An Earth Day Special with Lucy Hawking!

It’s time for the Fun Kids Science Weekly, the weekly podcast that opens your minds to the most amazing things in the universe!

Best selling author, scientist and philanthropist Lucy Hawking joins us this week to chat about climate change, which is the subject of her brand new book, Princess Olivia Investigates the Wrong Weather.

We hear about who has been named Champ of the Earth in Science in the News.

And answer the question: Why Do We Sneeze?

We also catch up with Professor Hallux and Nurse Nanobot in their Map of Medicine, and hear about the movement of our earth from the Smartest School in the Solar System, Deep Space High!

MOBILE: Fun Kids Science Weekly

The science podcast for kids with Dan exploring the weirdest and coolest stuff in science!

Here’s the episode below:

Dan: Welcome along. If you’re looking to search around the universe to discover some of the science secrets lurking nearby, you’ve come to the right place. My name is Dan. This is the Fun Kids Science Weekly.

And this this week, it’s an Earth Day special. Now, Earth Day is a vital day. It’s where people all around the world think about how we treat this planet and what we can do to help it in the current climate crisis and to be more sustainable. And we’ve got a brilliant guest for that this week, we’ll chat to a science expert, Lucy Hawking. She is the daughter of Stephen Hawking, who is kind of the dad of science. You’ll have heard of him. She’s got a brand new book out and it shows how people all around the world adapt to extreme climates.

Lucy Hawking: When you travel out into space and look back at the planet, that’s the image we see. One planet, one human race. We need to look after it. We all live here. It’s home to all of us and we need to try and get along and cooperate.

Dan: Also, we’ll take some time away from this planet and head to Deep Space High, the smartest school in the solar system. And we’ll look down at the Earth to see how and why it moves.

Professor Pulsar: Planets move in all sorts of ways you might not realise. Like under your feet. It’s a mad muddle of movement down there. Come on let’s see for ourselves.

Dan: And I’ve got your questions, as always. This week they’re on bugs and bones. It’s all on the way. In an Earth Day special of the Fun Kids Science Weekly.

Science in the News: Sir David Attenborough is Champion of the Earth, Number of Creepy Crawlies Down by Half, and We Need to Learn About Uranus

Dan: Let’s kick things off with this week’s science in the news. Sir David Attenborough has been named Champion of the Earth by the United Nations. It recognises the 95 year old’s commitment to telling stories about the world and climate change. And on accepting the prize, Sir David said the world must now take action to protect nature. It’s never been more serious.

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Also, it turns out climate change is harming the insect world. The numbers of creepy crawlies have plunged by half in some parts of the world. Now, this is mainly because the planet gets hotter, which ruins their habitats, where they live. And it’s a big deal. You might not like creepy crawlies, but it impacts us because insects help make the plants that give us food.

macro shot of assorted insects on green leaf

And finally, heading outside the Earth just very quickly. And NASA have been told to make Uranus a priority. A group of experts have said that the 7th planet in our solar system, the ice giant Uranus, is important and we need to know more about it now. It’s only ever been visited once on a flyby by Voyager Two. This was 40 years ago in 1986. But scientists think we need to know more about it to help us better understand other stars.

Uranus planet

Let’s catch up with one of our favourite geniuses now, the expert Professor Hallux. And he’s here with Nurse Nanobot in his Map of Medicine series. And he’s looking at what happens inside your body. Why sometimes you feel sick and who can make you better again?

This week, he’s looking inside your head. Because we all bump our heads once in a while, don’t we? But sometimes things can be more serious. So we’re learning all about concussion and all about the work paramedics do.

Professor Hallux’s Map of Medicine – Episode 12: Concussion:

Nurse: Emergency! Professor, Professor! It’s Body, he says it’s an emergency.

Professor Hallux: Okay, I’m coming, I’m coming! Phew, it’s okay. I’m here, what’s the emergency Nanobot?

Nurse: Hang on…Okay…Teddy. He says he dropped his Teddy down the back of the bed and it’s stuck. Oh, Body!

