The Infinite Monkey Cage podcast

The Infinite Monkey Cage

Brian Cox and Robin Ince host a witty, irreverent look at the world through scientists' eyes.

Brian Cox and Robin Ince host a witty, irreverent look at the world through scientists' eyes.

 

#205

The Infinite Monkey's Guide To… Audience Favourites (Pt 2)

`This week it's over to you the listeners, as we hear some of your favourite moments from The Infinite Monkey Cage. Comedian Claire Hooper hears about the mating rituals of spiders, which use several of their legs in this complex process. But she discovers the females of the species get their own back by eating the males once the deed is done. Comedian Noel Fielding explains how he made a plasticine figure of singer Joey Ramone, prompting Robin to wonder about the pitfalls of building a real-life Frankenstein. And writer Alan Moore tells Jonathan Ross how he used string theory as inspiration for a comic strip... about a virtuoso violinist. New episodes are released weekly on Wednesdays. If you’re in the UK, listen to the full series on BBC Sounds Producer: Marijke Peters Executive Producer: Alexandra Feachem Episodes Featured: Series 26: Australia's Scariest Spiders Series 14: 200 Years of Frankenstein Series 2: Science Fiction, Science Fact Series 22: Space Archaeology Series 5: The Science of Sound ... Read more

29 May 2024

22 MINS

22:16

29 May 2024


#204

The Infinite Monkey's Guide To… Tiny Things

Brian Cox and Robin Ince shuffle through the archive to find the smallest things in the world of science, from a particle so tiny nobody has ever actually seen it, to the millions of microbes we’re all made up of. They ask the short-of-stature comedian Andy Hamilton how he’d feel about being three times bigger, which he admits could come in handy if he ever met a mammoth, leading to an unexpected discussion about a potential new TV gameshow format. Entomologist Erica McAlister is back to tell the team about her favourite fly, which can burrow into a human head to lay its eggs, and we learn about a project to make ants glow in the dark using nano-gold which went a little bit wrong. New episodes will be released on Wednesdays. If you’re in the UK, listen to the full series on BBC Sounds: bbc.in/3K3JzyF Producer: Marijke Peters Executive Producer: Alexandra Feachem Episodes featured: Series 16: What particles remain to be discovered? Series 19: Microbes: Secret rulers of the world? Series 6: Does size matter? Series 23: In praise of flies Series 24: Astronauts ... Read more

22 May 2024

22 MINS

22:08

22 May 2024


#203

The Infinite Monkey's Guide To… The Future

We know the universe is rapidly expanding but what happens if other galaxies disappear from view? That’s what Eric Idle wants to know as he ponders the future and what it holds in store. Solar scientist Lucie Green says this is not worth dwelling on because we’ll all be wiped out by an asteroid at some point anyway, which leads to a discussion about whether anywhere is still safe. Away from physics, Brian Cox and Robin Ince learn that one of the major contributors to global warming is the urinal cooling industry, which raises important questions about human stupidity. Should we let another species have a go? Chris Addison reckons dolphins might do a better job than we have but admits there are some major logistical issues. New episodes will be released on Wednesdays. If you’re in the UK, listen to the full series on BBC Sounds: bbc.in/3K3JzyF Producer: Marijke Peters Executive Producer: Alexandra Feachem Episodes featured: Series 22: The end of the universe Series 3: Apocalypse Series 13: Climate Change Series 19: The future of humanity Series 15: The human story: How we got here and how we survived ... Read more

15 May 2024

19 MINS

19:43

15 May 2024


#202

The Infinite Monkey's Guide To… Failure

Brian Cox and Robin Ince embrace failure in its many forms, with a frank look at the importance of making mistakes. They examine the flaws in Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution with the anthropologist Alice Roberts, as she tells them no idea is totally watertight. And sometimes scientific error even leads to important discoveries – just ask the heart patients who took a pill that did nothing for their medical condition but did boost their libido and which we now know as Viagra. But other failures in the field of medicine have had more serious consequences, and Dr Chris van Tulleken questions why we’re not better at drug development for the poorest parts of the world. New episodes will be released on Wednesdays. If you’re in the UK, listen to the full series on BBC Sounds: bbc.in/3K3JzyF Producer: Marijke Peters Executive Producer: Alexandra Feachem Episodes featured: Series 15: Science’s Epic Fails Series 11: Serendipity Series 25: What Have We Learnt From Covid? ... Read more

