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BBC Inside Science

A weekly programme that illuminates the mysteries and challenges the controversies behind the science that's changing our world.

Weekly hand curated podcast episodes for learning

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Climate Change and Health; Moth Snow Storm Feedback; Whale Brain Evolution; Pharoah's Serpent

Adam Rutherford talks to researchers on a major global study that aimed to quantify how climate change has already damaged the health of millions of people. Hugh Montgomery is the co-chair of the Lancet Countdown report and says that climate change is the largest single threat to global health. Climate scientist Peter Cox talks about his stark findings on the increase in the number of vulnerable people exposed to heat waves between now and the turn of the century.We hear anecdotes and concerns from listeners following our item last week on the catastrophic decline in flying insects in the last quarter century and the disappearance of moth snow storms.What can the social lives and brains of whales and dolphins tell us about the evolution of our species cognitive capacities and white matter? Adam talks to Susanne Shultz of the University of Manchester.Everyone's favourite indoor firework, the Pharoah's Serpent, is under scientific scrutiny from chemists Tom Miller and Andrea Sella at University College London.

34mins

2 Nov 2017

Rank #1

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First human drawing, Cycling genes, Oden Arctic expedition, Hello World

A new discovery of abstract symbolic drawings on a rock has been found in the Blombos Cave, about 300 km east of Cape Town in South Africa. The fragment - which some say looks a bit like a hashtag - puts the date of the earliest drawing at 73,000 years ago. As archaeologist Chris Henshilwood tells Adam Rutherford, the discovery is a "a prime indicator of modern cognition" in our species.Nearly half the human genome contains genes that regulate what your organs should be doing at a specific time of day, This has enormous potential importance to the efficacy of drugs - what time of day you take them could be a real issue. John Hogenesch from Cincinnatti Children's Hospital has been studying the genes that cycle with our daily lives. His new database of cyclic genes could help plan the best timing for a host of therapeutic interventions Physicist Helen Czerski has been in the Arctic for the last five weeks, aboard the Swedish research vessel and ice breaker Oden. As the expedition comes to a close we hear about the team's attempts to elucidate the driving forces behind the unusual weather patterns around the North Pole. Inside Science has been profiling authors shortlisted for the prestigious Royal Society science book prize. This week it's mathematician Hannah Fry's new book, Hello World: How to be human in the Age of Machines. You can hear extracts from it on Book of the Week on Radio 4 all this week too.Producer Adrian Washbourne.

27mins

13 Sep 2018

Rank #2

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Mars - rovers v humans? Forests and carbon, Ethiopian bush crow

Nasa have called time on the 14 year mission with the Mars Opportunity rover. Curiosity is still there. But what's next for our exploration of the Red planet? Adam asks Senior Strategist in Space Systems at Airbus, Liz Seward and BBC space correspondent, Jonathan Amos. Airbus are working with the European and Russian Space Agencies on the next rover, part of the Exomars mission. This new rover is called the Rosalind Franklin, after the UK scientist and when it hopefully lands in 2021, it'll be drilling down, deep into the surface of Mars to look for evidence of past life.We know that trees help mitigate the effects of greenhouse gases on climate change by sucking up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. In fact forests are estimated to lock up 2 of every 10 carbon molecules released. But which forests do it best? Tom Pugh at the University of Birmingham has been looking at the age of forests to try and see if this is a factor. It turns out the pristine, ancient tropical forests like the Amazon, although doing a good job, just aren't as good as the younger, regrowth forests of the Boreal and Temperate zones in the northern hemisphere. It's all down to demographics and the balance between new trees and dying trees.We keep hearing that this, or that, species is being threatened by climate change, but often the mechanisms are not that obvious. One particularly intriguing example comes in the form of the Ethiopian bush crow. An intelligent, seemingly adaptable bird, living in what seems like a general, widespread habitat in Southern Ethiopia, eating a wide and varied diet. Yet it's range is restricted to tiny pockets of land in a huge area of, what seems like a similar habitat. Ecologist, Andrew Bladon at Cambridge University thinks he has the answer to what's restricting this bird's range and how is a warming climate pushing this bird to extinction. Producer: Fiona Roberts

