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WonderLabs with Chris Richardson

Technology Podcasts

From the lab to your ears—join Chris Richardson in the places and minds where ideas are born, nurtured, and shared. Each episode discusses an idea that is changing how we think and act.

From the lab to your ears—join Chris Richardson in the places and minds where ideas are born, nurtured, and shared. Each episode discusses an idea that is changing how we think and act.


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From the lab to your ears—join Chris Richardson in the places and minds where ideas are born, nurtured, and shared. Each episode discusses an idea that is changing how we think and act.




301 - Welcome back—again!

Hello and welcome back to WonderLabs! We are back in London and expanding the show beyond science and technology—to the places and minds where ideas are born, nurtured and shared. Before we get into Season 3, check out this introduction to find out what's in store.


Bonus - In conversation with Jim Smith

Sir Jim Smith is Head of the Wellcome Science Review and Group Leader at the Francis Crick Institute’s Developmental Biology Laboratory. He is also a Fellow of the Royal Society and was knighted in 2017 for services to medical research and science education. In this episode we talk about Sir Jim’s work on embryonic development, using frogs as a model organism, and how this work might lead to stem cell therapies for humans. Moving beyond his science, we talk about his role in deciding who...


211 - Honeybees, mites, and colony collapse

Dr Maeva Techer is a biologist looking at Varroa mites, a global parasite of honeybees with an important role in colony collapse disorder. Dr Techer uses genome sequencing to understand how the parasite has been able to jump between hosts so successfully. In this episode we talk about the Varroa mite, the deadly viruses it carries, its impact on beekeeping - and what honeybees might do to defend themselves. We talk about life in the field (getting Italian bees drunk and high on sugar), some...


210 - Linguistics, meaning, and 'endangered' languages

Professor Chris Davis is a linguist, semanticist, and pragmatician at the University of the Ryukyus who looks at how languages convey meaning and how people use them. He also looks at Yaeyaman, one of the “endangered” Ryukyuan languages spoken in Okinawa Prefecture. In this episode we talk about his work in Okinawa, the scientific and cultural value in understanding languages, and some considerations for ethical fieldwork. We also discuss broader linguistics topics including political...


209 - Cognitive neurorobotics

Nadine Wirkuttis is a cognitive neuroroboticist using humanoid robots to understand human social interaction. She is not building social robots(!), but rather using robots as a tool to understand how higher cognitive functions arise during critical learning periods. In this episode we discuss Nadine’s work on robot-robot interaction, and what it can teach us about ourselves. We also look at algorithms as black boxes, the challenge of explainability once we start deploying these...


208 - Photovoltaics, policy, and late stage capitalism

Collin Stecker is a researcher exploring next generation solar materials for solar panels. He is currently studying a class of materials called perovskites, a rising star in the world of photovoltaics that could challenge silicon’s market dominance. In this episode we get a quick primer on photovoltaics, a history of solar panels, and a deep-dive into perovskite technology. We then look at the interplay of solar science and climate policy, including some case studies involving pricing...


207 - Biomimicry, zombie ants, and becoming Spider-Man

Rob Campbell is a researcher broadly interested in structure. He’s currently working on the assembly of spider silk to further our understanding in materials science and evolutionary biology. But also for novel applications in bioinspired materials engineering. In this episode we explore spider silk, its many forms and functions, and how it is being used in bioinspired design. We then have a broader discussion on biomimicry and bioinspired design, combining nature with human ingenuity. Rob...


206 - Marine ecology and ocean activism

Maggi Brisbin is a marine ecologist specializing in plankton, their community dynamics, and how they influence nutrient cycles. Her current focus is a marine algae called Phaeocystis, which lives freely, forms colonies, and also lives as a symbiont inside another marine organism. In this episode we explore the different lifestyles adopted by Phaeocystis, and its role in regulating processes associated with climate change. We also have a broader discussion on success in biology, including...


205 - Neural networks, AI, and consciousness

Tom Burns is a computational neuroscientist who uses artificial neural networks to simulate the human brain and understand how it makes sense of the world. His research focus includes spiking neural networks, the so-called third generation models taking on deep learning. In this episode we cover some basic neuroscience before moving into the realm of the artificial, looking at how neural networks have evolved since the early days, and how they might be applied to real world problems. We...


