What’s in a Name? Everything.

I thought about tweeting this but realised I couldn’t explain it in 140 characters and I hate multiple run-on tweets. So here it is in a blog:

In October of this year I start presenting a new science programme on BBC Radio 4. It will be on every Tuesday at 0900 – a fantastic slot just after the Today Programme. In fact, the hope is that this will become a long-running fixture on R4 with around 30 or so episodes a year, so that the Tuesday 9am slot becomes associated with it. Just think what else is on at that time throughout the week: on Monday it’s Start the Week, Wednesday it’s Midweek, Thursday is In Our Time and Friday it’s Desert Island Discs. Tuesday is the only day without a recognised fixture.

The new controller of Radio 4, Gwyneth Williams, has been absolutely key in getting this programme commissioned – well, she’s the boss, right? Anyway, what is so fantastic is that Gwyn is very keen to get more science on Radio 4 and for science to continue its rapid move into mainstream culture – for instance, The Infinite Monkey Cage, presented by Robin Ince and Brian Cox, recently won a Sony Award.

So, what will the programme be about and why do I need your help?

The first thing to say is that this will not be like In Our Time with Melvyn Bragg, nor will it be like Material World, the excellent science magazine programme presented by Quentin Cooper. We have already recorded two pilots for the new series, differing in format, so that the powers that be in the BBC can decide on the style, format and flavour of the programme. At the moment, a very rough way of explaining what it is about is that it is like Desert Island Discs, without the discs. Each week, I will be talking to a different prominent figure from the world of science (by which I mean ‘science’ in its broadest sense: natural science, maths, engineering, technology, medicine and social science). There wil be Nobel Prize winners, shakers and movers, advisers to governments, writers or just fascinating people who have made a contribution to our understanding of the Universe. So, whereas Kirsty Young might ask her guests on DID something like ‘tell me why you never got on with your father’, I might ask ‘tell me where you were when you first had that Eureka moment that led to your scientific breakthrough’, or some such thing.

So, here’s the thing: we still don’t have a title for the programme!

We have come up with ideas like ‘Latitude‘, ‘The Life Scientific’, ‘This Scientific Life‘, ‘Science Talk‘. I even suggested ‘Curious Minds‘ but it was pointed out to me that that is the strapline for the whole of Radio 4: “Radio for Curious Minds”. Although it would be kinda nice to have the programme title reflect so perfectly the ethos of the network.
So, ideas please: either below in comments or tweet them to me (@jimalkhalili) with the hashtag #radio4sciencetitle

I thank you.

P.S. Apparently I am not allowed to offer a prize if a title is used but I will certainly publicise who came up with it if you are happy for me to do so.

About Jim Al-Khalili

Professor of theoretical physics at the University of Surrey, author and broadcaster.
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69 Responses to What’s in a Name? Everything.

  1. Ann Wood says:

    How about ‘Facts and Figures’ – The ‘figures’ having a second meaning as the interviewees – as it seems like they are going to be ‘larger than life’ figures in their respective fields of interest….
    Ann Wood

  2. Ok Jim, here goes:
    ‘The Al-khamist’. ‘Science Talk’. ‘Boldly Go’. ‘Quantum Minds’. ‘E=Chat’. ‘Chatter Blox’. ‘Quark Of The Town’.
    (I’ve Tweeted ’em too)
    I’ll try think of more and, RT (Re Tweet) to others.
    Tony (Justhegood on Twitter)

  3. Max Sang says:

    How about ‘Think Tank’ or something along those lines?

  4. andrew says:


    How about:

    Why does it do that?
    How did we get here?
    You did what!
    Quantum Tuesday
    What made you…
    Jim’ll explain it.
    A scientific journey
    It happened because…


