We take your questions about life, Earth and the universe to researchers hunting for answers at the frontiers of knowledge.
We take your questions about life, Earth and the universe to researchers hunting for answers at the frontiers of knowledge.
Why is the sun at the centre?
It may seem like a simple question but could you explain why the earth revolves around the sun? That is what listener Josh from New York wants to know. For much of human history we thought everything revolved around us, literally. So how did humans come to the conclusion that we're not the centre of the universe? And how did the scientific process help us uncover the true order of things? Looking through telescopes from the vantage point of Australia, host Caroline Steel speaks with astronomers and physicists about the bumpy scientific journey to arrive at this discovery that we now take for granted. Delving into Indigenous astronomy with researcher Peter Swanton, Caroline questions whether Western scientists were really the first ones to grasp this understanding of our solar system. And at the Sydney Observatory, stellar astrophysicist Devika Kamath and Sydney Observatory host Nada Salama show Caroline some of the clues up in the sky that astronomers in the 1600s used to deduce that there was something wrong with earlier models of our solar system. Rhett Allain from Southeastern Louisiana University helps break down the physics concepts at play when it comes to the motion of our planets and the sun. Through her exploration of a seemingly simple question, Caroline asks some big questions as she looks up to the stars – about life, the universe, and the nature of science itself. Producer: Sam Baker Presenter: Caroline Steel Editor: Richard Collings Production co-ordinator: Jonathan Harris Featuring: Devika Kamath, Astrophysicist, Macquarie University Rhett Allain, Associate Professor, Southeastern Louisiana University Peter Swanton, Indigenous Research Associate, Australian National University (Photo: Caroline and Devika, Sydney Observatory)
Can sea-swimming improve my health?
Anyone who has ever enjoyed a beach holiday will know there’s something special about being by the seaside. But does sea swimming actually have tangible health effects? This week’s listener Holly is a self-confessed water baby, and says her regular surf sessions on Sydney’s iconic Bondi beach make her feel happier and look younger. But could we get some of the benefits from the beach without getting our feet wet? At the Plymouth Marine Lab, researchers have shown that the smell of the sea makes most people feel happier. They’re measuring sea spray aerosols containing natural compounds derived from algae, that dial down the inflammatory response in lung cancer cells. Other scientists in the region have investigated the use of virtual reality to simulate being by the coast, which is proven to reduce the experience of dental pain during treatment. Finally, we visit Teats Hill in Plymouth to find out how a waterside amphitheatre and an urban beach are helping residents feel safer and more connected to one another. Producer: Marijke Peters Presenter: Marnie Chesterton Editor: Richard Collings Production Coordinator: Jonathan Harris Contributors: Dr Frances Hopkins, Plymouth Marine Laboratory Dr Mike Moore, Plymouth Marine Laboratory Dr Mathew White, University of Vienna Dr Easkey Britton Image credit: David Sacks | The Image Bank | Getty Images | 164241179 Created for the #BBCWorldService.
Why am I so lazy?
Lazy. Unmotivated. Procrastinating. If those are words you’re used to hearing from your inner critic, you are not alone. Take CrowdScience listener Laurie. On her days off she loves to relax on the sofa, watch TV, put off chores and generally do as little as possible. Meanwhile she sees other family members and colleagues apparently buzzing with energy: going the extra mile at work, taking up hobbies, going to the gym. Why, she asks, is she so lazy? CrowdScience turns to experts to find out whether or not so-called ‘laziness’ is a fundamental part of biology or psychology; why some people have more energy than others; and we offer a few tips for boosting energy and motivation. Or maybe Laurie is just being a bit too hard on herself? With psychologists Professor Fuschia Sirois and Dr Devon Price, anthropologist Professor Herman Pontzer and start-up entrepreneur Akhil Aryan. Presented by Dr Alex Lathbridge Produced by Cathy Edwards for the BBC World Service Editor: Richard Collings Production Co-ordinator: Jonathan Harris Studio Manager: Jackie Margerum Image: Asleep under a book (Credit: RichVintage via Getty Images)
What are Ostriches for?
