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One of the world’s large owls by length, the Great Grey Owl is an enigmatic predator of coniferous forests close to the Arctic tundra. It's most often seen hunting around dawn and dusk, when it perches silently at the edges of clearings. But as Prof Ben Garrod and Dr Jess French delve deep inside to understand its true secret to survival, they find the deep feathery coat belies a deceptively small head and body that‘s evolved unbelievably powerful abilities to silently detect and ambush unsuspecting prey.
Wild inside: The Cheetah

Wild inside: The Cheetah

2022-11-2129:402

Zoologist Ben Garrod and veterinary surgeon Jess French delve deep into some amazing internal anatomy to unravel the secrets to survival of some of nature’s iconic animals. They begin with one of the rarities of the cat family – the cheetah, which at just under two metres long, is the world’s fastest land animal capable of reaching speeds of up to 70mph in three seconds. As Ben and Jess reveal, the body’s rear muscles, large heart and nostrils enable it to achieve record breaking accelerations. But over long distances, it risks total exhaustion and predation from larger carnivores and the risk of losing its valuable prey. We hear during the course of this intricate dissection, how it treads a fine line between speed and stamina in the quest for survival.
What do you get if you smash two hydrogen nuclei together? Helium and lots of energy – it's nuclear fusion! Nuclear fusion is the power source of the sun and the stars. Physicists and engineers here on earth are trying to build reactors than can harness fusion power to provide limitless clean energy. But it’s tricky. Rutherford and Fry are joined by Dr Melanie Windridge, plasma physicist and CEO of Fusion Energy Insights, who explains why the fourth state of matter – plasma – helps get fusion going, and why a Russian doughnut was a key breakthrough on the path to fusion power. Dr Sharon Ann Holgate, author of Nuclear Fusion: The Race to Build a Mini Sun on Earth, helps our sleuths distinguish the more familiar nuclear fission (famous for powerful bombs) from the cleaner and much less radioactive nuclear fusion. And plasma physicist Dr Arthur Turrell, describes the astonishing amount of investment and innovation going on to try and get fusion power working at a commercial scale.
Sneezes, wheezes, runny noses and red eyes - this episode is all about allergies. An allergic reaction is when your immune system reacts to something harmless – like peanuts or pollen – as if it was a parasitic invader. It’s a case of biological mistaken identity. Professor Judith Holloway from the University of Southampton guides our sleuths through the complex immune pathways that make allergies happen and tells the scary story of when she went into anaphylactic shock from a rogue chocolate bar. Professor Adam Fox, a paediatric allergist at Evelina Children’s Hospital, helps the Drs distinguish intolerances or sensitivities – substantial swelling from a bee sting, for example - from genuine allergies. Hannah’s orange juice ‘allergy’ is exposed as a probable fraud! Hannah and Adam explore why allergies are on the increase, and Professor Rick Maizels from the University of Glasgow shares his surprising research using parasitic worms to develop anti-allergy drugs! Contributors: Professor Judith Holloway, Professor Adam Fox, Professor Rick Maizels
Pi is the ratio between a circle’s diameter and its circumference. Sounds dull – but pi turns out to have astonishing properties and crop up in places you would never expect. For a start, it goes on forever and never repeats, meaning it probably contains your name, date of birth, and the complete works of Shakespeare written in its digits. Maths comedian Matt Parker stuns Adam with his ‘pie-endulum’ experiment, in which a chicken and mushroom pie is dangled 2.45m to form a pendulum which takes *exactly* 3.14 seconds per swing. Mathematician Dr Vicky Neale explains how we can be sure that the number pi continues forever and never repeats - despite the fact we can never write down all its digits to check! She also makes the case that aliens would probably measure angles using pi because it’s a fundamental constant of the universe. Nasa mission director Dr Marc Rayman drops in to explain how pi is used to navigate spacecraft around the solar system. And philosopher of physics Dr Eleanor Knox serves up some philoso-pi, revealing why some thinkers have found pi’s ubiquity so deeply mysterious.
The suspicious smell

