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Discover programmes from BBC Radio 4’s Day of The Scientist and beyond! With introductions by Dr. Alex Lathbridge.
October 12, 2021
A Good Read with Adam Rutherford and Farrah Jarral
As part of Radio 4's Day of the Scientist Harriett Gilbert asks two scientists and broadcasters to choose a book on a science theme. Adam Rutherford chooses Kazuo Ishiguro's dystopian love story Never Let Me Go. Dr Farrah Jarral says when she first read the novella she has chosen - Octavia Butler's Bloodchild - it blew her mind dealing as it does with interspecies procreation and with underlying themes of control and power imbalance. Harriett Gilbert's choice is Piranesi by Susanna Clarke in which the character 'Piranesi' lives in The House populated by endless corridors and statues and The Other. Producer: Maggie Ayre for BBC Audio, Bristol. First broadcast on Tuesday 12 October 2021.
October 12, 2021
The Kitchen Cabinet Science Special
Jay Rayner hosts the culinary panel show packed full of tasty titbits. Joining him this week are Tim Anderson, Sue Lawrence, Shelina Permalloo and Professor Barry Smith to help answer questions from hungry listeners. This week in a scientific special, the panel are quizzed on their favourite kitchen gadgets, as well as going through nearly every possible configuration of tofu imaginable. They are joined by food science expert and author Harold McGee, who uncovers the chemistry of cooking. Sensory expert Professor Barry Smith leads us in a tantalising tastebud experiment - if you’d like to join in at home, you’ll need some Szechuan peppercorns handy (and not be averse to eating them raw…) Producer: Daniel Cocker Assistant Producer: Bethany Hocken A Somethin' Else production for BBC Radio 4. First Broadcast on Tuesday 12 October 2021.
October 12, 2021
The Life Scientific at 10: What does it take to be a scientist?
How damaging is the stereotype of white males in white coats? Do scientists think differently? Or do the qualities we associate with being a nerd do them a disservice? Is specialism the best way to solve 21st century problems when so many great discoveries are made in the cracks between the disciplines? In short, what makes a scientist, a scientist? Jim and distinguished guests consider the lessons learnt from nearly 250 leading scientists talking with extraordinary honesty about their life and work. And ask: has the job description changed? Success in science is often defined by making discoveries and publishing papers but, as the pandemic made clear, we also need scientists who can interact with decision makers in government and elsewhere. Do scientists need to learn new skills to participate in the decision making process? Do they (or at least some of them) need to be more outward looking, aware of the world beyond their laboratories and ready to engage? Or do the corridors of power need to open their doors to more people with a scientific training? And, if Britain is to become a science superpower, is it time that scientists stopped being squeamish about making money? Jim's guests are Chief Executive of UK Research and Innovation, Prof Dame Ottoline Leyser; Nobel Prize winning biologist and Director of the Crick Institute, Prof Sir Paul Nurse; geologist and Royal Institution Christmas Lecturer, Prof Christopher Jackson; and forensic scientist and member of the House of Lords, Prof Dame Sue Black. Produced by Anna Buckley. First broadcast on Tuesday 12 October 2021.
October 12, 2021
The Patrick Vallance interview
As Chief Scientific Advisor to the government during a pandemic, Patrick Vallance's calm, clear summaries of the state of our scientific understanding of the virus were welcomed by many. But what was going on behind the scenes? In this extended interview with Jim Al-Khalili on Radio 4's Day of The Scientist, Patrick opens up and together they explore that trickiest of relationships - the one between scientists and politicians. How do we make sure we get evidence-based policy not policy-based evidence? Scientists tend to gain prominence during a crisis but the need for scientific input to government is ever present. And as head of the new Office for Science and Technology Strategy, based in the Cabinet Office, Patrick hopes to put science and technology at the heart of policy making in government. However only about 10% of the recent fast stream civil service intake have a scientific degree. That needs to change, says Patrick.. What science and technology do we need to invest in to deal with the big science-based challenges ahead, such as achieving carbon net zero, preserving a diversity of species, and protecting our privacy and slowing the spread of misinformation online? What does the UK need to do to capitalize on our scientific expertise and make Britain a science superpower that the Prime Minister hopes it will become? Produced by Anna Buckley. First broadcast on Tuesday 12 October 2021.
