Cover image of BBC Inside Science
(140)
Science & Medicine

BBC Inside Science

Updated 10 days ago

Science & Medicine
Read more

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

Read more

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

iTunes Ratings

140 Ratings
Average Ratings
105
21
5
5
4

All episodes

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

@quantumentangled

By Jdw alaska - Feb 01 2019
Read more
Great podcast. Very informative

iTunes Ratings

140 Ratings
Average Ratings
105
21
5
5
4

All episodes

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

@quantumentangled

By Jdw alaska - Feb 01 2019
Read more
Great podcast. Very informative
Cover image of BBC Inside Science

BBC Inside Science

Updated 10 days ago

Read more

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

Rank #1: Genetics and privacy, Global plastic, Great Ape Dictionary, Ocean Discovery X Prize

Podcast cover
Read more
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 Rutherford

Produced by Fiona Roberts.
Jul 20 2017
32 mins
Play

Rank #2: First human drawing, Cycling genes, Oden Arctic expedition, Hello World

Podcast cover
Read more
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.
Sep 13 2018
27 mins
Play

Rank #3: Making the UK's dams safe, AI spots fake smiles, How many trees should we be planting?

Podcast cover
Read more
In the light of the evacuation of the Derbyshire town of Whaley Bridge due to damage to the Todbrook reservoir dam and the threat of a catastrophic collapse, questions inevitably arise as to how ‘future proofed’ UK dams are? This is doubly worrying in light of climate change and the increasing likelihood of extreme weather events. With the average age of UK dams being over 100 years and the UK climate forecast to become wetter and warmer, should we be concerned? Gareth Mitchell speaks to Rachel Pether from the British Dam Society and Craig Goff, Technical Lead, Dams and Reservoirs from HR Wallingford, who explain the science and engineering involved in monitoring and safely managing UK dams in a changing climate.

When someone smiles at you, how can you tell whether that smile is genuine or fake and why would you want to know? According to Professor of visual computing at the University of Bradford, Hassan Ugail, it’s all in the eyes! Humans are notoriously bad at picking up fake smiles, because we tend to focus our vision on the upturned corners of the mouth. Focus on specific movement of the eyes and the dynamic progression of a smile, however, and that’s when a genuine smile is evident. Hassan explains how computers are over 90% successful at being able to detect fake smiles, and examines the purposes to which this facial recognition technology may be applied in our daily lives.

Inside Science listener, Thomas from New Zealand, has noticed the sudden surge in nations encouraging mass tree planting and reforestation. But how much of a difference is it all making? Professor of Agriculture, policy and development at the University of Reading Dr Martin Lukac discusses the impacts of, the soot and ash from the recent forest fires in Siberia, deforestation and even makes an educated guess at much forest you would have to plant to counteract the CO2 emissions emitted after using your family car for the year.

Producer - Fiona Roberts
Aug 08 2019
28 mins
Play

Rank #4: Lovelock at 100; Hydrothermal vents and antibiotic resistance in the environment

Podcast cover
Read more
James Lovelock is one of the most influential thinkers on the environment of the last half century. His grand theory of planet Earth - Gaia, which is the idea that from the bottom of the Earth's crust to the upper reaches of the atmosphere, Earth is one giant inter-connected and self-regulating system, has had an impact way beyond the world of science. As Lovelock celebrates his hundredth birthday (he was born on 26th July 1919) he is still writing books and thinking about science. Science writer Gaia Vince spoke to him about his work and how he came to his famous but controversial theory.

Most hydrothermal vents are in deep water far from land, making them incredibly inaccessible to divers. But in a fjord known locally as Eyjafjörður, off the coast of Iceland, is the hydrothermal vent Strytan. It's close enough that it can be accessed by scuba divers, and the algae and animals living in the hot chemical-laden plumes can be sampled. Geoff Marsh heads out with a team of scientists from the Natural History Museum in London and the University of Southampton to collect creatures living both in the hot vent water and in the icy cold fjord. The idea is to sample the genes to see what adaptations to temperature are evolving.

