The Bittersweet Tale of Cocoa
May 19th, 2017, 06:00 PM
Do you like cocoa? You are in good company: in South and Central America people have been enjoying the fruit of the cacao tree - the source of cocoa, chocolate and much else - for thousands of years. Ancient empires fought battles for the control of the best trees, cacao beans were used as currency, and being able to make a tasty cacao drink could even save your life. To trace the history of cacao in Latin America, Bridget Kendall is joined by archaeologist Cameron McNeil, chef and food historian Maricel Presilla and geneticist and cacao researcher Juan Carlos Motamayor.
Photo: A cropped cocoa pod lies over dried cacao beans (Getty Images)
Taiwan: An Island History
May 12th, 2017, 06:00 PM
Perhaps the island of Taiwan makes you think of those familiar "Made in Taiwan" labels on computer and electrical goods but it was nicknamed 'Ilha Formosa' or the 'beautiful island' by the Portuguese in the 1500s. Bridget Kendall explores its rich and surprising history with Emma Teng, Professor of Asian Civilisations at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Dr Jie Yu, Head of China Foresight, focused on Chinese foreign policy, at the London School of Economics and Dr Bi-yu Chang and Dr Dafydd Fell from SOAS (formerly known as the School of Oriental and African Studies) in London.
Photo: people celebrate Taiwan' s annual Lantern Festival, which marks the end of the Lunar New Year festivities. (Getty Images)
Amelia Earhart – Trailblazer in the Skies
May 5th, 2017, 06:00 PM
This year is the 80th anniversary of the record-breaking attempt by the US aviator Amelia Earhart to circumnavigate the globe. It was a mission that cost her life, but helped to cement her place in history as one of the most inspirational and celebrated pilots of the 20th century.
Bridget Kendall looks back at the life of a pioneering woman determined to break through barriers - with Susan Butler, author of ‘East to the Dawn: The Life of Amelia Earhart’; Dorothy Cochrane, Curator in the Aeronautics Division of the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum in Washington; and Susan Ware, author of ‘Still Missing: Amelia Earhart and the Search for Modern Feminism’.
Photo: Amelia Earhart in June 1928 (Getty Images)
How the Metre Changed the World
April 28th, 2017, 06:00 PM
Nowdays, if you want to find out how long one metre is, you can use a tape measure or, if you are a scientist, you can calculate the distance that light travels in a vacuum in 1/299 792 458 seconds. But how did we decide on what length a metre should be in the first place?
To follow the far-from-straight story of the metre Quentin Cooper is joined by Professor Robert Crease, historian of science at Stonybrook University in the USA; Professor Marc Himbert, Scientific director of the Metrology Laboratory at CNAM in Paris; and Dr. Jahnavi Phalkey, historian of contemporary and twentieth century science and technology at King’s College in London.
Photo: Lilian Bourgeat's art creation 'Tape Measure', France 2013 (Getty Images)
Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland
April 21st, 2017, 06:00 PM
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland is said to be one of the most quoted books in the world. It has been translated into 174 languages, from Catalan to Zulu, and its fantastical creatures, nonsense words and magical happenings have become part of our shared cultural landscape.
Bridget Kendall investigates the story behind Lewis Carroll’s Victorian literary classic and its sequel with Angelika Zirker, Assistant Professor of English Literature at Tübingen University, Germany; Virginie Iché, Associate Professor of English Studies at Paul Valéry University in Montpellier, France, and currently a Visiting Scholar at the University of Texas at Austin; and Robert Douglas-Fairhurst, Professor of English Literature at Oxford University in the UK, and author of ‘The Story of Alice: Lewis Carroll and the Secret History of Wonderland’.
Illustration by John Tenniel (Photo by Rischgitz/Getty Images)
The Belle Epoque: A Golden Age?
April 14th, 2017, 06:00 PM
The Moulin Rouge in Paris is the risqué cabaret venue that encapsulates for many the 'Belle Epoque', a period of French and especially Parisian history around the turn of the 19th Century, where permissiveness mixed with political, commercial and creative optimism and when an extraordinary vitality and innovation seemed almost boundless. To explore the Belle Epoque, Dr Janina Ramirez is in Paris with the director of Le Petit Palais art gallery and museum Christophe Leribault, the associate artistic director of the Moulin Rouge, Janet Pharaoh, and professor of French history from Leeds University in the UK, Diana Holmes.
(Photo: An 1891 lithograph by French artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Credit: Honda /Getty Images)
Machiavelli - Master of Power
April 7th, 2017, 06:00 PM
Over five hundred years ago, dismissed diplomat Niccolò Machiavelli produced his most famous work, ‘The Prince’. Written on the fringes of the Italian city of Florence, the book has long been read as a priceless guide to power and what holding it truly involves. But who was the man behind the work? Why did he claim that a leader must be prepared to act immorally? And why did the name of this one-time political insider become a byword for cunning and sinister strategy?
Rajan Datar explores the life and impact of Machiavelli’s ‘The Prince’, with writer and scholar Erica Benner, historian Professor Quentin Skinner and journalist David Ignatius.
Image:Circa 1499, Niccolò Machiavelli (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Haile Selassie: The last Emperor of Ethiopia
March 31st, 2017, 06:00 PM
Emperor Haile Selassie was the last in the line of Ethiopia’s ancient monarchy. During his long rule he was revered as an international statesman and reformer, demonised as a dictator, and even worshipped as a God incarnate by the Rastafarians of Jamaica. He was without doubt a controversial figure, but achieved a status in the global arena previously unheard of for an African ruler.
