Rank #1: Science of Dad
But studies have started to reveal the impact of fatherhood on both dads themselves and on their children. We're seeing how fathers play a crucial role in children's behaviour, happiness, and even cognitive skills.
Oscar Duke, a doctor, new dad and author of How To Be A Dad, discovers how pregnancy, birth and childcare affect the father, bringing about profound physiological and hormonal changes. Only 5% of mammal fathers invest in their offspring, and human males have evolved to undergo key changes when their children are born.
Involved fathers can expect their levels of the 'love hormone' oxytocin to rise, nature's way of helping parents bond with their children. At birth, a dad's testosterone levels dramatically fall, increasing affection and responsiveness, and discouraging polygamy.
With more fathers taking on a hands-on role in bringing up their children, how can these new discoveries about the science of dad help support them, and inform social and healthcare policies?
Presented by Dr Oscar Duke and produced by Melanie Brown and Cathy Edwards
May 13 2020
Rank #2: Quantum Supremacy
Picture: Bright future for Quantum Computing, credit: Jonathan Home @ETH
May 15 2017
Rank #3: Why do we get 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
Rank #4: Why Do We Dream?
"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
Rank #5: Why am I left-handed?
One in ten people are left-handed, but where does this ratio come from and when did it appear in our evolutionary past?
Hannah talks to primatologist Prof Linda Marchant from Miami University about why Neanderthal teeth could hold the answer.
Prof Chris McManus from University College London tells Adam about his quest to track down the genes responsible for whether we're right or left handed.
But does left-handedness affect people’s brains and behaviour? Some researchers point to a link between left-handedness and impairments like autism or dyslexia. Others claim that lefties are more creative and artistic.
So where does the answer lie? The team consults Professors Sophie Scott, Chris McManus and Dorothy Bishop to find out the truth about left-handers.
If you have any Curious Cases for the team to investigate please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Picture: Left handed child, credit: Diarmid Courreges/AFP/Getty Images
Presenter: Adam Rutherford & Hannah Fry
Producer: Michelle Martin.
Feb 13 2017
Rank #6: Origins of Human Culture
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
Rank #7: Turi King: Solving the mystery of Richard III through DNA
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
Rank #8: Carbon - the backbone of life
Monica Grady, Professor of Planetary Science at the Open University, explores the nature of carbon, from its formation in distant stars to its uses and abuses here on earth.
She looks at why it forms the scaffold upon which living organisms are built, and how the mechanisms involved have helped inform the development of new carbon based technology, and products - from telephones to tennis rackets.
One form of carbon is graphene which offers great promise in improving solar cells and batteries, and introducing a whole new range of cheaper more flexible electronics.
Carbon is also the key component of greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide and methane. To counter some of the effects of man-made climate change, Scientists are now developing novel ways to speed up this mechanism - using waste materials created from mining and industry.
Monica Grady also looks to space, and the significance of carbon in the far reaches of the universe. There is lots of carbon in space, some in forms we might recognise as the precursors to molecules. As elemental carbon seems to be everywhere what are the chances of carbon based life elsewhere?
Image: Steam and exhaust rise from the chemical company Oxea (front) and the coking plant January 6, 2017 in Oberhausen, Germany.
Photo by Lukas Schulze Getty Images
Aug 14 2017
Rank #9: Hunting for Life on Mars
NASA’s Curiosity rover has discovered that 3.7 billion years ago, there were conditions hospitable to life on Mars – a sustained period of time with lakes and rivers of water. The earlier rover Spirit found deposits of silica from ancient hot springs which some planetary scientists argue bear the hallmarks of being shaped by microbes - possibly.
The next five years may dramatically advance the hunt for life on Mars. In 2020 the European and Russian space agencies will send their ExoMars rover. That will drill two metres into the Red Planet’s surface and sample material shielded from the sterilising radiation. It will analyse for life both extant and extinct. In the future, robotic or possibly human missions may even explore Martian cave systems in Mars' vast volcanoes. Monica talks to Nasa's Penny Boston whose adventures in some of the world's most dangerous caves have convinced her that underground is the best place to look.
Monica Grady is Professor of Planetary and Space Science at the Open University.
Credit: Curiosity in Gale Crater, credit NASA-JPL
Producer: Andrew Luck-Baker
May 01 2017
Rank #10: Bringing Schrodinger's Cat to Life
Presenter/Producer: Roland Pease
Credit: Harald Ritsch/Science Photo Library
Apr 16 2018
Rank #11: An Infinite Monkey's Guide to General Relativity
Jan 25 2016
Rank #12: Galileo's lost letter
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
Rank #13: Gateway to the Mind
In this final episode of the series BBC Science and Health correspondent James Gallagher examines a growing body of research into the gut as a gateway to the mind and why some scientists believe we could be o the cusp of a revolution in psychiatry that uses microbes to improve mental health.