We are hearing more and more about antibiotic resistance. Overuse of antibiotics has led to more and more bacteria evolving and adapting ways to survive antimicrobial treatments. But did you know that the genes coding for this resistance can also float freely in water and on surfaces in the environment? A couple of recent studies have been sampling freshwater bodies and commonly touched surfaces (like handrails and toilet seats) in and around London and the amount of antibiotic resistance genes (either freely floating or in bacteria) is quite alarming. Environmental engineer at UCL, Professor Lena Ciric, explains to Marnie Chesterton what this means and whether we should be concerned.

Producer: Fiona Roberts
Aug 01 2019
30 mins
Play

Rank #5: Whales; Dark Matter; Falling; Arty brains

Podcast cover
Read more
Whaling
The International Court of Justice in the Hague recently ruled that Japan should stop whaling in the Antarctic “for scientific purposes.” They found that the primary purpose of the science programme, JARPAII, was not science. In that case, what was it for? Inside Science puts that question to whale biologist Vassili Papastavrou, and Lars Walløe, Japan’s expert witness at the ICJ.

LUX Experiment to detect dark matter
Scientists are entering a critical phase in the quest to find the one of most mysterious particles in the Universe. An experiment called LUX, in South Dakota is about to be switched on that offers the best hope yet of detecting dark matter - a substance thought to make up a quarter of the Universe, yet one that nobody has ever seen.

Falling in the elderly
As we age, we tend to fall more and the repercussions of falling are more serious But why? Even if you rule out physical reasons for why you might be more likely to fall, older people still fall more often. Professor Raymond Reynolds, at the University of Birmingham, thinks it might be something happening in their heads – the balance system could be letting them down. Tracey Logan climbs aboard the shake shack to find out.

Arty Brains
Artists often have lifestyle that requires complete immersion into their world, now a team finds that this difference is reflected in their brains too, that is, their brains are structurally different to non-artists. Participants' brain scans revealed that artists had increased grey matter in areas relating to fine motor movements and visual imagery. Our reporter Melissa Hogenboom speaks to artists and the authors of the new research to find out what exactly is different about their brains. The study is published in NeuroImage.
Producer: Fiona Roberts
Apr 10 2014
28 mins
Play

Rank #6: Homo naledi, First humans in America, Dark matter detector, New theory of dark matter

Podcast cover
Read more
Controversy has followed the remains of a new species of human, Homo naledi, since it was described in 2015. Buried deep in a South African cave, its primitive features led scientists to believe it was up to three million years old. This week it's been revealed that this estimate was wrong. New dating evidence suggests the skeletons are only 200 000 to 300 000 years old and that means they may have lived alongside other homo species.

Previously, humans were thought to have travelled to America via a land bridge between eastern Siberia and modern day Alaska, somewhere between 17 000 - 40 000 years ago when sea levels were lower than they are today. Researchers from the San Diego Natural History Museum now present evidence that suggests this transition could have been much earlier - nearly 100 000 years earlier. Adam talked to Chris Stringer, researcher in human evolution at the Natural History Museum in London, to unpick the evidence.

Dark matter is a mystery that has evaded scientists for decades. Now the biggest and most sensitive detector is being built in South Dakota and scientists believe the Lux-Zeppelin experiment will soon be able to detect one of the candidates for dark matter, the elusive particle known as a weakly interacting massive particle (WIMP). Graihagh Jackson got a sneak peak of the key components, including the 'eyes' of the detector, before they're sent off for installation.

Adam Rutherford talks to cosmologist Carlos Frenk from the University of Durham and learns of an alternative theory to describe this mysterious dark matter - a whole new dark sector. This sector contains a vast range of different dark particles, from photons to bosons, that could interact with normal particles.
Apr 27 2017
27 mins
Play

Rank #7: Crime, volcanoes, ghosts and how we are influenced by the genes of unrelated others

Podcast cover
Read more
The genes of unrelated others can influence our health and behaviour. New research suggests the genetic make up of our partners can have a profound influence on our lives. Scientists have quantified genetic influence , in mice at present but the plan is to try to extend this to human interactions. If accepted this has potentially far reaching consequences for studying heritability and also perhaps modern medicine as the findings suggest an illness can in part be influenced by those we live with.

