Oxford Sparks Big Questions

Oxford Sparks Big Questions

'Will my bacon sandwich kill me?', 'Is vaping better than smoking?', 'How do you become an astronaut?' - just some of the Big Questions we ask some of the brightest minds behind Oxford science. Join us in each podcast as we explore a different area of science.

Episodes

May 22, 2024 13 mins

Have you ever had a song stuck in your head that you just can't shake? A few bars or lyrics that just keep looping all day long? Well, we have delved into the science behind 'earworms' with Dr Jacob Kingsbury Downs from the Faculty of Music.

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Are seals the fishermen's friends or foes? The UK is home 35% of the world’s grey seals and we know they like to get their flippers on many of the same fish as we do. So, how are seals impacting the fishing industry?

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April 24, 2024 14 mins

House plants can be a cheerful pop of colour in your home. But do you find after the initial burst of life, your plants start to fade, looking sad and unhealthy?

 

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Volcanoes are pretty amazing! But how do they work on other planets?

 

Take Mars – it has the lar...

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March 27, 2024 15 mins

We are out in the wild today talking to bees!

 

In this behind the scenes episode, we visited Dr ...

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Cats are pretty adorable! Those big eyes, fluffy paws and cheeky personalities mean that most people find felines cute. But what is the science behind this reaction?

Neuros...

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February 28, 2024 11 mins

You might have seen them in a hotel. You might have read about them in the news. Maybe you’ve seen them star in social media videos filmed on the London underground. But should we really be worried about bed bugs?

 

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February 14, 2024 12 mins

Have you ever considered when kissing first started? Who, or what, first decided that this was a good way to show affection?

 

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How do we battle the energy use and soaring costs required to keep our homes warm?

We spoke to Dr Brenda Boardman from the Environmental Change Institute about the best way...

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January 17, 2024 15 mins

People have been interested in wine growing and quality vintages since the Roman times, but as the climate warms, what does this mean for the future of wine growers in the UK (and beyond)?

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December 13, 2023 10 mins

As we count down to the festive season and the days get colder, will we see a white Christmas this year? In the last episode of the Big Questions podcast for 2023, Dr Neven Fučkar from the Environmental Change Institute tells us more about the science behind weather forecasts and how climate change is impa...

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November 29, 2023 14 mins

Lions are iconic species, but they are threatened with extinction. In Zambia, researchers and conservationists are working together to find ways of conserving these majestic animals and preventing them from becoming by-catch of poaching. In this new episode of the Big Questions podcast, we speak to Dr Egil...

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November 15, 2023 11 mins

As the UK government proposes new plans to reduce the number of people who smoke, we talk to behaviour change researcher Nicola Lindson from the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences to find out how the plan would work. Could we see a generation that is smoke free? Would banning flavours in e...

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November 1, 2023 13 mins

Welcome to the new series of the Big Questions podcast, where we ask Oxford scientists to shed light on everyday questions that you really want to know the answer to.

 

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About a year ago, we asked astrophysicist Dr Becky Smethurst why the James Webb Space Telescope is such a big deal. Her answers were pretty exciting, to say the least. So, in the months that have passed since then, what has it found out? What mysteries of the universe has it begun to unravel, and has it lived up to expectations? We got back in touch with Becky for an update. 

This is the last episode in this series of the Big Quest...

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June 21, 2023 16 mins

What might an experimental petrologist (someone who makes rocks in the lab) and an immunologist (someone who studies the body's defence system) have in common? Well, it turns out, a shared interest in iron might be one thing. And what does all this have to do with aliens, and, specifically, whether you would want to meet one? Well, you'll have to listen to find out! With Prof Jon Wade from the Department of Earth Sciences.

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"Life finds a way"...This year marks the thirtieth anniversary of the release of Stephen Spielberg and Universal Studio's dinosaur masterpiece 'Jurassic Park'. A rousing soundtrack, gutsy kids, and graphics which have stood the test of time remarkably well - the film has undeniably become a classic. But - here's the big question - could it actually happen? Using today's technologies, could we actually extract ancient dinosaur DNA f...

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Many of us will have had to deal with a bacterial infection at some point or another. The solution? Often, antibiotics. But as the issue of antibiotic resistance becomes more and more of a concern, might there be an alternative to tackling bacterial infections with drugs? We chat to biomedical engineer Dr Sara Keller about how sound waves could potentially be used to break down bacterial cells.

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Increasing levels of CO2 in our atmosphere are a big cause for concern. So what if we could find a way to not only remove some CO2 from the air, but turn it into something useful too? That's exactly what Dr Tiancun Xiao and his team have been working on...and they've found a way to turn CO2 into jet fuel!

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Forced displacement of human populations owing to conflict or natural disasters is very difficult to measure. During these crises, the traditional methods of assessing changes in populations - which mostly rely on surveys - are simply not possible. We chat to Dr Douglas Leasure from Oxford's Leverhulme Centre for Demographic Science about how his team have been using social media data to assess the internal displacement of populati...

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