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In Our Time: Science

In Our Time: Science

Podcast In Our Time: Science
Podcast In Our Time: Science

In Our Time: Science

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  • The Fish-Tetrapod Transition
    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss one of the greatest changes in the history of life on Earth. Around 400 million years ago some of our ancestors, the fish, started to become a little more like humans. At the swampy margins between land and water, some fish were turning their fins into limbs, their swim bladders into lungs and developed necks and eventually they became tetrapods, the group to which we and all animals with backbones and limbs belong. After millions of years of this transition, these tetrapod descendants of fish were now ready to leave the water for a new life of walking on land, and with that came an explosion in the diversity of life on Earth. The image above is a representation of Tiktaalik Roseae, a fish with some features of a tetrapod but not one yet, based on a fossil collected in the Canadian Arctic. With Emily Rayfield Professor of Palaeobiology at the University of Bristol Michael Coates Chair and Professor of Organismal Biology and Anatomy at the University of Chicago And Steve Brusatte Professor of Palaeontology and Evolution at the University of Edinburgh Producer: Simon Tillotson
    11/17/2022
    55:33
  • The Electron
    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss an atomic particle that's become inseparable from modernity. JJ Thomson discovered the electron 125 years ago, so revealing that atoms, supposedly the smallest things, were made of even smaller things. He pictured them inside an atomic ball like a plum pudding, with others later identifying their place outside the nucleus - and it is their location on the outer limit that has helped scientists learn so much about electrons and with electrons. We can use electrons to reveal the secrets of other particles and, while electricity exists whether we understand electrons or not, the applications of electricity and electrons grow as our knowledge grows. Many questions, though, remain unanswered. With Victoria Martin Professor of Collider Physics at the University of Edinburgh Harry Cliff Research Fellow in Particle Physics at the University of Cambridge And Frank Close Professor Emeritus of Theoretical Physics and Fellow Emeritus at Exeter College at the University of Oxford Producer: Simon Tillotson
    10/27/2022
    49:47
  • The Death of Stars
    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the abrupt transformation of stars after shining brightly for millions or billions of years, once they lack the fuel to counter the force of gravity. Those like our own star, the Sun, become red giants, expanding outwards and consuming nearby planets, only to collapse into dense white dwarves. The massive stars, up to fifty times the mass of the Sun, burst into supernovas, visible from Earth in daytime, and become incredibly dense neutron stars or black holes. In these moments of collapse, the intense heat and pressure can create all the known elements to form gases and dust which may eventually combine to form new stars, new planets and, as on Earth, new life. The image above is of the supernova remnant Cassiopeia A, approximately 10,000 light years away, from a once massive star that died in a supernova explosion that was first seen from Earth in 1690 With Martin Rees Astronomer Royal, Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge Carolin Crawford Emeritus Member of the Institute of Astronomy and Emeritus Fellow of Emmanuel College, University of Cambridge And Mark Sullivan Professor of Astrophysics at the University of Southampton Producer: Simon Tillotson
    7/7/2022
    58:09
  • Homo erectus
    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss one of our ancestors, Homo erectus, who thrived on Earth for around two million years whereas we, Homo sapiens, emerged only in the last three hundred thousand years. Homo erectus, or Upright Man, spread from Africa to Asia and it was on the Island of Java that fossilised remains were found in 1891 in an expedition led by Dutch scientist Eugène Dubois. Homo erectus people adapted to different habitats, ate varied food, lived in groups, had stamina to outrun their prey; and discoveries have prompted many theories on the relationship between their diet and the size of their brains, on their ability as seafarers, on their creativity and on their ability to speak and otherwise communicate. The image above is from a diorama at the Moesgaard Museum in Denmark, depicting the Turkana Boy referred to in the programme. With Peter Kjærgaard Director of the Natural History Museum of Denmark and Professor of Evolutionary History at the University of Copenhagen José Joordens Senior Researcher in Human Evolution at Naturalis Biodiversity Centre and Professor of Human Evolution at Maastricht University And Mark Maslin Professor of Earth System Science at University College London Producer: Simon Tillotson
    5/12/2022
    51:03
  • Seismology
    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the study of earthquakes. A massive earthquake in 1755 devastated Lisbon, and this disaster helped inspire a new science of seismology which intensified after San Francisco in 1906 and advanced even further with the need to monitor nuclear tests around the world from 1945 onwards. While we now know so much more about what lies beneath the surface of the Earth, and how rocks move and crack, it remains impossible to predict when earthquakes will happen. Thanks to seismology, though, we have a clearer idea of where earthquakes will happen and how to make some of them less hazardous to lives and homes. With Rebecca Bell Senior lecturer in Geology and Geophysics at Imperial College London Zoe Mildon Lecturer in Earth Sciences and Future Leaders Fellow at the University of Plymouth And James Hammond Reader in Geophysics at Birkbeck, University of London Producer: Simon Tillotson
    4/7/2022
    49:35

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