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The Curious Cases of Rutherford & Fry
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The Curious Cases of Rutherford & Fry

Author: BBC Radio 4

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Science sleuths Dr Adam Rutherford and Dr Hannah Fry investigate everyday mysteries sent by listeners.
82 Episodes
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A Cold Case Part 1

A Cold Case Part 1

2020-02-2100:34:183

“I suppose a cold is called a cold because we catch it in the winter," writes Alison Evans from St Albans. "But why is it that we get more colds in winter than in the summer?” This week's Cold Case is all about the common cold, a set of symptoms caused by hundreds of different strains of cold and flu viruses. Adam uncovers the stinky history of infectious disease with medical historian Claire Jones. Virologists Jonathan Ball and Wendy Barclay describe how spiky viruses lock on to our cells, but why many of the symptoms of a common cold are due to our own body's overreaction. Plus, we delve into the science of sneezing with nose doctor Carl Philpott. Presenters: Adam Rutherford, Hannah Fry Producer: Michelle Martin
The ASMRnswer

The ASMRnswer

2020-02-1400:38:148

"My question is about something I became aware of at a young age," explains Samantha Richter from Cambridgeshire. "I was sitting on the carpet at school, being read a story by the teacher. My hair felt as though it was standing on end as waves of a tingly sensation washed over my head. I subsequently found certain scenes in films had this effect, when actors were talking softly, or someone was having their hair brushed." "Then, a few years ago, I discovered that there is a name for the tingles, it's called ASMR. My question is, what is ASMR, and why do we experience it?" In this episode, we explore the world of Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. It's a trend which has risen quickly on YouTube, with devoted subscribers following their favourite 'ASMRtists' whose videos receive millions of plays. Hannah speaks to Dr Nick Davis, who published the very first research paper on the phenomenon in 2015. And Adam is put to the test by Dr Giulia Poerio, to see if he is susceptible to the sensation of ASMR. Are there any proven benefits for devoted fans, or is it just a YouTube fad? We've concocted our very own Curious recordings so you can find out if your brain begins to tingle, You'll find them in our normal podstream, where you can enjoy Adam and Hannah crafting a very ASMRy cocktail for your listening pleasure. Presenters: Hannah Fry, Adam Rutherford Producer: Michelle Martin
Hannah's ASMR cocktail

Hannah's ASMR cocktail

2020-02-1400:04:211

Hannah Fry mixes a mojito. This ASMR recording accompanies the episode of The Curious Cases of Rutherford and Fry on the science of ASMR. Listen to that first, then grab some headphones and let us know if it gives you the brain tingles by emailing curiouscases@bbc.co.uk.
Adam's ASMR cocktail

Adam's ASMR cocktail

2020-02-1400:05:182

Adam Rutherford concocts an Old Fashioned. First listen to our episode on ASMR, then grab some headphones and let Adam mix you a cocktail. Let us know if it gives you the brain tingles, or any other kind of reaction, by emailing curiouscases@bbc.co.uk.
The Power of Love

The Power of Love

2020-02-0700:35:275

Two questions about love and heartbreak in this episode for our Valentine's special edition. Jessica Glasco, aged 29, wrote in to ask about the power of love and how it affects our brain. Hannah tracks down Dr Helen Fisher, who conducted some of the first MRI studies on love by putting besotted couples into the brain scanner. Adam talks to broadcaster Claudia Hammond, author of Emotional Rollercoaster, to find out how psychologists have grappled with the messy business of love. And we hear why a small furry vole was thought to hold the answer to the mystery of monogamy. Our second question concerns the pain of heartbreak - why does our heart ache? Can emotional hurt cause physical pain? On call is our very own agony aunt, Irene Tracey, Prof of Pain Research. Presenters: Hannah Fry, Adam Rutherford Producer: Michelle Martin
The Golden Secret

The Golden Secret

2020-01-3100:28:181

"How do you make gold?" asks curious listener, Paul Ruddick. Inspired by the promise of riches, Hannah and Adam embark on a mission to discover the origin of gold. It's a tale that takes them from the clandestine codes of Aristotle to the alchemy of Isaac Newton, alongside materials scientist Mark Miodownik. They boldly go into the cosmos with astronomers Lucie Green and Andrew Pontzen, to learn what happens in the most exotic areas of space. By the end one thing is for sure - you'll never look at your gold jewellery in quite the same way again. Presenters: Hannah Fry, Adam Rutherford Producer: Michelle Martin
We’re Back!