The use of DNA evidence in criminal cases has sometimes been given far more weight than it deserves. In the worst examples there have been miscarriages of justice where DNA evidence has been misinterpreted. The fiction of DNA as a 'magic bullet' pervades TV drama and films - but views of DNA evidence as infallible are also widely held amongst the public, police and lawyers. Forensic specialists explain what we can and can't find from DNA evidence.

Oxford's Bodleian library has manuscripts stretching back to medieval times depicting volcanos discovered in the 6th century. These manuscripts also contain remarkable interpretations of eruptions and associated volcanic events, often mixed with mythology. Although those recording such events did not understand what they were scientifically, some of the depictions and ideas of what was happening are surprisingly accurate. Roland Pease and Professor David Pyle take a look at this remarkable collection.

Nearly a hundred years ago, Oliver Lodge, eminent physicist and the first to demonstrate radio waves, published a book about life after death. It was entitled 'Raymond' after his son who was killed in the First World War. Lodge was a believer in ghosts and telepathy, and conducted experiments to test their existence. Adam Rutherford and Samira Ahmed look at how Oliver Lodge squared his scientific and spiritualist beliefs - and how the latter led to him, as Britain's most well know scientist of his time, being written out of scientific history.
Jan 26 2017
28 mins
Play

Rank #8: African swine fever, Oil spill update, CRISPR gene editing, Rat eradication in New Zealand, Chimp kin recognition

Podcast cover
Read more
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.
Jan 18 2018
28 mins
Play

Rank #9: Wildlife trafficking, New quantum computers, Ancient bird beaks, Glassblowing.

Podcast cover
Read more
Conservation and conflict. A year long BBC investigation has exposed an illegal animal trafficking network stretching from West Africa to the Middle East and Asia. Traffickers have used fake permits to undermine international conservation efforts.

New developments in Quantum computing. Sussex University are building a new type of modular Quantum computer. We attempt to explain what Quantum computing is.

A Massive citizen science project to map bird beak evolution- using records from the Natural History Museum.

And the last scientific Glassblower at Imperial College gives us a demonstration of his craft.
Feb 02 2017
28 mins
Play

Rank #10: Climate change and extreme weather; Primate brain size; Earthquake forecasting; Planet 9

Podcast cover
Read more
Following yesterday's US House Committee on Science,Space,and Technology's controversial hearing on scientific method and climate change, Adam Rutherford meets atmospheric scientist Professor Michael Mann after he emerged from the heated debate and who's just published a new paper suggesting a direct link between extreme weather and greenhouse gases via a particular behaviour of the jet stream across the northern hemisphere

How has intelligence evolved? For over 2 decades the idea has prevailed that primate brain size and intelligence has been driven mainly by complex social hierarchies. But a new study by Alex DeCascien of New York University suggests that diet is a better predictor of brain size.

This month is the 6th anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami that devastated much of Japan's coastline. Roland Pease reports on new research that aims to embrace uncertainty to improve quake forecasting

And we hear how you can join in the search for the missing mysterious 9th planet of our solar system. Adam Rutherford hears from astronomer Brad Tucker on Walkabout at the Mount Stromlo Observatory in New South Wales

Producer: Adrian Washbourne.
Mar 30 2017
28 mins
Play

Rank #11: Measuring human impact on earth, Awards for engineers, Sounds of space junk.

Podcast cover
Read more
Quantifying the impact of humanity on the earth's natural systems. Why human activity now has a larger effect on our planet than the forces of nature. We look at how mathematical equations can now be used to compare historical natural processes with contemporary man made changes. And we ask where current developments will take us in years to come.
The Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering has been awarded to the inventors of digital imaging sensors. First invented in the 1970's, many of us use this technology everyday. These sensor can be found inside every digital camera ever made, from the devices used on space probes to collect distant images from the far reaches of the universe to the ubiquitous pocket cameras in our mobile phones.
The earth is surrounded by junk - space junk. Many thousand of pieces of junk orbit the planet, left over from the history of everything we've ever sent into space. A new project has given a voice to this junk, and created a machine which plays simulated sounds of the junk as it passes overhead.
Producer: Julian Siddle
Presenter: Gareth Mitchell
Feb 09 2017
28 mins
Play

