Discovery

Discovery

www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p002w557
Explorations in the world of science.


Wine glass
Jun 29 • 27 min
Have you got one of those wine glasses that can hold an entire bottle of wine? Katy Brand does and she’s even used it for wine - albeit because of a sprained ankle, which would have stopped her from hobbling back and forth to the kitchen for refills. But…
The Evidence: Covid 19: vaccines and after lockdown
Jun 27 • 48 min
Claudia Hammond and a panel of international experts look at the latest research into Covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus which is sweeping through the world. We look at vaccines to stop the spread of the coronavirus. And as travel opens…
Fork
Jun 22 • 27 min
The fork is essential. Even camping without one is a false economy, in Katy’s experience. Even a spork - with a spoon at one end and a fork at the other, with a knife formed along one prong - just won’t do. You need both - a fork to steady the meat and a…
High heel
Jun 15 • 27 min
Katy Brand loves a high heel. Once known by friends and family for her ‘shoe fetish’, her dad even gave her a ceramic heel that could hold a wine bottle at a jaunty angle. These days, Katy’s cherished heels from her torture days live in her cupboard. She…
The Evidence: Covid 19: Transmission and South America
Jun 13 • 49 min
Claudia Hammond and a panel of international experts look at the latest research into Covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus which is sweeping through the world. As the disease spreads how is South America handling the pandemic? How are the…
Toothbrush
Jun 8 • 27 min
What is the most personal item you own - one you don’t want anyone else using? For Katy Brand it’s her toothbrush. So how did the toothbrush become one of life’s essentials? With the help of resident public historian of Horrible Histories fame, Greg…
Helium
Jun 1 • 26 min
Andrea Sella, Professor of Inorganic Chemistry at University College London, celebrates the art and science of the chemical elements. Today he looks at helium. Helium is a finite resource here on Earth and many branches of science need it. Doctors need it…
The Evidence: Covid 19: Sub-Saharan Africa and Testing
May 30 • 49 min
Claudia Hammond and a panel of international experts look at the latest research into Covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus which is sweeping through the world. As the disease spreads how is sub-Saharan Africa handling the pandemic? We also…
Aluminium and strontium
May 25 • 26 min
Andrea Sella, Professor of Inorganic Chemistry at University College London, celebrates the art and science of the chemical elements. Today he looks at aluminium and strontium, elements that give us visual treats. At the time of Emperor Napoleon the Third…
Gold and silver
May 18 • 27 min
Andrea Sella, Professor of Inorganic Chemistry at University College London, celebrates the art and science of chemical elements. In this episode he looks at two elements we have valued for millennia – gold and silver. Nina Gilbey at the London Jewellery…
The Evidence: Covid 19: ending lockdowns
May 16 • 50 min
Claudia Hammond and her panel of scientists and doctors analyse the latest science on the coronavirus and answer the audience’s questions on the impact of the pandemic. Dr Lucy van Dorp of UCL explores the genetics of the virus and what they can tell us…
Science of Dad
May 13 • 27 min
Whilst most men become fathers, and men make up roughly half the parental population, the vast majority of scientific research has focused on the mother. But studies have started to reveal the impact of fatherhood on both dads themselves and on their…
Ignaz Semmelweiss: The hand washer
May 4 • 27 min
Lindsey Fitzharris tells the story of Ignaz Semmelweiss, the hand washer. In a world that had no understanding of germs, he tried to apply science to halt the spread of infection. Ignaz Semmelweis observed that many young medical students at his hospital…
The Evidence: Mental health and Covid 19
May 2 • 49 min
Now that more than half the population of the world has been living for a time in lockdown, Claudia Hammond and her panel of psychologists and psychiatrists answer the audience’s questions on the impact of the pandemic on our mental health. Dr George Hu,…
Desert locust swarms
Apr 27 • 27 min
The pictures coming in from East Africa are apocalyptic. Billions of locusts hatching out of the wet ground, marching destructively through crops, and launching into flight in search of new terrains. “This is certainly the worst situation we have seen in…
Anne Magurran
Apr 20 • 27 min
Anne Magurran started her career as an ecologist counting moths in an ancient woodland in northern Ireland in the 1970s, when the study of biological diversity was a very young science. Later she studied piranas in a flooded forest in the Amazon. Turning…
The Evidence: Young people, lifting lockdowns, USA and Kenya updates
Apr 18 • 49 min
Claudia Hammond and a panel of international experts look at the latest research into Covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus which is sweeping through the world. As the disease spreads, younger people have perhaps not been getting the…
Richard Wiseman
Apr 13 • 27 min
How do you tell if someone is lying? When Richard Wiseman, Professor of the Public Understanding of Psychology at the University of Hertfordshire, conducted a nationwide experiment to identify the tell-tale signs, the results were surprising. If you want…
Professor Saiful Islam
Apr 6 • 26 min
Not so long ago, all batteries were single use. And solar power was an emerging and expensive technology. Now, thanks to rechargeable batteries, we have mobile phones, laptops, electronic toys, cordless power tools and other portable electronic devices.…
The Evidence: Taiwan, Vaccines, Africa Preparedness
Apr 4 • 49 min
International experts discuss the latest research into Covid-19
Elizabeth Fisher: Chromosomes in mice and men
Mar 30 • 27 min
Elizabeth Fisher, Professor of Neurogenetics at University College London, spent 13 years getting her idea – finding a new way of studying genetic disorders – to work. She began her research career at a time, in the 1980s, when there was an explosion of…
Adrian Owen
Mar 24 • 26 min
Neuroscientist Adrian Owen has spent much of his career exploring what he calls ‘the grey zone’, a realm of consciousness inhabited by people with severe brain injuries, who are aware yet unable to respond to those around them. It’s this inability to…
The Evidence: Coronavirus Special
Mar 21 • 49 min
A panel of international experts take a global look at the science of Covid-19. We hear about vaccines, treatments, strategies to contain the virus and the role of big data.
Professor Martha Clokie
Mar 16 • 34 min
Professor Martha Clokie tells Jim Al-Khalili how she found viruses that destroy antibiotic-resistant bugs by looking in stool samples, her son’s nappies and estuary mud. Could viruses improve our health where antibiotics have failed? As a child, Martha…
Demis Hassabis
Mar 10 • 26 min
Jim Al-Khalili finds out why Demis Hassabis wants to create artificial intelligence and use it to help humanity. Thinking about how to win at chess when he was a boy got Demis thinking about the process of thinking itself. Being able to program his first…
Isaac Newton and the story of the apple
Mar 2 • 27 min
The story of how Newton came up with his gravitational theory is one of the most familiar in the history of science. He was sitting in the orchard at Woolsthorpe, thinking deep thoughts, when an apple fell from a tree. And all at once, Newton realised…
Science Stories - Sophia Jex-Blake
Feb 24 • 27 min
Naomi Alderman tells the science story of Sophia Jex-Blake, who led a group known as the Edinburgh Seven in their bid to become the first women to graduate as doctors from a British university. Her campaign was long and ultimately personally unsuccessful…
Science Stories - Mary Somerville, pioneer of popular science writing
Feb 17 • 27 min
Mary Somerville was a self-taught genius who wrote best-selling books translating, explaining and drawing together different scientific fields and who was named the nineteenth century’s “queen of science”. Born Mary Fairfax in 1780, she was an unlikely…
Stem cells: Hope and hype
Feb 10 • 27 min
Lesley Curwen reports on the magical aura that has been drawing so many people around the world to pay for “regenerative” therapies which harness the healing power of stem cells. In this programme, she reports on the battle of regulators in the USA and in…
Stem cell hard sell
Feb 3 • 27 min
Stem cells are cells with superpowers. They can become many different types of cells in our bodies, from muscle cells to brain cells, and some can even repair tissue. But the remarkable promise of this exciting new field of medicine has led to a new…
The road to Glasgow
Jan 27 • 27 min
Climate change is upon us. In 2018 the IPCC published a report with the most significant warning about the impact of climate change in 20 years. Unless the world keeps warming to below 1.5% degrees Celsius the impact on the climate will be severe. Sea…
Ecological grief
Jan 20 • 27 min
As the Earth experiences more extreme weather, and wildlife is dying, from corals, to insects, to tropical forests, more people are experiencing ecological anxiety and grief. Science journalist Gaia Vince has been reporting on the growing crisis across…
The misinformation virus
Jan 13 • 27 min
In this online age, the internet is a global megaphone, billions of messages amplified and shared, even when they’re false. Fake science spreads faster than the truth ever could, unhindered by national boundaries. Mainstream scientists are struggling to…
The silence of the genes
Jan 6 • 27 min
