Science Focus Podcast

Science Focus Podcast
The podcast from the makers of BBC Science Focus magazine

The Urban Birder: What wildlife can city-dwellers see?
Aug 3 • 45 min
Having always been fascinated by birds, David Lindo, known as the Urban Birder, turned a hobby into a career to encourage everyone to look to the skies. See for privacy and opt-out information.
Dr Michael Mosley: Why is sleep so important?
Jul 27 • 33 min
BBC presenter and Science Focus columnist Dr Michael Mosley talks sleep: what it is, why we need it and how to get more of it. See for privacy and opt-out information.
Ritu Raman: Can you build with biology?
Jul 20 • 28 min
Mechanical engineer Ritu Raman explains how to integrate biology into engineering and what these remarkable devices can do. See for privacy and opt-out information.
Project Discovery: Could computer games help find a cure for COVID-19?
Jul 13 • 43 min
Find out how players of the online game Eve Online are using their gaming time to help unlock the mysteries of the coronavirus. See for privacy and opt-out information.
Dr Jacob Bleacher: Why do we need to go back to the Moon?
Jul 6 • 32 min
NASA’s Chief Exploration Scientist for human exploration explains how deep space will affect astronauts and why now is the time to go back to the Moon. See for privacy and opt-out information.
Subhadra Das: What part has science played in racism?
Jun 29 • 30 min
Historian and museum curator Subhadra Das explains how science history played a part in fuelling the racism seen in society today. See for privacy and opt-out information.
Brendan Walker: Where is the best place to sit on a rollercoaster?
Jun 22 • 46 min
We say our feelings can be like a rollercoaster, but as it turns out, the psychology of our emotions has influenced rollercoaster design from the beginning. See for privacy and opt-out information.
Leonard Mlodinow: How did Stephen Hawking make science accessible?
Jun 15 • 25 min
In this republished episode of the Science Focus Podcast we discuss the life of the great physicist Professor Stephen Hawking with one of his co-authors. See for privacy and opt-out information.
Pragya Agarwal: When does bias become prejudice?
Jun 8 • 40 min
Dr Pragya Agarwal explains where our biases come from and why it’s important to recognise and unlearn them to help make the world a better, fairer place. See for privacy and opt-out information.
Anthony David: Why is there still such stigma around mental health?
Jun 1 • 36 min
Neuropsychiatrist Professor Anthony David talks about why mental health stigma exists and whether it’s getting any better. See for privacy and opt-out information.
Luck, the paranormal and the Moon landings - Everything you ever wanted to know about…. illusions, magic and the paranormal
May 28 • 27 min
Richard Wiseman reveals what studying illusions can tell us about the human mind, why magicians make great psychologists and how you can make your own luck. See for privacy and opt-out information.
Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac: Has climate change determined our future?
May 26 • 42 min
Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac were major figures in the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement and say we must meet net-zero carbon emissions targets. See for privacy and opt-out information.
Illusions and Magic - Everything you ever wanted to know about… illusions, magic and the paranormal, episode 1
May 21 • 24 min
Richard Wiseman reveals what studying illusions can tell us about the human mind, why magicians make great psychologists and how you can make your own luck. Plus, we pick apart what the moon landings can teach us about achieving success in everyday life.…
Elisa Raffaella Ferrè: What happens to the brain in space?
May 18 • 31 min
Psychologist Dr Elisa Raffaella Ferrè explains how a lack of gravity might change the way we think. See for privacy and opt-out information.
Sonia Contera: How will nanotechnology revolutionise medicine?
May 11 • 36 min
One of the world’s leading nanotech pioneers explains how it could help us target cancer cells, deliver drugs and fight antibiotic resistance. See for privacy and opt-out information.
Neil Shubin: How do big changes in evolution happen?
May 4 • 35 min
Evolutionary biologist Neil Shubin explains how life made the jump from land to water and how dinosaurs took to the air. See for privacy and opt-out information.
Your questions – Everything You Wanted To Know About…Physics, episode six
Apr 29 • 32 min
Prof Jim Al-Khalili answers listeners’ questions about physics, the Universe and everything else. See for privacy and opt-out information.
Mysteries in physics – Everything You Wanted To Know About…Physics, episode five
Apr 28 • 29 min
Prof Jim Al-Khalili reveals some of the biggest unsolved mysteries. We talk about the plausibility of time travel, whether there are multiple universes and what we need to discover a ‘theory of everything’. See for privacy and opt-out…
Energy – Everything You Wanted To Know About…Physics, episode four
Apr 27 • 27 min
Prof Jim Al-Khalili tackles thermodynamics – the study of energy. Together, we unravel the idea of entropy, talk about the direction of time and muse upon the inevitable heat death of the Universe. See for privacy and opt-out information.