Bridget Kendall discusses Haile Selassie’s life and legacy with Prince Asfa-Wossen Asserate, political analyst and author of ‘King of Kings: The Triumph and Tragedy of Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia’, who is also the great-nephew of Haile Selassie; Gerard Prunier, Independent Consultant on Eastern and Central African affairs, and former Director of the French Centre for Ethiopian Studies in Addis-Ababa; and Laura Hammond, an anthropologist specialising in Ethiopia at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.
Image: Haile Selassie
Credit: Henry Guttmann/Getty Images
The KGB: Secrets and Spies
March 24th, 2017, 06:00 PM
2017 is the centenary of the Cheka – the Bolshevik secret police organisation from which the KGB eventually emerged in 1954. The KGB was not just an intelligence agency like its adversaries in the west, but an all-encompassing organisation that covered every aspect of promoting and protecting the Soviet one party state. From its headquarters in Moscow’s infamous Lubyanka, the KGB’s influence spread across the world. To explore the KGB and its legacy, Bridget Kendall is joined by the Cambridge historian, Professor Christopher Andrew, the Anglo American intelligence and policy expert, Dr Calder Walton and the Russian historian, Dr Svetlana Chervonnaya.
Photo: Badge logo of the KGB (Photo credit: KGB)
The Magic of Bronze
March 17th, 2017, 06:00 PM
From Cellini's magnificent Perseus statue to the humblest of tools, people have been using bronze for at least five thousand years. So what makes bronze such a versatile material, how we first discovered it, and why is it that so many precious bronze art works have failed to survive?
Bridget Kendall is joined by Carol Mattusch, Professor Emerita of Art History at George Mason University, Professor Jianjun Mei, from the University of Science and Technology, Beijing and Director of the Needham Institute in Cambridge who specialises in ancient metallurgy, and David Ekserdjian, Professor of Art and Film History at Leicester University.
Also in the programme: Dutch sound artist Floris van Manen follows the key stages of making a bronze bell at Eijsbouts, one of Europe's leading foundries.
Photo: Cellini's statue of Perseus holding the head of Medusa (Getty Images)
Marie Curie – A Pioneering Life
March 10th, 2017, 06:00 PM
The Polish physicist and chemist Marie Curie was the first woman to receive a Nobel Prize, and the first person to be awarded twice in two different fields. Her discoveries in the field of radioactivity – adding polonium and radium to the table of elements – changed the course of scientific history and led to huge advances in the treatment of cancer.
This year marks 150 years after her birth to a poor family in occupied Poland. Quentin Cooper traces Marie Curie’s extraordinary life story with Patricia Fara, president of the British Society for the History of Science; Maciej Dunajski, mathematician and theoretical physicist at Cambridge University; and Susan Quinn, author of Marie Curie: A Life.
(Photo: Marie Curie. Credit: Hulton Archive/ Getty Images)
Beethoven: The Genius Rule Breaker
March 3rd, 2017, 06:00 PM
Beethoven revolutionised music - how we listen to it and how we play it.
Bridget Kendall explores Beethoven’s universal appeal and the anguished genius himself with Emeritus Professor of music and Beethoven expert Professor John Deathridge, musician and lecturer Dr Natasha Loges, Artistic Director of the Musical Society of Nigeria, (MUSON) and the NOK Ensemble, Nigeria's first professional chamber orchestra, Tunde Jegede and writer and composer Neil Brand.
Credit: Rischgitz/Stringer/Getty Images
Yellow Fever: Man against Mosquito
February 24th, 2017, 06:00 PM
Outbreaks of yellow fever, such as the notorious 1878 'American plague' which swept through Memphis, Tennessee, used to kill thousands in a matter of weeks. So why was it so devastating? How did we manage to tame it in some parts of the world? And why does yellow fever still present a danger today for nearly a billion people living in tropical parts of Latin America and Africa?
Bridget Kendall discusses the history and the future of yellow fever with American writer and journalist Molly Crosby, author of The American Plague;
history professor from the University of Virginia, Christian McMillen who has a special interest in past and present epidemics;
and Dr. Nick Beeching who teaches clinical infectious diseases at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine.
Photo: Yellow Fever Virus (Credit: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Public Health Image Library)
The Real Story of Frankenstein
February 17th, 2017, 06:00 PM
In the nearly 200 years since Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein, the story has taken on a life of its own. But the original tale is much more psychologically complex than the horror film versions suggest – a disturbing and thought-provoking parable that roots itself in the basic human need for love.
Bridget Kendall discusses the book’s origins, themes and continuing legacy with two scholars of English literature - Prof Karen O’Brien from Oxford University in the UK and Jessica Tiffin from the University of Cape Town in South Africa, and with the novelist and radio dramatist Jonathan Barnes.
(Photo: A statue of the Frankenstein Monster. Credit: Getty Images)
The Birth of Hip Hop
February 10th, 2017, 06:00 PM
The story of early hip hop, from 1970s 'block parties' in the South Bronx to the next decade when some musicians used rap for harsh social critique while others looked to it for big commercial success. Trevor Nelson talks to Duke University hip hop historian Mark Anthony Neal, film-maker and impresario Michael Holman, and one of the central figures in early hip hop, Grandmaster Caz.
DJ and MC Grandmaster Caz is one of the most important and influential pioneers of old school rap. Mark Anthony Neal is professor of African and African American Studies and the founding director of the Center for Arts, Digital Culture and Entrepreneurship at Duke University. Michael Holman is a leading New York hip-hop activist: musician, filmmaker, artist manager, club promoter, journalist and critic, television producer, archivist, visual artist, and educator.
