Explorations in the world of science.

Explorations in the world of science.


London, United Kingdom




Explorations in the world of science.




Wild inside: Great Grey Owl

One of the world’s large owls by length, the Great Grey Owl is an enigmatic predator of coniferous forests close to the Arctic tundra. It's most often seen hunting around dawn and dusk, when it perches silently at the edges of clearings. But as Prof Ben Garrod and Dr Jess French delve deep inside to understand its true secret to survival, they find the deep feathery coat belies a deceptively small head and body that‘s evolved unbelievably powerful abilities to silently detect and ambush...


Wild inside: The Cheetah

Zoologist Ben Garrod and veterinary surgeon Jess French delve deep into some amazing internal anatomy to unravel the secrets to survival of some of nature’s iconic animals. They begin with one of the rarities of the cat family – the cheetah, which at just under two metres long, is the world’s fastest land animal capable of reaching speeds of up to 70mph in three seconds. As Ben and Jess reveal, the body’s rear muscles, large heart and nostrils enable it to achieve record breaking...


The puzzle of the plasma doughnut

What do you get if you smash two hydrogen nuclei together? Helium and lots of energy – it's nuclear fusion! Nuclear fusion is the power source of the sun and the stars. Physicists and engineers here on earth are trying to build reactors than can harness fusion power to provide limitless clean energy. But it’s tricky. Rutherford and Fry are joined by Dr Melanie Windridge, plasma physicist and CEO of Fusion Energy Insights, who explains why the fourth state of matter – plasma – helps get...


The Riddle of Red-Eyes and Runny-Noses

Sneezes, wheezes, runny noses and red eyes - this episode is all about allergies. An allergic reaction is when your immune system reacts to something harmless – like peanuts or pollen – as if it was a parasitic invader. It’s a case of biological mistaken identity. Professor Judith Holloway from the University of Southampton guides our sleuths through the complex immune pathways that make allergies happen and tells the scary story of when she went into anaphylactic shock from a rogue...


The problem of infinite Pi(e)

Pi is the ratio between a circle’s diameter and its circumference. Sounds dull – but pi turns out to have astonishing properties and crop up in places you would never expect. For a start, it goes on forever and never repeats, meaning it probably contains your name, date of birth, and the complete works of Shakespeare written in its digits. Maths comedian Matt Parker stuns Adam with his ‘pie-endulum’ experiment, in which a chicken and mushroom pie is dangled 2.45m to form a pendulum which...


The suspicious smell

Why are some smells so nasty and others so pleasant? Rutherford and Fry inhale the science of scent in this stinker of an episode. Our sleuths kick off with a guided tour of the airborne molecules and chemical receptors that power the sense of smell. Armed with a stack of pungent mini-flasks, professor Matthew Cobb from the University of Manchester shows Hannah and Adam just how sensitive olfaction can be, and how our experience of some odours depends on our individual genetic make-up. Dr...


The Wild and Windy Tale

How do winds start and why do they stop? asks Georgina from the Isle of Wight. What's more, listener Chris Elshaw is suprised we get strong winds at all: why doesn't air just move smoothly between areas of high and low pressure? Why do we get sudden gusts and violent storms? To tackle this breezy mystery, our curious duo don their anoraks and get windy with some weather experts. Dr Simon Clark, a science Youtuber and author of Firmament, convinces Adam that air flow is really about the...


The Case of The Missing Gorilla

DO WE HAVE YOUR ATTENTION? Good! But how does that work!? Our intrepid science sleuths explore why some things immediately catch your eye - or ear - while others slip by totally unnoticed. Even, on occasion, basketball bouncing gorillas. Professor Polly Dalton, a psychologist who leads The Attention Lab at Royal Holloway University, shares her surprising research into ‘inattentional blindness’ - when you get so absorbed in a task you can miss striking and unusual things going on right in...


Chi Onwurah

Chi Onwurah tells Jim Al-Khalili why she wanted to become a telecoms engineer and why engineering is a caring profession. As a black, working class woman from a council estate in Newcastle, she was in a minority of one studying engineering at university in London and encountered terrible racism and sexism. She went on to build digital networks all over the world, the networks that make today's instant muli-media communications possible. And Chi built the first mobile phone network in...


