Science

In Our Time: Science

BBC Radio 4

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Scientific principles, theory, and the role of key figures in the advancement of science.
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Introducing The Curious Cases of Rutherford and Fry

05:58 | Apr 17th

Science sleuths Adam Rutherford and Hannah Fry reveal fascinating discoveries from their investigations into everyday mysteries.
Venus

50:25 | Dec 27th, 2018

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the planet Venus which is both the morning star and the evening star, rotates backwards at walking speed and has a day which is longer than its year. It has long been called Earth’s twin, yet the differences are more ...Show More
The Science of Glass

45:57 | May 28th, 2015

While glass items have been made for at least 5,000 years, scientists are yet to explain, conclusively, what happens when the substance it's made from moves from a molten state to its hard, transparent phase. It is said to be one of the great unsolve...Show More
The Earth's Core

46:41 | Apr 30th, 2015

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Earth's Core. The inner core is an extremely dense, solid ball of iron and nickel, the size of the Moon, while the outer core is a flowing liquid, the size of Mars. Thanks to the magnetic fields produced within...Show More
The Curies

47:22 | Mar 26th, 2015

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the scientific achievements of the Curie family. In 1903 Marie and Pierre Curie shared a Nobel Prize in Physics with Henri Becquerel for their work on radioactivity, a term which Marie coined. Marie went on to win ...Show More
Dark Matter

45:43 | Mar 12th, 2015

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss dark matter, the mysterious and invisible substance which is believed to make up most of the Universe. In 1932 the Dutch astronomer Jan Oort noticed that the speed at which galaxies moved was at odds with the amoun...Show More
The Photon

45:02 | Feb 12th, 2015

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the photon, one of the most enigmatic objects in the Universe. Generations of scientists have struggled to understand the nature of light. In the late nineteenth century it seemed clear that light was an electromag...Show More
Behavioural Ecology

45:35 | Dec 11th, 2014

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Behavioural Ecology, the scientific study of animal behaviour. What factors influence where and what an animal chooses to eat? Why do some animals mate for life whilst others are promiscuous? Behavioural ecologists ap...Show More
Brunel

44:44 | Nov 13th, 2014

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the Victorian engineer responsible for bridges, tunnels and railways still in use today more than 150 years after they were built. Brunel represented the cutting edge of technological innovatio...Show More
Nuclear Fusion

46:55 | Oct 30th, 2014

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss nuclear fusion, the process that powers stars. In the 1920s physicists predicted that it might be possible to generate huge amounts of energy by fusing atomic nuclei together, a reaction requiring enormous temperat...Show More
e

45:19 | Sep 25th, 2014

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Euler's number, also known as e. First discovered in the seventeenth century by the Swiss mathematician Jacob Bernoulli when he was studying compound interest, e is now recognised as one of the most important and i...Show More
The Sun

47:27 | Jul 10th, 2014

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Sun. The object that gives the Earth its light and heat is a massive ball of gas and plasma 93 million miles away. Thanks to the nuclear fusion reactions taking place at its core, the Sun has been shining for f...Show More
Robert Boyle

46:36 | Jun 12th, 2014

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the life and work of Robert Boyle, a pioneering scientist and a founder member of the Royal Society. Born in Ireland in 1627, Boyle was one of the first natural philosophers to conduct rigorous experiments, laid th...Show More
Photosynthesis

46:47 | May 15th, 2014

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss photosynthesis, the process by which green plants and many other organisms use sunlight to synthesise organic molecules. Photosynthesis arose very early in evolutionary history and has been a crucial driver of life...Show More
States of Matter

47:07 | Apr 3rd, 2014

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the science of matter and the states in which it can exist. Most people are familiar with the idea that a substance like water can exist in solid, liquid and gaseous forms. But as much as 99% of the matter in the u...Show More
The Eye

42:11 | Feb 27th, 2014

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the eye. Humans have been attempting to understand the workings and significance of the organ for at least 2500 years. Some ancient philosophers believed that the eye enabled creatures to see by emitting its own li...Show More
Social Darwinism

41:41 | Feb 20th, 2014

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Social Darwinism. After the publication of Charles Darwin's masterpiece On the Origin of Species in 1859, some thinkers argued that Darwin's ideas about evolution could also be applied to human society. One thinker...Show More
Catastrophism

41:54 | Jan 30th, 2014

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Catastrophism, the idea that natural disasters have had a significant influence in moulding the Earth's geological features. In 1822 William Buckland, the first reader of Geology at the University of Oxford, publis...Show More
Complexity

41:49 | Dec 19th, 2013

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss complexity and how it can help us understand the world around us. When living beings come together and act in a group, they do so in complicated and unpredictable ways: societies often behave very differently from ...Show More
The Microscope

42:10 | Nov 28th, 2013

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the development of the microscope, an instrument which has revolutionised our knowledge of the world and the organisms that inhabit it. In the seventeenth century the pioneering work of two scientists, the Dutchman...Show More
Galen

42:03 | Oct 10th, 2013

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Roman physician and medical theorist Galen. The most celebrated doctor in the ancient world, Galen was Greek by birth but spent most of his career in Rome, where he was personal physician to three Emperors. He ...Show More
Exoplanets

42:01 | Oct 3rd, 2013

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss exoplanets. Astronomers have speculated about the existence of planets beyond our solar system for centuries. Although strenuous efforts were made to find such planets orbiting distant stars, it was not until the 1...Show More
Pascal

41:57 | Sep 19th, 2013

Melvyn Bragg and his guests begin a new series of the programme with a discussion of the French polymath Blaise Pascal. Born in 1623, Pascal was a brilliant mathematician and scientist, inventing one of the first mechanical calculators and making imp...Show More
The Invention of Radio

41:59 | Jul 4th, 2013

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the invention of radio. In the early 1860s the Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell derived four equations which together describe the behaviour of electricity and magnetism. They predicted the existence of a pre...Show More
Relativity

42:04 | Jun 6th, 2013

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Einstein's theories of relativity. Between 1905 and 1917 Albert Einstein formulated a theoretical framework which transformed our understanding of the Universe. The twin theories of Special and General Relativity o...Show More
Cosmic Rays

