The Curious Cases of Rutherford & Fry

By BBC Radio 4

Listen to a podcast, please open Podcast Republic app. Available on Google Play Store.


Category: Science & Medicine

Open in iTunes


Open RSS feed


Open Website


Rate for this podcast


Gazz
 Aug 8, 2018
Always nice to see another episode pop up on the feed.

Pete Ellinger
 Aug 4, 2018
Tired, well past it's 'sell buy date'. Another case of the BBC flogging a dead horse. New ideas and talent needed, look up Paul Matt Sutter he'd be good on the Beeb!

Steve Evans
 Aug 1, 2018

A Podcast Republic user
 Jul 11, 2018

Description

Science sleuths Dr Adam Rutherford and Dr Hannah Fry investigate everyday mysteries sent by listeners.

Episode Date
The Alien Enterprise Part 2
1475
Do alien civilisations exist? When will ET phone home? In the second part of our alien double bill, Hannah and Adam boldly go in search of intelligence. They may be some time. What will aliens look like? Where should we look for them? And what are the chances of finding complex life the cosmos? Featuring astronomer Seth Shostak from the SETI Institute in California, exoplanet hunter Sara Rugheimer from the University of St Andrews and zoologist Matthew Cobb from Manchester University, Presenters: Hannah Fry, Adam Rutherford Producer: Michelle Martin.
Aug 17, 2018
The Alien Enterprise Part 1
1532
Mike Holcombe from Largs in Scotland asks, "How do we look for alien life and what are we expecting to find?" In the first of two episodes on the search for ET, Hannah and Adam look for life inside the Solar System. How do we define life and why we obsessed with finding it on Mars? Or should we be looking for space squid on Europa instead? Features interviews with Planetary Scientist Monica Grady from the Open University, Senior Astronomer Seth Shostak from SETI and Zoologist Matthew Cobb from the University of Manchester. Send your Curious Cases for consideration in to curiouscases@bbc.co.uk Presenters: Hannah Fry, Adam Rutherford Producer: Michelle Martin.
Aug 10, 2018
Series 11: Ahoy Ahoy!
169
Attention Curios! Rutherford & Fry are back with a preview of the new series of Curious Cases.
Aug 03, 2018
The Dawn Chorus
1643
"Winter is finally over and the birds are all singing their hearts out at dawn. What's all the noise about? And why are some songs so elaborate?" asks Tony Fulford from Ely in Cambridgeshire. We find out how birds produce multiple notes at once, which one has the widest repertoire of songs, and why males like to show off quite so much. Plus, we talk to researcher Lauryn Benedict about the project which aims to solve the mystery of why female birds sing - www.femalebirdsong.org. Featuring interviews with RSPB President and nature presenter Miranda Krestovnikoff, and world-renowned birdsong expert and sound recordist, Don Kroodsma. Archive of 'singing like a wren' courtesy of The One Show, BBC TV. Send your cases for consideration to curiouscases@bbc.co.uk. Presenters: Adam Rutherford, Hannah Fry Producer: Michelle Martin.
Jun 01, 2018
The Lucky Number
1529
"My boss insists that if you choose the same numbers in the lottery each time your probability of winning will increase. Is this true?" asks Vince Scott from Edinburgh. National lotteries are played in more than 80 countries worldwide, but can you increase your chances of winning? Hannah consults statistician Jen Rogers to discover the best way to select your lucky numbers. Adam talks chance and luck with David Spiegelhalter and hears how the field of probability began with a philandering gambling polymath in 16th century Italy. Plus, we meet the Oxford professor who tried to beat the house in a Las Vegas casino, using a computer concealed inside his shoe. Presenters: Adam Rutherford, Hannah Fry Producer: Michelle Martin.
May 25, 2018
The Déjà Vu
1558
"Do we know what causes déjà vu?" asks Floyd Kitchen from Queenstown in New Zealand. Drs Rutherford and Fry investigate this familiar feeling by speaking to world-leading reseacher Chris Moulin from the University of Grenoble in France and memory expert Catherine Loveday from Westminster University. Plus, they find out why early investigations classed déjà vu as a type of paranormal phenomenon. For most of us, it's a fleetingly strange experience, but for some people it can become a serious problem. Lisa from Hulme in Manchester started experiencing déjà vu when she was 22 with episodes that could last all day. The origin of her déjà vu has been the key to helping psychologists investigate its cause. Presenters: Hannah Fry, Adam Rutherford Producer: Michelle Martin.
May 18, 2018
The Human Instrument
1664
"What happens to the human voice as we age? If I hear a voice on the radio, I can guess roughly how old they are. But singer's voices seem to stay relatively unchanged as they age. Why is this?" All these questions were sent to curiouscases@bbc.co.uk by Jonathan Crain from Long Island in New York. The Doctors discover how the human voice is produced and listen to how our voice sounds when it emerges from our vocal cords. Acoustic engineer Trevor Cox, author of 'Now You're Talking', explains why German and French babies have a different accent. And neuroscientist Sophie Scott describes what happens when boys' voices break, and why a similar thing can happen to women during the menopause. Finally, our voices often change dramatically in later life, as demonstrated by impressionist Duncan Wisbey from Radio 4's Dead Ringers. Expect cameos from David Attenborough, Dumbledore and Paul McCartney. Presenters: Hannah Fry, Adam Rutherford Producer: Michelle Martin.
