The Curious Cases of Rutherford & Fry

The Curious Cases of Rutherford & Fry

www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b07dx75g
Science sleuths Dr Adam Rutherford and Dr Hannah Fry investigate everyday mysteries sent by listeners.


Jurassic Squawk
May 3 • 37 min
“Is there is any way of knowing what noises, if any, dinosaurs would have made?” asks Freddie Quinn, aged 8 from Cambridge in New Zealand. From Jurassic Park to Walking with Dinosaurs, the roars of gigantic dinosaurs like T.Rex are designed to evoke fear…
Lunar Land Pt2
Apr 26 • 29 min
In the second installment of our double episode on the Moon we ask what life would be like if we had more than one Moon. From the tides to the seasons, the Moon shapes our world in ways that often go unnoticed. And, as we’ll find out, it played a vital…
Lunar Land Pt 1
Apr 19 • 30 min
A double episode to mark the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11, and the first humans to walk on the Moon. Harley Day emailed [email protected] to ask “Why do we only have one Moon and what would life on Earth be like if we had more? I’ll be over the moon…
An Instrumental Case
Apr 12 • 39 min
“We play many musical instruments in our family. Lots of them produce the same pitch of notes, but the instruments all sound different. Why is this?” asks Natasha Cook aged 11, and her Dad Jeremy from Guelph in Ontario, Canada. For this instrumental case…
Periodic Problem
Apr 5 • 28 min
“Will the periodic table ever be complete?” asks Philip Craven on Twitter. In 2016 four new chemical elements were given the official stamp of approval - nihonium, moscovium, tennessine, and oganesson. And 2019 was named by the UN as the International…
Mesmerist
Mar 29 • 35 min
“Is hypnosis real, and if so how does it work? Does it have any practical uses and which of Hannah and Adam is most susceptible?” This question came from two Curios, Peter Jordan aged 24 from Manchester and Arran Kinnear aged 13 from Bristol. Arch…
Coming Soon – More Curious Cases
Mar 22 • 4 min
Hannah and Adam return to crack open the Curious Cases they’ll be examining during the coming series, from the sound of musical instruments to the science of hypnosis. Please send your questions for future episodes and entries for Curio of the Week to:…
Horrible Hangover
Dec 21, 2018 • 31 min
“My name is Ava and I’ve never had a hangover,” writes Ava Karuso. “I’m a 25 year-old Australian and I enjoy going out for drinks. However, the next day when everyone else sleeps in and licks their wounds, I get up early and get right back to my normal…
Good Bad Food
Dec 14, 2018 • 26 min
“Why does bad food taste so good?” asks Alan Fouracre from Tauranga, New Zealand. “And by ‘bad’ food, I mean the things we are told to hold back on like sausage, chips and chocolate.” From sugar to salt and fat, we investigate why our body derives…
Two Infinities and Beyond Part 2
Dec 7, 2018 • 31 min
This is the second part of our eternal quest to investigate infinity, inspired by this question from father and son duo Sorley and Tom Watson from Edinburgh: “Is anything in the Universe truly infinite, or is infinity something that only exists in…
Two Infinities and Beyond Part 1
Nov 30, 2018 • 32 min
“Is anything in the Universe truly infinite, or is infinity something that only exists in mathematics?” This momentous question came from father and son duo from Edinburgh Sorley aged 10 and Tom, aged adult. It’s a subject so big, that we’ve devoted two…
Stressful Scone
Nov 23, 2018 • 33 min
“How do accents start and where did they come from?” asks Sachin Bahal from Toronto in Canada. Hannah is schooled in speaking Geordie by top accent coach Marina Tyndall. And Adam talks to author and acoustics expert Trevor Cox about how accents evolved…
Viking Code
Nov 16, 2018 • 26 min
“Is it true all British people can trace their ancestry to Vikings and how do ancestry DNA tests work?” asks Chloe Mann from Worthing. Genetic ancestry tests promise to reveal your ancestral origins and map your global heritage, but do they? Rutherford…
