Steve Backshall and Exploding Stars!

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

This week a very special guest, Steve Backshall, joins the podcast to talk about his new live show and his life on the Deadly shows over the years!

We also catch up with Professor Hallux and Nurse Nanobot in their Map of Medicine.

Explore under the sea in Age of the Dinosaurs.

And answer more of your questions including some exploding stars!

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:

Introduction

Dan: Hello. Welcome along. Lovely to have you there. It’s a brand new episode of the Fun Kids Science Weekly. My name is Dan. This is the show where we search all around the universe, finding the amazing, the awesome, and the sometimes awful things that are lurking nearby. And it’s a big week on the show this week. So happy, so excited. One of my favourite explorers, adventurers, and animal experts is chatting to us all about his brand new show, which looks under the ocean at Sharks. It’s only Steve Backshall. He’ll be with us in a bit.

Steve: I swam on the bottom of the Okavango Delta alongside four metre long Nile crocodiles without anyone ever getting touched or hurt.

Dan: Also, we’ll catch up with Professor Hallux. He is our medical genius and he and Nurse Nanabot know all about your body and they’ve been looking at what makes you sick and then who makes you better? And this week it’s all about what happens when you catch a cold.

Professor Hallux: That’s right, the Butcher shop. Ok, only kidding. They’re found in Pharmacies.

Dan: And as always, I’ve got your questions to answer. This week we’re doing digging on stars and sick. It’s coming up. Stay there. It’s a brand new episode of The Fun Kids Science Weekly.

Science in the News: Booming Bitterns, New Nasa Moon Rocket, and American Dinosaurs

Dan: Let’s kick things off this week with your science in the news. Now, Britain’s loudest bird, the Booming Bittern has had a record breaking year. Now it almost completely vanished from the UK. They had almost utterly gone, but there were 228 males counted last year, which is showing the conservation efforts are working. The Bittern, the Booming Bittern, is a member of the Heron family and it has a loud call which can be heard five kilometres away!

selective focus photography of gray bird on brown wood

Dan: Also, NASA have unveiled their giant new moon rocket. It’s called the Space Launch System. It was loaded onto the launch pad in Florida earlier this week for a test countdown. Now it’s just under 100 metres tall. It’s more powerful than rockets that have gone up before. And it will send astronauts to the moon for the first time in decades. Soon, we hope.

grayscale photo of full moon

Dan: And also, two giant sauropod dinosaurs have gone on show for the first time. They were discovered in the state of Wyoming, over in America, in some quarries, buried deep in rock, completely covered in the stuff. Now, sauropods were huge, long necked dinosaurs. And in just three years, the fossils have been put together, cleaned off into full skeletons. And they’re now on show in an American Museum.

Dan: Right, then, let’s catch up with one of our favourites on this show, two absolute geniuses who know all about your body, Professor Hallux and Nurse Nanabot. This is taken from his Map of Medicine series. You can hear loads more of them on the free Fun Kids app. They’re looking at what makes you sick, what makes you ill, and then what makes you better and who can help you out and cure it. This week, it’s all about Pharmacists, and what happens when your body catches a cold.

Professor Hallux’s Map of Medicine: Pharmacists

Professor Hallux: You’re not sounding very well there. I didn’t know robots could catch colds.

Nurse: I’m just fine. Just a little computer virus. I need to blow nose now. Pass me a silicon wipe, would you?

Professor Hallux: Here you go. Have a few, you’re looking rather hot. Let me feel your panel. You’re burning up.

Nurse: Professor. Get your hands off my paintwork and stop fussing. Anyway, that’s a phone, professor. You’d better get it, I’m streaming data here.

Professor Hallux: No problem. Go and have a lie down, Nurse.

Patient: Hello. I’ve had a cold for a few days. It’s really horrible. My nose is blocked. I feel shivery and achy. The doctor says it’s just a virus and should go away by itself. But what can I do to feel better?

