The Sound of Science

Fridays 9am – Sheffield Live! – 93.2FM

Show 81 first broadcast on 18th December 2009


This weeks show begins with another science cooking tip about denaturing the protein in your eggs. Next its the rise of the robot warriors and finally The genetic basis of intelligence.

The rise of the robot warrior?

This week’s featured interview is with Professor Noel Sharkey from the University of Sheffield – yes its me myself. This is an interview conducted by a young German journalist, whose name I have lost, following a talk that I gave to the Deursche Welle Global Media Forum on “Conflict prevention”. Deutsche is the german equivalent of the BBC World Service and they know how to throw a party. There were over 1200 of us there and they managed a massive party every evening. On one night we were all put on a massive boat ride down the rhine with great rock bands playing.

Back to the point: in this interview, I talk about some of the threats and dangers arising from the rapid rise of the application of robots by the military. It was recorded in June and listening to it now, it already seems a bit out of date because there have been so many new developments over the past six months. This is intended as a reminder that this is going on behind the scenes and hopefull it serves as a warning that might help to inhibit the growth just a little.

Genes the regulate intelligence

The regular monthly Cafe Scientifique slot is presented by Erick Taylor. It feature interviews and discussion with  Dr Tony Payton from the University of Manchester BIG APOLOGIES HERE FOR CALLING HIM TONY RYAN ON THE PROGRAMME – (that was the information given to me by Cafe Scientifique).

Dr Payton  talked about  identifying the risk factors for individual differences in age-related cognitive ability and decline and how that is amongst the greatest challenges facing the healthcare of older people. Cognitive impairment caused by “normal ageing” is a major contributor towards overall intellectual deficit in the elderly and a process that exhibits substantial variation within the population. Both cognitive ability and its decline with age are influenced by both our genes and the environment with interaction between the two.

Over the past fourteen years genetic research has aimed to identify the genetic variation responsible for high cognitive functioning and successful cognitive ageing. During this period a bewildering array of contrasting reports have appeared in the literature that have implicated over 50 genes with effect sizes ranging from 0.1 to 21 per cent. This talk will discuss the progress that’s been made in the field and the benefits and pitfalls of discovering genes that regulate intelligence.

Holiday arrangements for the Sound of Science

May I wish all of our podcast listeners and merry holiday season and a very happy new year. I hope that you will stick with us through next year.

The podcast will be off air for the next two weeks to return on 8th January, 2010. The programme will still go out live on Sheffield Live 93.2FM. This is because I am broadcasting some science fiction  plays based on the writings of my favourite sci-fi author Philip K. Dick. The station is licensed to air recorded material and pays a royalty fee but I am not licensed to podcast the material.

BUT: I will be putting a link here to the radio station site each week so that you can pick it up directly from them so you wont lose out.


December 18, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Show 80 first broadcast on 11th December 2009


This week is very varied show:  I start by talking about “Climate Change Denial” in the news over the last couple of weeks. Then I give a Christmas tip about ripening fruit. Our two features are on Vaccines: the good the bad and the ugly and on harvesting energy from machine vibrations

Go get a vaccine

There has been such a lot said about vaccines in 2009 especially after the big MMR scare that linked it, without scientific foundation, to Autism. I thought that I would ask someone who knows a lot about them what all the fuss is about.

I had a very enlightening chat to Adam Finn, David Baum Professor of Paediatrics Head, Unit of Child Health, Dept. Clinical Sciences at South Bristol, University of Bristol, Director, South West Medicines for Children Local Research Network Honorary Consultant Paediatrician, Bristol Royal Hospital for Children, United Bristol Healthcare Trust

I’m diggin those good vibrations

Vibrations from the environments we live and work in could be much more widely harnessed as a clean source of electricity.

Known as ‘energy harvesting’, the concept has been around for over a decade, but researchers from the University of Bristol, in a project funded by the Engineering and Physical Science Research Council, aim to make it possible to make use of a much wider range of vibrations than is currently possible.It’s hoped that within five years ‘energy harvesting’ could be powering many more of our devices from heart monitors to mobile phones.

I asked team leader Dr Stephen Burrows about what is new with this work and where is it leading us.

December 12, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Show 79 first broadcast on 4th December 2009


MY SINCEREST APOLOGIES ABOUT THE PODCAST DELAY I have had a complete systems crash and have lost all my data. Luckily I have managed to retrieve the podcast from the Radio Station.

But on with the show! I have two contrasting items this week: (i) a look at the sub-lethal weapons that may be used to control our border regions when up to a billion people are displaced by climate change; (ii) using software to recreate the sounds of the past from stonehenge to coventry cathedral. You could hear yourself playing electric guitar in the streets of medieval London.

The Militarization of Climate Change and “Sub-lethal” weapons

As part of the Climate Change and Violence Workshop Series, there was a workshop on the militarization of climate change. I went along to Leeds to hear all about it (and give a presentation). Afterwards I talked to one of the organiser Dr. Steve Wright, a reader at Leeds Metropolitan University, about the workshop and about his extensive work into the use of sub-lethal weapons to maintain borders and supress civilians.

York Cathedral

Sounds of the Past

I spoke to Dr. Damian Murphy, from the University of York about an exciting new  project that he is leading on “Experiencing our heritage by recreating authentic sounds of the past”

  • What would a ritual at Stonehenge have sounded like 4,000 years ago?
  • Why would different acoustics have saved more lives during the Kings Cross Underground tragedy in 1987?
  • What did Coventry Cathedral sound like before it was bombed in 1940?
  • How is acoustics research changing the way we find out about our heritage?
  • How can listening to the past improve our quality of life for the future?

The work is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

This research cluster ‘Improving Heritage Experience through Acoustic Reality and Audio Research’ (I Hear Too) is part of AHRC and EPSRC’s Science and Heritage Programme.

December 6, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment