The Anthill

The Anthill


Unearthing stories from the world of academia.


Anthill 3: Rooting for the underdog  
Who will you back?

Everybody loves a tale of an underdog succeeding against the odds. From Hollywood to the world of sport, we love to see the little guys come out on top. Having witnessed some remarkable sporting successes in 2016, we decided to dedicate our third podcast to underdogs.

This episode’s mix of stories starts with a look at the historic progress made by Iceland and Wales in the Euro 2016 football tournament, as well as Leicester City’s unexpected premier league win. Sociologist John Williams joins us from Leicester to discuss the significance.

We also speak with Victoria Anderson, an expert in folklore and fairy tales, about the history and cultural origins of the underdog idea. From Greek mythology to Cinderella, what are the roots of the underdog tale?

Back in the real world (or above it) we take a look at the underdogs in the space race. It’s rare to consider China or India as minnows, but when it comes to space exploration they are the new kids on the block, with budgets that pale in comparison to NASA’s or even Russia’s. Space scientist Monica Grady and expert in space policy Jill Stuart talk us through how the newcomers are trying to disrupt the status quo.

And we hear the David and Goliath story of public health versus the tobacco industry. It may surprise you to hear that it took decades for the idea that smoking causes cancer to be accepted among doctors and the general public. Karen Evans-Reeves and Brendan Clarke help us understand why scientific evidence sometimes struggles against other powers.

To cap things off, conservationist Rob Young tells us about his favourite underdog animal – the northern muriqui monkey – and its unconventional way of surviving the Brazilian jungle.

The Anthill theme music is by Alex Grey for Melody Loops. Background music during the fairytale segment by Kevin MacLeod via Incompetech. “The Blue Danube” by Johann Strauss comes from Musopen. Brazilian music by zagi2 via

A big thanks to City University London’s Department of Journalism for letting us use their studios.

This is the third episode of The Anthill. Click here to listen to our previous episodes About time and Brexit.

Anthill 2: Brexit special

On June 23 the British public will decide whether or not to remain a member of the European Union. The result will have lasting ramifications not just for the UK, but the rest of Europe and the world too.

In this special episode of The Anthill, the podcast from The Conversation UK, we speak to academics who are closely following the Brexit debate to help cut through the spin of the campaign.

For those of you wondering why we’re having this referendum in the first place, we ask researcher in British political rhetoric, Andrew Scott Crines, to give us a quick reminder.

Laura Hood, our politics and society editor, chairs a panel discussion with polling maestro Paul Whiteley and economists Ian Preston and Swati Dhingra on three issues at the heart of the campaign: economics, immigration and identity.

There is also an impassioned plea from international relations expert Bill Durodié on why he will be voting for the UK to leave the EU. And to wrap things up, we ask political scientist Anand Menon to explain the mechanics of what would actually happen on June 24, the day after the referendum, if the UK voted to leave the EU.

The Anthill theme music is by Alex Grey for Melody Loops. A big thanks to City University London’s Department of Journalism and to Dave Goodfellow.

Anthill 1: About time  

Tick tock.

Welcome to The Anthill, The Conversation UK’s inaugural podcast. About time you might think, and so do we. So for our first episode we’ve taken that to heart and talked to a group of academics on the theme of time.

In a brief history of telling time, we ask physicist Kenneth Grattan about how humans perfected the measurement of time, from sundials to atomic clocks. Historian Richard Evans explains how time zones were created, and computer scientist Markus Kuhn tells us why the world would be in a spin without leap seconds.

To answer the age-old question of why exactly “time flies when we’re having fun”, Marc Buehner, a cognitive psychologist, explains why we perceive time the way we do. (Spoiler: he also reveals why it is we can’t tickle ourselves.)

Then theoretical physicist Marika Taylor answers the question: “Will time travel ever be possible?”

And, to take a slightly different angle on the theme of time, we hear from David Herd about the experiences of asylum seekers who live in a world of limbo.

We hope you enjoy listening.

This episode of The Anthill was produced by Gemma Ware and Annabel Bligh, with interview help from Josephine Lethbridge and Michael Parker. Editing help from Emily Brown and Ally Kingston.

The Anthill theme music is by Alex Grey for Melody Loops. Sound effects and background music by CorsicaS, eliasheuninck, bone666138 and digifishmusic via

A big thanks to City University London’s Department of Journalism and to Dave Goodfellow.

Introducing a new podcast from The Conversation UK  

Welcome to The Anthill, The Conversation UK’s brand new podcast. In the spirit of The Conversation, The Anthill seeks to unearth some of the best and brightest research from the world of academia. After three years publishing expert research, we’re thrilled to be bringing our own brand of smart journalism to a new audio format.

Each episode will collect stories and commentary on a given theme. Our first, About time, explores a wide range of perspectives on time – from the possibility of time travel, to the harsh reality of “doing time” as an asylum seeker trapped in limbo. Listen to our first episode here.

Thoughts? Questions? Suggestions? Drop us a comment and let us know what you think of The Anthill’s first episode.

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