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Discovery

Explorations in the world of science.

Tous les épisodes

  • 18.01.2021
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    27:39
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    Plant scientist Dale Sanders

    Professor Dale Sanders has spent much of his life studying plants, seeking to understand why some thrive in a particular environment while others struggle. His ground breaking research on their molecular machinery showed how plants extract nutrients from the soil and store essential elements. Since plants can’t move, their survival depends on these responses. In 2020, after 27 years at the University of York, he became the Director of the John Innes Centre in Norwich, one of the premier plant research institutions in the world. Meeting the food needs of a growing global population as the climate changes is a major challenge. And, Dale says, it’s not only about maximising yields. We need crops that are more resilient and more nutritious. Drought resistant crop varieties, for example. And zinc-rich white rice. Dale talks to Jim about how plant science is helping to feed the world in a sustainable way and why plant scientists don’t always get the recognition they deserve. Producer: Anna Buckley

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  • 11.01.2021
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    27:39
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    Astrophysicist Andy Fabian

    Professor Andrew Fabian from Cambridge's Institute of Astronomy has spent his career trying to unravel the mystery of how some of the most dramatic events in the universe can profoundly influence its evolution. For over 50 years he’s been examining our universe using X-ray satellites orbiting way above earth’s atmosphere . He’s built up compelling evidence that supermassive black holes at the heart of galaxies are the engines that drive the movement of energy through the universe and provide the building blocks for the formation of new galaxies. They're extraordinary insights, for which he’s now been awarded the 2020 Kavli Prize in Astrophysics, one of the world's most prestigious science prizes.Jim Al-Khalili hears how Andy gets to capture epic galactic events in motion to build up a picture of this vast ecosystem - and also how he earned a place in the Guinness Book of Records for discovering the deepest note in the universe – a B flat , 57 octaves below middle C.Producer Adrian Washbourne

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  • 04.01.2021
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    27:07
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    Marine conservationist Heather Koldewey

    Professor Heather Koldewey wants to protect our oceans from over-fishing and plastic pollution. An academic who is not content to sit back and let the science speak for itself, she wants to turn science into action and has found conservation allies in some unexpected places. Working with a carpet manufacturer, she created Net-Works, a business that turns old fishing nets into high-end carpet tiles and she has collaborated with Selfridges department store to give marine conservation a make-over. A research career that began studying the genetics of brown trout in Welsh rivers took her to the Philippines to save seahorses and a job running the aquarium at London Zoo. In 2018, she was made a National Geographic Fellow. Heather tells Jim Al-Khalili why, despite all the challenges to marine life, she remains an ‘ocean optimist’ and how she learned to drop her ‘scientific seriousness’.

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  • 28.12.2020
    17 MB
    37:29
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    Climate meltdown

    The year 2020 started with wildfires raging across parts of Australia, exceptional floods in East Africa, and a heatwave in the Arctic. Extremes persisted through the year in the north - where wild fires consumed record areas in Siberia, and the Arctic ice reached record lows. Death Valley saw the highest reliable temperature yet recorded on the planet, while the Atlantic saw the most active hurricane season on record. An extreme year by many measures, and one that could end up as the hottest on record globally. Roland Pease asks what it tells us about global warming.Picture credit: Wegener Institute / Steffen Graupner

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  • 26.12.2020
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    50:07
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    Hopes and fears for Covid-19 vaccines

    Less than a year in, and the first vaccines are already being rolled out, with many more in the pipeline. It is an unprecedented scientific response to the global pandemic and researchers around the world have provided the first hope against one of the most formidable challenges facing humanity in a century.Claudia Hammond and her expert panel of guests consider the scale of this herculean effort and answer listeners' questions about vaccine safety, trust, immunity, and long term protection.The World Health Organisation has repeatedly said that no-one is safe until we are all safe, so the threat of vaccine nationalism and the purchase of millions of the first vaccine doses by rich countries is something that is concerning everybody worried about equitable vaccine distribution.How will the COVAX facility, which is designed to boost vaccine purchasing power for the world's poorest countries, fare in the face of nationalistic purchasing - and will surplus doses be shared so that all seven point five billion of us can get protection?And, finally, the scale of the threat from vaccine hesitancy. Any vaccine is only as good as the number of people who will take it to achieve herd immunity. The numbers of those suspicious about a potential Covid-19 vaccine have grown over the course of the pandemic, causing real concern for governments around the world. How can people be reassured that vaccines are safe?This month, Claudia's guests include Professor Peter Hotez, Dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and co-director of the Texas Children's Hospital Centre for Vaccine Development in the USA, Professor Helen Rees, founder and executive director of the Wits Reproductive Health and HIV Institute, the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa, Kalipso Chalkidou, Professor of Practice in Global Health at Imperial College, London and Director of Global Health Policy at the Centre for Global Development and Dr Ève Dubé, a medical anthropologist from the Institute of Public Health in Quebec, Canada.Produced by: Fiona Hill, Samara Linton and Maria Simons Editor: Deborah Cohen Technical Support: Tim Heffer and Giles AspenPicture: Covid-19 Vaccination Clinics Open In Surrey, UK, Credit: Leon Neal/Getty Images

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  • 21.12.2020
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    27:26
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    Evolutionary biologist Alice Roberts

    It’s amazing what we can learn from a pile of old bones. Having worked as a paediatric surgeon for several years (often doing the ward round on roller blades), Alice Roberts spent a decade teaching anatomy to medical students and studying human remains. A niche interest in the collar bone and how it has changed since we evolved from the common ancestor we share with other apes 6 million years ago, led her to some of the biggest questions in science. Who are we? And where do we come from? She is the presenter of several landmark TV series on human evolution and archaeology, such as The Incredible Human Journey and Digging for Britain. And in 2019 she became President of the British Science Association. In conversation with Jim Al Khalili, Alice shares her passion for the bones of our ancient ancestors and of the freshly dead, and describes her own incredible journey from a basement full of medieval bones to an eminent science communicator and public figure.Producer: Anna Buckley

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  • 14.12.2020
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    27:34
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    Steve Haake

    Steve Haake has spent much of his career using technology to help elite sports people get better, faster and break records. He has turned his hand to the engineering behind most sports, from studying how golf balls land, to designing new tennis racquets and changing the materials in ice skates. He’s now Professor of Sports Engineering at Sheffield Hallam University and was the Founding Director of the Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre there.Since the 2012 London Olympics, Steve has also been working to improve the health and wellbeing of all of us. As Chair of the Parkrun Research Board he’s heavily involved in this international phenomenon in which thousands of people have sprinted, jogged and stumbled around a 5-kilometre course on Saturday mornings, which he’s shown really does encourage people to be generally more active.Jim al-Khalili talks to Steve Haake about how he got from a physics degree to being one of the leading sports engineers in the world, and how we can all improve our health by moving more.

