One of the world’s large owls by length, the Great Grey Owl is an enigmatic predator of coniferous forests close to the Arctic tundra. It's most often seen hunting around dawn and dusk, when it perches silently at the edges of clearings. But as Prof Ben Garrod and Dr Jess French delve deep inside to understand its true secret to survival, they find the deep feathery coat belies a deceptively small head and body that‘s evolved unbelievably powerful abilities to silently detect and ambush unsuspecting prey.
Wild inside: The Cheetah
Zoologist Ben Garrod and veterinary surgeon Jess French delve deep into some amazing internal anatomy to unravel the secrets to survival of some of nature’s iconic animals.
They begin with one of the rarities of the cat family – the cheetah, which at just under two metres long, is the world’s fastest land animal capable of reaching speeds of up to 70mph in three seconds. As Ben and Jess reveal, the body’s rear muscles, large heart and nostrils enable it to achieve record breaking accelerations. But over long distances, it risks total exhaustion and predation from larger carnivores and the risk of losing its valuable prey. We hear during the course of this intricate dissection, how it treads a fine line between speed and stamina in the quest for survival.
The puzzle of the plasma doughnut
What do you get if you smash two hydrogen nuclei together? Helium and lots of energy – it's nuclear fusion!
Nuclear fusion is the power source of the sun and the stars. Physicists and engineers here on earth are trying to build reactors than can harness fusion power to provide limitless clean energy. But it’s tricky.
Rutherford and Fry are joined by Dr Melanie Windridge, plasma physicist and CEO of Fusion Energy Insights, who explains why the fourth state of matter – plasma – helps get fusion going, and why a Russian doughnut was a key breakthrough on the path to fusion power.
Dr Sharon Ann Holgate, author of Nuclear Fusion: The Race to Build a Mini Sun on Earth, helps our sleuths distinguish the more familiar nuclear fission (famous for powerful bombs) from the cleaner and much less radioactive nuclear fusion.
And plasma physicist Dr Arthur Turrell, describes the astonishing amount of investment and innovation going on to try and get fusion power working at a commercial scale.
The Riddle of Red-Eyes and Runny-Noses
Sneezes, wheezes, runny noses and red eyes - this episode is all about allergies.
An allergic reaction is when your immune system reacts to something harmless – like peanuts or pollen – as if it was a parasitic invader. It’s a case of biological mistaken identity.
Professor Judith Holloway from the University of Southampton guides our sleuths through the complex immune pathways that make allergies happen and tells the scary story of when she went into anaphylactic shock from a rogue chocolate bar.
Professor Adam Fox, a paediatric allergist at Evelina Children’s Hospital, helps the Drs distinguish intolerances or sensitivities – substantial swelling from a bee sting, for example - from genuine allergies. Hannah’s orange juice ‘allergy’ is exposed as a probable fraud!
Hannah and Adam explore why allergies are on the increase, and Professor Rick Maizels from the University of Glasgow shares his surprising research using parasitic worms to develop anti-allergy drugs!
Contributors: Professor Judith Holloway, Professor Adam Fox, Professor Rick Maizels
The problem of infinite Pi(e)
Pi is the ratio between a circle’s diameter and its circumference. Sounds dull – but pi turns out to have astonishing properties and crop up in places you would never expect. For a start, it goes on forever and never repeats, meaning it probably contains your name, date of birth, and the complete works of Shakespeare written in its digits.
Maths comedian Matt Parker stuns Adam with his ‘pie-endulum’ experiment, in which a chicken and mushroom pie is dangled 2.45m to form a pendulum which takes *exactly* 3.14 seconds per swing.
Mathematician Dr Vicky Neale explains how we can be sure that the number pi continues forever and never repeats - despite the fact we can never write down all its digits to check! She also makes the case that aliens would probably measure angles using pi because it’s a fundamental constant of the universe.
Nasa mission director Dr Marc Rayman drops in to explain how pi is used to navigate spacecraft around the solar system. And philosopher of physics Dr Eleanor Knox serves up some philoso-pi, revealing why some thinkers have found pi’s ubiquity so deeply mysterious.