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Rank #28 in Science category

Science

Discovery

Updated 2 days ago

Rank #28 in Science category

Science
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Explorations in the world of science.

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Explorations in the world of science.

iTunes Ratings

503 Ratings
Average Ratings
373
66
27
18
19

Love

By Fast Aging Activist - Sep 29 2019
Read more
Love the Fly Gal, learned so much from it.

Great Stuff

By WWaldenHenry - Jul 13 2019
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Easy to listen to, informative, not so stiff, fun yet serious.

iTunes Ratings

503 Ratings
Average Ratings
373
66
27
18
19

Love

By Fast Aging Activist - Sep 29 2019
Read more
Love the Fly Gal, learned so much from it.

Great Stuff

By WWaldenHenry - Jul 13 2019
Read more
Easy to listen to, informative, not so stiff, fun yet serious.
Cover image of Discovery

Discovery

Latest release on Jan 27, 2020

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Explorations in the world of science.

Rank #1: Brian Cox

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Professor Brian Cox of Manchester University describes how he gave up appearing on Top of the Pops to study quarks, quasars and quantum mechanics.
Although he describes himself as a simple-minded Northern bloke, he has acquired an almost God-like status on our TV screens, while the ‘Cox effect’ is thought to explain the significant boost to university admissions to read physics. He talks to Jim al-Khalili about learning to be famous, his passion for physics and how he sometimes has difficulty crossing the road.
In 2005 Brian was awarded a Royal Society Research Fellowship for his work on high energy particle collisions at CERN and elsewhere – an enviable academic achievement. In 2009, he was voted one of the sexiest men alive by People magazine. He has invented a new kind of celebrity – a scientist who is regularly snapped by the paparazzi.
Brian wants everyone to be as excited as he is about the laws that govern our universe - the beautiful, counter-intuitive and often weird world of quantum mechanics that explains what happens inside the nucleus of every atom, right down at the level of those exotically named elementary particles – quarks, neutrinos, gluons, muons.
Challenged by Jim to explain the rules of quantum mechanics in just a minute, Brian succeeds; while conceding that the idea that everything is inherently probabilistic, is challenging. Even Einstein found it difficult. Schrodinger’s cat, or Brian Cox, for that matter, are simultaneously both dead and alive. That’s a fact. What this is all means is another question. “Am I just an algorithm?” Brian asks. “Probably”, says Jim.
Producer: Anna Buckley
(Photo: Brian Cox, BBC copyright)

Oct 20 2014

26mins

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Rank #2: Does Money Make you Mean?

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Can money really make a person mean? In this second and final programme, Jack heads to Hong Kong to explore whether our preoccupation with money is affecting the way we treat other people.
Jack hears about the growing body of evidence indicating that we behave with less empathy, kindness and generosity when exposed to the idea of money.
Most of the research so far is from the United States, but Jack stages his own psychology experiment at the City University of Hong Kong to explore how far these findings hold true there. He hears from leading expert Kathleen Vohs and from two Hong Kong academics who have started asking whether money even affects aggression and attitudes to casual sex.
(Photo: A colourful bird which ostensibly tells your fortune. BBC copyright)

Mar 23 2015

26mins

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Rank #3: The Teenage Brain: Sarah-Jayne Blakemore

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Until recently, it was thought that human brain development was all over by early childhood but research in the last decade has shown that the adolescent brain is still changing into early adulthood. Jim al-Khalili talks to pioneering cognitive neuroscientist professor Sarah-Jayne Blakemore who is responsible for much of the research which shows that our brains continue to develop through the teenage years. She discusses why teenagers take risks and are so susceptible to influence from their peers, as well as her childhood growing up with the constant threat of attacks from animal rights groups.
(Photo: Professor Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, courtesy of UCL)

Apr 13 2015

26mins

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Rank #4: Origins of War

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Is our desire to wage war something uniquely human or can its origins be traced much further back in our evolutionary past?
To suggest that warfare is a regular feature of human civilization would be to state the obvious. But just how deeply rooted is our desire to kill others of our species? Is lethal aggression a fixed part of our genetic code, something that has evolved from a common ancestor – and something therefore that has adaptive value? Or is warfare – and more generally, a predilection for lethal violence something that has emerged much more recently in human history? No longer the preserve of historians and philosophers, the question, as Geoff Watts discovers, is now argued over fiercely by anthropologists and biologists.
Producer: Rami Tzabar
Image Credit: Chimpanzee, courtesy of Getty

Jun 01 2015

26mins

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Rank #5: Life Changers - Didier Queloz

