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The Curious Cases of Rutherford & Fry

BBC

Science sleuths Dr Adam Rutherford and Dr Hannah Fry investigate everyday mysteries sent by listeners.

Science sleuths Dr Adam Rutherford and Dr Hannah Fry investigate everyday mysteries sent by listeners.
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Location:

United Kingdom

Networks:

BBC

Description:

Science sleuths Dr Adam Rutherford and Dr Hannah Fry investigate everyday mysteries sent by listeners.

Language:

English


Episodes

The Cosmic Egg

3/2/2018
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"How do we measure the age of the Universe?" asks Simon Whitehead. A hundred years ago this wouldn't even have been considered a valid question, because we didn't think the Universe had a beginning at all. Even Einstein thought that space was eternal and unchanging. This is the tale of how we discovered that the Universe had a beginning, and why calculating its age has been one of the greatest challenges in modern astronomy. We also uncover the mysterious dark energy that pervades the...

Duration:00:30:55

The Atomic Blade

2/28/2018
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"What makes things sharp? Why are thinner knives sharper? What happens on the molecular level when you cut something?" All these questions came from Joshua Schwartz in New York City. The ability to create sharp tools allowed us to fashion clothing, make shelters and hunt for food, all essential for the development of human civilisation, according to materials scientist Mark Miodownik. We hear from IBM scientist Chris Lutz, who has used one of the sharpest blades in the world to slice up...

Duration:00:23:54

The Tiniest Dinosaur

2/23/2018
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"What is the tiniest dinosaur?" asks younger listener Ellie Cook, aged 11. Today's hunt takes us from the discovery of dinosaurs right up to the present day, which is being hailed as a 'golden age' for palaeontology. One new species of dinosaur is currently being unearthed on average every single week. But what's the smallest dino? And what can size reveal about the life of extinct animals? Hannah goes underground at the Natural History Museum to look through their vaults in search of the...

Duration:00:29:06

The Enigma of Sex, Part 2

2/16/2018
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The second instalment in our double bill on the science of sex, answering this question from Robert Turner, a Curio from Leeds: "Why do we only have two sexes?" Drs Rutherford and Fry look for anomalies in the animal kingdom that go beyond the traditional mechanics of human reproduction. Biologist and author Carin Bondar describes some of the wild and somewhat disturbing ways other animals like to do it. Take the hermaphrodite sea slug who races to stab its penis into its partner's brain...

Duration:00:22:35

The Enigma of Sex, Part 1

2/9/2018
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"Why do we only have two sexes and are there any anomalies in the animal kingdom?" asks Robert Turner from Leeds. From reptilian virgin births to hermaphrodite sea slugs, over the next two episodes Drs Rutherford and Fry examine the weird ways other creatures reproduce. In this first instalment, they tackle what's been called 'the hardest problem in evolutionary biology' - why does sex exist? Why aren't we all one single sex that clone ourselves to produce offspring? It makes perfect...

Duration:00:24:43

Goldfinger's Moon Laser

1/12/2018
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"The other day I was watching the James Bond film Goldfinger. He boasts a laser powerful enough to project a spot on the Moon. Is this possible? If so, just how powerful would such a laser need to be?" This curious question was sent to curiouscases@bbc.co.uk by Eddie Griffith from Hinckley in Leicestershire. Adam visits one of the most powerful lasers in the world, the Gemini Super Intense Laser at the aptly named Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Didcot, Oxfordshire. Plasma physicist Ceri...

Duration:00:24:15

The Curious Face Off

1/5/2018
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"Are machines better than humans at identifying faces?" asks the excellently named Carl Vandal. Today's Face Off leads our intrepid detectives to investigate why we tend to see Jesus on toast, Hitler in houses and Kate Middleton on a jelly bean. Face perception psychologist Rob Jenkins from the University of York explains why we're so good at spotting familiar faces, like celebrities Plus, Franziska Knolle from the University of Cambridge discusses her face recognition study involving...

Duration:00:25:34

The Cosmic Speed Limit

12/29/2017
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"We often read that the fastest thing in the Universe is the speed of light. Why do we have this limitation and can anything possibly be faster?" Ali Alshareef from Qatif from Saudia Arabia emailed curiouscases@bbc.co.uk with this puzzling problem. The team grapples with Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity, with help from cosmologist Andrew Pontzen and a British train, travelling somewhat slower than the speed of light. Plus physicist and presenter Jim Al-Khalili describes how he...

Duration:00:22:49

The Dreadful Vegetable

12/22/2017
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"Why don't children like vegetables?" asks Penny Young from Croydon, and every parent ever. This week Rutherford and Fry dig into the science of taste and discover that there may be more to this question than meets the eye. Children and adults have a different taste experience when they eat the same foods. When you're young, foods can taste saltier and more bitter. What's more, as Jackie Blisset, Professor of Childhood Eating Behaviour explains, there are even evolutionary reasons why...

