MAKE SURE TO SUBSCRIBE FOR VOLUME 3 COMING NEXT MONTH!! Volume 2 - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7aZoVJKAdtg Frankie Boyle presents the first instalment of his eight volume Promethiad.
Views: 190626 BBC Podcasts
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss The Bronze Age Collapse, the name given by many historians to what appears to have been a sudden, uncontrolled destruction of dominant civilizations around 1200 BC in the Aegean, Eastern Mediterranean and Anatolia. Among other areas, there were great changes in Minoan Crete, Egypt, the Hittite Empire, Mycenaean Greece and Syria. The reasons for the changes, and the extent of those changes, are open to debate and include droughts, rebellions, the breakdown of trade as copper became less desirable, earthquakes, invasions, volcanoes and the mysterious Sea Peoples. With John Bennet Director of the British School at Athens and Professor of Aegean Archaeology at the University of Sheffield Linda Hulin Fellow of Harris Manchester College and Research Officer at the Oxford Centre for Maritime Archaeology at the University of Oxford And Simon Stoddart Fellow of Magdalene College and Reader in Prehistory at the University of Cambridge Producer: Simon Tillotson.
Views: 5862 BBC Podcasts
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Wars of the Roses which have been the scene for many a historical skirmish over the ages: The period in the fifteenth century when the House of Lancaster and the House of York were continually at odds is described by Shakespeare, in the three parts of Henry VI and Richard III as a time of enormous moral, military and political turmoil - the quintessential civil war; but twentieth century historians like K.B. Macfarlane argued the political instability is wildly overstated and there were no Wars of the Roses at all. Opposing this position are the many Tudor historians who like to claim that the Wars of the Roses represent the final breakdown of the feudal system and lead directly to the Tudor Era and the birth of the modern age.With Dr Helen Castor, Fellow and Director of Studies in History, Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge; Professor Colin Richmond, Emeritus Professor of History, Keele University; Dr Steven Gunn is a Tudor historian and Fellow and Tutor in Modern History, Merton College, Oxford.
Views: 3382 BBC Podcasts
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Stoicism, the third great philosophy of the Ancient World. It was founded by Zeno in the fourth century BC and flourished in Greece and then in Rome. Its ideals of inner solitude, forbearance in adversity and the acceptance of fate won many brilliant adherents and made it the dominant philosophy across the whole of the Ancient World. The ex-slave Epictetus said "Man is troubled not by events, but by the meaning he gives them". Seneca, the politician, declared that "Life without the courage for death is slavery". The stoic thoughts of Marcus Aurelius, the philosopher emperor, provided a rallying point for empire builders into the modern age.Stoicism influenced the Christian church, had a big effect on Shakespeare and Renaissance drama and may even have given the British their 'stiff upper lip', but it's a philosophy that was almost forgotten in the 20th century. Does it still have a legacy for us today?With Angie Hobbs, Lecturer in Philosophy, University of Warwick; Jonathan Rée, philosopher and historian; David Sedley, Laurence Professor of Ancient Philosophy, University of Cambridge.
Views: 2707 BBC Podcasts
Series in which physicist Brian Cox and comedian Robin Ince take a witty, irreverent and unashamedly rational look at the world according to science. Robin and Brian are joined by alien abduction expert Jon Ronson and Seth Shostack from the SETI Institute in California to discuss science conspiracies, UFOs and the search for ET.
Views: 3567 BBC Podcasts
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the philosophy of solitude. The state of being alone can arise for many different reasons: imprisonment, exile or personal choice. It can be prompted by religious belief, personal necessity or a philosophical need for solitary contemplation. Many thinkers have dealt with the subject, from Plato and Aristotle to Hannah Arendt. It's a philosophical tradition that takes in medieval religious mystics, the work of Montaigne and Adam Smith, and the great American poets of solitude Thoreau and Emerson. With: Melissa Lane Professor of Politics at Princeton University Simon Blackburn Professor of Philosophy at the New College of the Humanities and Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge John Haldane Professor of Philosophy at the University of St Andrews Producer: Thomas Morris.
Views: 3450 BBC Podcasts
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the story of human evolution, which stretches back over six million years. It is not the story of one species but of several diverse species, some of whom walked the Earth at the same time. From the earliest hominids to the early Homo sapiens, there was nothing inevitable about the course of human evolution. But what conditions created the opportunity for diverse human species to thrive? What environmental factors led to the survival of one human species, but contributed to the extinction of so many others? What can the fossil record and the science of genetics tell us about our ancestors? How does the brain make modern man so unique in the natural world? With Steve Jones, Professor of Genetics in the Galton Laboratory at University College London; Fred Spoor, Professor of Evolutionary Anatomy at University College London; Margaret Clegg, Honorary Research Fellow in the Department of Biological Anthropology at University College London.
Views: 1510 BBC Podcasts
Melvyn Bragg examines the British Empire. It was officially created on 1st January 1877 when Disraeli had Queen Victoria proclaimed Empress of India, and it formally dissolved into the ‘Commonwealth’ in 1958. But imperial passions stirred in Britain long before Victoria’s investiture and the ethos of Imperialism lives on.At its height in 1919 the British Empire stretched from East to West, incorporating one quarter of the globe and included such diverse colonies as Canada, Australia, parts of South America, the Persian Gulf, the Middle East and China, New Zealand, much of Africa and of course India. By 1960 it had all but vanished off the face of the earth. What drove Britain to build such an immense Empire, why did it all disappear so quickly and what kind of legacy was left behind? With Maria Misra, Lecturer in Modern History and Fellow of Keble College, Oxford, Peter Cain, Research Professor in History at Sheffield Hallam University and Catherine Hall, Professor of Modern Social and Cultural History at University College London.