42:05 | May 16th, 2013

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss cosmic rays. In 1912 the physicist Victor Hess discovered that the Earth is under constant bombardment from radiation coming from outside our atmosphere. These so-called cosmic rays have been known to cause damage ...Show More
Water

39:06 | Mar 28th, 2013

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss one of the simplest and most remarkable of all molecules: water. Water is among the most abundant substances on Earth, covering more than two-thirds of the planet. Consisting of just three atoms, the water molecu...Show More
Absolute Zero

42:11 | Mar 7th, 2013

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss absolute zero, the lowest conceivable temperature. In the early eighteenth century the French physicist Guillaume Amontons suggested that temperature had a lower limit. The subject of low temperature became a fer...Show More
Pitt-Rivers

41:41 | Feb 28th, 2013

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the life and work of the Victorian anthropologist and archaeologist Augustus Pitt-Rivers. Over many years he amassed thousands of ethnographic and archaeological objects, some of which formed the founding collecti...Show More
Comets

42:13 | Jan 17th, 2013

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss comets, the 'dirty snowballs' of the Solar System. In the early 18th century the Astronomer Royal Sir Edmond Halley compiled a list of appearances of comets, bright objects like stars with long tails which are occa...Show More
Crystallography

41:56 | Nov 28th, 2012

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the history of crystallography, the study of crystals and their structure. The discovery in the early 20th century that X-rays could be diffracted by a crystal revolutionised our knowledge of materials. This crysta...Show More
Fermat's Last Theorem

42:06 | Oct 25th, 2012

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Fermat's Last Theorem. In 1637 the French mathematician Pierre de Fermat scribbled a note in the margin of one of his books. He claimed to have proved a remarkable property of numbers, but gave no clue as to how he...Show More
The Cell

42:03 | Sep 13th, 2012

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the cell, the fundamental building block of life. First observed by Robert Hooke in 1665, cells occur in nature in a bewildering variety of forms. Every organism alive today consists of one or more cells: a single ...Show More
Game Theory

41:51 | May 10th, 2012

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss game theory, the mathematical study of decision-making. First formulated in the 1940s, the discipline entails devising 'games' to simulate situations of conflict or cooperation. It allows researchers to unravel dec...Show More
Early Geology

42:15 | Apr 12th, 2012

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the emergence of geology as a scientific discipline. A little over two hundred years ago a small group of friends founded the Geological Society of London. This organisation was the first devoted to furthering the ...Show More
The Measurement of Time

41:54 | Mar 29th, 2012

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the measurement of time. Early civilisations used the movements of heavenly bodies to tell the time, but even in the ancient world more sophisticated timekeeping devices such as waterclocks were known. The developm...Show More
Conductors and Semiconductors

41:59 | Feb 23rd, 2012

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the physics of electrical conduction. Although electricity has been known for several hundred years, it was only in the early twentieth century that physicists first satisfactorily explained the phenomenon. Electri...Show More
The Scientific Method

42:01 | Jan 26th, 2012

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the evolution of the Scientific Method, the systematic and analytical approach to scientific thought. In 1620 the great philosopher and scientist Francis Bacon published the Novum Organum, a work outlining a new sy...Show More
Macromolecules

42:12 | Dec 29th, 2011

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the giant molecules that form the basis of all life. Macromolecules, also known as polymers, are long chains of atoms. They form the proteins that make up our bodies, as well as many of the materials of modern life. Ma...Show More
The Hippocratic Oath

42:11 | Sep 15th, 2011

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Hippocratic Oath. The Greek physician Hippocrates, active in the fifth century BC, has been described as the father of medicine, although little is known about his life and some scholars even argue that he was ...Show More
The Neanderthals

42:13 | Jun 17th, 2010

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Neanderthals.In 1856, quarry workers in Germany found bones in a cave which seemed to belong to a bear or other large mammal. They were later identified as being from a previously unknown species of hominid sim...Show More
Pythagoras

41:47 | Dec 10th, 2009

Melvyn Bragg and guests Serafina Cuomo, John O'Connor and Ian Stewart discuss the ideas and influence of the Greek mathematician Pythagoras and his followers, the Pythagoreans.The Ancient Greek mathematician Pythagoras is probably best known for the ...Show More
Radiation

42:07 | Nov 12th, 2009

Melvyn Bragg and guests Jim Al-Khalili, Frank Close and Frank James discuss the history of the discovery of radiation.Today the word 'radiation' conjures up images of destruction. But in physics, it simply describes the emission, transmission and abs...Show More
The Geological Formation of Britain

42:10 | Oct 22nd, 2009

Melvyn Bragg and guests Richard Corfield, Jane Francis and Sanjeev Gupta discuss the geological formation of Britain.Around 600 million years ago the island that we now call Britain was in two parts, far to the south of the Equator. Scotland and nort...Show More
Calculus

42:07 | Sep 24th, 2009

Melvyn Bragg discusses the epic feud between Sir Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz over who invented an astonishingly powerful new mathematical tool - calculus. Both claimed to have conceived it independently, but the argument soon descended into a ...Show More
Ediacara Biota

42:19 | Jul 9th, 2009

Melvyn Bragg and guests Martin Brasier, Richard Corfield and Rachel Wood discuss the Ediacara Biota, the Precambrian life forms which vanished 542 million years ago, and whose discovery proved Darwin right in a way he never imagined. Darwin was conv...Show More
Logical Positivism

42:20 | Jul 2nd, 2009

Melvyn Bragg discusses Logical Positivism, the eye-wateringly radical early 20th century philosophical movement. The Logical Positivists argued that much previous philosophy was built on very shaky foundations, and they wanted to go right back to th...Show More
The Whale - A History

42:24 | May 21st, 2009

Melvyn Bragg and guests Steve Jones, Bill Amos and Eleanor Weston discuss the evolutionary history of the whale. The ancestor of all whales alive today was a small, land-based mammal with cloven hoofs, perhaps like a pig or a big mole. How this creat...Show More
The Vacuum of Space

42:12 | Apr 30th, 2009

Melvyn Bragg and guests Frank Close, Jocelyn Bell Burnell and Ruth Gregory discuss the Vacuum of Space. The idea that there is a nothingness at the heart of nature has exercised philosophers and scientists for millennia, from Thales's belief that all...Show More
Baconian Science