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  • 07.12.2020
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    The Space Burrito

    Is there a point in space where the Sun could heat a burrito perfectly? asks Will. The doctors tackle this and a plethora of other conundrums from the Curious Cases inbox.Featuring expert answers from astrophysicist Samaya Nissanke, cosmologist Andrew Pontzen, and cognitive neuroscientist Sophie Scott.Presenters: Hannah Fry & Adam Rutherford Producer: Jen Whyntie

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  • 30.11.2020
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    The Zedonk Problem

    Today I learnt that tigons and ligers are what you get when lions and tigers interbreed?!’ surprised listener Jamz G tells the doctors. ‘What determines whether species can interbreed?’Geneticist Aoife McLysaght studies molecular evolution. She explains the modern definition of a species, built on ideas from Aristotle, Linnaeus and Darwin: a species is a group of organisms capable of interbreeding to produce fertile offspring. Hybrids – such as ligons and tigers – are usually infertile, because their common ancestors long ago diverged into the lions and tigers we know today. However, this definition isn’t absolute, and there are many ways a new species can be formed.Hybrids also offer rich study subjects for scientists. Mathematical biologist Kit Yates discusses why he’s been reading research papers about hebras and zorses (horse x zebra) as their patterns offer insights into how cells spread and develop into organisms, building on a prediction made by codebreaking mathematician Alan Turing.And it turns out that these hybrids are even more intriguing. As speciation and evolution expert Joana Meier explains, hybrids are not always infertile. Hybridisation can lead to successful new species arising, such as in Lake Victoria’s cichlid fish, who it seems have been having a wild evolutionary party for the last 15,000 years. And the picture gets even murkier when we discover that modern genetics reveals our human ancestors successfully mated with Neanderthals.Presenters: Hannah Fry & Adam Rutherford Producer: Jen Whyntie

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  • 28.11.2020
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    51:11
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    The Evidence: Pandemic rules: follower or flouter?

    Millions of us, across the world, are subject to curfews, stay-at-home orders and lockdowns but what makes us stick to the rules, bend them or ignore them altogether? Claudia Hammond and her expert panel of guests consider the psychology of following the rules.Leading social psychologists share research which show that higher levels of trust in leadership translates to more pandemic guidance followed. A sense of “We” not “I”, a shared identity, makes a difference too, as well as identification with the whole of humankind, not just your immediate family.But there is danger too, from a “narrative of blame”, where individuals are demonised if they break the rules. Such an approach, Claudia hears, is corrosive to the all-important sense of shared identity and alienates some groups, while making others complacent.Also in the programme, what impact can rapid “have you got it” antigen tests which give results in minutes, rather than days, have on the virus?Claudia hears from the Cameroon in Central, West Africa, one of the first countries in the world to try mass testing using these rapid diagnostic tests. And she talks to scientists at the forefront of evaluating and modelling how their use could affect transmission of the virus, and daily life for all of us, until a vaccine is available.This month, Claudia’s panel of specialists answers BBC World Service listeners’ questions and includes Professor Michael Mina, Assistant Professor of Epidemiology Immunology and Infectious Diseases at Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health in USA, Dr Margaret Harris, from the World Health Organisation in Geneva, Switzerland, Steve Reicher, Professor of Social Psychology at St Andrews University in Scotland, Professor Rolf Van Dick, social psychologist and Vice President of the Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany and Dr Jilian Sacks, senior scientific officer for Pandemic Preparedness for FIND, the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics in Geneva.

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  • 23.11.2020
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    27:19
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    The end of everything

    Everyone knows about the Big Bang being the beginning of the universe and time - but when and how is it going to end? ask brothers Raffie and Xe from Rome. For this series, with lockdown learning in mind, Drs Rutherford and Fry are investigating scientific mysteries for students of all ages. The doctors sift science from philosophy to find out.Cosmologist Jo Dunkley studies the origins and evolution of the universe. She explains how astrophysical ideas and techniques have evolved to tell us what we now know about our galaxy and far beyond, from the elegant parallax technique to standard candles. This particular distance measure, which uses stars of a known brightness to work out how far away other objects in the universe are, was discovered by American astronomer Henrietta Swan Leavitt in 1912, who worked at the Harvard University as one of several “computers” – women who processed and calculated data and made significant contributions to astronomy.Curious Cases’ universal guru Andrew Pontzen puts this into context. Because the universe is so enormous, it turns out that these measurements are just the first steps on the cosmic distance ladder – a suite of tools that astrophysicists use to determine distances to celestial objects. Scientists know that objects are moving away from us because the wavelengths of light from them get stretched and appear redder in our telescopes – the so-called red shift effect. But having a handle on the distances to and between those objects allows cosmologists to monitor what’s happening to them over time. And it turns out that not only are they getting further apart, indicating that the universe is expanding, but that this process is accelerating.So what might happen in the end? Expansion and then collapse – a big crunch? Expansion into the void – a big freeze, or a big rip? Or what if there is more than one universe – might a new one bubble up with totally different laws of physics that would cause our own to cease existing? It turns out that when dealing with predictions for something involving infinite space and time, the possibilities are largely limited by human imagination alone. Ideas are where science starts, but experiments are required to build evidence confirming or rejecting them as fact. The doctors discuss how gravitational wave detectors and quantum computers might one day provide this.Presenters: Hannah Fry & Adam Rutherford Producer: Jen Whyntie

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  • 16.11.2020
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    27:52
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    Broad spectrum

    Autism is a lifelong condition, often seen as particularly ‘male’. Yet a growing number of women, and those assigned female at birth, are being diagnosed as autistic in their 30s, 40s, 50s, and beyond. Writer and performer Helen Keen is one of them, and she’s found this diagnosis has helped her make sense of many aspects of her life, from growing up with selective mutism, to struggling to fit in as a young adult. In this programme Helen asks why she, like a growing number of others, had to wait till she was well into adulthood before finding her place on the autistic spectrum. She discovers that for many years psychologists believed that autism was rarely seen in women and non-binary people. Now it is accepted that people often display autistic traits in different way - for example, they may learn to ‘camouflage’ and behave in a neurotypical way - but at what cost? Helen talks to others like her who have had late diagnoses, and finds out if knowing they are on the autistic spectrum has given them insight into how they can navigate the pressures on them from contemporary society. She also explores how we can value and celebrate neurodiversity.Helen also talks to psychologists Professor Francesca Happé, of the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience in London, and Dr Steven Stagg of Anglia Ruskin University about their research into autism.Picture: Geometric camouflage pattern, Credit: Yuri Parmenov/Getty Images

