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25
MAY

Aluminium and strontium

Andrea Sella, Professor of Inorganic Chemistry at University College London, celebrates the art and science of the chemical elements. Today he looks at aluminium and strontium, elements that give us visual treats.

At the time of Emperor Napoleon the Third in 19th century France aluminium was more valuable than gold and silver. The Emperor liked the metal so much he had his cutlery made out of it. But once a cheaper way was discovered to extract aluminium it began to be used for all kinds of objects, from aeroplanes to coffee pots. Andrea talks to Professor Mark Miodownik at the Institute of Making at UCL about why aluminium is such a useful material, from keeping crisps crisp to the tinsel on our Christmas trees. And he talks about the lightness of bicycles made from aluminium with Keith Noronha, of Reynolds Technology.

Strontium is the 15th most common element in the earth yet we really only come into contact with it in fireworks. It gives us the deep red colour we admire in a pyrotechnics display. Andrea meets Mike Sansom of Brighton Fireworks who explains how a firework is constructed and reveals the chemical mix that creates the bright red flashes.

Professor Thomas Klapötke of the Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich talks about his search for a substitute for strontium in fireworks and about how the element can get into our bones. Rupert Cole at the Science Museum in London shows Andrea how Humphry Davy was the first to extract strontium from rocks found in Scotland.

And Janet Montgomery, Professor of Archaeology at Durham University, explains how strontium traces have revealed that our Neolithic ancestors moved around much more than was previously thought. Nearly half the people buried around Stonehenge in Southern England were born in places with different rocks from those under Salisbury Plain in Southern England.

Picture: Fireworks, credit: rzelich/Getty Images
13
MAY

Science of Dad

Whilst most men become fathers, and men make up roughly half the parental population, the vast majority of scientific research has focused on the mother.

But studies have started to reveal the impact of fatherhood on both dads themselves and on their children. We're seeing how fathers play a crucial role in children's behaviour, happiness, and even cognitive skills.

Oscar Duke, a doctor, new dad and author of How To Be A Dad, discovers how pregnancy, birth and childcare affect the father, bringing about profound physiological and hormonal changes. Only 5% of mammal fathers invest in their offspring, and human males have evolved to undergo key changes when their children are born.

Involved fathers can expect their levels of the 'love hormone' oxytocin to rise, nature's way of helping parents bond with their children. At birth, a dad's testosterone levels dramatically fall, increasing affection and responsiveness, and discouraging polygamy.

With more fathers taking on a hands-on role in bringing up their children, how can these new discoveries about the science of dad help support them, and inform social and healthcare policies?

Presented by Dr Oscar Duke and produced by Melanie Brown and Cathy Edwards
02
MAY

The Evidence: Mental health and Covid 19

Now that more than half the population of the world has been living for a time in lockdown, Claudia Hammond and her panel of psychologists and psychiatrists answer the audience’s questions on the impact of the pandemic on our mental health. Dr George Hu, clinical psychologist & Section Chief of Mental Health at Shanghai United Family Pudong Hospital, tells us what he’s seen in China, as it comes out of lockdown.
Professor Vikram Patel gives us a picture of mental health in India, which went very suddenly into lockdown. Manuela Baretto, Professor of Psychology at Exeter University, explains what research tells us about how isolation and loneliness affects us. Dr Jo Daniels, a psychology at the University of Bath in the UK, talks about who is susceptible to long term health anxiety following the pandemic. And Professor Sir Simon Wessley, psychiatrist and Director of the Kings Centre for Military Research in London, answers questions on whether we can learn about the likely psychological consequences from previous pandemics and other global upheavals.

The Evidence is produced in association with Wellcome Collection.

Producer: Caroline Steel
Editor: Deborah Cohen
27
APR

Desert locust swarms

The pictures coming in from East Africa are apocalyptic. Billions of locusts hatching out of the wet ground, marching destructively through crops, and launching into flight in search of new terrains. "This is certainly the worst situation we have seen in the last 15 years," FAO locust specialist Keith Cressman tells Discovery. And in East Africa there has been nothing like this for 70 years.
As the region braces itself for another cycle of egg laying and hatching, Roland Pease hears from the scientists using satellite technology, mobile phones and big data to protect the crops just starting to grow.

(Photo: Desert Locust Swarms, Credit: FAO/Sven Torfinn)
18
APR

The Evidence: Young people, lifting lockdowns, USA and Kenya updates

Claudia Hammond and a panel of international experts look at the latest research into Covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus which is sweeping through the world.
As the disease spreads, younger people have perhaps not been getting the attention they deserve. How will this pandemic impact young people and do they feel included in government messaging?

As lockdowns are lifted in China – how can they prepare for what comes next?

And country updates on the USA and Kenya.

On the panel are Professor Tom Kariuki, Director of Programmes of the African Academy of Sciences, Dr Christina Atchison, Senior Clinical Teaching Fellow in Public Health Education at Imperial College London and Dr. Michael Mina, Assistant Professor of Epidemiology at Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health.

The Evidence is made in collaboration with the Wellcome Collection.

