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#037 How to Predict a Volcanic Eruption?

Scientists are getting quite good at predicting where and when lava will erupt around the Kilauea volcano, and that is a good thing for the residents of the island of Hawaii. Kilauea has been very active for the past several months. Indeed, in just the past 7 days, residents in the area around Kilauea have experienced more than 900 earthquakes. For the most part, these have been very minor tremors, often only showing up on seismographs. The quakes are caused by magma deep inside the volcano...


#036 Rebroadcast: Is it really mental ‘illness’?

Revisiting the discussion with Dr Peter Kinderman, professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of Liverpool and Vice President of the BPS, on the use of the term ‘illness’ in relation to mental health. Dr Kinderman says things are changing and, he believes, improving. We respond to life’s stressors in different ways and the treatment he prescribes is for all of us to take greater social responsibility to address the situation rather than reaching for medication.


#035 The not-so paleo diet

The Paleo Diet is one of the most popular diets in the UK, the US and across the developed world. The basic idea behind the so-called ‘caveman’ diet is to eat what Paleolithic humans ate. According to Paleo diet advocates, this is supposed to mean staying away from things like grains, legumes and certain vegetables. Yet, according to Dr Ceren Kabukcu, an archaeology fellow at the University of Liverpool, the Paleo Diet doesn't have a much in common with what humans actually ate during the...


#034 Jackie Bell Has What It Takes

Dr Jackie Bell is a theoretical particle physicist, athlete, and a certified space junkie so It’s easy to see why she was selected as one of twelve candidates for the BBC2 program, "Astronaut: Do You Have What It Takes." The program put the candidates through a series of challenges to see if they have the mental, physical and emotional capacity to become an astronaut. The former chief of the International Space Station Chris Hadfield was the host. Jackie's journey, from an 8-year old in...


#033 Darwin's Robots

Researchers are designing robots with artificial intelligence that evolve on their own. The programmer sets a goal to be accomplished and then, generation after generation, successful traits are passed on to the next generation. The result is AI that evolves at an astonishing rate to complete the complex task or goal, without the guidance of a programmer. The process is called Neuro-evolution and University of Liverpool PhD student James Butterworth is conducting research into applying...


#032 Extreme Decision Making

Major events, such as a terrorist attack or a disaster, are a crucible for emergency services. Immediately, police, paramedics, and firefighters are forced to make split decisions under extreme stress and often with very little information. To make matters worse, these scenarios are frequently unique, so decision makers have little past experience to fall back on. This makes it a fascinating focus for research into decision making and planning. Dr Sara Waring is a lecturer in Forensic...


#31 Who is being left out online?

As the world around us grows increasingly digital, education, shopping, and social service programmes go online, who is being left out? Who is being excluded? Simeon Yates is the Director of the Centre for Digital Humanities and Social Science at the University of Liverpool. He recently led a major initiative to develop a new digital culture policy in the UK. This highlighted one of his chief concerns about digital policy: the serious and growing problem of digital exclusion.


#30 Can Donald Trump deliver a great speech?

Donald Trump's detractors criticize the president's speaking style for its seeming lack of coherence, simplicity and its appeal to raw emotions. Yet to his supporters, Trump's extemporaneous style communicates an honest and genuine connection with his audience. It is a style that stands in stark contrast to the rehearsed, formally structured speeches of his political opponents. Dr Karl Simms is a Reader in English at the University of Liverpool and an expert on rhetoric. In this episode,...


#029 Twitter predicts the future

Can Twitter predict the future? Costas Milas says the social media platform is very good at predicting financial future financial events, such as the cost of borrowing. In some cases, it performs better than the most sophisticated financial tools. Costas Milas is a professor of Finance at the University of Liverpool. His latest research extends beyond Twitter to look at internet search trends. He says the simple searches people type into Google just might tell us a lot about how something...


#028 Do we know the right dose of medicine for children?

Paediatric medicine faces a troubling challenge. For good ethical reasons, scientists have long been reluctant to experiment on children. As a result, many of the oldest and most common medications used in pediatric medicine have not been tested on the youngest patients. This means there is very little good quality research on efficacy or proper dosage. This concerns Dr Dan Hawcutt. He’s a Senior Lecturer Paediatric Clinical Pharmacology at the University of Liverpool who wants to further...


