Scientists Caught with their Pants Down

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Naked Scientists, which airs live each week on BBC Radio and via podcast, is the work of Cambridge University physician and virologist Chris Smith and his band of merry science junkies. As working scientists, these radioheads explain the basics and “lay the fact bare,” as one of them puts it, all while keeping up a lively banter. Each hour-long program is organized around a focus topic and mixes news, listener calls, and interviews. Recent broadcasts have spotlighted earthquakes, forensics, animal behavior, and cosmology.

The show got its start in 1999 when Smith, then a graduate student, was invited on a local radio show to explain how people could use materials from around the house to extract DNA from vegetables and test whether they were genetically modified. “I went onto this show, and what was supposed to be a five-minute segment turned into a two-hour conversation about anything and everything science,” he says. Shortly afterward, he rounded up the funniest scientists he could find, and they launched a program of their own. Their goals are twofold. Primarily, Smith says, “we want to raise awareness about all the great science going on in the world.” And then, of course, he adds, there’s “total world domination.”

The show’s podcast is available at

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