Crowdscience [World Service]

Episodes

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2019012520190127 (WS)
20190128 (WS)

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

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2020032720200330 (WS)
20200329 (WS)

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

20200410

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

2020041020200411 (WS)

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

2020041020200413 (WS)

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

Are Extroverts Really Happier?2019090620190907 (WS)
20190909 (WS)

Sociable, lively, outgoing people are highly valued in certain cultures - think of the stereotype of the hyper-confident American. And there’s even evidence that extroverts all over the world tend to be happier. But are the positive qualities that quieter types can bring to society being ignored or underappreciated? And couldn’t introverts be just as happy as extroverts, if only they lived in a more accepting culture?

These are controversial areas of personality psychology into which CrowdScience strayed earlier this year when exploring the question “Why am I shy?” It prompted a whole bunch of other questions from our listeners which we tackle in this follow-up programme, with the help of psychologist and shyness expert Professor Jonathan Cheek. We probe the links between happiness, personality and culture, and find out what makes introverts happy.

Presenter: Datshiane Navanayagam
Producer: Cathy Edwards

(Photo: A woman smiling with her arms spread out. Credit: Getty Images)

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

Are There New Ways To Beat Depression?2019061420190615 (WS)
20190617 (WS)

For decades, people suffering from chronic depression have relied on medicines that affect the levels of chemicals in the brain like serotonin, which regulate mood and emotion. But ten percent of people don’t benefit from any of the existing treatments for this devastating condition.

Sisters Annie and Kathryn have both been diagnosed with long-term depression that makes it hard for them to experience pleasure as others do. But they’re interested in whether there are new solutions on the horizon that could improve their wellbeing, in particular ones that don’t necessarily involve conventional medication.

Datshiane Navanayagam learns how a technique called mindfulness could strengthen neural connections in bits of the brain that communicate with each other. This, it’s said, may harness the ability of the brain to adapt and self-repair which can change people’s emotional responses to life’s ups and downs. She meets a psychologist who shows how this simple technique could improve our overall ability to process information and reverse negative thought patterns.

CrowdScience also hears about cutting edge research into the use of psychedelics as potential treatment for depression and heads to the UK’s only centre for ketamine therapy, where patients say a drug once popular with partygoers, is having a profound effect on their mental health.

Produced by Marijke Peters for BBC World Service.

(Photo: A woman sitting on the top of a mountain and meditating. Credit: Getty Images)

We investigate how science is uncovering new ways to help beat long-term depression

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

Can A Machine Read My Mind?2019111520191117 (WS)
20191118 (WS)

For decades science fiction has been imagining the incredible ways that machines might interact directly with our minds, from enabling telepathic communication to controlling robotic suits, solely using the power of thought. Getting computers to interface directly with the human brain has proven extremely challenging, but rapidly advancing computer technology is changing the landscape. CrowdScience listener Daniel wonders if we might finally be on the cusp of enabling machines to meld with our minds.

To find out, presenter Alex Lathbridge goes in search of the latest efforts to connect brains to computers. He learns how researchers are combining brain scans with machine learning and gets to test whether an fMRI machine can decode his emotions. He then meets someone with a brain implant but discovers there are many hurdles to overcome before these become mainstream in clinical practice – for example, how can scientists develop implants that won’t damage the brain?

With tech companies like Facebook and Elon Musk’s Neuralink starting to invest in this sector, many experts believe it is only a matter of time before thoughts are ‘readable’. Whilst currently this technology is focussed on helping people with serious medical conditions, other potential applications for it are raising ethical considerations.

Could it be possible to read someone's mind against their will? Might this be used in warfare? Listener Daniel wonders how far this technology might go, leading Alex to ask an ethicist what mind-reading technology might do to society.

Presented by Alex Lathbridge
Produced by Melanie Brown

(Photo: Telepathic people symbols are connected, mind reading as 3D illustration. Credit; Getty Images)

How machine learning is enabling minds to start melding with machines

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

Can Digital Technology Transform West Africa?2020013120200202 (WS)
20200203 (WS)

CrowdScience heads to Freetown, Sierra Leone for a panel debate in front of a live audience to answer listener questions about how artificial intelligence is helping tackle some of the world’s most pressing issues. Anand Jagatia is joined by regional science experts to explore how robots, drones and big data are transforming sectors such as agriculture, health and governance. Could clever machines help eradicate invasive species? Will block chain IDs eventually replace physical documents? And while this technology is heralded as a force for change we’ll ask whether fears of an AI takeover are unfounded?

Presented by Anand Jagatia and Produced by Marijke Peters and Mel Brown

(Photo:

A panel of experts discuss how digital technology and AI are transforming West Africa.

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

Can I Predict The Future?2019080920190810 (WS)
20190812 (WS)

Humans have been trying to predict the future since ancient times. The Chinese had the I-Ching while the Greeks preferred to search for answers in animal entrails. These days intelligence agencies around the world mostly rely on expert opinions to forecast events. But there are ordinary people among us that routinely outperform experts when it comes to making accurate predictions about the future.

Listener Cicely wants to know whether these non-experts, so-called “super-forecasters”, really exist and if so, how does it work? She has noticed that people in her family – herself included – are surprisingly good at predicting events.

CrowdScience investigates and finds that there is no hocus-pocus involved. On the contrary, scientists have found that super-forecasters tend to have certain personality traits and skills. And there is more good news; researchers believe that these skills can been taught.

CrowdScience presenter Graihagh Jackson takes up the challenge and tests her own predicting abilities.

(Photo: A barefoot woman on a beach, showing two lucky dices in her hands. Credit: Getty Images)

There are ordinary people among us who are exceptionally good at predicting the future

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

Presented by Graihagh Jackson and produced by Louisa Field

Can I Save The Insects?2019121320191215 (WS)
20191216 (WS)

Buzzing insects that sting and fall into your food can be annoying. But perhaps we should think twice before taking aim with the fly swatter because bug populations around the world are in rapid decline. This worries CrowdScience listener Daria; she wants to know what will happen to our food production without the help from our tiny friends – the pollinators? And what can she do, as a city-dweller, to help the bugs?

The dollar value of agricultural services that insects supply – for free – is estimated to be 350 billion dollars worldwide. For scientists, a major challenge is the lack of long-term studies of insects on a global scale – in fact – entomologists worry that species are dying out faster than we can document their existence. The culprits, they believe, are climate change, invasive species, land-use and pesticides.

CrowdScience speaks to the scientists who want to save the bugs; one project capitalises on the chemical signals that attract certain species of pollinators while others are building ‘bee hotels’ to encourage native bees back into our cities.

Presenter: Marnie Chesterton
Produced by Louisa Field for BBC World Service.

(Photo: Hoverfly on Yellow Dandelion Flower. Credit: Getty Images)

The world's insects are in trouble. What can each of us do to help them?

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

Can I Trust Dna Ancestry Tests?2020032020200323 (WS)
20200322 (WS)

Many of us are fascinated by our ancestry: knowing where our families came from can give us a sense of identity and roots. Tracing your family tree is a time-honoured tradition, but several companies now sell DNA tests that offer you insights into your heritage: so you might find out you’re 70% Nigerian, 39% Italian, or 11% South Asian, for example.

There’s no doubt that genes contain clues about your family history, but how reliable are these commercial tests? That’s what CrowdScience listener Karen wondered after an update of her test results showed her going from 39% Scandinavian to 2% Norwegian. How confident can she be in her results now? And what does it actually mean to be 2% Norwegian, in terms of your family tree?

Presenter Alex Lathbridge delves into his own African and European ancestry, talks to some of the companies offering these tests, and unpicks the complex relationship between genetic science and family trees. We meet a woman who found her long-lost uncle with a combination of a DNA test and old-fashioned archive research; and look to the Americas to ask whether genetic testing can restore ancestral ties erased by the inhumanity of the transatlantic slave trade.

Presented by Alex Lathbridge
Produced by Cathy Edwards for the BBC World Service

(Photo: Elderly hands looking at old photos of self and family. Credit: Getty Images)

How much do DNA tests really tell you about your ancestors?

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

Can My Migraines Be Cured?2019091320190914 (WS)
20190916 (WS)

The World Health Organization ranks migraines as the second most disabling neurological disorder in the world and in people under the age of 50, it is the single most disabling medical condition. With stats like that, it’s no wonder that so many CrowdScience listeners have got in touch wanting help with their headaches.

Peter from Germany askes what happens in his brain when he’s got a migraine, whilst Nika from Germany has found that changing lifestyle has dramatically reduced hers but she’s not sure why. What’s the link between diet, exercise and migraines, Nika wonders? Meanwhile, Judy from USA wants to know if there’s a cure, as her son gets chronic migraines and she wants to know what the future looks like for him.

Anand Jagatia and migraine sufferer Graihagh Jackson take a trip into the neurology of migraines, investigating some of the latest research in headache and migraine research to find some answers.

Presenters: Anand Jagatia & Graihagh Jackson
Producer: Graihagh Jackson

(Photo: A young man suffering from a migraine. Credit: Getty Images)

What's happening in my brain when I get a migraine? CrowdScience investigates

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

Can My Stutter Be Cured?2019110120191103 (WS)
20191104 (WS)

Most of us take the ability to speak fluently for granted, but for listener Breeda it has been a lifelong struggle. She has asked CrowdScience to investigate whether there is a cure for stuttering and, if not, what the best way to live with it is. Breeda is not alone, as stammering is a neurological condition that affects 70 million people worldwide.

