The Life Scientific

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01Paul Nurse20111011

Jim meets Paul Nurse, Nobel prize-winning geneticist and President of the Royal Society.

Their work is changing the world we live in, but what do we really know about their lives beyond the lab?

Each week on The Life Scientific, Jim Al-Khalili, Professor of Physics at Surrey University, invites a leading scientist to tell us about their life and work.

He wants to get under their skin and into their minds; to find out what first inspired them towards their field of research and what motivates them to keep going when the evidence seems to be stacking up against their theories.

And he'll ask what their ideas and discoveries will do for us.

He'll talk to Nobel laureates as well as the next generation of beautiful minds, finding out what inspired them to do science in the first place and what motivates them to keep going.

The programme will also feature short drop-ins from fellow scientists.

Some will comment on our guest's early career, the implications of their discoveries, or offer alternative perspectives.

In this first programme, Jim talks to geneticist Paul Nurse, arguably the most powerful scientist in Britain today.

Nurse's interest in science was sparked by the early days of the space race, when one night as a boy, he chased Sputnik down the road in his pyjamas, in a vain attempt to catch up with the Russian satellite as it passed overhead.

Nurse, a Nobel Laureate and President of the Royal Society is now firmly part of the science establishment but his upbringing and early academic life was far from conventional.

Brought up by working class parents, in North London, Nurse struggled at first to even get accepted by any University.

According to one of his tutors (who we'll hear from in the programme) Nurse didn't exactly shine as an undergraduate, either.

But these experiences taught him to be self reliant, determined and not afraid of failure.

It was a attitude that paid off.

In 2001, Nurse shared the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for his research on how cells divide, a process which is not only fundamental to all living things but has major implications for understanding and treating diseases like cancer.

His rise was, some say, meteoric.

But it's not how he sees it, especially in the early days: " I did have a lot of trouble getting a proper job".

Now President of one of the oldest and most respected scientific institutions in the world, Nurse's career has been far from predictable, and at times, controversial.

Yet the same could be said for his personal life, when in his 50s, he was hit with a major revelation that would change forever how he viewed his past.

Confirmed guests on future programmes include the cognitive scientist Stephen Pinker; Astronomer Jocelyn Bell-Burnell; the brains behind the Human Genome Project, John Sulston; Epidemiologist Michael Marmot, neuroscientist Colin Blakemore and Molly Stevens, a tissue engineer who's work growing bones could mean the end of metal pins for broken legs;

Producers: Anna Buckley and Geraldine Fitzgerald.

02Steven Pinker20111018

Inside the mind of science writer and cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker.

Cognitive psychologist, Steven Pinker, has been dubbed "science's agent provocateur".

Pinker studies how the mind works.

Presenter Jim al-Khalili wants to find out how his mind works.

Pinker replies: "as a psychologist you look at your own life as data and say geez that's what I'm like".

From verbs to violence, he's author of several books that many say are mind-changing.

He's now something of a science superstar, but his early experiments with electrodes on rats didn't quite go according to plan: "I realised then that that kind of science required a level of meticulousness that I just didn't have".

So instead of studying neuroscience, he became a cognitive psychologist.

Now perhaps better known for his writing than his science, he shot to fame with his book The Language Instinct, based on his early studies of how children tackle irregular verbs, for example saying "holded" not held, and "digged" instead of dug.

These cute sounding mistakes are proof that three year olds are grammatical geniuses, he says.

And he met his wife Rebecca Goldstein over an irregular verb.

Later, Pinker set the cat among the social science pigeons by stressing the importance of nature rather than nurture: an assertion that led to some bitter arguments with, among others, the psychologist Oliver James.

He readily admits that genes aren't everything: he's decided not to have children and says "if my genes don't like it, they can go jump in the lake".

But he says, "there's a phobia of genetics that it's time to get over".

Our failure to even think about genetic influences has given us a false impression of the amount of influence parents have over their children: it's skewed the science.

Parents like to think that they mould and shape their children in certain ways but Pinker argues, as long as children are not abused, parenting makes little difference to how they turn out at 18.

His most recent book 'The Better Angels of Our Nature' is about the decline in global violence from 8500 BC.

Despite two World Wars, Vietnam, Kosovo, Iraq, Darfur and many others, Pinker asserts that we are living in the most peaceful times ever and wants to know why our better angels triumph over our inner demons.

Is he now showing the better angel of his Nature?

Each week on The Life Scientific, Jim al-Khalili invites a leading scientist to tell us about their life and work: he wants to get under their skin and into their minds.

And he'll ask what their discoveries might do for us.

He talks to Nobel laureates as well as the next generation of beautiful minds and finds out what inspired them to do science in the first place and what motivates them to keep going.

Fellow scientists will comment on their work, putting it in context and offering alternative perspectives.

Future guests include: astronomer Jocelyn Bell-Burnell; the brains behind the Human Genome Project, John Sulston; Molly Stevens, a tissue engineer who's work growing bones could mean the end of metal pins for broken legs; Hugh Montgomery, who discovered the fitness gene.

Themes and ideas from the interviews will be explored on The Life Scientific website, which will aggregate some of the best Radio 4 Science archive around the topics discussed in the programmes.

03Dame Jocelyn Bell-burnell20111025

Jim Al-Khalili talks to astronomer Dame Jocelyn Bell-Burnell.

Jim Al-Khalili talks to astronomer Jocelyn Bell- Burnell.

Jocelyn Bell-Burnell forged her own path through the male-dominated world of science - in the days when it was unusual enough for women to work, let alone make a discovery in astrophysics that was worthy of a Nobel Prize.

In 1974, her supervisor and head of department won the Nobel prize for Physics for a discovery which was essentially hers.

Some people call it the No-Bell, Nobel prize because they feel so strongly that Jocelyn Bell-Burnell should have shared in the award.

As a 24-year old PhD student, Jocelyn spotted a tiny smudge on a graph buried within 100 feet of printed data from a radio telescope.

Her supervisor, Tony Hewish, dismissed this "bit of scruff" as insignificant; but she was determined to get to the bottom of it.

Her curiosity about such a tiny detail led to one of the most important discoveries in 20th century astronomy - the discovery of pulsars - those dense cores of collapsed stars.

It's a discovery which changed the way we see the universe, making the existence of black holes suddenly seem much more likely and providing further proof to Einstein's theory of gravity.

Jocelyn Bell -Burnell was made a dame in 2008 and a year later became the first ever female President of the Institute of Physics.

Producer: Anna Buckley.

04Sir Michael Marmot20111101

Jim Al-Khalili talks to Professor Sir Michael Marmot about his work on how stress kills.

When Professor Sir Michael Marmot was a junior doctor he decided that medicine was failed prevention.

To really understand disease you have to look at the society people live in.

His major scientific discovery came from following the health of British civil servants over many years.

The Whitehall studies, as they're known, challenged the myth about executive stress and instead revealed that, far from being 'tough at the top', it was in fact much tougher for those lower down the pecking order.

This wasn't just a matter of rich or poor, or even social class.

What Marmot showed was the lower your status at work, the shorter your lifespan.

Mortality rates were three times higher for those at the bottom than for those at the top.

The unpleasant truth is that your boss will live longer than you.

What's more, this social gradient of health, or what he calls Status Syndrome, isn't confined to civil servants or to the UK but is a global phenomenon.

In conversation with Jim Al-Khalili Michael Marmot reveals what inspires and motivates his work.

Producer: Geraldine Fitzgerald.

05Colin Blakemore20111108

Neuroscientist Sir Colin Blakemore talks to Jim Al-Khalili about his life and work.

Colin Blakemore is a neuroscientist who nearly became an artist.

He specialised in vision and the development of the brain, and pioneered the idea that the brain has the ability to change even in adulthood contrary to the popular view at the time.

Professor Blakemore, the youngest ever Reith Lecturer, is an influential science communicator and is committed to raising the profile of brain research.

Because of his work he was targeted by animal rights campaigners for over a decade, but rather than keeping a low profile as advised, he decided to work with the activists and explain his point of view about the need for animal testing in medical research.

He was appointed head of the Medical Research Council in 2003 but threatened to resign shortly after when he was refused a knighthood, because of his defence of animal research.

He has been equally outspoken on many issues including classification of drugs and GM foods.

His current areas of research include how the brain develops which has implications for many diseases including autism and schizophrenia.

He talks to Jim Al-Khalili about why he's not been afraid to stand up to his critics.

Producer: Geraldine Fitzgerald.

06Molly Stevens20111115

Jim al-Khalili talks to a scientist who grows human bones in a test tube, Molly Stevens.

does geeky hard core science but her main aim is to help people.

Twenty years ago, nobody thought it was possible to make human body parts in the laboratory, but today scientists are trying to create almost every bit of the body.

Professor Molly Stevens grows bones.

Towards the end of her PHD, a chance encounter with the founding father of tissue engineering and an image of a little boy with chronic liver failure, convinced her that this was what she wanted to do.

Ten years on, she runs a highly successful lab at Imperial College London and has been photographed by Vogue.

InProducer: Anna Buckley.

07Nicky Clayton20111122

talks to Jim Al-Khalili about her work on the intelligence of birds.

is Professor of Comparative Cognition at Cambridge University.

Her work challenges how we think of intelligence and she says that birds' brains developed independently from humans or apes.

Members of the corvid family, such as crows and jays appear to plan for the future and predict other birds behaviour in her elegant experiments.One experiment she has designed was inspired by Aesop's fable of the hungry crow.

Her work raises questions about the understanding of animal behaviour, including whether, as humans, we can ever interpret the actions of other species accurately.

But she says her research with birds and other animals can help illuminate young children's activities and how their brains develop.

Nicky Clayton is scientist in residence at the Rambert Dance Company and her latest collaboration with Mark Baldwin, the artistic director, is "Seven for a secret, never to be told" which takes concepts from childhood behaviour and reinterprets them choreographically.

Producer: Geraldine Fitzgerald.

Nicky Clayton talks to Jim Al-Khalili about her work on the intelligence of birds.

08John Sulston20111129

Jim al-Khalili talks to biologist John Sulston.

Jim al-Khalili talks to biologist John Sulston about sequencing the genome first of a worm and then of man.

When, as a young man, John Sulston first decided to sequence the DNA of a worm, many of his fellow scientists thought he was wasting his time.

It took twenty years of painstaking research but it paid off handsomely.

Sulston's research on this humble worm led to one of the most significant scientific breakthroughs of the modern age - the sequencing of the human genome.

Jim al -Khalili talks to Sulston about the highs and lows of doing genetic research; fighting to keep scientific findings in the public domain; protecting human health against corporate wealth; and having his DNA portrait done.

Producer: Anna Buckley.

09Uta Frith20111206

Psychologist Professor Uta Frith talks about her ground-breaking work with dyslexia.

Professor Uta Frith was born and grew up in Germany and partly because of this has a life long interest in languages and culture.

When she first came to England, the predominant ideology was that there was no such thing as dyslexia.

Professor Frith wanted to understand what could be happening in the brain to prevent intelligent children from learning to read and to spell.

With neuro-imaging techniques it is possible to find very specific differences in the brains of dyslexics and non dyslexics.

This can be used to develop techniques to overcome learning difficulties.

And she says one of the most exciting developments is how neuroscience can be used in education to help all children learn more effectively.

Producer: Geraldine Fitzgerald.

10Tim Hunt20111213

Prof Jim al-Khalili talks to Nobel Prize-winning molecular biologist Sir Tim Hunt.

is an experimental wizard, a flamboyant thinker and a stickler for scientific procedure.

As a young man at Cambridge in the sixties, he heard Francis Crick (of DNA fame) ask questions "that made him sound rather stupid"; broke into workshops and performed experiments through the night with Bach and Pink Floyd playing at top volume.

True eureka moments are, in fact, quite rare in science but, at the age of 39, Tim Hunt performed an experiment on sea urchin eggs that changed both his life and our understanding of every living thing.

He had very little idea what exactly it all meant but had a strong sense that he was onto something important.

And he was.

Back in the early eighties, it just wasn't obvious that all life worked in the same way.

But what Tim Hunt showed was that the process by which cells divide (and therefore live and grow) is the same in all living things and that this process is controlled by a protein that appears and disappears in the most startling fashion.

It was a most unexpected result that many believed was rather insignificant but Hunt pursued it.