34mins

21 Feb 2019

Rank #3

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Genetics and privacy, Global plastic, Great Ape Dictionary, Ocean Discovery X Prize

Should our genomes be private? Professors Tim Hubbard and Nils Hoppe join Adam Rutherford to discuss concerns about data security and privacy of our genetic data. Once our DNA has been extracted, sequenced and stored as a digital file, what is done with it, who gets to see it and what say do we have in all this? Back in the 1950's at the dawn of the new plastic age, its everlasting properties were a major selling point. Now, we're dealing with escalating plastic pollution and bulging landfill. But how much plastic are we dealing with? Dr. Roland Geyer has calculated the production, use and fate of all plastics ever made.Chimpanzees are very communicative animals: they tend to use gestures foremost with vocalisation just to emphasise the flick of a wrist or a stretch of the hand. In an attempt to get a grasp on why, and how, we humans made the shift from gesture-led communication to talking, we need to see how well we can decipher our ape relatives. A new online study called the 'Great Ape Dictionary' wants you to have a go.The bottom of our seas remains a mysterious other world. Yet, adventuring into the deep depths of the ocean is a major challenge, which is probably why only 5% of it has ever been explored - even though it covers more than 70% of our planet. So to start learning more about our own planet, the Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE is awarding a total of $7 million to teams that develop autonomous, unmanned vehicles to map and image the bottom of the seas. Dr Jyotika Virmani tells Adam why ocean exploration is so important, and why it tends to take a backseat to adventuring into space.Presented by Adam RutherfordProduced by Fiona Roberts.

32mins

20 Jul 2017

Rank #4

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African swine fever, Oil spill update, CRISPR gene editing, Rat eradication in New Zealand, Chimp kin recognition

African Swine fever is deadly to pigs and is spreading west from Russia across Europe. The virus that causes it is very resilient and can stick around on clothing, hay and in infected pork products for as long as 150 days. Biosecurity is crucial to preventing its arrival in the UK. If just one pig eats some infected meat from discarded human food the disease could quickly spread causing thousands of pigs to be culled and costing the industry millions. But what is the current progress on developing a vaccine? Adam talks to virologist Professor Jonathan Ball of Nottingham University and Zoe Davies from the National Pig Association. Simon Boxall from Southampton Oceanography Centre gives an update on the sinking of the oil tanker Sanchi and its environmental impact. CRISPR is a revolutionary gene editing technique which can modify DNA and has the potential to correct genetic errors in a range of human diseases - even cancer. The technique has only been around for a few years but is already being talked about as a Nobel prize winning candidate. The market for the technology has been predicted to be worth US$ 10 billion by 2025. But stocks took a wobble last week on news that our immune system may render CRISPR useless. Is there really a big problem? Adam talks to Matt Porteus from Stanford University who did the research. 18 months ago, New Zealand announced a conservation project to exterminate all vermin that are decimating the indigenous bird population. For millions of years, the flora and fauna evolved in isolation, without predatory mammals. When humans arrived, they brought with them a host of bird-eating animals like rats, stoats and possums which now kill 25 million native birds every year. Marnie Chesterton travelled to New Zealand to report on a campaign of mass poisoning to save the kiwis and the kakapos and asks whether it’s ethical to kill one species to save another. And Cat Hobaiter from St Andrews University responds to listener questions about how chimpanzees might recognise family members.

28mins

18 Jan 2018

Rank #5

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Human Consciousness: Could a brain in a dish become sentient?

As the field of neuroscience advances, scientists are increasingly growing brain tissue to study conditions like autism, Alzheimer's and Zika virus. But could it become conscious? And if so, how far away is that scenario? Wind, changing water temperatures and salt are all factors known to control ocean currents. But new research suggests there's another element in the mix. When sea monkeys amass, the thousands of swimming legs can create powerful currents that mix hundreds of meters of water.Whenever a baby is born, we ask whether it's a girl or a boy. But when it comes to puppies, the question is often about the breed, especially with mongrels. And when we think we know what it is, we make assumptions about how that dog will behave. For instance, if you think there's some golden retriever parentage, you may expect it to be good at playing fetch. But do our perceptions of dog breeds change the way it behaves? That's the question of a new citizen science project called MuttMix, which asks you to guess the ancestry of various mongrels. Finally, Charles Dickens is known as one of the best novelists of the Victorian era but a new exhibition is questioning whether he should be also known as a man of science. Dickens campaigned for paediatrics and his powers of description lead to a new conditions being medically recognised. The exhibition will be at the Charles Dickens Museum and it opens in May.

