From Russia to Rwanda, women live longer than men and have done so for over 100 years. But why? Is it encoded in our genes or is it something to do with the way we live? This is something CrowdScience listener Michelle from England has been wondering about.
From cradle to grave, Marnie Chesterton examines the complex web of factors that are involved in how men and women age differently. It seems that, right from the word go, male embryos are already in the firing line because of their genetics. Marnie hears how women’s genetics are configured so that they have a backup copy of some of their genes, whereas men only have one copy. Not only does this make male embryos less resilient (and therefore more likely to miscarry), men are also at risk of a set of genetic diseases later in life like haemophilia.
Puberty is an important component in this story too when a surge of hormones changes girls' and boys’ bodies into adults. But something in the way a boy develops sets them up for diseases late in life. They may be fitter, faster and stronger - all traits that were evolutionary important to make a man the alpha of the group - but this comes at a cost. For instance, the way that a man’s cardiovascular system is ‘configured’ means that they’re far more likely to have a heart attack than women. But it’s not just this, behaviour is also a really important factor and it’s why the gender gap in mortality differs from country to country. In Russia, the gap is nearly 13 years (the highest in the world) and it’s thought that a culture of heavy drinking and smoking is why women outlive men by more than a decade.
...which got Marnie thinking - could men change their destiny and outlive women?
Presenter: Marnie Chesterton
Producer: Graihagh Jackson
(Photo: A group of ladies having coffee in modern café. Credit: Getty Images)
Is Soil The Secret to Slowing Climate Change?
Removing carbon dioxide from our atmosphere - and stopping it getting up there in the first place - is becoming increasingly urgent if we want to prevent catastrophic climate change. There are some seriously high tech machines being developed to try and tackle this problem, but could an equally powerful solution be found in the dirt under our feet? Prompted by New Zealand farmer and CrowdScience listener Kem, we dig deep to see how effectively plants and soils soak up CO2 from the air; and what that means for how we should farm the land around the world. And we visit a Scottish forest to find out how the ancient art of making charcoal is staging a comeback in the fight against climate change.
Presenter: Marnie Chesterton
Producer: Cathy Edwards for BBC World Service
(Photo: A young plant in soil, in the morning light. Credit: Getty Images)
Do You Smell What I Smell?
We may take our ability to smell for granted but it’s a far more complex sense than many people realise. Listener Annabel wants Crowdscience to investigate why perfume makes her queasy, so Anand Jagatia sets out to discover why we can’t all agree when we follow our noses. He gets a whiff of the world’s stinkiest flower - and finds some people enjoy it – then asks what’s happening in the brain when we love or hate a scent. But could our different perceptions about this under-appreciated sense actually come down to a lack of words to describe it? He hears about one culture which has developed its own language for smell.
Presenter: Anand Jagatia
Producer: Marijke Peters
(Image: A woman smelling roses. Credit: Getty Images)
Which Language is Most Efficient?
Communicating quickly, accurately and, ideally, in a way that's well-received is no easy feat, wherever you live in the world. For this week's listener, who lives and works in several different countries as a member of the armed forces, good communication can be a matter of life or death. And this doesn’t just affect military life – anyone who flies on aeroplanes may be interested to hear how clear use of language is crucial for airline safety.
But what do we mean by an efficient language – it is the fastest and most accurate speech, or most widely understood in multiple countries? Maybe there’s even some technology – a machine out there that can do the communicating more efficiently than we can? Presenter Marnie Chesterton attempts to apply science and evidence to the art of speech, in a quest to discover what language is the most efficient on Earth.
Produced by Jen Whyntie
(Image: A group of people holding up speech bubbles sitting on a bench. Credit: Getty Images)
Can We Make an Artificial Womb?
From IVF to premature babies we explore what science we would need to make a baby outside the body in a pursuit to answer a question from Nigerian listener, Aminu asking: Can we make an artificial womb?
To find out, presenter Nastaran Tavakoli-Far gets very close to a uterus transplant operation, peers at the earliest cells of a placenta, and sees a disembodied womb being kept alive in a box full of artificial blood. She asks how close current reproductive medicine brings us to gestating babies in a lab.
Producer: Rory Galloway
(Photo: A human fetus. Credit: Getty Images)