550 episodes

A weekly programme that illuminates the mysteries and challenges the controversies behind the science that's changing our world.

BBC Inside Science BBC Podcasts

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A weekly programme that illuminates the mysteries and challenges the controversies behind the science that's changing our world.

Listen on Apple Podcasts
Requires subscription and macOS 11.4 or higher

    Is gene therapy the future?

    Is gene therapy the future?

    Last week, a girl who was born deaf had her hearing restored following gene therapy. In the US, the first commercial gene therapy for sickle cell disease has just begun. And Great Ormond Street Hospital has found great success in their trials and a gene therapy for children lacking an immune system. Gene therapy is clearly having a moment. But how do these groundbreaking therapies actually work? And will they ever be truly accessible to everyone? Geneticist Professor Robin Lovell-Badge answers all.

    Also this week, atmospheric scientist Laura Wilcox answers an interesting listener question about the effect volcanoes can have on the weather and sticks around to dig into the connection between aerosols and weather in different regions.
    The exhibition “Bees: A Story of Survival” opened at the World Museum in Liverpool this month. Part of the show explains the how honeybees communicate through vibration. Physicist Martin Bencsik, who collected and studies these vibrations, plays us a few and explains their meaning.
    And did you get a chance to see the auroras that covered a large part of the Northern Hemisphere last weekend? The intense solar activity that caused them has some people alarm. Jim Al-Khalili, who has written a science fiction novel based on the concept, talks what is protecting us from solar flares and what could go wrong.
    Presenter: Marnie Chesterton
    Producers: Ella Hubber, Sophie Ormiston and Hannah Robins
    Editor: Martin Smith
    Production Co-ordinator: Jana Bennett-Holesworth

    • 28 min
    Is treated sewage worse for the environment than raw?

    Is treated sewage worse for the environment than raw?

    There has been increasing public outrage at raw sewage discharges into our rivers and seas, but new research at Lake Windermere suggests that treated sewage is as much to blame. Wastewater experts Simon Evans and Ali Morse get into the nitty gritty of sewage treatment and why it might be causing so many problems.
    Last week, the Sumatran orangutan Rakus made headlines when he was spotted by researchers treating a wound with a medicinal plant. A first for a wild animal. But he’s not the only animal to show self-medicating behaviour. Biologist and author of Wild Health, Cindy Engel, talks healing in the wild and what we can learn from the animals that do it.
    And it’s that time of year again: the Eurovision Song Contest. In fact, this year marks the 50th Anniversary since ABBA won the 1974 contest with the iconic track Waterloo. Psychology and behavioural researcher Harry Witchel tells us what gives songs at Eurovision a winning edge and tries to predict a winner based on his criteria.
    Presenter: Marnie Chesterton
    Producers: Hannah Robins, Ella Hubber, Sophie Ormiston
    Researcher: Caitlin Kennedy
    Editor: Martin Smith
    Production Co-ordinator: Jana Bennett-Holesworth

    • 27 min
    Ugly animals and asteroid Apophis

    Ugly animals and asteroid Apophis

    One year ago, the World Health Organisation declared that COVID-19 would no longer be categorised as a global health emergency. But the pandemic has left us with a new normal in all areas of our lives. From vaccine rollout to wastewater monitoring, we’re asking: how has COVID altered the scientific landscape? Marnie Chesterton is joined in the studio by Linda Geddes, science journalist, and Barbara Kasprzyk-Hordern, Professor in Environmental and Analytical Chemistry at the University of Bath, to discuss.
    Are ugly animals getting the short end of the conservation stick? Whilst a few beautiful creatures, like tigers and panda bears, get good marketing and attract the most conservation efforts, comedian and biologist Simon Watt argues that the endangered animals which are less pleasing to the eye are being forgotten.
    Also this week, we answer a listener’s question about the accuracy of using bug splats on cars to measure insect populations. Lead data analyst from the Kent Wildlife Trust, Lawrence Ball, gives us the details about the national citizen science survey, Bugs Matter, which sees people around the country measure insect splats on vehicle number plates as a marker of insect abundance.
    And science journalist Roland Pease discusses the unprecedented scientific opportunity hurtling towards Earth in the form of asteroid Apophis. It will just miss our planet – in astronomical terms at least – but its proximity has astronomers excited.
    Presenter: Marnie Chesterton
    Producers: Ella Hubber, Sophie Ormiston and Hannah Robins
    Editor: Martin Smith
    Production Co-ordinator: Jana Bennett-Holesworth

    • 28 min
    Can we get plastic waste under control?

    Can we get plastic waste under control?

    As the UN tries to get a global agreement on plastic waste we hear from two delegates at the conference in Ottawa; John Chweya, a Kenyan waste picker, and plastics scientist, Steve Fletcher, discuss the impacts of plastic pollution and the possible solutions.
    Taylor Swift’s new album, The Tortured Poets Department, exposes the pain a break up can cause. Heartbreak is a common theme in music and art – but what does science have to say about it? Florence Williams, science journalist and author of Heartbreak: A Personal and Scientific Journey, talks us through the research on what actually happens in our bodies when we go through a break-up.
    The nomadic Avar empire ruled over eastern and central Europe from the sixth to the ninth century but very little was known about them – until now. From studying ancient DNA, researchers have discovered a wealth of information about how the Avars lived. Dr Lara Cassidy, Assistant Professor in Genetics at Trinity College Dublin, explains the findings, and how it’s even possible to learn so much from ancient DNA.
    We all know how bees great are – but what about all the other pollinators? Dr Erica McAlister from the Natural History Museum in London speaks out in defence of the fly.
    Presenter: Victoria Gill
    Producers: Hannah Robins and Sophie Ormiston
    Editor: Martin Smith

    • 27 min
    Do we need a new model of cosmology?

    Do we need a new model of cosmology?

    Earlier this week, some of the world's leading astrophysicists came together at The Royal Society to question the very nature of our Universe. Does the Lambda Cold Dark Matter model, which explains the evolution of the cosmos and the Big Bang, need a rethink? Dr Chris North, an astrophysicist from the University of Cardiff, joins us in the studio to explain what this model says, and why it might need to be changed.
    The last few weeks seem to have been a non-stop cycle of depressing climate stories, with floods in Pakistan, mass coral bleaching and last month being the hottest March ever recorded. It's perhaps no surprise that many people are anxious about the news. Vic Gill is joined by Prof Lorraine Whitmarsh, an environmental psychologist at the University of Bath, and Tom Rivett Carnac, an author, political strategist and co-host of the podcast Outrage + Optimism. Together they discuss climate anxiety, and how to stay engaged with the news without feeling overwhelmed.
    And with all this wet weather, how are our precious insects faring? It turns out, bumblebees might have a trick up their fuzzy sleeves when the ground gets flooded - at least according to a new experiment led by Sabrina Rondeau from the University of Ottawa. We also get bumblebee expert Dave Goulson on the line to tell us more about these charismatic insects.
    Presenter: Victoria Gill
    Producers: Alice Lipscombe-Southwell, Ella Hubber and Hannah Robins
    Editor: Martin Smith
    Production Co-ordinator: Jana Bennett-Holesworth

    • 31 min

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