(Photo: A breakdancer. Credit: Getty Images)
Seven Samurai – A Japanese Masterpiece
February 3rd, 2017, 06:00 PM
The 1954 Japanese epic Seven Samurai by Akira Kurosawa has been described as one of the most influential films in the history of cinema. Set in 16th century rural Japan it tells the story of a small village that hires seven masterless samurai to protect them from a group of bandits intent on stealing their harvest. Seven Samurai’s unique style and themes redefined the action movie genre and inspired filmmakers across the world.
Bridget Kendall talks to Daisuke Miyao, Professor of Japanese film at the University of California, San Diego; David Desser, Emeritus Professor of Cinema Studies at the University of Illinois; and Dolores Martinez, Emeritus Reader in Anthropology specializing in Japanese popular culture at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London.
Photo: Actor Toshiro Mifune in the film Seven Samurai (Credit: AFP/ Getty Images)
Goethe: The Story of Colour
January 27th, 2017, 06:00 PM
The German polymath Johann Wolfgang von Goethe considered his monumental book known in English as The Theory of Colours to be his greatest achievement. The book is a record of hundreds of Goethe's observations about the way colour affects our mood, as well as a long and heated polemic with Isaac Newton's colour theory. Goethe's understanding of light and colour was scientifically flawed yet his book had a surprisingly strong influence on the fine and applied arts. To find out why, Bridget Kendall talks to art historian Alexandra Loske, colour writer Victoria Finlay and designer Odette Steele.
Alexandra Loske is an art historian who teaches at the University of Sussex, Curator at the Royal Pavilion and Brighton Museums, editor of the book Languages of Colour and author of Palette (forthcoming);
Victoria Finlay is a writer, former arts editor of the South China Morning Post and the author of Colour, Travels through the Paintbox and The Brilliant History of Color in Art;
Odette Steele is a Zambian textile designer recent and a graduate from the London College of Fashion at the University of the Arts, London.
Photo: Goethe’s colour wheel, 1809. (Credit: Freies Deutsches Hochstift / Frankfurter Goethe-Museum)
Mata Hari: Dancer, Lover, Spy
January 20th, 2017, 06:00 PM
It is 100 years since the exotic dancer and legendary ‘femme fatale’ Mata Hari was executed by a French firing squad for passing secrets to the Germans during World War One. She was described at the time as the ‘greatest woman spy of the century’. But many now see Mata Hari as a convenient scapegoat, condemned merely for her unconventional lifestyle.
Bridget Kendall discusses the myths and realities surrounding women in espionage with Julie Wheelwright, programme director of non-fiction writing at City, University of London, and author of ‘The Fatal Lover: Mata Hari and the Myth of Women in Espionage’; Tammy Proctor, Professor of History at Utah State University and author of ‘Female Intelligence. Women and Espionage in the First World War’; and Hanneke Boonstra, a Dutch journalist who is writing an official blog about Mata Hari as part of this year’s centenary commemorations in the Netherlands.
(Photo: Mata Hari. Credit: Getty Images)
The Silicon Chip: A Tech Revolution
January 13th, 2017, 06:00 PM
It’s forty five years since the commercial introduction of the first microcomputer chip set which evolved into the modern microprocessor, changing computers from tools for scientists into the engines which power today’s electronic consumer appliances. So how did the silicon chip evolve and where might this revolution be heading next?
Bridget Kendal is joined by four distinguished computer and internet pioneers who helped spearhead some of the most important inventions of the computer age.
Vinod Dham invented the first Pentium micro-processor and went on to become Vice-President at the world’s largest chip maker-Intel. His early work in this field earned him the nickname “The Father of the Pentium chip.” Sophie Wilson’s computer design was used to build the Acorn Micro-Computer. She also led the development of the ARM microprocessor, found in over half of the world’s consumer electronics. David Laws is a technology historian and a curator of the Computer History Museum in California. Dame Wendy Hall is a Professor of Computer Science at the University of Southampton in the UK. She worked alongside Sir Tim Berners Lee on an early version of the World Wide Web.
Photo: A silicon chip (Getty Images)
The Powers of the American President
January 9th, 2017, 06:00 PM
What powers does the American President have, and how have these changed over the years to reflect the demands of the modern world?
Fela Kuti: King of Afrobeat
December 30th, 2016, 06:00 PM
Nigerian Afrobeat musician Fela Kuti was a maverick performer, a musical pioneer, and is a continuing inspiration across the world. But he was also a thorn in the side of the Nigeria’s successive military governments and a fearless activist for social justice.
Twenty years after his death, Peter Okwoche is joined by three people who all had personal experience of Fela Kuti, to discuss his complex and extraordinary life, musical legacy, and revolutionary political ideals - Dele Sosimi is a former member of Fela Kuti's band and now an acclaimed Afrobeat musician; Carlos Moore wrote the only authorised biography of Fela Kuti, Fela: This Bitch of a Life; and Jahman Anikulapo is a Nigerian arts journalist who followed Fela's career closely.
Photo: Fela Kuti, 1986, Credit: Associated Press
Cali-topia: a New Vision of Thomas More's Utopia?
December 23rd, 2016, 06:00 PM
Is Thomas More's vision of an ideal society becoming reality in modern-day California? The Forum travels to Singularity University at the heart of Silicon Valley to ask why California keeps attracting utopian thinkers who want to use advanced technology to solve humanity’s biggest challenges.
Jack Stewart is joined by forecaster Paul Saffo, Chair of Future Studies at Singularity University, Ryan Mullenix, partner at NBBJ Architecture, Krista Donaldson, CEO of Silicon Valley healthcare start up D-Rev, and Colin Milburn, Chair in Science and the Humanities at University of California, Davis.
