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BBC Inside Science

Podcast BBC Inside Science
Podcast BBC Inside Science

BBC Inside Science


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  • Robotic Thumbs, Mending Bones with Magnets, and the State of Science this Summer
    Gaia Vince takes you for a mosey around his year's Summer Science Exhibition, held by London's Royal Society. Along the way, PRS Sir Adrian Smith talks of reforming A-Levels and a sorry international science collaboration situation as many european research grants are terminated amidst a Brexit withdrawal agreement stand-offs. The Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition is on until Sunday 10th July, it is free to attend and there are many activities and events online too. Presented by Gaia Vince Produced by Alex Mansfield
  • 10 Years of the Higgs Boson
    In 1964 a theoretical physicist called Peter Higgs suggested a mechanism via which elementary particles of a new theoretical scheme could obtain mass. It had been a thorny mathematical stinker in the framework that today we now call the standard model of particle physics. Ten years ago this July, the particle this mechanism predicted, the Higgs Boson, was confirmed to exist in experiments conducted at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. Prof Frank Close, whose new book - Elusive - is published this week, is a friend of Peter's. The book describes the background to Higg's idea, and how a generation of physicists worked to test it and identify it. He and Prof Malcolm Fairbairn of King's College London discuss the significance at the time, what we we've learned since, and what we might in the future. As covid cases are on the rise again in the UK, Prof Jonathan Ball gives Marnie his observations on the current variants. Prof Trevor Cox, acoustician at Salford University describes his part in a collaboration to design a new type of DIY facemask that still allows people to see your lips moving as you speak, whilst also muffling your words far less. It was developed with collaborators at University of Manchester, and also by Salford's Maker Space, and you can download plans and a video and have a go yourself at the link from our programme page. An article in Nature food recently suggested that our estimates of food miles, the carbon footprints we assign to the foods we eat, may have been underestimated and could be 3.5 times what was previously thought. But does that change the choices we make in what we buy? Presented by Marnie Chesterton Produced by Alex Mansfield
  • Engineering Around Mercury, Science Festivals, and The Rise of The Mammals
    How hard is it to get to Mercury and why are we going? Also, do science festivals work? And why did mammals survive when dinosaurs died? Marnie Chesterton and guests dissect. As this programme went out, scientists and engineers eagerly wait for new images of the planet Mercury to arrive, snapped from a speeding probe passing just 200km from the surface, as it desperately tries to shed some velocity on its seven-year braking journey. ESA/JAXA's BepiColombo mission to Mercury is using gravitational swing-shots (just four more to go) to lose enough energy to eventually, in Dec 2025, enter orbit around the planet closest to our sun. Dr Suzie Imber of Leicester University has skin in the game, being co-investigator on one of the instruments that will eventually be able to teach us more than we've ever known about this bizarre world. Suzie is also last year's winner of the Royal Society's Rosalind Franklyn Award, and works hard doing science outreach talks and events to help inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers. Thurs 23rd June is International Women in Engineering Day, celebrating remarkable engineering as a career option. Report Emily Bird goes along to the Great Exhibition Road Festival to see how science festivals such as this one can help raise the profile of engineering and scientific endeavours in the society of tomorrow. One thing most kids like is Space. The other is dinosaurs. But what about long-dead Mammals? Prof Steve Brusatte of Edinburgh university is a palaeontologist and author whose last book on dinosaurs even led to him being consulted for the latest film in the Jurassic Park franchise. Why then does his new book focus on furrier beings in The Rise and Reign of The Mammals? He tells Marnie of the exciting millions of years of evolution that led to us, after the dinosaurs croaked their last,. Presented by Marnie Chesterton Reporting by Emily Bird Produced by Alex Mansfield
  • Inside Sentience
    Marnie Chesterton and guests mull over the saga of an AI engineer who believes his chatbot is sentient. Also, climate scientists propose a major leap in earth system modelling, that might cost £250m a year but would bring our predictive power from 100 km to 1km. And the story of a Malaysian Breadfruit species that turns out to be two separate strains - something locals knew all along, but that science had missed. Philp Ball's latest book, The Book of Minds, explores the work still to be done on our conception of what thinking is, and what it might mean in non-human contexts. Beth Singler is a digital ethnographer - an anthropologist who studies societal reaction to technological advancement. They discuss the story this week that a google AI engineer has been suspended on paid leave from his work with an experimental algorithm called LaMDA. He rather startlingly announced his belief that it had attained sentience, publishing some excerpts from interactions he has experienced with it. Prof Dame Julia Slingo this week has published a proposal in Nature Climate Change, co-authored with several of the world's greatest climate scientists, for a multinational investment in the next generation of climate models. Currently, models of the global climate have a resolution of something like 100km, a scale which, they suggest, misses some very fundamental physics of the way rain, clouds and storms can form. Zooming into 1km resolution, and including the smaller physical systems will allow scientist to better predict extreme events, and crucially how water interacts in a real way with rising temperatures in different climes. And can zooming in on taxonomy reveal insights in conservation and biodiversity? Researchers in the US and Malaysia have described a species of breadfruit that has hitherto been considered one species by mainstream science. Locals have long described them as different species, and the genetics proves that view correct. Can more local, granular knowledge help us get a better handle on the conservation status of our planet's biodiversity? Emily Bird Reports. Presenter Marnie Chesterton Reporter Emily Bird Producer Alex Mansfield
  • Miscounting Carbon, EU Funding Stalemate, and How to Make a Royal Hologram
    This week on inside science Marnie Chesterton is looking at how companies measure and account for their use of renewable energy, how politics is impacting science funding in the UK and the technology behind the Queen’s holographic stand in at jubilee celebrations. Dr Anders Bjorn from Concordia university in Montreal talks us through ‘Renewable Energy Certificates’ explaining how they can sometimes be disconnected from real-life reductions in emissions. As he explains in a paper in Nature Climate Change this week, this is a problem, with businesses buying renewable energy certificates that may, even with the best of intentions, mean that corporate estimates of how much they have transferred to renewable energy could be out by as much as two-thirds. For example, in Poland, where much of the grid is powered by fossil fuels, a company can buy RECs from energy producers in Norway, where so much of the grid is de-carbonised and users feel no need to purchase such a certificate. As negotiations on the New Greenhouse Gas Protocol get underway, and delegates in Bonn discuss COP 26 progress, yet more food for thought. In the UK, some long term collaborations and research structures are under threat as the ratification of UK membership of Horizon Europe continues to be delayed. This has led to some researchers running out of funds, some having to relinquish membership, and others moving to different institutions in Member Countries. Professor Nicky Clayton at the university of Cambridge has for many years run a “Corvid Palace” where she keeps very clever birds and examines their thinking. It is threatened with closure, and she is searching for funding to keep the research going, even setting up an open letter from academics around the world in support of this globally renowned facility. Carsten Welsh, a physicist at Liverpool University has also been impacted, facing a difficult decision about whether to give up leadership of his newly funded project or leave the country to pursue it. EU Horizon is one of the most ambitious and well-funded research and international collaboration schemes in science and with every EU nation signed up and countries like Canada and Japan keen to join too, it's no wonder the UK wants to take part. Martin Smith, head of policy lab at the Wellcome Trust explains what’s getting in our way and what might happen next for British scientists who rely on Horizon to fund their research. And finally, celebrations last weekend for the celebration of Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee were seemingly led by a holographic queen riding in the Golden State Coach at the head of the pageant in London. At least, that was how it was reported. But was it really? BBC Inside Science managed to track down the leader of the team that made it – whatever it was – happen, and in a generous world exclusive, Willie Williams, head of Treatment Studio, kindly spills the magic beans on quite how you make a Royal Hologram. Presenter: Marnie Chesterton Assistant Producer: Emily Bird Producer: Alex Mansfield

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