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Explorations in the world of science.
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Bad Blood: Rassenhygiene

Bad Blood: Rassenhygiene

2023-02-0628:062

In the name of eugenics, the Nazi state sterilised hundreds of thousands against their will, murdered disabled children and embarked on a programme of genocide. We like to believe that Nazi atrocities were a unique aberration, a grotesque historical outlier. But it turns out that leading American eugenicists and lawmakers like Madison Grant and Harry Laughlin inspired many of the Nazi programmes, from the mass sterilisation of those deemed ‘unfit’ to the Nuremberg laws preventing the marriage of Jews and non-Jews. Indeed, before World War Two, many eugenicists across the world regarded the Nazi regime with envious admiration. The Nazis went further, faster than anyone before them. But ultimately, the story of Nazi eugenics is one of international connection and continuity. With contributions from Prof Stefan Kühl from the University of Bielefield, Prof Amy Carney from Penn State Behrend, Dr Jonathan Spiro from Castleton University, Prof Sheila Weiss from Clarkson University and Dr Barbara Warnock from the Wiener Holocaust Library (Photo: German women carrying children of an alleged aryan purity in a Lebensborn selection centre, births by eugenicists methods during World War Two. Credit Keystone-France Getty Images)
Who should be prevented from having children? And who gets to decide? Across 20th century America, there was a battle to control birth - a battle which rages on to this day. In 1907, the state of Indiana passed the first sterilisation law in the world. Government-run institutions were granted the power to sterilise those deemed degenerate - often against their will. In the same period, women are becoming more educated, empowered and sexually liberated. In the Roaring Twenties, the flappers start dancing the Charleston and women win the right to vote. But contraception is still illegal and utterly taboo. The pioneering campaigner Margaret Sanger, begins her decades long activism to secure women access to birth control - the only way, she argues, women can be truly free. In the final part of the episode, sterilisation survivor and campaigner Elaine Riddick shares her painful but remarkable story. Contributors: Professor Alexandra Minna Stern from the UCLA Institue of Society and Genetics, Professor Wendy Kline from Purdue Univerity, Elaine and Tony Riddick from the Rebecca Project for Justice Featuring the voice of Joanna Monro (Photo: Elaine Riddick was sterilised without her consent, when she was 14, in North Carolina. Credit: Tami Chappell/The Washington Post/Getty Images)
"You will not replace us" was the battle cry of white supremacists at a rally in Charlottesville in 2017. They were expressing an old fear - the idea that immigrants and people of colour will out-breed and replace the dominant white 'race'. Exactly the same idea suffused American culture in the first decades of the 1900s, as millions of immigrants arrived at Ellis island from southern and eastern Europe. The 'old-stock' Americans - the white elite who ruled industry and government - latched on to replacement theory and the eugenic idea of 'race suicide'. It's all there in The Great Gatsby - F.Scott Fitzgerald's novel set in 1922 - which takes us into the world of the super-rich, their parties and their politics. Amidst this febrile period of cultural and economic transformation, the Eugenics Record Office is established. Led by Charles Davenport and Harry Laughlin, it becomes a headquarters for the scientific and political advancement of eugenics. By 1924, the eugenically informed anti-immigrant movement has triumphed - America shut its doors with the Johnson-Reed Act, and the flow of immigrants is almost completely stopped. Contributors: Dr Thomas Leonard, Professor Sarah Churchwell, Professor Joe Cain Presenter: Adam Rutherford Producer: IIan Goodman (Photo: Immigrants arriving in Ellis Island, New York, 27 May 1920. Credit: Getty Images) Clips: BBC News, coverage of Charlottesville protests, 2017 / CNN, coverage of buffalo shooter, 2022 / MSNBC, coverage of buffalo shooter, 2022 / Edison, Orange, N.J, 1916, Don't bite the hand that's feeding you, Jimmie Morgan, Walter Van Brunt, Thomas Hoier / BBC Radio 4 Great Gatsby: Author, F Scott Fitzgerald Director: Gaynor Macfarlane, Dramatised by Robert Forrest.
We follow the story of eugenics from its origins in the middle-class salons of Victorian Britain, through the Fitter Family competitions and sterilisation laws of Gilded Age USA, to the full genocidal horrors of Nazi Germany. Eugenics is born in Victorian Britain, christened by the eccentric gentleman-scientist Sir Francis Galton. It’s a movement to breed better humans, fusing new biological ideas with the politics of empire, and the inflexible snobbery of the middle-classes. The movement swiftly gains momentum - taken up by scientists, social reformers, and even novelists as a moral and political quest to address urgent social problems. By encouraging the right people to have babies, eugenicists believed we could breed ourselves to a brighter future; a future free from disease, disability, crime, even poverty. What, its proponents wondered, could be more noble? The story culminates in the First International Eugenics Congress of 1912, where a delegation of eminent public figures from around the world gather in South Kensington to advocate and develop the science – and ideology – of better breeding. Among them Winston Churchill, Arthur Balfour, the Dean of St Pauls, Charles Darwin's son, American professors and the ambassadors from Norway, Greece, and France. But amidst the sweeping utopian rhetoric, the darker implications of eugenic ideas emerge: what of those deemed 'unfit'? What should happen to them? Contributors: Professor Joe Cain, Daniel Maier, Professor Philippa Levine, Professor Angelique Richardson Featuring the voices of David Hounslow, Joanna Monro and Hughie O'Donnell (Photo: Francis Galton (1822-1911), British man of science born in Sparkbrook (England). Ca. 1890. Credit: adoc-photos/Corbis/Getty Images)
Tooth and Claw: Cougar