31mins

26 Apr 2018

Rank #6

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Ancient DNA and Human Evolution

Twenty years ago, a revolution in the study of human evolution began. A team in Leipzig in Germany successfully extracted DNA from the bones of a Neanderthal man who died about 40,000 years ago. Thirteen years later, the same group unveiled the first complete genome sequence of another Neanderthal individual. Last year, they announced they'd retrieved DNA from much oldest archaic human bones, more than 400,000 years old.Adam Rutherford talks to Svante Paabo, the scientist has led these remarkable achievements. Professor Paabo and his colleague Janet Kelso at the Max Planck Institute of Biological Anthropology in Leipzig discuss the genes in many European people alive today that originated in Neanderthals and were passed to modern humans when the two species interbred. Adam also speaks to Johannes Krause who worked on the Neanderthal genome project in Leipzig but is now director of the Max Planck Institute of the Science of Human History. His latest research adds a new layer of intrigue and complexity to the relationship between our species and Neanderthals in deep time. David Reich at Harvard University focuses on using ancient DNA to uncover the ancestry and movements of modern human hunter-gatherers in Eurasia from about 50,000 years to the Bronze Age, a few thousand years ago. Population movements occur on a cinematic scale, he says. (Podcast only).The revelations of ancient genetics would not be possible and meaningful without the traditional disciplines of palaeoanthropology and archaeology. Adam goes to Gibraltar to seek the perspective of Clive Finlayson who leads excavations there as director of the Gibraltar Museum. Gibraltar is the most concentrated site of Neanderthal occupation in the world. As well as remains of a young Neanderthal child last year, the Rock's caves have also recently yielded the first example of Neanderthal cave art.

34mins

28 Dec 2017

Rank #7

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CCR5 Mutation Effects, The Surrey Earthquake Swarm, Animal Emotions

Some people have a genetic mutation in a gene called CCR5 that seems to bestow immunity to a form of HIV. This is the mutation which controversial Chinese scientist Jianqui He tried to bestow upon two baby girls last year when he edited the genes in embryos and then implanted them in a mother. A paper in the journal Nature Medicine this week uses data from the UK Biobank to look at the long term health patterns associated with this gene variant. It suggests that whilst the HIV-1 immunity may be considered a positive, having two copies of the gene also comes with a cost. It seems that it may also lower our immunity to other diseases and shows in the database as a 21% increase in mortality overall. Author Rasmus Nielsen talks about how important this gene is to evolutionary biologists trying to find signs of natural selection in humans. Adam discusses the ethical implications of the research with Dr Helen O’Neill. The Surrey Earthquake SwarmOver the last year several small earthquakes have been detected in one part of Surrey. Many have surmised that these may be caused by oil drilling taking place nearby, but it might be simpler than that. So the British Geological Survey has been monitoring the region. Roland Pease joined Imperial College seismologist Steven Hicks out in the countryside inspecting his detectors to find out more.Mama’s Last HugFrans de Waal, one of the world’s leading primatologists talks to Adam about his latest book, and the difficulties we as human observers have with studying emotion in animals. Prof de Waal coins a neologism ‘anthropodenialism’ to describe the belief that emotions in animals are incommensurable with human experience. He thinks most mammals, and certainly primates, experience pretty much the same emotions as we do, for similar reasons. Feelings, however, are a different matter. Producer: Alex Mansfield

37mins

6 Jun 2019

Rank #8

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Next Gen Covid Vaccines; Man's Oldest Bestest Friend; Bilingual Brain Development

