Science & Nature

Journey through the natural world and the experiments & observations that illuminate it

Why do certain songs stick?

Dr Victoria Williamson

Yes, earworms are annoying, but have you ever stopped to think what they reveal about our brains? They are the price we pay for an astounding relationship our minds and bodies share with music that lasts our entire lives.

Thu, 15 Dec 2022 6:00 pm UTC

What does music do to the brain?

Dr Diana Omigie

Cognitive neuroscience is pushing boundaries and is now able to pinpoint specific signatures of the brain, differentiating between nuanced emotions like how we experience awe and beauty - vastly complex feelings that, until now, have been out of reach.

Thu, 8 Dec 2022 6:00 pm UTC

Is Earth's magnetic field the reason we exist?

Dr Maggie Lieu

We have all used one of those little compasses to find out which direction is North. But what makes those needles move is something much bigger and essential for making life on earth possible. What is it and why do we need it?

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Do calories really count?

Prof. Giles Yeo

The basic truth of dieting holds true, to lose weight, you have to burn more energy than you eat. What role do our genes play in influencing what we like to eat? And what affect do genes have on body weight?

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What secrets do volcanoes hide?

Dr. Samuel J. Mitchell

When thinking about volcanoes, you are probably imagining an enormous mountain with some fumes on top of it. But 80 percent of the volcanic eruptions on Earth take place in the ocean. Why are underwater volcanoes so active?

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Could psychedelics unlock our creativity?

Dr. David Luke

Psychedelics might have unique qualities that can foster our inner creativity. But exactly what hidden mechanisms can these drugs unlock in our brains? and could we replicate these effects without taking these drugs?

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Can we change our genes?

Prof. Giles Yeo

If you inherit your genes from your parents do they determine your entire life? Genes are the building blocks of life and as technology in gene editing  intensifies can or should we change our genes?

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Is our future really written in our genes?

Prof. Giles Yeo

We all know that genes provide the blueprint for life. They're the code written into our DNA, but can they also predict our future? What can we learn from our genes? 

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Are we missing a planet in our solar system?

Dr Malena Rice

Our solar system has anomalies. Astronomers suggested the existence of a hidden giant planet as a plausible explanation. The problem is that we have never been able to see this planet. Is our math wrong or are we really missing something?

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Is maths an art?

Dr Eugenia Cheng

What jumps to your mind when thinking about creativity? Chances are it wouldn't be maths. Philosophers, scientists and mathematicians used creativity to solve seemingly impossible problems. Could maths actually be as creative as the arts?

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Does dark matter really matter?

Dr. Harry Cliff

We are all surrounded by an unseen, invisible world; a world made of mysterious substances that we can’t see or touch: the Dark Universe. But if we can’t see it, touch it, or detect it, why do we think it is there?

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What were the Universe's dark ages?

Dr Emma Chapman

400 million years after the Big Bang, the Universe was very different from what it appears today. At that time (around 13 billion years ago) the universe was dark and empty. But how can we know that? Is there a way to travel back in time?

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Is there life on Venus?

Prof. Sara Seager

Professor Sara Seager is a pioneer in vast world of exoplanets & the search for other life in the universe. In this Garden Talk, Sara will consider space science's biggest question: Are we alone in the universe?

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Are we approaching an insect apocalypse?

Professor Dave Goulson

Insects are the most numerous species on Earth & play a critical role in the health of our ecosystem. But insect populations are on the decline. Are we approaching an insect apocalypse & can we reverse this trend?

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Why does the world need sharks?

Dr. David Shiffman

Sharks are often one of the more misunderstood creatures of the sea, for years demonised by movies. This talk explores why sharks are in fact an essential part of the ocean's ecosystem and how our own future is dependent on saving them.

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Could nuclear energy power the world?

Dr Robert Hayes

Today, nuclear energy provides close to 10% of the world's electricity and has the potential to shift reliance on fossil fuels. But is nuclear really clean energy? Are the potential risks worth the benefit to the world?

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Food Futures: Could new plants solve a food crisis?

Dr Jordan Dowell

Agriculture has been at the centre of civilisation for thousands of years. However, when we shop for our food, have you wondered about what developments have led to the food getting on our plates.

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What can animals teach us about identity?

B. Natterson-Horowitz, MD

Some of mankind's most enduring questions are about who we are as individuals, how we can live successfully alongside others, & the tension between the two. What can we learn about identity from our furry, feathered and scaly friends?