08 May 2024

16 MINS

16:54

08 May 2024


#201

The Infinite Monkey's Guide To… Gambling

Robin Ince and Brian Cox ask why some people always seem to win as they investigate the science of gambling. They hear how playing monopoly is no way to make friends, but don’t worry, because psychologist Richard Wiseman claims that it’s never really good fun anyway. In fact, games are mainly a form of social bonding and studies show deception could even be essential to human behaviour, which may just explain why so many people cheat. So should we even bother playing them? Well, it just so happens that solving maths problems can help us in other areas of life, so the team tackle a conundrum involving a goat, a cabbage and very hungry wolf, before becoming side-tracked by a debate over why the three were ever on a trip together in the first place, let alone trying to cross a river. New episodes will be released on Wednesdays. If you’re in the UK, listen to the full series on BBC Sounds: bbc.in/3K3JzyF Producer: Marijke Peters Executive Producer: Alexandra Feachem Episodes featured: Series 15: How to Beat the House and Win Series 3: Randomness Series 11: Deception ... Read more

01 May 2024

19 MINS

19:16

01 May 2024


#200

The Infinite Monkey's Guide To… The Gods

Robin Ince and Brian Cox tackle the thorny debate over whether science and religion can co-exist. But forget the tension between the church and the researchers – Eric Idle wants an answer to the important question of whether God is in gluten free communion bread? Katy Brand launches the inaugural theologian’s corner with a pair of Reverends, who explain that comedians and the clergy have a lot in common, including a tendency to like the sound of their own voices. As we learn more about how our universe works, will there even be a need for religious belief? Since some research suggests fundamentalists and zealots tend to be less intelligent, perhaps there’s a case to be made for some healthy scepticism. New episodes will be released on Wednesdays. If you’re in the UK, listen to the full series on BBC Sounds: bbc.in/3K3JzyF Producer: Marijke Peters Executive Producer: Alexandra Feachem Episodes featured: Series 1: Science and Religion Series 4: Is There Room for Mysticism in a Rational World? The Infinite Monkey Cage 100 Series 21: Quantum Worlds Series 10: Irrationality ... Read more

24 Apr 2024

22 MINS

22:24

24 Apr 2024


#199

The Infinite Monkey's Guide To… Talking to Aliens

Brian Cox and Robin Ince are on a mission to discover whether extra-terrestrials exist. But if there really is other life out there, what would it look like? Comedian Conan O’Brien is hoping for lizard-like creatures with superhuman strength, while Greg Proops imagines little green girls, like the ones in the Star Trek series he grew up with. Or possibly Ewoks. Either way, nobody can agree on the best way to communicate with them if we do ever make contact. Should we send them complicated equations so they realise how intelligent we are, and is playing Bach to aliens too much like showing off? New episodes will be released on Wednesdays. If you’re in the UK, listen to the full series on BBC Sounds: bbc.in/3K3JzyF Producer: Marijke Peters Executive Producer: Alexandra Feachem Episodes featured: Series 1: Extraterrestrial Life Series 25: Exploring Our Solar System Series 12: San Francisco Special Series 9: To Infinity and Beyond ... Read more

17 Apr 2024

19 MINS

19:44

17 Apr 2024


#198

The Infinite Monkey's Guide To… Gardening

Robin Ince and Brian Cox dig into the secret lives of plants to discover that there’s more going on in your average garden than you might at first think. They hear why trees are better than humans at re-growing broken bits, while comedian Ed Byrne reveals a surprising understanding of horticulture, despite dropping out of his university degree early. And while they’re still no closer to discovering if they’re alive or dead, the team find a new debate to have about strawberries, as they argue with forensic botanist Dr Mark Spencer over whether they should be classified as an invasive species. But what about other common pests? Phill Jupitus tells them about an intimate encounter with grey squirrel, and entomologist Erica McAllister puts up a strong defence of the mosquito, claiming they don’t deserve such a bad reputation. New episodes will be released on Wednesdays. If you’re in the UK, listen to the full series on BBC Sounds: bbc.in/3K3JzyF Producer: Marijke Peters Executive Producer: Alexandra Feachem Episodes featured: Series 11: What’s the Point of Plants? Series 18: Invasion! Series 23: Bats v Flies ... Read more

