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  • Andrew Marr

    Radio 4 Programmes on
    Big Bang Day

    Andrew Marr hosted a special day of programming on Wednesday 10 September 2008. The switch-on took place just after 0830BST during the Today programme. All the details of the Radio 4 season are listed below.

Programmes during Big Bang Week

Big Bang Day: The Making of CERN

A two-part history of the CERN project.


The switch-on is due to take place at 0830BST. Andrew Marr will be reporting live from the CERN control room for the Today programme, with correspondent Tom Feilden.

  • Time: Wednesday 10th September, 6.00-9.00am (switch-on c.8.30am)
  • Presenters: Andrew Marr, Tom Feilden
  • » Listen again
Big Bang Day: Engineering Solutions

CERN's Large Hadron Collider is the most complicated scientific apparatus ever built. Many of the technologies it uses hadn't even been invented when scientists started building it. Adam Hart-Davis discovers what it takes to build the world's most intricate discovery machine.

Big Bang Day: Woman's Hour

Women in science. What switches women onto science? They’ve long been well represented in biological sciences and now make up the majority of students at medical schools but, what about physics and engineering, tthe scientific disciplines that have traditionally been the domain of men? As part of Radio 4’s ‘Big Bang Day’, Woman's Hour be examines what efforts are being made to get girls engaged at school; to keep them studying and working in the area; and, what it’s like for the women researching at the cutting edge. We’ll also be hearing live from some of the women involved on the day at CERN.

  • Time: Wednesday 10th September, 10.00am
  • Presenter: Jenni Murray
Big Bang Day: Physics Rocks

Is particle physics the new rock 'n' roll? The fundamental questions about the nature of the universe that particle physics hopes to answer have attracted the attention of some very high profile and unusual fans. Alan Alda, Ben Miller, Eddie Izzard, Dara O'Briain and John Barrowman all have interests in this branch of physics.

Brian Cox - CERN physicist, and former member of 90's band D:Ream, tracks down some very well known celebrity enthusiasts and takes a light-hearted look at why this subject can appeal to all of us.

Big Bang Day: Afternoon Play - Torchwood: Lost Souls

Martha Jones, ex-time traveller and now working as a doctor for a UN task force, has been called to CERN where they're about to activate the Large Hadron Collider. Once activated, the Collider will fire beams of protons together recreating conditions a billionth of a second after the Big Bang - and potentially allowing the human race a greater insight into what the Universe is made of. But so much could go wrong - it could open a gateway to a parallel dimension, or create a black hole - and now voices from the past are calling out to people and scientists have started to disappear...

Where have the missing scientists gone? What is the secret of the glowing man? What is lurking in the underground tunnel? And do the dead ever really stay dead?

Lost Souls is a spin-off from the award-winning BBC Wales TV production Torchwood. It stars John Barrowman, Freema Agyeman, Eve Myles, Gareth David-Lloyd, Lucy Montgomery (of Titty Bang Bang) and Stephen Critchlow.

  • Time: Wednesday 10th September, 2.15pm
  • Writer: Joseph Lidster
  • Producer/ Director: Kate McAll
Big Bang Day: 5 Particles

Simon Singh looks at the stories behind the discovery of 5 of the universe's most significant subatomic particles: the Electron, the Quark, the Anti-particle, the Neutrino and the "next particle".

1. The Electron

Just over a century ago, British physicist J.J. Thompson experimenting with electric currents and charged particles inside empty glass tubes, showed that atoms are divisible into indivisible elementary particles. But how could atoms be built up of these so called "corpuscles"? An exciting 30 year race ensued, to grasp the planetary model of the atom with its orbiting electrons, and the view inside the atom was born. Whilst the number of electrons around the nucleus of an atom determines their the chemistry of all elements, the power of electrons themselves have been harnessed for everyday use: electron beams for welding,cathode ray tubes and radiation therapy.


2. The Quark

"Three Quarks for Master Mark! Sure he hasn't got much of a bark." James Joyce's Finnegans Wake left its mark on modern physics when physicist Murray Gell Mann proposed this name for a group of hypothetical subatomic particles that were revealed in 1960 as the fundamental units of matter. Basic particles it seems are made up of even more basic units called quarks that make up 99.9% of visible material in the universe.. But why do we know so little about them? Quarks have never been seen as free particles but instead, inextricably bound together by the Strong Force that in turn holds the atomic nucleus together. This is the hardest of Nature's fundamental forces to crack, but recent theoretical advances, mean that the properties of the quark are at last being revealed.


3. The Anti-particle

It appears to be the stuff of science fiction. Associated with every elementary particle is an antiparticle which has the same mass and opposite charge. Should the two meet and combine, the result is annihilation - and a flash of light. Thanks to mysterious processes that occurred after the Big Bang there are a vastly greater number of particles than anti-particles. So how could their elusive existence be proved? At CERN particle physicists are crashing together subatomic particles at incredibly high speeds to create antimatter, which they hope will finally reveal what happened at the precise moment of the Big Bang to create the repertoire of elementary particles and antiparticles in existence today.


4. The Neutrino

It's the most populous particle in the universe. Millions of these subatomic particles are passing through each one of us. With no charge and virtually no mass they can penetrate vast thicknesses of matter without any interaction - indeed the sun emits huge numbers that pass through earth at the speed of light. Neutrinos are similar to the more familiar electron, with one crucial difference: neutrinos do not carry electric charge. As a result they're extremely difficult to detect . But like HG Wells' invisible man they can give themselves away by bumping into things at high energy and detectors hidden in mines are exploiting this to observe these rare interactions.


5. The Next Particle

The "sparticle" - a super symmetric partner to all the known particles could be the answer to uniting all the known particles and their interactions under one grand theoretical pattern of activity. But how do researchers know where to look for such phenomena and how do they know if they find them? Simon Singh reviews the next particle that physicists would like to find if the current particle theories are to ring true.

Big Bang Day: Front Row

Mark Lawson talks to playwright Tom Stoppard and American composer John Adams about how physics has been represented in the arts.

  • Time: Wednesday 10th September, 7.15pm
  • Presenter: Mark Lawson
  • Producer: Jerome Weatherald
Big Bang Day: The Great Big Particle Adventure

Series Overview

The huge LHC accelerator at CERN is designed to ask the most fundamental questions in science - what is the stuff of the Universe, where did it come from, how does it work, and would existence be possible if it were any different? In this series, comedian and physicist Ben Miller asks the CERN scientists what they hope to find.

Big Bang Day: The Genuine Particle

Set in CERN, The Genuine Particle is a fast-moving satire based around an easy-going British physicist who unwittingly unleashes a storm of frenzied covert international miltary activity.

  • Time: Wednesday 10th September. 11.30pm
  • Writer: Steve Punt
  • Producer: David Tyler

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