The Infinite Monkey Cage

BBC Radio 4

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

  • 22 minutes 8 seconds
    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

    22 May 2024, 8:00 am
  • 19 minutes 43 seconds
    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

    15 May 2024, 8:00 am
  • 16 minutes 54 seconds
    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?

    8 May 2024, 8:00 am
  • 19 minutes 16 seconds
    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

    1 May 2024, 8:00 am
  • 22 minutes 24 seconds
    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

    24 April 2024, 8:00 am
  • 19 minutes 44 seconds
    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

    17 April 2024, 8:00 am
  • 18 minutes 29 seconds
    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

    10 April 2024, 8:00 am
  • 19 minutes 45 seconds
    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

    3 April 2024, 8:00 am
  • 20 minutes 34 seconds
    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

    27 March 2024, 9:00 am
  • 42 minutes 31 seconds
    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

    20 March 2024, 9:00 am
  • 42 minutes 22 seconds
    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

    13 March 2024, 9:00 am
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