We’re Back!

2020-01-2400:12:542

Rutherford & Fry reveal which of your questions they’ve chosen for Series 15. Plus they select more of their favourite strange-but-true science papers, including how to use mathematics to challenge a parking fine and training tortoises to yawn.
The End of the World

The End of the World

2019-12-0900:43:0217

"What would become the dominant species if, or when, humans go extinct?" This cheery question leads Drs Rutherford and Fry to embark on an evolutionary thought experiment. Zoologist Matthew Cobb questions whether humans really are the dominant species. Ecologist Kate Jones explains why some species are more extinction-prone than others. Plus Phil Plait, AKA The Bad Astronomer, busts some myths about why the dinosaurs went extinct. Send your questions for future series, along with any Curio correspondence for the podcast, to: curiouscases@bbc.co.uk Presenters: Hannah Fry, Adam Rutherford Producer: Michelle Martin
The Trouble Sum Weather

The Trouble Sum Weather

2019-11-2200:35:205

"Why is it so difficult to predict the weather?" asks Isabella Webber, aged 21 from Vienna. "I am sure there are many intelligent meteorologists and it seems rather straight forward to calculate wind speed, look at the clouds, and data from the past to make accurate predictions, but yet it’s not possible." Adam delves into the history of forecasting with author Andrew Blum, beginning with the mystery of a lost hot air balloon full of Arctic explorers. Hannah visits the BBC Weather Centre to talk to meteorologist and presenter Helen Willetts about how forecasting has changed, and whether people get annoyed at her if she gets the forecast wrong. Plus mathematician Steven Strogatz suggests a chaotic explanation as to why we can't produce the perfect forecast. Presenters: Hannah Fry, Adam Rutherford Producer: Michelle Martin
The Heart of the Antimatter

The Heart of the Antimatter

2019-11-1500:32:027

"How do you make antimatter?' asks Scott Matheson, aged 21 from Utah. The team takes charge of this question with a spin through the history of antimatter. Adam talks to physicist Frank Close, author of 'Antimatter', about its origins in the equations of Dirac to its manufacture in the first particle accelerator, the Bevatron. Cosmologist Andrew Pontzen tells Hannah why physicists today are busy pondering the mystery of the missing antimatter. Anyone who discovers why the Universe is made of matter, rather than antimatter, is in line for the Nobel Prize. Plus, neuroscientist Sophie Scott describes how antimatter has been put to good use down here on Earth to peer into people's brains. Presenters: Hannah Fry, Adam Rutherford Producer: Michelle Martin
Stephen Fry (no relation) asks Adam and Hannah to investigate the following question: "All my life I have been mildly plagued by the fact that I have a quite appalling ability to remember faces. I cut people I should know well dead in the street, or at least fail to recognise them in a way which must often be hurtful. At a party I can talk to someone for ten minutes and then see them again twenty later and have no idea who they are unless I’ve made an effort to fix some accessory or item of their dress in my mind. If I see them the next day in another context I’ll have no idea who they are. It’s distressing for me inasmuch as I hate the idea that people might think I am blanking them, or think little of them, don’t consider them significant and so forth. I’d be very grateful if my sister-in-surname and her eximious partner Adam could investigate prosopagnosia for me and offer any hint add to as to its cause or even possible – I won’t say “cure” as I am sure it’s chronic and untreatable – but at least any interesting ways of relieving it." Hannah and Adam call in the experts, neuroscientists Sophie Scott and Brad Duchaine. Why is it that some people struggle with prosopagnosia, whilst others never forget a face? You can find out more about Face Blindness, who it affects and how to cope with it by visiting www.faceblind.org.uk/ Presenters: Hannah Fry, Adam Rutherford Producer: Michelle Martin
A Frytful Scare Part 2