A year after the first SARS-Cov2 sequences were received in the vaccine labs, Dr Alex Lathbridge and guests look into ongoing development and what next year's booster shots might be like. Prof Robin Shattock's team at Imperial College are still working on their vaccine technology - called 'Self Amplifying RNA' or saRNA. A little bit behind their well financed corporate colleagues, this week they announced that instead of pressing ahead with a phase III trial, they will instead look to developing possible boosters and alternative targets just in case more and more serious mutations happen. But as Prof Anna Blakney explains from her lab at University of British Columbia, the possibilities of saRNA don't stop with coronaviruses.Researchers in the journal PNAS report this week a new theory as to when and where dogs were first domesticated by humans, and suggest that they accompanied the first humans across the Bering straight into America. Inside Science's Geoff Marsh has a sniff around.And Dr Dean D'Souza from Anglia Ruskin University describes in Science Advances work he has done looking at certain kinds of development in children who grow up in bilingual households. His work suggests a slightly faster and keener observation of detailed changes in visual cues, and that this seems to be a trait that survives into adulthood. Presented by Alex LathbridgeProduced by Alex MansfieldMade in Association with The Open University

35mins

28 Jan 2021

Rank #9

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Earliest modern human skull, Analysing moon rocks, Viruses lurking in our genomes

A new study shows that 210,000-year-old skull found in Greece is the earliest evidence for modern humans in Eurasia. A second skull found in the same site is found to be a Neanderthal from 170,000 years ago. These findings suggest that modern humans left Africa earlier and reached further than previously thought. Analysing moon rocksThe Apollo missions were scientific explorations, bringing back hundreds of kilograms of moon rock to help us understand the formation of the Moon, the Earth and life itself. We are still studying the rocks that were bought back from between 1969 and 1972. Roland Pease went to the Diamond Light Source Syncotron in Oxfordshire, where scientists are still studying these moon rocks. Viruses lurking in our genomes When it comes to our genomes, there is no such thing as 100% human. Our genetic code is a patchwork of DNA that we have picked up or lost along the way. 8% of our DNA comes from viruses. So what does this mean? Much of the viral DNA is thought to have been involved in forming our immune systems, fighting against pathogenic viruses. But it's not all good news, new work suggests that these human endogenous retroviruses or HERVs might also be the missing causative link in major 'unsolved' neurological diseases such as multiple sclerosis [MS], amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's disease [ALS] and schizophrenia [SCZ].Presenter: Adam RutherfordProducer: Caroline Steel

31mins

11 Jul 2019

Rank #10

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Ebola model, Partula snails, Malaria origin

Zoonotic diseases are infections that transfer from animals to people, and include killers such as bubonic plague, malaria, ebola and a whole host of others. Trying to understand how diseases make the leap from animals to humans – so called spillover – and how outbreaks occur is a crucial part of preventing them. But outbreaks are complex and dynamic, with a huge number of factors playing a role: What animal is hosting the disease, the environment in which it lives, the changing climate, human presence and impact on the local area and many other factors. Kate Jones is professor of ecology and biodiversity at University College London, and has been tracking ebola in Africa. Her team has just published a new study that models how and when spillover might happen in the future. On the lushly forest islands of French Polynesia, there lives a very special snail. Partula are around 100 species of tiny snails who give birth to live young and feed on decomposing plants. Each species is uniquely adapted to a particular ecological niche. But in 1967, the highly edible Giant African Land Snail was introduced to the islands as a source of food. They quickly became pests, and in response, the French Polynesian government then introduced carnivorous Rosy Wolf Snails - aka Euglandina rosea - to quell the spread of the introduced Giant Land snails. Reporter Naomi Clements-Brode picks up the story with scientist Ann Clarke, along with Dave Clarke and Paul Pearce-Kelly at ZSL London Zoo.Finally this week, malaria is, as best we can account for it, the single greatest killer in human history. The vast majority of malaria is caused by a type of single celled protozoan called Plasmodium falciparum, carried by mosquitos. But according to new research published this week, it started out around fifty thousand years ago not in us, but as a gorilla disease, and in one particularly unlucky gorilla, two simultaneous infections prompted the mutation and rise of the plasmodium parasite that would go on to kill millions. Dr Gavin Wright from the Wellcome Sanger Institute in Hinxton lead the team behind this molecular archaeology.

