We take your questions about life, Earth and the universe to researchers hunting for answers at the frontiers of knowledge.


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We take your questions about life, Earth and the universe to researchers hunting for answers at the frontiers of knowledge.




What time was the first clock set to?

When the first person set the very first clock, how did they know what time to set it to? This question, from listener Chris in the UK, sends CrowdScience off on a quest into the history of timekeeping. From sundials to water clocks, from uneven hours to precision seconds determined by the vibration of an atom, we examine how we came to measure time. We visit possibly the oldest working mechanical clock in the world to discover how its time was originally set; and hear how the time we go by today is not quite the same as it was in the past. Will all this be enough to solve Chris' question, or has he stumped the team? Featuring: Ian Westworth, Clock Mechanic Dr. Chad Orzel, Associate Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Union College Anna Rolls, Curator of Clocks, Clockmakers’ Museum Peter, Guide, Salisbury Cathedral Dr. Jun Ye, Physicist at NIST (National Institutes of Standards and Technology) and The University of Colorado, Boulder. Presenter: Caroline Steel Producer: Margaret Sessa-Hawkins Editor: Cathy Edwards Production Co-ordinator: Jonathan Harris Studio Manager: Jackie Margerum (Photo:Stopwatch on red background. Credit: Martin Poole / Getty Images).


When will the next earthquake hit?

In 2011, CrowdScience listener Amanda survived the devastating earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand. It arrived unannounced - as all earthquakes do - leaving her with no time to prepare a response. So Amanda wants to know whether science will ever be able to give us advance warning of quakes. To explore her question CrowdScience heads to New Zealand to meet listener Amanda, as well as the brains behind the country’s earthquake forecasting models. We dig in a field for thousand-year-old tectonic clues that could help us understand when the next earthquake might strike. But even if we could get a head start against a quake, would we respond in the right way? Please note: earthquake response advice varies by location. Please check local guidance and individual building procedures. Featuring: Nicola Litchfield, Principal Scientist in Paleoseismology at GNS, Wellington, New Zealand Matt Gerstenberger, Seismologist and leader of the National Seismic Hazard Model, GNS, Wellington, New Zealand Andy Howell, University of Canterbury, New Zealand Lauren Vinnell, Lecturer in Emergency Management at the Joint Centre for Disaster Research at Massey University Presenter: Caroline Steel Producer: Emily Bird Editor: Cathy Edwards Production: Jonathan Harris, Jana Holesworth Sound Engineer: Steve Greenwood (Photo: Earthquake damage in Christchurch. Credit: John Crux Photography)


Why do we daydream?

Have you ever been through a romantic break up, unable to shift the ex from your thoughts? You are, obviously, not alone… Listener Elkin, experienced just that. But rather than wallowing in self-pity, he sought out an explanation. Where better to get it, than from CrowdScience. Now, Alex Lathbridge is putting on his thinking cap to find out why we daydream? Presenter: Alex Lathbridge Producer: Harrison Lewis Editor: Martin Smith Production: Jonathan Harris Featuring: Giulia Poerio, Lecturer in Psychology, University of Sussex. Kalina Christoff, Professor of Psychology, University of British Columbia. Eli Sommer, Israeli Professor of Clinical Psychology, University of Haifa. Sophie Forster, Reader in Psychology, University of Sussex (Photo: Man daydreaming surrounded by clouds. Credit: jacquesdurocher / Getty Images)


How should we measure cleverness?

Presenter Marnie Chesterton and the team pit their wits against a multitude of mind-bending puzzles from an old TV gameshow - all in the name of answering a question from Antonia in Cyprus: how do we work out how clever someone is? Is IQ the best measure of cleverness? Why do we put such weight on academic performance? And where does emotional intelligence fit into it all? In the search for answers Marnie and the team are locked in rooms to battle mental, physical, mystery and skill-based challenges, all against the clock. Unpicking their efforts in the studio are a global team of cleverness researchers: Dr Stuart Ritchie from Kings College London, Prof Sophie von Stumm from York University and Dr Alex Burgoyne from Georgia Institute of Technology in the US. They are challenged to face the toughest questions in their field: Why do men and women tend to perform differently in these tests? Is our smartness in our genes? And what about the Flynn Effect – where IQs appear to have risen, decade after decade, around the world. Producer/presenter: Marnie Chesterton Editor: Richard Collings Production co-ordinator: Jonathan Harris (Photo Man doing puzzle. Credit: Getty Images)


Were humans ever semi-aquatic?

