We take your questions about life, Earth and the universe to researchers hunting for answers at the frontiers of knowledge.

We take your questions about life, Earth and the universe to researchers hunting for answers at the frontiers of knowledge.


United Kingdom




We take your questions about life, Earth and the universe to researchers hunting for answers at the frontiers of knowledge.




Why is learning stuff harder as you get older?

Have you taken classes to learn a new sport or musical instrument or a language? It’s hard work! Why is it that as children we effortlessly absorb new skills and we don’t as adults? That’s what 50-something listener Gary Grief wondered about playing guitar. Do you need to play more frequently as an adult to attain the same level of expertise? Does the 10,000-hours theory still apply? Presenter and budding tabla-player Anand Jagatia embarks on a musical journey to discover what neuroscience...


Why are seeds such different sizes?

When eating a blackberry one day, CrowdScience listener Charles got a tiny seed stuck in his teeth. That got him wondering: why are seeds the size they are? Why does a blackberry have dozens of tiny pips, while a peach has one huge stone right in the middle? Plant seeds have been around for hundreds of millions of years, so they’ve had plenty of time to shapeshift into wildly different forms: from dust-like orchid seeds to giant coconuts. This evolution has been a long and intricate dance...


What can we learn from wastewater?

Most of us don’t like to dwell on our toilet habits, but this week Crowdscience has gone down the drain to discover what wastewater can tell us about our health. It’s been more than a year since scientists across the globe started to track the spread of Covid-19, with help from home test results and hospital data. Marnie Chesterton investigates the latest tool in their arsenal: sewage. Listener Kevin has heard how human waste can be monitored to check for virus levels, and wants to know if...


Why does grief leave me feeling this way?

Grief is universal. It is something almost all of us will go through at some point. And it is something that the people we love will experience when we die. Grief can be all consuming, it can make everyday tasks like getting out of bed, feel impossible. Which makes listener Oliver from Australia wonder - what is the point? It doesn’t bring what we lost, back. Why have we evolved to be so affected by loss? Be it the death of a loved one, the end of a relationship or the loss of a job. Does it...


Why do we gossip?

Gossip often has negative connotations, but does it get a bad rap? Might it serve a useful function and should we think of gossiping as an advanced social skill rather than a personality defect? CrowdScience listener Jayogi thinks it might be useful, and has asked CrowdScience to dig into the reasons why we find it so hard to resist salacious stories. Presenter Datshiane Navanayagam meets a scientist who views gossip as a key evolutionary adaption - as humans started to live in bigger...


If a tree falls in a forest… does it make a sound?

If a tree falls in a forest, and no-one is there to hear it, does it make a sound? This is an age-old debate that listener Richard and his family have been arguing about for years. Can CrowdScience settle it once and for all? Caroline Steel speaks to experts in hearing, biology, philosophy, physics and sound design, which takes her to some unexpected places. Professor Stefan Bleek is an expert in psychoacoustics who says that sounds only exist in our heads. Dr Eleanor Knox and Dr Bryan...


Do animals use medicine?

Animals experience all the colds, stomach pains, headaches, parasites, and general illnesses that humans do. But unlike us, animals can’t just grab a painkiller off the shelf at the supermarket to cure it. They don’t have a pharmacy to browse… or at least, not the sort that we’d recognise. Listener Andrew Chen got in touch to ask whether animals use any kind of medicine themselves. After all, our own drugs largely come from the plants and minerals found in wild habitats. So perhaps animals...


Can space exploration be environmentally friendly?

The space industry, with its fuel-burning rockets, requirements for mined metals and inevitable production of space junk, is not currently renowned for its environmental credentials. Can space exploration ever be truly environmentally friendly? Presenter Marnie Chesterton answers a selection of listeners’ questions on the topic of space environmentalism. She starts by examining the carbon footprint of spaceship manufacturing here on Earth, and asking whether reusable rocket ships such as...


How does my mind talk to my body?

This week CrowdScience investigates the information superhighway connecting mind with body. The Vagus nerve is part of our parasympathetic nervous system, delivering information from all our major organs to the brain stem, and stimulating it can help us switch off our fight or flight response and calm us down. But listener Mags wants to know what science says about its impact on our general wellbeing? Marnie Chesterton learns some deep breathing techniques and discovers how the length of our...


Why does it feel so good to swear?

