Surprising stories from unusual places. With ideas too big for a single episode, The Compass presents mini-series about the environment and politics, culture and society.
Surprising stories from unusual places. With ideas too big for a single episode, The Compass presents mini-series about the environment and politics, culture and society.
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?.
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 ChestertonProduced 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)
Rank #2: The Fourth Dimension.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.(Image: Stripes and points of light, one guess what a 4th dimension might look like, Credit: Thinkstock)
Global experts and decision makers discuss, debate and analyse a key news story.
Rank #1: What Does Steve Bannon Think?.
Steve Bannon is widely seen as one of the most influential – and in some quarters one of the most dangerous - men in President Trump’s administration. He holds the key post of White House Chief Strategist, but who is he and what does he really believe? Join Owen Bennett Jones and his guests on Newshour Extra this week as they consider Mr Bannon's influence in the future direction of policy. How will his mix of right and left-wing views shape President Trump’s economic plans? How might his interest in fringe historical theories impact on social and foreign policy? And what are the consequences of his belief that the Judeo-Christian West is facing an existential crisis in its confrontation with the Islamic world?
Rank #2: Trump and Russia: A Long Relationship.
President Trump’s connections with Russia is a story that won’t go away. There are so many allegations flying around that it can be difficult to separate what is actually known and what is rumour. The President and his supporters have one key point - that despite all the coverage and official investigations, there is still no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Nor is there evidence that Trump’s business connections to Russia are other than legitimate. But did Russia try to influence the election outcome? And what about the stream of stories linking members of Trump’s team to Russia? As a special counsel is appointed to oversee the investigation into alleged Russian interference in the US presidential election, Owen Bennett Jones and panel of expert guests marshal the facts and explain what is known for sure about Donald Trump’s longstanding relationship with Russia.Photo: Donald Trump in White House talking on phone to President Putin, 28 January 2017. Credit: Getty Images
Discover world history, culture and ideas with today’s leading experts.
Rank #1: Taiwan: An Island History.
Perhaps the island of Taiwan makes you think of those familiar "Made in Taiwan" labels on computer and electrical goods but it was nicknamed 'Ilha Formosa' or the 'beautiful island' by the Portuguese in the 1500s. Bridget Kendall explores its rich and surprising history with Emma Teng, Professor of Asian Civilisations at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Dr Jie Yu, Head of China Foresight, focused on Chinese foreign policy, at the London School of Economics and Dr Bi-yu Chang and Dr Dafydd Fell from SOAS (formerly known as the School of Oriental and African Studies) in London. Photo: people celebrate Taiwan' s annual Lantern Festival, which marks the end of the Lunar New Year festivities. (Getty Images)
Rank #2: Machu Picchu: The secrets of a forgotten city.
The ancient Inca town Machu Picchu is now the most visited tourist attraction in Peru - and yet it lay nearly forgotten for over three centuries until American and Peruvian explorers drew the world's attention to it in the 1910s. And despite a century of excavations at the site, there are still many unanswered questions about Machu Picchu: why was it built in the first place, who were the immigrants that made up a large proportion of the town's population, and why was it abandoned so quickly.To find out more about Machu Picchu, Bridget Kendall is joined by leading archaeologists of the Inca civilisation Lucy Salazar and Michael Malpass, the celebrated mountaineer and explorer Johan Reinhard and by writer Mark Adams who retraced the steps of the 1911 expedition led by Hiram Bingham that put Machu Picchu back on the map.Photo: Machu Picchu, Peru. (Eitan Abramovich/Getty Images)
Extraordinary first person stories from around the world
Rank #1: My Life as a Millennial Yoruba Priestess.
Beyoncé, mermaids and Satan? Outlook Weekend is in Nigeria looking at the mysteries and misconceptions surrounding the traditional Yoruba religion – and what it takes to be a modern devotee of this ancient faith. Reporter Laeila Adjovi travels to the city of Ibadan to meet one of youngest women to become a traditional Yoruba priestess. Her name is Omitonade and her world is defined by deities, divination and mobile phones.Reporter: Laeila AdjoviProducer: Maryam MarufImage: Omitonade Ifawemimo EgbeladeCredit: Laeila Adjovi
Rank #2: The Triplets Separated by a Secret Study.
