BBC Elements podcasts

The BBC has an excellent new series of podcasts about the elements that affect our life. They are produced by the Business Daily team of the BBC World Service. So far they have produced 25 podcasts and the series is continuing. The elements that have been covered so far include carbon [three podcasts], vanadium, gold, sulphur, sodium and chlorine.

Some of the topics covered include why is gold our metal of value and which element is essential to our life and which country has almost a monopoly of that element [its not anybody you might expect]?

There are two podcasts on nitrogen. One on its role in explosives. The other on its role on fertilisers. In 1960 the worlds population was  3 billion, now it is over 7 billion. Crops need fertilisers and traditional methods of fertilising soil [manure, guano, saltpetre from the Atacama desert and crop rotation] can only produce food for 3 billion. The other 4 billion are only alive because of the Haber-Bosch Process. This produces artificial fertiliser, but at the cost of using one percent of the worlds energy production.

Without it we would have either learned how to control our breeding or would be heavily into war and cannibalism.

Haber with Einstein. Haber won his Nobel Prize first

The podcasts are available here


There are also a series of articles which are being published in the BBC Magazine. You can find them here


This is the kind of thing the BBC does well and justifies the licence fee.

I hope that the BBC will follow this series with one on the most important chemical compounds.

If you enjoy this kind of podcast you may be interested in some earlier programmes on numbers, shapes and mathematical laws.

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