October 12, 2021
The Men in the White Coats
Prof Andrea Sella on the shifting image of the scientist in popular culture, from Victor Frankenstein to Iron Man via victorious post-war boffinry and megalomanical Bond villainry. The monster unleashed by Mary Shelley in her 1818 tale of gruesome gothic horror was in many senses not the creature itself, but the image of its careless creator. The recklessness of the lone scientist whose blind ambition fails to foresee the societal and practical consequences of his discovery or invention. Throughout the last 150 years, the scientists in our science fictions have embodied the contemporary societal attitudes to science itself, sometimes in celebration, but often as a cartoon of our fears. At the same time professional scientists and science communicators have tried to share their work with wider audiences in an effort to democratize and enliven the endeavour. These two approaches haven't always been in synchrony. Presented by Prof Andrea Sella Produced by Alex Mansfield First broadcast on Saturday 9 October 2021.
October 12, 2021
Scientifically presents… Day of The Scientist
Discover programmes from BBC Radio 4’s Day of The Scientist and beyond! With Introductions by Dr. Alex Lathbridge.
September 17, 2021
Celebrating the life of Sir Clive Sinclair: Computers at home
This week in Scientifically… we celebrate the life of Sir Clive Sinclair with this episode from the series Computing Britain that looks at how 'micro computers' invaded the home in the 1980s. In this episode, Hannah Fry discovers how the computer was transported from the office and the classroom right into our living room. From eccentric electronics genius Clive Sinclair and his ZX80, to smart-suited businessman Alan Sugar and the Amstrad PC, she charts the 80s computer boom - a time when the UK had more computers per head of population than anywhere else in the world. Presented by Hannah Fry Produced by Michelle Martin First broadcast on Tuesday 22 September 2015.
September 3, 2021
Jim Al-Khalili's Life Scientific
In an ideal (quantum) world, Jim Al-Khalili would be interviewing himself about his life as a scientist but since the production team can’t access a parallel universe, Adam Rutherford is stepping in to ask Jim questions in front of an audience at The Royal Society. Jim and his family left Iraq in 1979, two weeks before Saddam Hussein came to power, abandoning most of their possessions. Having grown up listening to the BBC World Service, he had to drop his ts to fit in at school in Portsmouth where he was one of just three boys in a class of more than a hundred girls. He specialised in nuclear physics and spent fifteen years in front of a computer screen trying to understand an exotic and ephemeral sub-atomic phenomenon known as the halo effect. His ‘little eureka moment’ came in 1996 when Jim discovered that, for the mathematics to add up, these halo nuclei had to be a lot bigger than anyone had thought. It isn’t going to lead to a new kind of non-stick frying pan any time soon but it was exciting, nonetheless. More recently he has become interested in quantum biology. It started as a hobby back in the 1990s when physicists were sceptical and many biologists were unconvinced. Since then evidence has been stacking up. Several studies suggest that lasting quantum mechanical effects could explain photosynthesis, for example. 'It maybe a red herring’ Jim admits but Jim and his team at the University of Surrey are determined to find out if the idea of quantum biology makes sense. Could life itself depend on quantum tunnelling and other bizarre features of the sub-atomic world? Produced by Anna Buckley. First broadcast on Tuesday 5th February 2019.