The suspicious smell

2022-10-2429:064

Why are some smells so nasty and others so pleasant? Rutherford and Fry inhale the science of scent in this stinker of an episode. Our sleuths kick off with a guided tour of the airborne molecules and chemical receptors that power the sense of smell. Armed with a stack of pungent mini-flasks, professor Matthew Cobb from the University of Manchester shows Hannah and Adam just how sensitive olfaction can be, and how our experience of some odours depends on our individual genetic make-up. Dr Ann-Sophie Barwich from Indiana University reveals how most everyday smells are complex combinations of hundreds of odorants, and how the poo-scented molecule of indole turns up in some extremely surprising places. With the help of a flavoured jellybean and some nose clips, Hannah experiences how smell is crucial to flavour, adding complexity and detail to the crude dimensions of taste. Speaking of food, listener Brychan Davies is curious about garlic and asparagus: why do they make us whiff? Professor Barry Smith from the Centre for the Study of the Senses reveals it's down to sulphur-containing compounds, and tells the story of how a cunning scientist managed to figure out the puzzle of asparagus-scented urine. Finally, another listener Lorena Busto Hurtado wants to know whether a person’s natural odour influences how much we like them. Barry Smith says yes - we may sniff each other out a bit like dogs - and cognitive neuroscientist Dr Rachel Herz points to evidence that bodily bouquet can even influence sexual attraction!
The Wild and Windy Tale

The Wild and Windy Tale

2022-10-1728:393

How do winds start and why do they stop? asks Georgina from the Isle of Wight. What's more, listener Chris Elshaw is suprised we get strong winds at all: why doesn't air just move smoothly between areas of high and low pressure? Why do we get sudden gusts and violent storms? To tackle this breezy mystery, our curious duo don their anoraks and get windy with some weather experts. Dr Simon Clark, a science Youtuber and author of Firmament, convinces Adam that air flow is really about the physics of fluids, which can all be captured by some nifty maths. The idea of pressure turns out to be key, so Hannah makes her own barometer out of a jar, a balloon and some chopsticks, and explains why a bag of crisps will expand as you walk up a mountain. Professor Liz Bentley, Chief Executive of the Royal Meteorological Scoiety, reveals how the dynamics of a simple sea breeze – where air over land is heated more than air over water – illustrates the basic forces driving wind of all kinds. Then everyone gets involved to help Adam understand the tricky Coriolis effect and why the rotation of the Earth makes winds bend and storms spin. And Professor John Turner from the British Antarctic Survey explains why the distinctive features of the coldest continent make its coastline the windiest place on earth.
DO WE HAVE YOUR ATTENTION? Good! But how does that work!? Our intrepid science sleuths explore why some things immediately catch your eye - or ear - while others slip by totally unnoticed. Even, on occasion, basketball bouncing gorillas. Professor Polly Dalton, a psychologist who leads The Attention Lab at Royal Holloway University, shares her surprising research into ‘inattentional blindness’ - when you get so absorbed in a task you can miss striking and unusual things going on right in front of you. Dr Gemma Briggs from the Open University reveals how this can have dangerous everyday consequences: you are four times more likely to have a crash if you talk on the phone while driving -even handsfree. Drs Rutherford and Fry also hear from stroke survivor Thomas Canning, who developed the tendency to ignore everything on the left side of space, despite his vision being totally intact. And Dr Tom Manly, from the University of Cambridge’s Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, helps our sleuths unpack the neuroscience of this fascinating condition.
Chi Onwurah

Chi Onwurah

2022-10-0328:203

Chi Onwurah tells Jim Al-Khalili why she wanted to become a telecoms engineer and why engineering is a caring profession. As a black, working class woman from a council estate in Newcastle, she was in a minority of one studying engineering at university in London and encountered terrible racism and sexism. She went on to build digital networks all over the world, the networks that make today's instant muli-media communications possible. And Chi built the first mobile phone network in Nigeria, when the country was without a reliable electricity supply. Today she is Shadow Minister for Science, Research and Innovation. When Chi decided to go into politics, her engineering colleagues were not impressed. Why would anyone leave their noble profession to enter a chaotic, disreputable and dubiously useful non-profession, they asked. But, Chi believes, parliament desperately needs more scientists and engineers, not only to help us solve science-based problems but also to create technical jobs and build a strong economy.
Six and a half million dead. More than a hundred times that infected. The Covid-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc across the globe. But in the final months of the third year of this health crisis, some now claim it’s all over. Scientists with key roles in the global response join Claudia Hammond to consider the evidence behind the declarations that the pandemic has finished and they set out how, officially, this global health crisis will be brought to an end. They reject claims that the pandemic is over, but say the emergency phase of this global health crisis is coming to a close. But only if countries remain vigilant and maintain pandemic preparedness. If vaccines reach arms, if treatments are shared equally and if nations re-introduce public health measures like mask wearing and social distancing when the inevitable new waves (and potential new variants) emerge, the appalling loss of life we saw at the beginning of the pandemic, they tell Claudia, won’t be repeated. There are stark warnings too that the dramatic global drop in the sequencing of virus samples (which enables us to see how the virus is evolving) is posing a serious risk. We can’t react to a new threat, Claudia’s panel say, if you can’t see it. Sequencing, as well as testing, has fallen by 90% since January this year, from 100,000 weekly sequences ten months ago to less than 10,000 now. This severely limits the ability to track the known variants (currently 200 sub-lineages of the Omicron variant). Produced in collaboration with Wellcome and recorded in front of a live audience in Wellcome’s Reading Room in London, Claudia’s expert panel includes Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, the World Health Organisation’s Technical Lead for Covid-19, Professor Salim Abdool Karim, co-chair of the south African Ministerial Advisory Committee on Covid-19 and a member of the Africa Task Force which oversees the African continent’s response to the virus and Professor Sir Jeremy Farrar, the Director of Wellcome and a former adviser to the UK government on its Covid response. Presenter: Claudia Hammond Produced by: Fiona Hill and Maria Simons Studio Engineers: Giles Aspen and Emma Harth
David Eagleman

