BBC Inside Science

BBC Inside Science

United Kingdom

Dr Adam Rutherford and guests illuminate the mysteries and challenge the controversies behind the science that's changing our world.

Episodes

Comet 67P images; Etna eruption; Brain navigation; Octopus intelligence  

The recent Rosetta mission to image and land a probe on a comet was an astounding achievement. Rosetta took thousands of photos mapping the entire surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko , as it dramatically changed over 2 years. This week analysis of 18000 67P pictures are out of the shade and into the sunlight. Adam Rutherford talks to study leader Raamy El Maary on the intriguing insights and what they suggests about the evolution of comets as they pass through our solar system. And while no-one has any doubt that volcanoes are extremely dangerous forces of nature, Science correspondent Rebecca Morelle was caught in an unusual and terrifying eruption last week. She tells BBC Inside Science the perils of reporting up close from the side of Etna and the rare kind of eruptions that are unique to snowy volcanoes. What are our brains doing when we're navigating through towns and cities? A new study from a team at University College London has made detailed maps of brain activity when negotiating the very windy London streets of Soho and compared it to what our brains are up to when we're simply following a sat nav. Hugo Spiers discusses the results and how this kind of neuroscience has a role to play in the future design of new street networks and cities. And we feature the private life of the octopus - a seemingly alien intelligence right here on Earth as philosopher Peter Godfrey-Smith discusses his new book "Other Minds: The Octopus and the Evolution of Intelligent Life", in which he literally dives into the oceans and delves in to the workings of the octopus mind Producer Adrian Washbourne.

Boaty McBoatface in Antarctica, Aeroplane biofuels, Bakhshali manuscript, Goldilocks zones  

The submarine famously named Boaty McBoatface is deployed this week for its first mission to examine a narrow submarine gap in the South Atlantic. Mike Meredith of the British Antarctic Survey tells Adam Rutherford how this research into the behaviour of deep water at this crucial point in the oceans will help us answer key questions about global ocean temperature flows. Some close-quarter flying in the wake of a jet has provided new insights on reducing aircraft pollution. Richard Moore at NASA Langley in Virginia describes how he's taken to the skies to measure gasses emitted by new biofuels to assess their impact in reducing carbon soot particles, aircraft contrails and climate-changing cloud formations across the sky Angela Saini visits the Bodleian Library in Oxford where the Bakhshali manuscript which contains possibly the very first graphical representation of the number zero is finally being carbon dated so we can better understand its scientific importance And the habitable zones around stars in our the universe just got a whole lot bigger. Lisa Kaltenegger of the Carl Sagan Institute reveals how the presence of volcanoes pumping out hydrogen has a significant warming effect on planets, and increases the range of the so called Goldilocks Zone Producer: Adrian Washbourne.

Rise of the Robots: 3. Where is my mind?  

From Skynet and the Terminator franchise, through Wargames and Ava in Ex Machina, artificial intelligences pervade our cinematic experiences. But AIs are already in the real world, answering our questions on our phones and making diagnoses about our health. Adam Rutherford asks if we are ready for AI, when fiction becomes reality, and we create thinking machines.

Cells and Celluloid: Aliens on Film  

With Adam Rutherford and Francine Stock.

Rise of the Robots: 2. More human than human  

Adam Rutherford explores our relationship with contemporary humanoid robots

Rise of the Robots: 1. The history of things to come  

The idea of robots goes back to the Ancient Greeks. In myths Hephaestus, the god of fire, created robots to assist in his workshop. In the medieval period the wealthy showed off their automata. In France in the 15th century a Duke of Burgundy had his chateau filled with automata that played practical tricks on his guests, such as spraying water at them. By the 18th century craftsmen were making life like performing robots. In 1738 in Paris people queued to see the amazing flute playing automaton, designed and built by Jacques Vaucanson. With the industrial revolution the idea of automata became intertwined with that of human workers. The word robot first appears in a 1921 play, Rossum's Universal Robots, by Czech author Carel Chapek. Drawing on examples from fact and fiction, Adam Rutherford explores the role of robots in past societies and discovers they were nearly always made in our image, and inspired both fear and wonder in their audiences. He talks to Dr Elly Truitt of Bryn Mawr College in the US about ancient and medieval robots, to Simon Shaffer, Professor of History of Science at Cambridge University and to Dr Andrew Nahum of the Science Museum about !8th century automata, and to Dr Ben Russell of the Science Museum about robots and workers in the 20th century. And Matthew Sweet provides the cultural context. Show less

