Discovery

BBC  |  Podcast, ±24 min episodes every 1 week
An in-depth look at the most significant ideas, discoveries and trends in science, from the smallest microbe to the furthest corner of space. Podcast weekly on Mondays.
20
MAR
As the pace of technology moves at ever greater speeds, how vulnerable are we when making split second decisions? Kevin Fong flies with the Helicopter Emergency Medical Service, making split-second, life-or-death decisions. He examines how we can come to terms with the growing challenge of quick and accurate front line decision making.Picture: Presenter, Kevin Fong in air ambulance, Credit: BBC
13
MAR
Ever wished you could miss an entire cold dark winter like bears or dormice? Kevin Fong explores the possibilities than humans could hibernate. This ability could help us recover from serious injury or make long space flights pass in a flash.The first report on human hibernation in a medical journal was in the BMJ in 1900. It was an account of Russian peasants who, the author claimed, were able to hibernate. Existing in a state approaching "chronic famine", residents of the north-eastern Pskov region would retreat indoors at the first sign of snow, and there gather around the stove and fall into a deep slumber they called "lotska". No-one has ever found these peasants but there is serious research into putting humans into suspended animation, for long distance space travel or for allowing the body to recover from major injury.The greatest clues into how to pull off hibernation comes from the American Black Bear. Dr Kevin Fong, an expert in trauma medicine, talks to Dr Brian Barnes, Director of the Institute of Arctic Biology at the University of Alaska. He's done the most extensive study of black bears and observed how they slow down their metabolism. Fat-tailed lemurs are the only primates to hibernate. Duke University's Lemur Research Centre has discovered that they breathe just once every 20 minutes at their deepest torpor. These lemurs live longer than other animals of similar size. Could we find a way to use this trick of suspended animation? We could slow down out ...
03
MAR
Internet shopping continues to rise worldwide. That means a lot more delivery vans on the streets of our towns and cities. Those vans and trucks, often powered by dirty diesel engines, are contributing to air pollution problems that can cause significant increases in premature death and great discomfort for people suffering from heart and lung conditions.As part of the BBC’s ‘So I Can Breathe’ season Tom Heap sets out to find innovative solutions. Could drones or robots be the answer? Could we cut out the middle man and use 3D printers to create everything we want at home? Perhaps it’s simply a matter of converting all those vans to electric or gas power or even carrying out the majority of home deliveries by bike. With the promise of ever-quicker delivery times the search for a solution becomes ever more urgent if we’re to prevent our consumer addiction becoming an air pollution crisis on every doorstep.Image: Tom Heap, credit Martin Poyntz-RobertsPresenter: Tom HeapProducer: Helen Lennard
27
FEB
Frank Swain can hear Wi-Fi.Diagnosed with early deafness aged 25, Frank decided to turn his misfortune to his advantage by modifying his hearing aids to create a new sense. He documented the start of his journey three years ago on Radio 4 in 'Hack My Hearing'.Since then, Frank has worked with sound artist Daniel Jones to detect and sonify Wi-Fi connections around him. He joins a community around the world who are extending their experience beyond human limitations.In 'Meet the Cyborgs' Frank sets out to meet other people who are hacking their bodies. Neil Harbisson and Moon Rebus run The Cyborg Foundation in Barcelona, which welcomes like-minded body hackers from around the world. Their goal is not just to use or wear technology, but to re-engineer their bodies.Frank meets the creators of Cyborg Nest, a company promising to make anyone a cyborg. They have recently launched their first product - The North Sense - a computer chip anchored to body piercings in the chest, which vibrates when it faces north.But it’s not only new senses that are being developed. Other people are focusing on modifying lifesaving medical devices. Dana Lewis from Seattle has created her own 'artificial pancreas' to help manage her Type 1 diabetes and released the code online.Frank asks - should limits be placed on self-experimentation? And will cybernetic implants eventually become as ubiquitous as smart phones?Features music composed for The North Sense by Andy Dragazis.Image: Row of microchips and capacitors on circuit board, © EyeWirePresenter: Frank ...
20
FEB
Two challenges for the team today involving singing and navigating. The Melodic Mystery"Why is my mother tone deaf?" asks listener Simon, "and can I do anything to ensure my son can at least carry a tune?" Hannah admits to struggling to hold a tune and has a singing lesson with teacher Michael Bonshor, although it doesn’t go quite to plan. We meet Martin who hates music because he has the clinical form of tone deafness, known as amusia. Just as people with dyslexia see words differently to other people, if you have amusia you don't hear melodies in the same way. Adam talks to music psychologist Dr Vicky Williamson from Sheffield University who studies Martin, and others like him, to try and discover why their brains operate differently.The Lost ProducerIn our second case, we investigate why some people have a terrible sense of direction. It’s the turn of Producer Michelle to be put to the test to try improve her poor navigational skills. Prof Hugo Spiers from University College London examines Michelle’s sense of direction using his free game 'Sea Hero Quest'. Catherine Loveday from the University of Westminster suggests strategies to stop Michelle from getting lost. And tune in to find out which country houses the world’s best navigators. Photo: Indonesian Army personnel read a map. Credit: Juni Kriswanto/AFP /Getty Images)
13
FEB
Neal Shepperson asks, "What determines left or right handedness and why are us lefties in the minority?"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 why Neanderthal teeth could hold the answer.Prof Chris McManus from University College London tells Adam about his quest to track down the genes responsible for whether we're right or left handed.But does left-handedness affect people’s brains and behaviour? 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 where does the answer lie? The team consults Professors Sophie Scott, Chris McManus and Dorothy Bishop to find out the truth about left-handers.If you have any Curious Cases for the team to investigate please email curiouscases@bbc.co.ukPicture: Left handed child, credit: Diarmid Courreges/AFP/Getty ImagesPresenter: Adam Rutherford & Hannah FryProducer: Michelle Martin.
