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Royal Society Science Book Prize - Gaia Vince; Biodiversity loss and Science Museum mystery object

Royal Society Science Book Prize shortlisted author Gaia Vince discusses her book Transcendence; The good and bad news for the world's biodiversity & Science Museum mystery object

The Royal Society’s Insight Investment Science Book Prize’s shortlist has just been announced. Over the next few weeks, Marnie and Adam will be chatting to the six authors in line for the prestigious prize. They’ll be getting a guided tour of ‘The Body – a Guide for Occupants’ with Bill Bryson; Discussing ‘Life According to Physics’ with Jim Al Khalili; Explaining Humans: Discovering ‘What Science Can Teach Us about Life, Love and Relationships’ with Camilla Pang; Linda Scott will be exploring ‘The Epic Potential of Empowering Women’ in her book ‘The Double X Economy’ and Susannah Cahalan will grapple with the definition of mental illness and what counts as insanity in ‘The Great Pretender: The Undercover Mission That Changed Our Understanding of Madness’. This week Gaia Vince discusses her shortlisted book Transcendence - How Humans Evolved through Fire, Language, Beauty, and Time.

Last week the non-COVID news was all about how we’d failed yet again to halt the rate of biodiversity loss. The 2020 Living Planet Report showed that across the globe, the populations of mammals, birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles have declined on average by 68% since 1970. These declines, and the less well-documented loss of abundance of many plants and invertebrates, mean that our ecosystems are less diverse, less resilient and less able to provide the ecosystem services that we rely upon. Add to this that The Convention on Biological Diversity’s Fifth Global Biodiversity Outlook reports that we have failed to meet in full any of the 20 ‘Aichi Targets’ adopted by the world’s governments a decade ago. We haven’t reduced the loss of biodiversity, addressed the pressures, adequately tackled the underlying drivers or effectively facilitated the enabling conditions. We are not currently on track to meet the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)’s Vision of a world living in harmony with nature by 2050. If all this is making you feel depressed and despondent, be reassured that it's is not all doom and gloom, as there are still plenty of reasons for hope and optimism, according to Dr. Stuart Butchart, chief scientist at Birdlife International.

The Science Museum group look after over 7.3 million items. As with most museums, the collection you see on display when you visit is only the tip of the iceberg of the entire collection. Up until now, many of the remainder (300,000 objects) has been stored in Blythe House in London. But now the collection is being moved to a purpose-built warehouse in Wiltshire. The move is a perfect opportunity for curators to see what’s there, re-catalogue long hidden gems and to conserve and care for their treasures. But during the process they have discovered a number of unidentified items that have been mislabelled or not catalogued properly in the past and some of them are just so mysterious, or esoteric, that the Science Museum needs the aid of the public to help identify them, and their uses. This week, Jessica Bradford, the keeper of collection engagement at the Science Museum is asking Inside Science listeners if they recognise, or can shed light on the possible use of the brass object with a folding fan at the end’ in the picture above. Send suggestions to Email: or

Presenter - Marnie Chesterton
Producer - Fiona Roberts

Available now

35 minutes


  • Thu 24 Sep 2020 16:30
  • Thu 24 Sep 2020 21:00

Take the Synthetic Voices and Personality Test

Take the Synthetic Voices and Personality Test

Prof Trevor Cox wants help in researching how we respond to artificially generated voices