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The Infinite Monkey Cage

Author: BBC Radio 4

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Witty, irreverent look at the world through scientists' eyes. With Brian Cox and Robin Ince.
139 Episodes
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The Human Brain

The Human Brain

2020-07-1453:54

Brian Cox and Robin Ince look at the amazing capabilities of the super-adaptable, ever-changing human brain. They are joined by US talk show host Conan O'Brien, and neuroscientists David Eagleman and Gina Rippon to find out how the 3lb organ that sits in our skull allows us to live on every corner of the planet, adapt to any habitat, allows us to argue with each other and ourselves and think about ideas such as free will. They learn whether being a successful comedian is really down to having a brain disorder and how the connections we make in our brain are changing and forming throughout our life, not just when we are young, so you really can teach an old dog, or human, new tricks. And talking of old dogs, a surprise guest makes a genuinely unexpected, special appearance! Producer: Alexandra Feachem
Does Time Exist?

Does Time Exist?

2020-07-0644:1213

Brian Cox and Robin Ince are joined by actor and writer Mark Gatiss, theoretical physicists Carlo Rovelli and Fay Dowker to ask timely questions about time. Is time real, does it exist in the fundamental laws of physics, and if it doesn't, why do we experience the sensation of time passing? They look at the idea of the block universe, where our future is as real as our past, which worryingly leads to Robin's favourite question about free will... is that an illusion too? A timely look at the question of time and hopefully just in time... Producer: Alexandra Feachem
Brian Cox and Robin Ince are joined by Dr Jane Goodall DBE, comedian Bill Bailey and primatologist Dr Cat Hobaiter to find out what we've learnt in the 60 years since Jane first discovered the chimpanzees of Gombe. From tool use, to language and even to culture, her revolutionary work has transformed our understanding of our great ape cousins, and ourselves. The panel chat about how far our understanding has come in that time, and talk about their own unique close-up experiences of chimpanzees, macaques and baboons, and Bill gets a masterclass in how to speak chimp from a true expert! Producer: Alexandra Feachem
The Sun

The Sun

2020-06-2241:1118

Brian Cox and Robin Ince are joined by a dazzling panel of sun worshipers from actor, comedian and musician Tim Minchin,to solar scientist Dr Lucie Green and biologist Prof Steve Jones. They look at how the evolution of life was only possible given our position relative to the Sun and its possibly unique behaviour, and how rare that situation might be across the rest of the universe. They also look at how the Sun makes you feel and its vital importance to all creatures, especially snails. Producer: Alexandra Feachem
Brian Cox and Robin Ince are joined by a stellar panel of space travellers as they get tips on surviving isolation from a group with a truly unique insight. They are joined by astronauts Helen Sharman, Chris Hadfield, Nicole Stott and Apollo 9's Rusty Schweickart to talk Space X, the future of space travel and how a trip to Mars will be the ultimate test of our ability to survive isolation.
Space Archaeology

Space Archaeology

2020-06-0856:1425

Brian Cox and Robin Ince are joined by comedian and writer Sara Pascoe, biological anthropologist Alice Roberts and space archaeologist Sarah Parcak. They look at how archaeology today looks far more Star Wars than Indiana Jones, as an archaeologist's list of kit can now include satellites and lasers. They discover how searching for clues from space has led to the discovery of several ancient lost Egyptian cities and how the study of ancient DNA and artefacts reveals our similarities, not differences, with our ancient forebears. Producer: Alexandra Feachem
Black Holes

Black Holes

2020-06-0135:2122

Brian Cox and Robin Ince look at the weird and wacky world of black holes as they ask a question that has been troubling scientists for years: What happens if you push Matt Lucas into a black hole? They are joined by the very game Matt Lucas, alongside cosmologist Sean Carroll and astrophysicist Janna Levin to discover just how strange things might get for our intrepid volunteer, as he ventures into the interior of a black hole. From holograms to spagettification. it turns out science fact is far more bizarre than anything that science fiction could possibly imagine. Producer: Alexandra Feachem
UFO special