42:09 | Apr 2nd, 2009

Patricia Fara, Stephen Pumfrey and Rhodri Lewis join Melvyn Bragg to discuss the Jacobean lawyer, political fixer and alleged founder of modern science Francis Bacon.In the introduction to Thomas Spratt's History of the Royal Society, there is a poem...Show More
The Library of Alexandria

42:05 | Mar 12th, 2009

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Library at Alexandria. Founded by King Ptolemy in the 3rd century BC the library was the first attempt to collect all the knowledge of the ancient world in one place. Scholars including Archimedes and Euclid came t...Show More
The Measurement Problem in Physics

42:07 | Mar 5th, 2009

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss one of the deepest problems in contemporary physics. It’s called the measurement problem and it emerged from the flurry of activity in the early 20th century that gave rise to Quantum Mechanics. If the most famous frui...Show More
The Observatory at Jaipur

42:10 | Feb 19th, 2009

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Observatory in Jaipur with its vast and beautiful instruments built to make astronomical measurements of the stars. Commissioned in the early 18th century by the Rajput prince and child prodigy, Jai Singh, it was a...Show More
Darwin: Life After Origins

42:05 | Jan 8th, 2009

To celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin in 2009 and the 150th anniversary of the publication of On the Origin of Species, Melvyn Bragg presents a series about Darwin's life and work.Melvyn visits Darwin's home at Down House ...Show More
Darwin: On the Origin of Species

42:08 | Jan 7th, 2009

To celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin and the 150th anniversary of the publication of On the Origin of Species, Melvyn Bragg presents a series about Darwin's life and work.How Darwin was eventually persuaded to publish On ...Show More
Darwin: The Voyage of the Beagle

42:48 | Jan 6th, 2009

To celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin and the 150th anniversary of the publication of On the Origin of Species, Melvyn Bragg presents a series about Darwin's life and work.Darwin's expedition aboard the Beagle in December ...Show More
Darwin: On the Origins of Charles Darwin

42:44 | Jan 5th, 2009

To celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin in 2009 and the 150th anniversary of the publication of On the Origin of Species, Melvyn Bragg presents a series about Darwin's life and work.Melvyn tells the story of Darwin's early l...Show More
The Physics of Time

42:21 | Dec 18th, 2008

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the physics of time. When writing the Principia Mathematica, Isaac Newton declared his hand on most of the big questions in physics. He outlined the nature of space, explained the motions of the planets and conceived t...Show More
Heat

42:08 | Dec 4th, 2008

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of scientific ideas about heat. As anyone who’s ever burnt their hand will testify – heat is a pretty commonplace concept. Cups of coffee cool down, microwaves reheat them, water boils at 100 degrees and fr...Show More
Neuroscience

41:58 | Nov 13th, 2008

Melvyn Bragg and guests examine the relationship between the mind and the brain as they discuss recent developments in Neuroscience. In the mid-19th century a doctor had a patient who had suffered a stroke. The patient was unable to speak save for on...Show More
Vitalism

42:00 | Oct 16th, 2008

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Vitalism, an 18th and 19th century quest for the spark of life. On a dreary night in November 1818, a young doctor called Frankenstein completed an experiment and described it in his diary: “I collected the instruments...Show More
Godel's Incompleteness Theorems

42:08 | Oct 9th, 2008

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss an iconic piece of 20th century maths - Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorems. In 1900, in Paris, the International Congress of Mathematicians gathered in a mood of hope and fear. The edifice of maths was grand and ornate bu...Show More
The Music of the Spheres

42:13 | Jun 19th, 2008

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the music of the spheres, the elegant and poetic idea that the revolution of the planets generates a celestial harmony of profound and transcendent beauty. In Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice the young Lorenzo woos...Show More
Lysenkoism

42:06 | Jun 5th, 2008

Melvyn Bragg and guests delve into the dark world of genetics under Joseph Stalin in discussing the career of Trofim Lysenko. In 1928, as America lurched towards the Wall Street Crash, Joseph Stalin revealed his master plan - nature was to be conquer...Show More
Probability

42:11 | May 29th, 2008

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the strange mathematics of probability where heads or tails is a simple question with a far from simple answer. Gambling may be as old as the hills but probability as a mathematical discipline is a relative youngster. ...Show More
The Brain

42:06 | May 8th, 2008

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of ideas about the human brain. Since time immemorial people have puzzled over the brain and its functions. In the 5th century BC the Greek physician Hippocrates confidently asserted:“Men ought to know tha...Show More
The Laws of Motion

42:09 | Apr 3rd, 2008

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Newton’s Laws of Motion. In 1687 Isaac Newton attempted to explain the movements of everything in the universe, from a pea rolling on a plate to the position of the planets. It was a brilliant, vaultingly ambitious and...Show More
Ada Lovelace

42:07 | Mar 6th, 2008

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the 19th century mathematician Ada Lovelace. Deep in the heart of the Pentagon is a network of computers. They control the US military, the most powerful army on the planet, but they are controlled by a programming la...Show More
The Multiverse

41:46 | Feb 21st, 2008

Melvyn Bragg and guests will be leaving the studio, the planet and indeed, the universe to take a tour of the Multiverse. If you look up the word ‘universe’ in the Oxford English Dictionary you will find the following definition: “The whole of creat...Show More
Plate Tectonics

42:09 | Jan 24th, 2008

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss how the science of plate tectonics revolutionised our understanding of the planet on which we live. America is getting further away from Europe. This is not a political statement but a geological fact. Just as the Paci...Show More
The Four Humours

42:05 | Dec 20th, 2007

Melvyn Bragg and guests talk about blood, black bile, yellow bile and phlegm. These are the four humours, a theory of disease and health that is among the most influential ideas aver conceived. According to an 11th century Arabic book called the Alma...Show More
Genetic Mutation

41:57 | Dec 6th, 2007

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss mutation in genetics and evolution. When lying mortally ill with cancer, the British geneticist J.B.S. Haldane penned the following lines: Cancer's a Funny Thing:I wish I had the voice of HomerTo sing of rectal carcino...Show More
The Fibonacci Sequence

