The Material World

Quentin Cooper presents his weekly digest of science in and behind the headlines. He talks to the scientists who are publishing their research in peer reviewed journals, and he discusses how that research is scrutinised and used by the scientific community, the media and the public. The programme also reflects how science affects our daily lives; from predicting natural disasters to the latest advances in cutting edge science like nanotechnology and stem cell research.

Episodes

SeriesEpisodeTitleFirst
Broadcast
RepeatedComments
20020516Quentin Cooper looks at the virtual reality world created by computer games and speculates on the shape of things to come in a technology still in its relative infancy.
20020905With Quentin Cooper at the British Association Festival of Science at the University of Leicester.

Guests discuss whether scientific advance has all been in our best interests.

20021003Quentin Cooper talks to experts about how bacteria could be used to aid waste disposal.
20021010Quentin Cooper reports from the Arabian Sea, where scientists hope that an examination of the seabed could improve our understanding of global cycles and climate change.
20021017Quentin Cooper talks to John Pendry from Imperial College, whose theory that certain materials can refract light negatively could enable a perfect lens to be created.
20021107Why are some of us early birds and others night owls? Quentin Cooper explores the influence of our genes on our sleep patterns.
20021114Quentin Cooper reports on new research at King's College, London, where scientists have developed a new device for monitoring the condition of sewers.
20021205Quentin Cooper investigates the possibility of holidaying in space in the future.
20021212Quentin Cooper investigates how deserts are created and the implications of the process for present and future societies.
20021219In the run-up to Christmas, Quentin Cooper investigates the latest - and some of the not so recent - science toys on the market.
20030102Quentin Cooper presents a special edition of the programme in which listeners decide the topic of scientific enquiry.
20030123
20030130Quentin Cooper investigates the latest research into Terahertz Radiation, an unexplored region of the electromagnetic spectrum which spans the gap between light and radio waves.
20030220Simon Singh looks at the problem of space debris.

Pieces of derelict spacecraft, fragments of launch vehicles and even tiny flecks of paint can cause huge damage to orbiting craft.

20030320To celebrate the first day of Spring on 21st March Quentin Cooper meets the researchers from the UK Phenology Network who survey the seasonal events of the year.
20030403Quentin Cooper meets some palaeoanthropologists who are hoping to create a shared pool of data, offering a better understanding of man's early ancestors.
20030410How can tree rings help us learn more about volcanic eruptions hundreds of years ago? Dendrochronology is the dating of past events (climatic changes) through study of tree ring growth.

It is possible to cross match ring patterns between trees from different locations around the world, meaning that the trees are storing some common environmental signal.

Scientists have now realised that an environmental event, such as a volcanic eruption that puts dust and acid into the upper atmosphere, thereby cooling the earth's surface, is big enough to show up in tree rings globally.

In Material World, Quentin Cooper will be finding out how archaeology and climate comes together by linking tree ring data to catastrophic climate events in the past.

"How can tree rings help us learn more about volcanic eruptions hundreds of years ago? Dendrochronology is the dating of past events (climatic changes) through study of tree ring growth.

"How can tree rings help us learn more about volcanic eruptions hundreds of years ago? Dendrochronology is the dating of past events (climatic changes) through study of tree ring growth.

It is possible to cross match ring patterns between trees from different locations around the world, meaning that the trees are storing some common environmental signal.

Scientists have now realised that an environmental event, such as a volcanic eruption that puts dust and acid into the upper atmosphere, thereby cooling the earth's surface, is big enough to show up in tree rings globally.

In Material World, Quentin Cooper will be finding out how archaeology and climate comes together by linking tree ring data to catastrophic climate events in the past.

"""How can tree rings help us learn more about volcanic eruptions hundreds of years ago? Dendrochronology is the dating of past events (climatic changes) through study of tree ring growth.

In Material World, Quentin Cooper will be finding out how archaeology and climate comes together by linking tree ring data to catastrophic climate events in the past."

20030424If seismology is the study of earthquakes on our planet, what is helioseismology? It is the study of 'sunquakes', the sound waves that propagate through the Sun's interior and appear at its visible surface.

In Material World, Quentin Cooper finds out more about sunquake science.

In the same way as terrestrial seismology, astronomers are now able to measure millions of sound waves that propagate throughout the Sun, causing it to vibrate or ring like a bell.

This technique is known as helioseismology.

By observing the properties of the waves that propagate throughout the Sun's interior and appear at its visible surface, scientists can measure the internal structure and sub-surface 'weather' of this otherwise inaccessible physical laboratory.

Worldwide networks of ground-based telescopes (one of which is based at the University of Birmingham) conduct a detailed study of solar internal structure and dynamics by obtaining nearly continuous observations of the Sun's five-minute pulsations.

Other observations are made with the ESA-NASA SOHO spacecraft.

20030508Many animal species throughout the world are facing the threat of extinction as new diseases spread through their populations, diseases that have unwittingly been introduced by humans.

Numerous species have already lost the fight for survival.

In Hawaii some bird species are now extinct, and amphibian populations throughout the world are disappearing.

Scientists are now going on the counter attack in an effort to prevent other species succumbing to the same threat.

Quentin Cooper talks to researchers who are looking at disease threats and conservation.

2003061220 years ago this year Europe, in collaboration with the United States, launched the first infrared observatory into space, the Infrared Astronomical Satellite (IRAS) which detected 500,000 infrared sources.

In 1800, German-born British astronomer William Herschel discovered infrared radiation, but it wasn't until 1856 that infrared astronomy was invented by the Astronomer Royal for Scotland, Charles Piazzi Smythe, by detecting infrared radiation coming from the Moon.

The next breakthrough was in 1965, when astronomers Gerry Neugebauer and Robert Leighton made the first infrared survey of the cosmos.

They found ten objects that were only visible at infrared wavelengths, but four years later, the list had grown to thousands.

Infrared astronomy could provide an entirely new insight of a hidden universe, one that is invisible at optical wavelengths.

The desire to see more triggered the 1983 Infrared Astronomical Satellite (IRAS) launch, and in August this year NASA will continue the tradition by launching the Space Infrared Telescope Facility (SIRTF).

SIRTF is a space-borne, cryogenically cooled infrared observatory capable of studying objects ranging from our Solar System to the distant reaches of the Universe.

However, as with IRAS before, the European Space Agency (ESA) is already preparing to build a successor, Herschel.

This new spacecraft will have the most sophisticated infrared telescope ever built, with a mirror 1.5 times larger than NASA-ESA's famous Hubble Space Telescope.

Herschel will reveal the birth of stars and whole galaxies in details that would astonish early space infrared pioneers.

Quentin Cooper speaks to the scientists working on these amazing telescopes.

2003071010 million years after the dinosaurs were wiped out by a massive meteor impact, the Earth underwent another dramatic change.

It emitted a spectacular burp, releasing millions of tons of methane gas into the atmosphere.

The result was a global warming incident that has yet to be matched.

Quentin Cooper finds out what effects the belch had on our atmosphere and whether the incident could shed light on modern day climate change.

20030821In October 1987 a storm of remarkable ferocity hit the British Isles.

Weather forecasters knew that the tempest would be fierce but failed to predict by how much.

New research now suggests the damage was caused by a previously unknown weather phenomenon called a sting jet.

In this week's Material World, Quentin Cooper uncovers the story of the Great Storm and finds out whether this new knowledge will allow us to predict similar events.

20030925Mating with a hungry female can be deadly for male spiders.

Even with prevention tactics - immobilising the female in silk threads, presenting her with a beautifully wrapped fly, or even biting off one of their own reproductive organs - in certain cannibalistic species, the male is devoured after copulation.

Join Quentin Cooper as he weaves his way through the web of spider's sexual behaviour, and finds one that even dies on the job!.

20031113Quentin Cooper finds out that by looking at how things break, scientists can develop new durable materials for the future.
20031120It's all in the vibrations! Scientists are now discovering that sound waves can control the temperature and structure of individual molecules.

This week, Quentin Cooper investigates the surprising science behind sound healing and diagnosis.

From controlling brainwave activity to exploding cancer cells, there is far more to sound than meets the ear.

20031127Around 12,000 years ago, people began herding animals and growing crops.

Soon, the Neolithic Revolution had spread across the world.

But how? Quentin Cooper investigates.

20031204Do other animals have the capacity to feel emotions such as love, fear, anger, joy and jealousy? And if so, how do these sensations differ from our own? Quentin Cooper investigates.
20031211Quentin Cooper joins brain experts and an audience at the Glasgow Science Centre for a series of interactive experiments and a discussion of how we use our minds.
2004010820040115Listeners have the chance to put their science questions to Material World this week, as Quentin Cooper is joined by a panel of experts.
2004011520040122The belief that life cannot exist without water has dictated all scientific thinking about the origin of life and the search for life on other planets.

But now a group of scientists are challenging this orthodox view.

They believe that life may have been born into a bath of water and has since been unable to escape.

It only took advantage of the liquid because it was there.

This new understanding could mean that life may flourish in even the most parched locations.

In this week's Material World Quentin Cooper investigates this intriguing possibility and discovers that life's intimate link with the wet stuff may not be as important as we once thought.

20040408Quentin Cooper plays host to a special question and answer session at the Edinburgh International Science Festival.

Joined by an audience armed with their burning science questions and an expert panel of scientists he will find the answers to some of the more intriguing, puzzling and sometimes peculiar science questions.

20040415Quentin cooper talks to scientists from the Royal Botanic Gardens' Millennium Seedbank Project to look at the science behind plant and seed conservation.

The project was set up nearly five years ago to protect seeds from all over the world from extinction and has already secured the future of nearly all the UK's native flowering plants.

As well as drying and storing seeds from all over the world scientists are also using techniques of cypress to ensure that even the smallest fragment of a plant can be used to preserve its future.

20040422Did Anglo-Saxon invaders replace England's native population following bloody battles, massacre and conflict? Not according to new research at the University of Durham.

Quentin Cooper talks to Dr Paul Budd whose analysis of teeth from burials in a medieval cemetery in North Yorkshire, is pointing to a far more gentle view of history.

Did Anglo-Saxon invaders replace England's native population following bloody battles, massacre and conflict? Not according to new research at the University of Durham. Quentin Cooper talks to Dr Paul Budd whose analysis of teeth from burials in a medieval cemetery in North Yorkshire, is pointing to a far more gentle view of history.

20040520In the latest Hollywood blockbuster The Day after Tomorrow, rapid climate change has dramatic consequences for the entire planet.

Snow storms pounds New Delhi and tidal waves engulf Manhattan.

But could this really happen? In this week's Material world Quentin Cooper talks to climate experts and asks: how close is Hollywood's vision to reality?

20040603White specks are appearing in the UK's national collection of priceless masterpieces.

Some art researchers have said they could be deliberate, used by the artist to create a special optical effect or to add a particular texture to a painting.

After years of study researchers at London's National Gallery think they have found out what they are and why they seem to be growing.

Quentin Cooper is joined by Dr Catherine Higgitt, Higher Scientific Officer at the National gallery in London to discuss the complexities of art conservation, how paint is preserved over centuries and to find out whether the nations' old masters could dissolve into spots before our very eyes.

White specks are appearing in the UK's national collection of priceless masterpieces. Some art researchers have said they could be deliberate, used by the artist to create a special optical effect or to add a particular texture to a painting. After years of study researchers at London's National Gallery think they have found out what they are and why they seem to be growing.

Quentin Cooper is joined by Dr Catherine Higgitt, Higher Scientific Officer at the National gallery in London to discuss the complexities of art conservation, how paint is preserved over centuries and to find out whether the nations' old masters could dissolve into spots before our very eyes.

20040610Quentin Cooper reports from the Cheltenham Festival of Science. The festival is in its third year, and this year the theme is perception.

How do we understand the world around us? Why are perception scientists often found in the Amazon rainforest? Exactly how are animal minds different from ours? And what really is happening in the brains of adolescents? These are just some of the questions Material World will be exploring.

Quentin Cooper is joined by neuroscientist Sarah Jayne Blakemore to discuss the adolescent brain. Until recently scientists though the human brain stopped developing after early childhood - new research is showing that our brains develop well into our teens and even early twenties - particularly the area of the brain involved in social interaction and decision making. Could this research explain why the passage to adulthood is such a turbulent time?

Quentin is also joined by Colin Blakemore and Keith Kendrick, to find out about human and animal perception and whether we can ever really understand animal minds.

Quentin Cooper reports from the Cheltenham Festival of Science.

Quentin Cooper is joined by neuroscientist Sarah Jayne Blakemore to discuss the adolescent brain.

20040722What will the car of the future look like? And how will the way we use our cars change over the next twenty years? Quentin Cooper talks to Professor Chris Wright, head of transport management research at Middlesex University Business School, to discuss how the aesthetics of car design may mean cars of the future blend better with their urban environment and how deprivatising the car means we could all soon be members of a digital car sharing club.
20040805Once safer to drink than water, beer has been brewed for hundreds of years.

It's also played a crucial role in informing science and inspiring great scientists.

James Watt paved the way for the Industrial revolution with his work on the steam engine and turned his technology to revolutionise the brewing industry.

Even the father of microbiology, Louis Pasteur, used beer to help him come up with his 'Germ theory of Disease'.

Quentin Cooper is joined by Professor Geoff Palmer OBE, from the International Centre for Brewing and Distilling at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, to explore the modern science of brewing and how it has historically paved the way for great scientific discoveries.

Once safer to drink than water, beer has been brewed for hundreds of years. It's also played a crucial role in informing science and inspiring great scientists. James Watt paved the way for the Industrial revolution with his work on the steam engine and turned his technology to revolutionise the brewing industry. Even the father of microbiology, Louis Pasteur, used beer to help him come up with his 'Germ theory of Disease'.

Quentin Cooper is joined by Professor Geoff Palmer OBE, from the International Centre for Brewing and Distilling at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, to explore the modern science of brewing and how it has historically paved the way for great scientific discoveries.

20040819Researchers are discovering new ways to repair skeletal damage and possibly slow down the aging process.

