CrowdScience

CrowdScience

www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p04d42rc
We take your questions about life, Earth and the universe to researchers hunting for answers at the frontiers of knowledge.


Who were the first farmers?
Jul 12 • 28 min
Farming is a relatively recent invention for our species. For most of human history, people were hunter-gatherers. They moved around the landscape to get their food, hunting prey and gathering fruits and cereals from their environment. But then, around 10…
Why do some people eat soil?
Jul 5 • 33 min
For some people, the idea of eating soil is weird at best and at worst disgusting and dirty. But globally the practice of geophagy – or the regular and intentional consumption of earth – is more common than you might imagine. The ancient Greek physician…
Can we prevent traffic jams?
Jun 28 • 34 min
It’s frustrating to be stuck in traffic. Listener Collins from Nairobi, Kenya, spends at least three hours a day in traffic and he counts himself lucky. Many of his friends will easily spend six hours in traffic jams to get back and forth from work.…
What’s the best way to breathe?
Jun 21 • 30 min
Breathing is automatic: awake or asleep, running or resting, our bodies unconsciously make sure we get enough oxygen to function. But - unlike other bodily functions such as heart rate and digestion - it’s not hard to control our breathing consciously. If…
Are there new ways to beat depression?
Jun 14 • 26 min
For decades, people suffering from chronic depression have relied on medicines that affect the levels of chemicals in the brain like serotonin, which regulate mood and emotion. But ten percent of people don’t benefit from any of the existing treatments…
Can singing improve our health?
Jun 7 • 32 min
Singing can lift our spirits, but research suggests it could also benefit our health, improving breathing for people with lung conditions and helping us cope with dementia. Could it even have a preventative effect? CrowdScience heads to Cheltenham Science…
How are we evolving?
May 31 • 33 min
Medical intervention has disrupted natural selection in humans as many more children survive into adulthood than did a few centuries ago. And as our DNA continues to evolve, in order to adapt to our environment, how might human beings of the future be…
Could our household microbes help or harm us?
May 24 • 32 min
As scientists keep finding ever more fascinating facts about the invisible housemates that share our homes, we dust off our episode on what might be lurking in quiet household corners or under our beds. Marnie Chesterton reminds us how dust can contain…
Bonus: 13 Minutes to the Moon
May 20 • 5 min
Introducing the new podcast about how humans reached the moon. Theme music by Hans Zimmer. Search for 13 Minutes to the Moon or go to www.bbcworldservice.com/13Minutes #13MinutestotheMoon
Could dark matter harbour dark life?
May 17 • 31 min
Where the conditions are right, life can arise. But what might the ‘right’ conditions be? Could the dark sector of our Universe be inhabited? That’s what Gautam from Delhi, India has been wondering. He points out that dark matter and dark energy make up…
How does a single cell become me?
May 10 • 27 min
Our bodies are made of cells, tens of trillions of cells. They all have particular roles and functions in the body, from digesting food, to producing hair, to hunting down pathogens. But all of this incredible complexity started as just a single cell.…
Did cooking make us human?
May 3 • 29 min
Many of us enjoy cooking – but when did we switch from eating our food raw, to heating it? Listener Logan enjoys his beef burgers rare, but wants to know why he still feels compelled to grill them? Presenter Anand Jagatia travels to a remote South African…
Could viruses help fight super-bugs?
Apr 26 • 30 min
We are slowly running out of ammunition to fight antibiotic resistant bacteria. Listener Peter wants to know whether a therapy that he’d heard about in the 1980s could be revived to help us where antibiotics falls short. CrowdScience travels to Georgia…
Will we ever know what the universe is made of?
Apr 19 • 35 min
We are all made of particles – but what are particles made of? It’s a question that’s been perplexing scientists for centuries - for so long, in fact, that listener Doug in Canada wants to know if there’s a limit to how much they can ever discover.…
Why do we find things beautiful?
Apr 12 • 30 min
Humans seem programmed to appreciate beauty - whether that’s an attractive face, a glorious sunset, or a stirring piece of music. Of course, our individual tastes are all different, and culture plays a huge part too - but why are we so struck by whatever…
What are dreams for?
Apr 5 • 29 min
There are very good reasons to sleep: to regulate the body’s metabolism, blood pressure and other aspects of health. But do we actually need to dream? Is there an evolutionary reason for it? Marnie Chesterton takes her dream diary to a dream lab to…
Which milk is best for me and the planet?
Mar 29 • 32 min
Swapping dairy milk for a plant-based milk is a growing trend that promises environmental benefits. But what is the best milk considering both our health and the planet’s? Scottish listener Nancy asks CrowdScience to unpick the pros and cons of…
Why do we like some animals and hate others?
Mar 22 • 31 min
Cute isn’t exactly a scientific term but we all know what we mean by it, don’t we? Endearing, adorable, lovable and sweet. So what makes us fawn over a puppy, but run away from rats? Why do we spend millions on trying to keep Giant Pandas alive but spend…
When will an African visit Mars?
