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Feast of physics on BBC radio

By Hamish Johnston

Physics lovers in the UK were enthralled this morning as two of the nation’s greatest physicists – Stephen Hawking and Isaac Newton – were featured on BBC Radio 4.

First up was Hawking, who answered five of the many questions submitted by listeners of the Today programme in honour of the cosmologist’s 70th birthday.

Questions that Hawking chose to answer included those on the origins of the universe, faster-than-light neutrinos and the colonization of space. You can listen to his responses here.

Newton featured on Radio 4 this morning in the final instalment of a series on the history of the written word presented by another national treasure, Melvyn Bragg. In today’s episode Bragg explores the role that writing has played in the development of science. Indeed, the programme argues that science emerged shortly after writing itself, as astronomers in ancient Mesopotamia began to record the positions of stars with the aim of predicting stellar positions in the future.

About halfway through the programme, Bragg travels to the library of the University of Cambridge to look at the student notebooks of Isaac Newton. One book contains a graphic description of how Newton pushed a wooden needle into his eye socket and recorded what happened when the needle distorted the shape of the back of his eye – that’s got to hurt!

You can watch a slideshow about Bragg’s series on the written word here.

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