Quentin Cooper investigates.

Researchers are discovering new ways to repair skeletal damage and possibly slow down the aging process. Quentin Cooper investigates.

20040826Quentin Cooper finds out about the life and science of one of the greatest interpreters of science of the 19th century.

Mary Somerville was an active astronomer, one of the most demanding sciences of the day despite not having any formal university education. How did she come to flourish?

Early 19th century Britain was dominated by Grand Amateurs who welcomed genius and originality and saw formal education of little consequence.

Quentin Cooper is joined by Dr Allan Chapman, historian of science at Oxford University who explore the life of this extraordinary, yet rarely heard of scientist and to find out why she has been described as being to science what Jane Austen was to literature.

Quentin Cooper finds out about the life and science of one of the greatest interpreters of science of the 19th century.

Quentin Cooper is joined by Dr Allan Chapman, historian of science at Oxford University who explore the life of this extraordinary, yet rarely heard of scientist and to find out why she has been described as being to science what Jane Austen was to literature.

20041007For 40 years oceanographers in the United States have been exploring the deep oceans in Alvin - the first manned deep sea submersible vehicle.

Alvin allowed scientists to see black smokers spewing water at 380 degrees centigrade and discovered the giant tube worms, clams and mussels that live there.

After a long career Alvin is to retire and be replaced.

Quentin Cooper is joined by Dr.

Bob Detrick from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, home of Alvin and by Dr Bramley Murton from the Southampton Oceanographic Centre about the deep sea discoveries made in Alvin and to look to the future of Deep Submergence Vehicles.

For 40 years oceanographers in the United States have been exploring the deep oceans in Alvin - the first manned deep sea submersible vehicle. Alvin allowed scientists to see black smokers spewing water at 380 degrees centigrade and discovered the giant tube worms, clams and mussels that live there. After a long career Alvin is to retire and be replaced.

Quentin Cooper is joined by Dr. Bob Detrick from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, home of Alvin and by Dr Bramley Murton from the Southampton Oceanographic Centre about the deep sea discoveries made in Alvin and to look to the future of Deep Submergence Vehicles.

20041014Tiny magnetic particles that store huge amounts of data are essential to video, audio and computer technologies.

But now magnets on a nano scale could revolutionize medicine and drug delivery.

By attaching drugs to magnetic particles medicines can be guided to exactly where they are needed in the body.

How do you make these perfectly engineered nano scale magnets? Quentin Cooper talks to Professor Andrew Harrison from Edinburgh University who is farming bacteria to make these particles for us.

He also talks to Professor Jon Dobson from Keele University to find out why finding microscopic magnets on meteorites could be signs of life from Mars.

Tiny magnetic particles that store huge amounts of data are essential to video, audio and computer technologies. But now magnets on a nano scale could revolutionize medicine and drug delivery. By attaching drugs to magnetic particles medicines can be guided to exactly where they are needed in the body.

How do you make these perfectly engineered nano scale magnets? Quentin Cooper talks to Professor Andrew Harrison from Edinburgh University who is farming bacteria to make these particles for us. He also talks to Professor Jon Dobson from Keele University to find out why finding microscopic magnets on meteorites could be signs of life from Mars.

20041021Radar surveys in the 1970s identified 100s if liquid water lakes beneath the Antarctic ice sheet.

Lake Ellsworth lies nearly 4 kilometers below the polar ice in complete darkness and under huge pressure.

The sub zero waters could contain life forms that have been isolated from the rest of the world for millions of years.

Quentin Cooper talks to Martin Seigert from the University of Bristol find out how to explore Lake Ellsworth, what life they might find and how it might help develop the tools needed to explore extra terrestrial life on Jupiter's icy moon, Europa.

Radar surveys in the 1970s identified 100s if liquid water lakes beneath the Antarctic ice sheet. Lake Ellsworth lies nearly 4 kilometers below the polar ice in complete darkness and under huge pressure. The sub zero waters could contain life forms that have been isolated from the rest of the world for millions of years. Quentin Cooper talks to Martin Seigert from the University of Bristol find out how to explore Lake Ellsworth, what life they might find and how it might help develop the tools needed to explore extra terrestrial life on Jupiter's icy moon, Europa.

20041111A hundred years ago this week an invention was patented that signified the birth of modern electronics.

The invention was the thermionic valve or diode.

It was the first electron tube device and was used to detect high frequency radio signals and revolutionised the nature of communications, leading to the development of radio, television, telephones and early computers.

Quentin Cooper talks to Dr Joe Cain from University College London about the inventor, John Ambrose Flemming, the controversies and his invention that changed the world of communications.

A hundred years ago this week an invention was patented that signified the birth of modern electronics. The invention was the thermionic valve or diode. It was the first electron tube device and was used to detect high frequency radio signals and revolutionised the nature of communications, leading to the development of radio, television, telephones and early computers.

20041118Archaeological and geological evidence has shown that ten thousand years ago the Severn estuary was a forested plain.

Quentin Cooper investigates.

Archaeological and geological evidence has shown that ten thousand years ago the Severn estuary was a forested plain. Quentin Cooper investigates.

20041125How do our brains see what's going on in the outside world? Quentin Cooper talks to Cambridge University psychologist Greg Davies about how our vision system works.
20041202The skylark is thought by many to be the emblem of the countryside, with its soaring song-flight and wide distribution.

But its existence is being threatened throughout Europe by more and more intensive farming practices.

In this week's Material World, Quentin Cooper talks to conservation biologist and skylark expert, Dr.

Paul Donald, about how scientists are designing schemes that hope to make farming and wildlife compatible in the future.

Will leaving bare patches in cereal crops lead to the recovery of one of Britain's best loved species of bird?

The skylark is thought by many to be the emblem of the countryside, with its soaring song-flight and wide distribution. But its existence is being threatened throughout Europe by more and more intensive farming practices. In this week's Material World, Quentin Cooper talks to conservation biologist and skylark expert, Dr. Paul Donald, about how scientists are designing schemes that hope to make farming and wildlife compatible in the future. Will leaving bare patches in cereal crops lead to the recovery of one of Britain's best loved species of bird?

20041230Quentin Cooper travels to the Spitzbergen archipelago to investigate the effects of ocean currents on our climate and what effect changing weather patterns could have on our lives.

Quentin Cooper travels to the Spitzbergen archipelago to investigate the effects of ocean currents on our climate and what effect changing weather patterns could have on our lives.

20050106In a special edition of Material World the audience becomes questioner as Quentin Cooper invites a panel of scientists to answer some of your burning science questions.

Why isn't food blue? Where does the Universe start? Why are planets round? These are just some of the things Quentin and guests will be trying to get to the bottom of.

In a special edition of Material World the audience becomes questioner as Quentin Cooper invites a panel of scientists to answer some of your burning science questions.

20050113If you're from Scotland or the Orkneys there could be traces of Viking ancestry in your DNA.

Or, if you're from Central England or East Anglia you might be a distant descendant of the Saxons or Angles.

Invasions which have changed our political and cultural landscape have also left their imprint on the genes of modern Britons.

Understanding this genetic variation could be a powerful new tool to understand the genes behind diseases like diabetes or heart disease.

Quentin Cooper finds out about a new £2.3 million project which will collect DNA from 3500 volunteers from across the UK and finds out how it will shed light on geographical variations in our genetic ancestry and the complexity of genes linked to common human diseases.

If you're from Scotland or the Orkneys there could be traces of Viking ancestry in your DNA. Or, if you're from Central England or East Anglia you might be a distant descendant of the Saxons or Angles. Invasions which have changed our political and cultural landscape have also left their imprint on the genes of modern Britons.

Understanding this genetic variation could be a powerful new tool to understand the genes behind diseases like diabetes or heart disease. Quentin Cooper finds out about a new £2.3 million project which will collect DNA from 3500 volunteers from across the UK and finds out how it will shed light on geographical variations in our genetic ancestry and the complexity of genes linked to common human diseases.

20050120Quentin Cooper is joined by Pulitzer Prize winning scientist Jared Diamond to discuss the complex environmental and ecological reasons why some societies collapse while others flourish.

What happened to the people who made the statues of Easter Island or the architects of the pyramids of the Maya? Will our skyscrapers one day be abandoned and derelict like the temples of Angkor Wat?

Quentin finds out why understanding collapses of the past could help stave off the ecological threats to global society today.

Quentin Cooper is joined by Pulitzer Prize winning scientist Jared Diamond to discuss the complex environmental and ecological reasons why some societies collapse while others flourish.

20050203For decades scientists have argued that the molten lava on an early Earth's surface dissolved gases from the atmosphere.

Currents in these magma oceans would take the dissolved gases deep into the Earth, where the molten rock would then freeze trapping the gases.

Quentin Cooper talks to geochemist, Dr Chris Ballentine from the University of Manchester who is looking at volcanic gases and finding evidence that could mean a radical rethink of how our planet was formed.

What does this tell us about the tectonic activity on a young Earth? And is the outer layer of the Earth we know now made up of debris from extraterrestrial impacts?

For decades scientists have argued that the molten lava on an early Earth's surface dissolved gases from the atmosphere. Currents in these magma oceans would take the dissolved gases deep into the Earth, where the molten rock would then freeze trapping the gases.

Quentin Cooper talks to geochemist, Dr Chris Ballentine from the University of Manchester who is looking at volcanic gases and finding evidence that could mean a radical rethink of how our planet was formed. What does this tell us about the tectonic activity on a young Earth? And is the outer layer of the Earth we know now made up of debris from extraterrestrial impacts?

20050210A hundred years ago the Nobel prize was awarded to two British scientists for the discovery of a group of elements which would transform our understanding of the fundamental behaviour of matter.

The inert gases are crucial for modern lighting, MRI scanners and studies of magnetism and superconductivity.

Quentin Cooper talks to Colin Russell from the Open University and by Andrea Sella from University College London to find out how a completely new family of elements were discovered and why the second most abundant element in the universe, helium could run out by the end of the century.

20050217Inside a lab in Edinburgh University, chemist Dave Allen is attempting to place an almost invisible speck of dust inbetween two diamonds.

After tightening a couple of screws, the sample will be squeezed between the diamond surfaces until its internal bonds break, producing an entirely new form of matter.

Quentin Cooper finds out why these new high-pressure molecules could have wide-ranging applications - from improved engines fuels to more effective medicines.

Their latest project involves squashing proteins to find out why they always fold in particular ways.

When this internal origami goes wrong inside our body, the result can be conditions like CJD - the human form of mad cow disease.

This molecular research could provide a vital step towards finding a future cure.

Inside a lab in Edinburgh University, chemist Dave Allen is attempting to place an almost invisible speck of dust inbetween two diamonds. After tightening a couple of screws, the sample will be squeezed between the diamond surfaces until its internal bonds break, producing an entirely new form of matter. Quentin Cooper finds out why these new high-pressure molecules could have wide-ranging applications - from improved engines fuels to more effective medicines.

Their latest project involves squashing proteins to find out why they always fold in particular ways. When this internal origami goes wrong inside our body, the result can be conditions like CJD - the human form of mad cow disease. This molecular research could provide a vital step towards finding a future cure.

2005022475 years ago a far-flung planet shrouded in mystery was discovered by a fortunate accident.

Despite huge advances in astronomy and space travel, many aspects of Pluto still remain a mystery today.

Sue Nelson finds out what Pluto might be, and exactly how it was discovered when she talks to Dr Jacqueline Mitton of the Royal Astronomical Society and astrophysicist Dr.

Alan Fitzsimmons at Queen's University Belfast.

75 years ago a far-flung planet shrouded in mystery was discovered by a fortunate accident. Despite huge advances in astronomy and space travel, many aspects of Pluto still remain a mystery today.

Sue Nelson finds out what Pluto might be, and exactly how it was discovered when she talks to Dr Jacqueline Mitton of the Royal Astronomical Society and astrophysicist Dr. Alan Fitzsimmons at Queen's University Belfast.

20050303The brain is the most complex structure in the Universe.

Over the past decade advances in neuroscience, such as molecular genetics and imaging technology, mean that our deepest thoughts and behaviour can be analyzed.

Soon, a host of designer 'psychotropics' could be at our fingertips - drugs that make profound changes to our minds and personalities.

Could we be heading towards a future in which social problems are neglected in favour of fixing our brains?

This week, Sue Nelson talks to one of Britain's leading neuroscientists, Professor Steven Rose, about the ethical dilemmas surrounding the future of the human brain.

The brain is the most complex structure in the Universe. Over the past decade advances in neuroscience, such as molecular genetics and imaging technology, mean that our deepest thoughts and behaviour can be analyzed.

Soon, a host of designer 'psychotropics' could be at our fingertips - drugs that make profound changes to our minds and personalities. Could we be heading towards a future in which social problems are neglected in favour of fixing our brains?

This week, Sue Nelson talks to one of Britain's leading neuroscientists, Professor Steven Rose, about the ethical dilemmas surrounding the future of the human brain.

20050310Charles Darwin argued that it helps us discharge surplus tension and mental excitation.

Freud claimed it helps us deal with lustful thoughts.

But what is the real reason we laugh?

Even animals, from rats to orang-utans, have been shown to enjoy a good chuckle.

We humans laugh up to 100 times a day, expelling air at up to 70mph.

Quentin Cooper finds out what happens to our body and mind when we laugh.

He talks to Dr Harry Witchel, physiologist from the University of Bristol, about the science behind the sniggers.

Why can some types of seizure lead to uncontrolled laughter? What advantages can the science of laughter bring to medicine in general?

Charles Darwin argued that it helps us discharge surplus tension and mental excitation. Freud claimed it helps us deal with lustful thoughts. But what is the real reason we laugh?

Even animals, from rats to orang-utans, have been shown to enjoy a good chuckle. We humans laugh up to 100 times a day, expelling air at up to 70mph.

Quentin Cooper finds out what happens to our body and mind when we laugh. He talks to Dr Harry Witchel, physiologist from the University of Bristol, about the science behind the sniggers. Why can some types of seizure lead to uncontrolled laughter? What advantages can the science of laughter bring to medicine in general?