When Bobby Shafran met Eddy Galland and David Kellman at the age of 19, they knew something very strange was going on. The three young men were identical. It took years to uncover the secret psychological experiment, which they were all unknowingly a part of.Image: (L) Eddy Galland, David Kellman, and (R) Robert Shafran - triplets separated at birth Credit: Jerry Engel/New York Post Archives/Getty Images
In the Studio takes you into the minds of the world’s most creative people, with unprecedented access.
Rank #1: Louise Penny: Inspiration for a murder.
Chief Inspector Gamache, the hero of Louise Penny's books, was based on a man she could marry, very like her husband Michael, a doctor who treated children with cancer and saw life and death every day. When the Canadian crime fiction writer first began writing, she battled five years of writer’s block to bring her murder mysteries to life.
Rank #2: Marlon James: Novelist at work.
Creating his “African Game of Thrones”, the award-winning novelist reveals his notebooks. We join the Jamaican writer, Marlon James, as he works on his much anticipated Dark Star Trilogy. He won the prestigious Man Booker Prize for Fiction in 2015 for his novel A Brief History of Seven Killings, based around the assassination attempt on Bob Marley in the 1970s. He is in his studio in Minneapolis in the US.
A weekly reflection on a topical issue.
Rank #1: Get Mad, Then Get Over It!.
"While I would love to find a poetic way into this", writes Sarah Dunant, "I think it best just to spit it out. I'm angry. And I have been angry for quite a while now". Sarah says she doesn't see herself as an angry person - but wonders why aggression and outrage seem to have become so much part of our emotional diet. She proposes some solutions - including an National Anger Day - a great moment of catharsis to help us all be a little less....angry! Producer: Adele Armstrong
Rank #2: Facts Not Opinions.
AL Kennedy ponders the importance of facts... in a world dominated by opinion. "The Chilcot report highlights how a war can conjure the demons it promised to suppress", she writes "because facts were dodged or massaged and fantasy outcomes were taken as certainties". While facts may be grim, "avoiding them puts us all at increased risk". Producer: Adele Armstrong.
Series focusing on foreign affairs issues
Rank #1: Roubles and Radicals in Dagestan.
The main focus of the violence in the North Caucasus these days is in Dagestan, Chechnya's neighbour. Shoot-outs between police and Islamist militants occur almost daily, and suicide bombings and assassinations have become common. In response, the authorities use what many see as excessive force and the violence spirals still further. In the past two years suicide bombings in the Moscow metro and a Moscow airport have been traced to the region. In Dagestan it's a war that has touched almost every community and family, and one where differences between the opposing sides are apparently irreconcilable. For the authorities, Dagestan is part of Russia and subject to its secular laws; for the militants the region should be a sharia state independent of Moscow.After ten years trying to combat the militants and their appeal, Russian businessman Suleiman Kerimov has hit on a new idea - football. Sports facilities and pitches are being built across this impoverished and deeply conservative Muslim republic, encouraging young boys and men to play on the pitch rather than join the militants in the forest, and girls to watch them instead of withdrawing behind the veil. Dagestan's top club Anzhi Makhachkala has been bought up by the pro-Kremlin Dagestani billionaire and now he is buying world-class footballers, including Samuel Eto'o, currently the highest-paid player on the planet.Lucy Ash asks whether this is just bread and circuses for the masses or whether it is making a real difference in this restive Russian republic. Mr Kerimov is bankrolling many other projects from mosque building to job creation, from a glass factory to a glistening vision of an entirely new city. The reclusive billionaire's representative in Dagestan says he is trying to find an economic solution to one of the poorest and most troubled regions in Russia. The government is also trying a new tactic; it has recently set up a commission to persuade young fighters to lay down their arms and return to a peaceful civilian life. Lucy watches an anti-terrorism policeman lecturing university students in the capital, Makhachkala, on the dangers of radical Islam.But with entrenched corruption, heavy-handed policing and a blatant disregard for law, the Islamic underground shows little sign of retreat. More alarmingly, it looks as if the insurgency is spreading from the north to the traditionally peaceful and secular south of the republic. Lucy visits the village of Sovetskoye where in May this year police beat up dozens of young Salafists. A few months later the head teacher was murdered, allegedly because he'd banned the hijab in class. Can a massive injection of cash really neuter deep-seated pressures for change?
Rank #2: Escape from North Korea.
Lucy Williamson reports from Seoul on the dangerous trade of the people brokers, smuggling desperate people out of North Korea to the safety of the South. She investigates the way the South Korean government tries to integrate refugees from the North into their own modern, open society - and the challenges this creates for people who have only known poverty and extreme political repression.
Technological and digital news from around the world.
Rank #1: BBC News on the ‘dark web’.
In an attempt to thwart censorship, BBC News is now available through the privacy-focused browser Tor also known as the gateway to the ‘dark web’. Facebook’s ambitions to launch cryptocurrency Last week, the founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, addressed critical questions about the company’s ambition to launch their own cryptocurrency ‘Libra’. Dr Catherine Mulligan of Imperial College London’s Centre for Cryptocurrency Research explains why some companies are leaving the Libra association. UNICEF start crypto-currency fund UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund, will now be able to receive donations in crypto-currencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum. Christopher Fabian, co-founder of UNICEF’s innovation unit, explains how this will allow the organisation to buy data directly from suppliers for schools that are currently offline. New spy technology uses wi-fi signals Wi-fi signals are distorted as they bounce off objects. Dr Yasamin Mostofi from the University of California has created a way to use these distortions to ‘see’ and possibly identify a person moving behind a wall.(Image credit: BBC)Producer: Louisa Field
Rank #2: Chinese surveillance app analysed by researchers.
Travellers to China through Kyrgyzstan are being forced to install a surveillance app on their phones. Professor Thorsten Holt is on the programme to explain, with the help of investigative journalists, how he has hacked into and analysed this surveillance app. He says the app compiles a report on your phone contacts, text messages and even your social media accounts, as well as searching for over 73,000 specific files. Atmospheric MemoryA breath-taking new art environment where you can see, hear and even touch sound, has opened in Manchester. The exhibit is inspired by Charles Babbage, a pioneer of computing technology from 180 years ago. He once proposed that if all spoken words remain recorded in the air, a powerful computer could potentially ‘rewind’ the movement of all air molecules. So how has the ground-breaking ideas of Charles Babbage influenced art and technology today?. Robotic EndoscopyEndoscopies are medical procedures that involve threading a camera through the body to see inside. Anyone who has had one will know how uncomfortable they can be. But, they are also challenging for the doctor - taking on average 100 to 250 procedures to be able to perform well. Reporter Madeleine Finlay met Dr Joe Norton, who is part of an international team developing an intelligent robotic system that could make it a lot less painful for both the patient and clinician. Game Designing: Mentoring the Next GenerationMathew Applegate works with over 300 young people in Suffolk on game design, and has just won the BAFTA Young Game Designers Mentor Award. Having been a hacker and spent time working for the government, Mathew then set up his Creative Computing Club in 2012, which delivers courses on game design, robotics, AI, VR and much more. He spoke to us on why he believes game design is so beneficial for the young people of Suffolk. (Photo caption: “Analysing the App’s binary software code” credit: © Mareen Meyer ) Producer: Ania LichtarowiczProducer: Ania Lichtarowicz
In-depth, hard-hitting interviews with newsworthy personalities.
Rank #1: Pro-Brexit Conservative MP, Owen Paterson.
Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May is facing a mutiny inside her own Conservative Party, which threatens to scupper her Brexit deal and quite possibly her premiership too. If she loses the key parliamentary vote on her deal in just a few days time, the UK could plunge into political chaos. The stakes could hardly be higher for Owen Paterson, a Conservative MP and former Minister intent on rejecting Mrs May’s Brexit. Is it too late to avert a damaging national crisis?Image: Owen Paterson (Credit: AFP/Getty Images)
Rank #2: Clinical Psychologist - Jordan Peterson.
Anger is a powerful force in politics and there's a lot of it about. Donald Trump, Brexit and a host of populist movements have been fuelled by anger with the way things are. Where does it come from? How best to respond? One much discussed, provocative perspective comes not from a politician but the Canadian clinical psychologist, Jordan Peterson, whose defence of traditional values has won him a worldwide following. Is his diagnosis liberating or dangerous?(Photo: Dr Jordan Peterson. Credit: Carlos Osorio/Getty Images)
Are we at a series of global tipping points?
Rank #1: Fixing Globalisation – Jim O’Neill in conversation with Jim Yong Kim.
The economist Jim O’Neill talks with the president of the World Bank, Dr Jim Yong Kim, about globalisation’s winners and losers and how world leaders can ensure its benefits are more evenly spread. This is bonus material from interviews recorded for the New World Series.
Rank #2: It's the Demography, Stupid!.
How is population change transforming our world? Think of a python swallowing a pig: a big bulge makes its way slowly down the snake from the head end to the other end. That's a bit like what's happened to the UK demographically. The baby boom generation - which has changed Britain politically, culturally and economically - is now retiring. That means a large bulge of pensioners with big implications for the generations that come behind them. Other advanced economies face a similar challenge and emerging economies - most notably China - will be dealing with an ageing bulge themselves soon. But in Africa, the bulge is at the other end. A very young generation is about to make its way through the snake. Former government minister David Willetts, now executive chair of the Resolution Foundation, wrestles with this python of population change. What will these challenges of both ageing and very young populations mean for the world? What are the implications for future migration patterns, for geopolitics and for global economic growth? This programme is part of a special week of programmes for the first week of 2017, examining major forces which are changing the world around us. Producer: Rob Walker.
Brilliant solutions to the world’s problems. We meet people with ideas to make the world a better place and investigate whether they work.
Rank #1: The reuse and refill revolution.
Should we reuse and refill plastic packaging to limit the amount being thrown away? Nick Holland looks at different ways people are trying to make this happen. One idea is to take used containers back to the supermarkets where, in the future, giant vending machines could refill them.But the scale of the challenge is huge and getting consumers to change their shopping habits will be hard. Presenter: Tom CollsProducer and Reporter: Nick Holland(Photo Credit: BBC)
Rank #2: Condom Lifesavers and Voices for the Voiceless.
Each year around 100,000 women die due to heavy bleeding after giving birth. But help is at hand from an unexpected source: condoms. World Hacks goes to a maternity hospital in Kenya to speak to the medical staff using this super-cheap kit that is saving lives. Also on the programme, the US start-up that is asking volunteers to donate their voices, then transforming them into personalised, digital voices for people with degenerative diseases.Reporters: Harriet Noble and Amelia Martyn-HemphillPresenter: India RakusenImage: Midwife Anne Mulinge / Credit: BBC
In-depth reporting on the world of social media
Rank #1: The rise of the 'Brazilian butt lift'.
The Brazilian Butt Lift or as it’s more commonly known, the BBL, is one of the most dangerous cosmetic procedures in the world but that hasn’t stopped it becoming one of the most requested.Posts on this type of cosmetic surgery are all over social media which show before and after photos to portray this popular body type.It’s influenced one woman to think about having a BBL. But before she makes a decision, she speaks to social media influencers, her close friends and medical professionals who help guide her through her choice. Are the deadly risks involved in this type of cosmetic surgery worth taking for a big bottom?Originally broadcast 10/5/19Presenter: Anisa SubedarReporter: Lola MosanyaPicture: Credit: BBC
Rank #2: Jered Threatin: The fake rock star.
How did an ambitious musician fool thousands of people using social media?Jered Threatin successfully managed to fake an entire existence as a rock star. He persuaded people he was an award-winning musician who had played to sold-out venues. And as a result of his seemingly popular social media accounts and faked web pages, he orchestrated a European tour, got his eponymous band booked in venues across six countries. The BBC’s Jessica Lussenhop got an exclusive interview with Jered Threatin, and she helps tell the story of how he was able to dupe people, how he was uncovered and why his desire for global success has now made him famous – for all the wrong reasons. Presenter: Anisa Subedar Reporter: Jessica Lussenhop(Photo Caption: Jered Threatin / Photo Credit: BBC)
An insight into the character of an influential figure making news headlines
Rank #1: Paul Manafort.
He's worked with almost every US President since Gerald Ford. Paul Manafort, a political lobbyist and Trump's former campaign manager, is under house arrest charged with money laundering and fraud, his lavish lifestyle of luxurious mansions, fast cars and antique rugs laid bare by the FBI. Mark Coles profiles this powerbroker who some say may become a key witness for the investigation into Russia's alleged meddling in the US election.Producers: Beth Sagar-Fenton & Siobhan O'Connell.
