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Oxford Sparks Big Questions
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Oxford Sparks Big Questions

Author: Oxford Sparks

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'Will my bacon sandwich kill me?', 'Is vaping better than smoking?', 'How do you become an astronaut?' - just some of the Big Questions we ask some of the brightest minds behind Oxford science. Join us in each podcast as we explore a different area of science.
96 Episodes
It’s considered one of the hardest athletic challenges. 21 day-long stages covering around 3,500 kilometres (2,200 miles) - it’s the Tour De France. A Tour de France rider will burn enough calories during a six-hour mountain stage to fuel an average person's activity for two to four days. So how do these athletes compete day in, day out? On this episode of the Big Questions podcast we are asking the question: Why are athletes using ketones? This week we visited Kieran Clarke, Biochemist at the University of Oxford to find out…
Why aren't we dead?

Why aren't we dead?


There is a whole world of things out there that want us dead – we are talking microscopic invaders that want to get inside our bodies and kill us. Lucky for us we have a secret weapon to keep us alive…ANTIBODIES In this episode we are taking a deep dive and looking at these teeny tiny antibodies and asking….why aren’t we dead?  To find out we met up with the Head of the Department for Statistics at the University of Oxford, Charlotte Deane…
By now you have probably seen that picture of the BLACK HOLE! But we have some questions….in this episode of the Big Questions podcast we are asking: how big a deal is that picture of a black hole? To find out we visited the Department of Physics, University of Oxford, and met with Dr Becky Smethurst, astrophysics…
Earth formed over 4.5 billion years ago. We should take a moment to realise how much history that is! Volcanoes are just one of Earth’s creations that have stood the test of time and on this Big Questions podcast we want to know: did volcanoes help kill off the dinosaurs? To find out the answer we visited the Department of Earth Sciences at The University of Oxford to visit Professor Tamsin Mather to find out! Listen here….
Our nerves don’t stop talking. They’re 24-7 communication systems for our bodies. But does all this cellular chitta-chatta actually make a noise? For 100’s of years, scientists have been trying to figure out how exactly our nervous system relays messages. Part of the secret may lie in a sound wave! On this episode of the Big Questions podcast we are asking: What do nerves sound like?  To find out we visited Shamit Shrivastava, Experimental Physicist at the University of Oxford…
There are a lot of plastic bags out there. Every year we get through 1 trillion plastic bags worldwide. Quick math, that means we are using 1 million bags per minute. But wouldn’t it be nice if we could turn this plastic into something useful? Like fuel for your car? On this episode of the Big Questions podcast, we are looking at the world of waste and asking: how do you turn a plastic bag into fuel? To find out we visited the Centre for Innovation and Enterprise (CIE) to meet Ben Williams, CEO for Sustainable Fuels, a new spin out from The University of Oxford, to find out...  
King Kong, PI, Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind and Superman III. What do these 4 films have in common? SCIENCE! They caught attention of one film fan Edwin Davies. On this episode of the Big Questions podcast we are separating the fact and fiction and asking the question: What did Hollywood get right and wrong in these movies?
Why do birds lay eggs?

Why do birds lay eggs?


Most new-born mammals and some reptiles emerge from their mothers through the usual channels. But baby birds are stuck cracking open eggshells – but why? In this week’s Oxford Sparks Big Questions podcast we are visiting Marie-Claire Koschowitz, evolutionary biologist and asking: Why do birds lay eggs? Warning: parents if you don’t want to have the birds and bees conversation you may want to listen to this one on your own ;-)
You can’t turn on the TV or read a newspaper article without a daily reporting of crime. As technology and computer algorithms advance we want to know if there will be a computer model that could know us better than ourselves. In this episode of the Big Questions podcast we visited Seena Fazel, Professor of Forensic Psychology at the Department of Psychiatry, University of Oxford to ask the question: Can computers predict crime?
Why should we cuddle?

Why should we cuddle?


Who doesn’t love a cuddle? Whether it is from a pet or a person they just make us feel good. But, would you believe wrapping your arms around someone else can actually improve your gut health? In this episode of the Oxford Sparks 'Big Questions' podcast we are looking at lemurs and asking: Why should we cuddle? To find out we went to the Department of Zoology at the University of Oxford to speak to Aura Raulo who is studying the importance of cuddling.
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