Views: 2225 BBC Podcasts
Physicist Brian Cox and comedian Robin Ince take a witty, irreverent and unashamedly rational look at the world according to science. Physicist turned comedian Ben Miller joins Brian and Robin to discuss quantum physics, and if astrology really shares its roots with more scientific pursuits. They also discuss the largest scientific experiment ever undertaken, currently storming ahead in a large underground tunnel just outside Geneva.
Views: 5924 BBC Podcasts
Are we living in a simulation? Elon Musk thinks we definitely could be, and it seems he is not alone. The idea that we might simply be products of an advanced post-human civilisation, that are simply running a simulation of our universe and everything it contains, has taken hold over the last few years. Brian Cox and Robin Ince are joined on stage by comedian Phill Jupitus, Philosopher Professor Nick Bostrom and Neuroscientist Professor Anil Seth to ask what the chances are that are living in some Matrix like, simulated world and more importantly, how would we ever know? Producer: Alexandra Feachem.
Views: 4361 BBC Podcasts
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Cathars, a medieval European Christian sect accused of heresy. In 1215 Pope Innocent III called the greatest meeting of Catholic minds for a hundred years. He hoped that the Fourth Lateran Council would represent the crowning glory of a Papacy that was more powerful than ever before, and it laid down decrees to standardise Christian belief across the whole of Western Europe and heal the papal schism of a generation before. But despite the wealth and power of the Vatican, all was not as it should have been in the Catholic world; Jerusalem was lost, the Crusades were failing, and in the regions of Europe the spectre of heresy moved over the land. It loomed largest in the wealthy Languedoc region of Southern France, where celibate vegetarians called Cathars were proving more popular than Jesus. The Pope moved against the Cathars but why was Catharism such a threat, what were its beliefs and what was the intellectual and spiritual climate that made the high middle ages the era of the heretic?With Malcolm Barber, Professor of Medieval History at the University of Reading; Miri Rubin, Professor of Medieval History at Queen Mary, University of London; Euan Cameron, Professor of Modern History at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne.
Views: 3637 BBC Podcasts
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the reign of terror during the French Revolution. On Monday September 10th 1792 The Times of London carried a story covering events in revolutionary France: "The streets of Paris, strewed with the carcases of the mangled victims, are become so familiar to the sight, that they are passed by and trod on without any particular notice. The mob think no more of killing a fellow-creature, who is not even an object of suspicion, than wanton boys would of killing a cat or a dog". These were the infamous September Massacres when Parisian mobs killed thousands of suspected royalists and set the scene for the events to come, when Madame La Guillotine took centre stage and The Terror ruled in France. But how did the French Revolution descend into such extremes of violence? Who or what drove The Terror? And was it really an aberration of the revolutionary cause or the moment when it truly expressed itself? With Mike Broers, Lecturer in Modern History at the University of Oxford and Fellow of Lady Margaret Hall; Rebecca Spang, Lecturer in Modern History at University College London; Tim Blanning, Professor of Modern European History at the University of Cambridge.
Views: 3844 BBC Podcasts
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the culture, history and legacy of the eastern Byzantine Empire. In 453 with the Barbarians at the gate, through the gate and sacking the city of Rome “the wide arch of the ranged empire” finally began to fall...Or did it? In AD 395 the Emperor Theodosius had divided the vast Roman Empire between his two sons. The Northern and Western Europe provinces were governed from Rome, but the Eastern Empire became based on the Bosphorous in the city of Constantinople. And when Rome crumbled and the Dark Ages fell across Western Europe, the Eastern Roman Empire endured, with its ancient texts, its classical outlook and its Imperial society…for another one thousand years. How did the East survive when the West fell, were they really Romans and why do we know so little about one of the most successful and long lived Empires ever to straddle the globe? Did its scholars with their Greek manuscripts enable the Western Renaissance to take place? And why has it so often been sidelined and undermined by history and historians? With Charlotte Roueché, Reader in Classical and Byzantine Greek, Kings College London; John Julius Norwich, author of a three part history of Byzantium: The Early Centuries, The Apogee and Decline and Fall; Liz James, Senior Lecturer in the History of Art, University of Sussex.
Views: 3940 BBC Podcasts
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Celts. Around 400 BC a great swathe of Western Europe from Ireland to Southern Russia was dominated by one civilisation. Perched on the North Western fringe of this vast Iron Age culture were the British who shared many of the religious, artistic and social customs of their European neighbours. These customs were Celtic and this civilisation was the Celts.The Greek historians who studied and recorded the Celts' way of life deemed them to be one of the four great Barbarian peoples of the world. The Romans wrote vivid accounts of Celtic rituals including the practice of human sacrifice - presided over by Druids - and the tradition of decapitating their enemies and turning their heads into drinking vessels.But what were the Celts in Britain really like? Was their apparent lust for violence tempered by a love of poetry and beautiful art? How far should we trust the classical historians in their writings on the Celts? And what can we learn from the archaeological remains that have been discovered in this country? With Barry Cunliffe, Professor of European Archaeology at Oxford University; Alistair Moffat, Historian and author of The Sea Kingdoms - The Story of Celtic Britain and Ireland; Miranda Aldhouse Green, Professor of Archaeology at the University of Wales.
