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Mark Stephen takes a closer look at places with hidden secrets.
Wednesdays 12-26 March 2003 9.00-9.30pm

It’s surprising how little we really know about places we think we’ve got the measure of. This series explores places we assume we know - a tourist trap or an industrial site - and discovers that, on closer inspection, there’s a cracking scientific story hidden just Behind the Superficial.

Mark Stephen

Programme 1: Mined Over Dark Matter

Mark Stephen travels to the deepest mine in Europe. He discovers that in addition to providing potash and salt for the roads, the mine is also laboratory to a group of scientists who are working deep underground to figure out exactly what our universe is made of. It may seem extraordinary but we don’t know what somewhere in the region of 99% of the universe is. Because it doesn’t shine this mysterious stuff has been called dark matter. This work is an example of elegant science performed in inelegant surroundings by dedicated scientists. It’s cutting edge precision work made even harder by the hot, dusty, dry environment over a kilometre underground. But when they get results these scientists will have solved one of the most tantalising riddles left in science.

One of the senior scientists working 1200m underground is Professor Neil Spooner of Sheffield University. The son of a mining engineer, he claims to have chosen a career in Astrophysics to get away from the mining industry. “I thought the last thing I wanted to do is to go into mining, and here I am - a miner doing astronomy - or an astronomer doing mining!”

The programme is recorded in the surface laboratory and deep underground at Boulby Mine, near Whitby in the North East of England.

Listen again Listen again to Programme 1 

Programme 2: Searching for the Dudley Bug

This programme features a defunct limestone quarry that’s become a dog walkers’ paradise in the Black Country where 400 million year old fossils that defined the Silurian Period in geology were discovered.

Listen again Listen again to Programme 2

Programme 3: The Sleeping Lion

The Sleeping Lion climbs the rocky hill that dominates Edinburgh’s skyline. Here Mark follows in the footsteps of the Father of Geology to discover a rich story about a massive dormant volcano and the age of the Earth.

Listen again Listen again to Programme 3
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