Cute isn't exactly a scientific term but we all know what we mean by it, don't we? Endearing, adorable, lovable and sweet. So what makes us fawn over a puppy, but run away from rats? Why do we spend millions on trying to keep Giant Pandas alive but spend even more on pushing endangered species like blue-fin Tuna to the brink of extinction by eating them? And if we changed what we classified as cute or ugly, how might that change the battle to protect the Earth's fragile biodiversity?
CrowdScience listener Oliksey, from the Ukraine, wanted to know if cuteness is universal and what drives it? Seeking the answers, Marnie Chesterton cuddles puppies and enters a cramped spider nursery, seeking the science of cute, and exploring the evolutionary reasons for fear and disgust.
Presenter: Marnie Chesterton.
(Image: A cute and scary spider sitting on a green leaf. Credit: Getty Images)
When will an African visit Mars?
Crowdscience heads to Africa's biggest science festival for a panel debate in front of a live audience that takes us into space then back down to earth to solve listeners' questions. Marnie Chesterton and Anand Jagatia are joined by aspiring extra-terrestrial, Dr Adriana Marais, who hopes to travel to Mars, along with cosmologist Palesa Nombula and sustainable energy expert Dr Sampson Mamphweli. They all explain how solving challenges on the ground will eventually help us set up home in space.
Producers: Marijke Peters and Mel Brown
Presenters: Marnie Chesterton and Anand Jagatia
(Photo: Astronaut walking on Mars. Credit Getty Images)
Why am I shy?
A racing heart, blushing, feeling sick - most people experience symptoms of shyness in certain situations. But some of us are much shyer than others, and if it gets on top of you, shyness can really limit what you get out of life.
That’s why this week’s listener got in touch with CrowdScience. He wants to know why he’s shy: is it genetic, or more to do with his upbringing? Is there anything he can do to overcome his shyness – and on the other hand, could being shy actually have some benefits?
We find out how much shyness is down to our genes, and why ‘shy types’ might have evolved the first place. A psychologist gives us her top tips for dealing with social anxiety, and we take part in some drama therapy designed to help people break out of their shell. And we ask if quieter, more introverted types are disadvantaged in modern society, where outgoing, extraverted behaviour can bring more tangible rewards.
(Photo: Shy young man hiding behind one eye. Credit: Getty Images)
What do clouds feel like?
This week we turn our gaze skywards to tackle three questions about what’s going on above us. Three year old Zac from the UK wants to know what clouds feel like – if they’re supposedly like steam, then how are they cold?
Presenter Graihagh Jackson meets a meteorologist who can not only tell us but show us the answer, as we attempt to make a tiny cloud at ground level in the studio. Listener Agnese is looking beyond the cloud base and up to our nearest neighbour. She’d like to know why it is that we can see the Moon during the day. And Graihagh heads out to one of the longest-running and largest steerable telescopes in the world: The 76-metre Lovell Telescope at Jodrell Bank Observatory in the UK. Here, she finds out the answer to Sandeep from India’s extra-terrestrial question: Could aliens find us?
(Image: Clouds in a blue sky. Credit: Getty Images)
Does brain size matter?
The size of brains in the animal kingdom is wildly different, from melon-sized in blue whales to pea-sized in shrews. But does a bigger brain mean a more powerful one?
CrowdScience listener Bob wondered just this as he watched various sized dogs running amok in his local park: the Great Dane has a much larger brain than a Chihuahua’s, yet the job of ‘being a dog’ surely requires the same brain power. So why have a big brain if a small one would do?
A search for the answer takes Geoff Marsh to dog agility trials, behind the scenes at London’s Natural History Museum and a laboratory that studies bumble bees. It turns out that size does matter, but not in the way you might think.
Presenter: Geoff Marsh
Producer: Dom Byrne
(Photo: Great Dane HARLEQUIN and a chihuahua Getty Images)