Soaring food prices mean putting food on the table is a daily struggle. This is the grim reality for millions around the world. But hunger, so long a feature in lower-income countries, is becoming a familiar picture in richer ones too.
James Gallagher reports from the UK, one of the wealthiest countries in the world, where food prices are rising at the fastest rate for 45 years and millions are turning to charity to feed themselves and their families.
He visits the charities which help people to continue to eat and cook healthy food and hears from Professor Sir Michael Marmot from University College London, who has spent a lifetime researching the consequences of inequality and poverty. Food insecurity, he tells James, damages the health of children and adults.
Maggots in medicine
After centuries of use in wound-healing, the maggot is back. The rise of the drug-resistant superbug means fresh eyes are focused on the superpowers of the larvae of the greenbottle fly species, Lucilia Sericata. James Gallagher reports on the healthcare professionals who are turning to maggot therapy to help clean up wounds and stop infection.
He talks to Melanie who has Type 1 Diabetes and had a quarter of her foot amputated. When the skin around the wound started to die, threatening the whole limb, she was offered maggot therapy. Now a self-declared maggot superfan, Melanie watched as the larvae, inside a bag a bit like a teabag, digested the dead skin on her foot.
And James visits a factory in Wales, BioMonde, preparing medical grade fly eggs for use across the UK health service.
(Photo: Larvae of the greenbottle fly sitting on so-called horse blood agar seen through a magnifying glass at the pharmaceutical company BioMonde. Credit: David Hecker/DDP/AFP/Getty Images)
Lazy guide to exercise
James Gallagher is on a mission to find out what is the least amount of exercise you can do to still stay healthy. James goes on a Ramblers wellbeing walk, uses a treadmill for the first time and takes a hot bath all to find out how lazy he can be and still gain some health benefits.
(Photo: James Gallagher on a treadmill. Credit: Emma Lynch)
The impossible number
There is a bizarre number in maths referred to simply as ‘i’. It appears to break the rules of arithmetic - but turns out to be utterly essential for applications across engineering and physics. We are talking about the square root of -1, which makes no sense.
Professor Fry waxes lyrical about the beauty and power of this so-called ‘imaginary’ number to a sceptical Dr Rutherford.
Dr Michael Brooks, author of The Maths That Made Us, tells the surprising story of the duelling Italian mathematicians who gave birth to this strange idea, and shares how Silicon Valley turned it into cold hard cash. Professor Jeff O’Connell, Ohlone College California, demonstrates that it is all about oscillations, and Dr Eleanor Knox, philosopher of physics at KCL and a senior visiting fellow at the University of Pittsburgh reveals that imaginary numbers are indispensable for the most fundamental physics of all - quantum mechanics.
The mind-numbing medicine
This episode will render you oblivious, conked out and blissfully unaware. It’s about anaesthetics: those potent potions that send you into a deep, deathly sleep. Listener Alicia wants to know how they work, so our sleuths call on the expertise of consultant anaesthetist Dr Fiona Donald. Fiona shares her experience from the clinical frontline, and explains what we do and don’t know about how these chemicals work their mind-numbing magic.
We hear about ground-breaking research led by Professor Irene Tracey, which reveals how a pattern of slow brain waves can be used to determine the optimum dosage of these dangerous drugs.
And finally, Drs Rutherford and Fry wonder: what does all this tell us about normal consciousness? Professor Anil Seth shares how we can use brain tech to measure different levels of conscious awareness – from sleepy to psychedelic.