The CrowdScience team head to Oslo in Norway to follow a group of young people who have signed up for a highly disciplined and potentially life-changing training course. The first milestone is to learn to say their name without a stutter. For many, this is a huge challenge that triggers years of distress and anxiety.

With hundreds of muscles and many parts of the brain being involved, speaking is one of the most complex tasks that humans perform. Scientists have discovered subtle differences in the insulation surrounding nerve cells, so-called myelin, between people who stutter and those who don’t. This irregularity may be the source of a tiny time delay in signals between crucial regions of the brain that need to work closely together to produce speech. In the future, it may be possible to stimulate certain brain areas to boost growth and connectivity.

Presenter: Gareth Barlow
Produced by Louisa Field for the BBC World Service

Image: Illustration of humans with speech bubbles (Credit: Getty Images)

Most of us take speaking for granted, but for Breeda it has been a lifelong struggle

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

Can science explain why I love shopping?20200327

If you've ever felt the urge to shop till you drop, then you may already know about some of the clever ways retailers convince us to consume. From flash sales to so-called unbelievable offers, there are a whole range of techniques aimed at encouraging us to flash the cash. Listener Mo works in marketing, so knows more than most about the tricks of the trade - but he wants CrowdScience to investigate how neuroscience is being used to measure our behaviour and predict what we’ll buy. Marnie Chesterton finds out how brain scans are being used to discover which specific aspect of an advertisement a person is responding to, and then she hears how this information is being used by companies who want to sell us more stuff. But there's also evidence to suggest we have less control over these decisions than we think, and that computers are getting closer to detecting our intention before we're even aware of it ourselves. And this could have huge implications for the way we shop.

Presented by: Marnie Chesterton
Produced by: Marijke Peters

(Photo:

Crowdscience investigates the brain science behind our buying behaviour

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

Can science explain why I love shopping?2020032720200330 (WS)

If you've ever felt the urge to shop till you drop, then you may already know about some of the clever ways retailers convince us to consume. From flash sales to so-called unbelievable offers, there are a whole range of techniques aimed at encouraging us to flash the cash. Listener Mo works in marketing, so knows more than most about the tricks of the trade - but he wants CrowdScience to investigate how neuroscience is being used to measure our behaviour and predict what we’ll buy. Marnie Chesterton finds out how brain scans are being used to discover which specific aspect of an advertisement a person is responding to, and then she hears how this information is being used by companies who want to sell us more stuff. But there's also evidence to suggest we have less control over these decisions than we think, and that computers are getting closer to detecting our intention before we're even aware of it ourselves. And this could have huge implications for the way we shop.

Presented by: Marnie Chesterton
Produced by: Marijke Peters

(Photo:

Crowdscience investigates the brain science behind our buying behaviour

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

Can Singing Improve Our Health?2019060720190608 (WS)
20190610 (WS)

Singing can lift our spirits, but research suggests it could also benefit our health, improving breathing for people with lung conditions and helping us cope with dementia. Could it even have a preventative effect?

CrowdScience heads to Cheltenham Science Festival in the UK county of Gloucestershire - one of the first places to pioneer this kind of “social prescribing” - to find out. Presenter Anand Jagatia teams up with panellists Dr Daisy Fancourt, Senior Research Associate in Behavioural Science, Dr Simon Opher, family doctor and Clinical Lead for Social Prescribing, and Maggie Grady, Director of Music Therapy at charity Mindsong to learn more. They’re joined on-stage by their Breathe In Sing Out and Meaningful Music volunteer singing groups to find out what this much-loved musical pastime can do for us.

Producer: Jen Whyntie

(Photo: Students singing in a choir with their teacher. Credit: Getty Images)

Could this much-loved musical pastime improve our mental and physical strength?

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

Can Volcanoes Power The World?2019011120190113 (WS)
20190114 (WS)

Magma is the hot, molten rock found beneath the Earth’s crust. It’s so plentiful that it got Greek listener Dimitrios wondering whether we could harness this heat. Could we drill directly into the magma and use it to power our homes, he asks presenter Marnie Chesterton? And from Ghana, Madock also got in touch with CrowdScience to ask why there are lots of volcanoes in some areas of the world, but then none in others?

Marnie dispatches Anand Jagatia to Kenya, a country that is one of the biggest providers of geothermal energy in the world and home to the East African Rift system. At 4,000 miles long, a string of volcanoes sits along this fault line. Anand hikes up one of these to find out why volcanism is so active here. Anand then travels to a geothermal power plant to get to grips with how conventional geothermal energy works, before turning to Iceland, where they’ve drilled directly into magma - albeit by accident. What they discovered was supercritical steam. It’s neither a liquid nor a gas but holds up to 10 times more energy than both. And to find it naturally occurring is the ‘holy grail’ of geothermal power. But can our equipment stand such temperatures?

Presenter: Anand Jagatia and Marnie Chesterton
Producer: Graihagh Jackson

(Image: A volcano erupts. Credit Getty Images)

Eruptions cause chaos and destruction, but could they also be an energy source?

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

Can We Prevent Traffic Jams?2019062820190629 (WS)
20190701 (WS)

It’s frustrating to be stuck in traffic. Listener Collins from Nairobi, Kenya, spends at least three hours a day in traffic and he counts himself lucky. Many of his friends will easily spend six hours in traffic jams to get back and forth from work. Collins wants to know whether there is hope for his hometown – has any city managed to eliminate the worst of the traffic hot spots and how did they do it?

Collins is not alone in his frustration. CrowdScience finds that congestion plays a major factor in the happiness and health of urban citizens. Commuters have been measured to have stress levels equivalent to that of riot police facing angry protesters.

So should our cities cater less for cars and what are the alternatives? Presenter Gareth Barlow heads to Copenhagen to meet the politicians and urban designers who have transformed the Danish capital from a city for cars to one for bikes and people.

Presenter: Gareth Barlow.
Produced by Louisa Field

(Photo: Afternoon traffic along Likoni road in Nairobi's Kilimani susburb. Credit: Getty Images)

Should our cities cater less for cars and what are the alternatives?

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

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

Could Dark Matter Harbour Dark Life?2019051720190520 (WS)

Where the conditions are right, life can arise. But what might the ‘right’ conditions be? Could the dark sector of our Universe be inhabited? That’s what Gautam from Delhi, India has been wondering. He points out that dark matter and dark energy make up around 95% of the Universe and the remaining segment is normal matter - the stuff we’re all made up of. Given that there’s so much of this dark material, could dark life have evolved? Marnie Chesterton investigates with Dr Matt Middleton, Dr Burçin Mutlu-Pakdil and Dr Renato Costa.

Together, they unpick what dark matter and dark energy are and test out some listener theories as to what these mysterious mediums might be. For instance, Yoseph from Ogden, USA questions whether black holes could account for the missing matter and it turns out, he might just be on to something…

Presented by Marnie Chesterton. Produced by Graihagh Jackson for BBC World Service.

(Photo: Arrangement of Nebula, Stars and a colourful galaxy. Credit: Getty Images)

Marnie Chesterton answers Indian listener Gautam's question about dark life

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

Could Humans Hibernate During Interstellar Travel?2019112920191201 (WS)
20191202 (WS)

Science fiction is full of people settling on distant planets. But even the closest stars would take millennia to reach with current speeds of travel, by the time any passengers reached an extra solar planet, they would be long dead.

So CrowdScience listener Balaji asked us to find out whether humans could hibernate for interstellar travel?

To uncover the science fact behind this idea, Anand Jagatia holds a tiny hibernating dormouse at the Wildwood Trust in Kent, and meets Dr Samuel Tisherman who puts his patients into suspended animation for a couple of hours, to save their lives after traumatic injuries that cause cardiac arrest. We ask if Dr Tisherman’s research could be extended to put healthy individuals to sleep for much longer periods of time?

It’s a question that neuroscientist, Professor Kelly Drew is studying, in Alaska Fairbanks. She uses Ground Squirrels as a model to understand internal thermostats, and how hibernating mammals manage to reduce their core temperatures to -3 degrees Celsius.

Anand speculates wildly with science fiction authors Adrian Tchaikovsky and Temi Oh whose characters in their books ‘Children of Time’ and ‘Do You Dream of Terra Two?’ traverse enormous distances between habitable planets.

But is human stasis something that would actually be useful? John Bradford is the director of SpaceWorks, this company works with NASA to try to investigate human hibernation for space travel. He’s trying to make space-based human hibernation a reality, and it seems that may be closer than you’d think.

Presented by Anand Jagatia
Produced by Rory Galloway

(Photo: People in hibernation. Credit: Getty Images)

Hibernation could allow people to travel long distances in space. How realistic is it?

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

Could I Learn To Think Like Sherlock Holmes?2019092020190921 (WS)
20190923 (WS)

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous fictional detective is renowned for his feats of memory, his observational capacity, tireless energy and an almost supernatural ability to solve the most perplexing crimes from seemingly unconnected facts.

CrowdScience listener Asghar wants to know whether the way Sherlock Holmes solves crimes goes beyond fiction. What does science have to say about the matter? We pit fact against fiction with a leading forensic expert, a sleep scientist and presenter Marnie Chesterton puts herself to the test under the guidance of memory champion Simon Reinhard.