Professor Hallux: That’s not an emergency, Body. Not even an emergency for Teddy.

Oops. Maybe this is a real emergency. To call on the Happy Health Help Desk. Let’s open the video phone.

Patient: Hi there. Yesterday I fell off a swing in my local park and a paramedic took me to hospital. They said I was okay, but might have concussion, but I can’t seem to remember much about it at all. Can you help?

Professor Hallux: Ouch. Well, concussion can muddle up your memory, so that’s probably why you can’t remember what happened. Let’s try to fill in the gaps.

First concussion, over to you, nurse.

greyscale photography of skeleton

Nurse: Concussion sounds a bit like percussion, doesn’t it? And the two things have something in common. Percussion is hitting things together, often to make a nice sound. Concussion is when you’ve hit your head by accident following a fall. It can make you feel very strange and is not nice at all. It happens because brains are very soft and are cushioned in our skulls by blood and spinal fluid.

If your head hits something hard, then the brain can knock against the skull and this can change the way the brain works. If it’s a big bang, it’s very important to be seen quickly by a doctor because serious head injuries need more treatment.

Professor Hallux: Have you noticed characters in cartoons are always bashing their heads and they stagger about looking woozy and have stars or birds spinning around their heads? Well, it isn’t a bad picture of what concussion can feel like. You might feel strange and dizzy or sick, and you might have trouble remembering what people have said to you. If it’s serious, you might actually be knocked right out like a boxer. That’s why it’s a very good reason to wear your bike helmet when cycling or scooting. Better safe than sorry.

Nurse: That’s right. The good news is that most concussions wear off, but slowly.

Professor Hallux: Now, the kids said they were examined by a paramedic. I’ve got some great facts about them, so let’s find out more about these emergency experts and where they work. Just let me load up the Map of Medicine.

Paramedics aren’t doctors, but they’re very highly trained and come to the scene of accidents and medical emergencies to give health care wherever it’s needed, at home or outside on the roads.

They have very special vehicles to get around in. Any ideas what they might be?

An ice cream van? No, that wouldn’t work would it?!

They need to go a bit faster than that. Any other ideas? Now you’re talking – ambulances. Ambulances have to travel fast but safely. So paramedics are expert drivers too. Sometimes they use motorcycles or cars to get on the case as quickly as possible. There are even air ambulances helicopters crewed by paramedics and doctors for really serious emergencies like big road crashes.

Now, the blue flashing lights and sirens which ambulances used are pretty cool but there’s a load of stuff that’s way cooler. And that’s the equipment they bring with them. Heart defibrillators bandages, oxygen tanks, intravenous drips, traction splints and normally a few laser guns for alien invasions. Okay, maybe not the laser guns but they do have some amazing gadgets.

The paramedic will check you over and treat you exactly where you are, if they can. If you need to go to hospital, they’ll get you there super fast. Like the superheroes they are. Any delightfully disgusting facts for us today, nurse?

Nurse: Not disgusting, but something seriously stupid.

Ambulances are there to help in emergencies and that’s when someone is seriously injured and can’t get to a hospital or to the doctor on their own. But did you know that around half of all 999 calls made are for some things that aren’t serious at all like sore throats or stubbed toes?

And some of these calls are even people making hoax calls. They’re playing a trick by phoning for no reason – I told you it was stupid. The serious side of this is that these calls can stop the real calls getting through.

Professor Hallux: Very stupid indeed. Even more stupid than dopey old Body and his Teddy. I didn’t mean it. Don’t worry. I’ll get your Teddy out from under the bed and we’ll see you next time. Until then, why not explore Map of Medicine for yourself?

Answering Your Questions: Why Do We Sneeze? & Why Do Our Bones Break?

Dan: Let’s get to your questions then. If there’s something science that you want answered on this show, if you’d like me to do all the digging for you to solve your science problem, leave it as a review for me on Apple podcasts. You can find the show. There’s a little comment box at the bottom. That’s where you leave your question. Drop your name as well so I can say hello. Five stars really helps me see it.