The sudden agony of stubbing a toe or burning a finger can make even the most polite among us swear our heads off. It’s like a reflex, a quick-release valve for the shock. But why do expletives give us such a sense of relief? Why does it sometimes feel so good to swear? We set out to explore the science of swearing, prompted by a question from our listener Gadi. Psychological studies have shown bad language can relieve pain, or even make us stronger; we test out these theories for ourselves,...


Why do men rule the world?

Listener Paula from Kenya is a computer scientist, she can’t help but notice the inequality in her workplace. With only 1 in 10 countries having female heads of state, there is no doubt that men are in charge. Paula wants to know if there is any scientific underpinning to this inequality? Perhaps it can be explained by our brains and bodies? Or does evolution weigh in? Or maybe it is all down to society and the way we raise our boys and girls. The toys and ideals we give our children must...


Can we build houses from living trees?

It’s the stuff of fairy tales – a beautiful cottage, with windows, chimney and floorboards … and supported by a living growing tree. CrowdScience listener Jack wants to know why living houses aren’t a common sight when they could contribute to leafier cities with cleaner air. The UK has an impressive collection of treehouses, but they remain in the realm of novelty, for good reasons. Architects are used to materials like concrete and steel changing over time, but a house built around a...


Can I improve my sense of direction?

Do you find your bearings quickly or are you easily disorientated? Do your friends trust you with the directions in a new city? Finding our way in the physical world – whether that’s around a building or a city - is an important everyday capability, one that has been integral to human survival. This week CrowdScience listeners want to know whether some people are ‘naturally’ better at navigating, so presenter Marnie Chesterton sets her compass and journeys into the human brain. Accompanied...


Can being happy help me fight infection?

Could being happier help us fight infectious disease? As the world embarks on a mass vaccination programme to protect populations from Covid-19, Crowdscience asks whether our mood has any impact on our immune systems. In other words, could being happier help us fight infectious diseases? Marnie Chesterton explores how our mental wellbeing can impact our physical health and hears that stress and anxiety make it harder for our natural defence systems to kick in – a field known as...


Will giving up alcohol improve my sperm count?

When planning to have a baby, women are expected to give up everything from smoking to alcohol, even soft cheese. But the other half of fertility comes from the sperm, usually provided by a man. So should men also give up their vices to improve the quality of their sperm, and their chances of conception? That’s what Listener Stuart in Australia wants to know. He emailed CrowdScience after he and his wife had been trying to have a second child for two years. He gave up alcohol, and coffee,...


Are there downsides to deep cleaning?

Covid-19 has prompted a cleaning frenzy. CrowdScience listener William works as a personal trainer in a gym, and while cleaning’s always been part of his job, it’s now taken over much of his working day. He’s constantly wiping down equipment and doing regular deep cleans, and he reckons he can sanitize his hands 40 times in one shift. This kind of routine might strike a chord with many of us, and it’s certainly vital to take hygiene seriously during times of pandemic. But could there be any...


What are the limits of human endurance?

When it comes to speed, humans have got nothing on cheetahs - or greyhounds, kangaroos or zebras for that matter. It’s over long distances we really come into our own: when running for hours or even days, our body structure and excellent sweating skills make us able to outpace much faster mammals. But what are the limits of human endurance? Can we run ever further and faster, and what’s the best diet to fuel such ambitions? This week’s questions come from two CrowdScience listeners in Japan...


Do green spaces make us healthier?

One of the more surprising consequences of the pandemic has been the trend for people wanting to move out of cities and back to the countryside. Not everyone has that privilege of course, but undoubtedly for some living in urban areas during lockdown, the lack of access to green spaces took its toll on their mental health and physical well-being. Now, with renewed hope of a global vaccine roll-out, ensuring more people have better access to nature is more important than ever, especially in...


Is a fungus intelligent?

As regular listeners may recall, CrowdScience has delved into the strange world of fungi before, as we dug down into the forest floor to reveal how plants and trees are connected to the vast mycelial network known as the “wood wide web”. But what makes this network possible and how might it have evolved? Fungi are incredibly clever, or at least , it appears that they’re capable of displaying complex behaviour that gives them the appearance of intelligence. In this episode, we speak to fungal...


Do animals exercise?

At Christmas, is there a better gift than knowledge? CrowdScience has cooked up its own version of 'secret Santa', with members of the team setting one another the challenge of answering surprising questions from all over the world. Are humans the only animals to exercise? Can you get colder than absolute zero? Why are sounds louder at night? When it comes to food dropped on the floor, is there such thing as the "three second rule"? And, does honey really have healing properties? Producers...