August 11, 2021
Genetic Dreams, Genetic Nightmares - Episode 3
CRISPR is the latest and most powerful technique for changing the genetic code of living things. This method of gene editing is already showing great promise in treating people with gene-based diseases, from sickle cell disease to cancer. However, in 2018 the use of CRISPR to edit the genes of two human embryos, which were subsequently born as two girls in China, caused outrage. The experiment was done in secrecy and created unintended changes to the children's genomes - changes that could be inherited by their children and their children's children. The scandal underlined the grave safety and ethical concerns around heritable genome editing, and called into doubt the ability of the scientific community to self-regulate this use of CRISPR. CRISPR gene editing might also be used to rapidly and permanently alter populations of organisms in the wild, and indeed perhaps whole ecosystems, through a technique called a gene drive. A gene drive is a way of biasing inheritance, of getting a gene (even a deleterious one) to rapidly multiply and copy itself generation after generation, sweeping exponentially through a population. In theory, this could be used to eradicate species such as agricultural pests or disease-transmitting mosquitoes, or to alter them in some way: for example, making mosquitoes unable to carry the malaria parasite. But do we know enough about the consequences of releasing a self-perpetuating genetic technology like this into the environment, even if gene drives could, for example, eradicate insects that spread a disease which claims hundreds of thousands of deaths every year? And who should decide whether gene drives should be released? First broadcast on Tuesday 3rd August 2021.
July 28, 2021
Genetic Dreams, Genetic Nightmares - Episode 2
Professor Matthew Cobb looks at how genetic engineering became big business - from the first biotech company that produced human insulin in modified bacteria in the late 1970s to the companies like Monsanto which developed and then commercialised the first GM crops in the 1990s. Were the hopes and fears about these products of genetic engineering realised? First broadcast on Tuesday 27 July 2021.
July 21, 2021
Genetic Dreams, Genetic Nightmares - Episode 1
Biologist Matthew Cobb presents the first episode in a series which looks at the fifty year history of genetic engineering: from the concerns around the first attempts at combining the DNA of one organism with the genes of another in 1971, to today’s gene editing technique known as Crispr. The first experiments to combine the DNA of two different organisms began at Stanford University in California in 1971. The revolutionary technique of splicing genes from one lifeform into another promised to be a powerful tool in understanding how our cells worked. It also offered the prospect of a new cheap means of manufacturing life-saving drugs – for example, by transferring the gene for human insulin into bacteria, growing those genetically engineered microbes in industrial vats and harvesting the hormone. A new industrial revolution based on biology looked possible. At the same time some scientists and the public were alarmed by disastrous scenarios that genetic engineering might unleash. What if microbes engineered with toxin genes or cancer genes escaped from the labs and spread around the world? In early 1974, responding to the public fears and their own disquiet about how fast the techniques were developing, the scientists leading this research revolution called for a global moratorium on genetic engineering experiments until the risks had been assessed. This was followed by an historic meeting of 130 scientists from around the world in February 1975 in California. Its purpose was to decide if and how the genetic engineering research could be done safely. It was a rancorous affair but the Asilomar conference is held up as an idealist if imperfect example of scientists taking responsibility as they developed a powerful new technology. First broadcast on Tuesday 20 July 2021.
June 24, 2021
The Blind Astronomer
This is the story, and the sound, of Puerto Rican scientist Wanda Díaz-Merced, who is revolutionising astronomy by turning data from space into audio that can be explored by ear. This process, ‘sonification’, is not only making the universe accessible to people with visual disabilities, it takes advantage of the human ear’s ability to explore vast ranges of data and spot patterns that could be missed by other means. It’s already proved its worth scientifically, with discoveries being made that are complementary to those found by traditional analysis. Growing up, Wanda was always focused on a career in science, but when she began losing her sight at university, she realised that most areas of science were becoming impossible for her. An epiphany came when she encountered NASA’s Radio Jove and was able to hear the sound of radiation from the Sun. She knew immediately that this was her new direction, but also that if she wanted astronomy to develop into audio, she was going to have to make it happen herself. Her drive and ambition led to her working with NASA, followed by a doctorate in computer science, so as to learn and experiment with creating tools that would allow astronomers to analyse data by simply listening to it. Having achieved success and recognition for her work over several years, her next project takes her into one of the hottest areas of current astronomy, the hunt for gravitational waves. These tiny ripples in space-time were found for the first time only in 2015. As technology improves, more signals will be detected but these will be surrounded by masses of non-gravitational wave signals. The human ear is better than any computer at categorising these signals, so through a huge citizen science project, Reinforce, Wanda and her team aim to work with many thousands of volunteers to listen to and analyse reams of data, to help progress this new area of science. The future, as Wanda says, is not just about sound, or vision, it is multisensory – the more senses we can use to explore the world, the more we discover. Contributors to the programme are: Wanda Diaz Merced, Professor Steve Brewster (University of Glasgow), Professor Martin Hendry (University of Glasgow), Professor Katrien Kolenberg, and Grant Miller (Zooniverse/Oxford University). Specially composed music: Thomas Hoey Presenter: Kate Molleson Producer: Anne McNaught First broadcast on Tuesday 15 June 2021.