May 11, 2018
The Fifth Dimension
1627
"What is the fifth dimension?" asks Lena Komaier-Peeters from East Sussex. Proving the existence of extra dimensions, beyond our 3D universe, is one of the most exciting and controversial areas in modern physics. Hannah and Adam head to CERN, the scientific cathedral for quantum weirdness, to try and find them. Theoretical physicist Rakhi Mahbubani explains why we think that dimensions beyond our own might exist. Adam meets Sam Harper, who has spent 14 years hunting for an elusive particle called the 'graviton', which could provide a portal to these extra dimensions. But if they exist, where have these extra dimensions been hiding? Sean Carroll from Caltech explains various ideas that have been dreamt up by physicists, from minuscule hidden planes to gigantic parallel worlds. Producer: Michelle Martin Presenters: Hannah Fry, Adam Rutherford.
May 04, 2018
Coming soon...
128
Hannah Fry and Adam Rutherford highlight the new episodes coming up on Curious Cases.
Apr 27, 2018
The Cosmic Egg
1855
"How do we measure the age of the Universe?" asks Simon Whitehead. A hundred years ago this wouldn't even have been considered a valid question, because we didn't think the Universe had a beginning at all. Even Einstein thought that space was eternal and unchanging. This is the tale of how we discovered that the Universe had a beginning, and why calculating its age has been one of the greatest challenges in modern astronomy. We also uncover the mysterious dark energy that pervades the cosmos and discover why it's been putting a scientific spanner in the works. Helping to unravel today's question are physicists Andrew Pontzen, Jo Dunkley and Jim Al-Khalili. Presenters: Hannah Fry, Adam Rutherford Producer: Michelle Martin.
Mar 02, 2018
The Atomic Blade
1434
"What makes things sharp? Why are thinner knives sharper? What happens on the molecular level when you cut something?" All these questions came from Joshua Schwartz in New York City. The ability to create sharp tools allowed us to fashion clothing, make shelters and hunt for food, all essential for the development of human civilisation, according to materials scientist Mark Miodownik. We hear from IBM scientist Chris Lutz, who has used one of the sharpest blades in the world to slice up individual atoms. Plus palaeoarchaeologist Becky Wragg Sykes reveals the sharpest natural object in the world, a volcanic glass used by the Aztecs called obsidian. Presenters: Hannah Fry, Adam Rutherford Producer: Michelle Martin.
Feb 28, 2018
The Tiniest Dinosaur
1746
"What is the tiniest dinosaur?" asks younger listener Ellie Cook, aged 11. Today's hunt takes us from the discovery of dinosaurs right up to the present day, which is being hailed as a 'golden age' for palaeontology. One new species of dinosaur is currently being unearthed on average every single week. But what's the smallest dino? And what can size reveal about the life of extinct animals? Hannah goes underground at the Natural History Museum to look through their vaults in search of the tiniest dinosaur with palaeontologist Susie Maidment. Meanwhile Adam chats to dinosaur expert Steve Brusatte from Edinburgh University about why size really does matter, especially when it comes to fossils. Presenters: Hannah Fry, Adam Rutherford Producer: Michelle Martin.
Feb 23, 2018
The Enigma of Sex, Part 2
1355
The second instalment in our double bill on the science of sex, answering this question from Robert Turner, a Curio from Leeds: "Why do we only have two sexes?" Drs Rutherford and Fry look for anomalies in the animal kingdom that go beyond the traditional mechanics of human reproduction. Biologist and author Carin Bondar describes some of the wild and somewhat disturbing ways other animals like to do it. Take the hermaphrodite sea slug who races to stab its penis into its partner's brain during sex, or the female redback spider who loves to indulge in a spot of post-coital cannibalism. But the greatest number of different sexes is found in the world of fungi. Some species can have hundreds of distinct mating types. Fungal ecologist Lynne Boddy explains how mushrooms have sex and why on earth they need so many polygamous partners. Presenters: Hannah Fry, Adam Rutherford Producer: Michelle Martin.
Feb 16, 2018
The Enigma of Sex, Part 1
1483
"Why do we only have two sexes and are there any anomalies in the animal kingdom?" asks Robert Turner from Leeds. From reptilian virgin births to hermaphrodite sea slugs, over the next two episodes Drs Rutherford and Fry examine the weird ways other creatures reproduce. In this first instalment, they tackle what's been called 'the hardest problem in evolutionary biology' - why does sex exist? Why aren't we all one single sex that clone ourselves to produce offspring? It makes perfect evolutionary sense - you could pass on all of your genes and don't need to bother finding a partner. Hannah visits London Zoo to meet a fierce komodo dragon named Ganas, the result of a virgin birth. And Adam meets some tiny bdelloid rotifers, microscopic worm-like females who have survived for 50 million years by cloning themselves. You can send your questions in to curiouscases@bbc.co.uk Presenters: Hannah Fry, Adam Rutherford Producer: Michelle Martin.
