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We're back with a brand new series of the 'Oxford Sparks Big Questions Podcast'! And - in the Autumn of 2020 - where else could we start but with an episode answering a big question related to COVID-19? We're all used to hearing a lot of pandemic terminology now, but it can be difficult to get to grips with exactly what all these terms mean. For in…
 
We all feel pain differently. What to one person may be the worst pain in the world, might be a mild irritation to another person; but why? At the moment, we don’t have a thorough understanding of how pain is processed, meaning it is difficult to devise treatments for chronic pain. In this episode of the ‘Big Questions’ podcast, we are lucky enough…
 
Things have changed a lot over the past few months – including, for many of us, our daily routine. But how has this impacted our energy usage? In this week’s episode of the Big Questions podcast, we chat to Dr Philipp Grünewald from Oxford’s Environmental Change Institute about his ‘JoyMeter’ survey, which has given a fascinating insight into how o…
 
Established in 1621, the Oxford Botanic Garden was the first botanic garden in the UK. It has been - and remains – an invaluable resource for education, scientific research, and conservation. But recently it’s added another feather to its cap, teaming up with The Oxford Artisan Distillery to produce a ‘Physic Gin’. So what exactly is this gin, and …
 
As we search for a way out of the global coronavirus crisis, there’s been plenty of discussion surrounding a potential COVID-19 tracing app. Many of us carry a mobile phone with us wherever we go, so it seems logical to use this pre-existing infrastructure in the transition towards a ‘new normal’. But how tricky is it to make such an app? What’s mo…
 
Just one mosquito bite is enough to infect someone with malaria. Tackling this serious – sometimes fatal – subtropical disease is a key priority for the World Health Organisation; but how can we move forward in the fight against it? Specifically, how could a small team of researchers, taking to the roads in a custom-built ‘Landrover Lab’, help in t…
 
Much less is known about the Indian Ocean than either the Atlantic or Pacific. It's also the least protected. What secrets lie beneath the waves? What new species wait to be discovered…? Dr Paris Stefanoudis tells us all about the Nekton project, its past and planned missions, and the role it’s playing in helping us to find out “What’s in the India…
 
We’re living in extraordinary times, where graphs and statistics are splashed across newspaper front pages, and misinformation is rife. How do we know which sources of information are reliable? How do scientific researchers go from having an idea to publishing their findings, and advising on policy? In this week’s episode of the ‘Big Questions’ pod…
 
When it comes to mass-producing food, it’s important to make sure the taste is consistent, and good! But how can we detect the taste of something without eating it ourselves? Prof Richard Compton and his team in the Department of Chemistry are experts in electrochemical sensors, and in this episode of the Big Questions podcast he tells us all about…
 
Coronavirus has been hitting the headlines since late 2019, and is now at the forefront of many people’s minds. We have a lot of questions, and it can be difficult to find answers. In this episode of the Big Questions podcast, Emily is asking her family what they would like to know about coronavirus, and Prof Christl Donnelly (an expert in modellin…
 
With one person admitted to hospital every five minutes in the UK because of a heart attack, the ability to diagnose and treat them quickly is vital. In this episode of the ‘Big Questions’ podcast, find out how Dr Tingting Zhu is using a machine learning algorithm, trained on 15,000 ECGs, to diagnose heart attacks faster, potentially eliminating th…
 
Looking for ‘The One’, or maybe just a date for Valentine’s Day? The dating scene has changed significantly over the past ten years, not least because of the increasing popularity of online dating websites and dating apps. In this special ‘Valentine’s’ edition of the Big Questions podcast, we’re asking Patrick Gildersleve from the Oxford Internet I…
 
Much of post 1920s astronomy rests on her shoulders. Without her, we wouldn’t have a three-dimensional sky. Leavitt’s Law allowed us to measure distances in other galaxies as early as 1912. But how many people have ever heard of Henrietta Leavitt? We wanted to know about this ‘hidden woman’ of astronomy, so in this episode of the Big Questions podc…
 
We’re pretty obsessed with the concept of ageing. Ancient civilizations supposedly sought an ‘elixir of life’, and today many of us get hung up on finding a way to ‘younger looking skin’… But what’s the science behind ageing? What determines the life expectancy of a species and – time for the 'big question' – can we stop ageing? We ask Alison Wooll…
 
It's a new year (and a new decade!) and many of us will be looking to turn over a new leaf when it comes to diet and lifestyle. But - as anyone who's tried one will know - diets are VERY difficult to stick to. In this episode of the Big Questions podcast, we ask Professor Heidi de Wet from the University of Oxford's Department of Physiology, Anatom…
 
We know it as the home of Father Christmas, but why is Lapland of interest to geologists? In this festive episode of the Big Questions podcast we ask Anna Bidgood from the University of Oxford's Department of Earth Sciences "What's under Lapland?". Join us as we find out why the minerals found in the region are important, and what it's like to be a…
 
According to the much-loved 'Back to the Future' franchise, we should all be zipping around on hoverboards by now. As we come to terms with our disappointment that they STILL haven't hit the shelves, Dr Clara Barker from Oxford University's Materials Science department discusses the technology that would be required to build one, and we learn all a…
 
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