In Their Element [Discovery] [World Service]

Episodes

EpisodeTitleFirst
Broadcast
RepeatedComments
Aluminium And Strontium2020052520200526 (WS)
20200531 (WS)

Science and art of aluminium and strontium

Explorations in the world of science.

Scientists tell the stories of different elements

Gold And Silver2020051820200519 (WS)
20200524 (WS)

Science and art of gold and silver

Explorations in the world of science.

Helium2020060120200602 (WS)

Science and art of helium

Explorations in the world of science.

Science and art of helium

Explorations in the world of science.

The Science Of Dad2020051120200512 (WS)

Dr Oscar Duke discovers how pregnancy, birth and childcare affect the father

Explorations in the world of science.

01Fluorine2018090320180909 (WS)
20180904 (WS)

Chemist Andrea Sella tells the story of how the feared element ended up giving us better teeth, mood and health.

Many chemists have lost their lives trying to isolate the periodic table’s most chemically reactive element – hence the nickname “the tiger of chemistry”. Fluorine can react with almost all elements. As an acid, hydrofluoric acid, it will dissolve glass. Yet chemists have been able to tame the beast – creating remarkable and safe uses for it by utilising its reactive nature that lets it make strong bonds with other chemicals.

One in five medicines contain fluorine atoms, including one of the most widely used antidepressants Prozac, fluorinated anaesthetic, cancer medication, the cholesterol regulating drug Lipitor and the antibacterial Cipro. Though perhaps it is most famous for being added to toothpaste in the form of fluoride and in some places, drinking water. Fluoride protects our teeth from decay. But despite the benefits, it has a history of receiving a bad press. During the cold war, false allegations were made that adding fluoride to the water supply was a communist plot designed to weaken the American people. Stanley Kubrick satirised these fears in the film Dr. Strangelove in 1964.

The suspicion around fluoride has not gone away and many people feel negatively towards any tinkering with something as fundamental as our water supply. Professor Andrea Sella from University College London examines the effects of fluorine and looks to current and future uses of the element that chemists clearly respect – but no longer fear.

Picture: Toothpaste, Credit: artisteer/Getty Images

How the feared element ended up giving us better teeth, mood and health

Explorations in the world of science.

Chemist Andrea Sella tells the story of how the feared element ended up giving us better teeth, mood and health.

Many chemists have lost their lives trying to isolate the periodic table’s most chemically reactive element – hence the nickname “the tiger of chemistry”. Fluorine can react with almost all elements. As an acid, hydrofluoric acid, it will dissolve glass. Yet chemists have been able to tame the beast – creating remarkable and safe uses for it by utilising its reactive nature that lets it make strong bonds with other chemicals.

One in five medicines contain fluorine atoms, including one of the most widely used antidepressants Prozac, fluorinated anaesthetic, cancer medication, the cholesterol regulating drug Lipitor and the antibacterial Cipro. Though perhaps it is most famous for being added to toothpaste in the form of fluoride and in some places, drinking water. Fluoride protects our teeth from decay. But despite the benefits, it has a history of receiving a bad press. During the cold war, false allegations were made that adding fluoride to the water supply was a communist plot designed to weaken the American people. Stanley Kubrick satirised these fears in the film Dr. Strangelove in 1964.

The suspicion around fluoride has not gone away and many people feel negatively towards any tinkering with something as fundamental as our water supply. Professor Andrea Sella from University College London examines the effects of fluorine and looks to current and future uses of the element that chemists clearly respect – but no longer fear.

Picture: Toothpaste, Credit: artisteer/Getty Images

How the feared element ended up giving us better teeth, mood and health

Explorations in the world of science.

Chemist Andrea Sella tells the story of how the feared element ended up giving us better teeth, mood and health.

Many chemists have lost their lives trying to isolate the periodic table’s most chemically reactive element – hence the nickname “the tiger of chemistry”. Fluorine can react with almost all elements. As an acid, hydrofluoric acid, it will dissolve glass. Yet chemists have been able to tame the beast – creating remarkable and safe uses for it by utilising its reactive nature that lets it make strong bonds with other chemicals.

