100 episodes

'Will my bacon sandwich kill me?', 'Is vaping better than smoking?', 'How do you become an astronaut?' - just some of the Big Questions we ask some of the brightest minds behind Oxford science. Join us in each podcast as we explore a different area of science.

Oxford Sparks Big Questions Oxford Sparks

    • Science
    • 4.5 • 10 Ratings

'Will my bacon sandwich kill me?', 'Is vaping better than smoking?', 'How do you become an astronaut?' - just some of the Big Questions we ask some of the brightest minds behind Oxford science. Join us in each podcast as we explore a different area of science.

    How are volcanoes formed on other planets?

    How are volcanoes formed on other planets?

    Volcanoes are pretty amazing! But how do they work on other planets?
     
    Take Mars – it has the largest volcano in the solar system! But volcanologist Tamsin Mather reveals that the red planet is now considered geologically dead, with no volcanic activity for around 500 million years. How do we know how this volcano formed then? Well, space missions have put probes and landers on Mars’ surface, providing evidence of a long lost hot spot beneath the surface.
     
    What about the rest of the solar system? There are glimpses of volcanism on Venus and Jupiter’s moon, Io, too. But how do scientists know? Listen to our latest podcast to find out!
     
    If you would like to learn even more about the volcanoes of Earth and beyond, why not give Tamsin’s new book, Adventures in Volcanoland, a read!

    • 13 min
    Can we talk to bees?

    Can we talk to bees?

    We are out in the wild today talking to bees!
     
    In this behind the scenes episode, we visited Dr Rachel Parkinson’s bee recording studio to see insect neuroscience research in action. 
     
    You might know that honeybees communicate with each other using the waggle dance, a minute choreography that shows other bees the way to the flower buffet. But little is known about how bumblebees communicate.
     
    To understand more about bee behaviour, Rachel has created a series of small arenas with cameras and microphones. Using AI, visual and audio recordings can be matched up to create a database of sounds and behaviours which will, in time, hopefully reveal the secret language of bees!

    • 15 min
    Why are people obsessed with how cute cats are?

    Why are people obsessed with how cute cats are?

    Cats are pretty adorable! Those big eyes, fluffy paws and cheeky personalities mean that most people find felines cute. But what is the science behind this reaction?
    Neuroscientist Professor Morten Kringelbach reveals how special technology can track what happens to signals in the brain in response to sounds and images of babies and small animals. In just a thousandth of a second, our brain decides that something is cute.
    This almost instantaneous cuteness reaction is thought to be a deep-rooted evolutionary feature of humans, encouraging us to look after young babies and animals to help species to survive. Cats (and other fluffy pets) can bring us so much joy, so next time you find yourself smiling at a cat video or your beloved pet, make sure to spread the love and bring someone else a dose of happiness.

    • 14 min
    How freaked out should I be about bed bugs?

    How freaked out should I be about bed bugs?

    You might have seen them in a hotel. You might have read about them in the news. Maybe you’ve seen them star in social media videos filmed on the London underground. But should we really be worried about bed bugs?
     
    The little critters evolved from feeding on bats and birds to humans thousands of years ago and were part of society for hundreds of years. But with the invention of synthetic pesticides, bed bug populations declined significantly after the Second World War. However, as pesticide resistance grows and the world becomes increasingly connected, bed bugs are making a resurgence.
     
    Entomologist Liam Crowley, from the Department of Biology, tells us what to look out for and how to keep them at bay in our latest podcast. But don’t worry, they’re not as common as you might think!

    • 11 min
    When did we start kissing?

    When did we start kissing?

    Have you ever considered when kissing first started? Who, or what, first decided that this was a good way to show affection?
     
    Ancient historian, Troels Pank Arbøll, and hedgehog researcher, Sophie Lund Rasmussen, joined forces to attempt to find an answer. Cuneiform scripts, which are the world’s oldest written text, have the first mention of romantic kissing in a mythological narrative dating back to 2500 BCE.
     
    But animals can also help us to answer this question. Bonobos have been shown to kiss romantically to strengthen pair bonds and assess a mate’s suitability. Perhaps the origins of kissing could be much older than human history! Find out more by listening to our latest podcast.

    • 12 min
    How do you stay warm in your house without central heating?

    How do you stay warm in your house without central heating?

    How do we battle the energy use and soaring costs required to keep our homes warm?
    We spoke to Dr Brenda Boardman from the Environmental Change Institute about the best ways to keep out the winter chill. Did you know that draughts not only let cold air in, but they also push the warm out of your home? And that sitting or sleeping next to external walls can make you colder?
    Discover simple and inexpensive methods you can try to stay toasty, starting with the idea of heating the human rather than the home. Tune in to learn more!

    • 14 min

Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5
10 Ratings

10 Ratings

Boicarguy ,

Ideological not scientific.

Obvious points of tension within philosophy. This program makes claims without presenting facts.

Top Podcasts In Science

Hidden Brain
Hidden Brain, Shankar Vedantam
Something You Should Know
Mike Carruthers | OmniCast Media | Cumulus Podcast Network
Radiolab
WNYC Studios
Reinvent Yourself with Dr. Tara
Dr. Tara Swart Bieber
Ologies with Alie Ward
Alie Ward
StarTalk Radio
Neil deGrasse Tyson

You Might Also Like

Science Weekly
The Guardian
More or Less: Behind the Stats
BBC Radio 4
The Climate Question
BBC World Service
The Rest Is History
Goalhanger Podcasts
BBC Inside Science
BBC Radio 4
In Our Time
BBC Radio 4

More by Oxford University

Approaching Shakespeare
Oxford University
Theoretical Physics - From Outer Space to Plasma
Oxford University
The Secrets of Mathematics
Oxford University
Anthropology
Oxford University
Philosophy for Beginners
Oxford University
Computer Science
Oxford University