Tooth and Claw: Cougar

2023-01-0928:002

Hiding in the shadows across the American continents lives a big cat with many names. From puma to mountain lion to panther to cougar, this animal is carnivorous, cunning and uses stealth to silently ambush its prey. Its elusiveness and brutal attacking style has earnt it the reputation of a cold-hearted killer. But behind this façade, hidden camera footage has revealed the cougar is all about caring for their family. And its silent whispering amongst the trees could actually be saving human lives. Adam Hart and guests uncover the mysteries of the ‘ghost of the forest’ and break its merciless stereotype. Dr Laura Prugh, associate Professor of Quantitative Wildlife Sciences at the University of Washington, and Dr Mark Elbroch, ecologist and director of the Panthera programme in Washington USA.
Tooth and Claw: Wasps

Tooth and Claw: Wasps

2023-01-0228:121

Why do wasps exist? While many see them as unfriendly bees who sting out of spite, their aggression could be interpreted as a fierce form of family protection. They are hugely understudied and even more underappreciated, with hundreds of thousands of different species carrying out jobs in our ecosystems. Some live together in nests whereas others hunt solo, paralysing prey with antibiotic-laden venom. In abundance, they can destroy environments - outcompeting most creatures and taking resource for themselves - but could we harness their predatory powers to take on pest control? Adam Hart and guests are a-buzz about this much-maligned insect and explore why we should be giving them more credit. Professor Seirian Sumner, behavioural ecologist at University College London, and Dr Jenny Jandt, ecologist at University of Otago, New Zealand.
As a great African predator and a hot-spot on safari, it is hard to believe that only last century, the African wild dog was considered vermin. It's beautiful coat of painted strokes makes it undeniably distinctive. Yet out in the field, this animal is hard to find. Yes, it camouflages easily against the landscape, but years of persecution, bounties and unintentional trappings means it's now one of the most endangered mammals on the planet. Revelations about its reliance on the pack for protection, predation and parenting means every dog matters in its bid for survival. So how can we further stop numbers dwindling? Adam Hart and guests investigate the tools and tales of the magnificent painted wolf. Dr Dani Rabaiotti, zoologist at the Zoological Society of London, and David Kuvawoga and Jealous Mpofu, conservationists at Painted Dog Conservation in Zimbabwe.
Infectious diseases which cause epidemics and pandemics are on the rise. Claudia Hammond is joined by an eminent panel of disease detectives, who spell out why the risks are increasing and most importantly, what we can do to predict, prepare and protect ourselves against potentially devastating new outbreaks. Will the next infectious disease to wreak havoc across the globe again jump from animals, a zoonotic jump across species? Think SARS, HIV, MERS, Zika, Nipah Virus, Lassa Fever, Ebola, Avian Flu, Swine Flu, Mpox and of course the coronavirus that causes Covid-19. The panel is unanimous in their plea for recognition that human health is inextricably linked to both animal health and the health of the environment. Without an understanding that we are part of an ecosystem and that climate change and the loss of biodiversity have a direct impact on epidemic and pandemic risk, we’ll struggle to keep ourselves safe they say. Claudia is joined by vet-turned-virologist Marion Koopmans, Professor of Viroscience at Erasmus Medical Centre in the Netherlands and head of the Pandemic and Disaster Preparedness Centre; by Tulio de Oliveira, Professor of Bioinformatics, director of the Centre for Epidemic Response and Innovation (CERI) and the KwaZulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform (KRISP) in South Africa and Malik Peiris, Professor of Virology at the University of Hong Kong’s School of Public Health. Produced by: Fiona Hill and Elisabeth Tuohy Studio Engineer: Duncan Hannant Image: Chickens in Thailand Credit: Wut'hi Chay Si Tang Kha/EyeEm/Getty Images
With nicknames like ‘prehistoric monster’ and ‘living dinosaur’, the Komodo dragon has been well and truly judged by its cover. Its gigantic size, razor sharp teeth and deadly attacking power has earned it a vicious reputation. But beneath the scales of this solitary beast are fascinating tales of rapid healing, decoy nests, and virgin births. And as climate change threatens its native Indonesia, can this hostile reptile adapt to living in closer quarters? Adam Hart and guests dig into how a lonely life may be putting the Komodo dragon at risk... Deni Purwandana, program co-ordinator for the Komodo Survival Program in Komodo National Park, and Dr Chris Michaels, team leader of Reptiles and Amphibians at London Zoo.
Wild Inside: The Alpaca

Wild Inside: The Alpaca

2022-12-1229:061

Alpacas may have been domesticated for thousands of years but their native lands are the steep hostile mountains of South America where they continue to thrive far from the modern luxuries of animal husbandry. Prof Ben Garrod and Dr Jess French delve deep inside this hardy herbivore to unravel the anatomy and physiology that’s secured the success of this extraordinary member of the camelid family of camels, llamas and vicugna.
Prof Ben Garrod and Dr Jess French get under the skin of the harbour porpoise to unravel this enigmatic and shy aquatic mammal’s extraordinary survival skills - from it’s ability to dive for long periods to accurately echolocating its fast moving prey. They join Rob Deaville, project leader for the Cetacean’s Stranding Investigations Programme at ZSL (Zoological Society of London) to open up and examine what makes this animal unique in terms of its anatomy, behaviour and evolutionary history.
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

2022-10-2429:065

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.
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Comments (74)

阿二

「.

Dec 27th
Reply

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
Reply

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
Reply

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
Reply

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
Reply

Fegster

gg

Mar 3rd
Reply

Steve Middleton

The hostess is funny and has a sexy voice.

Jan 25th
Reply

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
Reply

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
Reply

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
Reply

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
Reply

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
Reply

Maureen C Haley

fascinating program, well presented!

Nov 11th
Reply

غريب الحظ

my3ad@hotmail.com

Jul 12th
Reply (1)
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