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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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United Kingdom




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




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...

Duration: 00:28:36

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...

Duration: 00:30:11

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...

Duration: 00:29:07

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...

Duration: 00:30:51

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...

Duration: 00:30:55

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...

Duration: 00:29:30

From Oldest to Strongest Living Thing

Trees are old – they transcend human generations – but are they the oldest living things on Earth? This story began in June 2017 when we explored a question sent in from CrowdScience listener William. Many of you got in touch after the programme with questions of your own. So we’re revisiting our trees programme but also exploring another question from listener James, who wants to know what, pound for pound or gram for gram, is the strongest animal alive on Earth today? Marnie Chesterton...

Duration: 00:27:58

Does Technology Change How we Fall in Love?

How does technology affect how we fall in love? Crowdscience travels to India to answer listener Erin’s questions about the impact of the internet on our search for soulmates. We meet the traditional matchmaker who says her service provides security in an era of digital fraud. And ask whether computer algorithms are the best way to help people make permanent romantic connections? Presenter: Chhavi Sachdev Producer: Marijke Peters (Photo: A couple kiss while taking a selfie. Credit: Getty...

Duration: 00:29:52

Why are There Morning People and Night People?

Some of us want to be up with the larks, while others are more like night owls. But is our preference down to our genes, or more to do with habits and surroundings? We set out to find the answers, inspired by a question from Kira, a night owl CrowdScience listener in Philadelphia, USA. Our daily, or circadian, body clocks are a hot topic of discussion at the moment - this year’s Nobel Prize for Medicine went to three scientists who discovered the gene that makes these clocks tick. To...

Duration: 00:27:52

How Can I Remember More?

Sometimes our memory fails us and we wish facts would just stick better. Listener Mothibi is a student and has spent three years trying to remember as much as possible for his exams. He wants to know how he can train his brain to better to remember things – and does the brain have a limit on how much stuff we can cram into it? To find the answers presenter Marnie Chesterton seeks help from memory magician, Simon, at the European Memory Championship. Using the loci technique she...

Duration: 00:33:10

How Did Life Get onto Land?

People often talk about being descended from apes. But go back a bit further and we have a more unlikely ancestor – fish. Improbable as it may sound, the creature that gave rise to every bird, reptile and mammal on Earth today lived a fully aquatic life. So how did it switch to life on land? And how hard was it to swap swimming for walking and breathing fresh air? That’s what CrowdScience listener Pierre in France wants to know, and what Marnie Chesterton is in Scotland to find out. She...

Duration: 00:29:18

How Can We Fight Unwanted Noise?

Unpleasant man-made noise is something that disturbs many of us and even damages our health. But as millions more people move into crowded cities around the world, it's a cacophony that we almost unavoidably create ourselves. CrowdScience listener Diana from New York City in the USA got in touch to ask how we can temper the din and live a more peaceful life. Presenter Anand Jagatia heads to an acoustics lab at the University of Salford in Manchester, UK, to meet the researchers and...

Duration: 00:37:07

Is There Proof of Life After Death?

Is there any scientific proof of an afterlife? Six months ago, CrowdScience tackled a question from a listener who wanted to know whether there was life after death. But following more listener emails, presenter Marnie Chesterton returns to the subject to investigate the world of ghosts, souls and parapsychology. She meets Professor Susan Blackmore, who studies out-of-body experiences and has spent decades hunting for scientific proof of life after death. And she visits the woman who,...

Duration: 00:27:37

Can We Worm Our Way Into Better Health?

We test the science behind parasitic therapy to answer listener Michael’s question about whether intestinal worms can help us stay healthy, and visit a deworming programme in a rural Ugandan village. Do you have a question we can turn into a programme? Email us at Presenter: Marnie Chesterton Producer: Marijke Peters (Picture: Tapeworm in human intestine, Credit: selvanegra/Getty Images)

Duration: 00:27:27

Is Carbon Dioxide Higher Than Ever?

Carbon dioxide levels in our atmosphere today are higher than at any point in human existence. But going back further into Earth’s history, when do we find concentrations as high as they are now - and what was the planet like back then? CrowdScience sets out to answer our listener Thomas’s question, travelling back through time with the help of Antarctic ice cores, ancient plant fossils, and microscopic popcorn-shaped organisms called foraminifera, all of which hold clues to past climates....

Duration: 00:26:59

Can We Make Artificial Organs?

Human Organs are in short supply. But what if you could grow new ones in the lab? And if you donate your body parts to help others, where might they end up? That's what Sarah Gray wanted to know after making the difficult decision to donate the body of her son, Thomas, to medical science after he died from an incurable disease shortly after being born. Sarah then contacted the scientists whose research has been made possible by Thomas’ donation and discovered just how he is contributing to...

Duration: 00:27:24

Should We Kill One Species to Save Another?

Is it fair to kill invasive species which humans have introduced? When people move around the world, many of their favourite – and not so favourite - animals tag along for the ride. From cane toads through to rats, cats and crayfish, so-called ‘invasive species’ can destroy ecosystems and kill off native wildlife. CrowdScience listener Jude Kirkham wants to know if eradicating these invaders is justified. One country determined to do something about invasive species is New Zealand, where...

Duration: 00:31:59

Could All Cars Be Electric?

Just one per cent of vehicles are powered by electricity, but CrowdScience listener Randall from Lac du Bonnet in Canada wants to know how quickly that might change, and whether one day all cars could be electric. Marnie Chesterton begins her journey in an electric car, stuck in traffic on a Los Angeles freeway. It was in California where the modern electric car revival began in the late 1990s with the EV1 – popular with Hollywood celebrities like Mel Gibson and Danny DeVito. More than two...

Duration: 00:29:26

How Could Humanity Become Extinct?

Nuclear weapons and mega asteroids: what would the aftermath look like? CrowdScience explores past extinction events and future dystopias. In a past episode, CrowdScience headed to Denmark to find out whether humans could go the way of the dinosaurs – mass extinction triggered by a large asteroid impact 66 million years ago. Although no killer rocks are on route to Earth any time soon, we do not have to look far for other dystopias. “Do we have enough nuclear weapons to destroy the world?”,...

Duration: 00:29:02

Spider Silk and Super Fly Senses

CrowdScience is uncovering the super-powers of spiders, flies and the most irritating mosquitos. Anand Jagatia meets spider specialist Jamie Mitchells at London Zoo to find out how spiders create such vast webs and speaks to researchers in Sweden about how they are trying and succeeding in recreating spider’s silk. Rory Galloway heads to Cambridge University’s Fly Lab to find out how their tiny brains process the world up to four times faster than humans. And Bobbie Lakhera is at the London...

Duration: 00:27:11

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