Naomi Alderman presents an alternate history of electricity. This is not a story of power stations, motors and wires. It is a story of how the electric eel and its cousin the torpedo fish, led to the invention of the first battery; and how, in time, the shocking properties of these slippery creatures gave birth to modern neuroscience.Our fascination with electric fish and their ability to deliver an almighty shock - enough to kill a horse – goes back to ancient times. And when Alessandro Volta invented the first battery in 1800, the electric eel was a vital source of inspiration. In inventing the battery, Volta claimed to have disproved the idea of ‘animal electricity’ but 200 years later, scientists studying our brains revealed that it is thanks to the electricity in our nerve cells that we are able to move, think and feel. So, it seems, an idea that was pushed out of science and into fiction, when Mary Shelley invented Frankenstein, is now alive and well and delivering insight once again into what it means to be alive.
Tagged with “biology” (26)
E O Wilson has been described as the "world’s most evolved biologist" and even as "the heir to Darwin". He’s a passionate naturalist and an absolute world authority on ants. Over his long career he’s described 450 new species of ants.
Known to many as the founding father of socio-biology, E O Wilson is a big hitter in the world of evolutionary theory. But, recently he’s criticised what’s popularly known as The Selfish Gene theory of evolution that he once worked so hard to promote (and that now underpins the mainstream view on evolution).
A twice Pulitzer prize winning author of more than 20 books, he’s also an extremely active campaigner for the preservation of the planet’s bio-diversity: he says, "destroying rainforest for economic gain is like burning a Renaissance painting to cook a meal".
E O Wilson talks to Jim al-Khalili about his life scientific.
In his new book, Letters to a Young Scientist, biologist and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Edward O. Wilson aims to inspire a new generation of scientists. Among his observations and advice: Geniuses don’t make the best scientists, and don’t worry if you aren’t good at math.
Scientist, broadcaster and writer Adam Rutherford discusses his new book Creation which explores the chemical origins of life on Earth, and reveals why he believes our future is in the hands of genetic engineers.
Alok Jha is joined by Adam Rutherford to discuss how life began some 4bn years ago – and the manipulation of its blueprint, DNA, through genetic engineering. Adam’s latest book, Creation: The Origin of Life/The Future of Life, is two books in one. The first details the latest research into how the first cellular life form emerged, and the second looks at the rapidly developing science of synthetic biology.
Frances Ashcroft’s new book details how electricity in the body fuels everything we think, feel or do. She tells Fresh Air about discovering a new protein, how scientists are like novelists and how she wanted to be a farmer’s wife.
Bees are remarkable among insects. They can count, remember human faces, and communicate through dance routines performed entirely in the dark. But are they intelligent? Even creative? Bee aficionado Stephen Humphrey, along with a hive of leading bee researchers and scientists, investigates the mental lives of bees.
We all know the eensey-weensey spider went down the water spout. But for a lot of us, that’s about all we know about spiders. They’re around. They spin webs. They have a lot of legs and make some people shriek.
A big new exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History goes way on in to the spider story, with the fishing spider and the golden orb-web spider and the goliath bird eater spider – a spider as big as your hand. It’s got the story of spider venom and spider silk – stronger than steel! – and why we need spiders.
The author of more than 25 books, including two Pulitzer Prize-winning works of nonfiction, E.O. Wilson has won a raft of scientific and conservation prizes, including the prestigious National Medal of Science. Wilson’s writing explores the world of ants and other tiny creatures, illuminating how all creatures great and small are interdependent. A Harvard professor since 1953, his ideas have had an immeasurable influence on our understanding of life, nature, and society. He remains an outspoken advocate for conservation and biodiversity, fighting to preserve the wondrous variety of the natural world. In The Social Conquest of Earth, Wilson lays out a reexamination of human evolution—addressing fundamental questions of philosophy, religion, and science—in explaining how socially advanced species have come to dominate the earth.
In conversation with Steven L. Snyder, Ph.D.
These days anyone can contribute to a great scientific endeavour, whether it’s astronomy, molecular biology or sleep research. Clare Freeman investigates the growing importance of citizen scientists and crowdsourced research.
In this week’s show we delve into the world of crowdsourced science to find out why scientists are increasingly relying on members of the public to make observations, gather information and analyse vast clumps of data. The list of crowdsourced projects is seemingly endless, from folding proteins in computer games, to discovering new planets and searching for extraterrestrial intelligence.
Prof Chris Lintott started his first crowdsourcing project in 2007, Galaxy Zoo. He explains to Clare Freeman how this and all the other Zooniverse projects have developed over the years. It’s not just the technology that has advanced but also the community, with citizen scientists willing to spend more time than ever scouring data.
In the two months since our Science Weekly call-out, almost 6,000 Britons have contributed to Prof Russell Foster’s crowdsourced survey of sleep "chronotypes" – whether you’re an owl or a lark. He reveals the initial results comparing the sleep patterns of Germans and Britons.
Knowing your chronotype can help you maximise your intellectual performance, but could your school or employer be persuaded to let you start work later or earlier depending on your chronotype?
Maybe you thought your body was a noble castle poised against the onslaughts and invasions of the world. Well, think again. It turns out, we are the world. Our bodies are loaded with a jungle of microbial life, inside and out, that is essential to healthy life.
New science has found ten times as many bacteria cells as human cells in and on the human body. A load of microbes that work with us from the moment of birth in all kinds of key ways. Killing them off, avoiding them, may make us sick. Make us fat.
This hour, On Point: Microbes are us. The amazing full ecology of the human body.
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