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Elements

A Science podcast
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A close look at chemical elements, the basic building blocks of the universe. Where do we get them, what do we use them for and how do they fit into our economy?

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Recent Episodes

Obscure Elements
In the final programme in our Elements series, Justin Rowlatt looks at the rarest and oddest members of the periodic table. Selenium, bismuth, molybdenum, antimony, rhenium, hafnium, zirconium, tellurium, thallium, barium. What are they? And what are they used for? Minor metals merchant Anthony Lipmann explains how he made a fortune tracking down a stockpile of one toxic element sufficient to kill millions of people - and sold it to Japanese camera manufacturers. We set chemistry professor Andrea Sella a musical challenge to round off his elucidation of the periodic table, going out with a pyrotechnic bang. And cosmologist Martin Rees explains why 85% of the matter in the universe isn't made up of chemical elements at all, but instead of "dark matter", whatever that is. (Picture: Elements series planning board; Credit: Laurence Knight/BBC)
Gold (Au)
Why do we value this practically useless metal so highly? And does it bring out the worst in human nature? In a second look at this most coveted of metals, Justin Rowlatt hears both sides of the age-old argument. Swiss investor and gold enthusiast Marc Faber explains why he keeps gold bars tucked away at his home in rural Thailand. Meanwhile financial advisor and Big Picture blogger Barry Ritholtz teases goldbugs for succumbing to what he considers their very human irrational tendencies. Plus, we hear from Bandana Tewari of Vogue magazine about why her home country of India will always be besotted by the bling of gold. And here's a bonus for what is the penultimate programme in the Elements series. This podcast contains 10 gold-themed songs. If you think you can name some of them, then tweet your guesses to Justin at @BBCJustinR. Get them all right, and Justin might even give you a prize. (Picture: Indian model sports gold jewellery for Diwali; Credit: Noel Seelam/AFP/Getty Images)
Thorium (Th)
This radioactive metal holds the promise of thousands of years of energy for the world. But is it really any cleaner or safer than traditional uranium-based nuclear power? Chemistry Professor Andrea Sella of University College London takes the helm, as he speaks to no less than three nuclear physicists in his quest to discover whether thorium will deliver that godlike bolt of electricity, or just remain a nebulous dream. Prof Bob Cywinski of the University of Sheffield is a fan, whereas Dr Arjun Makhijani of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research is decidedly not. Meanwhile India presses ahead with its now 60-year-old thorium energy programme, as former nuclear chief Anil Kakodkar explains. (Picture: Human hand holding lightning; Credit: Sergey Nivens/Thinkstock)
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Podcast Details
Started
Nov 6th, 2013
Latest Episode
Sep 28th, 2016
Release Period
Weekly
No. of Episodes
64
Avg. Episode Length
33 minutes
Explicit
No

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