BBC Radio 4

Best-selling author Matthew Syed explores the ideas that shape our lives with stories of seeing the world differently.

  • 29 minutes 4 seconds
    A New Frontier: 2. For All Humankind?

    Matthew Syed continues his four-part mini series exploring the ethics of space exploration, by returning to the origins of the space race, which saw America and the USSR battling for supremacy. He takes a hard look into the reasons why we go to space and whether it has really benefited all humankind.

    When Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon in July 1969, humanity as a whole felt like we’d reached a new frontier. The two astronauts left a plaque behind them, at the bottom of their lunar module. It said “we came in peace for all mankind”. But while Armstrong and Aldrin were ambassadors of the entire species, it was an American flag which was planted on the surface of the moon.

    This was a time of fear of Cold War competition amidst fear of nuclear annihilation. Despite the altruistic ideals encapsulated in NASA’s motto "for the benefit of all", the geopolitical stakes of the space race were paramount. Matthew explores how this combined with America's perception of its exceptionalism and how the post-war period was filled with nationalistic ambitions and controversies.

    With historians Roger Launius and Neil Maher, Science and Religion Professor Catherine Newell, Space Lawyer Michelle Hanlon and retired astronaut John Herrington.

    Presenter: Matthew Syed Producer: Julien Manuguerra-Patten Series Editor: Katherine Godfrey Sound Design and Mix: Rob Speight Theme music by: Ioana Selaru A Novel production for BBC Radio 4

    Featuring archive from: Apollo moon landing archive: NASA, Apollo 11 Moonwalk - Original NASA EVA Mission Video - Walking on the Moon, 1969. Archive Rev Ralph Abernathy at Cape Kennedy. From Library of American Congress and WGBH. Extract from the 3 parts documentary series “Chasing the Moon” directed by Robert Stone for PBS, 2019. Wernher Von Braun - extract from “Disneyland, Man on the Moon” documentary produced by Walt Disney and directed by Ward Kimball, ABC tv 1955. Archive JF Kennedy at the United Nation. From the United Nations Archives. General Assembly (20 September 1963) First International crew arrives at Space Station - CNN reports, 2 November 2000. Archive Space Treaty - British Pathé, Space Treaty February 1967 NASA Artemis launch - @NASA, produced by Sonnet Apple, 2022.

    17 July 2024, 5:00 am
  • 28 minutes 59 seconds
    A New Frontier: 1. A Message to Ourselves

    In this special series from Sideways, called A New Frontier, Matthew Syed explores the most out of this world ethical questions posed by the evolution of human space exploration.

    He takes us into the cosmos with stories from astronauts who’ve been there and those who can only dream of going, to explore the moral debates that have permeated space exploration since before the moon landings, and are evolving dramatically today in a new era of commercial space flight, of asteroid mining and almost daily satellite launches.

    Matthew begins the series by diving into the ethics of humanity’s search for extra-terrestrial life.

    In 1974, Richard Isaacman was a young graduate, studying to become an astronomer, from some of the field's biggest names - like Carl Sagan and Frank Drake. At just 21-years-old, he’s asked to contribute to humankind's first ever deliberate attempt to send a targeted radio transmission to a cluster of stars in the outer reaches of the galaxy. A rudimentary picture, designed to be intercepted and decoded by aliens.

    Delving into our obsession with aliens, science fiction and the vastness of space, Matthew discovers how asking questions about space ethics can often lead us to answers that tell us much more about the ways we treat our own environment, other animals, and each other, than it does about little green men.

    With former NASA astronaut John Herrington, York University astronomer Sarah Rugheimer and space ethicist, podcaster and author Erika Nesvold.

    Presenter: Matthew Syed Producer: Leona Hameed Series Editor: Katherine Godfrey Sound Design and Mix: Rob Speight Theme music by Ioana Selaru A Novel production for BBC Radio 4

    10 July 2024, 5:00 am
  • 2 minutes 36 seconds
    Introducing – A New Frontier

    Travel into the cosmos for a four-part series about the ethics of space exploration. Matthew Syed invites you to enter the vast wilderness of the galaxy to explore the moral dilemmas that sit at the heart of space exploration, and why they should matter to you.

    When the space race began in the 1960s, the United States and the Soviet Union dominated. Today, multiple commercial entities and many more governments vie for space in the skies above us. Now we may go to other planets not in order to bring back knowledge that will benefit humankind on earth, but potentially to stay and make a new life for the human race… out there. Exploration is turning to colonisation. In this series, Matthew Syed explores the moral underpinning of space exploration beginning with the space race and early attempts to send a message to little green men. He will ask who gets to go to space, how should we behave when we're there, and whether we have the ethical and legal framework to avoid replicating the conflicts we face on earth, up in the skies above us.