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One night in 1995, PhD student Didier Queloz was running a routine test on a new detector they had just built at the Observatoire de Haute Provence in France, when he noticed something strange. They had pointed the detector, almost at random, towards 51 Pegasi, a star in the constellation Pegasus, about 50 light years from Earth. But the light from that star, which should have been constant, was in fact ‘wobbling’. Naturally, he assumed that the detector was faulty but after double-checking that it was working correctly, he and his colleagues eventually came to the only logical conclusion they could - that the light from the star was distorted by the presence of a very large object – and it was happening at regular intervals. What Queloz had discovered was the first planet outside of our solar system orbiting a sun-like star. What is more, it was massive – half the size of Jupiter, but with an orbit lasting only 4 days and with surface temperatures exceeding a 1000 degrees centigrade.
This shouldn’t be possible according to our best theories of planetary formation, and yet here it was. With their discovery published Queloz and his supervisor, Michel Mayor, had rewritten the astronomy text books and opened to floodgates. In the 20 years since that night, nearly 1800 confirmed exoplanets have been discovered, and since the launch of Nasa's Kepler Observatory in 2009, several hundred Earth-like planets have been confirmed, orbiting suns at a distance that could potentially support life. In the last of the current series of Life Changers, Kevin Fong talks to Didier Queloz about that remarkable night, its impact on science and our quest to answer perhaps the most fundamental question of all - are we alone in the Universe?
(Photo: Didier Queloz. Credit: University of Geneva)

Sep 21 2015

26mins

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Rank #6: Cosmology

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In March astronomers in the BICEP2 collaboration announced they had found gravitational waves from the Big Bang. But now the evidence is being questioned by other scientists.
Dr Lucie Green reports on the debate and asks if scientists can ever know what happened billions of years ago when the universe was formed.
Image copyright: Steffen Richter, Harvard University

Aug 11 2014

26mins

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Rank #7: Truth about the Body Mass Index

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Dr Mark Porter is a family doctor in the UK and in his 50s. He’s tall and slim and thinks he’s fit and healthy – after all he goes to the gym several times a week. Mark meets experts who measure his weight, height and body fat to find out if he is as healthy as he seems.
He begins by finding out his BMI, or body mass index, a term more and more people are using all over the world. It’s an indicator of whether he is too fat, too thin or just right. It’s relatively easy to work out with a calculator – he divides his weight in kilograms by the square of his height in metres.
Mark compares his BMI against two other ways of measuring body fat, the true test of whether he is overweight or not. Is his BMI as accurate as the results of body fat calculations derived by measuring skin folds and an ultra accurate DEXA scan?
(Photo: Overweight man measuring his waist. Credit: Science Photo Library)

Aug 17 2015

26mins

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Rank #8: The Genetics of Intelligence

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Professor Robert Plomin talks to Jim al-Khalili about what makes some people smarter than others and why he is fed up with the genetics of intelligence being ignored. Born and raised in Chicago, Robert sat countless intelligence tests at his inner city Catholic school. College was an attractive option mainly because it seemed to pay well. Now he is one of the most cited psychologists in the world. He specialized in behavioural genetics in the mid '70s when the focus in mainstream psychology was very much on our nurture rather than our nature, and genetics was virtually taboo. But he persisted conducting several large adoption studies and later twin studies. In 1995 he launched the biggest longitudinal twin study in the UK, the TED study of 10,000 pairs of twins which continues to this day. In this study and in his other work, he has shown consistently that genetic influences on intelligence are highly significant, much more so than what school you go to, your teachers or home environment. If only the genetic differences between children were fully acknowledged, he believes education could be transformed and parents might stop giving themselves such a hard time.
(Photo: Children in classroom)

Nov 09 2015

26mins

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Rank #9: Shedding Light on the Brain

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Biologists are using light to explore the brain - and to alter it. Roland Pease meets some of the leading players in optogenetics, who use light-sensitive molecules to take direct control of neural systems in worms, flies, and maybe one day, humans. For some, it's a way of exploring the interplay of electricity and chemistry as neuron talks to neuron in complex brains. For others it opens the way to future therapies for conditions like motor neuron disease, in which dying nerves bring about paralysis, and epilepsy, brought about by runaway oscillations in brain waves.
(Photo: Elegans nemotodes, or round worms, undergo examination by project scientists at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Credit: Getty Images)

May 18 2015

26mins

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Rank #10: The Colour Purple

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In 1856, a teenager experimenting at home accidentally made a colour that was more gaudy and garish than anything that had gone before. William Perkin was messing about at home, trying to make the anti-malarial Quinine - but his experiment went wrong. Instead he made a purple dye that took Victorian London by storm. Philip Ball tells the story of this famous stroke of serendipity. Laurence Llewelyn- Bowen describes the fashion sensation that ensued and chemist, Andrea Sella tells how Perkin's purple prompted the creation of much more than colourful crinolines.
(Photo: William Henry Perkin (1838-1907), British chemist. Credit: Science Photo Library)

Jul 27 2015

26mins

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Rank #11: The Infinite Monkey Cage USA Tour: San Francisco

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Brian Cox and Robin Ince take to the stage in San Francisco for the last of their USA specials. They talk alien visitations, UFOs and other close encounters with astronomer Dr Seth Shostack, NASA scientist Dr Carolyn Porco and comedians Greg Proops and Paul Provenza.

Oct 19 2015

27mins

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Rank #12: Why do we get déjà vu?

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4/6 Part 1: Déjà vu

"Do we know what causes déjà vu?" asks Floyd Kitchen from Queenstown in New Zealand.

Drs Rutherford and Fry investigate this familiar feeling by speaking to world-leading reseacher Chris Moulin from the University of Grenoble in France and memory expert Catherine Loveday from Westminster University. Plus, they find out why early investigations classed déjà vu as a type of paranormal phenomenon.