Quantum physics – Everything You Wanted To Know About…Physics, episode three
Apr 26 • 30 min
Prof Jim Al-Khalili demystifies the strange world of quantum physics. We discuss the key experiments, how quantum effects play out in the real world and, of course, Schrödinger’s infamous cat. See for privacy and opt-out information.
Space & Time – Everything You Wanted To Know About…Physics, episode two
Apr 25 • 34 min
Prof Jim Al-Khalili helps us get to grips with the big concepts in cosmology. We talk space time, relativity and, of course, the end of the Universe. See for privacy and opt-out information.
The Fundamentals – Everything You Wanted to Know About…Physics, episode one
Apr 24 • 34 min
Prof Jim Al-Khalili breaks down the building blocks of the Universe and reveals what simplicity, beauty and elegance have to do with physics. See for privacy and opt-out information.
Everything You Wanted To Know About Physics, with Prof Jim Al-Khalili
Apr 22 • 1 min
Let your curiosity run wild. No question is off-limits in this new podcast series from the team behind BBC Science Focus magazine. In Everything You Wanted To Know About… world-leading experts answer Google’s most searched for queries and tackle questions…
Sandro Galea: What is the difference between health and medicine?
Apr 20 • 33 min
Sandro Galea explains the surprising factors that influence public health and which countries are doing it well. See for privacy and opt-out information.
Toby Ord: What are the odds civilisation will survive the century?
Apr 6 • 32 min
Philosopher Toby Ord explains how, as a species, we are at a point in time that we are teetering on the edge of extinction, and what we can do about it. See for privacy and opt-out information.
Anthony Warner: Are we really too fat?
Mar 30 • 44 min
Chef and food writer Anthony Warner explains the science behind why we need fat, why fad diets are destined to fail, and what we can do to stay healthy. See for privacy and opt-out information.
Camilla Pang: How can science guide my life?
Mar 23 • 36 min
Bioinformatician Camilla Pang discusses how her neurodiversity has affected the way she works. See for privacy and opt-out information.
Kevin Fong: What happened to Apollo 13?
Mar 16 • 34 min
In this Science Focus Podcast episode, we talk to Kevin Fong about the new series of his award-winning podcast 13 Minutes to the Moon. See for privacy and opt-out information.
Aleks Krotoski: What happens to your data when you die?
Mar 9 • 41 min
We ask social psychologist and host of BBC Radio 4’s Digital Human Aleks Krotoski about life after death. See for privacy and opt-out information.
Professor Fay Dowker: What is the problem of quantum gravity?
Mar 2 • 51 min
Einstein’s general relativity explains gravity, but it contradicts quantum theory – is there a solution to one of modern physics’ greatest problems? See for privacy and opt-out information.
Jim Davies: How do you use your imagination?
Feb 24 • 36 min
What happens in your brain when your imagination runs wild? Cognitive scientist Jim Davies explains the science behind this extraordinary mental power. See for privacy and opt-out information.
Mark Miodownik: Are biodegradable plastics really better than traditional plastic?
Feb 17 • 31 min
Materials scientist Mark Miodownik explains why a knee-jerk switch from single-use plastic to biodegradable alternatives could actually make things worse. See for privacy and opt-out information.
Dr Erin Macdonald: Is there any science in Star Trek?
Feb 13 • 26 min
Star Trek’s science consultant Dr Erin Macdonald talks about supernovae, what a science consultant really does, and whether warp drive is possible. See for privacy and opt-out information.
Adam Rutherford: Can science ever be rid of racism?
Feb 6 • 36 min
Geneticist Adam Rutherford refutes ‘scientific’ claims made to affirm racist beliefs, and tells us why science needs to stand up to racism. See for privacy and opt-out information.
Ross Barnett: Why should we be interested in prehistoric animals that aren’t dinosaurs?
Jan 30 • 39 min
Dinosaurs get plenty enough coverage. Instead we take a look at creatures that lived in the Pleistocene era with palaeontologist Ross Barnett. See for privacy and opt-out information.
Samantha Alger: What can we do to save the bees?
Jan 23 • 41 min
Pollinator specialist from the University of Vermont Samantha Alger explains the threats facing our bees, and why that’s a problem for us. See for privacy and opt-out information.
Marcel Danesi: Why do we want to believe lies?
Jan 16 • 23 min
Linguist Marcel Danesi reveals the shocking truth about liars, why we lie and what we can do to protect ourselves from them. See for privacy and opt-out information.
Dr Becky Smethurst: How do you actually find a black hole?