Accused by some of "wild speculation based on faulty logic": that same logic led to him winning the Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine in 2001.

In 1990, he joined Cancer Research.

In theory his discovery should shed light on why cancerous cells multiply out of control but, in reality, he says, progress in cancer research has been disappointingly slow.

In fact, he says all the money that poured into cancer research did more to help us tackle HIV than it did to help cure the big C.

Producer: Anna Buckley.

11Lord Robert Winston20111220

on IVF, the House of Lords and scientists' ethical responsibilty.

He's the man on the telly with the big moustache, famous for A Child of Our Time, The Human Body and Making Babies but Robert Winston is also a well respected scientist.

He played a pioneering role in developing IVF technology, and has brought life to many hundreds of couples who had given up hope of ever having a baby.

Jim Al-Khalili talks to Robert Winston about why he quit the theatre to become a medic, creating human life in a test tube and why he disagrees with Richard Dawkins about The God Delusion.

Producer: Anna Buckley.

Lord Robert Winston on IVF, the House of Lords and scientists' ethical responsibilty.

12Colin Pillinger20111227

Prof Jim Al-Khalili talks to planetary scientist Colin Pillinger about life on Mars.

On this day eight years ago, planetary scientist Colin Pillinger was still hopeful that the Beagle 2 Lander that he had spent years designing, building and publicising (with the help of Blur and Damien Hirst) might yet be found somewhere on the surface of Mars. But, as more time passed, it became clear that The Beagle 2 Lander would be forever lost in space. Jim al -Khalili talks to Colin Pillinger about studying moon rock and meteorites from Mars whilst running a successful dairy farm; broken space dreams and why, even if a space project fails, useful scientific lessons can still be learned.

13Robin Murray20120207

Psychiatrist Robin Murray on why he has changed his mind about the cause of schizophrenia.

Jim al-Khalili talks to psychiatrist, Robin Murray about his life's work trying to understand why some people have schizophrenia and others don't. As a young man, Murray lived in an Asylum in Glasgow for two years, mainly because it offered free accommodation to medical students. Struck by how people's minds could play tricks on them and the lack of proper research into the condition, he resolved to put the study of schizophrenia on a more scientific footing. Fifteen years ago he believed schizophrenia was a brain disease. Now, he's not so sure. Despite decades of research, the biological basis of this often distressing condition remains elusive. Just living in a city significantly increases your risk (the bigger the city the greater the risk); and, as Murray discovered, migrants are six times more likely to develop the condition than long term residents. He's also outspoken about the mental health risks of smoking cannabis, based both on his scientific research and direct experience working at the Maudsley Hospital in South London.

Producer: Anna Buckley.

14Chris Stringer20120214

Jim Al-Khalili meets paleoanthropologist Chris Stringer to find who our ancestors were.

Jim Al-Khalili meets leading paleoanthropologist Chris Stringer to find who our ancestors were.

As a post graduate Chris went on a road trip with a difference, driving round Europe in an old Morris Minor measuring Neanderthal skulls. After being thrown out of several countries, the results of his analysis led to a controversial theory which ran counter to what many people thought at the time. Chris suggested that our most recent relative originated in Africa. He also reveals how genetics has transformed his work and talks about his own unconventional origins.

That there were cannibals in Somerset is one of the more surprising findings of Chris' work on early man in Britain and Jim discovers what it's like to work on an archaeological dig.

Producer: Geraldine Fitzgerald.

15Tony Ryan20120221

What is the future of nanotechnology? Chemist Tony Ryan shows some of its surprising uses.

What do miniature solar cells, making clothes that dissolve in the rain and new treatments for motor neurone disease all have in common? Chemistry - according to Professor Tony Ryan of Sheffield University. He develops innovative materials with nanotechnology. In this week's, The Life Scientific, Tony Ryan talks to Jim Al-Khalili and explores issues around the still controversial science of nanotechnology, including how safe it is and how scientists need to learn to talk to the public.

Much of Tony's work involves unlikely collaborations to discover novel ways of solving problems and of communicating science. He argues that chemistry can solve today's global challenges such as supporting the needs of 7 billion people in terms of food and power.

Clothes that absorb a dangerous greenhouse gas and sheets of plastic solar cells are just a few of his ongoing projects. He says chemistry needs to learn how to recycle every atom, whilst still providing all the things that people want - energy, food, electronics, clothing, and drugs.

Producer: Geraldine Fitzgerald.

16Angela Gallop20120228

Jim Al-Khalili talks to forensic scientist Angela Gallop.

Jim al-Khalili talks to Angela Gallop, the scientist who provided the vital forensic evidence in the recent re-trial for the murder of Stephen Lawrence.

Angela describes the painstaking scientific detective work that led her team to find a tiny blood clot on Gary Dobson's jacket, that was not identified during the original trial in 1995; and how they proved that this evidence was not the result of contamination during the handling and storage of the clothing exhibits.

Never before in the history of criminal justice have so many cases relied so heavily on scientific evidence. Forensic scientists have ever more sophisticated and powerful techniques at their disposal but, as long as these techniques rely on human judgement (and a surprising number still do) there will be limits to their reliability. Much as we would like to believe the opposite, forensic science is fallible.

Further, even when the science is kosher, there's ample scope in a court of law for good science to be made to look bad and bad science, good. Lawyers locked into an adversarial system can all too easily cast doubt on excellent scientific evidence. Equally, Angela warns of the dangers of putting science on a pedestal.

After a brief spell studying sea slugs on the Isle of Wight, she joined the Forensic Science Service, later switched to working for the defence and is now probably the most sought after forensic scientist in the UK, involved in countless high profile cases, including the Cardiff Three, the coastal path murders aw well as both the trial and re-trial of Stephen Lawrence.

17Martin Rees20120306

Jim Al-Khalili enters the multiverse with the Astronomer Royal Martin Rees.

Jim enters the multiverse with Astronomer Royal Martin Rees. He's worked on the big bang, black holes and the formation of galaxies but what he would really like to know is if there is life elsewhere in the universe.

As an ex president of the Royal Society and a member of the House of Lords he is at the heart of science policy and worked with the G8 to put science on the international agenda. An atheist, he has attracted criticism from other scientists for his religious views.

He says we can now be fairly certain of what happened in the universe from a nanosecond after the big bang until today and is a supporter of the idea that there may have been many big bangs leading to many universes.

Producer: Geraldine Fitzgerald.

18John Lawton20120313

Jim Al-Khalili talks to ecologist John Lawton.

Jim Al-Khalili talks to environmental scientist John Lawton about making space for nature. A keen birdwatcher from the age of 7, John describes his studies of birds, dragonflies and bracken and his groundbreaking experiments in the Ecotron, essentially a box full of nature. For the last few decades John has advised successive governments on a host of environmental issues such as GM crops, road traffic pollution and nature conservation. His latest report Making Space for Nature was turned into policy remarkably fast but, he says, it isn't always easy to get governments to listen to environmental advice based on science.

Producer: Anna Buckley.

19Tejinder Virdee20120320

Jim Al-Khalili talks to physicist Tejinder Virdee about the search for the Higgs boson.

As the search continues for the elusive Higgs boson or "God" particle, Jim al-Khalili talks to CERN physicist, Tejinder Virdee. Tejinder explains why this particle is so fundamental to our understanding of the nature of the universe and describes how, in the early days, a handful of committed scientists and politicians pushed Europe to create one of the most complex machines ever made, the Large Hadron Collider.

Producer: Anna Buckley.

20Angela Gallop20120327

Jim al-Khalili talks to Angela Gallop, the scientist who provided the vital forensic evidence in the recent re-trial for the murder of Stephen Lawrence.

Angela describes the painstaking scientific detective work that led her team to find a tiny blood clot on Gary Dobson's jacket, that was not identified during the original trial in 1995; and how they proved that this evidence was not the result of contamination during the handling and storage of the clothing exhibits.

Never before in the history of criminal justice have so many cases relied so heavily on scientific evidence. Forensic scientists have ever more sophisticated and powerful techniques at their disposal but, as long as these techniques rely on human judgement (and a surprising number still do) there will be limits to their reliability. Much as we would like to believe the opposite, forensic science is fallible.

Further, even when the science is accurate, there's ample scope in a court of law for good science to be made to look bad and bad science, good. Lawyers locked into an adversarial system can all too easily cast doubt on excellent scientific evidence. Equally, Angela warns of the dangers of putting science on a pedestal.

After a brief spell studying sea slugs on the Isle of Wight, she joined the Forensic Science Service, later switched to working for the defence and is now probably the most sought after forensic scientist in the UK, involved in countless high profile cases, including the Cardiff Three, the coastal path murders as well as both the trial and retrial of Stephen Lawrence.

Producer: Anna Buckley.

21James Lovelock20120508

on elocution lessons, defrosting hamsters and Gaia.

Jim al-Khalili talks to James Lovelock about elocution lessons, defrosting hamsters and his grand theory of planet earth, Gaia. The idea that from the bottom of the earth's crust to the upper reaches of the atmosphere, planet earth is one giant inter-connected and self-regulating system.

It's a scientific theory that's had an impact way beyond the world of science: Gaia has been embraced by poets, philosophers, spiritual leaders and green activists. Vaclav Haval called it "a moral prescription for the welfare of the planet".

James Lovelock, now 92, talks about the freedom and frustrations of fifty years spent working outside the scientific establishment.

Public interest in Gaia proliferated after the publication of his first book Gaia: a new look at life on earth in 1979; but the scientific community remained highly sceptical. For decades Gaia was ignored, dismissed and even ridiculed as a scientific theory. To this day, evolutionary biologists, in particular, take issue with the notion of a self-regulating planet. John Maynard Smith called it "an evil religion".

Jonathon Porritt says Lovelock taught him "the value of cantankerous, obstinate independence, sticking to what you think is right and making those the cornerstones of your existence". Outspoken in support of nuclear power, Lovelock has offered to store a large amount of high level nuclear waste in a concrete box in his garden. On climate change, he believes it's too late for mankind to save the planet.

At the start of his Life Scientific, Lovelock says he learnt more working as an apprentice for a photographic firm in south London than he ever did later at university. The best science, he insists, is done with your hands as well as your head.

Thanks to Henry Higgins style elocution lessons aged 12, he was able to get a job at the well respected National Institute for Medical Research. Wartime science was all about solving ad -hoc problems and he loved it. A prolific inventor, he made a very early microwave oven to defrost hamsters and invented the Electron Capture Detector - an exquisitely sensitive device for detecting the presence of the tiniest quantities of gases in the atmosphere and led to a global ban on CFCs.

Aged 40, Lovelock decided to go it alone and, he insists, the theory for which he is best known, Gaia, simply would not have been possible had he remained working within the scientific establishment.

Producer: Anna Buckley.

It's a scientific theory that's had an impact way beyond the world of science: Gaia has been embraced by poets, philosophers, spiritual leaders and green activists. Vaclav Haval called it "a moral prescription for the welfare of the planet".

Public interest in Gaia proliferated after the publication of his first book Gaia: a new look at life on earth in 1979; but the scientific community remained highly sceptical. For decades Gaia was ignored, dismissed and even ridiculed as a scientific theory. To this day, evolutionary biologists, in particular, take issue with the notion of a self-regulating planet. John Maynard Smith called it "an evil religion".

Jonathon Porritt says Lovelock taught him "the value of cantankerous, obstinate independence, sticking to what you think is right and making those the cornerstones of your existence". Outspoken in support of nuclear power, Lovelock has offered to store a large amount of high level nuclear waste in a concrete box in his garden. On climate change, he believes it's too late for mankind to save the planet.

22Frances Ashcroft20120515
23Lloyd Peck20120522

Jim Al-Khalili meets Antarctic scientist Lloyd Peck and discovers giant sea spiders.

Jim Al-Khalili meets British Antarctic Survey scientist Lloyd Peck and discovers giant sea spiders. They and other small animals grow far bigger than usual in the extreme cold. Diving is an important part of Lloyd's job and we hear what it's like to play football under the ice. Studies suggest that the sea temperature is rising, and Lloyd investigates whether the animals he researches will be able to adapt and survive.

Producer: Geraldine Fitzgerald.

25Robert May20120605

Jim al-Khalili talks to the former chief scientific advisor Robert May about public trust.