204 - Supercomputers, sound, and citizen science

Dr Nick Friedman is a biologist interested in the origins of biodiversity. He is part of the OKinawa Environmental Observation Network, OKEON, a team that monitors the terrestrial environment of Okinawa. As part of their work they use sound to understand how biodiversity varies across the island. In this episode we talk about OKEON’s acoustic monitoring project, and how supercomputers, sound, and citizen science combine to answer questions on biodiversity. We also head into the forest to...


203 - Quantum gravity and humble pie

Professor Yasha Neiman is the head of the Quantum Gravity Unit at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST). He spends his time thinking about how gravity and quantum mechanics can coexist in a universe that is expanding at an accelerating rate. In this episode we cover the standard model of particle physics, how limits in the model led to research on quantum gravity, and the approaches now being taken by physicists to understand the laws of nature. We also touch on the failed...


202 - DMT, aliens, and 'very' hard sci-fi

Dr Andrew Gallimore is a neurobiologist, chemist, and pharmacologist with a particular interest in the psychedelic compound DMT. He's written a new book that he calls "a textbook from the future" outlining how DMT can be used to access a higher-dimensional intelligence. In this episode we cover DMT's pharmacology and what makes it unusual versus other psychedelics, the thesis of his new book, and some of his earlier works published with psychiatrist Rick Strassman. We also touch on string...


201 - Welcome back!

Hello and welcome back to WonderLabs! We are now based in Japan, and look forward to bringing you the latest in science and tech from the Far East. Before we get into Season 2, take a moment to check out this introduction to find out what's in store.


Bonus - Harmonics of Mind

This is a bonus episode deviating from our usual format. It is a short documentary exploring the work of the Psychedelic Research Group, who we interviewed back in episode 4, and a collective called Senscapes who create music and art from their neuroimaging data. In the piece you'll hear from the Psychedelic Research Group, Senscapes, and an anonymous patient who participated in a clinical trial exploring the use of psilocybin as a treatment for depression. Woven into the interviews is the...


110 - Virtual reality and game design

Shivani Hassard is a researcher at Queen Mary University of London exploring virtual reality, with a specific focus on game design and human-computer interaction. In this episode we clear up some misconceptions in mixed reality, explore the importance of self-reported and physiological data in experimental design, and consider the potential end of cinema. If you'd like to get in touch, our Gmail is "wonderlabspod". Enjoy!


109 - Multiomics at Great Ormond Street

Rosie Davies is working with a group at Great Ormond Street Hospital aiming towards a personalised medicine approach within the rare diseases space. In this episode we explore advancements in multi-omic technologies, potential issues around data security, and the involvement of big pharma in academic research. If you'd like to get in touch, our Gmail is "wonderlabspod". Enjoy!


108 - 3D printing and bio-inspired design

Youssef Ibrahim is a researcher at Imperial College London exploring 3D printing. In this episode we learn the mechanisms behind different types of 3D printing, the importance of bio-inspired design in manufacturing, and the potential medical applications of smart materials. If you'd like to get in touch, our Gmail is "wonderlabspod". Enjoy!


107 - Geology, fossils, and outreach

Anthea Lacchia is a research fellow in the Irish Centre for Research in Applied Geosciences (iCRAG) currently developing a training and outreach facility in western Ireland. In this episode we get into the importance of molluscs as an index and keystone species, the giant insects and trees of the Carboniferous period, and revisit the story of revered fossilist and glass ceiling smasher Mary Anning. If you'd like to get in touch, our Gmail is "wonderlabspod". Enjoy!


106 - The future of plastics

Duncan Fraser is a researcher at the University of Oxford exploring new ways to synthesize plastics. In this episode we learn more about his work in the field of efficient plastic production, debate the possibility of alternatives to plastics, and the role of industry in academic research. If you'd like to get in touch, our Gmail is "wonderlabspod". Enjoy!


105 - In conversation with Robert Winston

Professor Sir Lord Robert Winston is Professor of Science and Society and Emeritus Professor of Fertility Studies at Imperial College London. This episode is a meta conversation about contemporary challenges in science communication. We discuss evidence denial and post-truth, the role of governments in individual well-being, and find out why Lord Winston is focusing his efforts on younger audiences as an educational strategy. If you'd like to get in touch, our Gmail is...