27mins

17 Oct 2019

Rank #11

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Rinderpest destruction, Noise and birdsong, Science as entertainment

Rinderpest – Sequence and DestroyLast week the UK’s Pirbright Institute announced that it had destroyed its remaining stocks of the deadly cattle virus Rinderpest. This repository was one of the biggest remaining stores of it since it was announced in 2011 that vaccines had eradicated it in the wild. Dr Michael Baron, amongst others, has been arguing for years that because we can now obtain a full sequence of such viruses, we no longer need to run the risk of such scientific samples ever being released, through accident or malice. As such, for Pirbright at least, the rinderpest virus that once killed millions of cattle and starved similar numbers of humans now only exists as a digital memory. Oi, You Singin' at My Bird?The delightful song of the European Robin is actually a fierce territorial warning between males that functions to avoid costly mismatched conflict. In fact, the complexity of the song seems to represent the fitness of the singer. Gareth Arnott of Queen’s University in Belfast talks about his investigation into whether noise – including anthropogenic noise interferes with this life-or-death conversation. It sounds like it does.Science as EntertainmentAll this week and next BBC2 is hosting a new programme called The Family Brain Games. The games are designed not to test merely general knowledge or conventional measures of IQ, but rather a functional, communicative sort of intelligence that competing families display amongst themselves as a team. But can this sort of nuanced science be properly communicated on TV? Host Dara Ó Briain and neuroscientist Prof Sophie Scott discuss the ins and outs of making science entertaining. Presenter: Adam RutherfordProducer: Alex Mansfield

35mins

20 Jun 2019

Rank #12

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Plastic-eating bacteria, Foam mattresses for crops, The evolved life aquatic, The Double Helix

A breakthrough for closed loop plastic recycling? Two years ago Japanese scientists discovered a type of bacteria which has evolved to feed on PET plastic - the material from which fizzy drink bottles are made It was isolated at a local recycling centre. An international team has now characterised the structure of the plastic-degrading enzyme and accidentally improved its efficiency. John McGeehan of the University of Portmouth led the team and talks to Adam about where the discovery may lead.If you can't recycle plastic, you can re-use. Sheffield University chemist Tony Ryan is working to convert old polyurethane foam mattresses into hydroponic allotment beds so that people at a Syrian refugee camp in Jordan can grow their own crops. Roland Pease reports.How southeast Asian sea nomads evolved the life aquatic.The Double Helix, fifty years after its 1968 publication. Biologist and historian Matthew Cobb and science writer Angela Saini discuss the place of James Watson's compelling and controversial memoir in the annals of popular science writing. His account of the discovery of the DNA's structure was unlike any science book that had come before. Does it stand the test of time and what of its blantantly sexist treatment of the gifted X-ray crystallographer Rosalind Franklin? Her work was crucial to Crick and Watson's 1953 model of the DNA molecule.

38mins

19 Apr 2018

Rank #13

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Old Dogs and Physics in Space

How far back can we trace the ancestry of dogs? For just how long have they been following us around? The answer is for a very long time - long before humans settled down and developed societies. Scientists in France have been looking at ancient dog DNA to try and work out whether people tamed and domesticated local dogs as they migrated across the planet, or brought dogs with them. The answer tells us much about the relationship - or rather lack of it, between early farmers and the hunter gathers they replaced throughout Europe. And how many Bosons can you fit in a rocket? As they are rather small particles the answer will be quite a lot, but a team from Germany has succeeded in making a form of mater known as the Bose Einstein Condensate in a small rocket which they launched into the Earth’s upper atmosphere. Potentially the success of their experiment could lead to new ways of detecting gravitational waves in space. Back on earth a group of ‘A’ level students have been looking at or rather listening to data from space, and published a scientific paper on their observation of a solar storm. In a unique partnership with university physics researchers, information on electromagnetic waves around our planet has been turned into audible data. The keen ears of the students identified events that had not previously been detected. And how incriminating is your washing machine? Digital forensics, the unpicking of the data trails on our digital devices, from phones to TV tuners, even baby monitors and washing machines are now playing a part in criminal investigations, not just cases involving online fraud or cybercrime, but any investigation looking at what suspects were doing and when. A digital trail can act as evidence for time and place.