10 Apr 2024

18 MINS

18:29

10 Apr 2024


#197

The Infinite Monkey's Guide To… Love

Love is in the air(waves) as Brian and Robin trawl through the Monkey Cage archive. From using maths to find a boyfriend or girlfriend, to why birds and bees have far more exciting sex lives than you might imagine, this week’s episode is all about passion. Number crunching might not sound sexy but mathematician Hannah Fry tells Robin Ince and Brian Cox why research shows it pays to be proactive when you’re searching for a partner, even when that means risking total humiliation. But when it comes to the world's most extraordinary mating rituals the best place to look is… in the garden. Female bees go on a special nuptial flight, where they’re impregnated by males mid-air, and we hear how cockerels are surprisingly picky when it comes to which chicken they choose to cosy up with. New episodes will be released on Wednesdays. If you’re in the UK, listen to the full series on BBC Sounds: bbc.in/3K3JzyF Producer: Marijke Peters Executive Producer: Alexandra Feachem Episodes featured: Series 13: Maths of Love and Sex Series 17: The Secret Life of Birds Series 27: Bees v Wasps Series 17: How Animals Behave ... Read more

03 Apr 2024

19 MINS

19:45

03 Apr 2024


#196

The Infinite Monkey's Guide To… Murder

Brian Cox, Robin Ince and their guests will send a shiver down your spine as they sift through the science on murder, and hear some of the more creative techniques scientists use to catch killers. Apparently rambling through brambles is a great way to find buried bodies at the edge of abandoned fields and entomologist Amoret Whitaker says she relies on flies and fleas to tell her whether a crime has been committed. According to criminal psychologist Dr Julia Shaw, we’ve all got it in us to bump someone off, but it isn’t just humans who have this homicidal intent. The zombie wasp paralyses her cockroach prey, then slowly eats it alive, and we also hear about the murderous mushrooms threatening unsuspecting worms. New episodes will be released on Wednesdays. If you’re in the UK, listen to the full series on BBC Sounds: bbc.in/3K3JzyF Producer: Marijke Peters Executive Producer: Alexandra Feachem Episodes featured: Series 26: The Perfect Murder Series 12: Forensic Science Series 16: Will Insects Inherit the Earth? Series 27: Bees v Wasps Series 27: The Magic of Mushrooms ... Read more

27 Mar 2024

20 MINS

20:34

27 Mar 2024


#195

Higgs Boson

Brian Cox and Robin Ince visit CERN’s Large Hadron Collider in Geneva in search of the Higgs Boson. Joining them on their particular quest is comedian Katy Brand, actor Ben Miller and physicists Tevong You and Clara Nellist. They find out which particle is the one you’d most want to spend time with at a party, how cosmology is inspiring experiments in the collider and why the Higgs Boson - known as the 'god' particle' - is of so much interest to science. Producer: Melanie Brown Executive Producer: Alexandra Feachem ... Read more

20 Mar 2024

42 MINS

42:31

20 Mar 2024


#194

Cats v Dogs

Brian Cox and Robin Ince sniff and paw their way through the evidence to put to rest the age-old debate of whether cats are better than dogs. They’re joined by TV dragon and dog devotee Deborah Meaden, comedian and cat compadre David Baddiel, evolutionary scientist Ben Garrod and veterinarian Jess French. They learn how the domestication of our four-legged companions by humans has had a profound impact on their physiology, temperament and methods of communication. They debate which species is the most intelligent and skilled and try to lay to rest the most important question of all – which one really loves you? Producer: Melanie Brown Executive Producer: Alexandra Feachem ... Read more

13 Mar 2024

42 MINS

42:22

13 Mar 2024


#193

Poison

Brian Cox and Robin Ince delve into the murky world of historical poisonings. Joining them to add their drops of killer insight are comedian Hugh Dennis, chemist Andrea Sella and Agatha Christie aficionado and former chemist Kathryn Harkup. They find out just how easy poison was to get your hands on and how people literally got away with murder until chemists developed tests for substances like arsenic. Bottles of deadly substances are passed around our expert panel with some trepidation and we learn how seemingly innocuous garden plants can be deadly in the wrong hands. Producer: Melanie Brown Executive Producer: Alexandra Feachem ... Read more

06 Mar 2024

42 MINS

42:25

06 Mar 2024


#192

Asteroids

Brian Cox and Robin Ince journey through the asteroid belt to discuss space rocks with Dr Who companion John Bishop, professor of planetary science Sara Russell and astrophysicist Alan Fitzsimmons. They learn that these seemingly innocuous rubble like rocks can hold secrets to the formation of the solar system but just don’t jump on one – you may shoot straight through it! They find out about the latest space missions that are trying to bump into or grab bits of asteroids and how these technological feats are helping to avoid the end of life on earth as we know it. Producer: Melanie Brown Executive Producer: Alexandra Feachem ... Read more

28 Feb 2024

42 MINS

42:25

28 Feb 2024


#191

Could it be magic?

