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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.
75 Episodes
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The End of the World

The End of the World

2019-12-0900:42:549

"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.ukPresenters: Hannah Fry, Adam RutherfordProducer: Michelle Martin
The Trouble Sum Weather

The Trouble Sum Weather

2019-11-2200:35:203

"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 RutherfordProducer: 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 RutherfordProducer: 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 RutherfordProducer: Michelle Martin
A Frytful Scare Part 2

A Frytful Scare Part 2

2019-11-0100:32:582

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 FryProducer: Michelle Martin
A Frytful Scare Part 1

A Frytful Scare Part 1

2019-10-2500:31:4611

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 RutherfordProducer: Michelle Martin
Curious Cases Returns

Curious Cases Returns

2019-10-1800:37:146

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 RutherfordProducer: Michelle Martin
Jurassic Squawk

Jurassic Squawk

2019-05-0300:37:2412

"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 RutherfordProducer: 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 FryProducer: 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 FryProducer: 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 FryProducer: 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 FryProducer: 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 RutherfordProducer: Michelle Martin
Hannah and Adam return to crack open the Curious Cases they’ll be examining during the coming series, from the sound of musical instruments to the science of hypnosis. Please send your questions for future episodes and entries for Curio of the Week to: curiouscases@bbc.co.uk.Presenters: Hannah Fry, Adam RutherfordProducer: Michelle Martin
The Horrible Hangover

The Horrible Hangover

2018-12-2100:31:146

"My name is Ava and I've never had a hangover," writes Ava Karuso. "I'm a 25 year-old Australian and I enjoy going out for drinks. However, the next day when everyone else sleeps in and licks their wounds, I get up early and get right back to my normal routine.”Drs Rutherford and Fry investigate the ancient origins of alcohol, from Sumerians drinking beer through straws, to Aristotle's teachings ‘On Intoxication’. But what can modern science tell us about how alcohol affects our brains? What causes the morning-after hangover and do some drinks make you feel worse than others? Are there any hangover cures that have been scientifically validated?Featuring health psychologist and hangover researcher Sally Adams, chemist Andrea Sella and science writer Adam Rogers, author of 'Proof: The Science of Booze'.Presenters: Hannah Fry, Adam RutherfordProducer: Michelle Martin
The Good Bad Food

The Good Bad Food

2018-12-1400:26:1311

“Why does bad food taste so good?” asks Alan Fouracre from Tauranga, New Zealand. "And by ‘bad’ food, I mean the things we are told to hold back on like sausage, chips and chocolate."From sugar to salt and fat, we investigate why our body derives pleasure from the very foods we're often told to avoid.Adam discovers why retronasal smelling makes bacon taste delicious on a trip to the BBC canteen with materials scientist, Mark Miodownik. Hannah consults food scientist Linda Bartoshuk on her fizzy pop habit. Plus The Angry Chef, Anthony Warner, discusses the dangers of labeling certain foods as 'bad'.Presenters: Hannah Fry, Adam RutherfordProducer: Michelle Martin
This is the second part of our eternal quest to investigate infinity, inspired by this question from father and son duo Sorley and Tom Watson from Edinburgh: “Is anything in the Universe truly infinite, or is infinity something that only exists in mathematics?”Hannah and Adam try and find something that is truly infinite, from the infinitely small particles that live in the subatomic world to the infinitely dense heart of a black hole. But how about the Universe itself? We find out how physicists go about measuring the shape of the Universe, with the help of an orange and a game of Asteroids. Plus, we consider the possibility that the Universe might be finite and have an edge. If so, what's on the other side?Theoretical physicist Sean Carroll from Caltech and cosmologist Andrew Pontzen from University College London help us navigate our biggest question yet.Presenters: Hannah Fry, Adam RutherfordProducer: Michelle Martin
“Is anything in the Universe truly infinite, or is infinity something that only exists in mathematics?” This momentous question came from father and son duo from Edinburgh Sorley aged 10 and Tom, aged adult. It's a subject so big, that we've devoted two episodes to our never-ending quest to investigate infinity.The first installment is a story of mathematics, music and murder. We'll find out why the ancient Pythagoreans decided that infinity was evil, and why some infinities are bigger than others.Featuring the marvellous mathematical minds of Steven Strogatz from the Cornell University and Eugenia Cheng, author of 'Beyond Infinity'.Presenters: Adam Rutherford, Hannah FryPresenter: Michelle Martin
The Stressful Scone

The Stressful Scone

2018-11-2300:33:316

"How do accents start and where did they come from?” asks Sachin Bahal from Toronto in Canada.Hannah is schooled in speaking Geordie by top accent coach Marina Tyndall. And Adam talks to author and acoustics expert Trevor Cox about how accents evolved and why they persist.We meet Debie who has Foreign Accent Syndrome - an extremely rare condition in which your accent can change overnight. After a severe bout of flu, which got progressively worse, Debie's Brummie accent suddenly transformed into something distinctively more European. If you have any more Curious Cases for the team to solve, please send them in for consideration: curiouscases@bbc.co.ukPresenters: Adam Rutherford, Hannah FryProducer: Michelle Martin
The Viking Code

The Viking Code

2018-11-1600:26:196

"Is it true all British people can trace their ancestry to Vikings and how do ancestry DNA tests work?" asks Chloe Mann from Worthing.Genetic ancestry tests promise to reveal your ancestral origins and map your global heritage, but do they? Rutherford and Fry are here to bust some myths.Adam takes a trip through Norse history with Viking historian Janina Ramirez, whilst flying over the Medieval town of Ludwig. Meanwhile Hannah discovers how DNA ancestry tests work with evolutionary geneticist Mark Thomas, including why most of us can rightly reclaim our royal lineage.If you have any more Curious Cases for the team to solve, please send them in for consideration: curiouscases@bbc.co.ukPresenters: Adam Rutherford, Hannah FryProducer: Michelle Martin
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Comments (21)

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
Reply

NotMs Parker

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

Jun 20th
Reply

D

worth listening and enjoyable

May 27th
Reply

Doug Dickinson

Great podcast, interesting and amusing

May 20th
Reply

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
Reply

Jeremy Money

Definitively proving that science (& scientists) are great fun as well as being seriously awesome & fascinating.

Jan 13th
Reply

Emily Denmade

one of my favourite podcasts, very accessible yet still stimulating and very fun!

Dec 18th
Reply

Ceri Edwards

best podcast on science ever. it's informative and great fun

Oct 31st
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