Mar 15 • 32 min
Crowdscience heads to Africa’s biggest science festival for a panel debate in front of a live audience that takes us into space then back down to earth to solve listeners’ questions. Marnie Chesterton and Anand Jagatia are joined by aspiring…
Why am I shy?
Mar 8 • 31 min
A racing heart, blushing, feeling sick - most people experience symptoms of shyness in certain situations. But some of us are much shyer than others, and if it gets on top of you, shyness can really limit what you get out of life. That’s why this week’s…
What do clouds feel like?
Mar 1 • 32 min
This week we turn our gaze skywards to tackle three questions about what’s going on above us. Three year old Zac from the UK wants to know what clouds feel like – if they’re supposedly like steam, then how are they cold? Presenter Graihagh Jackson meets a…
Does brain size matter?
Feb 22 • 28 min
The size of brains in the animal kingdom is wildly different, from melon-sized in blue whales to pea-sized in shrews. But does a bigger brain mean a more powerful one? CrowdScience listener Bob wondered just this as he watched various sized dogs running…
Where was the last place humans made home?
Feb 15 • 29 min
Our species started in Africa, but what was the last habitable landmass we reached? CrowdScience presenters Marnie Chesterton and Geoff Marsh team up to investigate how and when our species journeyed around the world and settled its most far flung…
Could a ‘zombie’ virus kill us all?
Feb 8 • 31 min
It’s the sort of plot you would expect from a classic sci-fi movie; what if there are viruses trapped deep in Antarctic ice that could wreak havoc on humans? Crowdscience presenter Alex Lathbridge puts on warm gloves and meets the scientists venturing…
Is Recycling All Our Waste at Home Possible?
Feb 1 • 30 min
Waste, trash, garbage – whatever you call it, unwanted materials have become a major presence in many of our lives and our environment. Every year it is estimated that humans around the world produce 2 billion metric tonnes of waste. Listener Clare from…
Why Do We Bury Our Dead?
Jan 25 • 29 min
The ritual of burying the dead stretches back to the obscure beginnings of human history - and perhaps beyond, with archaeologists uncovering evidence of burials that pre-date our own species. But why do we bury our dead? How important is it, and how did…
Why Can’t I Remember My Accident?
Jan 18 • 33 min
When CrowdScience listener, Grady, crashed violently on his motorbike in the desert, he thought he was going to die. Years later he still can’t remember the dramatic seconds just before the impact. Where did the memory disappear to? Did the hard hit to…
Can Volcanoes Power the World?
Jan 11 • 33 min
Magma is the hot, molten rock found beneath the Earth’s crust. It’s so plentiful that it got Greek listener Dimitrios wondering whether we could harness this heat. Could we drill directly into the magma and use it to power our homes, he asks presenter…
How Bird-Like Were Dinosaurs?
Jan 4 • 26 min
Birds are dinosaurs, but did their extinct relatives move, look, or even sing like their avian relatives? From revealing the hidden information within fossilised dinosaur footprints, to reading the messages left by muscle attachments on fossil bones and…
What is the future of space travel?
Dec 28, 2018 • 28 min
CrowdScience goes interstellar this week to answer listeners’ questions about the future of space travel. Marnie Chesterton heads to Nasa’s Kennedy Space Centre in Florida, where she hears about the engineering challenges of creating a spacecraft that…
Is There a Logic to Romantic Love?
Dec 14, 2018 • 33 min
Loving someone who doesn’t love you in return makes us feel wretched – can science explain why we must suffer? Parental love makes perfect evolutionary sense but romance just seems to have it in for us time after time. CrowdScience listener Leja wants to…
Why do Women Live Longer than Men?
Dec 7, 2018 • 29 min
From Russia to Rwanda, women live longer than men and have done so for over 100 years. But why? Is it encoded in our genes or is it something to do with the way we live? This is something CrowdScience listener Michelle from England has been wondering…
Is Soil The Secret to Slowing Climate Change?
Nov 30, 2018 • 29 min
Removing carbon dioxide from our atmosphere - and stopping it getting up there in the first place - is becoming increasingly urgent if we want to prevent catastrophic climate change. There are some seriously high tech machines being developed to try and…
Do You Smell What I Smell?
Nov 23, 2018 • 31 min
We may take our ability to smell for granted but it’s a far more complex sense than many people realise. Listener Annabel wants Crowdscience to investigate why perfume makes her queasy, so Anand Jagatia sets out to discover why we can’t all agree when we…
Which Language is Most Efficient?
Nov 16, 2018 • 34 min
Communicating quickly, accurately and, ideally, in a way that’s well-received is no easy feat, wherever you live in the world. For this week’s listener, who lives and works in several different countries as a member of the armed forces, good communication…
Can We Make an Artificial Womb?