Photo: NASA Hangar One at Moffett Field, California, Credit: Simon Dawson
Utopia: Mr More’s Wondrous Islands
December 21st, 2016, 06:00 PM
Thomas More’s Utopia, published 500 years ago this month, is full of radical ideas and has provided food for thought to generations of people trying to find new ways to organise society. On his fictitious island More created a vivid mosaic of places, people and their customs and they have proven to be an inspiration not just for philosophers and politicians but also for writers. To mark the anniversary, BBC World Service and PEN International have asked three young authors, Rebecca F. John, Jose Pablo Salas and Lea Sauer, to take Utopia as a starting point for a new short story. Mr. More’s Wondrous Islands also includes a couple of intriguing passages from the original book. It is introduced by Jack Stewart, the readers are John Dougall, Bettrys Jones, Martina Laird and William Marquez and the producer is Radek Bosketty.
Thomas More's Utopia
December 16th, 2016, 06:00 PM
Five-hundred years ago, in what is now the Belgian city of Leuven, Thomas More published his vision for an ideal society which he called Utopia.To mark the anniversary, The Forum travels to Leuven University to debate More's book, its place in history and the politics it inspired.
Presenter Bridget Kendall is joined by Leuven University rector Rik Torfs, culture studies professor Fátima Vieira who leads the Utopia 500 Project, historian of communism professor Erik van Ree from Amsterdam University, and Dilar Dirik, an expert on the Syrian-Kurdish ‘utopia’ of Rojava.
Winner or Cheat? Doping in Sport
December 9th, 2016, 06:00 PM
A battle is raging over the future of sport. Advances in retrospective testing have seen champions stripped of their medals years after they stood on the podium. Allegations of state-sponsored doping in Russia have rocked the sports world and new treatments such as gene-doping are constantly evolving. The drugs change but the questions remain the same – how effective and how dangerous are performance-enhancing drugs? How do doping competitors evade the testers? And can sports tarnished by doping ever be cleaned up?
Sharing their knowledge with Bridget Kendall are four sport insiders:
David Howman stepped down as Director of the World Anti-Doping Agency in 2016 after twelve years battling drug-taking in sport.
David Millar is a British cyclist and former World Champion who has won stages at the Tour de France and rode in the professional peloton for over a decade. Banned for doping, he returned to the sport as an anti-drugs campaigner. He is the author of the memoirs ‘Racing Through The Dark’ and ‘ The Racer: Life on the Road as a Pro-Cyclist’.
Professor Mario Thevis is a chemist who has tested competitors at seven Olympic Games and is Director of the Centre for Preventive Doping Research in Cologne, Germany.
Dr Zhouxiang Lu has researched allegations of doping in China in the 1980s and 90s. He teaches at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth.
Photo: Athletes in the starting block at a race. (Getty Images)
The Iliad: Beauty, Brutes and Battles
December 2nd, 2016, 06:00 PM
Nearly 3,000 years after it was written down, The Iliad is still one of the most influential and inspiring stories ever told. Homer’s epic poem is a tale of war, but puts human emotions centre-stage: wrath, grief, love, heroism and separation.
With Bettany Hughes to discuss The Iliad’s origins, themes and continuing relevance to people across the world are: Stathis Livathinos, Director of the National Theatre of Greece; Antony Makrinos, a Greek classicist specialising in Homer who teaches at University College London; Professor Folake Onayemi, Head of the Classics Department at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria; and Edith Hall, Professor of Classics at King's College London.
Photo: An engraving depicting the Trojan war. (Getty Images)
Korea: Two Countries, One Past
November 25th, 2016, 06:00 PM
For over a thousand years the Korean Peninsula was one nation, with a unique identity and character. So what caused it to be divided into two countries that have become so radically different, culturally, economically and politically? Bridget Kendall is joined by Namhee Lee, associate professor of modern Korean history at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA); Eleanor Soo-ah Hyun, curator of the Korean Collections at the British Museum; and Dr James Hoare, a former diplomat who set up the first British Embassy in North Korea, and is now a Research Associate at the Centre of Korean Studies in the School of Oriental and African Studies in London (SOAS).
Photo: Korean dancers perform a traditional dance. (Getty Images)
Unpicking the UN
November 18th, 2016, 06:00 PM
What is the United Nations for, what brought it about, and has it lived up to expectations? As a new Secretary-General takes over, Bridget Kendall and guests give all you need to know about the world’s most ambitious public body. Joining Bridget Kendall are Jussi M. Hanhimäki, professor of International History at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva; Heidi Tworek, fellow at the Transatlantic Academy and assistant professor of International History at the University of British Columbia; Carolyn Medel-Anonuevo, head of the Education Unit at Unesco’s Southern Africa regional office in Zimbabwe; Lord Mark Malloch-Brown, who served as Deputy Secretary-General and Chief of Staff of the UN under Kofi Annan.
Photo: The United Nations building in New York. (Getty Images)
Drones and their Impact on the World
November 11th, 2016, 06:00 PM
Drones have been hailed as the most important technological development in aviation since the invention of the jet engine. They have changed the nature of modern warfare and they are also catalysing developments in fields as diverse as law enforcement, film production, disaster management, news gathering and agriculture. The availability and prevalence of drones in everyday life is increasing and creating enormous challenges in the fields of ethics, law and regulation – not least managing the flight paths of a potentially enormous number of small planes.
Bridget Kendall explores the history, present and future of drones. She is joined by Marke "Hoot" Gibson, the Federal Aviation Administration’s senior adviser on Unmanned Aerial Systems Integration; Sarah Kreps, associate professor of Government at Cornell University in the US; Michael Nautu who designs and builds drones for purposes ranging from agriculture and aerial mapping to “next-generation conservation” in Namibia.
