BBC Radio 4

    The Christmas Top 10 science style aka So You Want to Be a Scientist

    One of this year's shortlist asks "Does Fergie Time exist?"

    The shortlist for this year's So You Want to Be a Scientist is out. Sifting the ten best entries from well over a thousand applications was a herculean task, but one that we in the BBC Radio Science Unit relished.

    Over the past three weeks on Material World we've been playing clips of our ten contenders talking about their ideas. There's everything from singing to swimming, football to fashion, all dreamt up by wannabe scientists aged between 17 and 70, from Bournemouth to Inverness.

    The quality of ideas this year was impressively high. Entrants had spent a long time pondering the question they wanted to ask, and founding a scientific way of answering it.

    But after hours of examining applications on everything from bees to baking, we had a towering pile of around 200 "maybes". Then it was a case of reading the scientific literature on whether dogs really do look like their owners (apparently the answer is "yes" and it's for the same reason we're attracted to partners who look like us). Then we door-stepped academics to find out if cows really do lie down before it rains and whether "Fergie time" exists in football, before whittling it down to the final ten. It's like X Factor, but for ideas.

    The next stage is for our panel of judges, chaired by Nobel Laureate Sir Paul Nurse, to select four finalists to turn their ideas into real experiments. And you can hear who they've chosen, and why, in next week's Material World at 4.30pm on Thursday 29 December.

    Michelle Martin is producer of So You Want to be a Scientist?


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