New Generation Thinkers: Original ideas, from Sherlock's missing telephone to the medieval smartphone
13 June 2017
The New Generation Thinkers are a group of ten academics, early in their careers, who are passionate about sharing their specialist knowledge with a general audience. We paired them with young directors to make short films about subjects they chose themselves. Here are the results.
The Mystery of the Missing Telephone
Why did it take so long for Sherlock Holmes to pick up the phone? Was it an aversion of his creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle or were Sherlock's skills simply so advanced that he didn't need the newfangled device?
Sarah Jackson of Nottingham Trent University investigates.
Exploring the Mariner's Astrolabe
In order to understand the workings of the astrolabe - a medieval device for measuring latitude that he calls "the medieval smartphone" - Seb Falk of the University of Cambridge not only makes one of his own (in his garden shed, no less) but takes to sea in a yacht to see if he can make it work.
Louisa Uchum Egbunike of Manchester Metropolitan University revisits a painful part of Nigeria's history - the Biafran War, which began in 1967.
Images from the conflict changed the perception of Africa in the West but, in a delightful and unexpected way, the war also brought together Louisa's father and mother in a London library.
Dr Seán Williams of the University of Sheffield is writing a cultural history of the hairdresser. In this film he looks at how hair loss and wig wearing is treated in films and TV shows with storylines about cancer, such as The C Word and Sex and the City.
He finds his own assumptions challenged by a group of women who themselves have been treated for cancer.
Lessons from Heartbreak House
Near the fishing village of Crail in Fife, Victoria Donovan of the University of St Andrews finds an unlikely relic of the Cold War.
The Joint Services School for Linguists taught Russian to National Service conscripts including Alan Bennett and Dennis Potter with a staff including a number of colourful Russian emigres and defectors pining for their homeland.
The Land of Might Have Been
Anindya Raychaudhuri of the University of St. Andrews visits an Indian grocery shop in Glasgow to investigate and rehabilitate the nostalgia it triggers about his childhood in India and aspects of more recent British Asian history.
For him, Maggi's Noodles and Patak's Curry Paste stimulate more than just the taste buds...
Katherine Cooper of Newcastle University investigates the phenomenon of Magical Contagion, the process by which an ordinary object takes on a special significance because it has been owned or handled by someone famous.
Katherine has been affected herself as she now owns the desk at which one of her favourite writers - Margaret Storm Jameson - once wrote.
Faith in Food
Chris Kissane of the London School of Economics explores the ways in which food both unites and divides members of various religions, reinforcing identity but also signifying difference.
He draws a line from the Spanish Inquisition to the battle over school dinner menus in contemporary France to show how ordinary foodstuffs have always been a matter of life and death.
The Hand That Shook The World
Edmund Richardson of Durham University recreates a seance staged by the 19th century medium Daniel Dunglas Home, complete with disembodied limb and rapping hand.
Many scientists of the age were convinced by Home's displays and even Houdini couldn't figure out his tricks.
A Midsummer Night's Dream
Leah Broad of Oxford University discusses the political connotations of theatre music. She focusses on Max Reinhardt’s seminal 1933 production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Oxford, featuring music by Felix Mendelssohn.
The New Generation Thinkers at the Hay Festival
Since 2011, the New Generation Thinkers scheme has been aiming to discover the brightest academics in the UK with the potential to communicate their ideas to a wider audience.
A key part of our mission at BBC Radio 3 is to support and nurture outstanding talent and new generations of academicsAlan Davey, Controller, BBC Radio 3
Jointly run by the BBC and the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the scheme receives hundreds of applications every year from early-career academic researchers and, after a series of workshops, ten are selected.
The New Generation Thinkers of 2016 have written and presented essays at BBC Radio 3's Free Thinking Festival and some have gone on to contribute to other programmes.
- From aubergines to frostbite via finger-counting: programmes and clips featuring the New Generation Thinkers 2016