One in five medicines contain fluorine atoms, including one of the most widely used antidepressants Prozac, fluorinated anaesthetic, cancer medication, the cholesterol regulating drug Lipitor and the antibacterial Cipro. Though perhaps it is most famous for being added to toothpaste in the form of fluoride and in some places, drinking water. Fluoride protects our teeth from decay. But despite the benefits, it has a history of receiving a bad press. During the cold war, false allegations were made that adding fluoride to the water supply was a communist plot designed to weaken the American people. Stanley Kubrick satirised these fears in the film Dr. Strangelove in 1964.

The suspicion around fluoride has not gone away and many people feel negatively towards any tinkering with something as fundamental as our water supply. Professor Andrea Sella from University College London examines the effects of fluorine and looks to current and future uses of the element that chemists clearly respect – but no longer fear.

Picture: Toothpaste, Credit: artisteer/Getty Images

How the feared element ended up giving us better teeth, mood and health

Explorations in the world of science.

01Mercury - Chemistry's Jekyll and Hyde20170724

The most beautiful and shimmering of the elements, the weirdest, and yet the most reviled

Explorations in the world of science.

01Mercury - Chemistry's Jekyll and Hyde2017072420170725 (WS)

The most beautiful and shimmering of the elements, the weirdest, and yet the most reviled

Explorations in the world of science.

01Mercury - Chemistry's Jekyll and Hyde2017072420170730 (WS)

The most beautiful and shimmering of the elements, the weirdest, and yet the most reviled

Explorations in the world of science.

02Iron2018091020180916 (WS)
20180911 (WS)

Beyond war and peace, Dr Andrew Pontzen explores how iron has shaped human biology and culture.

From weapons to ploughshares, iron holds a key place as the element for the tools of the rise and destruction of human civilisations. As a grand scale shaper of our towns and ciities and our culture it is unmatched. And yet it also has a major role to play in living cells.

Andrew Pontzen, Reader in Cosmology at University College London. explores iron's sometimes ambivalent history and also delves deep inside ourselves to understand how iron is key to keeping us all alive.

Dr Kate Maguire, astrophysicist at Queens University, Belfast, explains how the iron on earth was formed in distant exploding stars. Andrew talks to Professor Marcos Martinón-Torres about how our ancestors first used this metal. And Dr Caroline Shenton-Taylor, of the University of Surrey, discusses one of iron’s greatest and most mysterious properties – magnetism.

In blood and bodies what does iron actually do - could any other element perform its life giving functions? Andrew finds out from Chris Cooper, Emeritus Professor of Biochemistry at Essex University, how iron is the key atom in haemoglobin that transports oxygen. And Dr Kathryn Robson, from Oxford University’s Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine, describes the condition haemochromatosis,, in which people have too much iron. which runs in Andrew's family.

Picture: Rusty screws, Credit: Getty Images/hudiemm

How iron has shaped human biology and culture

Explorations in the world of science.

Beyond war and peace, Dr Andrew Pontzen explores how iron has shaped human biology and culture.

From weapons to ploughshares, iron holds a key place as the element for the tools of the rise and destruction of human civilisations. As a grand scale shaper of our towns and ciities and our culture it is unmatched. And yet it also has a major role to play in living cells.

Andrew Pontzen, Reader in Cosmology at University College London. explores iron's sometimes ambivalent history and also delves deep inside ourselves to understand how iron is key to keeping us all alive.

Dr Kate Maguire, astrophysicist at Queens University, Belfast, explains how the iron on earth was formed in distant exploding stars. Andrew talks to Professor Marcos Martinón-Torres about how our ancestors first used this metal. And Dr Caroline Shenton-Taylor, of the University of Surrey, discusses one of iron’s greatest and most mysterious properties – magnetism.