Duration:00:30:01

The Baffled Bat

12/15/2017
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"Why don't thousands of bats in a cave get confused? How do they differentiate their own location echoes from those of other bats?" This puzzling problem was sent in to curiouscases@bbc.co.uk by Tim Beard from Hamburg in Germany. Since ecolocation was first discovered, this question has perplexed biologists. Hannah turns bat detective to try and track down these elusive creatures at The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in East London. This is where zoologist Kate Jones from University College...

Duration:00:25:05

Adventures in Dreamland

9/29/2017
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"Why do we dream and why do we repeat dreams?" asks Mila O'Dea, aged 9, from Panama. Hannah and Adam delve into the science of sleep. From a pioneering experiment on rapid eye movement sleep, to a brand new 'dream signature' found in the brain, they discover how scientists are investigating our hidden dreamworld. Featuring sociologist Bill Domhoff from the University of California Santa Cruz, sleep psychologist Mark Blagrove from the University of Swansea, and neurologist Francesca Siclari...

Duration:00:24:15

The Shocking Surprise

9/22/2017
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Why do we get static shocks? Jose Chavez Mendez from Guatemala asks, "Some years ago, in the dry season, I used to be very susceptible to static electricity. I want to know - why do static shocks happen?" The team uncover some slightly unethical science experiments on static electricity from the 1700s. Hannah Fry uses a Leyden Jar to demonstrate how static electricity works with help from her glamorous assistant, Adam Rutherford. Spoiler Alert: it doesn't end well for Adam. They discover...

Duration:00:28:58

The Sticky Song

9/15/2017
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Why do songs get stuck in our heads? And what makes some tunes stickier than others? Drs Rutherford and Fry investigate 'earworms', those musical refrains that infect our brains for days. Every morning 6Music DJ Shaun Keaveney asks his listeners for their earworms, and Hannah finds out which tunes keep coming back. Adam asks Dr Lauren Stewart, from Goldsmiths University, to reveal the musical features that make some songs catchier than others. And they find out why, in times of crisis, an...

Duration:00:24:54

The Polar Opposite

9/8/2017
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No one knows why the Earth's magnetic North and South poles swap. But polar reversals have happened hundreds of times over the history of the Earth. So, asks John Turk, when is the next pole swap due and what will happen to us? Hannah turns to astronomer Lucie Green from Mullard Space Science Laboratory to discover how the earth's magnetic field protects us from the ravages of space. And Adam consults geophysicist Phil Livermore from the University of Leeds to find out if, and when, we're...

Duration:00:19:58

The Curious Cake-Off

9/1/2017
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An investigation into the chemistry of cake, as Drs Rutherford and Fry compete to make the perfect sponge. Producer: Michelle Martin.

Duration:00:19:45

Kate Bush's Sonic Weapon

6/16/2017
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"It started while listening to the excellent Experiment IV by Kate Bush. The premise of the song is of a band who secretly work for the military to create a 'sound that could kill someone'. Is it scientifically possible to do this?" asks Paul Goodfield. Hannah consults acoustic engineer Trevor Cox to ask if sonic weapons could kill. And Adam delves into subsonic frequencies with parapsychologist Chris French to investigate their spooky effects. You can send your everyday mysteries for the...

Duration:00:21:14

Itchy and Scratchy

6/15/2017
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"What is an itch and how does scratching stop it? Why does scratching some itches feel so good?!" asks Xander Tarver from Wisborough Green in West Sussex. Our doctors set off to probe the mysteries of itch, and discover that this overlooked area of medicine is revealing surprising results about the human brain. From why itching is contagious to why scratching is pleasurable, we get under the skin of this medical mystery. The programme features interviews with neuroscientist Prof Francis...

Duration:00:21:29

The Burning Question

6/14/2017
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"What is fire? Is it a solid, liquid or a gas? Why is it hot and why can you see it in the dark?" asks Hannah Norton, aged 10. Dr Fry visits the Burn Hall at The Buildings Research Establishment in Watford where they test the effects of fire on building materials. Whilst Dr Rutherford gets to grips with Michael Faraday's pioneering Christmas Lectures at the Royal Institution of Great Britain on 'The Chemical History of a Candle'. Plus, he chats to forensic chemist Niamh Nic Daeid from...

Duration:00:18:59

The Dark Star

6/2/2017
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"What's inside a black hole and could we fly a spaceship inside?" asks Jorge Luis Alvarez from Mexico City. Some interstellar fieldwork is on the agenda in today's Curious Cases. Astrophysicist Sheila Rowan explains how we know invisible black holes actually exist. And cosmologist Andrew Pontzen is on hand to help cook one up. But which of our intrepid doctors will volunteer to fly into the heart of a black hole? You can send your Curious Cases for the team to investigate to:...

Duration:00:23:18

The Cat Who Came Back

5/19/2017
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"How on earth do cats find their way back to their previous home when they move house?" asks Vicky Cole from Nairobi in Kenya. Our enduring love for our feline friends began when Egyptian pharaohs began to welcome domesticated moggies into their homes. Pictured reclining in baskets at the feet of royalty, pet cats soon became fashionable throughout society in Egypt. Today they are the most popular pet in the world, and home is definitely where their hearts lie. "Whereas dogs are bonded to...

Duration:00:19:01

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