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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.
100 Episodes
As we search for a way out of the global coronavirus crisis, there’s been plenty of discussion surrounding a potential COVID-19 tracing app. Many of us carry a mobile phone with us wherever we go, so it seems logical to use this pre-existing infrastructure in the transition towards a ‘new normal’. But how tricky is it to make such an app? What’s more, what challenges must be overcome for it to be an effective measure of preventing virus transmission? In this episode of the Big Questions podcast, Dr Grant Blank from the Oxford Internet Institute, who studies the social and cultural impact of the internet and new media, offers some thoughts.
Just one mosquito bite is enough to infect someone with malaria. Tackling this serious – sometimes fatal – subtropical disease is a key priority for the World Health Organisation; but how can we move forward in the fight against it? Specifically, how could a small team of researchers, taking to the roads in a custom-built ‘Landrover Lab’, help in the fight against it? Listen to hear how Dr George Busby and his team took genetic sequencing techniques into the field, on a 7350km journey, to work alongside front-line researchers in Africa.
Much less is known about the Indian Ocean than either the Atlantic or Pacific. It's also the least protected. What secrets lie beneath the waves? What new species wait to be discovered…? Dr Paris Stefanoudis tells us all about the Nekton project, its past and planned missions, and the role it’s playing in helping us to find out “What’s in the Indian Ocean?”.
We’re living in extraordinary times, where graphs and statistics are splashed across newspaper front pages, and misinformation is rife. How do we know which sources of information are reliable? How do scientific researchers go from having an idea to publishing their findings, and advising on policy? In this week’s episode of the ‘Big Questions’ podcast, we’re asking Brian Earp, a Research Fellow at the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, ‘Should we trust scientists?’.
When it comes to mass-producing food, it’s important to make sure the taste is consistent, and good! But how can we detect the taste of something without eating it ourselves? Prof Richard Compton and his team in the Department of Chemistry are experts in electrochemical sensors, and in this episode of the Big Questions podcast he tells us all about their new sensor…to detect the strength of GARLIC.
Coronavirus has been hitting the headlines since late 2019, and is now at the forefront of many people’s minds. We have a lot of questions, and it can be difficult to find answers. In this episode of the Big Questions podcast, Emily is asking her family what they would like to know about coronavirus, and Prof Christl Donnelly (an expert in modelling the spread of disease) is on-hand to provide some answers.
With one person admitted to hospital every five minutes in the UK because of a heart attack, the ability to diagnose and treat them quickly is vital. In this episode of the ‘Big Questions’ podcast, find out how Dr Tingting Zhu is using a machine learning algorithm, trained on 15,000 ECGs, to diagnose heart attacks faster, potentially eliminating the need for time-consuming blood tests.
Looking for ‘The One’, or maybe just a date for Valentine’s Day? The dating scene has changed significantly over the past ten years, not least because of the increasing popularity of online dating websites and dating apps. In this special ‘Valentine’s’ edition of the Big Questions podcast, we’re asking Patrick Gildersleve from the Oxford Internet Institute - can data find me a date?
Much of post 1920s astronomy rests on her shoulders. Without her, we wouldn’t have a three-dimensional sky. Leavitt’s Law allowed us to measure distances in other galaxies as early as 1912. But how many people have ever heard of Henrietta Leavitt? We wanted to know about this ‘hidden woman’ of astronomy, so in this episode of the Big Questions podcast we ask Dr Becky Smethurst from the University of Oxford’s Department of Physics “Who was Henrietta Leavitt?”.
Can we stop ageing?

Can we stop ageing?


We’re pretty obsessed with the concept of ageing. Ancient civilizations supposedly sought an ‘elixir of life’, and today many of us get hung up on finding a way to ‘younger looking skin’… But what’s the science behind ageing? What determines the life expectancy of a species and – time for the 'big question' – can we stop ageing? We ask Alison Woollard, Associate Professor of Biochemistry at the University of Oxford, just that - and even sneak a peek in her lab...
Why do diets fail?

Why do diets fail?


It's a new year (and a new decade!) and many of us will be looking to turn over a new leaf when it comes to diet and lifestyle. But - as anyone who's tried one will know - diets are VERY difficult to stick to. In this episode of the Big Questions podcast, we ask Professor Heidi de Wet from the University of Oxford's Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics "Why do diets fail?". Don't worry - she also provides some great tips for a healthier lifestyle along the way!
What's under Lapland?

What's under Lapland?


We know it as the home of Father Christmas, but why is Lapland of interest to geologists? In this festive episode of the Big Questions podcast we ask Anna Bidgood from the University of Oxford's Department of Earth Sciences "What's under Lapland?". Join us as we find out why the minerals found in the region are important, and what it's like to be a field scientist in the frozen north...
According to the much-loved 'Back to the Future' franchise, we should all be zipping around on hoverboards by now. As we come to terms with our disappointment that they STILL haven't hit the shelves, Dr Clara Barker from Oxford University's Materials Science department discusses the technology that would be required to build one, and we learn all about superconductors along the way.
What do you do when a city outgrows its 150 year old sewer system? Build a super sewer of course! Join University of Oxford engineer Dr Brian Sheil as we go underground, and learn how his innovative sensors are revolutionising the Thames Tideway Tunnel Project – and the construction industry.
The Big Questions podcast is back with a new series, and we start with a special Halloween edition! Join University of Oxford evolutionary virologist Emilia Skirmuntt as we learn all about the weird and wonderful world of bats, and ask the question 'Are bats villains or superheroes?'
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…
Comments (2)


im on keto 1 yr lost 40lb in 6months. it def works for fast losing weight.. note your sex drive may fall if u keep carbs low..also u need to keep hydrate a lot and magnesium is needed. most importantly u learn to eat healthy in keto.. carbs n sugar r often signs of junk food.. i follow dr.eric berg for keto decent knowledgeble guy.

Oct 11th

Byront III

It's too verbose and there are few scientific parts

Aug 12th
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