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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.


United States


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.




309 - Neoliberal nightmares

Lesley Groom and Chris Sparrow have had fruitful careers in sociology and social work. They’ve spent much of their time in Greater Manchester, North West England—the part of the world in which I was born, and a part of the world that’s close to my heart. In this episode, we talk about a community space they helped to set up in 1981, and how that space evolved organically over time. We also discuss our lost tradition of radicalism and culture of risk, the shifting aspirations of the working...


308 - Achieving your health goals

Helen Halliday, AKA Helen the Food Coach, is a registered nutritional therapist working remotely with clients through the coronavirus pandemic. Helen helps people to define and achieve health goals relating to diet, sleep, and exercise. In this episode we talk about what a nutritional therapist is and isn’t, how to separate sage advice from snake oil, and how to define and stay motivated to achieve your health goals. We also discuss the Healthy Trinity of diet, sleep, and exercise, and the...


307 - On love and film

Liliane Laborde-Edozien is a US-born French-Italian-Nigerian-Brazilian filmmaker and photographer whose work explores resilience, love, and collective memory. Her documentaries have picked up awards in the US and have been screened in major cities on four continents. In this episode, we talk about her first three documentaries—defining love beyond language, escaping poverty and gang violence through sports, and collective memory within Brazil’s African diaspora. We also discuss the...


306 - Improving mental health

Rebecca Samuels is a cognitive behavioural therapist working remotely with patients through the coronavirus pandemic. She has spent time working in mental health at music festivals, prisons, and as part of the response team following the Grenfell Tower tragedy. In this episode, we cover the basics of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), the evolution of mental health treatment approaches, and how Rebecca brings her wide-reaching experience into her practice. We also discuss the false...


305 - Launching a record label

T. Fitzgerald is label head at For The Record, a UK-based collective of producers and DJs. The label creates immersive, hypnotic and transcendent music from the minimal end of house and techno for clubs and home listening. In this episode we talk about the journey from playing in basements to pressing your first vinyl, the relative value of physical and digital media, and defining music based on the experience it creates. We also discuss the interplay of music and art, how the scene is...


304 - Demystifying data science

Duncan Fraser is the lead data scientist at Habitat Energy, where he develops machine learning algorithms for battery dispatch and optimisation in the UK and Australia. Ultimately, Duncan aims to apply principles from data science to solve useful problems in climate change. In this episode we cover the fundamentals of data science, its applications in energy storage, and the benefits of data-led decision-making. We also discuss the current state of battery technology, creating the right...


303 - Architecting space and time

Charlotte Knight and Lloyd Preston-Allen currently spend their working days in architecture and property development. They have a strong joint interest in building community through design, which has engendered a rural coliving project tentatively called COLIVE-19. In this episode we talk about how space captured their imaginations, the constraints imposed by formal education, and the relative value of aesthetic and function. We also discuss examples of good and bad cities, integrating...


302 - Winning the information war

Imran Ahmed is the founder and CEO of the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH). The Center tackles identity-based hate, misinformation, extremism, fake news, trolling, and how these things can polarise societies and undermine democracy. In this episode we talk about some of the Center’s recent successes, the power and risks of deplatforming bad actors, and the social media platforms as a public square. We also discuss the role of big tech platforms in content moderation, erosion of our...


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...