BBC Discovery


An in-depth look at the most significant ideas, discoveries and trends in science, from the smallest microbe to the furthest corner of space. Podcast weekly on Mondays.
English United Kingdom Science
221 Episodes
1 – 20

Fungal Pandemic Threat

We’re familiar with fungal infections like Thrush and Athlete’s foot, but fungal diseases that can kill are on the increase. The World Health Organisation is so concerned that it’s published its first ever list of life threatening fungi. In this edition of Discovery, James Gallagher hears stories of hospitals being…
29 May 29 min

Food Insecurity

Soaring food prices mean putting food on the table is a daily struggle. This is the grim reality for millions around the world. But hunger, so long a feature in lower-income countries, is becoming a familiar picture in richer ones too. James Gallagher reports from the UK, one of the…
22 May 28 min

Maggots in medicine

After centuries of use in wound-healing, the maggot is back. The rise of the drug-resistant superbug means fresh eyes are focused on the superpowers of the larvae of the greenbottle fly species, Lucilia Sericata. James Gallagher reports on the healthcare professionals who are turning to maggot therapy to help clean…
15 May 28 min

Lazy guide to exercise

James Gallagher is on a mission to find out what is the least amount of exercise you can do to still stay healthy. James goes on a Ramblers wellbeing walk, uses a treadmill for the first time and takes a hot bath all to find out how lazy he can…
8 May 31 min

The impossible number

There is a bizarre number in maths referred to simply as ‘i’. It appears to break the rules of arithmetic - but turns out to be utterly essential for applications across engineering and physics. We are talking about the square root of -1, which makes no sense. Professor Fry waxes…
1 May 28 min

The mind-numbing medicine

This episode will render you oblivious, conked out and blissfully unaware. It’s about anaesthetics: those potent potions that send you into a deep, deathly sleep. Listener Alicia wants to know how they work, so our sleuths call on the expertise of consultant anaesthetist Dr Fiona Donald. Fiona shares her experience…
27 Apr 30 min

The resurrection quest

‘Can we bring back extinct species?’ wonders listener Mikko Campbell. Well, Professor Fry is pretty excited by the prospect of woolly mammoths roaming the Siberian tundra once more. And everyone is impressed with the science that might make it happen. But Dr Rutherford comes out STRONGLY against the whole thing…
17 Apr 28 min

The puzzle of the pyramids

The Great Pyramids of Giza are awesome feats of engineering and precision. So who built them - and how? Was it a mysteriously super-advanced civilization now oddly extinct? Was it even aliens? Nah, course not! Rutherford and Fry investigate how these inspiring monuments were really constructed, and learn about the…
10 Apr 28 min

The Case of The Blind Man's Eye

Close your eyes and think of a giraffe. Can you see it? I mean, *really* see it - in rich, vivid detail? If not - you aren’t alone! We’ve had scores of messages from listeners who report having a ‘blind mind’s eye’. They don’t see mental images at all and…
27 Mar 28 min

Our Microbes and Our Health

We are a teeming mass of interconnected microbes and the impact of this microscopic universe on our health, our minds, even our moods, is profound. Made in collaboration with Wellcome Collection, Claudia Hammond and an expert panel explore one of the fastest moving areas of science and what it means…
25 Mar 49 min

Judith Bunbury: Unearthing the secrets of Ancient Egypt

Think Sahara Desert, think intense heat and drought. We see the Sahara as an unrelenting, frazzling, white place. But geo-archaeologist Dr Judith Bunbury says in the not so distant past, the region looked more like a safari park. In the more recent New Kingdom of Ancient Egypt, from around 3500…
20 Mar 28 min

The Life Scientific: Rebecca Kilner

A fur-stripped mouse carcase might not sound like the cosiest of homes – but that is where the burying beetle makes its nest, and where Rebecca Kilner has focused much of her research. A professor of evolutionary biology at the University of Cambridge, Rebecca’s work – initially with cuckoos, then…
6 Mar 29 min

The magnetic mystery

Magnets are inside loads of everyday electronic kit - speakers, motors, phones and more - but listener Lucas is mystified. What, he wonders, is a magnetic field? Our sleuths set out to investigate the mysterious power of magnets, with the help of wizard physicist Dr Felix Flicker, lecturer in physics…
4 Mar 27 min

The Life Scientific: Tim Lamont

Tim Lamont is a young scientist making waves. Arriving on the Great Barrier Reef after a mass bleaching event, Tim saw his research plans disappear and was personally devastated by the destruction. But from that event he discovered a novel way to restore coral reefs. Playing the sounds of a…
27 Feb 29 min

Bad Blood: Newgenics

Are we entering a ‘newgenic’ age - where cutting-edge technologies and the power of personal choice could achieve the kind of genetic perfection that 20th century eugenicists were after? In 2018, a Chinese scientist illegally attempted to precision edit the genome of two embryos. It didn’t work as intended. Twin…
20 Feb 29 min

Bad Blood: The curse of Mendel

A key goal of eugenics in the 20th century was to eliminate genetic defects from a population. Many countries pursued this with state-led programmes of involuntary sterilisation, even murder. We unpick some of the science behind this dark history, and consider the choices and challenges opened up by the science…
13 Feb 28 min

Bad Blood: Rassenhygiene

In the name of eugenics, the Nazi state sterilised hundreds of thousands against their will, murdered disabled children and embarked on a programme of genocide. We like to believe that Nazi atrocities were a unique aberration, a grotesque historical outlier. But it turns out that leading American eugenicists and lawmakers…
6 Feb 27 min

Bad Blood: Birth controlled

Who should be prevented from having children? And who gets to decide? Across 20th century America, there was a battle to control birth - a battle which rages on to this day. In 1907, the state of Indiana passed the first sterilisation law in the world. Government-run institutions were granted…
30 Jan 28 min

Bad Blood: You Will Not Replace Us

"You will not replace us" was the battle cry of white supremacists at a rally in Charlottesville in 2017. They were expressing an old fear - the idea that immigrants and people of colour will out-breed and replace the dominant white 'race'. Exactly the same idea suffused American culture in…
23 Jan 28 min

Bad Blood: You've Got Good Genes

We follow the story of eugenics from its origins in the middle-class salons of Victorian Britain, through the Fitter Family competitions and sterilisation laws of Gilded Age USA, to the full genocidal horrors of Nazi Germany. Eugenics is born in Victorian Britain, christened by the eccentric gentleman-scientist Sir Francis Galton…
16 Jan 28 min
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