Meet the ostrich, one of nature’s most unusual creatures: a two-metre-tall, flightless bird that struts about the African savannah. CrowdScience listener Pat found herself entranced by seeing them on a wildlife documentary, where two ostriches were exhibiting some bizarre behaviour. According to her, the female was sitting on her eggs in a ‘nest’ that was barely a dent in the ground, while the male was just flapping his feathers around her. So Pat came to us to ask: what are ostriches for? Anand Jagatia starts by meeting one face-to-face at Woburn Safari Park. Tom Robson, Head of Reserves at the park, gives Anand a tour of ostriches’ unique features. He discusses their status as the largest and fastest birds in the world and explains the unusual mating behaviour Pat observed on the TV programme she was watching. Next, to answer why some of these traits exist, Peter Houde from New Mexico State University dives into the ancient fossils. Peter is one of the palaeontologists who has managed to uncover the secrets of ostrich origins. What did their ancestors look like -- and why did they lose the ability to fly? Ostriches are also a part of human culture. Their eggs, for example, have been objects of value for thousands of years. Archaeologist Tamar Hodos from the University of Bristol explains how decorated ostrich eggs have been uncovered from ancient tombs and how they were probably used as pouring vessels as well as status symbols. Anand receives an ostrich egg in the post and manages to cook it using a very specific and British process. Finally, designer Pascale Theron tells us about the history of the ostrich farming industry. It’s a classic rags-to-riches-to-rags tale, a manic boom at the start of the 20th Century all based around feathers that were worth their weight in gold. Presenter: Anand Jagatia Producer: Phil Sansom Editor: Richard Collings Production Co-ordinator: Jonathan Harris Image credit: Phil Sansom & Anand Jagatia
What's living inside my gut?
Inside our gut lives an entire ecosystem of bacteria and microbes, called the microbiome. In fact, the human body contains trillions of microorganisms, which outnumber our cells by ten to one. This means that technically we are more microbe than human. But not only do these microbes rely on us to survive, we also rely on them for some vital bodily functions. So what impact do these trillions of microbes have on our health? That’s the question that’s been bothering CrowdScience listener Russell, from Canada. Presenter Caroline Steel investigates. She visits the only museum in the world dedicated to microbes to ask exactly what they are, what they do and why we have so many of them inside our bodies. And she visits a microbiology lab filled with model guts to find out what impact the microbiome has on our physical health and if there is anything we can do to help our microbes function better. Caroline finds out what impacts our microbiome, what we can do to improve our inner ecosystem, and how our microbes can take a disturbing turn on us after we die. Produced by Hannah Fisher and presented by Caroline Steel for the BBC World Service. Editor: Richard Collings Production Coordinator: Jonathan Harris Contributors: Professor Glenn Gibson – Professor of Microbiology, University of Reading Jasper Buikx – Microbiologist and Head of ARTIS Micropia David Good – Doctoral Candidate at the University of Guelph Image Credit: Microbiota of the human intestine/CHRISTOPH BURGSTEDT/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Do we have a sense of time?
CrowdScience listener Marie, in Sweden, has always had difficulty with her sense of time. She often thinks that events that happened years ago took place recently or that a holiday coming up is happening sooner than it is. So she wants to know if time is a sense, like the sense of taste or touch, and if it’s something she can learn. Anand Jagatia talks to scientists who’ve studied time, memory and how our brains process and store the events in our lives to find an answer to Marie’s question. Along the way he discovers why time speeds up as we get older, how our bodies register time passing and how our brains put everything that happens to us in order. Featuring: Dr Marc Wittmann, Institute for Frontier Areas in Psychology and Mental Health in Freiburg, Germany Dr Maï-Carmen Requena-Komuro, former PhD researcher, Dementia Research Centre, University College London Professor György Buzsáki, Neuroscience Institute, New York University Professor Adrian Bejan, Thomas Lord Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science, Duke University Presenter: Anand Jagatia Producer: Jo Glanville Sound Design: Julian Wharton Production Co-ordinator: Jonathan Harris Image credit: Peter Cade/ Stone/ Getty Images
Is there anyone out there?