For most of us, it's a fleetingly strange experience, but for some people it can become a serious problem. Lisa from Hulme in Manchester started experiencing déjà vu when she was 22 with episodes that could last all day. The origin of her déjà vu has been the key to helping psychologists investigate its cause.

Part 2: Randomness

"Is anything truly random, or is everything predetermined?" asks Darren Spalding from Market Harborough.

Hannah and Adam go in search of random events, from dice throws to lava lamps. Can we predict the outcome of any event?

"How do computers manage to pick random numbers?" asks Jim Rennie from Mackinaw in Illinois. Random numbers are vital for things like cyber security and banking. But true randomness is surprisingly hard to produce, as the team discover.

Joining them for this case we have a random selection of experts: mathematician Colva Roney-Dougal, technology journalist Bill Thompson, Science Museum Curator Tilly Blyth and quantum physicist Jim AlKhalili.

Presenters: Hannah Fry, Adam Rutherford
Producer: Michelle Martin

Main Image: A fan of the New York Yankees holds up a sign which reads "It's Deja Vu" at the Yankee Stadium, New York City 29 Oct 2009. Credit: Jed Jacobsohn / Getty Images

Jun 03 2019

26mins

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Rank #13: Sounds Of Space: Deep Space

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A sonic tour of the universe, with solar scientist, Dr Lucie Green.
In the previous episode, we listened in to the sounds of the Solar System. This week in Discovery, we travel further out into the cosmos to bring you more Sounds of Space.
Some are recorded sound, others are data – like X-rays or radio waves - that have been sonified. All of them have inspired scientists and artists to help us understand our universe.
Joining Lucie Green on this sonic journey through space are:
- Prof Tim O'Brien (Associate Director of Jodrell Bank Observatory)
- Honor Harger (Executive Director of the ArtScience museum in Singapore)
- Dr Andrew Pontzen (Cosmology Research Group, University College London)
Producer: Michelle Martin
Image: Whirlpool Galaxy Credit, NASA Hubble

Jul 06 2015

26mins

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Rank #14: An Infinite Monkey's Guide to General Relativity

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It is 100 years since the publication of Einstein's great theory, and arguably one of the greatest scientific theories of all time. To mark the occasion, Brian Cox takes Robin Ince on a guided tour of General Relativity. With the help of some of the world's leading cosmologists, and a comedian or two, they explore the notions of space time, falling elevators, trampolines and bowling balls, and what was wrong with Newton's apple. It is a whistle stop tour of all you will ever need to know about gravity and how a mathematical equation written 100 years ago predicted everything from black holes to the Big Bang, to our expanding universe, long before there was any proof that these extraordinary phenomena existed.

Jan 25 2016

27mins

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Rank #15: Origins of Human Culture

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We humans are such a successful species. Homo sapiens have been around for only around 100 000 years and in that time we have utterly transformed the world around us. Our shelters allow us to live in all climates and from the poles to the tropics; our technology lets us communicate across the planet. We’ve created art and music and literature; and our agriculture has changed global biodiversity, shifting forever the way we feed ourselves. In other words, human culture dominates the earth. Gaia Vince finds out what has given us the cultural edge over other animals. This includes our closest relatives – the great apes – with whom we share over 95% of our genes.
She meets researchers at Birmingham University comparing the abilities of chimps and human children, and has a go at making a prehistoric stone hand axe by flint knapping.
Photo credit: William West/AFP/Getty Images

Dec 05 2016

26mins

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Rank #16: Finding Your Voice

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Comedy performer and broadcaster Helen Keen, explores a rare condition that she herself once suffered from - selective mutism or SM. It is an anxiety disorder that develops in childhood. Those affected by SM can usually speak fluently in some situations, notably a home, but remain silent elsewhere - such as in school, with extended family members, or even parents.
Their inability to speak is so severe that it has been likened to a phobia of speaking, and is often accompanied by the physical symptoms of extreme anxiety. Selective mutism can be mistaken for shyness or worse, a deliberate refusal to talk. But in reality, these children are desperate to speak, to share their thoughts and ideas, to make friends and to fulfil the expectations of their teachers and parents, in taking an active part in class activities. Yet somehow the words remain "trapped" inside as the anxiety, frustration and fear, builds.
Though relatively rare, increasing awareness and official recognition of selective mutism in the psychiatric literature has seen an increase in diagnoses. Today, it is estimated to affect about 1 in 150 children in the UK – roughly equivalent to the number of children who are affected by classic autism. The causes of selective mutism are poorly understood but a genetic component is likely as are environmental influences.
What is clear is that without early intervention, SM can take hold and persist well into adulthood and in rare cases can develop into more acute mental health problems. As Helen knows only too well, it can be a lonely place to grow up in, as the quiet child is so often 'the forgotten child'. It wasn't until Helen was in her early 20s that she managed to break the silence.
In this programme, Helen meets some of those affected by SM, including parents and former sufferers as well as experts helping children to find their voice again.

