111 episodes

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

The Curious Cases of Rutherford & Fry BBC

    • Science
    • 4.9 • 536 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 Venomous Vendetta

    The Venomous Vendetta

    Whilst watching a documentary about some poisonous frogs, Curio Janni in Amsterdam, started to wonder what would happen if a frog licked itself or another frog of the same species. She asks Dr Adam Rutherford and Professor Hannah Fry to investigate whether an animal would react badly to a toxin it itself produces? In essence, 'can a venomous snake kill itself by biting itself?'

    Of course the answer is complicated, but the sleuths know exactly who to ask.

    Steve Backshall, award-winning wildlife explorer, best known for his BBC series 'Deadly 60'. Author of 'Venom – Poisonous Creatures in the Natural World'. Steve has been bitten, stung and spat at by a plethora of venomous creatures during his career. He also studied the first-known venomous newt - the sharp-ribbed newt - a creature that has sharpened ribs that when it's under attack, it will squeeze its body force those ribs out through its skin, coating them in venom, which is then delivered into the mouth of an attacker.

    Professor Nick Casewell, studies venomous snakes and their impact on humans. He works on treatments for snakebites at the Liverpool School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Snakebites have a huge impact on communities in South Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa and South America. It's now been reinstated as one of the most serious neglected tropical diseases by the World Health Organisation. Traditional treatments - antivenins - can be expensive, difficult to access and don't always work - Nick is looking into alternative medicines to treat snakebite victims.

    Dr. Ronald Jenner is Principle Researcher in the Comparative Venomics group at the Natural History Museum's Life Sciences, Invertebrates Division and co-wrote the book ‘Venom -the secrets of nature's deadliest weapon.’ He explains the evolutionary arms race between venomous predators and their prey and poisonous prey and their predators. He explains how resistance to venom has evolved and how venom has evolved to be more or less powerful over time, answering another Curio - Scott Probert's question on the evolution of venom.

    Christie Wilcox wrote 'Venomous – How Earth’s Deadliest Creatures Mastered Biochemistry'. She studied the molecular basis of lionfish venom. Christie describes how venom and immunity to venom works at the molecular level.

    Presenters - Adam Rutherford and Hannah Fry

    Produced by Fiona Roberts

    • 42 min
    The Slippery Situation

    The Slippery Situation

    'What is the slipperiest thing in the world?' asks 8 year old Evelyn? 'Why do my feet slip on a wet floor but when my feet are even slightly moist it's nearly impossible to put on a pair of socks without falling over and cursing the universe. What is going on here?' asks Evelyn's Dad, Sam. Hannah and Adam investigate the science of friction and lubrication - so called 'tribology' with the help of tribologists and mechanical engineers Professor Ashlie Martini from California University Merced and Professor Roger Lewis from the University of Sheffield. With their help Hannah and Adam find out why leaves on the line are so slippery, what happens to graphite in space and what is the slipperiest food. Professor of Materials, Mark Miodownik from University College London explains what's going on when friction stops two materials sliding past each other and wonders whether the slipperiest substance was actually discovered accidentally in a lab by scientists looking for something completely different. Also in the programme why the ability to reduce friction, even by minuscule amounts could have a huge impact for sustainability and reducing energy use.

    Producers: Jen Whyntie and Pamela Rutherford

    • 37 min
    The Painless Heart

    The Painless Heart

    Why does my heart not ache after exercise? asks listener Keith. Rutherford and Fry explore how and why heart muscle cells are special.

    Dr Mitch Lomax is a sports scientist at the University of Portsmouth. She helps actual Olympic swimmers get faster. She explains how most of the muscles attached to our skeletons work: Tiny fibres use small-scale cellular energy, which, when all these fibres work in concert, turns into visible muscular movement. Mitch also explains how the dreaded Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, or DOMS, can hit, taking a stair-wincing 48-72 hours to peak after exercise.

    But skeletal muscles turn out to be quite different to heart muscles, as consultant cardiologist Dr Rohin Francis explains. Heart cells are more efficient and don't get fatigued like skeletal muscle cells. They are extremely energetic and 'just want to beat'. He also explains that the sensory feedback from the heart muscles is different too. They have a different sort of nerve supply, with fewer sensory nerves, so that there is less chance of pain signals being sent to the brain.

    However, heart cells' incredible abilities are counterbalanced by one Achilles-like flaw: They cannot easily heal. Professor Sanjay Sinha is a British Heart Foundation (BHF) Senior Research Fellow and a Professor in Cardiovascular Regenerative Medicine at the University of Cambridge. His job is to fix broken hearts and he explains to Adam how new research into stem cells could be used to fix normally irreparable heart cells.