Nov 9, 2018 • 28 min
From IVF to premature babies we explore what science we would need to make a baby outside the body in a pursuit to answer a question from Nigerian listener, Aminu asking: Can we make an artificial womb? To find out, presenter Nastaran Tavakoli-Far gets…
How Do We Deal with Nuclear Waste?
Nov 2, 2018 • 35 min
How should we tackle the biggest clean-up job in history? Listener Michelle from Ireland sends CrowdScience to investigate what to do with years’ worth of spent nuclear fuel. Most of the highly toxic waste is a by-product from nuclear power production and…
Could Bionic Eyes Help Me See Again?
Oct 26, 2018 • 28 min
Mohammed is from India and he’s blind. He emailed CrowdScience because he wanted to know more about new technologies that could help him see again. Specifically, he was interested in artificial vision - what is it and what does it look like? Bobbie…
What are the Limits of Human Endurance?
Oct 19, 2018 • 32 min
When it comes to speed, humans have got nothing on cheetahs - or greyhounds, kangaroos or zebras for that matter. It’s over long distances we really come into our own: when running for hours or even days, our body structure and excellent sweating skills…
What Makes Us Superstitious?
Oct 12, 2018 • 38 min
Would you willingly break a mirror, walk under a ladder or cut up an image of someone you love - or might you be worried about tempting fate – even if you don’t believe in supernatural forces? Anand Jagatia enters the world of magical thinking on behalf…
Can We Prevent Hurricanes?
Oct 9, 2018 • 35 min
As the US reaches the end of another hurricane season listener Kelly wants to know if it’s possible to prevent these devastating storms? She lives in Florida, the hurricane capital of the world, and has survived 100mph winds whipping through her home. But…
Does Asking Questions Improve Your Memory?
Sep 28, 2018 • 29 min
As the show that takes your questions and turns them into audio adventures reaches its 100th episode, Marnie Chesterton revisits a few of our most liked, talked-about, and inbox-filling programmes to find out how science is getting on with the answers.…
What’s The Point of Laughter?
Sep 21, 2018 • 28 min
This violent and repetitive involuntary constriction of the chest muscles is highly infectious, and can result in convulsions, profuse tears and a reddening of the face. People are known to clutch their chests or roll around on the floor during the more…
Is Vaping Bad for your Health?
Sep 14, 2018 • 27 min
E-cigarettes and vaping may only have been around for a decade or so but it’s estimated more than 35 million people globally have taken it up. Marnie Chesterton heads to a vape show to discover why these gadgets are proving so popular, and hears from one…
Why Do Drivers Zone Out?
Sep 7, 2018 • 26 min
Have you ever been out driving and noticed your mind… wandering? CrowdScience listener Sian Gardiner has. When travelling to visit her parents she has to cross a very large, very obvious bridge. But there are times when she finds herself on the other side…
Why Do Some Animals Change Sex?
Aug 31, 2018 • 27 min
In humans if you have two X chromosomes you are female and if you have an X and a Y then you are male. It is textbook science. But CrowdScience listener Du in Singapore has done some extra homework and found a piece of intriguing fish research which…
Is there life on Mars?
Aug 24, 2018 • 27 min
It’s the central question for the current generation of Mars missions. Since the first close-up pictures of the red planet back in 1965, decades of space missions have revealed our neighbouring planet to be cold, rocky and sterile. But there are hints of…
Could Humans Live in Underwater Cities?
Aug 18, 2018 • 32 min
The idea of creating underwater habitats has captured the imagination of writers, thinkers and scientists for decades. However, despite numerous grand visions these dreams of aquatic metropolises have not yet come to fruition. Crowdscience listener and…
Can We Trap Light in a Box?
Aug 10, 2018 • 29 min
What is light and can we trap it in a box? On this edition of CrowdScience, Marnie Chesterton brings you a kaleidoscope of colourful questions from listeners around the world, from Kampala to Chicago. Shireen asks why people have a favourite colour and…
How Do You Stop a Hedgehog Invasion?
Aug 3, 2018 • 31 min
Hedgehogs are the UK’s favourite British mammal. They have cute furry faces, a snuffly nose and the ability to gobble up garden slugs. What’s not to like? Answer: quite a lot if you live in the Outer Hebrides. Hedgehogs were introduced to South Uist in…
Why Does History Repeat Itself?
Jul 27, 2018 • 31 min
Teenagers are known for ignoring their parents’ advice, but is this reputation for rebellion well-founded? If so, is rejecting the advice of previous generations and treading our own path an important part of what it means to be human? Are we successful…
How Do Magnets Work?
Jul 20, 2018 • 34 min
This deceptively simple question from listeners Andy, Mike and James is actually one of the hardest questions CrowdScience has ever tackled. Why? Because even scientists struggle to explain the true nature of the magnetic force and to do so in a way that…
Why do Humans have Different Coloured Skin?
Jul 13, 2018 • 29 min
Anand Jagatia heads to the rainbow nation of South Africa, to answer listener Lucy’s deceptively simple question. He follows the path of early human migration to understand the relationship between light skin and latitude, and find out how the world…
Where Do All Our Vegetables Come From?