Mar 09 2015

26mins

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Rank #17: What the Songbird Said

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Could birdsong tell us something about the evolution of human language? Language is arguably the single thing that most defines what it is to be human and unique as a species. But its origins and its apparent sudden emergence around a hundred thousand years ago, remains mysterious and perplexing to researchers. But could something called vocal learning provide a vital clue as to how language might have evolved? T
he ability to learn and imitate sounds - vocal learning - is something that humans share with only a few other species, most notably, songbirds. Charles Darwin noticed this similarity as far back as 1871 in the Descent of Man and in the last couple of decades, research has uncovered a whole host of similarities in the way humans and songbirds perceive and process speech and song. But just how useful are animal models of vocal communication in understanding how human language might have evolved? Why is it that there seem to be parallels with songbirds but little evidence that our closest primate relatives, chimps and bonobos, share at least some of our linguistic abilities?
Angela Saini meets biologists and linguists investigating what research on songbirds and other species might have to say about the question of how language, with all its beauty and richness, may have evolved.
(Photo: Zebra Finch. Credit: Dr Michelle Spierings)

May 25 2015

27mins

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Rank #18: The Great Telescopes and Evolution

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Today, astronomers believe the universe is a violent, constantly changing place. But it was not always the case.
At the beginning of the 19th century, many believed fervently that the celestial sky was a constant, divinely perfected, completed creation.
But as telescopes got larger, the mystery of the number, origin and role of the "nebulae" - those colourful, cloud-like smudges on the sky – grew and grew. Were they really vast clouds of gas and dust as they sometimes appeared? Or were they merely closely packed, very distant clusters of stars, as some of them allegedly appeared when magnified through the great reflecting telescopes?
When some astronomers and writers suggested they were in fact a vision of creation in action, matter condensing to form stars and planets like our own, some establishment religious figures cried foul, fearing the social implications.
Could bigger telescopes resolve the crisis?
For most of the 19th century, the biggest telescope in the world was in Birr, Ireland, then known as Parsonstown. It was built by an Anglo-Irish nobleman, Willam Parsons, Earl of Rosse, in the midst of the Irish famine. 50 feet long, 6 feet in diameter, the monster instrument was dubbed "The Leviathan".
But even thus equipped, in the days before photography and spectroscopy, observers could only describe and sketch what they saw, and it was hard to be objective.
As Simon Schaffer, James Bennet, and Chris Lintott narrate, the debate as to the truth of the "Nebular Hypothesis", and the concern as to whether the Irish astronomers really saw what they claimed to see, paved the way for the Darwinian debates in the coming decades.
Producer: Alex Mansfield
(Photo: NASA Hubble Space Telescope image released 25 April, 2005 shows the spiral galaxy M51 also known as the Whirlpool Galaxy. Credit: NASA via AFP/Getty Images)

Aug 10 2015

26mins

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Rank #19: Nature's Numbers

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Mathematics is one of the most extraordinary things humans can do with their brains but where do our numerical abilities come from? Maths writer Alex Bellos looks for answers from a tribe in the Brazilian Amazon which has no words for numbers in its language. He also meets a budding mathematician who is only seven months old.
Image credit: Edward Gibson

Jan 11 2016

27mins

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Rank #20: Why Do We Dream?

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Adventures in Dreamland

"Why do we dream and why do we repeat dreams?" asks Mila O'Dea, aged 9, from Panama.
Hannah Fry and Adam Rutherford delve into the science of sleep. From a pioneering experiment on rapid eye movement sleep, to a brand new 'dream signature' found in the brain, they discover how scientists are investigating our hidden dreamworld. Featuring sociologist Bill Domhoff from the University of California Santa Cruz, sleep psychologist Mark Blagrove from the University of Swansea, and neurologist Francesca Siclari from the University of Lausanne.
The Curious Face-Off

"Are machines better than humans at identifying faces?" asks the excellently named Carl Vandal.
Today’s Face Off leads our intrepid detectives to investigate why we see Jesus on toast, Hitler in houses and Kate Middleton on a jelly bean.

Face perception psychologist Rob Jenkins from the University of York explains why we're so good at spotting familiar faces, like celebrities. Plus, Franziska Knolle from the University of Cambridge discusses her face recognition study involving Barack Obama and a group of highly-trained sheep. But are we outwitted by artificial intelligence when it comes to face ID? BBC technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones gives us the low-down on the pros and cons of current technology.
Picture: Child sleeping, Credit: Quintanilla/Getty Images
Producer: Michelle Martin

May 21 2018

26mins

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The road to Glasgow

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Climate change is upon us. In 2018 the IPCC published a report with the most significant warning about the impact of climate change in 20 years. Unless the world keeps warming to below 1.5% degrees Celsius the impact on the climate will be severe. Sea levels will rise, leading to flooding, and extremes of temperature will become more common. The UK Met Office has forecast that the global average surface temperature for the five-year period to 2023 is predicted to be around 1.0 °C above pre-industrial levels.

Just before Christmas the COP 25 meeting in Madrid ended with a compromise deal. All countries will need to put new climate pledges on the table by the time of the next major conference in Glasgow at the end of 2020. But there were no decisions on the future of carbon trading and big players such as US, India, China and Brazil opposed calls to be more ambitious in our pledges to reduce man made global warming.
Across 2020 in Discovery Matt McGrath will be reporting on what is happening to save the planet.

In this first programme he takes stock after Madrid and finds out what the world’s key players say has to be done before the meeting in Glasgow.

(Photo: Man with placards and amplifier on global strike for climate change. Credit: Halfpoint/Getty Images)

Jan 27 2020

27mins

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Ecological grief

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As the Earth experiences more extreme weather, and wildlife is dying, from corals, to insects, to tropical forests, more people are experiencing ecological anxiety and grief. Science journalist Gaia Vince has been reporting on the growing crisis across our planet’s ecosystems, and has met many who are shocked and saddened by the enormity of the environmental changes taking place. She talks to scientists and medics working at the frontline of environmental change, and hears that, despite being expected to distance themselves from what’s happening, they are affected emotionally.

Ashlee Consulo, of Memorial University on the Canadian island of Labrador, and Courtney Howard, a doctor in Yellowknife, tell Gaia about their experiences of living and working with indigenous peoples in areas where temperatures are rising rapidly and the ice is melting.

Steve Simpson of Exeter University and Andy Radford of Bristol University are both professors of biology who have watched coral reefs become devastated by climate change. Recently they wrote a letter to the journal Science headlined Grieving environmental scientists need support to raise awareness of the issues researchers are facing.

And Gaia visits the aquarium at the Horniman Museum in London, where Jamie Craggs is trying to breed corals for future generations.

Image: Greenland Inuit hunter (Credit: Earl Grad/Getty Images)

Jan 20 2020

27mins

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The misinformation virus

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In this online age, the internet is a global megaphone, billions of messages amplified and shared, even when they're false. Fake science spreads faster than the truth ever could, unhindered by national boundaries. Mainstream scientists are struggling to respond.
The science journalist and writer, Angela Saini, is fascinated by how bad ideas spread and in this programme she investigates the very real impact of online scientific misinformation. From the dangerous anti-vaccination campaigns to those who deny the reality of climate change, she assesses the scale and extent of the threat we face.
And she discovers the sinister world of deliberate disinformation where an army of bots and trolls work to sow dissent and confusion in the online space.

Producer: Fiona Hill

Jan 13 2020

27mins

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The silence of the genes

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In summer of 2019 NICE approved the use of a completely new class of drugs: the gene silencers. These compounds are transforming the lives of families who have rare debilitating – and sometimes fatal - diseases such as amyloidosis and porphyria. James Gallagher, BBC Health and Science Correspondent, reveals the ups and downs in the story of how a Nobel prize winning discovery of RNA interference has become a useful drug in less than a quarter of a century.

Professor Craig Mello, one of the winners of the Nobel Prize in 2006 for revealing the mechanism of RNA interference, and Professor Mark Kay of Stanford University, look back at the discovery.

Sue Burrell, who has acute intermittent porphyria, explains how a gene silencing drug has reversed her symptoms of extreme pain. Dr Carlos Heras-Palou, an orthopaedic surgeon at Royal Derby Hospital, who has hereditary transthyretin-mediated amyloidosis has had his career saved by taking another gene silencing drug, patisaran. It has restored the feeling in his hands he had lost and means that he can continue to carry out operations. Professor Philip Hawkins, of the National Amyloidosis Centre at the Royal Free Hospital, tells James about how his team showed that this drug reverses some of the symptoms caused by the disease.

As well as treating these rare conditions James discovers that this approach is being tried in untreatable neurodegenerative conditions. He talks to Professor Sarah Tabrizi of UCL about her research into stopping Huntington's disease, which is currently inevitably fatal.

Akshay Vaishnaw of the biotech company Alnylam talks to James about the ups and downs of developing effective RNAi drugs.

And Professor John Kastelein of Amsterdam University discusses the findings of a study into finding out if gene silencing could help prevent one of the biggest global killers; bad cholesterol that causes heart attacks and stroke.

Picture: DNA molecules, structure of the genetic code, 3d rendering,conceptual image, Credit: Andy/GettyImages

Jan 06 2020

27mins

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Alexis Carrel and the immortal chicken heart

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Philip Ball tells the story of Alexis Carrel, the French surgeon who worked to preserve life outside the body and create an immortal chicken heart in a dish. His quest was to renew ageing flesh, repair and rebuild our bodies and keep them healthy far beyond the usual human lifespan. In the early twentieth century his science was pioneering but his mission to achieve eternal life was underpinned by a dark and terrifying agenda. Carrel was a racist who advocated eugenics to preserve the superior civilisation of the West.

Philip Ball discusses the history and cultural impact of the tissue culture techniques developed by Carrel with social historian Professor Hannah Landecker of the University of California at Los Angeles. And he finds out about the legacy of Carrel's research from Dr Madeline Lancaster of Cambridge University, one of the pioneers of the growth of brain organoids from stem cells; small clusters of neurons and other cells, rather like mini organs no bigger than a dried pea.

Picture: Raw chicken heart, Credit: Arina_Bogachyova/Getty Images

Dec 30 2019

27mins

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Ramon Llull: Medieval prophet of computer science

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Philip Ball tells the story of Ramon Llull, the medieval prophet of computer science. During the time of the Crusades Llull argued that truth could be automated and used logic over force to prove the existence of the Christian God. It was a dangerous idea that got him thrown into prison and threatened with execution but today he is hailed, not as a prophet of the Christian faith, but of computer science.