What evidence is there for a semi-aquatic period in human evolutionary history? That’s the question that’s been bothering listener Dave in Thailand. He thinks our lack of hair and love of water might indicate that, at some point, we were more water-based than we are now. But what does science have to say on the matter? The theory that our ape ancestors returned to the water for a phase in our evolutionary history is a controversial idea that most scientists disagree with. Anand Jagatia chats to Dr Melissa Ilardo, assistant professor at the University of Utah, about our dive reflex - a physiological response we display when submerged underwater, which helps direct oxygen towards vital organs. But this is not a response that is unique to humans - it is found in all mammals. Experts say it developed long before all apes split off in the evolutionary tree. To find out more about the theory itself Anand hears from John Langdon, emeritus professor at the University of Indianapolis. He explains why the aquatic ape theory is not generally accepted by anthropologists, what the fossil record can tell us about our evolutionary path and why evolution is much more complex than the aquatic ape hypothesis suggests. While there may be little evidence of a semi-aquatic period in our evolutionary past, there are some communities around the world that have adapted to utilising their watery environments in more recent evolutionary history. Anand speaks to Dr Nicole Smith-Guzman at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute who has found evidence that ancient populations in Panama were habitually diving in the sea for shells and seafood. She explains how she can piece together evidence from different sources to detect the activity of ancient populations. And Dr Melissa Ilardo explains how evolutionary pressure can cause physical changes in isolated communities, as our bodies ultimately adapt to help us thrive in more watery environments. Producer: Hannah Fisher Presenter: Anand Jagatia Editor: Richard Collings Production co-ordinator: Jonathan Harris Sound engineer: Jackie Margerum (Photo: Woman swimming underwater. Credit: Petrelos/Getty Images)


Can planting trees solve the climate crisis?

Our question this week comes from a father and his two young boys. They want to know whether it’s possible to plant enough trees to soak up all the extra carbon we are putting into the atmosphere? The quest to find answers takes us to a remote reforestation project in the Carpathian Mountains in Romania which could be a model for other projects looking to tackle the climate crisis through reforestation. We speak to experts to find out how much tree planting and reforestation can do in helping combat the climate crisis. Presenter: Caroline Steel Producer: Margaret Sessa-Hawkins Editor: Richard Collings


Will electric cars help solve noise pollution?

Noise pollution from vehicles in the public space has a huge impact on human health. But as the world switches to quieter electric-powered means of transport there’s a debate about whether we will actually see any noticeable improvement to our quality of life. Discovering more than just engineering solutions to the problem, CrowdScience visits one of the world’s loudest cities, Mumbai in India. It is a place where noise has become a way of life. But is that all about to change? Presenter: Alex Lathbridge Producer: Richard Walker Production co-ordinator: Jonathan Harris Editor: Richard Collings