Views: 2086 BBC Podcasts
The Infinite Monkeys, Brian Cox and Robin Ince, are joined on stage by special guest Stephen Fry and science writer Simon Singh to find out whether we really are only 6 degrees of separation from anyone else? What started as an interesting psychology experiment in connectedness, back in the 1960's, has not only taken on a life of its own in popular culture, but in the last 10 years has begun to influence everything from mathematics, to engineering and even biology. Brian and Robin look at how the concept of 6 degrees has influenced a whole new field of science and whether, in this age of social network sites such as Twitter and Facebook, we are in fact, far more connected than ever before. We also find out what Robin's "Bacon" number is. Whether Brian has an "Erdos" number, and whether, like Russell Crowe, any of the panel have successfully managed to combine the two. Producer: Alexandra Feachem.
Views: 12753 BBC Podcasts
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Greek myths from Achilles to Zeus. Are you a touch narcissistic? Do you have the body of an Adonis? Are you willing to undertake Herculean tasks or Promethean ventures? Perhaps you have an Oedipus complex? If you answer to any or perhaps all of these you owe something to the Greek myths, a collection of weird and wonderful stories that, like Penelope’s shroud or the needlework of Arachne, were constantly woven and unpicked across centuries of Greek and Roman civilisation. The myths have a cast of thousands including mighty Zeus, Jason and the Argonauts, wily Odysseus, beautiful Aphrodite and Cerberus, the three-headed dog. They are funny, shocking, quirky and epic and have retained their power and their wisdom from the ancient world to the modern. With Nick Lowe, Senior Lecturer in Classics at Royal Holloway, University of London; Richard Buxton, Professor of Greek Language and Literature at the University of Bristol; Mary Beard, Professor of Classics at Cambridge University
Views: 3427 BBC Podcasts
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the extraordinary mind of the psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung. In 1907 Sigmund Freud met a young man and fell into a conversation that is reputed to have lasted for 13 hours. That man was the Swiss psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung. Freud is celebrated as the great pioneer of the 20th century mind, but the idea that personality types can be 'introverted' or 'extroverted', that certain archetypal images and stories repeat themselves constantly across the collective history of mankind, and that personal individuation is the goal of life, all belong to Jung: "Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart... Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens", he declared. And he also said "Show me a sane man and I will cure him for you".Who was Jung? What is the essence and influence of his thought? And how did he become such a controversial and, for many, such a beguiling figure?With Brett Kahr, Senior Clinical Research Fellow in Psychotherapy and Mental Health at the Centre for Child Mental Health in London and a practising Freudian; Ronald Hayman, writer and biographer of Jung; Andrew Samuels, Professor of Analytical Psychology at the University of Essex and a Jungian analyst in clinical practice.
Views: 1349 BBC Podcasts
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Algerian-French writer and Existentialist philosopher Albert Camus. Shortly after the new year of 1960, a powerful sports car crashed in the French town of Villeblevin in Burgundy, killing two of its occupants. One was the publisher Michel Gallimard; the other was the writer Albert Camus. In Camus’ pocket was an unused train ticket and in the boot of the car his unfinished autobiography The First Man. Camus was 46. Born in Algeria in 1913, Camus became a working class hero and icon of the French Resistance. His friendship with Sartre has been well documented, as has their falling out; and although Camus has been dubbed both an Absurdist and Existentialist philosopher, he denied he was even a philosopher at all, preferring to think of himself as a writer who expressed the realities of human existence. Awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1957, Camus’ legacy is a rich one, as an author of plays, novels and essays, and as a political thinker who desperately sought a peaceful solution to the War for Independence in his native Algeria. With Peter Dunwoodie, Professor of French Literature at Goldsmiths, University of London; David Walker, Professor of French at the University of Sheffield; Christina Howells, Professor of French at Wadham College, University of Oxford.
Views: 1401 BBC Podcasts
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the highs and lows of the Third Crusade. In 1095 Pope Urban II launched the First Crusade and by the end of the 11th century an army of Franks had driven what they called the ‘infidel arab’ out of Jerusalem. The Crusaders held the city for over eighty years until Saladin, Sultan of Egypt and Syria, seized it back in 1187. The Muslim world celebrated as the Christian world shuddered and Pope Gregory VIII issued a Papal Bull for restoring the Holy City to Christian Rule. The Kings of Europe clamoured for the honour to take up the challenge. However, the Third Crusade did not get off to a ripping start. The Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick Barbarossa, set off at the head of the greatest crusader army ever assembled but drowned whilst crossing a small stream in Armenia. This left Phillip of France and ultimately Richard of England to take on Saladin’s supremacy in the Middle East. What happened in that famous encounter? How did the names of Saladin and Richard the Lionheart come to bear such a weight of reputation across the centuries and were the crusades racial, imperial or religious wars? With Jonathan Riley-Smith, Dixie Professor of Ecclesiastical History at Cambridge University and author of many books on the Crusades, Carole Hillenbrand, Professor of Islamic History at the University of Edinburgh, Tariq Ali, novelist, playwright and author of The Book of Saladin.
Views: 2326 BBC Podcasts
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of Nihilism. The nineteenth-century philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, wrote, “There can be no doubt that morality will gradually perish: this is the great spectacle in a hundred acts reserved for the next two centuries in Europe”. And, with chilling predictions like these, ‘Nihilism’ was born. The hard view that morals are pointless, loyalty is a weakness and ‘truths’ are illusory, has excited, confused and appalled western thinkers ever since. But what happened to Nietzsche’s revolutionary ideas about truth, morality and a life without meaning? Existentialism can claim lineage to Nietzsche, as can Post Modernism, but then so can Nazism. With so many interpretations, and claims of ownership from the left and the right, has anything positive come out of the great philosopher of ‘nothing’?With Rob Hopkins, Senior Lecturer in Philosophy, University of Birmingham; Professor Raymond Tallis, Doctor and Philosopher; Professor Catherine Belsey, University of Cardiff.
