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The Infinite Monkey Cage
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The Infinite Monkey Cage

Author: BBC Radio 4

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Brian Cox and Robin Ince host a witty, irreverent look at the world through scientists' eyes.

203 Episodes
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We know the universe is rapidly expanding but what happens if other galaxies disappear from view? That’s what Eric Idle wants to know as he ponders the future and what it holds in store. Solar scientist Lucie Green says this is not worth dwelling on because we’ll all be wiped out by an asteroid at some point anyway, which leads to a discussion about whether anywhere is still safe. Away from physics, Brian Cox and Robin Ince learn that one of the major contributors to global warming is the urinal cooling industry, which raises important questions about human stupidity. Should we let another species have a go? Chris Addison reckons dolphins might do a better job than we have but admits there are some major logistical issues.New episodes will be released on Wednesdays. If you’re in the UK, listen to the full series on BBC Sounds: bbc.in/3K3JzyFProducer: Marijke Peters Executive Producer: Alexandra FeachemEpisodes featured: Series 22: The end of the universe Series 3: Apocalypse Series 13: Climate Change Series 19: The future of humanity Series 15: The human story: How we got here and how we survived
Brian Cox and Robin Ince embrace failure in its many forms, with a frank look at the importance of making mistakes. They examine the flaws in Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution with the anthropologist Alice Roberts, as she tells them no idea is totally watertight. And sometimes scientific error even leads to important discoveries – just ask the heart patients who took a pill that did nothing for their medical condition but did boost their libido and which we now know as Viagra. But other failures in the field of medicine have had more serious consequences, and Dr Chris van Tulleken questions why we’re not better at drug development for the poorest parts of the world.New episodes will be released on Wednesdays. If you’re in the UK, listen to the full series on BBC Sounds: bbc.in/3K3JzyFProducer: Marijke Peters Executive Producer: Alexandra FeachemEpisodes featured: Series 15: Science’s Epic Fails Series 11: Serendipity Series 25: What Have We Learnt From Covid?
Robin Ince and Brian Cox ask why some people always seem to win as they investigate the science of gambling. They hear how playing monopoly is no way to make friends, but don’t worry, because psychologist Richard Wiseman claims that it’s never really good fun anyway. In fact, games are mainly a form of social bonding and studies show deception could even be essential to human behaviour, which may just explain why so many people cheat. So should we even bother playing them? Well, it just so happens that solving maths problems can help us in other areas of life, so the team tackle a conundrum involving a goat, a cabbage and very hungry wolf, before becoming side-tracked by a debate over why the three were ever on a trip together in the first place, let alone trying to cross a river.New episodes will be released on Wednesdays. If you’re in the UK, listen to the full series on BBC Sounds: bbc.in/3K3JzyFProducer: Marijke Peters Executive Producer: Alexandra FeachemEpisodes featured: Series 15: How to Beat the House and Win Series 3: Randomness Series 11: Deception
Robin Ince and Brian Cox tackle the thorny debate over whether science and religion can co-exist. But forget the tension between the church and the researchers – Eric Idle wants an answer to the important question of whether God is in gluten free communion bread? Katy Brand launches the inaugural theologian’s corner with a pair of Reverends, who explain that comedians and the clergy have a lot in common, including a tendency to like the sound of their own voices. As we learn more about how our universe works, will there even be a need for religious belief? Since some research suggests fundamentalists and zealots tend to be less intelligent, perhaps there’s a case to be made for some healthy scepticism.New episodes will be released on Wednesdays. If you’re in the UK, listen to the full series on BBC Sounds: bbc.in/3K3JzyFProducer: Marijke Peters Executive Producer: Alexandra FeachemEpisodes featured: Series 1: Science and Religion Series 4: Is There Room for Mysticism in a Rational World? The Infinite Monkey Cage 100 Series 21: Quantum Worlds Series 10: Irrationality