Jan 8 • 46 min
Astrophysicist and Youtuber Dr Becky discusses black holes, reveals what astronomers do all day, and explains why we need to flood Youtube with scientists. See for privacy and opt-out information.
Hannah Fry: How much of our lives is secretly underpinned by maths?
Dec 25, 2019 • 25 min
Mathematician, BBC presenter and host of this year’s Royal Society Christmas Lectures explains how mathematics props up everything that we do. See for privacy and opt-out information.
Adam Kay: Is Christmas really the most wonderful time of the year on labour ward?
Dec 18, 2019 • 24 min
Doctor turned comedian Adam Kay gives us a warts-and-all account of what it’s like to work on the frontline of the NHS on Christmas Day. See for privacy and opt-out information.
Kathryn D Sullivan: What is it really like to walk in space?
Dec 11, 2019 • 30 min
On 11 October 1984, astronaut Kathy Sullivan made history by becoming the first American woman to walk in space. We find out what it was like. See for privacy and opt-out information.
Brian Switek: How did bones evolve?
Dec 4, 2019 • 40 min
Fossil fanatic Brian Switek explains what a bone actually is, and why they are so important in human history. See for privacy and opt-out information.
Chris Lintott: Can members of the public do real science?
Nov 27, 2019 • 35 min
BBC Sky at Night presenter and astrophysicist Chris Lintott explains how, in just a few minutes in your lunch break, you can contribute to fields from astronomy to zoology. See for privacy and opt-out information.
Dean Burnett: What’s going on in the teenage brain?
Nov 20, 2019 • 44 min
Neuroscientist, comedian and science writer Dean Burnett explains what’s really going on in our brains when parents and teens clash. See for privacy and opt-out information.
Randall Munroe: How do you find the worst solution to any problem?
Nov 13, 2019 • 34 min
The creator of the webcomic xkcd, talks about why the worst solution to a problem can be the most interesting. See for privacy and opt-out information.
Gaia Vince: What part does culture play in our evolution?
Nov 6, 2019 • 41 min
Journalist and broadcaster Gaia Vince tells us how culture evolution played a big part in Homo sapiens dominance over the other hominins. See for privacy and opt-out information.
Jim Al-Khalili: Why should we care about science and scientists?
Oct 30, 2019 • 28 min
To mark the 200th episode of BBC Radio 4’s The Life Scientific, we chat to host Jim Al-Khalili about the programme and his life in science. See for privacy and opt-out information.
Bill Bryson: What should we know about how our bodies work?
Oct 23, 2019 • 42 min
We speak to Bill Bryson, OBE, about his latest book uncovering the biological mechanisms hidden underneath our skin. See for privacy and opt-out information.
Gretchen McCulloch: How has the internet affected how we communicate?
Oct 16, 2019 • 27 min
We talk to an internet linguist about how sarcasm and humour drive our use of language, the value of emoji, and the history of lol. See for privacy and opt-out information.
Robert Elliott Smith: Are algorithms inherently biased?
Oct 9, 2019 • 36 min
Algorithms are everywhere, but are they coded in such a way that makes them racist bigots that are easily manipulated, without us even knowing? See for privacy and opt-out information.
Monica Grady: What is the future of space science?
Oct 2, 2019 • 35 min
Today on the Science Focus Podcast, we’re talking to Professor Monica Grady, planetary and space scientist, ahead of World Space Week. World Space Week runs from 4 to 10 October, and this year’s theme is ‘The Moon: Gateway to the Stars’. Events to…
Dr Tilly Blyth: How has art influenced science?
Sep 25, 2019 • 38 min
Dr Tilly Blyth, Head of Collections & Principal Curator at the Science Museum, discusses art’s relationship with science: as an observer, friend and critic. See for privacy and opt-out information.
Richard Dawkins: Can we live in a world without religion?
Sep 18, 2019 • 40 min
Richard Dawkins is considered one of the top British intellectuals of the 21st Century. He’s known for his opinions on atheism and his books on evolution. In his most recent book, Outgrowing God, he talks about his own experience with religion, and how…
Does data discriminate against women? – Caroline Criado Perez
Sep 11, 2019 • 39 min
We talk to Caroline Criado Perez about the gender data gap and how it causes everything from mild inconvenience to potential fatality. See for privacy and opt-out information.
How do you launch a successful space mission? – Mark McCaughrean
Sep 4, 2019 • 50 min
When the European Space Agency launches a mission into space, Mark McCaughrean explains the hurdles they have to leap to finally get it off the ground. See for privacy and opt-out information.
What does our skin tell us about ourselves? – Dr Monty Lyman
Aug 28, 2019 • 41 min
We talk to Dr Monty Lyman about what the skin is for, why vanity is good for you, and what kind of creatures inhabit our skin. See for privacy and opt-out information.