06
FEB
The Space PirateListener 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.The Bad Moon Rising“A teacher I work with swears that around the time of the full moon kids are rowdier in the classroom, and more marital disharmony in the community," says Jeff Boone from El Paso in Texas. “Is there any biological reason why the moon's phases could affect human moods and behaviour?”Our scientific sleuths sift through the evidence to find out if the moon really does inspire lunacy. They consider Othello's testimony, a study on dog bites and homicides in Florida before coming to a conclusion based on current scientific evidence.Featuring neuroscientist Eric Chudler from the University of Washington and health broadcaster and author Claudia Hammond.If you have any Curious Cases for the team to solve please email curiouscases@bbc.co.uk.Photo credit: Matt Cardy/Getty ImagesPresenters: Adam Rutherford & Hannah FryProducer: Michelle Martin
30
JAN
Two cases today for Drs Adam Rutherford & Hannah Fry to investigate, involving strength and weight.The Portly Problem"Why do we have middle aged spread?" asks Bart Janssen from New Zealand. In this episode we ponder the science of fat, from obese mice to big bottoms.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 why pears are better than apples when it comes to body shape.And 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. The Strongest Substance"What is the strongest substance in the universe?” asks Françoise Michel. “Some people say it is spider web, because it is stronger than steel. Is it iron? Is it flint? Is it diamond because diamond can be only be cut by diamond?" Adam and Hannah put a variety of materials, from biscuits to toffees, under the hammer to test their strength. In their quest to find the strongest substance on earth they quiz materials scientist Mark Miodownik, engineer Danielle George and spidergoat creator, Dr Randy Lewis from Utah.Please send your Curious Cases for the team to investigate to curiouscases@bbc.co.ukPhoto: A man works out at a slimming centre in Beijing, credit: LIU JIN/AFP/Getty ImagesPresenters: Adam Rutherford, Hannah FryProducer: Michelle Martin
23
JAN
"Is there any such thing as nothing?" This question from Bill Keck sparked a lot of head scratching. Dr Adam Rutherford and Dr Hannah Fry first consider 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 subatomic physics have proved that nothing is impossible.Undeterred, the team continue the hunt for nothing by turning to mathematics. The story of zero is fraught with inspiration, competition and controversy. Banned in Florence and hated by the Church, zero had a rocky road to acceptance after its genesis in India. Hannah talks to author Alex Bellos and hears about his journey to India to see the birth of zero. Plus, Adam is sent on a mission to understand calculus and enlists the help of Jeff Heys from Montana State University.Presenters: Adam Rutherford, Hannah FryProducer: Michelle MartinPhoto: Dr Adam Rutherford and Dr Hannah Fry, BBC Copyright
16
JAN
There's a new light of hope in the Middle East. It's a scientific experiment called SESAME - intended to do world-class science and bring together researchers from divided nations. Its members include Palestine and Israel, Pakistan and Iran, Jordan, Egypt, and more. First conceived in the late 1990s, it has just seen the first spark of electricity flow through its high-vacuum steel pipes, last week, and first science should follow soon. The BBC’s Roland Pease paid his second visit to the SESAME campus just as the final pieces were being put in place, and met some of the key players, and heard their hopes.Picture: Sesame with presenter Roland Pease and Herman Winnick, copyright Noemi Caraban
09
JAN
The incoming administration of President Trump has frightened many in the international environmental community. The result of US election in November was announced during the 2016 Marrakech UN Climate Change Conference, a meeting where most delegates were working to deliver on the promises of the previous Paris accord. Instead, a new US direction seemed to have emerged, with some in the new US cabinet going so far as to suggest the US should withdraw altogether from Paris, scrap the US’s own Clean Power act, and re-open coal mines. Roger Harrabin explores whether the Climate Deal is dead, and whether the EU and other countries, such as China and India, might follow the Trump suit and relax their low-carbon initiatives.Image: Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump holds a sign supporting coal during a rally at Mohegan Sun Arena in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania on October 10, 2016, credit: Dominick Reuter/AFP/Getty Images
02
JAN
Anton Mesmer was a doctor who claimed he could cure people with an unknown force of animal magnetism. He was the subject to a committee that found there was no evidence for his powers. Phil Ball tallks to Simon Shaffer, Professor of History of Science at Cambridge University, about the rise of showmanship in science at the time of Mesmer in the later 18th Century, and to Professor Richard Wiseman of Hertfordshire University about contemporary parapsychology.Image: 1784: Franz Friedrich Anton Mesmer (1734 -1815) Austrian doctor known for inducing a trance-like state, called mesmerism, Credit: Hulton Archive/Getty Images