20050317A rubber band, like most materials, becomes much thinner when pulled.

But imagine a material that actually becomes fatter and wider when stretched and thinner when it's compressed.

This seemingly nonsensical behaviour belong to a group of materials which are auxetic.

Found in cows' udders, salamander skin and in some mineral ores, this bizarre property is giving scientists an insight into why skin wrinkles and how to improve artificial arteries.

In this week's Material World, Quentin Cooper meets the man who coined the term and finds out about the strange properties of auxetic materials.

A rubber band, like most materials, becomes much thinner when pulled. But imagine a material that actually becomes fatter and wider when stretched and thinner when it's compressed.

This seemingly nonsensical behaviour belong to a group of materials which are auxetic. Found in cows' udders, salamander skin and in some mineral ores, this bizarre property is giving scientists an insight into why skin wrinkles and how to improve artificial arteries.

In this week's Material World, Quentin Cooper meets the man who coined the term and finds out about the strange properties of auxetic materials.

20050324As we adjust to the clocks going forwards this weekend, we may feel a jolt to our internal biological clock.

Circadian Rhythms allow humans, plants and animals to be in tune with the world around us.

But has the fast pace of human development left us out of synch? How do our bodies and minds cope with living in a 24/7 society, from working night shifts to flying into different time zones?

This week Quentin Cooper talks to experts in circadian rhythms, Professor Russell Foster and Leon Kreitzman, about the biological and social rhythms of our lives.

As we adjust to the clocks going forwards this weekend, we may feel a jolt to our internal biological clock. Circadian Rhythms allow humans, plants and animals to be in tune with the world around us. But has the fast pace of human development left us out of synch? How do our bodies and minds cope with living in a 24/7 society, from working night shifts to flying into different time zones?

This week Quentin Cooper talks to experts in circadian rhythms, Professor Russell Foster and Leon Kreitzman, about the biological and social rhythms of our lives.

20050407Quentin Cooper plays host to a special question and answer session at the Edinburgh International Science Festival.

Quentin Cooper plays host to a special question and answer session at the Edinburgh International Science Festival.

20050414Since the tin can was invented in 1810, manufacturers have been battling to prolong the shelf life of food.

Our daily trips to the grocers have become weekly trawls to the supermarket, so those extra "best before" days are essential.

Quentin Cooper looks at the biochemical processes that make food go bad.

Why does bread go off quicker in the fridge than on the shelf? What happens to the internal structure of your cornflakes to turn them stale? Andy Taylor, Professor of Flavour Technology from Nottingham University, will be on hand with the answers and to talk about his research into new food preservation techniques.

"Since the tin can was invented in 1810, manufacturers have been battling to prolong the shelf life of food.

Our daily trips to the grocers have become weekly trawls to the supermarket, so those extra ""best before"" days are essential.

Why does bread go off quicker in the fridge than on the shelf? What happens to the internal structure of your cornflakes to turn them stale? Andy Taylor, Professor of Flavour Technology from Nottingham University, will be on hand with the answers and to talk about his research into new food preservation techniques."

"Since the tin can was invented in 1810, manufacturers have been battling to prolong the shelf life of food. Our daily trips to the grocers have become weekly trawls to the supermarket, so those extra ""best before"" days are essential.

Quentin Cooper looks at the biochemical processes that make food go bad. Why does bread go off quicker in the fridge than on the shelf? What happens to the internal structure of your cornflakes to turn them stale? Andy Taylor, Professor of Flavour Technology from Nottingham University, will be on hand with the answers and to talk about his research into new food preservation techniques."

Since the tin can was invented in 1810, manufacturers have been battling to prolong the shelf life of food.

Our daily trips to the grocers have become weekly trawls to the supermarket, so those extra ""best before"" days are essential.

Quentin Cooper looks at the biochemical processes that make food go bad.

Why does bread go off quicker in the fridge than on the shelf? What happens to the internal structure of your cornflakes to turn them stale? Andy Taylor, Professor of Flavour Technology from Nottingham University, will be on hand with the answers and to talk about his research into new food preservation techniques.

Since the tin can was invented in 1810, manufacturers have been battling to prolong the shelf life of food. Our daily trips to the grocers have become weekly trawls to the supermarket, so those extra ""best before"" days are essential.

Quentin Cooper looks at the biochemical processes that make food go bad. Why does bread go off quicker in the fridge than on the shelf? What happens to the internal structure of your cornflakes to turn them stale? Andy Taylor, Professor of Flavour Technology from Nottingham University, will be on hand with the answers and to talk about his research into new food preservation techniques.

20050421In 1998, lightning killed an entire football team in Congo whilst leaving the home side completely unscathed.

Although lightning may seem like a rare event in the UK, every second 100 lightning strikes hit the Earth producing as much energy per year as 75,000 megaton bombs.

This week on Material World, Quentin Cooper talks to Dr Ian Cotton, who creates lightning in his laboratory at the National Grids High Voltage Research Centre at UMIST.

They test protection devices on equipment ranging from airplanes to electricity pylons.

On average, an airplane is hit by lightning once a year and their job is to make sure its conducted safely around the outside of the plane, rather than through the middle.

In 1998, lightning killed an entire football team in Congo whilst leaving the home side completely unscathed. Although lightning may seem like a rare event in the UK, every second 100 lightning strikes hit the Earth producing as much energy per year as 75,000 megaton bombs.

This week on Material World, Quentin Cooper talks to Dr Ian Cotton, who creates lightning in his laboratory at the National Grids High Voltage Research Centre at UMIST. They test protection devices on equipment ranging from airplanes to electricity pylons. On average, an airplane is hit by lightning once a year and their job is to make sure its conducted safely around the outside of the plane, rather than through the middle.

20050428Fred Hoyle showed that stars manufacture all chemical elements and therefore we are all stardust.

But Hoyle's stormy relationship with the establishment left him, ultimately, on the margins of science.

As two biographies of Hoyle are published, Quentin Cooper reassesses the achievements of one of Britain's greatest 20th-century cosmologists and science communicators.

He asks whether his uncompromising nature helped stimulate a new and cosmic expansion in British astronomy.

Fred Hoyle showed that stars manufacture all chemical elements and therefore we are all stardust. But Hoyle's stormy relationship with the establishment left him, ultimately, on the margins of science.

As two biographies of Hoyle are published, Quentin Cooper reassesses the achievements of one of Britain's greatest 20th-century cosmologists and science communicators. He asks whether his uncompromising nature helped stimulate a new and cosmic expansion in British astronomy.

20050512As the 2005 Aventis Prize for Science Books is awarded, Quentin Cooper discusses the secrets of science communication with last year's winner, Bill Bryson, and Nature's Henry Gee.

As the 2005 Aventis Prize for Science Books is awarded, Quentin Cooper discusses the secrets of science communication with last year's winner, Bill Bryson, and Nature's Henry Gee.

As the 2005 Aventis Prize for Science Books is awarded, Quentin Cooper discusses the secrets of science communication with last year's winner, Bill Bryson, and Nature's Henry Gee.

20050519In 1952, London air pollution killed 4000 people.

Fast-forward to the hot summer of 2003, where a different cocktail of pollutants caused asthma-inducing smog in UK cities.

Quentin Cooper talks to Professor Nigel Bell about the difference between a pea-souper and smog and what causes the new nasties in our atmosphere.

Quentin Cooper talks to Professor Nigel Bell about the difference between a pea-souper and smog and what causes the new nasties in our atmosphere.

20050526Beetles become fearless, rats become friendly, male woodlice become female.

Across the animal kingdom, a range of unusual and often downright suicidal behaviour is due to parasitic infections.

Quentin Cooper discovers why parasites need to control their hosts' actions.

Can we humans ever blame our behaviour on these critters? Material World finds out.

20050602Spacious, precision engineered with air-con as standard.

Could the termite mound be the ultimate des res?

Quentin Cooper talks to Dr Rupert Soar, principle investigator on project TERMES, which will take detailed scans of termite mounds.

By building up 3D models of their intricate network of tunnels and capillaries, he's beginning to understand how termites engineer perfect thermostatic control over their homes.

Quentin finds out why termite technology will help build the homes of the future and what lessons architects and engineers can learn from the insect master builder.

Spacious, precision engineered with air-con as standard. Could the termite mound be the ultimate des res?

Quentin Cooper talks to Dr Rupert Soar, principle investigator on project TERMES, which will take detailed scans of termite mounds. By building up 3D models of their intricate network of tunnels and capillaries, he's beginning to understand how termites engineer perfect thermostatic control over their homes.

20050609What is going on inside the brain when we see the bloody combat scenes in a film like Gladiator? And why do we react so strongly to events we know to be fiction?

At the Cheltenham Science Festival the acclaimed film producer, Sir David Puttnam, has been discussing the science behind our emotional responses to films with the evolutionary psychologist Dylan Evans.

They share their chilling insights with Quentin Cooper

At the Cheltenham Science Festival the acclaimed film producer, Sir David Puttnam, has been discussing the science behind our emotional responses to films with the evolutionary psychologist Dylan Evans. They share their chilling insights with Quentin Cooper.

20050616Nothing remains the same.

Even science's universal constants seem to be changing and leading, ultimately, to the break up of everything.

That prospect may be many billions of years into the future, but Professor John Barrow has detected the first signs of changes to the Fine Structure Constant - the strength of the force holding atoms together.

Quentin Cooper asks what this means for our understanding of the universe and whether inconsistent constants are causing a confidence crisis in cosmology?

Nothing remains the same. Even science's universal constants seem to be changing and leading, ultimately, to the break up of everything. That prospect may be many billions of years into the future, but Professor John Barrow has detected the first signs of changes to the Fine Structure Constant - the strength of the force holding atoms together.

Quentin Cooper asks what this means for our understanding of the universe and whether inconsistent constants are causing a confidence crisis in cosmology?

20050623Cosmos 1, the world's first solar sail, was due to launch on Tuesday 21st June.

With it go the hopes of astronomy enthusiasts around the world, that these unlikely looking craft could revolutionize space travel.

They may look like windmills, but rather than being propelled by the wind, solar sails are pushed by particles of light or photons.

Once the technology is refined, solar sails could be the key to interstellar travel.

Quentin Cooper talks to Andy Lound from the Planetary Society about the future of solar sails.

Cosmos 1, the world's first solar sail, was due to launch on Tuesday 21st June. With it go the hopes of astronomy enthusiasts around the world, that these unlikely looking craft could revolutionize space travel. They may look like windmills, but rather than being propelled by the wind, solar sails are pushed by particles of light or photons. Once the technology is refined, solar sails could be the key to interstellar travel.

Quentin Cooper talks to Andy Lound from the Planetary Society about the future of solar sails.

20050707To coincide with this week's G8 conference, Material World dedicates this programme to the state of African science.

What role can science play in eradicating poverty? Which areas should African countries focus on? Why don't we see more research from African Universities?

Quentin Cooper talks to Professor Calestous Juma, lead author of the UN report on African Science. Can Africa innovate itself or should aid from G8 countries focus on funding scientific development?

Quentin Cooper talks to Professor Calestous Juma, lead author of the UN report on African Science.

20050714Seventy-five per cent of scientists and engineers are men.

Not only are women a minority, they are lower paid and less likely to be promoted to the top jobs than their male counterparts.

A recent survey by the Athena Project found that female scientists felt less valued than male colleagues and were disadvantaged in terms of salary, promotion and career development.

What are the government, educators and employers doing to redress the balance for female scientists?

This week on Material World, Quentin Cooper is joined by Dr Katie Perry from the Daphne Jackson Trust, an organisation which helps female scientists, engineers and IT specialists return to work after career breaks.

Seventy-five per cent of scientists and engineers are men. Not only are women a minority, they are lower paid and less likely to be promoted to the top jobs than their male counterparts. A recent survey by the Athena Project found that female scientists felt less valued than male colleagues and were disadvantaged in terms of salary, promotion and career development. What are the government, educators and employers doing to redress the balance for female scientists?

This week on Material World, Quentin Cooper is joined by Dr Katie Perry from the Daphne Jackson Trust, an organisation which helps female scientists, engineers and IT specialists return to work after career breaks.

20050721A recent BBC poll voted Bagpuss the nation's favourite BBC children's television programme of all time.

But the nation's favourite pink-striped moggy is 30 and beginning to show his age.

On this week's Material World, Quentin Cooper talks to his creator, Peter Firmin, and textile conservation expert Dinah Eastop, about how science can stop Bagpuss from developing puppet arthritis.

Work at the Textile Conservation Centre has compared Bagpuss, the puppet from the 1970s children's television series Bagpuss, to other contemporary puppets (for example: Larry the Lamb and Tog). They found that, compared to other puppets, Bagpuss was in good condition. Material (fabric) science helps conservationists understand how best to care for our modern antiques and how to cope if his condition deteriorates in the future.

On this week's Material World, Quentin Cooper talks to his creator, Peter Firmin, and textile conservation expert Dinah Eastop, about how science can stop Bagpuss from developing puppet arthritis.

20050728Chloroform was discovered by accident in 1831 when an eccentric amateur pharmacist, Dr Samuel Guthrie, mixed hen house disinfectant with whisky.

It quickly became used as a powerful, but sometimes deadly, anesthetic.

This week Quentin Cooper is joined by Linda Stratmann, author of Chloroform - The Quest for Oblivion.

The debate surrounding the chemical's safety divided the medical community for a hundred years, until in the 1950s tests proved that inhaling chloroform caused cardiac arrest.

Since then, chloroform has found a safe, effective use as a solvent for DNA profiling.

Chloroform was discovered by accident in 1831 when an eccentric amateur pharmacist, Dr Samuel Guthrie, mixed hen house disinfectant with whisky. It quickly became used as a powerful, but sometimes deadly, anesthetic.

This week Quentin Cooper is joined by Linda Stratmann, author of Chloroform - The Quest for Oblivion. The debate surrounding the chemical's safety divided the medical community for a hundred years, until in the 1950s tests proved that inhaling chloroform caused cardiac arrest. Since then, chloroform has found a safe, effective use as a solvent for DNA profiling.