In summer of 2019 NICE approved the use of a completely new class of drugs: the gene silencers. These compounds are transforming the lives of families who have rare debilitating – and sometimes fatal - diseases such as amyloidosis and porphyria. James…
Alexis Carrel and the immortal chicken heart
Dec 30, 2019 • 27 min
Philip Ball tells the story of Alexis Carrel, the French surgeon who worked to preserve life outside the body and create an immortal chicken heart in a dish. His quest was to renew ageing flesh, repair and rebuild our bodies and keep them healthy far…
Ramon Llull: Medieval prophet of computer science
Dec 23, 2019 • 27 min
Philip Ball tells the story of Ramon Llull, the medieval prophet of computer science. During the time of the Crusades Llull argued that truth could be automated and used logic over force to prove the existence of the Christian God. It was a dangerous idea…
Ignaz Semmelweiss: The hand washer
Dec 16, 2019 • 27 min
Lindsey Fitzharris tells the story of Ignaz Semmelweiss, the hand washer. In a world that had no understanding of germs, he tried to apply science to halt the spread of infection. Ignaz Semmelweis observed that many young medical students at his hospital…
Madame Lavoisier’s Translation of Oxygen
Dec 9, 2019 • 27 min
Philip Ball tells the story of Madame Lavoisier; translator of oxygen. At a time when science was almost a closed book to women, Madame Marie Anne Lavoisier’s skills were indispensable. A translator, illustrator and critic of scientific papers, she learnt…
Galileo’s lost letter
Dec 2, 2019 • 26 min
Galileo famously insisted in the early 17th Century that the Earth goes round the Sun and not vice versa – an idea that got him into deep trouble with the Catholic Church. In 1633 Galileo was put on trial for heresy by the Inquisition, and was threatened…
Robin Dunbar
Nov 25, 2019 • 26 min
Maintaining friendships is one of the most cognitively demanding things we do, according to Professor of Evolutionary Psychology Robin Dunbar. So why do we bother? Robin has spent his life trying to answer this deceptively simple question. For most of his…
Katherine Joy
Nov 18, 2019 • 26 min
Katherine Joy studies moon rock. She has studied lunar samples that were brought to earth by the Apollo missions (382kg in total) and hunted for lunar meteorites in Antarctica, camping on ice for weeks on end and travelling around on a skidoo. Working at…
Sir Gregory Winter
Nov 11, 2019 • 26 min
In an astonishing story of a scientific discovery, Greg Winter tells Jim Al-Khalili how decades of curiosity-driven research led to a revolution in medicine. Forced to temporarily abandon his work in the lab when a road rage incident left him with a…
Turi King: Solving the mystery of Richard III through DNA
Nov 4, 2019 • 27 min
When a skeleton was unearthed in 2012 from under the tarmac of a car park in Leicester in the English East Midlands, Turi King needed to gather irrefutable evidence to prove that this really was the body of Richard III, England’s infamous medieval…
Plastic pollution with Richard Thompson
Oct 28, 2019 • 27 min
A Professor of Marine Biology who was not particularly academic at school, Richard Thompson went to university after running his own business selling greetings cards for seven years. When the rest of the world was waking up to the harm caused to marine…
Protecting heads in sports
Oct 21, 2019 • 26 min
The death last week of boxer Patrick Day, four days after he was stretchered out of the ring in a coma, is the latest reminder of how vulnerable sportsmen and women are to traumatic brain injury. During the latest Ashes series the Australian batsman Steve…
Early diagnosis and research
Oct 14, 2019 • 26 min
James Parkinson described a condition known as the “shaking palsy” over 200 years ago. Today there are many things that scientists still don’t understand explaining why diagnosis, halting the progression or finding a cure for Parkinson’s can seem elusive.…
Exercise
Oct 7, 2019 • 26 min
Can exercise help people living with Parkinson’s, a neurodegenerative condition, with symptoms such as loss of balance, difficulty walking and stiffness in the arms and legs. Jane Hill travels to the Netherlands to meet Mariëtte Robijn and Wim Rozenberg,…
Living with Parkinson’s
Sep 30, 2019 • 26 min
BBC newsreader Jane Hill knows all about Parkinson’s. Her father was diagnosed in t1980s and lived with the condition for ten years — her uncle had it, too. She’s spoken about the dreadful experience of watching helplessly as the two men were engulfed by…
Preventing pesticide poisoning
Sep 23, 2019 • 26 min
Thanks to a ban on several hazardous pesticides Sri Lanka has seen a massive reduction in deaths from pesticide poisoning, and the World Health Organisation is recommending other countries should follow this example. As Health Correspondent Matthew Hill…
The power of peace
Sep 16, 2019 • 26 min
“Nature red in tooth and claw”. “Dog eat dog”. “Fighting for survival”. You may well think that the natural world is one dangerous, violent, lawless place, with every creature out for itself. And it can be, but it can also be peaceful, democratic and…
The power of petite
Sep 9, 2019 • 26 min
Bigger is better, right? An ancient lore in biology, Cope’s rule, states that animals have a tendency to get bigger as they evolve. Evolution has cranked out some absolutely huge animals. But most of these giants are long gone. And those that remain are…
The power of deceit
Sep 2, 2019 • 26 min
Lucy Cooke sets out to discover why honesty is almost certainly not the best policy, be you chicken, chimp or human being. It turns out that underhand behaviour is rife throughout the animal kingdom, and can be a winning evolutionary strategy. From sneaky…
Patient Undone
Aug 26, 2019 • 27 min
Professor Deborah Bowman reveals how a diagnosis of cancer has transformed her view of medical ethics and what it means to be a patient. As Professor of Ethics and Law at St George’s, University of London, Deborah has spent the past two decades teaching…
The Great Science Publishing Scandal
Aug 19, 2019 • 27 min
Matthew Cobb, Professor of Zoology at the University of Manchester, explores the hidden world of prestige, profits and piracy that lurks behind scientific journals. Each year, hundreds of thousands of articles on the findings on research are published,…
Erica McAlister
Aug 12, 2019 • 27 min
Dr Erica McAlister, of London’s Natural History Museum, talks to Jim Al-Khalili about the beautiful world of flies and the 2.5 million specimens for which she is jointly responsible. According to Erica, a world without flies would be full of faeces and…
Richard Peto
Aug 5, 2019 • 27 min
When Sir Richard Peto began work with the late Richard Doll fifty years ago, the UK had the worst death rates from smoking in the world. Smoking was the cause of more than half of all premature deaths of British men. The fact that this country now boasts…
Lovelock at 100: Gaia on Gaia
Jul 29, 2019 • 27 min
James Lovelock is one of the most influential thinkers on the environment of the last half century. His grand theory of planet earth, Gaia, the idea that from the bottom of the earth’s crust to the upper reaches of the atmosphere, planet earth is one…
What next for the Moon?
Jul 22, 2019 • 27 min
The Moon rush is back on. And this time it’s a global race. The USA has promised boots on the lunar surface by 2024. But China already has a rover exploring the farside. India is on the point of sending one too. Europe and Russia are cooperating to…
Irene Tracey on pain in the brain
Jul 15, 2019 • 27 min
Pain, as we know, is highly personal. Some can cope with huge amounts, while others reel in agony over a seemingly minor injury. Though you might feel the stab of pain in your stubbed toe or sprained ankle, it is actually processed in the brain. That is…
Paul Davies on the origin of life and the evolution of cancer
Jul 8, 2019 • 27 min
Physicist Paul Davies talks to Jim al-Khalili about the origin of life, the search for aliens and the evolution of cancer. Paul Davies is interested in some of the biggest questions that we can ask. What is life? How did the universe begin? How will it…
Can psychology boost vaccination rates?
Jul 1, 2019 • 26 min
In the 1950s a batch of polio vaccine in the US was made badly, resulting in 10 deaths and the permanent paralysis of 164 people. Paul Offit, a paediatrician in Philadelphia, says the disaster did not turn people away from vaccines. He believes that…
Global attitudes towards vaccines
Jun 24, 2019 • 26 min
Global attitudes towards vaccinations are revealed in the Wellcome Trust’s Global Monitor survey. Our guide through the new data is Heidi Larson, Professor of Anthropology, Risk and Decision Science at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine…
Why do birds sing?
Jun 17, 2019 • 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 in by Jonathan Crain from Long…
Does infinity exist?
Jun 10, 2019 • 26 min
“Is anything in the Universe truly infinite, or is infinity something that only exists in mathematics?” This question came from father and son duo from Edinburgh in Scotland, Tom and Sorely Watson. First, we investigate the concept of infinity in…
Why do we get déjà vu?
Jun 3, 2019 • 26 min
4/6 Part 1: Déjà vu “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…
Will we ever find alien life?
May 27, 2019 • 27 min
3/6 In this instalment of The Curious Cases of Rutherford & Fry, Hannah and Adam boldly go in search of scientists who are hunting for ET, spurred on by questions sent in by listeners across the globe, from Australia to Columbia. They start by asking how…
Why people have different pain thresholds
May 20, 2019 • 26 min
2/6 “How fast can a human run and would we be faster as quadrapeds?” This question flew in via Twitter from Greg Jenner. Is there a limit to human sprinting performance? In this episode we investigate the biomechanics of running, statistical trends in…
How do instruments make music?