  5. Fergus Carty says:

    Dear Jim,
    you got me thinking but if some of my suggestions seem crazy just remember that they may be only a shade away from genius.
    Well as you mention a Eureka moment – A) “Another Revolution” B) “Turning the Screw” or C) “Bathtub Gin”
    A) pun on Archimedes water screw B) ditto and a play the tool making meaning of turning – the practicalities of scientific research C) the supposed location of the original Eureka moment and overcoming obstacles (1930s prohibition).
    Of course if I have to explain the titles maybe that’s not so good. However, I presume a certain level of education and intellect among your target audience.
    What about a play on εὕρηκα? D) “Honey, I found the keys!”
    What about E) “Root and Branch”
    The transposition of “Q&A” to F) “? & !!” seems too short.
    What about G) “Science Q&A” or H) “The Q to A of Science” or I) “Science ? & !” or J) “The ? to ! of Science”
    K) o.k. my last one – given your education and research and you Iraqi heritage – why not call it simply “Al Khalili” in the tradition of naming the great minds of the Islamic golden age of learning, with your name in Roman and Arabic script?
    yours sincerely,

  6. Mike Simpson says:

    My immediate thought is that you’re talking with your scientific peers, looking back on their scientific achievements, so I’d call it Peer Review.

  7. Robert Walker says:

    Here’re some ideas based on your introductory pre-amble:
    The Lightbulb Moment
    I wonder why that happened?
    It’s Science Jim, bit not as we know it!

  8. “Questioning Nature” (I quite like this one – double entendre and all that).

    Other ideas:
    “Eureka” is perhaps a bit too hackneyed?
    “Expanding Horizons” maybe a little non-specific?
    “Journeys in Science” might work, but a bit boring?
    “Lives in Science”?
    “The Light of Science”?
    Sounds like a great idea for a show, and what a slot! Unfortunately just when I’m firing up my clinic. Gotta love iPlayer.

  9. Dave Steadman says:

    “Schroedingers Chat”
    “Beneath The Lightbulb”
    “The Theory Of Something” 
    “Wise Words”
    “Curiosity Created The Cat”

    • Fergus Carty says:

      “Schroedingers Chat” – fine … if you can guarantee host and guest are in the same universe 😉

  10. Tony Terry says:

    A few ideas:
    / ‘Perspectives’
    / ‘Sci-Fact’
    / ‘The Uncertainty of Science’ or ‘The Uncertain Scientist(s)’ – from a quote by my hero, Richard Feynman – see also ‘An atom in the universe’ and ‘Physics is like sex…’
    / ‘It’s life Jim, but not as we know it …’

    Looking forward to the show (will have to set to record or hope for podcast version though).

  11. Jort maas says:

    How about “fact forum” or “questing conversations”

  12. Nick Day says:

    Shortening Robert Walker’s suggestion, “It’s Science, Jim”.
    Please do a special episode where you just interview yourself, or get someone else to.
    I hope it will be podcast.

  13. Rab Austen says:

    “Shoulders of Science” to paraphrase Newton and conjure up idea of seeing further or upon these shoulders you find the great heads/minds of science. Could expand to On the… or keep with original quote and use Giants but using science encapsulates programme theme and logical for anyone listening even if you are unaware of hat tip to Newton.

  14. Will says:

    How about “Focal Point”? The name would represent the instant an idea crystallizes in a scientist’s mind or a crucial moment in the timeline of scientific research and discovery.

  15. Howard says:

    What about “A Meeting of Minds”

  16. “Life the universe and everything” – If Douglas A’s estate would allow it 😉

  17. Brian fitzgerald says:

    In the lab. On the shoulders of giants. Little apples. When,where& why

  18. David says:

    How about “from the shoulders of giants”, or similar derivation? Corny, I know.

  19. mark says:

    no sacred truths (from the carl sagan quote)

    look forward to it!

    p.s. it’ll be great to more skepticism on radio 4 like skeptic check on are we alone

  20. Caio says:

    Jim, I´ve just seen the everything&nothing documentary in youtube, since I am from Brazil, absolutely fantastic! Thank you for the awesome work.
    Regarding the title for the radio show, how about “Morning Science”?


    • id10t says:

      How about “Light up”?
      vague enough to cover the illumination brought by ideas, but full of other connotations, good and bad.

  21. Dan Sweryt says:

    Some bad, some ugly…

    Ring Nobel
    The Nobelmen (sexist!)
    Quantum Tunnelling
    Subatomic Articles
    Charming and Strange
    A New, Clear Perspective
    Wonders of the Scientific Community 😉
    Uncertain Principals
    Jim Jams
    Any Hypotheses? (And its partner: Any Theorems?)
    Quantum Island Discords
    Quantumative Easing
    The Weak Fours (if you have four on the panel)
    Splitting the Atomicists
    Entropy! Entropy! They’ve All Got It Entropy!
    Under The Macroscope

  22. Judith says:

    “Pushing back the dark” or
    “Advancing the light”

    – metaphors for what science, new knowledge and understanding are about.

