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




Are Screens Bad For My Child’s Eyes?

Short-sightedness is reaching epidemic proportions around the world. The way things are progressing, one-third of the world’s population – 2.5 billion people - could need glasses by the end of the decade. And scientists are beginning to understand why: children spend too much time indoors, bent over screens and books. Marnie Chesterton travels to Singapore, where rates of myopia are one of the highest in the world and to see how the government is curbing the condition with an array of tools,...


Bonus Podcast: Death in Ice Valley

A special preview of the new podcast Death in Ice Valley. An unidentified body. Who was she? Why hasn’t she been missed? A BBC World Service and NRK original podcast, investigating a mystery unsolved for almost half a century. Episode One was released on 16 April 2018 and new episodes will be released every Monday. Search for Death in Ice Valley wherever you find your podcasts.


Why Do Insects Fly Towards Lights?

Will gravity on earth ever change? Why do insects fly towards the light? Is the plasma in a TV the same as plasma in a fusion reactor? Why are mosquito bites so itchy? What does the Higgs boson do for the Universe? In a Q+A special, Marnie Chesterton is joined by scientists Malcolm Fairbairn, Kate Lancaster and Erica McAlister to tackle a selection of questions from the CrowdScience inbox. Presenter: Marnie Chesterton Producer: Alex Mansfield (Photo: Alates insects light bulb and night....


Can We Find a Cure for Dementia?

Dementia affects nearly 50 million people worldwide – but doctors are still struggling to find a cure. CrowdScience investigates why this particular group of brain diseases are so hard to treat, from the difficulties around diagnosis to why the drugs just don’t currently work. In the absence of a medical solution is it time to take a new approach? As geneticists develop tests to predict who might develop brain disease, there are others focusing on better care for those who already have it....


Is The Future of Food a Pill?

Since the end of the 19th century, scientists have been predicting we would be eating a meal in a pill, but is it a serious answer to the world’s food problems? That’s what Australian listener Bridget is wondering and whether it’s possible to produce an artificial food source that can provide all the nutrients for healthy human life. With increasing urbanisation, diets are changing and estimates suggest food production will have to increase some 60 percent by 2050 to keep up with demand....


Does Anything Stand Still?

Listener Nikolai sends CrowdScience hunting through space and time with his deceptively simple question. Can we find perfect stillness? You are probably reading this sentence whilst standing or sitting still. So is it a daft question? We discover that there are no simple answers as we unravel the science of motion, which tells us that we cannot always trust our senses to tell us ‘the truth’ about the natural world. The ancient Greeks believed it was the sun that rises and sets each day and...


Why Do We Follow the Crowd?

Are you the master of your own decisions? Independent-minded? A free spirit? Like it or not, the answer is probably no - as we are profoundly influenced by the people around us. But why do humans follow the crowd? CrowdScience listener Cath Danes wants to know and this week we are going to be giving her answers at the BBC’s Free Thinking Festival in Gateshead. Marnie Chesterton is joined by a crack team of neuroscientists and psychologists, who reveal the secrets behind our inner sheep. We...


Is Nuclear Fusion Coming Anytime Soon?

Unlike nuclear fission power stations, which leave harmful radioactive waste to be stored or disposed of for thousands of years, a nuclear fusion power plant would create precious little burden on future generations. The fuel source would be seawater, and the energy created limitless. Back in the 1950s, the technology to “tame the hydrogen bomb” seemed just a few decades away from practical deployment, and governments across the divide of the cold war shared the challenges, costs and...


Could Bees Take Over From Sniffer Dogs?

Humans have used dogs' excellent sniffing talents ever since our ancestors figured out that canine companions could help them track down their next meal. But what about other animals? Can they take us beyond the limits of our own senses? That's what CrowdScience listener Beth wants to know, so we obligingly try to sniff out some answers. After immersing ourselves in the world of insect senses at our local zoo, we visit an insect lab in Germany to find out whether sniffer bees could take...


Do Animals Have Accents?

A cacophony of singing and screaming creatures’ accents are explored to answer: Can animals of the same species from different places communicate with each other? Presenter Geoff Marsh tries to identify how different these calls really sound for CrowdScience. From wolves to birds to whales and chimpanzees, most animals use sound to communicate, but if groups in different places vocalise in different ways, they may not be able to communicate with others. CrowdScience questioner, Kitty, sets...


