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CrowdScience

Updated 8 days ago

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We take your questions about life, Earth and the universe to researchers hunting for answers at the frontiers of knowledge.

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We take your questions about life, Earth and the universe to researchers hunting for answers at the frontiers of knowledge.

iTunes Ratings

176 Ratings
Average Ratings
144
18
7
2
5

Great podcast!

By Mohsenp - Oct 19 2019
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Thanks a million for your podcast!

Vegan diet.

By Radical Linguist - Oct 03 2019
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Open-minded, and always with a genuine spirit of exploration.

iTunes Ratings

176 Ratings
Average Ratings
144
18
7
2
5

Great podcast!

By Mohsenp - Oct 19 2019
Read more
Thanks a million for your podcast!

Vegan diet.

By Radical Linguist - Oct 03 2019
Read more
Open-minded, and always with a genuine spirit of exploration.
Cover image of CrowdScience

CrowdScience

Latest release on Jan 17, 2020

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We take your questions about life, Earth and the universe to researchers hunting for answers at the frontiers of knowledge.

Rank #1: Is maths real?

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Faced with one cake and eight hungry people, it’s pretty obvious how maths underpins reality. But as mathematics gets further from common sense and into seemingly abstract territory, nature still seems to obey its rules - whether in the orbit of a planet, the number of petals on a flower, or the structure of an atom.

But what exactly is the relationship between mathematics and reality? That’s the impossibly difficult question CrowdScience has been set this week by our listener Sergio in Peru. It’s one that’s been pondered by humans for millennia: the Greek philosopher Pythagoras believed “All is number”.

Is maths a human construct to help us make sense of reality - a tool, a model, a language? Does maths create its own reality? Or is it reality itself?

CrowdScience explores these questions with the help of experts from the fields of philosophy, mathematics and science: Dr Eleanor Knox, Dr Eugenia Cheng, Professor Lucie Green, Alex Bellos and Stefano Centineo.

Presenter: Marnie Chesterton
Produced by Cathy Edwards for the BBC World Service

(Photo: A young woman with her eyes closed standing in front of chalkboard, working out maths formulas. Credit: Getty Images)

Oct 18 2019

32mins

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Rank #2: The Fourth Dimension

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How would a fourth dimensional being appear to humans?
"It would look just weird" is one way to answer the question 'How would a fourth dimensional being appear to humans?' But it's more complicated than that - theoretical cosmologist Andrew Pontzen describes how objects are viewed from one dimension to another, and how it might affect parking spaces.
Also on the programme: our panel of experts discuss bubble experiments, a theory that the Black Death was a virus, space elevators, algae as a biomass fuel, what affects the speed of digestion in our gut, a short definition of dark energy and the question is it true our DNA has alien properties?
With Helen Czerski, department of mechanical engineering, University College London; virologist Jonathan Ball, University of Nottingham; and cosmologist Andrew Pontzen, University College London.
Do you have a question we can turn into a programme? Email us at crowdscience@bbc.co.uk.
(Image: Stripes and points of light, one guess what a 4th dimension might look like, Credit: Thinkstock)

Dec 10 2016

31mins

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Rank #3: How can I live a longer life?

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Human life expectancy has been increasing for decades. In many developed countries, we can now expect to live into our 80s, and it isn’t uncommon to live to 90 or even 100 years old.

But eventually our bodies fail, old age is undoubtedly a clear indicator of approaching death. This fact annoyed 79 year old CrowdScience listener Bill, who emailed in to set presenter Geoff Marsh the task of seeking out the secrets to a longer, healthier life. Bill has a personal target to live to 200 years old, so can he do it?

Well some people appear to age more slowly. In one part of Costa Rica, people commonly hit their hundredth birthday. CrowdScience’s Rafael Rojas visits these Central American centenarians to ask them their secrets to a longer life. Then, in interviews with the best age researchers around the world, including Professor Linda Partridge and Professor Janet Lord, Geoff reveals the science behind longer lifespans, and what people can do to live for longer, healthily.

Presented by Geoff Marsh
Produced by Rory Galloway

(Image: A group of older men sitting together at an event, Costa Rica. Credit: Rafael Rojas)

Oct 11 2019

26mins

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Rank #4: How Bad is Flying for the Planet?

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What effect does air travel have on the climate? That is the question listener Neil sent CrowdScience from New Zealand. If you have ever looked up at the sky and seen the wispy white streaks that airplanes leave behind, then you are looking at one of the major environmental impacts of air transport – contrails.
To find out more, Anand Jagatia goes on a journey through the rugged, lava-ridden Icelandic landscape with earth scientist Thor and discovers how both natural events like volcanic eruptions as well as man-made acts of terror can shed light on the environmental impact of aircraft. Plus, we meet a man who tailgates 737 airliners to measure their emissions.
Do you have a question we can turn into a programme? Email us at crowdscience@bbc.co.uk.

Dec 05 2016

28mins

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Rank #5: Can we be too clean?