Rank #12: 23andMe Genetic Sequencing, Human Knockout genes, Coral Bleaching

Podcast cover
Read more
23andMe is one of the biggest providers of home genetic testing kits and if you live in the UK, it's the only one that also includes various genetic analyses relevant not just to ancestry, but also to health. After a previous ban, the Food and Drug Administration for the first time approved marketing of the 23andMe Genetic Health Risk tests for diseases in the US. Adam Rutherford talks to geneticist Professor Matthew Cobb of the University of Manchester and to medical ethicist Dr Sarah Chan of the University of Edinburgh about how useful this genetic information can be and about who owns the data.
New research published this week has revealed something really quite bizarre about our own genomes: that we can survive normally with a considerable number of dysfunctional genes. We've got around 20,000 genes, and you might think that you need them all, as when they don't work, they could lead to a serious health condition. But from a study of more than 10,000 people from Pakistan more than 1300 mutations were found to have no effect on their health. Geneticist Robert Plenge explains the research.
The Great Barrier Reef has taken another huge hit with a mass bleaching event occurring a second year in a row. Over two thirds of the reef is now seriously damaged. Professor Jorg Wiedenmann of the University of Southampton explains that if bleaching events continue to happen at this rate, the world's largest coral reef will never recover.
Apr 13 2017
27 mins
Play

Rank #13: Science and cyber security, Dinosaur babies, Winston Churchill and level crossings

Podcast cover
Read more
Testing cyber security with science. The UK now has a new National Cyber Security Centre. However there is very little scientific evidence against which to test the detection of cyber attacks and effectiveness of measures to prevent them. We ask what is needed to turn cyber security into a more scientific discipline.

Winston Churchill and Aliens. Throughout his life Churchill maintained a strong interest in scientific developments and wrote widely on subjects from quantum mechanics to nuclear energy. Newly discovered papers show he also had an interest in the potential for life on other planets.

Dinosaurs and egg laying. A new fossil find revealing a dinosaur with an unborn baby suggests live births may have occurred many years earlier than previously thought.

Turn off at level crossings. New research suggests personal messages about the impact of engine fumes on health may be the most effective way of persuading drivers to switch off their engines at level crossings.
Feb 16 2017
28 mins
Play

Rank #14: Human Consciousness: Could a brain in a dish become sentient?

Podcast cover
Read more
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.
Apr 26 2018
31 mins
Play

Rank #15: Time Travel in Science and Cinema

Podcast cover
Read more
In a special programme to mark, amongst other things, the centenary of Albert Einstein's General Theory of Relativity, Adam Rutherford is joined by The Film Programme's Francine Stock to explore the theme of time-travel - in science, in film and as film. With studio guest, science writer Marcus Chown, they'll discuss time-machines - as imagined by scientists and film-makers; the grandfather of all paradoxes; the notion of the multiverse and how the pioneers of cinema created their own 'time-machines' through the art of editing. And to mark Back the Future Day, otherwise known as 21 October 2015, they talk to director Robert Zemeckis about how and why he imagined a future with hover-boards but, oddly, no smart phones.

Producers: Stephen Hughes and Rami Tzabar.
Oct 15 2015
27 mins
Play

Rank #16: Comet 67P images; Etna eruption; Brain navigation; Octopus intelligence

Podcast cover
Read more
The recent Rosetta mission to image and land a probe on a comet was an astounding achievement. Rosetta took thousands of photos mapping the entire surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko , as it dramatically changed over 2 years. This week analysis of 18000 67P pictures are out of the shade and into the sunlight. Adam Rutherford talks to study leader Raamy El Maary on the intriguing insights and what they suggests about the evolution of comets as they pass through our solar system.

And while no-one has any doubt that volcanoes are extremely dangerous forces of nature, Science correspondent Rebecca Morelle was caught in an unusual and terrifying eruption last week. She tells BBC Inside Science the perils of reporting up close from the side of Etna and the rare kind of eruptions that are unique to snowy volcanoes.

What are our brains doing when we're navigating through towns and cities? A new study from a team at University College London has made detailed maps of brain activity when negotiating the very windy London streets of Soho and compared it to what our brains are up to when we're simply following a sat nav. Hugo Spiers discusses the results and how this kind of neuroscience has a role to play in the future design of new street networks and cities.