Jim al-Khalili talks to the former chief scientific advisor, Robert May about restoring public trust in science in the wake of the BSE crisis and at the height of the anti-GM campaigns of the mid-nineties. If he were a species of plant, Bob May says he would be the "weedy type", moving as he has into new fields of science and proliferating rapidly, rather than a more established, specialised variety. He has applied mathematics first to physics, then ecology and, most recently, to banking.

Producer: Anna Buckley.

26John Pickett20120612

Jim Al-Khalili meets John Pickett, whose experimental work on GM wheat caused a public debate.

27Steve Jones20120807

Professor Steve Jones is a geneticist who says he lives life in the slow lane, studying snails. His work shows how animals adapt to the environment they live in. He is also a prolific writer of science books who wrote his first book, "The Language of the Genes" as a response to unsuccessful grant applications.

Geneticist Steve Jones lives life in the slow lane, studying snails.

28Pat Wolseley20120814

Jim Al-Khalili talks to Pat Wolseley talks about her obsession with lichen.

Jim Al-Khalili talks to botanist, Pat Wolseley about her obsession with lichen and the environmental secrets it holds. This humble and ancient organism contains a wealth of information about the quality of air we breathe. Certain species thrive on road traffic pollution: others prefer acid rain. And, for the last five years, thousands of people throughout the UK have been gathering scientific data on different lichen populations in their local area and using it to monitor air pollution.

29Martin Siegert20120821

Jim Al-Khalili goes under the Antarctic ice with glaciologist Martin Siegert.

For fifteen years, Martin Siegert has dreamt about Lake Ellsworth, a hidden lake buried beneath the Antarctic ice that's been cut off from the rest of the world for millions of years. Having studied data from airborne radar surveys, Martin knew the lake must exist and was determined to find out more. Finally, this winter, a team of British scientists led by Martin will drill through three kilometres of ice to unlock the secrets of this hidden lake. Can life exist in such a cold, dark and isolated place? And if so what form will it take? Martin describes working in Antarctica as being like an episode of Mash and explains why, unlike so many Antarctic scientists, he prefers analysing data to having icy adventures.

30Dame Ann Dowling20120828

Jim Al-Khalili discusses silent aircraft with Cambridge engineer, Dame Ann Dowling.

A world in which planes are silent may sound like a pipe dream; but University of Cambridge engineer, Dame Ann Dowling, and her team proved it is possible to build an aircraft that barely makes any noise. A brilliant mathematician and a keen pilot, Ann now heads of one of the largest engineering departments in Europe. Her design for a silent aircraft could improve the quality of life for millions of people living near airports worldwide: so does she mind that it never got off the ground? Jim talks to Ann Dowling about mathematics, engines and how she always wanted to do something useful.

Producer: Anna Buckley.

31Richard Dawkins20120904

' first book on evolutionary biology "The Selfish Gene" was published to much acclaim and some controversy in 1976. In this interview with Jim Al-Khalili, Professor Dawkins discusses his enthusiasm for the science that inspired the book and how he popularised the idea of the immortal gene. Using the source material from scientists such as Bill Hamilton, Robert Trivers and John Maynard Smith, he presented a gene's eye view of the world.

He's written many other books on evolutionary biology, such as "The Extended Phenotype" "Unweaving the Rainbow" and "The Ancestors Tale". In 2006 he published a polemic which he describes as "a gentlemanly attack on religion", "The God Delusion". Jim asks what he hoped to achieve by writing the book and finds out why he would rather be known for his science than his atheism.

Jim Al-Khalili meets evolutionary biologist and author Prof Richard Dawkins.

32Andrea Sella20120911

Jim Al-Khalili discovers why Andrea Sella's chemistry demonstrations are filling theatres.

Andrea Sella is a science showman, whose theatrical demonstrations of chemistry are filling theatres up and down the country. But as Professor of Materials and Inorganic Chemistry, Jim Al-Khalili asks him if he would rather be known for his research into rare metals than for his whizz bang displays.

is a science showman, whose theatrical demonstrations of chemistry are filling theatres up and down the country. But as Professor of Materials and Inorganic Chemistry, Jim Al-Khalili asks him if he would rather be known for his research into rare metals than for his whizz bang displays.

33David Nutt20120918

Jim Al-Khalili interviews Prof David Nutt about research into drugs and the brain.

Professor David Nutt was sacked in 2009 as the government's chief drugs adviser after criticising its decision to reclassify cannabis. He is a psychiatrist and one of the country's leading experts on the effects of drugs on the brain. His latest research is investigating how psilocybin, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms, could be used to treat depression. He talks to Jim about his passion for science and his disputes with government over drug policy.

34Sunetra Gupta20120925

Jim Al-Khalili meets Prof Sunetra Gupta, a scientist and novelist.

Jim Al-Khalili meets Sunetra Gupta, a scientist and novelist. As a Professor of Theoretical Epidemiology she studies infectious diseases such as flu and malaria and explains how a mathematical equation can be as beautiful as a Keats poem.

35Sir Mark Walport20121002

Jim Al-Khalili talks to the next government chief scientific advisor, Sir Mark Walport.

Jim al-Khalili talks to the next chief scientific advisor to the government, Sir Mark Walport about how he thinks science can save the UK economy; how he plans to ensure that scientific evidence is taken seriously by an arts-dominated civil service and why he believes scientific research should be made available to everyone, free of charge. Sir Mark, who started his Life Scientific studying immune responses, has spent the last ten years in charge of one of the largest funders of medical research in the world, the Wellcome Trust. Many love his robust, straight-talking style: others find him uncompromising. He hopes to tackle environmental change and many of the problems associated with our ageing population, as well as changing Whitehall's attitude to science. It's hard to predict what other issues he may have to deal with, but even without an unexpected crisis, many anticipate that his forthcoming time in government will be nothing if not eventful.

36Hugh Montgomery20121009

Jim Al-Khalili interviews Professor Hugh Montgomery about the gene for fitness.

Professor Hugh Montgomery is an intensive care physician and researcher at University College Hospital in London. His work has taken him to the Himalayas, where he and colleagues were studying the effect of oxygen uptake at high altitude. The findings were surprising and have implications for patients in intensive care. Jim al-Khalili talks to Hugh Montgomery about the gene for fitness and how mountaineers have influenced intensive care medicine.

37Monica Grady20121016

Jim Al-Khalili and Prof Monica Grady weigh up the evidence for life on Mars.

As the Curiosity rover ventures into previously unexplored territory on the surface of Mars and attempts to pick up and analyse rock samples for the first time, many hope that the NASA robot might find signs of life on the red planet. But, after so many false dawns and with such ambiguous evidence, how can we know for certain whether or not there was ever life on Mars? Jim al-Khalili and Monica Grady, Professor in Planetary Sciences at the Open University, discuss what life on Mars might look like; Monica's passion for meteorites and the asteroid named "monicagrady" in her honour.

38Jared Diamond20121204

on gall bladders, global history and the birds of Papua New Guinea.

Jim Al-Khalili talks to Jared Diamond about how his passion for the birds of Papua New Guinea overtook his medical interest in the gall bladder, and led him to undertake a scientific study of global history.

Science polymath and celebrated author, Jared Diamond has tackled some of the big questions about humanity: what is it that makes us uniquely human not just a third species of chimpanzee; and why do some societies thrive and others struggle to survive, or collapse?

Once a Professor of Physiology (specialising in the gall bladder), he became increasingly fascinated by the birds of Papua New Guinea and does an excellent imitation of the ptilinopus fruit dove, among others.

Now Professor of Geography at University of California in LA, he stresses the vital importance of the environment in determining the success or otherwise of a society. He argues first that it was settled agriculture that enabled the white man to develop guns, germs and steel and later that abuse of the environment is often responsible for their collapse.

But can the history of humanity really be understood in much the same way as we might seek to explain the success or otherwise of a particular species of bird?

39John Gurdon20121218

2012 Nobel Prize winner, John Gurdon, on cloning a frog decades before Dolly the Sheep.

Sir John Gurdon talks to Jim al-Khalili about how coming bottom of the class in science was no barrier to winning this year's Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine. He describes how he cloned a frog decades before Dolly the Sheep and why, in future, he would consider cloning humans. John Gurdon believes it is almost certainly technically possible to clone one human being today but says it would involve creating thousands of abnormal human embryos and who would want to do that. However, fifty years from now, if the technology was to improve and the parents agreed, he would be in favour of cloning a young relative who had died prematurely.

40Amoret Whitaker20130108

talks about insects and their role in helping solve crimes.

Jim Al-Khalili talks to Amoret Whitaker, an entomologist at the Natural History Museum in London. Her intricate understanding of the life cycles of the flies, beetles and the other insects' which feed on decomposing bodies means she is regularly called by the Police to the scene of a crime or a murder investigation. There she collects and analyses any insect evidence to help them pin point the most likely time of death. In some instances, this can be accurate to within hours.

She is just one of only a handful of forensic entomologists working in the UK. She talks to Jim about her life as a research scientist, breeding flies in the far flung towers of the Natural History Museum and her work as a forensic expert with police services across the country. Dropping her work at a moment's notice she can be called any time of day to anywhere in the country to attend a crime scene. She also talks about her regular trips to a research facility at the 'Body Farm' at the University of Tennesee in Knoxville in Ameria to get a better understanding of how real human bodies decompose.

Her passion is insects and while our instinctive reaction to flies and maggots may be one of revulsion - when you take time look at them properly, and in detail, she says you can see what truly incredible creatures they are.

41Prof Robert Mair20130115

Robert Mair talks about tunnelling under Big Ben, fracking and engineering for the future.

Jim Al-Khalili talks to Robert Mair, professor of Civil engineering at Cambridge University about his life as an engineer in academia and industry and world expert on finding innovative solutions to the problems of building tunnels under already congested cities.

He talks about his innovative technique of 'compensation grouting' which prevented Big Ben from tilting and even cracking and coming away from the Houses of Parliament during the excavations for Westminster station which were the deepest in London and whose tunnels were just 28 metres from Big Ben.

Robert chaired the report, commissioned by the government into the safety of 'fracking' or hydraulic fracturing, where water and chemicals are pumped, under pressure, into shale rock to release gas. The technique has hit the headlines amid concerns about the risks of its use causing earthquakes and contaminating water supplies. Robert explains why, with the best practice and strong regulation, the technique could be safely used in the UK.

He also talks about his latest work on how smart sensors which can harvest their own energy. And when built into buildings, roads, tunnels they could make sure the engineering projects of the future will be able to continuously monitor and report on their own safety.

42Annette Karmiloff-smith20130122

Should babies under two watch TV? Jim talks to psychologist Annette Karmiloff-Smith.

Annette Karmiloff-Smith, from the Birkbeck Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development in London talks to Jim Al-Khalili about her Life Scientific. Starting out as a simultaneous interpreter for the United Nations she soon decided that not being allowed to express any thoughts of her own wasn't for her. After a chance encounter with Jean Piaget, one of the most renowned psychologists of all time, she decided to pursue psychology and over forty years later she is a world expert in brain development and how babies and children learn. Her research has been cited not just by fellow psychologists, but by philosophers, linguists, educationalists, geneticists and neuroscientists. Her controversial response to guidance issued by the American Academy of Paediatrics, that parents should discourage TV viewing in children under 2, is that if the subject matter is chosen well, and is scientifically based, a TV screen can be better for a baby than a book.

43Noel Sharkey20130129

Jim Al-Khalili talks to Noel Sharkey, professor of artificial intelligence and robotics.

Jim Al-Khalili talks to Noel Sharkey, professor of artificial intelligence and robotics at Sheffield University.

44Valerie Beral20130205

Jim Al-Khalili talks to breast cancer pioneer Valerie Beral.

Jim Al-Khalili talks to breast cancer pioneer, Professor Valerie Beral director of the cancer epidemiology unit in Oxford about her Million Women study and why she thinks a so-called 'vaccine' should be developed to prevent breast cancer.

Jim finds out why the brilliant mathematician who became female Australia junior chess champion as a teenager and who got a first class degree in medicine decided she was unhappy with the uncertainties of diagnosis as a doctor, and turned her back on clinical medicine in the quest for answers to the bigger questions about public health. She talks about pioneering research into the causes of cancer, effects of the contraceptive pill, radiation from Chernobyl and Hiroshima. Most recently as lead investigator on the million women study she has looked at the risks and health effects from taking HRT. She has said that it is a 'crime' that more research hasn't been done on what is known about women who don't get breast cancer to prevent breast cancer in other women.