Are Generation Z our only hope for the future? – John Higgs
Aug 21, 2019 • 38 min
If you think the future looks bleak, you’re not alone, but the next generation might have just the mentality we need for a rosier outlook on life. See for privacy and opt-out information.
Is an implantable electronic device the future of medicine? – Gordon Wallace
Aug 14, 2019 • 18 min
Researchers in Australia have developed an implantable thread – a sutrode – that could cure disease by stimulating nerve fibres. See for privacy and opt-out information.
How accurately can we predict the weather? – Andrew Blum
Aug 7, 2019 • 33 min
We talk about the history of weather forecasts, why we shouldn’t trust the icons on weather apps, and whether we’ll ever have a minute-by-minute forecast. See for privacy and opt-out information.
What happened at Bluedot festival 2019? – Libby Jackson, Tom Shakespeare and Danielle George
Jul 31, 2019 • 33 min
Now in its fourth year, Bluedot is a staple in our festival calendar. We chat to three speakers about science, their work and the Bluedot experience. See for privacy and opt-out information.
What does a world with an ageing population look like? – Sarah Harper
Jul 24, 2019 • 33 min
We can’t reverse the slow march of time, but as people live longer and the birth rate declines, how can we manage a world with an ageing population? See for privacy and opt-out information.
What does it mean to be a man? – Gary Barker
Jul 17, 2019 • 38 min
Male stereotypes are under increasing scrutiny. Psychologist Gary Barker explains why they are harmful, and what a progressive form of masculinity could look like. See for privacy and opt-out information.
Dr Guy Leschziner: What is your brain doing while you sleep?
Jul 10, 2019 • 33 min
While your body switches off, your brain kicks in, and the quality of your sleep has a lot to do with what it’s working on. See for privacy and opt-out information.
What can the father of Gaia theory tell us about our future? - James Lovelock
Jul 3, 2019 • 28 min
On the eve of the visionary scientist’s 100th birthday, James Lovelock, creator of Gaia theory, reflects on his life and career. See for privacy and opt-out information.
Could leaving nature to its own devices be the key to meeting the UK’s climate goals? - Mark Lynas
Jun 26, 2019 • 18 min
The UK government’s official climate advisors recently reported that the country’s greenhouse gas emissions must fall to zero by 2050 in order to tackle the growing threat of manmade climate change. However, it seems unlikely that we will be able to reach…
Is there really no such thing as a fish? – Andrew Hunter Murray and Dan Schreiber
Jun 19, 2019 • 36 min
We like to think our Science Focus Podcast is something really rather special (really, you should tell all your mates about it). But let’s face it, it pales in comparison to the hugely popular podcast No Such Thing As A Fish, which bagged Apple’s…
Is racism creeping into science? – Angela Saini
Jun 12, 2019 • 42 min
After World War II, mainstream science denounced eugenics and the study of racial differences. Yet there remained a staunch group of scientists who continued to research race. For a few decades, these people remained on the fringes of research. Yet now,…
Can we really predict when doomsday will happen? – William Poundstone
Jun 5, 2019 • 36 min
In this episode of the Science Focus Podcast, we’re going to try to guess when the end of the world will happen. Don’t worry, it’s not as gloomy as it might sound. Those people waving ‘The End is Nigh!’ placards are probably completely wrong about an…
Is body positivity the answer to body image issues? – Phillippa Diedrichs
May 29, 2019 • 26 min
We live in a society that values looks, but only if they fit into a restrictive set of ideals regarding size and shape, age, skin colour, as well as many other features of our bodies. The result is an immense pressure to look a certain way. According to a…
Why is the Moon landing still relevant 50 years on? – Kevin Fong
May 22, 2019 • 27 min
If you were to picture the Moon landing in your head right now, you could probably conjure up images of Neil Armstrong’s famous first steps, accompanied by his inspirational (and often misquoted) speech, despite it happening many years before most of us…
Can science explain everything? – Michael Blastland
May 15, 2019 • 33 min
We know a lot. In scientific studies, we can count data, observe trends, infer links and calculate risks. But we also spend a lot of time ignoring noise – the unexplained variations in our results that we can’t account for. Take smoking for example. We…
Is the cure for cancer hiding in human breast milk? – Professor Catharina Svanborg
May 8, 2019 • 21 min
Two decades ago a group of Swedish researchers chanced upon an intriguing compound with tumour-killing properties hidden within human breast milk. Dubbed HAMLET, short for Human α-lactalbumin, the substance has so far come through in vitro and animal…
Why is Leonardo Da Vinci’s scientific legacy so often overlooked? – Martin Clayton
May 1, 2019 • 28 min
It’s been 500 years since the death of Leonardo Da Vinci, and he’s remembered mainly for his great works of art, like The Last Supper and the Mona Lisa. But he was also a scientist, working across disciplines like anatomy, engineering, and architecture.…
