A Podcast Of Unnecessary Detail

Festival of the Spoken Nerd

Stand-up mathematician Matt Parker, experiments maestro Steve Mould and geek songstress Helen Arney take a single word and use it to investigate things that might not seem particularly interesting on the surface, but become fascinating when you get down to the nitty and / or gritty.

A Trailer Of Unnecessary Detail
Trailer 1 min 2 sec

All Episodes

In this final episode of Series 1, Steve talks about how plants transmit their genes, Helen eavesdrops on whales and Matt decodes spacecraft transmissions. Plus a song about the bravest little transmitter in the known universe.   00:48 - Steve's bit 14:13 - Matt's bit 28:38 - Helen's bit 41:42 - The Philae Song For show notes, links, merch, mailing list and more, visit: http://festivalofthespokennerd.com/podcast/episode-06-transmission/ Want to get in touch? We’re on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or email podcast@festivalofthespokennerd.com.  Come for the Unnecessary Detail. Stay for the A Podcast Of. This podcast is sponsored by Brilliant.org, where you can learn science, maths and engineering through online interactive courses. Use this link for a free trial and discount on your annual subscription: https://brilliant.org/apoud.   NEW SECTION: SHOW NOTES!  By popular demand, we've put our complete show notes here in this episode description. There's a web version on the episode page, also linked above. Podcast shout outs! Steve mentions a few fab podcasts in this episode, and they are: Level Up Human Chemistry In Its Element Why Aren't You A Doctor Yet? Corrections and clarifications: Steve repeatedly refers to the Oak Tree as an "Acorn Tree" - which is taxonomically and linguistically incorrect, but as we only spotted the mistake in the final edit we left it as it is. You're smart enough to work out what he meant, right? ;) Several people got in touch to say they've consumed a cashew apple! Our pal Simon Watt has tried it in a "caju" smoothie, and Christa Norton tells us that if you mix it with chilli powder it's a great alternative to lemon when you're doing tequila slammers.    And here's a heap of unnecessary detail from this episode: What does a cashew apple actually look like? Yes, like an evil gnome. A visual guide to Golay code, including the beautiful Generator Matrix by Life Of Riley.  Matt doing his barcode trick on the Hammersmith Apollo stage. Listen to Sperm Whale codas from the Domenica Sperm Whale Project. Get involved in Citizen Science with Zooniverse.org right now! More about Whale FM. More about Manatee Chat. Thanks for listening!

Sep 2020

44 min 27 sec

Steve goes to war against rote learning; Matt tells us how ancient numbers affect what we can and can't name our dogs; and Helen's bit is elementary, my dear listener. 00:50 - Matt's bit 12:41 - Steve's bit 25:22 - Helen's bit 40:26 - Helen's bonus brassy song For show notes, links, merch, mailing list and more, visit: http://festivalofthespokennerd.com/podcast/episode-05-table/.  Want to get in touch? We’re on Twitter @FOTSN, Facebook, Instagram or email podcast@festivalofthespokennerd.com.  Come for the Unnecessary Detail. Stay for the A Podcast Of.  This podcast is sponsored by Brilliant.org, where you can learn science, maths and engineering through online interactive courses. Use this link for a free trial and discount on your annual subscription: https://brilliant.org/apoud.    NEW SECTION: SHOW NOTES!  By popular demand, we've put our complete show notes here in this episode description. There's a web version on the episode page, also linked above. Podcast shout outs! Helen mentions five of her favourite podcasts in this episode, and they are: Worst Foot Forward My Mate Bought A Toaster Drunk Women Solving Crime Scummy Mummies Hoovering Corrections and clarifications: Regular listener Paul has pointed out that not ALL phone numbers can actually be used as phone numbers. The system connects on the first valid match, so phone numbers longer than 4 digits cannot start with emergency services number 999, or 111, or anything like that. The actual numbers depend on which country you're in, of course.   Not every IV is written as IV... @DavidDanaci sent in several examples of watchmakers who use IIII instead of IV on their watch faces: Patek Philippe, Breguet and Alange & Soehne. One large scale counter-example is the Great Clock of Westminster, aka the Elizabeth Tower clock, aka, the clock that houses Big Ben aka the massive clock in London colloquially known as Big Ben. Yes, Big Ben is the bell, not the clock or the tower. But you knew that, didn't you, Unnecessary Detail listeners?  Benedikt Gocht emailed to point out that we won't be waiting for another 18 elements to reach the next noble gas, but more like 50 or 54, depending on which model you use to predict the properties of elements after 118. There go Helen's dreams of an element called "Hanon" in her lifetime... Something that never made it into the final edit was that Meitnerium, Element 109, features on the wall of Helen's daughter in a periodic table poster - but she doesn't have a list of Nobel Prize winners printed out on there. So, in a way, Lise Meitner won the bigger prize. And here's a heap of unnecessary detail from this episode: Full guidelines for naming your dog with the American Kennel Club. Steve talking about being dyslexic and learning times tables at TEDx. What on earth is this chunking thing?  The most extraordinary Countdown numbers game ever - Helen remembers seeing this episode when it first aired on Channel 4! Helen singing Tom Lehrer’s “Elements” - watch the whole thing in our comedy special “You Can’t Polish A Nerd”  Helen singing it even faster on Channel 4. ASAP Science “Periodic Table Song” set to the "Can-Can" tune. And, finally, Helen's latest version with Waterbeach Brass and the Royal Society of Chemistry.   Like free stuff? Get all of the songs from this series as downloads for zero pounds from Helen's Bandcamp page. Thanks for listening!

