266 episodes

Scientific principles, theory, and the role of key figures in the advancement of science.

In Our Time: Science BBC

    • History
    • 4.6 • 499 Ratings

Scientific principles, theory, and the role of key figures in the advancement of science.

    William and Caroline Herschel

    William and Caroline Herschel

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss William Herschel (1738 – 1822) and his sister Caroline Herschel (1750 – 1848) who were born in Hanover and made their reputation in Britain. William was one of the most eminent astronomers in British history. Although he started life as a musician, as a young man he became interested in studying the night sky. With an extraordinary talent, he constructed telescopes that were able to see further and more clearly than any others at the time. He is most celebrated today for discovering the planet Uranus and detecting what came to be known as infrared radiation. Caroline also became a distinguished astronomer, discovering several comets and collaborating with her brother.

    With

    Monica Grady
    Professor of Planetary and Space Sciences at the Open University

    Carolin Crawford
    Institute of Astronomy, Cambridge and an Emeritus Fellow of Emmanuel College, University of Cambridge

    And

    Jim Bennett
    Keeper Emeritus at the Science Museum in London.

    Studio producer: John Goudie

    • 50 min
    Corals

    Corals

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the simple animals which informed Charles Darwin's first book, The Structure and Distribution of Coral Reefs, published in 1842. From corals, Darwin concluded that the Earth changed very slowly and was not fashioned by God. Now coral reefs, which some liken to undersea rainforests, are threatened by human activity, including fishing, pollution and climate change.

    With

    Steve Jones
    Senior Research Fellow in Genetics at University College London

    Nicola Foster
    Lecturer in Marine Biology at the University of Plymouth

    And

    Gareth Williams
    Associate Professor in Marine Biology at Bangor University School of Ocean Sciences

    Producer Simon Tilllotson.

    • 51 min
    The Manhattan Project

    The Manhattan Project

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the race to build an atom bomb in the USA during World War Two. Before the war, scientists in Germany had discovered the potential of nuclear fission and scientists in Britain soon argued that this could be used to make an atom bomb, against which there could be no defence other than to own one. The fear among the Allies was that, with its head start, Germany might develop the bomb first and, unmatched, use it on its enemies. The USA took up the challenge in a huge engineering project led by General Groves and Robert Oppenheimer and, once the first bomb had been exploded at Los Alamos in July 1945, it appeared inevitable that the next ones would be used against Japan with devastating results.

    The image above is of Robert Oppenheimer and General Groves examining the remains of one the bases of the steel test tower, at the atomic bomb Trinity Test site, in September 1945.

    With

    Bruce Cameron Reed
    The Charles A. Dana Professor of Physics Emeritus at Alma College, Michigan

    Cynthia Kelly
    Founder and President of the Atomic Heritage Foundation

    And

    Frank Close
    Emeritus Professor of Theoretical Physics at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of Exeter College, Oxford

    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    • 48 min
    The Evolution of Crocodiles

    The Evolution of Crocodiles

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the remarkable diversity of the animals that dominated life on land in the Triassic, before the rise of the dinosaurs in the Jurassic, and whose descendants are often described wrongly as 'living fossils'. For tens of millions of years, the ancestors of alligators and Nile crocodiles included some as large as a bus, some running on two legs like a T Rex and some that lived like whales. They survived and rebounded from a series of extinction events but, while the range of habitats of the dinosaur descendants such as birds covers much of the globe, those of the crocodiles have contracted, even if the animals themselves continue to evolve today as quickly as they ever have.

    With

    Anjali Goswami
    Research Leader in Life Sciences and Dean of Postgraduate Education at the Natural History Museum

    Philip Mannion
    Lecturer in the Department of Earth Sciences at University College London

    And

    Steve Brusatte
    Professor of Palaeontology and Evolution at the University of Edinburgh

    Producer Simon Tillotson

    • 53 min
    Longitude

    Longitude

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the search for Longitude while at sea. Following efforts by other maritime nations, the British Government passed the Longitude Act in 1714 to reward anyone who devised reliable means for ships to determine their longitude at sea. Mariners could already calculate how far they were north or south, the Latitude, using the Pole Star, but voyaging across the Atlantic to the Caribbean was much less predictable as navigators could not be sure how far east or west they were, a particular problem when heading for islands. It took fifty years of individual genius and collaboration in Britain and across Europe, among astronomers, clock makers, mathematicians and sailors, for the problem to be resolved.

    With

    Rebekah Higgitt
    Principal Curator of Science at National Museums Scotland

    Jim Bennett
    Keeper Emeritus at the Science Museum

    And

    Simon Schaffer
    Professor of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge

    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    • 50 min
    Pierre-Simon Laplace

    Pierre-Simon Laplace

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Laplace (1749-1827) who was a giant in the world of mathematics both before and after the French Revolution. He addressed one of the great questions of his age, raised but side-stepped by Newton: was the Solar System stable, or would the planets crash into the Sun, as it appeared Jupiter might, or even spin away like Saturn threatened to do? He advanced ideas on probability, long the preserve of card players, and expanded them out across science; he hypothesised why the planets rotate in the same direction; and he asked if the Universe was deterministic, so that if you knew everything about all the particles then you could predict the future. He also devised the metric system and reputedly came up with the name 'metre'.

    With

    Marcus du Sautoy
    Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science and Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford

    Timothy Gowers
    Professor of Mathematics at the College de France

    And

    Colva Roney-Dougal
    Professor of Pure Mathematics at the University of St Andrews

    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    • 48 min

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5
499 Ratings

499 Ratings

Plantladydiane ,

BBC4 In Out Time:Science

I wish for more episodes. The last one was in May of this year. I really miss it. This show has great content. I enjoy listening to the past shows. Please create more episodes.

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Incredible.

Absolutely brilliant.

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