She discovers that most humans are able to train their brain to rival the memory capacity of Sherlock Holmes. And who wouldn’t want that?

Presenter: Marnie Chesterton
Producer: Louisa Field

(Photo: A Sherlock Holmes hat and magnifying glass on a wooden table. Credit: Getty Images)

What does science have to say about the famous fictional detective?

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

Could Our Household Microbes Help Or Harm Us?2019052420190525 (WS)
20190527 (WS)

As scientists keep finding ever more fascinating facts about the invisible housemates that share our homes, we dust off our episode on what might be lurking in quiet household corners or under our beds.

Marnie Chesterton reminds us how dust can contain all sorts of secrets about our habits and everyday lives, and Anand Jagatia bravely ventures into parts of our homes that are usually overlooked. He heads out on a microbial safari with expert tour guide Dr Jamie Lorimer from the University of Oxford to find out what kind of creatures are living in our kitchens, bathrooms and gardens - from bacteria normally found in undersea vents popping up in a kettle, to microbes quietly producing tiny nuggets of gold. For so long this hidden world has been one that we’ve routinely exterminated - but should we be exploring it too?

Presenters: Marnie Chesterton and Anand Jagatia. Produced by Jen Whyntie for BBC World Service.

(Photo: A woman using a damp sponge to clean dust collected on a window sill. Credit: Getty Images)

We revisit our episode on dust to decide what we should do with our invisible housemates

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

Could Viruses Help Fight Super-bugs?2019042620190427 (WS)
20190429 (WS)

We are slowly running out of ammunition to fight antibiotic resistant bacteria. Listener Peter wants to know whether a therapy that he’d heard about in the 1980s could be revived to help us where antibiotics falls short.

CrowdScience travels to Georgia where “phages”, viruses that hunt and kill bacteria, have been used for nearly 100 years to treat illnesses ranging from a sore throat to cholera. Phages are fussy eaters – a specific phage will happily chew on one bug but ignore another. In Georgia, scientists have kept rare phages safe for decades and are constantly on the look-out for new ones.

CrowdScience presenter Marnie Chesterton speaks to the scientists and doctors who are pioneering phage-therapy as well as overseas patients who have travelled thousands of miles in hope of finding a cure.

Presenter: Marnie Chesterton
Producer: Louisa Field

(Photo: Bacteriophage infecting bacterium. Credit: Getty Images)

CrowdScience travels to Georgia in search of solutions to antibiotic resistance

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

Could We Survive An Extinction Event?2020012420200126 (WS)
20200127 (WS)

Super-sized volcanic eruptions and giant asteroids crashing in from outer space are the stuff of disaster movies. They have listener Santosh from South Africa slightly concerned. He’d like to know what’s being done in real life to prepare for this kind of event.

Although the chance of these events occurring is low, Santosh isn’t entirely wrong to be worried: Earth has a much longer history than humans do, and there’s evidence that several past extinction events millions of years ago wiped out the dominant species on the planet at the time, as we’ve heard before on CrowdScience. The kind of extraordinary geological and extra-terrestrial hazards thought to be responsible for the death of millions of lives do still exist. So is there really any way that humans could survive where the dinosaurs – and plenty of other species – have failed?

Presenter Marnie Chesterton finds out by meeting experts who are already preparing for the remote but real possibility of the biggest disaster we could face. It turns out that in real life most things we can think of which could cause an extinction event are being watched closely by scientists and governmental agencies. How worried we should really be by the possibility of a sudden super-volcanic eruption at Yellowstone in the USA, or one of the other enormous volcanoes dotting our planet’s surface? Marnie heads into an underground bunker near the remote Scottish coast to find out if hiding out is a viable survival option. Now a museum, Scotland’s Secret Bunker, formerly RAF Troywood, is one of a network of nuclear shelters built by nation states during the Cold War. And she hears about one of the combined space agencies most ambitious projects yet: NASA and ESA’s Asteroid Impact and Deflection Assessment mission to crash an impactor into an asteroid’s moon to find out whether we could knock any potentially problematic collisions off-course well before Earth impact.

Produced by Jennifer Whyntie for BBC World Service

(Photo: Post apocalypse sole survivor. Credit: Getty Images)

Are humans capable of outwitting asteroids, volcanoes or other causes of mass extinction?

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

Did Cooking Make Us Human?2019050320190504 (WS)
20190506 (WS)

Many of us enjoy cooking – but when did we switch from eating our food raw, to heating it? Listener Logan enjoys his beef burgers rare, but wants to know why he still feels compelled to grill them? Presenter Anand Jagatia travels to a remote South African cave where our ancestors first used fire at least a million years ago, which one man says could help prove when our species started cooking.

And he talks to a scientist who shows how the composition of food changes when it’s cooked, to allow us more access to give us more access to calories - and hears how a completely raw food diet could have disastrous consequences for health.

Producer: Marijke Peters
Presenter Anand Jagatia

(Image: A large pan held over an open fire. Credit: Getty Images)

When did we switch from eating our food raw, to heating it?

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

Did Crowdscience Change Your Life?2019122020191222 (WS)
20191223 (WS)

As CrowdScience celebrates its third birthday, the team takes time to revisit some of our early episodes, and catch up with listeners to discover if the answers we uncovered changed the course of their lives? We hear from Zach, who has learned to let go of a possibly lost memory and Erin, who discovered technology could hold the key to finding the man of her dreams. And two years after he emailed to ask why he couldn’t kick his habit, we ash Sharif whether he has finally managed to stop smoking?

(Photo: Man listening to podcast. Credit: Getty Images)

We delve into the Crowdscience archive to hear how our shows changed listeners' lives

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

Do Green Spaces Make Us Healthier?2019100420191005 (WS)
20191007 (WS)

Trees and plants have been quietly growing in the background of our everyday lives for as long as we’ve existed. Now, as millions of us move into densely populated cities for work, school and healthcare, our green neighbours have been replaced by brick, concrete, steel and glass. We know that plants are vital for absorbing our waste carbon dioxide and providing us with oxygen. Would remote rural forests do that job for us, or is there more to living alongside greenery?

CrowdScience listener Enrica from Italy thinks there is. She loves walking along the verdant riverbank near her home after a hard week at work. It makes her feel better, and she wants to know why. Which as it turns out, is a question that scientists across the globe are also trying to answer. The work they’ve done so far has been enough to convince governments around the world that it is worth investing taxpayer’s money in urban planting schemes.

One scheme is in Milan, Italy. Home to Leonardo da Vinci’s iconic “The Last Supper” and the San Siro, home of AC Milan, Inter Milan and the largest football stadium in Italy. But city officials have been working hard to increase the city’s the green features, committing to planting 3 million trees and building twenty new parks by 2030.

CrowdScience presenter Anand Jagatia visits Milan’s innovative Bosco Verticale - a vertical forest planted on two tower blocks and discovers that research is showing that greener cities could help those living there by providing spaces for daily physical activity. It’s hoped they could also provide cooling microclimates to reduce the dangers of summer heat, and improve our mental health.

(Photo: Tree lined "tunnel" in the English countryside of West Sussex. Credit: Getty Images)

Is there more to living alongside greenery?

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

Do We Need More Space Stations?2019083020190831 (WS)
20190902 (WS)

Satellites have transformed our lives, giving us digital communications, navigation and observations of Earth, and even an artificial place to live above the atmosphere: The International Space Station. CrowdScience listener Dana wants to know: would more of these satellites and stations help us get back to the Moon, as well as further into the solar system?

As we discovered in a previous episode, being able to mine resources such as fuel and water in space could be handy for extra-terrestrial exploration. Asteroids could perhaps one day become self-fuelling gas stations for spaceships, as many contain ice which you could turn rocket fuel (hydrogen and oxygen). But what else would astronauts need for living beyond Earth?

Marnie Chesterton asks the engineers working on the possibilities – from communications satellites that could transform lunar missions to a brand new moon-orbiting space station: The Lunar Gateway. These technologies could help humans get back to the Moon, and perhaps one day to Mars, for hopefully reduced costs – but funding missions beyond our planet still isn’t going to be cheap. Why might we need deep space-based infrastructure, and how could it help humanity back here on Earth?

Presented by Marnie Chesterton
Produced by Jennifer Whyntie for the BBC World Service

(Photo: International Space Station, orbiting Earth. Credit: The Science Photo Library)

Would more satellites and space stations help us get further into the solar system?

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

Do You Smell What I Smell?2018112320181126 (WS)

We may take our ability to smell for granted but it’s a far more complex sense than many people realise. Listener Annabel wants Crowdscience to investigate why perfume makes her queasy, so Anand Jagatia sets out to discover why we can’t all agree when we follow our noses. He gets a whiff of the world’s stinkiest flower - and finds some people enjoy it – then asks what’s happening in the brain when we love or hate a scent. But could our different perceptions about this under-appreciated sense actually come down to a lack of words to describe it? He hears about one culture which has developed its own language for smell.

Presenter: Anand Jagatia
Producer: Marijke Peters

(Image: A woman smelling roses. Credit: Getty Images)

Anand Jagatia sets out to discover why we can't all agree when we follow our noses

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

Global Infertility - Could The Handmaid's Tale Become Reality?2019081620190817 (WS)
20190819 (WS)

CrowdScience listeners Mark and Jess have been watching TV series, The Handmaid’s Tale. It's an adaptation of a book by Margaret Atwood and depicts a dystopian future where many have become infertile. The remaining few fertile women, known as Handmaids, are forced into child-bearing servitude. Why so many have become infertile isn’t clear but the series hints at several possible causes, from radiation to environmental pollutants.

All of which got Mark and Jess wondering… What could cause mass infertility? Would we descend into a political landscape akin to Gilead? Award-winning author Margaret Atwood has left a paper trail for us to follow in the pages of her novel. There’s a ream of possible causes, and so Marnie Chesterton investigates which ring true.

Presented by Marnie Chesterton. Produced by Graihagh Jackson for the BBC World Service.

(Photo: Filming of the Handmaid's Tale. Credit: Getty Images)

What could cause mass infertility? Marnie Chesterton investigates

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

Global Infertility: Could The Handmaid's Tale Become Reality?2019081620190819 (WS)

CrowdScience listeners Mark and Jess have been watching TV series, The Handmaid’s Tale. It's an adaptation of a book by Margaret Atwood and depicts a dystopian future where many have become infertile. The remaining few fertile women, known as Handmaids, are forced into child-bearing servitude. Why so many have become infertile isn’t clear but the series hints at several possible causes, from radiation to environmental pollutants.

All of which got Mark and Jess wondering… What could cause mass infertility? Would we descend into a political landscape akin to Gilead? Award-winning author Margaret Atwood has left a paper trail for us to follow in the pages of her novel. There’s a ream of possible causes, and so Marnie Chesterton investigates which ring true.

Presented by Marnie Chesterton. Produced by Graihagh Jackson for the BBC World Service.

(Photo: Filming of the Handmaid's Tale. Credit: Getty Images)

What could cause mass infertility? Marnie Chesterton investigates

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

How Are We Evolving?2019053120190601 (WS)
20190603 (WS)

Medical intervention has disrupted natural selection in humans as many more children survive into adulthood than did a few centuries ago. And as our DNA continues to evolve, in order to adapt to our environment, how might human beings of the future be different from us? Anand Jagatia explores how some humans, over just a few thousand years, have adapted genetically to live at high altitudes of the Tibetan Himalayas or in the cold climates of Inuit Greenland.

Several Crowdscience listeners got in touch to ask about the ways in which humans might evolve in future but understanding how we’re adapting to modern ways of living is much harder to measure. So what adaptions do evolutionary biologists expect for the human race? How will IVF, gene-editing, mass migration and our constantly changing culture affect how we evolve?

Presenter: Anand Jagatia. Produced by Dom Byrne and Melanie Brown for BBC World Service

(Photo: People in a crowded street. Credit: Getty Images)

How are we changing genetically to adapt to modern lifestyles and our environment

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

How Bird-like Were Dinosaurs?2019010420190106 (WS)
20190107 (WS)

Birds are dinosaurs, but did their extinct relatives move, look, or even sing like their avian relatives? From revealing the hidden information within fossilised dinosaur footprints, to reading the messages left by muscle attachments on fossil bones and seeing how modern palaeo-artists have started to draw fluffy feathered Tyranosaurs, presenter Geoff Marsh starts to reimagine dinosaurs as living animals.

Beginning with CrowdScience listener Malcolm asking about hopping dinosaurs while on a fossil finding mission with world expert Dr Peter Falkingham, Geoff explores the vaults of the Natural History Museum with Dr Susie Maidment and meets palaeoartist Dr Mark Witton’s pet dinosaurs in his living room studio.

Producer: Rory Galloway

(Image: A Velociraptor dinosaur. Credit to Mark Witton)

Birds are dinosaurs, but did their extinct relatives move, look, or sing like they do?

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

How Can I Live A Longer Life?2019101120191012 (WS)
20191014 (WS)

Human life expectancy has been increasing for decades. In many developed countries, we can now expect to live into our 80s, and it isn’t uncommon to live to 90 or even 100 years old.

But eventually our bodies fail, old age is undoubtedly a clear indicator of approaching death. This fact annoyed 79 year old CrowdScience listener Bill, who emailed in to set presenter Geoff Marsh the task of seeking out the secrets to a longer, healthier life. Bill has a personal target to live to 200 years old, so can he do it?

Well some people appear to age more slowly. In one part of Costa Rica, people commonly hit their hundredth birthday. CrowdScience’s Rafael Rojas visits these Central American centenarians to ask them their secrets to a longer life. Then, in interviews with the best age researchers around the world, including Professor Linda Partridge and Professor Janet Lord, Geoff reveals the science behind longer lifespans, and what people can do to live for longer, healthily.

Presented by Geoff Marsh
Produced by Rory Galloway

(Image: A group of older men sitting together at an event, Costa Rica. Credit: Rafael Rojas)

What is the secret to living healthily into very old age?

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

How Can I Motivate Myself?2019082320190824 (WS)
20190826 (WS)

Many of us struggle to motivate ourselves to carry out certain tasks, from hanging out the washing to writing a job application. How can we best motivate ourselves? And how can we avoid procrastination? Listener Moses in Uganda wants to find out. Presenter Anand Jagatia puts the science to the test as he trains and participates in an open water swimming race which Marnie Chesterton has kindly volunteered him for.

Presented by Anand Jagatia and Marnie Chesterton
Produced by Caroline Steel for the BBC World Service

(Photo: Yes you can, motivational message written on a sandy beach. Credit: Getty Images)

We put science to the test to try and find out how can we best motivate ourselves

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

How Did Humans Discover Medicine?2020020720200209 (WS)
20200210 (WS)

Today, once-fatal diseases like the plague, sepsis, or cholera can be treated simply and quickly with a pill. These tiny tablets hold compounds that can fix illnesses, and most people don’t think twice about taking an asparin for a headache.

Modern medicine looks nothing like the plants that many of them are derived from. But there must have been a moment, when the first humans decided that a particular plant, fungus, or mineral might cure them of an upset stomach, or infected wound. Right? That’s what listener Andrew Chen wondered, so he emailed CrowdScience to find answers.

Presenter Anand Jagatia speaks with an archaeologist, a botanist, an ethno-pharmacologist, a zoologist and a historian to uncover the story of early human experimentation with ‘drugs’ from plants, fungi, animals and minerals.

The history of humans is full of illness and poor health, and it seems we’ve always tried to fix this. Anand discovers the connection between food and medicine while making tonic water from scratch with Kim Walker at the Royal Botanic Gardens of Kew, and tastes the daisy-like Chinese herb that was first used thousands of years ago, and then – once tested - became one of the best modern drugs for treating the world’s most deadly infectious disease.
Listener Andrew’s inspiration came from a previous episode of CrowdScience ‘Who were the first farmers?’ and so we return to expert anthropologist Cheryl Makerewicz who tells us about the ecological knowledge of hunter-gatherers and pastoralist communities. With Jaap de Roode, Anand discovers that conscious thought isn’t a pre-requisite of medical discovery, and historian Vivienne Lo explains how written word helped to standardise generations of medical knowledge in East Asia. Previously medical knowledge had been irrevocably linked with shamanism, magic and spirituality, but with modern medicine this changed – but today there is still much we can learn from ancient forms of knowledge, Christophe Wiart explains how his science focuses of discovering what plants tribal people in east Asia have used for centuries to cure their ailments. These early methods may help us combat new diseases today.

Presented by Anand Jagatia
Produced by Rory Galloway

[Photo: Women using plant medicines. Credit: Getty Images]

Diseases have always been with us, but when did we first find ways to cure them?

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

How Does A Single Cell Become Me?2019051020190511 (WS)
20190513 (WS)

Our bodies are made of cells, tens of trillions of cells. They all have particular roles and functions in the body, from digesting food, to producing hair, to hunting down pathogens. But all of this incredible complexity started as just a single cell.

Gila, from Israel, asked CrowdScience to find out how the development of incredible structures, and systems in the body are coordinated by the cells. Are cells communicating? How do cells know what they should be doing?

To find out, Geoff Marsh meets a Cambridge researcher uncovering the first cell division in our lives, and peers into a fertile chicken egg to see the developing embryo as it grows a limb. CrowdScience finds out why scientists like Dr Megan Davey use chickens to understand the development of human fingers and investigates how individual cells with the same DNA manage to choreograph a dance of cell replication, movement and communication to create our bodies in all of their complexity.

Presenter: Geoff Marsh
Producer: Rory Galloway

(Photo: Cells grouped together. Credit: Getty Images)

How do trillions of individual cells work together to build bodies?

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

How do trillions of individual cells work together to build our bodies?

How Does The Sun Affect My Body And Mind?2019122720191229 (WS)
20191230 (WS)

Two years ago reporter Anand Jagatia travelled up beyond the Arctic Circle to meet Norwegian researchers in order to answer a question from US listener Kira on why some people function best in the mornings whilst others only come alive at night. In this episode we revisit the topic with the help of science writer and Parentland podcast presenter Linda Geddes, author of Chasing the Sun, a book which explores the science behind the Sun’s effects on our bodies and our minds.