46Alan Watson20130219

Jim Al-Khalili talks to Alan Watson about his quest to discover the source of cosmic rays.

Jim Al-Khalili talks to Professor Alan Watson from the University of Leeds who has spent 40 years trying to unravel a mystery at the frontier of physics. Where do cosmic rays, subatomic particles with the highest known energies in the entire Universe, come from? And which violent astronomical events are producing these hugely energetic jets of particles that travel for light years to reach us? As many as a million of them pass through us every night as we sleep, the equivalent of having 2 chest x rays every year.

His quest to find the origins of cosmic rays has taken him from the North York Moors to the South Pole and the pampas grasslands of Argentina where he has been instrumental in creating the largest ever Cosmic ray detector, covering an area bigger than Luxembourg.

47Sue Ion20130226

Jim Al-Khalili talks to Sue Ion about working in the nuclear industry post-Chernobyl.

Jim Al-Khalili talks to the former technical director of British Nuclear Fuels, Dame Sue Ion, about a lifetime of working in the nuclear industry. When Sue got her first job at a nuclear fuel fabrication plant in Preston, nuclear power was generally seen as force for good but, during the dark decades post Chernobyl, it was a hard sell. Still, Sue continued to push for investment and innovation in the industry and in 2006 persuaded Tony Blair to change his mind about nuclear power, insisting that if Britain is to have any chance at all of keeping the lights on and cutting its carbon emissions, we will need to invest heavily not only in renewables like offshore wind but also in a new generation of nuclear power stations.

48Nancy Rothwell20130507

Jim Al-Khalili in conversation with the neuroscientist Prof Dame Nancy Rothwell.

Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell is not only one of the UK's leading brain scientists and physiologists; for the last three years Nancy Rothwell has also run the country's largest university - as President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Manchester.

When Nancy Rothwell is not making decisions about the university's £800 million annual budget and 50,000 students and staff, she oversees a laboratory of researchers developing and trialling an experimental treatment to prevent death and disability caused by stroke. Given that someone in the UK will have a stroke every five minutes, that adds up to a lot of people who might end up benefitting from Nancy Rothwell's life in science.

Nancy did not start her career working on the brain. As a young scientist, in 1970s, she made her reputation with original and high profile research into the causes of obesity, and the role of a tissue type known as brown fat. But in the early 1990s, a shock finding from an experiment stopped her in her tracks. It revealed something new and profound about the brain - a classic case of serendipity in science and a result that redirected Nancy Rothwell's research into the new and challenging field of neuroscience.

49Sanjeev Gupta20130514

What links the English Channel to valleys on Mars? Jim talks to geologist Sanjeev Gupta.

Geologist Sanjeev Gupta talks to Jim Al-Khalili about his love of exploring exotic terrains, from the foothills of the Himalaya to the red deserts of Mars. His research has taken him across the earth and now into space, working as a Long Term Planner on NASA's current Mars Curiosity Mission.

But Sanjeev Gupta's big discovery lay at the bottom of the English Channel. Unearthing a 'wacky' theory from the 1980s, Sanjeev set out to prove that a series of megafloods caused Britain to separate from continental Europe and become an island.

Producer: Michelle Marti.

50John Krebs20130521

talks to Jim al-Khalili about birds, foot and mouth disease and badgers.

As a scientist, John Krebs made his name discovering that the brains of birds that store seeds are different from those that don't. But he gave up his successful research career and job as Professor of Zoology at Oxford University to move into science policy and management. After five years as Chief Executive of the Natural Environment Research Council, John Krebs became the first Chairman of the Food Standards Agency, where he was embroiled in controversial questions such as is organic food better for us and how can the spread of foot and mouth disease be stopped.

Lord Krebs is now Master of Jesus College, Oxford, but is still involved in issues where science meets public policy, in particular the debate over whether culling badgers will prevent cattle contracting TB.

He talks to Jim al-Khalili about his life in science and in the public eye and about how he brings a scientific approach to every issue.

Lord John Krebs talks to Jim Al-Khalili about birds, foot and mouth disease and badgers.

Lord John Krebs left academia to run the Food Standards Agency. He tells Jim Al-Khalili about life in the public sphere and dealing with foot and mouth disease, and badgers and TB.

51Linda Partridge20130528

The science of longevity - Jim Al-Khalili chats to geneticist Prof Dame Linda Partridge.

Will we ever be able to escape the diseases of old age?

That's the aim of today's guest, Prof Dame Linda Partridge who studies the genetics of ageing. From fruit flies to nematode worms, she uses simple organisms to unmask the secret processes that cause our bodies to deteriorate as we get older.

But her route into science was far from normal - growing up in a Catholic convent boarding school, the girls were encouraged to be good housewives rather than diligent scientists. However, the lack of science facilities and teachers meant that the students had to run their own laboratory, ordering chemicals and tending to equipment.

It was the start of a long and successful career, which has culminated in Linda becoming the Founding Director of the Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing in Germany and the Institute of Healthy Ageing at University College, London.

Her life's goal is to produce pharmacological treatments that will help people stay healthier in old age. But what are the social and economic impacts of our growing longevity?

Producer: Michelle Martin.

52Athene Donald20130604

Prof Dame Athene Donald talks to Jim Al-Khalili about the physics behind everyday stuff.

53Ewan Birney20130611

talks to Jim Al-Khalili about deciphering the human genome and junk DNA.

Ewan Birney talks to Jim Al-Khalili about his work on deciphering the human genome and the recent controversy over claims about the demise of 'Junk' DNA.

54David Spiegelhalter20130618

Jim Al-Khalili talks risk and uncertainty with Prof David Spiegelhalter.

Is it more reckless to eat a bacon sandwich everyday or to go skydiving? What's the chance that all children in the same family have exactly the same birthday? Jim Al-Khalili talks to Professor David Spiegelhalter about risk, uncertainty and the real odds behind everyday life.

As one of the world's leading statisticians, he is regularly called upon to help answer questions in high profile inquiries - like the one into the Harold Shipman murders, infant heart surgery at Bristol Royal Infirmary and the PiP breast implant scandal.

Jim finds out more about the Life Scientific of the man who despite winning many awards and his research papers being some of the most cited in his field David Spiegelhalter says he isn't really that good at maths.

55Elizabeth Stokoe20130625

Jim Al-Khalili talks to Professor Elizabeth Stokoe about studying real-life conversations.

Jim Al-Khalili talks to the social psychologist Liz Stokoe about her research as a conversation analyst. Her interest is in the nuances of everyday chit chat but also people going on first dates, the verbal abuse between neighbours at war as well as interviews by the Police with suspected criminals.

Liz is professor of social interaction at the University of Loughborough and her unusual approach involves collecting and analysing the fine details of hundreds of real, spontaneous conversations as a source of raw data. This is in contrast to more traditional means, used by other psychologists of finding out what people think by asking them directly using surveys and questionnaires.

Her most recent research has overturned ideas about the best ways to teach people how to communicate, negotiate or deal with confrontation. Role play using actors to stage a scenario, has been seen by many as a gold standard training device. But, Liz says there's no evidence to show that it works. Her alternative technique is based on her own scientific research and is already being widely used by different organisations from the Police to Mediation services and even hospitals, to help with doctor patient relationships.

56Russell Foster20130820

Jim Al-Khalili talks to zoologist Russell Foster about circadian rhythms and jet lag.

Russell Foster, Professor of Circadian Neuroscience at Oxford University, is obsessed with biological clocks. He talks to Jim al-Khalili about how light controls our wellbeing from jet lag to serious mental health problems. Professor Foster explains how moved from being a poor student at school to the scientist who discovered a new way in which animals detect light.

57Joanna Haigh20130827

, Professor of Physics at Imperial College, talks climate with Jim Al-Khalili.

Joanna Haigh, Professor of Atmospheric Physics at Imperial College, London, studies the influence of the sun on the earth's climate using data collected by satellites. She talks to Jim al-Khalili about how she got started on her career in climate physics: she can trace her interest in it back to her childhood when she built herself a home weather station.

Jo Haigh explains why we need to know how the sun affects the climate: it's so scientists can work out what contribution to warming is the result of greenhouse gases that humans produce, and what is down to changes in the energy coming from the sun.

She has sat on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and discusses with Jim how it delivers its reports. And as a prominent scientist who speaks out about the dangers of increasing man made greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, she explains how she responds to climate change deniers.

58Mark Lythgoe20130903

Jim Al-Khalili discusses medical imaging and mountain climbing with Prof Mark Lythgoe.

Professor Mark Lythgoe created and runs the largest medical imaging research facility in Europe - the Centre for Advanced Biomedical Imaging at University College London. That is quite an achievement for someone who spectacularly failed his A levels because he was dancing on the podiums of Manchester clubs or tuning the engine of his motorbike.

Now the Centre does everything from testing new treatments for cancer, stroke and heart disease to probing the homing sense of pigeons. Mark Lythgoe's team develops new techniques to image the living body and its biochemical activities in ever-minute detail, with radio, light and ultrasound waves.

In The Life Scientific, Mark Lythgoe talks about the frontier research at his centre and the thrill he gets from it. As well as a scientist, he is also an intrepid mountain climber and believes there are parallels between the experiences of a mountaineer and those of an inventor of new views of the human brain and body.

Professor Lythgoe talks candidly about his unconventional journey and struggle to make a successful career in science which took him through making plastic pipes in a factory, training Israeli attack dogs and working with Australian Aboriginal people. He describes the deep sense of failure which powered with his progress once he had a foot in the laboratory door.

Mark also discusses his collaborations with artists on sci-art projects. He says one film project about a young girl with a severe brain condition helped to make him the scientist he is today.

59Mike Benton20130910

Jim Al-Khalili discusses digging up dinosaurs in remote places with Prof Mike Benton.

Life on earth has gone through a series of mass extinctions. Mike Benton talks about his fascination with ancient life on the planet and his work on the Bristol Dinosaur Project.

60Ian Stewart20130917

Jim Al-Khalili discusses sci-fi and popularising maths with Prof Ian Stewart.

Ian Stewart, Professor of Maths at Warwick University, has had a dual career as a research mathematician and as a populariser. He wrote his first book for a general audience - on chaos theory - over thirty years. He's also the author of short stories and novels of science fiction, and of the Science of Discworld series.

Ian Stewart talks to Jim al-Khalili about his life, including his research into applying mathematics to problems of biology and how he communicates the ideas of number and maths to the general public.

61Sophie Scott20130924

Jim Al-Khalili talks to neuroscientist Sophie Scott about the science of laughter.

Jim Al-Khalili talks to neuroscientist and occasional stand up comedian, Professor Sophie Scott about how she is using brain imaging techniques to reveal secrets of the complexity of brain activity when we speak and when we hear others speak. And Sophie Scott explains why laughter is such an important human social tool. But why is it that if we're laughing hard it can completely override our ability to speak? Also why it's not just humans who have a funny bone: even rats laugh.

62Jenny Graves20131001

Jim Al-Khalili talks kangaroos and the death of the Y chromosome with Prof Jenny Graves.

Australian geneticist Jenny Graves discusses her life pursuing sex genes in her country's weird but wonderful fauna, the end of men and singing to her students in lectures.

63Wendy Hall20131008

Dame Wendy Hall, Professor of Computer Science at the University of Southampton, has spent a career at the forefront of developments around the web and digital media. Trained as a mathematician, she moved to the fledgling department of computer science in the mid 1980's, a time of great change and great excitement in the field.

She talks to Jim Al Khalili about the rate that things have changed, how the web is still not quite what it should be, and about the new discipline she has helped to found known as Web Science.

Jim Al Khalili discusses the development of the web with Prof Wendy Hall.

64Peter Higgs20140218

Peter Higgs opens up to Jim Al-Khalili about the real story of the Higgs boson.

Peter Higgs opens up to Jim Al-Khalili, admitting that he failed to realise the full significance of the Higgs boson and to link it to the much celebrated Standard Model of Physics. An oversight he puts down to a string of missed opportunities, including one night at physics summer camp when, most regrettably, he went to bed early.

Working alone in Edinburgh in the sixties, Peter Higgs was considered 'a bit of a crank'. 'No-one wanted to work with me', he says. In 1964, he predicted the possible existence of a new kind of boson but, at the time, there was little interest in his boson. And in the years that followed, Peter Higgs says, he was 'looking in the wrong place for the application'.