Philip Ball talks to historian Pamela Beattie of the University of Louisville in Kentucky about Ramon Llull's life and times in 13th century Catalonia, and to mathematician and Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University, Marcus du Sautoy, about the legacy of Llull's ideas in combinatorics, a branch of mathematics that explores how we can arrange a set of objects.

Note: Many thanks to Carter Marsh & Co for the recording of mechanical sounds.

Picture: Ramon Llull, Credit: SebastianHamm/Getty Images

Dec 23 2019

27mins

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Ignaz Semmelweiss: The hand washer

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Lindsey Fitzharris tells the story of Ignaz Semmelweiss, the hand washer. In a world that had no understanding of germs, he tried to apply science to halt the spread of infection. Ignaz Semmelweis observed that many young medical students at his hospital in Vienna went directly from an autopsy, still covered in contaminated dead flesh, to attend pregnant women. Could this be the reason for such high maternal mortality rates from conditions like puerperal fever? Believing that the disease was caused by “infective material” from a dead body, Semmelweiss set up a basin filled with chlorinated lime solution in his hospital and began saving women’s lives with three simple words: ‘wash your hands’. He was demonised by his colleagues for his efforts, but today, he is known as the “Saviour of Mothers.”

Lindsey Fitzharris discusses some of the common myths surrounding the story of Semmelweiss with Dr Barron H. Lerner of New York University Langone School of Medicine. And she talks to Professor Val Curtis, Director of the Environmental Health Group at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, who has studied the amount of hand washing by medical staff in hospitals today.

Picture: Victorian boy washing his hands in a stream, Credit: whitemay

Dec 16 2019

27mins

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Madame Lavoisier's Translation of Oxygen

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Philip Ball tells the story of Madame Lavoisier; translator of oxygen. At a time when science was almost a closed book to women, Madame Marie Anne Lavoisier’s skills were indispensable. A translator, illustrator and critic of scientific papers, she learnt chemistry herself and helped her husband Antoine Lavoisier develop his theory of the role played by oxygen in combustion. As modern science was taking shape it lacked any universal language, so communication in many tongues was vital to stay ahead of the game. Even today there is debate as to who can really be considered the discoverer of oxygen, but Madame Lavoisier’s gift for translation helped her husband compete against English rivals and banish their theories. Come the French Revolution however, Anton was branded a traitor to the state and sentenced to death. By a cruel twist of fate Marie lost both husband and father to the guillotine on the same day.

Philip Ball talks to Patricia Fara at the University of Cambridge, about the largely unrecognised contribution that women like Marie Anne Lavoisier made to the early days of modern science, and to Michael Gordin of Princeton University about the importance of scientific translation in the past and how it features today,

Picture: French chemist Antoine Laurent Lavoisier, Credit: Getty Images

Dec 09 2019

27mins

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Galileo's lost letter

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Galileo famously insisted in the early 17th Century that the Earth goes round the Sun and not vice versa – an idea that got him into deep trouble with the Catholic Church. In 1633 Galileo was put on trial for heresy by the Inquisition, and was threatened with imprisonment, or worse, if he did not recant. Galileo spent the rest of his days under house arrest and is now seen by some as a near-martyr to science in the face of unyielding religious doctrine. But the discovery of a letter questions the received version of events. Philip Ball tells the story of the relationship between Galileo, the church and his fellow professors.

Philip talks to science historians professor Paula Findlen of Stanford University and professor Mary Jane Rubenstein of Wesleyan University about Galileo's time and about the history of the relationship between science and religion.

(Picture: Galileo demonstrating his telescope. Credit: Getty Images)

Dec 02 2019

26mins

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Robin Dunbar

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Maintaining friendships is one of the most cognitively demanding things we do, according to Professor of Evolutionary Psychology Robin Dunbar. So why do we bother?

Robin has spent his life trying to answer this deceptively simple question. For most of his twenties, he lived with a herd of five hundred gelada monkeys in the Ethiopian highlands. He studied their social behaviour and concluded that an ability to get on with each other was just as important as finding food, for the survival of the species. Animals that live in large groups are less likely to get eaten by predators. When funding for animal studies dried up in the 1980s, he turned his attention to humans. and discovered there’s an upper limit to the number of real friends we can have, both in the real world and on social media.

Nov 25 2019

26mins

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Katherine Joy

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Katherine Joy studies moon rock. She has studied lunar samples that were brought to earth by the Apollo missions (382kg in total) and hunted for lunar meteorites in Antarctica, camping on ice for weeks on end and travelling around on a skidoo.

Working at the forefront of the second wave of lunar exploration, she studied remote sensing data from Europe’s first mission to the moon, Smart 1 which launched in 2003 and data from many subsequent missions. She tells Jim Al-Khalili why she believes the moon is the most exciting destination in our solar system and explains what it can tell us about the long history of planet earth.

Beneath the magnificent desolation of the moon’s surface, multicoloured rocks contain vital clues about the history of our solar system. Every crater on the moon is evidence of a collision and the chemistry of these rocks tells us when these collisions took place. Katherine’s research supports the idea that a period known as the late heavy bombardment was a particularly turbulent time. Could the late heavy bombardment explain the origin of life on earth?