May 12, 2021
Dare to Repair: Fixing the Future - Episode 3
Mark Miodownik, explores the environmental consequences of the throwaway society we have become and reveals that recycling electronic waste comes second to repairing broken electronics. He asks what we can learn from repair cultures around the world , he looks at manufacturers who are designing in repair-ability, and discovers the resources available to encourage and train the next generation of repairers. Presented by Mark Miodownik and produced by Fiona Roberts. First broadcast on Monday 10 May 2021.
May 5, 2021
Dare To Repair: The Right to Repair - Episode 2
Many electronics manufacturers are making it harder and harder for individuals and independent repairers to fix their broken kit. There are claims that programmed obsolescence is alive and well, with mobile phone batteries designed to wear out after just 400 charges. The manufacturers say it's for safety or security reasons, but it drives the consumer model of constant replacement and upgrades. But people are starting to fight back. Episode 2 - The Right to Repair Mark Miodownik talks to the fixers and repairers who are heading up the Right to Repair movement which is forcing governments to act and making sustainability and value for money part of the consumer equation. He goes online for help replacing his broken mobile phone screen and dead battery and finds out how easy it is to dare to repair. Presented by Mark Miodownik and produced by Fiona Roberts. First broadcast on Tuesday 4 May 2021.
April 30, 2021
Dare To Repair: How We Broke the Future - Episode 1
We love our electronic gadgets, gizmos and appliances. But when it comes to repairing and caring for them, UK citizens are second only to Norway when it comes to producing electronic waste. We have a culture of buying single-use, throwaway, cheaper-the-better, irreparable electronic goods. But the Age of Consumerism is over. If the kettles, toasters, phones and fridges we buy aren’t made to be repairable, and aren’t repaired, we are going to run out of things to buy, stuff to make them from and money to buy them with. Dare to Repair explores how we got to this unsustainable state, explores the fightback, whether it’s through global legislation or individual groups, and empowers listeners to prolong the life of their electronics and mechanical goods by fixing them. Episode 1- How We Broke the Future Materials scientist Professor Mark Miodownik of UCL looks back to the start of the electronics revolution to find out why our electronic gadgets and household goods are less durable and harder to repair now. As he attempts to fix his digital clock radio, he reveals that the drive for cheaper stuff and advances in design and manufacturing have left us with a culture of throwaway technology and mountains of electronic waste. Presented by Mark Miodownik and produced by Fiona Roberts. First broadcast on Tuesday 27 April 2021.
April 21, 2021
Gagarin and the lost Moon
On 12 April 1961, cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became an explorer like none other before him, going faster and further than any human in history, into what had always been the impenetrable and infinite unknown. Raised in poverty during the Second World War, the one-time foundry worker and a citizen of the Soviet Union became the first human to fly above the Earth in the vastness of space. In doing so he became an instrument in The Cold War – an ideological battle between the superpowers: East versus West, communism versus democracy. Dr Kevin Fong tells the story of how 27 year old Yuri Gagarin came to launch a new chapter in the history of exploration and follows the cosmonaut’s one hour flight around the Earth. The Soviet Union's triumph in 1961 was the event that galvanised the United States to win the Space Race: to send the first people on the Moon by the end of the decade. Yuri’s own ambitions to voyage to the Moon were frustrated by his political masters, a faltering Soviet lunar space program and two tragic accidents. As well as presenting archive recordings, Kevin talks to space historians and writers: Tom Ellis, historian at the London School of Economics Stephen Walker, author of ‘Beyond’ Slava Gerovitch, author of Soviet Space Mythologies’ and ‘Voices of the Soviet Space Program’ Andrew Jenks, author of 'The Cosmonaut who couldn’t stop smiling’ Cathleen Lewis, curator at the National Air and Space Museum Actor Stewart Campbell is the voice of Yuri Gagarin. Tony Turner is Soviet space program founder Sergei Korolev. Nicholas Murchie is General Nicolai Kaminin, head of cosmonaut training. Technical production is by Giles Aspen and Jackie Margerum. Co-writer and producer: Andrew Luck-Baker of the BBC Audio Science Unit. (Picture: Russian Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin. Photo credit: Imagno/Getty Images.) First broadcast on Saturday 10 Apr 2021.