Jul 6, 2018 • 31 min
Listener Pogo wants to know why there aren’t any cabbages – or any of the other vegetables – in his local forest. Where did they all come from? And could they someday disappear? Presenter Gareth Barlow goes hunting for wild snacks in a city park and…
Do Plants Talk about Sex?
Jun 28, 2018 • 26 min
Sex – for most organisms - is about meeting the right partner. But what if you and your mate are stuck far apart with no ability to travel? This dilemma could put a bit of a downer on your sex life, but is faced by plants everywhere. Presenter Anand…
Will We Run Out of Groundwater?
Jun 22, 2018 • 29 min
Some of the biggest reserves of freshwater are right under our feet and they’re really important for farming as well as providing us with water to drink. However, in some areas of the world, groundwater is being slurped up quicker than it can be…
What Shapes Our Musical Taste?
Jun 15, 2018 • 32 min
What sounds heavenly to one person might sound like boring noise to another - but why are our musical preferences so different? Is it all down to what we hear growing up, or are other factors at play? CrowdScience listener and music lover Jocelyne from…
Is Hypnosis a Real Thing?
Jun 8, 2018 • 29 min
Hypnosis has a long and controversial history, with its roots in animal magnetism or mesmerism, the theory developed by 18th Century German doctor Franz Mesmer. He believed he had discovered an invisible natural force possessed by all living things, and…
How Green Are Electric Vehicles?
Jun 1, 2018 • 28 min
Electric cars are labelled as ‘zero emissions’ vehicles – but what does that really mean? Jack Stewart puts your questions about EVs to the experts. According to a new report by the Union of Concerned Scientists, just how green your EV is compared to a…
Is Fasting Healthy?
May 25, 2018 • 31 min
For some it’s a way to get closer to God, for others a tried and tested way to lose weight - but listener Amine wants to know if fasting has any other, unexpected health benefits? So presenter Marnie Chesterton cuts down on cookies and investigates the…
How is Your Brain Better Than a Computer?
May 18, 2018 • 32 min
Why is it that computers are so much faster than brains at some tasks? Or could human brains one day be used to better effect? Listener Praveen from India was wondering how it can be that supercomputers are so very powerful compared to the human minds…
Why Do Humans Dance?
May 11, 2018 • 33 min
Kenyan listener Docktor can’t help himself. When music is playing he must move to the beat and he wants to know why. What role does dance play in human evolution? And what does dance mean to us? To help answer the many twists and turns in Docktor’s…
Why Don’t We All Like The Same Food?
May 4, 2018 • 30 min
Humans have the potential to eat pretty much anything – but the reality is we don’t. Wherever we live in the world, we eat just a small fraction of the foodstuffs available and show strong preferences for certain foods over others. Those preferences can…
Can Sucking CO2 Out of the Air Solve Climate Change?
Apr 27, 2018 • 30 min
Carbon dioxide levels are far higher than at any other point in human history, thanks to our reliance on burning fossil fuels. But having pumped huge amounts of CO2 into the air, are there ways to get it back out again? If so, where would we put it all?…
Are Screens Bad For My Child’s Eyes?
Apr 20, 2018 • 28 min
Short-sightedness is reaching epidemic proportions around the world. The way things are progressing, one-third of the world’s population – 2.5 billion people - could need glasses by the end of the decade. And scientists are beginning to understand why:…
Why Do Insects Fly Towards Lights?
Apr 13, 2018 • 28 min
Will gravity on earth ever change? Why do insects fly towards the light? Is the plasma in a TV the same as plasma in a fusion reactor? Why are mosquito bites so itchy? What does the Higgs boson do for the Universe? In a Q+A special, Marnie Chesterton is…
Can We Find a Cure for Dementia?
Apr 6, 2018 • 29 min
Dementia affects nearly 50 million people worldwide – but doctors are still struggling to find a cure. CrowdScience investigates why this particular group of brain diseases are so hard to treat, from the difficulties around diagnosis to why the drugs just…
Is The Future of Food a Pill?
Mar 30, 2018 • 35 min
Since the end of the 19th century, scientists have been predicting we would be eating a meal in a pill, but is it a serious answer to the world’s food problems? That’s what Australian listener Bridget is wondering and whether it’s possible to produce an…
Does Anything Stand Still?
Mar 23, 2018 • 29 min
Listener Nikolai sends CrowdScience hunting through space and time with his deceptively simple question. Can we find perfect stillness? You are probably reading this sentence whilst standing or sitting still. So is it a daft question? We discover that…
Why Do We Follow the Crowd?
Mar 16, 2018 • 33 min
Are you the master of your own decisions? Independent-minded? A free spirit? Like it or not, the answer is probably no - as we are profoundly influenced by the people around us. But why do humans follow the crowd? CrowdScience listener Cath Danes wants to…
Is Nuclear Fusion Coming Anytime Soon?
