The Sound of Science

Fridays 9am – Sheffield Live! – 93.2FM

Show 52 – First broadcast 29th May 2009


Jon Prinz  on custard


This is “an everything you always wanted to know about custard except how to make it” interview with  Dr Jon Prinz, our molecular gastronomy expert. John was last on the show talking about tea in April. He  started out as an NHS dentist then did a PhD in oral anatomy in Hong Kong from 1992.   He now works on the mechanics of chewing and swallowing and sensory perception of food.

Jon teamed up with that famous chef Heston Blumenthal in 2001 and they have been collaborating and sharing ideas ever since.  He talks to us this week about heat in the mouth.

Are waggling wings the future of aviation?


Not really, but new research from a team led by Dr Duncan Lockerby at the University of Warwick exploits the idea of waggling wings to reduce drag on large planes and potentially reduce their emission by up to 20%. Could this mean that our holidays in the sushine will not be so costly to mother earth in the future?

Duncan comes onto the programme to tell us all about the project funded by the Economic and Physical Sciences Research Council, UK.

Emotion and Music at the Cafe Scientifique

cafe header

This months Cafe Scientifique package, presented by John Stratford, was part of the Sensoria film and music festival. It features Dr Nicola Dibben, a Senior Lecturer (Assoc Professor equivelant) in Music at the University of Sheffield where her research and teaching focuses on the relationship between music, mind and culture.

May 29, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Show 51 – First broadcast 22nd May 2009


Featured Interview: The nocebo effect

Symptoms of unknown origin

Have you every wondered how your thoughts and beliefs can effect your body. We all know about the placebo effect. The doctor gives you some sugar pills for that nasty headache and it magically goes away because you believe it is a new powerful drug.

Well the nocebo effect is the opposite. The Doctor tells you that you have six months to live and you dutifully die six months later.  Then an autopsy reveals that your illness was not that serious at all. Dr. Clifton K. Meador MD from the Vanderbilt University Medical School in Nashville Tennessee iis a world authority on such matters and he is on the show today to tell us all about placebo, nocebo and voodo. You can also read his blog on the state of US medicine.

Dr.Meador is the author of two very interesting books on this subject that you can by from Symptoms of Unkown Origin: a medical odyssey and Puzzling symptoms: how to solve the puzzle of your symptoms:

puzzling symptoms

Featured Interview: Air-fuelled batteries


In line with our policy of keeping you up to date with green technology, we present the air-fuelled battery – a ground-breaking technology that has huge potential for driving our electric cars of the future. These batteries may last up to 10 time longer than lithium ion batteries.

Professor Peter Bruce, from the Chemistry Department at the University of Aberdeen, leads the research funded by the Engineering and Physical Research Council in the UK. The research team has partners at Strathclyde and Newcastle universities. This week he tells us about how these new batteries work.

May 23, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Show 50 – First broadcast 15th May 2009


We’ve made it to programme 50!


We really did get to programme 50! yeah! When we first started the show I set mysefl a target of trying to get to programme 50 and we are here and still going from strength to strenght with interviews with first rate scientists and some quirky news. It is too early in the morning for me to pop the champagne corks – but this evening ……

Featured Interview: Futurology

ian pearson

Our first feature interview is with Dr Ian Pearson – a man who tracks and predicts new developments throughout information technology, considering both technological and social implications. We find out what  futurologists are, what they do and how they go about it.

Among the topics we probe are the future of thought control – this is not sci-fi or supernatural. We are talking about using the electrical activity of the brain to control machinery – there are already games from the likes of Emotiv that do this already. And we talk about Ian’s latest project on the future of TV broadcasting with all that is available on the internet.

Ian graduated in Maths and Physics and has an honourary Doctor of Science Degree. from Westminster University. After 10 years of working in most engineering disciplines, he moved on to work as British Telcoms futurologist. A job he held for 17 years.

He now works for Futurizon – a small futures institute.