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To be healthy you need to be clean – or so we’ve thought throughout human history.
The dazzling array of antibacterial products that exploded onto the scene in the 20th century took things to the next level, with their promises of eliminating 99.9% of germs.
But could an obsession with cleanliness actually be bad for us? There’s a whole world of microbes out there: some make us sick, but others are essential for our health.
How do we tell the difference? Listener Younes’s question gives CrowdScience the chance to sift the good dirt from the bad, with the help of hygiene expert Professor Sally Bloomfield. Along the way we soap up our hands with schoolchildren in Mumbai, get knee deep in mud on an English farm, and find out why snuggling up to a cow might be a good idea.
Do you have a question we can turn into a programme? Email us at crowdscience@bbc.co.uk
Presenter: Marnie Chesterton

Producer: Cathy Edwards and Marijke Peters

Jan 07 2017

27mins

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Rank #6: Could All Cars Be Electric?

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Just one per cent of vehicles are powered by electricity, but CrowdScience listener Randall from Lac du Bonnet in Canada wants to know how quickly that might change, and whether one day all cars could be electric. Marnie Chesterton begins her journey in an electric car, stuck in traffic on a Los Angeles freeway.
It was in California where the modern electric car revival began in the late 1990s with the EV1 – popular with Hollywood celebrities like Mel Gibson and Danny DeVito. More than two decades on, several countries have pledged to go all-electric in future. The latest is China, who currently lead the world in the number of electric vehicles on the road. But is the planet’s power infrastructure even capable of supporting this global electric dream?
Marnie talks to experts about the practicalities of power supply and charging, takes a ride in an electric prototype with enough acceleration to impress even the most cynical petrol head and discovers an extraordinary vision for the future of personalised urban transport.
Do you have a question we can turn into a programme? Email us at crowdscience@bbc.co.uk
Presenter: Marnie Chesterton

Producer: Jennifer Whyntie
(Image: Electric power cord plugged in and recharging the electric vehicle Credit: Getty Images)

Sep 15 2017

29mins

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Rank #7: Why Does Dark Matter, Matter?

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Scientists have been searching for dark matter for 80 years, so CrowdScience wondered whether they could find it faster. Armed with a boiler suit, hard hat and ear defenders, Marnie Chesterton travels over a kilometre underground into a hot and sweaty mine to see how we could catch dark matter in action. She investigates various theories as to what it might be with popping candy and gazes at galaxies to determine how we know it exists in the first place. But most importantly, she questions whether it really matters. And, as our Singaporean listener Koon-Hou askes, what impact would finding it have on our everyday lives?
Presenter: Marnie Chesterton

Producer: Graihagh Jackson
(Photo: Finding dark matter could have galactic implications. Credit: Getty Images)

Feb 09 2018

31mins

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Rank #8: Is Being Fat a Choice?

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The human race is getting fatter. But is it our fault? There are a whole host of factors influencing our weight - how many of them can we control?
CrowdScience discovers how factors like our environment and our genes can tip the scales in the wrong direction.
We visit an apartment complex originally designed for Olympic athletes, to see if people can get fitter just by living there. And from a brand new menu plan for overweight Mumbai police, to hormone injections that stop you getting hungry, CrowdScience asks the experts what we can do if we’ve been dealt a bad hand when it comes to our weight.
Do you have a question we can turn into a programme? Email us at crowdscience@bbc.co.uk
Presenter: Marnie Chesterton

Producer: Cathy Edwards
(Image: Women and a Man standing next to each other holding hands. Credit: ThinkStock.)

Mar 14 2017

27mins

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Rank #9: Why are There Morning People and Night People?

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Some of us want to be up with the larks, while others are more like night owls. But is our preference down to our genes, or more to do with habits and surroundings? We set out to find the answers, inspired by a question from Kira, a night owl CrowdScience listener in Philadelphia, USA.
Our daily, or circadian, body clocks are a hot topic of discussion at the moment - this year’s Nobel Prize for Medicine went to three scientists who discovered the gene that makes these clocks tick. To answer our listener’s question, we need to know why different clocks tick at different rates, so we visit a specialist sleep centre to see how having a slow-ticking clock makes it hard for you to leap out of bed in the morning.
And the morning sun helps all of us regulate our daily rhythm, so what happens when it doesn’t rise at all? We travel to Tromsø, in the far north of Norway, to see how morning and evening types fare during the long polar nights - and meet the reindeer who seem to be able to switch off their daily clocks altogether. Meanwhile down near the equator, we hear about the hunter-gatherer community in Tanzania where there’s nearly always someone awake.
Sami song, the joik of Ráikku-Ánte, is performed by Ken Even Berg
Do you have a question we can turn into a programme? Email us at crowdscience@bbc.co.uk
Presenter: Anand Jagatia

Producer: Cathy Edwards
(Image: L - Women smiling on a run R - Women DJ. Credit: Getty Images)

Nov 17 2017

27mins

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Rank #10: Why are Dogs so Different?

