03 Aug 2007

The Material World returns to BBC Radio 4 with The Open University

The Material World, returns to BBC Radio 4 on Thursday August 9 with four new editions recorded on location at various Open University residential schools.

The series features Technology in Action students being asked to design a "rescue robot" that can work in a hazardous environment; Fossil hunting with Geology students on the North Yorkshire coast; Environment students learning how plants can measure pollution in the Yorkshire Dales and whether scientific method can be applied to Psychology in Durham.

Presented by Quentin Cooper; the series features interviews and comments from lecturers, experts and the students themselves.

Programme One – Thursday August 9, 4.30pm

This week, Quentin is in Bath with students on the Technology in Action course. One of their tasks is to design a “rescue robot” that can work in a hazardous environment. It’s a challenging brief - will they succeed? While the students build their robots, Quentin talks to course tutor Jon Rosewell. Quentin also visits the Bristol Robotics Laboratory to see how research scientists are tackling some crucial robotic problems: how can you build a robot that is "energy autonomous"? Can you "teach" robots to work together?

Programme Two - Thursday August 16, 4.30pm

Quentin joins a group of Open University geology students on a field trip to Staithes in North Yorkshire. The students will be looking for fossils in the cliffs, and studying the landscape for clues about the Earth’s evolution. Quentin also talks to geologists Glynda Easterbrook and Richard Davies. Modern geology relies on sophisticated imaging equipment to provide accurate data about rock strata, but the students soon realise that there’s no substitute for careful observation.

Programme Three - Thursday August 23, 4.30pm

Quentin visits Malham in the Yorkshire Dales, and joins an Open University residential course about the environment. The students will be learning how to observe, sample and measure different types of vegetation. But plants also provide vital clues about air quality and pollution. Biologist Hilary Denny and earth scientist Mark Brandon will be helping Quentin interpret the evidence.

Programme Four - Thursday August 30, 4.30pm

In the last programme in the series, Quentin goes to Durham and joins an Open University course about psychology. The students have to devise a psychological investigation of memory or communication, and they have to use either qualitative or quantitative methods. But framing a psychological investigation that is ethical, systematic and meaningful is not easy. Psychologists Ilona Roth and Alex Easton discuss the difficulties of applying scientific method to psychology

Further information about the series and the science being discussed can be found at www.open2.net

Editor’s Notes

The Material World is a BBC and Open University co-production for BBC Radio 4.

It will broadcast at 4.30pm from Thursday August 9 for four weeks. This is the third series that has been co-produced with The Open University.
The Executive Producers for the BBC is John Watkins and Deborah Cohen and Executive Producer for The Open University is Emma De’Ath.

The Open University and BBC have been in partnership for more than 30 years, providing educational programming to a mass audience. In recent times this partnership has evolved from late night programming for delivering courses to peak time programmes with a broad appeal to encourage wider participation in learning.

All broadcast information is correct at time of issue.


Associated Open University Courses:-
TXR174 Technology in Action
T184 Robotics and the meaning of life
DXR222 Exploring Psychology
SXR216 Environmental Science in the Field
SXR260 The Geological history of the British Isles

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