April 7, 2021
Hardware, Software, Anywhere: Anywhere - Episode 3
Nick Baker’s collection of programmes and interviews reflects on how the impact of technology has changed, from the dawn of language to the age of virtual reality. In this final episode, ‘Anywhere’, Nick looks at bigger changes in our physical perceptions, and experiences a new medium – Virtual Reality, as developed in the BBC Virtual Reality hub. But there’s a different, more subtle way in which digital technology changes our perception of personal space, and that idea’s probed in an edition of ‘The Digital Human’ presented by Aleks Krotoski, called ‘Between’. Then, a warning from literature, and from history. Stephen Fry and Nick Baker discuss E.M. Forster’s 1909 novella, ‘The Machine Stops’, which envisages a physical world changed, if not destroyed by technology. But what happens when that technology breaks down? Presenter: Nick Baker Produced by Stephen Garner. Made for BBC Radio 4 Extra and first broadcast in 2019.
March 31, 2021
Hardware, Software, Anywhere: Hardware - Episode 2
Nick Baker’s collection of programmes and interviews reflects on how the impact of technology has changed, from the dawn of language to the age of virtual reality. In this episode, Software, Nick revisits two of the past music software formats that used to dominate. In The Curse of the Cassette [from 1997], he recalls the downside of a much reviled format. Then, in the AB of CD [from 1988] Simon Bates looks at what the then revolutionary medium would bring to pop music. Nick also meets Simon Rooks from the BBC archives. Presenter: Nick Baker. Produced by Stephen Garner. Made for BBC Radio 4 Extra and first broadcast in 2019.
March 25, 2021
Hardware, Software, Anywhere: Software - Episode 1
Nick Baker’s three-part collection of programmes and interviews reflects on how the impact of technology has changed, from the dawn of language to the age of virtual reality. This first episode, Hardware, features Stephen Fry along with an edition of Fry’s English Delight about the physicality of written language, from its earliest scrawlings to the digital age. Also, in The Persistence of Analogue, tech writer Leigh Alexander says despite all the boundless conveniences of the digital world, it can sometimes feel as if something has been lost in the transition to an always-on virtual society. Presenter: Nick Baker Produced by Stephen Garner made for BBC Radio 4 Extra. First broadcast in November 2019.
February 15, 2021
Laws That Aren't Laws: Stigler's Law - Episode 5
Stephen M. Stigler's Law of Eponymy states that no scientific discovery is named after its original discoverer. Professor Stigler, a statistician at Chicago University, defined his own law in a tributary paper to his friend, the sociologist Robert Merton, in 1980. Merton had been famous in sociology for writing about the "self-fulfilling prophecy", amongst other things, and also for a long treatise about how often the same law or principle in science has been discovered multiple times by different people. Merton also wrote about how Isaac Newton's famous phrase "Standing on the Shoulders of Giants" was not itself even his own metaphor. Stigler's amusing and humble paper was thus, despite including some new statistical insights into the phenomenon (and even a reasoned suggestion as to its cause), more of a jovial tribute to his friend's earlier insights than an aggressive assertion of nominative priority. It self-fulfilled its own eponymous point. But the joke, and the law, stuck. And it continues to ask important questions about the nature of knowledge, the sociology - and the popular history - of science itself. Presenter: Robin Ince Produced by Alex Mansfield-Sella. First broadcast on Thursday 3 September 2020.
© (C) BBC 2021