Feb 09, 2018
Goldfinger's Moon Laser
1455
"The other day I was watching the James Bond film Goldfinger. He boasts a laser powerful enough to project a spot on the Moon. Is this possible? If so, just how powerful would such a laser need to be?" This curious question was sent to curiouscases@bbc.co.uk by Eddie Griffith from Hinckley in Leicestershire. Adam visits one of the most powerful lasers in the world, the Gemini Super Intense Laser at the aptly named Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Didcot, Oxfordshire. Plasma physicist Ceri Brenner gives him a quick zap, whilst explaining what would happen if they attempted to shoot their quadrillion watt laser at the Moon. Hannah talks to Tom Murphy from the University of California San Diego, who fires lasers at the Moon for a living. However, unlike Goldfinger, he's not using his Moon Laser for crime, he's using it for science. Presenters: Hannah Fry, Adam Rutherford Producer: Michelle Martin.
Jan 12, 2018
The Curious Face Off
1534
"Are machines better than humans at identifying faces?" asks the excellently named Carl Vandal. Today's Face Off leads our intrepid detectives to investigate why we see Jesus on toast, Hitler in houses and Kate Middleton on a jelly bean. Face perception psychologist Rob Jenkins from the University of York explains why we're so good at spotting familiar faces, like celebrities. Plus, Franziska Knolle from the University of Cambridge discusses her face recognition study involving Barack Obama and a group of highly-trained sheep. But are we outwitted by artificial intelligence when it comes to face ID? BBC technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones gives us the low-down on the pros and cons of current technology. Presenters: Hannah Fry, Adam Rutherford Producer: Michelle Martin.
Jan 05, 2018
The Cosmic Speed Limit
1370
"We often read that the fastest thing in the Universe is the speed of light. Why do we have this limitation and can anything possibly be faster?" Ali Alshareef from Qatif in Saudia Arabia emailed curiouscases@bbc.co.uk with this puzzling problem. The team grapples with Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity, with help from cosmologist Andrew Pontzen and a British train, travelling somewhat slower than the speed of light. Plus physicist and presenter Jim Al-Khalili describes how he nearly lost his boxer shorts in a daring bet concerning the speed of subatomic particles. Send your questions for consideration to: curiouscases@bbc.co.uk Presenters: Adam Rutherford, Hannah Fry Producer: Michelle Martin.
Dec 29, 2017
The Dreadful Vegetable
1802
"Why don't children like vegetables?" asks Penny Young from Croydon, and every parent ever. This week Rutherford and Fry dig into the science of taste and discover that there may be more to this question than meets the eye. Children and adults have a different taste experience when they eat the same foods. When you're young, foods can taste saltier and more bitter. What's more, as Jackie Blisset, Professor of Childhood Eating Behaviour explains, there are even evolutionary reasons why toddlers avoid vegetables. For most children it's a phase, but a minority of adults are also labelled as fussy eaters. According to food psychologist Linda Bartoshuk, they are probably what's known as 'supertasters'. Supertasters live in a neon taste world where vegetables are more bitter, and chillies are unbearably hot. Adam sets out on a quest to find potential supertasters in the Radio 4 offices. First stop, the Today programme where Nick Robinson and Sarah Montague become his experimental guinea pigs, with surprising results. Send your questions for consideration to: curiouscases@bbc.co.uk Presenters: Hannah Fry, Adam Rutherford Producer: Michelle Martin.
Dec 22, 2017
The Baffled Bat
1505
"Why don't thousands of bats in a cave get confused? How do they differentiate their own location echoes from those of other bats?" This puzzling problem was sent in to curiouscases@bbc.co.uk by Tim Beard from Hamburg in Germany. Since ecolocation was first discovered, this question has perplexed biologists. Hannah turns bat detective to try and track down these elusive creatures at The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in East London. This is where zoologist Kate Jones from University College London is using a network of smart sensors to find, identify and track wild bats. John Ratcliffe from Toronto University chats bats and sonar with Adam to try and locate the answer. It's an unlikely tale involving gruesome early experiments, cunning electric fish and some surprising bat maths. Send your Curious Cases for consideration to: curiouscases@bbc.co.uk Presenters: Adam Rutherford, Hannah Fry Producer: Michelle Martin.
Dec 15, 2017
Adventures in Dreamland
1455
"Why do we dream and why do we repeat dreams?" asks Mila O'Dea, aged 9, from Panama. Hannah and Adam delve into the science of sleep. From a pioneering experiment on rapid eye movement sleep, to a brand new 'dream signature' found in the brain, they discover how scientists are investigating our hidden dreamworld. Featuring sociologist Bill Domhoff from the University of California Santa Cruz, sleep psychologist Mark Blagrove from the University of Swansea, and neurologist Francesca Siclari from the University of Lausanne. Presenters: Adam Rutherford, Hannah Fry Producer: Michelle Martin.
