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BBC Inside Science

Updated 6 days ago

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Dr Adam Rutherford and guests illuminate the mysteries and challenge the controversies behind the science that's changing our world.

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Dr Adam Rutherford and guests illuminate the mysteries and challenge the controversies behind the science that's changing our world.

iTunes Ratings

176 Ratings
Average Ratings
134
24
8
5
5

Where is Adam?

By idontwantanavatar - Apr 09 2020
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I love this podcast! Where has Adam Rutherford gone though?

All episodes

By Voles Rule - May 30 2019
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Brilliant, clear and concise, a must listen for scientists and non-scientists

iTunes Ratings

176 Ratings
Average Ratings
134
24
8
5
5

Where is Adam?

By idontwantanavatar - Apr 09 2020
Read more
I love this podcast! Where has Adam Rutherford gone though?

All episodes

By Voles Rule - May 30 2019
Read more
Brilliant, clear and concise, a must listen for scientists and non-scientists
Cover image of BBC Inside Science

BBC Inside Science

Latest release on Sep 17, 2020

All 300 episodes from oldest to newest

COVID-19 in Winter, Acoustics of Stonehenge and Dog years

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As it starts to get colder and we crank up the central heating in our homes, what will the effect be on the SARs-CoV-2 virus? As a respiratory virus like the common cold and influenza, will the coronavirus have a distinct season and will the incidence of COVID get worse in the winter? A pre-print study of over 7000 hospitalised patients across Europe and China during the early days of the pandemic plotted severity of the disease with outside temperature. In European countries as we came out of winter, into spring and then summer, Professor Gordan Lauc, lead researcher on the study, found that the severity decreased as it got warmer outside. He took outside temperature as a proxy for indoor humidity (as it gets colder, we turn on our heating, stay indoors more and the humidity in our homes, and especially our bedrooms drops). He explains to Marnie Chesterton that the subsequent drying out of our mucosal membranes in our noses and throats could be the reason we might expect things to get worse over the winter.

We learn a lot about what our ancestors got up to by visualising a scene. Take Stonehenge for example, years of detective work has ascertained that 4,000 years ago, Stonehenge was made up of an outer circle of 30 standing stones called ‘sarsens’, which surrounded five huge stone arches in a horseshoe shape. There were also two circles made of smaller ‘bluestones’ – one inside the outer circle and one inside the horseshoe. But what did it sound like if you were in the middle of all these stones in prehistoric times? Last year, acoustic engineer at the University of Salford, Trevor Cox, and his team built and measured a 1:12 acoustic scale model of Stonehenge to find out. They've now completed the full analysis of those first measurements and Trevor caught up with Adam Rutherford to find out whether knowing the acoustics of a monument can tell us anything about how it might have been used.

If you own a dog and like to calculate the equivalent human age of your pup, you might think that every year of your dog’s age equals 7 years in humans. So a one year old hound is 7 years old. Not so! As Geoff Marsh investigates - it’s much more complicated than that. Of course it is!

Presenter – Marnie Chesterton
Producer – Fiona Roberts

Sep 17 2020

30mins

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Coronavirus: The types of vaccine; How the UK is scaling up vaccine production

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Vaccination has eradicated smallpox, a disease that decimated populations through the 20th century. Polio is almost gone too, and measles is no longer the pervasive childhood threat it once was. It’s clear that vaccination is our best tool to halt the threat of SARS CoV 2, and allow the return to a less restricted way of life. But it takes time to develop and test vaccines although the technologies used to create them have moved on significantly over the last few decades.

Professor Jonathan Ball, a virologist at Nottingham University, talks Adam Rutherford through the several types of vaccine that are being explored in the effort to stop the coronavirus pandemic, and how they work. These include live attenuated virus vaccines that are genetically modified to appear to be SARS CoV 2 to the immune system, and RNA subunit vaccines that trick the body into recognising the virus. He discusses the way different vaccines work against disease, and how they trigger different types of immune response.