Presenter: Claudia Hammond
Producer: Geraldine Fitzgerald
13
APR

Richard Wiseman

How do you tell if someone is lying? When Richard Wiseman, Professor of the Public Understanding of Psychology at the University of Hertfordshire, conducted a nationwide experiment to identify the tell-tale signs, the results were surprising. If you want to spot a liar, don’t look at them. Listen to what they say and how they say it. in If you want to distinguish fact from fiction, radio, not TV or video is your friend. Visual cues distract us from what is being said and good liars can control their body language more easily than their voice. Depressingly, Richard has also shown that our nearest and dearest are the most able to deceive us.

Richard is a rare breed: a scientist who is also a practising magician. By the age of 17 he was performing magic tricks at children’s parties and a member of the exclusive Magic Circle. He chose to study psychology to try and understand why we believe the unbelievable and spent many years doing research on the paranormal: studying séances, haunted places and extra sensory perception. Could a belief in the paranormal be the price we pay for scientific discovery, he wonders?

Jim Al-Khalili talks to Richard about his magical Life Scientific and finds out more about his work on lying, ESP and luck. Are some people born lucky or is it a mind-set that can be learnt?

Producer: Anna Buckley
24
MAR

Adrian Owen

Neuroscientist Adrian Owen has spent much of his career exploring what he calls ‘the grey zone’, a realm of consciousness inhabited by people with severe brain injuries, who are aware yet unable to respond to those around them. It's this inability to respond which has led doctors to conclude that they are unaware.

In the late 1990's, Adrian started to question the assumption that they lacked awareness and a chance discovery set him on a novel path of enquiry - could some of these patients be conscious or aware even though they don’t appear to be?

His research has revealed that some are, and he’s pioneered techniques to help them to communicate with the outside world.
This emerging field of science has implications, not only for patients but, for philosophy and the law.

A British scientist, Adrian now runs a research programme at the Brain and Mind Institute at Western University in Canada, dedicated to reaching people in this ‘grey zone’.

Picture: Adrian Owen, BBC Copyright
21
MAR

The Evidence: Coronavirus Special

A panel of international experts take a global look at the science of Covid-19. We hear about vaccines, treatments, strategies to contain the virus and the role of big data.
10
MAR

Demis Hassabis

Jim Al-Khalili finds out why Demis Hassabis wants to create artificial intelligence and use it to help humanity.

Thinking about how to win at chess when he was a boy got Demis thinking about the process of thinking itself. Being able to program his first computer (a Sinclair Spectrum) felt miraculous. In computer chess, his two passions were combined. And a lifelong ambition to create artificial intelligence was born.

Demis studied computer science at Cambridge and then worked in the computer games industry for many years. Games, he says, are the ideal testing ground for AI. Then, thinking memory and imagination were aspects of the human mind that would be a necessary part of any artificially intelligent system, he studied neuroscience for a PhD.

He set up DeepMind in 2010 and pioneered a new approach to creating artificial intelligence, based on deep learning and built-in rewards for making good decisions. Four years later, DeepMind was sold to Google for £400 million. The company’s landmark creation, Alpha Go stunned the world when it defeated the world Go champion in South Korea in 2016. Their AI system, AlphaZero taught itself to play chess from scratch. After playing against itself for just four hours, it was the best chess computer in the world. (Humans had been defeated long ago).

Many fear both the supreme intelligence and the stupidity of AI. Demis imagines a future in which computers and humans put their brains together to try and understand the world. His algorithms have inspired humans to raise their game, when playing Go and chess. Now, he hopes that AI might do the same for scientific research. Perhaps the next Nobel Prize will be shared between a human and AI?
24
FEB

Science Stories - Sophia Jex-Blake

Naomi Alderman tells the science story of Sophia Jex-Blake, who led a group known as the Edinburgh Seven in their bid to become the first women to graduate as doctors from a British university. Her campaign was long and ultimately personally unsuccessful as she had to go to Switzerland to gain her qualification. Although Edinburgh University allowed the Seven to attend some lectures, they had to be taught apart from the male students. There was great antipathy to the women which culminated in 1870 with a riot as they tried to take an exam.

Naomi discusses Sophia Jex-Blake's life and times with Dr Kristin Hussey who curated an exhibition at the Royal College of Physicians about women in medicine.

And Dr Fizzah Ali from the Medical Women's Federation talks about women's careers in medicine today.

Image: Sophia Jex-Blake, aged 25. Credit: From a portrait by Samuel Laurence. (Photo by Hulton Archive / Getty Images)
10
FEB

Stem Cells: Hope and hype

Lesley Curwen reports on the magical aura that has been drawing so many people around the world to pay for “regenerative” therapies which harness the healing power of stem cells. In this programme, she reports on the battle of regulators in the USA and in Australia to stop unproven and risky therapies harming patients.

Featuring: Texas lawyer Hartley Hampton; Galen Dinning; stem cell researcher and host of The Niche blog, Professor Paul Knoepfler from the University of California, Davis School of Medicine; Dr Sean Morrison, Professor of Paediatrics at the University of Texas South Western and former president of the global body representing stem cell researchers the ISSCR; Laura Biel, host of the Wondery podcast, Bad Batch; Peter Marks of the Food and Drug Administration, the FDA; Professor Megan Munsie from Stem Cell Australia and chair of the ISSCR Ethics Committee; Dr Sarah Chan from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland.

(Picture: Stem cells are undifferentiated cells that can specialized through mitosis to many other cell types of multicellular organisms. Credit: selvanegra/Getty Images)

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