Let's meet the panel

05 September 2017

Interview with

Beverley Glover, University of Cambridge, Peter Cowley, Angel Investor, James Grime, Numberphile, Jess Wade, Imperial

Chris Smith gets to know our guests ....

We have Beverley Glover. She’s a Plant Scientist at the University of Cambridge. She’s also the Director of the Botanic Gardens in Cambridge. So Beverley, what are you planning for at the moment?

Beverley - Well, lots as always Chris, but I think the big excitement in September is getting ready for our big Apple Day on the 22nd of October. That’s where we try and sort out the best of the science of apples, the horticulture of apples, and what you can cook with apples, and of course, lots of apple tasting with usually 30 or so heritage varieties to try as well. So, it’s a very big deal for us and it takes a lot of getting ready for.

Chris -  It’s a big mouthful, but apples are amazing. Is there a lot of science of apples though?

Beverley - There is. It’s surprising actually. Our domestic apple for instance seems to have a very weird hybrid ancestry. Its chloroplast comes from the crab apple but the rest of the genome seems to come from an Asian variety of apple that’s quite different. There's a very interesting hybridization in there way back in time.

Chris - And is it true that apple pips have got cyanide in there that poison you?

Beverley - An awful lot of plants produce cyanide. It’s one of those amazing things that plants have convergently evolved – everything from ferns to the clover in your back garden. A whole range of different plants can make cyanide and yeah, if you get enough of it, it won't do you any good.

Chris - So, avoid apple pips?

Beverley - In quantity.

Chris - I’d have to eat probably 54 apples now wouldn’t I in one sitting, unlikely. Also with us is Peter Cowley. He’s an angel investor. In fact, an award-winning angel investor and invests in new technologies. Just for people not in the know Peter, what is an angel investor?

Peter - Somebody who invest at very, very high risk, very early stage in the business. Then in some cases, helps the business on. So, it’s that initial stage. You probably heard of a programme called Dragon’s Den which actually doesn’t do the angel industry very much good, but that it shows the sort of things that people do.

Chris - Why do you think it gives you a bad rap?

Peter - Because the attitude and the way that the angels or the dragons deal with the people on the program. It’s quite different in the real world. That program was done…

Chris - What you mean, they're nastier in the real world because I heard they're pretty vicious on the telly, aren’t they?

Peter - It can be very nasty.

Chris - Is that reality?

Peter - No, that’s not reality really. I think there's a lot of that lack. Anyway else, a television program is done for the audience, isn’t it?

Chris - Thank you, Peter. So Peter is going to talk to us about tech and he also has a very exciting gadget sitting in front of him, he’s going to introduce to later on. I'm intrigued. Sitting next to Peter is Jess Wade. Now, she’s a Physicist at Imperial College in London. She’s been on the program before. It’s great to have you back, Jess and I understand that earlier this week, you were giving a science talk – no surprises there. You are a physicist but you were doing it with your mum.

Jess - I was indeed. My mother is also a scientist. She’s a psychiatrist and we went to Jodrell Bank which is a really cool place to take your mum especially when she’s from Manchester, to talk about student mental health and how PhD students specifically could access mental health support when they needed it in a time when more and more people need it. More and more people aren’t getting it because the demand is so massive, and it was incredibly difficult being on stage with your mum and not calling her mum the entire time. So, I think I managed all of one time to call her Dr Feinmann. But it was great and she put on this kind of funny strange serious mum voice which was bizarre for me to hear but it was great. And she’s brilliant so it was really fun.

Chris - I persuaded my mum to go on a lecture tour with me once around Australia and we turned up and she looked at the schedule and she said, “You know, I think I’ll just stay in Perth.” So, I went off around the rest of Australia doing this relentless – we still had fun though – and then we reunited at Perth and then we went and saw some wonderful bits of western Australia.

Now sitting next to Jess is James Grime. He’s a maths communicator. He’s also a presenter on Numberphile which is an online video channel about the joy of numbers. It’s also the organization that runs the Enigma project. Now, we would like to put our ‘mathsy’ people on test here, James. But actually, you're going to turn the tables and you have got a challenge for our panel here on the studio, but also everyone at home. What is it?

James - Yes, indeed I do. So, I thought of what would be nice to try is to try some estimation. I want people to consider a teaspoon of sugar. So imagine a teaspoon of sugar. My question is, how many grains of sugar do you think in that teaspoon?

Chris - Peter?

Peter - Yes. Can we ask them not to use Google?

James - Okay, so no Google allowed.

Chris - That’s going to be a hard one to police. So there you are. That’s James’s teaser for this week. Have a think about that. You can ponder on that during the program and we will come back and ask the panel for their thoughts and then James can tell us what he thinks is the actual answer and how he arrived at that answer later on in the program.

 

 

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