Rise of the Robots  

The idea of robots goes back to the Ancient Greeks. In myths Hephaestus, the god of fire, created robots to assist in his workshop. In the medieval period the wealthy showed off their automata. In France in the 15th century a Duke of Burgundy had his chateau filled with automata that played practical tricks on his guests, such as spraying water at them. By the 18th century craftsmen were making life like performing robots. In 1738 in Paris people queued to see the amazing flute playing automaton, designed and built by Jacques Vaucanson. With the industrial revolution the idea of automata became intertwined with that of human workers. The word robot first appears in a 1921 play, Rossum's Universal Robots, by Czech author Carel Chapek. Drawing on examples from fact and fiction, Adam Rutherford explores the role of robots in past societies and discovers they were nearly always made in our image, and inspired both fear and wonder in their audiences. He talks to Dr Elly Truitt of Bryn Mawr College in the US about ancient and medieval robots, to Simon Shaffer, Professor of History of Science at Cambridge University and to Dr Andrew Nahum of the Science Museum about !8th century automata, and to Dr Ben Russell of the Science Museum about robots and workers in the 20th century. And Matthew Sweet provides the cultural context.

The perils of fake science news, The neanderthal inside us, What The Beatles really sang - statistically speaking  

A woolly story about resurrecting mammoths raises serious questions for medical ethics. News of a scientist's plan to resurrect mammoths has spread around the world. However the story is largely untrue. We look at how this kind of 'fake science news' story can impact on perceptions of real medical research - some times with negative consequences. Almost all Europeans and Asians carry Neanderthal genes. Until recently these were thought to have little impact on us today, but new research shows they may be involved with determining height and aspects of both our physical and mental health. And what were Lennon and McCartney really thinking when they wrote their hit songs? Thanks to the number crunching power of computer algorithms the emotional content of 23 years worth of their compositions have been analysed. The results are both startling and for Beatles fans perhaps a little unsurprising.

Science and cyber security, Dinosaur babies, Winston Churchill and level crossings  

Testing cyber security with science. The UK now has a new National Cyber Security Centre. However there is very little scientific evidence against which to test the detection of cyber attacks and effectiveness of measures to prevent them. We ask what is needed to turn cyber security into a more scientific discipline. Winston Churchill and Aliens. Throughout his life Churchill maintained a strong interest in scientific developments and wrote widely on subjects from quantum mechanics to nuclear energy. Newly discovered papers show he also had an interest in the potential for life on other planets. Dinosaurs and egg laying. A new fossil find revealing a dinosaur with an unborn baby suggests live births may have occurred many years earlier than previously thought. Turn off at level crossings. New research suggests personal messages about the impact of engine fumes on health may be the most effective way of persuading drivers to switch off their engines at level crossings.

Measuring human impact on earth, Awards for engineers, Sounds of space junk.  

Quantifying the impact of humanity on the earth's natural systems. Why human activity now has a larger effect on our planet than the forces of nature. We look at how mathematical equations can now be used to compare historical natural processes with contemporary man made changes. And we ask where current developments will take us in years to come. The Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering has been awarded to the inventors of digital imaging sensors. First invented in the 1970's, many of us use this technology everyday. These sensor can be found inside every digital camera ever made, from the devices used on space probes to collect distant images from the far reaches of the universe to the ubiquitous pocket cameras in our mobile phones. The earth is surrounded by junk - space junk. Many thousand of pieces of junk orbit the planet, left over from the history of everything we've ever sent into space. A new project has given a voice to this junk, and created a machine which plays simulated sounds of the junk as it passes overhead. Producer: Julian Siddle Presenter: Gareth Mitchell

Wildlife trafficking, New quantum computers, Ancient bird beaks, Glassblowing.  

Conservation and conflict. A year long BBC investigation has exposed an illegal animal trafficking network stretching from West Africa to the Middle East and Asia. Traffickers have used fake permits to undermine international conservation efforts. New developments in Quantum computing. Sussex University are building a new type of modular Quantum computer. We attempt to explain what Quantum computing is. A Massive citizen science project to map bird beak evolution- using records from the Natural History Museum. And the last scientific Glassblower at Imperial College gives us a demonstration of his craft.

