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Seriously is home to the world’s best audio documentaries and podcast recommendations, and host Vanessa Kisuule brings you two fascinating new episodes every week.

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The Hand Detectives

“At the end of the day, with DNA, we have difficulty in the forensic arena of separating identical twins, we can do it with a hand no problem at all.” - Professor Dame Sue BlackIn 2006 the Metropolitan Police came to Professor Sue Black with an image. An infrared snapshot of a man’s arm, taken from a computer camera in the middle of the night. They wanted to know if she, as one of the world’s most respected forensic anatomists, could find any details that could match the limb in the picture, to a potential child abuse suspect.That case sparked the development of a new kind of forensic science - Hand Identification. A science that in the past 13 years has aided in securing convictions in some of the most high profile child abuse cases in the UK.In this programme we explore how Sue and her teams in Dundee and Lancaster University have developed the science of Hand Identification, how it can be used in conjunction with digital forensic techniques to identify offenders, and how by creating a library of hands, Artificial Intelligence can be developed to quickly and accurately assess hands and link child abuse cases around the globe - protecting not just children, but the investigators who put their own mental health at risk as they work to protect the most vulnerable.Produced by Elizabeth Ann DuffyIllustration by Seonaid MacKay


29 Oct 2019

Rank #1

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Intrigue: The Ratline

A story of love, denial and a curious death. Philippe Sands investigates the mysterious disappearance of senior Nazi, Otto Wachter, and journeys right to the heart of the Ratline.


19 Sep 2018

Rank #2

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The Puppet Master – Episode 1. Snipers

The Puppet Master is a series that gets to the bewildering heart of contemporary Russia by exploring the fortunes of a secretive, complicated and controversial man called Vladislav Surkov. Reporter Gabriel Gatehouse speaks fluent Russian and has access to a vast cache of leaked emails from Surkov’s Kremlin office. Using these, plus archive and sources gained over a decade of covering Russia and its wars, Gatehouse goes in search of the man pulling the strings. The journey is by turns dramatic, surprising and surreal, ranging from the battlefield to the theatre and the Kremlin itself. The destination? The post-truth world we inhabit today.


25 Mar 2019

Rank #3

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The Vet with Two Brains

Adam Tjolle is a vet with two brains - who once starred on the BBC's Animal Hospital. His second brain - in reality a slow-growing tumour - was discovered by accident on a scan when he fell off his bike.The presenter of the programme, his friend (and psychologist) Claudia Hammond is really interested in what's going on inside his head, so has kept a record - before and after the life-changing surgery.Adam's biggest fear is losing his memories - so he asks friends and family to send patches of fabric to make a special hat - to remind him of them as well as keep his head warm in chilly Edinburgh.The surgeon will operate while Adam is wide awake - being careful to cause the least damage possible to the area of his brain which controls spatial awareness, time perception and his decision-making skills, while also removing as much of the tumour as possible.Producer: Paula McGrathPresenter: Claudia Hammond.


6 Apr 2018

Rank #4

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I Feel for You: Narcs and narcissists

At a time when we're being told we need more empathy, some experts claim that narcissism - empathy's evil twin - is on the rise. Narcissism has vaulted off the psychotherapist’s couch, sprinted away from the psychiatric ward, and is now squatting in the mainstream of popular conversation. Social media seems obsessed with "narcs", and with detecting narcissism personality disorder in people. It may or may not be a coincidence that we ended up with an apparent world-class narcissist in the White House at just the time when we seemed to be undergoing a public crisis about narcissism and narcissists. Blogs and books about narcissists are everywhere. Jolyon Jenkins talks to people who make a living from advising the public about narcissists, and a self-confessed celebrity narcissist who offers consultations to people who think they may be living with one of "his kind". The evidence that there really is more narcissism around seems thin, but that doesn't mean to say that we shouldn't take it seriously when it flips into a personality disorder. Producer/presenter: Jolyon Jenkins


15 Jan 2019

Rank #5

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The Art of Now - Band Politics

BBC 6 Music's Chris Hawkins listens to new music every day - and he's noticing a trend.More and more of the bands he plays on the station are writing about politics. Acts like Nadine Shah, Cabbage, Idles and Life are covering topics as diverse as The NHS, the refugee crisis of 2016, austerity and rail privatisation. Chris visits the performers to ask them what is fuelling their music, considering whether supposedly radical bands are operating in a form of musical filter bubble - singing radical songs to an audience who already agree with their point of view. From the blues to grime, music and politics have always been intertwined, but Chris Hawkins provides a snapshot of the topics which are driving a generation of rock bands right now. Presented by Chris HawkinsProducer Kevin CoreMusic featured:Nadine Shah: Out the Way. Holiday Destination. Mother Fighter. Jolly Sailor.Idles: Mother. Divide and Conquer. Life: In Your Hands. Euromillions.Cabbage: Tell Me Lies About Manchester. Preach to the Converted.