A World of Pain
Sep 7, 2018 • 33 min
“Why do people experience pain differently when they go through the same event?” asks Claire Jenkins from Cwmbran in Wales. Professor of Pain Research, Irene Tracey, welcomes Adam in to the room she calls her ‘Torture Chamber’. Burning, electrocuting,…
Random Request
Aug 31, 2018 • 26 min
Two random questions in this episode. “Is anything truly random, or is everything predetermined?” asks Darren Spalding from Market Harborough. Hannah and Adam go in search of random events, from dice throws to lava lamps. Can we predict the outcome of any…
Running Joke
Aug 24, 2018 • 38 min
“How fast can a human run and would we be faster as quadrapeds?” This question flew in via Twitter from historian Greg Jenner. Is there a limit to human sprinting performance? In this episode we investigate the biomechanics of running, statistical trends…
Alien Enterprise Part 2
Aug 17, 2018 • 24 min
Do alien civilisations exist? When will ET phone home? In the second part of our alien double bill, Hannah and Adam boldly go in search of intelligence. They may be some time. What will aliens look like? Where should we look for them? And what are the…
Alien Enterprise Part 1
Aug 10, 2018 • 25 min
Mike Holcombe from Largs in Scotland asks, “How do we look for alien life and what are we expecting to find?” In the first of two episodes on the search for ET, Hannah and Adam look for life inside the Solar System. How do we define life and why we…
Dawn Chorus
Jun 1, 2018 • 27 min
“Winter is finally over and the birds are all singing their hearts out at dawn. What’s all the noise about? And why are some songs so elaborate?” asks Tony Fulford from Ely in Cambridgeshire. We find out how birds produce multiple notes at once, which one…
Lucky Number
May 25, 2018 • 25 min
“My boss insists that if you choose the same numbers in the lottery each time your probability of winning will increase. Is this true?” asks Vince Scott from Edinburgh. National lotteries are played in more than 80 countries worldwide, but can you…
Déjà Vu
May 18, 2018 • 25 min
“Do we know what causes déjà vu?” asks Floyd Kitchen from Queenstown in New Zealand. Drs Rutherford and Fry investigate this familiar feeling by speaking to world-leading reseacher Chris Moulin from the University of Grenoble in France and memory expert…
Human Instrument
May 11, 2018 • 27 min
“What happens to the human voice as we age? If I hear a voice on the radio, I can guess roughly how old they are. But singer’s voices seem to stay relatively unchanged as they age. Why is this?” All these questions were sent to [email protected] by…
Fifth Dimension
May 4, 2018 • 27 min
“What is the fifth dimension?” asks Lena Komaier-Peeters from East Sussex. Proving the existence of extra dimensions, beyond our 3D universe, is one of the most exciting and controversial areas in modern physics. Hannah and Adam head to CERN, the…
Cosmic Egg
Mar 2, 2018 • 30 min
“How do we measure the age of the Universe?” asks Simon Whitehead. A hundred years ago this wouldn’t even have been considered a valid question, because we didn’t think the Universe had a beginning at all. Even Einstein thought that space was eternal and…
Atomic Blade
Feb 28, 2018 • 23 min
“What makes things sharp? Why are thinner knives sharper? What happens on the molecular level when you cut something?” All these questions came from Joshua Schwartz in New York City. The ability to create sharp tools allowed us to fashion clothing, make…
Tiniest Dinosaur
Feb 23, 2018 • 29 min
“What is the tiniest dinosaur?” asks younger listener Ellie Cook, aged 11. Today’s hunt takes us from the discovery of dinosaurs right up to the present day, which is being hailed as a ‘golden age’ for palaeontology. One new species of dinosaur is…
Enigma of Sex, Part 2
Feb 16, 2018 • 22 min
The second instalment in our double bill on the science of sex, answering this question from Robert Turner, a Curio from Leeds: “Why do we only have two sexes?” Drs Rutherford and Fry look for anomalies in the animal kingdom that go beyond the traditional…