The Evidence: How pandemics end

Six and a half million dead. More than a hundred times that infected. The Covid-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc across the globe. But in the final months of the third year of this health crisis, some now claim it’s all over. Scientists with key roles in the global response join Claudia Hammond to consider the evidence behind the declarations that the pandemic has finished and they set out how, officially, this global health crisis will be brought to an end. They reject claims that the pandemic...


David Eagleman

Literature student turned neuroscientist, Prof David Eagleman, tells Jim Al-Khalili about his research on human perception and the wristband he created that enables deaf people to hear through their skin. Everything we see, taste, smell, touch and hear is created by a set of electro-chemical impulses in the dark recesses of our brain. Our brains look for patterns in these signals and attach meaning to them. So in future perhaps we could learn to ‘feel’ fluctuations in the stock market, see...


Frances Arnold

Nobel Prize winning chemist Frances Arnold left home at 15 and went to school ‘only when she felt like it’. She disagreed with her parents about the Vietnam war and drove big yellow taxis in Pittsburgh to pay the rent. Decades later, after several changes of direction (from aerospace engineer to bio-tech pioneer), she invented a radical new approach to engineering enzymes. Rather than try to design industrial enzymes from scratch (which she considered to be an impossible task), Frances...


Sir Martin Landray

Who could forget the beginning of 2020, when a ‘mysterious viral pneumonia’ emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan. Soon, other countries were affected and deaths around the world began to climb. Perhaps most alarmingly of all, there were no proven treatments to help prevent those deaths. As the World Health Organisation declared the Covid-19 outbreak a pandemic, and the UK and the rest of the world braced itself for what was to come, doctor and drug-trial designer Martin Landray had his mind...


How Covid Changed Science, part 3

In the third and final part of our series How Covid Changed Science, Devi Sridhar Professor of Global Health at Edinburgh University looks at the legacy and lessons of the pandemic for scientific research. Tackling the virus became a global issue, but many have pointed out the inequality of both resources and effort in the response. Going forward do we need to be directing research more towards improving health and disease surveillance in less wealthy parts of the world, would investing...


How Covid changed science, part 2

In the second of our series How Covid Changed Science, Devi Sridhar, Professor of Global Health at Edinburgh University looks at the scientific messaging. Just how do you explain to both politicians and the public that a growing global pandemic is likely to kill many people, and unprecedented measures such as a nationwide lockdown are needed to prevent even more deaths. What information should be imparted and how? Similarly how to address the clamour for information on the development of...


How Covid changed science, part 1

Until 2020 developing a new drug took at least 15 years. Scientists by and large competed with each other, were somewhat secretive about their research and only shared their data once publication was secured. And the public and the press had no interest in the various early phases of clinical trials. An incremental scientific step possibly on the road to somewhere was simply not newsworthy. Face masks were the preserves of hypochondriacs in the Far East, with no scientific evidence base for...


Satellites versus the stars

If you look up into the night sky, there are around 7,000 active satellites orbiting the Earth. They’re part of our daily life – essential for things like the internet, the GPS in our cars and giving us weather reports. Seven thousand might not sound a lot in the infinite expanses of space. But the reality is that most satellites are found in a small slice of the solar system - called Lower Earth Orbit - and countries and satellite companies are planning to launch hundreds of thousands more...


Plant based promises, diet and health

Giles Yeo learns how to make a Thai green curry with Meera Sodha. This is a recipe without meat or prawns but with tofu and lots of vegetables. If we need to eat less meat and dairy to help prevent global warming- what difference will altering our diets make to our health. For a long time now people have been urged to cut down on red meat and processed foods but if you have been eating them all your life it takes an effort to develop new habits. Plant based products that can replace for...


Plant based promises and sustainability

In Plant Based Promises, Giles Yeo a foodie and academic at Cambridge University, asks how sustainable are commercial plant based products? This is a fast growing sector with a potential value of $162 billion by 2030. Giles travels to the Netherlands Food Valley to look at companies developing plant based alternatives and to find out what role they have to play in changing diets. And Giles designs his own plant based Yeo Deli range online but discovers that new markets are already causing...


Plant based promises, rise of the plant based burger

In Plant Based Promises, foodie, researcher and broadcaster Giles Yeo looks at the science behind plant based diets and the increasing number of plant based products appearing in supermarkets and restaurants. The market for plant based products could be worth $162 billion in the next ten years and Giles asks how sustainable and healthy the products are and the role they play in decreasing the world's carbon footprint. Globally food production accounts for about 30% of greenhouse gases. In...