Views: 2038 BBC Podcasts
Brian Cox and Robin Ince transport the cage of infinite proportions, for the first of 2 programmes from the Edinburgh Festival. They are joined on stage by cosmologists Carlos Frenk and Faye Dowker and actor and comedian Ben Miller and comedian and fellow physics PhD alumnus Richard Vranch.
Views: 4529 BBC Podcasts
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the rise and eventual downfall of the Roman Republic which survived for 500 years.Around 550 BC, Lucretia, the daughter of an aristocrat, was raped by the son of Tarquin, the King of Rome. Lucretia told her family what had happened to her and then in front of them, killed herself from shame. The Roman historian Livy describes what was believed to have happened next:"Brutus, while the others were absorbed in grief; drew out the knife from Lucretia's wound, and holding it up, dripping with gore, exclaimed, "By this blood, most chaste until a prince wronged it, I swear, and I take you, gods, to witness, that I will pursue Lucius Tarquinius Superbus and his wicked wife and all his children, with sword, with fire, aye with whatsoever violence I may; and that I will suffer neither them nor any other to be king in Rome!". The King was duly expelled from the city and the Roman Republic was founded and lasted for 500 years. But in what form did this republic evolve, what were its values and ideals and what ultimately caused the end of the world’s first true experiment in constitutional government?With Greg Woolf, Professor of Ancient History at St Andrews University; Catherine Steel, Lecturer in Classics at the University of Glasgow; Tom Holland, historian and author of Rubicon: the Triumph and Tragedy of the Roman Republic.
Views: 2047 BBC Podcasts
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the impact of politics on psychoanalysis. The 20th century saw the birth and rise of psychoanalysis. Sigmund Freud led people to think about how the mind functioned and how our behaviour might be understood through the process of working with a psychoanalyst, either one-to-one or in a group. Freud thought a lot about this process and in 1922 he published Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego, in which he pronounced that the group "wants to be ruled and oppressed and to fear its masters." He was writing at a time when ideas about rules and oppression were much discussed because the 20th century was also a century of fascism, totalitarianism and dictatorship. Freud died in 1939, just as a wave of despotism was sweeping across Europe. To what extent does psychoanalysis function by the rules of a dictatorship and to what extent does it function like a democracy? Is there a part of us that craves dictatorship and, if so, why? Is there a war going on in our own minds between ideas that we allow in to our consciousness and other ideas that we repress? With Adam Phillips, general editor of the new Penguin translations of Freud; Sally Alexander, Professor of History, Goldsmiths College, University of London; Malcolm Bowie, Marshal Foch Professor of French Literature and Fellow, All Souls College, Oxford.
Views: 1447 BBC Podcasts
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Muslim Spain. In 711 a small army of North African Berbers invaded Spain and established an Iberian Islamic culture that would last for over 700 years. Despite periods of infighting and persecution, Muslim Spain was a land where Muslims, Jews and Christians co-existed in relative peace and harmony. Its capital, Cordoba, although not unique amongst Spanish cities, became the centre and focus for generations of revered and respected philosophers, physicians and scholars. By the 10th century Cordoba was one of the largest cities in the world. But what some historians refer to as Cordoba’s Golden Age came to an end in the 11th century, when the society was destabilised by new threats from Africa to the South and Christendom to the North. However, it was not until 1492, when Granada fell to the Catholic monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella, that Islamic Spain was well and truly over.In that same year the Jews were expelled from its shores and Christopher Columbus set sail to lead Spanish Christian expansionism into the new world. But how did Muslims, Jews and Christians interact in practice? Was this period of apparent tolerance underpinned by a respect for each other’s sacred texts? What led to the eventual collapse of Cordoba and Islamic Spain? And are we guilty of over-romanticising this so-called golden age of co-existence? With Tim Winter, a convert to Islam and lecturer in Islamic Studies at the Faculty of Divinity at Cambridge University; Martin Palmer, Anglican lay preacher and theologian and author of The Sacred History of Britain, Mehri Niknam, Executive Director of the Maimonides Foundation, a joint Jewish-Muslim Interfaith Foundation in London.
Views: 2733 BBC Podcasts
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss how, in the Enlightenment, Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) sought to define the difference between right and wrong by applying reason, looking at the intention behind actions rather than at consequences. He was inspired to find moral laws by natural philosophers such as Newton and Leibniz, who had used reason rather than emotion to analyse the world around them and had identified laws of nature. Kant argued that when someone was doing the right thing, that person was doing what was the universal law for everyone, a formulation that has been influential on moral philosophy ever since and is known as the Categorical Imperative. Arguably even more influential was one of his reformulations, echoed in The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in which he asserted that humanity has a value of an entirely different kind from that placed on commodities. Kant argued that simply existing as a human being was valuable in itself, so that every human owed moral responsibilities to other humans and was owed responsibilities in turn. With Alison Hills Professor of Philosophy at St John's College, Oxford David Oderberg Professor of Philosophy at the University of Reading and John Callanan Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at King's College, London Producer: Simon Tillotson.