Mar 9, 2018 • 37 min
Unlike nuclear fission power stations, which leave harmful radioactive waste to be stored or disposed of for thousands of years, a nuclear fusion power plant would create precious little burden on future generations. The fuel source would be seawater, and…
Could Bees Take Over From Sniffer Dogs?
Mar 2, 2018 • 28 min
Humans have used dogs’ excellent sniffing talents ever since our ancestors figured out that canine companions could help them track down their next meal. But what about other animals? Can they take us beyond the limits of our own senses? That’s what…
Do Animals Have Accents?
Feb 23, 2018 • 34 min
A cacophony of singing and screaming creatures’ accents are explored to answer: Can animals of the same species from different places communicate with each other? Presenter Geoff Marsh tries to identify how different these calls really sound for…
How does the Moon affect life on Earth?
Feb 16, 2018 • 33 min
From worms who time their mating ritual with an inner lunar calendar, to how full moons could cause cows to give birth early. Listener Andreas sends CrowdScience on a mission to separate fact from fiction. Presenter: Marnie Chesterton Producer: Marijke…
Why Does Dark Matter, Matter?
Feb 9, 2018 • 31 min
Scientists have been searching for dark matter for 80 years, so CrowdScience wondered whether they could find it faster. Armed with a boiler suit, hard hat and ear defenders, Marnie Chesterton travels over a kilometre underground into a hot and sweaty…
Must Life be Carbon-Based?
Feb 2, 2018 • 30 min
Carbon is special, but is it necessarily the unique building block of life in the universe? Science fiction has long speculated on non-carbon biochemistries existing in the universe – notably in the work of authors such as Isaac Asimov as well as in the…
How Far Can I See?
Jan 26, 2018 • 26 min
How far can you see? A few kilometres down the road? Or do you struggle to see past the end of your own nose? Well one listener thinks he might be able to see 15 quintillion miles away… but can he really? Marnie Chesterton and Bobbie Lakhera are on the…
Are Crunchy Caterpillars the Food of the Future?
Jan 19, 2018 • 28 min
Meet the entrepreneurs turning bugs into food and get top tips on how to cook them. In this week’s episode we return to the topic of edible insects and the story of Kahitouo Hein’s caterpillar factory in Burkina Faso, West Africa. Kahitouo is trying to…
When Does Speech Become Music?
Jan 12, 2018 • 30 min
Most of us instinctively know when someone’s singing and when they’re talking. But since music and speech are both just sounds, how do our brains tell them apart? This week’s question comes from Eugene, a music teacher in Northern Ireland, who often hears…
Why Does My Dog Love Me?
Jan 5, 2018 • 29 min
Dogs have been living and working with humans for thousands of years. But they’re much more than just pets. As any dog owner will tell you, the bond we have with our canine friends is often so strong that they feel more like family. So how is it that dogs…
Could our faces replace passports as ID?
Dec 29, 2017 • 30 min
Crowdscience revisits the evidence on the best forms of biometric identification. Earlier in the year we explored digital fingerprints, gait (walking style) recognition and iris scanners. Today presenter Anand Jagatia looks at systems which use your face…
Rudolph castrated: what you didn’t hear this year
Dec 22, 2017 • 30 min
Reindeer castration, plants get chatty and more quirky science revealed in this Christmas special of CrowdScience where we will also be hearing from the people that make this series possible. That’s you – our listeners. CrowdScience has been on air for…
What is dust?
Dec 19, 2017 • 29 min
It lurks behind sofas and collects in corners, apparently appearing from nowhere. But what is household dust? And should we bother sweeping it away? That’s what Australian listener Moshe wants to know and what Marnie Chesterton is off to find out for this…
From Oldest to Strongest Living Thing
Dec 8, 2017 • 27 min
Trees are old – they transcend human generations – but are they the oldest living things on Earth? This story began in June 2017 when we explored a question sent in from CrowdScience listener William. Many of you got in touch after the programme with…
Can We Revive Extinct Species Like the Dodo?
Dec 1, 2017 • 32 min
Dodos are dead, but are they gone forever? Reviving extinct species is a trope of science fiction, but real-life scientists are working on every stage of the problem today. Meeting scientists focused on uncovering ancient animal genomes, or reviving…
Does Technology Change How we Fall in Love?
Nov 27, 2017 • 29 min
How does technology affect how we fall in love? Crowdscience travels to India to answer listener Erin’s questions about the impact of the internet on our search for soulmates. We meet the traditional matchmaker who says her service provides security in an…
Why are There Morning People and Night People?
Nov 17, 2017 • 27 min
Some of us want to be up with the larks, while others are more like night owls. But is our preference down to our genes, or more to do with habits and surroundings? We set out to find the answers, inspired by a question from Kira, a night owl CrowdScience…
How Can I Remember More?
Nov 10, 2017 • 33 min
Sometimes our memory fails us and we wish facts would just stick better. Listener Mothibi is a student and has spent three years trying to remember as much as possible for his exams. He wants to know how he can train his brain to better to remember things…
How Did Life Get onto Land?