Nov 18 2019

26mins

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Sir Gregory Winter

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In an astonishing story of a scientific discovery, Greg Winter tells Jim Al-Khalili how decades of curiosity-driven research led to a revolution in medicine.

Forced to temporarily abandon his work in the lab when a road rage incident left him with a paralysed right arm, Greg Winter spent several months looking at the structure of proteins. Looking at the stunning computer graphics made the pain in his arm go away. It also led him to a Nobel Prize winning idea: to ‘humanise’ mouse antibodies. A visit to an old lady in hospital made Greg determined to put his research to good use. He fought hard to ensure open access to the technology he invented and set up a start up company to encourage the development of therapeutic drugs. It took years to persuade anyone to fund his Nobel Prize winning idea that led to the creation of an entirely new class of drugs, known as monoclonal antibodies. In 2018, the market for these drugs, which include Humira for rheumatoid arthritis and Herceptin for breast cancer, was worth $70 billion.

Nov 11 2019

26mins

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Turi King: Solving the mystery of Richard III through DNA

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When a skeleton was unearthed in 2012 from under the tarmac of a car park in Leicester in the English East Midlands, Turi King needed to gather irrefutable evidence to prove that this really was the body of Richard III, England's infamous medieval monarch.

Under the microscope was not only the king's genetic identity, but his entire reputation. Was Richard a ruthless villain, as depicted by Shakespeare? Or did the incoming Tudors spread 'fake news' to besmirch his name? As presenter Jim al-Khalili discovers, clues in his skeletal remains have helped to solve some of these mysteries, and reveal the real Richard III.

When she was young, Turi King wanted to be the next Indiana Jones. Her love of archaeology led her to study genetics so she could use ancient DNA to solve historic mysteries.

She tells Jim how genetic testing, of both the dead skeleton and his living relatives, provided the vital evidence they needed to identify Richard III. But first, she had to extract his DNA, by pulling out one of his teeth.

Main Image: Turi King Credit: Jonathan Sisson

Nov 04 2019

27mins

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Plastic pollution with Richard Thompson

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A Professor of Marine Biology who was not particularly academic at school, Richard Thompson went to university after running his own business selling greetings cards for seven years. When the rest of the world was waking up to the harm caused to marine life by larger plastic items, such as plastic bags, he searched for tiny fragments of plastic, some no bigger than a human hair; and found them in oceans and on beaches all over the world. He has spent decades studying the harm these micro-plastics might cause to marine life and is concerned. His work on plastics in cosmetics led to a UK ban on micro-beads in shower gels and exfoliating scrubs. And he advised government to ban single use plastic bags from supermarkets. Rather than demonize plastic, however, he believes we need to learn to love it more. Often plastic it is the best material for the job. Now we need to make sure that all plastic products are designed so that they can be easily recycled at the end of their useful life.

Picture: Plastic water bottles pollution in ocean, credit: chaiyapruek2520/Getty Images

Oct 28 2019

27mins

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Protecting heads in sports

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The death last week of boxer Patrick Day, four days after he was stretchered out of the ring in a coma, is the latest reminder of how vulnerable sportsmen and women are to traumatic brain injury. During the latest Ashes series the Australian batsman Steve Smith was temporarily retired for one test after being struck on the helmet by a bouncer. The current World Cup Rugby has been affected too, with Welsh fly half Dan Biggar withdrawn from a game against Uruguay having received head injuries in two previous matches.

In this edition of Discovery, Roland Pease talks to engineers at Imperial College and Loughborough University using the latest techniques to understand the dynamics of blows to the head, and to improve helmet protection. And to experts and Rugby players at Swansea University seeking to make precision measurements of real-life head movements with the help of gum shields stuffed with electronics.

Picture credit: Mazdak Ghajari

Oct 21 2019

26mins

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Early diagnosis and research

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James Parkinson described a condition known as the “shaking palsy” over 200 years ago. Today there are many things that scientists still don’t understand explaining why diagnosis, halting the progression or finding a cure for Parkinson’s can seem elusive. But how close are researchers to developing better treatments?

Better understanding seems to suggest that Parkinson’s is not one condition but several, with different causes and symptoms in different people. Many researchers think that early diagnosis and greater recognition of the non motor symptoms such as loss of smell, sleep disorders and depression is to be encouraged, while others say without effective treatments then there are ethical issues to consider.

Jane visits a brain bank and sees the changes in a Parkinson’s brain that causes many of the symptoms and she takes a test which examines the sense of smell. Could this be a new tool to identify early stages of the condition?

Plus repurposing of existing drugs, i.e. drugs that have been developed for one condition but being tested in another are having promising results in Parkinson’s and genetic studies are leading to a greater understanding of the mechanisms involved in PD which in turn is leading to new therapies.

(Photo: Man smelling hops in his hands. Credit: Ales-A/Getty Images)

Oct 14 2019

26mins

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Exercise

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Can exercise help people living with Parkinson’s, a neurodegenerative condition, with symptoms such as loss of balance, difficulty walking and stiffness in the arms and legs.

Jane Hill travels to the Netherlands to meet Mariëtte Robijn and Wim Rozenberg, coaches at Rock Steady Boxing Het Gooi and co-founders of ParkinsonSport.nl, a unique sports club ran 100% by and for people with Parkinson’s. It doesn’t take long before a transformation begins to take place in the gym.