David Eagleman

2022-09-2628:353

Literature student turned neuroscientist, Prof David Eagleman, tells Jim Al-Khalili about his research on human perception and the wristband he created that enables deaf people to hear through their skin. Everything we see, taste, smell, touch and hear is created by a set of electro-chemical impulses in the dark recesses of our brain. Our brains look for patterns in these signals and attach meaning to them. So in future perhaps we could learn to ‘feel’ fluctuations in the stock market, see in infra-red or echo-locate like bats? Each brain creates its own unique truth and David believes, there are no real limits to what we humans can perceive.
Frances Arnold

Frances Arnold

2022-09-2028:22

Nobel Prize winning chemist Frances Arnold left home at 15 and went to school ‘only when she felt like it’. She disagreed with her parents about the Vietnam war and drove big yellow taxis in Pittsburgh to pay the rent. Decades later, after several changes of direction (from aerospace engineer to bio-tech pioneer), she invented a radical new approach to engineering enzymes. Rather than try to design industrial enzymes from scratch (which she considered to be an impossible task), Frances decided to let Nature do the work. ‘I breed enzymes like other people breed cats and dogs’ she says. While some colleagues accused her of intellectual laziness, industry jumped on her ideas and used them in the manufacture of everything from laundry detergents to pharmaceuticals. She talks to Jim Al-Khalili about her journey from taxi driver to Nobel Prize, personal tragedy mid-life and why advising the White House is much harder than doing scientific research.
Sir Martin Landray