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  • 09.11.2020
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    27:20
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    Birds: singing for survival

    As large areas of the world have locked down this year, many of us have become more aware of the birdsong around us. The relative silence has allowed us to listen in. But scientists have known for several years that the birds themselves have been responding to human noise too, by pitching their songs and other calls higher, to be heard over the rumble of our urban life.There are several ways in which birds can adapt how they communicate in the face of environmental pressures, but what are the limits to these adaptations? And what can this tell us about how to maximise conservation efforts in the future? Rory Crawford talks to ornithologists and animal behaviourists studying bird species around the world. He finds out how the advance of technology is helping researchers explore birds’ preferences and behaviours in the wild, and hears how one particular bird changed its song, and the new version rapidly spread across North America – “the most viral tweet of all time”, as it’s been called!Picture: A Robin [Erithacus rubecula], Credit: Gary Chalker/Getty Images

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  • 02.11.2020
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    27:31
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    Digital touch

    Claudia Hammond asks if touch can be replicated digitally? What devices exist already and how likely are we to use them? Michael Banissy, co-creator of the Touch Test, neuroscientist David Eagleman and researcher Carey Jewitt look at the possibilities for touch technologies in the future. David has developed a wristband that translates sound into touch for deaf people, Carey looks at the ethics of digital touch and Michael reveals the attitudes from the Touch Test towards digital technologies. If we could replicate the feeling of holding a loved one's hand in hospital would it really be the same? And dancer Lisa May Thomas talks about her experience of extending touch into space and through virtual reality.

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  • 31.10.2020
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    The Evidence: Are national lockdowns evidence of policy failure?

    As a surge of cases risks overwhelming health services in parts of Europe, Claudia Hammond and experts from around the world examine the evidence behind using lockdowns to supress the virus.Lockdowns describe a huge range of actions that many governments took in the first wave of the pandemic when so little was known about where the virus was circulating. But full lockdowns are seen as very blunt tools, a last resort because they can have enormous social and economic consequences.Instead a more targeted, localised, smarter response to slow down transmission is recommended, where data about virus circulation informs focussed interventions.Also in the programme, The Great Barrington Declaration earlier this month called for an end to current lockdown policies and appealed for the vulnerable to receive “focussed protection” while everybody else “should immediately be allowed to resume life as normal”. The goal, the group of scientists said, should be to minimise deaths and social harm, until herd immunity, or population immunity, is reached.The World Health Organisation has described such a strategy as dangerous and counterproductive. Claudia’s guests discuss the scientific and ethical issues raised and consider the scale of global exposure to this novel virus. So far only around 10% of the world’s population have been infected so what would a policy of herd immunity in the absence of a vaccine mean for the remaining 90%?Listeners put their questions about coronavirus and the pandemic directly to Claudia and her panel of specialists, which this month includes Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, Technical Lead for the World Health Organisation’s Covid-19 Response; Professor Salim Abdool Karim, a clinical infectious diseases epidemiologist and Chair of South Africa’s Ministerial Advisory Committee for Covid-19; Martin McKee, Professor of European Public Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and one of the signatories to the John Snow Memorandum; epidemiologist Tove Fall, Professor at Uppsala University in Sweden running the Covid-19 symptom app and virologist Professor Steven Van Gucht, from Sciensano, the Belgian national institute for public and animal health.The Evidence is produced in association with Wellcome Collection. Production team: Fiona Hill and Maria Simons Studio engineer: Jackie Margerum Editor: Deborah Cohen

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  • 26.10.2020
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    Affectionate touch

    Claudia Hammond looks at the neuroscience behind our sense of touch. Why does a gentle touch from a loved one make us feel good? This is a question that neuroscientists have been exploring since the late 1990's, following the discovery of a special class of nerve fibres in the skin. There seems to be a neurological system dedicated to sensing and processing the gentle stroking you might receive from a parent or lover or friend, or that a monkey might receive from another grooming it. Claudia talks to neuroscientists Victoria Abraira, Rebecca Bohme, Katerina Fotopoulou and Francis McGlone who all investigate our sense of emotional touch, and she hears from Ian Waterman who lost his sense of touch at the age of eighteen.

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  • 19.10.2020
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    Unwanted touch

    Claudia Hammond explores unwanted touch and who we do and don’t mind touching us – and where. She draws on insights from the largest study that’s ever been conducted on the topic of touch – The Touch Test - commissioned by Wellcome Collection. Almost forty thousand people from all over the world chose to take part. Claudia discusses where we draw the boundaries between acceptable and unacceptable touch, at work or in the street, with Dr Amy Kavanagh, a visually impaired activist and campaigner, Joanna Bourke, Professor of History at Birkbeck, University of London and the author of “Rape - a History”, and Dr Natalie Bowling, a psychologist at the University of Greenwich who co-created the Touch Test and has been crunching the numbers. After #meToo and Covid, could unwanted touch even become a thing of the past?

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  • 22.10.2020
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    Touch hunger

    Claudia Hammond explores our experience of touch hunger, and asks if we have enough touch in our lives. Covid-19 and social distancing have changed how most people feel about touch but even before the pandemic there was a concern about the decrease of touch in society. Claudia and Professor Michael Bannissy of Goldsmiths, University of London, discuss the results of the BBC Touch Test, an online questionnaire that was completed by around 40 000 people from 112 countries. Professor Tiffany Field, Director of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine, and Merle Fairhurst, Professor of Biological Psychology at Bundeswehr University Munich, reveal their findings about the impact of touch hunger and how to overcome it.John grew up during the Second World War and endured a lack of touch in his childhood. He relates how in adult life he overcame this absence of touch and why touch remains so important to him. And left isolating in London during lock down, flatmates B and Z came up with a plan to stay healthy with a 6 o’clock hug. Hugging releases a mix of anti-stress chemicals that can lower the blood pressure, decrease anxiety and help sleep.

