Ali Out of Time (The Gaia Spiral Book 1)

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We find out how physicists measure the shape of the Universe, with the help of an orange and a game of Asteroids. However, if the Universe is not infinite, and it has an edge, what is on the other side? Drs Rutherford and Fry investigate this familiar feeling by speaking to world-leading reseacher Chris Moulin from the University of Grenoble in France and memory expert Catherine Loveday from Westminster University. For most of us, it's a fleetingly strange experience, but for some people it can become a serious problem.

Part 2: Randomness "Is anything truly random, or is everything predetermined? Hannah and Adam go in search of random events, from dice throws to lava lamps. Can we predict the outcome of any event?

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Random numbers are vital for things like cyber security and banking. But true randomness is surprisingly hard to produce, as the team discover. Will we ever find alien life? They start by asking how we define life and why we are obsessed with finding it on Mars. Should we be looking further out in the Solar System, and could we find space squid on the icy moon Europa?

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When it comes to intelligent life we may have to scout even further into the Universe. But what are the chances of finding complex life in the cosmos? And where might it live? Send your Curious Cases for consideration in to curiouscases bbc.

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Why people have different pain thresholds. Is there a limit to human sprinting performance? In this episode we investigate the biomechanics of running, statistical trends in human performance and which kind of monkey runs the fastest. But first, an experiment. Due to some spurious and possibly fictional injuries, neither Hannah nor Adam are fit enough to take part in a sprint trial at the University of Bath.

So long-suffering Producer Michelle steps up to the challenge and into the starting blocks. Not known for her love of athletics, or exercise of any sort, how will she fair in the ultimate speed test? Biomechanist Peter Weyand from Texas discusses the role of different muscle types in speed versus endurance. Burning, electrocuting, lasering and piercing are all on the menu, but which will hurt the most?

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Hannah speaks to Steve Pete from Washington who has a rare genetic condition which means he does not feel pain. For chronic sufferers, this sounds like heaven, but a life without pain has brought untold suffering to him and his family, including the tragic story of his brother, Chris. We look at how the body creates pain, why some people feel it more than others, and how this knowledge could help scientists treat pain more effectively in the future. How do instruments make music? Lots of them produce the same pitch of notes, but the instruments all sound different.

Bringing the science we have acoustic engineer and saxophone player Trevor Cox. Plus materials expert Zoe Laughlin demonstrates a selection of her unusual musical creations, including a lead bugle, a glass bell and a spruce tuning fork. A sense of time. Our senses create the world we experience. We know that animal senses reveal a wealth of information that humans can't access. Birds can see in ultra violet, and some fish can 'feel' electricity. So perhaps their sense of time is similar. If you've ever tried to swat flies, you'll know that they seem to have super-powered reactions that let them escape before you can blink.

Presenter Geoff Marsh asks whether flies have some sort of super-power to see the world in slow motion. Are they watching your hand come down at what might appear a leisurely pace? Science reveals a window into the minds of different species and their temporal perceptions.

Some birds have such fast vision that they can see and react to movement at twice the speed you can, and our vision works at more than six times the speed of one species of deep sea fish. This programme delves into each moment of experience to ask 'what is time, biologically? Geoff meets physicist Carlo Rovelli and asks him to jump outside of physics to answer questions on biology and philosophy.

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Getting deep into the minds of animals he questions whether our seconds feel like swordfish seconds, or a beetles' or birds' or bats..? Cat Hobaiter on communication in apes. Dr Catherine Hobaiter studies how apes communicate with each other. Although she is based at the University of St Andrews in Scotland, she spends a lot of her time in the forests of Uganda, at the Budongo Research Centre. There, she is endlessly fascinated by the behaviour of great apes. Cat Hobaiter tells Jim al-Khalili about the difficulties of carrying out research on chimps in the wild.

It can take years to win the trust of the apes.


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She says that her approach is to adopt the attitude of a moody teenager. Look bored and the chimps will ignore her, but at the same time she is watching them closely. Her particular research area is in understanding not the sounds that apes make, but their gestures. From her observations she has found that they use around 80 different gestures - many of which are common, in the sense that they have the same meaning, across different species like chimps and bonobos.

One thing she and her team hope to learn from these studies is how we humans have evolved spoken language. Photo: Dr Catherine Hobaiter. Carlo Rovelli on rethinking the nature of time. Carlo Rovelli is a theoretical physicist who became a household name when his book Seven Brief Lessons on Physics became an unexpected international bestseller.

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His concise, and poetic, introduction to the laws and beauty of physics has sold more than a million copies. Carlo Rovelli tells Jim al-Khalili how he first became interested in the nature of time when he took LSD as a young man. Later he became curious about the world of the almost absurdly small, where time has no meaning and space is grainy. He took seven years to complete his undergraduate degree, having spent a lot of time protesting against the political establishment, falling in love and travelling.

All this rebelling taught him the value of seeing the world in a different way and the benefits of challenging the status quo. Picture: Carlo Rovelli. Throughout the history of planet Earth, the element carbon has cycled between the atmosphere, the oceans and the biosphere. This natural cycle has maintained the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and has allowed life to exist for billions of years.

Ken Gabriel on why your smartphone is smart.

Jim Al-Khalili talks to Ken Gabriel, the engineer responsible for popularising many of the micro devices found in smartphones and computers. Ken explains how he was inspired by what he could do with a stick and a piece of string.

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This led to an engineering adventure taking in spacecraft, military guidance systems and the micro-mechanical devices we use every day in our computers and smartphones. Ken Gabriel now heads up a large non-profit engineering company, Draper, which cut its teeth building the guidance systems for the Apollo space missions, and is now involved in developing both driverless cars and drug production systems for personalised medicine.