124 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 • 595 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 Case of The Missing Gorilla

    The Case of The Missing Gorilla

    DO WE HAVE YOUR ATTENTION?

    Good! But how does that work!?

    Our intrepid science sleuths explore why some things immediately catch your eye - or ear - while others slip by totally unnoticed. Even, on occasion, basketball bouncing gorillas.

    Professor Polly Dalton, a psychologist who leads The Attention Lab at Royal Holloway University, shares her surprising research into ‘inattentional blindness’ - when you get so absorbed in a task you can miss striking and unusual things going on right in front of you.

    Dr Gemma Briggs from the Open University reveals how this can have dangerous everyday consequences: you are four times more likely to have a crash if you talk on the phone while driving - even handsfree.

    Drs Rutherford and Fry also hear from stroke survivor Thomas Canning, who developed the tendency to ignore everything on the left side of space, despite his vision being totally intact. And Dr Tom Manly, from the University of Cambridge’s Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, helps our sleuths unpack the neuroscience of this fascinating condition.

    Producer: Ilan Goodman
    Contributors: Professor Polly Dalton, Dr Gemma Briggs, Dr Tom Manly

    • 37 min
    Silly Studies: The Pre-Series Tease

    Silly Studies: The Pre-Series Tease

    We asked you to send us the boldest, barmiest bits of published research you could find and, dear Curios, you didn't disappoint! It’s time for some silly science.

    • 10 min
    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

Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5
595 Ratings

595 Ratings

Paisley & Argyle ,

Hannah's voice is very pleasant

Hannah's voice is very pleasant

flowerprof ,

Fantastic and Fun!

I am a plant scientist, so my thoughts are usually directed by curiosity. This podcast threads curiosity into all aspects of life on this planet, whilst presented by the most delightful combination of presenters found anywhere—two most entertaining, intelligent and articulate people. Long live Doctors Rutherford and Fry!!!

khbxd ,

The curious cases of Rutherford and fry

This is a fantastic show. It informs and delights with quick moving and easily interpretable banter about the most difficult to understand parts of science. Thank you so much, Elizabeth Steinhaus, MD; Atlanta Georgia USA

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