Is gene editing inspiring or terrifying? – Nessa Carey
Apr 25, 2019 • 30 min
In 2012, scientists developed a method to edit any part of the human genome, and the implications were astounding. Now, we’re starting to see the technology’s potential; we will soon cure previously untreatable diseases, but at the same time, rogue…
What if the Earth’s magnetic field died? – Jim Al-Khalili
Apr 17, 2019 • 37 min
Theoretical physicist and science communicator Professor Jim Al-Khalili has taken a break from writing popular science books to write his first novel. Sunfall (£16.99, Bantam Press) is a science fiction thriller set in the year 2041, when the Earth’s…
Are video games good for us? - Pete Etchells
Apr 10, 2019 • 31 min
In this week’s Science Focus Podcast, we dive into the world of video games. Over the past couple of decades, video games have often got a bad rap, blamed for everything from aggression and violence to addiction and mental health problems. But what does…
Do you believe in magic? – Gustav Kuhn
Apr 3, 2019 • 29 min
Abracadbra! Prestidigitation! We know that these words hold no intrinsic power, but when we hear them, we are instantly transported away to a land of magic and wonder; where the impossible becomes reality right before our eyes. So why, as rational human…
How can we save our planet? - Sir David Attenborough
Mar 27, 2019 • 35 min
We speak to Sir David Attenborough, naturalist and host of the new Netflix show Our Planet, and two of the show’s producers about the essential changes we need to make to save our home. See for privacy and opt-out information.
Can we slow down the ageing process? - Sue Armstrong
Mar 20, 2019 • 32 min
As the size of the ageing population rises, the field of gerontology, the study of ageing, is bursting with discoveries. How and why do we age? What can be done to slow the ageing process, and how do we improve our health spans, rather than our life…
Matt Parker: What happens when maths goes horribly, horribly wrong?
Mar 13, 2019 • 28 min
Throughout history, engineers have watched their bridges disappear into the waters below, all because of tiny changes in design unexpectedly affecting their structural integrity. Elsewhere, generals have stood aghast as missile defences miss their target…
Why is the magnetic north pole moving? - Ciaran Beggan
Mar 6, 2019 • 26 min
The Earth’s magnetic north pole is rocketing towards Siberia at 50 kilometres per year, making the maps of the magnetic field out of date faster than expected. Why is it moving, what does this mean for us, and what can we expect it to do in the future?…
Are we facing an insect apocalypse? - Brad Lister
Feb 27, 2019 • 34 min
When Professor Brad Lister returned to Puerto Rico to track insect populations, he found he was only catching a fraction of the amount he’d seen 40 years ago. When he analysed what he’d caught, he saw a 98 per cent decline in insects on the ground. What’s…
Is religion compatible with science? - Professor John Lennox
Feb 20, 2019 • 32 min
This week, we delve into the complex relationship between science and religion. With science providing more and more insights into the workings of the Universe, many people have turned their backs on religion entirely. Why invoke a God to explain the…
What does it mean to be happy? - Helen Russell
Feb 13, 2019 • 30 min
What does it mean to be happy? Is it the pleasure of doing nothing, or, as the Italians would say, dolce far niente? Is it the sense of community and shared contentment that the Māori people find in performing a haka? Or maybe it’s the Finnish habit of…
How geology can influence elections - Lewis Dartnell
Feb 6, 2019 • 22 min
When we think about history, we usually focus on the human impact: our influential leaders, the great civilisations we’ve built, and how we’ve harnessed the world’s resources to power our lives. But what about the influence of our planet? How has the…
The mindset behind the Moon landing – Richard Wiseman
Jan 30, 2019 • 36 min
When it comes to the achievements of human civilization, we have done incredible things. Some, like building the Pyramids of Giza, are awe-inspiring, others, such as the eradication of smallpox, have changed the lives of millions. But nothing can quite…
How technology is changing politics – Jamie Susskind
Jan 23, 2019 • 35 min
In this episode of the Science Focus Podcast we speak to Jamie Susskind, barrister and author of the book Future Politics: Living Together in a World Transformed by Tech (£20, OUP), about the challenges governments face when confronted with new…
There’s no such thing as Blue Monday - Sir David Spiegelhalter
Jan 16, 2019 • 21 min
Statistician and Professor of the Public Understanding of Risk in the Statistical Laboratory at the University of Cambridge Sir David Spiegelhalter explains the pseudoscience behind Blue Monday, the power of numbers, and how to spot a dodgy stat. See…
The most mysterious objects in the Universe - Colin Stuart
Jan 9, 2019 • 20 min
From ‘Oumuamua to Planet Nine, astronomy writer and Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society Colin Stuart counts down the five strangest cosmic enigmas. See for privacy and opt-out information.