30 Mar 2018

Rank #6

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The Eternal Life of the Instant Noodle

How instant noodles, now 60 years old, went from a shed in Japan to global success. What is the most traded legal item in US prisons? Instant Noodles. According to the World Instant Noodles Association, 270 million servings of instant noodles are eaten around the world every day. Annually, that's 16 to 17 portions for every man, woman and child. At the turn of the millennium, a Japanese poll found that "The Japanese believe that their best invention of the twentieth century was instant noodles." The Taiwanese-Japanese man who invented them (Momofuku Ando) was convinced that real peace would only come when people have enough to eat. In the bleak wreckage of post-war Japan, he spent a year in a backyard hut, creating the world's most successful industrial food. Crucially, he wanted the noodles to be ready to eat in less than three minutes. That convenience has since become a selling point for noodles that are consumed by students, travellers and, yes, prisoners the world over. Instant noodles first went on sale in 1958, and they've changed little since. Sixty years on, Celia Hatton explores the story behind instant noodles. It's a journey that starts in Japan, at the nation's instant noodle museum, and then takes her to China, still the world's number one market for "convenient noodles" as they're known there. Chinese sales of instant noodles are falling, though, as the country becomes wealthier. But noodles are still on sale in every food store in the country. The story ends with Celia being shown how to make a "prison burrito" by an ex-prisoner from Riker's Island prison in New Jersey, in the US. We hear why instant noodles have emerged as the prisoners' currency of choice. Momofuku Ando's invention lives on. Producer: John Murphy.


28 Sep 2018

Rank #7

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The Five Foot Shelf

According to Charles W. Eliot - President of Harvard and cousin of T.S. - everything required for a complete, liberal education could fit on a shelf of books just 5-feet in length. In 1909 the first volume of the Harvard Classics were published - and grew to become a 51-volume anthology of great works, including essays, poems and political treatises. But what if people today from all walks of life were asked to recommend books to be included on a five foot shelf? Which books do they think might be required for a complete home education? Ian Sansom has set a course for Wigtown - Scotland's National Booktown - to find out. Local craftsman Steve has been busy creating just the shelf for the job - exactly five foot long - and fashioned from elm wood and whiskey barrels recycled from a local distillery. Ian will be playing shopkeeper at the Open Book in Wigtown - a B&B meets bookshop which allows visitors to indulge their fantasy of running their own bookstore. With Ian parked behind the counter, all that's needed is for visitors to drop by and try to persuade him of the books they think deserve a rightful place on The Five Foot Shelf. But of course not everything will make it on and as custodian of the shelf, Ian can be ruthless. Well, kind of... No academics. No critics. No nonsense. The Five Foot Shelf is a guide for readers by readers about the books which matter to them. Producer: Conor Garrett.


21 Aug 2018

Rank #8

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I Feel for You: Empaths and empathy

Empathy is the psycho-political buzzword of the day. President Obama said - frequently - that America's empathy deficit was more important than the Federal deficit. Bill Clinton said "I feel your pain", and Hillary urged us all "to see the world through our neighbour’s eyes, to imagine what it is like to walk in their shoes". Many people have taken up the idea of empathy with gusto, and the United Nations has poured money into virtual reality films that led us allegedly experience the world of, for example, a Syrian refugee. As we seem to be driving ourselves ever deeper into silos of mutual incomprehension, the idea of taking another person's perspective seems an obviously useful one. But what's the evidence that feeling someone else's pain, or even understanding it, actually does any good? Jolyon Jenkins speaks to one self-described intuitive empath, who says she can sense the feelings of strangers in a room or even in the street. She describes it as both a gift and a curse. For the rest of us, is there not a danger that, having felt a brief emotional engagement, we move on, our fundamental attitudes and beliefs unchanged? Producer/presenter: Jolyon Jenkins


15 Jan 2019

Rank #9

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A Brief History of Cunning

How cunning is Donald Trump?In Queenan on Cunning, the satirist Joe Queenan explores a word rarely associated with the current President of the USA."From Odysseus to Bismarck, via Brer Rabbit and Machiavelli's The Prince, there's a fine tradition of tricksters and hucksters, but where does the Donald fit in the mix? You need patience, intelligence, forward planning - some of these are Trump-like qualities. Stress on the some. But he's by no means a modern day Odysseus. Not much of a sailor."With contributions from Adam MacQueen, author of The Lies of the Land; Edith Hall, who wrote a cultural history of Homer's Odyssey; and Tibor Fischer, whose forthcoming novel is called How to Rule the World.Plus John Sergeant, Kathy Lette, Richard Nixon, Alistair McAlpine, Laura Barton ... and a campaigning American president cross-faded with a much loved song from The Jungle Book.The producer in Bristol is Miles Warde.


