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The Life Scientific

Podcast The Life Scientific
Podcast The Life Scientific

The Life Scientific


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  • James Jackson on understanding earthquakes and building resilience
    Since 1900, our best estimates suggest that earthquakes have caused around 2.3 million deaths worldwide; we saw the devastating effects of one just recently, in Turkey and Syria. And as scientists have been at pains to point out over the years, there is no reliable short-term warning system. But thanks to the work of people like James Jackson, an Emeritus Professor of Active Tectonics at the University of Cambridge, we are finding new ways of understanding and withstanding seismic activity. James tells Jim Al-Khalili about his career travelling the world in search of quake sites and fault lines – trialling new technology and techniques in a quest to understand the processes that shake and shape our planet’s surface; and working out how this information can help vulnerable cities become more resilient to quakes in future... Produced by Lucy Taylor.
  • Marie Johnston on health psychology and the power of behavioural shifts
    Marie Johnston is a pioneer in the field of health psychology: the discipline that seeks to understand how psychological, behavioural and cultural factors contribute to our physical and mental health. Today an emeritus professor in Health Psychology at the University of Aberdeen, her career exploring behavioural interventions has shown that even the subtlest shift in how we act can dramatically change our behaviour and lives for the better – whether that’s in an individual recovering from a stroke, or a nation coming to terms with pandemic safety measures, while her work setting up the UK’s first stress management clinic showed why mental health support needed to come out of psychiatric hospitals and into general practice. Marie tells Professor Jim Al-Khalili why she believes the right interventions can be a powerful tool in improving public health, and indeed our healthcare system; and how an accident at the hairdresser's many years ago helped her become more approachable... Produced by Lucy Taylor.
  • Julia King on manipulating metals and decarbonising transport
    Professor Dame Julia King, Baroness Brown of Cambridge, is an engineer whose fascination with metals, and skill for handling both research projects and people, has taken her from academia to industry to the House of Lords. She tells Jim Al-Khalili how the dressmaking skills she learnt from her mother as a child helped her to understand the composite structures used in wind turbines later in life. And how she designed metal alloys that are resistant to both large and small cracks. As the author of the UK government's Review of Low Carbon Cars in 2007, Julia set out a route to decarbonising a major segment of the transport sector within 25 years, making an important contribution to the UK's plans to try and achieve Net Zero. But achieving Net Zero is not enough. With demand for electricity set to double or treble by 2050, there’s an urgent need to radically reform our national infrastructure and guarantee supply. Julia became a cross-bench member of the House of Lords in 2015. She’s now chair of its Science and Technology Committee, holding the government to account on its promise to make the UK a science superpower.
  • Danny Altmann on how T cells fight disease
    Jim Al-Khalili talks T cells, our immune response and Long Covid with Prof Danny Altmann. Danny Altmann joined ‘team T cells’ in his twenties and has been studying how these killer operate ever since. How do they know which cells to search and destroy? The T cell wing of our immune response is highly targeted and incredibly clever, on a par with the most sophisticated military intelligence operation and in recent decades there have been dramatic advances in our understanding of how it all works . Danny tells Jim how he came to study our immune response to all sorts of pathogens, from anthrax to zika, why he spends every morning from 5 to 6am in the bath reading 19th century classics and why he’s determined to try and understand Long Covid. Producer: Anna Buckley
  • Haley Gomez on cosmic dust
    Jim Al-Khalili talks to astrophysicist Haley Gomez about defying expectations and becoming a world expert on cosmic dust. For centuries, cosmic dust was a major source of irritation to optical astronomers because, like smog, it stopped them from seeing the stars. Now studies of these tiny particles are challenging some deeply held assumptions about the physics of the universe. Haley’s research has changed the textbook explanation of how cosmic dust is formed and helped to open our eyes to just how many galaxies there are in the universe. In 2018 she was awarded an MBE for services to physics and inspiring the next generation of physicists and astronomers from less privileged communities. A cause which is very close to her heart. Produced by Anna Buckley and recorded in the Pier Head Building in Cardiff as part of the Cardiff Science Festival.

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