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The Curious Cases of Rutherford & Fry

Updated 2 days ago

Science
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Science sleuths Dr Adam Rutherford and Dr Hannah Fry investigate everyday mysteries sent by listeners.

Read more

Science sleuths Dr Adam Rutherford and Dr Hannah Fry investigate everyday mysteries sent by listeners.

iTunes Ratings

276 Ratings
Average Ratings
254
13
6
2
1

Can’t wait

By texasdallasant - Jul 25 2019
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Fry was awesome I that numbers documentary so I’m checking out this podcast!

Funny and informative

By neale64 - May 09 2019
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They have great chemistry and deliver typically great British wit and self-deprecating humour.

iTunes Ratings

276 Ratings
Average Ratings
254
13
6
2
1

Can’t wait

By texasdallasant - Jul 25 2019
Read more
Fry was awesome I that numbers documentary so I’m checking out this podcast!

Funny and informative

By neale64 - May 09 2019
Read more
They have great chemistry and deliver typically great British wit and self-deprecating humour.

The Best Episodes of:

Cover image of The Curious Cases of Rutherford & Fry

The Curious Cases of Rutherford & Fry

Updated 2 days ago

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Science sleuths Dr Adam Rutherford and Dr Hannah Fry investigate everyday mysteries sent by listeners.

Rank #1: The Aural Voyeur

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Drs Rutherford and Fry tackle a vexing case sent in by Daniel Sarano from New Jersey, who asks why people shout on their mobile phones in public.

Our science sleuths find the answer by delving into the inner workings of telephony with a tale of engineering rivalry, Victorian etiquette and early otolaryngology.

Featuring acoustic technologist Nick Zakarov and historian Greg Jenner, author of 'A Million Years in a Day: A Curious History of Daily Life.'

If you have any scientific cases for the team to investigate please email: curiouscases@bbc.co.uk

Presenters: Hannah Fry & Adam Rutherford
Producer: Michelle Martin.

Feb 11 2016

12mins

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Rank #2: The Squeamish Swoon

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Science sleuths Hannah Fry and Adam Rutherford investigate the following question sent in by Philip Le Riche:

'Why do some people faint at the sight of blood, or a hypodermic needle, or even if they bash their funny bone? Does it serve any useful evolutionary purpose, or is just some kind of cerebral error condition?'

Adam is strapped onto a hospital tilt table in an attempt to make him blackout and Hannah receives an aromatic surprise.

Featuring consultant cardiologists Dr Nicholas Gall and Dr Adam Fitzpatrick and cardiac physiologist Shelley Dougherty.

If you have any scientific cases for the team to investigate please email: curiouscases@bbc.co.uk

Presenters: Hannah Fry & Adam Rutherford
Producer: Michelle Martin.

Feb 11 2016

13mins

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Rank #3: The Tea Leaf Mystery

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Today the team examine the chemistry of tea, in answer to the following question sent in by Fred Rickaby from North Carolina:

"When we are preparing a cup of tea and the cup contains nothing but hot, brewed tea we need to add milk and sugar. My wife always adds the sugar first, stirs the cup to make sure it is dissolved and then add the milk. So, is that an optimum strategy for adding milk and sugar to a cup of tea?”

Adam consults Prof Andrea Sella from University College London about the perfect formula for a cup of tea. Inside his tea factory in Kent, Master Blender Alex Probyn teaches Hannah an unusual method for tasting tea.

Most importantly, the duo discovers whether you should add milk first or last. But can tea professionals really tell the difference?

If you have any questions for Drs Rutherford & Fry to investigate send them to curiouscases@bbc.co.uk

Presenters: Hannah Fry, Adam Rutherford
Producer: Michelle Martin

May 26 2016

18mins

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Rank #4: The Sinister Hand Part 1

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Neal Shepperson asks, "What determines left or right handedness and why are us lefties in the minority?"

When we started investigating this question it became clear that there were just too many scientific mysteries to squeeze into one episode. So there are two whole episodes devoted to this very Curious Case.

One in ten people are left-handed, but where does this ratio come from and when did it appear in our evolutionary past?

Hannah talks to primatologist Prof Linda Marchant from Miami University about Neanderthal teeth and termite fishing.

Adam consults handedness expert Prof Chris McManus from University College London. He's been trying to track down the genes responsible for whether we're right or left handed.