Sep 29, 2017
The Shocking Surprise
1738
Why do we get static shocks? Jose Chavez Mendez from Guatemala asks, "Some years ago, in the dry season, I used to be very susceptible to static electricity. I want to know - why do static shocks happen?" The team uncover some slightly unethical science experiments on static electricity from the 1700s. Hannah Fry uses a Leyden Jar to demonstrate how static electricity works with help from her glamorous assistant, Adam Rutherford. Spoiler Alert: it doesn't end well for Adam. They discover what makes some people more susceptible to static shocks, and how bees and spiders have harnessed the awesome power of electricity. Featuring electromagnetism scientist Rhys Phillips and physicist Helen Czerski, author of 'Storm in a Teacup: The Physics of Everyday Life'. Presenters: Adam Rutherford, Hannah Fry Producer: Michelle Martin.
Sep 22, 2017
The Sticky Song
1495
Why do songs get stuck in our heads? And what makes some tunes stickier than others? Drs Rutherford and Fry investigate 'earworms', those musical refrains that infect our brains for days. Every morning 6Music DJ Shaun Keaveney asks his listeners for their earworms, and Hannah finds out which tunes keep coming back. Adam asks Dr Lauren Stewart, from Goldsmiths University, to reveal the musical features that make some songs catchier than others. And they find out why, in times of crisis, an earworm may just save your life. Producer: Michelle Martin.
Sep 15, 2017
The Polar Opposite
1198
No one knows why the Earth's magnetic North and South poles swap. But polar reversals have happened hundreds of times over the history of the Earth. So, asks John Turk, when is the next pole swap due and what will happen to us? Hannah turns to astronomer Lucie Green from Mullard Space Science Laboratory to discover how the earth's magnetic field protects us from the ravages of space. And Adam consults geophysicist Phil Livermore from the University of Leeds to find out if, and when, we're facing a global apocalypse. Plus astronaut Terry Virts, author of The View from Above, describes his experiences of a strange magnetic glitch in the earth's magnetic field, known as The Bermuda Triangle of Space, which could help us prepare for the next event. Presenters: Hannah Fry, Adam Rutherford Producer: Michelle Martin.
Sep 08, 2017
The Curious Cake-Off
1185
Can chemistry help us bake the perfect cake? Listener Helena McGinty aged 69 from Malaga in Spain asks, "'I have always used my mother's sponge cake recipe. But is there a noticeable difference in the outcome if you vary some of the ingredients, or the method?" In this episode Hannah and Adam go head to head in a competition to create the perfect cake using the power of science. They are aided by materials scientist Mark Miodownik, from University College London, with tips on how to combine the ideal ingredients and trusted techniques to construct a structurally sound sponge. Jay Rayner, food critic and presenter of Radio 4's The Kitchen Cabinet, is on hand to judge the results. But who will emerge victorious in this messy baking battle? Presenters: Hannah Fry, Adam Rutherford Producer: Michelle Martin.
Sep 01, 2017
Kate Bush's Sonic Weapon
1274
"It started while listening to the excellent Experiment IV by Kate Bush. The premise of the song is of a band who secretly work for the military to create a 'sound that could kill someone'. Is it scientifically possible to do this?" asks Paul Goodfield. Hannah consults acoustic engineer Trevor Cox to ask if sonic weapons could kill. And Adam delves into subsonic frequencies with parapsychologist Chris French to investigate their spooky effects. You can send your everyday mysteries for the team to investigate to: curiouscases@bbc.co.uk Presenters: Adam Rutherford, Hannah Fry Producer: Michelle Martin.
Jun 16, 2017
Itchy and Scratchy
1289
"What is an itch and how does scratching stop it? Why does scratching some itches feel so good?!" asks Xander Tarver from Wisborough Green in West Sussex. Our doctors set off to probe the mysteries of itch, and discover that this overlooked area of medicine is revealing surprising results about the human brain. From why itching is contagious to why scratching is pleasurable, we get under the skin of this medical mystery. The programme features interviews with neuroscientist Prof Francis McGlone from Liverpool John Moores University, and dermatologist Dr Brian Kim from the Center for the Study of Itch at Washington University. Yes, that is a real place. You can send your everyday mysteries for the team to investigate to: curiouscases@bbc.co.uk Presenters: Adam Rutherford, Hannah Fry Producer: Michelle Martin.
Jun 15, 2017
The Burning Question
1139
"What is fire? Is it a solid, liquid or a gas? Why is it hot and why can you see it in the dark?" asks Hannah Norton, aged 10. Dr Fry visits the Burn Hall at The Buildings Research Establishment in Watford where they test the effects of fire on building materials. Whilst Dr Rutherford gets to grips with Michael Faraday's pioneering Christmas Lectures at the Royal Institution of Great Britain on 'The Chemical History of a Candle'. Plus, he chats to forensic chemist Niamh Nic Daeid from Dundee University about our lasting fascination with fire. You can send your Curious Cases for the team to investigate to: curiouscases@bbc.co.uk Presenters: Hannah Fry, Adam Rutherford Producer: Michelle Martin.