Illustration by Katie Horwich
Producer: Adrian Washbourne
Jul 09 2018
Rank #14: Our Unnatural Selection
This accidental, inadvertent or unintentional selection pressure comes form almost everything we do – from hunting, fishing, harvesting and collecting to using chemicals like pesticides and herbicides; then pollution; urbanisation and habitat change, as well as using medicines. All these activities are putting evolutionary pressures on the creatures we share our planet with.
Commercial fishing selects the biggest fish in the oceans, the biggest fish in a population, like Atlantic cod, are also the slowest to reach breeding maturity. When these are caught and taken out of the equation, the genes for slow maturity and ‘bigness’ are taken out of the gene pool. Over decades, this relentless predation has led to the Atlantic cod evolving to be vastly smaller and faster to mature.
Trophy hunting is another example of unnatural selection. Predators in the wild tend to pick off the easiest to catch, smallest, youngest or oldest, ailing prey. But human hunters want the biggest animals with the biggest antlers or horns. Big Horn Sheep in Canada have evolved to have 25% smaller horns due to hunting pressures.
Probably the best understood examples of unnatural selection are the evolution of antibiotic resistance in bacteria. By using antibiotics we are inadvertently selecting the bacteria that have resistance to the drugs. The same goes for agricultural pesticides and herbicides.
Even pollution in Victorian times led to the Peppered moth to change its colour.
Adam discovers that our influence is universal; often counter to natural selective pressures and is rarely easy to reverse. He explores the impact on entire environments and asks whether we could or should be doing something to mitigate our evolutionary effects.
(Photo: Boxes full of fish at Billingsgate fish market)
May 02 2016
Rank #15: Mercury - Chemistry's Jekyll and Hyde
Chemist Andrea Sella tell the story of Mercury, explaining the significance of this element not just for chemistry, but also the development of modern civilisation.
It's been a a source of wonder for thousands of years - why is this metal a liquid? and what is its contribution to art, from the Stone Age to the Renaissance?
We look at how Mercury is integral to hundreds of years of scientific discoveries, from weather forecasting to steam engines and the detection of atomic particles it has a key role.
However Mercury is highly toxic in certain forms and ironically the industrial processes it helped create have led to global pollution which now threatens fish, wildlife and ourselves.
We ask is it time to say goodbye to Mercury?
Picture: Hg, mercury metal drops, credit: AlexeyVS/Getty Images
Jul 24 2017
Rank #16: Black Holes: A Tale of Cosmic Death and Rebirth
(Photo: Gravitational waves © Nasa)
Oct 10 2016
Rank #17: Science Stories: Series 1 - Einstein’s Ice Box
Perhaps motivated by a story in the Berlin newspapers about a family who died when toxic fumes leaked from their state-of the-art refrigerator, Einstein teamed up with another physicist Leo Szilard and designed a new, safer refrigerating technology. And so it was that in 1930, the man who had once famously worked in the patent office in Bern was granted a patent of his own. Number: 1, 781, 541. Title: refrigeration.
Phillip Ball explores this little known period of Einstein's life to try and find out why he turned his extraordinary mind to making fridges safer.
Despite considerable commercial interest in the patent, Einstein's fridge didn't get built in his lifetime. The Great Depression forced AEG and others to close down their refrigeration research. But in 2008 a team of British scientists decided to give it a go. Their verdict : Einstein's fridge doesn't work.
(Photo: Refridgerators stand in rows. Credit: Keystone/Getty Images)
Feb 29 2016
Rank #18: Re-engineering Life
Picture: MIT spinout Synlogic is re-programming bacteria found in the gut as "living therapeutics" to treat major diseases and rare genetic disorders, courtesy of Synlogic
May 08 2017
Rank #19: Isaac Newton and the story of the apple
Philip Ball tells the story of the life and ideas of Isaac Newton, who was born on Christmas Day in 1642. Philip discusses with historian of science Anna Marie Roos of the University of Lincoln, just 30 miles north of Woolsthorpe, how Newton developed his theory of gravity . And he talks to Tom McLeish of the University of York, the author of a book about creativity in science and art, about his observation that many scientists today do think they have had eureka moments.
(Image: Isaac Newton under his apple-tree. Credit: API/Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images)
Mar 02 2020