Enigma of Sex, Part 1
Feb 9, 2018 • 24 min
“Why do we only have two sexes and are there any anomalies in the animal kingdom?” asks Robert Turner from Leeds. From reptilian virgin births to hermaphrodite sea slugs, over the next two episodes Drs Rutherford and Fry examine the weird ways other…
Goldfinger’s Moon Laser
Jan 12, 2018 • 24 min
“The other day I was watching the James Bond film Goldfinger. He boasts a laser powerful enough to project a spot on the Moon. Is this possible? If so, just how powerful would such a laser need to be?” This curious question was sent to…
Curious Face Off
Jan 5, 2018 • 25 min
“Are machines better than humans at identifying faces?” asks the excellently named Carl Vandal. Today’s Face Off leads our intrepid detectives to investigate why we see Jesus on toast, Hitler in houses and Kate Middleton on a jelly bean. Face perception…
Cosmic Speed Limit
Dec 29, 2017 • 22 min
“We often read that the fastest thing in the Universe is the speed of light. Why do we have this limitation and can anything possibly be faster?” Ali Alshareef from Qatif in Saudia Arabia emailed [email protected] with this puzzling problem. The team…
Dreadful Vegetable
Dec 22, 2017 • 30 min
“Why don’t children like vegetables?” asks Penny Young from Croydon, and every parent ever. This week Rutherford and Fry dig into the science of taste and discover that there may be more to this question than meets the eye. Children and adults have a…
Baffled Bat
Dec 15, 2017 • 25 min
“Why don’t thousands of bats in a cave get confused? How do they differentiate their own location echoes from those of other bats?” This puzzling problem was sent in to [email protected] by Tim Beard from Hamburg in Germany. Since ecolocation was…
Adventures in Dreamland
Sep 29, 2017 • 24 min
“Why do we dream and why do we repeat dreams?” asks Mila O’Dea, aged 9, from Panama. Hannah and Adam delve into the science of sleep. From a pioneering experiment on rapid eye movement sleep, to a brand new ‘dream signature’ found in the brain, they…
Shocking Surprise
Sep 22, 2017 • 28 min
Why do we get static shocks? Jose Chavez Mendez from Guatemala asks, “Some years ago, in the dry season, I used to be very susceptible to static electricity. I want to know - why do static shocks happen?” The team uncover some slightly unethical science…
Sticky Song
Sep 15, 2017 • 24 min
Why do songs get stuck in our heads? And what makes some tunes stickier than others? Drs Rutherford and Fry investigate ‘earworms’, those musical refrains that infect our brains for days. Every morning 6Music DJ Shaun Keaveney asks his listeners for their…
Polar Opposite
Sep 8, 2017 • 19 min
No one knows why the Earth’s magnetic North and South poles swap. But polar reversals have happened hundreds of times over the history of the Earth. So, asks John Turk, when is the next pole swap due and what will happen to us? Hannah turns to astronomer…
Curious Cake-Off
Sep 1, 2017 • 19 min
Can chemistry help us bake the perfect cake? Listener Helena McGinty aged 69 from Malaga in Spain asks, “‘I have always used my mother’s sponge cake recipe. But is there a noticeable difference in the outcome if you vary some of the ingredients, or the…
Kate Bush’s Sonic Weapon
Jun 16, 2017 • 21 min
“It started while listening to the excellent Experiment IV by Kate Bush. The premise of the song is of a band who secretly work for the military to create a ‘sound that could kill someone’. Is it scientifically possible to do this?” asks Paul Goodfield.…
Itchy and Scratchy
Jun 15, 2017 • 21 min
“What is an itch and how does scratching stop it? Why does scratching some itches feel so good?!” asks Xander Tarver from Wisborough Green in West Sussex. Our doctors set off to probe the mysteries of itch, and discover that this overlooked area of…
Burning Question
Jun 14, 2017 • 18 min