How Does the Moon Affect Life on Earth?

From worms who time their mating ritual with an inner lunar calendar, to how full moons could cause cows to give birth early. Listener Andreas sends CrowdScience on a mission to separate fact from fiction. Presenter: Marnie Chesterton Producer: Marijke Peters Picture: The moon rises over Kadam mountain in Uganda, on January 31, 2018, during the lunar phenomenon referred to as the 'super blue blood moon'. Credit: Yasuyoshi Chiba / AFP / Getty Images


Why Does Dark Matter, Matter?

Scientists have been searching for dark matter for 80 years, so CrowdScience wondered whether they could find it faster. Armed with a boiler suit, hard hat and ear defenders, Marnie Chesterton travels over a kilometre underground into a hot and sweaty mine to see how we could catch dark matter in action. She investigates various theories as to what it might be with popping candy and gazes at galaxies to determine how we know it exists in the first place. But most importantly, she questions...


Must Life be Carbon-Based?

Carbon is special, but is it necessarily the unique building block of life in the universe? Science fiction has long speculated on non-carbon biochemistries existing in the universe – notably in the work of authors such as Isaac Asimov as well as in the popular American TV series Star Trek, which once featured a rock-munching, silicon-based life form called ‘Horta’. Marnie Chesterton explores the real science behind this intriguing idea and wonders whether in the current search for...


How Far Can I See?

How far can you see? A few kilometres down the road? Or do you struggle to see past the end of your own nose? Well one listener thinks he might be able to see 15 quintillion miles away... but can he really? Marnie Chesterton and Bobbie Lakhera are on the case for this week’s multi-question human body special. As well as delving into the power of vision, they also discover why male mammals have nipples despite not needing to breastfeed, and Marnie puts herself in a giant refrigerator in the...


Are Crunchy Caterpillars the Food of the Future?

Meet the entrepreneurs turning bugs into food and get top tips on how to cook them. In this week’s episode we return to the topic of edible insects and the story of Kahitouo Hein’s caterpillar factory in Burkina Faso, West Africa. Kahitouo is trying to turn a traditional food like the shea caterpillar, available for just a few weeks a year, into a year-long sustainable staple for the whole population. We also put your questions about edible insects directly to the researchers in Burkino...


When Does Speech Become Music?

Most of us instinctively know when someone’s singing and when they’re talking. But since music and speech are both just sounds, how do our brains tell them apart? This week’s question comes from Eugene, a music teacher in Northern Ireland, who often hears music in people’s speech, and wonders why. Step forward, the ‘speech-to-song illusion’. This curious phenomenon means that when certain spoken phrases are repeated, they turn into music as if by magic. We talk to the Diana Deutsch, the...


Why does my dog love me?

Dogs have been living and working with humans for thousands of years. But they’re much more than just pets. As any dog owner will tell you, the bond we have with our canine friends is often so strong that they feel more like family. So how is it that dogs have come to fit so seamlessly into human life? That’s what CrowdScience listener Peter Jagger in the UK wants to know, and Marnie Chesterton is off to sniff out some answers. She starts by revisiting a previous episode of CrowdScience...


Could our faces replace passports as ID?

Crowdscience revisits the evidence on the best forms of biometric identification. Earlier in the year we explored digital fingerprints, gait (walking style) recognition and iris scanners. Today presenter Anand Jagatia looks at systems which use your face and your voice to identify you. One airline is currently testing facial recognition in airports as a means of replacing your passport. Meanwhile, Anand tries to fool a speech recognition system that measures over a thousand characteristics...


Rudolph castrated: what you didn’t hear this year

Reindeer castration, plants get chatty and more quirky science revealed in this Christmas special of CrowdScience where we will also be hearing from the people that make this series possible. That’s you – our listeners. CrowdScience has been on air for just over a year which means we’ve had over 60 adventures. Every time we put a show together there’s a heart-breaking process where amazing facts we wanted to share end up on the cutting-room floor. To celebrate the holidays we’ve gone...


What is dust?

It lurks behind sofas and collects in corners, apparently appearing from nowhere. But what is household dust? And should we bother sweeping it away? That’s what Australian listener Moshe wants to know and what Marnie Chesterton is off to find out for this week’s CrowdScience. She embarks on a mission to discover not only what dust is made of, but whether it poses any health risks. Although most people sweep it away without a thought, dust contains all sorts of secrets about our habits and...


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