Brian Cox and Robin Ince are on a mission to discover whether extra-terrestrials exist. But if there really is other life out there, what would it look like?Comedian Conan O’Brien is hoping for lizard-like creatures with superhuman strength, while Greg Proops imagines little green girls, like the ones in the Star Trek series he grew up with. Or possibly Ewoks. Either way, nobody can agree on the best way to communicate with them if we do ever make contact. Should we send them complicated equations so they realise how intelligent we are, and is playing Bach to aliens too much like showing off?New episodes will be released on Wednesdays. If you’re in the UK, listen to the full series on BBC Sounds: bbc.in/3K3JzyFProducer: Marijke Peters Executive Producer: Alexandra FeachemEpisodes featured: Series 1: Extraterrestrial Life Series 25: Exploring Our Solar System Series 12: San Francisco Special Series 9: To Infinity and Beyond
Robin Ince and Brian Cox dig into the secret lives of plants to discover that there’s more going on in your average garden than you might at first think. They hear why trees are better than humans at re-growing broken bits, while comedian Ed Byrne reveals a surprising understanding of horticulture, despite dropping out of his university degree early. And while they’re still no closer to discovering if they’re alive or dead, the team find a new debate to have about strawberries, as they argue with forensic botanist Dr Mark Spencer over whether they should be classified as an invasive species. But what about other common pests? Phill Jupitus tells them about an intimate encounter with grey squirrel, and entomologist Erica McAllister puts up a strong defence of the mosquito, claiming they don’t deserve such a bad reputation.New episodes will be released on Wednesdays. If you’re in the UK, listen to the full series on BBC Sounds: bbc.in/3K3JzyFProducer: Marijke Peters Executive Producer: Alexandra FeachemEpisodes featured: Series 11: What’s the Point of Plants? Series 18: Invasion! Series 23: Bats v Flies
Love is in the air(waves) as Brian and Robin trawl through the Monkey Cage archive. From using maths to find a boyfriend or girlfriend, to why birds and bees have far more exciting sex lives than you might imagine, this week’s episode is all about passion.Number crunching might not sound sexy but mathematician Hannah Fry tells Robin Ince and Brian Cox why research shows it pays to be proactive when you’re searching for a partner, even when that means risking total humiliation. But when it comes to the world's most extraordinary mating rituals the best place to look is… in the garden. Female bees go on a special nuptial flight, where they’re impregnated by males mid-air, and we hear how cockerels are surprisingly picky when it comes to which chicken they choose to cosy up with.New episodes will be released on Wednesdays. If you’re in the UK, listen to the full series on BBC Sounds: bbc.in/3K3JzyFProducer: Marijke Peters Executive Producer: Alexandra FeachemEpisodes featured: Series 13: Maths of Love and Sex Series 17: The Secret Life of Birds Series 27: Bees v Wasps Series 17: How Animals Behave
Brian Cox, Robin Ince and their guests will send a shiver down your spine as they sift through the science on murder, and hear some of the more creative techniques scientists use to catch killers. Apparently rambling through brambles is a great way to find buried bodies at the edge of abandoned fields and entomologist Amoret Whitaker says she relies on flies and fleas to tell her whether a crime has been committed. According to criminal psychologist Dr Julia Shaw, we’ve all got it in us to bump someone off, but it isn’t just humans who have this homicidal intent. The zombie wasp paralyses her cockroach prey, then slowly eats it alive, and we also hear about the murderous mushrooms threatening unsuspecting worms.New episodes will be released on Wednesdays. If you’re in the UK, listen to the full series on BBC Sounds: bbc.in/3K3JzyFProducer: Marijke Peters Executive Producer: Alexandra FeachemEpisodes featured: Series 26: The Perfect Murder Series 12: Forensic Science Series 16: Will Insects Inherit the Earth? Series 27: Bees v Wasps Series 27: The Magic of Mushrooms
Higgs Boson

