107 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 • 526 Ratings

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

    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
    We’re back!

    We’re back!

    Rutherford and Fry are back in the business of solving your science queries and rooting out the quirks and conundrums of everything that is science!

    • 8 min
    More Frytful Scares

    More Frytful Scares

    It was a dark and stormy night. A secret message arrived addressed to Rutherford & Fry from a mysterious woman called Heidi Daugh, who demanded to know: "Why do people like to be scared? For example, going on scary amusement park rides and watching horror movies that make you jump.”

    What followed was an investigation, which would test our intrepid duo to their very limits. They explore the history of horror, starting with its literary origins in the Gothic fiction classic 'The Castle of Otranto'.

    Adam challenges Hannah to watch a horror film without hiding behind a cushion. She quizzes horror scholar Mathias Clasen to find out why some people love the feeling of terror, whilst it leaves other cold.

    Sociologist Margee Kerr and psychologist Claudia Hammond are also on hand to explore why scary movies are so powerful and popular.
    Then Rutherford and Fry investigate the more physical side of fear, when they delve into the history of roller coasters to investigate why we enjoy being scared.

    Never ones to shy away from a challenge, the pair attempt to channel their inner adrenaline junkies with a trip on one the UK's scariest roller coasters at Thorpe Park.

    David Poeppel from New York University studies the science of screaming, and we discover what makes screams uniquely terrifying. Plus, psychologist and broadcaster Claudia Hammond describes some early experiments which tested how fear affects our body.

    This episode is a remake of two earlier broadcast episodes.

    If you have any Curious Cases for the team to investigate please email curiouscases@bbc.co.uk

    Producers: Fiona Roberts & Michelle Martin

    Presenter: Adam Rutherford & Hannah Fry

    • 29 min
    Back to The Sinister Hand

    Back to The Sinister Hand

    Why are some people left-handed, whereas the majority are right handed? Rutherford and Fry revisit The Sinister Hand episodes to further investigate handedness in humans and animals. They considered cockatoos, chimpanzees and Hannah's dog, Molly, to discover that humans are unique, with just one in ten of us being left-handed.

    They ask if there is an evolutionary reason for just 10% of the human population being southpaws

    Hannah talks to primatologist Prof Linda Marchant from Miami University about Neanderthal teeth and termite fishing.

    Adam consults handedness expert Prof Chris McManus from University College London. He's been trying to track down the genes responsible for whether we're right or left handed.

    And what about left-handed brains or eyes or molecules?

    Prof Andrea Sella explains handedness, or chirality, at the molecular scale and why when we consider Thalidomide, something seemingly so trivial can be extremely important.

    They also explore the left-handed brain. Some researchers point to a link between left-handedness and impairments like autism or dyslexia. Others claim that lefties are more creative and artistic.

    So what's the truth? The team consults Professors Sophie Scott, Chris McManus and Dorothy Bishop to find out.

    This episode is an updated version of two earlier broadcast episodes.

    If you have any Curious Cases for the team to investigate please email curiouscases@bbc.co.uk

    Producers: Fiona Roberts & Michelle Martin

    Presenter: Adam Rutherford & Hannah Fry

    A BBC Audio Science Unit production for BBC Radio 4

    • 29 min
    A Weighty Matter Part 2

    A Weighty Matter Part 2

    The doctors continue their investigation into gravity, and answer Peter Fraser’s question: is dark matter a proper theory or just a fudge to fit existing 'proper' theories to otherwise inexplicable observations?

    Whilst scientists are pretty convinced our understanding of gravity is largely correct, there are still some significant gaps. Namely, given the way galaxies are observed to behave, around 85% of the matter that they think should be in our universe is missing. So where – and, as importantly, what – is it? Cosmologist Andrew Pontzen introduces the evidence from our observations of the cosmic microwave background, light leftover from the Big Bang, which indicate that dark matter exists.

    However, this evidence alone is not enough for science. Physicist Chamkaur Ghag is trying to find particles of dark matter here on Earth. Unsurprisingly, no-one is quite sure where these critters are hiding in the particle zoo of protons, neutrons, electrons, quarks, bosons, muons and the rest – or even what they look like. One theory suggests a weakly interacting massive particle, or WIMP, may be the dark matter minibeast. Hundreds of thousands of these could be flying through our fingertips every second. To tell whether they’re there, Cham and hundreds of scientists are building detectors, huge vats of liquid xenon in underground caverns.

    Bond villain-esque lairs don’t come cheap, and listener Peter’s query is valid – what if dark matter goes the same way as the aether, an all-permeating (and ultimately non-existent) material that was hypothesised to carry light through the vacuum of space? Astrophysicist Katy Clough reiterates that experiments are the way to test predictions. Building a picture of how gravity works continues to take many people enormous effort, but this is the scientific process.

    Presenters: Hannah Fry & Adam Rutherford
    Producer: Jen Whyntie
    A BBC Audio Science Unit production for BBC Radio 4

    • 40 min

Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5
526 Ratings

526 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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