(Photo: A drone flying above the New York City skyline. Credit: Getty Images)
DNA: the Code for Making Life
November 4th, 2016, 06:00 PM
Bridget Kendall and guests explore the current understanding of how DNA works, why it needs constant repair in every living organism and how new DNA-altering techniques can help cure some medical conditions. Joining Bridget are Swedish Nobel Laureate and Francis Crick Institute Emeritus Group Leader Tomas Lindahl who pioneered DNA repair studies, medical researcher Niels Geijsen from the Hubrecht Institute who works on curing diseases caused by faulty inherited genes, evolutionary biologist T Ryan Gregory from Guelph University who asks why an onion has 5 times as much DNA as a human, and Oxford University’s bio-archaeologist Greger Larson whose research suggests that dogs were independently domesticated twice, on different continents.
Photo Credit: Thinkstock Photos
The New Curators: Who Decides What’s Culturally Important?
October 28th, 2016, 06:00 PM
Some of us live in an age of super abundance – more things are being made and more information and goods are offered online than ever before.
Yet the internet also means that we no longer have to leave our selections to other people. If we want, we can sift through options to make our own choices, personalise our preferences, and even enlist the help of machine recommendations to highlight what we might like.
So in this brave new world, what is the role of a curator? Indeed, what does curation actually mean? With Bridget Kendall to explore the role of the modern curator, digital publisher Michael Bhaskar, the artistic director of the Serpentine Gallery in London, Hans Ulrich Obrist and Tasneem Zakaria Mehta, the director of one of India’s most iconic museums, the Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum in Mumbai.
Photo: Early 20th century, ornate porcelain vases on display at an exhibition. (Getty Images)
Do we Need Artificial Intelligence?
October 21st, 2016, 06:00 PM
Look out of the window and you won’t see many robots – but the AI revolution is here. The relentless encroachment of machine-thinking into every aspect of our lives is transforming the way we think and act. Machine-learning algorithms drive our smartphones and social media - and they are increasingly present in our homes, offices, schools and hospitals. Whether driving cars, diagnosing disease or marking essays, artificial intelligence is everywhere. But how does machine-thinking compare to human thought and what are the limitations of AI? From biased training data to impenetrable black-box algorithms, Quentin Cooper and guests explore the strengths and limitations of AI.
To discuss whether we need AI are - Zoubin Ghahramani, professor of Information Engineering at the University of Cambridge and deputy director of the Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence; Lydia Nicholas, senior researcher at the British innovation foundation Nesta; Professor Kentaro Toyama of the University of Michigan, co-founder of Microsoft Research India and author of Geek Heresy: Rescuing Social Change from the Cult of Technology.
(Photo: A woman uses a mobile phone as she walks in front of an autonomous self-driving vehicle as it is tested in a pedestrianised zone. Credit: Getty Images)
Concrete: Foundation of the Modern World
October 14th, 2016, 06:00 PM
It has been around since before 6,000BC, the Ancient Egyptians used a version of it and so did the Romans. Nowadays it is the most common man-made building material in the world, used for some of the planet's biggest engineering projects - and some of the smallest. It has not always been loved by the public but architects and designers see both practicality and beauty. There is also an environmental issue - the production of concrete has a major environmental impact. So what of its future? Bridget Kendall explores concrete with architect Anupama Kundoo, design critic and writer Stephen Bayley and engineer and scientist professor Paulo Monteiro.
(Photo: The ceiling of the Pantheon in Rome is an example of Roman concrete construction. Credit: Getty Images)
Why Are We Generous?
October 7th, 2016, 06:00 PM
Generosity feels like a good idea - most of us enjoy being generous from time to time and having people be generous to us. But what drives our altruistic tendencies?
From local volunteering to big philanthropic donations, from small acts of kindness to major sacrifices, what does this sort of behaviour say about us as human beings?
Do we really give without expecting something in return, or is there always some element of self- interest?
Joining Bridget Kendall to explore how and why we are generous are evolutionary anthropologist David Sloan Wilson, philosopher Judith Lichtenberg and experimental psychologist Patricia Lockwood.
Photo: Offering Aid after forest fire. Credit Cole Burston AFP Getty Images
Reducing Urban Poverty
September 30th, 2016, 06:00 PM
With half the world’s population now living in just 1% of the land area, urban poverty is a growing problem. We head to a gathering of leading global thinkers at the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Centre, to explore practical and innovative ways to tackle the issue. Quentin Cooper is joined by population expert Purnima Mane, anthropologist professor Francis Nyamnjoh, former president of a chain of ethical grocery stores Doug Rauch, and food and water policy expert Paula Daniels.
(Photo: Comuna 13 Shantytown Colombia. Credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP/Getty Images)
Using Other People’s Water
September 23rd, 2016, 06:00 PM
Bridget Kendal is joined by Professor in Water Management Arjen Hoekstra to discuss the idea that we urgently need to change industrial and agricultural practices to reduce our water footprint and avert a global crisis. Esther de Jong specialises in water usage in the developing world. She believes water use and gender are closely related. Also joining the discussion is scientific diver Henry Kaiser who is inspired by waters beneath Antarctica to create haunting soundscapes.
Photo: Henry Kaiser working under the ice at Arrival Heights, beneath Ross Sea ice near McMurdo Station, Antarctica (Credit: Rob Robbins)
How Shyness and Introversion can be a Strength
September 16th, 2016, 06:00 PM
Shyness and introversion are both very common human characteristics, but why do they have so many different guises? Rajan Datar asks the developmental psychologist Louis Schmidt, the behavioural scientist Sanna Balsari-Palsule and the cultural historian Joe Moran.
(Photo: A lady hides behind a fan. Credit: Shan Pillay)
Turmoil Around the World and in Ourselves
September 9th, 2016, 06:00 PM
Turmoil is all around us – in politics, in our mental health and in fantasy fiction, which often seems to excite our hunger for nightmare scenarios.
