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Oxford Sparks is the place for engaging with exciting science taking place across Oxford University. Whether you are a school student, teacher, parent, interested member of the public, or a scientist, there is something for you from all the physical, life and medical sciences. There are hundreds of resources, including videos, science trails, activities to try at home, mobile phone apps, games, podcasts, virtual tours and plenty more! This series takes a broad theme and enlists experts at th ...
 
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show series
 
How do you retrieve data from sensors embedded in underwater settings - such as those monitoring ecosystem change, for example? Well, when human divers aren't an option (which is often the case) it's over to the autonomous robots! In this episode of the Big Questions Podcast we speak to Prof Nick Hawes from the Oxford Robotics Institute about the c…
 
Is there anything nicer than a fresh, juicy, home-grown tomato on a summer's day? Whether you like them sliced up in a sandwich or blended into a delicious sauce, in this episode of the Big Questions podcast we reveal the secrets behind growing the perfect tomato. Let us transport you to Trap Grounds Allotments in Oxford, where Emily is joined by p…
 
Misinformation about the war in Ukraine - and countless other topics, such as the pandemic and climate change - spreads like wildfire online. It aims to confuse people, make them question their own knowledge, and ultimately raise suspicion and doubt. But how exactly does this misinformation spread, why is it so prevalent on social media, and what a…
 
Masks, social distancing, lockdowns. We've become intimately familiar with numerous COVID-19 control measures over the past two years. Now, with most restrictions gone (at least here in England), does that mean that the pandemic is really over? In this episode, we chat to Erica Charters, Professor of the Global History of Medicine at the University…
 
Over the past year, we've seen our energy bills reach unimaginable heights. The war in Ukraine is having devastating effects for Ukrainians and creating ripples for international fuel costs. We're now in the midst of a 'perfect storm' when it comes to energy supply - but where are we in the story? Is the energy crisis going to get worse, and what a…
 
In this episode of the Big Questions podcast, we're talking about one of our favourite guilty pleasures - ordering a pizza! From the machinery required to harvest the wheat for the dough, to the cardboard packaging your finished pizza is delivered in, we're considering all aspects of a pizza's journey and asking: is ordering a pizza bad for the cli…
 
What do you think of when someone says “the most dangerous animal in the world”? A lion perhaps? Or a poisonous frog? Well, one species of mosquito – Anopheles gambiae – is often referred to as such, owing to its enhanced ability to transmit malaria, a deadly disease which led to 627,000 deaths in 2020 alone. A. gambiae isn’t the only species of mo…
 
Did you know there are different types of pain? In this episode of the Big Questions Podcast, we chat to Dr Lydia Coxon, a researcher in the Nuffield Department of Women's and Reproductive Health at Oxford. Lydia is looking at the mechanisms that cause pain in patients with endometriosis - a common gynaecological condition where tissue that normall…
 
One way to delve deep into the ancient history of the Earth - or other planetary bodies for that matter - is to examine the magnetism recorded by rocks. Kind of like a fossilised magnetic fingerprint. But trying to do this in an environment where another magnetic field exists (i.e. everywhere on Earth!) is pretty challenging. Enter the 'magneticall…
 
"Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer, had a very shiny nose..." Many of us will be very familiar with Santa's famous antlered friend. But did you know that many reindeer actually do have red noses? But why? In this festive episode of the Big Questions Podcast, we ask Oxford polar biologist Ignacio (Nacho) Juarez Martinez to share some of the reasons we …
 
Online communication channels are popular, to say the least. For instance, there are 187 million active Twitter users per day alone. Sadly, these open channels of communication also open up the potential for harm, through online hate speech. The problem is so large that we require AI to help detect it. But what about when it comes to emoji? Accordi…
 
In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic there was a lot of confusion, as we all tried to figure out what we should and shouldn't do to best protect ourselves and others. Fortunately, we now have more definitive answers to some of our most pressing questions - which are backed-up by data - including "umm...should I be wearing a mask?". As COVID c…
 
Satellites have been orbiting our planet for the past few decades. We might be familiar with how they can be used to track weather, or beam television and phone signals around the world. But did you know, that by capturing images of the Earth outside the visible spectrum, they're able to offer a unique perspective of the ground beneath our feet? Th…
 
From California to Greece to Australia, it seems like every time we switch on the news there's another wildfire report. Some fires are natural - in fact, they're a fundamental part of many ecosystems - but the severity and frequency of the wildfires we are now witnessing is beyond natural levels. Human-ignited "megafires" are causing devastation ac…
 
Chocolate. It’s rare to find anyone who isn’t partial to a square or two of this delicious treat. But is its very existence in danger? (*Cue worried faces.*) In this episode of the Big Questions Podcast we chat to chocoholic and researcher Acheampong Atta-Boateng, who studies the relationship between cocoa trees and their micro-pollinators. We hear…
 
How do you fit in to a new country with a different culture from your own? How can we develop a sense of belonging while celebrating our differences especially when we are migrants or expats trying to make a home in a new place? On today’s Creative Conversations podcast, host Yang-May Ooi is joined by cross cultural consultant and expatriate coach,…
 
How has the pandemic and restrictions on travel affected place-based tourism? What is a destination city like Oxford doing to face the post-pandemic challenge of bringing people back to the city centre - both tourists and local residents alike? Our guest on Creative Conversations today is Oxford City Councillor Mary Clarkson who is the Council Labo…
 
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 wrong? The RoboTIPS team at the University of Oxford is developing an innovative feature - an 'ethical black…
 
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