197 episodes

We take your questions about life, Earth and the universe to researchers hunting for answers at the frontiers of knowledge.

CrowdScience BBC

    • Technology
    • 4.8, 405 Ratings

We take your questions about life, Earth and the universe to researchers hunting for answers at the frontiers of knowledge.

    Why do conspiracy theories exist?

    Why do conspiracy theories exist?

    Listener Avalon from Australia wants to know why people use conspiracy theories to explain shocking events. Are we more likely to believe conspiracy theories in times of adversity? What purpose do conspiracy theories serve in society?

    Marnie Chesterton speaks to the scientists to explain their popularity, even in the face of seemingly irrefutable evidence.
    Presented by Marnie Chesterton. Produced by Caroline Steel for the BBC World Service.

    Image: All-seeing eye of God inside triangle pyramid. Credit: paseven, Getty Images

    • 39 min
    Are some soaps better than others?

    Are some soaps better than others?

    These days we’re more acquainted with soap than ever before, as we lather up to help stop the spread of coronavirus. And for CrowdScience listener Sharon, this set off a steady stream of soapy questions: how does soap actually work? How was it discovered in the first place, long before anyone knew anything about germs? Are different things used for washing around the world, and are some soaps better than others?
    We set up a CrowdScience home laboratory to explore the soap making process with advice from science-based beauty blogger Dr Michelle Wong, and find out what it is about soap’s chemistry that gives it its germ-fighting superpowers. Soap has been around for at least 4000 years; we compare ancient soap making to modern methods, and hear about some of the soap alternatives used around the world, like the soap berries of India.

    And as for the question of whether some soaps are better than others? We discover why antibacterial soaps aren’t necessarily a good idea, and why putting a toy inside a bar of soap might be more important than tweaking its ingredients.

    Presented by Marnie Chesterton.
    Produced by Cathy Edwards for the BBC World Service.

    Image: Child with thoroughly washed hands. Credit: Getty Images.

    • 34 min
    How is human sound affecting sealife?

    How is human sound affecting sealife?

    Think of the oceans and an empty and peaceful expanse relatively untouched by humankind might come to mind. But is this peace an illusion? CrowdScience listener Dani wants to know if the noise of shipping and other human activity on the oceans is impacting on sea life.

    To find out, Marnie Chesterton takes a deep dive to learn how marine animals have evolved to use sound; from navigating their environments to finding a mate or hiding from prey. She then speaks to a scientist who is using acoustic observatories to track the many ways human activity - like sonar and shipping - can interfere.

    Marnie virtually visits a German lab which tests the ears of beached whales, dolphins and seals from around the world to try and ascertain whether they suffered hearing damage, and what might have caused it. What other smaller creatures are negatively impacted by underwater noise? Marnie learns that acoustic trauma is more widespread than first thought.

    As human life continues to expand along ocean waters, what is being done to reduce the impact of sound? Marnie meets some of the designers at the forefront of naval architecture to see how ship design, from propellers to air bubbles and even wind powered vessels can contribute to reducing the racket in the oceans.

    Presented by Marnie Chesterton.
    Produced by Melanie Brown for the BBC World Service.

    Main Image: The front of a humpback whale underneath the sea in Shetland Islands, Scotland, December 2016. Credit: Richard Shucksmith / Barcroft Im / Barcroft Media via Getty Images

    • 37 min
    Could earthworms help transform the future of farming?

    Could earthworms help transform the future of farming?

    Worms are not the cutest of creatures. They’re slimy, often associated with death and tend to bring on feelings of disgust in many of us. But listener Dinesh thinks they’re underrated and wants to know whether earthworms could be the key to our planet’s future agricultural success? He’s an organic farmer in India’s Tamil Nadu province who grows these annelids to add to the soil, and he wants Crowdscience to find out exactly what they’re doing.

    Anand Jagatia dons his gardening gloves and digs the dirt on these remarkable creatures, discovering how they can help improve soil quality, prevent fields from becoming waterlogged, and improve microbial numbers, all of which has the potential to increase crop yield.

    But he also investigates the so-called ‘earthworm dilemma’ and the idea that in some parts of the world, boreal forest worms are releasing carbon back into the atmosphere, which could have dangerous consequences for climate change.

    (Photo:

    • 37 min
    Is barefoot running better?

    Is barefoot running better?

    Shoes are a surprisingly recent human invention. But running isn’t. That means for most of our time on the planet, we’ve run barefoot. Today, in most countries it’s rare to see people out in public without shoes, let alone running. But might our aversion to the free foot be causing us pain?

    CrowdScience mega-fan Hnin is an experienced runner, she enjoys ultra-marathons back home in Australia. But about six months ago she developed extreme foot pain, the condition ‘Plantar Fasciitis’, and this has meant she had to stop doing what she loves. She reached out to CrowdScience presenter Chhavi Sachdev, to find out if barefoot running could reduce her pain and improve her performance. Simply put, is barefoot running better?

    In an attempt to find Hnin some answers, Chhavi hits the ground… running. Literally throwing off her own shoes on the streets of her home city of Mumbai, India, to see how feeling the ground can change her whole gait. And with Prof. Dan Lieberman, Chhavi learns what sets the human runner apart from other species while uncovering the strange form our feet have. She speaks with the Dr Peter Francis, a researcher whose life’s work has focused on curing the pain in his own feet and learning how to help others.
    But performance is also important for runners. Biomechanics and shoe expert Dr Sharon Dixon explains how modifications to the sports-shoe are helping marathon runners set records, and blade-running athlete Kiran Kanojia shows Chhavi how the technology behind her two prosthetic legs let her emulate either natural walking or natural running.
    Presented by Chhavi Sachdev
    Produced by Rory Galloway

    (Photo: barefoot running on beach. Credit: Getty Images)

    • 31 min
    What’s the point of blood types?

    What’s the point of blood types?

    If you put one person’s blood into another person , sometimes it’s fine and sometimes it’s a death sentence.

    French physician Jean-Baptiste Denis discovered this when he performed the first blood transfusion back in 1667. He put the blood of a lamb into a 15-year boy. The teenager survived but Denis’s third attempt killed the patient and led to a murder charge.

    In 1900, Austrian doctor Karl Landsteiner discovered the reason for this lottery – blood types. The red blood cells in our bodies are decorated with different marker molecules called antigens. These define us as A, B, AB or O blood type. And this is just one of 38 different systems for classifying our blood. CrowdScience listeners have discovered that we aren’t the only animal with blood types and want to know more.

    Dogs have 12 different blood groups, so how do they cope when they need a transfusion? CrowdScience meets some very good dogs who donate a pint to the pet blood bank in return for a toy and a treat. Each pint saving up to 4 other dogs’ lives.

    We also hear how examining our blood types can tell us more about our links to our ape-like cousins and how the human species spread around the world. And what about the future of blood types – can we use science, and animal blood to get around the problems of transfusions?

    Producer and Presenter: Marnie Chesterton
    Photo: Red Blood Cells. Credit: Getty Images

    • 35 min

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5
405 Ratings

405 Ratings

drømmling ,

Love this programme

The questions asked are very varied and the answers are thoughtful. The presenters are also very engaging.

My Friend Lincoln ,

Useful review

As a migraine sufferer, I knew some but not all of the info in this podcast. It was reassuring to link some of the different symptoms together, and realize that many of what I experience are common.

vituxre ,

Love it

Really interesting to listen, i like the in depth answers

Top Podcasts In Technology

Listeners Also Subscribed To

More by BBC