The Why Factor
The Why Factor: Why do we have Human Rights?09/04/15
Where do Human Rights come from and how are they used?
Why do we have Human Rights?
The UN proclaimed its Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, after the horrors of World War Two. But they are far from universally upheld. Yecenia Armenta Graciano’s right not to be tortured was grievously violated in Mexico, when she was...
The Why Factor: World War One: Sacrifice
An exploration of the meaning of sacrifice to mark the centenary of World War One
The Why Factor: Why do people sacrifice their lives?
Why do people give their lives for a nation? For a cause?
How Chillies Became Hot
The chilli pepper is a work of ‘evolutionary elegance’. Its complex chemistry can fool our brains. Why do we eat something that causes us pain? Mike Williams explores the origins and history of chillies, thought to be the hot and humid climates of...
Why do we Draw?
Are some people simply more visual than others? And, what do we reveal through our drawings? Drawing is something we all do unselfconsciously as children before we learn to write. It is a form of expression that goes back 40,000 years and began on the...
The Evolution of Beards
Why did beards evolve and what is the point of them? Evolution may have decided they make a man more manly and can attract the opposite sex but many women are divided in their opinion of the beard. In some religions and cultures a beard is sacrosanct...
From its early days as work-wear for gold-miners and cowboys in the US, denim has transcended its origins, becoming a global fashion item. Mike Williams explores the appeal of a pair of blue jeans and the history of this simple garment. Once a symbol...
The Y Chromosome
The Y chromosome. What makes a boy a boy? In this programme we put the Y chromosome under the microscope. We find out how it transforms a female embryo into a male one. We discover what it can tell us about the differences between men and women. We...
Television is beamed into our homes through a proliferation of channels and devices. TV has become an integral part of our lives, all over the world, in just a few short decades. Why has TV taken a grip on us which has never weakened? It influences...
Stamps, coins, sea shells, wine - the list of things that humans collect is endless. But why do people do it? What does a collection of inanimate objects bring to our lives that other things do not? Are people attracted by the thrill of the chase, the...
Why do we use jargon - the deliberate obfuscation of language? Or in other words, saying things in a way that makes it difficult to understand. George Orwell, in the early 20th Century, hated this ‘inflated style’ of writing and there have been many...
Animals Are Us?
In stories, cartoons, advertisements and our everyday lives, we project human thoughts and emotions onto animals—and claim their strength and style for ourselves in the brand names of cars and cosmetics. Why do we do that, and what do we get out of...
From clowns to tight-rope walkers, fire-eaters to elephant trainers, the modern circus has been around for centuries. Mike Williams explores its origins and asks why it appeals to adults and children around the world. As part of the programme, Mike...
Freud thought daydreaming was not a useful activity, and many teachers across the world have been heard to say “stop daydreaming” to their pupils. But it seems to have redeeming purposes. Opera singer Noah Stewart explains how he uses daydreaming as a...
The desire to live is strong in us humans. But it’s not always enough. Sometimes people fall so low that they can see only one way forward. And every year, across the world, around a million people take their own lives. Why? The answers are as complex...
The Refugee Journey
At the mercy of people smugglers, they are transported by night, walking overland and travelling by sea, hiding during the day. These are journeys that are long, costly, and sometimes deadly. Mike Williams follows the journeys of 'Howram', a Kurdish...
More than four billion people live in countries which retain the death penalty. Mike Williams asks why more than 50 countries around the world still execute certain criminals. What is the death penalty for and how is it carried out? He talks to a...
We look inside the brain to find out why we lose our memories, and why there are some things we can not forget. We talk to a neuroscientist seeking to unlock the secrets to how we remember things. And, the woman who can’t forget an episode that...
Why do people all over the world enjoy stories about criminals and the people who bring them to justice? And what do the detective stories of a particular time or place reveal about that culture? From the consulting detective Sherlock Holmes to new...
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More informationWhy do we do the things we do?
Mike Williams searches for the extraordinary and hidden histories behind everyday objects and actions to inform us about the way we live in the 21st century. Broadcast and podcast every Friday from September 2012.