A Frytful Scare Part 2

2019-11-0100:32:583

Rutherford and Fry delve into the history of roller coasters in the second instalment of their investigation into why we enjoy being scared. Amelie Xenakis asks: "Why do people enjoy roller coasters? I am a thrill-seeker and I am always terrified before riding a roller coaster but I enjoy the ride itself. (I would like BOTH of you to ride a roller coaster if possible)." Never ones to shy away from a challenge, the pair attempt to channel their inner adrenaline junkies with a trip on one the UK's scariest roller coasters at Thorpe Park. They discover the birth of the roller coaster in the 18th century, when Catherine the Great enjoyed careering down Russian Ice Mountains covered in snow. Adam talks to scary sociologist Margee Kerr, author of 'Scream! The Science of Fear', about how the modern roller coaster evolved. David Poeppel from New York University studies the science of screaming, and we discover what makes screams uniquely terrifying. Plus, psychologist and broadcaster Claudia Hammond describes some early experiments which tested how fear affects our body. Presenters: Adam Rutherford, Hannah Fry Producer: Michelle Martin
A Frytful Scare Part 1

A Frytful Scare Part 1

2019-10-2500:31:4612

It was a dark and stormy night around the time of Halloween. A secret message arrived addressed to Rutherford & Fry from a mysterious woman called Heidi Daugh, who demanded to know: "Why do people like to be scared? For example, going on scary amusement park rides and watching horror movies that make you jump.” What followed was an investigation over two chapters, which would test our intrepid duo to their very limits. In this first instalment, they explore the history of horror, starting with its literary origins in the Gothic fiction classic 'The Castle of Otranto'. Adam challenges Hannah to watch a horror film without hiding behind a cushion. She quizzes horror scholar Mathias Clasen to find out why some people love the feeling of terror, whilst it leaves other cold. Sociologist Margee Kerr and psychologist Claudia Hammond are also on hand to explore why scary movies are so powerful and popular. Presenters: Hannah Fry, Adam Rutherford Producer: Michelle Martin
Curious Cases Returns

Curious Cases Returns

2019-10-1800:37:147

Rutherford and Fry are back with Series 14. In an extended podcast trailer they discuss their favourite strange-but-true scientific studies, from jetlagged hamsters to flatulent snakes. Presenters: Hannah Fry, Adam Rutherford Producer: Michelle Martin
Jurassic Squawk

Jurassic Squawk

2019-05-0300:37:2413

"Is there is any way of knowing what noises, if any, dinosaurs would have made?" asks Freddie Quinn, aged 8 from Cambridge in New Zealand. From Jurassic Park to Walking with Dinosaurs, the roars of gigantic dinosaurs like T.Rex are designed to evoke fear and terror. But did dinosaurs actually roar? And how do paleontologists investigate what noises these extinct animals may have produced? Hannah and Adam talk to dinosaur experts Steve Brusatte and Julia Clarke to find out. Plus Jurassic World sound designer Al Nelson reveals the strange sounds they used as dinosaur noises in their Hollywood blockbusters. Send your questions for next series in to curiouscases@bbc.co.uk. Presenters: Hannah Fry, Adam Rutherford Producer: Michelle Martin
The Lunar Land Pt2

The Lunar Land Pt2

2019-04-2600:29:162

In the second installment of our double episode on the Moon we ask what life would be like if we had more than one Moon. From the tides to the seasons, the Moon shapes our world in ways that often go unnoticed. And, as we'll find out, it played a vital role in the creation of life itself. This week we celebrate the many ways the Moon and the Earth are linked. If one Moon is so great, why not have two? We discover why multiple moons could spell disaster for our planet, from giant volcanoes to cataclysmic collisions. Featuring astronomer Brendan Owens from the Royal Observatory Greenwich and physicist Neil Comins, author of 'What if the Earth had two Moons?'. Presenters: Adam Rutherford, Hannah Fry Producer: Michelle Martin
The Lunar Land Pt 1

The Lunar Land Pt 1

2019-04-1900:30:395

A double episode to mark the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11, and the first humans to walk on the Moon. Harley Day emailed curiouscases@bbc.co.uk to ask “Why do we only have one Moon and what would life on Earth be like if we had more? I'll be over the moon if you can help me solve this mystery.” In this first episode, Hannah and Adam look at how the Moon was formed and why we only have one. Featuring Maggie Aderin-Pocock space scientist and author of 'The Book of the Moon' and cosmic mineralogist Sara Russell from the Natural History Museum. Presenters: Adam Rutherford, Hannah Fry Producer: Michelle Martin
An Instrumental Case