Three years later, the Higgs mechanism was shown to be central to the new Standard Model of

Physics, which brings together three of the four fundamental forces of nature and has dominated physics ever since. Higgs met one of the key architects of the Standard Model several times, but they failed to realise they were working on the same thing. He particularly regrets one night at physics summer camp when he decided to go to bed early. The others meantime stayed up all night working up The Standard Model.

The seventies was an exciting time for particle physics but Higgs says he 'struggled to keep up'.

His PhD was in a different field and he says he 'lacked technical competency'. He says work pressure contributed to the breakdown of his marriage and that perhaps he suffered a personality change in the mid-sixties when he realised his research might be on to something good and started working harder.

Four decades and several billion pounds on, scientists at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN confirmed that the Higgs boson had indeed been found and Peter Higgs shot to fame.

This ephemeral speck of elusive energy is now so well-known it's featured in car adverts and countless jokes. There's even song by Nick Cave called the Higgs Boson Blues. But Higgs has always called it the 'scalar boson' and remains embarrassed that it is named after only him.

Three different research groups, working independently, published very similar papers in 1964 describing what's now known as the Higgs mechanism. And Higgs remains surprised that another British physicist, Tom Kibble from Imperial College, London didn't share the 2013 Nobel Prize for Physics along with him and Belgian physicist, Francois Englert.

"(Kibble) wrote a longer paper which was really very important in generalising the sort of thing I had written in '64 ", says Higgs.

Peter Higgs found physics boring, as it was taught at school. He was going to be an engineer, like his father, but was clumsy in the lab and, he says, became a theoretical physicist 'by default'.

When the 2013 Nobel Prize winners were announced, many assumed Higgs was blissfully unaware that he might win or just not that interested. In fact, he left the house quite deliberately that morning fully expecting the Nobel Committee to call.

These days, he's constantly stopped in the street and asked for autographs and photographs which, he says, is 'nice but a bit of a nuisance'.

Producer: Anna Buckley.

65Sue Black20140225

Jim Al-Khalili talks to forensic scientist Sue Black about identifying human bodies.

Forensic anthropologist Professor Sue Black began her career with a Saturday job working in a butcher's shop. At the time she didn't realise that this would be the start of a lifelong fascination with anatomy.

Her job has taken her to some extreme and challenging locations to identify human bodies, such as Kosovo, where she uncovered evidence used in the UN's War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague.

Back home, Sue has been integral in solving many high-profile criminal cases, including cracking Scotland's biggest paedophile ring in 2009.

In The Life Scientific, Jim Al-Khalili asks how she deals with the emotional pressures of the job, and why she is so fascinated by the inner workings of the human body.

In her spare time, Sue Black also advises crime fiction authors like Val McDermid, providing inspiration for new plotlines and characters.

In return, Val and a group of writers have offered to help with Sue's latest challenge - fundraising for a mortuary. This facility will use new techniques to embalm bodies and promises to revolutionise the way surgeons are trained.

Producer: Michelle Martin.

66Vikram Patel20140304

Jim Al-Khalili discusses global mental health with psychiatrist Prof Vikram Patel.

Jim Al-Khalili talks to psychiatrist Vikram Patel about the global campaign he is leading to tackle mental health. He reflects on his early career working in Zimbabwe, when he doubted any western diagnoses or treatments for peoples' distress would be of much use. However, his subsequent research made him question this and come to the realisation that some conditions, like depression and psychosis, could be tackled universally. Now based in India, Vikram's research guides the public health approach he is taking. Yet critics question the application of Western categories for diagnosis and treatment to other parts of the world.

Producer: Beth Eastwood.

67Mark Miodownik20140311

Mark Miodownik talks nuclear weapons, 3D printers and smart materials with Jim Al-Khalili.

Mark Miodownik's chronic interest in materials began in rather unhappy circumstances. He was stabbed in the back, with a razor, on his way to school. When he saw the tiny piece of steel that had caused him so much harm, he became obsessed with how it could it be so sharp and so strong. And he's been materials-mad ever since.

Working at a nuclear weapons laboratory in the US, he enjoyed huge budgets and the freedom to make the most amazing materials. But he gave that up to work with artists and designers because he believes that if you ignore the sensual aspects of materials, you end up with materials that people don't want.

For Mark, making is as important as reading and writing. It's an expression of who we are, like music or literature, and 'everyone should be doing it'. To this end, he wants our public libraries to be converted into public workshops, with laser cutters and 3 D printers in place of books.

68Anne Glover20140318

Anne Glover talks to Jim Al-Khalili about glow-in-the-dark bacteria and advising ministers

Biologist Prof Anne Glover of Aberdeen University tells Jim Al-Khalili about why she became the first scientific adviser in Scotland and then took on the same job in Europe.

69Alf Adams20140325

Jim Al-Khalili talks to leading scientists about their life and work.

70Veronica Van Heyningen20140401

Jim Al-Khalili talks to Veronica van Heyningen about the gene that builds the eye.

Charles Darwin described the eye as an 'organ of extreme perfection and complication'. How this engineering marvel of nature forms out of a few cells in the developing embryo has been the big question for Veronica van Heyningen, emeritus professor at the MRC's Institute of Genetics and Molecular Medicine at the University of Edinburgh.

Veronica is a world lead in the genetics of the development of the eye. She tells Jim Al Khalili about her part in the discovery of a gene called Pax-6 which turned to be a master builder gene for the eye, in all animals which have eyes - from humans to fruit flies.

As she explains, further research on this gene may eventually help people with the genetic vision impairment, Aniridia. It was Veronica's research on patients with this condition which led to the gene's final discovery. She tells Jim about why it's important for scientists to engage in public discussion on the ethical implications of their work.

Veronica also talks about her arrival in Britain as an 11 year old. Her family escaped from communist Hungary in 1958. Both of her Jewish parents had been sent to Nazi concentration camps during the Second World War.

71Julia Slingo20140408

Jim Al-Khalili talks to Dame Julia Slingo, the chief scientist at the Met Office.

Jim Al-Khalili's guest this week is Dame Julia Slingo, the chief scientist at the Met Office. The conversation ranges from her childhood wonder of clouds to climate change's part in this winter's floods.

Julia Slingo's fascination with meteorology began as she, as a sixth former, gazed out of her bedroom window and wondered what controlled the shapes of clouds and why the clouds usually came from the west. In the 1970s she was one of the few women scientists at the British Meteorological Office and worked in the early days of computer modelling of weather and climate. As the first female professor of Meteorology in the UK, she crusaded for greater computing power and capacity to improve both weather forecasting and global climate models.

Julia Slingo took up the job of the chief scientist at the Met Office in 2009. Her profile has been high in the last few months following her remarks that the persistent heavy rains and storminess of Winter 2013 to 2014 were likely to be linked to anthropogenic climate change.

72Professor Sir Michael Rutter20140603

Jim Al-Khalili meets child psychiatrist Prof Sir Michael Rutter.

Professor Sir Michael Rutter has been described as the most illustrious and influential psychiatric scientist of his generation. His international reputation has been achieved despite the fact that as a young doctor, he had no intention of becoming a researcher, nor interest in becoming a child psychiatrist. In fact he became a world leader as both.

His career has spanned more than five decades and is marked by a remarkable body of high-impact research and landmark studies. The theme running through all his work has been child development, on the subtle interplay between nature and nurture and on the factors that make the difference between a child flourishing, or floundering.

Evacuated during World War Two, to a Quaker family in the USA, Mike Rutter tells Jim Al-Khalili about the impact this move, aged seven, had on him. He describes the inspirational teachers who persuaded him that research and clinical work as a child and adolescent psychiatrist, was for him, and he admits that an early mentor insisted he mustn't receive any formal training in child psychiatry, something he hasn't received to this day!

He was awarded this country's first ever professorship in child psychiatry in 1973 and he's credited with founding the field of developmental psychopathology. This involves the study, over time, of normal and abnormal child development. He's currently Professor of Developmental Psychopathology at King's College, London and still a practicing child psychiatrist.

An early breakthrough was his discovery that autism, or infantile psychosis as it was then known, had a genetic basis, something barely suspected at the time.

Beautifully designed studies of populations over time followed, many of them landmark studies still cited today. They established the framework for studying and investigating mental illness in the community. The Isle of Wight Studies (1964-74) surveyed the mental health of children living on the island and for the first time in such research, children themselves were directly interviewed and questioned. Before this, Mike Rutter tells Jim, the assumption had been that what children thought and said didn't really matter.

In the 1970s, the Fifteen Thousand Hours study, delivered ground-breaking evidence about the combination of factors that affected the performance and behaviour of children in inner city secondary schools. Findings from this study were included by both the Labour and Conservative parties in their 1979 election manifestos.

"Maternal Deprivation Reassessed" was Mike Rutter's challenge to John Bowlby's hugely influential theory of maternal attachment. It was described as "a classic in the field of childcare" and it transformed the debate about the relationships that help babies to flourish.

His fascination with the underlying reasons why and how children vary in their ability to weather and cope with adversity, led to the growth of resilience science. For more than 40 years Mike Rutter, "the intellectual father", has led this field of study.

His name is particularly associated with "natural experiments" and one of the best known is the English Romanian Adoptees study that he set up in the early 1990s and still runs today. The children being followed are those rescued from the orphanages of Nicolai Ceausescu and adopted by families in this country. Because of the appalling conditions many of these babies and toddlers experienced in Romanian institutions, Professor Rutter understood that tracking and studying them as they grew up in loving homes here, would provide important insights into how early deprivation affects children's development.

Producer: Fiona Hill.

73Janet Hemingway20140610

Janet Hemingway on malaria and the coming of insecticide resistance, with Jim Al-Khalili.

Janet Hemingway, the youngest woman to ever to become a full professor in the UK, talks about her career at the frontline of the war on malaria. Whilst many researchers look for vaccines and treatments to this global killer, Janet's approach, as a trained entomologist, has been to fight the mosquitoes - the vector - which transmits the malaria parasite.

74Chris Lintott20140617

Chris Lintott tells Jim Al Khalili about crowd sourced astronomy and Galaxy Zoo.

Astronomer and Sky at Night TV presenter Chris Lintott tells Jim Al Khalili about his "Citizen Science" project of crowd-sourced astronomy, Galaxy Zoo, and of working with Brian May and the late Sir Patrick Moore.

75Sandy Knapp20140624

Botanist Sandy Knapp talks about her adventures collecting plants in South America.

Botanist Sandy Knapp tells Jim Al Khalili about her adventures in the wilderness of South America collecting and studying many thousands of plants from a group vital for human nutrition. She talks about her time growing up in Los Alamos in New Mexico, surrounded by a "sea of physicists" and how her love of the outdoors inspired her to take up botany.

76Chris Llewllyn-smith20140701

Jim Al-Khalili talks to Chris Llewllyn-Smith.

77Zoe Shipton20140708

Jim Al-Khalili discusses earthquakes and fracking for gas with geologist Zoe Shipton.

Zoe Shipton's fascination with rocks started when she was a child and her father took her camping on a volcano. Now a professor of geology at Strathclyde University she talks to Jim al-Khalili about earthquakes in Taiwan, drilling into rocks in remote parts of Utah and fracking for gas in the UK.

78Jeremy Farrar20140715

Jim Al-Khalili in conversation with Dr Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust.

In October 2013, Jeremy Farrar was appointed Director of the Wellcome Trust - UK's largest medical research funding charity. The Trust funded £750 million's worth of health-related research - about the same as the government's Medical Research Council. This means Jeremy Farrar is a major figure in British science.

Since 1996, the doctor and clinical scientist had run the Wellcome-funded Oxford University Clinical Research Unit in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam - a British-Vietnamese collaboration specialising in infectious diseases such as malaria, HIV, TB and avian flu. He lost close friends and colleagues when the SARS pandemic took off in East Asia in 2003, and dealt with the first cases of the dangerous H5N1 bird flu when it arrived in Vietnam the following here.

In conversation with Jim Al-Khalili, Dr Farrar talks about the personal and professional impact of those experiences and of his feelings of impotence as a doctor treating HIV/AIDS patients as a junior doctor in London in 1980s.