28mins

18 Oct 2018

Rank #14

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Gene-edited twins, Placenta organoids in a dish, When the last leaves drop

Claims by a Chinese scientist that he has gene-edited human embryos, transplanted them producing genetically edited twins, who will pass on these changes to their offspring, has the scientific community outraged. The work, which was carried out in secret, has not been officially published or peer reviewed, but if the claims are to be taken seriously, this work severely flaunts international ethical guidelines at many levels. BBC Health and Science Correspondent James Gallagher explains the story so far.Little is known about the placenta and how it works, despite it being absolutely essential for supporting the baby as it grows inside the mother. When it doesn’t function properly, it can result in serious problems, from pre-eclampsia to miscarriage, with immediate and lifelong consequences for both mother and child. Our knowledge of this important organ is very limited because of a lack of good experimental models. Animals are too dissimilar to humans to provide a good model of placental development and implantation, and stem cell studies have largely proved unsuccessful. But one group of University Cambridge researchers have now created ‘mini-proto placentas’ – a cellular model, growing long-term, in 3D of the early stages of the placenta – that could provide a ‘window’ into early pregnancy and help transform our understanding of reproductive disorders. The Woodland Trust want you to tell them when you notice a tree, you regularly see, loses all of its leaves. Its part of their long term phonological study, Nature's Calendar . They hope to keep track of the effect of climate change on the timings of annual tree events.

28mins

29 Nov 2018

Rank #15

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Net-Zero carbon target, Science Policy Under Thatcher, Screen time measures

Net-Zero Carbon TargetThe UK is set to become the first member of the G7 industrialised nations group to legislate for net-zero emissions after Theresa May’s announcement this week. The proposed legislation would commit the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions to ‘net-zero’ by 2050, which would mean that after reducing emissions as much as possible, any remaining emissions would be offset through schemes such as planting trees or investing in renewable energy infrastructure. Dr Jo House, from the department of Geography at Bristol University, has spent time advising the government on previous carbon budgets and was there in the build-up to the signing of the Paris Agreement in 2016. She talks to Gareth Mitchell about the proposal, what it means for the UK’s climate future and how realistic she thinks the targets are. Science Policy Under Thatcher30 years ago a new Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, told her officials - in a break from the norm - that she would keep a personal eye on science policy in her government. By 1987, the relationship between government, university research and industrial research would be changed utterly. Prof Jon Agar has been scouring The National Archives and a wealth of hitherto private communications that shed light on how her approach to science policy formed. His new book is out this week and he discusses the events with Prof Dame Wendy Hall, a young scientist in the 80s but now fresh to the programme from hearing announcements at the London Technology Week regarding large investment and an industrial strategy towards Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. Screen Time MeasuresIf you are using evidence to inform your policy, you need to make sure that evidence is as robust as you think it is. David Ellis of Lancaster University tells Gareth about his team’s recent work to evaluate a certain type of self-reporting, particularly involving studies into our well-being with regards to technology use. How much time do you spend with your device? Your answer might not be completely aligned with reality, as revealed by actual screen-time data. Unfortunately, many of the headline-grabbing papers we read regarding health and screen time are based on self-reporting questionnaires, which David suggests might require more scepticism.Presenter: Gareth MitchellProducer: Alex Mansfield

30mins

13 Jun 2019

Rank #16

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Stephen Hawking Tribute

Adam Rutherford presents a special tribute to the science of Stephen Hawking. He is joined by Fay Dowker, a former PhD student of Hawking and now a professor of theoretical physics at Imperial College, Professor Carlos Frenk, a long-time colleague and friend and fellow physicist and science communicator Professor Brian Cox. They look at the scientific legacy of Stephen Hawking and the role that his work played in bringing us a step closer to a single grand theory that explains how the universe works.