The morning sun helps to kick-start our day and our body’s biological cycle – so what happens when it barely rises above the horizon or we live for prolonged periods in artificial environments where the sun never shines? Research has suggested that some communities in northern latitudes are better protected against the mental and physical effects of reduced exposure to sunlight in the winter which might have implications for those suffering the winter blues.

Presenter Anand Jagatia, Producer: Rami Tzabar

(Photo: Woman basking in the sun. Credit: Getty Images)

We explore the power of light to impact our health and wellbeing

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

How Low-carbon Can Crowdscience Go?2020011020200112 (WS)
20200113 (WS)

Reducing climate change and global warming is one of the biggest and most urgent challenges for everyone as we enter a new decade. The CrowdScience team have been trying to figure out how to play our part in reducing our carbon footprint. So what’s the best way forward?

Presenter Marnie Chesterton starts to find out by pitting three of her colleagues against each other for the first phase of our challenge. Anand Jagatia, Geoff Marsh and Melanie Brown have all been tasked with answering a listener’s question in the lowest-carbon way possible. Along the way, they must monitor and account for every emission – from their travel methods to their choice of sustenance whilst working. It turns out that the challenge is not only in acknowledging all the types of activity that produce emissions, but in working out the volume of greenhouse gases produced. Marnie judges her colleagues’ efforts, determines a winner, and dispatches the losing challenger to look further into carbon calculation, and to find out about the possibilities of legitimately offsetting the overall footprint. And we start our on-going experiment using a broadcast industry carbon calculator to find out the most carbon-efficient and sustainable ways to keep answering everyone’s questions and sharing more cutting-edge global science.

Presented by Marnie Chesterton

Produced by Jen Whyntie for the BBC World Service

(Photo:

We try to find out the best ways to reduce our carbon footprint

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

How Many Fossils Are There?2019080220190803 (WS)
20190805 (WS)

The odds of becoming a fossil are vanishingly small. And yet there seem to be an awful lot of them out there. In some parts of the world you can barely look at a rock without finding a fossil, and museum archives worldwide are stuffed with everything from ammonites to Archaeopteryx. But how many does that leave to be discovered by future fossil hunters? What’s the total number of fossils left to find?

That’s what listener Anders Hegvik from Norway wants to know and what CrowdScience is off to investigate. Despite not having the technology or time to scan the entire planet, presenter Marnie Chesterton prepares to find a decent answer. During her quest, she meets the scientists who dig up fossils all over the world; does some very large sums; and asks, have we already found all the T-rexes out there?

Presented by Marnie Chesterton and produced by Anna Lacey

(Photo: Fossilized dinosaur bones and skull in the send. Credit: Getty Images)

Have we already found the last T. rex? Or are there many more to be discovered?

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

How Much Energy Can I Burn By Thinking?2018122120181223 (WS)
20181224 (WS)

Wouldn’t it be great if you could lose weight and stay fit just by exercising your brain? Trouble is everything takes so much effort - from burning off excess weight to powering our cars. But why?

Presenter Marnie Chesterton rummages through the CrowdScience inbox to tackle all your energy-expending queries. Is the entire universe spinning? How much energy do we expend when sleeping? Can I think myself thinner? Scientists Helen Czerski, Andrew Pontzen and Andrea Sella join listeners from around the world to discover how effort and energy affect our lives.

(Image: A young boy sits at an office desk searching for successful ideas using a homemade thinking cap with a lit up light bulb. Credit: Getty Images)

Could we lose weight just by exercising our brain?

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

Is A Vegan Diet Better For Your Health?2019092720190928 (WS)
20190930 (WS)

The number of vegans is on the rise in many parts of the world, with many people swearing by the health benefits of a plant-based lifestyle. But is a vegan diet really better for your health? Is there any evidence to show that vegans are likely to live longer? And what about the new, highly processed meat analogues becoming increasingly available in supermarkets and restaurants menus? They look, feel and taste just like meat products but what affect are they having on our health? To find out more, presenter Anand Jagatia talks to the experts and joins listener Samantha in following a vegan diet.

Presenter Anand Jagatia
Produced by Caroline Steel for the BBC World Service

(Photo: Healthy vegan food with herbs and spices. Credit: Getty Images)

Many people follow a plant based diet, but is a vegan diet really better for your health?

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

Is Maths Real?2019101820191019 (WS)
20191021 (WS)

Faced with one cake and eight hungry people, it’s pretty obvious how maths underpins reality. But as mathematics gets further from common sense and into seemingly abstract territory, nature still seems to obey its rules - whether in the orbit of a planet, the number of petals on a flower, or the structure of an atom.

But what exactly is the relationship between mathematics and reality? That’s the impossibly difficult question CrowdScience has been set this week by our listener Sergio in Peru. It’s one that’s been pondered by humans for millennia: the Greek philosopher Pythagoras believed “All is number”.

Is maths a human construct to help us make sense of reality - a tool, a model, a language? Does maths create its own reality? Or is it reality itself?

Presenter: Marnie Chesterton
Produced by Cathy Edwards for the BBC World Service

(Photo: A young woman with her eyes closed standing in front of chalkboard, working out maths formulas. Credit: Getty Images)

Is maths a tool created by humans? Or is it reality itself?

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

Is Soil The Secret To Slowing Climate Change?2018113020181202 (WS)
20181203 (WS)

Removing carbon dioxide from our atmosphere - and stopping it getting up there in the first place - is becoming increasingly urgent if we want to prevent catastrophic climate change. There are some seriously high tech machines being developed to try and tackle this problem, but could an equally powerful solution be found in the dirt under our feet? Prompted by New Zealand farmer and CrowdScience listener Kem, we dig deep to see how effectively plants and soils soak up CO2 from the air; and what that means for how we should farm the land around the world. And we visit a Scottish forest to find out how the ancient art of making charcoal is staging a comeback in the fight against climate change.

Presenter: Marnie Chesterton
Producer: Cathy Edwards for BBC World Service

(Photo: A young plant in soil, in the morning light. Credit: Getty Images)

CrowdScience goes digging to find out how soil could help keep CO2 out of the air

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

Is There A Logic To Romantic Love?2018121420181216 (WS)
20181217 (WS)

Loving someone who doesn’t love you in return makes us feel wretched – can science explain why we must suffer? Parental love makes perfect evolutionary sense but romance just seems to have it in for us time after time. CrowdScience listener Leja wants to know why we fall in and out of love.

Marnie Chesterton discovers the irrational things, the impulsive things and the financially ruinous things BBC World Service listeners have done in the name of love and meet the rapper who turned herself into a science subject in an effort to flush out thoughts of her ex-boyfriend.

We delve into our ancestral past and into our brains to find out why romantic love is so central to the human experience.

Presenter: Marnie Chesterton
Producer: Louisa Field

(Image: A loving couple hugging each other, the woman holding a rose. Credit: Getty Images)

Can science explain why romantic rejection hurts?

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

Should I Stop Eating Palm Oil?2019112220191124 (WS)
20191125 (WS)

Australian listener Lizzy is trying to reduce her footprint on this planet and is particularly interested in palm oil. It is everywhere - in shampoo, lipstick and face cream and even food stuffs like biscuits and spreads. In fact, WWF say it is used in 50% of all supermarket products so it's something most of us will come into contact with every day.

Lizzy wants to know whether she should stop eating it. Because on the one hand, she sees emotive adverts depicting dying orangutans, deforestation and burning peatlands, releasing vast amounts of climate changing gases like carbon dioxide. On the other, she has read that palm oil is the most productive of the vegetable oils, using far less land than others. So would boycotting palm oil displace the problem elsewhere, she wonders? Would buying sustainable palm oil be best?

Partnering up with with another BBC World Service programme, The Food Chain, presenter Graihagh Jackson heads to one of the biggest producers of palm oil: Malaysia. She visits small holder plantations, who collectively provide 40% of the world’s palm oil, to find out how palm oil is grown and to ask them about their perspective on a product that provides them with their livelihood. What would incentivise them to engage in greener practices? And what would that look like? For the latter question, Graihagh speaks to the largest sustainable certifier of palm oil, the RSPO and looks to science to see how we can continue to grow palm oil without having any more adverse effects on wildlife.

This episode is part of the Crossing Divides season which runs from 18 - 24 November. You can find a link to the Food Chain episode below.

Produced and presented by Graihagh Jackson with help from Marijke Peters and editor Rami Tzabar for the BBC World Service.

(Photo: Woman shopping in supermarket Credit: Getty Images)

Is palm oil environmental foe or poverty-fighting crop? Graihagh Jackson investigates

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

What Are Scientists Doing About Coronavirus?2020031320200316 (WS)
20200315 (WS)

Since the outbreak of a new strain of coronavirus late last year, health workers and governments have been rushing to limit transmission by deploying containment tactics and anti-contamination campaigns. But, as the virus spreads around the world, what are scientists doing to help our bodies fight off or resist this new infectious disease?

Viruses that cause human disease can be notoriously tricky to tackle. They don’t respond to antibiotics, can spread rapidly between human hosts, and even evolve improved ways of working as they multiply. Presenter Marnie Chesterton heads to the University of Oxford’s Nuffield Department of Medicine to meet the researchers who are urgently searching for solutions. Professor Tao Dong is Director of Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences Oxford Institute, collaborating with colleagues on the ground in China to see how Chinese patients’ immune systems are responding to the virus, which could inform vaccine design. Professor Sarah Gilbert leads the Jenner Institute’s influenza vaccine and emerging pathogens programme. She’s been developing a vaccine against another strain of coronavirus that caused the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) outbreak, and is using the same technology to generate a new vaccine against the 2019 coronavirus. And, whilst that’s being developed, there is a possibility that some existing antiviral drugs may even help infected patients – Professor Peter Horby is working with colleagues in China on clinical trials to see what might work. CrowdScience goes into the laboratories using cutting edge science to combat coronavirus.