Views: 2680 BBC Podcasts
Physicist Brian Cox and comedian Robin Ince return for the third series of the witty, irreverent science show. In the first episode of the series, Brian and Robin are joined by comedian Andy Hamilton to discuss some of the wackier apocalyptic theories, as well as those more grounded in science fact. Did the Mayans know something that we didn't with their prediction of global annihilation in 2012, or should we be focusing our energies and scientific know-how on some of the more likely scenarios, from near earth asteroids, through to climate change and deadly pandemics, or even the more long term possibilities of our sun burning out....although we have got roughly another 5 billion years to ponder the challenge of that problem. Recorded in front of an audience at the Drill Hall in London.
Views: 3154 BBC Podcasts
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the causes of the fall of the Roman Empire. Edward Gibbon wrote of its decline, "While that great body was invaded by open violence, or undermined by slow decay, a pure and humble religion gently insinuated itself into the minds of men, grew up in silence and obscurity, derived new vigour from opposition, and finally erected the triumphant banner of the cross on the ruins of the Capitol."But how far is the growth of Christianity implicated in the destruction of the great culture of Rome? How critical were the bawdy incursions of the Ostrogoths, the Visigoths and the Vandals to the fall of the Roman Empire? Should we even be talking in terms of blame and decline at all?St Augustine wrote about the fall of the Roman Empire in the fifth century AD, Edward Gibbon famously tackled it in the eighteenth and it is a question that preoccupies us today.With Charlotte Roueché, historian of late antiquity at Kings College London; David Womersley, Fellow and Tutor at Jesus College, Oxford and editor of Edward Gibbon’s The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire; Richard Alston, Lecturer in Classics at Royal Holloway, University of London.
Views: 3824 BBC Podcasts
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Neoplatonism, the school of thought founded in the 3rd century AD by the philosopher Plotinus. Born in Egypt, Plotinus was brought up in the Platonic tradition, studying and reinterpreting the works of the Greek thinker Plato. After he moved to Rome Plotinus became the most influential member of a group of thinkers dedicated to Platonic scholarship. The Neoplatonists - a term only coined in the nineteenth century - brought a new religious sensibility to bear on Plato's thought. They outlined a complex cosmology which linked the human with the divine, headed by a mysterious power which they called the One. Neoplatonism shaped early Christian, Jewish and Muslim religious scholarship, and remained a dominant force in European thought until the Renaissance. With:Angie HobbsAssociate Professor of Philosophy and Senior Fellow in the Public Understanding of Philosophy at the University of WarwickPeter AdamsonProfessor of Ancient and Medieval Philosophy at King's College LondonAnne SheppardProfessor of Ancient Philosophy at Royal Holloway, University of LondonProducer: Thomas Morris.
Views: 2318 BBC Podcasts
Robin Ince and Brian Cox are joined on stage by V for Vendetta author and legendary comic book writer Alan Moore, cosmologist Ed Copeland, and science broadcaster Dallas Campbell to ask whether Cosmology is really a science? Do scientific theories need to be testable to make them, well - scientific? And if so, where does that leave some of the more mind-bending theories that Cosmology has postulated over the last few years? From String Theory to the idea of multiple universes, the maths might work, but if there is no way of observing whether it is correct, is it science or science fiction? Does Cosmology have more in common with the fantastical stories dreamt up by fiction writers such as Alan Moore, and will science ever progress enough to really get to the bottom of some of the more weird and wonderful theories about the way our universe works? This programme was recorded as part of the Cheltenham Science Festival. Producer: Alexandra Feachem.
Views: 3925 BBC Podcasts
Melvyn Bragg examines Quantum Gravity. Early in the 20th century physicists were startled by the realisation that the smallest things in the universe do not obey Newton’s laws of gravity. Ripe apples fall from trees, billiard balls roll mostly on the table and the moon orbits the Earth in thrall to its gravitational pull, but there is no such force of gravity at work in the world of very small things. It seems there is one set of rules for the realm of every day objects, and a very different set of laws for the quantum world - where tiny particles actually form the building blocks of all those larger things.But how can this be? It doesn’t appear to make sense. Physicists decided that there must be another theory - a much larger theory - that unites, incorporates and finally makes sense of these divided realms. And this has been the Holy Grail of physics ever since. With Dr John Gribbin, Visiting Fellow in Astronomy, University of Sussex; Lee Smolin, Professor of Physics, Centre for Gravitational Physics and Geometry, Pennsylvania State University and Visiting Professor of Physics at Imperial College, London; Dr Janna Levin, Advanced Fellow, Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, Cambridge University.
Views: 1109 BBC Podcasts
Melvyn Bragg explores the strange and mystical world of the poet W B Yeats. Celtic folklore, the Theosophical society, the Golden Dawn group, seances and a wife who communicated with the spirit world all had a huge effect on the work of this great Irish poet. He published his first collection in 1889 and won the Nobel prize for literature in 1923.At the close of the nineteenth century he published one of his best known works. He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven: “Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,Enwrought with golden and silver light,The blue and the dim and the dark clothsOf night and light and the half-light,I would spread the cloths under your feet:But I, being poor, have only my dreams; I have spread my dreams under your feet; Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.” But Yeats the dreamer and the poet was also a mystic, a philosopher and a practitioner of magic. From the occult subcultures of Victorian London to the outlandish folklore of the Irish Peasantry, Yeats’ obsession with the spiritual world infused his poetic mind and even drove him to describe his own religion. Why was the period so alive with spiritualism? And how did the poems reflect the dreams? With Roy Foster, Carroll Professor of Irish History at Oxford University; Warwick Gould, Director of the Institute of English Studies, University of London; Brenda Maddox, author of George’s Ghosts: A New Life of W B Yeats.