42:15 | Nov 29th, 2007

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Fibonacci Sequence. Named after a 13th century Italian Mathematician, Leonardo of Pisa who was known as Fibonacci, each number in the sequence is created by adding the previous two together. It starts 1 1 2 3 5 8 1...Show More
Oxygen

42:01 | Nov 15th, 2007

Melvyn Bragg discusses the discovery of Oxygen by Joseph Priestley and Antoine Lavoisier. In the late 18th century Chemistry was the prince of the sciences – vital to the economy, it shaped how Europeans fought each other, ate with each other, what t...Show More
Antimatter

28:24 | Oct 4th, 2007

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Antimatter, a type of particle predicted by the British physicist, Paul Dirac. Dirac once declared that “The laws of nature should be expressed in beautiful equations”. True to his word, he is responsible for one of th...Show More
The Permian-Triassic Boundary

42:10 | Jun 28th, 2007

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Permian-Triassic boundary. 250 million years ago, in the Permian period of geological time, the most ferocious predators on earth were the Gorgonopsians. Up to ten feet in length, they had dog-like heads and huge s...Show More
Renaissance Astrology

28:09 | Jun 14th, 2007

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Renaissance Astrology. In Act I Scene II of King Lear, the ne’er do well Edmund steps forward and rails at the weakness and cynicism of his fellow men:This is the excellent foppery of the world, that,when we are sick i...Show More
Gravitational Waves

42:17 | May 17th, 2007

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss mysterious phenomena called Gravitational Waves in contemporary physics. The rather un-poetically named star SN 2006gy is roughly 150 times the size of our sun. Last week it went supernova, creating the brightest stell...Show More
Symmetry

42:12 | Apr 19th, 2007

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss symmetry. Found in Nature - from snowflakes to butterflies - and in art in the music of Bach and the poems of Pushkin, symmetry is both aesthetically pleasing and an essential tool to understanding our physical world. ...Show More
Anaesthetics

41:58 | Mar 29th, 2007

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of anaesthetics, from laughing gas in the 1790s to the discovery of “blessed chloroform”. Remembering his unsuccessful stint at Edinburgh Medical school Charles Darwin described the horrors of surgery befor...Show More
Microbiology

41:54 | Mar 8th, 2007

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of microbiology. We have more microbes in our bodies than we have human cells. We fear them as the cause of disease, yet are reliant on them for processes as diverse as water purification, pharmaceuticals, ...Show More
Optics

28:15 | Mar 1st, 2007

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of optics. From telescopes to microscopes, from star-gazing to the intimacies of a magnified flea. As Galileo turned his telescope to the heavens in the early 1600s, Kepler began to formulate a theory of op...Show More
Popper

42:09 | Feb 8th, 2007

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss one of the most important philosophers of the 20th century, Karl Popper whose ideas about science and politics robustly challenged the accepted ideas of the day. He strongly resisted the prevailing empiricist consensus...Show More
Archimedes

42:17 | Jan 25th, 2007

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Greek mathematician Archimedes. Reputed to have shouted “Eureka!” as he leapt from his bath having discovered the principles of floating bodies. Whatever the truth of the myths surrounding the man, he was certainl...Show More
The Jesuits

41:55 | Jan 18th, 2007

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Jesuits, a Catholic religious order of priests who became known as “the school masters of Europe”. Founded in the 16th century by the soldier Ignatius Loyola, they became a major force throughout the world, from Ch...Show More
Mars

41:40 | Jan 11th, 2007

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the planet Mars. Named after the Roman god of war, Mars has been a source of continual fascination. It is one of our nearest neighbours in space, though it takes about a year to get there. It is very inhospitable with ...Show More
Indian Mathematics

42:08 | Dec 14th, 2006

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the contribution Indian mathematicians have made to our understanding of the subject. Mathematics from the Indian subcontinent has provided foundations for much of our modern thinking on the subject. They were thought ...Show More
The Speed of Light

42:11 | Nov 30th, 2006

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the speed of light. Scientists and thinkers have been fascinated with the speed of light for millennia. Aristotle wrongly contended that the speed of light was infinite, but it was the 17th Century before serious attem...Show More
The Poincaré Conjecture

42:19 | Nov 2nd, 2006

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Poincaré Conjecture. The great French mathematician Henri Poincaré declared: “The scientist does not study mathematics because it is useful; he studies it because he delights in it, and he delights in it because it...Show More
The Needham Question

42:16 | Oct 19th, 2006

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Needham Question; why Europe and not China developed modern technology. What do these things have in common? Fireworks, wood-block printing, canal lock-gates, kites, the wheelbarrow, chain suspension bridges and th...Show More
Humboldt

42:00 | Sep 28th, 2006

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Prussian naturalist and explorer Alexander Von Humboldt. He was possibly the greatest and certainly one of the most famous scientists of the 19th century. Darwin described him as 'the greatest scientific traveller ...Show More
Galaxies

42:22 | Jun 29th, 2006

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the galaxies. Spread out across the voids of space like spun sugar, but harbouring in their centres super-massive black holes. Our galaxy is about 100,000 light years across, is shaped like a fried egg and we travel in...Show More
Carbon

42:15 | Jun 15th, 2006

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Carbon. It forms the basis of all organic life and has the amazing ability to bond with itself and a wide range of other elements, forming nearly 10 million known compounds. It is in the food we eat, the clothes we wea...Show More
The Heart

42:17 | Jun 1st, 2006

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the heart. Aristotle considered the heart to be the seat of thought, reason and emotion. The Roman physician Galen located the seat of the passions in the liver, the seat of reason in the brain, and considered the hea...Show More
Astronomy and Empire

42:13 | May 4th, 2006

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the relationship between astronomy and the British Empire. The 18th century explorer and astronomer James Cook wrote: 'Ambition leads me not only farther than any other man has been before me, but as far as I think it ...Show More
Immunisation

42:11 | Apr 20th, 2006

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the search for immunisation. In 1717, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, the wife of the British Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, wrote a letter to her friend describing how she had witnessed the practice of smallpox inoculat...Show More
The Royal Society