20050804The annual Perseid meteor shower peaks next week.

Sky watchers will be able to see up to 200 meteors an hour.

Meanwhile, a new radar based in Antarctica will be monitoring the 4000 meteors a day we can't see with the naked eye.

Professor Nick Mitchell, from the University of Bath, talks to Quentin Cooper about meteor-monitoring in the mesosphere.

This vast area at the top of our atmosphere is notoriously difficult to study, but incredibly sensitive to temperature change.

This 'miner's canary' could provide answers to many questions on climate change.

The annual Perseid meteor shower peaks next week. Sky watchers will be able to see up to 200 meteors an hour.

Meanwhile, a new radar based in Antarctica will be monitoring the 4000 meteors a day we can't see with the naked eye. Professor Nick Mitchell, from the University of Bath, talks to Quentin Cooper about meteor-monitoring in the mesosphere. This vast area at the top of our atmosphere is notoriously difficult to study, but incredibly sensitive to temperature change. This 'miner's canary' could provide answers to many questions on climate change.

20050811Lunar telescopes and interstellar warfare may sound like they belong in the plot of the latest sci-fi blockbuster, but they're also found inside the pages of a fictional travelogue, written in Ancient Greece in the 2nd century AD.

The author, Lucian of Samosata, wrote about telescopes on the moon that magnified sound, and lunar women who laid eggs.

Quentin Cooper talks to Dr Karen Ni-Mheallaigh from Liverpool University about the surprising links between Ancient Greece and modern science fiction.

Lunar telescopes and interstellar warfare may sound like they belong in the plot of the latest sci-fi blockbuster, but they're also found inside the pages of a fictional travelogue, written in Ancient Greece in the 2nd century AD. The author, Lucian of Samosata, wrote about telescopes on the moon that magnified sound, and lunar women who laid eggs.

Quentin Cooper talks to Dr Karen Ni-Mheallaigh from Liverpool University about the surprising links between Ancient Greece and modern science fiction.

20050825While England in 1660s was racked by civil war, plague and fire, a quieter revolution was taking place - the founding of the Royal Society.

A band of 12 natural philosophers started a fellowship which began the field of science, and changed the course of history.

Quentin Cooper talks to John Gribbin, author of The Fellowship: The Story of a Revolution, about the men who shaped the Royal Society - including Robert Hooke, Edmond Halley and Issac Newton - and how the society went on to shape the world of science.

While England in 1660s was racked by civil war, plague and fire, a quieter revolution was taking place - the founding of the Royal Society. A band of 12 natural philosophers started a fellowship which began the field of science, and changed the course of history.

Quentin Cooper talks to John Gribbin, author of The Fellowship: The Story of a Revolution, about the men who shaped the Royal Society - including Robert Hooke, Edmond Halley and Issac Newton - and how the society went on to shape the world of science.

20050901Lurking at the bottom of every puddle and pond are tiny life forms called diatoms.

Looking more like spaceships than cells, the 20,000 species of diatom are now known to take more carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere than all the worlds rainforest.

On this week's show, Quentin Cooper talks to Professor David Mann from the Royal Botanical Gardens in Edinburgh about a life spent hunting these creatures.

He'll explain how their unique glass-like cell walls can provide a window on climate conditions millions of years ago.

Lurking at the bottom of every puddle and pond are tiny life forms called diatoms. Looking more like spaceships than cells, the 20,000 species of diatom are now known to take more carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere than all the worlds rainforest.

On this week's show, Quentin Cooper talks to Professor David Mann from the Royal Botanical Gardens in Edinburgh about a life spent hunting these creatures.

20050908This programme comes from Trinity College Dublin which is hosting the British Association's Festival of Science.

Quentin Cooper is joined by a panel of experts who will be discussing and answering questions about the impact of climate change on our food.

Will increased levels of carbon dioxide result in bigger, faster-growing plants? Will climate change force farmers to grow different crops? What power do consumers have to influence climate change through the choices we make in the supermarket?

Quentin Cooper is joined by a panel of experts who will be discussing and answering questions about the impact of climate change on our food. Will increased levels of carbon dioxide result in bigger, faster-growing plants? Will climate change force farmers to grow different crops? What power do consumers have to influence climate change through the choices we make in the supermarket?

20050915Whether it's a rude awakening by the dawn chorus, or the accompaniment to a gentle stroll through the countryside, nature's music, birdsong, is all around us.

But why do they sing? Is it really a form of music, or is it closer to language?

Quentin Cooper is joined by Professor Peter Slater from the University of St Andrews.

He'll be letting us into the secrets of the avian chorus, from virtuoso performances in Central America, to the pulling tactics of the British sedge warbler.

Quentin Cooper is joined by Professor Peter Slater from the University of St Andrews. He'll be letting us into the secrets of the avian chorus, from virtuoso performances in Central America, to the pulling tactics of the British sedge warbler.

20050922Ten percent of the population claim to have had an Out of Body Experience.

Is this just a manifestation of hope for the afterlife or is it something to do with the way we see ourselves?

Quentin Cooper talks to scientists at the University of Manchester who hope that a survey of our perceptions will shed some light on this bizarre phenomenon.

Ten percent of the population claim to have had an Out of Body Experience. Is this just a manifestation of hope for the afterlife or is it something to do with the way we see ourselves?

20050929Images can be crucial in opening our eyes to a new area in science.

Beauty is truth"", said Keats, however, when it comes to the scientific image, it may be more a case of beauty or truth.

Should an image be accurate or is it more important to grab the viewer's attention? The awe-inspiring colour photographs of space, taken by the Hubble Space telescope were black and white until a little computer magic was added.

Quentin Cooper talks to the people behind Britain's Visions of Science Awards about the pros and cons of creating and editing a scientific image.

To the judges of the awards - a mix of scientists, photographers and picture editors - a Vision of Science is an engaging image that gives new insight into the world of science and the workings of nature.

It may show something never seen before, it may explain a scientific phenomenon, it may illustrate scientific data or it may simply be an image that shows the beauty of science.

Images can be crucial in opening our eyes to a new area in science. ""Beauty is truth"", said Keats, however, when it comes to the scientific image, it may be more a case of beauty or truth.

To the judges of the awards - a mix of scientists, photographers and picture editors - a Vision of Science is an engaging image that gives new insight into the world of science and the workings of nature. It may show something never seen before, it may explain a scientific phenomenon, it may illustrate scientific data or it may simply be an image that shows the beauty of science.

Images can be crucial in opening our eyes to a new area in science.

"Beauty is truth", said Keats, however, when it comes to the scientific image, it may be more a case of beauty or truth.

Should an image be accurate or is it more important to grab the viewer's attention? The awe-inspiring colour photographs of space, taken by the Hubble Space telescope were black and white until a little computer magic was added.

Quentin Cooper talks to the people behind Britain's Visions of Science Awards about the pros and cons of creating and editing a scientific image.

To the judges of the awards - a mix of scientists, photographers and picture editors - a Vision of Science is an engaging image that gives new insight into the world of science and the workings of nature.

It may show something never seen before, it may explain a scientific phenomenon, it may illustrate scientific data or it may simply be an image that shows the beauty of science.

"Images can be crucial in opening our eyes to a new area in science.

""Beauty is truth"", said Keats, however, when it comes to the scientific image, it may be more a case of beauty or truth.

It may show something never seen before, it may explain a scientific phenomenon, it may illustrate scientific data or it may simply be an image that shows the beauty of science."

"Images can be crucial in opening our eyes to a new area in science. ""Beauty is truth"", said Keats, however, when it comes to the scientific image, it may be more a case of beauty or truth.

To the judges of the awards - a mix of scientists, photographers and picture editors - a Vision of Science is an engaging image that gives new insight into the world of science and the workings of nature. It may show something never seen before, it may explain a scientific phenomenon, it may illustrate scientific data or it may simply be an image that shows the beauty of science."

20051006Quentin Cooper talks to Dr Nigel Marlow about the psychology of shopping.

Is the act of buying more important to us than what we have bought? What triggers the urge to consume?

Quentin Cooper talks to Dr Nigel Marlow about the psychology of shopping. Is the act of buying more important to us than what we have bought? What triggers the urge to consume?

20051013In your body lives a terrifying predator.

This microscopic hunter can swim at the human equivalent of 400 miles per hour.

It invades an unfortunate host cell and eats it from the inside out, before multiplying and bursting out.

Luckily, we are safe - Bdellovibrio only attacks other bacteria.

Quentin Cooper talks to Dr Liz Sockett, from Nottingham University.

Her team have been studying this curious bacterium to work out how it stalks its prey.

As well as providing a possible treatment for the next generation of antibiotic-resistant superbugs, Bdellovibrio may well explain how human cells evolved.

Material World investigates.

In your body lives a terrifying predator. This microscopic hunter can swim at the human equivalent of 400 miles per hour. It invades an unfortunate host cell and eats it from the inside out, before multiplying and bursting out. Luckily, we are safe - Bdellovibrio only attacks other bacteria.

Quentin Cooper talks to Dr Liz Sockett, from Nottingham University. Her team have been studying this curious bacterium to work out how it stalks its prey.

As well as providing a possible treatment for the next generation of antibiotic-resistant superbugs, Bdellovibrio may well explain how human cells evolved. Material World investigates.

20051020Material World goes domestic this week - examining the blades in our kitchens and bathrooms.

As the search continues for an unbluntable knife, industry looks to new materials such as ceramics and even diamonds.

Quentin Cooper talks to knife expert Roger Hamby about cutting-edge blade research and whether your razor really is the best a man can get.

Material World goes domestic this week - examining the blades in our kitchens and bathrooms. As the search continues for an unbluntable knife, industry looks to new materials such as ceramics and even diamonds.

20051027In this age of concrete and glass buildings, man's oldest construction material is having something of a revival thanks to modern science.

Quentin Cooper talks to wood scientist Jim Coulson about the merging of timber and technology.

For example, there is controlled 'baking', which modifies the cell constituents of wood, creating a natural 'plastic' that resists decay, so your wooden garden furniture should now last forever.

In this age of concrete and glass buildings, man's oldest construction material is having something of a revival thanks to modern science. Quentin Cooper talks to wood scientist Jim Coulson about the merging of timber and technology. For example, there is controlled 'baking', which modifies the cell constituents of wood, creating a natural 'plastic' that resists decay, so your wooden garden furniture should now last forever.

20051103Being abducted by Aliens may be perfectly normal - well, sort of.

Enthusiasm for extra-terrestrial life has perplexed and intrigued humans since the civilisations of ancient Egypt and Babylon.

But why are we so fascinated by aliens? What can life on Earth tell us about how life on other planets might evolve? Is there intelligent life out there? If so, will we ever make contact?

Why do many people believe that we have been visited by aliens? Do our ideas about aliens stem from science fiction or the folklore of fairies and monsters? Are they a psychological projection of human hopes and fears, or is our interest in a world outside our own an inbuilt phenomenon?

Quentin Cooper talks to Chris French, Head of the Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit at Goldsmiths College, London.

His research suggests alien abduction experiences are similar to other paranormal phenomena such as ghosts and their physical grounding may be in sleep paralysis.

Enthusiasm for extra-terrestrial life has perplexed and intrigued humans since the civilisations of ancient Egypt and Babylon. But why are we so fascinated by aliens? What can life on Earth tell us about how life on other planets might evolve? Is there intelligent life out there? If so, will we ever make contact?

Quentin Cooper talks to Chris French, Head of the Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit at Goldsmiths College, London. His research suggests alien abduction experiences are similar to other paranormal phenomena such as ghosts and their physical grounding may be in sleep paralysis.

20051110As Radio 4 begins a short season entitled Radio and the Artist, Material World takes the opportunity to look at creativity, in both art and science.

Neuroscientists and scientific philosophers discuss the nature of creativity, how it can be defined or measured and to what extent scientific and artistic creativity overlap.

20051117Quentin Cooper speaks to leading researchers about appropriate clothing for wearing up mountains in the 1920s, following the recent discovery of George Mallory's body on Everest.

Many thought Mallory and fellow climber Andrew Irvine were ill equipped.

But new analysis of the clothes suggests they were designed and tailored to be very effective against the cold - perhaps even better than modern synthetic fibres.

Many thought Mallory and fellow climber Andrew Irvine were ill equipped. But new analysis of the clothes suggests they were designed and tailored to be very effective against the cold - perhaps even better than modern synthetic fibres.

20051124How a swarm of locusts may help prevent car crashes.

Locusts are very good at avoiding collisions - they don't crash into other locusts in a swarm and hop out of the way of predators.

This behaviour is now being put to practical use in car collision early warning systems.

The systems allow a radically different approach to collision mitigation - even one extra second of warning before a crash could enable a car to automatically slow down and so limit damage.

How a swarm of locusts may help prevent car crashes. Locusts are very good at avoiding collisions - they don't crash into other locusts in a swarm and hop out of the way of predators. This behaviour is now being put to practical use in car collision early warning systems.

20051208When you're food shopping, how do you decide what to buy? Is cost your main concern, even if cheaper foodstuffs might be less nutritious and carry a greater risk of contamination? Or are you prepared to pay extra for organically-produced food, in the belief that ethically-farmed produce is likely to be purer and more nutritious?

Quentin Cooper invites an audience at Glasgow Science Centre to discuss their concerns about food safety, with three experts on hand to comment on the issues they raise.

Dr Christine Edwards is Head of Human Nutrition at Yorkhill Hospital.

Professor Willie Donachie is a veterinarian and Deputy Director of the Moredun Research Institute which specialises in the treatment of animal diseases.

Professor Howard Davies runs the Quality, Health and Nutrition Programme at the Scottish Crop Research Institute.

Where do we draw the line between cost and food safety? Do we have enough information about our food, so we can make informed decisions about what we eat?

Quentin Cooper invites an audience at Glasgow Science Centre to discuss their concerns about food safety, with three experts on hand to comment on the issues they raise. Dr Christine Edwards is Head of Human Nutrition at Yorkhill Hospital. Professor Willie Donachie is a veterinarian and Deputy Director of the Moredun Research Institute which specialises in the treatment of animal diseases. Professor Howard Davies runs the Quality, Health and Nutrition Programme at the Scottish Crop Research Institute.