With his international perspective and his hands-on experience of the deadly potential of infectious diseases, he talks to Jim about the great health challenges faced by the world in the coming decades.

79Carol Robinson20140722

Carol Robinson on her journey from lab technician to professor of chemistry.

Carol Robinson describes her remarkable journey from leaving school at 16 to work as a lab technician at Pfizer, to becoming the first female Professor of Chemistry at both Oxford and Cambridge University, despite an eight year career break to bring up three small children.

Getting back into the workplace wasn't easy. Carol was hired for a job for which she was over-qualified because she 'used to be good' and advised not to dress so smartly because people would think she was a secretary. She managed to negotiate a day a week to do her own research and secured much sought after Royal Society funding to support it.

For decades, Carol felt insecure about having a degree from a further education college, which she achieved by studying part-time for seven years while working at Pfizer; but now Carol is proud of her unconventional route into academia and actively recruits students to her lab from a wide range of different backgrounds.

In her hands, mass spectrometry has been transformed from a routine technique for checking what chemicals are present in, say an antibiotic, into a powerful research tool for drug development. Her motto when doing experiments is, 'it's not working yet' and she's happy to risk drilling into this hugely expensive machine to try and get it to do what she wants.

Producer: Anna Buckley.

80Brian Cox20140923

, physicist and media star, talks fame and quantum mechanics with Jim Al-Khalili.

Professor Brian Cox of Manchester University describes how he gave up appearing on Top of the Pops to study quarks, quasars and quantum mechanics.

Although he describes himself as a simple-minded Northern bloke, he has acquired an almost God-like status on our TV screens; while the 'Cox effect' is thought to explain the significant boost to university admissions to read physics. He talks to Jim Al-Khalili about learning to be famous, his passion for physics and how he sometimes has difficulty crossing the road.

In 2005 Brian was awarded a Royal Society Research Fellowship for his work on high energy particle collisions at CERN and elsewhere - an enviable academic achievement. In 2009, he was voted one of the sexiest men alive by People magazine. He has invented a new kind of celebrity - a scientist who's regularly snapped by the paparazzi.

Brian wants everyone to be as excited as he is about the laws that govern our universe: the beautiful, counter-intuitive and often weird world of quantum mechanics that explains what happens inside the nucleus of every atom, right down at the level of those exotically named elementary particles - quarks, neutrinos, gluons, muons.

Challenged by Jim to explain the rules of quantum mechanics in just a minute, Brian succeeds; while conceding that the idea that everything is inherently probabilistic, is challenging. Even Einstein found it difficult. Schrodinger's cat, or Brian Cox, for that matter, are simultaneously both dead and alive. That's a fact. What this is all means is another question. "Am I just an algorithm?" Brian asks. "Probably", says Jim.

Producer: Anna Buckley.

81Jackie Akhavan20140930

talks about the ethical issues of working on explosives used in war.

Jackie Akhavan, Professor of Explosive Chemistry, tells Jim al-Khalili all about the science of explosives. She explains exactly what explosives are and how to make them safer to handle.

She started by working on how to make fireworks safer and has been involved in research with bees to see whether they can be used smell different types of explosives. Her current project involves testing the rocket fuel that will be used in Bloodhound, the British designed and built supersonic car that aims to reach a speed of 1,000mph.

Her work involves finding out how to best detect explosives in airports and elsewhere, teaching security professionals how to differentiate between false alarms and the real thing. She also works on explosives used in warfare and discusses the ethical issues involved.

Producer: Melissa Hogenboom.

82Elspeth Garman20141007

Jim Al-Khalili talks to Oxford crystallographer Elspeth Garman.

Jim al-Khalili talks to Professor Elspeth Garman about a technique that's led to 28 Nobel Prizes in the last century.

X- ray crystallography, now celebrating its 100th anniversary, is used to study the internal structure of matter. It may sound rather arcane but it's the reason we've now know the structure of hugely important molecules, like penicillin, insulin and DNA. But while other scientists scoop up prizes for cracking chemical structures, Elspeth works away behind the scenes, (more cameraman than Hollywood star), improving the methods and techniques used by everybody working in the field.

If only it was as simple as putting a crystal in the machine and printing off the results. Growing a single crystal of an enzyme that gives TB its longevity took Elspeth's team no less than fifteen years. No pressure there then when harvesting that precious commodity.

83Chris Toumazou20141014

talks to Jim Al-Khalili about the science of invention.

European Inventor of the Year, Chris Toumazou, reveals how his personal life and early research lie at the heart of his inventions.

As Chief Scientist at the Institute of Biomedical Engineering at Imperial College London, Chris inspires engineers, doctors and other scientists to create medical devices for the 21st century.

Applying silicon chip technology, more commonly found inside mobile phones, he tackles seemingly insurmountable problems in medicine to create devices that bridge the electronic and biological worlds - from a digital plaster that monitors a patient's vital signs to an artificial pancreas to treat diabetes.

His latest creation, coined a 'lab on a chip', analyses a person's DNA within minutes outside the laboratory. The hand-held device can identify genetic differences which dictate a person's susceptibility to hereditary diseases and how they will react to a drug like warfarin, used to treat blood clots.

Producer: Beth Eastwood.

84Margaret Boden20141021

Jim Al-Khalili talks to Maggie Boden, a world authority in the field of AI.

Maggie Boden is a world authority in the field of artificial intelligence - she even has a robot named in her honour.

Research Professor of Cognitive Science at the University of Sussex, Maggie has spent a lifetime attempting to answer philosophical questions about the nature of the human mind, but from a computational viewpoint.

"Tin cans", as she sometimes calls computers, are information processing systems, the perfect vehicle, she believes, to help us understand, explore and analyse the mind.

But questions about the human mind and the human person could never be answered within one single academic subject. So the long career of Maggie Boden is the very epitome of cross-disciplinary working. From medicine, to psychology, to cognitive and computer science, to technology and philosophy, Professor Boden has spent decades straddling multiple academic subjects, helping to create brand new disciplines along the way.

85Richard Fortey20141028

Jim Al-Khalili meets Mr Trilobite, the palaeontologist and naturalist Richard Fortey.

Richard Fortey found his first trilobite fossil when he was 14 years old and he spent the rest of his career discovering hundreds more, previously unknown to science.

Professor of Palaeontology at the Natural History Museum, he talks to Jim Al-Khalili about why these arthropods, joint-legged creatures which look a bit like woodlice and roamed the ancient oceans for almost 300 million years, are so important for helping us to understand the evolution of life on our planet.

These new trilobite fossils were found at an exciting time for the earth sciences because of the emergence of plate tectonics. The discovery of communities of trilobite fossils could be used to reconstruct the shape of the ancient world and Richard used the new discoveries to help map the geologically very different Palaeozoic continents and seas.

He admits that he's a born naturalist, fascinated by all aspects of the natural world (he's a leading expert on fungi) with a powerful drive to communicate its wonders to a wider public. His books and TV programmes on geology, the evolution of the earth, fossils as well as the creatures that survived mass extinctions have brought him a whole new audience.

And Richard reveals to Jim an earlier secret life, as a writer of humorous books, all written under a pseudonym.

86Dame Sally Davies20141104

Jim al-Khalili talks to Dame Sally Davies about looking after the nation's health.

Jim al-Khalili talks to Professor Dame Sally Davies about being a champion for patients and a champion for women.

As Chief Medical Officer, the first woman to fill the post, she guides government decisions on pressing health issues such as antimicrobial resistance, mental health and, most recently, Ebola.

Having spent many years working as a haematologist, focussing on sickle cell disease, Dame Sally now works tirelessly to put scientific evidence at the heart of Government decisions that affect out health. And it's this quest for evidence that has inspired much of her career.

As Director General for Research and Development at the Department of Health, she saw the opportunity to overhaul health research in the National Health Service, focussing on the needs of patients. It was a hugely controversial idea which others had tried to implement, and failed. But she stuck to her guns and the National Institute for Health Research, which she created, is now the envy of the world.

Named one of the most powerful women in the country, Dame Sally also has a powerful voice abroad. Through her work at the World Health Organisation, she's brought the world's attention to global threats like antimicrobial resistance.

87Dave Goulson20141111

Jim Al-Khalili talks to Prof Dave Goulson about his obsession with bees.

Professor Dave Goulson has been obsessed with bees since he was a child. He talks to Jim al-Khalili about conserving bumblebees in areas of the UK where there's intensive farming.


Jim Al-Khalili discusses the scientific life with fellow scientists.

89John O'keefe20150310

2014 Nobel Prize-winner John O'Keefe talks to Jim Al-Khalili.

John O'Keefe tells Jim Al-Khalili how winning the Nobel Prize was a bit of a double-edged sword, especially as he liked his life in the lab, before being made famous by the award.

John won the prize for his once radical insight into how we know where we are. When he first described the idea of 'place cells' in the brain back in 1971, many scoffed. Today it's accepted scientific wisdom that our spatial ability depends on these highly specialized brain cells.

A keen basketball player,John says, he has put this principle to the test by trying to shoot hoops with his eyes closed. But this belies the years of painstaking experiments on rats that John performed to prove that a rat's ability to know where it is depends not only on its sense of smell, but also on a cognitive map, or internal GPS, inside the rat's brain.

He describes how he listened in on the unique firing patterns of individual rat brain cells using the tiniest electrodes: "You almost imagine they are singing to you", he says, as he imitates the different sounds made by individual neurons. And, he says, he misses them when they fall silent.

It's important to John, and for his results, that his rats are happy and John welcomes the strong controls over animal experiments in the UK. Computer models are useful but, he says, they could never replace the need for experiments on animals, in the work that he does. And,while it need not necessarily have been the case, experiments on rats' brains have provided valuable insight into the workings of the human brain. John's research was entirely curiosity-driven but it could provide vital clues to understanding dementia and is already being used to develop a test for the earliest stages of Alzheimer's.

Producer: Anna Buckley.

89Matt Taylor20150317

Matt Taylor talks to Jim Al-Khalili about the Rosetta comet mission.

Matt Taylor talks to Jim Al-Khalili about being in charge of the Rosetta space mission to the distant comet, 67P. It is, he says, 'the sexiest thing alive', after his wife. He describes his joy when, after travelling for ten years and covering four billion miles, the robot, Philae landed on the speeding comet 67P; and turned the image tattooed on his thigh from wishful thinking into a triumph for science. Matt's father, a builder, encouraged him to do well at school. He wanted him to get a job in science and Matt didn't disappoint, joining the European Space Agency in June 2005. His charm and exuberance have brought competing teams together as they fight for their science to have priority on Rosetta. His enthusiasm has helped to spark and fuel a global interest in the mission and he deeply regrets his choice of shirt on one occasion.

Producer: Anna Buckley.

90Sarah-jayne Blakemore20150324

Prof Sarah-Jayne Blakemore talks to Jim Al-Khalili about her research on the teenage brain

Until recently, it was thought that human brain development was all over by early childhood but research in the last decade has shown that the adolescent brain is still changing into early adulthood. Jim Al-Khalili talks to pioneering cognitive neuroscientist Professor Sarah-Jayne Blakemore who is responsible for much of the research which shows that our brains continue to develop through the teenage years. She discusses why teenagers take risks and are so susceptible to influence from their peers as well as her childhood growing up with the constant threat of attacks from animal rights groups.

91Jane Francis20150331

The director of the British Antarctic Survey, Jane Francis talks to Jim Al-Khalili.

Just twenty years ago, the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) would not allow women to camp in Antarctica. In 2013, it appointed Jane Francis as its Director. Jane tells Jim Al-Khalili how an intimate understanding of petrified wood and fossilised leaves took her from Dorsetâ€TMs Jurassic coast to this icy land mass. Camping on Antarctic ice is not for everyone but Jane is addicted, even if she does crave celery and occasionally wish that she could wash her hair. Fossils buried under the ice contain vital clues about ancient climates and can be used to check current computer models of climate change. The earth can withstand a great range of temperatures: Antarctica was once covered in lush forest. But the question is: can humans adapt? As the ice caps melt, sea levels will continue to rise. And, says Jane, the time to start planning for that is now.

92Stephanie Shirley20150407

Software pioneer Dame Stephanie Shirley talks to Jim Al-Khalili.