    Producer - Jennifer Whyntie and Fiona Roberts
    Presenters - Hannah Fry and Adam Rutherford

    • 37 min
    The Weirdness of Water Part 2

    The Weirdness of Water Part 2

    “I don’t really understand why water has so many properties on different scales ranging from very large and cosmic to very small quantum and quarky - Could you help by zooming in and out on water to explain what is known about it? Asks Neil Morton in Stirling.

    “Why does boiling water sound different to cold water?’ asks Barbara Dyson in Brittany in France

    Ollie Gordon, in Christchurch in New Zealand, wants to know ‘why water is essential for all life as we know it?’

    And many more questions on the weirdness of water are tackled by super science sleuths Hannah and Adam helped by quantum physicist Professor Patricia Hunt, at the Victoria University in Wellington in New Zealand, science writer and author of ‘H2O – a biography of water’ Philip Ball and physicist and bubble expert in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at UCL, Dr Helen Czerski.

    Presenters: Hannah Fry & Adam Rutherford
    Producer: Fiona Roberts

    • 40 min
    The Weirdness of Water Part 1

    The Weirdness of Water Part 1

    “I don’t really understand why water has so many properties on different scales ranging from very large and cosmic to very small quantum and quarky - Could you help by zooming in and out on water to explain what is known about it? Asks Neil Morton in Stirling. Rutherford and Fry learn about the special hydrogen bonds that makes water such an unusual liquid.

    Quantum physicist Professor Patricia Hunt, at the Victoria University in Wellington in New Zealand explains to Hannah the quantum properties of individual water molecules and how they link up with other water molecules in liquid water and solid ice. She describes the hydrogen bonds that give water some of it’s weird and wonderful properties such as why ice floats, why water is able to store huge amounts of heat and why water has such a strong surface tension.

    Science writer and author of ‘H2O – a biography of water’ Philip Ball describes how in the 18th century it was discovered that water was not one of the classical elements, but a compound liquid of water and hydrogen and explains to Adam why there are at least 15 different types of ice.

    Physicist Dr. Helen Czerski sets the record straight on how ice forms in oceans and lakes and why water is at it’s densest at 4 degrees Centigrade and not zero.

    Presenters: Hannah Fry & Adam Rutherford
    Producer: Fiona Roberts

    • 37 min
    The Guiding Hound

    The Guiding Hound

    How do guide dogs know where they're going? It's not like their handler whispers in their ear and asks to go to the pharmacy, maybe the toothpaste aisle. So how does it work? asks Charlotte, aged 42.

    Dogs and humans have gone paw in hand for thousands of years. Historic and genetic evidence shows we’ve shaped each other's existence over millennia. But dogs were only first trained as guides for blind people in the UK 90 years ago. What’s the biology behind this extraordinary partnership? Hannah heads to Guide Dogs UK’s training school in Royal Leamington Spa. She meets up with expert Graham Kensett to find out what it takes to make a guide dog from nose to tail, starting from before birth and following the life course through to retirement.

    Hannah also meets the delightful Wendy and Wilmott, a German shepherd and a retriever cross. Despite both still growing into their ears, they show her their already extraordinary skill set, from tackling obstacle courses to safely crossing roads. Cool, calm, patient, unflappable: Guide dogs are the astronauts of the canine world. But, as trainer Jenna explains, it’s all in the partnership with the owner, who needs to do plenty of work in terms of training and learning routes to journey in harmony with their furry guide.

    Richard Lane has owned guide dogs for over 25 years, and confirms this first hand. He reveals just how he gets to the toothpaste aisle, and tells Adam how at its peak a partnership can navigate London Waterloo station better than some sighted people, even at rush hour. Richard also explains how deeply felt the bond that forms between owner and dog is, and describes the hardest part of guide dog ownership: Letting go at the end.

    Presenters: Hannah Fry & Adam Rutherford
    Producer: Jen Whyntie

    A BBC Audio Science Unit production for BBC Radio 4

    • 39 min

Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5
536 Ratings

536 Ratings

Former Otter Fan ,

My favorite science podcast

This show combines humor and science, making even dark matter understandable. It’s unusual for a science show to feature a woman as a cohost, which makes it an especially great podcast for families who want to encourage a love of science and love of learning in the next generation of girls

Carvago ,

Tickle me pink

This a Brilliant show that entertains educates invigorates and illuminates the mind. I look forward to every episode and long for each season.

Thank you

Pugcommander ,

Love it

Beautiful blend of info and humor. And, as an American, I’m very jealous of their accents. One immediately sounds more intelligent with an English accent.

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