What are the actual chances of finding alien life? The idea of meeting an extra-terrestrial has ignited imaginations for hundreds of years, and it has also inspired real science: the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence - or Seti - is an organisation that brings together researchers across the world in pursuit of distant life forms. This same dream is on the mind of listener Andrew in Yorkshire in the UK, who has been looking into the sheer size of the universe, and wants to know: how many stars are there in existence, how many planets, and how many planets that could harbour life? Presenter Marnie Chesterton sets off on a space odyssey to answer these questions. She starts at Jodrell Bank Observatory in Cheshire, where University of Manchester astrophysicist Eamonn Kerins tells her the number of stars in the universe, and explains the Drake Equation - the mathematical formula that underpins SETI’s work. It is a series of seven numbers that combine to give you the probability of making contact with an alien civilisation. The next step after stars is the number of planets; Michelle Kunimoto of MIT, who works on Nasa’s TESS mission, explains the transit technique for finding distant worlds. Supposedly anyone can learn to use this technique, so Michelle puts Marnie to a test of her planet-hunting prowess. Distant planets are a huge leap forward - but not all of them will be hospitable to life. Eamonn breaks down how scientists define a habitable planet, as well as how to determine habitability using telescope observations. Marnie speaks to Mary Angelie Alagao from the National Astronomical Research Institute of Thailand about a cutting-edge piece of optical kit designed to block out the light from stars so you can take direct images of the planets next to them. Finally, it is time to put everything together and get some actual numbers for listener Andrew - as well ask how long it could take to find proof of alien life. Presenter: Marnie Chesterton Producer: Phil Sansom Production Coordinator: Jonathan Harris (Photo credit: Mark Garlick/Science Photo Library/Getty Images)
What does flying do to my body?
Compared to the entirety of human existence, our history of flying in aeroplanes is very short indeed. So what does this fast form of travel do to bodies that have evolved for land-based living? That's what listener Sofia wants to know after working as a flight attendant for over a decade. What effect does working at 35,000 feet have on one's health? How disruptive to your circadian rhythms is hopping across ten time zones in less than 24 hours? What's happening in our stomachs if a crisp packet blows up to the point of popping as the cabin pressure changes? And why do we feel so darn dehydrated when we get off a plane? Host Caroline Steel not only talks to the experts about everything from swollen ankles to what we should eat and drink on planes, she also records her own journey from London to Australia. She does just about everything wrong along the way, but the experts sort her out with some top tips for her next long-haul flight on how to avoid blood clots and even, how to avoid jet lag all together! While in Australia, Caroline also visits a sleep lab where researchers can simulate jet lag to learn how to improve flight safety and the wellbeing of flight attendants and pilots. Join Caroline on her journey as CrowdScience takes to the skies to find out what frequent flyers need to know when it comes cosmic ionising radiation and what we can all do to make that next flight a little more pleasant. Produced by Sam Baker for the BBC World Service. Featuring: Tony Schiemer, Senior Aviation Medical Officer, Royal Australian Air Force Eileen McNeely, Executive Director, SHINE at Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health Tracey Sletten, Senior Lecturer, Turner Inst for Brain & Mental Health, Monash University (Photo: Getty Creative # 1432221653)
How do my ears sense direction?
How do we hear a sound and immediately know where it’s coming from? That’s the question that CrowdScience listener Chiletso asked himself one day as he heard his son bounce a ball and instantly knew its direction. In this ear-opening episode, presenter Anand Jagatia sets out to discover what makes left, right, up and down, sound so different. First, Anand gets blindfolded, so that Alan Archer-Boyd, former auditory scientist and lead engineer at BBC R&D, can put his sound localisation skills to the test. It turns out that having two ears and pinnae, those flappy bits of cartilage on the side of your head, help a lot. Professor Eric Knudsen shares how the barn owl’s asymmetrical ears allow it to hunt mice, even in complete darkness. And Anand uncovers how far he can push his own spatial hearing. Blind activist and researcher Thomas Tajo teaches him how to echolocate like a bat, and Dr Lore Thaler explains what is going on in the brain of experienced echolocators. If you can, listen on headphones! Presented by Anand Jagatia Produced by Florian Bohr for the BBC World Service Image: Boy with hands at his ears Credit: Silke Woweries/Getty Images
Why do some people have panic attacks?
