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Podcast CrowdScience
Podcast CrowdScience



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  • Are humans naturally clean and tidy?
    From dumping raw sewage into rivers to littering the streets with our trash, humans don’t have a great track record when it comes to dealing with our waste. It’s something that CrowdScience listener and civil engineer Marc has noticed: he wonders if humans are particularly prone to messing up our surroundings, while other species are instinctively more hygienic and well-organised. Are we, by nature, really less clean and tidy than other animals? Farming and technology have allowed us to live more densely and generate more rubbish - maybe our cleaning instincts just aren’t up to the vast quantities of waste we spew out? CrowdScience digs into the past to see if early human rubbish heaps can turn up any answers. We follow a sewer down to the River Thames to hear about The Great Stink of Victorian London; turn to ants for housekeeping inspiration; and find out how to raise hygiene standards by tapping into our feelings of disgust and our desire to follow rules. Presented by Marnie Chesterton and produced by Cathy Edwards for the BBC World Service. [Image: Man on beach with rubbish. Credit: Getty Images]
  • Why is this song stuck in my head?
    You have probably experienced an ‘earworm’ - a catchy bit of music that plays round and round in your head and won’t go away – at least for a short while. But why did it pop up in the first place and how did it get stuck? CrowdScience listener Ryota in Japan wants us to dig into earworms, so presenter Datshiane Navanayagam bravely puts on her headphones to immerse herself in the world of sounds that stick. She meets with a composer of children’s songs as well as music psychologists to find out if there is a special formula to creating catchy songs and probes if this musical brain quirk serves any useful purpose. Datshiane then explores whether some people are more prone to catching earworms than others. Finally, for those who find this phenomenon disturbing - she asks is there a good way of getting rid of them? Come join us down the audio wormhole - disclaimer - the BBC is not responsible for any annoying earworms caused by this broadcast. Presented by Datshiane Navanayagam and produced by Melanie Brown Interviewees: Kelly Jakubowski – Assistant Professor in Music Psychology, Durham University Bill Sherman – Musical Director of Sesame Street Ashley Burgoyne – Computational Musicologist, University of Amsterdam [Image: Audio Cassette. Credit: Getty Images
  • Are viruses the key to fighting infections?
    We are running out of ammunition against certain infections, as bacteria increasingly evade the antibiotics we’ve relied on for nearly a century. Could bacteriophages – viruses that hunt and kill bacteria – be part of the solution? In 2019, CrowdScience travelled to Georgia where bacteriophages, also known as phages, have been used for nearly a hundred years to treat illnesses ranging from a sore throat to cholera. Here we met the scientists who have kept rare phages safe for decades, and are constantly on the look-out for new ones. Phages are fussy eaters: a specific phage will happily chew on one bacteria but ignore another, so hunting down the right one for each infection is vital. Since then, we’ve lived through a pandemic, the medical landscape has been transformed, and interest in bacteriophages as a treatment option is growing throughout the world. We turn to microbiologist Professor Martha Clokie for updates, including the answer to listener Garry’s question: could phages help in the fight against Covid-19? Contributors: Prof Martha Clokie, University of Leicester Dr Naomi Hoyle, Eliava Phage Therapy Center Prof Nina Chanishvili, Eliava Institute Dr Eka Jaiani, Eliava Institute Presented by Marnie Chesterton Produced by Cathy Edwards and Louisa Field for the BBC World Service [Photo:Bacteriophages infecting bacteria, illustration. Credit: Getty Images]
  • Are artistic brains different?
    Artists can conjure up people, cities, landscapes and entire worlds using just a pencil or a paintbrush. But some of us struggle to draw simple stick figures or a circle that’s round. CrowdScience listener Myck is a fine artist from Malawi, and he’s been wondering if there’s something special about his brain. Myck takes Marnie Chesterton on a tour of his studio, where he paints onto huge canvases sewn from offcuts of local fabric. He’s a self-taught artist and he’s convinced he sees things differently to other people. So where does that all come from? Do artists have different brains from non-artists? And what is it that makes someone a creative person, while others are not? With the help of a jigsaw puzzle, a large metal donut, a swimming cap covered in electrodes and and a really boring brick, Marnie probes the brains of people working to find answers to those questions. She’ll be learning about how we don’t really see what we think we see, why creative people’s brains are like private aeroplanes, and how daydreaming can be a full time job. Contributors: Rebecca Chamberlain, Goldsmiths University of London Robert Pepperell, Cardiff School of Art Ariana Anderson, UCLA Darya Zabelina, University of Arkansas Presented by Marnie Chesterton Produced by Ben Motley for the BBC World Service
  • What is healthy hair?
    Hair is an important part of our identities – straight, frizzy, long, not there at all – and our efforts to keep it styled and clean have created an $80 billion hair care industry. Many products offer to improve the life of the stuff on our heads, but isn't it all just dead protein? CrowdScience listener Toria wants to know what 'healthy' hair really means. To untangle the science behind hair, we zoom in to see how hair grows from the follicles in our scalp and explore how the hair growth process will change over our lifetimes. Changes in our hair and disorders affecting the scalp can often have emotional impacts on our lives, as presenter Marnie Chesterton learns from a dermatologist who specialises in hair issues. Having been on a journey with her own hair in recent years following chemotherapy, Marnie is ready for a new 'do and ventures to the hair salon to find out about the health of her own hair. Meanwhile, another CrowdScience listener, Lucy, wonders why humans lost hair (or fur) on most of our bodies when most other mammals are covered in the stuff. A biological anthropologist who studies not only why hair became concentrated on our heads, but also why there's so much diversity in hair types across humans, unpacks the evolutionary benefits. With all these different hair types, does different hair need different care? And when it comes to shampoo, conditioner, washing, blowdrying and dyeing, what should we be doing to keep our hair structure sound? As we learn about this strange nonliving feature of our bodies, Marnie finds a new appreciation for the "dead strands of protein sticking out of our skin". And with listener Toria's help and advice, she also finds a new shade for her chemo-curled locks. Presented by Marnie Chesterton and produced by Sam Baker for BBC World Service. Featuring: ● Tina Lasisi, Penn State Department of Anthropology ● Sharon Wong, Consultant Dermatologist ● Ekwy Chukwuji-Nnene, Equi Botanics

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