Confirmed for BBC Two on 22 May at 9.00pm to 10.00pm

Thursday 22 May



On the occasion of its 50th birthday, BBC Two’s Horizon will invite the public to play a role in determining the greatest scientific challenges facing the world today.

A special 1x60 minute episode of Horizon will launch the multi-million pound Longitude Prize 2014 – a prize fund developed by Nesta (the UK's innovation foundation) to encourage inventors and scientists to find solutions to a new scientific challenge.

The Longitude Prize 2014 commemorates the 300th anniversary of the original Longitude Prize - a £20,000 reward for the individual who could find a way to determine longitude at sea to an accuracy of 30 miles. This Longitude Prize of 1714 was overseen by the original Board of Longitude, comprising the scientific, political and naval leaders of the day. A range of possible methods were developed with the Board of Longitude's support, but Yorkshire clockmaker John Harrison came closest to receiving the reward money with his clock, called a marine timekeeper.

Together, these methods meant that ships could accurately and reliably determine their longitude, avoiding potential shipwreck and huge loss of life. It also enabled Britain's global trade to flourish.

The episode of Horizon will explore six potential challenges which have nominated by a new Longitude Committee, reinstated by Nesta, which will oversee the prize for 2014. Chaired by the Astronomer Royal, Lord Martin Rees, it comprises numerous leading scientists, communicators and policy makers.

The programme will launch a vote to determine which of these six challenges is the most important to the British public, asking the question ‘if you had millions of pounds to change the world, which issue would you choose?’ The public vote will select one of these six as the challenge to be solved.

Prof Alice Roberts will host the episode from the Royal Observatory at Greenwich and from on board the Golden Hinde docked on the River Thames. She'll explain the history of finding longitude and the ambition and rationale behind today's prize.

The programme will also feature contributions from Michael Mosley, Liz Bonnin, Prof Iain Stewart, Dr Helen Czerski, Dr Kevin Fong and Dr Saleyha Ahsan, who will talk about each of the challenges, telling us why they are important and why they should be solved. The Astronomer Royal, Lord Martin Rees, will also discuss his role as Chair of the Longitude Committee.