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What can animals teach us about sex?

B. Natterson-Horowitz, MD

The world of dating, sex and childbirth is a hazardous one, full of complex behaviours and even threats to our health. Well, mating in the animal kingdom is just as complex. What can we learn by looking at our animal cousins?

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What can animals teach us about eating disorders?

B. Natterson-Horowitz, MD

How we eat and the impact it has on our bodies, from weight loss and weight gain to eating disorders, is complex and a key facet of human health. But most of these behaviours and conditions aren't unique to our species. What can the animal world teach us?

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Do plants have something to say?

Dr Jordan Dowell

We often think of plants as organisms left on their own to survive. Seemingly still and unable to make any noise they managed to fight with the rollercoaster of evolution. But plants talk to each other. So, what do they talk about?

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Can we build a climate-resilient world?

Jonathon Porritt

Climate change is resulting in ever-more intense weather events of all kinds, from heat waves and forest fires to hurricanes and floods. If extreme weather becomes the new normal, can we survive it? And if so, how?

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How did fungi help create life as we know it?

Prof Katie Field

Plants wouldn’t have made it out of the water 450 million years ago if not for their collaboration with fungi. They are an ancient and extraordinary kingdom that exists everywhere. But if fungi are so essential, why are they so easy to miss?

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Why are flowers a biological mystery?

Prof. Richard Buggs

We could not exist without flowering plants, but to this date researchers cannot explain where they came from. Why did Darwin describe the origin of flowering plants as an “abominable mystery”?

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Could we create love in a lab?

Dr. Larry Young

When it comes to love, all the mystery, all the poetry and all the complex behaviours that lead to the most life-changing decisions we’ll ever make are driven by just a few molecules in our brains. What's the science of attraction, and can we fake it?

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Why are animals better at navigating adolescence than human teenagers?

B. Natterson-Horowitz, MD

Humans aren't unique in having an adolescent stage, but we are pretty unique in how we react to it. Why do other species find it easier to surf the trials and turmoils of this challenging life phase than we do?

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Why do some cultures have no word for blue?

Dr. James Fox

Until relatively recently in human history, there wasn't a word meaning "blue". Of the ancient cultures, only the Egyptians had a word for this colour. What was everyone else seeing?

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What is colour?

Dr. James Fox

Colour is an experience: the colours we see and what they mean to us will differ for every human on the planet. What can art history, science, anthropology, literature and politics teach us about colour?

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What does bioluminescence tell us about life in the ocean?

Dr. Edie Widder

More than 75% of sea creatures produce their own light. How do they do it, and what can we learn from this incredible marine firework display?

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What is life like beneath the polar ice?

Prof. Antje Boetius

We know so little about the deep sea, and even less about what it's like beneath the ice of the Earth's polar regions. How does life flourish in one of the most inhospitable environments on the planet?

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How does the ocean contribute to new drug development?

Dr. Jeanette Davis

There's so much left to learn about the sea and its organisms. Could the ocean be the source of the next drug to change medicine?

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What alien habitats exist on the bottom of the ocean?

Prof. Erik Cordes

The tech required to explore the deepest parts of the ocean is coming on in leaps and bounds. What bizarre habitats and organisms have we found, and what still remains to be discovered?

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Where does the oxygen we breathe come from?

Dr. Veronique Oldham

The oceans absorb nearly 1/3 of our carbon emissions; they are literally the world's lungs. How does the sea 'breathe', and why does it do it?

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How can investigators identify a criminal when they don't leave DNA?

Dr. Candice Bridge

DNA is the go-to forensic evidence in many criminal cases. What other trace evidence can be used to identify the perpetrator when they don't leave DNA behind?

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Which mathematical challenges will shape the 21st Century?

Prof. Yang-Hui He

The most transformative scientific breakthroughs depend on maths. Which problems are mathematicians working on that will drive scientific change in the coming decades?

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Why isn't DNA analysis a silver bullet for solving crimes?

Dr Georgina Meakin

As the science improves, we can detect smaller and smaller traces of DNA. Does that mean we could pin someone to a crime scene who was never there at all?

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Rethinking Forensic Science: We know what it is, but what does it mean?

Prof. Ruth Morgan

We think of forensics as a science - dispassionate and objective. But can we say the same about the humans who interpret it and decide what it means?

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