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From Chihuahuas to Great Danes, Mexican Hairless to Afghan Hounds, dogs are the most diverse mammal on the planet. There are currently over 500 recognised breeds worldwide with almost every conceivable combination of size, shape, coat, colour and behaviour.
But why are there so many different kinds of dog?
That's what listener Simon St-Onge in Quebec, Canada wants to know – and CrowdScience has taken up the challenge.
Presenter Marnie Chesterton heads to Sweden, a world-class centre of canine research, to sniff around for answers. She finds out how the grey wolf morphed into the vast variety of dogs we have today, and heads out on a moose hunt with one of Scandinavia's most ancient breeds.
But are dogs really as different as they seem on the surface? The dog genome is revealing more about man's best friend than ever before – and could now be the answer to understanding both dog and human health.
Do you have a question we can turn into a programme? Email us at crowdscience@bbc.co.uk
(Image: Tika, the Russian-European Laika)

Jan 21 2017

27mins

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Rank #11: Why Does My Dog Love Me?

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Dogs have been living and working with humans for thousands of years. But they’re much more than just pets. As any dog owner will tell you, the bond we have with our canine friends is often so strong that they feel more like family.
So how is it that dogs have come to fit so seamlessly into human life?
That’s what CrowdScience listener Peter Jagger in the UK wants to know, and Marnie Chesterton is off to sniff out some answers. She starts by revisiting a previous episode of CrowdScience based in Sweden, where she saw the dog-human bond come alive during a moose hunt. She then heads to the Dog Cognition Centre in Portsmouth to discover how a unique and often unconscious communication system helps our dogs to understand us. Finally, Marnie finds out about the fate of dogs that are no longer wanted by their humans. After thousands of years of domestication, can they ever live without us?
Presenter: Marnie Chesterton

Producer: Anna Lacey
(Photo: Image of young girl with her dog, alaskan malamute. Credit: Getty Images)

Jan 05 2018

29mins

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Rank #12: Must Life be Carbon-Based?

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Carbon is special, but is it necessarily the unique building block of life in the universe? Science fiction has long speculated on non-carbon biochemistries existing in the universe – notably in the work of authors such as Isaac Asimov as well as in the popular American TV series Star Trek, which once featured a rock-munching, silicon-based life form called ‘Horta’.
Marnie Chesterton explores the real science behind this intriguing idea and wonders whether in the current search for Earth-like planets elsewhere in the galaxy, we should be looking at completely different possible sets of rules when it comes to the hunt for life?
Producer Alex Mansfield

Presenter Marnie Chesterton
(Photo: Saturn viewed from Titan moon. Credit: Getty Images)

Feb 02 2018

30mins

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Rank #13: How Could Humanity Become Extinct?

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Nuclear weapons and mega asteroids: what would the aftermath look like? CrowdScience explores past extinction events and future dystopias.
In a past episode, CrowdScience headed to Denmark to find out whether humans could go the way of the dinosaurs – mass extinction triggered by a large asteroid impact 66 million years ago. Although no killer rocks are on route to Earth any time soon, we do not have to look far for other dystopias.
“Do we have enough nuclear weapons to destroy the world?”, listener Ronald from Uganda asks CrowdScience. It turns out there is a web app which can help answer this question. Together with its maker nuclear historian Alex Wellerstein, presenter Anand Jagatia tests hypothetical nuclear disaster scenarios and uncovers the nature of nuclear destruction in interviewees with climate scientist Alan Robock.
Do you have a question we can turn into a programme? Email us at crowdscience@bbc.co.uk
Presenter: Anand Jagatia

Producer: Louisa Field
(Image: Explosion of a nuclear bomb Credit: Getty Images)

Sep 08 2017

29mins

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Rank #14: Is Fasting Healthy?

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For some it's a way to get closer to God, for others a tried and tested way to lose weight - but listener Amine wants to know if fasting has any other, unexpected health benefits? So presenter Marnie Chesterton cuts down on cookies and investigates the science behind low-calorie or time-restricted eating. She hears how some cells regenerate when we're deprived of food, which one researcher says could reduce breast cancer rates. And she finds out what happens in our brains when our bodies rely on our own fat reserves for fuel.
Presenter: Marnie Chesterton

Producer: Marijke Peters
(Image: Clock on an empty plate. Credit: Getty Images)

May 25 2018

31mins

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Rank #15: Why Do We Have So Many Accents?

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Why do we have so many accents - even when we’re speaking the same language? What's happening in our brains and mouths to make us sound so different from each other? This week’s question from listener Amanda takes CrowdScience to Glasgow in Scotland: home to one of the most studied - and distinctive - accents of English.
Along the way we visit a voice coach to try and learn a Texan accent, use ultrasound to see what different sounds look like inside our mouths and find out how a brand new dialect was formed when many accents collided in New Zealand.
Do you have a question we can turn into a programme? Email us at crowdscience@bbc.co.uk
Presenter: Nastaran Tavakoli-Far

Producer: Cathy Edwards
New Zealand Mobile Unit recordings courtesy of Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision
(Image: A mouth screaming white letters. Credit: Thinkstock)

Mar 31 2017

26mins

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Rank #16: How Can I Remember More?