Eating for your genes - Giles Yeo
Jan 3, 2019 • 38 min
Dr Giles Yeo studies the relationship between our genetic make-up and how we’re eating, and knows that poor self-control isn’t entirely to blame for the obesity epidemic. He’s here to talk about how our genes influence how hungry we feel and how much we…
What makes me ‘me’? - Aoife McLysaght
Dec 26, 2018 • 27 min
Evolutionary geneticist Aoife McLysaght is joining Alice Roberts as a guest at this year’s Royal Institution Christmas Lectures. Together, they’re exploring where we come from, what makes us human, and what makes each of us unique. See…
Why ASMR gives you tingles – Emma WhispersRed
Dec 19, 2018 • 18 min
We chat to YouTuber Emma WhispersRed ASMR about how she got into making the videos, why she thinks people find them so soothing, and why she wants to get the phenomenom officially recognised as a form of therapy See for privacy and…
Air pollution is killing us, here’s how you can stop it – Gary Fuller
Dec 12, 2018 • 53 min
Pollution scientist Gary Fuller explains how bad our air is, what causes it, and how we can stop this invisible killer. See for privacy and opt-out information.
Should we be worried about sex robots? – Kate Devlin
Dec 5, 2018 • 29 min
AI ethicist Dr Kate Devlin has done a deep dive into intimacy with machines for her new book Turned On: Science, Sex and Robots. She’s looked into society’s gradually changing attitudes towards sex tech and visited the companies making the world’s most…
Filming a Dynasty - Nick Lyon
Nov 28, 2018 • 42 min
The latest Sir David Attenborough-narrated BBC Natural History Unit Landmark Series is called Dynasties, and it tracks power struggles within animal groups. We talk to Nick Lyon, the producer of an episode about Zimbabwe’s Painted Wolves, to see how he…
There is no Plan B for planet Earth – Lord Martin Rees
Nov 21, 2018 • 30 min
Astronomer Royal Lord Martin Rees explains how unless we make significant changes now, the prospects for the human species are beginning to look bleak. See for privacy and opt-out information.
What NASA’s InSight will tell us about Mars - Bruce Banerdt
Nov 14, 2018 • 24 min
By drilling into the surface of Mars, NASA’s InSight mission could help us discover more about the structure of the Red Planet, and maybe help us understand the formation of other planets. See for privacy and opt-out information.
The genetic hunt for the Loch Ness Monster - Neil Gemmell
Nov 7, 2018 • 20 min
Professor Neil Gemmell on his project to survey the genetic diversity of Loch Ness using cutting-edge environmental DNA techniques, and maybe find clues about the Loch Ness Monster. See for privacy and opt-out information.
Robin Ince: Inside the mind of a comedian
Oct 31, 2018 • 40 min
Comedians often take to the stage to talk about the quirks of the human race, and comedian Robin Ince has years of experience in that area. In his new book, he’s adding insights from neuroscientists and psychologists to talk about creativity, imagination,…
How to get a good night’s sleep - Alice Gregory
Oct 24, 2018 • 25 min
Sleep psychologist Prof Alice Gregory on the science behind a satisfying slumber See for privacy and opt-out information.
What makes a robot a robot? – Dr Lucy Rogers
Oct 17, 2018 • 37 min
This week we speak to Dr Lucy Rogers, who casts aside any Hollywood depictions of skull-crushing Terminators, and look at the real-life robots that are making a positive impact in our lives. See for privacy and opt-out information.
Finding the fun in science - Dara Ó Briain
Oct 10, 2018 • 24 min
Comedian Dara Ó Briain thinks the word nerd has been co-opted by too many people who don’t deserve it: Infinity Wars fans, for example. Studying maths and mathematical physics at university, he’s a true nerd, with a favourite science joke that backs that…
The psychology of suicide - Jesse Bering
Oct 3, 2018 • 35 min
Psychologist and science writer Jesse Bering explains the factors that lead someone to take their own life, and how we might be able to help those who are at risk. See for privacy and opt-out information.
What we got wrong about pandas and teenagers
Sep 26, 2018 • 35 min
Scientists Lucy Cooke and Sarah-Jayne Blakemore’s books have been shortlisted for the Royal Society Insight Investment Science Book Prize. They tell us the unexpected truth about animals and the secret life of the teenage brain. See for…
How to invent everything - Ryan North
Sep 19, 2018 • 23 min
How helpful would you be if you were stranded in the past? Ryan North imagined telling people how cool computers are, but if they asked him how to make one, he’d be stumped. So he did some research, and in his hilarious new book he’s teaching us how to…
Why aren’t there more women in science?