Before a vaccine is approved for general use it has to pass through three trial phases, and Jonathan discusses the vaccines that are already going through phase 2 and 3 in the UK.

If and when a vaccine gets approved, it needs to be produced to exacting standards and in quantities great enough to immunise the whole population. The UK Vaccine Manufacturing Taskforce was set up in May to coordinate the effort to make a vaccine. Steve Bagshaw, part of the Taskforce, explains that some vaccines have already been produced around the UK, prior to clinical approval in an effort to ensure that any approved vaccine is ready to be distributed as fast as possible to those at risk. This is unprecedented, and means the pathway to vaccine distribution could be faster than any that have gone before.

Presented by Adam Rutherford
Produced by Fiona Roberts and Rory Galloway

Sep 10 2020

29mins

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Bird and dinosaur skull evolution; the wonders of yeast and Science Museum mystery object

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Skulls give researchers a great deal of insight into how an animal might have evolved, and skulls can be sensibly compared between species and groups of animals. The 10,000 species of bird around the world are what’s left of an even more diverse group, the dinosaurs. But research on their skulls has revealed that despite the birds’ exceptional diversity, they evolve far more slowly than their dinosaur relatives ever did. This is one of the findings of a huge skull mapping project at the Natural History Museum led by Anjali Goswami.

Marnie Chesterton delights Adam Rutherford with what she has recently learned about the single-celled fungus that is yeast. She recently visited the National Collection of Yeast Cultures in Norwich, which stores hundreds of thousands of strains of yeast. She discovered that yeast is not only responsible for the production and subtle flavours of bread, yeast and chocolate, but also that some species of yeast can actually clean carbon dioxide from the air and can be used to feed livestock.

The Science Museum Group looks after over 7.3 million items. As with most museums, the objects you see on display when you visit is only the tip of the iceberg of the entire collection. Up until now, many of the remainder (300,000 objects) has been stored in Blythe House in London. But now the collection is being moved to a purpose-built warehouse in Wiltshire. The move is a perfect opportunity for curators to see what’s there, re-catalogue long hidden gems and to conserve and care for their treasures. But during the process they have discovered a number of unidentified items that have been mislabelled or not catalogued properly in the past and some of them are just so mysterious, or esoteric, that the Science Museum needs the aid of the public to help identify them, and their uses. This week, Jessica Bradford, the keeper of collection engagement at the Science Museum is asking Inside Science listeners if they recognise, or can shed light on the possible use of the ‘glassware’ in the picture above. Send suggestions to Email: bbcinsidescience@bbc.co.uk or mysteryobject@sciencemuseum.ac.uk

Presenter – Adam Rutherford
Producers – Fiona Roberts & Rory Galloway

Sep 03 2020

28mins

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What does the science say about the COVID risks of schools reopening? Dolphin ear autopsy

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Over the next couple of weeks almost all children in the UK will be back to school. But the pandemic hasn’t ended, and we are far from having a complete understanding of how this virus works, including how it is transmitted and how it affects younger people. Pretty much everyone is in agreement that kids need to be back at school, as the costs of not being physically in classrooms are great - for the education of kids, for their mental health, and for the finances of parents needing to work. But what does the science say about the risks for schools reopening? Will we see a rise in infections in younger people, and hot-spots for the wider community? Adam Rutherford discusses these issues with Paul Hunter, Professor of Medicine at Norwich Medical School, and he finds out from Professor Tim Spector if his Kings College COVID symptom tracker app can shed any more light on whether children display the same COVID symptoms as adults, or could we be missing infections in the young?

Marnie Chesterton eavesdrops on an aquatic autopsy. We pollute the oceans with noise that has some serious effects on marine life. Remotely via video link up, Marnie witnesses a complex autopsy on the inner ear of a dolphin. She discovers how accurately the death of the sensory hair cells in a cetacean’s ear records the time of damage.