Sweating, nausea, chest pain and shortness of breath sound like the physical symptoms of a heart attack. For about 4% of the world’s population, they are also symptoms of an underdiagnosed condition that can leave sufferers curled in a ball and screaming on the floor. A CrowdScience listener wants to know why humans have panic attacks. Host Marnie Chesterton brings on board an expert co-presenter, novelist Tim Clare, to talk us through the hows and whys. Tim suffered from crippling panic attacks for over a decade. He decided enough was enough and has combed through the scientific literature, using himself as a guinea pig, to see what helped. Anxiety can be a useful sensation, helping you to detect and avoid dangers before they happen. But when that morphs into debilitatingly unpleasant symptoms, or an internal monologue saying “that’ll go badly, best to not leave the house”, something has gone wrong. Together, Tim and Marnie explore what’s going on in the brains of those whose threat circuit is faulty. Dr Olivia Remes, a mental health researcher at the University of Cambridge explains how common panic attacks are, and how they often present. Dr Bonnie Furzer at the University of Western Australia explains how exercise can help. Tim takes a dip to demonstrate how cold water, and the cold shock response can help. Dr Rebecca Taugher at the University of Iowa explains how scientists induce a panic attack in the lab, how she has been a guinea pig and why patient SM, without an amygdala, the brain’s so-called ‘fear-centre’, could still be given a panic attack in the lab, just by inhaling extra amounts of carbon dioxide. Professor Alexander Shackman from the University of Maryland points out that the science will come so much further when researchers look at a genuine cross-section of the population, rather than focussing on those in educational establishments (easier to study) who often don’t experience panic attacks. PHOTO CREDIT: Woman hyperventilating into paper bag Credit: Peter Dazeley/Getty Images
Can robots be soft?
When imagining a robot, a hard-edged, boxy, humanoid figure may spring to mind. But that is about to change. CrowdScience presenter Alex Lathbridge is on a mission to meet the robots that bend the rules of conventionality. Inspired by how creatures like us have evolved to move, some roboticists are looking to nature to design the next generation of machines. And that means making them softer. But just how soft can a robot really be? Join Alex as he goes on a wild adventure to answer this question from listener Sarah. He begins his quest at the ‘Hello, Robot’ Exhibition at the Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rhein, Germany to define what a robot actually is. Amelie Klein, the exhibition curator, states anything can be a robot as long as three specific criteria are met (including a cute cuddly baby seal). With this in mind, Alex meets Professor Andrew Conn from the Bristol Robotics Lab who demonstrates how soft materials like rubber are perfect contenders for machine design as they are tough to break and - importantly for our listener’s question - bendy. Alex is then thrown into a world of robots that completely change his idea of what machines are. He is shown how conventionally ‘hard’ machines are being modified with touches of softness to totally upgrade what they can do, including flexible ‘muscles’ for robot skeletons and silicon-joined human-like hands at the Soft Robotics Lab run by Professor Robert Katzschmann at ETH Zurich. He is then introduced to robots that are completely soft. Based on natural structures like elephant trunks and slithering snakes, these designs give robots completely new functions, such as the ability to delicately pick fruit and assist with search and rescue operations after earthquakes. Finally, Alex is presented with the idea that, in the future, a robot could be made of materials that are so soft, no trace of machine would remain after its use... Presenter: Alex Lathbridge Producer: Julia Ravey (Image: RoBoa in action on a rooftop in Zurich. Credit: Julia Ravey)
Do climbing plants know where they’re going?
CrowdScience listener Eric, in New Zealand, has noticed his wisteria growing towards a neighbouring tree. He thinks that it actually knows where it’s going. But how can a plant have a sense of direction? Plants don’t have the advantage of brains or eyes, but that doesn’t seem to stop them from being clever enough to find out from their environment where to move and how to get there – all while being rooted to the spot. Marnie Chesterton visits the Natural History Museum and Kew Gardens in London, home to the largest collection of living plants in the world, to discover how plants make their manoeuvres, and talks to botanists and plant biologists for the latest findings on the mysterious life of climbing plants. Featuring: Dr Mariane Sousa-Baena, School of Integrative Plant Sciences, Cornell University Dr Ilia Leitch, Senior Research Leader, Kew Gardens Tom Freeth, Head of Plant Records, Kew Gardens Dr Silvia Guerra, Neuroscience of Movement Laboratory, Padua University Professor Christian Fankhauser, Centre for Integrative Genomics, Lausanne University Dr Sandra Knapp, Merit Researcher, Natural History Museum
Where does our fat go when we exercise?
If, like this week’s Crowdscience listener Lili, you’re an avid gymgoer, you may well have wondered where your fat disappears to when you exercise? Well, the short answer is that we convert it to energy that powers a whole range of physical processes, from breathing to walking as well as lying down and doing nothing. But the science behind energy expenditure is a little more complicated than that. Presenter Anand Jagatia pops on an exercise bike to have his metabolism measured, and learns that he may be relying on an entirely different source of fuel as he works up a sweat. But is all that hard work worth the effort it involves? Recent research suggests there's a limit to the number of calories us humans can burn, and that doing physical activity isn’t a sure-fire way to keep trim. Even hunter-gatherers who walk 13,000 steps a day have the same metabolic rate as the average American. So if working out isn't the best way to lose weight, how about harnessing our own fat to tackle the complications of obesity? It used to be thought brown fat was exclusive to babies (and bears) but we now know adults have some of it too, and it seems to play a vital role in combatting a range of chronic diseases including hypertension and diabetes. Presenter: Anand Jagatia Producer: Marijke Peters
Are yoga claims bogus claims?