Nov 3, 2017 • 29 min
People often talk about being descended from apes. But go back a bit further and we have a more unlikely ancestor – fish. Improbable as it may sound, the creature that gave rise to every bird, reptile and mammal on Earth today lived a fully aquatic life.…
How Can We Fight Unwanted Noise?
Oct 31, 2017 • 37 min
Unpleasant man-made noise is something that disturbs many of us and even damages our health. But as millions more people move into crowded cities around the world, it’s a cacophony that we almost unavoidably create ourselves. CrowdScience listener Diana…
Is There Proof of Life After Death?
Oct 20, 2017 • 27 min
Is there any scientific proof of an afterlife? Six months ago, CrowdScience tackled a question from a listener who wanted to know whether there was life after death. But following more listener emails, presenter Marnie Chesterton returns to the subject to…
Can We Worm Our Way Into Better Health?
Oct 13, 2017 • 27 min
We test the science behind parasitic therapy to answer listener Michael’s question about whether intestinal worms can help us stay healthy, and visit a deworming programme in a rural Ugandan village. Do you have a question we can turn into a programme?…
Is Carbon Dioxide Higher Than Ever?
Oct 6, 2017 • 26 min
Carbon dioxide levels in our atmosphere today are higher than at any point in human existence. But going back further into Earth’s history, when do we find concentrations as high as they are now - and what was the planet like back then? CrowdScience sets…
Can We Make Artificial Organs?
Sep 29, 2017 • 27 min
Human Organs are in short supply. But what if you could grow new ones in the lab? And if you donate your body parts to help others, where might they end up? That’s what Sarah Gray wanted to know after making the difficult decision to donate the body of…
Should We Kill One Species to Save Another?
Sep 22, 2017 • 31 min
Is it fair to kill invasive species which humans have introduced? When people move around the world, many of their favourite – and not so favourite - animals tag along for the ride. From cane toads through to rats, cats and crayfish, so-called ‘invasive…
Could All Cars Be Electric?
Sep 15, 2017 • 29 min
Just one per cent of vehicles are powered by electricity, but CrowdScience listener Randall from Lac du Bonnet in Canada wants to know how quickly that might change, and whether one day all cars could be electric. Marnie Chesterton begins her journey in…
How Could Humanity Become Extinct?
Sep 8, 2017 • 29 min
Nuclear weapons and mega asteroids: what would the aftermath look like? CrowdScience explores past extinction events and future dystopias. In a past episode, CrowdScience headed to Denmark to find out whether humans could go the way of the dinosaurs –…
Spider Silk and Super Fly Senses
Sep 1, 2017 • 27 min
CrowdScience is uncovering the super-powers of spiders, flies and the most irritating mosquitos. Anand Jagatia meets spider specialist Jamie Mitchells at London Zoo to find out how spiders create such vast webs and speaks to researchers in Sweden about…
Trees v Air Pollution - the Rematch
Aug 25, 2017 • 27 min
CrowdScience dives back into a debate about trees and their ability to tackle air pollution. Growing trees take in carbon dioxide and emit oxygen, but their leaves also attract tiny particles, which can get into our lungs and brains. So how good are they…
Sydney Science Festival, Australia
Aug 18, 2017 • 31 min
CrowdScience heads to the Sydney Science Festival in Australia where, from a special event at The Powerhouse Museum, we reveal answers to questions listeners have been sending in such as: What living thing has the most toxic venom? What is déjà vu? And…
Lightning Strikes Again
Aug 11, 2017 • 35 min
Is it possible to get power from lightning? This was the first CrowdScience question posed by listener John Emochu in Kampala, Uganda, in November 2016. We revisit John’s story as presenter Marnie Chesterton goes hunting for answers at a lightning lab in…
Can Animals Commit Murder?
Aug 4, 2017 • 28 min
** Contains some upsetting scenes ** As a species, we humans can be uniquely horrible to our own kind. But are we the only animal to commit murder? Listener Michelle’s question sends CrowdScience trekking – and getting lost - in the Budongo rainforest in…
What Do Our Accents Say About Us?
Jul 28, 2017 • 27 min
How do we end up speaking the way we do? What’s happening in our brains and mouths to make us sound so different from each other - even when we’re speaking the same language? This week on CrowdScience we return to our listener Amanda’s question of why…
Could a Computer Judge My Crime?
Jul 21, 2017 • 27 min
People said they’d never catch on. Mobile phones, the internet and even robot assembly lines all once seemed like niche technologies. But today they are at the heart of the modern world. But just how far can technology go? Could machines start to compete…
Why is it so Hard to Quit Smoking?
Jul 14, 2017 • 28 min
A billion people across the world smoke cigarettes, and many would agree it’s the hardest habit to quit. One such smoker, listener Sharif, emailed CrowdScience from Uzbekistan to ask if we could find out why giving up is so difficult. Marnie Chesterton…
Does Time really Exist?