2023 Year End Extravaganza, Part 2

Welcome to Part 2 of our year-end extravaganza and the final episode of 2023! We’ve had a brilliant year hunting down the answers to your science questions - on everything from food and phobias to friction and flying - and in this episode presenter Anand Jagatia is revisiting some of the best stories we covered. We’re bringing you some extra juicy bonus content that we couldn’t fit in to those shows first time round. Hannah Fisher joins Anand to revisit an episode she produced about the microbiome, the community of tiny organisms living both on and inside us. During that show Hannah took presenter Caroline Steel to a microbiome museum in the Netherlands called Micropia. And one thing from Micropia that never got aired was the kiss-o-meter, a device that measures how many microbes you exchange when you kiss! Micropia curator Jasper Buikx explains the science behind the kiss-o-meter, and then Caroline Steel tries it for herself! Microbes aren’t just living on and in humans and animals - they’re pretty much everywhere in our environment. And to illustrate this CrowdScience producer Marijke Peters brings Anand a bonus interview with a professional surfer who’s also a bioscientist. Cliff Kapono undertook a scientific project travelling around the world to take microbiome samples from surfers in different countries. He discovered a fascinating global connection. Surfers are linked together by microbes on their skin that they get from the water around them. Intriguingly, he describes how this might affect our perception of who we are as humans. Caroline Steel updates us on an interview she did with indigenous Australian astronomer Peter Swanton. Peter appeared on CrowdScience telling an ancient Australian folktale about a man who sacrificed himself to save his brother. The story, which has been handed down through several generations, provides possible evidence for an early observation of a supernova. You can hear that story in the episode “Why is the sun at the centre?” Today we hear two extra stories that originally got cut from the broadcast due to time constraints. They are beautiful and poignant tales that reveal the depth of indigenous scientific achievement and the extraordinary significance of the night sky. Presenter: Anand Jagatia Producer: Phil Sansom Editor: Richard Collings Production Co-ordinator: Jonathan Harris Studio Managers: Tim Heffer and Cath McGee Featuring: Jasper Buikx, scientific curator & spokesperson, ARTIS-Micropia Prof. Cliff Kapono, surfer & molecular bioscientist, School of Ocean Futures at Arizona State University Peter Swanton, indigenous research associate, Australian National University


2023 Year-End Extravaganza, Part 1

Welcome to Part 1 of CrowdScience’s year-end extravaganza! It’s an extra-festive episode this week. For those who celebrate it, Christmas is the perfect time to pause and look back at the year just gone. Here on CrowdScience we’ve had a great 2023: we answered dozens of listener questions, ranging from climbing plants and ostriches to panic attacks and the weight of the internet. This week presenter Anand Jagatia magically appears with a Santa’s sack full of special features. We’re catching up with some of our favourite guests from the past year and answering some of the extra questions that we never got the chance to cover. First up we hear from presenter Tim Clare who we first heard in the episode “Why do some people have panic attacks?” He takes Anand through his new book – it's about board games: why we play them, how they’ve existed throughout history and what he’s learned about himself in the process of writing it. Then it’s time for a bonus question. The CrowdScience team often get questions about noise pollution. One listener got in touch to ask whether the transition to electric vehicles will reduce this noise. Acoustic scientist Kurt Fristrup and epidemiologist Erica Walker give their perspectives on this question, and how sound and noise can sometimes be very different things. CrowdScience listener Marie - who originally starred in an episode about why she doesn’t have any sense of time - returns. Since the programme she has been speaking to psychologists about her problem and tells Anand what more she’s learnt. We received another bonus question after a show in 2023 about AI: why can’t artificial intelligence be designed to explain it’s decisions? Producer Phil returns to data scientist Briana Brownell from the original episode to ask her why AI decision making is so very complex. Finally, as it’s the season for holiday music, we’re asking what makes the genre so distinctive? Composer Jane Watkins - who originally created the sound of a panic attack for a CrowdScience episode - brings in her musical keyboard to demonstrate what makes a Christmas song so specifically ‘a Christmas song’. It’s all topped-off with the premiere of a happy and heart-warming song performed by the CrowdScience Christmas Choir – a little gift for our loyal listeners. Presenter: Anand Jagatia Producer: Phil Sansom Editor: Richard Collings Production Co-ordinator: Jonathan Harris Studio Managers: Tim Heffer and Cath McGhee Featuring: Tim Clare, author/poet/podcaster Dr. Kurt Fristrup, acoustic scientist, Colorado State University Prof. Erica Walker, RGSS Assistant Professor of Epidemiology, Brown University School of Public Health Marie Bergholtz Briana Brownell, data scientist Jane Watkins, composer


Are seeds alive?

