they would meet the three boys, by now men, to ask that question - why? Criminal justice asks what laws have been broken, who broke them, and how the lawbreaker should be punished. But Ray and Vi needed different questions answered. They started to go through a restorative justice process - an alternative way of understanding crime that centred on their needs as victims, which Ray says is ‘not rocket science, it’s two people talking’. Ray and Vi spent months preparing for each meeting, thinking about what they needed to know and what they wanted to happen afterwards. Until they met and talked with each of these three men. In this episode of Sideways, Ray and Vi tell of how restorative justice changed them. Matthew Syed examines the philosophy underpinning restorative justice, asking what needs it seeks to address and its relationship to criminal justice. With Ray and Vi Donovan, MBEs For Services to Restorative Justice, Dr Kerry Clamp, Associate Professor of Criminology, University of Nottingham, Professor Joanna Shapland, Edward Bramley Professor of Criminal Justice at the University of Sheffield and Sam Fallows from the Probation Service. Presenter: Matthew Syed Producer and Series Editor: Katherine Godfrey Executive Producer: Max O'Brien Music, Sound Design and Mix: Nicholas Alexander Theme Music: Seventy Times Seven by Ioana Selaru A Novel production for BBC Radio 4
7/21/202128 minutes, 35 seconds
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12. Brighter than Bagpuss

Boston, Massachusetts. 1970. A group of mothers and young children assembles outside the offices of the local TV station. It’s the first phase of a fight to improve kids’ TV that would go all the way to the United States Senate. Matthew Syed looks at how kids' TV got smart, and what we can learn about the developing mind from the programme makers who led the way. In the late 1960s, children’s television in the US was dominated by cheap cartoons and adverts for sugary snacks. Peggy Charren had something to say about it. She formed a grassroots activism group in her living room with other concerned mothers - Action for Children’s Television. It would become one of the most influential broadcast lobbying groups in history. Peggy was part of a wave of people who were starting to take kids’ TV seriously. From the creators of Sesame Street, to psychological researchers like Professor Daniel Anderson who brought science into children’s programme making, Matthew draws out what we can learn from these innovators who know how to create a hit show. With Debbie Charren, Peggy’s daughter, and former schoolteacher and reading specialist; Robert Krock, Action for Children’s Television’s former development director; Daniel Anderson, Professor Emeritus at the department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, University of Massachusetts Amherst; Dr Michael Muthukrishna, Associate Professor of Economic Psychology at the London School of Economics; and Andrew Davenport, creator, writer and composer of In the Night Garden, Moon and Me, and Teletubbies. Presenter: Matthew Syed Producer: Caroline Thornham Series Editor: Katherine Godfrey Music, Sound Design and Mix: Nicholas Alexander Our theme is Seventy Times Seven by Ioana Selaru A Novel production for BBC Radio 4
7/14/202129 minutes, 11 seconds
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11. Too Big to Succeed

When a major earthquake hits California, it has to rebuild - but at what cost? A sunny afternoon in October, 1989. In San Francisco's Candlestick Park stadium, a pair of local sporting rivals are about to go head to head - the Oakland Athletics against the San Francisco Giants. But before the first ball is pitched, the game is interrupted - by a major earthquake. A section of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge - the major transport connection for the two northern Californian cities - crumbles, killing one person. And across the Bay in West Oakland, a double decker freeway collapses. 42 lives are lost. In the months and years that follow, San Francisco and West Oakland face a seemingly simple question - how to rebuild. Two major projects emerge. But with very different results. While one brings a community together, the other becomes a political battleground. By examining the Iron Law of Megaprojects - which reveals how major infrastructure problems, far from being a silver bullet, become money-draining, ego-flattering albatrosses that overrun and under deliver - Matthew asks whether a simpler, more streamlined way to create the spectacular is possible. And in the end, is the pursuit of creating something sublimely beautiful even worth it? With Darrell Ford, member of the West Oakland Citizens Advisory Board; Steve Heminger, former executive director of the San Francisco Bay Area's Metropolitan Transportation Commission; Bent Flyvbjerg, Professor and Chair of Major Programme Management at Saïd Business School, University of Oxford; Yael Grushka-Cockayne, Professor of Business Administration at the Darden School of Business, University of Virginia; Dr Karen Trapenberg Frick, Associate Professor in the Department of City and Regional Planning at UC Berkeley. With thanks to Ms Margaret Gordon, co-founder and co-director of the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project. Presenter: Matthew Syed Producer: Eleanor Biggs Series Editor: Katherine Godfrey Executive Producer: Max O'Brien Music, Sound Design and Mix: Nicholas Alexander Theme Music: Seventy Times Seven by Ioana Selaru A Novel production for BBC Radio 4
7/7/202128 minutes, 55 seconds
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10. Under the Influence