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  • 05.10.2020
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    Megadrought in Chile

    Drought is a massive problem for Chile. Jane Chambers has been living in the capital Santiago for more than ten years and has seen huge changes in that time. It used to rain frequently in the winter months between June and September and the Andes Mountains which run down the whole of Chile were snow-capped all year round. But that doesn’t happen anymore. Jane reports on the impact of the mega drought on the country and what is being done about it. She talks to climate scientists Sebastian Vicuna, Director of the Global Change Research Centre, at the Catholic University of Chile and to Rene Garreaud, a Professor in the Geophysics Department at University of Chile and Deputy Director of the Center for Climate and Resilience Research, about whether the megadrought is the result of natural weather patterns or of climate change. She meets farmers who are struggling to find pasture for their goats in the village of Til Til, and Francisco Meza, a Professor in the department of agriculture and forestry at the Catholic University in Santiago, who is helping agriculture adapt to low rainfall. And Jane hears about ways to increase the availability of drinking water through small-scale desalination and by capturing moisture from the air.Picture: Flows of rivers and reservoirs have reached historic minimums in Chile. A severe drought is hitting the country's central area, making local communities more vulnerable to face the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by MARTIN BERNETTI/AFP via Getty Images)

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  • 28.09.2020
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    The sting in the tail

    "What’s the point of wasps?" asks listener Andrew, who is fed up with being pestered. For this series, with lockdown learning in mind, Drs Rutherford and Fry are investigating scientific mysteries for students of all ages. Do wasps do anything to justify their presence as a picnic menace?Ecologist Seirian Sumner researches social wasp behaviour and champions their existence. Not only do yellow jacket wasps perform important ecological services as generalist pest controllers of aphids, caterpillars and flies in the UK, they have complex societies and may even perform pollination services, making them more like their better-loved bee cousins than many might think.However, much remains unknown about wasps’ contribution to our ecosystem. Seirian works with entomologist Adam Hart, and together they run The Big Wasp Survey each summer, a citizen science project dedicated to find out more about UK wasp species and their populations. Prof. Hart sets up an experimental picnic with Dr Rutherford to try and attract some native wasps, and discusses why they are so maligned.But in some parts of the world UK wasp species have become a major problem. Just after World War II, having unwittingly chosen some aircraft parts destined for New Zealand as their overwintering home, some wasp queens woke up in the city of Hamilton. With no natural predators or competitors, they quickly established a growing population. Fast forward to today, and by late summer the biomass of wasps becomes greater than all the birds, rodents and stoats in the southern island’s honeydew beech forests. Multiyear nests have been discovered that are over three metres tall and contain millions of wasps. Researcher Bob Brown is digging into wasp nests back in the UK to discover which species keep wasps in check here, and whether they might work as biological control.This causes the doctors to ponder the problems of humans moving species around the planet. Accidental or even well-meaning introductions all too often become invasive. As climate change and urbanisation accelerate, wasps may become more helpful in some ways and more harmful in others.Presenters: Hannah Fry, Adam Rutherford Producer: Jen Whyntie

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  • 26.09.2020
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    The Evidence: Covid lessons for safe school reopening

    Claudia Hammond and experts from around the world consider the evidence behind schools, colleges and coronavirus spread. Listeners from India, Cuba, Italy, Brazil, Canada, Hong Kong, France, the USA pitch their questions to the specialists.Research so far shows a low risk of transmission but as children and young people return to classrooms across the globe, will that remain the case?And Claudia and the team look at that vital role of “test, trace and isolate” when it comes to SARS-CoV-2, something the World Health Organisation describes as the backbone of any Covid-19 response.Which countries are getting this right and what can others learn from the best? New research comparing six countries from Europe, Africa and Asia highlights the successes and the failures.Plus Kat, a nurse from Kansas City, Missouri gives a first hand account of pandemic response in the USA and then, when she moved to Germany in the summer, from Stuttgart.On the panel are Dr Regina Osih, an infectious disease and public health specialist from the Aurum Institute in South Africa who’s working on the country’s Covid response, Dr Young June Choe, paediatrician and assistant professor at Hallym University in South Korea, Gail Davey, Professor of Global Health Epidemiology at Brighton and Sussex Medical School in England, David Heymann, Professor of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine from France and Dr Margaret Harris from the WHO in Geneva.The Evidence is produced in association with Wellcome Collection. Production team: Fiona Hill, Samara Linton and Maria Simons Studio engineers: Matilda Macari and Tim Heffer Editor: Deborah Cohen

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  • 21.09.2020
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    The seeded cloud

    "Could you make a machine to make it rain in minutes?" asks listener Alexander from Hampshire, aged 12. For this series, with lockdown learning in mind, Drs Rutherford and Fry are investigating scientific mysteries for students of all ages. Rutherford and Fry dive into the clouded story of weather modification.First, we need to decide where and when we might deploy any rain machine. Liz Bentley, Chief Executive of the Royal Meteorological society, takes us through the science, maths and art of predicting the weather. Hannah heads down to the BBC Weather Centre to meet meteorologist Helen Willetts, who takes us through the highs and lows of forecasting.And then for the technology itself. Mark Miodownik, scientist and author of Liquid: The Delightful and Dangerous Substances The Flow Through Our Lives, reveals that a technique called cloud seeding has almost certainly been tried in different places around the world for decades. But, whilst it’s supposed to induce showers and even clear the way for sunny spells, the results aren’t always reliable. And even if we can make it rain, Liz explains why messing with the weather may be at our peril.Presenters: Hannah Fry, Adam Rutherford Producer: Jen Whyntie

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  • 14.09.2020
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    The growling stomach

    "Why do our tummies rumble - and when they do, does it always mean we are hungry?" asks listener James, aged 12. For this series, with lockdown learning in mind, Drs Rutherford and Fry are investigating scientific mysteries for students of all ages. To get to the bottom of this noisy problem, the doctors tune in to our guts.Geneticist Giles Yeo studies food intake and obesity. He explains the wavy workings of our digestive system, and how those audible rumbles are a sign that digestion is taking place – a phenomenon thought to be onomatopoeically named 'borborygmi' by the ancient Greeks, and explored further in the gruesome 19th century experiments of surgeon William Beaumont.However, tuning in to the gut’s sounds can tell us more than whether we need a snack. Family doctor Margaret McCartney takes us through the process of how and why she and her medical colleagues may use a stethoscope to listen to your abdomen for both particular noises and silence.Microbiologist Barry Marshall has taken medical listening one step further in his Noisy Guts Project. Inspired by microphones used to listen for termites hiding in walls, the Nobel Prize-winning scientist is trialling an acoustic belt, which could be worn to help diagnose and treat Irritable Bowel Syndrome.Presenters: Hannah Fry, Adam Rutherford Producer: Jen Whyntie

