42 years ago tomorrow (Wednesday, 8th March, 1978), a radio series called The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was launched on BBC Radio 4 at 10.30pm. The author, Douglas Adams, was disappointed with the timing of the broadcast, as the timeslot was guaranteed to turn the programme into a ‘cult’ with a small but dedicated audience.
Happily, the programme gained a very large mainstream audience, and spawned books, a second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth radio series, a TV show and two films to date.
Earlier this year, Simon Watt and I recorded an episode of our podcast, Level Up Human, live at the Barbican in association with The Physiological Society. This episode was recorded with expert guests, marine biologist, writer and documentary maker, Helen Scales and KCL professor of developmental neurobiology, Robert Hindges.
First we look at human enhancements from around the world. Helen brings news of a man with an exo-skeleton allowing him to walk.
Robert tells us about developments in prosthetics which allow users to experience feedback from artificial limbs. And Rach has evidence that thumbs are getting faster.
Next: pitches from our guest experts, the studio audience and Mother Nature herself.
Robert wants a higher flicker frequency in the human eye. Helen suggests we all become extreme free divers with the breath holding abilities of the sperm whale.
The audience want improved cooling systems, reduced urination, lego wrists and multi-sensory anaesthesia. Simon pitches the arsenic resistant qualities of the Mono lake nematodes.
Which will make it onto the shortlist? And which will win? Have a listen to find out.
My podcast, Level Up Human, is back for a brand new series!
The first series of the podcast was supported by the Wellcome Trust. This time we are working with the Physiological Society. We have a residency at the Barbican in London, and we’ve just launched the first episode of the new series.
We asked Clare onto the podcast to talk about synaesthesia, a condition in which one sense is perceived as if by one or more additional senses. Clare tells us how she can ‘see’ the calendar, and explains loads more about synaesthesia: what it is, and how it would be great if everyone had it.
Miles is working on ‘liquid biopsies’ which might allow us to detect cancerous tumours via blood test in the future. He has lots to say on the pituitary gland, the ‘conductor of the endocrine-orchestra’ and explains how the condition acromegaly inspired the name of Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland.
The team have brought news stories from the world of science to share before we kick off the pitches. Clare explains why elephants are basically cancer-proof, Miles sings the praises of the pituitary, and Rach has tardigrade news.
Then we hear pitches for how we should redesign the human body from each of the panellists, the studio audience and Mother Nature herself.
Clare would like every human to have synaesthesia and Miles would like to tone down testosterone. The audience want to eat like termites, recognise faces better and have more control of adrenaline. Simon really wants to make humans stripy. Which suggestions will make it onto Rach’s shortlist?
“The pituitary gland is the most under-rated gland in the whole body. It is the size of a pea and it’s the conductor of the endocrine-orchestra (thyroid gland, adrenal gland, ovaries, testes, pancreas and all other glands in the body.) It controls every hormone in the body. It’s the most important, yet the most misunderstood and ignored part of the body.” – Miles Levy
“Everyone should have synaesthesia. It’s a completely harmless, possibly even helpful neurological condition where your senses get mixed up. So you might see colours when you’re listening to music, you might taste words, or in my case, you might see the calendar and numbers and letters of the alphabet all laid out in space in front of you which is hugely useful.” – Clare Jonas
“Mums are better. Actually, Grandmothers are better. Grandparents have the knowledge. They remember the last time there was a famine and we had to eat those weird berries. So old people are basically libraries of the past. They are a repository of knowledge that we have to keep.” – Simon Watt
Excited to be heading to Jodrell Bank for Blue Dot Festival tomorrow to celebrate the anniversary of the moon landing. We’ll be recording Level Up Human on the Notes stage with Simon Watt, geomicrobiologist and comedian Sarah Jones and Dr. Holly Shiel.
How would you redesign the human body?
If you’ve not heard the podcast before, get involved here!