269 episodes

Scientific principles, theory, and the role of key figures in the advancement of science.

In Our Time: Science BBC Radio 4

    • History
    • 5.0 • 4 Ratings

Scientific principles, theory, and the role of key figures in the advancement of science.

    Homo erectus

    Homo erectus

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss one of our ancestors, Homo erectus, who thrived on Earth for around two million years whereas we, Homo sapiens, emerged only in the last three hundred thousand years. Homo erectus, or Upright Man, spread from Africa to Asia and it was on the Island of Java that fossilised remains were found in 1891 in an expedition led by Dutch scientist Eugène Dubois. Homo erectus people adapted to different habitats, ate varied food, lived in groups, had stamina to outrun their prey; and discoveries have prompted many theories on the relationship between their diet and the size of their brains, on their ability as seafarers, on their creativity and on their ability to speak and otherwise communicate.

    The image above is from a diorama at the Moesgaard Museum in Denmark, depicting the Turkana Boy referred to in the programme.

    With

    Peter Kjærgaard
    Director of the Natural History Museum of Denmark and Professor of Evolutionary History at the University of Copenhagen

    José Joordens
    Senior Researcher in Human Evolution at Naturalis Biodiversity Centre and Professor of Human Evolution at Maastricht University

    And

    Mark Maslin
    Professor of Earth System Science at University College London

    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    • 51 min
    Seismology

    Seismology

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the study of earthquakes. A massive earthquake in 1755 devastated Lisbon, and this disaster helped inspire a new science of seismology which intensified after San Francisco in 1906 and advanced even further with the need to monitor nuclear tests around the world from 1945 onwards. While we now know so much more about what lies beneath the surface of the Earth, and how rocks move and crack, it remains impossible to predict when earthquakes will happen. Thanks to seismology, though, we have a clearer idea of where earthquakes will happen and how to make some of them less hazardous to lives and homes.

    With

    Rebecca Bell
    Senior lecturer in Geology and Geophysics at Imperial College London

    Zoe Mildon
    Lecturer in Earth Sciences and Future Leaders Fellow at the University of Plymouth

    And

    James Hammond
    Reader in Geophysics at Birkbeck, University of London

    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    • 49 min
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    In Our Time is now first on BBC Sounds

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    • 1 min
    William and Caroline Herschel

    William and Caroline Herschel

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss William Herschel (1738 – 1822) and his sister Caroline Herschel (1750 – 1848) who were born in Hanover and made their reputation in Britain. William was one of the most eminent astronomers in British history. Although he started life as a musician, as a young man he became interested in studying the night sky. With an extraordinary talent, he constructed telescopes that were able to see further and more clearly than any others at the time. He is most celebrated today for discovering the planet Uranus and detecting what came to be known as infrared radiation. Caroline also became a distinguished astronomer, discovering several comets and collaborating with her brother.

    With

    Monica Grady
    Professor of Planetary and Space Sciences at the Open University

    Carolin Crawford
    Institute of Astronomy, Cambridge and an Emeritus Fellow of Emmanuel College, University of Cambridge

    And

    Jim Bennett
    Keeper Emeritus at the Science Museum in London.

    Studio producer: John Goudie

    • 50 min
    Corals

    Corals

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the simple animals which informed Charles Darwin's first book, The Structure and Distribution of Coral Reefs, published in 1842. From corals, Darwin concluded that the Earth changed very slowly and was not fashioned by God. Now coral reefs, which some liken to undersea rainforests, are threatened by human activity, including fishing, pollution and climate change.

    With

    Steve Jones
    Senior Research Fellow in Genetics at University College London

    Nicola Foster
    Lecturer in Marine Biology at the University of Plymouth

    And

    Gareth Williams
    Associate Professor in Marine Biology at Bangor University School of Ocean Sciences

    Producer Simon Tilllotson.

    • 51 min
    The Manhattan Project

    The Manhattan Project

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the race to build an atom bomb in the USA during World War Two. Before the war, scientists in Germany had discovered the potential of nuclear fission and scientists in Britain soon argued that this could be used to make an atom bomb, against which there could be no defence other than to own one. The fear among the Allies was that, with its head start, Germany might develop the bomb first and, unmatched, use it on its enemies. The USA took up the challenge in a huge engineering project led by General Groves and Robert Oppenheimer and, once the first bomb had been exploded at Los Alamos in July 1945, it appeared inevitable that the next ones would be used against Japan with devastating results.

    The image above is of Robert Oppenheimer and General Groves examining the remains of one the bases of the steel test tower, at the atomic bomb Trinity Test site, in September 1945.

    With

    Bruce Cameron Reed
    The Charles A. Dana Professor of Physics Emeritus at Alma College, Michigan

    Cynthia Kelly
    Founder and President of the Atomic Heritage Foundation

    And

    Frank Close
    Emeritus Professor of Theoretical Physics at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of Exeter College, Oxford

    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    • 48 min

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