Seeds are crucial to human existence – we eat them, we grow them and then we eat what they become. But what is a seed and how come it can sit there doing nothing for ages and then suddenly, when the conditions are right, burst into a plant? That’s what CrowdScience listener Anke has been wondering. She runs an aquaponic salad farm near Stockholm in Sweden and she germinates thousands of seeds every week. With a bit of moisture and light, seeds that have been dormant for months can become leafy greens in just a few weeks. So are seeds alive, are they on some kind of life support, or is something else going on? Presenter Caroline Steel sets off to Sweden to meet Anke, before heading for the Nordgen seed bank near Malmö. There she discovers how seeds being stored for future generations are tested for viability, and wonders what’s going on inside a seed that allows it to remain asleep before suddenly coming to life. How does a seed decide that the time is right? We hear about one of the world’s longest running science experiments - a real-life treasure hunt that takes place every twenty years in Michigan, USA. Plant biologists tramp through the snow looking for bottles of seeds that were buried nearly a century and a half ago. Once found they try to germinate them. What superpowers does a seed need to be able to last that long? Caroline also meets the woman who tried to grow date seeds that had been discarded at the palace of Herod the Great 2000 years ago, and ended up with previously extinct trees that produce delicious fruit. Surely a seed can’t have been alive for that long. Or can it? Contributors: Anke Johanna van Lenteren, Johannas Stadsodlingar, Sweden Johan Axelsson, Nordic Genetic Resource Center, Sweden Prof George Bassel, University of Warwick, UK Dr Grace Fleming, Michigan State University, USA Dr Sarah Sallon, Hadassah Medical Center, Israel Presenter: Caroline Steel Producer: Ben Motley Editor: Richard Collings Production Coordinator: Jonathan Harris (Photo: Hands holding spinach seeds. Credit: Vince Streano / Getty Images)


Where does our fat go when we exercise?

If, like this week’s Crowdscience listener Lili, you enjoy working out in the gym, you may have wondered where your fat disappears to when you exercise? 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 jumps 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. Is all that hard work worth the effort it involves? Recent research suggests there is a limit to the number of calories humans can burn and that engaging in physical activity is not always a sure-fire way to keep trim. So if working out is not 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. Anand discovers that it appears to play a vital role in combatting a range of chronic diseases including hypertension and diabetes. Presenter: Anand Jagatia Producer: Marijke Peters Editor: Richard Collings Production co-ordinator: Jonathan Harris (Photo: Person squeezing their tummy. Credit: Getty Images)


What is brainwashing?

*Warning* This episode includes references to suicide. When listener Ben heard about a Kenyan “starvation cult” in the news, he wondered whether the members of this group had been brainwashed. Is it possible to control someone’s mind? In this episode presenter Caroline Steel learns how easily people can be influenced. She hears what it’s like to be part of a cult, and gets to the bottom of a decades-long debate: does brainwashing exist? And, if so, how does it work? Presenter: Caroline Steel Producer: Florian Bohr Editor: Richard Collings Production Co-ordinator: Jonathan Harris Studio Managers: Donald McDonald and Emma Harth Featuring: Anthony Pratkanis, Emeritus Professor of Psychology, University of California, Santa Cruz Alexandra Stein, Honorary Research Fellow, University of Sussex Eileen Barker, Professor Emeritus of Sociology, London School of Economics (Image: Washing a brain. Credit: Cemile Bingol / Getty Images).


What’s the difference between reading and listening to books?

CrowdScience listener Michael wants to know whether the brain responds differently if we listen to books instead of reading them. Do we retain information in the same way? And is there a difference between fiction and non-fiction? Anand Jagatia finds out whether curling up with a good book is better than putting on his headphones. She is speaks to Prof Fatma Deniz from the Technical University of Berlin; Prof Naomi Baron from American University, Washington DC; Prof Patrick Nunn from the University of Sunshine Coast, Queensland and The Guesthouse Storytellers. Presenter: Anand Jagatia Producer: Jo Glanville Editor: Richard Collings Production co-ordinator: Jonathan Harrison Sound engineer: Andrew Garratt (Photo: Senior man wearing headphones listening to an audiobook. Credit: pixdeluxe/Getty Images)


Why do we lie?