If you have any Curious Cases for the team to investigate please email curiouscases@bbc.co.uk

Presenter: Adam Rutherford & Hannah Fry
Producer: Michelle Martin.

Oct 03 2016

14mins

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Rank #5: The Portly Problem

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"Why do we have middle aged spread?" asks Bart Janssen from New Zealand.

From obese mice to big bottoms, the duo discovers what science can tell us about fat.

Why do we put on weight in middle age? And are some types of fat better than others?

Hannah meets Prof Steve Bloom at Imperial College, London to discuss apples and pears.

Adam talks to Dr Aaron Cypess from the National Institutes of Health in Maryland, who has created a 'fatlas' - an atlas that maps fat inside the body.

Please email your Curious Cases for the team to investigate to: curiouscases@bbc.co.uk

Presenters: Hannah Fry & Adam Rutherford
Producer: Michelle Martin.

Oct 05 2016

14mins

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Rank #6: The Sinister Hand Part 2

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In the previous episode the team started investigating the following enquiry, sent in to curiouscases@bbc.co.uk:
"What determines left or right handedness and why are us lefties in the minority?"

They considered cockatoos, chimpanzees and Hannah's dog, Molly, to discover that humans are unique, with just one in ten of us being left-handed.

Today, they look inside the left-handed brain. Some researchers point to a link between left-handedness and impairments like autism or dyslexia. Others claim that lefties are more creative and artistic.

So what's the truth? The team consults Professors Sophie Scott, Chris McManus and Dorothy Bishop to find out.

Presenter: Adam Rutherford & Hannah Fry
Producer: Michelle Martin.

Oct 04 2016

14mins

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Rank #7: The Horrible Hangover

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"My name is Ava and I've never had a hangover," writes Ava Karuso. "I'm a 25 year-old Australian and I enjoy going out for drinks. However, the next day when everyone else sleeps in and licks their wounds, I get up early and get right back to my normal routine.”

Drs Rutherford and Fry investigate the ancient origins of alcohol, from Sumerians drinking beer through straws, to Aristotle's teachings ‘On Intoxication’.

But what can modern science tell us about how alcohol affects our brains? What causes the morning-after hangover and do some drinks make you feel worse than others? Are there any hangover cures that have been scientifically validated?

Featuring health psychologist and hangover researcher Sally Adams, chemist Andrea Sella and science writer Adam Rogers, author of 'Proof: The Science of Booze'.

Presenters: Hannah Fry, Adam Rutherford
Producer: Michelle Martin

Dec 21 2018

31mins

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Rank #8: The Mesmerist

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“Is hypnosis real, and if so how does it work? Does it have any practical uses and which of Hannah and Adam is most susceptible?”

This question came from two Curios, Peter Jordan aged 24 from Manchester and Arran Kinnear aged 13 from Bristol.

Arch sceptics Hannah and Adam visit stage hypnotist Ben Dali to find out if they are susceptible to the power of suggestion. One of them will be successfully hypnotised, but who will it be?

Along the way we hear about the history of hypnosis from Wendy Moore author of 'The Mesmerist'. Plus psychologist Devin Terhune explains what we know about the science of hypnosis today.

Presenters: Hannah Fry, Adam Rutherford
Producer: Michelle Martin

Mar 29 2019

35mins

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Rank #9: The Strongest Substance

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"What is the strongest substance in the universe? Some people say it is spiderweb, because it is stronger than steel. Is it iron? Is it flint? Is it diamond because diamond can be only be cut by diamond?" asks Françoise Michel.

Adam and Hannah put a variety of materials, from biscuits to spider web, under the hammer to test their strength.

In their quest to find the strongest substance they quiz materials scientist Mark Miodownik, engineer Danielle George and spidergoat creator, Dr Randy Lewis from Utah.

Features archive from 'Horizon: Playing God', first broadcast in January 2012.

Please send your Curious Cases for the team to investigate to curiouscases@bbc.co.uk

Presenters: Adam Rutherford, Hannah Fry
Producer: Michelle Martin.

Oct 07 2016

15mins

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Rank #10: The Fifth Dimension

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"What is the fifth dimension?" asks Lena Komaier-Peeters from East Sussex.

Proving the existence of extra dimensions, beyond our 3D universe, is one of the most exciting and controversial areas in modern physics. Hannah and Adam head to CERN, the scientific cathedral for quantum weirdness, to try and find them.