With threats of terrorism, environmental catastrophe and political pandemonium around the globe amplified by modern communications, Samira Ahmed is joined by psychiatrist Mina Fazel, political scientist Daniel Drezner, and horror writer and Zombie expert Max Brooks to explore how we might cope with real or perceived disaster and disorder and examine whether the apparent chaos of the modern world really is greater than ever before.
(Photo: People wave national flags as they march to react against a military coup attempt, in Ankara, in July 2016. Credit: Getty Images)
Underground: How Deep Can Life Survive?
September 2nd, 2016, 06:00 PM
This week, The Forum delves into the subterranean world of life underground – from the forgotten tunnels and catacombs of our cities to life found in the stifling sunless world two miles below the Earth’s surface. Might humans one day retreat underground if living above ground becomes too tough? Bridget Kendall with Social Geographer Dr. Bradley L. Garrett, Zoologist Dr. Gaetan Borgonie and Isotope Geochemist Professor Barbara Sherwood Lollar.
Photo: Car Quarry image (credit: Bradley L. Garrett)
Fire: How Climate Change is Altering our Attitudes to Wildfires
August 26th, 2016, 06:00 PM
As fire risks change due to climate change, how should we deal with fire to protect human health and property without compromising the integrity of our environment? Bridget Kendall asks the geologist Andrew Scott, the fire ecologist Jennifer Balch and the biologist David Bowman.
(Photo: A fire tornado in California, USA. Credit: Getty Images)
What is the Best Way to Deal with Anxiety?
August 19th, 2016, 06:00 PM
Anxiety is a universal human emotion that has been described as the price-tag on freedom. It is the price we pay for a brain that can anticipate the future. But when anxiety spirals out of control it can take over our lives as we battle against phobias, panic attacks, dread and debilitating fear. So how is anxiety triggered and constructed in the brain? Is the almond-shaped amygdala the seat of fear or are our anxieties constructed in other parts of the brain? And for those made miserable by anxiety, how best can it be treated?
Bridget Kendall explores the biology of anxiety and some unexpected approaches to treatment, including friendship benches and therapy horses. She is joined by Joseph LeDoux, author of Anxiety and professor of Neuroscience and director of the Emotional Brain Institute, New York University; Dr Dixon Chibanda, a consultant Psychiatrist in Zimbabwe and pioneer of the Friendship Bench; Susanna Forrest, a British authority on the horse and author of The Age of Horse: An Equine Journey through Human History.
(Photo: A young man holding his head in his hands)
Image Overload: Coping with the Modern World's Visual Clutter
August 12th, 2016, 06:00 PM
Our lives are increasingly cluttered by images, not just in the world around us, but on advertising bill-boards, television screens, and even on our mobile phones. So how are we to process this barrage of information and make sense of the visual world?
How can today’s designers help us and how are we to avoid image-overload? Bridget Kendall talks to three people who help us navigate the increasingly crowded world of visual imagery: Alan Kitching, one of the world’s foremost practitioners of letterpress typographic design and printmaking, Aowen Jin, a Chinese-born artist who leads museum tours in the dark and Roma Agrawal, a structural engineer who spent six years designing London’s skyscraper The Shard.
(Image: Edition Print, 2012 by Alan Kitching)
Balloons and How they Changed the World
August 5th, 2016, 06:00 PM
A small toy balloon floating free into the sky. A giant hot air balloon filled with passengers peering down at the ground. Classic images, but what about the huge balloons now being developed to help us explore outer space? Or the tiny balloons which bio engineers inflate inside your body to help blood surge through your veins? Or the extraordinary balloonomania that spread across Northern Europe in the late 18th century? Bridget Kendall explores the colourful history of the balloon and its even more intriguing future with guests:
Debbie Fairbrother, Chief of NASA’s Balloon Programme Office.
Professor Claudio Capelli, cardiovascular engineer from the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children in London.
Fiona Stafford, Professor of literature from Somerville College, University of Oxford.
Photo: NASA’s super pressure balloon is designed for long-duration flights at mid-latitudes to provide scientists and engineers with a means to inexpensively access the ’near-space’ environment for conducting research and technology test missions. The balloon’s operational float altitude is 110,000 feet (33.5 kilometers) (Credit: NASA/Bill Rodman)
Sharing and Why it is Essential for the Human Race
July 29th, 2016, 06:00 PM
Everyone likes to be alone sometimes, but we also all spend much of our lives collaborating and sharing things with others. Many argue that on this increasingly crowded planet, we need to master the art of sharing much better if we are to survive and flourish. So what makes us want to share new ideas and pass on our experience?
Bridget Kendall discusses three very kinds of sharing - digital information, genes and national infrastructure. She is joined by Jonah Berger, marketing professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania in the United States; Connie Jeffery, assistant professor of Biological Sciences and head of the Jeffery Lab at the University of Illinois in Chicago; Dr Elham Ibrahim, commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy for the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
(Photo: The Golden Gate Bridge, in California, provides a means to sharing infrastructure. Credit: Getty Images)
The Unpredictable Planet: Understanding Volcanoes and Earthquakes
July 22nd, 2016, 06:00 PM
New ideas about volcanoes, earthquakes and other geological processes that both enrich and threaten us. Jack Stewart is joined by four leading Earth scientists in the city of Yokohama at the 2016 Goldschmidt Conference - volcanologists Tamsin Mather and Michihiko Nakamura, plate tectonics expert Carl Spandler and seismologist and Nature magazine editor John VanDecar.
(Photo: Mount Fuji in Japan. Credit: Getty Images)
Do You Know What You’re Eating?