20 Feb 2018

Rank #10

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A Sense of Time

Animal senses reveal a wealth of information that humans can't access. Birds can see in ultra violet, and some fish can 'feel' electricity. But how do different species sense time?If you've ever tried to swat flies, you'll know that they seem to have super-powered reactions that let them escape before you can blink. Presenter Geoff Marsh asks whether flies have some sort of super-power to see the world in slow motion. Are they watching your hand come down at what might appear a leisurely pace?Science reveals a window into the minds of different species and their temporal perceptions. Some flies have such fast vision that they can see and react to movement at four times the rate you can, and our vision works at more than six times the speed of one species of deep sea fish. This programme delves into each moment of experience to ask 'what is time, biologically?' When birds have to dodge through forests and catch flies on the wing, or when flies have to avoid birds, it would seem that a faster temporal resolution would be a huge advantage. So what is their sense of time?Geoff meets physicist Carlo Rovelli and asks him to jump outside of physics to answer questions on biology and philosophy. Geoff explores the mind of a bat with Professor Yossi Yovel in Israel, and dissects birdsong at super slow speeds with BBC wildlife sound recordist, Chris Watson. Getting deep into the minds of animals he questions whether our seconds feel like swordfish seconds, or a beetles' or birds' or bats..?Presenter: Geoff Marsh Producer: Rory Galloway


12 Apr 2019

Rank #11

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Sally Marlow talks to some of the men and women who have self-harmed, and the experts who treat them, to find out what is driving so many people to self-harm.Clinical guidelines define self-harm as any act of self-poisoning or self-injury carried out by a person irrespective of their motivation. However, research reveals a worrying association between self-harm and the risk of suicide.While rates of self-harm are particularly high among teenage girls, the true picture is far more nuanced. Rates have gone up in all age groups and both genders and, more recently, in groups such as middle-aged men.So what is driving so many people to hurt themselves, and what can be done to help them? The media is quick to point the finger at social media, but Sally discovers that the reasons behind this question are as varied and complex as the people who do it.Producer: Beth Eastwood


22 Nov 2019

Rank #12

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The Death of Illegitimacy

Illegitimacy once meant you were a 'bastard'. The MP Caroline Flint wants to know what the word 'illegitimate' means now.Caroline has always been open about her unmarried Mum having her when she was 17 years old and that she had her first son before she got married. Caroline describes her own family's story as a Catherine Cookson novel. There are suspicions that her widowed great-grandmother had an illegitimate child. Her grandmother's older sister had an illegitimate child during WW1 with an American soldier who was brought up as though his mother was his sister.She explores the archives to find out if the stigma has died out with social historian Jane Robinson and discusses the issue with best-selling crime author Martina Cole and fellow MP Jess Phillips. Martina, who is also an ambassador for the single parent families' charity Gingerbread, became a single parent by choice when she was 18 and then again 20 years later. Jess conceived her son when she was 22 and had been with her boyfriend for barely a month.Is the biggest deal today not whether a child is illegitimate but whether she bears her father's surname? Has the cloak of illegitimacy really fallen because daddy is willing to say publicly: she's mine?This programme contains archive clips of the stories of Betty, Ada and Gina from 'The Secret World of Sex: In Disgrace' (1991), sourced from Domino Films, copyright of Testimony Films - http://www.testimonyfilms.com/


9 Feb 2018

Rank #13

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Apollo 8

Six months before Neil Armstrong’s ‘one small step’ came humanity’s giant leap. It was December 1968. Faced with President Kennedy’s challenge to land a man on the Moon before the end of the decade, NASA made the bold decision to send three astronauts beyond Earth orbit for the first time. Those three astronauts spent Christmas Eve orbiting the moon. Their legendary photograph, "Earthrise" showed our planet as seen from across the lunar horizon - and was believed to have been a major influence on the nascent environmental movement. Through extraordinary NASA archive, the first British astronaut Helen Sharman goes inside the capsule to tell the story of the first time man went to another world. Written and produced by: Chris Browning Researchers: Diane Richardson and Colin Anderton


4 Jan 2019

Rank #14

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The Diagnosis

For most of her life, Janice Wilson suffered from strange and terrifying attacks at night. She would wake up, suddenly, feeling as though she was being choked or strangled. The next day, there would be blood on her pillow. Sometimes she’d have up to 50 of these attacks a night. It left her terrified and exhausted. For years, doctors put it down to psychological problems due to a trauma in her past. Then she met a doctor who found the astonishing, true cause. In “The Diagnosis”, Janice and the doctor who diagnosed her come together in a studio, to tell this remarkable story. The programme is presented and produced by Helena Merriman, who was inspired to tell other people’s stories of diagnosis after receiving her own surprise diagnosis a few years ago. Editor: Emma Rippon


14 Jan 2020

Rank #15