20051214Quentin Cooper and a panel of experts at the Centre for Life in Newcastle tackle the issues relating to the implementation of stem cell research and gene therapy.

Issues such as ethics, decision-making, knowledge and risk.

Probably more than any other part of science, genetic manipulation and stem cell research, especially when applied to humans, comes under massive ethical scrutiny.

The potential for human stem cells to specialise and form different types of tissue raises the possibility of major advances in healthcare.

Potential applications include transplant therapies for treating many diseases and conditions, changes in methods of drug testing and improved understanding of normal human development.

Much current research is controversial because it involves deriving stem cells from human embryos.

Quentin is joined by John Burn, Professor of Clinical Genetics at Newcastle University; Colin McGuckin, Professor of Regenerative Medicine at Newcastle University; Dr.

Tom Wakeford, Senior Research Associate PEALS (Policy and Ethics in the Life Sciences) and Linda Conlon, Director of Life Science Centre who will be taking questions from an audience.

20051215Quentin Cooper and a panel of experts at the Centre for Life in Newcastle tackle the issues relating to the implementation of stem cell research and gene therapy. Issues such as ethics, decision-making, knowledge and risk. Probably more than any other part of science, genetic manipulation and stem cell research, especially when applied to humans, comes under massive ethical scrutiny. The potential for human stem cells to specialise and form different types of tissue raises the possibility of major advances in healthcare. Potential applications include transplant therapies for treating many diseases and conditions, changes in methods of drug testing and improved understanding of normal human development. Much current research is controversial because it involves deriving stem cells from human embryos.

Quentin is joined by John Burn, Professor of Clinical Genetics at Newcastle University; Colin McGuckin, Professor of Regenerative Medicine at Newcastle University; Dr. Tom Wakeford, Senior Research Associate PEALS (Policy and Ethics in the Life Sciences) and Linda Conlon, Director of Life Science Centre who will be taking questions from an audience.

20051222Quentin Cooper is in Camden discussing the value and politics of water.

He's joined by an expert panel, who will be taking questions from a live audience on a range of watery topics.

Quentin Cooper is in Camden discussing the value and politics of water. He's joined by an expert panel, who will be taking questions from a live audience on a range of watery topics.

200512294/6.

Quentin Cooper chairs a series of science debates.

From the National Botanic Garden of Wales, the subject for discussion is medicinal plants.

Wales has a long history of using medicinal plants.

In medieval times, the Physicians of Myddfai became skilled in their use, and in the early 15th century, they wrote down many of their remedies in the Red Book of Hergest.

Quentin Cooper debates these and other issues.

He's joined by Professor Terry Turner, recently retired from the Welsh School of Pharmacy in Cardiff, Professor Robert Nash, a plant chemist, and Dr Bob Wallis from the Welsh Development Agency.

4/6. Quentin Cooper chairs a series of science debates. From the National Botanic Garden of Wales, the subject for discussion is medicinal plants.

Wales has a long history of using medicinal plants. In medieval times, the Physicians of Myddfai became skilled in their use, and in the early 15th century, they wrote down many of their remedies in the Red Book of Hergest.

Quentin Cooper debates these and other issues. He's joined by Professor Terry Turner, recently retired from the Welsh School of Pharmacy in Cardiff, Professor Robert Nash, a plant chemist, and Dr Bob Wallis from the Welsh Development Agency.

20060105In the final of six science debates made in conjunction with the Open University Quentin Cooper is joined by space scientists Benny Peiser, Simon Kelley and John Zarneki in Milton Keynes to cover the issue of Near-Earth Objects - the comets and asteroids that come alarmingly close to our planet.

What are the chances of a direct hit? And what are we doing to detect and prevent a collision?

In the final of six science debates made in conjunction with the Open University Quentin Cooper is joined by space scientists Benny Peiser, Simon Kelley and John Zarneki in Milton Keynes to cover the issue of Near-Earth Objects - the comets and asteroids that come alarmingly close to our planet.

20060119Snowflakes are an example of a crystal formed by nature.

Less well-known but still as beautiful are zeolites, nature's molecular sieves.

And zeolites aren't just pretty, they're pretty useful too.

They help refine 99 per cent of the world's petrol, and, they make up around a third of the volume in the average packet of washing powder.

New research shows that they could also make broken glasses a rarer spectacle as zeolites can be used to make a new, tougher glass.

Quentin Cooper talks to Dervishe Salih, from the Davy Faraday Research Lab about this curious class of molecular cages and how we can grow and use them.

Snowflakes are an example of a crystal formed by nature. Less well-known but still as beautiful are zeolites, nature's molecular sieves.

And zeolites aren't just pretty, they're pretty useful too. They help refine 99 per cent of the world's petrol, and, they make up around a third of the volume in the average packet of washing powder.

Quentin Cooper talks to Dervishe Salih, from the Davy Faraday Research Lab about this curious class of molecular cages and how we can grow and use them.

20060216Quentin Cooper talks to Andreas Ua'Siaghail and Dominic Savage about the growth of games-based learning, especially Pax Warrior - a computer game that places teenagers in the role of a UN commander in Rwanda.

Quentin Cooper talks to Andreas Ua'Siaghail and Dominic Savage about the growth of games-based learning, especially Pax Warrior - a computer game that places teenagers in the role of a UN commander in Rwanda.

20060223This month, as part of the Shrewsbury Darwin Festival, sees the world premiere Darwin's Dream, a 'sci-art' opera based on the life of Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution.

In Material World, Quentin Cooper talks to Stephen Webster, the zoologist and lecturer in Science Communication at Imperial College, who has written the libretto for the opera.

Darwin's Dream is the latest in a long line of theatrical interpretations of the scientific world. The opera promises to cover ground from The Big Bang to the present day, and draws on images from both the natural world and Darwin's own world.

This month, as part of the Shrewsbury Darwin Festival, sees the world premiere Darwin's Dream, a 'sci-art' opera based on the life of Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution.

In Material World, Quentin Cooper talks to Stephen Webster, the zoologist and lecturer in Science Communication at Imperial College, who has written the libretto for the opera.

20060302Sir Isaac Newton is perhaps best known for his theory of universal gravitation and discovery of calculus. But Newton also had a much less publicised obsession - with the dark arts of alchemy.

Quentin Cooper talks to Dr Robert Iliffe about the fascinating and mysterious world of alchemy, and about the Newton project - an ambitious plan to compile all of Newton's scientific and not-so-scientific manuscripts.

Sir Isaac Newton is perhaps best known for his theory of universal gravitation and discovery of calculus.

Quentin Cooper talks to Dr Robert Iliffe about the fascinating and mysterious world of alchemy, and about the Newton project - an ambitious plan to compile all of Newton's scientific and not-so-scientific manuscripts.

20060330Familiar in the workplace and even the home, ink-jet printers can now be snapped up at bargain prices on the high street.

Tiny droplets of ink are ejected in a precise and controlled manner in order to create high quality texts and images.

They can even be used to create patterns on textiles to make them look like wood or stone.

Now ink-jet technology is developing fast and it's not just ink that is being deposited.

Enzymes can be ink-jet printed to make sensors for pregnancy or diabetes tests, and it might even be possible to ink-jet chemicals to make active medication.

Quentin Cooper is joined by scientists to discuss this seemingly familiar technology and the new exciting applications that are being developed.

Familiar in the workplace and even the home, ink-jet printers can now be snapped up at bargain prices on the high street. Tiny droplets of ink are ejected in a precise and controlled manner in order to create high quality texts and images. They can even be used to create patterns on textiles to make them look like wood or stone.

Now ink-jet technology is developing fast and it's not just ink that is being deposited. Enzymes can be ink-jet printed to make sensors for pregnancy or diabetes tests, and it might even be possible to ink-jet chemicals to make active medication.

Quentin Cooper is joined by scientists to discuss this seemingly familiar technology and the new exciting applications that are being developed.

20060406Quentin Cooper is joined by Philip Ball to discuss the myth, life and legacy of Philip Theophrastus Aureolus Bombastus von Hohenheim, or Paracelsus, the 16th century medic on the border between the medieval and modern.

He was both army surgeon and alchemist, and was rumoured to have made a Faustian bargain with the devil to regain his youth.

It was said that he travelled with a magical white horse and stored the elixir of life in the pommel of his sword.

But who was Paracelsus and what did he really believe and practice? Quentin unravels the story of a man who wrote influential books on medicine, surgery, alchemy and theology, while living a drunken, combative, vagabond life.

20060413The Edinburgh International Science Festival is the largest of its kind in the UK.

Quentin Cooper reports from the festival and asks, as more science festivals open around the country, what makes a good one? Do science festivals preach to the already converted, or are they doing for science what Hay on Wye does for literature?

The Edinburgh International Science Festival is the largest of its kind in the UK. Quentin Cooper reports from the festival and asks, as more science festivals open around the country, what makes a good one? Do science festivals preach to the already converted, or are they doing for science what Hay on Wye does for literature?

20060427In 1986, a small fishing vessel arrived off the Juan de Fuca ridge in the Northern Pacific to discover a deep sea hydrothermal system unlike anything ever seen before.

The phenomena was a mega plume, an enormous buoyant balloon of hot water floating in the deep sea.

Quentin Cooper is joined by Marine Geologist Dr Bramley Murton, leader of the Carlsberg Ridge Cruise, and Marine Ecologist Dr Jon Copley to discuss the cause of this hydrothermal phenomena, and the influence they may have on our oceans and their flora and fauna.

In 1986, a small fishing vessel arrived off the Juan de Fuca ridge in the Northern Pacific to discover a deep sea hydrothermal system unlike anything ever seen before. The phenomena was a mega plume, an enormous buoyant balloon of hot water floating in the deep sea.

Quentin Cooper is joined by Marine Geologist Dr Bramley Murton, leader of the Carlsberg Ridge Cruise, and Marine Ecologist Dr Jon Copley to discuss the cause of this hydrothermal phenomena, and the influence they may have on our oceans and their flora and fauna.

20060525Imagine if you could harness the power of the 34,000 commuters who pass through London's Victoria station in peak rush hour.

These people could be generating 102Kwh of power - that's enough energy to provide the power for 25 households for that day.

Wherever there's a vibration, be it from commuters footsteps, a wobbly bridge or walking from your desk to the photocopier, you can use a free energy harvesting device to provide light, charge your mobile phone or even power the national grid.

To discuss how to convert this untapped energy source Quentin Cooper is joined by Claire Price, director of a London architecture practice, which has spent the last six months aiming to bring the technology out of the lab and onto the streets.

Imagine if you could harness the power of the 34,000 commuters who pass through London's Victoria station in peak rush hour. These people could be generating 102Kwh of power - that's enough energy to provide the power for 25 households for that day. Wherever there's a vibration, be it from commuters footsteps, a wobbly bridge or walking from your desk to the photocopier, you can use a free energy harvesting device to provide light, charge your mobile phone or even power the national grid.

To discuss how to convert this untapped energy source Quentin Cooper is joined by Claire Price, director of a London architecture practice, which has spent the last six months aiming to bring the technology out of the lab and onto the streets.

20060608It's a game of two halves - and of surface geometry and dynamic traction.

The outcome of a football match can hinge on the precise design of a boot, or the aerodynamics of the ball.

With the World Cup just 24 hours away, Quentin Cooper kicks off an investigation into the science behind the 'beautiful game'.

The outcome of a football match can hinge on the precise design of a boot, or the aerodynamics of the ball. With the World Cup just 24 hours away, Quentin Cooper kicks off an investigation into the science behind the 'beautiful game'.

20060615The Formula One cars that roared round Silverstone in the British Grand Prix are triumphs of engineering.

Aerodynamic design, precision electronics, finely tuned engines and high performance tyres allow speeds which can exceed 300km per hour.

For the sport's many fans, a grand prix is a thrilling spectacle.

Critics see it as a waste of resources.

It is certainly a far cry from the very first grand prix 100 years ago.

Quentin Cooper takes a pit stop to investigate the technology of modern motor racing and whether the sport can develop a greener image.

The Formula One cars that roared round Silverstone in the British Grand Prix are triumphs of engineering. Aerodynamic design, precision electronics, finely tuned engines and high performance tyres allow speeds which can exceed 300km per hour.

For the sport's many fans, a grand prix is a thrilling spectacle. Critics see it as a waste of resources. It is certainly a far cry from the very first grand prix 100 years ago.

Quentin Cooper takes a pit stop to investigate the technology of modern motor racing and whether the sport can develop a greener image.

20060622The decline in strength of the earth's magnetic field was thought to be a fixed trend but researchers at the University of Leeds now believe it may, in fact, be a recent phenomenon.The earth's magnetic field has decayed approximately five per cent each century since the first accurate measurements began in 1840.

If this trend continues then the magnetic field would either reverse or disappear sometime this millennium.

It wouldn't be the first time.

The magnetic field has reversed in the past each time millions of years apart.

To gain a greater understanding of the decline in the strength of the magnetic field, researchers have gone even further back in time, studying a period between 1590 till 1840.It was Albert Einstein who showed, through special relativity, that electric and magnetic fields are, as it were, two sides of the same coin.

And if the earth's magnetic field were reversed, it would have a huge impact on the life of the planet.To understand magnetic fields one needs data from all over the world.Researchers join Quentin Cooper on Material World to discuss how they used old sailing ships logbooks in their analysis of the changing strength of the earths magnetic field.

20060629Botanists have embarked on an ambitious project to barcode every plant species of the world, through DNA signatures.

Leading researchers join Quentin Cooper to discuss the project's progress.

20060713The hot topic in science research now is synthetic biology.

Scientists are finding huge potential for new innovation in the field, such as the E.coli camera and the liver on a microchip.

The hot topic in science research now is synthetic biology. Scientists are finding huge potential for new innovation in the field, such as the E.coli camera and the liver on a microchip.

