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The Curious Cases of Rutherford & Fry

The Curious Cases of Rutherford & Fry

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

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Jurassic Squawk

"Is there is any way of knowing what noises, if any, dinosaurs would have made?" asks Freddie Quinn, aged 8 from Cambridge in New Zealand. From Jurassic Park to Walking with Dinosaurs, the roars of gigantic dinosaurs like T.Rex are designed to evoke fear and terror. But did dinosaurs actually roar? And how do paleontologists investigate what noises these extinct animals may have produced? Hannah and Adam talk to dinosaur experts Steve Brusatte and Julia Clarke to find out. Plus Jurassic World sound designer Al Nelson reveals the strange sounds they used as dinosaur noises in their Hollywood blockbusters. Send your questions for next series in to curiouscases@bbc.co.uk. Presenters: Hannah Fry, Adam Rutherford Producer: Michelle Martin
2019-05-03
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The Lunar Land Pt2

In the second installment of our double episode on the Moon we ask what life would be like if we had more than one Moon. From the tides to the seasons, the Moon shapes our world in ways that often go unnoticed. And, as we'll find out, it played a vital role in the creation of life itself. This week we celebrate the many ways the Moon and the Earth are linked. If one Moon is so great, why not have two? We discover why multiple moons could spell disaster for our planet, from giant volcanoes to cataclysmic collisions. Featuring astronomer Brendan Owens from the Royal Observatory Greenwich and physicist Neil Comins, author of 'What if the Earth had two Moons?'. Presenters: Adam Rutherford, Hannah Fry Producer: Michelle Martin
2019-04-26
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The Lunar Land Pt 1

A double episode to mark the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11, and the first humans to walk on the Moon. Harley Day emailed curiouscases@bbc.co.uk to ask ?Why do we only have one Moon and what would life on Earth be like if we had more? I'll be over the moon if you can help me solve this mystery.? In this first episode, Hannah and Adam look at how the Moon was formed and why we only have one. Featuring Maggie Aderin-Pocock space scientist and author of 'The Book of the Moon' and cosmic mineralogist Sara Russell from the Natural History Museum. Presenters: Adam Rutherford, Hannah Fry Producer: Michelle Martin
2019-04-19
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An Instrumental Case

?We play many musical instruments in our family. Lots of them produce the same pitch of notes, but the instruments all sound different. Why is this?? asks Natasha Cook aged 11, and her Dad Jeremy from Guelph in Ontario, Canada. For this instrumental case Hannah and Adam are joined by the Curious Cases band - Matt Chandler and Wayne Urquhart - to play with today's question. Bringing the science we have acoustic engineer and saxophone player Trevor Cox. Plus materials expert Zoe Laughlin demonstrates a selection of her unusual musical creations, including a lead bugle. Presenters: Adam Rutherford, Hannah Fry Producer: Michelle Martin
2019-04-12
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The Periodic Problem

"Will the periodic table ever be complete?" asks Philip Craven on Twitter. In 2016 four new chemical elements were given the official stamp of approval - nihonium, moscovium, tennessine, and oganesson. And 2019 was named by the UN as the International Year of the Periodic Table. In this episode, Hannah and Adam dive into the test tubes of history to hear why the first element was discovered in boiled urine, why chips don't explode and how a cancelled trip to a cheese factory resulted in the creation of the periodic table. We'll hear from Dawn Shaughnessy from Lawrence Livermore National Lab, part of the team that discovered the latest 'superheavy' elements. Science writer Philip Ball shows Adam around Humphry Davy's lab equipment at the Royal Institution of Great Britain and Jim Al-Khalili explains why scientists are eager to reach the Island of Stability. Presenters: Adam Rutherford, Hannah Fry Producer: Michelle Martin
2019-04-05
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The Mesmerist

?Is hypnosis real, and if so how does it work? Does it have any practical uses and which of Hannah and Adam is most susceptible?? This question came from two Curios, Peter Jordan aged 24 from Manchester and Arran Kinnear aged 13 from Bristol. Arch sceptics Hannah and Adam visit stage hypnotist Ben Dali to find out if they are susceptible to the power of suggestion. One of them will be successfully hypnotised, but who will it be? Along the way we hear about the history of hypnosis from Wendy Moore author of 'The Mesmerist'. Plus psychologist Devin Terhune explains what we know about the science of hypnosis today. Presenters: Hannah Fry, Adam Rutherford Producer: Michelle Martin
2019-03-29
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Coming Soon ? More Curious Cases

