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The Polar OppositeNo one knows why the Earth's magnetic North and South poles swap. But polar reversals have happened hundreds of times over the history of the Earth.John Turk emailed firstname.lastname@example.org to ask, “when is the next pole swap due and what will happen to us?”Featuring Prof Lucie Green from Mullard Space Science Laboratory and Dr Phil Livermore from the University of Leeds. Plus, astronaut Terry Virts, author of The View from Above, describes his experiences of a strange magnetic glitch in the earth's magnetic field, known as The Bermuda Triangle of Space.The World That Turns"Why does the Earth spin?" asks Joe Wills from Accra in Ghana. Hannah quizzes cosmologist Andrew Pontzen about the birth of the Solar System. BBC weatherman John Hammond describes the curious things that would happen if the Earth spun the opposite way.Send your questions to: email@example.comPicture: The Earth reflecting light from the sun whilst aboard the International Space Station, Credit: Alexander Gerst / ESA via Getty ImagesProducer: Michelle Martin
The Astronomical Balloon"How far up can a helium balloon go? Could it go out to space?" asks Juliet Gok, aged 9.This calls for an experiment! Dr Keri Nicholl helps Adam launch a party balloon and track its ascent. But their test doesn't quite go to plan.Meanwhile, Hannah discovers where space begins by asking Public Astronomer Dr Marek Kukula, from the Royal Observatory Greenwich.Send your Curious Cases to the team: firstname.lastname@example.orgThe Forgetful Child"Why don't we remember the first few years of our lives?" asks David Foulger from Cheltenham.The team investigate the phenomenon of 'infant amnesia' with Catherine Loveday from the University of Westminster.40% of us claim to remember being under two years old and 18% recall being babies. But can we really trust these early memories? Martin Conway from City University thinks not.Picture: A baby contemplates the sole of its foot, circa 1950, Credit: H. Armstrong Roberts/Retrofile/Hulton Archive/Getty ImagesProducer: Michelle Martin.
The Astronomical Balloon"How far up can a helium balloon go? Could it go out to space?" asks Juliet Gok, aged 9.This calls for an experiment! Dr Keri Nicholl helps Adam launch a party balloon and track its ascent. But their test doesn't quite go to plan.Meanwhile, Hannah discovers where space begins by asking Public Astronomer Dr Marek Kukula, from the Royal Observatory Greenwich.Send your Curious Cases to the team: email@example.comThe Forgetful Child"Why don't we remember the first few years of our lives?" asks David Foulger from Cheltenham.The team investigate the phenomenon of 'infant amnesia' with Catherine Loveday from the University of Westminster.40% of us claim to remember being under two years old and 18% recall being babies. But can we really trust these early memories? Martin Conway from City University thinks not.Picture: Baby Foot, Credit H. Armstrong Roberts/Retrofile/Hulton Archive/Getty ImagesProducer: Michelle Martin.
“How on earth do cats find their way back to their previous home when they move house?" asks Vicky Cole from Nairobi in Kenya. Our enduring love for our feline friends began when Egyptian pharaohs began to welcome domesticated moggies into their homes. Pictured reclining in baskets at the feet of royalty, pet cats soon became fashionable throughout society in Egypt. Today they are the most popular pet in the world, and home is definitely where their hearts lie. "Whereas dogs are bonded to people, cats are bonded to place," explains zoologist Dr John Bradshaw. "It's very typical for them to try and find their way back to their old house when you move." But how do they do it? And if their navigational skills are so good, why do they get lost? Prof Matthew Cobb reveals the super-senses that cats possess, and how to spot when your pet is deploying them.Itchy and Scratchy"What is an itch and how does scratching stop it? Why does scratching some itches feel so good?!" asks Xander Tarver from West Sussex in England.Our doctors set off to probe the mysteries of itch, and discover that this overlooked area of medicine is revealing surprising results about the human brain. From why itching is contagious to why scratching is pleasurable, we get under the skin of this medical mystery. The programme features interviews with neuroscientist Prof Francis McGlone from Liverpool John Moores University and dermatologist Dr Brian Kim from the Center for the Study of Itch at Washington University. Yes, that is a real place.If you have any Curious Cases for the team to solve please email firstname.lastname@example.org.Presenters: Adam Rutherford, Hannah FryProducer: Michelle Martin(Photo: Cat, Credit: Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)
Science sleuths Drs Rutherford & Fry take on everyday mysteries and solve them with the power of science. Two cases in this episode concerning the inner workings of our bodies, and not for the faint hearted! The Broken Stool"Science tells us that our body houses microbial organisms. Then how much our weight is really our weight? If I am overweight, is it because of my own body cells or excess microflora?" asks Ajay Mathur from Mumbai in India.Adam bravely sends off a personal sample to the 'Map My Gut' project at St Thomas' Hospital to have his microbes mapped. Prof Tim Spector reveals the shocking results - a diet of fried breakfasts and fizzy drinks has left his guts in disarray. But help is at hand to makeover his bacterial lodgers.Science writer Ed Yong, author of 'I Contain Multitudes', reveals how much our microbes weigh. We're just beginning to discover the vast array of vital functions they perform, from controlling our weight, immune system and perhaps even influencing our mood and behaviour. A Code in Blood"Why do we have different blood types?" asks Doug from Norfolk in the UK.The average adult human has around 30 trillion red blood cells, they make up a quarter of the total number of cells in the body. We have dozens of different blood groups, but normally we're tested for just two - ABO and Rhesus factor. Adam and Hannah delve into the gory world of blood and the early history of blood transfusions, to discover why we have blood groups and how they differ around the world.Featuring interviews with Dr Jo Mountford, from the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service and immunologist Dr Sheena Cruikshank from the University of Manchester.If you have any Curious Cases for the team to solve please email email@example.com.Presenters: Adam Rutherford, Hannah FryProducer: Michelle MartinImage: Illustration of red blood cells in a blood vessel. Copyright: Science Photo Library