First up this week, it’s from Simon, who wants to know why do we sneeze? We sneeze because our body doesn’t like invaders. It’s well trained to get rid of germs and any bacteria that might try and sneak its way in, stuff that might make you sick. Now, often this happens through air waves, through stuff we breathe in. So if our body is sensing that something’s not right, it will sneeze. It will try and force out shoot it through your nose. So that’s what happens when it senses something iffy is trying to make its way and it makes you sneeze. And this is also what happens with hay fever because your body gets confused by pollen from plants and it thinks that that’s an invader. So it makes you sneeze to try and get rid of it. Simon, thank you for the question.

white tissue paper on blue plastic trash bin

Also, this is from Albie, who wants to know, why do our bones break even though they are attached to each other? Well, bones are connected to each other by a joint at the very end, it’s only the end that’s joined to one another. It’s a bit like a plank of wood, I guess, that might be connected to another one through some nails, right at the very tip. But you could still snap that bit of wood in half, couldn’t you? Now when most people break a bone, though, it doesn’t do that. It doesn’t completely split in two, it might crack just little or split down one side. So that’s why although bone breaking hurts, it’s not as serious as sometimes it really can be. Albie, thank you for the question.

If there’s something you’d like answered on the show next week, leave it as a review on Apple podcasts for the Fun Kids Science Weekly

human X-ray result chart

Interview with Lucy Hawking

Dan: It’s the Fun Kids Science Weekly and an Earth Day special. This week. We’ve got a fantastic guest who has written about how precious the Earth really is. The book is called Princess Olivia Investigates the Wrong Weather. And Lucy Hawkins, science genius and author, joins us now. Lucy, thank you for coming on the show.

Lucy: It’s my pleasure. It’s lovely to speak to you again.

Dan: Now, what gave you the idea to explore the world and explore the climate crisis through a Princess story?

Lucy: Well, lots of ideas all fed into how Princess Olivia Investigates the Wrong Weather turned out. A few years ago, I did a book which was a compilation of science essays called Unlocking the Universe. And for Unlocking, I worked with a teenage author to get her to write about how climate change looks to her generation. Now she produced an outstanding essay on what it feels like to be a teenager looking at climate change. She said a few things that really sparked a thought chain in my mind. She wanted to say to her peer group and to younger readers that it was really important that they educated themselves on the different causes and consequences of climate change. And then she also went on to talk about deforestation and the need to plant trees.

Now that is the thesis of Princess Olivia Investigates the Wrong Weather. And I very much, I felt like Nitya had laid down a challenge to me as a storyteller to write something about life on Earth. I’d written six books by then about travelling around space, about being on different planets and celestial bodies in the universe and investigating these fabulous, bizarre and extraordinary environments. And I sort of thought, well, hang on a minute. I’ve actually never really written about the Earth.

So that was how the kind of science theme and the climate change impetus came to me. And then obviously I need to think of a story and a structure to put it in and what would be engaging and fun. And I always go for what would be an unusual way to tell a story about a specific topic. So that’s kind of the thought process way back when I first came up with the idea.

Dan: Now there’s a lot of talk about the climate crisis at the moment and doing research for this book, I imagine you had to discover all manner of things of why it’s happening, what could happen. But there’s a lot of fact and there’s a lot of fiction out there. How did you, being someone who knows about science, figure out how you wanted to present this and what you wanted to say in the book?

Lucy: Well, as with the previous George’s Secret Key series, I worked with scientists to create a narrative and to add scientific content to a storyline, because you’re exactly right. It’s so important that the information that we provide for young readers is accurate, is well sourced, is scientifically evidenced, and also that it kind of comes from a reputable voice because we talked about this before, kids barraged by information. There are so many different points of view, different arguments about this, that, and the other.

In Princess Olivia Investigates the Wrong Weather I have three climate and Earth scientists writing inserts for the book, and all of them gave their viewpoint on helping me with the storyline, on talking about what I could do and what I couldn’t do. And it’s very important for me to have that very specific, very expert guidance also from people who really want to communicate with a young audience. Like the enthusiasm is always really lovely when I do these pieces of work with scientists because they have a new way to do outreach through storytelling about something that seems completely bizarre, like a Princess living in a mountain-top castle. How’s that going to tell us about climate change? But they’re always really good sports and come along on the adventure with me.