May 13, 2019 • 28 min
1/6 “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. In this new series of…
A sense of time
May 6, 2019 • 26 min
Our senses create the world we experience. But do animals have a ‘sense’ of time, and does that differ between species, or between us and other animals? We know that animal senses reveal a wealth of information that humans can’t access. Birds can see in…
Cat Hobaiter on communication in apes
Apr 29, 2019 • 26 min
Dr Catherine Hobaiter studies how apes communicate with each other. Although she is based at the University of St Andrews in Scotland, she spends a lot of her time in the forests of Uganda, at the Budongo Research Centre. There, she is endlessly…
Carlo Rovelli on rethinking the nature of time
Apr 22, 2019 • 26 min
Carlo Rovelli is a theoretical physicist who became a household name when his book Seven Brief Lessons on Physics became an unexpected international bestseller. His concise, and poetic, introduction to the laws and beauty of physics has sold more than a…
Corinne Le Quéré on carbon and climate
Apr 15, 2019 • 26 min
Professor Corinne Le Quéré of University of East Anglia talks to Jim Al-Khalili about tracing global carbon. Throughout the history of planet Earth, the element carbon has cycled between the atmosphere, the oceans and the biosphere. This natural cycle has…
Ken Gabriel on why your smartphone is smart
Apr 8, 2019 • 26 min
Jim Al-Khalili talks to Ken Gabriel, the engineer responsible for popularising many of the micro devices found in smartphones and computers. Ken explains how he was inspired by what he could do with a stick and a piece of string. This led to an…
Donna Strickland and extremely powerful lasers
Apr 1, 2019 • 26 min
Donna Strickland tells Jim Al-Khalili why she wanted to work with lasers and what it feels like to be the first woman to win a Nobel Prize for Physics in 55 years. When the first laser was built in 1960, it was an invention looking for an application.…
Unbottling the past
Mar 25, 2019 • 29 min
Imagine finding a notebook containing the secret recipes of some of the world’s most iconic perfumes? Formulas normally kept under lock and key. That’s what happened to medical research scientist and trained chemist Andrew Holding. His grandfather Charles…
California burning
Mar 18, 2019 • 26 min
When Paradise burned down last year, it made the Camp Fire the most destructive and deadly in Californian history. A few months earlier the nearby Ranch Fire was the largest. In southern California, a series of chaparral fires have brought danger to towns…
ShakeAlertLA - California’s earthquake early warning system
Mar 11, 2019 • 28 min
Los Angeles is a city of Angels, and of earthquakes. Deadly earthquakes in 1933, 1971 and 1994 have also made it a pioneer in earthquake protection – for example with tough engineering standards to save buildings. Since 2013, with the help of scientists…
From the Cold War to the present day
Mar 4, 2019 • 28 min
For more than 100 years chemical weapons have terrorised, maimed and killed soldiers and civilians alike. As a chemist, the part his profession has played in the development of these weapons has long concerned Andrea Sella, professor of chemistry at…
From the Crimean War to the end of World War Two
Feb 25, 2019 • 27 min
In the first of two programmes he looks back to the first attempts to ban the use of chemical weapons at the end of the 19th century. Heavily defeated in the Crimea, Russia succeeded in getting unanimous agreement at the 1899 Hague Convention that poison…
Tracks across time
Feb 18, 2019 • 26 min
In a dry creek bed in the middle of the Australian outback is a palaeontological prize like no other: 95-million-year-old footprints stamped in a sandstone slab by three species of dinosaur. One of the beasts was a massive, lumbering sauropod that…
Trouble in paradise
Feb 11, 2019 • 26 min
The atoll of Tetiaro is a string of tiny islands in French Polynesia, about 60km away from Tahiti. The islands – known as ‘motus’ to local Polynesians – are unique ecosystems that are crucial nesting sites for native seabirds. But invasive species…
Back from the Dead
Feb 4, 2019 • 27 min
The Night Parrot was supposed to be extinct and became a legend among birdwatchers in Australia: a fat, dumpy, green parrot that lived in the desert and came out at night. The last bird seen alive was promptly shot dead in 1912. Over 90 years later, a…
Eye in the Sky
Jan 28, 2019 • 26 min
On this mission, SOFIA is setting out to study Titan, Saturn’s biggest moon, by flying into the faint shadow that it casts as it blocks the light from a faraway star. It’s a phenomenon called an occultation, and if the mission succeeds, it will reveal new…
Kepler’s Snowflake
Jan 14, 2019 • 26 min
The Six Cornered Snowflake, a booklet written by Johannes Kepler as a New Year’s gift, sought to explain the intricate and symmetrical shape of winter’s tiny stars of snow. His insightful speculations about minerals and geometry were the beginning of the…
Lucretius, Sheep and Atoms
Jan 7, 2019 • 26 min
2000 years ago Lucretius composed a long poem that theorised about atoms and the natural world. Written in the first century BCE, during a chaotic and frightening time when the Roman Republic was collapsing, Lucretius encouraged people to feel free…
Eddington’s eclipse and Einstein’s celebrity
Dec 31, 2018 • 26 min
Philip Ball’s tale is of a solar eclipse 100 years ago observed by Arthur Eddington, a British astronomer who travelled to the remote island of Principe off the coast of West Africa and saw the stars shift in the heavens. His observations supplied the…
Earthrise
Dec 24, 2018 • 27 min
On Christmas Eve in 1968 Bill Anders was in orbit around the moon in Apollo 8 when he took one of the most iconic photos of the last fifty years: Earthrise. The image got to be seen everywhere, from a stamp issued in 1969 to commemorate the success of…
The Supercalculators
Dec 17, 2018 • 26 min
Alex Bellos is brilliant at all things mathematical, but even he can’t hold a candle to the amazing mathematical feats of the supercalculators. Alex heads to Wolfsburg in Germany to meet the contestants at this year’s Mental Calculation World Cup. These…
The China Syndrome
Dec 10, 2018 • 28 min
Plastic waste and pollution have become a global problem but is there any sign of a global solution? And how did we allow this to happen in the first place? Materials scientist and broadcaster, Professor Mark Miodownik, explores how we fell in love with…
How Much Plastic Can We Recycle?
Dec 3, 2018 • 26 min
Plastics are fantastically versatile materials that have changed our lives. It is what we do with them, when we no longer want them, that has resulted in the global plastic crisis. Mark Miodownik explores our love hate relationship with plastics.…
Why We Fell In Love with Plastic
Nov 26, 2018 • 26 min
Plastic waste and pollution have become a global problem but is there any sign of a global solution? And how did we allow this to happen in the first place? Materials scientist and broadcaster, Professor Mark Miodownik, explores how we fell in love with…
Finding the Coelacanths
Nov 19, 2018 • 26 min
The first Coelacanth was discovered by a woman in South Africa in 1938. The find, by the young museum curator, was the fish equivalent of discovering a T- Rex on the Serengeti, it took the Zoological world by storm. Presenter Adam Hart tells the story of…
The Big Bang and Jet Streams
Nov 12, 2018 • 26 min
Evidence for the big bang was initially thought to be a mistake in the recording. Jet streams in the upper atmosphere were revealed by the dust emitted by Krakatoa and a collection of interested citizen scientists. In the second three episodes about the…
Viagra and CRISPR
Nov 5, 2018 • 26 min
Viagra’s effects on men were first discovered as an unexpected side-effect during trials for a medication meant to help patients with a heart condition. CRISPR cas– 9 is now a tool that can be used to modify and replace genes – but it was first noted as a…
Tracking the First Animals on Earth
Oct 29, 2018 • 26 min
What were the earliest animals on Earth? The origin of the animal kingdom is one of the most mysterious chapters in the evolution of life on Earth. Our animal ancestors appeared and began to diversify about half a billion years ago. What might they have…
Mary Anning and Fossil Hunting
Oct 29, 2018 • 26 min
Mary Anning lived in Lyme Regis on what is now known as the Jurassic Coast in the first half of the 19th century. Knowing the shore from childhood and with a remarkable eye for detection she was extremely successful in finding fossils. In 1812 she…
Cooling the City
Oct 22, 2018 • 26 min
The summer of 2003 saw the largest number of deaths ever recorded in a UK heatwave - but by 2040 climate models predict the extreme summer temperatures experienced then will be normal. We will also be experiencing colder winters, and droughts and floods…
Tourism and Transparency
Oct 15, 2018 • 26 min
In the second programme exploring the Chinese approach to organ transplantation, Matthew Hill looks at what is happening today. Where are the organs coming from today? Have the Chinese overcome their traditional opposition to donating them? There is still…
Who To Believe?
Oct 8, 2018 • 26 min
For many years the Chinese sourced organs for transplant from executed prisoners. Around a decade ago the authorities acknowledged that this practice had gone on and announced that it was to be stopped. In the first programme exploring the Chinese…
The Long Hot Summer - Part Two
Oct 1, 2018 • 26 min
This summer the Northern Hemisphere has been sweltering in unusually high temperatures. It has been hot from the Arctic to Africa. This has led to increased deaths, notably in Canada, and more wildfires, even in Lancashire and in Sweden. Can we say that…
The Long Hot Summer
Sep 24, 2018 • 27 min
This summer the Northern Hemisphere has been sweltering in unusually high temperatures. It’s been hot from the Arctic to Africa. This has led to increased deaths, notably in Canada, and more wildfires, even in Lancashire and in Sweden. Can we say that…
Sodium
Sep 17, 2018 • 26 min
Sophie Scott on why sodium powers everything we do, and why it might be the key to a new generation of pain killers. Putting sodium into water is one of the most memorable experiments from school chemistry lessons. It’s this ability to react ferociously…
Iron
Sep 10, 2018 • 26 min
Beyond war and peace, Dr Andrew Pontzen explores how iron has shaped human biology and culture. From weapons to ploughshares, iron holds a key place as the element for the tools of the rise and destruction of human civilisations. As a grand scale shaper…
Fluorine
Sep 3, 2018 • 26 min
Chemist Andrea Sella tells the story of how the feared element ended up giving us better teeth, mood and health. Many chemists have lost their lives trying to isolate the periodic table’s most chemically reactive element – hence the nickname “the tiger of…
Hypatia: The Murdered Mathematician
Aug 20, 2018 • 26 min
Naomi Alderman’s tale is a murder mystery, the story of Hypatia, the mathematician murdered by a mob in the learned city of Alexandria, around the year 415 CE. Hypatia was a communicator of science, tackling difficult maths and teaching it to her…
Descartes’ “Daughter”
Aug 13, 2018 • 28 min
There’s a story told about French philosopher René Descartes and his daughter. He boards a ship for a voyage over the North Sea with a large wooden box which he insists be handled with such great care that the sea captain’s curiosity is aroused. When…
Making Natural Products in the Lab
Aug 6, 2018 • 27 min
Philip Ball tells the science story of German chemist Friedrich Wöhler’s creation of urea, an organic substance previously thought only to be produced by living creatures. Yet in 1828 Wöhler created urea from decidedly non-living substances. It was…
The Real Cyrano de Bergerac
Jul 30, 2018 • 26 min
Philip Ball reveals the real Cyrano de Bergerac - forget the big nosed fictional character - and his links to 17th Century space flight. Cyrano was a soldier, gambler and duellist who retired from military exploits on account of his wounds around 1639, at…
The Nun’s Salamander
Jul 23, 2018 • 26 min
A convent of Mexican nuns is helping to save the one of the world’s most endangered and most remarkable amphibians: the axolotl, a truly bizarre creature of serious scientific interest worldwide and an animal of deep-rooted cultural significance in…
The Aztec Salamander
Jul 16, 2018 • 26 min
Victoria Gill tells the extraordinary story of the Mexican axolotl: an amphibian that is both a cultural icon and a biomedical marvel. In its domesticated form, the aquatic salamander is a valuable laboratory animal and a popular pet around the world. But…
Gateway to the Mind
Jul 9, 2018 • 26 min
The microbiome is the strange invisible world of our non human selves. On and in all of us are hoards of microbes. Their impact on our physical health is becoming clear to science, but a controversial idea is emerging too - that gut bacteria could alter…
Dirt and Development
Jul 2, 2018 • 26 min
BBC Health and Science correspondent James Gallagher explores the latest research into how our second genome, the vast and diverse array of microbes that live on and in our bodies, is driving our metabolism and our health and how we can change it for the…
Manipulating Our Hidden Half
Jun 25, 2018 • 26 min
Are we on the cusp of a new approach to healthy living and treating disease? BBC Health and Science correspondent James Gallagher explores the latest research into how our second genome, the vast and diverse array of microbes that live on and in our…
Do Insects Feel Pain?