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  • 09.09.2020
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    Return to Mars

    In February 2021, three spacecraft will arrive at Mars. One is the United Arab Emirates’ Hope orbiter - the first interplanetary probe sent by the Arab world. Tianwen-1 will be China’s first mission to reach Mars – an ambitious bid to put both a probe into orbit and a small robot on the Martian surface. But the most sophisticated of all is the United States’ Mars 2020 mission. If all goes well, it will land a car-sized robotic rover on the rocky floor of a vast crater that contained a lake more than 3.7 billion years ago. The rover, named Perseverance, will spend years surveying the geology of Jerezo crater and using a battery of new instruments to examine the rocks for any evidence that life existed in the ancient lake. It will also be the first mission to extract rock samples and package them up for eventual return to Earth, sometime in the 2030s. Andrew Luck-Baker talks to NASA’s deputy project scientist Katie Stack-Morgan and mission manager Keith Comeaux, planetary scientists Melissa Rice and Sanjeev Gupta, and astrobiologist Mark Sephton.

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  • 09.09.2020
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    27:18
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    Liz Seward

    Professor Jim Al-Khalili talks to Liz Seward, Senior Space Strategist for Airbus Defence and Space. Liz's young interest in Science Fiction led to a career designing spacecraft and robots for exploring our own earth, other planets, and the stars.From a library in the US where the science fiction section stood next to the children's section, Liz took inspiration from Robert A. Heinlien and Arthur C. Clarke through a degree in Physics and Space Science at the University of Leicester to begin a career at EADS Astrium (now part of Airbus), initially as a Thermal Engineer. As Liz explains to Jim, thermal engineering lies at the heart of any successful space mission. Any metal box floating in space has to deal with the searing heat of the Sun on one side and the deep, deep freeze of the cosmos on the other. Engineering solutions to cope with these extremes means the difference between triumph and failure.Liz has worked on several missions and international collaborations, including a design for a landing (since de-scoped) on Mercury aboard the current BepiColombo mission due to arrive at Mercury in 2025, and the experimental Aeolus satellite that currently keeps our weather forecasters up to speed on global wind dynamics.A large part of Liz's career was spent with the ESA Martian rover, named Rosalind Franklin, which should have been on its way to the red planet this summer, but has been delayed because of the Covid-19 pandemic.Nowadays at Airbus, Liz works on the strategy of maximizing commercial potential in space, whilst abiding by issues of responsibility around exploration, pollution, and even space traffic management. What if a launch to Mars collides with a long dead weather satellite on its way there? Or that the first detection of life on Mars turns out to be a cold virus from Stevenage?But as she explains to Jim, miniaturization and cheaper launches suggest a bright future for human activity in space. And one day, it may include vertical satellite launches from Scotland, and even passenger flights from Cornwall.

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  • 09.09.2020
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    27:25
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    Professor Emma Bunce

    Emma Bunce, Professor of Planetary Plasma Physics at the University of Leicester, was inspired to study the solar system as a child by a TV programme that featured Voyager 2’s flyby of Neptune. She has spent the last 20 years focusing on the magnetic fields around the outer planets, in particular that of Jupiter. The Earth’s magnetic field interacts with the solar wind to create aurorae, the spectacular Northern lights. Emma’s discovered how aurorae are also produced at Jupiter's poles.Emma Bunce talks to Jim al-Khalili about her fascination with the gas giants, why she has to be patient to check out her theories as missions to the planets are few and far between and how she'd love to work on a spacecraft to Neptune. And in the year when the Royal Astronomical Society marks its 200th anniversary, Emma explains why she's taken on the role of its President.

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  • 09.09.2020
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    Frank Kelly

    Long before most of us gave air pollution a second thought, Frank Kelly was studying the impact of toxic particles on our lungs. In a pioneering set of experiments on human volunteers in northern Sweden, he proved that pollutants, such as nitrogen oxides and particulates, are harmful to our health. And he is the driving force behind an air quality monitoring system in London that is the envy of the world. When in the late 1990s, the UK government was encouraging us all to buy diesel cars to help reduce our carbon emissions, he warned that while diesel engines might be less bad for the planet than petrol engines, they were more damaging to our health. Later Frank and his team provided evidence that the car manufacturers were not telling the truth about emissions from diesel vehicles. As the chair of the Government Medical Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollution, he has worked tirelessly to try and move air pollution up the political agenda and worked closely with successive Mayors of London to improve air quality in the capital. Changing all the buses from diesel to hybrid or electric vehicles would make a huge difference, he says. But we will also need to get used to relying less on driving our cars to get us from A to B. Presented by Jim Al-Khalili.

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  • 09.09.2020
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    On the menu

    Shark, bear and crocodile attacks tend to make the headlines but humans fall prey to a much wider variety of predators every year, from big cats and snakes, to wolves, hyenas and even eagles that’ve been known to snatch the odd child. The details can be grim and gory as many predators have developed specific techniques for hunting us humans down. But it was always so, as biologist Professor Adam Hart discovers. Archaeological evidence suggests early hominins in Africa were more hunted than hunter, spending much of their lives scavenging for food and fending off attacks from the likes of sabre-tooth-cats and giant hyenas. Much more recently, legends abound about some of the more infamous serial killers of the animal kingdom, such as the 'man-eaters' of Tsavo and Njombe - the latter, a pride of about 15 lions in Tanzania who, it is claimed were responsible for an astonishing 1500 deaths between 1932 and 1947.Today, estimates and sources vary but most suggest carnivorous predators are responsible for hundreds if not thousands of human deaths every year. But how much of this is active predation and how much is mistaken identity or sheer bad luck? Adam speaks to experts in human-wildlife conflict dedicated to reducing attacks on both humans and predators in Africa and India, where the tensions between protecting agricultural interests and preserving predator habitats are most problematic. He discovers the grim reality for many poor rural populations dealing with the sharp end of living in close proximity to large carnivores and discusses the potential solutions for driving down attacks on both humans and predators that are caught up in the struggle for survival. Closer to home, Adam meets a wolf-tracker, who helps to monitor wild wolf populations that have spread up through Italy and France, attacking livestock with increasing confidence. Could humans be on the menu next?Producer: Rami Tzabar(Picture credit: Evgeny555/Getty Images)

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  • 09.09.2020
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    Human Genome Project's 20th Anniversary