Presented by Marnie Chesterton
Produced by Jen Whyntie for the BBC World Service

(Photo: Coronavirus Credit: Getty Images)

CrowdScience goes into labs to meet researchers urgently searching for COVID-19 solutions

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

What Is Cancer?2020021420200216 (WS)
20200217 (WS)

Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the world. Many of us will at some point in our lives be confronted with the disease – either by falling ill ourselves or through a family member or friend. For CrowdScience presenter Marnie Chesterton, the diagnosis would change her life.

The range of cancer symptoms and mortality rates vary considerably. Not all cancers are fatal and in some cases, cancer ends up more like a chronic debilitating disease, resulting in patients eventually dying from some other condition. This has got listener Gill in Scotland wondering – why do we call all cancers, cancer? And when did doctors first realise that all cancers are part of the same problem?

First described by the Egyptians thousands of years ago and later coined by the Greek physician Hippocrates as “karninos”, the Greek word for “crab”, cancer is ominously absent from medical literature until the late 19th century. Throughout history it has puzzled, infuriated and enticed doctors and scientists to push medical science to its breaking point. Archaeologists have recently discovered that the ancient Egyptians had a term for cancer and that remedies they used then contain compounds that are found in modern chemotherapy.

As we uncover the science and history of cancer, presenter Marnie Chesterton takes us on a journey through her own experience of living with and beyond the diagnosis and we examine the promise of future treatments.

Presented by Marnie Chesterton.
Produced by Louisa Field.

[Photo: Cancer Cell. Credit: Getty Images]

We take a look at cancer treatment's dark past, its current state and future

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

We take a look at cancer treatment's dark past, its current state and future..

What Is Empathy?2020010320200105 (WS)
20200106 (WS)

What is empathy? This week’s question comes from Maria in Amsterdam who has noticed that when one of her friends is in pain, she feels their pain too, literally. Maria wants to know - is she experiencing a type of ‘super’ empathy?

To help find the answer, Marnie Chesterton visits the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience and gets into an MRI scanner to discover what is happening in her brain when she empathises.

She talks with a pro-social psychopath to find out how psychopaths experience empathy differently and how they navigate social situations.

And Marnie meets with a mediator specialising in The Israeli–Palestinian conflict, to learn the value of empathy when the stakes are at their highest.

(Photo: Back view of loving Mum hug teen daughter. Credit: Getty Images)

What drives our feelings of compassion for others \u2013 what is happening in our brains?

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

What Is Infinity?2020011720200119 (WS)
20200120 (WS)

Is there something bigger than infinity? Does quantum mechanics affect how I think? And why can I suddenly do algebra? As ever, we’re not afraid to tackle the big questions on CrowdScience.
After a previous episode about the relationship between mathematics and reality, we received a flood of profound and difficult questions, so we dive back into the world of maths, physics and philosophy to try and answer them.
A panel of experts help us puzzle out whether some infinities are bigger than others - and why that matters, as well as what quantum mechanics can teach us about the workings of the brain. And we seek answers for one of our listeners who surprised himself by being able to figure out mathematics equations he previously found unfathomable.
With philosopher of physics Dr Eleanor Knox, mathematician Dr Katie Steckles, and Dr Aldo Faisal, an expert in neurotechnology.

Presented by Marnie Chesterton
Produced by Cathy Edwards for the BBC World Service

Photo:

We tackle impossible-sounding questions on topics from infinity to quantum mechanics

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

What Is The Future Of Space Travel?2018122820181230 (WS)
20181231 (WS)

CrowdScience goes interstellar this week to answer listeners’ questions about the future of space travel.

Marnie Chesterton heads to Nasa’s Kennedy Space Centre in Florida, where she hears about the engineering challenges of creating a spacecraft that could eventually take us all the way to Mars. Then there are the challenges of engineering the humans for that momentous journey. In space, no-one can hear you scream, which is probably a good thing if you’re going to be trapped in a metal box for two years with the same people, as you cruise through the void on your way to the red planet. So how do astronauts prepare for the physical and psychological impacts of long-term space travel? We also discover how space travel can be made greener and cleaner as the European Space Agency implement the next phase of their plan to tackle the millions of pieces of space debris floating around our planet that potentially, could impact a mission before it even leaves Earth orbit.

(Image: An astronaut in outer space. Credit: Getty Images)

Crowdscience goes interstellar to examine the future of space travel

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

What's The Best Way To Breathe?2019062120190622 (WS)
20190624 (WS)

Breathing is automatic: awake or asleep, running or resting, our bodies unconsciously make sure we get enough oxygen to function. But - unlike other bodily functions such as heart rate and digestion - it’s not hard to control our breathing consciously. If you’ve ever been to an exercise, meditation or yoga class, you’re probably familiar with instructions about how and when to breathe.

It was one of these instructions - “breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth” - that prompted CrowdScience listener Judi to wonder if this really was the best way to breathe during her exercise class. Is there good evidence to support the benefits of different breathing techniques - whether through the nose or mouth, fast or slow, noisy or quiet? And is consciously controlling your breath more about improving psychological focus, or optimising body mechanics?

Sports scientist Mitch Lomax takes us through the biology, chemistry and physics of breathing, and shows us how to train our respiratory muscles. We meet yoga guru Hansa Yogendra in India, where the study of pranayama - literally “breath control” in Sanskrit - is thousands of years old; and find out what scientists have discovered about the effects of these ancient techniques on the body and mind.

Presenter: Anand Jagatia.
Producer: Cathy Edwards

(Photo: A woman jogging outside, wearing sports clothes on a blue sky background. Credit: Getty Images)

Can certain breathing techniques improve your exercise performance?

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

What's The Weirdest Weather?2020022820200301 (WS)
20200302 (WS)

Weather: wet, dry, cold, hot, sunny, windy or downright weird - there’s nothing quite like it as a conversation starter, from Austin to Jakarta. And judging from the large volume of emails about all things meteorological in the CrowdScience inbox, there’s plenty to talk about.

What’s the weirdest weather on Earth, and how big a chance is there of it happening? Why does it always seem to rain on the days when we’re not working? And – conversely – is there any way we could make it rain when and where we need it to? Presenter Anand Jagatia finds out the answers to these questions and more by bringing together a panel of experts under the CrowdScience umbrella: Prof Liz Bentley, Royal Meteorological Society; Dr Anthony Rea, World Meteorological Organization, and Dr Rebecca Buccholz, National Centre for Atmospheric Research.

Presented by Anand Jagatia. Produced by Jen Whyntie for the BBC World Service

(Photo: Lenticular Cloud. Credit: Getty Images)

Our expert panel tackle multiple meteorological queries in the CrowdScience inbox.

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

When Will An African Visit Mars?2019031520190317 (WS)
20190318 (WS)

Crowdscience heads to Africa's biggest science festival for a panel debate in front of a live audience that takes us into space then back down to earth to solve listeners' questions. Marnie Chesterton and Anand Jagatia are joined by aspiring extra-terrestrial, Dr Adriana Marais, who hopes to travel to Mars, along with cosmologist Palesa Nombula and sustainable energy expert Dr Sampson Mamphweli. They all explain how solving challenges on the ground will eventually help us set up home in space.

Producers: Marijke Peters and Mel Brown
Presenters: Marnie Chesterton and Anand Jagatia

(Photo: Astronaut walking on Mars. Credit Getty Images)

We head to South Africa's biggest science festival for a debate before a live audience

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

Where's My Time Machine?2019071920190720 (WS)
20190722 (WS)

Laser swords, time machines, matter transporters - before the turn of the millennium, movies, books and television promised some extraordinary future technology. Now we’re twenty years into the next century and CrowdScience listeners are wondering: Where is it all?

Marnie Chesterton delves into the sci-fi cupboard to dust off some imaginary gadgets and find out if any are finally becoming reality. How far into the future will we have to go to find a time machine as imagined by H.G. Wells in 1895? Where are the lightsabers wielded by fictional Jedi? Why are we still using cars, planes and trains when a matter transporter or a flying taxi could be so much more convenient? Marnie is joined by a panel of experts to find out if and when any of these much-longed for items are going to arrive.

Presenter Marnie Chesterton. Producer Jennifer Whyntie

(Photo: Dr Who, Tardis. Travelling through time and space. Credit: BBC Copyright)

When will sci fi's favourite technologies become reality?

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

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

Which Milk Is Best For Me And The Planet?2019032920190401 (WS)

Swapping dairy milk for a plant-based milk is a growing trend that promises environmental benefits. But what is the best milk considering both our health and the planet’s? Scottish listener Nancy asks CrowdScience to unpick the pros and cons of plant-based milks. Presenter Graihagh Jackson digs into the research and finds that if the whole world were willing to swap dairy for soy, we would free up a land mass the size of Australia and reduce greenhouse gas emissions dramatically. So in theory the planet would be happier – but would we? Milk is packed with calcium and other nutrients that we humans need in our diet. And the ability to digest the sugar in dairy called ‘lactose’ is, according to evolutionary geneticist Mark Thomas, the most advantageous genetic mutation in human history. So can we live without it?