Jun 18, 2018 • 26 min
Insects such as fruit flies provide important insights into human biology and medicine. But should we worry whether insects experience pain and suffering in scientists’ hands? Entomologist Adam Hart visits the Fly Facility at the University of Manchester…
Killing Insects for Conservation
Jun 11, 2018 • 26 min
Prof Adam Hart stirred a hornet’s nest of controversy by asking the public to kill wasps for science. He explores why scientists kill insects to save them from extinction. The work of the entomologist often involves the killing of insects in large…
What’s the Tiniest Dinosaur?
Jun 4, 2018 • 26 min
Two small creatures are at the heart of today’s questions, sent in to curiouscases@bbc.co.uk. The Tiniest Dinosaur “What is the tiniest dinosaur?” asks young listener Ellie Cook, aged 11. Our hunt takes us from the discovery of dinosaurs right up to the…
Can Anything Travel Faster Than Light?
May 28, 2018 • 26 min
Two astronomical questions today sent in to curiouscases@bbc.co.uk for Drs Hannah Fry and Adam Rutherford to answer. The Cosmic Speed Limit “We often read that the fastest thing in the Universe is the speed of light. Why do we have this limitation and can…
Why Do We Dream?
May 21, 2018 • 26 min
Adventures in Dreamland “Why do we dream and why do we repeat dreams?” asks Mila O’Dea, aged 9, from Panama. Hannah Fry and Adam Rutherford delve into the science of sleep. From a pioneering experiment on rapid eye movement sleep, to a brand new ‘dream…
Can We Use Chemistry to Bake the Perfect Cake?
May 14, 2018 • 26 min
Domestic science is on the agenda today, with two culinary questions sent in by listeners to curiouscases@bbc.co.uk The Curious Cake-Off Can chemistry help us bake the perfect cake? Listener Helena McGinty aged 69 from Malaga in Spain asks, “‘I have…
Why Do Some Songs Get Stuck in Your Head?
May 7, 2018 • 26 min
Two very annoying cases today sent in by listeners to curiouscases@bbc.co.uk to our scientific sleuths, mathematician Dr Hannah Fry and geneticist Dr Adam Rutherford. The Sticky Song Why do songs get stuck in our heads? And what makes some tunes stickier…
Behaving Better Online
Apr 30, 2018 • 26 min
Humans have become the most successful species on earth because of our ability to cooperate. Often we help strangers when there is no obvious benefit to us as individuals. But today in the age when social media and the internet could be seen as a way of…
The Cooperative Species
Apr 23, 2018 • 26 min
People are incredibly rude to each other on social media. Much ruder than they would ever be face to face. The great potential of the internet to bring humanity together in a glorious collaborating network seems naïve – instead of embracing a massive…
Bringing Schrodinger’s Cat to Life
Apr 16, 2018 • 26 min
Schrodinger’s cat is the one that’s famously alive and dead. At the same time. Impossible! Roland Pease meets the quantum scientists hoping to bring one to life in the laboratory. Not a real cat, to be fair. But large biomolecules, viruses, even bacteria,…
Barbara McLintock
Apr 9, 2018 • 26 min
Barbara McClintock’s work on the genetics of corn won her a Nobel prize in 1983. Her research on jumping genes challenged the over-simplified picture of chromosomes and DNA that Watson and Crick’s discovery has all too often been used to support. During…
D’Arcy Thompson
Apr 2, 2018 • 26 min
One hundred years ago D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson published On Growth and Form, a book with a mission to put maths into biology. He showed how the shapes, forms and growth processes we see in the living world aren’t some arbitrary result of evolution’s…
The Far Future
Mar 26, 2018 • 26 min
How do we prepare for the distant future? Helen Keen meets the people who try to. If our tech society continues then we can leave data for future generations in huge, mundane quantities, detailing our every tweet and Facebook ‘like’. But how long could…
Why We Cut Men
Mar 19, 2018 • 26 min
Male circumcision is one of the oldest and most common surgical procedures in human history. Around the world, 1 in 3 men are cut. It’s performed as a religious rite in Islam and Judaism; in other cultures it’s part of initiation, a social norm or marker…
Iodine
Mar 12, 2018 • 26 min
The phrase ‘essential ‘element’ is often incorrectly used to describe the nutrients we need, but can aptly be applied to iodine - without it we would suffer severe developmental problems. Iodine is a key component of thyroid hormones, responsible for the…
Phosphorus
Mar 5, 2018 • 26 min
What links trade unions with urine, Syria with semiconductors, and bones and bombs? The answer is phosphorus, UCL Inorganic Chemistry Professor Andrea Sella, who is himself engaged in researching new phosphorus based materials, looks at this often rather…
Lead
Feb 26, 2018 • 27 min
From the plumbing of ancient Rome, to lead acid batteries, paint, petrol and a dangerous legacy, the metal lead has seen a myriad of uses and abuses over thousands of years. In bullets, and poisons it has killed us both quickly and slowly, and yet its…
The Power of Sloth
Feb 19, 2018 • 26 min
Zoologist and founder of the Sloth Appreciation Society, Lucy Cooke, unleashes her inner sloth to discover why being lazy could actually be the ultimate evolutionary strategy. The explorers of the New World described sloths as ‘the lowest form of…
Pain of Torture
Feb 12, 2018 • 26 min
Does knowing that someone is inflicting pain on you deliberately make the pain worse? Professor Irene Tracey meets survivors of torture and examines the dark side of pain. Producer: Geraldine Fitzgerald (Photo: A woman mourns during the funeral procession…
Controlling Pain
Feb 5, 2018 • 26 min
What if your brain could naturally control pain? Professor Irene Tracey and her colleagues are trying to unlock the natural mechanisms in the brain that limit the amount of pain we feel. We hear about how children learning judo are taught special…
Knowing Pain
Jan 29, 2018 • 26 min
Scientists reveal why we feel pain and the consequences of life without pain. One way to understand the experience of pain is to look at unusual situations which give clues to our everyday agony. Phantom limb pain was described in ancient times but only…
Seeing Pain
Jan 22, 2018 • 26 min
Mystery still surrounds the experience of pain. It is highly subjective but why do some people feel more pain than others and why does the brain appear to switch off under anaesthesia so we are unaware of the surgeon’s scalpel? Professor Irene Tracey uses…
Humphry Davy
Jan 15, 2018 • 26 min
In Bristol in 1799, a young man started to experiment with newly discovered gases, looking for a cure for tuberculosis. Humphry Davy, aged 20, nearly killed himself inhaling carbon monoxide. Nitrous oxide was next. It was highly pleasurable, ‘particularly…
Lise Meitner
Jan 9, 2018 • 26 min
Philip Ball reveals the dramatic tale of Lise Meitner, the humanitarian physicist of Jewish descent, who unlocked the science of the atom bomb after a terrifying escape from Hitler’s Germany. One of the most brilliant nuclear scientists working in Germany…
The Day the Earth Moved
Jan 1, 2018 • 26 min
Roland Pease tells the story of how fifty years ago geologists finally became convinced that the earth’s crust is made up of shifting plates. The idea of mobile continents, continental drift, had been talked about, for example because it looked like…
Maria Merian
Dec 25, 2017 • 26 min
Maria Merian was born in 1647. At the time of her birth, Shakespeare had been dead for 30 years; Galileo had only just stood trial for arguing that the Earth moved around the Sun. And yet, here in Germany, was a child who would become an important but…
Alcuin of York
Dec 18, 2017 • 26 min
The Dark Ages are often painted as an era of scholarly decline. The Western Roman Empire was on its way out, books were few and far between, and, if you believe the stereotype, mud-splattered peasants ran around in rags. However, it was far more…
Cheating the Atmosphere
Dec 11, 2017 • 26 min
All countries are supposed to measure and report their greenhouse gas emissions but BBC environment correspondent, Matt McGrath, reveals there are gaping holes in national inventories. He uncovers serious failings in countries’ accounts of warming gases…
Better Brains
Dec 4, 2017 • 27 min
Every three seconds someone is diagnosed with dementia, and two thirds of the cases are Alzheimer’s Disease. As the global population ages, this is becoming an epidemic, and with no cures currently available for the collection of neurodegenerative…
What would happen if you fell into a black hole?
Nov 21, 2017 • 26 min
Two deadly cases today sent in by listeners to curiouscases@bbc.co.uk The Dark Star “What’s inside a black hole and could we fly a spaceship inside?” asks Jorge Luis Alvarez from Mexico City. Astrophysicist Sheila Rowan explains how we know invisible…
What will happen when the Earth’s poles swap?
Nov 20, 2017 • 26 min
The Polar Opposite 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. John Turk emailed curiouscases@bbc.co.uk to ask, “when is the next pole swap due and…
Why can’t we remember being a baby?
Nov 13, 2017 • 26 min
The Astronomical Balloon “How far up can a helium balloon go? Could it go out to space?” asks Juliet Gok, aged 9. This calls for an experiment! Dr Keri Nicholl helps Adam launch a party balloon and track its ascent. But their test doesn’t quite go to…
Why can’t we remember being a baby?
Nov 13, 2017 • 26 min
The Astronomical Balloon “How far up can a helium balloon go? Could it go out to space?” asks Juliet Gok, aged 9. This calls for an experiment! Dr Keri Nicholl helps Adam launch a party balloon and track its ascent. But their test doesn’t quite go to…
How do cats find their way home?
Nov 6, 2017 • 26 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.…
How much of my body is bacteria?
Oct 30, 2017 • 26 min
Science sleuths Drs Rutherford & Fry take on everyday mysteries and solve them with the power of science. Two cases in this episode concerning the inner workings of our bodies, and not for the faint hearted! The Broken Stool “Science tells us that our…
Sydney Brenner: A Revolutionary Biologist
Oct 23, 2017 • 26 min
Sydney Brenner was one of the 20th Century’s greatest biologists. Born 90 years ago in South Africa to impoverished immigrant parents, Dr Brenner became a leading figure in the biological revolution that followed the discovery of the structure of DNA by…
SOS Snail
Oct 16, 2017 • 26 min
This is a big story about a little snail. Biologist Helen Scales relates an epic tale that spans the globe and involves calamity, tragedy, extinction and we hope, salvation. It stars the tiny tree-dwelling mollusc from French Polynesia, Partula, a snail…
Indian Science – The Colonial Legacy
Oct 9, 2017 • 26 min
For more than 200 years Britain ruled India, bringing many aspects of British culture to India - including European science developed during the enlightenment. However centuries earlier India had already pioneered work in astronomy, mathematics and…
India’s Ancient Science
Oct 2, 2017 • 26 min
We go behind the scenes of a new exhibition on India at London’s Science Museum. What can historical objects tell us about India’s rich, and often hidden scientific past? We look at the influential mathematics, metallurgy and civil engineering of ancient…
Africa’s Great Green Wall
Sep 25, 2017 • 26 min
Can Africa’s Great Green Wall beat back the Sahara desert and reverse the degrading landscape? The ambitious 9 miles wide and 5000 miles long line of vegetation will stretch all the way from Dakar in the west to Djibouti in the east. Thomas Fessy is in…
Internet of Things
Sep 18, 2017 • 26 min
Can we Control the Dark Side of the Internet? The Internet is the world’s most widely used communications tool. It’s a fast and efficient way of delivering information. However it is also quite dumb, neutral, treating equally all the data it passes around…
Dark Side of the World Wide Web
Sep 11, 2017 • 26 min
With the coming of the World Wide Web in the 1990s internet access opened up to everybody, it was no longer the preserve of academics and computer hobbyists. Already prior to the Web, the burgeoning internet user groups and chat rooms had tested what was…
The Origin of the Internet
Sep 4, 2017 • 26 min
Just how did the Internet become the most powerful communications medium on the planet, and why does it seem to be an uncontrollable medium for good and bad? With no cross border regulation the internet can act as an incredible force for connecting people…
Silicon - The World’s Building Block
Aug 28, 2017 • 26 min
Silicon is literally everywhere in both the natural and built environment, from the dominance of silicate rocks in the earth crust, to ubiquitous sand in building materials and as the basis for glass. We’ve also harnessed silicon’s properties as a…
The Day the Sun Went Dark
Aug 21, 2017 • 26 min
For the first time in almost 100 years the USA is experiencing a full solar eclipse from coast to coast on August 21st 2017. Main image: Totality during the solar eclipse at Palm Cove on November 14, 2012 in Palm Cove, Australia. Credit: Ian Hitchcock /…
Carbon - the backbone of life
Aug 14, 2017 • 26 min
Carbon is widely considered to be the key element in forming life. It’s at the centre of DNA, and the molecules upon which all living things rely. Monica Grady, Professor of Planetary Science at the Open University, explores the nature of carbon, from its…
And then there was Li
Aug 7, 2017 • 26 min
From the origins of the universe, though batteries, glass and grease to influencing the working of our brains, neuroscientist Sophie Scott tracks the incredible power of lithium. It’s 200 years ago this year that lithium was first isolated and named, but…
Oxygen: The breath of Life
Aug 1, 2017 • 26 min
Oxygen appeared on Earth over two billion years ago and life took off. Now it makes up just over a fifth of the air. Trevor Cox, professor of acoustic engineering at the University of Salford, England, tells the story of oxygen on Earth and in space.…
Mercury - Chemistry’s Jekyll and Hyde
Jul 24, 2017 • 30 min
The most beautiful and shimmering of the elements, the weirdest, and yet the most reviled. Chemist Andrea Sella tell the story of Mercury, explaining the significance of this element not just for chemistry, but also the development of modern civilisation.…
Eating Well in Lyon: Healthy Diets to prevent Bowel Cancer
Jul 17, 2017 • 26 min
Anu Anand is in Lyon, looking at what we eat and drink and the risk of bowel cancer
Catching Prostate Cancer Early in Trinidad
Jul 10, 2017 • 26 min
Anu Anand on detecting and treating prostate cancer in Trinidad and Tobago.
The USA’s Deadly Racial Divide: Black Women & Breast Cancer
Jul 3, 2017 • 26 min
Anu Anand explores why more black women are more likely to die of breast cancer in the US
Screening and Treating Cervical Cancer in Tanzania
Jun 26, 2017 • 26 min
Anu Anand on how vinegar and a head torch are used to tackle cervical cancer in Tanzania
Taking On Tobacco - Lung Cancer in Uruguay
Jun 21, 2017 • 26 min
For more than 65 years we have known that smoking kills. So how can it be that a Mexican wave of tobacco use, disease and death is heading at breakneck speed towards the world’s poorest people? Millions will die of lung cancer and it is hard to grasp that…
Dying in Comfort in Mongolia
Jun 16, 2017 • 26 min
The Mongolian matriarch who is helping people with terminal liver cancer die in comfort
Can Robots be Truly Intelligent?
Jun 5, 2017 • 26 min
From Skynet and the Terminator franchise, through Wargames and Ava in Ex Machina, artificial intelligences pervade our cinematic experiences. But AIs are already in the real world, answering our questions on our phones and making diagnoses about our…
Robots - More Human than Human?
May 29, 2017 • 26 min
Robots are becoming present in our lives, as companions, carers and as workers. Adam Rutherford explores our relationship with these machines. Have we made them to be merely more dextrous versions of us? Why do we want to make replicas of ourselves?…
History of the Rise of the Robots
May 22, 2017 • 26 min
The idea of robots goes back to the Ancient Greeks. In myths Hephaestus, the god of fire, created robots to assist in his workshop. In the medieval period the wealthy showed off their automata. In France in the 15th century a Duke of Burgundy had his…
Quantum Supremacy
May 15, 2017 • 28 min
IBM is giving users worldwide the chance to use a quantum computer; Google is promising “quantum supremacy” by the end of the year; Microsoft’s Station Q is working on the hardware and operating system for a machine that will outpace any conventional…
Re-engineering Life
May 8, 2017 • 26 min
Synthetic biology, coming to a street near you. Engineers and biologists who hack the information circuits of living cells are already getting products to the market. Roland Pease meets the experts who are transforming living systems to transform our…
Hunting for Life on Mars
May 1, 2017 • 26 min
As a small rocky planet, Mars is similar in many respects to the Earth and for that reason, many have thought it may harbour some kind of life. A hundred years ago, there was serious talk about the possibility of advanced civilisations there. Even in…
Lifechangers: Charles Bolden
Apr 24, 2017 • 27 min
In Lifechangers, Kevin Fong talks to people about their lives in science. Major General Charles Bolden – a former NASA administrator – talks to Kevin Fong about his extraordinary life, from childhood in racially segregated South Carolina to the first…
Lifechangers: Neil deGrasse Tyson
Apr 17, 2017 • 26 min
In Lifechangers, Kevin Fong talks to people about their lives in science. Astrophysicist and Director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York City, Neil deGrasse Tyson is well known in the US since he presented the TV series Cosmos: a spacetime odyssey. He…
Lifechangers: George Takei
Apr 10, 2017 • 27 min
In the start of a new series of Lifechangers, Kevin Fong talks to three people about their lives in science. His first conversation is with a man better known for his life in science fiction, George Takei, the Japanese American actor who played Sulu in…
The Bee All and End All
Apr 6, 2017 • 26 min
Bees pollinate and can detect bombs and compose music. What would we do without them? The world owes a debt of gratitude to this hard working but under-appreciated insect. One third of the food we eat would not be available without bees, meaning our lives…
Extending Embryo Research
Mar 27, 2017 • 26 min
Since the birth of Louise Brown - the world’s first IVF baby - in England in 1978, many children have been born through in vitro fertilisation. IVF doesn’t work for everyone but over the last few decades basic research into human reproduction has brought…
The Split Second Decision
Mar 20, 2017 • 26 min
As the pace of technology moves at ever greater speeds, how vulnerable are we when making split second decisions? Kevin Fong flies with the Helicopter Emergency Medical Service, making split-second, life-or-death decisions. He examines how we can come to…
Human Hibernation
Mar 13, 2017 • 26 min
Ever wished you could miss an entire cold dark winter like bears or dormice? Kevin Fong explores the possibilities than humans could hibernate. This ability could help us recover from serious injury or make long space flights pass in a flash. The first…
Delivering Clean Air
Mar 3, 2017 • 26 min
Internet shopping continues to rise worldwide. That means a lot more delivery vans on the streets of our towns and cities. Those vans and trucks, often powered by dirty diesel engines, are contributing to air pollution problems that can cause significant…
Make Me a Cyborg
Feb 27, 2017 • 27 min
Frank Swain can hear Wi-Fi. Diagnosed with early deafness aged 25, Frank decided to turn his misfortune to his advantage by modifying his hearing aids to create a new sense. He documented the start of his journey three years ago on Radio 4 in ‘Hack My…
Why do some people have no sense of direction?
Feb 21, 2017 • 27 min
Two challenges for the team today involving singing and navigating. The Melodic Mystery “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 admits to struggling to hold a tune and…
Why am I left-handed?
Feb 13, 2017 • 27 min
Neal Shepperson asks, “What determines left or right handedness and why are us lefties in the minority?” One in ten people are left-handed, but where does this ratio come from and when did it appear in our evolutionary past? Hannah talks to primatologist…
Does the full Moon make us act oddly?
Feb 6, 2017 • 26 min
Listener Paul Don asks: “I’m wondering what’s the feasibility of terraforming another planet ie Mars and if it is possible to do the same thing with something like the moon? Or, why isn’t there already a moon-base? Surely that is easier.” Dr Adam…
Why do we get middle-aged spread?
Jan 30, 2017 • 26 min
Two cases today for Drs Adam Rutherford & Hannah Fry to investigate, involving strength and weight. The Portly Problem “Why do we have middle aged spread?” asks Bart Janssen from New Zealand. In this episode we ponder the science of fat, from obese mice…
Does nothing exist?
