300 episodes

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

CrowdScience BBC World Service

    • Science
    • 5.0 • 22 Ratings

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

    How do we behave in crowds?

    How do we behave in crowds?

    As someone who dislikes crowds, listener Graham is curious about them. Crowds gather in all sorts of places, from train stations and football matches, to religious events and protest marches. But is there a science behind how they move and behave? To find out, Anand Jagatia speaks to some actual crowd scientists.

    He learns about the psychology of social identity, which influences everything from how close we stand to others to how we react in emergencies. He visits the Athens marathon, and hears about the algorithm that predicts how 50,000 runners will move through a city on race day. And he explores research into the science of riots, which explains why some peaceful crowds turn violent.

    Presented and produced by Anand Jagatia

    Dr Anne Templeton, University of Edinburgh
    Marcel Altenburg, Manchester Metropolitan University
    Prof John Drury, University of Sussex

    Archive: BBC News
    Image: Crowd from above. Creidt: Getty Images

    • 26 min
    Why don’t we fall out of bed when we’re asleep?

    Why don’t we fall out of bed when we’re asleep?

    Why don’t we fall out of bed when we’re asleep? That’s the question that’s been keeping CrowdScience listener Isaac in Ghana awake, so presenter Alex Lathbridge snuggles up with some experts to find the answer.

    We get a lot of emails about sleep, so we’ve gathered together some of our favourite questions and put them to academics working on the science of snoozing.

    We’re wondering why some people laugh in their sleep, why some people remember their dreams and not others, and why we need to sleep at all - can’t we just rest?

    Our slumber scholars tell us about how our bodies continue to gather information while we’re asleep, how the tired brain is more likely to remember negative experiences, how we mimic other people in our sleep, and how sleep makes you more attractive to other people.
    And Alex takes a trip to the zzzzoo to meet some animals that have very different sleep patterns to humans. It’s his dream assignment.

    Vanessa Hill, University of Central Queensland
    Professor Russell Foster, University of Oxford
    Mark Kenward, Drusillas Zoo Park

    Presented by Alex Lathbridge
    Produced by Ben Motley for the BBC World Service

    [Image: Man Falling into bed. Credit: Getty Images]

    • 33 min
    Where do we go when the seas rise?

    Where do we go when the seas rise?

    After learning how long it will take the Earth's ice sheets to melt in the previous episode, we continue our journey in Greenland. As world leaders gather in Egypt for the annual UN climate conference, listener Johan isn't too optimistic about governments' ability to curb greenhouse gas emissions and get a handle on climate change. So from his coastal perch in Denmark, he has asked where we should live when the poles have melted away and coastlines creep inland.

    Along with the help of BBC correspondents around the world, Marnie Chesterton scours the
    globe for the best option for listener Johan's new home.

    BBC Mundo reporter Rafael Rojas takes us to a manmade island off Colombia's Caribbean coast to see how we might be able to live with the seas. Meanwhile, reporter Furkan Khan takes us into the high, cold desert region of Ladakh to see if heading for the hills might be the answer.

    As Marnie searches for a climate-proof destination, she speaks to conservation biogeographer Matt Fitzpatrick, from the Appalachian Laboratory at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science. He's made a map that shows what towns and cities will feel like in 60 years and where you should visit in order to get a preview of your home's future climate. But Matt also tells us that we might not be the only ones on the move.

    And as climate scientist Ruth Mottram from the Danish Meteorological Institute tells us, waters are not going to rise evenly around the world. So can Marnie find a place to go, away from the expanding seas?

    Additional contributors:
    Alexander Atencio, environmental sustainability teacher, Santa Cruz del Islote, Colombia
    Sebastian Martinez, local leader, Santa Cruz del Islote, Colombia
    Professor Mohammad Din, Ladakh Environment and Health Organisation
    Ellen and Carl Fiederickson, teacher and sheep farmers, Qassiarsuk, Greenland

    Presenter: Marnie Chesterton
    Producer: Sam Baker

    • 36 min
    How long before all the ice melts?

    How long before all the ice melts?