Sydney Brenner was one of the 20th Century’s greatest biologists. Born 90 years ago in South Africa to impoverished immigrant parents, Dr Brenner became a leading figure in the biological revolution that followed the discovery of the structure of DNA by Crick and Watson, using data from Rosalind Franklin, in the 1950s. Brenner’s insights and inventive experiments laid foundation stones for new science of molecular biology and the genetic age in which we live today, from the Human Genome Project to gene editing. Sydney Brenner talks to biologist and historian Matthew Cobb of the University of Manchester about this thrilling period in biological science, and Dr Brenner’s 20 year-long collaboration with DNA pioneer Francis Crick: a friendship which generated some of their most creative research. Picture: Sydney Bremmer, Credit: Cold Spring Harbor Lab Archive Producer: Andrew Luck-Baker
This is a big story about a little snail. Biologist Helen Scales relates an epic tale that spans the globe and involves calamity, tragedy, extinction and we hope, salvation. It stars the tiny tree-dwelling mollusc from French Polynesia, Partula, a snail that has captivated scientists for centuries. Like Charles Darwin studied finches on the Galapagos, Partula became an icon of evolution because, in the living laboratories of the Pacific islands, it had evolved into multiple species. But a calamity drove Partula to extinction, when a botched biological control, the predatory Rosy Wolf Snail, was introduced. It was supposed to eat another problem mollusc, but in a cruel twist, devoured tiny Partula instead. An international rescue mission was scrambled to save a species and from just one or two rescued individuals, populations of this snail species have been built up over thirty years in captive breeding programmes in zoos around the world. And now, in the nailbiting sequel, we track Partula’s journey home.Picture: Reintroduced Partula dispersing on Moorea in French Polynesia, Credit: ZSLPresenter: Helen ScalesProducer: Fiona Hill
This month London’s Science Museum launched a new exhibition on Indian science.For more than 200 years Britain ruled India, bringing many aspects of British culture to India - including European science developed during the enlightenment. However centuries earlier India had already pioneered work in astronomy, mathematics and engineering. How was India’s scientific progress affected by colonialism? Did British rule hold the country back, or did it drive it forward? Presented by Angela Saini.Picture: The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) communication satellite GSAT-19, carried onboard the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV-mark III ), launches at Sriharikota on June 5, 2017, Credit: ARUN SANKAR/AFP/Getty Images
We go behind the scenes of a new exhibition on India at London’s Science Museum. What can historical objects tell us about India’s rich, and often hidden scientific past? We look at the influential mathematics, metallurgy and civil engineering of ancient India.The exhibition also contain artefacts from India’s time under the British Empire. We ask how the many years of colonial rule shaped the more recent scientific development of India. Science journalist Angela Saini presents.Image: Bakhshali manuscript, Credit: Bodleian Library
Can Africa’s Great Green Wall beat back the Sahara desert and reverse the degrading landscape? The ambitious 9 miles wide and 5000 miles long line of vegetation will stretch all the way from Dakar in the west to Djibouti in the east. Thomas Fessy is in Senegal where the wall has already begun to evolve into a series of forests and garden communities. He meets the planners, planters, ecologists and local villagers to hear how its early progress is reversing years of poor land use, turning nomads back to farmers, empowering women and creating healthy ecosystems for rain fed agriculture. But can it meet its ambition to stabilize an unstable region, reverse the growing trend of migration, fight the effects of climate change and ensure this big African dream doesn’t die in the sand?Picture: The Great Green Wall, credit: BBC Producer Adrian Washbourne
Can we Control the Dark Side of the Internet?The Internet is the world's most widely used communications tool. It’s a fast and efficient way of delivering information. However it is also quite dumb, neutral, treating equally all the data it passes around the world. From data that forms scientific research papers, the wealth of social media to keep us all connected with friends and relatives, entertainment or material we would rather not see- from political propaganda to horrific violence, the Internet makes no distinction. Is it time to change that? And can we? In this programme Aleks Krotoski looks at whether it’s possible to use technological fixes to regulate the internet or whether a more political approach is needed to governance of this vital but flawed communications medium.Picture: Human Hand Using Application on Mobile Phone, Credit: Onfokus
With the coming of the World Wide Web in the 1990s internet access opened up to everybody, it was no longer the preserve of academics and computer hobbyists. Already prior to the Web, the burgeoning internet user groups and chat rooms had tested what was acceptable behaviour online, but access was still limited. Aleks Krotoski asks whether the Web through enabling much wider use of the internet is the villain of the piece in facilitating not just entertainment and commerce, but all aspects of the darker side, from malicious computer hacking attacks, worms and viruses, to new channels for criminality, online extortion and identity theft.(Photo: Internet sign. Credit: code6d)
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