Professor Hallux: Oh, dear. There must be something going about this week. Colds can be pretty nasty and it sounds like you’ve caught a whopper. I’ll give you the clinical crunch on colds as the nurse is laid low.

Nurse: Don’t be ridiculous, Professor. It will take more than a silly cold to put me out of action.

man wiping mouse with tissue paper

Many colds and viruses are caused by tiny bugs that are smaller than a single bacteria. So small, in fact, they can’t be seen with normal microscopes. What we call the common cold, is actually one of about 100 different viruses that can hit you, lift with humans and make you feel all blocked up, shivery, and achy. Colds normally clear up on their own, as your immune system attacks the virus. If you have a cold, it’s a good idea to drink lots of water and your parents might give you a mild painkiller. Menthol on your pillow can also make it easier to sleep if you’re bunged up. It can also help stop you snoring too.

Professor Hallux: Right, you go and put your panels up and have a rest. I’ll take over here.

Nurse: Oh, go on then.

Professor Hallux: So colds aren’t something you need to go to the doctor for, but there’s someone else who can help manage your symptoms…The pharmacist! Let’s check out the map of medicine to find out more about them.

So colds aren’t something you need to go to the doctor for, but there’s someone else who can help manage your symptoms…The pharmacist! Let’s check out the map of medicine to find out more about them. Opening the Map of Medicine So, pharmacists…Whilst you’ll find pharmacists in hospitals and loads of other medical places, you’ve probably visited one on your high street. They are found in a very common type of shop. Can you guess what type? That’s right, the Butcher shop. Ok. Only kidding. They’re found in pharmacies. Bit of a giveaway, really, isn’t it? Pharmacist, pharmacy. Well, you get the idea, yeah, pretty obvious when you think about it.

But just to confuse things, pharmacies are sometimes called chemist shops, the sorts of places where you can buy useful things like plasters, sun cream and shampoo. You’ll know, if there’s a pharmacist there, as they often have a large green cross on the sign, let’s go inside. Pharmacists are not doctors, although they are experts in dispensing the medicines that doctors prescribe. They are great for recommending the stacks of remedies that can ease the symptoms of many conditions like the common cold.

If you have a blocked up nose, they can suggest decongestants that can help unblock it, and they’ll be able to give you lots of tissue to wipe it on too. So there’s no need to be a mucky pup and use your sleeve. If you’re struggling with coughs and sniffles, get yourself to the pharmacy. There might not be a cure for things like the common cold, but there are lots of things to make you feel a bit better whilst you’re waiting for it to shift.

Nurse: And they are crazily clever creatures too, these pharmacists. They can give you more than just medicine – advice, too. Things like how much is a safe amount to have and what effect it might have with other medicines you might be taking.

Professor Hallux: Shouldn’t you be resting, Nurse?

Nurse: I’m fine. I’ve decongested my data and I think it stopped my sneezes for a few minutes. I didn’t want to miss the disgusting detail. I’ve got a great one about pharmacists.

Professor Hallux: Fantastic! Go ahead.

Nurse: Pharmacists have been trying to make people feel better for hundreds of years, but the Victorians had some of the ropiest remedies of the lot. The Victorians thought a purge, that’s a good vomit, could be good for you and used an everlasting pill made of poisonous metal called antimony to make themselves sick.

And you think that’s disgusting? There’s more. Why were they called Everlasting you might ask? Here’s why. Once it had gone through a patient’s system, the pill was picked out of their poo, given a wash and used again the next time they fancied a purge.

They were sometimes even shared or passed down through families.

Professor Hallux: Disgusting! Well, I for one am very glad our pharmacists have better ideas these days. Time for us to go. But don’t forget to explore Map of Medicine for yourself.

Dan: We’ll have more from Professor Hallux and his Map of Medicine series next week on the show, and you can hear from an animal genius in just a sec.

Answering Your Questions: What are stars made of? And Why do people get carsick?