Yoga benefits our health in many ways, say the yogis, but which claims are backed up by science? Can yoga actually alleviate depression, fix lower-back pain or even reduce cardiovascular disease? Presenter Marnie Chesterton gets into her Lotus (position) and finds out first-hand at a class. Whilst in warrior one, she discusses the potential physical and mental health benefits of this ancient art of stretching, balance and movement with her class teacher. Returning from mat to studio, Marnie puts some of those claims to experts around the globe. She investigates the evidence to find out whether health boosting properties are the key to yoga's enduring popularity. Pannalists: Rajvi Mehta Prof. Holger Cramer Dr Richard Davidson Presented by Marnie Chesterton Produced by Richard Walker
Who’s afraid of public speaking?
Why does the thought of giving a talk to an audience fill so many of us with sheer terror? Marnie Chesterton investigates for listener Nhial, who has seen his fellow students in Morocco become panic stricken at the prospect and wants to know the reason for our anxiety. According to one study, 77 per cent of us share that fear. Marnie finds out about the relationship between stress, our brains and our voices from research associate Dr Maria Dietrich at the University Hospital, Bonn University. She talks to Nhial’s tutor, Professor Taoufik Jaafari, at Hassan II University of Casablanca about the challenges facing his students. And she visits the National Theatre in London to get some expert training from Jeannette Nelson, head of voice, who works with some of the world’s leading actors. Could there be an evolutionary explanation for the purpose of public speaking? Is it something we actually need to be good at? Marnie asks evolutionary psychologist Professor Robin Dunbar at Oxford University and gets some surprising answers. She meets psychologist Dr Preethi Premkumar at London South Bank University, who has developed virtual reality therapy with colleagues at Nottingham Trent University, and tries out the treatment herself. Presenter: Marnie Chesterton Producer: Jo Glanville
How bad is our noise problem?
We generate a huge amount of noise, whether it’s our rumbling roads, pumping parties, or talkative tourists. And the topic of noise also generates a lot of questions from our listeners. In this episode we explore three of them, with the help of acoustic scientist Kurt Fristrup and neuropsychologist Catherine Loveday. Listener Dominique finds it hard to experience even one minute of a natural soundscape without some intrusion of human-made noise. He wonders how noise pollution is affecting both the natural world and us humans. We discuss just how noisy our modern world is, and visit a National Park in California to hear how they’re encouraging more peace and quiet there. Meanwhile Michelle, having witnessed her husband wince in pain at the sound of squeaking takeaway boxes, asks why certain noises are particularly unpleasant or even painful to some people. And finally, Jennifer has a sonic mystery for us to solve: why does the time of day make such a difference to the distant noises reaching her remote home? With contributions from Professor Catherine Loveday, Dr Kurt Fristrup and Mia Monroe. Additional audio courtesy of the U.S. National Park Service/Patrick Myers, Dominique Laloux, Boise State University/Jesse Barber, and KCSU/Asher Korn Presenter: Anand Jagatia Producer: Cathy Edwards Studio Managers: Bob Nettles and Jackie Margerum
Where does the sand in a desert come from?
From Lawrence of Arabia to Star Wars via tales of intrepid adventurers traversing lonely sand-swept landscapes, deserts have always had a powerful pull on the popular imagination. But if a desert is full of sand, where did all that sand come from in the first place? That is what CrowdScience listener Andy wants to know, so presenter Caroline Steel heads off into the dunes to find out. She begins by finding out what a desert is anyway and whether it is always sandy, as well as tracing the flow of material across the huge, ever-shifting sand seas of the Sahara. From deserts fed by sand from mountains thousands of kilometres away, to dunes migrating across the entire continent of Africa, Caroline discovers how sand has just the right properties to be carried along by the wind. She also explores how the sand in every desert has a unique fingerprint, and finds out how fish bones in the Sahara tell the story of its lush, green past. Contributors: Dr Jo Nield, University of Southampton Dr Andreas Baas, Kings College London Dr Andrea Zerboni, University of Milan Presented by Caroline Steel Produced by Ben Motley for the BBC World Service (Photo: The Sahara desert near Timbuktu, Mali Credit: Jeff Overs)
Why do we get jealous?