In blood and bodies what does iron actually do - could any other element perform its life giving functions? Andrew finds out from Chris Cooper, Emeritus Professor of Biochemistry at Essex University, how iron is the key atom in haemoglobin that transports oxygen. And Dr Kathryn Robson, from Oxford University’s Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine, describes the condition haemochromatosis,, in which people have too much iron. which runs in Andrew's family.

Picture: Rusty screws, Credit: Getty Images/hudiemm

How iron has shaped human biology and culture

Explorations in the world of science.

Beyond war and peace, Dr Andrew Pontzen explores how iron has shaped human biology and culture.

From weapons to ploughshares, iron holds a key place as the element for the tools of the rise and destruction of human civilisations. As a grand scale shaper of our towns and ciities and our culture it is unmatched. And yet it also has a major role to play in living cells.

Andrew Pontzen, Reader in Cosmology at University College London. explores iron's sometimes ambivalent history and also delves deep inside ourselves to understand how iron is key to keeping us all alive.

Dr Kate Maguire, astrophysicist at Queens University, Belfast, explains how the iron on earth was formed in distant exploding stars. Andrew talks to Professor Marcos Martinón-Torres about how our ancestors first used this metal. And Dr Caroline Shenton-Taylor, of the University of Surrey, discusses one of iron’s greatest and most mysterious properties – magnetism.

In blood and bodies what does iron actually do - could any other element perform its life giving functions? Andrew finds out from Chris Cooper, Emeritus Professor of Biochemistry at Essex University, how iron is the key atom in haemoglobin that transports oxygen. And Dr Kathryn Robson, from Oxford University’s Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine, describes the condition haemochromatosis,, in which people have too much iron. which runs in Andrew's family.

Picture: Rusty screws, Credit: Getty Images/hudiemm

How iron has shaped human biology and culture

Explorations in the world of science.

02Oxygen: The breath of Life20170731

Trevor Cox takes a deep breath and tells the story of oxygen on earth and in space

Explorations in the world of science.

02Oxygen: The breath of Life2017073120170801 (WS)

Trevor Cox takes a deep breath and tells the story of oxygen on earth and in space

Explorations in the world of science.

02Oxygen: The breath of Life2017073120170806 (WS)

Trevor Cox takes a deep breath and tells the story of oxygen on earth and in space

Explorations in the world of science.

03And then there was Li20170807

The element that links the formation of the universe with the functioning of our brains

Explorations in the world of science.

03And then there was Li2017080720170808 (WS)

The element that links the formation of the universe with the functioning of our brains

Explorations in the world of science.

03And then there was Li2017080720170813 (WS)

The element that links the formation of the universe with the functioning of our brains

Explorations in the world of science.

03Sodium2018091720180923 (WS)
20180918 (WS)

Sophie Scott on why sodium powers everything we do, and why it might be the key to a new generation of pain killers.

Putting sodium into water is one of the most memorable experiments from school chemistry lessons. It's this ability to react ferociously with water which is the starting point for sodium's key role in powering all of biology. Simply, without sodium we wouldn't exist. It helps provide the electricity that allows us to move, breathe, think.

Our understanding of sodium could help in the search for analgesics with few side effects for severe pain. Recent discoveries of families who feel searing pain with mild warmth, or those who feel no pain at all even in childbirth, have opened up new avenues in pain research. Their rare genetic mutations change the way sodium works in their bodies: from this new knowledge neuroscientists are developing drugs that could give rise to a much needed new generation of pain killers.

Image: Traditional glass salt cellar (Credit: Getty Images)

Why sodium powers everything we do

Explorations in the world of science.

Sophie Scott on why sodium powers everything we do, and why it might be the key to a new generation of pain killers.

Putting sodium into water is one of the most memorable experiments from school chemistry lessons. It's this ability to react ferociously with water which is the starting point for sodium's key role in powering all of biology. Simply, without sodium we wouldn't exist. It helps provide the electricity that allows us to move, breathe, think.