42:14 | Mar 23rd, 2006

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the formation of the Royal Society. In the 17th century the natural philosopher Francis Bacon heralded the new age of science. The frontispiece to his 1620 edition of the Instauratio Magna depicted a galleon travelling...Show More
Negative Numbers

41:57 | Mar 9th, 2006

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss negative numbers, a history of mystery and suspicion. In 1759 the British mathematician Francis Maseres wrote that negative numbers "darken the very whole doctrines of the equations and make dark of the things which ar...Show More
Human Evolution

28:11 | Feb 16th, 2006

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the story of human evolution, which stretches back over six million years. It is not the story of one species but of several diverse species, some of whom walked the Earth at the same time. From the earliest hominids t...Show More
Relativism

28:09 | Jan 19th, 2006

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss relativism, a philosophy of shifting sands. "Today, a particularly insidious obstacle to the task of educating is the massive presence in our society and culture of that relativism which, recognizing nothing as definit...Show More
Prime Numbers

28:11 | Jan 12th, 2006

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss prime numbers: 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, 17 … This sequence of numbers goes on literally forever. Recently, a team of researchers in Missouri successfully calculated the highest prime number - it has 9.1 million digits. For ...Show More
Artificial Intelligence

40:13 | Dec 8th, 2005

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss artificial intelligence. Can machines think? It was a question posed by the mathematician and Bletchley Park code breaker Alan Turing and it is a question still being asked today. What is the difference between men and...Show More
The Graviton

41:58 | Nov 24th, 2005

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the search for the Graviton particle. Albert Einstein said "I know why there are so many people who love chopping wood. In this activity one immediately sees the results". Einstein spent the last thirty years of his li...Show More
Asteroids

28:09 | Nov 3rd, 2005

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the unique properties of asteroids. They used to be regarded as the 'vermin of the solar system', irritating rubble that got in the way of astronomers trying to study more interesting phenomena. It was difficult or eve...Show More
Mammals

41:58 | Oct 13th, 2005

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the rise of the mammals. The Cenozoic Era of Earth's history began 65 million years ago and runs to this day. It began with the extraordinary 'KT event', a supposed asteroid impact that destroyed the dinosaurs, and inc...Show More
Magnetism

41:59 | Sep 29th, 2005

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of magnetism. Pliny the Elder, in his Historia Naturalis, tells a story of a legendary Greek shepherd called Magnes who, while guiding his flock on Mount Ida, suddenly found it hard to move his feet. The na...Show More
The KT Boundary

42:13 | Jun 23rd, 2005

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the KT Boundary. Across the entire planet, where it hasn't been eroded or destroyed in land movements, there is a thin grey line. In Italy it is 1 cm thick, in America it stretches to three centimetres, but it is all t...Show More
Renaissance Maths

42:22 | Jun 2nd, 2005

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Renaissance Mathematics. As with so many areas of European thought, mathematics in the Renaissance was a question of recovering and, if you were very lucky, improving upon Greek ideas. The geometry of Euclid, Appolloni...Show More
Perception and the Senses

28:22 | Apr 28th, 2005

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss perception: how the brain reacts to the mass of data continually crowding it. Barry Stein's laboratory at Wake Forest University in the United States found that the shape of a right angle drawn on the hand of a chimpan...Show More
Dark Energy

42:02 | Mar 17th, 2005

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss 'dark energy'. Only 5% of our universe is composed of visible matter, stars, planets and people; something called 'dark matter' makes up about 25% and an enormous 70% of the universe is pervaded with the mysteriously n...Show More
Alchemy

42:13 | Feb 24th, 2005

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of Alchemy, the ancient science of transformations. The most famous alchemical text is the Emerald Tablet, written around 500BC and attributed to the mythical Egyptian figure of Hermes Trismegistus. Among ...Show More
The Cambrian Period

42:17 | Feb 17th, 2005

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Cambrian period when there was an explosion of life on Earth. In the Selkirk Mountains of British Columbia in Canada, there is an outcrop of limestone shot through with a seam of fine dark shale. A sudden mudslide ...Show More
The Mind/Body Problem

42:08 | Jan 13th, 2005

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the mind/body problem in philosophy. At the start of René Descartes' Sixth Meditation he writes: "there is a great difference between mind and body, inasmuch as body is by nature always divisible, and mind is entirely ...Show More
The Second Law of Thermodynamics

27:34 | Dec 16th, 2004

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Second Law of Thermodynamics which can be very simply stated like this: "Energy spontaneously tends to flow from being concentrated in one place to becoming diffused and spread out". It was first formulated – deriv...Show More
Jung

28:21 | Dec 2nd, 2004

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the extraordinary mind of the psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung. In 1907 Sigmund Freud met a young man and fell into a conversation that is reputed to have lasted for 13 hours. That man was the Swiss psychiatrist Carl Gust...Show More
Higgs Boson

42:22 | Nov 18th, 2004

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Higgs Boson particle. One weekend in 1964 the Scottish scientist Peter Higgs was walking in the Cairngorm Mountains. On his return to his laboratory in Edinburgh the following Monday, he declared to his colleagues ...Show More
Electrickery

42:09 | Nov 4th, 2004

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the dawn of the age of electricity. In Gulliver's Travels, published in 1726, Jonathan Swift satirised natural philosophers as trying to extract sunbeams from cucumbers. Perhaps he would have been surprised, or even ho...Show More
The Origins of Life

28:17 | Sep 23rd, 2004

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the emergence of the world’s first organic matter nearly four billion years ago. Scientists have named 1.5 million species of living organism on the land, in the skies and in the oceans of planet Earth and a new one is...Show More
Pi

28:15 | Sep 2nd, 2004

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of the most detailed number in nature. In the Bible's description of Solomon's temple it comes out as three, Archimedes calculated it to the equivalent of 14 decimal places and today's super computers have ...Show More
Renaissance Magic

28:09 | Jun 17th, 2004

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Renaissance obsession with Magic. In 1461 one of the powerful Medici family’s many agents carried a mysterious manuscript into his master’s house in Florence. It purported to be the work of an ancient Egyptian priest-k...Show More
The Planets

28:21 | May 27th, 2004

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss our knowledge of the planets in both our and other solar systems. Tucked away in the outer Western Spiral arm of the Milky Way is a middle aged star, with nine, or possibly ten orbiting planets of hugely varying sizes....Show More
Zero