20060803Quentin Cooper visits the Open University's Science Summer School at Heriot-Watt University, and talks to the students who meet each other for the first time.

Quentin Cooper visits the Open University's Science Summer School at Heriot-Watt University, and talks to the students who meet each other for the first time.

20060810Experimentation is a fundamental part of scientific practice and education.

For the students at the Open University, however, the summer school is their first experience of conducting scientific experiments in a lab.

In this second part of our tour of the OU's summer schools, Quentin Cooper visits the University of Sussex to talk about the importance of practical work in learning science.

Is there a right way of practicing science? Is there a limit to experimentation for the sake of scientific progress?

Experimentation is a fundamental part of scientific practice and education. For the students at the Open University, however, the summer school is their first experience of conducting scientific experiments in a lab.

In this second part of our tour of the OU's summer schools, Quentin Cooper visits the University of Sussex to talk about the importance of practical work in learning science. Is there a right way of practicing science? Is there a limit to experimentation for the sake of scientific progress?

20060817Quentin Cooper is joined by a panel of chemistry researchers and Open University summer school students, at the University of York, to discuss why chemistry has lost its appeal.

Quentin Cooper is joined by a panel of chemistry researchers and Open University summer school students, at the University of York, to discuss why chemistry has lost its appeal.

20060824This August, mathematicians from all over the world will converge in the city of Madrid to find out who has won the Fields Medal (The Nobel Prize of mathematics).

This prestigious prize is being presented by the International Mathematicians Union to four mathematicians, under the age of forty, who have made outstanding contributions to their field.

Previous prize winning topics include Kac-Moody algebras, Banach space theory, combinatorics, algebraic geometry and topology.

This August, mathematicians from all over the world will converge in the city of Madrid to find out who has won the Fields Medal (The Nobel Prize of mathematics). This prestigious prize is being presented by the International Mathematicians Union to four mathematicians, under the age of forty, who have made outstanding contributions to their field. Previous prize winning topics include Kac-Moody algebras, Banach space theory, combinatorics, algebraic geometry and topology.

20060831Quentin Cooper meets the researchers looking to the stratosphere to meet the ever-increasing demand for super fast internet access. They are testing airships that fly 12 miles above the Earth and beam back wireless broadband 200 times faster than a wired connection.

These High Altitude Platforms could provide us with floating communications hubs in the future as well as offering disaster management or environmental monitoring to developing countries. Quentin is joined by project scientist David Grace and balloonist and aeronautical engineer Per Lindstrand.

Quentin Cooper meets the researchers looking to the stratosphere to meet the ever-increasing demand for super fast internet access.

20060907The British Association's annual Festival of Science is a chance for scientists to share their results and their excitement with the public.

But some subjects have traditionally been off limits.

Telepathy, intuition and life after death, for example.

But not any more.

Before an audience at this year's Festival in Norwich, Quentin Cooper confronts a panel of scientific heretics and sceptics.

The British Association's annual Festival of Science is a chance for scientists to share their results and their excitement with the public. But some subjects have traditionally been off limits. Telepathy, intuition and life after death, for example. But not any more. Before an audience at this year's Festival in Norwich, Quentin Cooper confronts a panel of scientific heretics and sceptics.

20060914Mobile phone use is banned on planes on safety grounds, but surveillance equipment shows that many frequent fliers ignore the rule.

So are mobile phones a genuine threat to air safety or just to airlines' income from their own in-flight phones?

Quentin Cooper hears how phone signals really can interfere with the navigation equipment and throw a plane hundreds of miles off course, and how new technologies may make them safe.

Mobile phone use is banned on planes on safety grounds, but surveillance equipment shows that many frequent fliers ignore the rule. So are mobile phones a genuine threat to air safety or just to airlines' income from their own in-flight phones?

Quentin Cooper hears how phone signals really can interfere with the navigation equipment and throw a plane hundreds of miles off course, and how new technologies may make them safe.

Mobile phone use is banned on planes on safety grounds, but surveillance equipment shows that many frequent fliers ignore the rule.

So are mobile phones a genuine threat to air safety or just to airlines' income from their own in-flight phones?

Quentin Cooper hears how phone signals really can interfere with the navigation equipment and throw a plane hundreds of miles off course, and how new technologies may make them safe.

Mobile phone use is banned on planes on safety grounds, but surveillance equipment shows that many frequent fliers ignore the rule. So are mobile phones a genuine threat to air safety or just to airlines' income from their own in-flight phones?

20060921We've got used to the idea that the universe began with a Big Bang, but nobody mentioned what caused it.

Quentin Cooper takes a trip into the multi-dimensional world of cosmology.

He meets Neil Turok, the Cambridge cosmologist who suggests that the Big Bang occurred when our three-dimensional universe collided with a partner universe in a higher-dimensional space.

We've got used to the idea that the universe began with a Big Bang, but nobody mentioned what caused it. Quentin Cooper takes a trip into the multi-dimensional world of cosmology. He meets Neil Turok, the Cambridge cosmologist who suggests that the Big Bang occurred when our three-dimensional universe collided with a partner universe in a higher-dimensional space.

20060928Quentin Cooper looks at the aims behind a new European Space Agency mission, to nudge astronomical objects into new orbits.

Quentin Cooper looks at the aims behind a new European Space Agency mission, to nudge astronomical objects into new orbits.

20061005A small fleet of spacecraft is heading off to probe the most energetic explosions in the solar system.

The Japanese Solar-B craft and Nasa's two Stereo satellites will look at the Sun to study in detail how solar flares and mass-ejections send clouds of hot gas racing towards the Earth with the energy of millions of hydrogen bombs.

Quentin Cooper hears the latest news from our violent star.

A small fleet of spacecraft is heading off to probe the most energetic explosions in the solar system. The Japanese Solar-B craft and Nasa's two Stereo satellites will look at the Sun to study in detail how solar flares and mass-ejections send clouds of hot gas racing towards the Earth with the energy of millions of hydrogen bombs. Quentin Cooper hears the latest news from our violent star.

20061012Quentin Cooper meets scientists who, with a little genetic modification, believe they will be able to turn a single large poplar tree into around 100 gallons of carbon-neutral transport fuel.

Quentin Cooper meets scientists who, with a little genetic modification, believe they will be able to turn a single large poplar tree into around 100 gallons of carbon-neutral transport fuel.

20061019Fifty years ago this week the Queen pulled a lever and announced that Britain was on 'the threshold of a new age'.

Half a century later, the world's first commercial nuclear power station, which she opened at Calder Hall in Cumbria, is uneconomic and has fallen silent.

But, with oil prices and global warming on the rise, nuclear power is back on the agenda.

Sue Nelson asks what nuclear power plants will be like in the next half century.

Fifty years ago this week the Queen pulled a lever and announced that Britain was on 'the threshold of a new age'. Half a century later, the world's first commercial nuclear power station, which she opened at Calder Hall in Cumbria, is uneconomic and has fallen silent. But, with oil prices and global warming on the rise, nuclear power is back on the agenda. Sue Nelson asks what nuclear power plants will be like in the next half century.

20061026Quentin Cooper investigates a lightweight robot arm as supple as a snake, yet of such precision that it can perform surgery inside a human intestine.

Quentin Cooper investigates a lightweight robot arm as supple as a snake, yet of such precision that it can perform surgery inside a human intestine.

20061102In the past, most domestic refrigerators used environmentally damaging chemicals such as CFCs.

Although there are now replacement chemicals, the search is still on for better ways to store food.

Quentin Cooper hears about some of the latest ideas such as an electronic thin film fridge with no moving parts and a fridge that works by being very noisy.

In the past, most domestic refrigerators used environmentally damaging chemicals such as CFCs. Although there are now replacement chemicals, the search is still on for better ways to store food. Quentin Cooper hears about some of the latest ideas such as an electronic thin film fridge with no moving parts and a fridge that works by being very noisy.

20061109Touted as the 'holy grail' of biomaterials, spider silk is unrivalled by any known man-made fibre.

Finer than human hair yet tougher than a bullet-proof vest, spider silk has a desirable combination of mechanical properties.

On the verge of harnessing technology for its mass production and with recent advances in our understanding of its structure, Quentin Cooper unravels the key to spider silk.

Touted as the 'holy grail' of biomaterials, spider silk is unrivalled by any known man-made fibre. Finer than human hair yet tougher than a bullet-proof vest, spider silk has a desirable combination of mechanical properties.

On the verge of harnessing technology for its mass production and with recent advances in our understanding of its structure, Quentin Cooper unravels the key to spider silk.

Touted as the 'holy grail' of biomaterials, spider silk is unrivalled by any known man-made fibre.

Finer than human hair yet tougher than a bullet-proof vest, spider silk has a desirable combination of mechanical properties.

On the verge of harnessing technology for its mass production and with recent advances in our understanding of its structure, Quentin Cooper unravels the key to spider silk.

Touted as the 'holy grail' of biomaterials, spider silk is unrivalled by any known man-made fibre. Finer than human hair yet tougher than a bullet-proof vest, spider silk has a desirable combination of mechanical properties.

20061116Quentin Cooper meets scientists from the Southampton Oceanographic Centre, who are monitoring the sea bed to assess the effects of the offshore oil industry on marine ecosystems.

Quentin Cooper meets scientists from the Southampton Oceanographic Centre, who are monitoring the sea bed to assess the effects of the offshore oil industry on marine ecosystems.

20061123Quentin Cooper talks to the scientists who have developed a revolutionary breath analysis machine. Trace gases, or metabolites, in the breath can reveal if a patient is suffering from certain diseases. The equipment is 10,000 times more sensitive than a standard breathalyser used for alcohol testing and could mean faster and more accurate diagnoses in the surgery.

Quentin Cooper talks to the scientists who have developed a revolutionary breath analysis machine.

20061130Geologist Chris Tunney explains how written records, tree rings and DNA sequencing can help archaeologists, paleontologists and geologists to date new discoveries.
20061207Quentin Cooper explores scientific developments in Ireland and asks whether being part of the European Union has helped the technology industry.

Quentin Cooper explores scientific developments in Ireland and asks whether being part of the European Union has helped the technology industry.

20061214We all enjoy a good read or going to see a play, but do we know what literature actually does to us? Take Shakespeare for example, the very structure of his work gives us a sense of the dramatic.

Quentin Cooper finds out why, and how this happens in the brain.

By scanning your brain while you're scanning verse, scientists think they might know why Shakespeare is still so popular today.

Quentin Cooper finds out why, and how this happens in the brain. By scanning your brain while you're scanning verse, scientists think they might know why Shakespeare is still so popular today.

20061221Twinkle twinkle little star Quentin Cooper wonders where you are. Festive lights may add to the spirit of the season, but they are a major source of light pollution and contribute to orange smog that hangs over towns and cities.

Sky glow destroys views of the night sky and now the sight of the galaxy overhead is denied to over 90% of the UK population. Quentin talks to astronomers who are campaigning for darker skies at night.

Twinkle twinkle little star Quentin Cooper wonders where you are.

20061228Quentin Cooper heads off to the ski slopes of North Yorkshire to find out how science and engineering play an important role in the sport of skiing. He visits Xscape at Castleford in Leeds, the UK's largest indoor 'real snow' slope.

Quentin talks to the 'snowman', who makes and grooms the snow every night, and to experts in ski technology and ski jump design, as well as having a go himself.

Quentin Cooper heads off to the ski slopes of North Yorkshire to find out how science and engineering play an important role in the sport of skiing.

20070104Quentin Cooper takes a stroll through the streets of Edinburgh searching for clues to the city's rich scientific past.

He explores the achievements of James Hutton, known as the father of modern geology; Alexander Bain, inventor of the electric clock and fax machine; Elsie Inglis, a pioneer of field hospitals in the First World War; and James Maxwell Clerk, theoretical physicist with one of the finest mathematical minds of his time.

Quentin Cooper takes a stroll through the streets of Edinburgh searching for clues to the city's rich scientific past.

20070111In a special edition, the audience becomes questioner as Quentin Cooper invites a panel of scientists to answer some of your burning science questions.

Why do the Moon and Sun appear exactly the same size from Earth? Why are all snowflakes different? And is the Coreollus effect a myth? Just some of the things Quentin and guests will be trying to get to the bottom of.

In a special edition, the audience becomes questioner as Quentin Cooper invites a panel of scientists to answer some of your burning science questions.

20070118A year ago this week, the press and public were enthralled by a visitor to our shores; it was a northern bottle-nosed whale, stranded in the Thames, where it eventually died.

Quentin Cooper talks to whale experts and finds out why they get stranded.

Is it acoustic interference from boats and ships, pollution or are they just confused?

Quentin Cooper talks to whale experts and finds out why they get stranded. Is it acoustic interference from boats and ships, pollution or are they just confused?

20070125Does man's quest to explore space relate to environmental problems closer to home? Quentin Cooper talks to astro-biologist Charles Cockell, who believes that the technologies and skills needed to find other worlds to inhabit will one day help to protect planet Earth from environmental disaster.

Does man's quest to explore space relate to environmental problems closer to home? Quentin Cooper talks to astro-biologist Charles Cockell, who believes that the technologies and skills needed to find other worlds to inhabit will one day help to protect planet Earth from environmental disaster.

20070315Quentin Cooper looks into the life and work of the relatively unknown but extraordinarily prolific mathematician Leonhard Euler, who was born 300 years ago this year.

Quentin Cooper looks into the life and work of the relatively unknown but extraordinarily prolific mathematician Leonhard Euler, who was born 300 years ago this year.

20070322A number of long-term studies are currently in progress in the UK, aimed at looking at the health of the nation over time.

Quentin Cooper finds out how long these have to run to get meaningful results, how participants are recruited and how rigorous the science is.

A number of long-term studies are currently in progress in the UK, aimed at looking at the health of the nation over time. Quentin Cooper finds out how long these have to run to get meaningful results, how participants are recruited and how rigorous the science is.

20070329Quentin Cooper talks to John Forth and Salah Zoorob, civil engineers who want to build houses with bricks made from recycled rubbish. They have invented the Bitublock, made from household and industrial waste.