As a young woman, Stephanie Shirley worked at the Dollis Hill Research Station building computers from scratch: but she told young admirers that she worked for the Post Office, hoping they would think she sold stamps. In the early 60s she changed her name to Steve and started selling computer programmes to companies who had no idea what they were or what they could do, employing only mothers who worked from home writing code by hand with pen and pencil and then posted it to her. By the mid-80s her software company employed eight thousand people, still mainly women with children. She made an absolute fortune but these days Stephanie thinks less about making money and much more about how best to give it away.

Producer: Anna Buckley.

93Nigel Shadbolt20150414

Sir Nigel Shadbolt talks about artificial intelligence and open data with Jim Al-Khalili.

Sir Nigel Shadbolt, Professor of Artificial Intelligence at Southampton University, believes in the power of open data. With Sir Tim Berners-Lee he persuaded two UK Prime Ministers of the importance of letting us all get our hands on information that's been collected about us by the government and other organisations. But, this has brought him into conflict with people who think there's money to be made from this data. And open data raises issues of privacy.

Nigel Shadbolt talks to Jim al-Khalili about how a degree in psychology and philosophy lead to a career researching artificial intelligence and a passion for open data.

94Susan Jebb20150421

Fat, sugar, salt - we all know we should eat less of them, and take more exercise, but as a nation with an ever expanding waistline we are becoming increasingly overweight.

Jim al-Khalili talks to Professor Susan Jebb, the UK's authority on obesity, who has spent much of her career trying to help us put those good intentions into practice.

Her challenge is not for the faint hearted. When she first got interested in obesity, as a research scientist, rates were already on the rise. Yet no one took the problem seriously. Today, with over sixty percent of adults overweight or obese, Susan remains unwavering in her commitment to ensuring we do.

As Professor of Diet and Population Health at Oxford University and Chair of the government's Responsibility Deal Food Network, she wants all of us and the food industry to improve the nation's health by translating the science of what we eat into practice.

And health is what it's all about. Obesity now poses such a danger that it's been dubbed the 'new smoking'.

Produced by Beth Eastwood.

Obesity expert Susan Jebb talks to Jim al-Khalili about the science of what we eat.

95Anil Seth20150616

Anil Seth discusses the hard problem of understanding consciousness with Jim Al-Khalili.

Anil Seth is professor of cognitive and computational neuroscience at the Sackler Centre at the University of Sussex, where he studies consciousness.

His research has taken him in all kinds of directions, from reading philosophy, to computing and virtual reality, and mapping the brain. As well as running the interdisciplinary centre and carrying out experiments that test ideas about consciousness, Anil Seth has co-written a popular book, The 30 second brain, and was the consultant on Eye Benders, the winner of the Junior Royal Society Book Prize in 2014.

He talks to Jim al-Khalili about how scientists can study altered states of consciousness, such as sleep and coma. He explains how he uses virtual reality to understand conditions where our idea of ourselves is distorted, such as in the Alice in Wonderland syndrome.

96Kate Jones20150623

is Professor of Ecology and Biodiversity at UCL and the Institute of Zoology. An expert in evolution and extinction, her special interest is in bat research and conservation.

Bats make up one in five of all mammal species on Earth, from the miniscule bumblebee bat to the enormous megabat.

As well as controlling harmful insects bats also pollinate a large variety of crops, from bananas to blue agave plants that are used to make tequila.

Kate has pioneered ground-breaking technologies that allow the public to monitor bats, including the citizen science website Bat Detective.

This work led her to investigate human infectious diseases, including those spread through animals. Together with a global team of researchers, they drew up a map of global hotspots to try and predict where the next 'zoonotic' disease will emerge.

Producer: Michelle Martin.

From bats to biodiversity, ecologist Kate Jones discusses her Life Scientific.

97Henry Marsh20150630

Neurosurgeon Henry Marsh talks to Jim Al-Khalili about slicing through our thoughts.

Neurosurgeon Henry Marsh talks to Jim Al-Khalili about slicing through thoughts, hopes and memories. Brain surgery, he says, is straightforward. It's deciding whether or not to operate that's hard.

The stakes are high and it's never clear cut. He often dreads having to talk to patients and their families. Damage to healthy brain cells can result in a dramatic change to someone's quality of life; but if a bit of a tumour remains, it's likely to grow back. "How do you tell someone that the best option may be to go away and die?"

Once, against his professional judgment, Henry went ahead with surgery because the patient wanted him to operate. The patient died and he blames himself for not being stronger. He talks openly about the cemetery that all doctors inevitably carry with them; and why he would rather be seen as a fallible human being, than either a superhero or villain. Perhaps it's inevitable that doctors are put on a pedestal but it can be unhelpful.

Despite a chronic lack of science at school and university, Henry decided to become a neurosurgeon, having found general surgery rather disgusting. Soon after, his three month old son had surgery for a brain tumour: an experience which, he says, helped him to appreciate the fog of anxiety and concern that descends on the people he treats.

Getting the balance right between compassion and detachment is a constant challenge. And Henry admits, he pioneered brain surgery under local anaesthetic, in part as a way of confronting head on the almost 'Jekyll and Hyde like split' between being a surgeon in the operating theatre and a friendly consultant who talks to and cares for his patients.

Producer: Anna Buckley.

98Dorothy Bishop20150707

Why do some children find language difficult? Dorothy Bishop talks about her life's work.

is a world-leading expert in childhood language disorders.

Since the 1970s, she has been instrumental in bringing to light a little-known language disorder that may affect around two children per class starting primary school.

'Specific Language Impairment', or SLI, was originally deemed to be the fault of lazy parents who didn't talk to their children. But through her pioneering studies on twins, Dorothy found a genetic link behind this disorder, helping to overturn these widespread misconceptions.

Dorothy talks to Jim Al-Khalili about how families react when they discover there's a genetic basis to their problems, and why this language impairment isn't as well known as other conditions, like autism and dyslexia.

A critic of pseudoscience and media misreporting, Dorothy discusses her experiences of speaking out against folk psychology and bad science journalism.

Producer: Michelle Martin.

99Carlos Frenk20150714

talks to Jim Al-Khalili about creating the universe inside a computer.

Carlos Frenk, Ogden Professor of Computational Cosmology, at the University of Durham. studies the universe, but not by spending nights looking out at the dark skies through telescopes. Rather he creates the cosmos on computers. He is also one of the Gang of Four of astrophysics who thirty years ago came up with one of the most important theories in their field. They worked out that the universe is full of cold dark matter. In 2011 Carlos Frenk and his colleagues were awarded the Gruber prize, one of the leading accolades in astronomy, for their theory.

Carlos Frenk discusses this mysterious missing mass, which is still mysterious and missing, with Jim al-Khalili. And they talk about modelling the universe inside computers.

100Niamh Nic Daeid20150721

Forensic chemist Niamh Nic Daeid talks about investigating fires and analysing legal highs

Forensic chemist Niamh Nic Daeid talks to Jim Al-Khalili about investigating fires and analysing legal highs.

Her team were involved in studying the infamous Philpott case in Derby when six children tragically died in a fire set by their parents, Mick and Mairead. They devised experiments to find out why, despite having smoke alarms fitted inside the house, none of the children woke up.

Chemistry has also been pushed to the limits to identify 'legal highs', or Novel Psychoactive Substances. Around 350 new drugs are released on to the market every month, with Europe a hotspot for buyers.

Plus, Niamh talks about the serious problems facing the world of forensic science. The field, she says, is in crisis. With rock-bottom research budgets, and the list of miscarriages of justice growing, how can we fix forensic science?

Producer: Michelle Martin.

101Eo Wilson20150728

Leading biologist EO Wilson talks to Jim Al-Khalili about ants, altruism and evolution.

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.

102Geoff Palmer20150804

Jim talks to internationally renowned professor of brewing and distilling Geoff Palmer.

Jim al-Khalili talks to botanist Geoff Palmer, the UK's only professor of brewing and distilling, about revolutionising the malting industry and his unusual scientific career after arriving from Jamaica in 1955 as a 14 year old boy. When he went for an interview for an MSc in 1964 the representative from the Ministry of Agriculture suggested he go back home and grow bananas. Why? Because he didn't know the difference between wheat and barley. Undeterred he went on to become a world authority on barley, brewing and distilling and Scotland's first black professor. His research on how malt could be made more quickly saved the brewing industry millions. But he says, it's only through good luck and with the help of good Samaritans that his career took the course it did, helping him get to university and even to finish school. Now at the age of 75, he's still fighting to make education and a scientific career available to everyone, regardless of their background.

103Dame Carol Black20151006

Expert health advisor and professor of medicine Carol Black talks to Jim Al-Khalili.

Carol Black was an overweight child who, aged 13, put herself on a diet. Now, as an expert advisor to the government, she's the woman behind recent newspaper headlines suggesting that obese people who refuse treatment could see their benefits cut. In the last decade, Carol has conducted several reviews on work and health, sickness absence and how best to help people with obesity, alcohol and drug problems get back into the workplace. In 2008 she suggested the Sick Note should be replaced with a Fit Note which states what people can do rather than what they can't. Later she recommended that an independent assessor should decide who is, or is not, Fit for Work. Dame Carol Black talks to Jim Al-Khalili about the challenges associated with advising government on these controversial issues; and how, despite relative adversity and several bad decisions, she achieved such a position of power and influence.

Producer: Anna Buckley.

104Danielle George20151013

Engineer Danielle George tells Jim about her passion for getting children into electronics

is a radio frequency engineer from the University of Manchester. She designs amplifiers that have travelled everywhere, from outer space to underground.

Becoming a professor aged just 38, she talks to Jim about the challenges of age discrimination and working in a male dominated field.

As presenter of last year's Royal Institution Christmas Lectures, she's passionate about DIY electronics and coding, and how to inspire the UK's next generation of inventors.

105Robert Plomin20151020

Professor Robert Plomin talks to Jim Al-Khalili about the genetics of intelligence.

Professor Robert Plomin talks to Jim Al-Khalili about what makes some people smarter than others and why he's fed up with the genetics of intelligence being ignored. Born and raised in Chicago, Robert sat countless intelligence tests at his inner city Catholic school. College was an attractive option mainly because it seemed to pay well. Now he's one of the most cited psychologists in the world. He specialized in behavioural genetics in the mid seventies when the focus in mainstream psychology was very much on our nurture rather than our nature, and genetics was virtually taboo. But he persisted, conducting several large adoption studies and later twin studies. In 1995 he launched the biggest longitudinal twin study in the UK, the TED study of ten thousand pairs of twins which continues to this day. In this study and in his other work, he's shown consistently that genetic influences on intelligence are highly significant, much more so than what school you go to, your teachers or home environment. If only the genetic differences between children were fully acknowledged, he believes education could be transformed and parents might stop giving themselves such a hard time.

Producer: Anna Buckley.

106Patrick Vallance20151103

Jim Al-Khalili meets Patrick Vallance heading drug development at a pharmaceutical company

is something of a rare breed: a game-keeper turned poacher; an academic who's moved over into industry. And not just any industry, but the pharmaceutical industry.

At the time, Patrick Vallance was Professor of Clinical Pharmacology and Head of the Department of Medicine at University College London. A pioneer of research into some of the body's key regulatory systems, he had also been publicly critical of BIG Pharma for "funding studies more helpful to marketing than to advancing clinical care". So what made him go over to "the other side"?

His involvement with the industry was limited until one evening in 2006 when he was asked a question over a dinner, a question that would be pivotal to his life and career.

Today, Patrick is head of research and development at GlaxoSmithKline, one of the world's largest pharmaceutical companies with annual revenues in excess of 20 billion pounds and nearly a hundred thousand employees worldwide. Whilst GSK is no stranger to scandal, since he joined, Patrick has attempted to tackle the culture of secrecy that pervades the industry. He's since reshaped the way GSK carries out its research and has been behind several radical initiatives in global healthcare, to produce a more collaborative approach to tackling major diseases like malaria.

107Kathy Willis20151110

, Kew Gardens' director of science, discusses biodiversity with Jim Al-Khalili

"I'm determined to prove botany is not the 'Cinderella of science'". That's what Professor Kathy Willis, Director of Science at the Royal Botanic Garden in Kew, told the Independent in 2014.

In the two years since she took on the job at Kew she's been faced with a reduction in government funding. So, Kathy Willis has been rethinking the science that's to be done by the staff of the Gardens - and been criticised for her decisions.