Views: 2496 BBC Podcasts
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the life and work of the 19th century Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy.The Russian novel has been acclaimed as one of the outstanding genres of literature alongside Greek Tragedy, Shakespeare’s Plays and Romantic Poetry. Its heyday was the mid-19th century, and its practitioners gave expression to the compelling moral and social questions of their day - and arguably of the modern era. These men of genius included Dostoevsky, Gogol and Turgenev, but perhaps the greatest of them all was Tolstoy, author of the novels War and Peace and Anna Karenina. Tolstoy took massive subjects and presented them in loving and intricate detail. As Matthew Arnold said, "a work by Tolstoy is not a piece of art but a piece of life". Possessed by an urgent desire to represent real life in his work, and to reject artifice, Tolstoy declared that "The one thing necessary in life as in art is to tell the truth." What did Tolstoy mean by telling the truth? How did he convey these truths to the reader? And why did he, ultimately, give up on literature and concentrate instead on religious and political philosophy? With A N Wilson, Novelist, journalist and biographer of Tolstoy; Catriona Kelly, Reader in Russian, Oxford University; Sarah Hudspith, Lecturer in Russian, University of Leeds.
Views: 1416 BBC Podcasts
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss James Joyce's novel Ulysses. First published ninety years ago in Paris, Joyce's masterpiece is a sprawling and startlingly original work charting a single day in the life of the Dubliner Leopold Bloom. Some early readers were outraged by its sexual content and daringly scatalogical humour, and the novel was banned in most English-speaking countries for a decade after it first appeared. But it was soon recognised as a genuinely innovative work: overturning the ban on its publication, an American judge described Ulysses as "a sincere and serious attempt to devise a new literary method for the observation and description of mankind."Today Ulysses is widely regarded as the greatest example of literary modernism, and a work that changed literature forever. It remains one of the most discussed novels ever written.Steven ConnorProfessor of Modern Literature and Theory at Birkbeck, University of LondonJeri JohnsonSenior Fellow in English at Exeter College, OxfordRichard BrownReader in Modern English Literature at the University of LeedsProducer: Thomas Morris.
Views: 1670 BBC Podcasts
Physicist Brian Cox and comedian Robin Ince return for a new series of Radio 4's witty, irreverent and unashamedly rational look at the world according to science. In a special programme recorded as part of this year's Cheltenham Science Festival, Brian and Robin are joined by special guests Ben Miller and Robert Winston to explore the choppy waters of science and fame. Are we are entering a golden age of science popularity? Is there a genuine interest in the wonder of science and is science the real star or is it simply being dumbed down as a result of our celebrity obsessed culture? They'll be asking whether science needs to be popular and whether this new wave of enthusiasm has any real impact on science policy, or the quality of science being done in this country. Has science finally found the S Factor? Producer: Alexandra Feachem.
Views: 2159 BBC Podcasts
Brian Cox and Robin Ince are joined on stage by author and journalist David Aaronovitch, psychologist Professor Richard Wiseman and neuroscientist Professor Sophie Scott as they tackle the science of deception. They'll be asking why we seem to be so good at telling lies, but not very good at spotting them, and why being good liars could be the secret to our success as a social animal. They will also be carrying out their own act of deception on the monkey cage audience. They reveal the results of an experiment to test the idea of subliminal advertising, carried out by David Aaronovitch for the Radio 4 documentary, "Can You Spot the Hidden Message" . Will they manage to secretly persuade a section of the theatre audience to pick one type of soft drink over another by secretly flashing the name of a certain brand on a screen? All will be revealed. Producer: Alexandra Feachem.
Views: 1664 BBC Podcasts
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Roman historian Tacitus who chronicled some of Rome’s most notorious emperors, including Nero and Caligula, and whose portrayal of Roman decadence influences the way we see Rome today. “The story I now commence is rich in vicissitudes, grim with warfare, torn by civil strife, a tale of horror even during times of peace”. So reads page one of The Histories by the Roman historian Tacitus and it doesn’t disappoint. Convinced that Rome was going to the dogs, Tacitus depicts a Rome which is a hotbed of sex and violence, of excessive wealth and senatorial corruption. His work is a pungent study in tyranny and decline that has influenced depictions of Rome, from Gibbon’s Decline and Fall to Robert Graves’ I, Claudius. But is it a true picture of the age or does Tacitus’ work present the tyranny and decadence of Rome at the expense of its virtues? And to what extent, when we look at the Roman Empire today, do we still see it through Tacitus' eyes?With Catharine Edwards, Professor of Classics and Ancient History at Birkbeck, University of London; Ellen O’Gorman, Senior Lecturer in Classics at the University of Bristol and Maria Wyke, Professor of Latin at University College London
Views: 3844 BBC Podcasts
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Einstein's theories of relativity. Between 1905 and 1917 Albert Einstein formulated a theoretical framework which transformed our understanding of the Universe. The twin theories of Special and General Relativity offered insights into the nature of space, time and gravitation which changed the face of modern science. Relativity resolved apparent contradictions in physics and also predicted several new phenomena, including black holes. It's regarded today as one of the greatest intellectual achievements of the twentieth century, and had an impact far beyond the world of science. With: Ruth Gregory Professor of Mathematics and Physics at Durham University Martin Rees Astronomer Royal and Emeritus Professor of Cosmology and Astrophysics at the University of Cambridge Roger Penrose Emeritus Rouse Ball Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford. Producer: Thomas Morris.