Dan: Right now, let’s get to some of your questions. Remember, if there’s anything sciencey rattling around in that brain of yours that you need figuring out, you just need it worked through. Let me do the digging. Let me look it up and explain it to you. The easiest way to let me know is by leaving it as a review over on Apple podcasts. First up this week is from Kyo, who’s ten, who wants to know what are stars made of?

Now stars, mostly, they’re hydrogen and helium, two gases. Now that might sound a bit boring if you were thinking they were made of your dreams or your hopes. There’s a couple of gases, really. There’s also plasma in there, which is a different state of matter. You’ve got solid, liquid, water and then the fourth mysterious state, plasma. That’s what makes a star. And nuclear fusion is happening in there.

Stars are so big that gravity is always pulling them closer together. And that makes nuclear fusion. It’s a reaction where two atoms merge, they join together, to make something brand new. And that’s why they shine so brightly, because of the energy. Now there’s always more gas being made, and one day they’ll probably get so big that they’ll explode. It’s a long time away, especially the nearest star to us, the sun. So don’t worry about that. Kyo, thank you for the question.

Also this week, it’s from Lily, who wants to know why do people get carsick? If you’re in the car right now, maybe not what you want to hear. So press pause, come back when you get where you’re going. Carsick, it’s because your ears and your eyes confuse your brain. They’re sending mixed messages. Now, in your brain, you’ve got fluid, you’ve got a liquid that sloshes around and it lets you know when you’re balanced. That’s why if your ears blocked, sometimes you kind of don’t know which way is up or down. It tells you that you’re moving around, or if you’re spinning or if you’re tilted.

man in black shirt driving car

Now, when you’re in a car, if you’re reading a book, or if you’re staring down at the seat or at the headrest behind your mum or dad, whatever it is, it confuses you. It tells your brain that you’re sat still and not moving. But the liquid in your ear is saying you are moving. So your brain doesn’t really know what to do. And that’s why you feel like you want to throw up some of the time. So the easiest thing to do if you are feeling carsick, is to look out the window, to look out the front at the horizon at the end of the road, because it lets your ears and your eyes see and get the same thing and it helps your brain understand. Thank you for the question.

You too, if there’s something you want answered on the Science Weekly next week, leave it as a review for me!

Interview with Steve Backshall

Dan: It’s the Fun Kids Science Weekly and joining us today, so excited, we’ve done this show for about four years and it is one of the biggest guests we’ve ever had. One of the world’s greatest adventurers, Steve Backshall, has explored jungles all around the world. He’s travelled the globe many times, come face to face with some of the most deadly creatures in his show, Deadly 60. And he’s off on tour all around the UK. It’s called Steve Backshall’s Ocean. Steve, thank you for being there.

Steve: Hello Dan, really nice to speak to you.

Dan: Now, why focus an entire live show on the ocean? Normally you’re on tele. Why are you bringing it to theatres?

Steve: That’s a really good question. So I’ve done tours in the past that I’ve themed around specific journeys. I’ve done them around particular expeditions. I’ve done them around the wildlife of Australia, the wildlife of the Arctic and the Antarctic. But this time round, I wanted to focus on the ocean for a variety of different reasons.

First of all, because I think the creatures that live in the ocean, we may think we know them, but we very rarely do anything like as much as we may like to think, even simply the fish that live in our seas around the UK that we may consider to be common. Certainly the Sharks that we have in our seas, it’s entirely likely that no one’s ever seen them breed. No one’s ever seen them mate or give birth to their young.

Something as simple as that, which is the most basic part of life histories, could well be completely unknown to us. Our own basking shark, people used to think that they hibernated in the winter. Nobody knows where they go, no one’s seen them mate, no one has seen them give birth to their young. And I find that really exciting.

whale shark swimming underwater

We have at least 20,000 different species of fish in our seas, and yet new ones are being discovered all the time. It’s often said it’s a cliche that we know more about the surface of the moon than we know about our deep seas, but it’s not even close. We know far more about the surface of the moon than we do our deep oceans. And so I thought that this would be a good theme. Obviously, bringing the seas to the stage is a significant challenge.