  23. Andy Walker says:

    How about The Scientist Priest ?

  24. Rosie Glaisher says:

    Great news about the series. I like the idea of restlessness/restless minds, and like the name Hot Tin Roof. (Just a little something for the Schroedinger lovers.)

  25. Maggie Jefford says:

    Hi Jim. I love your work and look forward to the new programme. I like many of the suggestions made but feel they are not quite general enough and don’t highlight the thing especially I like about your presentation style, your ability to make great thinkers live as people. So, my suggestion is:

    How on earth…….?

    Of course how in the universe might be more accurate but it doesn’t quite trip off the tongue! Good luck anyway.

  26. Stella Hogan says:

    Hi Jim

    How about Science at 9?

    Luv Stel x.

  27. Mike Rablins says:

    My ten pence worth…

    Radio Waves
    The Mind of a Scientist
    Scientific Minds
    Scientist at 9
    Quantum Speech
    The Dice Rollers
    Boundaries of Knowledge
    More than the Maths

  28. Finn Rablins (4 years old) says:

    Could not resist but ask my 4 year old son for three suggestions. He said…

    Put it on TV
    The Science Dance
    The Mystery of the World

    Could not resist but share my amusement at the first two and the shock of the third.

    My wife chipped in with “What’s the Matter”. How droll.

  29. Sally Sabirali says:

    Hi, how about…scientia totalis ( total science) or the cone of science ( cone also meaning the universe) ??

  30. Andreas wasmuht says:

    Given that the purpose of the program me is to interview icons of the science world and establish itself at a particular time slot my suggestion is to call it…
    Great Minds at Nine
    Sublime at Nine
    The world as we know it


  31. Ruth says:

    “Science Lives” ?

  32. Nigel Johnson says:

    hmmmm…as it’s about individuals in science rather than just science in general, how about ” The I in Science” ?

  33. Paul Stevenson says:

    Ahh, I heard on Feedback tonight that it will be called “The Life Scientific.” Not bad. I could only come up with smutty puns, I’m afraid.

  34. Tim Lee says:

    Hello Jim,

    ‘Geek of the Week’?

  35. Doug says:

    Hi Jim,

    Big fan of your programs, always interesting to listen to. My suggestion for a title is this “What are shadows made of…” Perhaps its a bit to specific, or it could be seen as an open ended question for a title. Shadows seem completely mysterious, as their nature seems to show itself in the absence of other things. Yet we need light to see them, contrasted against different backgrounds.

    It seems that nothing, or no-thing is a prime aspect of nature. Of course your program will be about all kinds of scientific topics, not just shadows.

    Other ideas.

    “How far is up”
    “You cant have something without nothing” (How else would you find the edges)
    “X is the length of string”
    “Whats the time? Its always now”
    “Uncle Jimmys Science Shed” (Nod to jimmy saville)
    “Jims black hole”
    “Jims white hole”
    “What the hell does it all mean?”
    “Jims better than cox” LOL

    Ok probably a bit silly for the BBC, but good luck with what ever you call it!

  36. len says:

    Infinite Start

  37. Jenny Pilcher says:

    I like the sound of ‘ Sciences Bites’!!

  38. Greg Artis says:

    How about:

    “Science From the Inside”?

  39. Tez B says:

    ‘Curious Minds’ would have been great. Nigel Johnson’s suggestion (‘The I in Science’) also works for me. Probably too late but here are a few more ideas…

    ‘Spirit of Enquiry’
    ‘Thought Quest’
    ‘Questing Minds’
    ‘Exploring Minds’
    ‘Science Under the Spotlight’

    Great to hear it’s happening, regardless of nomenclature…

  40. Tez B says:

    One more thought:

    ‘The Spark’

  41. Karol says:

    Meanders of Science

  42. Anna says:

    Yay! this sounds fantastic! Can’t wait for this – I always make sure to catch your BBC Four programmes, sure this will be just as interesting and informative.

