Oxford Sparks Big Questions

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Nowadays, the idea of encountering robots in our daily lives isn't pure science fiction. Many of us interact with AI every day, and the use of robots in, for example, healthcare settings, is already on the horizon. But what if something goes wr
Do you remember when the price of fizzy drinks in the UK went up slightly a few years ago? Soda fans, perhaps you remember all too clearly...! Well, this was because the UK government introduced a sugar tax (or the Soft Drinks Industrial Levy,
An arboretum could be described as a "living library". A beautifully curated collection of woody plants from across the globe, each one carefully labelled and managed. In this episode of the Big Questions Podcast we chat to Ben Jones, Arboretum
Lockdowns, social distancing, restrictions on 'normal' activities - we've all been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. But how has it impacted on our mood and mental wellbeing? We chat to Dr Maxime Taquet from the Department of Psychiatry about
Their distinctive 'teacher teacher' call is synonymous with British gardens, but great tits are facing a big problem - climate change. As our springtime becomes warmer and begins earlier, peak caterpillar abundance is also shifting earlier. As
Remember those days when it was possible to climb aboard a plane and jet off around the world? Well, while we might be yearning for foreign shores, there's no denying that air travel comes with a big ol' carbon footprint. But is it possible to
The moon may be the closest planetary body to us, but we still have a lot to learn about it. For example, what is the water-cycle like on an airless body such as the moon? How much water can be found there, and could we one day utilise this wat
We're over a year into the coronavirus pandemic, and it's affected our lives in many ways - including, for many of us, how we sleep. You may have experienced changes to your sleep pattern (particularly if you waved goodbye to your commute last
If you've ever been lucky enough to hear a lion roar (whether that's at the zoo or in the wild - hopefully at a safe distance!), you'll know that it's a truly bone-shaking experience. But do lions have a unique roar, or do they all sound the sa
In this year's Valentine's episode, we're exploring one of the most special relationships around. That's right - the one between us and our dogs! We often hear pooches described as "(wo)man's best friend", but for how long has this been the cas
It's a question that's on the lips of politicians, scientists and policy-makers right across the globe - who should get the COVID-19 vaccine first? Should it be the elderly and clinically vulnerable, healthcare professionals and other frontline
Is it possible to edit someone's genes before they are born to make them a nicer, kinder, more moral person? Not only that - but, importantly, should we do this? When it comes to gene editing for moral enhancement, there are many ethical points
Most of us have probably heard of video games being described as "addictive", but is there evidence of this? Are they damaging to our mental health, or could they actually have a positive impact on our metal wellbeing? In this episode of the Bi
It's that time of year - the festive jumpers are going on, the lights are going up, and we're ready to decorate our Christmas trees. But when it comes to choosing your fir, what do you go for - real or fake? Perhaps you have a trusty old family
Did you know that the winner of the 2019/2020 Fantasy Premier League, beating over 7 million other players, was Dr Joshua Bull - a researcher at Oxford's Mathematical Institute? How did he win? Turns out that 'mathematical thinking' and a strat
We've probably all heard the phrase 'Big Brother is watching you' (a reference to the fictional character in George Orwell's dystopian novel '1984') - but are we really under constant surveillance? Is it actually possible to be a fully function
'Influencers' are here like never before...log on to social media, and there will be someone there to tell you what to cook or what to wear...But what about when it comes to wildlife conservation? For instance, how much impact can a celebrity h
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 pandem
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
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 En
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,
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 in
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? Specificall
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 projec
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 id
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