Sir Martin Landray

2022-09-1228:361

Who could forget the beginning of 2020, when a ‘mysterious viral pneumonia’ emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan. Soon, other countries were affected and deaths around the world began to climb. Perhaps most alarmingly of all, there were no proven treatments to help prevent those deaths. As the World Health Organisation declared the Covid-19 outbreak a pandemic, and the UK and the rest of the world braced itself for what was to come, doctor and drug-trial designer Martin Landray had his mind on a solution, devising the protocol, or blueprint, for the world’s largest drug trial for Covid-19. As Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology at Oxford University, Martin was perfectly positioned to jump, delivering what became known as the RECOVERY Trial. The trial was tasked to deliver clarity amid the predicted chaos of the pandemic and galvanised every acute NHS hospital in the UK. Within its first one hundred days, it had yielded three major discoveries and it has transformed Covid-19 treatment worldwide, already saving over a million lives. Sir Martin Landray was recently knighted for this work and RECOVERY’s legacy lives on, not just for Covid. Martin plans to revolutionise drug trials for other diseases too.
In the third and final part of our series How Covid Changed Science, Devi Sridhar Professor of Global Health at Edinburgh University looks at the legacy and lessons of the pandemic for scientific research. Tackling the virus became a global issue, but many have pointed out the inequality of both resources and effort in the response. Going forward do we need to be directing research more towards improving health and disease surveillance in less wealthy parts of the world, would investing there help prevent future pandemics?
In the second of our series How Covid Changed Science, Devi Sridhar, Professor of Global Health at Edinburgh University looks at the scientific messaging. Just how do you explain to both politicians and the public that a growing global pandemic is likely to kill many people, and unprecedented measures such as a nationwide lockdown are needed to prevent even more deaths. What information should be imparted and how? Similarly how to address the clamour for information on the development of vaccines and other potential treatments when there often wasn’t clarity? And with the rise of misinformation how did individual scientists who became the subject of conspiracy theories cope with being targeted? In this programme we hear from scientists and politicians directly involved with the pandemic response. For some the experience of explaining their often highly technical research to the general public was a daunting experience. For others it became a mission to answer the publics concerns and fears.
Until 2020 developing a new drug took at least 15 years. Scientists by and large competed with each other, were somewhat secretive about their research and only shared their data once publication was secured. And the public and the press had no interest in the various early phases of clinical trials. An incremental scientific step possibly on the road to somewhere was simply not newsworthy. Face masks were the preserves of hypochondriacs in the Far East, with no scientific evidence base for their use. Now the findings of research are published as soon as they are ready. Often they are being openly discussed in social media before they have been peer reviewed. The speed of research, collaboration between science and industry, and public perception of science are areas that have undergone incredible and likely permanent change. Devi Sridhar, Professor of Global Health at Edinburgh University hears from scientists in a variety of fields, whose working lives and practices have been affected, in some cases revolutionised by the pandemic.
If you look up into the night sky, there are around 7,000 active satellites orbiting the Earth. They’re part of our daily life – essential for things like the internet, the GPS in our cars and giving us weather reports. Seven thousand might not sound a lot in the infinite expanses of space. But the reality is that most satellites are found in a small slice of the solar system - called Lower Earth Orbit - and countries and satellite companies are planning to launch hundreds of thousands more in the next decade. So things are about to get crowded. In this week’s Discovery, Jane Chambers speaks to scientists, astronomers from the ALMA Observatory in Chile, space environmentalists and satellite companies like SpaceX about the benefits of this explosion in mega satellite constellations, as well as the unintended consequences to those who value a clear and unhindered view of the stars. Picture: Radio Telescopes at ALMA Observatory in the north of Chile, Credit: Jane Chambers
Giles Yeo learns how to make a Thai green curry with Meera Sodha. This is a recipe without meat or prawns but with tofu and lots of vegetables. If we need to eat less meat and dairy to help prevent global warming- what difference will altering our diets make to our health. For a long time now people have been urged to cut down on red meat and processed foods but if you have been eating them all your life it takes an effort to develop new habits. Plant based products that can replace for example dairy milks, cheeses, sausages, burgers and meat based dishes such as lasagne can be helpful in making this transition but are they healthier?
In Plant Based Promises, Giles Yeo a foodie and academic at Cambridge University, asks how sustainable are commercial plant based products? This is a fast growing sector with a potential value of $162 billion by 2030. Giles travels to the Netherlands Food Valley to look at companies developing plant based alternatives and to find out what role they have to play in changing diets. And Giles designs his own plant based Yeo Deli range online but discovers that new markets are already causing shortages of alternative proteins, so what will the future look like? In 2019 the Eat Lancet Commission set up specific targets for a healthy diet and sustainable food production. The aim was to keep global warming to within 1.5 degrees and to be able to feed the world’s 10 billion people by 2050. The Commission’s recommendations are best visualised as a plate of food, half fruits, vegetables and nuts and the other half whole grains, beans, legumes and pulses, plant oils and modest amounts of meat and dairy. Is there room on the plate for Giles Yeo Deli Baloney range.
In Plant Based Promises, foodie, researcher and broadcaster Giles Yeo looks at the science behind plant based diets and the increasing number of plant based products appearing in supermarkets and restaurants. The market for plant based products could be worth $162 billion in the next ten years and Giles asks how sustainable and healthy the products are and the role they play in decreasing the world's carbon footprint. Globally food production accounts for about 30% of greenhouse gases. In the UK we eat over six times the amount of meat and more than twice the amount of dairy products recommended to prevent the global temperature increasing more than 1.5 degrees C, after which extreme weather events become more severe. But eating less meat and dairy means new protein sources from plants are needed and how easy or practical is it for people to change their diets? Veganuary, where people pledge to go vegan for the month of January show that people are willing to change what they eat for a variety of reasons including animal welfare, sustainability and health. In programme one Giles, an expert on food intake looks at some of the foods being developed to replace animal based foods and looks at alternatives to the iconic cheeseburger. Giles meets biochemist Professor Pat Brown founder of Impossible Burgers, a Silicon Valley start up making burgers from genetically modified yeast to replicate the taste of meat. But from high tech to the artisanal, sisters Rachel and Charlotte Stevens missed eating cheese so much they are now making cheese alternatives using traditional moulds, cultures and aging techniques while replacing dairy ingredients with nuts.
Comments (73)

Blk Blu

once up on a time in iran !get started ignite night one more night! king: killers kill her right now!don't let em screaming out!even when I'm not around!

Nov 20th
Reply

Denise Nichols

Many plus and minus to this plan. You can't pay off a computer to get what you want. A plus. We've seen how often we face glitches and crashes with machines. Huge minus.