When falling in love or fancying someone, one emotion can dominate over the rest: jealousy. Some may try to play it cool and act aloof, but seeing - or even thinking - of a romantic partner engaging with others can lead people to act completely out of character. The green-eyed monster can hijack thoughts for days to weeks on end, making us spend precious energy ruminating on situations that may never arise. So why is it that humans feel jealousy? Do people experience this emotion differently? And are there ways to stop it? CrowdScience presenter Caroline Steel sets about answering these questions from listener Odile in France, who has struggled with all-consuming jealousy in some romantic relationships. She hears about a kind of monkey that gets jealous of its own reflection from Professor Karen Bales at University California Davis. A trip to ZSL London Zoo sees more monkeys, but these are more bothered about protecting the vital friendships which aid their survival. Dr Alex Mielke from the University of St Andrews explains how these interactions can give us an insight into why jealousy exists. Some of us get more jealous than others and are more likely to act out of character when the green-eyed monster takes hold. Caroline completes a detailed questionnaire to see how jealous she really is, and gets advice from Julia in South Africa, who is in a polygamous marriage and has had to handle romantic jealousy. The nature-nurture balance of jealousy is untangled by geneticist Dr Laura Wesseldijk from Amsterdam UMC (who reveals some surprising information about the first author on her research paper…) and psychologist Dr Johan Ahlen from the Karolinska Institute rounds off the programme by discussing what the future of jealousy management could look like for those who struggle. Presenter: Caroline Steel Producer: Julia Ravey
What happens to insects in the winter?
When CrowdScience listener Eric spotted a few gnats flying around on a milder day in mid-winter it really surprised him - Eric had assumed they just died out with the colder weather. It got him wondering where the insects had come from, how they had survived the previous cold snap and what the implications of climate change might be for insect over-wintering behaviour? So he asked CrowdScience to do some bug investigation. CrowdScience presenter Marnie Chesterton takes up the challenge and heads out into the British countryside – currently teeming with buzzes and eight legged tiny beasties - to learn about the quite amazing array of tactics these small creatures use to survive the arduous days of cold. She hears how some insects change their chemical structure to enhance their frost resistance whist others hanker down in warmer microclimates or rely on their community and food stocks to keep them warm. But cold isn’t the only climatic change insects have to endure, in the tropics the seasons tend to fluctuate more around wet and dry so what happens then? Marnie talks with a Kenyan aquatic insect expert who describes how mosquitoes utilise the rains and shares his worry climate change could have a big impact on insect populations. Contributors: Dr Erica McAlister – Entomologist and Senior Curator, Natural History Museum, Dr Adam Hart – Entomologist and Professor of Science Communication - University of Gloucestershire Fran Haidon – Beekeeper Laban Njoroge – Entomologist, head of the Invertebrate Zoology – Museum of Kenya Dr Natalia Li – Biochemist Presenter: Marnie Chesterton Producer: Melanie Brown [Image: Butterfly in winter resting on snow covered branch. Credit: Getty Images]
How do you balance on a bicycle?
ow do we stay up when we ride a bicycle? Lots of us can do it without even thinking about it, but probably very few of us can say exactly HOW we do it. Well, CrowdScience listener Arif and his children Maryam and Mohammed from India want to understand what’s going on in our heads when go for a cycle, and how we learn to do it in the first place. Presenter Marnie Chesterton is on the case, tracking down a neuroscientist studying how our brains and bodies work together to keep us balanced whether we’re walking or trying to ride a bicycle. She learns about the quirks of bicycle engineering from researchers in the Netherlands who are part of a lab entirely devoted to answering this question. In the process falling off of some unusual bicycles and uncovering the surprising truth that physics might not yet have a proper answer. And we peer deeper into our brains to find out why some memories last longer than others, whether some people can learn quicker than others and the best way to learn a new skill. Presented by Marnie Chesterton and Produced by Emily Bird for the BBC World Service. Featuring: Kathleen Cullen, Johns Hopkins University, USA Jason Moore, University of Technology Delft, The Netherlands Lara Boyd, University of British Columbia, Canada Rado Dukalski, University of Technology Delft, The Netherlands Josie and Freesia, Pedal Power [Image: Family riding bikes. Credit: Getty Images]