    We know the Earth's atmosphere is warming and it's thanks to us and our taste for fossil fuels. But how quickly is this melting the ice sheets, ice caps, and glaciers that remain on our planet? That's what listener David wants to know.
    With the help of a team of climate scientists in Greenland, Marnie Chesterton goes to find the answer, in an icy landscape that's ground zero in the story of thawing. She discovers how Greenland’s ice sheet is sliding faster off land, and sees that the tiniest of creatures are darkening the ice surface and accelerating its melt.
    CrowdScience explores what we're in store for when it comes to melting ice. In the lead-up to yet another UN climate conference, we unpack what is contributing to sea level rise – from ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica, to melting mountain glaciers and warming oceans. There's a lot of ice at the poles. The question is: how much of it will still be there in the future?
    Research Professor and climate scientist Jason Box from the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland shows us how much ice Greenland we've already committed ourselves to losing, even if we stopped burning all fossil fuels today. His team, including Jakob Jakobsen, show us how these scientists collect all this data that helps feed climate models and helps us all to understand how quickly the seas might rise.

    Professor Martyn Trantor from Aarhus University helps us understand why a darkening Greenland ice sheet would only add to the problem of melting. And climate scientist Ruth Mottram from the Danish Meteorological Institute breaks down how the ice is breaking down in Antarctica and other glaciers around the world.

    Presented by Marnie Chesterton and produced by Sam Baker for the BBC World Service

    Image: Greenland ice sheets. Credit: Getty Images

    • 32 min
    When does weather change become climate change?

    When does weather change become climate change?

    Record-breaking heatwaves swept across the Earth’s northern hemisphere this summer, while Australia experienced flooding and East Africa is enduring its worst drought in decades. Listener Geoff in Australia wants to know: Is climate change really responsible, or could it just be weather?

    Presenter Marnie Chesterton goes to Kenya, where the traditional Maasai way of life is at risk following a series of failed rainy seasons. She meets members of the Maasai community who have herded cattle for generations, who tell her how the unprecedented lack of rain is making it difficult to feed the animals, and themselves.

    She speaks to meteorologists and climate scientists to unpick the differences between weather and climate, discovering that not only is climate change affecting local weather systems, but it’s also affecting our ability to forecast it.

    She’ll also be learning about the IPCC report, and how there is no longer any doubt that climate change is a real and present threat to life on earth.

    Esther Tinayo, Maasai villager
    Esther Kirayian, Maasai villager
    Patricia Nying’uro, Kenya Meteorological Department
    Abebe Tadege, IGAD Climate Prediction and Application Centre
    Professor Mark Maslin, University College London

    Presented by Marnie Chesterton
    Produced by Ben Motley, with Christine Yohannes, for the BBC World Service

    [Image credit: Getty Images]

    • 34 min
    Why can't I change my accent?

    Why can't I change my accent?

    Why do some people pick up accents without even trying, while others can live in another country for decades without ever losing the sound of their mother tongue?

    It’s a question that's been bothering CrowdScience listener Monica who, despite 45 years of living in the US, is still answering questions about where her accent is from. Presenter Marnie Chesterton sets off to discover why learning a new language is possible but perfecting the accent is so much harder.

    Marnie speaks to a linguist about how we learn language and develop our first accent, and what we can - and can't change - about our accents. A phonetician explains to Marnie the difficulty of even hearing sounds that are not from our mother tongue, let alone replicating them. And Marnie enlists some expert help to learn some of the pitch sounds of Japanese – with mixed success.

    Finally Marnie asks why people so dearly want to change their accents when doing so is such hard work. She hears from a sociolinguist about stereotypes and the impact of accent bias, and Shalu Yadav reports from the front line of Delhi call centres where workers experience prejudice about their accents regularly.

    Presented by Marnie Chesterton
    Produced by Lorna Stewart for the BBC World Service.

    Yosiane White - Assistant Professor of Linguistics at University College Utrecht in the Netherlands
    Jane Setter - professor of phonetics at the University of Reading in the UK
    Akiko Furukawa - Reader in Japanese and Applied Linguistics at SOAS University of London in the UK
    Erez Levon - professor of sociolinguistics at the University of Bern in Switzerland.
    Shalu Yadav - BBC reporter in Delhi, India.

    [Image: woman with written words coming out of mouth. Credit: Getty images]

    • 28 min

Customer Reviews

5.0 out of 5
22 Ratings

22 Ratings

Janie dough dough ,


The math episode is absolutely impressive!

Mushroom monster ,

Varied content

Good variety of topics looking through the lens of Science.

OnceGeneva ,

All those random thoughts finally get an answer!

I thoroughly enjoyed the 50 things that made the modern economy podcast and was excited to see that the BBC was producing more informative, fun and interesting programmes. This one should satisfy the curiosity of many people around the world. Utterly enjoyable!

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