Brian Cox and Robin Ince pull scientific explanations out of a hat and go down the rabbit hole to explore the science of magic with comedian Alan Davies, sleight of hand artist Laura London and two experts in the psychology of magic Richard Wiseman and Gustav Kuhn. They ask what our predilection to be bamboozled by sleight of hand can tell us about how our minds work. Alan has a card trick played on him and we learn how our choices aren’t always what we think they are. Producer: Melanie Brown Executive Producer: Alexandra Feachem ... Read more

21 Feb 2024

42 MINS

42:44

21 Feb 2024


#190

Egyptian Mummies

Brian Cox and Robin Ince peel back the layers to explore mummification and the science of Ancient Egypt. They are joined by comedians Russel Kane, Lucy Porter and bio-medical Egyptologists Rosalie David and Lidija McKnight from the University of Manchester, as they learn about the scientific techniques that are helping to uncover the lives of Ancient Egyptians, including that of a woman who died running away from an axe murderer. They find out that much of modern western medicine was built on the Ancient Egyptians sophisticated pharmacology, though they should probably avoid the treatment for migraines which involves being slapped in the head by a fish. Producer: Melanie Brown Executive Producer: Alexandra Feachem ... Read more

14 Feb 2024

42 MINS

42:24

14 Feb 2024


#189

The Monkeys meet The Sky at Night

Brian Cox and Robin Ince are joined by the longest running science show in the world, The Sky at Night, alongside comedian and astronomy enthusiast Dara O Briain for the ultimate guide to studying the stars from your own back garden. Sky At Night presenters Dr Maggie Aderin Pocock, Chris Lintott and Pete Lawrence join the panel to offer their top tips to backyard astronomy over the winter season. From binoculars to telescopes and even the naked eye: meteor showers, planetary moons and odd behaving galaxies are just some of the heavenly phenomena visible with or without equipment from the comfort of your own garden or local park. An out of this world seasonal special. And you can catch the monkey's on a special edition of the Sky At Night on BBC iplayer from November 13th. Executive Producer: Alexandra Feachem ... Read more

20 Dec 2023

57 MINS

57:23

20 Dec 2023


#188

Jo Brand's Quantum World

Brian Cox and Robin Ince are subject to a non-hostile takeover by comedian and non-physicist Jo Brand, as she challenges the panel to help her understand the almost unbelievable world of cheeky particles who may or may not be in several places at once. To help Jo get to grips with the bizarre and strange world of our quantum universe, Brian and Robin are joined by theoretical physicist Prof Ben Allanach from the University of Cambridge and cosmologist Prof Fay Dowker from Imperial College London, who introduce Jo to the weird and wonderful ways of quantum theory, dead and alive cats and multiverses. Executive Producer: Alexandra Feachem. ... Read more

13 Dec 2023

42 MINS

42:16

13 Dec 2023


#187

Hollywood in Space

Brian Cox and Robin Ince put Hollywood under the microscope to unpick the science fact v science fiction of some of the biggest movies set in space. They are joined by a truly out of this world panel of space experts including astronauts Tim Peake, Nicole Stott and Susan Kilrain alongside Oscar-winning Special FX director Paul Franklin, whose movies include Interstellar and First Man. Tim, Nicole and Susan fact check how space travel and astronauts are portrayed in movies such as Gravity and The Martian, whilst Brian and Robin argue about Robin's lack of enthusiasm for Star Wars. They look back at some of the greatest space movies including Alien and 2001 A Space Odyssey, and ask whether some fictional aspects of these blockbusters may not be so far from our future reality. Executive Producer: Alexandra Feachem. ... Read more

06 Dec 2023

42 MINS

42:23

06 Dec 2023


#186

The Scale of Life (or were dinosaurs just too big?)

Brian and Robin are joined by palaeontologist Dr Susie Maidment, evolutionary biologist Dr Tori Herridge and comedian Dave Gorman to pitch giant creatures against tiny creatures in their bid to avoid extinction. They explore the scale of life and ask why some organisms are large and some small and what the optimum size for successful survival is. From the prokaryotic cell to the grandest dinosaur, how does the modern synthesis explain the huge variation in scale, form and function? What are the advantages and disadvantages to being huge like the dinosaurs, or was it their size that really did them in, in the end? New episodes released Wednesdays. If you're in the UK, listen to the newest episodes of The Infinite Monkey Cage first on BBC Sounds: bbc.in/3K3JzyF Executive Producer: Alexandra Feachem ... Read more

29 Nov 2023

42 MINS

42:22

29 Nov 2023


#185

How I is AI?