29mins

5 Apr 2018

Rank #17

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Russian Spy Poisoning

A former Russian spy, Sergei Skripal, and his daughter Yulia are in a serious condition after being exposed to a nerve agent on Sunday. The first police officer to attend the scene also remains in hospital. It is being treated as 'a major incident involving attempted murder.' We ask what happens next: what antidotes are available, how do they work and what's the prognosis? Today marks International Women’s Day. Its aim is to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. But there’s also a strong call for change, especially in the tech industry where women are vastly underrepresented. Discussions on how we could achieve gender equality have been ongoing for years, so why has there been so little change? And how can this bias affect the technology we all use? Scientists are warning of an infertility 'crisis' among men. Sperm counts have been falling for over 40 years and now, 1 in 20 men have low sperm counts. The cause is unknown and this week, doctors are calling for more funding to better understand the issue.The red squirrel has found an unlikely ally: the pine marten. Grey squirrels were introduced to the UK in the late 1800s from America and have since caused the native red population to diminish. However, with the reintroduction of a predator, the mal-adapted greys are being hunted and as a result, red squirrels are bouncing back.

31mins

8 Mar 2018

Rank #18

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Pre-prints over peer review during the COVID pandemic and roads and birds

A pre-print is a way for scientists to get their work out quickly for other scientists to comment on and debate. But pre-prints are not peer reviewed; they have not undergone the scrutiny of reviewers and journal editors. They're generally seen as a good thing, but are just a step on the way for science to be verified and published. But it's important to note that the science can be wrong or sloppy in pre-prints, so they have never really been part of the process by which science is disseminated to the general public. That is, until the COVID pandemic. The speed at which the science can be shared has led to pre-prints becoming more and more scrutinised by journalists and used to inform the public about this terrible disease. Fiona Fox, CEO of the Science Media Centre, which is an independent press office for the scientific community, discusses the potential pitfalls of using pre-prints with Adam Rutherford and with Dr Jonathan Read from Lancaster University, who himself got caught up in a pre-print firestorm at the start of the pandemic.The UK has the 12th highest road density in the world, but very little is known about the impact of roads on our wildlife. Now conservation scientists are starting to look at their effects on our bird populations. They call it ‘road exposure’ because they can’t directly measure the impact of road noise, but the noise pollution aspect is very much to the fore. Cambridge University's Sophia Cook has found that roads have a mostly negative effect on most birds in Great Britain. And with that negative effect being stronger in rarer birds this could be adding to the 'simplification' of bird populations and a reduction in biodiversity.Presenter - Adam Rutherford Producers - Fiona Roberts and Beth Eastwood#bbcinsidescience

31mins

23 Jul 2020

Rank #19

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Coronavirus outbreak in China; Genetic diseases in Amish communities and getting an Egyptian mummy to speak

With news reports moving as quickly as the virus may be spreading, the latest coronavirus outbreak which is thought to have started in Wuhan in central China is fast becoming a global health concern. Adam Rutherford speaks to BBC Inside Science's resident virologist Professor Jonathan Ball from Nottingham University, who says one of the most urgent things to do is to find out where the virus came from, and what animal it jumped to humans from.The Anabaptist Amish communities are some of the fastest growing populations on the planet. They came to the US from the Swiss-German border in the 18th and 19th centuries and have maintained their plain, simple community-minded way of life. Partly because they all descended from the same geographical area and partly because they tend to marry within their own communities, they can suffer from a particular spectrum of genetic disorders. Professor Andrew Crosby and Dr. Emma Baple from Exeter University have been studying these diseases, including a number new to medicine, and in return they are helping the Amish to understand and treat some of these debilitating diseases.He may currently sound more like a sheep baa-ing, but in a proof of concept experiment, Professor David Howard, an electrical engineer at Royal Holloway University of London, has been able to scan, 3D print and electronically reanimate the vocal tract of Nesyamum, a 3000 year old Egyptian mummy. The eventual hope is to recreate his tongue and try to get him to sing.Producer - Fiona Roberts

31mins

23 Jan 2020

Rank #20