Crime, volcanoes, ghosts and how we are influenced by the genes of unrelated others  

The genes of unrelated others can influence our health and behaviour. New research suggests the genetic make up of our partners can have a profound influence on our lives. Scientists have quantified genetic influence , in mice at present but the plan is to try to extend this to human interactions. If accepted this has potentially far reaching consequences for studying heritability and also perhaps modern medicine as the findings suggest an illness can in part be influenced by those we live with. The use of DNA evidence in criminal cases has sometimes been given far more weight than it deserves. In the worst examples there have been miscarriages of justice where DNA evidence has been misinterpreted. The fiction of DNA as a 'magic bullet' pervades TV drama and films - but views of DNA evidence as infallible are also widely held amongst the public, police and lawyers. Forensic specialists explain what we can and can't find from DNA evidence. Oxford's Bodleian library has manuscripts stretching back to medieval times depicting volcanos discovered in the 6th century. These manuscripts also contain remarkable interpretations of eruptions and associated volcanic events, often mixed with mythology. Although those recording such events did not understand what they were scientifically, some of the depictions and ideas of what was happening are surprisingly accurate. Roland Pease and Professor David Pyle take a look at this remarkable collection. Nearly a hundred years ago, Oliver Lodge, eminent physicist and the first to demonstrate radio waves, published a book about life after death. It was entitled 'Raymond' after his son who was killed in the First World War. Lodge was a believer in ghosts and telepathy, and conducted experiments to test their existence. Adam Rutherford and Samira Ahmed look at how Oliver Lodge squared his scientific and spiritualist beliefs - and how the latter led to him, as Britain's most well know scientist of his time, being written out of scientific history.

Antarctic science rescue, killing cancer with viruses, measuring wind from space and the last man on the moon.  

Why the British Antarctic science base is being temporarily abandoned. New cracks have appeared in the Ice shelf on which the Halley research station sits. The promise of viro-therapy for treating cancer. Scientists have successfully used a virus to kill cancer cells. They say this could form the basis for a vaccine that could be injected to destroy tumours. The limitations of mouse models. Many animals are used for testing treatments intended for humans, we explain why the results of such experiments can't always be applied to people. Measuring wind speeds from space. A new satellite will lead to more accurate weather forecasts. Gene Cernan, the last man on the moon. We celebrate the charismatic astronaut who has died aged 82.

The perils of explaining science, living to 500, what's good for your teeth and the future of stargazing  

Why the simplest explanations are not always the best when it comes to science. Where you read about a scientific subject can affect not just what you learn but also how much you think you know about the subject. Quahogs are a kind of clam and they can live for hundreds of years. Analysis of their shells provides a record of historical climate change. Researchers studying their shells have found big differences between the drivers of climate change now and in the pre-industrial era. Trips to the dentist may become less frequent if an experimental treatment with stem cells becomes widespread. The treatment involves regrowing damaged dentine, bringing about a natural tooth repair. Radio telescopes have brought us signals from the far reaches of the known universe and listened in on the space race. Now a new generation will take us further than ever before. Producer Julian Siddle.

RIP Granny the oldest Orca - Graphene + Silly Putty - Moving a Giant Magnet - Space in 2017  

The world's oldest known killer whale is presumed dead. At an estimated age of 100 years, 'Granny' was last seen with her family in October. The scientists who've followed her and her pod for four decades announced that they believe she has died somewhere in the North American Pacific. Adam Rutherford talks to evolutionary biologist Darren Croft of the University of Exeter about this remarkable animal and the insights that Granny and her clan have provided on killer whale social life and the evolution of the menopause. Adam also hears how a 'kitchen' experiment with Silly Putty and the form of carbon known as graphene led to the creation of an ultra-sensitive electro-mechanical sensing material. G-putty may provide the basis for a continuous and wearable blood pressure monitor. It can also detect the footsteps of spiders. Professor Jonathan Coleman of Trinity College, Dublin explains how its properties arise from mixing the two materials. Reporter Marnie Chesterton tells how a 700 tonne magnet was moved 3,000 miles by road and river across the United States, inciting both conspiracy theories and adulation. Now homed at Fermilab - the US's premier particle physics lab - the magnet is about to start probing the laws of the Universe in the Muon g-2 experiment. BBC science correspondents Rebecca Morelle and Jonathan Amos pick their space and astronomy highlights for the coming year.

Listeners' Questions  

Adam Rutherford puts listeners' science questions to his team of experts: physicist Helen Czerski, cosmologist Andrew Pontzen and biology Yan Wong. Queries include gravity on sci-fi space ships, how animals would evolve on the low gravitational field of the Moon, gravitational waves, mimicry in parrots, sea level rise, the accelerating university, dinosaur intelligence, the Higgs field and concerns about oxygen levels in the atmosphere. Further questions are answered in the podcast version of the show. They cover Antarctic dinosaurs, reducing CO2 levels in the atmosphere by trapping it as limestone, and Neanderthal DNA.

Inuits and Denisovans, Sex and woodlice, Peace through particle physics, Caspar the octopus in peril?  

Can Inuit people survive the Arctic cold thanks to deep past liaisons with another species? Adam Rutherford talks to geneticist Rasmus Nielsen who says that's part of the answer. His team's research has identified a particular section of the Inuit people's genome which looks as though it originally came from a long extinct population of humans who lived in Siberia 50,000 years ago. The genes concerned are involved in physiological processes advantageous to adapting to the cold. The conclusion is that at some point, the ancestors of Inuits interbred with members of this other species of human (known as the Denisovans) before people arrived in Greenland. Also in the programme: The woodlice which are made either female or male because of a gene that once belonged a bacterium. The gene came from a dead microbe and was incorporated by chance into the woodlouse genome. This is the first known instance of the invention of an animal sex chromosome through bacterial donation. We talk to Richard Cordaux of the University of Poitiers and Nick Lane of University College London about the discovery. Peace through particle physics. Roland Pease visits SESAME in Jordan - the Middle East's first synchrotron facility is about to start operating. The experiment brings together scientists from all over the Middle East in common cause, with for example Israeli, Palestinian, Iranian, Egyptian and Turkish scientists working side by side. Marine ecologist Autun Purser tells Adam about his European team's discovery of ghostly octopods living at 4,000 metres on the dark, cold sea bed of the Pacific ocean. Autun's camera has caught extraordinary egg brooding behaviour by this new kind of octopus. It lays its eggs half way up the stalks of dead sponges and then guards them for several years until they hatch. Unfortunately, the sponges only grow on lumps of metal-rich rock called manganese nodules which form slowly on the deep sea floor. Several companies are now exploring the possibility of extracting vast quantities of these nodules in deep sea mining, threatening the existence of the sponges and the octopods depending on them.

15/12/2016  

British astrophysicists have used a space telescope to detect the weather conditions on a planet, one thousand light years away. They've pieced together their climate picture from minute changes in the light reflected from the distant planet's atmosphere. Apparently the winds there can blow at speeds of thousands of kilometres per hour and the clouds are probably made of the same stuff as rubies. Also in the programme: Researchers at the University of Bristol are using nuclear waste to make diamonds for tiny long lasting batteries. You may have ideas on uses for their invention. BBC science correspondent Jonathan Amos reports from the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco: the latest finds from the project that drilled into the dinosaur extinction impact crater - smart boulders that tracked a gigantic undersea avalanche - and tracking the unstable glaciers of West Antarctica. Would sending millions of tonnes of fine limestone dust high into the atmosphere every year deal with the problem of climate change? Would it be safe? Should we even research the questions?

Rock traces of life on Mars, Desert fireball network, Gut microbes and Parkinson's Disease, Science Museum's maths exhibition  

Could rocks studied by the Mars rover Spirit in Gusev Crater in 2007 contain the hallmarks of ancient life? Geologist Steve Ruff of Arizona State University talks about what he found in hot springs in Chile which begs that question. He says the evidence is intriguing enough for NASA to send its next and more sophisticated Mars robot back to the same spot on the Red Planet in 2020. Adam also talks to Phil Bland of Curtin University in Australia - one of the creators of the Desert Fireball Network - an array of automated cameras across Australia, built to locate where shooting stars land as meteorites and also pinpoint from where they came in the solar system. Boosting the chances of collecting these meteorites and knowing their space origins should helps us to better understand how the Earth and other planets formed 4.5 billion years ago. There's new compelling evidence that microbes in the gut play a role in the development of Parkinson's disease. Tim Sampson of Caltech in the US outlines his experiments which raise this possibility and Patrick Lewis, another Parkinson's researcher at the University of Reading, puts the new findings into a wider context. Adam takes a tour of the spectacular new mathematics gallery at the Science Museum in London. The Winton Gallery's exhibited objects and design by the celebrated architect Zaha Hadid focusses on mathematics in the real world. Adam's guide is lead curator David Rooney.

Alzheimers research, Lucy in the Scanner, Smart bandages, From supernovae to Hollywood  

Alzheimers disease is now the leading cause of death in the UK, but there are as yet no treatments to halt or reverse it. There was huge disappointment last week when the drug company Eli Lilly announced that a large, phase 3 clinical trial had failed to show any benefit to mild dementia sufferers from its antibody therapy, solenazumab. So where does this leave our basic understanding of biology of Alzheimers disease and how we might most effectively treat or cure it? Adam Rutherford talks to Alzheimers researcher Tara Spires-Jones of the University of Edinburgh. Also in the programme: The skeleton of the world's most famous fossil, Lucy, has received a body scan which revealed she spent a considerable portion of her life climbing trees. Researchers at the University of Bath are making smart bandages for burns patients which glow when their wounds become infected. Adam also talks to the astrophysicist who gave up studying exploding stars to apply his maths to Hollywood stars in the movie business.

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