    Despite all the complexities and necessary moral questions to be wrangled with in this new era, Matthew explores the profound experiences to be had by standing outside our planet. It may offer a unique vantage point to ask questions about who we are, what we owe to each other, where we’re going, and why.

    Listen from Weds 10 July 2024.

    Producers: Leona Hameed, Julien Manuguerra-Patten, Vishva Samani Series Editor: Katherine Godfrey Sound design and mix: Rob Speight Theme tune by Ioana Selaru A Novel production for BBC Radio 4

    3 July 2024, 5:00 am
  • 28 minutes 54 seconds
    62. Lost and Found

    In 1984, on the eve of the Winter Olympics, Joe Boylan gets lost in a blizzard on an Austrian mountainside. Joe will have to fight with everything he has to survive and be reunited with his family. How he does it reveals often typical patterns of behaviour exhibited by lost people in similar situations.

    Through the story of Joe’s extraordinary 48-hour battle against the wilderness, Matthew Syed examines the fascinating area of study called Lost Person Behaviour, which has changed the way search and rescue teams operate, world over.

    Featuring Joe Boylan, Robert J Koester, mathematician and author of Lost Person Behavior, Alistair Read from Mountain Rescue England and Wales, Neil Balderson of Lowland Rescue and Maura O'Connor, science journalist and author of Wayfinding: The Science and Mystery of How Humans Navigate the World.

    Presenter: Matthew Syed Producer: Leona Hameed Series Editor: Katherine Godfrey Sound Design and Mix by Daniel Kempson Theme Tune by Ioana Selaru A Novel production for BBC Radio 4

    27 March 2024, 6:00 am
  • 29 minutes 11 seconds
    61. Brain Strain

    In 1972, at the liberal Vassar College in New York, 18-year-old Rick Shenkman stood out for his unwavering support of Richard Nixon, especially as the Watergate scandal unfolded. His unconditional allegiance raises a perplexing question - why would a bright, well-educated student overlook the facts and maintain blind faith in the president?

    In this episode, Matthew Syed delves into one of the most intriguing facets of human psychology - cognitive dissonance.

    Conceptualised by Leon Festinger in the 1950s, cognitive dissonance refers to the mental discomfort a person experiences when they hold contradictory beliefs, values, or attitudes simultaneously, or when their behaviour conflicts with their beliefs or values. While we all encounter cognitive dissonance in our daily lives, its underlying mechanisms often remain unnoticed despite their profound impact.

    Featuring journalist and historian Rick Shenkman, Professor Elliot Aronson, Professor Matt Johnson and Princeton University graduate student, Logan Pearce.

    Presenter: Matthew Syed Producer: Julien Manuguerra-Patten Series Editor: Katherine Godfrey Sound Design and Mix: Daniel Kempson Theme Tune by Ioana Selaru A Novel production for BBC Radio 4

    20 March 2024, 6:00 am
  • 29 minutes 5 seconds
    60. For the love of maths

    As a child, Kate Ertmann starred in commercials, in soap operas and on Broadway. But acting wasn’t her first love - mathematics was. She considered it to be “a balm" for her brain. And yet societal and teenage pressures made her turn away from maths.

    Growing up in Sweden, Sebastian Nillson Qvist loathed maths and found it a real struggle. But he still challenged himself to study it as part of a Political Science and Economics degree. It did not go well.

    But still, maths came back into their lives.

    In this episode of Sideways, we find out what led them back to mathematics and the impact it had on them. Something host Matthew Syed experienced first hand when a desire to understand inflation and economics led him back to studying for a maths A-Level in his own time and finding it actually enjoyable, rather than a chore as he had at school.

    We hear how determination to dominate in the sport of darts can lead to incredible mastery of mental arithmetic from Professor Marcus du Sautoy, who also suggests a novel approach to maths education which he believes could inspire and motivate children. And Field’s Medal winner Professor Efim Zelmanov introduces us to a brilliant young mathematician who was killed in a duel 150 years ago but left behind a theory which keeps all online banking safe.

    With Kate Eartmann of, Sebastian Nillson-Qvist, Professor Marcus du Sautoy - Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science and Professor of Mathematics, and Professor Efim Zelmanov - Field’s Medallist and Director of the Shenzhen International Center for Mathematics.

    Presented by Matthew Syed Producer: Marilyn Rust Series Editor: Katherine Godfrey Sound Design and Mix: Daniel Kempson Theme Tune: Ioana Selaru A Novel production for BBC Radio 4

    13 March 2024, 6:00 am
  • 29 minutes 7 seconds
    59. What's Your Name?

    What's your name? You might think you know, but in this episode of Sideways, Matthew Syed discovers the answer could be more complicated than you first assume.

    That's what Hajar found out, after spending her whole life searching for a name to truly call her own.

    This is the story of our names, and the influence they have over who we are and who we choose to become.

    With Hajar Woodland, Eva Echo, Emilia Aldrin, David Zhu and Arjee Restar.