42:08 | May 13th, 2004

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of the number between 1 and -1, which has strange and uniquely beguiling qualities. Shakespeare’s King Lear warned, “Nothing will come of nothing”. The poet and priest John Donne said from the pulpit, “The ...Show More
Hysteria

28:15 | Apr 22nd, 2004

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss a problematic notion which can be an emotional condition, a syndrome, an extreme or over-reaction, or the physical signs of trauma. The term ‘hysteria’ was first used in Greece in the 5th century BC by Hippocratic doct...Show More
Theories of Everything

42:03 | Mar 25th, 2004

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the 30 year search to solve all the biggest questions in physics. At the end of the last century, brave voices were predicting that all the big questions of physics were on the verge of being answered by a Theory of Ev...Show More
Dreams

28:18 | Mar 4th, 2004

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the interpretation of dreams. Over a hundred years ago, Sigmund Freud declared confidently, “The interpretation of dreams is the royal road to a knowledge of the unconscious activities of the mind”. He was writing in h...Show More
Rutherford

28:17 | Feb 19th, 2004

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Ernest Rutherford. He was the father of nuclear science, a great charismatic figure who mapped the landscape of the sub-atomic world. He identified the atom’s constituent parts, discovered that elemental decay was the ...Show More
Cryptography

42:21 | Jan 29th, 2004

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the origins and history of codes. In October 1586, in the forbidding hall of Fotheringhay Castle, Mary Queen of Scots was on trial for her life. Accused of treason and denied legal representation, she sat alone in the ...Show More
Lamarck and Natural Selection

57:01 | Dec 24th, 2003

Melvyn Bragg discusses Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, the 18th century French scientist.Charles Darwin defined Natural Selection in On the Origin of Species, “Variations, however slight and from whatever cause proceeding, if they be in any degree profitable ...Show More
Ageing the Earth

28:07 | Nov 20th, 2003

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the age of the Earth. It was once thought that the world began in 4004 BC. Lord Kelvin calculated the cooling temperature of a rock the size of our planet and came up with a figure of 20 million years for the age of th...Show More
Infinity

42:16 | Oct 23rd, 2003

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the nature and existence of mathematical infinity. Jonathan Swift encapsulated the counter-intuitive character of infinity with insouciant style:“So, naturalists observe, a fleaHath smaller fleas on him that preyAnd th...Show More
Maxwell

42:14 | Oct 2nd, 2003

Melvyn Bragg and guests discusses the life and ideas of James Clerk Maxwell whose work is not widely known, but whose genius and contribution to the age in which we live is enormous.He took the first colour photograph, defined the nature of gases and...Show More
Nature

42:13 | Jul 10th, 2003

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the attempt to define humanity’s part in the natural world. In Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage Lord Byron wrote:“There is a pleasure in the pathless woods, There is a rapture on the lonely shore,There is society where none ...Show More
Vulcanology

42:16 | Jul 3rd, 2003

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the formation of volcanoes. In 79AD Mount Vesuvius erupted on the Bay of Naples, buried Pompeii in ash and drowned nearby Herculaneum in lava. The great letter writer Pliny the Younger was staying with his uncle in Mis...Show More
The Lunar Society

28:16 | Jun 5th, 2003

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Lunar Society. In the late 18th century, with the ascendant British Empire centred on London, a small group of friends met at a house on the crossroads outside Birmingham and applied their minds to the problems of ...Show More
Memory

27:57 | May 29th, 2003

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the function and significance of memory. The great writer of remembrance, Marcel Proust, declared “We are able to find everything in our memory, which is like a dispensary or chemical laboratory in which chance steers ...Show More
Blood

41:36 | May 22nd, 2003

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss blood. For more than 1500 years popular imagination, western science and the Christian Church colluded in a belief that blood was the link between the human and the divine. The Greek physician, Galen, declared that it ...Show More
The Life of Stars

28:19 | Mar 27th, 2003

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the life cycle of stars. In his poem Bright Star John Keats wrote, "Bright Star, would I were steadfast as thou art". For Keats the stars were symbols of eternity- they were beautiful and ordered and unchanging - but m...Show More
Meteorology

28:06 | Mar 6th, 2003

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss meteorology. The Book of Genesis resounds with a terrible act of vengeance, carried out by an angry God seeking to punish his people. And the mechanism with which this is carried out - a catastrophic flood which wipes ...Show More
Chance and Design

28:10 | Feb 13th, 2003

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the theories of a grand design in the universe. The late evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould argued that if you re-ran the tape of evolutionary history, an entirely different set of creatures would emerge. Man wou...Show More
The Calendar

41:45 | Dec 19th, 2002

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the calendar, which shapes the lives of millions of people. It is an invention that gives meaning to the passing of time and orders our daily existence. It links us to the arcane movements of the heavens and the natura...Show More
Man and Disease

28:10 | Dec 12th, 2002

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss man and disease. The Book of Exodus makes clear that when God wants to strike humankind, he does so with plague and disease. For millennia epidemics were understood exactly that way - as acts of divine retribution, a f...Show More
Imagination

28:03 | Nov 28th, 2002

Melvyn Bragg investigates the creatives forces of the imagination. Immanuel Kant said, "Imagination is a blind but indispensable function of the soul without which we should have no knowledge whatever but of which we are scarcely even conscious". Ima...Show More
Human Nature

42:10 | Nov 7th, 2002

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the vexing issue of human nature. Some argue that we are born as blank slates and our natures are defined by upbringing, experience, culture and the ideas of our time. Others believe that human nature is innate and pre...Show More
The Scientist

28:01 | Oct 24th, 2002

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the origin of the concept and historical role of the scientist. The word "science" first appeared in the English language in 1340 and ever since its meaning has been in a state of flux. The notion of "the scientist" ha...Show More
Psychoanalysis and Democracy

28:40 | Jul 11th, 2002

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the impact of politics on psychoanalysis. The 20th century saw the birth and rise of psychoanalysis. Sigmund Freud led people to think about how the mind functioned and how our behaviour might be understood through the...Show More
Drugs

28:10 | May 23rd, 2002

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of drugs. Throughout history people have taken them to alter their perceptions and change their moods. The attractions lie in the promise of instant pleasure and the possibility of heightened perceptions. N...Show More
Chaos Theory

42:13 | May 16th, 2002

Melvyn Bragg examines whether world is a fundamentally chaotic or orderly place. When Newton published his Principia Mathematica in 1687 his work was founded on one simple message: Nature has laws and we can find them. His explanation of the movement...Show More
The Physics of Reality

28:14 | May 2nd, 2002

Melvyn Bragg examines the physics of reality. When Quantum Mechanics was developed in the early 20th century reality changed forever. In the quantum world particles could be in two places at once, they disappeared for no reason and reappeared in unpr...Show More
Extra Terrestrials

28:16 | Apr 4th, 2002

Melvyn Bragg examines Extra Terrestrials. New planets have been observed far beyond our solar system and telescopes are being built that will enable us to look for water and oxygen on these distant planets. If water and oxygen are present, there is e...Show More
Anatomy

28:16 | Feb 14th, 2002

Melvyn Bragg examines the history of mankind's quest to understand the human body. The Greeks thought we were built like pigs, and when Renaissance man first cut his sacred flesh it was an act of heresey. We trace the noble ambitions of medical scien...Show More
The Universe's Shape

28:14 | Feb 7th, 2002

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the shape of the universe. In the Beginning, runs one account, was the Big Bang. All matter in existence today originated around 13 billion years ago in a phenomenally hot, extraordinarily condensed primordial atom th...Show More
Nuclear Physics

28:05 | Jan 10th, 2002

Melvyn Bragg examines one of the greatest scientific breakthroughs of the 20th century, and certainly the most controversial; the development of nuclear physics. Harnessing the enigmatic qualities of the atom’s tiny core brought us nuclear power and...Show More
Genetics

28:00 | Dec 13th, 2001

Melvyn Bragg looks at the development of the science of genetics. In the 1850s and 60s, in a monastery garden in Burno in Moravia, a Franciscan monk was cultivating peas. He began separating the wrinkly peas from the shiny peas and studying which cha...Show More
Oceanography

28:09 | Nov 22nd, 2001

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the science of Oceanography. In 1870 Jules Verne described the deep ocean in 2,000 Leagues Under the Sea. He wrote: “The sea is an immense desert where man is never alone for he feels life, quivering around him on eve...Show More
The Earth's Origins

28:12 | Jul 5th, 2001

Melvyn Bragg discusses the origin of the Earth. Ideas used to be very clear about its origins. Bishop Ussher, in 1654 arrived at an exact figure and specified it in his work Annalis Veteris et Novi Testamenti: He deduced that work on Planet Earth beg...Show More
Black Holes

28:11 | Apr 12th, 2001

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Black Holes. They are the dead collapsed ghosts of massive stars and they have an irresistible pull: their dark swirling, whirling, ever-hungry mass has fascinated thinkers as diverse as Edgar Allen Poe, Stephen Hawkin...Show More
Fossils

42:17 | Mar 22nd, 2001

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the significance of fossils. In the middle of the nineteenth century the discoveries of the fossil hunters used to worry poor Ruskin to death, he wrote in a letter in 1851, “my faith, which was never strong, is being b...Show More
Quantum Gravity

28:19 | Feb 22nd, 2001

Melvyn Bragg examines Quantum Gravity. Early in the 20th century physicists were startled by the realisation that the smallest things in the universe do not obey Newton’s laws of gravity. Ripe apples fall from trees, billiard balls roll mostly on the...Show More
Imperial Science

28:21 | Feb 1st, 2001

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss what drove the British Empire, especially in Victoria’s century. Was it science, more specifically, the science of plants, of agriculture, a scientific notion of nature and the improvement of nature? Was this seemingl...Show More
Mathematics and Platonism

28:20 | Jan 11th, 2001

Melvyn Bragg looks at the deep claims made for mathematics, the discipline some believe to be the soul and true key to the understanding of all life, from the petals on the sunflower to the pulse in our wrists. The notion that mathematics is akin to...Show More
Psychoanalysis and Literature

42:08 | Nov 9th, 2000

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss role of Freudian analysis in understanding the great works of literature. Freud said, “The poets and philosophers before me discovered the unconscious. What I discovered was the scientific method by which the unconscio...Show More
Evolutionary Psychology

28:18 | Nov 2nd, 2000

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Evolutionary Psychology. Richard Dawkins redefined human nature in 1976, when he wrote in The Selfish Gene: “They swarm in huge colonies, safe inside giant lumbering robots, sealed off from the outside world, communica...Show More
Laws of Nature

28:05 | Oct 19th, 2000

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Laws of Nature. Since ancient times philosophers and physicists have tried to discover simple underlying principles that control the Universe: In the 6th Century BC Thales declared “Everything is water”, centuries ...Show More
Imagination and Consciousness

42:33 | Jun 29th, 2000

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the question of consciousness, our sense of self, and how we are able to imagine things when they are not there, which are problems that have troubled the great minds of philosophy for thousands of years. Consciousness...Show More
Chemical Elements

28:01 | May 25th, 2000

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the chemical elements. The aim and challenge in chemistry, according to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, is the understanding of the complex materials which constitute everything in existence since the Big Bang, when the ...Show More
Human Origins

28:06 | Apr 27th, 2000

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the evolution of the human species. Where did we come from - we being Homo Sapiens? Let’s not go back to the Big Bang or in search of Genesis, but sift through the evidence from biology, palaeontology, climatology and...Show More
The Natural Order

28:24 | Apr 6th, 2000

Melvyn Bragg examines the science of taxonomy. The Argentinean author Jose Luis Borges illustrated the problematic nature of scientific classification when he quoted from an ancient Chinese Encyclopaedia, the Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledg...Show More
Grand Unified Theory

28:13 | Feb 24th, 2000

Melvyn Bragg examines 20th century physics’ quest for the ultimate theory of everything. Einstein left us with his theory of General Relativity, which explained how gravity works on the scale of stars, galaxies, and the universe itself and Schroeding...Show More
Goethe and the Science of the Enlightenment

