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Some of the brightest minds behind Oxford science discuss their latest research. The series starts with ‘Origins’, tackling topics from human life to the Universe. Join us in each podcast as we explore a different area of science.




Should I take a selfie with a wild animal?

Travel companies around the world profit from some of the cruellest types of wildlife tourist attractions on earth. Travel companies around the world profit from some of the cruellest types of wildlife tourist attractions on earth. Whether it is riding elephants, taking selfies with tigers, or performing dolphin shows, these activities can cause lifelong suffering for wild animals. In the latest edition of the Oxford Sparks Big Questions podcast, we visit Conservation Ecologist Dr Tom...

Duration: 00:13:49

What does Hollywood get right and wrong when science is in the storyline?

What does hollywood get right?

Duration: 00:12:33

How open should open data be?

Open data impacts everybody. Through it we can access healthcare services, understand our governments better and, of course, travel to places more easily. But, how open should open data be? Do you remember life before Citymapper? Thanks to Transport for London opening its data, a new wave of innovative transport apps were made possible. This is just one example of how open data has contributed to our everyday lives financially, socially, culturally and more. Open data impacts everybody....

Duration: 00:13:54

What happened to the first soviet scientist to solve a fundamental problem in mathematics?

New episode for the Oxford Sparks Big questions series.

Duration: 00:12:36

How do you teach a machine to a drive a car?

Autonomous cars have been a staple of science fiction for years featuring in films like Minority Report and I Robot. But how far away are we really from enjoying a hassle-free driving journey? To find out the answer we visited Dr Ignmar Posner, Associate

Duration: 00:10:00

Will supersonic transport ever make a comeback?

The Concord is seen as an iconic aircraft and a technological breakthrough – so why can we only see them in museums? In our episode of The Big Questions podcast series we visited Dr Neil Ashton from the E-Research Centre at the University of Oxford to ask

Duration: 00:12:09

How do you turn an orange into a grapefruit?

Favouring. It’s a global industry and here in Oxford a group of scientists are getting a ‘taste’ of the action by making natural flavours by manipulating enzymes.

Duration: 00:11:39

Earthquakes, can we make smarter buildings?

Major earthquakes across the world have damaged or destroyed numerous buildings, bridges, and other structures. But is there a way of monitoring the building structures to see if it is at risk of falling after an earthquake has struck?

Duration: 00:11:31

What can a power ballad can teach us about the sex life of a fruit flies?

Music provides the soundtrack to our lives. The highs, the lows and the heartache. So why wouldn’t it be the same for a fruit fly? On this episode of the Oxford Sparks Big Questions podcast, we mix music with sex education of fruit flies!

Duration: 00:10:59

How do we stop our social media obsession from making us a target for crime?

How vulnerable are we to crime by the statuses we post on our social accounts? The popularity of social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat have transformed the way we understand and experience crime and victimisation. But, how do we stop our social media obsession from sharing too much online and making us a target for crime? We visited Dr Jason Nurse from the Computer Science Department at the University of Oxford to ask about social media and crime: the good, the bad...

Duration: 00:10:33

How do you make scientific equipment space proof?

Since the 1960’s man has been sending missions to Mars. Some successes, some failures. This hasn’t stopped scientists trying to explore this incredible red planet. The question though is, how do they design devices to survive millions of kilometres travel to planet Mars (it’s 54.6 million km) and yet be sensitive enough to measure something like wind on the surface of the planet? In this week’s episode of Oxford Sparks Big Questions podcast we speak to Colin Wilson, researcher at the...

Duration: 00:12:43

What would life be like if Parasitoid Wasps didn’t exist?

Our Festive episode of our Oxford Sparks podcast follows the traditional Christmas story of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’. In our narration though, the role of George Bailey is played by the Parasitoid Wasp and its guardian angel is postdoctoral researcher Chris Jeffs. In this podcast as part of our Big Questions series, we ask the question: what would life be like if these insects didn’t exist?

Duration: 00:13:06

Can bubbles help cure cancer?

On this episode, can bubbles cure cancer? What do you think of when you hear the word ‘bubble?’ Does it make you think of soap bubbles you would have blown when you were a small child? In our latest podcast, as part of The Big Question series, we ask Professor Eleanor Stride from Oxford University's Institute of Biomedical Engineering whether bubbles can be used help cure cancer.

Duration: 00:11:41

Are exhausts causing dementia?

Many people are exposed to exhaust emissions every day in different ways. But what are the harmful effects of these fumes when we breathe them in? Could we see difficulties in other areas of our bodies? What is it doing to our brains? In our latest podcast we look at the tiny particles within these fumes to find out what they could be doing to our health. Teaming up with Oxford University of Earth Science and Lancaster University, we ask the question whether breathing in these fumes can...

Duration: 00:12:48

How do you make a reliable weather forecast?

Latest episode from Oxford Sparks, this episode on how to predict the weather.

Duration: 00:12:00

Is my bacon sandwich really going to kill me?

Statistician Dr Jennifer Rogers discusses the numbers linked to processed meat and bowel cancer. It hit the headlines last year that 'processed meat has been classified as a ‘definite’ cause of cancer', due to a report from The World Health Organization (WHO). But what really is the risk to your health if you eat a bacon sandwich? And are there other carcinogenic substances that have a higher risk than processed meat?

Duration: 00:11:03

The Canary in the Coal Mine: could seabirds be the warning signs for our oceans?

Dr Annette Fayet tells us about the Manx Shearwater; a little seabird that makes a huge journey. Every year they breed and raise their chicks in the UK before migrating to Argentina for winter, clocking up thousands of miles in their lifetimes. But what’s the price of parental devotion? Annette discusses how the harder parents have to works, the bigger the knock-on effects to their migration and breeding the following year are, and what this has to do with what’s going on in the oceans....

Duration: 00:11:12

'Light' Part 3 - How does sunlight damage DNA?

Once we've received our genetic make-up from our parents our genomes are stable, right? What causes mutations in our DNA as we live and grow, and how do our cells repair damage? We all know we should be careful when in the sun, but Prof Catherine Green's interests lie in understanding how Human cells manage to copy the enormous amounts of DNA they have without making mistakes and how they cope with threats; like sunlight. Cath describes what happens when DNA gets damaged and how her work...

Duration: 00:12:10

'Light' Part 2 - Harnessing a single photon

What's the use of just one photon, the smallest bit of light? And what does it take to study it? We speak to Joelle Boutari about her work in quantum photonics where she's harnessing single photons, trying to understand their beheaviour better, all part of paving the way to better understand quantum features - the weird and unintuitive phenomena that you see at the smallest scales. Joelle describes her experiments and her hopes for the research.

Duration: 00:06:39

'Light' Part 1 - Connecting to the internet through your lights

Can we receive information through our lighting? Prof Dominic O'Brien explains how light might be the answer to adding more capacity to our wireless internet connections. You might be used to connecting to the internet through a wireless network that works through radiowaves, but what if we could use lights in buildings to send information; like data from the internet? Dominic describes where he's at with his work and where the challenges are.

Duration: 00:10:30

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