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Gareth Mitchell investigates how the brain creates meaning, the magic of maths, a possible genetic switch for obesity and the thousands of bacteria and fungi in household dust.

How our brains understand meaning and complex thoughts. Gareth Mitchell talks to Joshua Greene from Harvard University about his new research scanning the human brain which reveals why it works like a computer to make sense of complex ideas. This week's short-listed Royal Society Winton science book prize is Alex Bellos's 'Alex Through The Looking Glass. Marnie Chesterton talks to Alex about the emotional relationship we have with maths and how numbers play a part in every aspect of our lives. Can we switch obesity off with the flick of a genetic switch? New research published in the New England Journal of Medicine has been looking at how there may be genes that control whether we burn fat or store it. But could this research end up being used in the clinic? Gareth talks to professor of metabolism and medicine, Sadaf Farooqi about the research and its potential. There are thousands of bacteria and fungi in the dust in your house. Most are unknown to science but is this huge diversity of microbes a problem? Gareth talks to Noah Fierer who has analysed the dust in homes across America who says while there may be huge diversity most of it is harmless and could even be doing us some good.

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30 minutes