Presenter: Graihagh Jackson
Producer: Louisa Field

(Image: A family enjoying milk at breakfast. Credit: Getty Images)

Is switching from dairy milk to plant-based milks a healthier choice?

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

Who Were The First Farmers?2019071220190713 (WS)
20190715 (WS)

Farming is a relatively recent invention for our species. For most of human history, people were hunter-gatherers. They moved around the landscape to get their food, hunting prey and gathering fruits and cereals from their environment.
But then, around 10 thousand years ago, human society shifted, and the first farmers appear in archaeological records around the world. So how did this idea start? Who planted the first seed and domesticated the wild ancestors of our cows and chickens?
That’s what Listener Brian wanted to know, and so CrowdScience presenter Anand Jagatia seeks out the archaeologists, geneticists and anthropologists who can give us the answers.

Presenter: Anand Jagatia,
Producer: Rory Galloway

(Photo: A farmer working in a green cotton field with two bulls. Credit: Getty Images)

The story of how our ancestors tamed plants and animals

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

Why Am I Shy?2019030820190311 (WS)

A racing heart, blushing, feeling sick - most people experience symptoms of shyness in certain situations. But some of us are much shyer than others, and if it gets on top of you, shyness can really limit what you get out of life.

That’s why this week’s listener got in touch with CrowdScience. He wants to know why he’s shy: is it genetic, or more to do with his upbringing? Is there anything he can do to overcome his shyness – and on the other hand, could being shy actually have some benefits?

We find out how much shyness is down to our genes, and why ‘shy types’ might have evolved the first place. A psychologist gives us her top tips for dealing with social anxiety, and we take part in some drama therapy designed to help people break out of their shell. And we ask if quieter, more introverted types are disadvantaged in modern society, where outgoing, extraverted behaviour can bring more tangible rewards.

(Photo: Shy young man hiding behind one eye. Credit: Getty Images)

Is shyness written in our genes, or more to do with our upbringing?

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

Why Are We Obsessed With Crime?2020030620200309 (WS)
20200308 (WS)

Why are we obsessed with crime? Kay from Hamburg, Germany asks as every Sunday evening Germans pile into their local pubs to watch Tatort, a hugely successful crime drama which has been running for 50 years.

Presenter Marnie Chesterton starts with the science and speaks with psychologists to get to the bottom of where this obsession might come from. Have we evolved to have an innate obsession with danger or are we addicted to feeling fear?

Or perhaps the dramatisation of crime fuels our obsession. Producer Caroline Steel visits the film set of BBC crime drama, Line of Duty. Producer Jed Mercurio explains what draws us to crime narratives and the techniques he uses to keep his audience captivated.

But does the way we chose to represent crime in media match up with reality? And what is the impact of this on society and policy?

(Photo: body outline. Credit: Getty Images)

Kay from Hamburg wants to know where our obsession with crime comes from

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

Why Can't I Remember My Accident?2019011820190120 (WS)
20190121 (WS)

When CrowdScience listener, Grady, crashed violently on his motorbike in the desert, he thought he was going to die. Years later he still can’t remember the dramatic seconds just before the impact. Where did the memory disappear to? Did the hard hit to the head knock his memories out or are they still in his brain somewhere? CrowdScience turns to brain science to find out if those last few seconds are lost for good or if the brain tells a different story.

Under normal circumstances our brains like to hold onto memories that are emotionally important to us. We can remember our wedding day but not yesterday’s breakfast. But scientists have discovered that during near-death experiences, our brains are flooded with chemicals that disrupt our ability to remember. Grady may never recall how he was able to keep his motorbike steady as he drove off the road because – maybe – the memory was never created in the first place.

Presenter: Marnie Chesterton
Producers: Melanie Brown and Louisa Field
Sound design: Eleni Hassabis

(Image: A biker helmet lies on street near to a motorcycle accident. Credit: Getty Images)

CrowdScience goes hunting for lost memories

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

Why Do I Get Sleepy?2019110820191110 (WS)
20191111 (WS)

We’re all familiar with the sensation of sleepiness – heavy eye-lid, that warm, fuzzy feeling. But, one CrowdScience listener wants to know, what’s actually going on in our body and brain when tiredness takes over?

Presenter Marnie Chesterton takes up the challenge and follows a trail that leads to circadian scientists working at the NASA Ames research centre in Silicon Valley. It turns out aviators and astronauts take sleepiness very seriously indeed.

Marnie sends out roving reporter Anand Jagatia to investigate how our psycho-motor skills are affected by fatigue in a driving simulator. And we ask how does sleepiness change with age? Why, when tired, do adults crave a nap but children become ever more excitable? And what the hell’s going on with teenagers? We have some answers.

Presented by Anand Jagatia
Produced by Dom Byrne

(Photo: Tired woman taking a nap at work sitting at office desk. Credit: Getty Images)

We ask what happens in our body and brain when tiredness takes over

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

Why Do Insects Prefer To Bite Certain People?2020022120200223 (WS)
20200224 (WS)

A lovely day out in the countryside can be blighted when swarms of midges or mosquitos invite themselves to the party. A CrowdScience listener in New Zealand has noticed that, when sand-flies come a-biting, she and her daughter are targeted, while her husband and other daughter escape unharmed. She wants to know why some, but not all of her family become bait for insect bites. CrowdScience delves into a world of smells, called semiochemistry, which explores the aromas one animal uses to attract or repel another. Does our attractiveness as a blood meal to insects come down to what we wear, what we’ve eaten or is it all in our genes? Host Marnie Chesterton discards the DEET and bravely offers herself up as a meal for mozzies, in a quest for answers.

(Photo:Mosquito on skin. Credit: Getty Images)

Why are some people magnets for mosquitos and others not? CrowdScience investigates

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

Why Do Some People Eat Soil?2019070520190706 (WS)
20190708 (WS)

For some people, the idea of eating soil is weird at best and at worst disgusting and dirty. But globally the practice of geophagy – or the regular and intentional consumption of earth – is more common than you might imagine. The ancient Greek physician Hippocrates described it 2500 years ago and even today, eating soil, earth and clay can be seen in a wide range of human cultures as well in hundreds of animal species. But what’s the point of it? And what’s going on in the body to drive cravings for things that aren’t bona fide food?

That’s the question bothering CrowdScience listener Amy. Anna Lacey discovers the special properties of the soil people eat and the purpose geophagy might serve for our health. She also finds out the extent to which our bodies can tell us what we’re lacking and drive us to crave the substances we need to reset the balance.

Produced and Presented by Anna Lacey

(Photo: Hands holding some soil. Credit: Getty Images)

What drives the body to crave something that isn't real food?

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

Why Do We Find Things Beautiful?20190412

Humans seem programmed to appreciate beauty - whether that’s an attractive face, a glorious sunset, or a stirring piece of music. Of course, our individual tastes are all different, and culture plays a huge part too - but why are we so struck by whatever it is we find beautiful? What is that pleasurable sensation we get when we see or hear something we like? And has the ability to appreciate beauty given us any evolutionary advantages?

In a special edition of CrowdScience from the International Science Festival in Gothenburg, Sweden, we are joined by a panel of experts to explore how far science can explain the mystery of beauty. We look to biology, the brain, art and mathematics, to see how patterns, rhythms and symmetry contribute to our experience of beauty. And we ask whether machines can recognise or ‘appreciate’ beauty – and to what extent artificial intelligence is starting to confuse or influence what we think of as beautiful.

Presenter: Marnie Chesterton
Producer: Cathy Edwards

Photo: A peacock. Credit: Getty Images/bobbieo

Humans seem programmed to appreciate beauty \u2013 but why?

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

Why Do We Like Some Animals And Hate Others?2019032220190324 (WS)
20190325 (WS)

Cute isn't exactly a scientific term but we all know what we mean by it, don't we? Endearing, adorable, lovable and sweet. So what makes us fawn over a puppy, but run away from rats? Why do we spend millions on trying to keep Giant Pandas alive but spend even more on pushing endangered species like blue-fin Tuna to the brink of extinction by eating them? And if we changed what we classified as cute or ugly, how might that change the battle to protect the Earth's fragile biodiversity?

CrowdScience listener Oliksey, from the Ukraine, wanted to know if cuteness is universal and what drives it? Seeking the answers, Marnie Chesterton cuddles puppies and enters a cramped spider nursery, seeking the science of cute, and exploring the evolutionary reasons for fear and disgust.

Presenter: Marnie Chesterton
Producer: Rory Galloway

(Image: A cute and scary spider sitting on a green leaf. Credit: Getty Images)

What makes us fawn over a puppy, but run away from rats?

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

Why Do We Pull Faces When We Concentrate?2019072620190727 (WS)
20190729 (WS)

Do you stick your tongue out or scowl when you concentrate? Maybe, like one of our listeners, you screw up your face when you’re playing music. Do these facial expressions actually help with the task in hand? And could they hold clues to humans’ evolutionary past?

In this edition of CrowdScience we tackle the science of face-pulling, along with several more burning science questions sent in from listeners around the world. We explore why it’s almost impossible to talk without moving your hands; and why bilingual people often switch to the first language they learned when they’re counting, even if they speak another language the rest of the time.