“What is fire? Is it a solid, liquid or a gas? Why is it hot and why can you see it in the dark?” asks Hannah Norton, aged 10. Dr Fry visits the Burn Hall at The Buildings Research Establishment in Watford where they test the effects of fire on building…
Dark Star
Jun 2, 2017 • 23 min
“What’s inside a black hole and could we fly a spaceship inside?” asks Jorge Luis Alvarez from Mexico City. Some interstellar fieldwork is on the agenda in today’s Curious Cases. Astrophysicist Sheila Rowan explains how we know invisible black holes…
Cat Who Came Back
May 19, 2017 • 19 min
“How on earth do cats find their way back to their previous home when they move house?” asks Vicky Cole from Nairobi in Kenya. Our enduring love for our feline friends began when Egyptian pharaohs began to welcome domesticated moggies into their homes.…
A Code in Blood
Mar 15, 2017 • 11 min
“Why do we have different blood types?” asks Doug from Norfolk. The average adult human has around 30 trillion red blood cells, they make up a quarter of the total number of cells in the body. We have dozens of different blood groups, but normally we’re…
Forgetful Child
Mar 10, 2017 • 16 min
“Why don’t we remember the first few years of our lives?” asks David Foulger from Cheltenham. The team investigate the phenomenon of ‘infant amnesia’ and how memories are made with Catherine Loveday from the University of Westminster. A whopping 40% of…
Astronomical Balloon
Mar 10, 2017 • 15 min
“How far up can a helium balloon go? Could it go out to space?” asks Juliet Gok, aged 9. This calls for some fieldwork! Adam travels to the Meteorology Department at the University of Reading where Dr Keri Nicholl helps him launch a party balloon and…
World That Turns
Mar 10, 2017 • 15 min
“Why does the Earth spin?” asks Joe Wills from Accra in Ghana. Hannah quizzes cosmologist Andrew Pontzen about the birth of the Solar System and why everything in space seems to spin. Is there anything in the Universe that doesn’t revolve? BBC weatherman…
Broken Stool
Mar 10, 2017 • 17 min
“Science tells us that our body houses microbial organisms. Then how much our weight is really our weight? If I am overweight, is it because of my own body cells or excess microflora?” asks Ajay Mathur from Mumbai in India. Adam bravely sends off a sample…
Lost Producer
Dec 2, 2016 • 18 min
Why do some people have a terrible sense of direction? The team receive a mysterious message from an anonymous listener who constantly gets lost. Can they help her find the answer? This listener may, or may not, be the team’s producer, Michelle. She would…
Bad Moon Rising
Dec 2, 2016 • 14 min
‘A teacher I work with swears that around the time of the full moon kids are rowdier in the classroom, and more marital disharmony in the community,” says Jeff Boone from El Paso in Texas. ‘Is there any biological reason why the moon’s phases could affect…
Hunt for Nothing, Part 2
Dec 2, 2016 • 13 min
In the last episode the team started investigating the following inquiry, sent in to [email protected]: ‘Is there any such thing as nothing?’ They discovered why quantum fluctuations and the Higgs field mean that nothing is impossible. But how about…
Hunt for Nothing, Part 1
Dec 2, 2016 • 14 min
“Is there any such thing as nothing?” This question from Bill Keck sparked so much head scratching that we have devoted two episodes to this curious quandary. In the first programme, the team considers the philosophy and physics of nothing. As Prof Frank…
Melodic Mystery
Dec 2, 2016 • 15 min
‘Why is my mother tone deaf?’ asks listener Simon, ‘and can I do anything to ensure my son can at least carry a tune?’ Hannah Fry has a singing lesson with teacher Michael Bonshor to see if he can improve her vocal tone, although things don’t quite go to…
Strongest Substance
Oct 7, 2016 • 15 min
“What is the strongest substance in the universe? Some people say it is spiderweb, because it is stronger than steel. Is it iron? Is it flint? Is it diamond because diamond can be only be cut by diamond?” asks Françoise Michel. Adam and Hannah put a…
Space Pirate
Oct 5, 2016 • 15 min