Our understanding of sodium could help in the search for analgesics with few side effects for severe pain. Recent discoveries of families who feel searing pain with mild warmth, or those who feel no pain at all even in childbirth, have opened up new avenues in pain research. Their rare genetic mutations change the way sodium works in their bodies: from this new knowledge neuroscientists are developing drugs that could give rise to a much needed new generation of pain killers.

Image: Traditional glass salt cellar (Credit: Getty Images)

Why sodium powers everything we do

Explorations in the world of science.

Sophie Scott on why sodium powers everything we do, and why it might be the key to a new generation of pain killers.

Putting sodium into water is one of the most memorable experiments from school chemistry lessons. It's this ability to react ferociously with water which is the starting point for sodium's key role in powering all of biology. Simply, without sodium we wouldn't exist. It helps provide the electricity that allows us to move, breathe, think.

Our understanding of sodium could help in the search for analgesics with few side effects for severe pain. Recent discoveries of families who feel searing pain with mild warmth, or those who feel no pain at all even in childbirth, have opened up new avenues in pain research. Their rare genetic mutations change the way sodium works in their bodies: from this new knowledge neuroscientists are developing drugs that could give rise to a much needed new generation of pain killers.

Image: Traditional glass salt cellar (Credit: Getty Images)

Why sodium powers everything we do

Explorations in the world of science.

04Carbon - the backbone of life20170814

Why is all known life built on carbon?

Explorations in the world of science.

04Carbon - the backbone of life2017081420170815 (WS)

Why is all known life built on carbon?

Explorations in the world of science.

04Carbon - the backbone of life2017081420170820 (WS)

Why is all known life built on carbon?

Explorations in the world of science.

05Silicon - The World's Building Block20170828

The key component of rocks, sand and materials from glass and concrete to microelectronics

Explorations in the world of science.

05Silicon - The World's Building Block2017082820170829 (WS)

The key component of rocks, sand and materials from glass and concrete to microelectronics

Explorations in the world of science.

05Silicon - The World's Building Block2017082820170903 (WS)

The key component of rocks, sand and materials from glass and concrete to microelectronics

Explorations in the world of science.

06Lead2018022620180227 (WS)
20180304 (WS)

From the plumbing of ancient Rome, to lead acid batteries, paint, petrol and a dangerous legacy, the metal lead has seen a myriad of uses and abuses over thousands of years. In bullets, and poisons it has killed us both quickly and slowly, and yet its malleability, low melting point and resistance to corrosion make it a fantastic material for all kinds of containers and water proofing. And it is key to one of the most commonly used, and ignored, devices on the planet, the car battery.

However it's only recently that the serious impact of lead poisoning on the development of children's brains has come to light.
Uta Frith, Emeritus Professor of Cognitive Development at University College London, who studied the impact of lead poisoning in the 1970s and 80s, journeys with lead from the iron age to the present day delving into the history and scandal associated with this often overlooked element.

Photo: BBC Copyright

The impact of the use and abuse of lead on humanity.

Explorations in the world of science.

07Phosphorus20180305

What links trade unions with urine, Syria with semiconductors, and bones and bombs? The answer is phosphorus, UCL Inorganic Chemistry Professor Andrea Sella, who is himself engaged in researching new phosphorus based materials, looks at this often rather frightening element.
We hear how the health impact of phosphorus on a group of Irish girls changed politics, how the element has been used as a weapon of war and we peer into the future, as chemists break new ground on what might be possible with phosphorus and nanotechnology.

Photo: BBC Copyright

How a discovery in boiled urine led to the trade union movement and chemical weapons.

Explorations in the world of science.

07Phosphorus2018030520180306 (WS)

What links trade unions with urine, Syria with semiconductors, and bones and bombs? The answer is phosphorus, UCL Inorganic Chemistry Professor Andrea Sella, who is himself engaged in researching new phosphorus based materials, looks at this often rather frightening element.
We hear how the health impact of phosphorus on a group of Irish girls changed politics, how the element has been used as a weapon of war and we peer into the future, as chemists break new ground on what might be possible with phosphorus and nanotechnology.

Photo: BBC Copyright

How a discovery in boiled urine led to the trade union movement and chemical weapons.

Explorations in the world of science.

07Phosphorus2018030520180311 (WS)

What links trade unions with urine, Syria with semiconductors, and bones and bombs? The answer is phosphorus, UCL Inorganic Chemistry Professor Andrea Sella, who is himself engaged in researching new phosphorus based materials, looks at this often rather frightening element.
We hear how the health impact of phosphorus on a group of Irish girls changed politics, how the element has been used as a weapon of war and we peer into the future, as chemists break new ground on what might be possible with phosphorus and nanotechnology.

Photo: BBC Copyright

How a discovery in boiled urine led to the trade union movement and chemical weapons.

Explorations in the world of science.

08Iodine20180312

The phrase 'essential 'element' is often incorrectly used to describe the nutrients we need, but can aptly be applied to iodine - without it we would suffer severe developmental problems. Iodine is a key component of thyroid hormones, responsible for the regulation of our metabolism. And yet most of us have no idea how much we need, nor where it comes from.

In her research, Margaret Rayman, Professor of Nutritional Medicine at Surrey University, has found pregnant women in particular are at risk of iodine deficiency - and there's a lack of iodine in what many consider healthy diets.

As well as looking at contemporary issues with iodine, Margaret explores the legacy of past iodine deficiency - the word cretin, was coined to describe someone living in the Alps with such a condition. We learn why you might find iodine in British milk - but not necessarily elsewhere in the world, and we discuss the consequences of exposure to radioactive iodine isotopes - both good and bad.

Picture: Pregnant woman with milk, Credit: Arief-Juwono/Getty Images

Why iodine is essential for our health?

Explorations in the world of science.

08Iodine2018031220180313 (WS)

The phrase 'essential 'element' is often incorrectly used to describe the nutrients we need, but can aptly be applied to iodine - without it we would suffer severe developmental problems. Iodine is a key component of thyroid hormones, responsible for the regulation of our metabolism. And yet most of us have no idea how much we need, nor where it comes from.

In her research, Margaret Rayman, Professor of Nutritional Medicine at Surrey University, has found pregnant women in particular are at risk of iodine deficiency - and there's a lack of iodine in what many consider healthy diets.

As well as looking at contemporary issues with iodine, Margaret explores the legacy of past iodine deficiency - the word cretin, was coined to describe someone living in the Alps with such a condition. We learn why you might find iodine in British milk - but not necessarily elsewhere in the world, and we discuss the consequences of exposure to radioactive iodine isotopes - both good and bad.

Picture: Pregnant woman with milk, Credit: Arief-Juwono/Getty Images

Why iodine is essential for our health?

Explorations in the world of science.

08Iodine2018031220180318 (WS)

The phrase 'essential 'element' is often incorrectly used to describe the nutrients we need, but can aptly be applied to iodine - without it we would suffer severe developmental problems. Iodine is a key component of thyroid hormones, responsible for the regulation of our metabolism. And yet most of us have no idea how much we need, nor where it comes from.

In her research, Margaret Rayman, Professor of Nutritional Medicine at Surrey University, has found pregnant women in particular are at risk of iodine deficiency - and there's a lack of iodine in what many consider healthy diets.

As well as looking at contemporary issues with iodine, Margaret explores the legacy of past iodine deficiency - the word cretin, was coined to describe someone living in the Alps with such a condition. We learn why you might find iodine in British milk - but not necessarily elsewhere in the world, and we discuss the consequences of exposure to radioactive iodine isotopes - both good and bad.

Picture: Pregnant woman with milk, Credit: Arief-Juwono/Getty Images

Why iodine is essential for our health?

Explorations in the world of science.