Theoretical physicist Rakhi Mahbubani explains why we think that dimensions beyond our own might exist. Adam meets Sam Harper, who has spent 14 years hunting for an elusive particle called the 'graviton', which could provide a portal to these extra dimensions.

But if they exist, where have these extra dimensions been hiding? Sean Carroll from Caltech explains various ideas that have been dreamt up by physicists, from minuscule hidden planes to gigantic parallel worlds.

Producer: Michelle Martin
Presenters: Hannah Fry, Adam Rutherford.

May 04 2018

27mins

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Rank #11: A World of Pain

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"Why do people experience pain differently when they go through the same event?" asks Claire Jenkins from Cwmbran in Wales.

Professor of Pain Research, Irene Tracey, welcomes Adam in to the room she calls her 'Torture Chamber'. Burning, electrocuting, lasering and piercing are all on the menu, but which will hurt the most?

Hannah speaks to Steve Pete from Washington who has a rare genetic condition which means he doesn't feel pain. For chronic sufferers, this sounds like heaven, but a life without pain has brought untold suffering to him and his family, including the tragic story of his brother, Chris.

We look at how the body creates pain, why some people feel it more than others, and how this knowledge could help scientists treat pain more effectively in the future.

Presenters: Adam Rutherford, Hannah Fry
Producer: Michelle Martin.

Sep 07 2018

33mins

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Rank #12: The Space Pirate

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Listener Paul Don asks: "I'm wondering what's the feasibility of terraforming another planet i.e. Mars and if it's possible to do the same thing with something like the moon? Or, why isn't there already a moon-base? Surely that's easier."

Adam & Hannah consider moving to another planet, and discover what challenges they would need to overcome to live in space.

They consult engineer Prof Danielle George from the University of Manchester and Dr Louisa Preston, UK Space Agency Aurora Research Fellow in Astrobiology.

Adam also hears about attempts to recreate a Martian base on a volcano in Hawaii. He calls HI-SEAS crew member Tristan Bassingthwaighte, who has just emerged from a year of isolation.

If you have any Curious Cases for the team to solve please email curiouscases@bbc.co.uk

Features archive from 'Outlook' on BBC World Service, broadcast in August 2016.

Presenters: Adam Rutherford & Hannah Fry
Producer: Michelle Martin.

Oct 05 2016

15mins

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Rank #13: The Cosmic Egg

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"How do we measure the age of the Universe?" asks Simon Whitehead.

A hundred years ago this wouldn't even have been considered a valid question, because we didn't think the Universe had a beginning at all. Even Einstein thought that space was eternal and unchanging.

This is the tale of how we discovered that the Universe had a beginning, and why calculating its age has been one of the greatest challenges in modern astronomy.

We also uncover the mysterious dark energy that pervades the cosmos and discover why it's been putting a scientific spanner in the works.

Helping to unravel today's question are physicists Andrew Pontzen, Jo Dunkley and Jim Al-Khalili.

Presenters: Hannah Fry, Adam Rutherford
Producer: Michelle Martin.

Mar 02 2018

30mins

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Rank #14: The Hunt for Nothing, Part 1

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"Is there any such thing as nothing?" This question from Bill Keck sparked so much head scratching that we have devoted two episodes to this curious quandary.

In the first programme, the team considers the philosophy and physics of nothing. As Prof Frank Close, author of "Nothing: A Very Short Introduction" explains, nothing has intrigued great thinkers for thousands of years, from the Ancient Greeks to today's particle physicists.

Otto Von Geuricke, the Mayor of Magdeburg in Germany, invented the artificial vacuum pump in the 17th century and presented spectacular displays to demonstrate the awesome power of nothing.

Cosmologist Andrew Pontzen helps Hannah search for nothing in the depths of space and inside the atom. However, as they find out, recent discoveries in physics involving quantum fluctuations and the Higgs field have proved that nothing is impossible.

If you have any Curious Cases for the team to solve please email curiouscases@bbc.co.uk

Presenters: Adam Rutherford & Hannah Fry
Producer: Michelle Martin.

Dec 02 2016

14mins

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Rank #15: The Cosmic Speed Limit

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"We often read that the fastest thing in the Universe is the speed of light. Why do we have this limitation and can anything possibly be faster?" Ali Alshareef from Qatif in Saudia Arabia emailed curiouscases@bbc.co.uk with this puzzling problem.

The team grapples with Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity, with help from cosmologist Andrew Pontzen and a British train, travelling somewhat slower than the speed of light.

