The Sound of Science

Fridays 9am – Sheffield Live! – 93.2FM

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

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