Jul 7, 2017 • 30 min
Earlier this year Crowdscience explored the question of time. Back then we were on a mission to uncover what the real time is and how we’re able to measure time to ever greater degrees of accuracy. But as ever, the programme uncovered more questions than…
Do We Think in Words?
Jun 30, 2017 • 28 min
We’re always up for a challenge on CrowdScience but this week’s question, which comes from an artist, tests our limits as we investigate the nature of thought itself – something that has puzzled scientists and philosophers since ancient times. Undeterred,…
Can Plants Talk?
Jun 23, 2017 • 28 min
David in Bogota might have raised a few eyebrows in the CrowdScience office with his questions – can plants talk? And can they hear us talking to them? But actually scientists now know that plants do have the ability to communicate with the world around…
Can Your Lifestyle Be Passed on to Future Generations?
Jun 16, 2017 • 29 min
Back when Charles Darwin presented his theory of evolution by natural selection, French biologist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck suggested something different - that the changes you are exposed to during your lifetime can be passed on to future generations. By…
Why Does It Always Rain on Me?
Jun 9, 2017 • 27 min
Listener Ros Allen wondered why it always seems to rain on her village but not the one a mile away. It’s all down to microclimates. CrowdScience explores the impact of microclimates on our lives, discovers how more rain can help an English tea plantation…
What’s the Oldest Living Thing?
Jun 2, 2017 • 27 min
Trees transcend human generations – but are they the oldest living things on Earth? CrowdScience listener William from London, UK, got in touch to ask what the oldest tree or other organism on our planet is. Presenter Marnie Chesterton heads out to meet…
Why do Human Faces Look so Different?
May 26, 2017 • 30 min
You don’t have to be a “super-recogniser” to know that human facial features are extremely varied. Just look around you. Yet look at a most other animals and you’d find it hard to tell individuals apart. So why are human faces so diverse? We’ll also be…
Why is Childbirth Painful?
May 19, 2017 • 26 min
Childbirth is different for everyone. Depending on who you ask, it’s one of life’s greatest and worst experiences - and can be anything from traumatic and excruciating to life-affirming and spiritual. But what pretty much every mother will agree on is…
Where’s my Ejector Seat?
May 12, 2017 • 27 min
Even if you spent your entire life on a plane, the chances are you’d never crash – commercial air travel is remarkably safe. But after hearing about a recent air tragedy, two brothers in Kampala wondered if commercial airplanes could ever have ejector…
Why Do We Have Males and Females?
May 5, 2017 • 27 min
Sex is responsible for the large variety of life on earth. Without the two sexes there is no sexual reproduction which means no shuffling of the genetic make-up – and no survival in a changing environment. But why do we have two sexes in the first place…
Are Fingerprints the Best Form of ID?
Apr 28, 2017 • 26 min
Biometrics are being used everywhere to recognise us. On this edition of CrowdScience we try out the tech that tells us apart. We find out just how unique our irises are and meet a man who can pick people out from a crowd of thousands just by analysing…
How Many People Can Earth Support?
Apr 21, 2017 • 26 min
Our planet is getting rather cosy. In just over 200 years, the global population has grown from 1 billion to almost 7.5 billion – and the best estimates suggest it’s going to keep on increasing. But just how far can it go? When will we reach ‘peak human’?…
Space Mining
Apr 14, 2017 • 26 min
Mining asteroids, moons or even other planets has remained firmly within the realm of science fiction. But as certain elements become increasingly scarce on Earth, private companies and even nation states are looking to make extra-terrestrial mining a…
Should we eat Insects?
Apr 7, 2017 • 26 min
For most people the idea of chewing on a caterpillar or tucking into a tarantula is pretty unpalatable. Yet according to the United Nations, some two billion people around the world consume insects regularly. This prompted World Service listener Saman…
Why Do We Have So Many Accents?
Mar 31, 2017 • 26 min
Why do we have so many accents - even when we’re speaking the same language? What’s happening in our brains and mouths to make us sound so different from each other? This week’s question from listener Amanda takes CrowdScience to Glasgow in Scotland: home…
Does Weather Affect our Health?
Mar 25, 2017 • 26 min
Do your joints ache when it’s raining? Are you blighted with headaches when the wind picks up? If the answer’s yes then you’re definitely not alone. People have been linking their heath to the weather since the time of the Ancient Greeks - but is the…
Science at the Movies
Mar 18, 2017 • 26 min
Can we really live on Mars? Or exist in a virtual world? And why does movie science sometimes have us shouting at the screen? Our panel of scientists and sci-fi experts reveal all in this special edition of CrowdScience recorded live at the South by…
Is Being Fat a Choice?
Mar 14, 2017 • 27 min
The human race is getting fatter. But is it our fault? There are a whole host of factors influencing our weight - how many of them can we control? CrowdScience discovers how factors like our environment and our genes can tip the scales in the wrong…
Can Trees Help us Fight Air Pollution?