Plus physicist and presenter Jim Al-Khalili describes how he nearly lost his boxer shorts in a daring bet concerning the speed of subatomic particles.

Send your questions for consideration to: curiouscases@bbc.co.uk

Presenters: Adam Rutherford, Hannah Fry
Producer: Michelle Martin.

Dec 29 2017

22mins

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Rank #16: Adventures in Dreamland

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"Why do we dream and why do we repeat dreams?" asks Mila O'Dea, aged 9, from Panama.

Hannah and Adam delve into the science of sleep. From a pioneering experiment on rapid eye movement sleep, to a brand new 'dream signature' found in the brain, they discover how scientists are investigating our hidden dreamworld.

Featuring sociologist Bill Domhoff from the University of California Santa Cruz, sleep psychologist Mark Blagrove from the University of Swansea, and neurologist Francesca Siclari from the University of Lausanne.

Presenters: Adam Rutherford, Hannah Fry
Producer: Michelle Martin.

Sep 29 2017

24mins

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Rank #17: The Atomic Blade

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"What makes things sharp? Why are thinner knives sharper? What happens on the molecular level when you cut something?" All these questions came from Joshua Schwartz in New York City.

The ability to create sharp tools allowed us to fashion clothing, make shelters and hunt for food, all essential for the development of human civilisation, according to materials scientist Mark Miodownik.

We hear from IBM scientist Chris Lutz, who has used one of the sharpest blades in the world to slice up individual atoms.

Plus palaeoarchaeologist Becky Wragg Sykes reveals the sharpest natural object in the world, a volcanic glass used by the Aztecs called obsidian.

Presenters: Hannah Fry, Adam Rutherford
Producer: Michelle Martin.

Feb 28 2018

23mins

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Rank #18: The Lost Producer

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Why do some people have a terrible sense of direction? The team receive a mysterious message from an anonymous listener who constantly gets lost. Can they help her find the answer?

This listener may, or may not, be the team's producer, Michelle. She would like to state that it's not her fault that she has been dealt a bad genetic hand which has led to faulty place cells developing in her brain. And head direction cells that appear to be pointing the wrong way. More understanding should surely be afforded to those who are navigationally challenged.

Hugo Spiers from University College London, has devised a free game called 'Sea Hero Quest' which anyone can use to test their navigational skills. Plus Catherine Loveday from the University of Westminster suggests strategies to help those who tend to get lost.

If you have any Curious Cases for us to solve please email curiouscases@bbc.co.uk

Presenters: Adam Rutherford & Hannah Fry
Producer: Michelle Martin.

Dec 02 2016

18mins

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Rank #19: Goldfinger's Moon Laser

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"The other day I was watching the James Bond film Goldfinger. He boasts a laser powerful enough to project a spot on the Moon. Is this possible? If so, just how powerful would such a laser need to be?" This curious question was sent to curiouscases@bbc.co.uk by Eddie Griffith from Hinckley in Leicestershire.

Adam visits one of the most powerful lasers in the world, the Gemini Super Intense Laser at the aptly named Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Didcot, Oxfordshire. Plasma physicist Ceri Brenner gives him a quick zap, whilst explaining what would happen if they attempted to shoot their quadrillion watt laser at the Moon.

Hannah talks to Tom Murphy from the University of California San Diego, who fires lasers at the Moon for a living. However, unlike Goldfinger, he's not using his Moon Laser for crime, he's using it for science.

Presenters: Hannah Fry, Adam Rutherford
Producer: Michelle Martin.

Jan 12 2018

24mins

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Rank #20: The Dawn Chorus

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"Winter is finally over and the birds are all singing their hearts out at dawn. What's all the noise about? And why are some songs so elaborate?" asks Tony Fulford from Ely in Cambridgeshire.

We find out how birds produce multiple notes at once, which one has the widest repertoire of songs, and why males like to show off quite so much. Plus, we talk to researcher Lauryn Benedict about the project which aims to solve the mystery of why female birds sing - www.femalebirdsong.org.

Featuring interviews with RSPB President and nature presenter Miranda Krestovnikoff, and world-renowned birdsong expert and sound recordist, Don Kroodsma.

Archive of 'singing like a wren' courtesy of The One Show, BBC TV.

Send your cases for consideration to curiouscases@bbc.co.uk.

Presenters: Adam Rutherford, Hannah Fry
Producer: Michelle Martin.

Jun 01 2018

27mins

Play