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Author: BBC World Service

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Explorations in the world of science.
486 Episodes
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Toilet

Toilet

2020-07-0628:12

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 Eastwood Picture: Bathroom/Getty Images
Wine glass

Wine glass

2020-06-2928:002

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 Jackson Picture: Wine glass, Credit: Albina Kosenko/Getty Images
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
Fork

Fork

2020-06-2227:525

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
High heel

High heel

2020-06-1528:541

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 Eastwood Picture: High heels, Credit: European Photopress Agency
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
Toothbrush

Toothbrush

2020-06-0827:595

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 Eastwood Picture: Toothbrush BBC Copyright
Helium

Helium

2020-06-0127:333

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?
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
Aluminium and strontium

Aluminium and strontium

2020-05-2526:464

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
Gold and silver

Gold and silver

2020-05-1827:537

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
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
Science of Dad

Science of Dad

2020-05-1327:354

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
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
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
Desert locust swarms

Desert locust swarms

2020-04-2727:503

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)
Anne Magurran

Anne Magurran

2020-04-2027:253

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.
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 attention they deserve. How will this pandemic impact young people and do they feel included in government messaging? As lockdowns are lifted in China – how can they prepare for what comes next? And country updates on the USA and Kenya. On the panel are Professor Tom Kariuki, Director of Programmes of the African Academy of Sciences, Dr Christina Atchison, Senior Clinical Teaching Fellow in Public Health Education at Imperial College London and Dr. Michael Mina, Assistant Professor of Epidemiology at Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health. The Evidence is made in collaboration with the Wellcome Collection. Presenter: Claudia Hammond Producer: Geraldine Fitzgerald
Richard Wiseman

Richard Wiseman

2020-04-1327:336

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 to spot a liar, don’t look at them. Listen to what they say and how they say it. in If you want to distinguish fact from fiction, radio, not TV or video is your friend. Visual cues distract us from what is being said and good liars can control their body language more easily than their voice. Depressingly, Richard has also shown that our nearest and dearest are the most able to deceive us. Richard is a rare breed: a scientist who is also a practising magician. By the age of 17 he was performing magic tricks at children’s parties and a member of the exclusive Magic Circle. He chose to study psychology to try and understand why we believe the unbelievable and spent many years doing research on the paranormal: studying séances, haunted places and extra sensory perception. Could a belief in the paranormal be the price we pay for scientific discovery, he wonders? Jim Al-Khalili talks to Richard about his magical Life Scientific and finds out more about his work on lying, ESP and luck. Are some people born lucky or is it a mind-set that can be learnt? Producer: Anna Buckley
Professor Saiful Islam

Professor Saiful Islam

2020-04-0627:093

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. And solar power is reducing our reliance on carbon-based fossil fuels. None of this would have been possible without a deep understanding of the chemistry of materials that have particular properties – the ability to turn sunlight into energy for example. Professor Saiful Islam of the University of Bath tells Jim Al-Khalili how ‘the Woodstock of physics’ got him excited about material science and how his research on the properties of materials is helping to power the 21st century with renewable energy and could dramatically reduce the cost of making solar panels. Producer: Anna Buckley
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Comments (47)

Anndréa Coburn

Talking about the red, amber, and geeen markers.. 'it's stigmatising and making it so that people's movements are limited and making it so they can't go places... Dating is so hard on people'... THATS THE WHOLE POINT!... if you are red you certainly don't want to go infecting people and if youre amber you should definitely be taking precautions... Stop talking about this like this is a bad, prejudicial thing, it's doing what it's supposed to and as stated, there are clear ways of changing your status to green once you've passed thru the data points showing you can be green... Dissapointing for such a usually intellectual podcast.

Jun 27th
Reply

Jason L

Everyone should listen to this. It shows you the difference between being positive and negative in life.

Jun 6th
Reply

hamid boleydei

thanks a lot for providing such a valuable podcast

May 5th
Reply

Maria Júlia Berriel de Sousa

Esse podcast sempre tem boas entrevistas, esse episódio é excelente, ainda mais nesse momento.

Mar 26th
Reply (1)

Casey Wollberg

scientific illiteracy, motivated reasoning, lack of skepticism. these are the causes of this problem. nobody who has those under control would fall for these scams...or any scam for that matter. instead of endless wackamole, teach and promote scientific literacy, logic, and metacognition.

Feb 12th
Reply

Casey Wollberg

once again you morons get everything backwards. the problem is not society or the internet or your parents. like dave Chappelle said...IT'S YOU! you don't know how to think. you dont know how to be skeptical. you let your feelings guide you. you dismiss facts when they dont suit your beliefs. its YOU. you are the problem. there will be and always have been frauds, scam artists, grifters, and quacks. YOU cause them to proliferate by being stupid enough to create the demand their supply arises to service. YOU, with your terrible cognition skills, are the problem.

Jan 15th
Reply (1)

Mark Bentley

Typical BBC, forcing 'diversity' and calling white people racists. The Great Replacement IS happening. You only have to watch the BBC channels to see that the 'diversity' is overly misrepresented. To think that I have to pay for this bullshit

Jan 14th
Reply (1)

Casey Wollberg

so let me get this straight. if a religious institution with the backing of the state threatens your life and liberty over your pursuit of inconvenient truths, and you have the audacity to doctor your words after the fact in an attempt to save yourself..then YOU are the bad guy? a liar and a fraud? a bit too uppity? jesus fucking christ. what utter bollocks. isn't this what you hypocrites would call blaming the victim?

Dec 3rd
Reply

Casey Wollberg

omg you're actually tone trolling Galileo, who was persecuted and imprisoned by the church for doing science. wow. how dare he be so impetuous! bbc you make me sick. unbelievable.

Dec 3rd
Reply

Casey Wollberg

and here we have a religious "scholar" who never heard of the god of the gaps problem, claiming that theology threatens science, quoting aquinas, and preaching salvation on a science program (ostensibly). if i wanted to hear this ridiculous garbage I'd get a lobotomy.

Dec 3rd
Reply (1)

Casey Wollberg

obvious catholic apologia.

Dec 3rd
Reply (1)

Tavinder

is it still deja vu when you get strong feelings about something that going to be happened and suddenly in some moments it does happen?

Oct 11th
Reply

Mar Ko

global news? gotta be kidding. 80% UK news

Aug 25th
Reply

Kayl matthew

way off.. the atomic structure decides the resonance of vibrations.

Jul 21st
Reply (3)

lugh xavier

怪不得被中国屏蔽

Apr 8th
Reply

James Mackenzie

This is a pretty unsatisfactory, shallow and simplistic account of the philosophy of Lucretius. It wastes a lot of time on an insignificant question ("how accurate is the science" ?! the book predates science! Of course it's not accurate!) and spends comparatively little time on the actual philosophy or the competing schools of philosophy it evolved between. Doesn't even touch the contradictions and conflicts within epicureanism, or moral and social implications of it. Waste of time.

Feb 20th
Reply

Seth Shulman

insightful and inspiring

Jan 29th
Reply

Susan Marchand Latulippe

informative plastic situation

Jan 12th
Reply

Julien Leclair

bonjour je vous remercie de la société civile pour un éventuel poste de le boulot est intéressant et très bon dimanche à vous remercie par erreur

Dec 31st
Reply

Julien Leclair

je vous souhaite bonne journée à tous iiiiiioooiii

Dec 31st
Reply
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