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Sometimes our memory fails us and we wish facts would just stick better. Listener Mothibi is a student and has spent three years trying to remember as much as possible for his exams. He wants to know how he can train his brain to better to remember things – and does the brain have a limit on how much stuff we can cram into it?
To find the answers presenter Marnie Chesterton seeks help from memory magician, Simon, at the European Memory Championship. Using the loci technique she accomplishes a memory feat she didn’t think possible. Thought to have been developed by the Greeks, the loci method is a technique that enables the brain to remember extraordinary amounts of information. It turns out, we all have the right wiring to remember more and better, but we need to train our brains.
Also, CrowdScience heads to Cambridge University where Marnie Chesterton lands herself in a study. The scientists scan her brain while she exercises her memory muscles and we discover why sometimes memories get muddled up.
Do you have a question we can turn into a programme? Email us at crowdscience@bbc.co.uk
Presenter: Marnie Chesterton

Producer: Louisa Field
(Image: Woman scratching head, thinking brain melting into lines. Credit: Getty Images)

Nov 10 2017

33mins

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Rank #17: What is the Real Time?

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It sounds like a simple question – what is the time? But look closer and you realise time is a slippery concept that scientists still do not fully understand. Even though we now have atomic clocks that can keep time to one second in 15 billion years, this astonishing level of accuracy may not be enough. The complexity of computer-controlled systems, such as high-frequency financial trading or self-driving cars which rely on the pinpoint accuracy of GPS, could in future require clocks that are even more accurate to ensure everything runs ‘on time’.
But what does that even mean? As Anand Jagatia discovers, time is a very strange thing. He visits the origins of modern time-keeping at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich and meets scientists at the National Physical Laboratory who have been counting and labelling every second since the 1950s. He meets Demetrios Matsakis, the man who defined time and visits the real-life ‘Time Lords’, at the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM) in Paris to find out how they co-ordinate the world’s time and why the leap second is ‘dangerous’.
Do you have a question we can turn into a programme? Email us at crowdscience@bbc.co.uk

Jan 29 2017

28mins

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Rank #18: How does the Moon affect life on Earth?

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From worms who time their mating ritual with an inner lunar calendar, to how full moons could cause cows to give birth early. Listener Andreas sends CrowdScience on a mission to separate fact from fiction.

Presenter: Marnie Chesterton
Producer: Marijke Peters

Picture: The moon rises over Kadam mountain in Uganda, on January 31, 2018, during the lunar phenomenon referred to as the 'super blue blood moon'. Credit: Yasuyoshi Chiba / AFP / Getty Images

Feb 16 2018

33mins

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Rank #19: Spider Silk and Super Fly Senses

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CrowdScience is uncovering the super-powers of spiders, flies and the most irritating mosquitos.
Anand Jagatia meets spider specialist Jamie Mitchells at London Zoo to find out how spiders create such vast webs and speaks to researchers in Sweden about how they are trying and succeeding in recreating spider’s silk.
Rory Galloway heads to Cambridge University’s Fly Lab to find out how their tiny brains process the world up to four times faster than humans.
And Bobbie Lakhera is at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine to find out how attractive she is to mosquitos and how they use their super-senses to home-in on our blood.
Do you have a question we can turn into a programme? Email us at crowdscience@bbc.co.uk
Presenter: Anand Jagatia

Producer: Laura Hyde
(Image: Close-up of a Jumping Spider. Credit: Getty Images

Sep 01 2017

27mins

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Rank #20: How Far Can I See?

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How far can you see? A few kilometres down the road? Or do you struggle to see past the end of your own nose? Well one listener thinks he might be able to see 15 quintillion miles away... but can he really? Marnie Chesterton and Bobbie Lakhera are on the case for this week’s multi-question human body special. As well as delving into the power of vision, they also discover why male mammals have nipples despite not needing to breastfeed, and Marnie puts herself in a giant refrigerator in the name of finding out why some people feel the cold more than others.
Presenter: Marnie Chesterton

Producer: Anna Lacey

Jan 26 2018

26mins

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What is infinity?

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Is there something bigger than infinity? Does quantum mechanics affect how I think? And why can I suddenly do algebra? As ever, we’re not afraid to tackle the big questions on CrowdScience.
After a previous episode about the relationship between mathematics and reality, we received a flood of profound and difficult questions, so we dive back into the world of maths, physics and philosophy to try and answer them.
A panel of experts help us puzzle out whether some infinities are bigger than others - and why that matters, as well as what quantum mechanics can teach us about the workings of the brain. And we seek answers for one of our listeners who surprised himself by being able to figure out mathematics equations he previously found unfathomable.
With philosopher of physics Dr Eleanor Knox, mathematician Dr Katie Steckles, and Dr Aldo Faisal, an expert in neurotechnology.

Presented by Marnie Chesterton
Produced by Cathy Edwards for the BBC World Service
Photo:

Jan 17 2020

33mins

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How low-carbon can CrowdScience go?

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Reducing climate change and global warming is one of the biggest and most urgent challenges for everyone as we enter a new decade. The CrowdScience team have been trying to figure out how to play our part in reducing our carbon footprint. So what’s the best way forward?