UFO special

2020-02-1243:0549

UFO SPECIAL Brian Cox and Robin Ince host a close encounter of the 1st kind with comedian Lucy Beaumont, astronomer Maggie Aderin-Pocock, Director of Jodrell Bank Professor Tim O’Brien, and science presenter Dallas Campbell to ask if UFOs and aliens have visited Earth? They explore why Lucy's home city of Hull appears to have had more than its fair share of alien visitations, as well as learning about the genuine scientific effort to look for intelligent life elsewhere in our universe. This episode is also available to watch, so you can see our truly out of this world panel in full technicolour glory. Just look for The Infinite Monkey Cage UFO TV Special on BBC iplayer. Producer: Alexandra Feachem
Brian Cox and Robin Ince send comedian Lucy Beaumont to investigate UFO sightings in the extra-terrestrial hotspot of... Hull! Lucy is joined by her mum GIll Adams who claims to have experienced a number of close encounters of the third kind and they return to Longhill Estate where a UFO was reported in the 1960s. Local historian Mike Covell takes Lucy through the documented accounts of prolific UFO sightings in and around the East Yorkshire area.
Quantum Worlds

Quantum Worlds

2020-02-1043:4455

Quantum Worlds Brian Cox and Robin Ince are joined by comedian Katy Brand, and physicists Sean Carroll and Jim Al-Khalili as they enter the strange and bizarre world of quantum mechanics. Schroedinger's famous thought experiment stuck a cat in a box and asked if it is dead or alive. Quantum physics says the cat is both dead and alive, until we open the box. This mind-bending idea may seem the realm of philosophy, but is actually the science that underpins most of modern life as we know it. Once the panel have dealt with the controversial issues surrounding cats in boxes, they explore whether quantum physics is really an accurate description of reality, and if it is, are there, as the theory suggests, infinite copies of you, me and everything in our universe all existing in every possible combination of ways of existing? If that is the strange but true reality of existence, will we ever be able to prove it?
Fire

Fire

2020-02-0337:5936

Fire! Brian Cox and Robin Ince are joined by comedian Ed Byrne, forensic chemist Niamh Nic Daeid and biologist Adam Rutherford, as they explore the science of fire and how it has impacted the evolution of life on earth. They also look at whether controlling fire is a uniquely human trait and how other species have evolved to use fire to their advantage. Producer: Alexandra Feachem
Coral Reefs

Coral Reefs

2020-01-2745:5630

The Magic of Coral Brian Cox and Robin Ince are joined on stage by comedian Marcus Brigstocke and marine biologists Professor Callum Roberts and Dr Heather Koldewey as they look at the amazing creatures that create and colonise coral reefs. Just two microscopic organisms are responsible for the creation of these incredible structures, structures so huge that they can be seen from outer-space. Brian, Robin and the panel talk about the vital yet delicate relationship between the coral polyp and and its tiny plant lodger, how they evolved to be so co-dependent, and how this unique partnership has lead to some of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet. They also look at the very real threat to our planet's reefs as our oceans warm, and what, if anything can be done. Producer: Alexandra Feachem
Conspiracy Theories

Conspiracy Theories

2020-01-2033:2544

Brian Cox and Robin Ince are joined on stage by comedian Shazia Mirza, science writer and cancer researcher Dr David Robert Grimes and psychologist Prof Karen Douglas to look at the weird world of conspiracy theories. From Flat Earth believers to people who refuse to accept that humans have ever been to the moon, why is fiction often so much easier to believe than fact - and does it matter? They discuss the psychology and profile of people who are more likely to believe in conspiracies and the devastating effect some, like the anti-vaccine movement, have had on public health. They ask whether being irrational is our default setting and how to convince the most hard-core believers with the power of evidence and critical thinking. Although they would say that wouldnt' they? Producer: Alexandra Feachem
Science of Laughter

Science of Laughter

2020-01-1343:5954

The Science of Laughter Brian Cox and Robin Ince return for a new series of science/comedy chat. They are joined on stage, appropriately enough, by comedian Frank Skinner, as they look at the science of what makes us laugh, why we laugh at all, and whether humour and laughter are uniquely human traits. Joining the panel are experts in what makes us chuckle, Prof Sophie Scott and Professor Richard Wiseman. They look at why laughter is not only an ancient human trait that goes a long way to making us the social animal we are today, but that rats and apes also enjoy a good chuckle. They discover whether science can come up with the perfect joke and why a joke with the punchline "quack" is funnier than one with the punchline "moo". Producer: Alexandra Feachem
Brits in Space