28:03 | Feb 10th, 2000

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the great poet and dramatist, famous for Faust, for The Sorrows of Young Werther, for Storm und Drang and for being a colossus in German literature. Born in the middle of the eighteenth cent...Show More
Information Technology

27:42 | Jan 13th, 2000

Melvyn Bragg discusses the social and economic consequences of the information revolution. There are now more than 200 million people connected to the internet world-wide. The world’s biggest ever merger has just seen Time Warner united with the inte...Show More
Climate Change

27:30 | Jan 6th, 2000

Melvyn Bragg discusses climate change. In 1999 the weather gave the planet’s occupants a terrible beating: 16,000 people lost their lives as a result of storms. Some 15 million people were left homeless and 10,000 died when the world’s worst cyclone ...Show More
Time

28:16 | Dec 30th, 1999

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of mankind’s attempt to understand the nature of time. At the end of the 19th century, H.G.Wells imagined travelling through time in The Time Machine; “The palpitation of night and day merged into one conti...Show More
Medical Ethics

27:41 | Dec 16th, 1999

Melvyn Bragg examines the technological advances and ethics of modern medicine. On an average working day about three quarters of a million of us go to the doctor’s. About a hundred thousand are visited by nurses and other health professionals. Then ...Show More
Consciousness

27:58 | Nov 25th, 1999

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the problems of consciousness, one of the greatest mysteries facing science and philosophy today. The frustrations, the stubborn facts and the curiosities of today’s thinkers, philosophers, physicists and psychologists...Show More
Genetic Determinism

28:09 | Sep 23rd, 1999

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the theory of Genetic Determinism. In the middle of the last century two men - Gregor Mendel, an Austrian monk, and Charles Darwin, an English naturalist, established the central theories of modern biology and changed ...Show More
Pain

28:14 | Jul 22nd, 1999

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss pain; something of which everyone has an individual experience. What causes it, how do we cope with it, what mechanisms are involved, what is the traditional view of pain and how is that being challenged today? Do we e...Show More
Intelligence

28:11 | Jul 1st, 1999

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss a question that has stalked the twentieth century: Intelligence. Since the first IQ tests were invented in 1905, the question of what makes Homo Sapiens stupid and what makes him clever has involved human kind in steri...Show More
The Great Disruption

28:09 | Jun 17th, 1999

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the shift that has gone on through the 20th century from our being an industrial society to what is often called ‘the information society’. Francis Fukuyama’s book, The Great Disruption talks of the third great shift i...Show More
Memory and Culture

28:22 | May 27th, 1999

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss memory. At the start of the twentieth century Freud put memory at the centre of our psychology, and as the century has worn on what a nation remembers and what it should try to forget has become one of the binding poli...Show More
The Universe's Origins

28:22 | May 20th, 1999

Melvyn Bragg examines the history of what we know about the origins of the universe. Some four hundred years ago in Rome, one Giordano Bruno was burnt at the stake for his belief in other inhabited worlds - it’s a possibility which has fascinated sci...Show More
Mathematics

28:11 | May 6th, 1999

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the way perceptions of the importance of mathematics have fluctuated in the 20th century, the nature of mathematical ability, and what mathematics can show us about how life began, and how it might continue. Galileo w...Show More
Artificial Intelligence

28:17 | Apr 29th, 1999

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss artificial intelligence. Can we create a machine that creates? Some argue so. And is consciousness, as we are, with headaches and tiffs and moods and small pleasures and sore feet - often all at the same time - capabl...Show More
Evolution

28:16 | Apr 15th, 1999

Melvyn Bragg examines the future of gene therapy and advances in evolutionary biology. Are we continuing to evolve? If so, what are the signs and if not, why not? And those apes, so very very near us in genetic kinship, why are they so far away in so...Show More
Animal Experiments and Rights

28:15 | Mar 18th, 1999

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the role of animals in humankind's search for knowledge. Since the Greek physician Galen used pigs for anatomical studies in the 2nd century, animals have been used by scientists to further human knowledge. Yet few, if...Show More
Space in Religion and Science

28:03 | Feb 18th, 1999

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of thought about space, and examines whether cyberspace has introduced a new concept of space in our world or if its roots are in Einsteinian physics. It would have seemed extraordinary to Dante or Newton, ...Show More
Language and the Mind

27:49 | Feb 11th, 1999

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of our ideas about the formation of language. The psychologist George Miller worked out that in English there are potentially a hundred million trillion sentences of twenty words in length - that’s a hundre...Show More
Psychoanalysis and its Legacy

28:16 | Feb 4th, 1999

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the relevance of psychoanalysis at the end of the 20th century. It’s 100 years since Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, a term which he coined, published The Interpretation of Dreams. Sixty years after his d...Show More
Ageing

27:43 | Jan 28th, 1999

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss ageing. In 1900, 1% of the world’s population were over 65. In the 1990s nearly 8% are. By the year 2020, nearly 1/5th of the world’s population will be over 65 - the figure rises to 25% in the UK. We are now living...Show More
Genetic Engineering

27:54 | Jan 14th, 1999

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the implications of the developments in genetic engineering. Out of the city of Cambridge in the mid century came DNA and out of Edinburgh at the end of the century came the cloning of Dolly the sheep. These two facts ...Show More
Neuroscience in the 20th century

28:13 | Dec 24th, 1998

Melvyn Bragg and guests marvel at our brains and discuss how at the end of a century of research we still understand so little about how they work.Developments in the understanding of the brain represent one of the major leaps forward in science in t...Show More
The Brain and Consciousness

27:53 | Nov 19th, 1998

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss how our increased knowledge of the functioning of the brain and the mechanisms of memory in the 20th century has changed our feelings about our own natures, and our approach to the behaviour and treatment of others.Man...Show More
Science in the 20th century

28:01 | Nov 5th, 1998

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss how perceptions of science and the power of science have changed in the 20th century. Does scientific endeavour increasingly concern itself with doubt rather than certainty, and is it coming any closer to integrating w...Show More
Science's Revelations

28:00 | Oct 29th, 1998

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss whether the mass of scientific understanding and knowledge we have accumulated has destroyed our sense of poetic wonder at the world. Has our sense of awe at how the world works obscured our desire to know why it works...Show More