Dan: This is what I was thinking, talking about the surface of the moon and what we know about the ocean. There’s some ridiculous fact that we know almost 5% of what’s in our seas. How are we exploring that on stage with you? Is it about what we know or is it trying to figure out maybe the creatures that we don’t have any idea about just yet?

Steve: It’s a bit of all of those things. So I’m very much focused on the animals first, because I know that first and foremost, I think it’s a stage show. So people need to be entertained. I don’t want to be hammering home loads of stuff about food webs and ecosystems, and not too much stuff about conservation and doom and gloom. I want people to be excited and entertained by getting a more intimate glance at some of the Ocean’s Giants and some of the Ocean’s teeny tiny little things.

So it’s going to be very much focused around species, around particular iconic species, a few that people will possibly, hopefully never have heard of. And I’m going to try and bring them to life.

Much as I would love to flood every single Theatre and give everyone a mask and snorkel that wasn’t allowed. So instead, what I’m going to do is be bringing along life sized replicas of some of the largest animals ever known to have lived on our planet. There will be live science experiments on stage with a very high chance, if not a probability, of those going wrong. You can do with egg on my face. There will be outtakes and bloopers and questions and interactivity. There’s going to be a giant screen with natural history footage. I seriously think that no one is going to leave the Theatre, including me, that hasn’t learned something and at the same time hopefully been entertained.

Dan: Let me take you right back to the start, if that’s all right, Steve, because you go to school, you finish your studies. I think you have a degree in English. Is that right? English, maybe with Theatre, why knock that all on the head? Why leave it all and become an Explorer and actually make it work? Why did you make that choice?

Steve: It’s super question. It’s a really good question. It’s probably more of a question why I ended up doing English first time round, and it was just simply that that was kind of what I was good at. I am not a natural scientist. I struggled with maths at school, I still struggle with statistics. I found science really hard and I found English and humanities really easy, and I just took the easy route. And it wasn’t until after them when I left and I kind of went. But actually, the thing I love most in the world is animals.

brown lion on green grass field

So I should have learned about animals. I should have studied biology and I had to go back and do my A levels again and do my whole University again and then do my Masters. And now I’m an honorary lecturer in marine biology. I still wouldn’t classify myself as being a scientist because I still find it really difficult. And it’s taken the best part of 20 years for me to get to this stage where I actually have all the right letters after my name. And there’s probably a little bit of imposter syndrome even now, because I know how difficult I find it.

Dan: Let’s just take you back to some of the creatures and some of the exhibitions you’ve done in your years of exploring. You’ve come face to face with so many different creatures, especially in the programme Deadly 60, what was the one animal you were most terrified by when you thought this might have been a bad choice?

Steve: So very much the ethos of Deadly has always been so much so that we put it in the title of every single programme that this is about animals that are deadly in their own world, so deadly to their prey, not dangerous to us. And that’s critical because the last thing I want to do is ever be demonising any animals. That’s the antithesis of what we’re about. And that’s allowed us to feature everything from blue whales and basking sharks to dragonflies and kestrels. And I think that how they interact with their prey is what’s really fascinating.

And actually, despite the fact that I’ve been doing Deadly since 2007. I’ve had a couple of scratches, but nothing serious. And I think that that, more than anything, kind of is testament to the fact that animals would, in almost every single situation, rather move away from you than go for you. I can count on one hand the amount of times that I’ve felt genuinely threatened by animals. I’ve been doing this for 25 years now.

Dan: Just give us some of those animals that you felt a little bit threatened by.