Presenter – Adam Rutherford
Producer – Fiona Roberts

Aug 27 2020

31mins

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Smart bricks, The Royal Academy of Engineering awards for pandemic engineering solutions and detecting SARS-Cov-2 in sewage

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Red clay bricks are among the most ubiquitous building materials worldwide. Julio D'Arcy, a chemist at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, describes to Adam Rutherford how he and his team have turned ordinary house bricks into energy storage units that can power home electronic devices – thanks to the red iron oxide (rust) pigment and a conductive plastic nano-material infused into the bricks These new ‘smart bricks’ can be charged to hold electricity a bit like a battery.

As the pandemic continues, we continue to try to find ways to manage it, treat the disease, detect it and cure it. As necessity is the mother of invention, we're currently witnessing some of the most intense periods of scientific innovation in the 21st century. And there have been some incredible discoveries, innovations and inventions in just the last 6 months. The Royal Academy of Engineering announced a special round of awards this week, to recognise the heroics of engineers, designers and scientists to help tackle this pandemic. Professor Raffaella Oconé is Chair of the Awards Committee at the Royal Academy of Engineering, and she told Adam about the range of much needed inventions to tackle COVID19.

The current mantra of 'test, track and trace has so far had limited success in the UK. In part because of the difficulty of testing enough people, tracking their movements and tracing the spread of the virus. By the time someone is displaying symptoms and then being one of the few people to then get a test, they may have spread the virus to many people. But scientists across the UK and abroad are beginning to realise that maybe there might be a cheaper alternative, that gives even earlier warning of a spike in infection - by detecting the virus in sewage.

Presenter: Adam Rutherford
Producers: Fiona Roberts and Beth Eastwood

Aug 20 2020

28mins

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Land use and zoonoses, California's earthquake risk and the Tuatara genome

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COVID19 is a chilling reminder of how pathogens from animals can jump into humans. But it’s not the first time. SARS, Ebola, West Nile virus and bubonic plague are all serious infectious diseases that sat in a host species before crossing to us. But what causes this to happen? Individual case studies suggest that we are partly to blame in the way we use the land, either through urbanisation or agriculture. But how widespread is this, and do our global patterns of land use systematically put us at risk? Adam talks to environmental biologist David Redding from the Zoological Society of London, and his team, whose new study suggests they do.

Jessica Bradford, the Keeper of Collection Engagement at the Science Museum, asks for your help with another mystery object that they’ve uncovered during their recent collection move.

Roland Pease reports on the chain of interconnected faults which has stimulated Los Angeles' preparation for “the big one”, after southern California was hit by one of the biggest earthquakes in the area for decades.

Adam also asks Neil Gemmell from the University of Otago in New Zealand about the weird and wonderful Tuatara, whose colossal genome he’s just sequenced.

Presenter: Adam Rutherford
Producer: Beth Eastwood

Aug 13 2020

27mins

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How sperm swim, the theory of soil & the Big Compost Experiment update

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Adam reveals new research which overturns received wisdom about how sperm swim. More than three centuries after Antonie van Leeuwenhoek peered down his early microscope to observe human sperm or ‘animalcules’ swimming with a ‘snakelike movement, like eels in water’, high-tech observations now reveal that this was, in fact, an optical illusion.

Hermes Gadelha from Bristol University used 3D microscopy, a high-speed camera and mathematics, to reconstruct the true movement of the sperm tail. Much to his amazement, sperm have a highly sophisticated way of rolling as they swim. They do this to counter the numerous irregularities in their morphology which would otherwise send them swimming in circles. In doing so, they are able to propel themselves forwards. This highly complex set of movements, seen in 3D, is obscured in 2D when sperm appear to use a symmetrical eel-like motion to swim.

Also on the programme, Adam gets an update from Mark Miodownik on the Big Compost Experiment, the citizen science project that wants to know what you compost, how you do it and, most importantly, how quickly the stuff breaks down. Mark reveals how confused participants are, about what they can compost, and explains why items marked ‘compostable’ or biodegradable’ won’t compost at home.

