Discovery - The Curious Cases Of Rutherford And Fry [world Service]


01Bacteria And Blood20171030

Our science sleuths Drs Rutherford and Fry take on your everyday mysteries and solve them with the power of science.

Science sleuths Drs Rutherford and Fry take on everyday mysteries and solve them with the power of science. Two cases in this episode concerning the inner workings of our bodies, and not for the fainthearted!
The Broken Stool
"Science tells us that our body houses microbial organisms. Then how much our weight is really our weight? If I am overweight, is it because of my own body cells or excess microflora?" asks Ajay Mathur from Mumbai in India.
Adam bravely sends off a personal sample to the 'Map My Gut' project at St Thomas' Hospital to have his microbes mapped. Prof Tim Spector reveals the shocking results - a diet of fried breakfasts and fizzy drinks has left his guts in disarray. But help is at hand to makeover his bacterial lodgers.
Science writer Ed Yong, author of 'I Contain Multitudes', reveals how much our microbes weigh. We're just beginning to discover the vast array of vital functions they perform, from controlling our weight, immune system and perhaps even influencing our mood and behaviour.
A Code in Blood
"Why do we have different blood types?" asks Doug from Norfolk in the UK.
The average adult human has around 30 trillion red blood cells, they make up a quarter of the total number of cells in the body.
We have dozens of different blood groups, but normally we're tested for just two - ABO and Rhesus factor. Adam and Hannah delve into the gory world of blood and the early history of blood transfusions, to discover why we have blood groups and how they differ around the world.
Featuring interviews with Dr Jo Mountford, from the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service and immunologist Dr Sheena Cruikshank from the University of Manchester.
If you have any Curious Cases for the team to solve please email
Presenters: Adam Rutherford, Hannah Fry
Producer: Michelle Martin
Image: Illustration of red blood cells in a blood vessel. Copyright: Science Photo Library

02Cats And Itch20171106

Our science sleuths Drs Rutherford and Fry take on your everyday mysteries and solve them with the power of science.

“How on earth do cats find their way back to their previous home when they move house?" asks Vicky Cole from Nairobi in Kenya.
Our enduring love for our feline friends began when Egyptian pharaohs began to welcome domesticated moggies into their homes. Pictured reclining in baskets at the feet of royalty, pet cats soon became fashionable throughout society in Egypt. Today they are the most popular pet in the world, and home is definitely where their hearts lie.
"Whereas dogs are bonded to people, cats are bonded to place," explains zoologist Dr John Bradshaw. "It's very typical for them to try and find their way back to their old house when you move."
But how do they do it? And if their navigational skills are so good, why do they get lost? Prof Matthew Cobb reveals the super-senses that cats possess, and how to spot when your pet is deploying them.
Itchy and Scratchy
"What is an itch and how does scratching stop it? Why does scratching some itches feel so good?!" asks Xander Tarver from West Sussex in England.
Our doctors set off to probe the mysteries of itch, and discover that this overlooked area of medicine is revealing surprising results about the human brain. From why itching is contagious to why scratching is pleasurable, we get under the skin of this medical mystery.
The programme features interviews with neuroscientist Prof Francis McGlone from Liverpool John Moores University and dermatologist Dr Brian Kim from the Center for the Study of Itch at Washington University. Yes, that is a real place.
If you have any Curious Cases for the team to solve please email
Presenters: Adam Rutherford, Hannah Fry
Producer: Michelle Martin
(Photo: Cat, Credit: Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)

03Balloons And Memory20171113

Could a party balloon reach space? And why can’t we remember being babies

The Astronomical Balloon
"How far up can a helium balloon go? Could it go out to space?" asks Juliet Gok, aged 9.
This calls for an experiment! Dr Keri Nicholl helps Adam launch a party balloon and track its ascent. But their test doesn't quite go to plan.
Meanwhile, Hannah discovers where space begins by asking Public Astronomer Dr Marek Kukula, from the Royal Observatory Greenwich.
Send your Curious Cases to the team:

The Forgetful Child
"Why don't we remember the first few years of our lives?" asks David Foulger from Cheltenham.
The team investigate the phenomenon of 'infant amnesia' with Catherine Loveday from the University of Westminster.
40% of us claim to remember being under two years old and 18% recall being babies. But can we really trust these early memories? Martin Conway from City University thinks not.

Picture: Baby Foot, Credit H. Armstrong Roberts/Retrofile/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Producer: Michelle Martin.

04Poles And Spin20171120

What will happen with the Earth’s poles swap? And why do planets spin?

The Polar Opposite
No one knows why the Earth's magnetic North and South poles swap. But polar reversals have happened hundreds of times over the history of the Earth.
John Turk emailed to ask, “when is the next pole swap due and what will happen to us?”
Featuring Prof Lucie Green from Mullard Space Science Laboratory and Dr Phil Livermore from the University of Leeds.
Plus, astronaut Terry Virts, author of The View from Above, describes his experiences of a strange magnetic glitch in the earth's magnetic field, known as The Bermuda Triangle of Space.

The World That Turns
"Why does the Earth spin?" asks Joe Wills from Accra in Ghana.
Hannah quizzes cosmologist Andrew Pontzen about the birth of the Solar System. BBC weatherman John Hammond describes the curious things that would happen if the Earth spun the opposite way.
Send your questions to:

Picture: The Earth reflecting light from the sun whilst aboard the International Space Station, Credit: Alexander Gerst / ESA via Getty Images

Producer: Michelle Martin

05Black Hole And Sonic Weapons - Curious Cases Of Rutherford And Fry20171127

What would happen if you fell into a black hole?

Two deadly cases today sent in by listeners to

The Dark Star
"What's inside a black hole and could we fly a spaceship inside?" asks Jorge Luis Alvarez from Mexico City.

Astrophysicist Sheila Rowan explains how we know invisible black holes actually exist. Plus cosmologist Andrew Pontzen is on hand to help cook one up.

But which of our intrepid doctors will volunteer to fly into the heart of a black hole?

Kate Bush’s Sonic Weapon
"It started while listening to the excellent Experiment IV by Kate Bush. The premise of the song is of a band who secretly work for the military to create a 'sound that could kill someone'. Is it scientifically possible to do this?" asks Paul Goodfield.

Hannah consults acoustic engineer Trevor Cox to ask if sonic weapons could kill. And Adam delves into subsonic frequencies with parapsychologist Chris French to investigate their spooky effects.

Plus the team investigates the Curious Case of the Embassy in Cuba – could a sonic weapon really be responsible for the wide-ranging symptoms reported by American diplomats in Havana?

You can send your scientific mysteries for the team to investigate to:

Picture: A computer-generated image of a rich star field with a Black Hole in front of it which distorts starlight into a brilliant ring around itself, Credit: BBC

Producer: Michelle Martin