Oct 3rd
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Delafrouz

Don't forget #mahsa_amini

Oct 1st
Reply

Granny InSanDiego

The US, seeing it's post WWII hegemony diminish, is now following in the steps of Rome, engaging in excessive militarism and squandering it's resources on a huge military build up in the Pacific while fighting a futile proxy war with Russia in the Ukraine. Like Rome, it will ultimately be surpassed, most likely by China. All the pathetic anti-Chinese rhetoric in the world, pumped out by US government officials and echoed by the corporate MSM will not change this fact. The Chinese are bigger, older, and smarter over all. Most science PhDs in the US are now awarded to students from abroad. Like Rome in it decline, the US military is made up mainly of poor Black Americans (30%) Hispanics (many not even citizens) and other ethnic minorities. Still, it will take many decades for this scenario to play out. Before that time, we may all be destroyed by the climate change brought about by western excesses and corruption.

Sep 13th
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Granny InSanDiego

I happened to listen to this podcast about the primitive, cannibalistic RCC (Roman Catholic Corporation) Injustices on the SCOTUS overturned Roe. This backward group of theocrats wants to drag America back 250 years to the dark ages of slavery and patriarchy. So Ms. Rubenstein this is not just an intellectual fis agreement between science and religion but a life and death struggle between the forces of light and knowledge (science) and superstition and darkness (religion). This court pretends on religious grounds to be concerned about innocent life and yet it hypocritically promotes gun violence by refusing to allow states to restrict guns. America has become a dystopian freak show run by religious nutters, war mongers, weapons makers, oligarchs and climate destroying fossil fuel corporations.

Jun 27th
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Marc Watt

Really? You have an entire hour to bring science stories and this is the turd you dreamed up... Come on guys. Total rubbish

May 28th
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Fegster

gg

Mar 3rd
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Steve Middleton

The hostess is funny and has a sexy voice.

Jan 25th
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Granny InSanDiego

While this story attempts to cast shade on China's use of AI in facial recognition, especially concerning the awareness of the number of Uighurs in a certain location, the US and UK tolerate the collection of vast amounts of private data by corporations about private citizens. The quaint idea that this is only for commercial purposes was blown up by the use of this data in the 2016 US Presidential election when Facebook sold data to the British company Cambridge Analytica which it used to build up psychological profiles of people sympathetic to Dump's messsge of racial hatred and white supremacy, leading to Dump's election. Are these people totally clueless or just willfully unself aware?

Oct 8th
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Granny InSanDiego

It is so ironic to hear the Brits, whose stumbling, bumbling redrawing of the map of the middle east which led to the horrors of the racist cult state of Israel, the horrors which the Palestinians, whose land they stole, have endured, to the Iraq wars, the blundering machinations of the British clone which is the imperial US with its 750 military bases around the world, its massive military budget, and its training and arming of bin Laden which morphed into al queda, 9-11, and then to their humiliating defeat and chaotic retreat from Afghanistan. To hear the Brits fret over China which seeks only to protect itself against the historic aggression of the Brits, the US and now Australia is truly rich in irony. The total self absorption, self serving nature of these wanton warlords while at the same time their total lack of self awareness is mind boggling and worrisome.

Oct 8th
Reply (1)

Top Clean

Amazing good episode. ❤ And a remarkable Alice Roberts. ❤

Oct 2nd
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Trevor Racerx Hudson

like releasing a viruses on the world?

Sep 27th
Reply

Granny InSanDiego

Who guards the guards? How confident are you in your confidence report? Again, it seems Ms Roberts is whistling while the planet is lierally burning.

Sep 18th
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Granny InSanDiego

Tansin Roberts is unable to see the forest for the trees. She needs to read the news about the enormous fires, droughts and floods to see what has happened in a very short period of time to stop fiddling with the minutiae of her models and tweaking parameters to make a better prediction of the future which is aleady here. All this does is shield the predatory and rapacious fossil fuel industry.

Sep 18th
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Mohsen

Unfortunately mental effects of the pandemic are growing especially in low and mid income countries. Because it also has affected people's economic situation. @35:58 I love your accent Mohsen 😁👍

Mar 28th
Reply

ISABELLY OLIVEIRA LIMA DA SILVA

#Notícia

Feb 18th
Reply

💋🎭🗝

WOW ! Nice episode.......Our human world could be a lot less violent if an appendage could be removed permanently from those humans that think they MUST rape and or kill to get sex. Why would we want more of those uncontrollable humans ?

Feb 15th
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Maureen C Haley

fascinating program, well presented!

Nov 11th
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غريب الحظ

my3ad@hotmail.com

Jul 12th
Reply (1)

ADC

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
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