Steve: So hippos are the one that most people, particularly in Africa, will kind of always have a little bit of a shudder when they hear about it. And that’s because they’re big, they’re fast, they’re grumpy, they’re territorial and they’re, more than anything, unpredictable. And there’s been a few moments where we kind of like biting our fingernails down to the quick with hippos. But at the same time, in the exact same place where we’ve been filming those hippos, I swam on the bottom of the Okavango Delta alongside four metre long Nile crocodiles without anyone ever getting touched or hurt. So you can see that actually the danger, the threat, the fear of animals is always it’s what everyone focuses on. But I think that’s wrong. Wild animals are just not interested in us, and if they are, it’s because we pose a threat to them.

Dan: Well, how about this? It’s a question from Caleb, who listens to the show, who wants to know what’s the deadliest ocean animal you’ve ever come into contact with?

Steve: So I have placed at the very top of my, I took the unprecedented step on the last series of Deadly of declaring my most deadly animal in the world. And it’s the orca. And I think that an animal that can coordinate its actions with all of the other members of its portal, it’s tribe, that has different languages, different methods of communication, that can sweep seals off ice flows down in Antarctica. Or beach itself on the Sands of Patagonia to pull vessels into the water, that can feed on herring by slapping them with its tail and incapacitating them, that can leap clear out of the water to land on and drown a grey whale carp. They have such an array of different ways of hunting, and they are probably other than us, the only animal that will and does take on fully grown great white Sharks.

whale in sea

Dan: The orca even its name, both forms of its name. Oh, orca and the killer whale is something to be terrified by. Listen, we’re coming out of the back of a couple of years of different lockdowns, and maybe you haven’t been able to explore the planet as much as you’d like. How good are you being an adventurer in your own back garden? I saw pictures online from you the other day of you with your family scaling mountains. Do you still explore every day when you can?

Steve: Yeah, I think that it’s very important for us to realise that adventure always begins at home and it always begins in your own backyard. There is not a single mountaineer whose first mountain was Everest. There is not a single adventurer who first went sourced to see down the Amazon before having a little paddle on the Thames first. We learn our skills right in our own place, at home, in our own back garden. And that’s much more pressing for me right now because I’m a dad to twins at two and Logan at three.

person standing in front of mountain

And therefore we’re thinking every day of how we introduce them to the wild world, how we get them interested in nature. And that’s the key to us. Those first steps, those kind of early experiences that are going to be formative and hopefully drive them towards something like we do for a living. But even if they don’t, just the fact that they would have had those experiences with nature, I think, will be really positive and help them to be able to become fully formed or humans.

Dan: Talking about those key skills, I guess. Lastly, for someone listening, who perhaps really wants to follow in your footsteps, wants to travel the world, wants to come face to face with these animals. What are the key skills that someone maybe needs to learn or needs to grow to give themselves the best chance of dealing with being an Explorer?

Steve: Don’t be afraid of failing. Failing is not only a part of life, but it’s the most important part of development. Seeing your failures, recognising them and learning from them is how great people get to be great. Never look back at your failures and be paralysed by them. Don’t get too tangled up in regret. In fact, embrace your failures. Recognise them as things that are going to make you a better person and use them as a means towards whatever it is that your goal is going to be in life.

Dan: Amazing. Well, listen, the tour, Steve Backshall’s Ocean is going all around the UK. Good luck with it. Thank you so much for coming on the show, Steve.

Steve: You are so welcome. Lovely to speak to you, Dan.

Dangerous Dan: Black-banded Sea Krait

Dan: Let’s get to this week’s Dangerous Dan, where we look at the most mean, deadly and cruel things in the universe. And this week we’re headed to the gorgeous beaches around Asia. Just imagine yourself on those beaches, sparkling sunshine on the baking hot sand. You’re headed into a twinkling sea, but you need to watch your feet so you don’t tread on a deadly black-banded sea krait. They are a Chinese sea snake. Now, they’ve got a short head, a thick trunk, a thick body. They’re normally green and grey with black bands streaking around it.

Now, this snake is quite slow, so they normally hide in coral near the shore and they leap out to catch their prey. And that’s fine. Now, it’s this dangerous beast, though. It’s such a dangerous beast because its venom is ten times stronger than a Cobras. It’s extremely toxic to you. Now, thankfully, the snake doesn’t randomly attack people. It only does so if it’s provoked, if it feels scared. So if you find yourself in the beach near Asia, be careful not to annoy the Chinese sea snake, the black-banded sea krait, because this beast has got a killer.

Age of The Dinosaurs – Cretaceous Period: Sea Life

Dan: So the black-banded sea krait is a snake, a deadly beast in the ocean. And creatures like that have been around for years. Millions of years, in fact, we’re going to learn about some more right now. We’re headed back to the Cretaceous Period for another episode of Age Of the Dinosaurs. And in this time, the more animals and more plants live together than ever before. From the dinosaurs on land to the plants that they ate. And right now, we’re diving under the ocean.

Presenter: Imagine going back in time, not 100 years or 10 years, but millions of years to the Age of The Dinosaur. Welcome to the Cretaceous period, which existed between 65 and 144,000,000 years ago. More varieties of animals and plants lived than ever before. From the dinosaur on the land to the plants they ate, things were getting pretty busy underwater, too.

Dinosaurs didn’t go into the oceans, but that didn’t mean they were empty. Far from it, much of the sea life from the Jurassic period remained, including Ichthyosaurus, agile, dolphin like creatures, as well as starfish and ammonites. Soft shellfish with long, streaming tentacles.

Child: Wow he’s massive! Let’s get out of his way.

Presenter: He certainly is. Some Cretaceous ammonites were enormous, as much as two metres in diameter and much bigger than their Jurassic relatives. Along with these older creatures, new types of fish were appearing, the ancestors of those we find in our seas today. These included rays, flatfish with winglike fins and teleosts, bony fish – not so different to the Cod you get in the chip shop.

Child: Uh-oh! That looks like a shark to me.

black shark underwater photo

Presenter: The wide variety of life made the oceans an attractive place for predators. Sharks like those seen today battled alongside much larger plesiosaurs, powerful reptiles with large flippers and a long neck. But towards the end of the Cretaceous period, a terrifying predator ruled the Mosasaur. Here comes one now.

Child: Let’s get out of here! It’s way scarier than a shark.

Presenter: Mosasaurs looked like streamlined lizards. Their short paddle-like limbs and powerful tails were ideal for fast swimming, enabling them to pounce underwater at prey. Smaller specimens crunched on sea urchins and mollusks, while the largest varieties, some 17 metres long, preyed on birds, fish and reptiles and even other mosasaurs. Mosasaurs had a double hinged jaw and flexible skull, much like a snake, which meant they could almost gulp down their prey hole. Again, just like snakes or Komodo Dragons.

Child: How do we know what the world looked like millions of years ago?

Presenter: Scientists pieced together evidence from fossils using lots of different techniques including microscopes to look at tiny details and CT scanners to peer inside. They record information about where a fossil was found, examine its surroundings, look at what animals ate and compare fossils to similar animals alive today like comparing the Mosasaurs to snakes. Computers are used to take this data and create models from simple black and white pictures to exciting moving animated monsters.

Dan: And that is it for this week’s Fun Kids Science Weekly. I hope you loved hearing about the deadly creatures, about why you get carsick and also from our fantastic, humongous, guest Steve Backshall on the show this week. I can’t wait to check out his brand new show about Sharks.

Now, if there is something you want answered on this show next week as a question, leave it as a review for me on Apple podcasts. While you’re there, it’s one of the best places that you can hear loads of series that we do. You heard Age of the Dinosaurs and Professor Hallux this week, on there we’ve got tonnes more.

They’re also on Google, they’re on Spotify really wherever you get your shows they’re also on the free Fun Kids App and at funkidslive.com and Fun Kids, we are a children’s radio station from the UK. Listen to us all around the country on that DAB digital radio and at funkidslive.com.

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