The Sound of Science

Fridays 9am – Sheffield Live! – 93.2FM

Show 40 – First broadcast 13th Feb 2009



Sound of Science will return as a leaner meaner show on March 13th, 2009

Some old programmes will be broadcast in the one month gap but they will not be re-podcast here.

Science in the News

Nasty Noises: We ran a feature with Professor Trevor Cox on the world;s most annoying noises on Programme 37. This evoked quite a lot of correspondence from our listeners. Noel reads some of the most amusing ones. Then our field reporter, Tasha Yee-King hits the streets of Sheffield to find out noises people dislike most.

Flouride: Most of us have heard that flouride is good for our teeth and helps to prevent tooth decay. More than 10% of UK drinking water contains flouride and our Health Secretary, Alan Johnson, wants more council to use it because poorer kids are less likely to brush their teeth.  But there is a downside as well. Ulrich Weigert, ex-director of the National Pure Water Association, was talking at the Cafe Scientifique in Sheffield this week about the ill effects of flouride. We sent our reporter, Alison Cooper, to investigate. And to get a balanced picture she also interviewed a Professor of Dental Public Health from the University of Sheffield.

Light bulb ban: There is to be a European ban on tradional lightbulbs by 2012 (and 2011 in the UK). These will be replaced by low energy lightbulbs. This will cut carbon dioxide emissions and will therefore be good for the health of the planet (in human terms). But has it been well enough thought through – it may cause considerably problems for the visually impaired. Tasha Yee-King collected opinions from the people of Sheffield.

The Science Fiction Serial: Second Variety part 5

This extended episode 5 of  Philip K. Dick’s Second Variety completes the story. We played a much longer episode this week so that we would not leave listeners “hanging” over the one month break in the programme.

We’ll be back

Tune in on March 13th for the new tighter 30 minute version of Sound of Science.

Music on the show

Intro: Sound of Silence, Beastie Boys followed by Polar Bear

News: Mathew Herbert

Intro to the serial was tic by Niall Griffith

Outro: Locomotion by John Coletrane Quartet


February 13, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Show 39 – First broadcast 6th Feb 2009


W. Grey Walter and his amazing tortoise robots


This week’s programme is devoted entirely to the fascinating story of W. Grey Walter (1910-1977) a great British Scientist: psychologist-neurophysiologist-roboticist-social commentator-TV celebrity.

Our focus on Grey Walter is on his amazing futuristic robots. He was far ahead of his time. Apart from a couple of simple predecessors, Grey Walter designed and built the first fully autonomous tortoise robots that could seek light, avoid obstacles and return to their hutchs to automatically recharge. They were the first robots to interact with each other and the first learning robots. They were even said to flirt with each other

I have long known about his work and this is my journey of discovery to learn about what was behind the man and to find one of the robots in the flesh.

The journey was helped by a number of interviewees who probably know more about Grey Walter than anyone else. Alphabetically:

Professor Rod Brooks from MIT founder of iRobots and widely held to be the father of modern Behaviour Based Robots.

Professor Richard Gregory FRS, Emeritus Professor of Neuropsychology, University of Bristol. A personal friend of the late Grey Walter.

Dr. Rodri Hayward an historian from Queen Mary, University of London, who researches the history of medicine and has written a paper on Grey Walter called The Tortoise and the Love-Machine.

Professor Owen Holland from the University of Essex who actually discovered one of the robots and replicated it. Owen has written about the legacy of Grey Walter.

Professor Alan Winfield director of the Bristol Robotics Lab at the University of West England

Science Museum: Special thanks to Rob Skitmore and John Mumford from the London Science Museum for getting one of the original tortoises out of its case and explaining it to us.

Check out more pictures of the robots at the Bristol Robotics Lab in Bristol

There is a lovely old New Reel piece of Grey Walter, his wife and his robots Elmer and Elsie

There is a short biography here

Music on the show

Intro: Sound of Silence, Beastie Boys followed by Polar Bear Standing and Ready by Polar Bear from their album Dim Lit

Intro to the feature was tic composed and produced by Niall Griffith

Outro: Locomotion by the John Coltrane Quartet

February 6, 2009 Posted by | Science on Radio | Leave a comment