122 episodes

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

The Curious Cases of Rutherford & Fry BBC Podcasts

    • Science
    • 4.9 • 163 Ratings

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

Listen on Apple Podcasts
Requires subscription and macOS 11.4 or higher

    The Colour Conundrum

    The Colour Conundrum

    The world is full of colour! But, wonders listener Maya Crocombe, ‘how do we see colour and why are some people colour blind?’

    Dr Rutherford and Professor Fry set out to understand how special light-sensitive cells in our eyes start the process of colour perception, why people sometimes have very different experiences of colour and whether, in the end, colour is really just ‘in our heads’.

    Dr Gabriele Jordan from Newcastle University explains why lots of men struggle to discriminate between certain colours and why there were lots of complaints from colour-blind viewers when Wales played Ireland at rugby.

    Professor Anya Hurlbert, also from Newcastle University, tackles the most divisive of internet images: The Dress! Did you see it as blue-black or yellow-gold? Anya explains why people see it so differently, and why our ability to compensate for available light is so useful.

    Finally, Dr Mazviita Chirimuuta, a philosopher at the University of Edinburgh, gives us her take on what all this means: are colours real, or just in our minds?

    If you want to see some of the images and activities referenced in the episode read on...
    To take the colour perception test which Hannah and Adam do in the epsiode, search for the 'Farnsworth Munsell Hue test' - you can do it online for free.
    To see the Dunstanborough Castle illusion as described in the episode, check out the Gallery section on the Curious Cases BBC website.
    To learn more about colour blindness, and for support and resources go to colourblindawareness.org

    Producer: Ilan Goodman

    • 35 min
    The Turn of the Tide

    The Turn of the Tide

    Mathematician Hannah Fry and geneticist Adam Rutherford investigate your everyday science queries. Today, they get stuck into two questions about tides. Lynn Godson wants to know why isn’t high tide at the same time at all points around the coast? Whilst Tim Mosedale asks, could we ever harness tidal power commercially?
    Did you think tides are caused by the pull of the Moon? And that they come in and out twice a day? Well, yes, that’s true but it turns out there’s so much more to it than that, especially here in the UK, which has the second largest tidal range in the world at the Seven Estuary near Bristol, coming in at an average of 15 metres (50ft in old money). But why should high and low tide times be so different even in places that are relatively close to each other?

    The answer partly lies in something called bathymetry (which has more to do with baths than you might think – well basins at any rate). As for harnessing sea power, there are some ambitious projects currently in development and predictions that wave and tidal could make up as much as 15 percent of the UK’s energy needs in future. But how realistic is this and how do you ensure that your power generators can survive the rigours of the ocean – storms, saltwater and all those pesky barnacles?

    To help answer these queries, Hannah and Adam are joined by Physicist and Oceanographer, Helen Czerski and Professor Deborah Greaves OBE, who heads up the COAST lab at the University of Plymouth which studies marine renewable energy technologies.

    Producers: Rami Tzabar and Jen Whyntie

    • 34 min
    The Shocking White Hair

    The Shocking White Hair

    Why does human hair go grey and is it ever possible for it to go white overnight from shock? Hannah and Adam explore why hair goes grey, how much stressful life events and a lack of sleep can speed up the process. They hear from the pilot whose hair turned white after a flight where all 4 of his engines failed after flying through a volcanic ash cloud - was the shock responsible? They also uncover new research which has shown it's possible for greying hair to return to its natural colour and ask if this finding could be exploited to uncover a cosmetic way to reverse hair greying?

    • 34 min
    Surprising Symmetries

    Surprising Symmetries

    Two eyes, two arms, two legs - we’re roughly symmetrical on the outside, but inside we’re all over the place! We just have one heart, which is usually on the left, one liver on the right, one spleen and one appendix….‘Why is that?’ wonders listener Joanne.

    Our science sleuths discover that being symmetrical down the middle - at least on the outside - is by far the most common body plan across the animal kingdom. Professor Sebastian Shimeld from the University of Oxford takes us on a journey into the deep evolutionary past, to uncover how two-sided body structures first emerged in ancient worm-like creatures, and why this layout eventually proved so useful for swimming, walking and flying.

    Garden snails turn out to be a surprising exception – their shells coil in one direction and on just one side of their body. Professor Angus Davison from the University of Nottingham tells the tale of his international quest to find a romantic partner for Jeremy – a rare left-coiling snail who could only mate with another left-coiling snail!

    Dr Daniel Grimes from the University of Oregon unfolds the delicate mechanisms by which an initally symmetrical embryo starts to develop differently down one side, and everyone puzzles over the mystery of the left-handed 'mirror molecules' - so called L-amino acids - which turn out to be the building blocks of every living organism. A curious case indeed!

    Presenters: Hannah Fry and Adam Rutherford
    Producer: Ilan Goodman

    • 33 min
    The Weird Waves of Wi-Fi

    The Weird Waves of Wi-Fi

    We use Wi-Fi every day, but do you know how it works? “Is it waves and science or just some mystical magical force?” wonders listener Abby.

    Well, our science sleuths are on the case. To help them navigate the strange realm of electromagnetic waves they are joined by Andrew Nix, Professor of Wireless Communication Systems from the University of Bristol. He explains why your wi-fi router won’t heat up your baked beans, but your microwave will.

    Andrea Goldsmith, Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Princeton University, also joins to reveal how these waves are crammed full of 0s and 1s- whether that's a pic of your pets or a video chat with pals.

    And finally, how do you get the best Wi-Fi at home? Dr Rutherford, it turns out, has made some rookie errors... Listen out for our top tips so you don't make them too!

    Presenters: Hannah Fry and Adam Rutherford
    Producer: Ilan Goodman

    • 34 min
    The Mystery of the Teenage Brain

    The Mystery of the Teenage Brain

    ‘Why are teens prone to risky behaviour?’ asks Dr Mark Gallaway, ‘especially when with their friends?’ 13 year old Emma wonders why she’s chatty at school but antisocial when she gets home. And exasperated mum Michelle wants to know why her teens struggle to get out of bed in the morning.

    Swirling hormones and growing bodies have a lot to answer for but, as Professor of Psychology from the University of Cambridge Sarah-Jayne Blakemore explains, there’s also a profound transformation going on in the brain.

    Hannah and Adam discover how the adolescent brain is maturing and rewiring at the cellular level and why evolution might have primed teens to prefer their peers over their parents. Frances Jensen, Professor of Neurology at the University of Pennsylvania, tells us how all these brain changes can impact social relationships. And Dr Rachel Sharman, a sleep researcher from the University of Oxford, reports the surprising findings from her sleep study tracking 100 teenagers around the UK.

    Producer: Ilan Goodman

    • 33 min

Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5
163 Ratings

163 Ratings

booksaboutparrots ,

RIDICULOUSLY AWESOME

If u can, please make the pod-chat longer! The fun anecdotes are almost my favourite part :)
Favourite podcast. You learn so much and the hosts are THE BEST. This podcast helps you see how ridiculous and hilarious and awesome science is. Required listening. You are both wonderful + hilarious+ inspiring + hilarious+ awesome +hilarious:):)

Tangled garden ,

Glowing review

So glad you are both well and back in my podcatcher

Ellejazzy ,

What a pleasure…

…to learn so much with so much humour!
I am a total fan of this detective duo who take a case submitted by us each week! I can’t help but laughing at their fantastic sense of humour, and chemistry while they are competing to get us the best and complete information on the week’s subject. My favourite podcast by far!

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