Lying is something all humans do. We find it in every culture around the world. It’s in the world of work, in our relationships and online. It’s all pervasive and hard to escape. Our question this week is from listener Anthony from Cambodia. He asked us to find out why we lie, and wants to know how conscious we are of the lies that we tell? CrowdScience’s Caroline Steel is in the hot seat, on a journey where she will attempt to untangle the complex story behind lying. It’s a subject scientists and psychologists have been studying for a long time. It’s also something writers, philosophers and theologists have been interpreting for thousands of years. But we’re only now really starting to get to grips with how it works as a human behaviour. There are lies in our folklore, lies in the media and also lies in everyday conversation. It’s something we’ve all had to learn to navigate at some point in our lives. In this episode the CrowdScience team unravels the mysteries surrounding the behaviour and the art of lying. Our journey will take us to meet the world’s ‘second best liar’, an award she picked up at West Virginia’s Liar Contest. We’ll also meet a comedian who’s proud of the down-to-earth plain honesty of Dutch people. An academic who has studied thousands of children’s brains will explain when we first start learning to lie. And we’ll hear about new research using magnetic resonance imaging, commonly known as MRI scans, which is helping to show how the more we actually lie, the less our brain reacts telling us not to. Caroline looks at how lying changes from culture to culture. Do we really all lie? And do we lie in the same way? The surprising and intriguing answer is found in how early it develops in us as a human behaviour. Contributors: Prof Kang Lee, Professor in Applied Psychology and Human Development at Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto Prof Tali Sharot, Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at University College London Ian Leslie, journalist and author of ‘Born Liars’ Ariana Kincaid, Champion Liar at West Virginia Liars Contest Derek Scott Mitchell, actor and comedian | @letsdoubledutch on Instagram Readings by Kitty O'Sullivan Presenter: Caroline Steel Producer: Robbie Wojciechowski Editor: Richard Collings Production Co-ordinator: Jonathan Harris Studio Managers: Emma Harth, Donald MacDonald, Andrew Garratt (Photo: Young Businessman Interviews for new job. Credit: Andrew Rich/ Getty Images)


What will 1.5° of warming look like?

Our planet is quickly approaching 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit). Scientists say we might cross this milestone in just six years. Listener Julian wants to know what life will look like on the other side of that threshold. With the help of climate scientists, the BBC’s Anand Jagatia dives into the worlds of virtual climate models. From heatwaves to higher humidity indices to extreme precipitation and drought, he gets a picture of what's to come. We also venture to places that are warming both faster and more slowly than the global average. In a remote village in Alaska residents are already dealing with life-changing permafrost thaw and ground that's melting beneath their feet. Permafrost expert Sue Natali tells us what this unexpected thawing ground means for the planet as it releases carbon and methane we weren't necessarily counting on. In Indian cities, temperatures were already high, but they're not rising as quickly as climate scientists had initially predicted. We hear why this is and why it might be a big problem in the not- too-distant future. Anand also speaks to television series writer Dorothy Fortenberry about how science informed plotlines in her new show Extrapolations. This episode is not just about what climate change will bring -- but what it will feel like. Presenter: Anand Jagatia Producer: Sam Baker Reporters: Sunni Bean & Chhavi Sachdev Editor: Richard Collings Production Co-ordinator: Jonathan Harris Studio Manager: Tim Heffer Featuring: Dorothy Fortenberry, Extrapolations, Apple TV Tom Matthews, Department of Geography, King's College London Sue Natali, Woodwell Climate Research Center Morris Alexie, Tribal Liaison, Alaska Native village of Nunapicuaq (Nunapitchuk) Rakesh Kumar, India’s Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (Photo: Two children look out at floating sea ice. Credit: StutterStockX / Getty Images)


How does food affect our mood?