    Presenter: Matthew Syed Producer: Leigh Meyer Series Editor: Katherine Godfrey Sound design and mix by Daniel Kempson Theme tune by Ioana Selaru A Novel production for BBC Radio 4

    6 March 2024, 6:00 am
  • 29 minutes
    58. The Keeper of Lost Memories

    In 2020, David Gutenmacher began to buy old photographs and videos that he came across in second hand shops. He was sad about the prospect that families had been severed from their treasured memories, and so he founded the Museum of Lost Memories to try and reconnect people with their personal archives.

    But when he came across a video of a family on a safari holiday he realised that finding out who was in these videos might not be all that straightforward.

    Matthew Syed considers the role of photography and video in personal memory making, and how we go about using photos to leave a record of our existence on earth.

    Featuring: David Gutenmacher, Founder and curator of the Lost Memory Museum Jono Marcus Lina Henkel, professor of psychology at Fairfield University

    Presenter: Matthew Syed Producer: Nadia Mehdi Series Editor: Katherine Godfrey Music, Sound Design & Mix: Daniel Kempson Sideways theme by Ioana Selaru A Novel production for BBC Radio 4

    28 February 2024, 6:00 am
  • 28 minutes 38 seconds
    57. Grudge Match

    Lee and Drew have been like brothers ever since adolescence. So when Drew betrays Lee in the heat of a tumultuous night in Glasgow, the two men find themselves entangled in a bitter grudge that went way beyond what they could imagine, as the violence and bitterness of the wrestling ring, spilled over into the real world.

    Grudges are typically seen as dangerous, negative emotions. But is there a glimmer of light to be found amid the darkness of resentment? Matthew Syed questions both the hidden values and harsh consequences of grudges.

    Featuring WWE superstar Drew McIntyre, ICW champion and professional wrestler Lee Greig, Pr Robert Enright from University of Wisconsin and writer Sophie Hannah.

    Presenter: Matthew Syed Producer: Julien Manuguerra-Patten Series Editor: Katherine Godfrey Sound Design and Engineering: Daniel Kempson Theme tune by Ioana Selaru. A Novel production for BBC Radio 4.

    21 February 2024, 6:00 am
  • 1 minute 31 seconds
    Sideways: Season nine - coming soon...

    Matthew Syed kicks off the new season of Sideways with a story of one of the most brutal grudges ever seen in pro wrestling. Matthew asks us to consider when it's time to let go of a grudge and how.

    The new season starts on Wednesday 21 February 2024, with other episodes exploring the meaning of photo and video memories, the significance of our names and the creativity of mathematics.

    15 February 2024, 10:44 am
  • 28 minutes 40 seconds
    56. A Cinderella Story

    On a summer's day in 1974, Norwegian actor Knut Risan steps up to the mic for a voiceover job. It's for a Cinderella movie that's just been acquired by the Norwegian broadcaster NRK, from the country known at the time as Czechoslovakia.

    NRK want him to dub the film into Norwegian. Knut's just having fun. He's doing all the voices, even the young Cinderella. But he's about to become Norway's "Voice of Christmas" when NRK decides to put the film out as part of its festive line up.

    Tři oříšky pro Popelku or, as it's often translated, Three (Hazel)nuts for Cinderella, remains an essential part of many Europeans' seasonal viewing to this day. Not least in Norway, where it is shown at 11am on Christmas Eve every year.

    Knut's son, Olav, used to feel a little embarrassed around this time of year - everyone knew he was the son of the most famous voice on TV. He'd get strange looks in supermarkets. But today, and in this episode of Sideways, he reflects on the special place his father's voice occupies in Norway's Christmas and in his own family.

    Through the story of a film that straddles the line between fairy tale fun and the realities of the Iron Curtain, Matthew Syed explores the origins, meaning and persistence of this cross-cultural tradition and celebrates the role of Christmas films in many families' celebrations, including his own.

    Featuring musician Olav Risan and author Kathrin Miebach of the Drei Haselnüsse für Aschenbrödel website. With fairy tale expert Professor Claudia Schwabe of Utah State University and Michal Bregant, Director of Národního Filmového Archivu.

    Including clips from Tři oříšky pro Popelku (Czech language version) and Tre nøtter til Askepott (Norwegian language version, featuring the voice of Knut Risan). Tři oříšky pro Popelku directed by Václav Vorlícek and starring Libuse Safránková and Pavel Trávnícek. Written by Božena Němcová (story) and František Pavlíček (screenplay), produced by Jiří Krejčík and with a score by Karel Svoboda. Distributed by Ústřední půjčovna filmů.

    Presenter: Matthew Syed Producer: Amalie Sortland Series editor: Katherine Godfrey Sound design and mix: Naomi Clarke Theme tune by Ioana Selaru A Novel production for BBC Radio 4

    6 December 2023, 6:00 am
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