And we feature the private life of the octopus - a seemingly alien intelligence right here on Earth as philosopher Peter Godfrey-Smith discusses his new book "Other Minds: The Octopus and the Evolution of Intelligent Life", in which he literally dives into the oceans and delves in to the workings of the octopus mind

Producer Adrian Washbourne.
Mar 23 2017
28 mins
Play

Rank #17: Old Dogs and Physics in Space

Podcast cover
Read more
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.
Oct 18 2018
28 mins
Play

Rank #18: False positives in genetic test kits, Impact of fishing on ocean sharks, Sex-change fish

Podcast cover
Read more
Dr Adam Rutherford uncovers the worrying number of false positive results that the DNA sequencing technologies used by 'direct to consumer' genetic test kits are producing. Many of these tests offer analysis on your ancestry, but some also offer to check you out for the likelihood of you being at risk of some genetic diseases like cystic fibrosis or certain types of breast cancer. The tests look for variants in your genome, little changes in your DNA that alter the risk of developing a number of genetic diseases. The trouble is the rarer the variant, the more likely it is to be disease-causing. But the rarer the variant, the more likely the simple genetic tests are to get it wrong. And with more and more people sending off their raw genetic data to third-party websites for analysis and annotation, the risk of a false positive result increases to up to 80%. It's a small number of people affected, but a serious one if you're told out of the blue that you are at extreme risk of a serious disease. The advice is to keep an eye on family disease traits and if you are worried, go and see your doctor and get a proper diagnostic test.

Deep sea pelagic sharks, like the great white, silky, tiger, porbeagle and blue are much more vulnerable than their scary reputation suggests. In fact, many shark species are in decline as a result of industrial fishing rapidly encroaching upon their territories, and an increased value of the sharks themselves. The oceans are big and sharks range far and wide, so understanding these movements is not easy. Professor David Sims, from the Marine Biological Association of the UK and the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton, is part of a huge international consortium of marine biologists who have been tracking 11 species of shark all over the high seas using satellite technology. We’ve been fishing for more than 40,000 years, but our exploitation of the seas got serious in the last 50 years.

In nature, sex can be quite fluid, and in some species, sex changes are just a normal part of every day life. Especially in fish. This type of behaviour is called sequential hermaphroditism, and is common in fish. It's been known about for years, but the underlying genetic mechanisms are mysterious, which is strange for such a radical transformation. In the Blueheaded wrasse, when a dominant male is lost from the shoal, the largest female will immediately begin transforming into a male. Neil Gemmell from the University of Otago in New Zealand has lead a study which for the first time has uncovered the genetics of how the sex change happens.

Producer: Fiona Roberts
Jul 25 2019
28 mins
Play

Rank #19: Ancient DNA and Human Evolution

Podcast cover
Read more
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.
Dec 28 2017
34 mins
Play

Rank #20: Ancient Human Occupation of Britain

Podcast cover
Read more
The ancient inhabitants of Britain; when did they get here? Who were they? And how do we know? Alice Roberts meets some of the AHOB team, who have been literally digging for answers.

The Natural History Museum's Chris Stringer, is the Director of AHOB, the Ancient Human Occupation of Britain, a project which, over the past 12 years, has brought together a large team of palaeontologists, archaeologists, geologists and geographers, to pool their expertise in order to unpick British History.

Nick Ashton from the British Museum has been in charge of the north Norfolk site of Happisburgh, where the crumbling coast line has revealed the oldest examples of human life in Britain, 400,000 years earlier than previous findings of human habitation, in Boxgrove in Sussex.

The ancient landscape had its share of exotic animals. Hippos have been dug up from Trafalgar Square, mammoths have been excavated from Fleet Street. Professor Danielle Schreve is an expert in ancient mammal fossils, and tells us what these bones reveal about the ancient climate. Less glamorous than the big fossils, the humble vole is so useful and accurate as a dating tool that it has been nicknamed "the Vole Clock."

Carbon dating has improved vastly in the past few years. Rob Dinnis, from Edinburgh University, explains why the AHOB team has been returning to old collections and redating them.
Jan 06 2014
27 mins
Play

Similar Podcasts