“You are what you eat” is a well-known saying. But is it really true? That’s what we explore in this week’s CrowdScience thanks to a question from listener Claire from Australia. We each have trillions of tiny microbes and bacteria inside our bodies, living in our mouths, skin, ears and even in our eyes. Each community of microbes and bacteria is known as a microbiome. The most populous of these is in our gut, with hundreds of trillions of organisms and bacteria helping digest the food we eat. Our gut microbiome is affected by lots of things but mainly by our diet. With our gut microbiome forming such a massive part of our insides, people have long suspected that what we eat impacts how we feel. Presenter Caroline Steel investigates. She speaks to a professor of Psychiatry, Jane Foster, to find out how interconnected our microbiome and our brain really are. Professor Foster also explains the different ways in which our microbiome and brain communicate. Do we really know what role diet plays in mental health? Consultant psychiatrist Professor David Veale provides more detail. And at a café with a rather interesting menu, Caroline samples some of the food available as occupational therapist Joel Oliver explains how important food can be as part of mental health treatment. This begs the question: if our microbiome really does influence our mental health, can we harness the power of microbes to potentially find new treatments to help our mental health? Dr Najaf Amin tells us about her research identifying the link between specific microbes and depression. Producer: Hannah Fisher Presenter: Caroline Steel Editor: Richard Collings Production Coordinator: Jonathan Harris Studio Manager: Bob Nettles (Photo: Young hipster man eating salad. Credit: Tara Moore / Getty Images)


Green Man Festival: Why are some animals so ugly?

Why are some animals cute, cuddly, adorable – and some are slimy, creepy and downright weird? This edition of Crowdscience, recorded in front of a live audience, comes to you directly from the world-famous Green Man Festival in Bannau Brycheiniog National Park in Cymru (Wales). The programme recording was powered entirely by hydrogen. Our inbox has been bursting at the seams with questions about creepy crawlies, deep sea beasties, cheeky monkeys, endangered species and animals of all shapes and sizes. So, we rounded up a panel of experts to get some answers! Surrounded by 25,000 people trudging merrily through the mud, pelted with torrential rain, underscored by the warm hum of revelry, the BBC’s Marnie Chesterton speaks with Dr David Jones from the Natural History Museum, an expert on creepy crawlies and someone who spends a considerable amount of time thinking about earthworms, ants, and termites. Also joining us is Jess Savage, a researcher from the Institute of Zoology in London who’s an expert on ocean-dwelling animals and the impact of plastic pollution. Finally, we have Simon Watt, a biologist, comedian and founder of the Ugly Animal Preservation Society. Join us for this very special edition of Crowdscience, in partnership with Green Man Festival, where we bring the experts closer to you than ever before. Presenter: Marnie Chesterton Producer: Emily Bird Editor: Richard Collings Technical producer: Mike Cox Studio manager: Jackie Margerum Production co-ordinator: Jonathan Harris (Photo: Marnie and guests. Credit: Jonathan Harris)


Which is healthier, farmed or wild salmon?