    Adam Rutherford celebrates the 20th anniversary of one of the most ambitious and revolutionary scientific endeavours of all time - the Human Genome Project.Its scope and scale was breath-taking, set up to read every one of the 3 billion nucleotides, or letters of genetic information, contained within the DNA in every cell of the human body. It took seven years, hundreds of scientists, cost almost $3 billion and, amazingly, came in under budget and on time.Adam reflects back on that momentous time with Ewan Birney, Director of the European Bio-informatics Institute, part of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory. Twenty years ago, he was a PhD student working on the project, in the months leading up to the first draft.The Human Genome Project underpins many branches of science, from human evolution and synthetic biology to forensic genetics and ancestry testing. But a key motivation for the project was to alleviate human suffering. While the ‘cures’, hyped by the media back in 2000, were not realistic our understanding of disease has been revolutionised.Adam talks to Cancer Research UK Scientist, Dr Serena Nik-Zainal, from Cambridge University, who explains why the sequencing of the human genome has been so crucial to the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer. The Human Genome Project is also playing a crucial role in the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr Kenneth Baillie has been treating critically ill patients at Edinburgh’s Royal Infirmary since the pandemic started. As the Lead on GenOMICC, a global collaboration on genetics and critical illness, he has joined forces with Genomics England and the NHS, to pinpoint genetic signals in these patients to help identify the best treatments.Producers: Beth Eastwood & Fiona RobertsPicture: DNA Genetic Code Colorful Genome, Credit: ktsimage/Getty Images

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  • 09.09.2020
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    Brian Greene

    Brian Greene studies the universe at the largest and smallest scales imaginable. When he was just twelve years old, Brian wandered round Columbia University in New York looking for someone to teach him mathematics, with a letter of recommendation from his school teacher. While his mother wanted him to make money, his father encouraged Brian to pursue his passion, which was trying to understand the nature of the universe. He studied physics at Harvard University and won a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University. While at Oxford he learnt about a bold new Theory of Everything which predicts that the universe is made not of particles but rather tiny strings which vibrate in multiple dimensions. Now a Professor at Columbia University, he has worked on string theory ever since. He talks to Jim Al-Khalili about the rise and fall of string and superstring theory and why when he first started to think about what would happen to the universe at the end of time, he experienced a feeling of ‘hollow dread’.

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  • 09.09.2020
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    Jane Goodall

    Jane Goodall, aged 86, reflects on the years she spent living with the wild chimpanzees in Gombe in eastern Tanzania and tells Jim Al Khalili why she believes the best way to bring about change is to ‘creep into people’s hearts’. Jane shot to fame when she appeared on the cover of National Geographic magazine in 1963 and appeared in a documentary film directed by Orson Welles. Her ground breaking observations introduced us to the social and emotional lives of wild chimpanzees and changed our view of what it is to be human. Images of her younger self play wrestling with baby chimps make Jane feel slightly apprehensive now but at the time she didn’t give it a second thought. However, she did take care to protect her young son. Seeing distressing footage of chimps who were living in captivity, she gave up fieldwork to become an activist, working to liberate chimpanzees that were being used for medical research or sold for meat or as pets, and setting up chimp sanctuaries for animals that were no longer able to live in the wild. For the last thirty years, she has campaigned gently but relentlessly to protect wild animals and wild places, touring the world and performing on stage in front of huge audiences. Her global youth programme, Roots and Shoots has inspired and empowered millions of people to understand and respect nature, leading some to call her ‘the mother Theresa of the environment’. A label she dislikes.Producer: Anna BuckleyPhoto credit: the Jane Goodall Institute / By Bill Wallauer

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  • 09.09.2020
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    Bed

    After a long journey, there’s nothing nicer for Katy than climbing into her own bed. It’s often the first major purchase we make when we grow up and leave home.Its significance was not lost on our ancestors. The bed was often the place where societal attitudes to sleep, superstition, sex, and status were played out, sometimes in dramatic form.So where did the bed come from, and what can this everyday object tell us about ourselves?A sleeper in early modern times believed that sleep was akin to death, with the devil waiting to pounce after darkness. So bed-time rituals were performed at the bedside and wolves’ teeth were often hung around the sleeper’s neck. Iron daggers were dangled over the cradles of infants at night to prevent them from being changed into demon babies.While we may have outgrown a fear of the devil, sleep expert and neuroscientist Prof Russell Foster fears the modern-day obsession that’s disrupting our sleep – our mobile devices. His advice? Prepare your bed for a good night’s sleep and defend it with a passion.Also featuring resident public historian Greg Jenner, and Prof Sasha Handley, expert on Early Modern History and sleep during this time.Producer: Beth Eastwood.Picture: Bed, Credit: Igor Vershinsky/Getty Images

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  • 09.09.2020
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    Covid-19: Recovery

    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.Our panel of experts discuss how many people make full recoveries but others are finding that life hasn’t yet returned to normal months after infection. In India and Sweden, clinics are being set up to follow survivors of the virus and doctors are discovering that people are having difficulties assimilating what happened to them. And we hear about how three generations of one Spanish family all survived and how they are all recovering differently, including the 96 year old grandmother.On the panel are Seema Shah, Professor of Medical Ethics at North Western University, Professor David Heymann, an infectious disease epidemiologist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Professor Soo Aleman from the Karolinska University Hospital in Sweden, Dr David Collier, Clinical director of the William Harvey Clinical Research Centre, Queen Mary University of London and Dr Netravathi M, Professor of Neurology at the National Institute for Mental Health and Neuroscience in Bangalore in India.The Evidence is produced in association with Wellcome Collection.Producers: Geraldine Fitzgerald and Caroline Steel Editor: Deborah Cohen

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  • 09.09.2020
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    Toilet

    You may call it the toilet, the loo, the privy, the potty, the can or even the bathroom, but whatever you call it, this everyday object has its roots in Bronze Age Pakistan. It even had a seat!But how did the toilet come to be? Given one third of the world’s population still live without one, how much is our embarrassment around toilet habits to blame? And what scientific developments are underway to help make them truly universal?Water and Sanitation Expert, Alison Parker, from Cranfield University believes part of the solution lies in a waterless toilet which creates ash, water from the waste it receives, and the energy it needs to operate, from the waste it receives.Even in the UK, we don’t always have access to a toilet when we need one. Over the past decade, the number of public conveniences has dropped by a half, leaving older people and the disabled, who may need easy access, unable to leave their homes. Raymond Martin, Managing Director of the British Toilet Association, hopes to stop our public conveniences going down the pan.Also featuring resident public historian Greg Jenner.Producer: Beth EastwoodPicture: Bathroom/Getty Images