Higgs Boson

2024-03-2043:4919

Brian Cox and Robin Ince visit CERN’s Large Hadron Collider in Geneva in search of the Higgs Boson. Joining them on their particular quest is comedian Katy Brand, actor Ben Miller and physicists Tevong You and Clara Nellist. They find out which particle is the one you’d most want to spend time with at a party, how cosmology is inspiring experiments in the collider and why the Higgs Boson - known as the 'god' particle' - is of so much interest to science.Producer: Melanie Brown Executive Producer: Alexandra Feachem
Cats v Dogs

Cats v Dogs

2024-03-1343:4913

Brian Cox and Robin Ince sniff and paw their way through the evidence to put to rest the age-old debate of whether cats are better than dogs. They’re joined by TV dragon and dog devotee Deborah Meaden, comedian and cat compadre David Baddiel, evolutionary scientist Ben Garrod and veterinarian Jess French. They learn how the domestication of our four-legged companions by humans has had a profound impact on their physiology, temperament and methods of communication. They debate which species is the most intelligent and skilled and try to lay to rest the most important question of all – which one really loves you?Producer: Melanie Brown Executive Producer: Alexandra Feachem
Poison

Poison

2024-03-0644:139

Brian Cox and Robin Ince delve into the murky world of historical poisonings. Joining them to add their drops of killer insight are comedian Hugh Dennis, chemist Andrea Sella and Agatha Christie aficionado and former chemist Kathryn Harkup. They find out just how easy poison was to get your hands on and how people literally got away with murder until chemists developed tests for substances like arsenic. Bottles of deadly substances are passed around our expert panel with some trepidation and we learn how seemingly innocuous garden plants can be deadly in the wrong hands.Producer: Melanie Brown Executive Producer: Alexandra Feachem
Asteroids

Asteroids

2024-02-2843:408

Brian Cox and Robin Ince journey through the asteroid belt to discuss space rocks with Dr Who companion John Bishop, professor of planetary science Sara Russell and astrophysicist Alan Fitzsimmons. They learn that these seemingly innocuous rubble like rocks can hold secrets to the formation of the solar system but just don’t jump on one – you may shoot straight through it! They find out about the latest space missions that are trying to bump into or grab bits of asteroids and how these technological feats are helping to avoid the end of life on earth as we know it.Producer: Melanie Brown Executive Producer: Alexandra Feachem
Could it be magic?

Could it be magic?

2024-02-2143:4510

Brian Cox and Robin Ince pull scientific explanations out of a hat and go down the rabbit hole to explore the science of magic with comedian Alan Davies, sleight of hand artist Laura London and two experts in the psychology of magic Richard Wiseman and Gustav Kuhn. They ask what our predilection to be bamboozled by sleight of hand can tell us about how our minds work. Alan has a card trick played on him and we learn how our choices aren’t always what we think they are. Producer: Melanie Brown Executive Producer: Alexandra Feachem
Egyptian Mummies

Egyptian Mummies

2024-02-1443:009

Brian Cox and Robin Ince peel back the layers to explore mummification and the science of Ancient Egypt. They are joined by comedians Russel Kane, Lucy Porter and bio-medical Egyptologists Rosalie David and Lidija McKnight from the University of Manchester, as they learn about the scientific techniques that are helping to uncover the lives of Ancient Egyptians, including that of a woman who died running away from an axe murderer. They find out that much of modern western medicine was built on the Ancient Egyptians sophisticated pharmacology, though they should probably avoid the treatment for migraines which involves being slapped in the head by a fish. Producer: Melanie Brown Executive Producer: Alexandra Feachem
Brian Cox and Robin Ince are joined by the longest running science show in the world, The Sky at Night, alongside comedian and astronomy enthusiast Dara O Briain for the ultimate guide to studying the stars from your own back garden. Sky At Night presenters Dr Maggie Aderin Pocock, Chris Lintott and Pete Lawrence join the panel to offer their top tips to backyard astronomy over the winter season. From binoculars to telescopes and even the naked eye: meteor showers, planetary moons and odd behaving galaxies are just some of the heavenly phenomena visible with or without equipment from the comfort of your own garden or local park. An out of this world seasonal special. And you can catch the monkey's on a special edition of the Sky At Night on BBC iplayer from November 13th.Executive Producer: Alexandra Feachem
Jo Brand's Quantum World

