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Wednesdays 14, 21 and 28 March 2007 9.00-9.30pm

Olympic triple-jumper Jonathan Edwards returns with a second series looking into the way science shapes and explains our world.

Jonathan Edwards

Programme 1 - Beauty

In the first programme, Jonathan looks into beauty. As he says, 'Beauty is a term we use almost without thinking. We apply it to all manner of things: people, objects, paintings. But the moment you stop for a moment and try to analyse what we mean by “beauty”, it suddenly becomes extraordinarily complicated'.

Jonathan goes to the National Gallery and meets curator Colin Wiggins. Colin shows Jonathan three paintings: Gainsborough’s The Morning Walk, Wright’s An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump and Seurat’s Bathers at Asnieres. All are “beautiful” in different ways.

Outside the Gallery in Trafalgar Square, Jonathan meets Dylan Trigg, a philosopher from the University of Sussex. Dylan argues that there is no necessary connection between beauty and aesthetic pleasure. On the contrary, Dylan believes that transient, outmoded and ephemeral spaces can also be aesthetically pleasing.

But Jonathan recognises that sometimes beauty seems to work on our senses automatically - we’re moved by something without having to think about it first. Why should this be?

Jonathan goes to the University of Bristol to meet some experimental psychologists: Ian Penton-Voak tells Jonathan about some of the implicit, evolutionary meanings embedded in our faces. Innes Cuthill and Tom Troscianko try to give Jonathan an answer to one of the most perplexing questions of all: why do we find sunsets beautiful? 

Listen again Listen again to programme 1

Programme 2 - Sports Psychology

In the second programme in the series, Jonathan asks whether mental attitude can have a bearing on an athlete’s performance. When Jonathan was winning triple-jump gold medals, sports psychology was not as popular as it is now.

For today’s athletes, training regimes concentrate as much on the mind as the body. Jonathan is intrigued.

He goes to Sheffield Hallam University’s Centre for Sport and Exercise Science, and talks to Pete Lindsay about different types of sports psychology.

These days, Jonathan enjoys playing golf. He wonders if a session of hypnotherapy might help improve his chipping and putting.

He also talks to Dave Collins, Performance Director for UK Athletics. Dave is a trained psychologist and he’s sure that athletes perform better when they are in a positive frame of mind.

Heptathlete Kelly Sotherton agrees. After winning a bronze meal at the Athens Olympics, her performances dipped. She tells Jonathan about the way sports psychology has helped her to improve her results.

Listen again Listen again to programme 2

Programme 3 - Artificial Intelligence
In the final programme in the series, Jonathan looks into Artificial Intelligence. A keen fan of science fiction, especially films like The Matrix, Jonathan wants to know how much science fact there is in AI.

Jonathan visits the Department of Informatics at Edinburgh University, where scientists research a range of AI issues and applications, and gets a crash course on machine learning and voice synthesis.

He also discusses the convergence of biological and technological worlds, and hears about an intelligent system designed to help us deal more efficiently with emergencies.

After talking to a philosopher about concepts of intelligence, he rounds off his day playing Connect Four with a talking, thinking, moving robot.

Having seen what AI can do, Jonathan emerges with renewed respect for a biological machine that’s all too often taken for granted - our own bodies.

Listen again Listen again to programme 3
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