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  • 09.09.2020
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    Wine glass

    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 if we skip back a few hundred years, the wine glass was tiny. Footmen brought their masters what was essentially a shot glass. They quaffed back their wine in one. So how did we go from those dinky little things to the gargantuan goblets we have today? Is it because letting the wine breathe in a bigger glass makes it smell and taste better? Or is it a reflection of our drinking habits?Join Katy and the show's resident public historian, Greg Jenner, is glass expert Russell Hand from Sheffield University and Barry Smith, Director for the Study of the Senses at London University.Producer: Graihagh JacksonPicture: Wine glass, Credit: Albina Kosenko/Getty Images

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  • 09.09.2020
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    The Evidence: Covid 19: vaccines and after lockdown

    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 up in many countries and visiting family and friends is allowed, how do we navigate this new world while avoiding catching the virus.On the panel are Dr George Hu, clinical psychologist & Section Chief of Mental Health at Shanghai United Family Pudong Hospital in China, Vaccine expert - Professor Gagandeep Kang Executive Director of the Translational Health Science Technology Institute in Faridabad India, Dr Jenny Rohn is an expert in microbiology and viruses at University College London and Dr Margaret Harris, a Spokesperson at the World Health Organisation.The Evidence is produced in association with Wellcome Collection. Producers: Geraldine Fitzgerald and Caroline Steel Editor: Deborah Cohen

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  • 09.09.2020
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    Fork

    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 knife to cut it with.So how did the fork come to be so indispensable?We didn’t always love the fork. Public historian, Greg Jenner, reveals how it was abandoned for the chopstick in Ancient China, and greeted with scorn in Western Europe when a Byzantine princess ate with a golden double-pronged one.It was only after the traveller, Thomas Coryat, in 1608, celebrated its use by pasta-loving Italians that the English started to take note. By the mid-19th century, there was a fork for every culinary challenge – from the pickle and the berry, to ice-cream and the terrapin. The utensil transformed the dining experience, bringing the pocket knife onto the table in a blunt, round-tipped form, and ushering in British table manners.So is there a perfect version of the fork? With the help of tomato, milkshake and mango, Katy discovers that the material a fork is made from can drastically alter a food’s taste.Featuring material scientist, Zoe Laughlin, and food writer and historian, Bee Wilson.Picture: a fork, Credit: BBC

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  • 09.09.2020
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    High heel

    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 has traded the pain for the statement trainer. But their art, history and construction still fascinate her.So what is it about the high heel that has made it stand the test of time?With the help of resident public historian, Greg Jenner, Katy explores the heel’s fascinating passage through time, finding a place on the feet of men, as well as women, in high and low places. Heels donned the feet of men on horseback in 17th century Persia, were adored by King Louis XIV, and gained an erotic currency with the invention of photography.But how has science and engineering ensured the high heel’s survival?Footwear Technologist, Mike George, shows us how the high heel is engineered, and how he can test if a particular design is teetering on the edge of safety. Social scientist, Heather Morgan, reveals the perceived benefits of wearing heels, as well as the risks when she fell foul to when fell in heels and broke her ankle.Producer: Beth EastwoodPicture: High heels, Credit: European Photopress Agency

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  • 09.09.2020
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    The Evidence: Covid 19: Transmission and South America

    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 indigenous people of the Amazon protecting themselves? We also look at the aerodynamics of infection - if the air in an ITU room is changed 12 times and the virus still lingers what hope do offices have?On the panel are Professor Lydia Bourouiba, Associate Professor at the Fluid Dynamics of Disease Transmission Laboratory at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dr Adam Kucharski from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Professor Holgar Schunemann, co-director of the World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centre for Infectious Diseases, Dr David Collier, Clinical Director at Queen Mary University London and Barbara Fraser, health journalist in the Peruvian capital Lima.The Evidence is produced in association with Wellcome Collection. Producers: Geraldine Fitzgerald and Caroline Steel Editor: Deborah Cohen

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  • 09.09.2020
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    Toothbrush

    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 Jenner, Katy goes back to ancient times, when the toothbrush was merely a stick. But the brush, as we know it, only came into being much later when a convict spied a broom in his cell and had a bright idea.But how has ingenuity and innovation shaped the toothbrush and ensured its place in our lives? And given most are plastic, how environmentally friendly is the toothbrush’s legacy?Featuring designer and toothbrush collector, Sophie Thomas, and advocate for clean teeth, Peter Dyer, Chair of Hospital Dentists at the British Dental Association.Producer: Beth EastwoodPicture: Toothbrush BBC Copyright

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  • 09.09.2020
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    Helium

    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 to run MRI machines to diagnose tumours and engineers test rockets for leaks with it.The story of helium starts with a solar eclipse in 1868. The event had many astronomers' eyes fixed on the sun. Two astronomers, nearly simultaneous and independently, made the same observation; a strange light with an unusual wavelength coming from the sun. It turned out to be the first sighting of extra-terrestrial helium. It would take decades for helium to be discovered on Earth and longer still for its worth to be recognised.As its ability to make things float and inability to burn became apparent, the US military started hoarding it for their floating blimps. But they soon realised that it is very hard to store an element that is so light that it can escape the Earth's gravitational pull. As we empty our last reserves of the periodic table's most notorious escape artist – is the future of helium balloons, often used to mark special events, up in the air?

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  • 09.09.2020
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    The Evidence: Covid 19: Sub-Saharan Africa and Testing

    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 look at tests – how accurate are they? Should we be testing ourselves at home? On the panel are Folasade Ogunsola, Professor of Clinical Microbiology at the University of Lagos in Nigeria, Ravi Gupta, Professor of Microbiology at the University of Cambridge’s Department of Medicine, Matthew Fox, Professor of Epidemiology and Public Health at Boston University and Dr Margaret Harris, a Spokesperson at the World Health Organisation.The Evidence is produced in association with Wellcome Collection. Producers: Geraldine Fitzgerald and Caroline Steel Editor: Deborah Cohen

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  • 09.09.2020
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    Aluminium and strontium