Sep 2020

43 min 9 sec

In this episode, Steve talks about a sticky effect, Matt gets us tangled in stick knots, and Helen gets stuck into sticky numbers:  00:43 - Steve's bit 11:29 - Matt's bit 24:16 - Helen's bit For show notes, links, merch, mailing list and more, visit: http://festivalofthespokennerd.com/podcast/episode-04-stick/.  Want to get in touch? We’re on Twitter @FOTSN, Facebook, Instagram or email podcast@festivalofthespokennerd.com.  Come for the Unnecessary Detail. Stay for the A Podcast Of.  This podcast is sponsored by Brilliant.org, where you can learn science, maths and engineering through online interactive courses. Use this link for a free trial and discount on your annual subscription: https://brilliant.org/apoud.    NEW SECTION: SHOW NOTES! By popular demand, we've put the complete show notes here in this episode description. For a web version head to the episode page, also linked above. Podcast shout outs! Matt mentions some of our favourite online nerdy media and podcasts in this episode, and they are: The Cosmic Shambles Network BBC Science Focus Podcast A Problem Squared with Matt and Bec Hill Corrections and clarifications: None, so far...  Some links of Unnecessary Detail:  Classic Nanette Newman advert for Fairy Liquid on YouTube. The best chalk lines from Walter Lewin, MIT lecturer in Classical Mechanics class. Violin string bowed in slow motion. More "stick slip" effect with Steve’s Chinese Spouting Bowl video. Subitising skills in children. Jo Van Herwegen’s research into Number Sense development. Want to improve your pre-schooler’s number foundations? Jo’s research can help. A song to get you soo-bi-tize-ing like a pro (albeit with upsettingly fake guitar-playing). To help you visualise Matt's knots, he took a bunch of photos and they below (if your podcast app can show them) and also here on our episode page. The Ashley Book Of Knots. The International Guild Of Knot Tyers, as sent in by listener Randy Cox. What is a trefoil knot? Can Matt help tie a knot in the London Underground? Tying a Tube Knot: behind the scenes. Thanks for listening!              

Sep 2020

35 min 41 sec

In this episode, Helen investigates a curious ring that lives in the sea, Steve contemplates the meaning of life itself and Matt brings along some bagels:  00:47 - Helen's bit 11:02 - Matt's bit 21:29 - Steve's bit Show notes, pictures of bagel-cutting, links, merch, mailing list and more are at: http://festivalofthespokennerd.com/podcast/episode-03-rings/.  Want to get in touch? We’re on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or email podcast@festivalofthespokennerd.com.  Come for the Unnecessary Detail. Stay for the A Podcast Of.  This podcast is sponsored by Brilliant.org, where you can learn science, maths and engineering through online interactive courses. Use this link for a free trial and discount on your annual subscription: https://brilliant.org/apoud.  NEW SECTION: SHOW NOTES!  By popular demand, we've put our complete show notes here in this episode description. For a web version, head to the episode page, also linked above. Corrections and clarifications: 03:18 - Clemens Jusner wrote in to clarify that chitin is a polymer, which makes up squid beaks only in combination with cross-linked proteins. More on cephalopod beaks here. Here's some unnecessary detail from this episode: Giant squid have “donut” shaped brains (picture of anatomy below, or on our episode page)  “Insane in the chromatophores” - stimulating squid skin with music. How to visit a giant squid a London’s Natural History Museum. So, what does a sex pilus actually look like? Steve’s video on Horizontal Gene Transfer. Bagel-cutting pictures are now below! If they don't render properly in your podcast app, click here to see Steve and Helen attempt to cut a bagel. Thanks for listening!       