Quentin Cooper talks to John Forth and Salah Zoorob, civil engineers who want to build houses with bricks made from recycled rubbish.

20070405Quentin Cooper talks to palaeoanthropologists Clive Gamble and Mike Petraglia about climate change and its contribution to the origin of our species. Some experts believe that the onset of an ice age two million years ago precipitated a series of climate crises that shaped human evolution.

Quentin Cooper talks to palaeoanthropologists Clive Gamble and Mike Petraglia about climate change and its contribution to the origin of our species.

20070412Quentin Cooper talks to scientists from the Royal Observatory in Edinburgh about SCUBA-2, a new instrument designed to scan the heavens for evidence of how galaxies, solar systems and planets form.

Quentin Cooper talks to scientists from the Royal Observatory in Edinburgh about SCUBA-2, a new instrument designed to scan the heavens for evidence of how galaxies, solar systems and planets form.

20070419Quentin Cooper explores scientific developments, with mathematics under the spotlight.
20070426The planet Venus is swaddled in clouds of sulphuric acid and heated to temperatures of nearly 500C.

Quentin Cooper examines the findings of the European space probe Venus Express, which has been orbiting the planet for a year to investigate just what makes it so inhospitable.

The planet Venus is swaddled in clouds of sulphuric acid and heated to temperatures of nearly 500C. Quentin Cooper examines the findings of the European space probe Venus Express, which has been orbiting the planet for a year to investigate just what makes it so inhospitable.

20070503Quentin Cooper is joined by Oliver Morton of the journal Nature to discuss what happened to the great polymaths of yesteryear. He asks whether there should be more encouragement today for scientists to dabble outside their own fields of expertise.

Quentin Cooper is joined by Oliver Morton of the journal Nature to discuss what happened to the great polymaths of yesteryear.

20070510Quentin Cooper investigates Cafe Scientifique, an informal discussion forum where the latest ideas in science and technology can be explored outside a traditional academic environment. The venture is growing rapidly, with new venues emerging all over the world and even being adopted by schools. Is this a fashionable by-product of a comfortable age or an indicator of the changing relationship between science and society?

Quentin Cooper investigates Cafe Scientifique, an informal discussion forum where the latest ideas in science and technology can be explored outside a traditional academic environment.

20070517Quentin Cooper explores scientific developments.
20070524Quentin Cooper explores the 100-year history of plastics, from Bakelite to plant-based polymers, and asks what the future may bring. Now ubiquitous in medicine and hygiene, plastics hold the key to lightweight green cars.

Quentin Cooper explores the 100-year history of plastics, from Bakelite to plant-based polymers, and asks what the future may bring.

20070531Quentin Cooper visits the Hay Festival.

Professor Steve Jones shows him the countryside where the young Alfred Russel Wallace trained as a surveyor before travelling to the Malay archipelago and developing a theory of evolution ahead of Charles Darwin.

Quentin also meets cosmologists to find out if we merely live in a universe or a multiverse of possible worlds.

Quentin Cooper visits the Hay Festival.

Professor Steve Jones shows him the countryside where the young Alfred Russel Wallace trained as a surveyor before travelling to the Malay archipelago and developing a theory of evolution ahead of Charles Darwin.

20070607Quentin Cooper talks to the inventors of new materials which can map potential areas of decay in children's teeth. Used in conjunction with the right chemicals, these bio-materials can prevent caries developing.

Quentin Cooper talks to the inventors of new materials which can map potential areas of decay in children's teeth.

20070614Quentin Cooper takes a walk on the wild side in our cities, exploring the ecology of urban landscapes.
20070809Quentin Cooper visits residential schools, each looking at a different area of science.

1/4. In Bath, he meets students on the Technology in Action course. One of their tasks is to design a rescue robot that can work in a hazardous environment. The students have to construct and programme their own robot, so it can function autonomously

The students have to construct and programme their own robot, so it can function autonomously.

Quentin Cooper visits residential schools, each looking at a different area of science.

20070816Quentin Cooper joins a group of Open University geology students on a field trip to Staithes in North Yorkshire.

The students are looking for fossils in the cliffs and studying the landscape for clues about the Earth's evolution.

Quentin also talks to geologists Glynda Easterbrook and Richard Davies.

Modern geology relies on sophisticated imaging equipment to provide accurate data about rock strata, but the students quickly realise that there is no substitute for careful observation.

Quentin Cooper joins a group of Open University geology students on a field trip to Staithes in North Yorkshire. The students are looking for fossils in the cliffs and studying the landscape for clues about the Earth's evolution. Quentin also talks to geologists Glynda Easterbrook and Richard Davies. Modern geology relies on sophisticated imaging equipment to provide accurate data about rock strata, but the students quickly realise that there is no substitute for careful observation.

20070823Quentin Cooper joins students on an Open University residential course studying the environment in the Yorkshire Dales. The students are learning how to observe, sample and measure different types of vegetation. But plants also provide vital clues about air quality and pollution. Biologist Hilary Denny and earth scientist Mark Brandon help to interpret the evidence.

Quentin Cooper joins students on an Open University residential course studying the environment in the Yorkshire Dales.

20070830Quentin Cooper joins an Open University psychology course in Durham. The students have to devise a scientific investigation into memory or communication, using either qualitative or quantitative methods. But conducting such an investigation in a systematic and meaningful manner is not easy. Psychologists Ilona Roth and Alex Easton discuss the problems.

Quentin Cooper joins an Open University psychology course in Durham.

20070906Quentin Cooper sifts through our dustbins to see just how much we could recycle if we really wanted to.

Quentin Cooper sifts through our dustbins to see just how much we could recycle if we really wanted to.

20070913Quentin Cooper visits the annual Science Festival in York.

Quentin Cooper visits the annual Science Festival in York.

20070920Quentin Cooper investigates the arithmetic of road pricing and broadband charges.

Quentin Cooper investigates the arithmetic of road pricing and broadband charges.

20070927Quentin Cooper is joined by zoologists Adrian Barnett and Bruna Bezerra, who have spent the past year in the Igapo forest, deep in the heart of the Amazon jungle, to study the extraordinarily shy uacari monkeys.
20071004Quentin Cooper talks to psychologists, electronic engineers, internet experts and neuroscientists who are collaborating in an attempt to understand the exact nature of memory.
20071011Quentin Cooper talks to Mike Majerus, professor of evolution at Cambridge University, about the Peppered Moth and its significance in the debate about Darwin's evolutionary theory.
20071018The number of left-handed people has reached record levels.

Quentin Cooper talks to psychologist Professor Chris McManus to find out why.

The number of left-handed people has reached record levels. Quentin Cooper talks to psychologist Professor Chris McManus to find out why.

20071025Quentin Cooper reports from Manchester's first science festival, and finds out more about the science of addiction.

How much is in our genes?

20071101Quentin Cooper explores the remarkable relationships between flower producers and insect consumers in the competitive world of pollination. He talks to plant scientist Heather Whitney and bee behaviour expert Lars Chitka about the intricacies of plant structures to accommodate and attract bees, and the incredible skills of insects who use trial, error and memory to seek out the greatest food rewards.

Quentin Cooper explores the remarkable relationships between flower producers and insect consumers in the competitive world of pollination.

He talks to plant scientist Heather Whitney and bee behaviour expert Lars Chitka about the intricacies of plant structures to accommodate and attract bees, and the incredible skills of insects who use trial, error and memory to seek out the greatest food rewards.

20071108Quentin Cooper talks to Andy McIntosh, professor of thermodynamics and combustion at the University of Leeds, about his research into the Bombardier beetle. This amazing insect, which sprays its predators with a toxic blast of steam, has inspired new technology to develop powerful new fuel injection systems, fire extinguishers, needle-free injections and even new types of nebuliser.

Quentin Cooper talks to Andy McIntosh, professor of thermodynamics and combustion at the University of Leeds, about his research into the Bombardier beetle.

20071115In November 2006 research from an international team of ocean scientists, published in the journal Science, predicted that by 2050 the world would lose the vast majority of fish species.

One year on, this programme looks at how this argument has been assessed by the scientific community, what can be done to prevent extinctions, and indeed whether intervention is feasible in a world where large parts of the human population rely on marine food for survival.

In November 2006 research from an international team of ocean scientists, published in the journal Science, predicted that by 2050 the world would lose the vast majority of fish species. One year on, this programme looks at how this argument has been assessed by the scientific community, what can be done to prevent extinctions, and indeed whether intervention is feasible in a world where large parts of the human population rely on marine food for survival.

20071129Autonomous computer programs which make their own decisions and outperform humans could soon be performing a number of functions from negotiating crucial deals on the Stock Exchange to co-ordinating rapid responses to major disasters.

Quentin Cooper talks to Prof Nick Jennings about how they work and asks whether we should be happy to place our money and safety in the hands of a computer.

Autonomous computer programs which make their own decisions and outperform humans could soon be performing a number of functions from negotiating crucial deals on the Stock Exchange to co-ordinating rapid responses to major disasters. Quentin Cooper talks to Prof Nick Jennings about how they work and asks whether we should be happy to place our money and safety in the hands of a computer.

20071206Quentin Cooper talks to Jan Evans-Freeman and Rachel Oliver, who are leading Light Emitting Diode technology towards a brighter future.

New generation LEDs will purify water, produce lights that mimic the colour of sunshine and use quantum mechanics to keep private data immune from hackers.

Quentin Cooper talks to Jan Evans-Freeman and Rachel Oliver, who are leading Light Emitting Diode technology towards a brighter future. New generation LEDs will purify water, produce lights that mimic the colour of sunshine and use quantum mechanics to keep private data immune from hackers.

20071213Quentin Cooper reports on the restoration of the Cutty Sark six months after fire ripped through the world's last surviving tea clipper.

The heat of the blaze burned the original timbers and buckled the iron frame, but technical manager Ian Bell believes that she can still be saved.

Quentin Cooper reports on the restoration of the Cutty Sark six months after fire ripped through the world's last surviving tea clipper. The heat of the blaze burned the original timbers and buckled the iron frame, but technical manager Ian Bell believes that she can still be saved.

20071220Quentin Cooper is joined by phoneticians Francis Nolan and Peter French, who discuss how computers can pick out strange vocal traits and the inadequacies of human voice recognition for the purpose of giving evidence in court.

Quentin Cooper is joined by phoneticians Francis Nolan and Peter French, who discuss how computers can pick out strange vocal traits and the inadequacies of human voice recognition for the purpose of giving evidence in court.

20071227In a special edition of the programme, Quentin Cooper invites a panel of experts to answer science questions from listeners.

In a special edition of the programme, Quentin Cooper invites a panel of experts to answer science questions from listeners.

20080228Quentin Cooper explores incredible advances in microscope technology which have opened up a new frontier in understanding and fighting diseases, including cancer. He is joined by Andrew Bushby, director of the Nano Vision centre at London's Queen Mary University, and by Lucy Collinson, head of electron microscopy at Cancer Research.

Quentin Cooper explores incredible advances in microscope technology which have opened up a new frontier in understanding and fighting diseases, including cancer.

20080306
20080313Sue Nelson investigates research into a new generation of lighter, cleaner and more powerful batteries, capable of powering anything from hybrid cars to microchips while retaining environmental sustainability.

Sue Nelson investigates research into a new generation of lighter, cleaner and more powerful batteries, capable of powering anything from hybrid cars to microchips while retaining environmental sustainability.

20080320Quentin Cooper investigates the latest research by neuroscientists who are attempting to further our understanding of how the brain processes complex sounds such as music and speech. This could lead to more sophisticated speech recognition systems and hearing aids. Part of the work includes training ferrets to discriminate between changes in pitch, timbre or location of sound sources, allowing researchers to see how their brains can distinguish these subtle changes in sounds.

Quentin Cooper investigates the latest research by neuroscientists who are attempting to further our understanding of how the brain processes complex sounds such as music and speech.

20080327Quentin Cooper visits Edinburgh for its International Science Festival 2008. He talks to the scientist charged with looking after HECToR, Britain's new national supercomputer.

Quentin Cooper visits Edinburgh for its International Science Festival 2008.

20080403Quentin Cooper investigates the standard measure of a kilogram, a specific piece of metal held in a Parisian vault.

Unfortunately this is approaching its 120th birthday and has suffered some erosion during this time.

Quentin finds out about plans to redefine the kilogram in terms of light and why fixing this fundamental value will transform physics.

He is joined by Ian Robinson from the National Physical Laboratory and by historian William Ashworth from Liverpool University.

Quentin Cooper investigates the standard measure of a kilogram, a specific piece of metal held in a Parisian vault. Unfortunately this is approaching its 120th birthday and has suffered some erosion during this time. Quentin finds out about plans to redefine the kilogram in terms of light and why fixing this fundamental value will transform physics. He is joined by Ian Robinson from the National Physical Laboratory and by historian William Ashworth from Liverpool University.

20080410Quentin Cooper explains how the charred remains of ancient cereal grains reveal how and when domesticated crops spread through Europe.

Could DNA from these early varieties improve our crops for the future? He is joined by archaeobotanist Glynis Jones, who has used radiocarbon dating and DNA analysis to more accurately trace the development of agriculture, and Wayne Powell, who describes the genetic diversity of modern crops and how ancient DNA might fortify them for an uncertain climatic future.

Quentin Cooper explains how the charred remains of ancient cereal grains reveal how and when domesticated crops spread through Europe. Could DNA from these early varieties improve our crops for the future? He is joined by archaeobotanist Glynis Jones, who has used radiocarbon dating and DNA analysis to more accurately trace the development of agriculture, and Wayne Powell, who describes the genetic diversity of modern crops and how ancient DNA might fortify them for an uncertain climatic future.

20080417
20080424The military are always looking for new ways to keep their ships, vehicles and aircraft undetected.

Quentin Cooper finds out how state-of-the-art physics is helping in this quest for invisibility and how stealth warships could soon be using 'invisibility cloaks' to keep themselves invisible from microwave detectors and radar.

The military are always looking for new ways to keep their ships, vehicles and aircraft undetected. Quentin Cooper finds out how state-of-the-art physics is helping in this quest for invisibility and how stealth warships could soon be using 'invisibility cloaks' to keep themselves invisible from microwave detectors and radar.

20080501Quentin Cooper discusses the postwar boom in science and technology with Ben Russell, one of the curators of the Science Museum's new exhibition Dan Dare and the Birth of Hi Tech Britain. The aftermath of war brought spectacular advances such as radar, penicillin and the jet engine, leaving a vast legacy for science, technology and manufacturing today.

Quentin Cooper discusses the postwar boom in science and technology with Ben Russell, one of the curators of the Science Museum's new exhibition Dan Dare and the Birth of Hi Tech Britain.

20080508Quentin Cooper presents the science magazine.
20080515Quentin Cooper is joined by archaeologist Charlotte Roberts and geneticist Terry Brown, who have joined forces to try to discover how the TB bacterium has evolved over the centuries. They discuss the history of TB and their plans to find, extract and piece together ancient DNA.

Quentin Cooper is joined by archaeologist Charlotte Roberts and geneticist Terry Brown, who have joined forces to try to discover how the TB bacterium has evolved over the centuries.

20080522Quentin Cooper finds out how a unique collaboration between scientists at Leicester University and Northamptonshire Police has come up with ingenious new techniques in the fight against crime.
20080529Quentin Cooper talks to scientists at the Hay Literary Festival.

His guests include geneticist Professor Steve Jones of University College, London, and Sir David King, formerly the government's Chief Scientific Adviser.

20080605Quentin Cooper talks to the inventors of novel materials which, when wrapped around a child's teeth, can map the areas where decay might be setting in.

If treated with the right chemicals, these new bio-materials can be used to prevent caries developing in the first place.

Quentin Cooper talks to the inventors of novel materials which, when wrapped around a child's teeth, can map the areas where decay might be setting in. If treated with the right chemicals, these new bio-materials can be used to prevent caries developing in the first place.

20080612Quentin Cooper looks at the iodine content of seaweed, its uses for medicinal purposes over the centuries, and its connection to local weather and climate.
20080619Sixty years ago, Manchester University's Baby became the world's first stored-program electronic digital computer.

Quentin Cooper celebrates its anniversary and explores its legacy.

Sixty years ago, Manchester University's Baby became the world's first stored-program electronic digital computer. Quentin Cooper celebrates its anniversary and explores its legacy.

20080703Quentin Cooper investigates the huge fireball that exploded in June 1908 in the Tunguska region of Siberia. The explosion knocked down an estimated 80 million trees.

Quentin Cooper investigates the huge fireball that exploded in June 1908 in the Tunguska region of Siberia.

20080710Quentin Cooper explores metabolomics and is joined by Julian Griffin from the University of Cambridge to discuss the role that the study of molecules in the body could play by providing an early warning of exposure to environmental toxins and pollutants that can slowly damage health over time.

Quentin Cooper explores metabolomics and is joined by Julian Griffin from the University of Cambridge to discuss the role that the study of molecules in the body could play by providing an early warning of exposure to environmental toxins and pollutants that can slowly damage health over time.

20080717Diana Edwards from the University of Bristol joins Quentin Cooper to discuss the latest restoration efforts in Venice's Basilica di San Marco, where repeated flooding is slowly destroying the cathedral's priceless mosaics. The intricate tiling covers over 8,000 square metres of walls and vaults, but salt water seeping in from the basement is damaging the lime mortar holding it in place.

Diana Edwards from the University of Bristol joins Quentin Cooper to discuss the latest restoration efforts in Venice's Basilica di San Marco, where repeated flooding is slowly destroying the cathedral's priceless mosaics.

20080724Quentin Cooper explores the possibility of past or future life on Mars. He talks to Dr David Caitling, astrobiologist from the University of Bristol, who is involved in NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander mission, and Dr Matthew Balme from the Open University, who is using images from Mars Express to study the surface features of the red planet. Does the presence of water on the planet mean that Mars could have supported life in the past and what can this tell us about the future of our own planet?

Quentin Cooper explores the possibility of past or future life on Mars.

20080731Quentin Cooper explores the origins of grey and cloudy skies and asks if pollution is making them worse.

Describing the latest breakthroughs in weather research, Roy Harrison, from the University of Birmingham, discusses the birth of a cloud and how minute particles of pollution can increase cloud cover. Stephen Dorling, from the University of East Anglia, takes a wider view and discusses how knowledge of air pollution could improve our weather forecasts.

Quentin Cooper explores the origins of grey and cloudy skies and asks if pollution is making them worse.

20080814With the price of oil increasing and reserves of cheaply accessed light oil drying up, Quentin Cooper investigates new methods of extracting heavy oil.

Unlike conventional light oil, heavy oil is very viscous or even solid in its natural state underground, making it very difficult to extract. But heavy oil reserves that could keep the planet's economy going for a hundred years lie beneath the surface in many countries, especially in Canada.

Quentin talks to Prof Malcolm Greaves of the Improved Oil Recovery Research Group at the University of Bath about his system in which air is injected into the oil deposit down a vertical well and is ignited. The heat generated in the reservoir reduces the viscosity of the heavy oil, allowing it to drain into a second horizontal well from which it rises to the surface.

Dr Joe Wood of the University of Birmingham joins the discussion to talk about going one step further, looking at improving efficiency by using a catalyst intended to turn heavy oil into light while still underground.

With the price of oil increasing and reserves of cheaply accessed light oil drying up, Quentin Cooper investigates new methods of extracting heavy oil.

20080821Quentin Cooper investigates Europe's new satellite GOCE, designed to map the Earth's gravitational field. This promises new advances in the fields of oceanography, solid Earth physics, geodesy and sea-level research, and is intended to significantly contribute to furthering our understanding of climate change

Quentin Cooper investigates Europe's new satellite GOCE, designed to map the Earth's gravitational field.

20080828Quentin Cooper explores new ideas to reduce traffic chaos and warn motorists of congestion ahead. He talks to Dr Alan Stevens from the Transport Research Laboratory and Dr David Brown of Portsmouth University.

He also meets Professor Martyn Poliakoff and Dr Debbie Kays, University of Nottingham scientists who have brought the Periodic Table into the 21st century by posting lively video clips about every single chemical element on a new website.

Quentin Cooper explores new ideas to reduce traffic chaos and warn motorists of congestion ahead.

20080904Quentin Cooper explores the thin and flexible world of plastic electronic engineering. Plastics are well known for their insulating properties, but in the 1970s researchers discovered a plastic polymer that could conduct electricity. Plastics are now being used to replace metals and semiconductors in electronic circuits. Electronic devices made from them are cheap to manufacture and can be very light and flexible, opening up a host of new applications.

Quentin Cooper explores the thin and flexible world of plastic electronic engineering.

20080911Quentin Cooper reports from the British Association Science Festival in Liverpool. The programme includes a look at forensic science in fact and fiction and an exploration of the links between music and memory, triggered by a visit to the famous Cavern Club

Quentin Cooper reports from the British Association Science Festival in Liverpool.

20080918Quentin Cooper investigates how volatile metals from volcanoes end up in polar ice cores.

Scientists studying volcanoes have discovered that they are a source of tiny nanoparticles, small enough to be carried around the world.

They could be involved in the formation of clouds and may also seed distant patches of barren ocean with nutrients.

Volcanoes may be large and explosive, but their effects are now seen to be pervasive in the most unlikely areas.

2008092520081204Quentin and scientists measure the exchange of methane between plans and the atmosphere.

Quentin Cooper joins scientists from the Open University who are measuring the exchange of methane between plants, soil microogranisms and the atmosphere.

Wetlands such as bogs and swamps are home to some special microorganisms which are important producers of methane, a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

Biogeochemists are trying to better understand the impact of human activities and industrial processes on biological, chemical and geographic systems in the hope that they can find ways to reduce the production of greenhouse gases.

Quentin Cooper looks at research using hair to find a person's biological markers.

A single fibre of hair can give a valuable chronological record of activities and lifestyle, whether it is used by a biochemist testing for drug abuse or by an archaeologist looking at specimens hundreds of years old.

Quentin is joined by Dr Andrew Wilson of the University of Bradford and Dr Richard Paul of the University of Glamorgan.

Quentin Cooper looks at research using hair to find a person's biological markers. A single fibre of hair can give a valuable chronological record of activities and lifestyle, whether it is used by a biochemist testing for drug abuse or by an archaeologist looking at specimens hundreds of years old.

20081002Quentin Cooper hears about a new study into how different cultures process faces in different ways, and the implications this has for social interaction, identifying criminals and face recognition by computers.

He also looks at how businesses can use design to lower crime.

Quentin Cooper hears about a new study into how different cultures process faces in different ways, and the implications this has for social interaction, identifying criminals and face recognition by computers.

20081009Quentin Cooper joins Dr David Robinson of the Open University as he hunts in the dark for the crickets at Wittenham Clumps in Oxfordshire, and views the collection of crickets at the Natural History Museum.

Quentin Cooper joins Dr David Robinson of the Open University as he hunts in the dark for the crickets at Wittenham Clumps in Oxfordshire, and views the collection of crickets at the Natural History Museum.

20081016Quentin Cooper finds out how prehistoric cattle teeth may provide vital clues to unlocking the enduring mystery of what went on at Stonehenge.

New archaeological evidence suggests that Stonehenge was a place of pilgrimage in prehistoric times. Cattle teeth found at Durrington Walls, a massive circular earthwork near to Stonehenge, suggest that the animals were herded there from distant parts of Britain. The results add to increasing evidence that people may have visited Stonehenge periodically. Quentin asks experts Jane Evans and Prof Michael Parker Pearson what it was that drew people to the site.

Quentin Cooper finds out how prehistoric cattle teeth may provide vital clues to unlocking the enduring mystery of what went on at Stonehenge.

20081023Quentin Cooper examines how the UK's horse chestnut trees are under threat from invasive caterpillars spreading rapidly across Europe. Experts are concerned about the number of alien pests and diseases that are appearing in the UK, threatening the plants in our gardens, parks and across the countryside, as a result of being inadvertently imported into the UK.

Quentin discusses these problems with Glynn Percival, plant physiologist at Bartlett Tree Research Laboratory, and Joan Webber, principal pathologist at the Forestry Commission, Farnham.

Quentin Cooper examines how the UK's horse chestnut trees are under threat from invasive caterpillars spreading rapidly across Europe.

20081030Quentin Cooper explores how research into the brain's integration of visual and audio cues can provide information about how it tracks moving objects, and how different sensory information gets processed in the brain. He is joined by Dr Elliot Freeman, lecturer in psychology at Brunel University's School of Social Sciences, and Professor Charles Spence, Professor of Experimental Psychology at Oxford University.

Quentin Cooper explores how research into the brain's integration of visual and audio cues can provide information about how it tracks moving objects, and how different sensory information gets processed in the brain.

20081106Quentin Cooper explores new research looking into the geological process known as the Deep Carbon Cycle. It is becoming increasingly clear that the carbon cycle with which we are familiar should perhaps not be treated as a closed system, and that what is going on under our feet could also be having a critical role.

He finds out how the geological sciences could help to identify geodynamic processes and carbon reservoirs, help us to recognise evolutionary processes throughout the Earth's history and perhaps help us to predict what lies ahead.

Quentin Cooper explores new research looking into the geological process known as the Deep Carbon Cycle.

20081113Quentin Cooper is joined by neuroscientists Kevin Moffat and Richard Baines to discuss how the tiny Drosophila melanogaster, or fruit fly, is providing scientists with intriguing clues about how the brain works and what happens when it goes wrong.

Scientists have successfully engineered flies that closely model the symptoms of human diseases such as epilepsy and Alzheimers. They hope that this research will provide a tool that can help to unravel the underlying causes of brain diseases and accelerate the development of new drug treatments.

Quentin Cooper is joined by neuroscientists Kevin Moffat and Richard Baines to discuss how the tiny Drosophila melanogaster, or fruit fly, is providing scientists with intriguing clues about how the brain works and what happens when it goes wrong.

20081120Quentin Cooper joins Open University scientists on Mount Etna, who have been monitoring Europe's most active volcano for more than 30 years.

They visit a fissure on the eastern flank which is slowly producing lava along an underground tube and climb to the summit, which rises and falls under the combined effects of gravity and molten magma. If a giant landslide were ever to reach the sea it could result in a tsunami around the Mediterranean.

The slope now seems to have stabilised, but Etna is not a tame volcano and only through long-term monitoring will scientists fully understand its ways.

Quentin Cooper joins Open University scientists on Mount Etna, who have been monitoring Europe's most active volcano for more than 30 years.

20081127 Quentin Cooper joins scientists on a beach in search of clues about one of Saturn's moons.

Quentin Cooper joins scientists from the Open University as they drop space instruments onto Chesil Beach in Dorset in search of clues about one of Saturn's moons, Titan.

They have been working on a tiny amount of data obtained by the US/European Cassini mission's Huygens probe, which landed on Titan in January 2005. To get the most out of this data, they have since performed controlled drops of similar instruments on a wide variety of different surfaces on Earth, the latest of which is this experiment on Chesil Beach.

Quentin Cooper joins scientists from the Open University as they drop space instruments onto Chesil Beach in Dorset in search of clues about one of Saturn's moons, Titan.

They have been working on a tiny amount of data obtained by the US/European Cassini mission's Huygens probe, which landed on Titan in January 2005.

To get the most out of this data, they have since performed controlled drops of similar instruments on a wide variety of different surfaces on Earth, the latest of which is this experiment on Chesil Beach.

They have been working on a tiny amount of data obtained by the US/European Cassini mission's Huygens probe, which landed on Titan in January 2005. To get the most out of this data, they have since performed controlled drops of similar instruments on a wide variety of different surfaces on Earth, the latest of which is this experiment on Chesil Beach.

20081211Quentin Cooper is joined by infectious diseases expert Michael Begon to discuss the transmission of plague through gerbil populations, particularly those in Kazakhstan, and how work on an early warning system could help pr