Jan 23, 2017 • 27 min
“Is there any such thing as nothing?” This question from Bill Keck sparked a lot of head scratching. Dr Adam Rutherford and Dr Hannah Fry first consider the philosophy and physics of nothing. As Prof Frank Close, author of Nothing: A Very Short…
Sesame Open
Jan 16, 2017 • 26 min
There’s a new light of hope in the Middle East. It’s a scientific experiment called SESAME - intended to do world-class science and bring together researchers from divided nations. Its members include Palestine and Israel, Pakistan and Iran, Jordan,…
The Future of the Climate Deal
Jan 9, 2017 • 37 min
The incoming administration of President Trump has frightened many in the international environmental community. The result of US election in November was announced during the 2016 Marrakech UN Climate Change Conference, a meeting where most delegates…
Science Stories: Series 3 - Mesmerism and Parapsychology
Jan 2, 2017 • 26 min
Anton Mesmer was a doctor who claimed he could cure people with an unknown force of animal magnetism. He was the subject to a committee that found there was no evidence for his powers. Phil Ball tallks to Simon Shaffer, Professor of History of Science at…
Science Stories: Series 3 - The Woman Who Tamed Lightning
Dec 26, 2016 • 26 min
Naomi Alderman tells the story of Hertha Marks Ayrton, the first woman to be admitted to the Institution of Electrical Engineers, who improved electric arc lights. Photo: Street lamps light up a road in Colombo, credit: Ishara S.KODIKARA/AFP/Getty Images
Science Stories: Series 3 - Testosterone: Elixir of Masculinity
Dec 19, 2016 • 26 min
Testosterone has been claimed as one of the most important drivers of human life – through the agency of sex and aggression. In the 19th century, Charles-Eduoard Brown-Séquard injected himself with extracts from ground-up animal testicles, and made…
Science Stories: Series 3 - Making the Earth Move
Dec 12, 2016 • 26 min
Prior to 1543 it was generally believed that the earth lay static in the centre of the universe, while the Sun, moon, planets and stars revolved around it in various complex paths, some even looping back and forth, as described by the Egyptian astronomer…
Origins of Human Culture
Dec 5, 2016 • 26 min
We humans are such a successful species. Homo sapiens have been around for only around 100 000 years and in that time we have utterly transformed the world around us. Our shelters allow us to live in all climates and from the poles to the tropics; our…
Mind Reading
Nov 28, 2016 • 26 min
Whether it’s gossiping over a drink, teaching our children, or politicians debating we use words to communicate with each other and share ideas. It’s what makes us human. But what if we can’t? Could it be possible to broadcast our thoughts directly from…
Custom of Cutting
Nov 21, 2016 • 31 min
More than 200 million women and girls alive today have undergone female genital mutilation, or cutting. It is where parts or all of a girl’s genitals are damaged or removed. There are no medical benefits to FGM, and people who undergo the practice can…
The Inflamed Mind
Nov 14, 2016 • 26 min
Depression or psychotic illness is experienced by hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of people in the UK. James Gallagher talks to the psychiatrists investigating this new understanding of mental illness and to people who may benefit from treatments…
The City that Fell into the Earth
Nov 7, 2016 • 26 min
How do you move a city? Lesley Riddoch travels to Arctic Sweden to find out. Kiruna is gradually sliding into Europe’s biggest iron ore mine. The city has to be rebuilt two miles away. That requires an extraordinary blend of planning, architecture,…
The Sun King of China
Oct 31, 2016 • 26 min
Meet Huang Ming, the Chinese inventor who describes himself as, ‘the number one crazy solar guy in the world’. One of the prize exhibits of his museum in northern China is a vintage solar panel. It is a water heater, installed by President Jimmy Carter on…
The Mars of the Mid-Atlantic
Oct 24, 2016 • 26 min
Ascension Island is a tiny scrap of British territory, marooned in the tropical mid-Atlantic roughly halfway between Brazil and Africa. It is the tip of a giant undersea volcano – rugged, remote and, up until around 150 years ago, almost completely devoid…
Creating the Crick
Oct 17, 2016 • 26 min
The Francis Crick Institute, in the centre of London, is the UK’s brand new, game-changing centre for biology and medical research. Roland Pease joins the scientists as they move into the building. Sir Paul Nurse, Nobel Laureate, one of the UK’s top…
Black Holes: A Tale of Cosmic Death and Rebirth
Oct 10, 2016 • 26 min
The discovery of gravitational waves by the LIGO observatory opens up a new form of astronomy, which will allow scientists explore the ultimate fate of dead stars, Black Holes. Roland Pease reports. (Photo: Gravitational waves © Nasa)
The Whale Menopause
Oct 3, 2016 • 26 min
Killer whales and humans are almost unique in the animal kingdom. The females of both species go through the menopause in their 40s or 50s, and then live for decades without producing any more offspring themselves. It is an extremely rare phenomenon. No…
Reversing Parkinson’s
Sep 26, 2016 • 26 min
Parkinson’s Disease is one of the major neurodegenerative conditions. Cells die, for reasons not fully understood, causing a reduction in the production of the neurotransmitter, dopamine, and a raft of physical and behavioural problems. Although effective…
Could we send our litter into space?
Sep 19, 2016 • 27 min
Two spacey cases today for doctors Rutherford and Fry to investigate, both sent in to BBC Future via Facebook. The Stellar Dustbin ‘Can we shoot garbage into the sun?’ asks Elisabeth Hill. The doctors embark on an astronomical thought experiment to see…
Why do we faint?
Sep 12, 2016 • 27 min
Swooning maidens and clever horses feature in today’s Curious Cases, sent in by listeners to curiouscases@bbc.co.uk. The Squeamish Swoon Science sleuths Hannah Fry and Adam Rutherford investigate the following question sent in by Philip Le Riche: ‘Why do…
Why do people shout on their cellphones?
Sep 5, 2016 • 26 min
How does traffic jam? And, why do some people shout into their cellphones in public places? Two subjects guaranteed to annoy even the most patient listeners. The Phantom Jam Listener Matthew Chandler wrote to us: “I travel on the motorway for work and…
How do you make the perfect cup of tea?
Aug 29, 2016 • 26 min
A story of sorrow and comfort today, as Doctors Adam Rutherford and Hannah Fry investigate two mysteries sent in by listeners. The Psychic Tear Edith Calman challenges our scientific sleuths to answer the following question: “What is it about extreme…
What makes gingers ginger?
Aug 22, 2016 • 27 min
Doctors Adam Rutherford and Hannah Fry set out to solve the following perplexing cases sent in by listeners: The Scarlet Mark Sheena Cruickshank in Manchester asks, “My eldest son is ginger but I am blonde and my husband brunette so we are constantly…
China Science Rising
Aug 15, 2016 • 26 min
China is super-sizing science. From building the biggest experiments the world has ever seen to rolling out the latest medical advances on a massive scale and pushing the boundaries of exploration in outer space - China’s scientific ambitions are immense.…
The Power of Cute
Aug 8, 2016 • 26 min
Zoologist and broadcaster Lucy Cooke explores the science behind our seeming obsession with all things adorable. There has been an explosion in interest in cuteness, particularly online, with an ever growing number of websites dedicated to pandas,…
Failing Gracefully
Aug 1, 2016 • 26 min
Dr Kevin Fong concludes his exploration of the boundaries between the medical profession and other industries for valuable lessons that might be of use to us all. In this final episode, Kevin talks to people who have spent their lives investigating what…
Going Lean: Health and the Toyota Way
Jul 25, 2016 • 26 min
In the third programme in the series, Dr Kevin Fong explores the concept of ‘lean’ in healthcare. He visits Toyota’s largest car assembly plant in the United States and discovers how the company’s legendary management philosophy – the Toyota Production…
“Faster, Better, Cheaper”
Jul 18, 2016 • 26 min
Kevin Fong explores the success and failure of NASA’s missions to Mars
The Business of Failure
Jul 12, 2016 • 27 min
Dr Kevin Fong flies with a US air ambulance crew and discovers why it’s seen as one of the most dangerous occupations in America.
Cleaning Up the Oceans
Jul 4, 2016 • 26 min
More than five million tonnes of plastic waste ends up in the oceans every year. The abandoned fishing gear and bags and bottles left on beaches can smother birds and sea life. Now there is also evidence that the small particles created as the plastics…
Life on the East Asian Flyway - Part 4: The Arctic
Jun 27, 2016 • 27 min
After flying thousands of kilometres from faraway Bangladesh and New Zealand via the Yellow Sea, the shorebirds of the East Asian Flyway complete their northward migration. They touch down in the Arctic Russia and Alaska to breed. In May and June, birds…
Life on the East Asian Flyway - Part Three: Yellow Sea North
Jun 20, 2016 • 26 min
Can China’s new generation of birdwatchers and North Korea’s weak economy save migratory birds from extinction? Habitat loss for shorebirds in the Yellow Sea is rapid as the mudflats on which they depend are converted to farmland, factories, ports, oil…
Life on the East Asian Flyway – Part Two: Yellow Sea South
Jun 13, 2016 • 26 min
Ann Jones flies north to Shanghai as shorebirds from as far away as Australia, Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar and Bangladesh arrive on the coast of the Yellow Sea. Here she meets a traditional whistling bird hunter who used to catch shorebirds for the pot…
Life on the East Asian Flyway
Jun 6, 2016 • 26 min
One of the great wonders of the natural world is in deep trouble. Millions of shorebirds fly from Australia and Southeast Asia to the Arctic every year. They follow the planet’s most gruelling migratory route – the East Asian Australasian Flyway. Join Ann…
The Neglected Sense
May 30, 2016 • 27 min
We may fear going blind, deaf or dumb, but few of us worry about losing our olfactory senses. And yet more than 200,000 people in the UK are anosmic - they cannot smell. Kathy Clugston is anosmic and gives a first hand account of the condition.She sets…
After Ebola
May 23, 2016 • 26 min
Last November Sierra Leone was declared Ebola free. By then, the epidemic had killed over 11,000 people in West Africa. The speed at which it took off highlighted the poor state of healthcare in the affected countries. Now in Sierra Leone some of the…
Benefits of Bilingualism - Part Two
May 16, 2016 • 26 min
More than half the world speaks more than one language. New research is showing that being multilingual has some surprising advantages – it can help us keep healthier longer. Gaia Vince finds out how knowing many languages can protect our brains over our…
Benefits of Bilingualism - Part One
May 9, 2016 • 26 min
More than half of the world’s people speak more than one language. Some people may have been forced to learn a language at school or had to pick up one because they moved to a new country. Others may just love learning new tongues and do so before they…
Our Unnatural Selection
May 2, 2016 • 26 min
Humans have been altering animals for millennia. We select the most docile livestock, the most loyal dogs, to breed the animals we need. This ‘artificial selection’ is intentional. But as Adam Hart discovers, our hunting, fishing and harvesting are having…
Science Stories: Series 2 - Margaret Cavendish
Apr 25, 2016 • 26 min
In the spring of 1667 Samuel Pepys queued repeatedly with crowds of Londoners and waited for hours just to catch a glimpse of aristocrat writer and thinker Margaret Cavendish. Twice he was frustrated and could not spot her, but eventually she made a grand…
Science Stories: Series 2 - Orgueil Meteorite
Apr 18, 2016 • 26 min
In 1864 a strange type of rock fell from the sky above Orgueil in rural France. Shocked and frightened locals collected pieces of the peculiar, peaty blob from the surrounding fields, and passed them on to museums and scientists. At that time, a debate…
The Horn Dilemma
Apr 11, 2016 • 26 min
The majority of white and black rhinoceros are found in South Africa. This stronghold for these magnificent creatures is now being threatened by poachers killing rhino for their horns. Rhino horn, traded illegally in parts of Asia, is thought to be a…
African Einsteins
Apr 1, 2016 • 26 min
Will Einstein’s successors be African? It’s very likely - and some of them will be women. Back in 2008 South African physicist Neil Turok gave a speech in which he declared his wish that the next Einstein would be from Africa. It was a rallying call for…
Feeding the World - Part Two
Mar 28, 2016 • 26 min
As the world’s population grows and the climate challenges our ability to grow crops, how can agriculture provide enough food? Can we get more from our current food crops for less? Scientists and farmers alike have been increasingly haunted by the…
Feeding the World - Part One
Mar 21, 2016 • 26 min
As the world’s population grows and the climate challenges our ability to grow crops, how can agriculture provide enough food? Can we get more from our current food crops for less? Scientists and farmers alike have been increasingly haunted by the…
Editing the Genome - Part Two
Mar 14, 2016 • 27 min
There is a new genetic technology which promises to revolutionise agriculture and transform our influence over the natural world. Research is well underway to create pigs and chickens immune to pandemic influenza, cereals which make their own fertiliser…
Editing the Genome
Mar 7, 2016 • 26 min
Over the last four years, scientists have discovered a simple and powerful method for altering genes. This will have massive implications for all of us as it raises the possibility of easily changing the genetic code in animals, plants and ourselves. The…
Science Stories: Series 1 - Einstein’s Ice Box
Feb 29, 2016 • 26 min
In the late 1920s Einstein was working on a grand unified theory of the universe, having given us E=mc2, space-time and the fourth dimension. He was also working on a fridge. Perhaps motivated by a story in the Berlin newspapers about a family who died…
Science Stories: Series 1 - Eels and Human Electricity
Feb 22, 2016 • 27 min
Naomi Alderman presents an alternate history of electricity. This is not a story of power stations, motors and wires. It is a story of how the electric eel and its cousin the torpedo fish, led to the invention of the first battery; and how, in time, the…
Science Stories: Series 1 - Cornelis Drebbel
Feb 15, 2016 • 26 min
Philip Ball dives into the magical world of Cornelis Drebbel , inventor of the world’s first submarine in 1621. How did the crew of this remarkable vessel manage to breathe underwater, completely cut off from the surface, 150 years before oxygen was…
El Nino
Feb 8, 2016 • 26 min
Floods in South America, fires in Indonesia, famine threatened in Ethiopia, yet more drought in Southern Africa and central America. Plus, a stunning peak in global temperatures for 2015. The current El Nino, just past its peak, has a lot to answer for.…
An Infinite Monkey’s Guide to General Relativity
Feb 1, 2016 • 27 min
Brian Cox and Robin Ince explore the legacy of Einstein’s great theory, and how a mathematical equation written 100 years ago seems to have predicted so accurately exactly how our universe works. From black holes to the expanding universe, every…
An Infinite Monkey’s Guide to General Relativity
Jan 25, 2016 • 27 min
It is 100 years since the publication of Einstein’s great theory, and arguably one of the greatest scientific theories of all time. To mark the occasion, Brian Cox takes Robin Ince on a guided tour of General Relativity. With the help of some of the…
Scotland’s Dolphins
Jan 18, 2016 • 27 min
The chilly waters of north-east Scotland are home to the world’s most northerly group of bottlenose dolphins. They are protected by EU conservation laws and despite being a small population, appear to be thriving. Euan McIlwraith heads out into the Moray…
Nature’s Numbers
Jan 11, 2016 • 27 min
Mathematics is one of the most extraordinary things humans can do with their brains but where do our numerical abilities come from? Maths writer Alex Bellos looks for answers from a tribe in the Brazilian Amazon which has no words for numbers in its…
Nature’s Numbers
Jan 4, 2016 • 26 min
Lemurs and parrots accompany maths writer Alex Bellos as he explores the foundations of our ability to understand numbers. What are the fundamental numerical skills we share with other animals? What accounts for our species’ unique abilities to do…
Future of Energy
Dec 28, 2015 • 27 min
Professor Jim Skea, from the Faculty of Natural Sciences, Centre for Environmental Policy at Imperial College London, joins Jack Stewart in the studio and brings his insight from the Paris climate talks. Paul Younger, the Rankine Chair of Engineering and…
The Power of Equations
Dec 21, 2015 • 26 min
Jim al-Khalili was sitting in a physics lecture at the University of Surrey when he suddenly understood the power of equations to describe and predict the physical world. He recalls that sadly his enthusiasm was lost on many of his fellow students. Jim…
Enceladus: A second genesis of life at Saturn?
Dec 14, 2015 • 26 min
Discovery invites you on a mission to the most intriguing body in the solar system – Saturn’s moon Enceladus. It’s a small icy world with gigantic geysers, blasting water into space at supersonic speeds. It’s also become the most promising place among the…
Humboldt - the Inventor of Nature
Dec 7, 2015 • 26 min
Alexander Von Humboldt - the forgotten father of environmentalism - warned of harmful human induced climate change over 200 years ago. Explorer, nature writer and scientist he climbed the world’s highest volcanoes and delved deep into the rainforests…
Unbreathable: The Modern Problem of Air Pollution
Nov 30, 2015 • 26 min
The shock news three months ago, that Volkswagen had used defeat devices to circumvent emissions tests in the United States, has brought back into the news a continuing problem of modern life - air pollution. The traces of pollutants coming out of tail…
Future of Biodiversity
Nov 23, 2015 • 26 min
“I’m determined to prove botany is not the ‘Cinderella of science’”. That is what Professor Kathy Willis, director of Science at the Royal Botanic Garden in Kew, told the Independent in 2014. In the two years since she took on the job at Kew she has been…
Problems of Developing Drugs
Nov 16, 2015 • 26 min
Patrick Vallance is something of a rare breed - a game-keeper turned poacher; an academic who has moved over into industry. And not just any industry, but the pharmaceutical industry. At the time, Patrick Vallance was professor of Clinical Pharmacology…
The Genetics of Intelligence
Nov 9, 2015 • 26 min
Professor Robert Plomin talks to Jim al-Khalili about what makes some people smarter than others and why he is fed up with the genetics of intelligence being ignored. Born and raised in Chicago, Robert sat countless intelligence tests at his inner city…
How to Make an Awesome Surf Wave
Nov 2, 2015 • 26 min
Can we make better surfing waves than the wild ocean, asks marine biologist and writer Helen Scales. Helen loves surfing but she describes it as an extreme form of delayed gratification, especially around the British coast. Nature does not make great…
Lion Hunting in Africa
Oct 26, 2015 • 27 min
In June 2015 the death of Cecil the lion was international news and a social media sensation. Yet trophy hunting of lions and other species is common in Africa. Foreigners pay big money to adorn their walls with heads and skins. Many find it abhorrent,…
The Infinite Monkey Cage USA Tour: San Francisco
Oct 19, 2015 • 27 min
Brian Cox and Robin Ince take to the stage in San Francisco for the last of their USA specials. They talk alien visitations, UFOs and other close encounters with astronomer Dr Seth Shostack, NASA scientist Dr Carolyn Porco and comedians Greg Proops and…
The Infinite Monkey Cage USA Tour: Chicago
Oct 12, 2015 • 27 min
Brian Cox and Robin Ince take to the stage in Chicago, Illinois, to discuss fossil records and evolution. They are joined on stage by host of NPR’s “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me” Peter Sagal, comedian and Saturday Night Live alumnus Julia Sweeney,…
The Infinite Monkey Cage USA Tour: Los Angeles
Oct 5, 2015 • 26 min
Brian Cox and Robin Ince continue their tour of the USA, as they take to the stage in LA, as they ask what happens when science meets Hollywood. They ask why so many movies now seem to employ a science adviser, whether scientific accuracy is really…
The Infinite Monkey Cage USA Tour: New York
Sep 26, 2015 • 27 min
The BBC’s award-winning radio science/comedy show The Infinite Monkey Cage has transported itself to the USA bringing its unique brand of witty, irreverent science chat to an American audience for the first time. In the first of four specials, professor…