Jun 14, 2017
The Dark Star
1398
"What's inside a black hole and could we fly a spaceship inside?" asks Jorge Luis Alvarez from Mexico City. Some interstellar fieldwork is on the agenda in today's Curious Cases. Astrophysicist Sheila Rowan explains how we know invisible black holes actually exist. And cosmologist Andrew Pontzen is on hand to help cook one up. But which of our intrepid doctors will volunteer to fly into the heart of a black hole? You can send your Curious Cases for the team to investigate to: curiouscases@bbc.co.uk Presenters: Hannah Fry, Adam Rutherford Producer: Michelle Martin.
Jun 02, 2017
The Cat Who Came Back
1142
"How on earth do cats find their way back to their previous home when they move house?" asks Vicky Cole from Nairobi in Kenya. Our enduring love for our feline friends began when Egyptian pharaohs began to welcome domesticated moggies into their homes. Pictured reclining in baskets at the feet of royalty, pet cats soon became fashionable throughout society in Egypt. Today they are the most popular pet in the world, and home is definitely where their hearts lie. "Whereas dogs are bonded to people, cats are bonded to place," explains zoologist Dr John Bradshaw. "It's very typical for them to try and find their way back to their old house when you move." But how do they do it? And if their navigational skills are so good, why do they get lost? Plus, Prof Matthew Cobb reveals the super-senses that cats possess, which humans don't, and how to spot when your cat is deploying them. You can send your Curious Cases for the team to investigate to: curiouscases@bbc.co.uk Presenters: Hannah Fry, Adam Rutherford Producer: Michelle Martin.
May 19, 2017
A Code in Blood
708
"Why do we have different blood types?" asks Doug from Norfolk. The average adult human has around 30 trillion red blood cells, they make up a quarter of the total number of cells in the body. We have dozens of different blood groups, but normally we're tested for just two - ABO and Rhesus factor. Adam and Hannah delve into the gory world of blood and the early history of blood transfusions, to discover why we have blood groups and what makes them so important. Featuring interviews with Dr Jo Mountford, from the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service and immunologist Dr Sheena Cruikshank from the University of Manchester. Send your Curious Cases for consideration to: curiouscases@bbc.co.uk Presenters: Hannah Fry, Adam Rutherford Producer: Michelle Martin.
Mar 15, 2017
The Forgetful Child
979
"Why don't we remember the first few years of our lives?" asks David Foulger from Cheltenham. The team investigate the phenomenon of 'infant amnesia' and how memories are made with Catherine Loveday from the University of Westminster. A whopping 40% of people say they can remember back to before they were two years old, and 18% can recall being babies. But can we really trust these early memories? Martin Conway from City University discusses his latest findings, taken from data gathered during 'The Memory Experience' on BBC Radio 4. Presenters: Hannah Fry, Adam Rutherford Producer: Michelle Martin.
Mar 10, 2017
The Astronomical Balloon
903
"How far up can a helium balloon go? Could it go out to space?" asks Juliet Gok, aged 9. This calls for some fieldwork! Adam travels to the Meteorology Department at the University of Reading where Dr Keri Nicholl helps him launch a party balloon and track its ascent. But this experiment doesn't quite go to plan. Meanwhile, Hannah consults Public Astronomer Dr Marek Kukula, from the Royal Observatory Greenwich, to discover where space begins. And she decides to take matters into her own hands, with the help of a helium canister and some trusty equations, to help answer Juliet's question. Send your Curious Cases for consideration to: curiouscases@bbc.co.uk Presenters: Hannah Fry, Adam Rutherford Producer: Michelle Martin.
Mar 10, 2017
The World That Turns
919
"Why does the Earth spin?" asks Joe Wills from Accra in Ghana. Hannah quizzes cosmologist Andrew Pontzen about the birth of the Solar System and why everything in space seems to spin. Is there anything in the Universe that doesn't revolve? BBC weatherman John Hammond explain to Adam how the rotation of the Earth creates our weather systems and the strange things that would happen if we spun the opposite way. Send your Curious Cases for consideration to: curiouscases@bbc.co.uk Presenters: Hannah Fry, Adam Rutherford Producer: Michelle Martin.
Mar 10, 2017
The Broken Stool
1026
"Science tells us that our body houses microbial organisms. Then how much our weight is really our weight? If I am overweight, is it because of my own body cells or excess microflora?" asks Ajay Mathur from Mumbai in India. Adam bravely sends off a sample to the 'Map My Gut' project at St Thomas' Hospital to have his microbes mapped. Prof Tim Spector reveals the shocking results - a diet of fried breakfasts and fizzy drinks has left his guts in disarray. But help is at hand to makeover his bacterial lodgers. Science writer Ed Yong, author of 'I Contain Multitudes', reveals how much our microbes weigh. We're just beginning to discover the vast array of vital functions they perform, from controlling our weight, immune system and perhaps even influencing our mood and behaviour. Send your Curious Cases for consideration to: curiouscases@bbc.co.uk Presenters: Hannah Fry, Adam Rutherford Producer: Michelle Martin.