Mar 4, 2017 • 27 min
Trees take in carbon dioxide but they also convert some of the toxic gases in our air. How much help can trees give us in fighting air pollution and could where we plant them make an even bigger difference? Crowdscience reports from the side of some busy…
Could a Robot be your Doctor?
Feb 25, 2017 • 29 min
Our listener Joseph’s question might sound more sci-fi than science show. But as Marnie Chesterton discovers, robots have already entered the realm of medicine and are likely to become more important in the future. A visit to the operating theatre at the…
Why are Cats Loners?
Feb 18, 2017 • 26 min
A few weeks ago, CrowdScience asked if it pays to be nice. We found that the answer is yes – if you’re a human. But if being social is so great, why aren’t all animals doing it? That’s what our US listener Tony wants to know. After listening to ‘Does it…
Is There Life After Death?
Feb 11, 2017 • 27 min
Death is one of life’s few certainties – or is it? To answer listener Pratibha’s question from New Delhi, India, presenter Marnie Chesterton asks medical and scientific experts if there is any evidence that humans could somehow come back into existence…
Should we Use Ships to Transport Fresh Water?
Feb 4, 2017 • 27 min
Earth’s surface may be 70 percent water but many places are struggling to access it. We look at a range of water supply options including delivering it by tanker. In Malta we meet a man trying to solve its water problems, with a clever contraption to…
What is the Real Time?
Jan 29, 2017 • 28 min
It sounds like a simple question – what is the time? But look closer and you realise time is a slippery concept that scientists still do not fully understand. Even though we now have atomic clocks that can keep time to one second in 15 billion years, this…
Why are Dogs so Different?
Jan 21, 2017 • 27 min
From Chihuahuas to Great Danes, Mexican Hairless to Afghan Hounds, dogs are the most diverse mammal on the planet. There are currently over 500 recognised breeds worldwide with almost every conceivable combination of size, shape, coat, colour and…
Is there micro-life on Mars?
Jan 14, 2017 • 27 min
Modern Martian hunting involves looking for the tiniest evidence of life. But when presenter Marnie Chesterton found out that a scientist she was meant to be chatting to about cleanliness had previously worked for NASA, the topic of space bugs turned out…
Can we be too clean?
Jan 7, 2017 • 27 min
To be healthy you need to be clean – or so we’ve thought throughout human history. The dazzling array of antibacterial products that exploded onto the scene in the 20th century took things to the next level, with their promises of eliminating 99.9% of…
Could Humanity be Wiped out Like the Dinosaurs?
Dec 31, 2016 • 26 min
Is there a killer asteroid with Earth’s name on it? The dinosaurs ruled for many millions of years before coming to their violent end. Will humanity prevail or are we doomed to succumb like the dinosaurs? It’s a question that will keep you up at night. No…
Wave Power
Dec 24, 2016 • 27 min
Why can’t we use energy from the waves of the sea to create all the electricity that we need? Listener Michael in Kingston, Jamaica wants to know. Living on a Caribbean island means he’s never far from the might of the ocean – so could it power his house?…
Does it Pay to be Nice?
Dec 17, 2016 • 26 min
Most of us want to be nice. But is it all it’s cracked up to be? It’s a question that’s been nagging at listener Tony in Illinois, USA, for over 25 years. While studying at university, the lecturer asked him whether competing or co-operating was the best…
The Fourth Dimension
Dec 10, 2016 • 31 min
How would a fourth dimensional being appear to humans? “It would look just weird” is one way to answer the question ‘How would a fourth dimensional being appear to humans?’ But it’s more complicated than that - theoretical cosmologist Andrew Pontzen…
How Bad is Flying for the Planet?
Dec 5, 2016 • 28 min
What effect does air travel have on the climate? That is the question listener Neil sent CrowdScience from New Zealand. If you have ever looked up at the sky and seen the wispy white streaks that airplanes leave behind, then you are looking at one of the…
The Origin of Viruses
Nov 28, 2016 • 27 min
Where did the first viruses come from? They have the potential to wipe out life on Earth. But could life on Earth itself have evolved from the first viruses? Like the chicken and the egg, there are fierce arguments about which came first and rival…
Home Power Storage
Nov 19, 2016 • 27 min
How much electric energy storage would it take to run the average home for 24 hours? Also: When will it be economical to locally store several days of electric energy for our home? Listener Gus in Texas, USA, wants to know – especially because he’s one of…
The Edge of Space
Nov 12, 2016 • 30 min
What do scientists think is outside our universe? Asks Rebecca Standridge from San Francisco in the US. It’s a question which goes right to the limits of human understanding. We look for the answer using balloons, bubbles and the world’s oldest radio…
Electricity from Lightning
Nov 7, 2016 • 28 min
Is it possible to get power from lightning? This was the first CrowdScience question posed by listener John Emochu in Kampala, Uganda. Presenter Marnie Chesterton goes hunting for the answer at a lightning lab in Cardiff, Wales. What is a lightning lab?…