Rank #2: Bernie Sanders.
Bernie Sanders is a socialist and a grump. But is he also a future US president? Some 20,000 people recently turned out to hear Sanders speak - the sort of crowd Barack Obama would have been proud of in 2008. He is, it seems, an increasingly viable contender for the Democratic presidential nomination.Sanders has spent the last forty years attacking inequality and he is known for giving loud and impassioned speeches. But he can also be prickly with the media and he doesn't do small talk. So could Bernie Sanders, the self-styled socialist and "grumpy old guy", beat Hillary Clinton - and the Republicans - to become the next President of the United States? Chris Bowlby reports.Producers: Keith Moore and Ben CrightonThe song "Feel the Bern", used in this programme, was performed by Tony Tig and produced Corbett.
Neil MacGregor explores the role and expression of shared beliefs in communities around the world. Produced in partnership with the British Museum.
Rank #1: Water of Life and Death.
Neil MacGregor continues his series on the expression of shared beliefs in communities around the world and across time, and focuses on water, including a visit to the Ganges at Varanasi, India. In Islam, Christianity and Judaism, water is an essential part of religious practice. But for no faith does water - and one particular kind of water - play such a significant role as for Hindus. To bathe in the river Ganges is not just to prepare to meet the divine, but already to be embraced by it. The river Ganges is the goddess Ganga, and the waters of this river, which govern life and death, have not only determined many aspects of Hinduism, but in considerable measure shaped the identity of the modern state of India. Producer Paul KobrakThe series is produced in partnership with the British Museum. Photograph: (c) The Trustees of the British Museum.
Rank #2: Here Comes the Sun.
Neil MacGregor continues his series on the expression of shared beliefs in communities around the world, and focuses on light. He experiences the sunrise whilst inside the monumental stone passage tomb at Newgrange, Ireland, a structure older than Stonehenge or the pyramids in Egypt. Here, on the winter solstice, thanks to the design of the tomb, a bright, narrow beam of sunlight reaches deep inside the structure. He also considers the story of Amaterasu, the Japanese sun goddess, whose decision to hide herself in a cave plunged the world into darkness, and reflects on how - centuries later - the image of rising sun became closely linked with Japanese national identity. Producer Paul KobrakThe series is produced in partnership with the British MuseumPhotograph: (c) The Trustees of the British Museum.
David Aaronovitch and a panel of experts and insiders present in-depth explainers on big issues in the news.
Rank #1: Nationalisation - how would it work?.
At its annual conference in Liverpool this week, the Labour party set out plans to nationalise a large range of industries that previous governments had sold off. The industries it wants to bring back into public ownership include water, rail, energy and the Royal Mail. But how would Labour’s ideas work? And what would the process be for implementing them? David Aaronovitch and his guests discuss.Contributors: Chris Curtis, senior political researcher, YouGovDieter Helm, Professor of Energy Policy and a Fellow in Economics at the University of OxfordDan Neidle, Partner, Clifford ChanceDr Sarah Hendry, Senior Lecturer in law at University of Dundee Karma Loveday, Editor, The Water ReportProducer: Neil Koenig
Rank #2: Brexit: a pivotal week?.
MPs voted in favour of the government's Brexit deal but then rejected the PM's plan to fast-track a bill through Parliament to implement it. Opposition to the deal is still strong in some quarters. Northern Ireland’s DUP withdrew its support for because it would lead to a customs border in the Irish Sea. The Scottish and Welsh governments believe it could undermine the powers of their devolved legislatures.So what could this deal mean for the future of the United Kingdom? And what might it mean for the future relationship between the UK and the EU? And could Brexit still be derailed by groups which are implacably opposed to it? David Aaronovitch is joined by: Jill Rutter - Senior Research Fellow, UK in a Changing EuropeRob Ford - Professor of Politics, University of ManchesterSam Lowe - Senior research fellow, Centre for European ReformAlison Young - Professor of Public Law, University of CambridgeSam McBride - Political editor at The Belfast News LetterProducer: Serena TarlingEditor: Jasper Corbett