Dan: Well, I’m glad that you’ve spoken to loads of experts because it means I can kind of ask you what they said. I know it’s all in the book, but this is an Earth Day special. And when we hear about the state of the Earth and what might happen in a few years time and whether it’s too late, it’s very easy to get down about everything. But it’s good to get some optimism and some hope. So through researching this book, what have you learned about what we can do right now? So not big things, but is there anything small that listeners can do just to make themselves more sustainable?

Lucy: Yes, this is really important. When writing the book was not to make it about climate doomism or about some horrible dystopian future or to make it exactly you put your finger on – one of the main problems is that everything seems so huge, so overwhelming, so set in place already that we think kind of, well, there’s nothing I can do, but actually, when you look at it, we are all part of this ecosystem that is Earth. And if we can all do just little things. One of the astonishing facts I found out is that if you turned the tap off while you’re brushing your teeth, you might be saving up to 3000 gallons of fresh water a year. And just little things like that.

You see, if we all did little things like that, if we all reused more, if we all thought about what we need to throw away, how we need to throw things away, perhaps if we all ate a little bit less meat, if we all walked or cycled where we can, it’s not always possible by any long stretch of the imagination, then actually together we could have this phenomenal impact. I mean, the same with joining together, perhaps with other people to see if you could plant a tree or if you could help with the community garden, if you could create a re-wilded space. They all seem like such small actions, but when you put them all together, then we could really start to have an impact.

Dan: Now, this is the start of a series, this book, isn’t it there Lucy, princesses? So in this book, she’s investigating the wrong weather. What have you got in mind that she’s going to turn her hand to in the next few stories?

Lucy: So the next book in the Princess Olivia Investigates series is going to see Princess Olivia set sail. As everyone knows, we live on a blue planet, and the health of the oceans is integral to the health of the planet. So that will be the focus of Princess Olivia’s next investigation.

Dan: Now, Lucy, just one last thing on the climate and on Earth Day, and I’d like to ask you, if I can, about what you would have thought your dad would have made of everything at the moment because he was someone who was very much thinking about everything else in the universe with a huge brain. But as we are facing a climate crisis, what would he have made of efforts to try and save the world?

Lucy: So my father, Stephen, was very much an early adopter of the need to raise awareness about climate change. And indeed, he started talking about it really kind of before it had entered into the public consciousness, as it has now. I think, first of all, he’d be really glad to know that people are sitting up and taking notice and taking it seriously. I think he’d be incredibly heart-warmed to know how interested kids are in climate issues and how proactive they are in doing things to help preserve the life and the health of our planet.

I think he would have been a huge admirer of Greta Thunberg for the way she spoke out so bravely about the need for us all to wake up and take notice. I think he would probably be continuing to warn us that we all need to play our part. He liked to say we are one human race. We live on one planet and he always made the very clear observation that when we travel out into space and look back at the planet, that’s the image we see. One planet, one human race. We need to look after it. We all live here. It’s home to all of us and we need to try and get along and cooperate in order to face what are global challenges.

Dan: Amazing. It’s always good to hear from all geniuses on the show. Princess Olivia Investigates the Wrong Weather is out right now. Lucy Hawking, thank you so much for coming on.

Lucy: My pleasure. Thank you so much.

Dangerous Dan: Spotted Hyena

Dan: It’s time for this week’s Dangerous Dan, where we look at some of the most mean and devastating things in the universe.

It’s an Earth Day special, so we’re staying down here on Planet Earth and it’s actually about quite a famous creature. This week they’re owned for smiling and laughing away, but they’re anything but nice. You’ll find the Spotted Hyena in Sub-Saharan Africa. They’ve got a sandy coat with dark spots all over and they’ve got big rounded ears which are perfect for getting heat away from their body when it gets too hot. Now, it’s strange, isn’t it? They look a bit like a big cat crossed with a bear. They’re quite long and slender, though. They’re hard to pin down. And you might know from films, they’re all over the Lion King movie, aren’t they? They grin with wide, sharp teeth and they’re scavengers – which means they find other creatures that are dying and they feast on those.