Mar 10, 2017
The Lost Producer
1105
Why do some people have a terrible sense of direction? The team receive a mysterious message from an anonymous listener who constantly gets lost. Can they help her find the answer? This listener may, or may not, be the team's producer, Michelle. She would like to state that it's not her fault that she has been dealt a bad genetic hand which has led to faulty place cells developing in her brain. And head direction cells that appear to be pointing the wrong way. More understanding should surely be afforded to those who are navigationally challenged. Hugo Spiers from University College London, has devised a free game called 'Sea Hero Quest' which anyone can use to test their navigational skills. Plus Catherine Loveday from the University of Westminster suggests strategies to help those who tend to get lost. If you have any Curious Cases for us to solve please email curiouscases@bbc.co.uk Presenters: Adam Rutherford & Hannah Fry Producer: Michelle Martin.
Dec 02, 2016
The Bad Moon Rising
888
'A teacher I work with swears that around the time of the full moon kids are rowdier in the classroom, and more marital disharmony in the community," says Jeff Boone from El Paso in Texas. 'Is there any biological reason why the moon's phases could affect human moods and behaviour?' Our scientific sleuths sift through the evidence to find out if the moon really does inspire lunacy. They consider Othello's testimony, a study on dog bites and homicides in Florida before coming to a conclusion based on current scientific evidence. Featuring neuroscientist Eric Chudler from the University of Washington and health broadcaster and author Claudia Hammond. If you have any Curious Cases for the team to solve please email curiouscases@bbc.co.uk Presenters: Adam Rutherford & Hannah Fry Producer: Michelle Martin.
Dec 02, 2016
The Hunt for Nothing, Part 2
824
In the last episode the team started investigating the following inquiry, sent in to curiouscases@bbc.co.uk: 'Is there any such thing as nothing?' They discovered why quantum fluctuations and the Higgs field mean that nothing is impossible. But how about in mathematics? The story of zero is fraught with inspiration, competition and controversy. Banned in Florence and hated by the Church, zero had a rocky road to acceptance after its genesis in India. Hannah talks to author Alex Bellos and hears about his journey to India to see the birth of zero, featuring archive from 'Nirvana by Numbers' on BBC Radio 4. Plus, Adam is sent on a mission to understand calculus and enlists the help of Jeff Heys from Montana State University. If you have any Curious Cases for the team to solve please email curiouscases@bbc.co.uk Presenters: Adam Rutherford & Hannah Fry Producer: Michelle Martin.
Dec 02, 2016
The Hunt for Nothing, Part 1
888
"Is there any such thing as nothing?" This question from Bill Keck sparked so much head scratching that we have devoted two episodes to this curious quandary. In the first programme, the team considers the philosophy and physics of nothing. As Prof Frank Close, author of "Nothing: A Very Short Introduction" explains, nothing has intrigued great thinkers for thousands of years, from the Ancient Greeks to today's particle physicists. Otto Von Geuricke, the Mayor of Magdeburg in Germany, invented the artificial vacuum pump in the 17th century and presented spectacular displays to demonstrate the awesome power of nothing. Cosmologist Andrew Pontzen helps Hannah search for nothing in the depths of space and inside the atom. However, as they find out, recent discoveries in physics involving quantum fluctuations and the Higgs field have proved that nothing is impossible. If you have any Curious Cases for the team to solve please email curiouscases@bbc.co.uk Presenters: Adam Rutherford & Hannah Fry Producer: Michelle Martin.
Dec 02, 2016
The Melodic Mystery
909
'Why is my mother tone deaf?' asks listener Simon, 'and can I do anything to ensure my son can at least carry a tune?' Hannah Fry has a singing lesson with teacher Michael Bonshor to see if he can improve her vocal tone, although things don't quite go to plan.* We meet Martin who dislikes music intensely because he has the clinical form of tone deafness, known as amusia. Just as people with dyslexia see words differently to other people, if you have amusia you don't hear melodies in the same way. Adam talks to music psychologist Dr Vicky Williamson from Sheffield University who studies Martin, and others like him, to try and discover why their brains operate differently. Please send your Curious Cases for consideration to: curiouscases@bbc.co.uk Presenters: Adam Rutherford, Hannah Fry Producer: Michelle Martin *earmuffs may be required.
Dec 02, 2016
The Strongest Substance
934
"What is the strongest substance in the universe? Some people say it is spiderweb, because it is stronger than steel. Is it iron? Is it flint? Is it diamond because diamond can be only be cut by diamond?" asks Françoise Michel. Adam and Hannah put a variety of materials, from biscuits to spider web, under the hammer to test their strength. In their quest to find the strongest substance they quiz materials scientist Mark Miodownik, engineer Danielle George and spidergoat creator, Dr Randy Lewis from Utah. Features archive from 'Horizon: Playing God', first broadcast in January 2012. Please send your Curious Cases for the team to investigate to curiouscases@bbc.co.uk Presenters: Adam Rutherford, Hannah Fry Producer: Michelle Martin.
Oct 07, 2016
The Space Pirate
912
Listener Paul Don asks: "I'm wondering what's the feasibility of terraforming another planet i.e. Mars and if it's possible to do the same thing with something like the moon? Or, why isn't there already a moon-base? Surely that's easier." Adam & Hannah consider moving to another planet, and discover what challenges they would need to overcome to live in space. They consult engineer Prof Danielle George from the University of Manchester and Dr Louisa Preston, UK Space Agency Aurora Research Fellow in Astrobiology. Adam also hears about attempts to recreate a Martian base on a volcano in Hawaii. He calls HI-SEAS crew member Tristan Bassingthwaighte, who has just emerged from a year of isolation. If you have any Curious Cases for the team to solve please email curiouscases@bbc.co.uk Features archive from 'Outlook' on BBC World Service, broadcast in August 2016. Presenters: Adam Rutherford & Hannah Fry Producer: Michelle Martin.
Oct 05, 2016
The Portly Problem
862
"Why do we have middle aged spread?" asks Bart Janssen from New Zealand. From obese mice to big bottoms, the duo discovers what science can tell us about fat. Why do we put on weight in middle age? And are some types of fat better than others? Hannah meets Prof Steve Bloom at Imperial College, London to discuss apples and pears. Adam talks to Dr Aaron Cypess from the National Institutes of Health in Maryland, who has created a 'fatlas' - an atlas that maps fat inside the body. Please email your Curious Cases for the team to investigate to: curiouscases@bbc.co.uk Presenters: Hannah Fry & Adam Rutherford Producer: Michelle Martin.
Oct 05, 2016
The Sinister Hand Part 2
867
In the previous episode the team started investigating the following enquiry, sent in to curiouscases@bbc.co.uk: "What determines left or right handedness and why are us lefties in the minority?" They considered cockatoos, chimpanzees and Hannah's dog, Molly, to discover that humans are unique, with just one in ten of us being left-handed. Today, they look inside the left-handed brain. Some researchers point to a link between left-handedness and impairments like autism or dyslexia. Others claim that lefties are more creative and artistic. So what's the truth? The team consults Professors Sophie Scott, Chris McManus and Dorothy Bishop to find out. Presenter: Adam Rutherford & Hannah Fry Producer: Michelle Martin.
Oct 04, 2016
The Sinister Hand Part 1
840
Neal Shepperson asks, "What determines left or right handedness and why are us lefties in the minority?" When we started investigating this question it became clear that there were just too many scientific mysteries to squeeze into one episode. So there are two whole episodes devoted to this very Curious Case. One in ten people are left-handed, but where does this ratio come from and when did it appear in our evolutionary past? Hannah talks to primatologist Prof Linda Marchant from Miami University about Neanderthal teeth and termite fishing. Adam consults handedness expert Prof Chris McManus from University College London. He's been trying to track down the genes responsible for whether we're right or left handed. If you have any Curious Cases for the team to investigate please email curiouscases@bbc.co.uk Presenter: Adam Rutherford & Hannah Fry Producer: Michelle Martin.
Oct 03, 2016
The Counting Horse
941
"Can horses count?" asks retired primary school teacher, Lesley Marr. Our scientific sleuths consider the case of Clever Hans, with a spectacular re-enactment of a 20th century spectacle. Plus, we hear from Dr Claudia Uller who has been conducting modern studies on equine counting. Mathematician Prof Marcus Du Sautoy explains the basic concept of counting to Adam, and Hannah looks across the animal kingdom to find the cleverest mathematical creature. If you have any questions you'd like the duo to investigate, please email curiouscases@bbc.co.uk Presenters: Hannah Fry, Adam Rutherford Producer: Michelle Martin.
Jun 02, 2016
The Hairy Hominid
1011
Our science detectives answer the following perplexing problem, sent in by Hannah Monteith from Edinburgh in Scotland: "How does leg hair know it has been cut? It doesn't seem to grow continuously but if you shave it, it somehow knows to grow back." Hannah consults dermatologist Dr Susan Holmes, from the Hair Clinic at Southern General Hospital in Glasgow, to discover why the hairs on your legs don't grow as long as the hairs on your head. Adam attempts to have a serious discussion about the evolutionary purpose of pubic hair with anatomist and broadcaster Prof Alice Roberts. If you have a scientific mystery for the team to investigate, please email: curiouscases@bbc.co.uk Presenters: Hannah Fry, Adam Rutherford Producer: Michelle Martin.
May 30, 2016
A Study in Spheres
971
Today the team study the heavens, thanks to listener Brian Passineau who wonders 'why everything in space tends to be circular or spherical?' Hannah gazes at Jupiter at The Royal Observatory, Greenwich with Public Astronomer, Dr Marek Kukula. Science writer, Philip Ball, explains how the astronomical obsession with celestial spheres came to an untidy end. And physicist Dr Helen Czerski helps Adam on his quest to find the perfect natural sphere. If you have a scientific mystery for the team to investigate, please email: curiouscases@bbc.co.uk Presenters: Hannah Fry, Adam Rutherford Producer: Michelle Martin.
May 26, 2016
The Psychic Tear
913
Listener Edith Calman challenges our scientific sleuths to investigate the following conundrum: 'What is it about extreme pain, emotional shock or the sight of a three year old stumbling their way through an off-key rendition of 'Away in a Manger' that makes the brain send messages to the lacrimal glands to chuck out water?" Hannah discovers how the eye produces tears, with the help of Dr Nick Knight. Broadcaster Claudia Hammond, author of 'Emotional Rollercoaster', explains why Darwin experimented on his children until they cried. Adam watches a tearjerker to take part in a psychological study, but ends up getting quite angry instead. If you have any everyday mysteries you'd like the team to solve email: curiouscases@bbc.co.uk Presenters: Hannah Fry, Adam Rutherford Producer: Michelle Martin.
May 26, 2016
The Tea Leaf Mystery
1128
Today the team examine the chemistry of tea, in answer to the following question sent in by Fred Rickaby from North Carolina: "When we are preparing a cup of tea and the cup contains nothing but hot, brewed tea we need to add milk and sugar. My wife always adds the sugar first, stirs the cup to make sure it is dissolved and then add the milk. So, is that an optimum strategy for adding milk and sugar to a cup of tea?" Adam consults Prof Andrea Sella from University College London about the perfect formula for a cup of tea. Inside his tea factory in Kent, Master Blender Alex Probyn teaches Hannah an unusual method for tasting tea. Most importantly, the duo discovers whether you should add milk first or last. But can tea professionals really tell the difference? If you have any questions for Drs Rutherford & Fry to investigate send them to curiouscases@bbc.co.uk Presenters: Hannah Fry, Adam Rutherford Producer: Michelle Martin.
May 26, 2016
The Stellar Dustbin
826
An unusual case today for science sleuths Hannah Fry and Adam Rutherford sent by Elisabeth Hill: 'Can we shoot garbage into the sun?' The duo embark on an astronomical thought experiment to see how much it would cost to throw Hannah's daily rubbish into our stellar dustbin. From space elevators to solar sails, they explore the various options that could be used to send litter to the Sun. Featuring space scientist Lucie Green and astrophysicist Andrew Pontzen. If you have any everyday mysteries for the team to investigate using the power of science, please email: curiouscases@bbc.co.uk Presenters: Hannah Fry & Adam Rutherford Producer: Michelle Martin.
Feb 18, 2016
The Squeamish Swoon
795
Science sleuths Hannah Fry and Adam Rutherford investigate the following question sent in by Philip Le Riche: 'Why do some people faint at the sight of blood, or a hypodermic needle, or even if they bash their funny bone? Does it serve any useful evolutionary purpose, or is just some kind of cerebral error condition?' Adam is strapped onto a hospital tilt table in an attempt to make him blackout and Hannah receives an aromatic surprise. Featuring consultant cardiologists Dr Nicholas Gall and Dr Adam Fitzpatrick and cardiac physiologist Shelley Dougherty. If you have any scientific cases for the team to investigate please email: curiouscases@bbc.co.uk Presenters: Hannah Fry & Adam Rutherford Producer: Michelle Martin.
Feb 11, 2016
The Aural Voyeur
748
Drs Rutherford and Fry tackle a vexing case sent in by Daniel Sarano from New Jersey, who asks why people shout on their mobile phones in public. Our science sleuths find the answer by delving into the inner workings of telephony with a tale of engineering rivalry, Victorian etiquette and early otolaryngology. Featuring acoustic technologist Nick Zakarov and historian Greg Jenner, author of 'A Million Years in a Day: A Curious History of Daily Life.' If you have any scientific cases for the team to investigate please email: curiouscases@bbc.co.uk Presenters: Hannah Fry & Adam Rutherford Producer: Michelle Martin.
Feb 11, 2016
The Phantom Jam
801
Drs Rutherford and Fry set out to discover what makes traffic jam. Adam ventures on to the M25 in search of a tailback, and Hannah looks at projects around the world that have attempted to solve the scourge of the traffic jam. Featuring Neal Harwood from the Transport Research Laboratory and BBC technology reporter, Jane Wakefield. And Masdar City man. If you have any scientific cases for the team to investigate please email: curiouscases@bbc.co.uk Presenters: Hannah Fry & Adam Rutherford Producer: Michelle Martin.
Feb 11, 2016
The Scarlet Mark
833
Drs Adam Rutherford and Hannah Fry are on hand to solve everyday mysteries sent in by listeners. For the last few weeks they've been collecting cases to investigate using the power of science - from why people shout on their mobile phones to what causes traffic jams. In the first episode, called 'The Scarlet Mark', they get to the root of the following conundrum, posed by Sheena Cruickshank in Manchester: 'My eldest son is ginger but I am blonde and my husband brunette so we are constantly asked where the red came from. Further, people do say the "ginger gene" is dying out, but how good is that maths or is it just anecdotal?' Our science sleuths set out to discover what makes gingers ginger with a tale of fancy mice, Tudor queens and ginger beards. Featuring historian and author Kate Williams and Jonathan Rees from the University of Edinburgh, one of the team who discovered the ginger gene. If you have any scientific cases for the team to investigate please email: curiouscases@bbc.co.uk Presenters: Hannah Fry & Adam Rutherford Producer: Michelle Martin.
Feb 11, 2016