Views: 1028 BBC Podcasts
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the importance of geography and ecology in determining world history since civilisation began. The 18th century historian Thomas Carlyle said that world history was the history of what great men have accomplished, but this understanding of history is being increasingly called into question. Professor Jared Diamond’s book Guns, Germs and Steel, which won the 1998 Rhone Poulenc Prize for Science and the Pulitzer Prize for non-fiction, is a re-evaluation of the last 13,000 years of the history of mankind - particularly in the light of geography and ecology. But what are the implications of looking at world history as being determined by geography and ecology? Is environment really the determining factor in history? And if so, what role does cultural heritage play in shaping different histories? With Professor Jared Diamond, ecologist and physiologist at the Los Angeles Medical School, University of California, and author of Guns, Germs and Steel; Richard Evans, Professor of Modern History, Cambridge University.
Views: 1567 BBC Podcasts
Melvyn Bragg talks to Gore Vidal and Alan Clarke about the future of the nation-state; is the concept dead and buried? And what is the relationship between politics and morality - have salaciousness and self-righteousness taken over where seriousness of intent and a strong nerve left off, or was it ever thus? With Gore Vidal, American writer, commentator and author of The Smithsonian Institution; Alan Clarke, historian, politician and author of The Tories: Conservatives and the Nation State, 1922-97.
Views: 1964 BBC Podcasts
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Scottish Enlightenment of the 18th century. In 1696 the Edinburgh student, Thomas Aitkenhead, claimed theology was "a rhapsody of feigned and ill invented nonsense". He was hanged for his trouble - just one victim of a repressive religious society called the Scottish Kirk. Yet within 60 years Scotland was transformed by the ideas sweeping the continent in what we call the Enlightenment. This Scottish Enlightenment emerged on a broad front. From philosophy to farming it championed empiricism, questioned religion and debated reason. It was crowned by the philosophical brilliance of David Hume and by Adam Smith – the father of modern economics. But what led to this ‘Scottish Miracle’, was it an indigenous phenomenon or did it depend on influence from abroad? It profoundly influenced the American revolutionaries and the British Empire, but what legacy does it have for Scotland today?With Professor Tom Devine, Director of the Research Institute of Irish and Scottish Studies at the University of Aberdeen; Karen O’Brien, Reader in English and American Literature at the University of Warwick; Alexander Broadie, Professor of Logic and Rhetoric at the University of Glasgow.
Views: 1876 BBC Podcasts
Is it always better to be just than unjust? That is the central question of Plato's Republic, discussed here by Melvyn Bragg and guests. Writing in c380BC, Plato applied this question both to the individual and the city-state, considering earlier and current forms of government in Athens and potential forms, in which the ideal city might be ruled by philosophers. The Republic is arguably Plato's best known and greatest work, a dialogue between Socrates and his companions, featuring the allegory of the cave and ideas about immortality of the soul, the value of poetry to society, and democracy's vulnerability to a clever demagogue seeking tyranny. With Angie Hobbs Professor of the Public Understanding of Philosophy at the University of Sheffield MM McCabe Professor of Ancient Philosophy Emerita at King's College London and James Warren Fellow of Corpus Christi College and a Reader in Ancient Philosophy at the University of Cambridge Producer: Simon Tillotson.
Views: 3054 BBC Podcasts
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the galaxies. Spread out across the voids of space like spun sugar, but harbouring in their centres super-massive black holes. Our galaxy is about 100,000 light years across, is shaped like a fried egg and we travel inside it at approximately 220 kilometres per second. The nearest one to us is much smaller and is nicknamed the Sagittarius Dwarf. But the one down the road, called Andromeda, is just as large as ours and, in 10 billion years, we'll probably crash into it. Galaxies - the vast islands in space of staggering beauty and even more staggering dimension. But galaxies are not simply there to adorn the universe; they house much of its visible matter and maintain the stars in a constant cycle of creation and destruction. But why do galaxies exist, how have they evolved and what lies at the centre of a galaxy to make the stars dance round it at such colossal speeds? With John Gribbin, Visiting Fellow in Astronomy at the University of Sussex; Carolin Crawford, Royal Society University Research Fellow at the Institute of Astronomy at Cambridge; Robert Kennicutt, Plumian Professor of Astronomy and Experimental Philosophy at the University of Cambridge.
Views: 1620 BBC Podcasts
Science's Epic Fails Brian Cox and Robin Ince are joined on stage by actor and comedian Rufus Hound, Professor Alice Roberts and Dr Adam Rutherford to discuss some of the great scientific failures, and mistakes made by some very well known scientists. They look at how some of the greatest scientific thinkers of all time, from Darwin to Einstein, got key elements of their own theories wrong, or in the case of others, followed a path of understanding that would later be completely disproved. They discuss why failure in science is no bad thing, and ask whether getting it wrong, is a fundamental part of the scientific method, and should in fact be applied to many other areas of life. Producer: Alexandra Feachem.
