The Life Scientific

Each week, Professor Jim Al-Khalili invites a leading scientist to tell us about their life and work. He’ll talk to Nobel laureates as well as the next generation of beautiful minds to find out what inspires and motivates them and what their discoveries might do for us.

Every Tuesday (for 24 weeks of the year) at 09:00

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The Beauty of Equations

Jim al-Khalili was sitting in a physics lecture at the University of Surrey when he suddenly understood the power of equations to describe and predict the physical world. He recalls that sadly his enthusiasm was lost on many of his fellow students.

Jim wants to persuade the listeners that equations have a beauty. In conversation with fellow scientists he reveals the surprising emotions they feel when describing the behaviour of matter in the universe in mathematical terms.

The Beauty of Equations (1/12/15) - Click here to listen

Free Thinking - The Rules of Good Science

Science progresses by breaking the rules of the past. New observations need new theories to explain them. Einstein's Theory of Relativity made sense of observations that Newton's Laws of Motion could not. But how can we distinguish between the brilliant ideas that change our view of the world and those that are plain wrong? And does that make science too cautious to try out new ideas?

Joining Free Thinking presenter Rana Mitter are:

Professor Carlos Frenk, founding Director of the Institute for Computational Cosmology at Durham University and winner of the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society in 2014

Jim al-Khalili, Professor of Physics at the University of Surrey and presenter of BBC Radio 4's The Life Scientific and TV documentaries.

The Rules of Good Science (17/11/15) - Click here to listen


Too Old to Be a Genius

Jim Al-Khalili is old. Well, not that old. He's 53. But when you consider that the average age to win a Nobel Prize in physics is 55, he hasn't got long to make his big discovery.

Albert Einstein said a person who's not made their great contribution to science before the age of 30 will never do so.

So is there a link between scientists' age and their ability to make great breakthroughs? Jim calls together his colleagues at the University of Surrey to form a senior scientists support group and to try and find an answer.

Jim talks to Nobel Prize winning researchers, including Harry Kroto and Roald Hoffman, as well as other innovators who made great leaps forward at a young age. He learns what fuelled their early success and whether they could do the same today.

To Old to Be a Genius (25/11/2015) - Click here to listen

My Own Shakespeare 

Scientist Jim Al-Khalili chooses Edmund's speech from King Lear (Act 1 Scene 2) as the piece of Shakespeare that has inspired him most. Reader: Rory Kinnear.

My Own Shakespeare (19/5/2012) - Download here


Desert Island Discs : 

Professor Jim Al-Khalili

Kirsty Young's castaway is the physicist Professor Jim Al-Khalili.

He's spent his adult life studying sub-atomic particles - and trying to explain them to the rest of us. He fell in love with physics when he was a teenager growing up in Iraq. With an Iraqi father and English mother, the Baghdad he spent his early years in was cosmopolitan and vibrant but, once Saddam Hussein came to power, his parents realised the family would have to flee, and he has lived and worked in Britain for the past 30 years.

Desert Island Discs (19/2/10) - JIm Al-Khalili Listen Here


The Secret Scientists

According to the popular notion of science history, the period between the ninth and thirteenth centuries was what has come to be called the Dark Ages. Scientific advances ground to a halt and the world languished in an intellectual backwater and then the Renaissance happened. The world woke up and great science got going again, picking up where the ancient Greeks and Romans had left off.

But, as Professor Jim Al-Khalili will show in this series, that simply is not true. While Europe may have been less productive during this period, elsewhere in the world a vast Islamic empire was buzzing with intellectual activity.

First broadcast on 15/04/2009  

Click here to listen to archive material

In Our Time

Jim is a regular guest panellist on Melvyn Bragg’s In Our Time on BBC Radio 4. You can listen to the programmes featuring my participation on the BBC archives using the links below:

In Our Time