Featured Interview: Ringing out the birds


Exactly 100 years ago last Friday (Maty 8), University student Arthur Landsborough Thomson and some friends at the University of Aberdeen became the first in Britain to put individually numbered rings, with a return address, on birds’ legs in order to study them. It turned out that ringing has been one of the most important research techniques in ornithology for all that time.

The University of Aberdeen is celebrating the anniversary with a display and we have Dr. Alan Knox, Head of the University’s Historic Collections, tells us all about what we have learning. The biggest surprise for me was the speed of bird evolution and the use of birds as indicators of climactic conditions.

May 15, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Show 49 – First broadcast 8th May 2009


Science in the News


Swine flu has been discussed just about everywhere in the last couple of weeks. We couldn’t really have a science programme without mentioning it and so we mentioned it without an in depth scientific discussion. We will get back to it later with an expert interview.

Featured Interview:Are we alone in the universe?


I visited the London Sci-Fi festival this week at the Apollo just off Picadilly Circus and would thoroughly recommend it – keep an eye out for it next year (I will remind you). There are lots of sci-fi authors and directors there, film events and panel discussion with experts. It was great to get such a good mix of sci-fi people with serious quality scientists.  I was doing a couple of robotics events and intended to interview lots of people but I was too busy in the end.


I did manage to catch one of the panellist from the Aliens: are we alone in the universe panel: Dr Lewis Dartnell, an astrobiologist from University College London who conducts serious scientific research into the possibility of bacterial life on Mars. He has writeen the book (picture above): Life in the Universe: A beginner guide –  available from Amazon.

The monthly Cafe Scientifique insert

Presented by Dr. Chamu Kuppaswamy

At this months cafe scientifique Professor Keith Worden from Sheffield University talked about: Nothing is Certain: Understanding Randomness, Unpredictability and Uncertainty

Sheffield Cafe Scientifique takes place at the Showroom bar on the first Monday of every month.

May 8, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Show 48 – First broadcast 1st May 2009


The fault with the podcast download has been fixed now

Science in the News


Dim Sun – no it isn’t a new Chinese dish. The sun has surprised astronomers by being at its dimmest for a century. There are no sun spots and very few solar flares. This has taken the scientific community by surprise and there is even talk of Global Cooling and a possible mini Ice Age. One of our science reporters, David Roberton, from the physics department at the University of Sheffield specialized in the sun and gives us some insights into what is going on.

Featured Interview 1: Choice blindness


Petter Johannson from Lund University in Sweden (and soon to be a University College London) tells us all about choice blindness. He asks if we are really experts on ourselves.

Imagine that you have just bought something in a supermarket and when you glanced away for a second the assistant switches items on you. Would you notice? According to scientists, Lar Hall and Petter Johannson from Lund University in Sweden, it is easy to fool people in this way. They have conducted a number of studies showing choice blindness. For example, they show subjects two people on playing cards and ask them which is they find more attractive. Then they use slight of hand to switch cards and ask the subject why the chose the one they did. The subject does not notice the switch even when there are big difference like hair colour.

It will all be much clearer if you watch this BBC clip on youtube

Featured Interview 2: The robot scientist – another view


This week we had quite a few emails about the Adam, the robot scientist developed at Aberystwyth. We interviewed the team leader, Professor Ross King, last week about this interesting and useful work.

Some of you said asked if this was going to create more unemployment for science graduates and others just said great work. But most of the emails were about whether or not we could call such a computer system a scientist. Is there a continuum, as Ross King suggested on the programme, from simple hypothesis driven research to the grand theoretical work of Einstein and Newton.


To discuss this issue I invited Professor Stevan Harnad onto the programme. Stevan is a Professor of Cognitive Science at the University of Southhampton in the UK and has a research chair at the Institute of Cognitive Science at the University of Quebec in Canada where he is at present.He became very well known to the AI community in the 1990s with his theses on Symbol Grounding which, put crudely, is the idea that a machine will only be able to gain an understanding of language by connecting to the physical world.

May 1, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment