Naked Scientists Podcast

Naked Scientists episode

Sat, 28th May 2011

Metallurgy - Metals at the Molecular Scale

blacksmith banging chisel (c) The naked Scientists

What happens when a blacksmith meets a metallurgist? This week we explore what's happening at the molecular scale when the smithy works a piece of iron, we meet the superalloys that survive temperatures way above their melting points inside jet engines, and at the Rolls Royce precision casting facility we discover how precision plane engine parts can be cast from a single metal crystal. Also, in the news this week, how the blind brain has a built-in sonar, an attractive new magnetic material turned on by a current, and a new technique to detect troublespots brewing inside arteries. Plus, Kitchen Metallurgy - an experiment to show how you can manipulate metal molecules for yourself!

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In this edition of Naked Scientists

Full Transcript

  • 01:27 - How human brains can echolocate

    Researchers from Ontario this week have identified which parts of the brain are involved in human echolocation. Traditionally associated with bats, whales and sonar, echolocation is a technique used to find one’s position by bouncing sound off surfaces and waiting for the echo.

  • 03:52 - Attractive new magnetic material

    A material that temporarily transforms itself into a "permanent" magnet when a small voltage is applied has been discovered by scientists in Japan. Although substances with similar behaviours have been described before, these have worked in this way only at super-low temperature...

  • 06:47 - The Shape of the Electron

    What is round and measures 1 billionth of a millimetre across? Yes, you guessed it, it’s the electron. Theories have predicted that these particles should be spheres, but proving this has been tricky. Now after 10 years of trying, a team at Imperial College London have succee...

  • 13:39 - Being a Culture Vulture makes for a Happy Vulture

    This week, researchers from Norway have reported that people who take part in or attend ‘cultural’ activities tend to have better physical and mental health. And cultural activities are defined as creative – such as playing music or drawing; and they’re defined as receptive – su...

  • 16:33 - Bottleneck cleared in clogged artery research

    A dye used medically for over fifty years could be a shot in the arm for investigating coronary artery disease and highlighting arterial troublespots, scientists have found.

  • 20:32 - Planet Earth Online - Science from the Skies

    Earth observation from satellites is an extremely important way of examining everything from glaciers to tree cover in the Amazon. But sometimes, satellite measurements aren’t quite enough. Planet Earth podcast presenter Sue Nelson met members of the Natural Environment Resear...

  • 25:41 - When a Metallurgist met a Blacksmith

    What happens at a molecular level as a blacksmith works on a piece of metal? To find out, Meera took metallurgist John Aveson to meet Gordon Bevan, a blacksmith in Eltisley in Cambridgeshire...

  • 32:56 - The Art of Alloying

    We humans have been moulding metal to our will for at least 3,000 years. In fact, our use of metals mark the beginning of the aptly named Bronze Age. These days we fine tune the properties of metals to perform in extreme circumstances – inside nuclear reactors, jet engines, ro...

  • 39:08 - Metal Casting with Precision

    If you've been on a flight recently, then there's a very high likelihood that you were carried aloft by a jet engine. These work by compressing air and squirting in fuel which then burns, expands, and generates thrust. But this also creates one of the harshest imaginable envir...

  • 48:32 - Stiffening Paper Clips - Metallurgy in the kitchen

    Try some metallurgy in your kitchen, and thoroughly change the properties of a paperclip...

  • 53:23 - At what speed does windchill give way to frictional heating?

    I recently started commuting by bicycle, but now that it's becoming winter, I've been wondering more about windchill. I understand much of it involves the moisture in the air, but how come commercial airplanes land from flights with cold icy surfaces, while some supersonic jets a...



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