#027 Extreme weather: an intimate history

The study of extreme weather usually involves lots of numbers, graphs, and statistical comparisons. What's missing is the human element; the way people responded to unusual weather events. During the ice cold winter of 1838, did people stay huddled indoors or learn to skate? How about the flooding of the river Trent in the early 19th century? Were they scared? Georgina Enfield is a professor of environmental history at the University of Liverpool. Her team has assembled a fascinating...


#026 How much is your favourite Premier League player really worth?

All of a sudden mathematics wizards and statisticians are moving into the front offices of major sports teams. Ian McHale, Professor of Sports Analytics at the University of Liverpool, discusses the remarkable rise of analytics in professional sport. We see it in cycling, baseball, basketball… but what about football? McHale says the Premier League is behind other sports in adopting analytics to drive performance. This means some star players might be over-valued (and overpaid) while the...


#025 No Junk Food Ads Before 9pm

In forty years, the number of obese children has increased tenfold, and this increase is not just in the UK or the US, but around the world. It’s a global public health crisis. In the UK, one in ten children is now obese. Experts are calling on the government to reduce children’s exposure to junk food advertisements. University of Liverpool senior lecturer in psychology, Dr. Emma Boyland, describes the surprisingly powerful effect these ads have on children’s appetites and food choices....


#024 The future of farming

The massive system that drives modern agriculture is changing, especially for the vast majority of us who live in cities. Farm Urban is part of this shift, prompting us to think about how and, more importantly, where our food is produced. The Liverpool business is the brainchild of two University of Liverpool postdoctoral researchers Paul Myers and Jens Thomas. Together they've built a company that grows fresh food in brick basements and urban rooftops. Not short of ambition, their mission...


023 What's the point of Dry January

Dry January is the annual effort to give up alcohol for the first 31 days of the year. There are Dry January campaigns around the world but it is particularly popular in the UK. According to the group Alcohol Concern, 5 million Britons took part in Dry January last year. The goal is to reset your relationship with alcohol. Matt Field will be taking part in Dry January this year as he has in past years. He is a professor of psychology at the University of Liverpool and an expert on...


#022 History of Christmas Traditions

University of Liverpool professor of English, Sarah Peverley is back on the podcast; this time to compare what we know about Christmas Traditions in the Middle Ages with our modern festivities. It’s a fun and fascinating way to explore the history of the holiday season. There are some surprises, like the early origins of Father Christmas or Santa Claus. (Hint: he came from somewhere far, far south of the North Pole.) But what’s not surprising is the degree to which our approach to...


#021 Is Narcissism on the rise?

It’s easy to see signs that it might be. Research into pop music and contemporary literature offers indirect evidence that narcissism is on the rise in Western culture. More direct evidence comes from the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI): a database of thousands of US college students’ personality test results, collected over several decades. Results from these tests show narcissism has risen. Yet, new research has emerged that challenges this view. University of Liverpool lecturer...


#20 A History of Slimming

The weight loss market in the US is estimated to be worth 66 billion dollars. Europe isn’t too far behind that at 44 billion. It is big business and while its expansion has kept pace with our growing waist lines, its origins can be traced oddly enough to a time when food was scarce. Myriam Wilks-Heeg is a Lecturer in Twentieth Century History at the University of Liverpool. She’s researching the history of slimming in the UK and how it became an obsession for women. Did you know that the...


Bonus Episode: Colm Tóibín reading from his latest work

Earlier this year Colm Tóibín spoke before an audience at the Victoria Gallery Museum in Liverpool. The author and University of Liverpool Chancellor read excerpts from his latest novel House of Names. The work is a retelling of one part of the classic Greek trilogy The Oresteia and depicts Clytemnestra’s revenge for the murder of her daughter. This special bonus episode features Tóibín’s fascinating and funny insights into the challenges he faced adapting a story that is 2,500 years...


#019 Halloween as therapy

At this time of year we flock to horror films and prepare ghoulish costumes - but why do we do this? For children the answer is easy: sweet treats. For adults, the attraction to frightening things is a bit more complicated. One in six people in Great Britain experience anxiety or depression each week. Though many struggle with inner demons, they are also attracted to the macabre and the terrifying. It seems like a paradox but Dr Peter Kinderman says taking part in Halloween traditions can...