Staying with soil, healthy soil is being lost at an alarming rate due to intensive agricultural practices. In England and Wales, a recent survey found that nearly forty percent of arable soils were degraded. Inside Science reporter Madeleine Findlay visits Andrew Neil from Rothamsted Research who has devised a new way of thinking about soil. They’ve solved the mystery of why adding carbon through organic material, like compost, improves soil health.

PRODUCERS: Beth Eastwood & Fiona Roberts

Aug 06 2020

28mins

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Science Museum mystery objects; home security camera security and Rosalind Franklin at 100

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The Science Museum Group looks after over 7.3 million items. As with most museums, the objects you see on display when you visit are only the tip of the iceberg of the entire collection. Up until now, many of the remaining 300,000 objects have been stored in Blythe House in London. But now the collection is being moved to a purpose-built warehouse in Wiltshire. The move is a perfect opportunity for curators to see what’s there, re-catalogue long hidden gems and to conserve and care for their treasures. But during the process they have discovered a number of unidentified items that have been mislabelled or not catalogued properly in the past and some of them are just so mysterious, or esoteric, that the Science Museum needs the aid of the public to help identify them, and their uses. We’ll be showcasing items over the next weeks and months, but this week, Jessica Bradford, the keeper of collection engagement at the Science Museum is asking Inside Science listeners if they recognise, or can shed light on the possible use of the ‘scoop’ in the picture above.
Send suggestions to Email: bbcinsidescience@bbc.co.uk or mysteryobject@sciencemuseum.ac.uk

People install and use home security cameras for peace of mind. But the very behaviour of the commonly used IP home security cameras (internet-connected security cameras) could be giving away important information about your household to potential burglars. Gareth Tyson, at Queen Mary University London, has been working with researchers in China to explore how we use these home security camera systems and to look for flaws in the security of security cameras.

Last Saturday, 25th July, was a hundred years since the birth of chemist Rosalind Franklin. She is perhaps most famous for her work using X-ray crystallography which helped lead to the discovery of the double helix structure of DNA, a contribution for which she was not credited at the time. But there’s so much more to the scientific story of her life than just being the wronged woman in the DNA story, who died tragically young at the age of just 37. She pioneered work in the coal industry and on the structure of viruses, including the polio virus. And Franklin’s work has resonance today, in this era of COVID-19. Baroness Nicola Blackwood, chair of Genomics England thinks Rosalind Franklin’s legacy is something we should be very proud of today.

Presenter - Gareth Mitchell
Producers - Fiona Roberts and Beth Eastwood

Jul 30 2020

31mins

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

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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

Jul 23 2020

31mins

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Science Fraud & Bias, Immunity to COVID-19

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Science is all about self-reflection. Scientists constantly check themselves, share their work, and check each other’s data. But how robust is the science upon which civilisation is built, the science which has mapped genomes, cured diseases, split atoms and sent people to the moon?

Adam talks to Stuart Ritchie, a psychologist from Kings College London, about his new book Science Fictions which explores everything from biases and human fallibility, to outright fraud. He also talks to microbiologist turned image sleuth, Elisabeth Bik, whose work is revealing that manipulated images appear in scientific papers shockingly often.

Now we are several months into the COVID pandemic, scientists are beginning to share their first insights into whether people retain immunity to SARS-CoV-2 after they've had the disease COVID-19. At Kings College London, Senior Lecturer in Infectious Diseases, Katie Doores and her team tracked the antibody levels over the first months after infection with COVID-19. Their first preprint findings suggest a worrying pattern – antibodies against the virus begin to wane within months of being infected. However it is too early to say if and when a person who’s had COVID-19 could be vulnerable to reinfection. Early findings from Marcus Buggert, at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, suggest that another part of the immune system, the memory T-cells, are active in those who have had the disease, even if they lack antibodies against the virus.

Producers: Beth Eastwood & Fiona Roberts

Jul 16 2020

28mins

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