Hannah and Adam return to crack open the Curious Cases they?ll be examining during the coming series, from the sound of musical instruments to the science of hypnosis. Please send your questions for future episodes and entries for Curio of the Week to: curiouscases@bbc.co.uk. Presenters: Hannah Fry, Adam Rutherford Producer: Michelle Martin
2019-03-22
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The Horrible Hangover

"My name is Ava and I've never had a hangover," writes Ava Karuso. "I'm a 25 year-old Australian and I enjoy going out for drinks. However, the next day when everyone else sleeps in and licks their wounds, I get up early and get right back to my normal routine.? Drs Rutherford and Fry investigate the ancient origins of alcohol, from Sumerians drinking beer through straws, to Aristotle's teachings ?On Intoxication?. But what can modern science tell us about how alcohol affects our brains? What causes the morning-after hangover and do some drinks make you feel worse than others? Are there any hangover cures that have been scientifically validated? Featuring health psychologist and hangover researcher Sally Adams, chemist Andrea Sella and science writer Adam Rogers, author of 'Proof: The Science of Booze'. Presenters: Hannah Fry, Adam Rutherford Producer: Michelle Martin
2018-12-21
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The Good Bad Food

?Why does bad food taste so good?? asks Alan Fouracre from Tauranga, New Zealand. "And by ?bad? food, I mean the things we are told to hold back on like sausage, chips and chocolate." From sugar to salt and fat, we investigate why our body derives pleasure from the very foods we're often told to avoid. Adam discovers why retronasal smelling makes bacon taste delicious on a trip to the BBC canteen with materials scientist, Mark Miodownik. Hannah consults food scientist Linda Bartoshuk on her fizzy pop habit. Plus The Angry Chef, Anthony Warner, discusses the dangers of labeling certain foods as 'bad'. Presenters: Hannah Fry, Adam Rutherford Producer: Michelle Martin
2018-12-14
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Two Infinities and Beyond Part 2

This is the second part of our eternal quest to investigate infinity, inspired by this question from father and son duo Sorley and Tom Watson from Edinburgh: ?Is anything in the Universe truly infinite, or is infinity something that only exists in mathematics?? Hannah and Adam try and find something that is truly infinite, from the infinitely small particles that live in the subatomic world to the infinitely dense heart of a black hole. But how about the Universe itself? We find out how physicists go about measuring the shape of the Universe, with the help of an orange and a game of Asteroids. Plus, we consider the possibility that the Universe might be finite and have an edge. If so, what's on the other side? Theoretical physicist Sean Carroll from Caltech and cosmologist Andrew Pontzen from University College London help us navigate our biggest question yet. Presenters: Hannah Fry, Adam Rutherford Producer: Michelle Martin
2018-12-07
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Two Infinities and Beyond Part 1

?Is anything in the Universe truly infinite, or is infinity something that only exists in mathematics?? This momentous question came from father and son duo from Edinburgh Sorley aged 10 and Tom, aged adult. It's a subject so big, that we've devoted two episodes to our never-ending quest to investigate infinity. The first installment is a story of mathematics, music and murder. We'll find out why the ancient Pythagoreans decided that infinity was evil, and why some infinities are bigger than others. Featuring the marvellous mathematical minds of Steven Strogatz from the Cornell University and Eugenia Cheng, author of 'Beyond Infinity'. Presenters: Adam Rutherford, Hannah Fry Presenter: Michelle Martin
2018-11-30
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The Stressful Scone

"How do accents start and where did they come from?? asks Sachin Bahal from Toronto in Canada. Hannah is schooled in speaking Geordie by top accent coach Marina Tyndall. And Adam talks to author and acoustics expert Trevor Cox about how accents evolved and why they persist. We meet Debie who has Foreign Accent Syndrome - an extremely rare condition in which your accent can change overnight. After a severe bout of flu, which got progressively worse, Debie's Brummie accent suddenly transformed into something distinctively more European. If you have any more Curious Cases for the team to solve, please send them in for consideration: curiouscases@bbc.co.uk Presenters: Adam Rutherford, Hannah Fry Producer: Michelle Martin
2018-11-23
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The Viking Code

"Is it true all British people can trace their ancestry to Vikings and how do ancestry DNA tests work?" asks Chloe Mann from Worthing. Genetic ancestry tests promise to reveal your ancestral origins and map your global heritage, but do they? Rutherford and Fry are here to bust some myths. Adam takes a trip through Norse history with Viking historian Janina Ramirez, whilst flying over the Medieval town of Ludwig. Meanwhile Hannah discovers how DNA ancestry tests work with evolutionary geneticist Mark Thomas, including why most of us can rightly reclaim our royal lineage. If you have any more Curious Cases for the team to solve, please send them in for consideration: curiouscases@bbc.co.uk Presenters: Adam Rutherford, Hannah Fry Producer: Michelle Martin
2018-11-16
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A World of Pain

"Why do people experience pain differently when they go through the same event?" asks Claire Jenkins from Cwmbran in Wales. Professor of Pain Research, Irene Tracey, welcomes Adam in to the room she calls her 'Torture Chamber'. Burning, electrocuting, lasering and piercing are all on the menu, but which will hurt the most? Hannah speaks to Steve Pete from Washington who has a rare genetic condition which means he doesn't feel pain. For chronic sufferers, this sounds like heaven, but a life without pain has brought untold suffering to him and his family, including the tragic story of his brother, Chris. We look at how the body creates pain, why some people feel it more than others, and how this knowledge could help scientists treat pain more effectively in the future. Presenters: Adam Rutherford, Hannah Fry Producer: Michelle Martin.
2018-09-07
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The Random Request

Two random questions in this episode. "Is anything truly random, or is everything predetermined?" asks Darren Spalding from Market Harborough. Hannah and Adam go in search of random events, from dice throws to lava lamps. Can we predict the outcome of any event? And "how do computers manage to pick random numbers?", asks Jim Rennie from Mackinaw in Illinois. Joining them are a random selection of experts: mathematician Colva Roney-Dougal, technology journalist Bill Thompson, Science Museum Curator Tilly Blyth and quantum physicist Jim AlKhalili. Presenters: Adam Rutherford, Hannah Fry Producer: Michelle Martin.
2018-08-31
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The Running Joke

"How fast can a human run and would we be faster as quadrapeds?" This question flew in via Twitter from historian Greg Jenner. Is there a limit to human sprinting performance? In this episode we investigate the biomechanics of running, statistical trends in human performance and which kind of monkey runs the fastest. But first, an experiment. Due to some spurious and possibly fictional injuries, neither Hannah nor Adam are fit enough to take part in a sprint trial at the University of Bath. So long-suffering Producer Michelle steps up to the challenge and into the starting blocks. Not known for her love of athletics, or exercise of any sort, how will she fair in the ultimate speed test? Biomechanist Peter Weyand from Texas discusses the role of different muscle types in speed versus endurance. Sports scientist Polly McGuigan reveals why Usain Lightning Bolt is still the fastest man in the world. And Prof of Sports Engineering Steve Haake reveals how fast a man can run like a monkey. Presenters: Hannah Fry, Adam Rutherford Producer: Michelle Martin.
2018-08-24
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The Alien Enterprise Part 2

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 in 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.
2018-08-17
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The Alien Enterprise Part 1

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.
2018-08-10
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The Dawn Chorus

"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.
2018-06-01
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The Lucky Number

"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.
2018-05-25
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The Déjà Vu

"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.
2018-05-18
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The Human Instrument

"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.
2018-05-11
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The Fifth Dimension

"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.
2018-05-04
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The Cosmic Egg

"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.
2018-03-02
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The Atomic Blade

"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.
2018-02-28
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The Tiniest Dinosaur

"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.
2018-02-23
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The Enigma of Sex, Part 2

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.
2018-02-16
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The Enigma of Sex, Part 1

"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.
2018-02-09
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Goldfinger's Moon Laser

"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.
2018-01-12
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The Curious Face Off

"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.
2018-01-05
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The Cosmic Speed Limit

"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.
2017-12-29
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The Dreadful Vegetable

"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.
2017-12-22
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The Baffled Bat

"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.
2017-12-15
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Adventures in Dreamland

"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.
2017-09-29
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The Shocking Surprise

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.
2017-09-22
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The Sticky Song

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.
2017-09-15
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The Polar Opposite

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.
2017-09-08
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The Curious Cake-Off

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.
2017-09-01
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Kate Bush's Sonic Weapon

"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.
2017-06-16
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Itchy and Scratchy

"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.
2017-06-15
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The Burning Question

"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.
2017-06-14
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The Dark Star

"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.
2017-06-02
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The Cat Who Came Back

"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.
2017-05-19
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A Code in Blood

"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.
2017-03-15
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The Forgetful Child

"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.
2017-03-10
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The Astronomical Balloon

"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.
2017-03-10
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The World That Turns

"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.
2017-03-10
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The Broken Stool

"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.
2017-03-10
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The Lost Producer

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.
2016-12-02
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The Bad Moon Rising

'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.
2016-12-02
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En liten tjänst av I'm With Friends. Finns även på engelska.
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