Presenter Marnie Chesterton starts to find out by pitting three of her colleagues against each other for the first phase of our challenge. Anand Jagatia, Geoff Marsh and Melanie Brown have all been tasked with answering a listener’s question in the lowest-carbon way possible. Along the way, they must monitor and account for every emission – from their travel methods to their choice of sustenance whilst working. It turns out that the challenge is not only in acknowledging all the types of activity that produce emissions, but in working out the volume of greenhouse gases produced. Marnie judges her colleagues’ efforts, determines a winner, and dispatches the losing challenger to look further into carbon calculation, and to find out about the possibilities of legitimately offsetting the overall footprint. And we start our on-going experiment using a broadcast industry carbon calculator to find out the most carbon-efficient and sustainable ways to keep answering everyone’s questions and sharing more cutting-edge global science.

Presented by Marnie Chesterton

Produced by Jen Whyntie for the BBC World Service
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Jan 10 2020

40mins

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How does the Sun affect my body and mind?

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Two years ago reporter Anand Jagatia travelled up beyond the Arctic Circle to meet Norwegian researchers in order to answer a question from US listener Kira on why some people function best in the mornings whilst others only come alive at night. In this episode we revisit the topic with the help of science writer and Parentland podcast presenter Linda Geddes, author of Chasing the Sun, a book which explores the science behind the Sun’s effects on our bodies and our minds.

The morning sun helps to kick-start our day and our body’s biological cycle – so what happens when it barely rises above the horizon or we live for prolonged periods in artificial environments where the sun never shines? Research has suggested that some communities in northern latitudes are better protected against the mental and physical effects of reduced exposure to sunlight in the winter which might have implications for those suffering the winter blues.

Presenter Anand Jagatia, Producer: Rami Tzabar
(Photo: Woman basking in the sun. Credit: Getty Images)

Jan 10 2020

33mins

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What is empathy?

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What is empathy? This week’s question comes from Maria in Amsterdam who has noticed that when one of her friends is in pain, she feels their pain too, literally. Maria wants to know - is she experiencing a type of ‘super’ empathy?

To help find the answer, Marnie Chesterton visits the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience and gets into an MRI scanner to discover what is happening in her brain when she empathises.

She talks with a pro-social psychopath to find out how psychopaths experience empathy differently and how they navigate social situations.

And Marnie meets with a mediator specialising in The Israeli–Palestinian conflict, to learn the value of empathy when the stakes are at their highest.
(Photo: Back view of loving Mum hug teen daughter. Credit: Getty Images)

Jan 03 2020

38mins

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Did Crowdscience change your life?

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As CrowdScience celebrates its third birthday, the team takes time to revisit some of our early episodes, and catch up with listeners to discover if the answers we uncovered changed the course of their lives? We hear from Zach, who has learned to let go of a possibly lost memory and Erin, who discovered technology could hold the key to finding the man of her dreams. And two years after he emailed to ask why he couldn’t kick his habit, we ash Sharif whether he has finally managed to stop smoking?

(Photo: Man listening to podcast. Credit: Getty Images)

Dec 20 2019

27mins

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Can I save the insects?

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Buzzing insects that sting and fall into your food can be annoying. But perhaps we should think twice before taking aim with the fly swatter because bug populations around the world are in rapid decline. This worries CrowdScience listener Daria; she wants to know what will happen to our food production without the help from our tiny friends – the pollinators? And what can she do, as a city-dweller, to help the bugs?

The dollar value of agricultural services that insects supply – for free – is estimated to be 350 billion dollars worldwide. For scientists, a major challenge is the lack of long-term studies of insects on a global scale – in fact – entomologists worry that species are dying out faster than we can document their existence. The culprits, they believe, are climate change, invasive species, land-use and pesticides.

CrowdScience speaks to the scientists who want to save the bugs; one project capitalises on the chemical signals that attract certain species of pollinators while others are building ‘bee hotels’ to encourage native bees back into our cities.

Presenter: Marnie Chesterton
Produced by Louisa Field for BBC World Service.
(Photo: Hoverfly on Yellow Dandelion Flower. Credit: Getty Images)

Dec 13 2019

29mins

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Would humans exist if dinosaurs were still alive?

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66 million years ago, a huge asteroid hit the earth, wiping out most of the dinosaurs that roamed the land. It would still be tens of millions of years before the first humans appeared - but what if those dinosaurs hadn’t died out? Would we ever have evolved?

CrowdScience listener Sunil was struck by this thought as he passed a Jurassic fossil site: if dinosaurs were still around, would I be here now?
We dive back into the past to see how our distant mammal ancestors managed to live alongside huge, fierce dinosaurs; and why the disappearance of those dinosaurs was great news for mammals. They invaded the spaces left behind, biodiversity flourished, and that led – eventually – to humans evolving. It looks like our existence depends on that big dinosaur extinction.

But we explore a big ‘what if?’: if the asteroid hadn’t hit, could our primate ancestors still have found a niche – somewhere, somehow - to evolve into humans? Or would evolution have taken a radically different path: would dinosaurs have developed human levels of intelligence? Is highly intelligent life inevitable, if you give it long enough to develop? We look to modern day birds - descendants of certain small dinosaurs who survived the asteroid strike - to glean some clues.