But as well as leading this transformation, Kathy has a distinguished academic career in biodiversity. She is currently a professor at Oxford University and, during her research career, she's studied plants and their environments all over the world, from the New Forest, when she was a student in Southampton, to the Galapagos Islands where she studied the impact of the removal of the giant tortoises on the vegetation there.

Jim al-Khalili discusses the future of biodiversity with Kathy Willis.

108Paul Younger20151117

Professor Paul Younger talks to Jim Al-Khalili about keeping the lights on in the future.

, Professor of Energy Engineering at University of Glasgow, in conversation with Jim al-Khalili

in front of an audience at the Free Thinking Festival at the Sage, Gateshead.

Paul Younger's future career was inspired by the hills around him near the River Tyne. From a background in geology he now carries out research into, as he says, "keeping the lights on and keeping homes and businesses warm whilst decarbonising our energy systems."

Paul Younger spent many years at the University of Newcastle, where he built up his expertise in the relationship between water and rocks. He has advised on what happens to mines when they are closed - from the North East to Bolivia. His knowledge of the rocks beneath our feet has brought him to planning how we can use more geothermal energy in the future. He's also looking into other unconventional ways of generating energy - such as turning coal deep underground into gas.

108Paul Younger At The Free Thinking Festival20151117

Professor Paul Younger talks to Jim Al-Khalili about keeping the lights on in the future.

Paul Younger, Rankine Professor of Energy Engineering at the University of Glasgow, in conversation with Jim al-Khalili in front of an audience at the Free Thinking Festival at Sage Gateshead.

Paul Younger's future career was inspired by the hills around him near the River Tyne. From a background in geology he now carries out research into, as he says, "keeping the lights on and keeping homes and businesses warm whilst de-carbonising our energy systems."

He spent many years at the University of Newcastle, where he built up his expertise in the relationship between water and rocks. He has advised on how to clean up the highly polluted water left in mines after they are closed - from the North East to Bolivia.

His knowledge of the rocks beneath our feet has lead him to investigating how we might use more geothermal energy in the future. Paul Younger tells Jim al-Khalili about the experimental holes that have been drilled in County Durham and central Newcastle, and explains why these projects are now mothballed. And Professor Younger also talks about his research into other unconventional ways of generating energy - such as turning coal deep underground into gas.

109Peter Piot20160209

As the WHO declares the recent Ebola epidemic officially over, Jim Al-Khalili talks to Professor Peter Piot, the man who first discovered this deadly virus in 1976 and who, more recently, has worked so hard to stop it from spreading.

Peter first came across this strange new virus in 1976 when he was working as a very junior researcher in a small lab in his home town, Antwerp. Weeks later he was in Zaire meeting patients and trying to understand transmission routes.Faced with a new virus and a new continent and surrounded by people dying, he says he felt very much alive. His career path was set.

Today, as chair of the Independent Panel on the Global Response to Ebola, his work on Ebola is well known. He insists that lessons must be learnt from the recent crisis and acted upon. But most of Peter's career has been devoted to stopping the transmission of another deadly virus, HIV. In 1979, he helped with the autopsy of a man who had arrived at the Institute of Tropical Medicine in London, horribly thin and with a fever of unknown origin. Opening the body was a horrible shock, raising more questions than it answered. Soon after, Peter was back in Central Africa dealing with another mysterious epidemic,establishing safe blood banks and caring for the sick.

He went on to become Director of UNAIDS and just last year announced that existing efforts to opt the spread of HIV are woefully inadequate. The rate of new infections is falling, but not fast enough to prevent an overall increase in the number of people who will be living with HIV in future and who will need antiretroviral therapy to stay alive.

Producer: Anna Buckley.

Peter Piot talks to Jim Al-Khalili about how to stop deadly viruses like Ebola and HIV.

110Naomi Climer20160216

tells Jim Al-Khalili why engineers should be as famous as rock stars.

Naomi Climer is one of the most senior British women engineers working in the communications industry, and after decades working on major projects she's left the world of business to become the first female president of Institution of Engineering and Technology (the IET). As part of her presidency, Naomi has launched a campaign called - Engineer a better World - to make us realise that engineering is an exciting and creative activity.. and, in particular, to attract and retain more women in the profession.

Naomi Climer's most recent role was running Sony's Media Cloud Services. She was based in California where, she says, engineers are treated like rock stars. She talks to Jim al-Khalili about how British engineers can gain higher status than they do today.

111Dr Nick Lane20160223

of UCL talks about studying the origin of life on earth with Jim Al-Khalili.

Dr Nick Lane is attempting to answer one of the hardest questions in science. How did life on earth begin? You might think that question had been solved by Darwin in the 19th century. He wrote that he thought life might have started on earth "in a warm little pond", where all the necessary ingredients: water, sunlight and nutrients combined in this "primordial soup" to create the very first biomolecule of life. Others - like Fred Hoyle - thought that life came to earth from elsewhere in space. But Nick Lane has different ideas of how, and where, it happened. The place in question was deep under the sea in hydrothermal vents. Amongst other research he carries out at University College London, he's running an experiment to try to recreate this moment.

Nick Lane had an unusual route to this point in his scientific career. For some years he left his research career to become a medical journalist and write popular books. A rare opportunity took him back into the laboratory.

is attempting to answer one of the hardest questions in science. How did life on earth begin? You might think that question had been solved by Darwin in the 19th century. He wrote that he thought life might have started on earth "in a warm little pond", where all the necessary ingredients: water, sunlight and nutrients combined in this "primordial soup" to create the very first biomolecule of life. Others - like Fred Hoyle - thought that life came to earth from elsewhere in space. But Nick Lane has different ideas of how, and where, it happened. The place in question was deep under the sea in hydrothermal vents. Amongst other research he carries out at University College London, he's running an experiment to try to recreate this moment.

112George Davey-smith20160301

Professor George Davey Smith of Bristol University talks to Jim al-Khalili about why some of us have long healthy lives and others don't. Is it down to social class or genetics?

Epidemiologist Prof George Davey Smith talks to Jim Al-Khalili about health inequalities.

113Venki Ramakrishnan20160308

Jim Al-Khalili talks to Nobel Prize-winner Venki Ramakrishnan.

All the information that's needed for life is written in our DNA. But how do we get from DNA code to biological reality? That's the job of the ribosomes - those clever molecular machines that are found in every living cell. And in 2008 Venki Ramakrishnan was awarded the Nobel Prize for determining their structure. Jim talks to Venki about the frantic race to crack the structure of the ribosome, probably the most important biological molecule after DNA; why he thinks the Nobel Prize is a terrible thing for science; and his new job as President of the Royal Society.

Producer: Anna Buckley.

114Helen Sharman20160315

Before Helen Sharman replied to a rather unusual radio advertisement her life was, in many ways, quite ordinary. She was working as a chemist in a sweet factory, creating and testing flavours. Much to her surprise, her application to be an astronaut was successful and two years later, following an intense 18 month training course at a military base just outside Moscow, she was selected for Project Juno, the 1991 mission to the Soviet space station, MIR. And so became the first British astronaut. On the 25th anniversary of this historic mission, Helen talks to Jim about her life before MIR; some of the less glamorous aspects of being in space; and the difficult process of coming down to earth.

Producer: Anna Buckley.

Jim Al-Khalili talks to the first British astronaut, Helen Sharman.

115Carolyn Roberts20160322

Environmental scientist Carolyn Roberts talks to Jim al-Khalili about floods and forensics

Barely a month goes by without news of another catastrophic flood somewhere in the world, like the Boxing Day tsunami in 2004 or the flooding of New Orleans with Hurricane Katrina a year later, and the role of climate change is often mooted. Here in the UK this winter, flood victims were once again caught in a cycle of despair and anger as they tried to make sense of why their homes were flooded and what could be done to prevent it happening again.

Jim talks to environmental scientist, Professor Carolyn Roberts, who is pre-occupied by problems like this. She applies water science, in particular, to work out why such events occur and the role we humans play in them. Her passion for problem solving in watery places also takes her into the intriguing world of forensics where she assists the police when bodies are found floating in rivers and canals.

Producer: Beth Eastwood.

116Lawrence Krauss20160531

has had an unusual career for a cosmologist.

Not content with dreaming up theoretical models of the Universe, and writing bestselling science books, he gathers audiences of thousands for his talks with leading figures, from Noam Chomsky to Johnny Depp. And soon, he will star as an evil scientist in the film 'Salt and Fire' directed by Werner Herzog.

Inside the world of physics, Krauss predicted the existence of a mysterious 'dark energy' in space, several years before it was found, although the Nobel Prize for the discovery was later given to three other scientists.

As a public atheist, Krauss has come to blows with religious and political lobbies inside the United States. He tells Jim Al-Khalili why 'coming out' as an atheist in the US is considered so controversial.

Producer: Michelle Martin.

Author and cosmologist Lawrence Krauss discusses dark energy with Jim Al-Khalili.

117Marcus Du Sautoy20160607

shares his passion for mathematics with Jim Al-Khalili.

wasn't particularly good at maths at school; but a teacher spotted his aptitude for abstract thought and he started reading, and enjoying, journals filled with mathematical proofs. His thesis on the mathematics of symmetry launched him as a world class mathematician. And before he dies he wants to know: can you predict the properties of the next symmetrical object that could possibly exist in a hundred thousand dimensions or more? Marcus talks to Jim Al-Khalili about his passion for the performing arts, as well as mathematics; and why, for him, mathematics is as much a creative art as a science.

Producer: Anna Buckley.

118Hazel Rymer20160614

talks volcanoes with Jim Al-Khalili.

Hazel Rymer has journeyed closer to the centre of the earth than most, regularly peering into the turbulent, fiery world than makes up the earth's core. By taking measurements of micro-gravity on, and inside, volcanoes all over the world, she hopes to better understand why they erupt and what happens when they do. Having lost a close colleague to a random volcanic eruption, she appreciates the risks involved and, at the same time, insists that they are no greater than driving on the M25. She talks to Jim Al-Khalili about learning to think like a geologist after studying physics; the joys and frustrations of doing fieldwork on volcanoes; and why she loves gravity meter, G513.

Producer: Anna Buckley.

119Nick Davies20160621

The battle between cuckoos and warblers, as told by Nick Davies to Jim Al-Khalili.

has been teasing apart the dark relationship between the cuckoo and the birds it tricks into bringing up its young, for more than three decades. The Professor of Behavioural Ecology at the University of Cambridge has spent more than 30 springs and summers on nearby fenland of watching, recording and crucially experimenting. Nick's studies have deployed simple yet ingenious experiments, among the reed beds where the birds nest. They have involved mock eggs, stuffed birds and miniature loudspeakers, to piece together the cuckoo's dark story. He has even swopped cuckoo chicks with blackbird nestlings in the nests of the feathered parasite's victims. No birds are harmed in his revealing tests.

Prof Davies also talks to Jim al-Khalili about the origins of his life with birds, and the revolution in animal behaviour science beginning as he began his scientific career. Ideas about the selfish gene and game theory, along with DNA fingerprint in the 1980's, transformed the research of zoologists asking 'why' questions about what animals do.

Producer: Andrew Luck-Baker.

120Hazel Rymer20160628

talks volcanoes with Jim Al-Khalili.

has journeyed closer to the centre of the earth than most, regularly peering into the turbulent, fiery world than makes up the earth's core. By taking measurements of micro-gravity on, and inside, volcanoes all over the world, she hopes to better understand why they erupt and what happens when they do. Having lost a close colleague to a random volcanic eruption, she appreciates the risks involved and, at the same time, insists that they are no greater than driving on the M25. She talks to Jim Al-Khalili about learning to think like a geologist after studying physics; the joys and frustrations of doing fieldwork on volcanoes; and why she loves gravity meter, G513.

Producer: Anna Buckley.

121Faraneh Vargha-khadem20160705

talks to Jim Al-Khalili about how memories are made.

Self-taught Professor of Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, Faraneh Vargha-Khadem has spent decades studying children with developmental amnesia. Her mission: to understand how we form memories of the events in our past, from things we've experienced to places we've visited and people we've met. She talks to Jim about the memories we lay down during our lives and the autobiographies stored in our brains that define us as individuals. Faraneh was also part of the team that identified the FoxP2 gene, the so called 'speech gene', that may explain why humans talk and chimps don't. Plus Faraneh discusses how her Baha'i faith informs her scientific thinking.