Brits in Space

2019-10-1459:4746

Brits in Space! Brian Cox and Robin Ince are joined by astronaut and author of "The Astronaut Selection Test Book", Tim Peake, first British astronaut Helen Sharman and comedian Mark Steel for a Brits in Space Special. Tim and Helen talk about their different experiences of training to be an astronaut and the challenges of life in space. They also look to the future as the panel talk about the various options being considered for long term space flight with planned future missions to the Moon and ultimately Mars.
The Periodic Table How well do you know your Fe from your Cu, and what the heck is Np?? Brian Cox and Robin Ince are joined by comedian Katy Brand, Prof Polly Arnold and Prof Andrea Sella to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Dmitri Mendeleev's great achievement. They find out how scientists first realised that the elements that form the ingredients that make up our planet , are able to be organised in such a logical and ordered way, and whether its still a useful tool today. They also discover why one of the guests has been called the Free Solo equivalent of chemists because of the skill and danger involved in their work. Producer: Alexandra Feachem
Science of Dreaming

Science of Dreaming

2019-09-3044:4466

Brian Cox and Robin Ince are joined by comedian Bridget Christie, neuroscientist Professor Penny Lewis and psychologist Richard Wiseman to explore the science of dreaming. Our dreams have fascinated humans for millennia and then Freud came along and told us they really did mean something, and mostly they were about sex and anger. Was he right? Why do we dream and can we find meaning in the content of our dreams? Can our dreams help us solve problems, give us new ideas, help us write a symphony, even if they can't predict the future? The panel also discuss what is going on in the brain whilst we sleep, and how memories are formed and consolidated while we snooze. It turns out the phrase "better to sleep on it" has a strong scientific argument. Producer: Alexandra Feachem
Clever Creatures

Clever Creatures

2019-09-2341:2854

Those Clever Creatures Brian Cox and Robin Ince are joined on stage by comedian and author Danny Wallace, ornithologist Professor Tim Birkhead and marine biologist Helen Scales to look at animal intelligence. We have all heard about clever chimps that can count, and about how we can compare the intelligence of humans and the great apes - but have we underestimated many of the other animal species? It would seem so, with remarkable examples of cunning, smart behaviour from animals as diverse as birds, octopuses and even fish. So how do you test a guppies IQ and can a crow really outsmart a gorilla, or even a human...prepare to be amazed. Producer Alexandra Feachem
Dinosaurs

Dinosaurs

2019-09-1647:0065

Brian Cox and Robin Ince return for a new series of their multi-award winning science/comedy show. They kick off with arguably any child's first interest in science - dinosaurs! They are joined by comedian Rufus Hound and palaeontologists Susannah Maidment from the Natural History Museum and Steve Brusatte from the University of Edinburgh to find out what the latest research and exciting fossil finds have revealed about these epic creatures. Are we in a new age of dinosaur discovery? What are the big questions that dinosaur hunters are hoping to uncover, and did they go extinct at all? Producer: Alexandra Feachem
In this episode from 2017, Brian Cox and Robin Ince transport the cage to the Starmus Festival in Trondheim, Norway, for an extraordinary gathering of astronauts. They are joined on stage by NASA astronauts Sandra Magnus and Terry Virts, ESA astronaut Claude Nicollier, and Apollo 16's Charlie Duke, one of the last people to have walked on the moon. They talk about their personal journeys to fulfill their long-held dreams, and literally reach for the stars. They hear from Charlie Duke about the extraordinary Apollo missions he was part of, including his role as Capsule Communicator for the very first moon landing, before taking his own first steps on the lunar surface as part of Apollo 16. They explore the different experience of astronauts from Charlie's era, and those who now become residents of space, spending months and months aboard the International Space Station, and the challenges each mission brings. And Claude Nicollier describes his epic spacewalk to repair the Hubble Telescope. Producer: Alexandra Feachem.
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Comments (165)

Nasticus Natemazeae

surprised the dream studyer had not heard of resuming dreams where someone left off... I have heard of this and it seems it also happened to me more when I was younger ;) amazing how much humans speak about with confidence and authority and how little our species can truly explain yet.

Jul 10th
Reply

Armand LeComte

I dont listen to the podcast for some moron to promote his hate speech toward the president of the United States

Jul 8th
Reply (2)

Ann Walsh

Loved this podcast.

Jun 30th
Reply

Robert Hill

Q

Jun 17th
Reply

Nasticus Natemazeae

so I am checking y'all out for the first time... will give more listens but was really scared hearing the woman bring up Gobleki Tepe only to realize the podcast may stay locked up by outdated theories :( really excited for a minute that you might actually open up the worthwhile can of awesome worms of our actual history ^_^ also funny to hear a gal refer to "when covid is over" sincerely and in-the-moment on a scientific podcast...

Jun 15th
Reply

Amy Brown

it's not working. it wont lay

Jun 11th
Reply

Matthew Hawe

Big thumbs up from me. Glad the show is back.

Jun 10th
Reply

Rikki S

listening to this episode during lockdown of the covid19 outbreak, gives me a sick feeling and a sense that we should have listened to the scientists all along...

Jun 10th
Reply

Math Robs

Why is Matt Lucas on this show, ruins it.

Jun 6th
Reply

MARK O'CONNELL

Pretty frustrating episode. More often than not the beauty of this podcast is the great mix of education & comedy. This falls down when the "comedian" is not only not funny but also refuses to engage in the subject. If I'd been a fellow guest here I'd have struggled not to ask him to simply shut up. At least he made his apologies at the end of the show I guess.

Jun 5th
Reply

TheIainDowieFanClub

If Matt Lucas had been either funny or had been interested in learning (assuming both were too much to ask) then this could've been a brilliant episode.

Jun 2nd
Reply (2)

Rikki S

Brian blessed's heavy breathing on this is brilliant!

May 29th
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Rikki S

the woman who said that relocating due to a nuclear disaster is more devastating than the disaster itself is a bloody idiot. really? everyone knows Chernobyl killed more than just a handful of people. despite what the Russians say. hundreds and thousands of people later down the line didn't die from home sickness. they died of radiation poisoning. what kinda of idiot did you hire on here?

May 26th
Reply

Sujay Hegde

freaking awesome

May 24th
Reply

er professore

Hello, I just received a voice message via WhatsApp about the supposedly biggest cover-up of the century: The symptoms of corona are not actually caused by a virus but by the worldwide implementation of 5G. According to the apparently British pastor (whose name I didn't quite catch) people are dying from the 5G radio frequency radiation and the goverments are trying to cover this up by "testing" the subjects, but in reality INFECTING THEM with Corona, so everyone will believe this to be the cause of them being sick or dying. I think this is a very dangerous theory, since it can cause people to not get tested for fear of being deliberately infected with the virus. This pastor claims he once ran the biggest vodafone buisness unit worldwide. I would forward the voice message to you but have no email adress. Also, here is a short but very interesting article from the radio station and news agency Deutsche Welle about the history of conspiracy theories in times of pandemic: https://www.dw.com/en/coronavirus-and-the-plague-the-disease-of-viral-conspiracy-theories/a-52700321 Could you make a show on this or something similar? I think it's very much needed.

Mar 30th
Reply

mike hunt

he called it with the bats!

Mar 24th
Reply

Beatrix Ducz

miss the show, what happened?

Mar 15th
Reply

calmfocustruth

@00:20:00 "We are brilliant", jokingly bragging about spying on UK allies....and yet... you've imported a large chunk of the 3rd world and now Brexit... 🤔

Mar 11th
Reply

Ðavid Palmer

We were happy to see that a new podcast had arrived in the Infinite Monkey Cage feed but it turned out to be an advert for a different show. Now we are disappointed and unhappy. Stop doing this to us.

Mar 10th
Reply (2)

Beatrix Ducz

Lmao poor Prof Cox :D

Mar 5th
Reply
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