With artist Memo Kosemen, palaeontologists Elsa Panciroli and Darren Naish, palaeobiologist Anjali Goswami, and Professor of Comparative Cognition Nicola Clayton

Presented by Marnie Chesterton and Anand Jagatia
Produced by Cathy Edwards for the BBC World Service

(Photo: Silhouette of people and Dino. Credit: Getty Images)

Dec 05 2019

35mins

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Could humans hibernate during interstellar travel?

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Science fiction is full of people settling on distant planets. But even the closest stars would take millennia to reach with current speeds of travel, by the time any passengers reached an extra solar planet, they would be long dead.

So CrowdScience listener Balaji asked us to find out whether humans could hibernate for interstellar travel?

To uncover the science fact behind this idea, Anand Jagatia holds a tiny hibernating dormouse at the Wildwood Trust in Kent, and meets Dr Samuel Tisherman who puts his patients into suspended animation for a couple of hours, to save their lives after traumatic injuries that cause cardiac arrest. We ask if Dr Tisherman’s research could be extended to put healthy individuals to sleep for much longer periods of time?

It’s a question that neuroscientist, Professor Kelly Drew is studying, in Alaska Fairbanks. She uses Ground Squirrels as a model to understand internal thermostats, and how hibernating mammals manage to reduce their core temperatures to -3 degrees Celsius.

Anand speculates wildly with science fiction authors Adrian Tchaikovsky and Temi Oh whose characters in their books ‘Children of Time’ and ‘Do You Dream of Terra Two?’ traverse enormous distances between habitable planets.

But is human stasis something that would actually be useful? John Bradford is the director of SpaceWorks, this company works with NASA to try to investigate human hibernation for space travel. He’s trying to make space-based human hibernation a reality, and it seems that may be closer than you’d think.

Presented by Anand Jagatia
Produced by Rory Galloway

(Photo: People in hibernation. Credit: Getty Images)

Nov 29 2019

35mins

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Should I stop eating palm oil?

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Australian listener Lizzy is trying to reduce her footprint on this planet and is particularly interested in palm oil. It is everywhere - in shampoo, lipstick and face cream and even food stuffs like biscuits and spreads. In fact, WWF say it is used in 50% of all supermarket products so it's something most of us will come into contact with every day.

Lizzy wants to know whether she should stop eating it. Because on the one hand, she sees emotive adverts depicting dying orangutans, deforestation and burning peatlands, releasing vast amounts of climate changing gases like carbon dioxide. On the other, she has read that palm oil is the most productive of the vegetable oils, using far less land than others. So would boycotting palm oil displace the problem elsewhere, she wonders? Would buying sustainable palm oil be best?

Partnering up with with another BBC World Service programme, The Food Chain, presenter Graihagh Jackson heads to one of the biggest producers of palm oil: Malaysia. She visits small holder plantations, who collectively provide 40% of the world’s palm oil, to find out how palm oil is grown and to ask them about their perspective on a product that provides them with their livelihood. What would incentivise them to engage in greener practices? And what would that look like? For the latter question, Graihagh speaks to the largest sustainable certifier of palm oil, the RSPO and looks to science to see how we can continue to grow palm oil without having any more adverse effects on wildlife.

This episode is part of the Crossing Divides season which runs from 18 - 24 November. You can find a link to the Food Chain episode below.

Produced and presented by Graihagh Jackson with help from Marijke Peters and editor Rami Tzabar for the BBC World Service.

(Photo: Woman shopping in supermarket Credit: Getty Images)

Nov 21 2019

36mins

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Can a machine read my mind?

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For decades science fiction has been imagining the incredible ways that machines might interact directly with our minds, from enabling telepathic communication to controlling robotic suits, solely using the power of thought. Getting computers to interface directly with the human brain has proven extremely challenging, but rapidly advancing computer technology is changing the landscape. CrowdScience listener Daniel wonders if we might finally be on the cusp of enabling machines to meld with our minds.

To find out, presenter Alex Lathbridge goes in search of the latest efforts to connect brains to computers. He learns how researchers are combining brain scans with machine learning and gets to test whether an fMRI machine can decode his emotions. He then meets someone with a brain implant but discovers there are many hurdles to overcome before these become mainstream in clinical practice – for example, how can scientists develop implants that won’t damage the brain?

With tech companies like Facebook and Elon Musk’s Neuralink starting to invest in this sector, many experts believe it is only a matter of time before thoughts are ‘readable’. Whilst currently this technology is focussed on helping people with serious medical conditions, other potential applications for it are raising ethical considerations.

Could it be possible to read someone's mind against their will? Might this be used in warfare? Listener Daniel wonders how far this technology might go, leading Alex to ask an ethicist what mind-reading technology might do to society.

Presented by Alex Lathbridge
Produced by Melanie Brown

(Photo: Telepathic people symbols are connected, mind reading as 3D illustration. Credit; Getty Images)

Nov 15 2019

42mins

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Why do I get sleepy?

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We’re all familiar with the sensation of sleepiness – heavy eye-lid, that warm, fuzzy feeling. But, one CrowdScience listener wants to know, what’s actually going on in our body and brain when tiredness takes over?

Presenter Marnie Chesterton takes up the challenge and follows a trail that leads to circadian scientists working at the NASA Ames research centre in Silicon Valley. It turns out aviators and astronauts take sleepiness very seriously indeed.

