Saturday, 16 January 2010

Radiolab's exciting scientific journeys

I have recently discovered a wonderful science based radio programme on New York Public Radio called Radiolab. Since that first discovery, I have downloaded and listened to many of the podcasts in which Jad and Robert explore the world of science in a unique and thoughtful way. Their genuine curiosity for the topics makes this programme so beautiful, sometimes even touching; and because the topics are often easy to relate to it is not difficult to feel the excitement. I could say a lot more about it but this quote, taken from their website, says it all:

"Radiolab believes your ears are a portal to another world. Where sound illuminates ideas, and the boundaries blur between science, philosophy, and human experience. Big questions are investigated, tinkered with, and encouraged to grow. Bring your curiosity, and we'll feed it with possibility."

I hope you will enjoy this programme as much as I do!

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Birthdays and battle lines

Happy New Year!

This year promises to be an interesting one scientifically, not least in that the venerable institution, the Royal Society, celebrates its 350th birthday which is being marked with a year of events and activities. To start this off, Radio 4 and Melvyn Bragg presented an incisive and in-depth 4-part history of the Society, from its early days in Wadham College here in Oxford when the language had no term for the scientist and instead "natural philosophers" discussed ideas and witness early (and sometimes strange and/or barbaric sounding) experiments, to its present inception.

An interesting counterpoint perhaps can be observed in the travails of another old scientific society, the Royal Institution, and the removal of Susan Greenfield as its director. Away from the politics that appears to be accompanying this, there is an interesting post by Mark Henderson in the Times Online questioning the need for scientific popularisers and mediators between journalists and the researchers themselves.

It is a viable question: does someone who makes a career of explaining science really still have time to conduct research and keep abreast of current developments in their own specialist fields? But equally, can a journalist stay on top of everything from stem cells to quarks and therefore be able to interrogate each new scientific finding without having some kind of expert mediation to suggest the types of questions to pose?