Jo Brand's Quantum World

2023-12-1343:4312

Brian Cox and Robin Ince are subject to a non-hostile takeover by comedian and non-physicist Jo Brand, as she challenges the panel to help her understand the almost unbelievable world of cheeky particles who may or may not be in several places at once. To help Jo get to grips with the bizarre and strange world of our quantum universe, Brian and Robin are joined by theoretical physicist Prof Ben Allanach from the University of Cambridge and cosmologist Prof Fay Dowker from Imperial College London, who introduce Jo to the weird and wonderful ways of quantum theory, dead and alive cats and multiverses. Executive Producer: Alexandra Feachem.
Hollywood in Space

Hollywood in Space

2023-12-0643:4911

Brian Cox and Robin Ince put Hollywood under the microscope to unpick the science fact v science fiction of some of the biggest movies set in space. They are joined by a truly out of this world panel of space experts including astronauts Tim Peake, Nicole Stott and Susan Kilrain alongside Oscar-winning Special FX director Paul Franklin, whose movies include Interstellar and First Man. Tim, Nicole and Susan fact check how space travel and astronauts are portrayed in movies such as Gravity and The Martian, whilst Brian and Robin argue about Robin's lack of enthusiasm for Star Wars. They look back at some of the greatest space movies including Alien and 2001 A Space Odyssey, and ask whether some fictional aspects of these blockbusters may not be so far from our future reality.Executive Producer: Alexandra Feachem.
Brian and Robin are joined by palaeontologist Dr Susie Maidment, evolutionary biologist Dr Tori Herridge and comedian Dave Gorman to pitch giant creatures against tiny creatures in their bid to avoid extinction. They explore the scale of life and ask why some organisms are large and some small and what the optimum size for successful survival is. From the prokaryotic cell to the grandest dinosaur, how does the modern synthesis explain the huge variation in scale, form and function? What are the advantages and disadvantages to being huge like the dinosaurs, or was it their size that really did them in, in the end?New episodes released Wednesdays. If you're in the UK, listen to the newest episodes of The Infinite Monkey Cage first on BBC Sounds: bbc.in/3K3JzyFExecutive Producer: Alexandra Feachem
How I is AI?

How I is AI?

2023-11-2244:0522

Brian and Robin (the real ones) are joined by mathematician Prof Hannah Fry, compute scientist Dr Kate Devlin and comedian Rufus Hound to discuss the pros and cons of AI. Just how intelligent is the most intelligent AI? Will our phones soon be smarter than us – will we fail a Turing test while our phone passes it? Will we have AI therapists, doctors, lawyers, carers or even politicians? How will the increasing ubiquity of AI systems change our society and our relationships with each other? Could radio presenters of hit science/comedy shows soon be replaced with wittier, smarter AI versions that know more about particle physics... surely not!New episodes released Wednesdays. If you're in the UK, listen to the newest episodes of The Infinite Monkey Cage first on BBC Sounds: bbc.in/3K3JzyFExecutive Producer: Alexandra Feachem.
Are some people just lucky? Is there any scientific formula behind coincidences? Is randomness the norm? Brian and Robin team up with comedian Sophie Duker, mathematician Marcus Du Sautoy and statistician David Spiegelhalter to uncover the reality and the maths behind seemingly incredible coincidences. How many people do you need in a room to find two with the same birthday? What is the weirdest coincidence that the panel have ever encountered? Is there a mathematical formula to being lucky? How good are we at judging how likely something is to happen? The answer is not very, as Brian and Robin unluckily discover.New episodes released Wednesdays. If you're in the UK, listen to the newest episodes of The Infinite Monkey Cage first on BBC Sounds: bbc.in/3K3JzyFExecutive Producer: Alexandra Feachem.
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