Marnie sends out roving reporter Anand Jagatia to investigate how our psycho-motor skills are affected by fatigue in a driving simulator. And we ask how does sleepiness change with age? Why, when tired, do adults crave a nap but children become ever more excitable? And what the hell’s going on with teenagers? We have some answers.

Presented by Anand Jagatia
Produced by Dom Byrne

(Photo: Tired woman taking a nap at work sitting at office desk. Credit: Getty Images)

Nov 08 2019

29mins

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Can my stutter be cured?

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Most of us take the ability to speak fluently for granted, but for listener Breeda it has been a lifelong struggle. She has asked CrowdScience to investigate whether there is a cure for stuttering and, if not, what the best way to live with it is. Breeda is not alone, as stammering is a neurological condition that affects 70 million people worldwide.

The CrowdScience team head to Oslo in Norway to follow a group of young people who have signed up for a highly disciplined and potentially life-changing training course. The first milestone is to learn to say their name without a stutter. For many, this is a huge challenge that triggers years of distress and anxiety.

With hundreds of muscles and many parts of the brain being involved, speaking is one of the most complex tasks that humans perform. Scientists have discovered subtle differences in the insulation surrounding nerve cells, so-called myelin, between people who stutter and those who don’t. This irregularity may be the source of a tiny time delay in signals between crucial regions of the brain that need to work closely together to produce speech. In the future, it may be possible to stimulate certain brain areas to boost growth and connectivity.

Presenter: Gareth Barlow
Produced by Louisa Field for the BBC World Service

(Image: Illustration of humans speaking with quotation marks, credit: Getty Images)

Nov 01 2019

34mins

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Will my salmon swim home?

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Crowdscience listeners Michael and Ricky have been walking a tributary of the River Thames in London, UK. They’ve noticed that there are loads of fish, which have only returned in recent years thanks to clean water initiatives. But what about salmon, they wonder? Could they one day return too? If they popped some salmon eggs in the river, would they return to spawn later on in their lives?

Marnie Chesterton heads to Norway to find out whether it’s possible. There, she follows the life cycle of salmon, from birth to death and travels to the salmon’s spawning grounds, before following their path out to sea and beyond. She explores the science behind ‘natal homing’ - returning to the place of your birth in order to reproduce. It isn’t just confined to salmon. But how does it work? Marnie also learns to fish as she joins an active research project that's evaluating if escaped farmed salmon are threatening their wild counterparts by interbreeding. Could this stop salmon swimming home?

Back in the UK, Marnie finds out if all this Norwegian expertise could be transplanted to a river in London? Quite possibly, but it's not without its challenges, as the UK's Environmental Agency found out after attempting to re-introduce salmon into the River Thames.

Presenter: Marnie Chesterton
Produced by Graihagh Jackson for the BBC World Service

(Photo: The mighty Wild Atlantic salmon travelling to spawning grounds in the Scottish highlands. Credit: Getty Images)

Oct 25 2019

34mins

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Is maths real?

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Faced with one cake and eight hungry people, it’s pretty obvious how maths underpins reality. But as mathematics gets further from common sense and into seemingly abstract territory, nature still seems to obey its rules - whether in the orbit of a planet, the number of petals on a flower, or the structure of an atom.

But what exactly is the relationship between mathematics and reality? That’s the impossibly difficult question CrowdScience has been set this week by our listener Sergio in Peru. It’s one that’s been pondered by humans for millennia: the Greek philosopher Pythagoras believed “All is number”.

Is maths a human construct to help us make sense of reality - a tool, a model, a language? Does maths create its own reality? Or is it reality itself?

CrowdScience explores these questions with the help of experts from the fields of philosophy, mathematics and science: Dr Eleanor Knox, Dr Eugenia Cheng, Professor Lucie Green, Alex Bellos and Stefano Centineo.

Presenter: Marnie Chesterton
Produced by Cathy Edwards for the BBC World Service

(Photo: A young woman with her eyes closed standing in front of chalkboard, working out maths formulas. Credit: Getty Images)

Oct 18 2019

32mins

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How can I live a longer life?

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Human life expectancy has been increasing for decades. In many developed countries, we can now expect to live into our 80s, and it isn’t uncommon to live to 90 or even 100 years old.

But eventually our bodies fail, old age is undoubtedly a clear indicator of approaching death. This fact annoyed 79 year old CrowdScience listener Bill, who emailed in to set presenter Geoff Marsh the task of seeking out the secrets to a longer, healthier life. Bill has a personal target to live to 200 years old, so can he do it?

Well some people appear to age more slowly. In one part of Costa Rica, people commonly hit their hundredth birthday. CrowdScience’s Rafael Rojas visits these Central American centenarians to ask them their secrets to a longer life. Then, in interviews with the best age researchers around the world, including Professor Linda Partridge and Professor Janet Lord, Geoff reveals the science behind longer lifespans, and what people can do to live for longer, healthily.

Presented by Geoff Marsh
Produced by Rory Galloway

(Image: A group of older men sitting together at an event, Costa Rica. Credit: Rafael Rojas)

Oct 11 2019

26mins

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Do green spaces make us healthier?