July 15th, 2016, 06:00 PM
If you think of your favourite foods – chocolate, maybe, or samosas, or pizza – do you really know where all the ingredients came from? Bridget Kendall asks the food scientist Chris Elliott, the software designer Jérôme Malavoy and the food labelling expert Monique Raats.
Photo: The food label on a box of brownies (Getty Images)
Radioactivity: Friend or Foe?
July 8th, 2016, 06:00 PM
One of the first things that comes to mind when thinking of radioactivity is often a nuclear accident or dangerous rays. But radioactivity is in fact a much more varied phenomenon, one that can bring us great benefits as well as put us in danger. With help from three experts, Rajan Datar looks for a more nuanced picture of the role radioactivity plays in our lives.
Photo: A symbol for radioactivity is visible on a radioactively-contaminated container. (Getty Images)
Defiance: Why Are Some People More Defiant than Others?
July 1st, 2016, 06:00 PM
Acts of defiance small or large have proved to be incredibly powerful throughout history, but when does defiance spill into aggression? Bridget Kendall asks the employment lawyer Lewis Maltby, the theatre director Olivier Py and the psychopathologist Dr Luna Muñoz Centifanti.
(Photo: Historic Marker at the bus stop in Alabama, USA, where Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat. Credit: Getty Images)
Microbes and Humans: The Science of Living Together
June 24th, 2016, 06:00 PM
The Obama administration recently announced it will spend over a hundred million dollars on deepening our knowledge of the human microbiome - the bacteria, fungi, viruses and other organisms which make their home in and on our bodies. Bridget Kendall is joined by three people whose work in different ways enriches our appreciation of the world of human microbiota - the epidemiologist Mark Woolhouse, microbiology educator Christine Marizzi and gut flora researcher Jeroen Raes.
(Photo: The NYC Biome MAP part of the Collective Urban Biome MAP project. Credit: Genspace NYC and The DNA Learning Center)
Unfinished: The Art of the Incomplete
June 17th, 2016, 06:00 PM
We are at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York at The Met Breuer, where the exhibition "Unfinished: Thoughts Left Visible", is a springboard to explore the notion of things unfinished or incomplete. The concept of a work of art that is unfinished, the so called 'non finito' style, has been with us since the Renaissance. But it has taken on new meaning in modern art of the 20th and 21st Century. So how should we respond to a work which is unfinished whether it is a painting, a book, a piece of music, a film or a building? And, how does the idea of ‘unfinished’ translate into an ever-changing historical and political context?
Presenter Bridget Kendall is joined by Andrea Bayer, Jayne Wrightsman, Curator in The Met’s Department of European Paintings and co-curator of "Unfinished: Thoughts Left Visible" at The Met Breuer; Negin Farsad, a celebrated stand-up comedian, actor and film-maker of Iranian heritage; Kerry James Marshall, the internationally renowned American artist whose work will be the subject of a major exhibition at The Met Breuer this October 2016; Andrew Solomon, professor of Clinical Psychology at Columbia University in New York, and an award-winning writer who is also president of PEN American Center.
(Photo: The Met Breuer in New York. Credit: Ed Lederman)
Talking Rubbish: Clever Ways with Waste
June 10th, 2016, 06:00 PM
According to the United Nations, we probably throw away over one billion tonne of waste every year. Some goes into landfill, some is destroyed and some is recycled. The mountain of cast-off litter is not just a huge environmental challenge, but a logistical one as well. Bridget Kendall explores ideas about how to harness waste with - Martin Medina, a global waste consultant, who suggests scavenging might be the answer to developing country’s growing waste problems; Dr Tom Licence, an historian at the University of East Anglia and ‘garbologist’, who uses archaeological beachcombing for historical rubbish to unveil our detailed past; Polly Morgan an artist who uses taxidermy to ascribe new meaning to what was once discarded and dead.
(Photo: A rubbish tip in Kolonawa suburb of Colombo, Sri Lanka. Credit: Getty Images)
Resilience: A Survivor's Guide to Adversity
June 3rd, 2016, 06:00 PM
These days everyone from schoolchildren to business owners is being told to become more resilient, but what does resilience mean in geological time? How and why do some organisms survive mass extinctions? And, on a shorter time-scale, how do people cope with the demands of dictators? Janina Ramirez and her guests discuss how to survive adversity across time and space.
(Photo: Caiman crocodiles in San Marcos, Sucre in Colombia. Credit: Getty Images)
When Does Healthy Competition Become Destructive?
May 27th, 2016, 06:00 PM
What is the place of rivalry in human behaviour? What drives it? And where is the dividing line between competition as a positive force and one that wreaks havoc? Samira Ahmed discusses rivalry in sport, in cities and in our minds with psychologist Stephen Garcia, sport morality expert Maria Kavussanu and historian Philip Mansel.
(Photo: The finish line at the men's 100 meters final at the Seoul Olympic Games in 1988. Credit: Getty Images)
After Dark: How we Respond to Darkness
May 20th, 2016, 06:00 PM
Dr Janina Ramirez explores our relationship with, and attitudes to, darkness and the night. From the beginning of humanity when night was a time to sleep and hide from predators, over millennia the night and darkness has gathered a multitude of myths and cultural references all around the world and is something we can exploit, or something we might fear. Dr Janina Ramirez examines the human perspective of the dark, from night vision technology to Norwegian forest myths.
Dr Ravindra Athale, of the Office of Naval Research in Arlington USA, an expert on night vision technology, who examines how nocturnal animals help high tech, and how our ability to see at night has affected the way we use the dark to conceal and surprise.
Professor John Bowen from the University of York in the UK, an expert on Gothic literature and its roots.
Erland Loe, the celebrated Norwegian author, who explores his own and fellow Norwegian’s response to long dark winter nights.