Listener Paul Don asks: “I’m wondering what’s the feasibility of terraforming another planet i.e. Mars and if it’s possible to do the same thing with something like the moon? Or, why isn’t there already a moon-base? Surely that’s easier.” Adam & Hannah…
Portly Problem
Oct 5, 2016 • 14 min
“Why do we have middle aged spread?” asks Bart Janssen from New Zealand. From obese mice to big bottoms, the duo discovers what science can tell us about fat. Why do we put on weight in middle age? And are some types of fat better than others? Hannah…
Sinister Hand Part 2
Oct 4, 2016 • 14 min
In the previous episode the team started investigating the following enquiry, sent in to [email protected]: “What determines left or right handedness and why are us lefties in the minority?” They considered cockatoos, chimpanzees and Hannah’s dog,…
Sinister Hand Part 1
Oct 3, 2016 • 14 min
Neal Shepperson asks, “What determines left or right handedness and why are us lefties in the minority?” When we started investigating this question it became clear that there were just too many scientific mysteries to squeeze into one episode. So there…
Counting Horse
Jun 2, 2016 • 15 min
“Can horses count?” asks retired primary school teacher, Lesley Marr. Our scientific sleuths consider the case of Clever Hans, with a spectacular re-enactment of a 20th century spectacle. Plus, we hear from Dr Claudia Uller who has been conducting modern…
Hairy Hominid
May 30, 2016 • 16 min
Our science detectives answer the following perplexing problem, sent in by Hannah Monteith from Edinburgh in Scotland: “How does leg hair know it has been cut? It doesn’t seem to grow continuously but if you shave it, it somehow knows to grow back.”…
A Study in Spheres
May 26, 2016 • 16 min
Today the team study the heavens, thanks to listener Brian Passineau who wonders ‘why everything in space tends to be circular or spherical?’ Hannah gazes at Jupiter at The Royal Observatory, Greenwich with Public Astronomer, Dr Marek Kukula. Science…
Psychic Tear
May 26, 2016 • 15 min
Listener Edith Calman challenges our scientific sleuths to investigate the following conundrum: ‘What is it about extreme pain, emotional shock or the sight of a three year old stumbling their way through an off-key rendition of ‘Away in a Manger’ that…
Tea Leaf Mystery
May 26, 2016 • 18 min
Today the team examine the chemistry of tea, in answer to the following question sent in by Fred Rickaby from North Carolina: “When we are preparing a cup of tea and the cup contains nothing but hot, brewed tea we need to add milk and sugar. My wife…
Stellar Dustbin
Feb 18, 2016 • 13 min
An unusual case today for science sleuths Hannah Fry and Adam Rutherford sent by Elisabeth Hill: ‘Can we shoot garbage into the sun?’ The duo embark on an astronomical thought experiment to see how much it would cost to throw Hannah’s daily rubbish into…
Squeamish Swoon
Feb 11, 2016 • 13 min
Science sleuths Hannah Fry and Adam Rutherford investigate the following question sent in by Philip Le Riche: ‘Why do some people faint at the sight of blood, or a hypodermic needle, or even if they bash their funny bone? Does it serve any useful…
Aural Voyeur
Feb 11, 2016 • 12 min
Drs Rutherford and Fry tackle a vexing case sent in by Daniel Sarano from New Jersey, who asks why people shout on their mobile phones in public. Our science sleuths find the answer by delving into the inner workings of telephony with a tale of…
Phantom Jam
Feb 11, 2016 • 13 min
Drs Rutherford and Fry set out to discover what makes traffic jam. Adam ventures on to the M25 in search of a tailback, and Hannah looks at projects around the world that have attempted to solve the scourge of the traffic jam. Featuring Neal Harwood from…
Scarlet Mark
Feb 11, 2016 • 13 min
Drs Adam Rutherford and Hannah Fry are on hand to solve everyday mysteries sent in by listeners. For the last few weeks they’ve been collecting cases to investigate using the power of science - from why people shout on their mobile phones to what causes…