Sep 12, 2018 • 42 min
Girls are not picking as many STEM A-levels as boys, while professional female scientists are dropping out of the field. Is it time for change? In this episode we talk to four women currently working in STEM about their experiences, the problems faced by…
Identifying Jack the Ripper - David Wilson
Sep 5, 2018 • 26 min
Five violent murders were committed by a man dubbed ‘Jack the Ripper’ between August and November 1888 in Whitechapel. Criminologist David Wilson and actor Emilia Fox, with the help of the country’s leading criminal investigators, apply the latest…
Why AI is not the enemy - Jim Al-Khalili
Aug 30, 2018 • 35 min
Jim Al-Khalili explains how artificial intelligence has changed the world, who benefits from it, and why we probably shouldn’t be afraid of it destroying humanity. See for privacy and opt-out information.
Could these gloves be the future of music?
Aug 22, 2018 • 26 min
Imogen Heap has pushed the creative boundaries in the creation of electronic music, but now she is using technology a different way that she hopes will create a fairer and more inclusive future for musicians. She talks to us about how blockchain could…
What’s going on with the weather? - Dann Mitchell
Aug 16, 2018 • 16 min
This summer has been one of the hottest on record, so we asked climate change researcher Dann Mitchell what has caused the summer heatwave, can we expect more, and is there anything we can do about it? See for privacy and opt-out…
What asteroids can tell us about our Solar System
Aug 8, 2018 • 40 min
What asteroids can tell us about our Solar System See for privacy and opt-out information.
Wildfires: past, present and future
Aug 1, 2018 • 25 min
Geologist Prof Andrew Scott on our complex relationship with wildfires See for privacy and opt-out information.
Inequality in Science
Jul 25, 2018 • 48 min
Women are underrepresented in science, and some experts are asking whether there are biological reasons why. Meanwhile, racial studies are creeping back into mainstream science. We talk to Angela Saini about the science of gender and race, and about how…
What’s the deal with algorithms?
Jul 18, 2018 • 27 min
Algorithms are everywhere. They can make our lives easier, by curating our Twitter feeds and Netflix suggestions. But they can also be bad. They lack empathy and we can become too reliant on their logical abilities, putting ourselves and others at risk.…
Mike Garrett: Is there anybody out there?
Jul 11, 2018 • 41 min
There are 100 billion stars in our Galaxy – surely we can’t be the only intelligent lifeform out there? In this week’s Science Focus Podcast we speak to Mike Garrett, the Director of Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics, about the search for…
Russia’s canine cosmonauts
Jul 4, 2018 • 22 min
Russian space dogs paved the way to sending humans into the cosmos. By studying how space flight affected dogs, scientists could establish whether it was safe to blast humans into space too. In this episode, we talk to Vix Southgate, who has just written…
Sin: Why we do the things we shouldn’t
Jun 27, 2018 • 33 min
Whether it’s cheating on our spouse, slacking off at work, or eating too much junk, we all occasionally do things we shouldn’t. Jack Lewis talks to us about the neuroscience of sin, how we can resist it, and the wacky experiments that test our ability to…
Solving the plastic problem
Jun 20, 2018 • 28 min
It’s estimated that there are currently more than 6 billion tonnes of plastic waste buried in land fill sites or floating on the surface of the ocean. Clearly something needs to be done but what exactly should we be doing? We speak to materials scientist…
Everything that’s wrong with the human body
Jun 13, 2018 • 31 min
We like to think of ourselves as highly evolved, well-adapted creatures, but our retinas face backwards, we have too many bones in our wrists, and at least half our genome is junk. Biologist Nathan Lents explains what we can learn from our flaws. See…
How to keep yourself busy in space
Jun 6, 2018 • 20 min
Chris Hadfield has been to space three times, completed two spacewalks and visited two different space stations, but for many, he is best known for his rendition of David Bowie’s Space Oddity performed aboard the International Space Station. We find out…
The truth about dinosaurs
May 30, 2018 • 31 min
The image of dinosaurs as drab, slow-witted reptilians is slowly being overturned thanks to exciting new fossil discoveries and advances in the technology used to analyse them. We talk to palaeontologist Steve Brusatte about palaeontology’s emerging…
To become Prime Minister, change your voice
May 23, 2018 • 42 min
Your voice – its pitch, intonation and accent – is a huge part of your personal identity. Trevor Cox is talking to us about the full range of human speech, and how technology’s changing the conversation. See for privacy and opt-out…
The neuroscience of happiness
May 10, 2018 • 46 min
Everyone wants to be happy, it’s an inbuilt part of being human, but what exactly is going on in our brains when we feel happy and what can we do to ensure we live as happy a life as possible? We talk to neuroscientist, comedian and science writer Dean…
Changing our behaviour with virtual reality
May 3, 2018 • 31 min
VR can be used for so much more than cheap thrills and casual gaming. Jeremy Bailenson tells us how he is using VR to change the way we perceive racism, highlight the impact of climate change, and help us step into the shoes of our sporting heroes. See…
What it’s really like to die
Apr 25, 2018 • 32 min
People used to die at home and everybody recognised the process, and now people die in hospital largely with doctors and nurses trying to stop it from happening. So we don’t see how gentle the normal process of a life winding to an end can be. See…
How to push the limits of human endurance
Apr 18, 2018 • 33 min
Ahead of the London Marathon, we talk to Alex Hutchinson, author and former long-distance athlete about what it takes to push the human body to its limits. See for privacy and opt-out information.
