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BBC Radio 4 - Inside Science

BBC Inside Science

Dr Adam Rutherford and guests illuminate the mysteries and challenge the controversies behind the science that's changing our world.

BBC Inside Science

  • A new saliva gland, Bill Bryson on the Human Body, and the return of the Dust Bowl
    Marnie Chesterton presents an update on the week's science. Behind your eyes, above your mouth but below the brain, two 3cm saliva glands have been hiding since anatomy began. So reports a new study by Matthijs Valstar and Wouter Vogel of The Netherlands Cancer Institute. They describe to Marnie how they found these hitherto unnoticed glands, and importantly how knowledge of these will help people treated for head and neck cancers to get on with their lives in the future. It may be that radiotherapies have been inadvertantly destroying the glands in the past, leading to difficulties eating and breathing. Bill Bryson is the latest in BBC Inside Science's flick through 2020's Royal Society Book Prize shortlisted authors. He talks to Adam Rutherford about his work, The Body: A Guide for Occupants, and his continuing awe at its complexity. And Roland Pease reports on evidence of a return to the Dust Bowl conditions that so devastated agriculture and livelihoods in the US mid-west during the 1930s. This time, we can see the dust storms gathering from space. But that doesn't mean that intensive agriculture, extreme weather and climate change aren't combining to do what might be a re-run of some of the disastrous issues from those years. Presented by Marnie Chesterton Produced by Alex Mansfield Produced in collaboration with The Open University.

  • COVID reinfections, Susannah Cahalan questions psychiatry and sense of smell and COVID
    If you contracted COVID will you then be protected from further infections and illness from SARS-CoV-2 in the future? We’re starting to hear about cases of people being infected by the novel coronavirus for a second time. A handful of these cases have been published in peer reviewed journals. Nottingham University’s Professor of Virology Jonathan Ball discusses how big the problem of reinfection might be. Is it likely to be a common event which could hamper efforts to bring the pandemic under control? In the latest in our series interviewing the shortlisted authors from this year’s Royal Society Insight Investment Science Book Prize, Susannah Cahalan talks to Adam Rutherford about her investigative journalism into the scientific mystery that is mental illness. Her book ‘The Great Pretender - The Undercover Mission that Changed our Understanding of Madness’ focuses on a fundamental experiment carried out in the 1970s by renowned Stanford University Professor of Psychology David Rosenhan. His famous study was published in Science under the title ‘Being Sane in Insane Places’ and describes using ‘pseudo-patients’ to test whether they would be spotted presenting at psychiatric institutions in the US. They weren’t! His findings proceeded to shape modern psychology and psychiatry. It has been a study that Susannah, has come to find rather mysterious, with elaborate descriptions that don’t always seem to add up. Mental illness and applied neuroscience remain tricky disciplines to navigate, but Susannah has had personal experience with her own misdiagnosis of schizophrenia when she has an autoimmune brain disease. COVID does funny things to your sense of smell: Adam got a heightened sense of smell, producer Fi totally lost her sense of smell, and Inside Science reporter, Geoff Marsh – well… his sense of smell just got weird. To find out why, Geoff called in Professors Mathew Cobb, an expert on smell at the University of Manchester, and Tim Spector from Kings College London whose symptom tracker app was instrumental in getting changes to sense of smell on the symptom list for COVID. Presenter – Adam Rutherford Producers– Fiona Roberts and Andrew Luck-Baker Produced in collaboration with the Open University

  • Test and trace - how the UK compares to the rest of the world; Linda Scott's book The Double X Economy
    From the very start of the COVID pandemic, test and trace has been the mantra. But here in the UK it was started, then abandoned as the number of cases rose too high to manage. It’s now been reintroduced and we’re all being encouraged to download the ‘NHS COVID-19’ phone app which can detect whether you’ve been near an infected person using Bluetooth technology. How have other countries around the world been managing to find, test, trace, isolate and support (FTTIS) their COVID patients? And what lessons can we learn from them? Professor Michael Hopkins at the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU), University of Sussex Business School is part of an international team of experts in science policy, social science, medicine, epidemiology and global health that has analysed and compared national testing systems in 6 countries: Spain, South Korea, South Africa, Ireland, Germany and us, in June, July and August. Michael Hopkins told Marnie Chesterton that we all have something to learn. Over the last few weeks, we’ve been stealing a glimpse into this year’s shortlisted contenders for the annual Royal Society’s Insight Investment Science Book Prize. Linda Scott is an Emeritus Professor from the University of Oxford and a consultant to the World Bank Group on gender economics. Her book, The ‘Double X Economy - The Epic Potential of Empowering Women ’ analyses the economics of gender inequality and the hidden economics which is foundational to the more recognised and acknowledged global economics, that is, the work - much of it unpaid - done by women. Presenter – Adam Rutherford Producer – Fiona Roberts Produced in collaboration with the Open University

  • 08/10/2020
    Claudia Hammond looks at the neuroscience behind our sense of touch. Why does a gentle touch from a loved one make us feel good? This is a question that neuroscientists have been exploring since the late 1990's, following the discovery of a special class of nerve fibres in the skin. There seems to be a neurological system dedicated to sensing and processing the gentle stroking you might receive from a parent or lover or friend, or that a monkey might receive from another grooming it. Claudia talks to neuroscientists Victoria Abraira, Rebecca Bohme, Katerina Fotopoulou and Francis McGlone who all investigate our sense of emotional touch, and she hears from Ian Waterman who lost his sense of touch at the age of eighteen. Producer: Andrew Luck-Baker

  • Brian May's Cosmic Clouds 3-D; How fish move between waterbodies and Jim Al-Khalili's take on physics
    There are few images as awe-inspiring as those of the deep cosmos. Photos of the stars, galaxies, constellations and cosmic nebulae are difficult to improve on, but a new book might have done just that, by making them stereoscopic. David Eicher, Editor-in-Chief of Astronomy Magazine teamed up with astro-photographer J. P. Metsavainio, all engineered by astrophysicist and stereoscope enthusiast Dr Brian May, and they’ve created the first ever book on nebulae in 3-D, It’s called ‘Cosmic Clouds 3-D’, and is published by The London Stereoscopic Company. Have you ever thought about how fish arrive in a new pond or lake? Birds fly, other animals walk, or crawl, but fish are somewhat restricted to watery routes, and new lakes don’t necessarily have watery routes that fish can swim down. This question has been puzzling biologists for centuries. Andy Green, professor at the Doñana Biological Station in Spain has finally come up with the answer – a small number of fish eggs can survive in the guts of birds such as ducks. The Royal Society’s Insight Investment Science Book Prize shortlist was announced last week. And as every year, Inside Science is previewing each of the books, and talking to the six authors in line for this most prestigious literary prize. This week, physicist and Radio 4 brethren Jim Al-Khalili talks to Adam about how his book The World According to Physics shines a light on the most profound insights revealed by modern physics. Presenter – Adam Rutherford Producer – Fiona Roberts Produced in partnership with The Open University