Darwin's missing notebooks

Meet the panel of scientists behind the latest Naked Scientists show...
01 December 2020

Interview with 

Dan Gordon, ARU; Emma Pomeroy, Cambridge Uni; Eleanor Drinkwater, York Uni; Jess Johnson, UEA


photograph of Charles Darwin


Katie Haylor chats to Dan Gordon, paralympian and exercise physiologist from Anglia Ruskin University; Cambridge University archeologist Emma Pomeroy; Eleanor Drinkwater from the University of York, and volcano and earthquake scientist Jess Johnson from UEA...

Katie - So let's introduce our panel. We have Dan Gordon, Paralympian and exercise physiologist from Anglia Ruskin University. Dan, I hear you've got a bit of a plan to get our blood pumping later on.

Dan - I thought a very short little exercise treat for everybody to get them raring, to get the brain cells going... yes.

Katie - How easy is it to teach sports science virtually? Because it's by definition quite a physical discipline.

Dan - It's been a real challenge. We've had to opt for having some of the sessions face to face - our practical sessions are still having to be face to face, if the students are able to do it - so we've adopted kind of a blended learning approach. It's certainly forced us to think about different ways that we are doing this practical... particularly where we're collecting respiratory air and respiratory gases, which are in essence aerosol-generating.

Katie - Ah. Yeah, I see the problem. We've also got Cambridge University archaeologist Emma Pomeroy. And Cambridge University has been in the news recently, hasn't it Emma, because of the news about Darwin's missing notebooks. Have you heard about this?

Emma - Yes, I have. And really quite a big story and quite shocking. They're such important notebooks. But there have been other cases where similar manuscripts have gone missing and turned up later, so I just hope that'll be the end of this story. We might draw some parallels with the illegal trade in antiquities, for example; and while something like this would clearly be very high profile, I'm sure there are private markets out there, just as there are for valuable archaeological artifacts, where people would still pay an awful lot of money and buy them on the quiet. So yeah, sadly so.

Katie - Also on the panel today is Eleanor Drinkwater, long-time friend of the show and our go-to animal... well, in fact, creepy crawly expert. You've been doing your PhD on wood lice personalities, and I always love having you on the show because we get to talk about how cute woodlice are. How's it going?

Eleanor - Yeah, it's going really, really well. Woodlouse personality is one of the most fascinating things on the planet. So next time you see a woodlouse, watch it for a little while and see whether you can figure out whether it's friendly, or shy, or bold, or not.

Katie - See, my problem is I've got two cats now and I'm not sure a woodlouse would survive in my garden for very long. I don't want to say that to a woodlouse expert, but that might be the case!

Eleanor - Well, they're probably much better at hiding than you expect. So you've probably got some healthy populations going on there, don't worry.

Katie - Oh ok, so I've selected for athletic woodlice, I get it. And we've also got volcano and earthquake scientist Jess Johnson from University of East Anglia. Jess, has the pandemic restricted any of your fieldwork, because you usually like to go to Hawaii and do lots of cool science, don't you?

Jess - Yes, it has unfortunately. I had a trip to Hawaii booked last year, or earlier in the year rather; we've had various trips to the Caribbean as well having to be canceled. But luckily we can still get quite a lot of our data, so we're still working away.


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