science

In Our Time: Perpetual Motion

Perpetual motion would be a wonderful thing, if only it were possible - being able to set some machine going and then it would power itself and just carry on & on without end. Free energy from nothing! Which is, of course, why it is impossible - but this wasn't provable until relatively recently. Discussing the search for, and disproof of, perpetual motion on In Our Time were Ruth Gregory (Durham University), Frank Close (University of Oxford) and Steven Bramwell (University College London).

In Our Time: Extremophiles

"Extremophiles" is a bit of a parochial term - this is the name for organisms that live happily in environments that we consider extreme. Too cold, too hot, too acid, too something to support life, in our terms. Studying the lifeforms that disagree with us on what is a good place to live has started a new field of astrobiology and a new appreciation of the possibility of life existing in the wider universe.

In Our Time: The Science of Glass

Glass is odd stuff. We've been making it so long that one tends to forget that it's both artificial and really quite odd. The In Our Time episode about glass talked both the science of glass and glass-making, and the history of it. The experts discussing it were Dame Athene Donald (University of Cambridge, current Master of Churchill College, my old college, but here in her context as a physicist), Jim Bennett (University of Oxford) and Paul McMillan (University College London).

In Our Time: Brunel

The name Isambard Kingdom Brunel conjures up thoughts of the Great Western Railway, and other successful engineering projects that are still well regarded today. But on the the In Our Time episode about him Julia Elton (former President of the Newcomen Society for the History of Engineering and Technology), Ben Marsden (University of Aberdeen) and Crosbie Smith (University of Kent) explained that this is not all there was to Brunel, and he wasn't always as successful as his modern reputation suggests.

In Our Time: Complexity

Complexity theory is a relatively new discipline, about 40 years old, that looks to model and understand the behaviour of complex systems. The systems themselves can be as diverse as the weather, crowd movements, epidemic spread or the brain. The experts talking about it on In Our Time were Ian Stewart (University of Warwick), Jeff Johnson (Open University) and Eve Mitleton-Kelly (London School of Economics).

Egypt's Lost Queens; Talk to the Animals; John Bishop's Australia

Egypt's Lost Queens was a one off programme presented by Joann Fletcher about four influential women in Ancient Egyptian history. Of the women she picked to focus on there were two who wielded power in their own right, and two who were mothers and/or wives of Pharaohs. Fletcher didn't just go the easy route of picking all the "obvious" ones - i.e. no Nefertiti, no Cleopatra - instead she covered Hetepheres, Hatshepsut (who does count as an obvious choice), Nefertari (ditto) and Arsinoe.

Secrets of Bones; Tales from the Royal Wardrobe

Secrets of Bones was a 6 part series of half hour programmes about skeletons, presented by Ben Garrod. Each episode covered a different aspect of the way that skeletons are vital to vertebrates. The series looked at both the commonalities between the vertebrate skeletal structure, and also the ways that skeletons are adapted to the life style of the particularly organism.

Mud Sweat and Tractors; Fossil Wonderlands: Nature's Hidden Treasures; The Crusades

Mud Sweat and Tractors is a four part series about the changes in farming in Britain over the last century or so. It split it up into four areas - milk, horticulture, wheat and beef - and treated each as a separate story, so each episode seemed quite self-contained. Each time there were two or three farming families chosen who had photographs and video footage stretching back to the 1930s. So they made good case studies and could talk about why they or their Dad or Grandad had made particular decisions at particular points.

In Our Time: Robert Boyle

I know of Robert Boyle because of Boyle's Law (which I must've learnt in GCSE physics about 25 years ago although I couldn't give you the details now), but as In Our Time explained his part in developing the scientific method is probably the more important part of his legacy. And in his own time his piety and religious writings were also important. The three experts who discussed it were Simon Schaffer (University of Cambridge), Michael Hunter (Birkbeck College, University of London) and Anna Marie Roos (University of Lincoln).

The Necessary War; The Pity of War; David Attenborough's First Life

The Necessary War and The Pity of War were a pair of programmes from the BBC about the First World War that aired a couple of months ago. In The Necessary War Max Hastings put the case for WW1 being, ultimately, necessary despite the loss of life etc. And in The Pity of War Niall Ferguson argued that it was all a terrible and costly (in terms of lives) mistake - this programme finished with a debate.

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