Transhumanism - using technology to live forever
Apr 11, 2018 • 28 min
We talk to Mark O’Connell about transhumanism, a movement whose aim is to use technology to control the future evolution of our species – to improve our flawed biology, and to enable us to live forever. See for privacy and opt-out…
Nudge theory
Apr 4, 2018 • 29 min
How much difference can a small change make? When it comes to changing habits, convincing someone to do something or affecting the behaviour of people without them even knowing about it, quite a lot, as we have seen with the recent Facebook scandal, where…
Project Discovery and its search for exoplanets
Mar 29, 2018 • 25 min
We talk to Bergur Finnbogason, Development Manager for Project Discovery, which uses players of the Massively Multiplayer Online game EVE Online to help search for exoplanets. See for privacy and opt-out information.
Remembering Stephen Hawking - the Galaxy’s best known scientist
Mar 21, 2018 • 54 min
In this episode, we chat to four scientists who spent time with Professor Stephen Hawking, to find out more about his life, his work, and his legacy. See for privacy and opt-out information.
Exploding Head Syndrome
Mar 14, 2018 • 23 min
We talk to professor Brian Sharpless about a little-known sleep disorder called Exploding Head Syndrome and the research that hopes find a treatment. See for privacy and opt-out information.
Adventures in brain enhancement
Mar 7, 2018 • 44 min
This week, we chat to author David Adam about his adventures in brain enhancement, finding out whether smart drugs and electrical brain stimulation could really be a shortcut to a sharper, more focused mind. See for privacy and opt-out…
The future of humanity
Feb 28, 2018 • 38 min
This week, we chat to theoretical physicist Michio Kaku about the future of humanity, how we’re going to terraform Mars, why the modern space race will change life on Earth, and why aliens probably won’t bother to destroy us. See for…
How emotions are made
Feb 21, 2018 • 40 min
This week, we chat to neuroscientist Lisa Feldmann Barrett about what happens in our brains when we create emotions, how to control them, and what this means for the future of artificial intelligence. See for privacy and opt-out…
The London Fatberg + Why you should break up with your phone
Feb 14, 2018 • 41 min
This month, we’re talking about how the Museum of London acquired a piece of the London Fatberg as their new exhibit, and asked them how they’ll keep it “fresh”. We also talk to author Catherine Price about the science that inspired her to break up with…
How plants can survive space missions and Chernobyl
Feb 1, 2018 • 23 min
The world seems to be going ever more nuclear, but what effect could radiation – from bombs or nuclear meltdowns – have on animals and plants? See for privacy and opt-out information.
Christmas lectures past and present
Dec 21, 2017 • 43 min
Since they were launched by Michael Faraday in 1825, the Royal Institution’s Christmas lectures have become as synonymous with the festive season as mince pies and sherry. In this month’s podcast we look back at classic lectures from Christmases past, and…
Building a base on the Moon, and crafting believable sci-fi
Dec 8, 2017 • 33 min
If you love science fiction then you’re in for a treat. This month, we pick the brain of Andy Weir, author of the best-selling novel and film The Martian, about his new creation Artemis and how he crafts believable sci-fi worlds. In Artemis Weir has…
Why we love pets and why strangers help each other
Nov 2, 2017 • 39 min
When she was 19, a stranger saved Dr Abigail Marsh’s life. Because of that moment, Dr Marsh work studies the psychology of people who help total strangers. We talked to her about the real-life superheroes who were the subject of her new book Good For…
Psychosis, realism and video games
Oct 12, 2017 • 42 min
In the first half of this episode we ask Dr Stephen Hall, a climate and infrastructure researcher, whether the 2040 petrol and diesel car ban will really clean up the air we breathe. In the second part, we talk to neuroscientist Professor Paul Fletcher…