Global infertility - could The Handmaid’s Tale become reality?
CrowdScience listeners Mark and Jess have been watching TV series, The Handmaid’s Tale. It's an adaptation of a book by Margaret Atwood and depicts a dystopian future where many have become infertile. The remaining few fertile women, known as Handmaids, are forced into child-bearing servitude. Why so many have become infertile isn’t clear but the series hints at several possible causes, from radiation to environmental pollutants.
All of which got Mark and Jess wondering… What could cause mass infertility? Would we descend into a political landscape akin to Gilead? Award-winning author Margaret Atwood has left a paper trail for us to follow in the pages of her novel. There’s a ream of possible causes, and so Marnie Chesterton investigates which ring true.
Presented by Marnie Chesterton. Produced by Graihagh Jackson for the BBC World Service.
(Photo: Filming of the Handmaid's Tale. Credit: Getty Images)
Can I predict the future?
Humans have been trying to predict the future since ancient times. The Chinese had the I-Ching while the Greeks preferred to search for answers in animal entrails. These days intelligence agencies around the world mostly rely on expert opinions to forecast events. But there are ordinary people among us that routinely outperform experts when it comes to making accurate predictions about the future.
Listener Cicely wants to know whether these non-experts, so-called “super-forecasters”, really exist and if so, how does it work? She has noticed that people in her family – herself included – are surprisingly good at predicting events.
CrowdScience investigates and finds that there is no hocus-pocus involved. On the contrary, scientists have found that super-forecasters tend to have certain personality traits and skills. And there is more good news; researchers believe that these skills can been taught.
CrowdScience presenter Graihagh Jackson takes up the challenge and tests her own predicting abilities.
Presented by Graihagh Jackson and produced by Louisa Field
(Photo: A barefoot woman on a beach, showing two lucky dices in her hands. Credit: Getty Images)
How many fossils are there?
The odds of becoming a fossil are vanishingly small. And yet there seem to be an awful lot of them out there. In some parts of the world you can barely look at a rock without finding a fossil, and museum archives worldwide are stuffed with everything from ammonites to Archaeopteryx. But how many does that leave to be discovered by future fossil hunters? What’s the total number of fossils left to find?
That’s what listener Anders Hegvik from Norway wants to know and what CrowdScience is off to investigate. Despite not having the technology or time to scan the entire planet, presenter Marnie Chesterton prepares to find a decent answer. During her quest, she meets the scientists who dig up fossils all over the world; does some very large sums; and asks, have we already found all the T-rexes out there?
Presented by Marnie Chesterton and produced by Anna Lacey
(Photo: Fossilized dinosaur bones and skull in the send. Credit: Getty Images)
Why do we pull faces when we concentrate?
Do you stick your tongue out or scowl when you concentrate? Maybe, like one of our listeners, you screw up your face when you’re playing music. Do these facial expressions actually help with the task in hand? And could they hold clues to humans’ evolutionary past?
In this edition of CrowdScience we tackle the science of face-pulling, along with several more burning science questions sent in from listeners around the world. We explore why it’s almost impossible to talk without moving your hands; and why bilingual people often switch to the first language they learned when they’re counting, even if they speak another language the rest of the time.
Presented by Anand Jagatia and Marnie Chesterton
Produced by Cathy Edwards
(Photo: A boy sits at a table, looking down in concentration as he draws in a note pad. Credit: Getty Images)
Where’s my time machine?
Laser swords, time machines, matter transporters - before the turn of the millennium, movies, books and television promised some extraordinary future technology. Now we’re twenty years into the next century and CrowdScience listeners are wondering: Where is it all?
Marnie Chesterton delves into the sci-fi cupboard to dust off some imaginary gadgets and find out if any are finally becoming reality. How far into the future will we have to go to find a time machine as imagined by H.G. Wells in 1895? Where are the lightsabers wielded by fictional Jedi? Why are we still using cars, planes and trains when a matter transporter or a flying taxi could be so much more convenient? Marnie is joined by a panel of experts to find out if and when any of these much-longed for items are going to arrive.
Presenter Marnie Chesterton. Producer Jennifer Whyntie
(Photo: Dr Who, Tardis. Travelling through time and space. Credit: BBC Copyright)