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The Forum

Podcast The Forum
Podcast The Forum

The Forum


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  • The Sun: Myths and magnetism
    The sun might not shape the pattern of our daily lives to the extent it did in the past. But understanding its behaviour is a focus of scientific research to grasp how activity on the surface of the sun - such as geomagnetic storms - can affect life on earth. "Space weather" can take out whole power networks, damage satellites and disrupt communication lines – the technology on which so many people rely. Bridget Kendall and guests examine the sun's impact throughout history, and discuss what we know about its internal structure and magnetic fields. Claire Raftery is a solar physicist and the Head of Education and Outreach at the National Solar Observatory in Boulder, Colorado; Philip Judge is a senior scientist at the High Altitude Observatory also in Boulder, Colorado. He’s written many papers on aspects of solar physics, as well as a book entitled The Sun: A Very Short Introduction; and philosopher Emma Carenini is the author of The Sun: Myths, History and Societies which considers how the sun has shaped philosophy and thought. Producer: Fiona Clampin (Photo: Post-Flare Loops Erupt From Suns Surface. Credit: Nasa/Getty Images)
  • A forgotten founder of climate science: Eunice Newton Foote
    Eunice Newton Foote was the first person to suggest that an atmosphere rich in carbon dioxide would lead to a warmer planet, but her discovery was largely ignored and her name disappeared for more than 150 years. She fell into such obscurity that there’s no known picture of her. Bridget Kendall explores the life of this American scientist and inventor and asks why her ground-breaking research, carried out in the 1850s, was overlooked for so long. Discrimination against women, especially in the sciences, was a major reason, but might a transatlantic power struggle and even a case of intellectual theft have played their parts? Eunice was also one of the founding members of the women’s rights movement in the United States – we discuss how she helped launch a campaign that would eventually win women the right to vote. Plus, the story of how her work was recently re-discovered, and the quest to ensure her name gains greater recognition. For more on Eunice and other key figures in the history of climate change visit Producer: Simon Tulett Contributors: John Perlin, a research scholar in the department of physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara, USA, who is working on what’s thought to be the first biography of Eunice Newton Foote; Sally Gregory Kohlstedt, a recently retired professor of history from the University of Minnesota, USA, and expert on women and gender in the history of science; Roland Jackson, a historian of nineteenth century science, honorary research Fellow in the Department of Science and Technology Studies at University College London, and author of ‘The Ascent of John Tyndall’; Ray Sorenson, retired petroleum geologist, Oklahoma, USA; Judith Wellman, professor emerita at the State University of New York at Oswego, USA. (Picture: Smoke billowing from chimneys at the coal-fired Bełchatów Power Station, Poland, in 2009. Credit: Peter Andrews/Reuters).
  • Dreams: Prophecy, propaganda and psychoanalysis
    The images, sensations and emotions we experience during sleep were once seen as the gateway to the gods and had the power to alter lives and even whole societies. Rajan Datar explores the way dreams, and their interpretation, have shaped beliefs and actions for thousands of years – from their role as a connection to the dead and the spirit world, to their ability to predict the future. We hear how these seemingly involuntary visions inspired key historical figures, changed the course of major events, and were used by many rulers as a propaganda tool. Plus, we discuss what’s really happening in our brains when we have dreams and ask whether 21st-century life is placing them under threat. Contributors: Sidarta Ribeiro, professor of neuroscience and founder of the Brain Institute at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte, in Brazil, and also the author of ‘The Oracle of Night: The History and Science of Dreams’; Scott Noegel, professor of biblical and ancient near eastern languages and literatures at the University of Washington, in the United States; Özgen Felek, lector of Ottoman and modern Turkish in the department of near eastern languages and civilizations at Yale University, in the US. (Picture: Dreamlike scene of a woman standing at fork in a stone pathway in a calm lake with clouds reflecting in the water. Credit: Thomas Barwick/Getty Images)
  • Yves Saint Laurent: Fashion revolutionary
    Since his death in 2008, the impact of designer Yves Saint Laurent on women’s fashion remains undimmed. The pea coat, the trench, the trouser suit – many of his designs are now staples of the modern Western woman’s wardrobe. So how did this famously shy and retiring man achieve global success? And did his fashion innovations for women shape social change in the 1960s, or were they a response to his times? Bridget Kendall looks back at Saint Laurent’s life and legacy with former director of the Yves Saint Laurent Museum, Olivier Flaviano, fashion historian Emilie Hammen and one of Saint Laurent’s last assistants, designer Charles Sébline. First broadcast in 2018. (Photo: Yves Saint Laurent, French designer, with two fashion models, Betty Catroux [left] and Loulou de la Falaise, outside his 'Rive Gauche' shop. Credit: John Minihan, Getty Images)
  • Brazil's Palmares: A beacon of freedom
    As Brazil celebrates 200 years of independence from Portugal, we look at the 17th-century community of people seeking freedom from slavery in the north-east of the country known as Palmares. It lasted longer and was larger than other settlements of this type and it withstood repeated attempts by European colonialists to destroy it. So how did Palmares keep going for over a century when so many other communities like it in Latin America vanished after a few years? Who were the inhabitants? And what do we really know about them when there is no reliable history of the settlements: almost all the surviving documents are from people intent on destroying Palmares. To help us sift through what we do know about Palmares, Bridget Kendall is joined by archaeologist Professor Pedro Paulo Funari from the University of Campinas in Brazil; Dr. José Lingna Nafafé, Senior Lecturer in Portuguese and Lusophone Studies at Bristol University; and Dr. Maria Fernanda Escallon, Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Oregon. The reader is Natan Barreto. (Photo: The monument to Zumbi, leader of Palmares, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Credit: Yasuyoshi Chiba/Getty Images)

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