Noam Elcott, Professor of Modern and Contemporary Art and Media at Columbia University in the USA who discusses the literal and metaphorical use of dark and night in film art and the dark room.
(Photo: An artist's Illustration of a haunted forest. Credit: Shan Pillay)
Brain Drain: Can We Stem the Flow?
May 13th, 2016, 06:00 PM
The Forum is in Cape Town, South Africa, as guests of The British Council at the Going Global Conference. As globalisation enables the transit and relocation of people ever more quickly and easily, what impact is there on countries who desperately need to keep their skilled labour and what are the issues that need addressing? With Quentin Cooper to discuss the Brain Drain is professor Olusola Oyewole from Nigeria, Dr Jo Beall, from the British Council, professor Tao Xie from Beijing and Carolyn Medel-Anonuevo, from Unesco.
(Photo: a human brain in a glass box. Credit: Getty Images)
May 6th, 2016, 06:00 PM
People have come up with the idea of the wheel many times and in different places, but what were the key turning points which led to mass transport and the miracle of modern logistics? Bridget Kendall discusses the still-unfolding story of the wheel with historian Richard Bulliet, logistics expert Jagjit Singh Srai and Cyr wheel dancer Valerie Inertie.
(Photo: Wagon wheels and the view of Monument Valley in Utah, USA)
Rules and how they govern us
April 29th, 2016, 06:00 PM
We all need rules - nature has them and we impose them on our communities in order to function; sometimes fairly and sometimes not- depending on your perspective. But just how important are rules and how do rules in nature affect our function as human beings? And how are our rules being used and interpreted by machines as artificial intelligence and deep learning evolve at enormous speed?
Bridget Kendall discusses rules in nature, rules in society and rules in robotics and AI with Sean B. Carroll, professor of molecular biology, genetics, and medical genetics at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, whose new book The Serengeti Rules: The Quest to Discover How Life Works and Why it Matters, explores regulation in the natural world- from every molecule in our bodies to the number of animals and plants in the wild. Dr Nina Power, a philosopher interested in protest who explores when and why we break the rules. And, Dr Jason Millar an engineer and philosopher who explores the ethics of robotics- how we apply human rules to machines and how they might begin to interpret those rules independently.
(Photo: The Forum book of rules)
Balance: How we Find Equilibrium
April 22nd, 2016, 06:00 PM
Balance is essential. It stops us falling over or getting too cross and it stops machines failing catastrophically. There are also very fine balances present, more generally in nature and across the universe. But much of the World is not in exact and perpetual balance - it needs constant fine tuning.
To help explore our latest understanding of balance in human beings, machines and music, Bridget Kendall talks to Patricia Kopatchinskaja, the distinguished Moldovan-Austrian violinist, who explores the internal balance need to play world class music; Jade Kindar-Martin, high wire artist and member of the Flying Wallendas who examines the fine tuning of mind and body needed to keep in balance on a high wire; Professor Andrew Heyes, head of Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at the University of Strathclyde, in Scotland who looks at the very fine balances needed to ensure machines work effectively and safely.
(Photo: Acrobats form a human pyramid as they rehearse with Le Grand Cirque at the Sydney Opera House, 2009. Credit: Getty Images)
Lost and Found
April 15th, 2016, 06:00 PM
From the horrors of human suffering and plunder of ancient artefacts in war to the reshaping of musical traditions, we examine the notion of things lost and found.
British journalist Julian Borger reflects on the unmasking of some of the most notorious Balkan war criminals, Iraqi archaeologist Dr Lamia al-Gailani Werr mourns the loss of ancient relics in modern conflict and American pianist Bruce Brubaker deconstructs modern minimalist music.
(Photo: The inner walls of Babylon, Iraq)
A Single World, Many Identities?
April 8th, 2016, 06:00 PM
Bestselling Turkish novelist Elif Shafak, Nick Bostrom from Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute and Ann Phoenix from UCL's Institute of Education trace the evolution of 21st century identity with the BBC’s Jo Fidgen. Are technology and geopolitics conspiring to create a new type of human, unrecognisable to our forebears? Is ‘serial migration’ the new norm for transnational families and what effect is this having on the identity of the young? Or perhaps we should drop the concept of Identity altogether?
(Photo: Left to right, Ann Phoenix, Elif Shafak and Nick Bostrom)
Living at the Edge: Life in Extreme Environments
April 1st, 2016, 06:00 PM
Bridget Kendall explores extreme living and what it tells us, from human exploration to deep sea fish and synthetic biology. Bridget and her guests explore hot dry deserts and sub-zero polar ice, deep sea vents, salt heavy lakes, acid hot springs and outer space. NASA scientist Lynn Rothschild is a pioneer in the field of astrobiology, interested in probing the limits of life on earth, to better understand where we might find life signs elsewhere in the universe. Oliver Crimmen is the Fish Curator at the Natural History Museum in London. He’s an expert on how some sea creatures can survive both freezing and hot water – and several miles beneath the surface of our oceans. And explorer Rosie Stancer takes her own body to the edge – with solo trips to both the South Pole and the Arctic North, and a new expedition planned across China’s largest desert.
(Image credit: Science Photo Library)
March 25th, 2016, 06:00 PM
Is the idea of a pristine landscape an illusion, given that over thousands of years human activity has almost everywhere left its mark? Bridget Kendall asks the gardener Gilly Drummond, the land artist Danae Stratou, the archaeobotanist Dorian Fuller, and the historian William Beinart.
(Photo: Blenheim Palace Park where English landscape architect Capability Brown created a 150-acre lake and planted more than a million trees to make perhaps his finest artificial landscape © Blenheim Palace)