    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 in 19th century France aluminium was more valuable than gold and silver. The Emperor liked the metal so much he had his cutlery made out of it. But once a cheaper way was discovered to extract aluminium it began to be used for all kinds of objects, from aeroplanes to coffee pots. Andrea talks to Professor Mark Miodownik at the Institute of Making at UCL about why aluminium is such a useful material, from keeping crisps crisp to the tinsel on our Christmas trees. And he talks about the lightness of bicycles made from aluminium with Keith Noronha, of Reynolds Technology.Strontium is the 15th most common element in the earth yet we really only come into contact with it in fireworks. It gives us the deep red colour we admire in a pyrotechnics display. Andrea meets Mike Sansom of Brighton Fireworks who explains how a firework is constructed and reveals the chemical mix that creates the bright red flashes.Professor Thomas Klapötke of the Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich talks about his search for a substitute for strontium in fireworks and about how the element can get into our bones. Rupert Cole at the Science Museum in London shows Andrea how Humphry Davy was the first to extract strontium from rocks found in Scotland.And Janet Montgomery, Professor of Archaeology at Durham University, explains how strontium traces have revealed that our Neolithic ancestors moved around much more than was previously thought. Nearly half the people buried around Stonehenge in Southern England were born in places with different rocks from those under Salisbury Plain in Southern England.Picture: Fireworks, credit: rzelich/Getty Images

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  • 09.09.2020
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    Gold and silver

    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 Workshop teaches him how to work the metal and make a silver ring, and Rupert Cole, Curator of Chemistry at the Science Museum, shows him the handiwork of silversmiths who fashioned an elaborate microscope for King George the Third and a silver thimble that was used (with some zinc and a few drops of an acid) to generate an electric current that was sent through a transatlantic telegraph cable in 1866. And Andrea finds out about silver's anti-bacterial properties from Jean-Yves Maillard, Professor of Pharmaceutical Microbiology at Cardiff University.For the Egyptians gold was the ultimate symbol of wealth, power and eternal life. For this reason they buried their Pharaohs with extraordinary amounts of gold artefacts. As a noble metal, gold doesn’t tarnish which added to its status and association with the sun god Ra and the afterlife. Andrea talks to Professor Marcos Martinon-Torres of Cambridge University at an exhibition of Tutankhamun’s riches, and to Professor Lynne Macaskie of Birmingham University about ways to recycle gold from our electronic waste using bacteria. The method offers a greener way to satisfy our lust for gold.Picture: Gold and silver bracelets, Credit: krfletch/Getty Images

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  • 09.09.2020
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    The Evidence: Covid 19: ending lockdowns

    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 about how far it’s spread and how is it evolving. Can we be sure that vaccines being developed now will still work in the future? Professor Guy Thwaites of the Oxford University Clinical Research Unit in Vietnam explains how the country has succeeding in keeping its cases so low. Professor David Heymann of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Professor Ngaire Woods, of the Blavatnik School of Government at Oxford University, tackle the question that people all around the world are wondering right now – how does a country safely emerge from lockdown without seeing a surge in cases?And Professor Lisa Cooper of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and family doctor and Director of the Shuri Network, Dr Shera Chok, discuss why black and other ethnic minorities in the US and UK seem to be so disproportionately impacted by Covid 19.The Evidence is produced in association with Wellcome Collection.Producers: Geraldine Fitzgerald and Caroline Steel Editor: Deborah Cohen

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  • 09.09.2020
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    Science of Dad

    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 children. We're seeing how fathers play a crucial role in children's behaviour, happiness, and even cognitive skills.Oscar Duke, a doctor, new dad and author of How To Be A Dad, discovers how pregnancy, birth and childcare affect the father, bringing about profound physiological and hormonal changes. Only 5% of mammal fathers invest in their offspring, and human males have evolved to undergo key changes when their children are born.Involved fathers can expect their levels of the 'love hormone' oxytocin to rise, nature's way of helping parents bond with their children. At birth, a dad's testosterone levels dramatically fall, increasing affection and responsiveness, and discouraging polygamy.With more fathers taking on a hands-on role in bringing up their children, how can these new discoveries about the science of dad help support them, and inform social and healthcare policies?Presented by Dr Oscar Duke and produced by Melanie Brown and Cathy Edwards

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  • 09.09.2020
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    Ignaz Semmelweiss: The hand washer

    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 in Vienna went directly from an autopsy, still covered in contaminated dead flesh, to attend pregnant women. Could this be the reason for such high maternal mortality rates from conditions like puerperal fever? Believing that the disease was caused by “infective material” from a dead body, Semmelweiss set up a basin filled with chlorinated lime solution in his hospital and began saving women’s lives with three simple words: ‘wash your hands’. He was demonised by his colleagues for his efforts, but today, he is known as the “Saviour of Mothers.”Lindsey Fitzharris discusses some of the common myths surrounding the story of Semmelweiss with Dr Barron H. Lerner of New York University Langone School of Medicine. And she talks to Professor Val Curtis, Director of the Environmental Health Group at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, who has studied the amount of hand washing by medical staff in hospitals today.Picture: Victorian boy washing his hands in a stream, Credit: whitemay

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  • 09.09.2020
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    The Evidence: Mental health and Covid 19

    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, clinical psychologist & Section Chief of Mental Health at Shanghai United Family Pudong Hospital, tells us what he’s seen in China, as it comes out of lockdown. Professor Vikram Patel gives us a picture of mental health in India, which went very suddenly into lockdown. Manuela Baretto, Professor of Psychology at Exeter University, explains what research tells us about how isolation and loneliness affects us. Dr Jo Daniels, a psychology at the University of Bath in the UK, talks about who is susceptible to long term health anxiety following the pandemic. And Professor Sir Simon Wessley, psychiatrist and Director of the Kings Centre for Military Research in London, answers questions on whether we can learn about the likely psychological consequences from previous pandemics and other global upheavals.The Evidence is produced in association with Wellcome Collection.Producer: Caroline Steel Editor: Deborah Cohen

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  • 09.09.2020
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    Desert locust swarms

    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 the last 15 years," FAO locust specialist Keith Cressman tells Discovery. And in East Africa there has been nothing like this for 70 years. As the region braces itself for another cycle of egg laying and hatching, Roland Pease hears from the scientists using satellite technology, mobile phones and big data to protect the crops just starting to grow.(Photo: Desert Locust Swarms, Credit: FAO/Sven Torfinn)

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  • 09.09.2020
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    Anne Magurran

    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 descriptions of the natural world into meaningful statistics is a challenge and Anne has pioneered the measurement of bio-diversity. It’s like an optical illusion, she says. The more you think about bio-diversity the more difficult it is to define. After a bout of meningitis in 2007, she set up BioTime, a global open access database to monitor changes in biodiversity over time and is concerned about ‘the shopping mall effect’. Just as high streets are losing their distinctive shops and becoming dominated by the same chain stores, so biological communities in different parts of the world that once looked very different are now starting to look the same.

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