Boxing is popular in the US as well, says Professor Lisa Shulman, Director of the Parkinson’s Centre at the University of Maryland. She has been encouraging her patients to exercise for the last 25 years.

Results from over 200 studies suggest that exercise is a good way to empower people as well as having physical benefits such as delaying disability.

In Ghana many people receive a late diagnosis. Sheila Klufio a physiotherapist at Korle Bu Hospital in Accra works with people to help them deal with some of the more common symptoms such as freezing when walking so they feel more confident to go out.

And it seems all types of exercise can help, Alan Alda and Michael J Fox both box, ballet dancing is popular, walking, cycling and Tai Chi have benefits and it’s never too late to start.

Picture credit: Wim Rozenberg at Wimages.nl

Oct 07 2019

26mins

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Living with Parkinson's

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BBC newsreader Jane Hill knows all about Parkinson’s. Her father was diagnosed in t1980s and lived with the condition for ten years — her uncle had it, too. She’s spoken about the dreadful experience of watching helplessly as the two men were engulfed by the degenerative disease, losing their independence and the ability to do the things that they once enjoyed. “I remember feeling how cruel Parkinson’s is.

The number of people living with Parkinson’s disease is set to double over the next few decades as we all live longer; it is the only long-term neurological condition that is increasing globally.

In this series Jane Hill looks at what it means to be given a diagnosis of Parkinson’s and the reality of living with the condition. She and her cousin Steve remember how their fathers adopted a British stiff upper lip at a time when there was little awareness. In contrast she meets highly successful comedy writer Paul Mayhew Archer, whose reaction to his diagnosis was to create a one-man show exploring the lighter side of living with Parkinson’s.

Actors Michael J Fox and Alan Alda both discuss the early symptoms of the disease and their diagnosis.

Most people are diagnosed in their sixties but Dutch blogger Mariette Robijn talks about accepting a life changing diagnosis in her forties.

Picture: Dopaminergic neuron, 3D illustration. Degeneration of this brain cells is responsible for development of Parkinson's disease, Credit: Dr Microbe

Presenter: Jane Hill
Producer: Geraldine Fitzgerald

Sep 30 2019

26mins

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Preventing pesticide poisoning

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Thanks to a ban on several hazardous pesticides Sri Lanka has seen a massive reduction in deaths from pesticide poisoning, and the World Health Organisation is recommending other countries should follow this example.

As Health Correspondent Matthew Hill discovers, hospitals which used to deal with many pesticide related deaths are now seeing fewer cases, and more survivors. However, a lack of mental health services means, for many in rural communities, taking pesticides is still a way of drawing attention to a variety of personal issues - sometimes with tragic consequences.

Image: Rural pesticide shop, Sri Lanka (Credit: BBC)

Sep 23 2019

26mins

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The power of peace

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“Nature red in tooth and claw”. “Dog eat dog”. “Fighting for survival". You may well think that the natural world is one dangerous, violent, lawless place, with every creature out for itself. And it can be, but it can also be peaceful, democratic and compassionate.

Lucy Cooke seeks out the animal communities that adopt a more peaceful and democratic way of life and asks why it works for them. Despite being fierce predators, African wild dogs are cooperative and compassionate within their packs, and they actually hold democratic votes on hunting decisions – one sneeze for yes, two sneezes for no! They are among the most effective predators in the world. They use extraordinary cooperation and teamwork to pursue, overhaul and bring down their prey. As a result 80% of their hunts end successfully, compared to lions' at 10%. This is nearly all a result of their pack coordination. They are also surprisingly non-aggressive; they don’t fight over food but instead beg to indicate their wish to eat. Adults will allow younger pack members to eat before them. And the African wild dogs are not alone: such societies are also common in insects, other mammals, and birds, but exist even in simple species like amoebas.

But what is the evolutionary advantage of this group cohesion? Why when nature selects for not just the individual but for the selfish gene, does it pay to be part of a complex social group? Lucy discovers that when the benefits of group-living outweigh the costs, it’s very much advantageous – when 10 pairs of eyes are better at spotting predators and pack strategies mean far more successful kills in a hunt, or when grooming not only strengthens bonds, but it also gets rid of your ticks and fleas. She also explores the different strategies of the highly complex social animals – the Great Apes – and asks whether Bonobos are truly the lovers and Chimpanzees the fighters?

This all touches on the complex social interactions we have as humans. We can be peaceful and we can be violent and war-like, and like every species, individual variation and circumstances can tip the balance of our behaviour. But anthropologist Agustin Fuentes questions the belief that humans are at their core violent, aggressive, and oversexed. Are these behaviours part of our genetic heritage? What can biology, evolution, and behaviour tell us about peace and aggression in everyday life?

Picture: African Hunting Dogs by Paul F Donald

Sep 16 2019

26mins

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iTunes Ratings

503 Ratings
Average Ratings
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Love

By Fast Aging Activist - Sep 29 2019
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Love the Fly Gal, learned so much from it.

Great Stuff

By WWaldenHenry - Jul 13 2019
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Easy to listen to, informative, not so stiff, fun yet serious.