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.
24
APR
In Lifechangers, Kevin Fong talks to people about their lives in science.Major General Charles Bolden – a former NASA administrator – talks to Kevin Fong about his extraordinary life, from childhood in racially segregated South Carolina to the first African American to command a space shuttle. He had originally hoped to join the Navy, but was unable to as an African American. Although Charles refused to take no for an answer and after much petitioning he was accepted. From there he reached for the stars.Image: Charlie Bolden, © Alex Wong/Getty Images
17
APR
In Lifechangers, Kevin Fong talks to people about their lives in science.Astrophysicist and Director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York City, Neil deGrasse Tyson is well known in the US since he presented the TV series Cosmos: a spacetime odyssey. He talks to Kevin Fong about growing up in Brooklyn, becoming obsessed with the night sky and how he became a broadcaster and writer.Image: Neil deGrasse Tyson, © Cindy Ord/Getty Images for FOX
10
APR
In the start of a new series of Lifechangers, Kevin Fong talks to three people about their lives in science.His first conversation is with a man better known for his life in science fiction, George Takei, the Japanese American actor who played Sulu in the TV series, Star Trek. They discuss the voyages of the Starship Enterprise and the ideas of other worlds featured in Star Trek. He talks about his own epic life journey – how his family was imprisoned when the US joined the Second World War and his campaigning against social injustice.Photo: George Takei making the Live Long and Prosper symbol, © Suhaimi Abdullah/Getty Images
03
APR
Bees pollinate and can detect bombs and compose music. What would we do without them? The world owes a debt of gratitude to this hard working but under-appreciated insect. One third of the food we eat would not be available without bees, meaning our lives would be unimaginably different without them.Bee populations are dropping by up to 80% in some countries and the consequences are potentially catastrophic. The use of neonics pesticides in farming has been one of the main causes in the decline in bee numbers and now the farming world is having to take drastic action to try and reverse the trend. The situation has become so dire in some parts of China that the government set up a scheme in which humans had to pollinate plants by hand. Researchers in America have been so worried about a world without bees that they have started to develop robotic 'insects' to emulate their work. What’s causing the drop in populations and what might save them? Dr George McGavin hears from scientists and researchers in Africa, South America, Europe and Asia about the extraordinary lives and impact of bees, hearing the amazing ways in which they communicate and learn, and how complex and diverse different bee species are.
27
MAR
Since the birth of Louise Brown-the world’s first IVF baby, in England in 1978, many children have been born through in vitro fertilisation. IVF doesn’t work for everyone but over the last few decades basic research into human reproduction has brought about huge improvements. In the UK the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act, passed in 1990, made it illegal for research on human embryos to be permitted beyond 14 days. In a dozen other countries, from Canada and Australia to Iceland and South Korea the 14 day limit is enshrined in law and in five others, including China, India and the US, there are guidelines that recommend that limit. Just recently researchers at Cambridge University have kept embryos alive in the lab for 13 days. They and others are calling for the limit to be extended for another one or two weeks, so they can study why early pregnancies fail. Matthew Hill reports on the issues raised by these new developments in embryo research.Image: Light micrograph of fertilized human egg cell © Science Photo Library
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
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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)
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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