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Trees and plants have been quietly growing in the background of our everyday lives for as long as we’ve existed. Now, as millions of us move into densely populated cities for work, school and healthcare, our green neighbours have been replaced by brick, concrete, steel and glass. We know that plants are vital for absorbing our waste carbon dioxide and providing us with oxygen. Would remote rural forests do that job for us, or is there more to living alongside greenery?

CrowdScience listener Enrica from Italy thinks there is. She loves walking along the verdant riverbank near her home after a hard week at work. It makes her feel better, and she wants to know why. Which as it turns out, is a question that scientists across the globe are also trying to answer. The work they’ve done so far has been enough to convince governments around the world that it is worth investing taxpayer’s money in urban planting schemes.

One scheme is in Milan, Italy. Home to Leonardo da Vinci’s iconic “The Last Supper” and the San Siro, home of AC Milan, Inter Milan and the largest football stadium in Italy. But city officials have been working hard to increase the city’s the green features, committing to planting 3 million trees and building twenty new parks by 2030.

CrowdScience presenter Anand Jagatia visits Milan’s innovative Bosco Verticale - a vertical forest planted on two tower blocks and discovers that research is showing that greener cities could help those living there by providing spaces for daily physical activity. It’s hoped they could also provide cooling microclimates to reduce the dangers of summer heat, and improve our mental health.

(Photo: Tree lined "tunnel" in the English countryside of West Sussex. Credit: Getty Images)

Oct 04 2019

33mins

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Is a vegan diet better for your health?

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The number of vegans is on the rise in many parts of the world, with many people swearing by the health benefits of a plant-based lifestyle. But is a vegan diet really better for your health? Is there any evidence to show that vegans are likely to live longer? And what about the new, highly processed meat analogues becoming increasingly available in supermarkets and restaurants menus? They look, feel and taste just like meat products but what affect are they having on our health? To find out more, presenter Anand Jagatia talks to the experts and joins listener Samantha in following a vegan diet.

Presenter Anand Jagatia
Produced by Caroline Steel for the BBC World Service

(Photo: Healthy vegan food with herbs and spices. Credit: Getty Images)

Sep 27 2019

33mins

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Could I learn to think like Sherlock Holmes?

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Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous fictional detective is renowned for his feats of memory, his observational capacity, tireless energy and an almost supernatural ability to solve the most perplexing crimes from seemingly unconnected facts.

CrowdScience listener Asghar wants to know whether the way Sherlock Holmes solves crimes goes beyond fiction. What does science have to say about the matter? We pit fact against fiction with a leading forensic expert, a sleep scientist and presenter Marnie Chesterton puts herself to the test under the guidance of memory champion Simon Reinhard.

She discovers that most humans are able to train their brain to rival the memory capacity of Sherlock Holmes. And who wouldn’t want that?

Presenter: Marnie Chesterton
Producer: Louisa Field

(Photo: A Sherlock Holmes hat and magnifying glass on a wooden table. Credit: Getty Images)

Sep 20 2019

34mins

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Can my migraines be cured?

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The World Health Organization ranks migraines as the second most disabling neurological disorder in the world and in people under the age of 50, it is the single most disabling medical condition. With stats like that, it’s no wonder that so many CrowdScience listeners have got in touch wanting help with their headaches.

Peter from Germany askes what happens in his brain when he’s got a migraine, whilst Nika from Germany has found that changing lifestyle has dramatically reduced hers but she’s not sure why. What’s the link between diet, exercise and migraines, Nika wonders? Meanwhile, Judy from USA wants to know if there’s a cure, as her son gets chronic migraines and she wants to know what the future looks like for him.

Anand Jagatia and migraine sufferer Graihagh Jackson take a trip into the neurology of migraines, investigating some of the latest research in headache and migraine research to find some answers.

Presenters: Anand Jagatia & Graihagh Jackson
Producer: Graihagh Jackson

(Photo: A young man suffering from a migraine. Credit: Getty Images)

Sep 13 2019

33mins

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Are extroverts really happier?

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Sociable, lively, outgoing people are highly valued in certain cultures - think of the stereotype of the hyper-confident American. And there’s even evidence that extroverts all over the world tend to be happier. But are the positive qualities that quieter types can bring to society being ignored or underappreciated? And couldn’t introverts be just as happy as extroverts, if only they lived in a more accepting culture?

These are controversial areas of personality psychology into which CrowdScience strayed earlier this year when exploring the question “Why am I shy?” It prompted a whole bunch of other questions from our listeners which we tackle in this follow-up programme, with the help of psychologist and shyness expert Professor Jonathan Cheek. We probe the links between happiness, personality and culture, and find out what makes introverts happy.

Presenter: Datshiane Navanayagam
Producer: Cathy Edwards

(Photo: A woman smiling with her arms spread out. Credit: Getty Images)

Sep 06 2019

27mins

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iTunes Ratings

176 Ratings
Average Ratings
144
18
7
2
5

Great podcast!

By Mohsenp - Oct 19 2019
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Thanks a million for your podcast!

Vegan diet.

By Radical Linguist - Oct 03 2019
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Open-minded, and always with a genuine spirit of exploration.