Now, they tend to stay away from us humans, but it doesn’t mean they’re not devastating. They work in teams, packs. They are brutal to other animals, showing no mercy. They can devour an entire zebra, eating everything, bones and all a massive zebra in just half an hour. And when they’re really hungry, when they are starving, they forget that normally they stay away from us humans and they will eat anything or anyone they find. That’s why the hyena is going straight on our Dangerous Dan list.

For our Earth Day special this week, it’s time to leave our planet and look back down on it from a very smart school, the smartest one in the solar system. We’re headed to Deep Space High right now. Professor Pulsar, this week is teaching us all about the movements of the Earth, including earthquakes and volcanoes and how they come about.

Deep Space High: Earth Watch – Surface Vibration and Movement:

Professor Pulsar: Hey Sam, did you know that in the last minute you’ve travelled 16 miles?

Sam: No, I haven’t. I’ve just been sat there watching the footy.

Professor Pulsar: Yes, but this planet you’re sitting on is travelling at an incredible 1,000 miles an hour. You just don’t really feel the speed because, well, it’s like when you’re in a train or a car.

Sam: Everything around you is moving at the same speed.

Professor Pulsar: That’s right, planets move in all sorts of ways you might not realise. Like under your feet. It’s a mad muddle of movement down there. Come on let’s see for ourselves.

Under your feet, the Earth’s crust and upper part of the mantle are broken into large pieces called tectonic plates. These are constantly moving at a few centimetres each year. Although this doesn’t sound like very much, over millions of years, the movement allows whole continents to shift thousands of kilometres. This process is called continental drift.

Sam: Hey, yeah. If you look at all the countries on a map or a globe, it’s a bit like a jigsaw that has been pulled apart.

Professor Pulsar: That’s right. Good tip that one. A great way to see for yourself. All because of continental drift. Now, continents floating slowly apart is one thing, but where the plates meet, things get a lot more unstable. Earthquakes! And volcanoes too! Sometimes the cross may even crumple to form mountain ranges. Let’s get out of here.

Sam: So mountains were made by the Earth moving?

Professor Pulsar: Some of them were for sure. The Himalayas, for example, are a stunning mountain range caused by the movement of tectonic plates. You can find pictures of them on the internet.

snow covered mountain under blue sky during daytime

Sam: Wow, they’re big! As we don’t get earthquakes in the UK, does that mean there’s not much tectonic plate activity here?

Professor Pulsar: Well, actually there are quite a few earthquakes in the UK every month. They just tend to be too small to feel. If you can visit the Natural History Museum in London, there’s a special earthquake room where you feel what a big one is like.

Sam: I suppose we’re lucky not to have to worry about volcanoes.

Professor Pulsar: Can’t agree with you more, although that wasn’t always the case. Come on, I’ve got one last thing to show you. Devon is one of the places that you can find a lot of pumice. That’s a stone made from lava and you get lava from volcanoes. Lucky for you, the volcanoes were erupting in this part of the planet many millions of years ago. Edinburgh is another place where you could see an old volcano, the castle’s built on one.

Sam: Shows you things don’t say the same on planets. Hey, Pulsar, what do you call a cute volcano? Lava-ble.

Professor Pulsar: Of all the things a volcano is, I don’t think lovable is one…

white clouds over snow covered mountain

Dan: And that’s it for this week’s Fun Kids Science Weekly, a big, fantastic Earth Day special. If there’s something you would like answered on the show next week, leave it as a review for me on Apple podcasts. While you’re there, you can listen to loads of our brilliant shows. You’ve heard some today, Hallux, you’ve heard deep space high – we’ve got tonnes on there. You can also find them on the Free Fun Kids app, on Google, Spotify and at and Fun Kids, we are a children’s radio station from the UK listen to us on your dab digital radio on that free Fun Kids app and at

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