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November 30th, 2011

Listen with Auntie: BBC Science

Listen with Auntie: BBC Science

BBC Broadcasting House

Apologies in advance for such a hugely indulgent post, but if you have similar weaknesses for the more geeky wing of the Big British Castle, then you at least will appreciate the links!

Earlier this week I sent a tweet out for @promptlondon which said: “Really enjoying @BBCRadio4 ‘The Life Scientific’ and ‘The Infinite Monkey Cage’ science programming: www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/features/science-on-radio4″

I’ve always been a massive, unashamed fan of Auntie, but as I grow older I find that I click or tune-in to the comforting familiarity of Radio 4 with increasing regularity. BBC iPlayer Listen Again and podcasts just serve to feed the addiction further.

Recently I’ve been spending much more time than I’d like driving along dual-carriage ways, pacing corridors and sitting in waiting rooms. On the plus side, I’ve had my iPhone with me packed with the Radio 4 science shows I mentioned in the tweet. Of all the shows ‘The Infinite Monkey Cage’ is probably the most accessible, fronted as it is by everyone’s favourite contemporary physicist Prof. Brian Cox and comic raconteur Robin Ince. I was hooked from the first show I caught around this time last year, when Alexei Sayle was roped in to discuss whether philosophy is dead. If that sounds appealing and you think you’d also enjoy hearing Tim Minchin talk about probability, or John Culshaw defending the north of England, then tune in.

Once your latent geek has been unlocked by humour, it’s time to tap in to ‘The Life Scientific’ (worm DNA this week!), Stephen Fry delving inside mobile phones, ‘Material World’ with Quentin Cooper, or if you’re feeling really brave, ‘A Brief History of Mathematics’.

You can imagine how pleased I was to receive a tweet from @BBCRadio4 which asked “@PromptLondon – What do you think of our #science @BBCRadio4 collections page then?”

Well, what do you think? Radio 4 Collections is the hub of all Radio 4 factual content sorted by genre. Not only has this tweet helped me discover ‘Saving Species’, it’s also a useful launchpad for great programming such as ‘A History of the World in 100 Objects’, ‘Bookclub’, ‘Desert Island Discs’ and more.

So what’s my point? There isn’t one really, other than a simple reminder of some great ways to expand your horizons, feed your head and pamper your techy soul with huge archives of great content. You’ve undoubtedly paid for this stuff already with your licence fee, and it’s all just sitting there waiting patiently to keep you company when you need a friendly voice or two to fill your wandering mind with baffling science.

Hook yourself up – tell us what you think.

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August 29th, 2008

An Honest way to cheat?

An Honest way to cheat?

Hands up who wants to have a go with the Speedo LZR Racer suit?

The Olympics are a golden memory now, especially for those athletes involved in the Water Cube in Beijing, and more importantly for those that were wearing the Speedo suit. Watching from the comfort of your living room it was the best way to spot a minnow from a shark, in other words who has a good marketing agent.

While I agree that what Micheal Phelps achieved was spectacular, I can’t help wondering; has technology and science (this time) got in the way of celebrating a human achievement?

People began mumbling about the incredible Speedo suit but then just somehow accepted that they were witnessing world records being smashed left, right and centre, but when the 100m sprint got a new world record in the Birds Nest stadium it was it was enough to send goose pimples down your spine. The makers of the Speedo suit have been strangely quiet, accepting not much credit at all (until you hit their website) – anyone would think they were a British company with a reserved stiff upper lip.

The way this remarkable suit works is by engineering the surface so that it is smooth, not rough. The tradition to date has been to make suits rough so that a thin layer of turbulence results in water-water friction, but in the new suit a composite material creates very low suit-water friction directly. The swimsuits also have elastic properties that squeeze the body much more than traditional suits; uncomfortable but evidently worth it!

“It’s clearly not cheating because it doesn’t break any of the rules,” says Mike Caine, director of the Sports Technology Institute at Loughborough University. It’s no worse than one athlete training with a better exercise machine than another, he says.

I’m sure sports equipment and clothing would never be banned but is it a step closer to ‘cheating’ in a sport, the same way as perhaps taking steroids is banned?

The world just learnt a new phrase: ‘Technological Doping’

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