It's 1990 and Birmingham metal band Judas Priest are on trial in court in Reno, Nevada. The band are accused of influencing the suicide and suicide attempt of two of their young fans by placing subliminal messages in their track Better By You, Better Than Me. What follows is a six week trial - the first to be filmed for Court TV - in which the lives of the boys’ families are devastatingly pulled apart in front of the cameras, junk science is flung around the courtroom. The band will have to prove their innocence, in a classic piece of courtroom theatre, by explaining the suspicious nonsense phrases found when they play their music backwards. Matthew Syed tells the story of the case and examines the stubborn myth of mind control and hidden influences. From the fascination with subliminal messages in mid-century advertising, to self-help tapes in the 1980s and the fear for the minds of young YouTube fans falling asleep to strange sounds in order to wake up with glowing skin, Matthew considers the misconceptions about the way we’re influenced. With David Van Taylor, filmmaker and director of Dream Deceivers: Heavy Metal on Trial; Timothy E. Moore, professor in the Department of Psychology, Glendon College, York University; and Hugo Mercier, research scientist at the CNRS Institut Jean Nicod, Paris. Wilson B. Key interview on KPFK courtesy of Pacifica Radio Archives. BBC Action Line If you or someone you know are experiencing emotional distress, help and support is available here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/4WLs5NlwrySXJR2n8Snszdg/emotional-distress-information-and-support2 Presenter: Matthew Syed Producer/Series Editor: Katherine Godfrey Executive Producer: Max O'Brien Music, Sound Design and Mix: Nicholas Alexander Theme Music: Seventy Times Seven by Ioana Selaru A Novel production for BBC Radio 4
6/30/202129 minutes, 21 seconds
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9. Originality Armageddon

Bonfire night, November 5th 2015, 9.30pm. An agent fires off an email. An author is accused of plagiarism. His new book lies ready to be pulped. In the first of a new series of Sideways, Matthew Syed asks why we’re doomed to be unoriginal and why it hurts so much to be, well, not that special. In 1998, Hollywood directors Matthew Bay and Mimi Leder went head to head with suspiciously similar disaster movies - Armageddon and Deep Impact. Allegations of late-night spying flew around. But could there have just been something in the air? Matthew reveals that, four years earlier, fragments of the Shoemaker-Levy 9 Comet smashed into Jupiter and right into the American consciousness. This is the thing... As Matthew discovers, our brains are wired for unoriginality, we evolve as a collective brain, absorbing our shared cultural cues and looking for what has worked in the past. But if that’s the norm, why do we feel so disappointed when our ideas seem unoriginal, when someone else beats us to it? And is there a way out of this - to rekindle our originality? With author Ian Leslie, Kristen Lopez, TV editor for Indiewire and pop culture critic, Dr Michael Muthukrishna, Associate Professor of Economic Psychology at the London School of Economics and Nick Groom, Professor of Literature in English, University of Macau. Presenter: Matthew Syed Producer/Series Editor: Katherine Godfrey Executive Producer: Max O'Brien Music, Sound Design and Mix: Nicholas Alexander Research and Development: Gavin Haynes and Madeleine Parr Theme Music: Seventy Times Seven by Ioana Selaru A Novel production for BBC Radio 4
6/23/202128 minutes, 58 seconds
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Introducing the new series

Matthew Syed returns with the new series of Sideways, all about the ideas that shape our lives, with stories of seeing the world differently.
6/21/20212 minutes, 46 seconds
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8. Mental Athletics

American science journalist Joshua Foer was a perfectly normal guy with a perfectly normal memory. Then he entered the USA National Memory Championships - and ended up giving the country’s brain power prodigies a run for their money. How did he do it? Matthew Syed takes a deep dive into the heady world of brain training - where ordinary people challenge themselves to reach new peaks of mental athleticism. Journeying from the methods of the Ancient Greeks, to the showbiz hacks of the 1960s, to the Manhattan competition hall where Joshua competed for the title of memory champion in 2006, Matthew learns that the desire to push the limits of our cognitive capacity has been around for thousands of years. But do these techniques work? In his effort to understand what’s possible when it comes to improving our minds and memories, Matthew examines the impact of nature and nurture on our brains - asking whether environmental inequality, or genetics, is the deciding factor in determining whether anyone could become a mental athlete. Producer: Eleanor Biggs Music, Sound Design and Mix: Benbrick Series Editor: Russell Finch Executive Producers: Sean Glynn and Max O'Brien A Novel production for BBC Radio 4
3/31/202129 minutes, 2 seconds
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7. Top of the Pops

You might not have heard of Max Martin, but you've definitely heard the songs he's written. You probably know the words whether you like the songs or not. Martin has written many of the world's biggest pop hits. He has 23 number ones, second only to Paul McCartney and John Lennon. Matthew Syed explores the extraordinary career of the enigmatic pop powerhouse who's one of Sweden's most significant musical exports. Matthew contrasts Martin's songwriting process with the practice of scientific research which has become overwhelmingly collaborative in recent years. Matthew discovers that Martin's unique approach to collaboration, drawing upon the experience and skill of a vast and diverse range of musicians, has enabled him to stay ahead of the pack when it comes to crafting world-beating pop songs. Producer: Thomas Curry and Russell Finch Music, Sound Design and Mix: Benbrick Series Editor: Russell Finch Executive Producers: Sean Glynn and Max O'Brien A Novel production for BBC Radio 4
3/24/202128 minutes, 44 seconds
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6. A Recipe for Happiness

A young entrepreneur builds the ‘happiest company in the world’, an online shoe retailer so profitable that Amazon snaps it up for over a billion dollars. But what if the company’s profits and happiness could be boosted by a radical reimagining of the workplace? No more bosses, no more job titles, just creativity, equality and pure joy. Matthew Syed tells the extraordinary story of Tony Hsieh, a visionary entrepreneur who abandoned social hierarchy in his Las Vegas-based shoe company. Could it be that the secret to happiness lies in making everybody equal? Producer: Robbie MacInnes Music, Sound Design and Mix: Benbrick Series Editor: Russell Finch Executive Producers: Sean Glynn and Max O'Brien A Novel production for BBC Radio 4
3/17/202129 minutes, 53 seconds
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5. The Most Selfish People on Earth

On the spacecraft Voyager, hurtling through deep space sits a golden record, filled with the music of planet earth. It is a cultural gift for unknown extraterrestrial life forms. If an alien species discovers this unique double LP, they'll be greeted by the singing of the Mbuti people of the Congo recorded by the anthropologist Colin Turnbull. Matthew Syed examines Turnbull's seemingly utopian experiences in the forest with the Mbuti and contrasts them with his utterly bleak account of the Ik people of Uganda. The Ik were, according to Turnbull, a "loveless" people devoid of culture, brutal and totally uncaring. He labelled them "the most selfish people on earth". Turnbull argued that the Ik offered a stark warning to westerners. This allegedly nightmarish society was, according to Turnbull, the way the west was headed. Matthew hears from Turnbull's critics who say he misunderstood the Ik and uses Turnbull's work to ask a profound question - is mankind fundamentally rotten and selfish at the core, or do kindness and compassion lie at the beating heart of human society? Producer: Mike Martinez Music, Sound Design and Mix: Benbrick Series Editor: Russell Finch Executive Producers: Sean Glynn and Max O'Brien A Novel production for BBC Radio 4
3/10/202128 minutes, 22 seconds
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4. Looping the Loop

Matthew Syed asks what the world's greatest fighter pilot can tell us about decision making. He discovers a theory that transformed warfare and might have played a key role in Brexit. John Boyd was a rebel. The quintessential fighter pilot, complete with a cigar permanently installed in his mouth. A legend within the US Air Force, he was known to be able to shoot down any opponent in a dogfight in under 40 seconds. Boyd developed a decision making tool that would take the military by storm. He argued that the path to victory could be boiled down to a core process: observe, orient, decide, act - OODA. He explained that this process looped, with each action leading to a new opportunity to observe. To defeat an enemy all you had to do was disrupt their OODA loop. Matthew will reveal that Dominic Cummings is a Boyd devotee, deploying his decision making tactics during the Brexit campaign with great effect. While the OODA loop is highly effecting in confrontational settings, Matthew asks whether this form of thinking works when co-operation, rather than domination, is the name of the game. Producer: Robbie MacInnes Music, Sound Design and Mix: Benbrick Series Editor: Russell Finch Executive Producer: Sean Glynn and Max O'Brien A Novel production for BBC Radio 4
3/3/202128 minutes, 18 seconds
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3. The West and the Rest

Did a shift in our sexual behaviour 2000 years ago lead to the rise of the west as a globally dominant force? Matthew Syed wants to put the western mind in the spotlight. There’s a good reason for doing this. It turns out that 96% of psychological experiments have been carried out on western students. Why is this? Because western students are easy to access for a psychologist working in a university. This might sound convenient, but there’s a problem - it turns out that westerners think in a particular way. Easily reproducible experimental findings in the west don’t stack up when you use non-western subjects. Many of our classical assertions about the workings of the human mind are based entirely on the western human mind. Matthew digs into the deep roots of the western mind and asks whether a ban on cousin marriage triggered a surge of innovation in the west as tribal boundaries broke down. It’s an intriguing theory, but does it stack up? Matthew is determined to find out. Producer: Robbie MacInnes Music, Sound Design and Mix: Benbrick Series Editor: Russell Finch Executive Producer: Sean Glynn and Max O'Brien A Novel production for BBC Radio 4
2/24/202129 minutes, 6 seconds
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2. 1 in 73 Million

In this episode, Matthew tells two stories, both of which raise profound questions about how we think. A group of terrified teenagers discover a disturbing app on social media. A world renowned doctor sets out to uncover hidden crimes. The tragic events Matthew examines lead to a mother getting jailed for killing her two children. The key piece of testimony in her trial hinges on a question of statistical probability. But, as Matthew reveals, human beings are extremely poor at understanding the improbable. Producer: Gemma Newby Music, Sound Design and Mix: Benbrick Series Editor: Russell Finch Executive Producer: Sean Glynn and Max O'Brien Sideways is produced by Novel for BBC Radio 4
2/10/202129 minutes, 8 seconds
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1. Siding with the Enemy

Best-selling author Matthew Syed explores the ideas that shape our lives with stories of seeing the world differently. A criminal walks into a Swedish bank brandishing a machine gun. He takes a handful of bank workers hostage. The police lock the victims and their captors in the vault and then things start to get weird. Despite being held captive and threatened with violence, the hostages side with the criminals. Stockholm Syndrome is born. In this episode, Matthew Syed reexamines the birth of this peculiar psychiatric disorder and discovers that all is not what it seems. Producer: Gemma Newby Music, Sound Design and Mix: Benbrick Series Editor: Russell Finch Executive Producers: Sean Glynn and Max O'Brien A Novel production for BBC Radio 4
2/10/202128 minutes, 31 seconds
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See The World Differently

Join bestselling author Matthew Syed as he explores the ideas that shape our lives. With sound design from Peabody Prize winner Benbrick, Sideways combines big ideas with narrative storytelling, offering a new perspective on the way we live.
2/3/20212 minutes, 8 seconds