Presented by Anand Jagatia and Marnie Chesterton
Produced by Cathy Edwards

(Photo: A boy sits at a table, looking down in concentration as he draws in a note pad. Credit: Getty Images)

We tackle the science of scowling, gesturing, and counting

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

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

Why Do Women Live Longer Than Men?2018120720181209 (WS)
20181210 (WS)

From Russia to Rwanda, women live longer than men and have done so for over 100 years. But why? Is it encoded in our genes or is it something to do with the way we live? This is something CrowdScience listener Michelle from England has been wondering about.

From cradle to grave, Marnie Chesterton examines the complex web of factors that are involved in how men and women age differently. It seems that, right from the word go, male embryos are already in the firing line because of their genetics. Marnie hears how women’s genetics are configured so that they have a backup copy of some of their genes, whereas men only have one copy. Not only does this make male embryos less resilient (and therefore more likely to miscarry), men are also at risk of a set of genetic diseases later in life like haemophilia.

Puberty is an important component in this story too when a surge of hormones changes girls' and boys’ bodies into adults. But something in the way a boy develops sets them up for diseases late in life. They may be fitter, faster and stronger - all traits that were evolutionary important to make a man the alpha of the group - but this comes at a cost. For instance, the way that a man’s cardiovascular system is ‘configured’ means that they’re far more likely to have a heart attack than women. But it’s not just this, behaviour is also a really important factor and it’s why the gender gap in mortality differs from country to country. In Russia, the gap is nearly 13 years (the highest in the world) and it’s thought that a culture of heavy drinking and smoking is why women outlive men by more than a decade.

...which got Marnie thinking - could men change their destiny and outlive women?

Presenter: Marnie Chesterton
Producer: Graihagh Jackson

(Photo: A group of ladies having coffee in modern café. Credit: Getty Images)

Marnie Chesterton examines how men and women age differently

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

Will a Placebo Boost My Sports Performance?20200403

In medicine, it’s long been recognised that a placebo, a sham medicine or treatment, can have a powerful positive effect on a patient’s health. Part of that effect relies on a person’s belief that an inactive substance or treatment (for example, a sugar pill) is in fact an active drug. Placebos come in many forms and the scientific study of placebo is an active area of research.

With this in mind, CrowdScience listener Nigel got in touch to ask if can placebos be used to improve sports performance? As an amateur sports enthusiast, he’s been reading up on his sports psychology to try and improve his game but he wonders if any coaches or psychologists use placebos to improve performance? Always ready to take up a challenge, presenter Anand Jagatia explores the world of endurance sport to find out how a placebo might used to improve athletes’ performances as well as his own and look at how advances in brain science are helping us understand the unusual neurobiology of placebo.

And what of the amateur golfer or rugby or table tennis player - can placebo help? On an individual level, so called ‘verbal placebo’ is a technique that can help players with anxiety, confidence and concentration, and ultimately make them win more. And what about team sports – when, say, a new manager takes over at an ailing football club, and sparks a massive reversal in poor results, is that placebo effect in action? The CrowdScience team investigates.

Produced by Dom Byrne, Presented by Anand Jagatia.

We investigate whether or not we can trick ourselves into running faster or playing better

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

Will a Placebo Boost My Sports Performance?2020040320200406 (WS)

In medicine, it’s long been recognised that a placebo, a sham medicine or treatment, can have a powerful positive effect on a patient’s health. Part of that effect relies on a person’s belief that an inactive substance or treatment (for example, a sugar pill) is in fact an active drug. Placebos come in many forms and the scientific study of placebo is an active area of research.

With this in mind, CrowdScience listener Nigel got in touch to ask if can placebos be used to improve sports performance? As an amateur sports enthusiast, he’s been reading up on his sports psychology to try and improve his game but he wonders if any coaches or psychologists use placebos to improve performance? Always ready to take up a challenge, presenter Anand Jagatia explores the world of endurance sport to find out how a placebo might used to improve athletes’ performances as well as his own and look at how advances in brain science are helping us understand the unusual neurobiology of placebo.

And what of the amateur golfer or rugby or table tennis player - can placebo help? On an individual level, so called ‘verbal placebo’ is a technique that can help players with anxiety, confidence and concentration, and ultimately make them win more. And what about team sports – when, say, a new manager takes over at an ailing football club, and sparks a massive reversal in poor results, is that placebo effect in action? The CrowdScience team investigates.

Produced by Dom Byrne, Presented by Anand Jagatia.

We investigate whether or not we can trick ourselves into running faster or playing better

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

Will My Salmon Swim Home?2019102520191026 (WS)
20191028 (WS)

Crowdscience listeners Michael and Ricky have been walking a tributary of the River Thames in London, UK. They’ve noticed that there are loads of fish, which have only returned in recent years thanks to clean water initiatives. But what about salmon, they wonder? Could they one day return too? If they popped some salmon eggs in the river, would they return to spawn later on in their lives?

Marnie Chesterton heads to Norway to find out whether it’s possible. There, she follows the life cycle of salmon, from birth to death and travels to the salmon’s spawning grounds, before following their path out to sea and beyond. She explores the science behind ‘natal homing’ - returning to the place of your birth in order to reproduce. It isn’t just confined to salmon. But how does it work? Marnie also learns to fish as she joins an active research project that's evaluating if escaped farmed salmon are threatening their wild counterparts by interbreeding. Could this stop salmon swimming home?

Back in the UK, Marnie finds out if all this Norwegian expertise could be transplanted to a river in London? Quite possibly, but it's not without its challenges, as the UK's Environmental Agency found out after attempting to re-introduce salmon into the River Thames.

Presenter: Marnie Chesterton
Produced by Graihagh Jackson for the BBC World Service

(Photo: The mighty Wild Atlantic salmon travelling to spawning grounds in the Scottish highlands. Credit: Getty Images)

Could we repopulate salmon rivers?

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

Will We Ever Know What The Universe Is Made Of?2019041920190420 (WS)
20190422 (WS)

We are all made of particles – but what are particles made of? It’s a question that’s been perplexing scientists for centuries - for so long, in fact, that listener Doug in Canada wants to know if there’s a limit to how much they can ever discover.

CrowdScience heads out to CERN, in Switzerland, to find out. Birthplace of the internet, home to the Large Hadron Collider, and the site of the Higgs Boson’s discovery – the fundamental particle that is thought to give all other particles their mass, and one of the most important scientific finds of the 21st Century. But that revelation wasn’t an end to the quest – in fact, it has raised many more questions for the physicists and engineers involved. Dr David Barney, CMS, and Dr Tara Nanut, LHCb, tell us why.

And now they have announced that they are considering building a new, larger particle collider to find answers. The Future Circular Collider would be a hundred kilometres long and sited partly under Lake Geneva, smashing together sub-atomic particles at unprecedented energies in the hope of revealing the fundamental building blocks of all matter in the Universe. But any outcomes are by no means certain, and it could cost up to €29 billion. Perhaps physicists need to think completely differently about how to unpick what makes our universe – we see how one research team at Rutherford Appleton Laboratory near Oxford is doing just that, as they’re developing a collider that is not kilometres but centimetres long. Dr Charlotte Palmer, University of Oxford, tells us how.

However these fundamental questions are tackled, critics say that the money could be better spent on other research areas such as combating climate change. But supporters argue that its discoveries could uncover new technologies that will benefit future generations in ways we can’t predict. Anand Jagatia meets the scientists responsible to making this next giant leap into the quantum unknown.

(Photo: CMS experiment at CERN, Switzerland. Photo credit: CERN)

CrowdScience finds out if there's a limit to what physicists at CERN can discover

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

Would Humans Exist If Dinosaurs Were Still Alive?2019120620191208 (WS)
20191209 (WS)

66 million years ago, a huge asteroid hit the earth, wiping out most of the dinosaurs that roamed the land. It would still be tens of millions of years before the first humans appeared - but what if those dinosaurs hadn’t died out? Would we ever have evolved?

CrowdScience listener Sunil was struck by this thought as he passed a Jurassic fossil site: if dinosaurs were still around, would I be here now?
We dive back into the past to see how our distant mammal ancestors managed to live alongside huge, fierce dinosaurs; and why the disappearance of those dinosaurs was great news for mammals. They invaded the spaces left behind, biodiversity flourished, and that led – eventually – to humans evolving. It looks like our existence depends on that big dinosaur extinction.

But we explore a big ‘what if?’: if the asteroid hadn’t hit, could our primate ancestors still have found a niche – somewhere, somehow - to evolve into humans? Or would evolution have taken a radically different path: would dinosaurs have developed human levels of intelligence? Is highly intelligent life inevitable, if you give it long enough to develop? We look to modern day birds - descendants of certain small dinosaurs who survived the asteroid strike - to glean some clues.

With artist Memo Kosemen, palaeontologists Elsa Panciroli and Darren Naish, palaeobiologist Anjali Goswami, and Professor of Comparative Cognition Nicola Clayton

Presented by Marnie Chesterton and Anand Jagatia
Produced by Cathy Edwards for the BBC World Service

(Photo: Silhouette of people and Dino. Credit: Getty Images)

We explore an alternative reality where dinosaurs still roam the earth

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