Life Changers - Didier Queloz
Sep 21, 2015 • 26 min
One night in 1995, PhD student Didier Queloz was running a routine test on a new detector they had just built at the Observatoire de Haute Provence in France, when he noticed something strange. They had pointed the detector, almost at random, towards 51…
Life Changers - Anita Sengupta
Sep 14, 2015 • 26 min
When Anita Sengupta was a little girl, she dreamed of time travel aboard the TARDIS, along with Tom Baker, her favourite incarnation of Dr Who. It was this and watching episodes of Star Trek with her dad, which led her to study science and later still, to…
Life Changers - Venki Ramakrishnan
Sep 7, 2015 • 26 min
Kevin Fong talks to Venki Ramakrishnan, Professor of structural biology in Cambridge and joint-winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2009. Celebrated for his work on the ribosome, the remarkable molecular machine at the heart of all cell biology,…
Life Changers - Kathryn Maitland
Aug 31, 2015 • 26 min
Kathryn Maitland is a doctor with a burning passion to transform clinical research across Africa, where she has spent most of her career. Determined to improve the outcomes for critically sick children in hospital, she spent over a decade of her life…
Women on the ‘Problem with Science’
Aug 24, 2015 • 27 min
Earlier in the year, the reported remarks about ‘the problem with girls’ by British biologist and Nobel Laureate Professor Tim Hunt’ brought the issues facing women scientists into public spotlight. Although there have been questions about the reports of…
Truth about the Body Mass Index
Aug 17, 2015 • 26 min
Dr Mark Porter is a family doctor in the UK and in his 50s. He’s tall and slim and thinks he’s fit and healthy – after all he goes to the gym several times a week. Mark meets experts who measure his weight, height and body fat to find out if he is as…
The Great Telescopes and Evolution
Aug 10, 2015 • 26 min
Today, astronomers believe the universe is a violent, constantly changing place. But it was not always the case. At the beginning of the 19th century, many believed fervently that the celestial sky was a constant, divinely perfected, completed creation.…
The Colour Purple
Jul 27, 2015 • 26 min
In 1856, a teenager experimenting at home accidentally made a colour that was more gaudy and garish than anything that had gone before. William Perkin was messing about at home, trying to make the anti-malarial Quinine - but his experiment went wrong.…
Maurice Wilkins
Jul 20, 2015 • 26 min
What does it take to be remembered well? The discovery of the structure of DNA is often attributed to James Watson and Francis Crick. But a third man shared the stage with them for the 1962 Nobel Prize for medicine - Maurice Wilkins. He was a brilliant…
James Watt and Steam Power
Jul 13, 2015 • 27 min
Naomi Alderman tells the story of James Watt and the steam engine that nearly never got made. A breath of steam hits cold metal. It cools suddenly and becomes a drop of water. There an idea. But the designs for Watt’s radically more efficient steam engine…
Sounds Of Space: Deep Space
Jul 6, 2015 • 26 min
A sonic tour of the universe, with solar scientist, Dr Lucie Green. In the previous episode, we listened in to the sounds of the Solar System. This week in Discovery, we travel further out into the cosmos to bring you more Sounds of Space. Some are…
Sounds of Space: The Solar System
Jun 29, 2015 • 26 min
The previously silent world of outer space is getting noisier. In this audio tour of the Solar System, Dr Lucie Green listens in to the Sounds of Space. You may have heard the famous ‘singing comet’ – the soundscape created using measurements taken by the…
Future of European Science
Jun 22, 2015 • 27 min
A debate about the state of scientific research in Europe, recorded in Brussels on the day when the European Research Council was celebrating its 5000th grant. Since 2007 the ERC has written cheques totalling the equivalent of around 10 Billion dollars.…
The Bone Wars
Jun 15, 2015 • 26 min
Tracey Logan takes us back to the wild west of America, and looks at the extraordinary feud that came to be known as the Bone Wars. This is a tale of corruption, bribery and sabotage - not by cowboys, but by two palaeontologists, Edward Drinker Cope and…
Stephanie Shirley: Software Pioneer
Jun 8, 2015 • 26 min
As a young woman, Stephanie Shirley worked at the Dollis Hill Research Station building computers from scratch but she told young admirers that she worked for the Post Office, hoping they would think she sold stamps. In the early 60s she changed her name…
Origins of War
Jun 1, 2015 • 26 min
Is our desire to wage war something uniquely human or can its origins be traced much further back in our evolutionary past? To suggest that warfare is a regular feature of human civilization would be to state the obvious. But just how deeply rooted is our…
What the Songbird Said
May 25, 2015 • 27 min
Could birdsong tell us something about the evolution of human language? Language is arguably the single thing that most defines what it is to be human and unique as a species. But its origins and its apparent sudden emergence around a hundred thousand…
Shedding Light on the Brain
May 18, 2015 • 26 min
Biologists are using light to explore the brain - and to alter it. Roland Pease meets some of the leading players in optogenetics, who use light-sensitive molecules to take direct control of neural systems in worms, flies, and maybe one day, humans. For…
Future of Solar Energy
May 11, 2015 • 27 min
Roland Pease looks into perovskites - the materials enthusiasts say could transform solar power. Solar power is the fastest growing form of renewable energy. But most of it collected by panels made of silicon - the material that also goes into computer…
Scotland’s Forgotten Einstein, James Clerk Maxwell
May 4, 2015 • 27 min
Dr Susie Mitchell hears the story of the 19th Century Scottish scientist James Clerk Maxwell. Maxwell’s lifelong curiosity about the world and his gift for solving complicated puzzles led him to a string of discoveries. He was the first person to…
Science of Stammering
Apr 27, 2015 • 27 min
In this edition of Discovery, Erika Wright explores the science of Stammering, a widely misunderstood condition that occurs at the same level in all cultures, countries and languages. There is a window of opportunity in early childhood when stammering…
Jane Francis
Apr 20, 2015 • 26 min
Just twenty years ago, the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) would not allow women to camp in Antarctica. In 2013, it appointed Jane Francis as its Director. Jane tells Jim Al-Khalili how an intimate understanding of petrified wood and fossilised leaves took…
The Teenage Brain: Sarah-Jayne Blakemore
Apr 13, 2015 • 26 min
Until recently, it was thought that human brain development was all over by early childhood but research in the last decade has shown that the adolescent brain is still changing into early adulthood. Jim al-Khalili talks to pioneering cognitive…
Matt Taylor
Apr 6, 2015 • 27 min
Matt Taylor talks to Jim Al-Khalili about being in charge of the Rosetta space mission to the distant comet, 67P. It is, he says, ‘the sexiest thing alive’, after his wife. He describes his joy when, after travelling for ten years and covering four…
John O’Keefe
Mar 30, 2015 • 26 min
John O’Keefe tells Jim al-Khalili how winning the Nobel Prize was a bit of a double-edged sword, especially as he liked his life in the lab, before being made famous by the award. John won the prize for his once radical insight into how we know where we…
Does Money Make you Mean?
Mar 23, 2015 • 26 min
Can money really make a person mean? In this second and final programme, Jack heads to Hong Kong to explore whether our preoccupation with money is affecting the way we treat other people. Jack hears about the growing body of evidence indicating that we…
Does Money Make you Mean?
Mar 16, 2015 • 26 min
Jack Stewart heads to Los Angeles, home to many of America’s rich and famous, to explore what impact wealth has on our moral behaviour. Hollywood often has plenty to say about the corrupting influence of money, but can science tell us even more. Professor…
Finding Your Voice
Mar 9, 2015 • 26 min
Comedy performer and broadcaster Helen Keen, explores a rare condition that she herself once suffered from - selective mutism or SM. It is an anxiety disorder that develops in childhood. Those affected by SM can usually speak fluently in some situations,…
Placebo Problem
Mar 2, 2015 • 26 min
In recent years the term ‘placebo effect’ - the beneficial effects on health of positive expectations about a drug or some other treatment - has become familiar. It has also been shown to be a powerful aid to medicine. The nocebo effect is simply its…
Throwaway Society 2/2
Feb 23, 2015 • 27 min
How can manufacturers of the world supply the growing demand for consumer products without breaking the planet’s bank of natural resources? By the middle of the century, there will be 2 billion more people in the world. Based on current trends, there’ll…
Throwaway Society
Feb 16, 2015 • 26 min
Hundreds of millions of computers, mobile phones and televisions are thrown away every year around the world. In this week’s Discovery Gaia Vince will be looking at the reasons behind this rapidly growing mountain of electronic waste and asking, who is…
The Science of Smell
Feb 9, 2015 • 26 min
Pamela Rutherford explores our neglected sense of smell. How is the brain able to detect and tell apart the countless number of smells it comes across and what happens when the system goes wrong? She finds out how people can lose their sense of smell and…
The Life Scientific: Richard Fortey
Feb 2, 2015 • 27 min
Richard Fortey found his first trilobite fossil when he was 14 years old and he spent the rest of his career discovering hundreds more, previously unknown to science. He is a Professor of Palaeontology at the Natural History Museum and talks to Jim…
The Life Scientific: Margaret Boden on Artificial Intelligence
Jan 26, 2015 • 26 min
Maggie Boden is a world authority in the field of artificial intelligence – she even has a robot named in her honour. As research professor of Cognitive Science at the University of Sussex, Maggie has spent a lifetime attempting to answer philosophical…
Hot Gossip - Part Two
Jan 19, 2015 • 27 min
In the second of two programmes, Geoff Watts continues to explore the science, history and cultural implications of gossip. Gossip has a bad reputation and for the most part, and deservedly so. Yet, on-going research appears to suggest that gossip does…
Hot Gossip - Part One
Jan 12, 2015 • 27 min
If language elevates us above other animals, why does human society seem to spend so much time gossiping? Perhaps it’s because without gossip there would be no society and language would be much less interesting. In the first of two programmes, Geoff…
Virtual Therapy
Jan 5, 2015 • 26 min
E-Therapy has come a long way since the (slightly tongue in cheek) days of Eliza, a very early attempt at computer based psychotherapy. Eliza was little more than an algorithm that spotted patterns in words and returned empty, yet meaningful-sounding…
Animal Personality
Dec 29, 2014 • 26 min
Professor Adam Hart explores the newest area in the science of animal behaviour – the study of personality within species as diverse as chimpanzees, song birds, sharks and sea anenomes. What can this fresh field of zoology tells us about the variety of…
Can Maths Combat Terrorism?
Dec 22, 2014 • 27 min
Dr Hannah Fry investigates the hidden patterns behind terrorism and asks whether mathematics could be used to predict the next 9/11. When computer scientists decided to study the severity and frequency of 30,000 terrorist attacks worldwide, they found an…
New Space to Fly
Dec 15, 2014 • 26 min
As our skies become more crowded Jack Stewart examines the long awaited modernisation of air traffic control. With traffic predicted to reach 17 million by 2030 more flights will mean more delays. For many a new approach to controlling flights is long…
Vagus Nerve
Dec 8, 2014 • 26 min
Many people are living with chronic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel conditions in which the body attacks itself. Although drug treatments have improved over recent years they do not work for everyone and can have serious side…
Elspeth Garman
Dec 1, 2014 • 26 min
Jim al-Khalili talks to professor Elspeth Garman about a technique that has led to 28 Nobel Prizes in the last century. X- ray crystallography, now celebrating its 100th anniversary, is used to study the internal structure of matter. It may sound rather…