Salmon are one of the world’s most popular fish. And - in terms of the size of the industry - they’re also the world’s most valuable. They provide crucial proteins and fatty acids to many people’s diets. But like other species of fish, their production is undergoing a historic change. Plenty of salmon is still caught from the wild, but the majority is now farmed off the coasts of countries like Norway or Chile. With global demand on the rise, listener Jodie from Australia wants to know: which is healthier, farmed salmon or wild? CrowdScience’s Marnie Chesterton is on the case! Her first stop: a remote loch in the west of Scotland, where salmon company Mowi rears thousands of the fish in big, open-water nets. Marnie takes the chance to see for herself what salmon farming actually looks like. She then speaks to aquaculture nutritionist Stefanie Colombo, who researches the nutrient content of different types of salmon. Stefanie breaks down the health positives and negatives of each, as well as what causes some of these differences. Crucially, farmed salmon will vary in nutrition depending on where you are in the world. Jodie, the listener who asked this week’s question, is from Australia so her fish will most likely come from Tasmania. Chemist Christian Narkowicz has been conducting chemical tests on the salmon there - he tells Marnie what he’s found. When we ask which type of salmon is healthier, it’s also important to consider the issue of environmental health. Eilís Lawlor is an economist and the author of a report on externalities and unintended consequences of the global salmon industry. She and Marnie discuss problems of overfishing and environmental pollution. It’s also necessary to understand where wild salmon comes from. Marissa Wilson, director of the Alaska Marine Conservation Council, explains her average day out at sea and talks about some of the consequences of industrial offshore fishing. Finally, we ask if there’s a way to improve farmed salmon by moving it onto land? That’s Yonathan Zohar’s mission. In the basement of the Institute for Marine and Environmental Technology in Baltimore, USA, he keeps several tanks of salmon in artificial seawater, using bacteria to dispose of the waste. Is this where salmon farming is headed? Or is the future more complex? Presenter: Marnie Chesterton Producer: Phil Sansom Production Co-ordinator: Jonathan Harris Editor: Richard Collings (Photo: Atlantic Salmon jumping out of the water. Credit: Kevin Wells / Getty Images)


Why are spices delicious?

CrowdScience listener Kristine from Wisconsin in the USA wants to know why herbs and spices taste so good to so many of us. She’s intrigued to know if there's evidence that herbs and spices can keep us healthy. Anand Jagatia visits the historic naval city of Portsmouth in the UK, where exotic spices from around the world were first brought in from the East Asia more than 600 years ago. He’s on a journey to find out why many of us think spices are delicious. But are there also nutritional benefits to seasoning our food with them? Anand asks what science or studies are there to show that eating herbs and spices can be beneficial for our health? Presenter: Anand Jagatia Producer: Joanna Hall Assistant Producer: Jonathan Harris Editor: Richard Collings Studio Technicians: Bob Nettles & Steve Greenwood Contributors: Prof. Lindell Bromham, evolutionary biologist, Australian National University Dr. Kanchan Koya, Molecular Biologist and founder of the Spice Spice Baby website Dr. Beronda L. Montgomery, plant biologist and Dean at Grinnell College, Iowa, USA Dr. Lorenzo Stafford an olfactory researcher, Department of Psychology, University of Portsmouth, UK (Photo: A couple stand at a spice shop. Credit: Thomas Barwick / Getty Images)


Can humans be part of healthy ecosystems?

Humans have an outsized impact on the planet: we’ve wreaked havoc on countless ecosystems and one study estimates only 3% of land on Earth remains untouched by our influence. CrowdScience listener Teri has witnessed the harmful effects of development on natural habitats near her home, and wonders whether we can ever function as part of a healthy ecosystem. We look for answers in Teri’s home state, California. Humans have lived here for over 10,000 years and its first inhabitants formed a connection to their landscape unlike the exploitative approach of many later settlers. Today, the beliefs and traditions of the Karuk Tribe of northern California still emphasise a symbiotic relationship with nature, seeing plants and animals as their relations. Over the past couple of centuries much of the Karuk’s land has been degraded by mining, the timber industry and the outlawing of traditional burning practices. Tribal members show us how they’re working to try to restore ecological balance. As for the rest of humanity: can we rein in our destructive relationship to nature; or even have a beneficial effect on our local ecosystems? Contributors: Kathy McCovey - Karuk Tribe member and cultural practitioner Dr Steward Pickett - Ecologist, Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies Bill Tripp - Karuk Tribe member and Director of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy, Karuk Tribe Department of Natural Resources Dr Frank Kanawha Lake - US Forest Service Research Ecologist and Tribal Liaison Will Harling - Co-lead, Western Klamath Restoration Partnership Presenter: Caroline Steel Producer: Cathy Edwards Editor: Richard Collings Production Co-ordinator: Jonathan Harris Studio Manager: Giles Aspen & Steve Greenwood (Image: Huckleberries and tanoak acorns gathered near a burn site. Credit: Stormy Staats)