Views: 6457 BBC Podcasts
Making the Invisible, Visible Brian Cox and Robin Ince are joined by comedian Katy Brand, Cosmologist Prof Carlos Frenk, and biologist Prof Matthew Cobb to discover how to make the seemingly invisible, visible. They look at how the history and development of the telescope and the microscope have allowed us to look at the impossibly big to the seemingly impossibly small, to gain insight into the history of our universe and the inner workings of the human body. They look at how radio and space telescopes have allowed us to look back in time and "see" the big bang, and understand the age and content of the early universe, and how space telescopes have thrown light on the mysterious substance known as dark matter. They also look at the way microscopes and new biological techniques have allowed us to understand the seemingly invisible processes going on inside our cells. They also ask what, if anything, will always remain invisible to us - are there some processes or concepts that are impossible for us to "see". Producer: Alexandra Feachem.
Views: 922 BBC Podcasts
Physicist Brian Cox and comedian Robin Ince take a witty, irreverent and unashamedly rational look at the world according to science. Robin and Brian are joined by Victor Stock, Dean of Guildford Cathedral, and science journalist Adam Rutherford for a special Christmas edition of the programme. Adam explains why religion really could be good for your health, and can Victor convert Robin and Brian in time for the festive season?
Views: 2910 BBC Podcasts
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the medieval universities.In the 11th and 12th centuries a new type of institution started to appear in the major cities of Europe. The first universities were those of Bologna and Paris; within a hundred years similar educational organisations were springing up all over the continent. The first universities based their studies on the liberal arts curriculum, a mix of seven separate disciplines derived from the educational theories of Ancient Greece. The universities provided training for those intending to embark on careers in the Church, the law and education. They provided a new focus for intellectual life in Europe, and exerted a significant influence on society around them. And the university model proved so robust that many of these institutions and their medieval innovations still exist today.With:Miri RubinProfessor of Medieval and Early Modern History at Queen Mary, University of LondonIan WeiSenior Lecturer in Medieval European History at the University of BristolPeter DenleyReader in History at Queen Mary, University of London.Producer: Thomas Morris.
Views: 2565 BBC Podcasts
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss how history has struggled to explain the enormity of the crimes committed in Germany under Adolf Hitler: we have had theories of ‘totalitarianism’, and of ‘distorted modernity’, debates between ‘intentionalists’ and their opponents the ‘structuralists’. The great political philosopher Hannah Arendt said, “Under conditions of tyranny, it is far easier to act than to think”. But somehow none of these explanations has seemed quite enough to explain how a democratic country in the heart of modern Europe was mobilised to commit genocide, and to fight a bitter war to the end against the world’s most powerful nations.With Ian Kershaw, historian and biographer of Hitler; Niall Ferguson, fellow and tutor in Modern History at Jesus College Oxford; Mary Fulbrook, Professor of German History at University College London.
Views: 3672 BBC Podcasts
Melvyn Bragg and guests Paul Cartledge, Edith Hall and Angie Hobbs discuss Sparta, the militaristic Ancient Greek city-state, and the political ideas it spawned.The isolated Ancient Greek city-state of Sparta was a ferocious opposite to the cosmopolitan port of Athens. Spartans were hostile to outsiders and rhetoric, to philosophy and change. Two and a half thousand years on, Sparta remains famous for its brutally rigorous culture of military discipline, as inculcated in its young men through communal living, and terrifying, licensed violence towards the Helots, the city-state's subjugated majority. Sparta and its cruelty was used as an argument against slavery by British Abolitionists in the early 1800s, before inspiring the Nazis in the 1930s and 1940s.Yet Sparta also produced poets of great skill: Tyrteaus wrote marching songs for the young men; Alcman wrote choral lyrics for the young women. Moreover, the city-state's rulers pioneered a radically egalitarian political system, and its ideals were invoked by Plato. Its inhabitants also prided themselves on their wit: we don't only derive the word 'spartan' from their culture, but the word 'laconic'. Paul Cartledge is AG Leventis Professor of Greek Culture and a Fellow of Clare College, University of Cambridge; Edith Hall is Professor of Classics and Drama at Royal Holloway, University of London; Angie Hobbs is Associate Professor of Philosophy and Senior Fellow in the Public Understanding of Philosophy at the University of Warwick.
Views: 1787 BBC Podcasts
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Aztec Empire. According to legend, the origins of it lie on a mythical island called Aztlan - "place of the white herons" - in the north of Mexico. From there this nomadic group of Mesoamericans are said to have undertaken a pilgrimage south to the fertile valleys of Central America. In the space of just 200 years, they formed what has been called the largest, and arguably the most ruthless, pre-Hispanic empire in North America which, at its zenith, was to rule over approximately 500 small states, comprising by the 16th century some 6 million people. Was it military might and intimidation alone that helped the Aztecs extend their power? What part did their complex belief system play in their imperial reach? Their use of human sacrifice has been well documented, but how widespread actually was it? How easily were the Spanish conquistadors able to Christianise this empire? And what legacy did the Aztecs leave behind that lives on in our world today?With Alan Knight, Professor of the History of Latin America at Oxford University and author of Mexico: From the Beginning to the Spanish Conquest; Adrian Locke, co-curator of the Aztecs exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts; Elizabeth Graham, Senior Lecturer in Mesoamerican Archaeology at University College London.
Views: 3255 BBC Podcasts
Brian Cox and Robin Ince are joined on stage by Professor Sophie Scott, Professor Steve Jones and comedian Sara Pascoe. They will be tackling the age old battle of the sexes, and asking whether men really are from Mars, and women really are from Venus? Probably not, according to Brian as Venus is too hot! Moving on from the pedantry of physics, they'll be asking whether the divide between men and women is based on a fundamental difference in our genetics, in our brain function, or is it all down to our upbringing. Let the battle commence. Producer: Alexandra Feachem.
Views: 1001 BBC Podcasts