An Instrumental Case

2019-04-1200:39:202

“We play many musical instruments in our family. Lots of them produce the same pitch of notes, but the instruments all sound different. Why is this?” asks Natasha Cook aged 11, and her Dad Jeremy from Guelph in Ontario, Canada. For this instrumental case Hannah and Adam are joined by the Curious Cases band - Matt Chandler and Wayne Urquhart - to play with today's question. Bringing the science we have acoustic engineer and saxophone player Trevor Cox. Plus materials expert Zoe Laughlin demonstrates a selection of her unusual musical creations, including a lead bugle. Presenters: Adam Rutherford, Hannah Fry Producer: Michelle Martin
The Periodic Problem

The Periodic Problem

2019-04-0500:28:4410

"Will the periodic table ever be complete?" asks Philip Craven on Twitter. In 2016 four new chemical elements were given the official stamp of approval - nihonium, moscovium, tennessine, and oganesson. And 2019 was named by the UN as the International Year of the Periodic Table. In this episode, Hannah and Adam dive into the test tubes of history to hear why the first element was discovered in boiled urine, why chips don't explode and how a cancelled trip to a cheese factory resulted in the creation of the periodic table. We'll hear from Dawn Shaughnessy from Lawrence Livermore National Lab, part of the team that discovered the latest 'superheavy' elements. Science writer Philip Ball shows Adam around Humphry Davy's lab equipment at the Royal Institution of Great Britain and Jim Al-Khalili explains why scientists are eager to reach the Island of Stability. Presenters: Adam Rutherford, Hannah Fry Producer: Michelle Martin
The Mesmerist

The Mesmerist

2019-03-2900:35:447

“Is hypnosis real, and if so how does it work? Does it have any practical uses and which of Hannah and Adam is most susceptible?” This question came from two Curios, Peter Jordan aged 24 from Manchester and Arran Kinnear aged 13 from Bristol. Arch sceptics Hannah and Adam visit stage hypnotist Ben Dali to find out if they are susceptible to the power of suggestion. One of them will be successfully hypnotised, but who will it be? Along the way we hear about the history of hypnosis from Wendy Moore author of 'The Mesmerist'. Plus psychologist Devin Terhune explains what we know about the science of hypnosis today. Presenters: Hannah Fry, Adam Rutherford Producer: Michelle Martin
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Comments (25)

William fergie

Gosh, this was really terrible. it reminded me of when Benny Hill used to parody European cinema with all the sounds of props being too loud because they were too close to the microphone. (sorry if that reference was too old for you guys).

Feb 19th
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Carl Spicer (BranCorvus)

Hooke Hooke Hooke hurrah my science hero

Feb 1st
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Blue Whaleman

I'm so glad I'm eating lunch during this.

Jan 25th
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Rob Floorboards

Simply an awesome podcast with great chemistry between Adam and Hannah

Dec 14th
Reply

James Goulding

How have I missed this before now? Currently binging my way through. One day I will catch up, send an email, and become Curio of the Week!!!!

Nov 26th
Reply

SunnyD

Ahhhh Stephen!!

Nov 11th
Reply (1)

Hui Yang

Dying for new episode...

Oct 16th
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NotMs Parker

Brilliant! Just brilliant. I'll never be able to look at a raccoon without thinking of this episode 😭

Jun 20th
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D

worth listening and enjoyable

May 27th
Reply

Doug Dickinson

Great podcast, interesting and amusing

May 20th
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Wes Stone

My favourite episode to date!

Mar 29th
Reply

NotMs Parker

so good! especially the last part about pronunciation:)

Mar 6th
Reply

Keels

The presenting and editing on here is excellent. Very entertaining!

Feb 1st
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Stephan Aal

why can't I download the latest episode????

Jan 20th
Reply

Wes Stone

fantastic rapport and great content

Nov 26th
Reply

Michael Brown

I like it

Oct 8th
Reply

Michael Martin

Loves this podcast!

May 31st
Reply

Reza Mohammed Kamrul Hoque

one of the best podcast ever

May 30th
Reply

Josip Kacmarcik

makes me laugh and also learn something

Apr 1st
Reply (1)

Alvin Brown

Yep, my favorite podcast of all time. Informative, entertaining and fun all rolled into one!

Feb 18th
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