Brian and Robin (the real ones) are joined by mathematician Prof Hannah Fry, compute scientist Dr Kate Devlin and comedian Rufus Hound to discuss the pros and cons of AI. Just how intelligent is the most intelligent AI? Will our phones soon be smarter than us – will we fail a Turing test while our phone passes it? Will we have AI therapists, doctors, lawyers, carers or even politicians? How will the increasing ubiquity of AI systems change our society and our relationships with each other? Could radio presenters of hit science/comedy shows soon be replaced with wittier, smarter AI versions that know more about particle physics... surely not! New episodes released Wednesdays. If you're in the UK, listen to the newest episodes of The Infinite Monkey Cage first on BBC Sounds: bbc.in/3K3JzyF Executive Producer: Alexandra Feachem. ... Read more

22 Nov 2023

42 MINS

42:57

22 Nov 2023


#184

The Science of Coincidence

Are some people just lucky? Is there any scientific formula behind coincidences? Is randomness the norm? Brian and Robin team up with comedian Sophie Duker, mathematician Marcus Du Sautoy and statistician David Spiegelhalter to uncover the reality and the maths behind seemingly incredible coincidences. How many people do you need in a room to find two with the same birthday? What is the weirdest coincidence that the panel have ever encountered? Is there a mathematical formula to being lucky? How good are we at judging how likely something is to happen? The answer is not very, as Brian and Robin unluckily discover. New episodes released Wednesdays. If you're in the UK, listen to the newest episodes of The Infinite Monkey Cage first on BBC Sounds: bbc.in/3K3JzyF Executive Producer: Alexandra Feachem. ... Read more

14 Nov 2023

42 MINS

42:30

14 Nov 2023


#183

The Infinite Monkey’s Guide to... Audience Favourites

There’s no shortage of surprising science in The Infinite Monkey Cage and this episode is dedicated to you, the audience, as we hear some of your favourite clips from the past 14 years of the show. Palaeontologist Susie Maidment explains why licking rocks is the best way to determine their age, but you were just as interested in whether Robin is older than Brian, who also admits Jon Culshaw’s impression of him is surprisingly accurate. Entomologist Erica McAlister explains what to do if a fly lands in your wine, but be warned, it might put you off drinking! And actor Brendan Hunt gets excited by the prospect of chatty trees. Episodes featured: Series 24: The Wood Wide Web Series 23: A History of Rock Series 5: What’s the North Ever Done for Us? Series 20: Dinosaurs Series 23: In Praise of Flies Series 21: Science of Laughter New episodes will be released on Wednesdays, but if you’re in the UK, listen to new episodes, a week early, first on BBC Sounds: bbc.in/3K3Jzy Producer: Marijke Peters Executive Producer: Alexandra Feachem ... Read more

08 Nov 2023

23 MINS

23:58

08 Nov 2023


#182

Octopuses!

If Aliens really are amongst us, the most likely candidates may not be little green men, but living in plain sight, just below our ocean waves, in the form of the mysterious and awe-inspiringly clever Octopus. Scientists are only just discovering the amazing intelligence of these elegant and highly unusual creatures that seem to have evolved in a completely different way to nearly any other creature on the planet. Brian and Robin are joined by marine biologist Dr Tim Lamont, Neuroscientist Dr Amy Courtney and comedian Russell Kane to uncover just how clever these mysterious creatures are, how they've evolved intelligence in an entirely unique way and whether 8 brains, as well as 8 legs are really better than 1. The panel also discover the alarming truth about the unique sex lives of the octopus - lets just say it doesn't end well for at least one of the participants. New episodes released Wednesdays. If you're in the UK, listen to the newest episodes of The Infinite Monkey Cage first on BBC Sounds: bbc.in/3K3JzyF Executive Producer: Alexandra Feachem ... Read more

08 Nov 2023

42 MINS

42:54

08 Nov 2023


#181

The Infinite Monkey’s Guide to... Infinity

Endless inflation seems to be everywhere at the moment, including on this episode examining the nature of infinity. Brian and Robin dive through the back catalogue to discover there might be no limit to the number of parallel universes that exist. This leads to an argument between astronomer royal Lord Rees and comedy producer John Lloyd, who says the whole suggestion is total speculation. Even cosmologist Carlos Frenk can’t get his head round the idea, as he contemplates the suggestion that new big bangs may be happening all the time. Episodes featured: Series 10: Before the Big Bang Series 6: Parallel Universes Series 21: Quantum Worlds Series 9: To Infinity and Beyond Series 10: Numbers Numbers Everywhere New episodes will be released on Wednesdays, but if you’re in the UK, listen to new episodes, a week early, first on BBC Sounds: bbc.in/3K3Jzy Producer: Marijke Peters Executive Producer: Alexandra Feachem ... Read more

01 Nov 2023

18 MINS

18:10

01 Nov 2023