Many animals can navigate by sensing the earth's magnetic field. Not humans, though. But might we have evolved the sense but forgotten how to access it? 40 years ago a British zoologist thought he had demonstrated a homing ability in humans. But his results failed to replicate in America and the research was largely discredited. But new evidence suggests that our brains can in fact detect changes in the magnetic field and may even be able to use it to navigate. Jolyon Jenkins investigates, and talks to a Pacific traditional seafarer who has learned to navigate vast distances across the ocean with no instruments, and who describes how, when all else fails, he has been able to access what he calls "the magic". Is the magic still there for all of us, just waiting to be rediscovered?
Producer: Jolyon Jenkins
Jolyon Jenkins explores Esperanto, the language designed to bring world peace and harmony.
Invented in the late 19th century, Esperanto is simple to learn, with a logical grammar, a vocabulary drawn from European languages, and no irregularities. Its creator, Ludovic Zamenhof, hoped that it would become a second language that everyone could speak, eliminating international misunderstandings. For a while, Esperanto flourished, and there was even a tiny Esperanto-speaking state in what is now Belgium, but both Stalin and Hitler saw it as subversive and tried to crush it.
Jolyon tries to learn the language and to discover what remains of those early ideals. He finds elderly Esperantists playing word games in a Cardiff pub, Brazilian spiritists who believe that Esperanto is the language in which the dead converse, and a small Esperanto-speaking enclave in Goma, in the war-torn eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (some of whom learned it under the misapprehension that Esperanto was an organisation that handed out money). Is Esperanto a blindingly obvious and sensible idea, or a ludicrously utopian one?
Presenter/producer: Jolyon Jenkins.
Digital death - what happens to your online stuff after you've gone?
Who do you want to read your old emails when you die? Are the dead entitled to privacy?
Jolyon Jenkins attends an international whistling competition in Los Angeles to meet the people who want whistling to be taken seriously as a musical art form.
The competition is organised by the "Whistling Diva", Carole Ann Kaufman, herself a former international whistling champion. "If it comes from the heart, it's art," she says. But even though there have been featured whistling instrumentalists, in the big band era for instance, whistling struggles to be thought of as more than a novelty act. Even the whistlers at the convention find it hard to persuade their own families that their talent is worth celebrating. It's even led to the break up of marriages.
Occasionally, though, a whistler does make it to the (comparative) big time. Geert Chatrou is a Belgian whistler who won an international competition in 2004. he is now semi-professional and has recorded and performed with symphony orchestras and jazz bands.
So - will a new champion emerge this year?
Presenter/producer: Jolyon Jenkins.
For centuries, people have dreamed of perpetual motion machines, and many ingenious inventors have tried to come up with devices that will keep going forever with no external input. All have failed. But in recent decades there's been a new take on the idea. A large community of people now believe that it is possible to build a machine that will create free energy. Not only will it keep going forever, but it will also be able to do useful work. They say that this does not contravene any laws of physics because the machines harvest quantum "zero point energy" from the environment.
Indeed, many believe that such machines have already been successfully invented, but that they have been suppressed by the forces of Big Oil, who do not want to see their profits hit. There are many conspiracy theories, and talk of "men in black" who put the frighteners on inventors and even - in extreme cases - apparently go as far as to kill them.
Undeterred, reporter Jolyon Jenkins buys plans for a free energy machine online. For less than £100 it's going to give him energy independence from the big power companies. But it turns out to be tricky to build. Will he get it to work, or will the men in black get to him first?
Presenter/Producer: Jolyon Jenkins.