    No new name suggestions – I liked Peer Review though. Nice and to the point.

  43. mark says:

    Nine Lives.
    Article in a Box.
    The Scientific Collective.
    The History of Everyone.
    No Right Way.
    The Truth is Out There.
    8 Out of 10 Cats.
    Its a GUT Life.
    Relatively Interesting Science.
    Between Einstein and a Hard Place.
    Wave Hello to Science.
    The Scientific Methods.

  44. Naeem Khan says:

    A bit late in the day but ‘Half Life’ – if we are lucky

  45. mark says:


    Just read the post of 17 July. Title already chosen.

  46. Nick Wallen says:

    “Prometheus Unbound”

    Great poem by Shelley on freedom of thought and change in society, which in turn inspired the book “The Unbound Prometheus” by David Landes on the how science and technology transformed the world.

    Hope it’s not too late.

  47. Naeem says:

    Oh! If you don’t think SCIENCE MATTERS then It’s a WONDERFUL UNIVERSE. Well, that my opinion on this subject…Keep doing the Science Thing.
    Thank you Jim

  48. Chris Street says:

    Hope to meet you in Portsmouth on 8th September for the Skeptics in the Pub. My suggestion for ‘Latitude’ programme would be ‘Scientific Methods’ – but I guess, with a month till launch, the name has already been decided!

  49. Marius Stuart says:

    I was going to suggest “It’s life Jim, but not as we know it”, unfortunately this has already been thought up by another great mind. So, I know it’s corny but what about “Al-KaLine”. Line as in line of text/speech.

    Oh no! Someone has posted that the title has been chosen as “The Life Scientific”. If true, never mind you can always use my suggestion another day.

  50. Satianan Auchoybur says:

    September 16
    Hi Jim, your Horizon program “safety of nuclear power” was excellent. Your manner of presentation
    like your other programs facilitates the understanding of complex subjects and issues.

    How about keeping it simple: ” Personage of our Scientific World”

  51. Zhid says:

    I loved your programme ”everything and nothing” and it can serve the title for radio as well.

  52. Zhid says:

    or simply”Nothing”

  53. Paul Taylor says:

    Re: programme name. How about “Science on a Plate”?

  54. nick c says:

    Suggestions for your Radio4 show – “Brains Lives”, “a Brain’s Life”, “a (or) the Person Inside the Mind”

  55. boba says:

    Hey Jim, What about “Entropy, Enthalpy, and Empathy” (e3)? just a thought? 😉

  56. Foxp2 says:

    Hi Jim, have been a big fan of your shows for years,
    always interesting, the best on the box,
    good luck for your new radio show.

    How about

    Stars in their skys

    The truth at nine

    Morning science

    Sixty minutes of science

    The Jim Al-Khalili show

    Science for you

    Science on four

    Science at work

    I think the titles already chosen?

    But all the best anyway.

  57. Rupert Cole says:


  58. David Williams says:

    It may be too late for programme title suggestions, but howzabout:

    “Science Faction”

    Your science programmes are the best, keep up the good work.

  59. John Pullin says:

    Grand Unifying Thoughts or GUT <abbr title="gut"

    – getting down to the GUTs of the matter .

    No doubt too late in the day but I have only just found you through being tipped off by a friend and then watching Shock & Awe. Fantastic! Thank you.

  60. I really wish they’d let you go with “Curious Minds”! But then, I might be a little biased… Love your programmes BTW.

  61. Anna says:

    I work as a scientist in industry of plastics. I come from Poland. I have just discovered You and Your TV auditions. They are fantastic! All the experiments from previous centuries showing exactly how those scientists were producing their experiments……Awesome! and You are phenomenal too. Very good job. I am utterly impressed!
    I have to catch up on all the auditions You have done so far and on Your blog as well.
    All the best.

  62. John Starrs says:

    Lets Talk Science

  63. Citizen Squeak says:

    …. So who did come up with the name ….
    ….. “The Life Scientific” …..?

    … Too many time’s in this academic age …
    … The Inventor is down played by the media …
    … Institution’s get public money …
    …… and Social Progress stagnate’s ……

    …… Citizen Squeak ……

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