Sep 2020

33 min 8 sec

In this episode, Steve tries to measure distant stars with his thumb, Matt talks black holes & plot holes and Helen plays some of her favourite space sounds. Plus a song from Helen that may provide useful information for your future interstellar travel needs: 01:01 -  Steve's bit 12:24 - Helen's bit 25:40 - Matt's bit 39:53 - Helen's Cryonic Love Song  Show notes, links, merch, mailing list and more are here: http://festivalofthespokennerd.com/podcast/episode-02-interstellar/.  Want to get in touch? We’re on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or email podcast@festivalofthespokennerd.com.  Come for the Unnecessary Detail. Stay for the A Podcast Of.  This podcast is sponsored by Brilliant.org, where you can learn science, maths and engineering through online interactive courses. Use this link for a free trial and discount on your annual subscription: https://brilliant.org/apoud.  NEW SECTION: SHOW NOTES!  By popular demand, we've our complete show notes here in this episode description. There's a web version on the episode page, also linked above. Corrections and clarifications first: 12:09 - Helen uses the phrase "standing on the shoulders of giants" which - as Lynda Goldenberg rightly points out - not actually a complement, but rather a heinous insult used by Isaac Newton to describe Robert Hooke. We'll pull this apart properly in a future episode.  20:49 - Anaesthetists @brisgasdoc and @mjtb1987 have confirmed that they use the blood oxygen level tone all day, every day with their patients. This paper is an interesting investigation into attention and sonification in the operating room, and does mentions how surgical colleagues prefer to keep the oximeter volume down low.  Here's a heap of unnecessary detail from this episode: More about the awesome Henrietta Swan Leavitt. How astronomers use parallax to measure the distance to stars. How the Earth-Sun distance was measured during an 18th Century Transit of Venus The complete Cosmic Distance Ladder. A visualisation of the LIGO chirp pattern detected in 2015. “I heard Gravitational Waves before they were detected!” Steve explaining gravitational waves - as also seen in our latest comedy special “You Can’t Polish A Nerd”. A bonus explanation of when black holes go faster than light. Those creepy noises detected around comet 67P. The thing that Interstellar got right: the first accurate visual rendering of a black hole in a Hollywood movie. Matt has added to his YouTube channel a brilliant interview with the visual effects expert who actually worked on the Interstellar black hole, Eugénie von Tunzelmann.  More of Helen's favourite space sounds: Dame Jocelyn Bell-Burnell, Pulsars and a Joy Division album cover. The sounds of pulsars from Jodrell Bank Observatory. Solar flares interrupting VHF radio transmissions. “Whistlers” in Jupiter’s atmosphere. Listen to the lingering sounds of the Big Bang. Like free stuff? Get all of the songs from this series as downloads for zero pounds from Helen's Bandcamp page. Thanks for listening!

Sep 2020

43 min 3 sec

In this episode, Helen talks fuel for your body, Matt talks plane fuel (or lack of it…) and Steve talks origin theories for a particular fossil fuel. Plus a song from Helen about the ultimate source of Earth’s fuel: 01:10 - Matt's bit 10:30 - Helen's bit 24:20 - Steve's bit 35:50 - Helen's Sun Song For links, merch, mailing list and more, visit: http://festivalofthespokennerd.com/podcast/episode-01-fuel/.  Want to get in touch? We’re on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or email podcast@festivalofthespokennerd.com.  Come for the Unnecessary Detail. Stay for the A Podcast Of.  This podcast is sponsored by Brilliant.org, where you can learn science, maths and engineering through online interactive courses. Use this link for a free trial and discount on your annual subscription: https://brilliant.org/apoud.    NEW SECTION: SHOW NOTES!  By popular demand, we've put complete show notes here in the episode description. For the web version head to the Fuel episode page, also linked above. Corrections and clarifications first: 08:22 - Our Formula One knowledge is out of date! F1 haven't allowed refuelling during pit stops since 2009... but other races still allow it, and the problem of vehicle weight vs. refuelling stops still exists. @Thexscha was the first to point this out, but many many many more of you have since then...  20:41 - This CO2 decaffeination method uses supercritical CO2. That means CO2 at a temperature above boiling point and a pressure above atmospheric pressure, giving it the unique properties of both a liquid and a gas. It's not simply liquid Carbon Dioxide. Cheers @amypeace for being the first to chemical engineer to listen and flag this. 02:55 - Matt mentions Boeing 787 instead of Boeing 767. He blames it on a slip of the plane! Thanks @kaapi_croissant. And here's a heap of Unnecessarily Detailed links: Planes carrying excess fuel are saving money but increasing environmental impact. Matt's latest book full of mathematical mistakes - including this refuelling story - is available now. Watch Matt demonstrate the Hot Cheese theory in 2019's Royal Institution Christmas Lectures - with actual "hot cheese" landing on his head... More about The Swiss Water Process™ Square Mile Coffee Roasters visit a carbon dioxide (CO2) decaffeination plant. Steve finds a surprising sound in his (decaffeinated) coffee, as heard in Series 1 of our BBC Radio 4 show, Domestic Science. In Steve's corner we have: “The Fantastically Strange Origin of Most Coal on Earth" And in Helen's corner: “Such geobiological hypotheses sometimes persist based largely on the strength of their novelty, without sufficient predictive testing”. Watch Helen sing the Sun Song - complete with costume and mirror ball - in our second comedy special Just For Graphs. Like free stuff? Get all the songs from this series as downloads for zero pounds from Helen's Bandcamp page. Head to out episode page for a bonus picture from one of our UK tours. Thanks for listening!

Sep 2020

39 min 6 sec

In between making science comedy shows, Festival of the Spoken Nerd - aka Matt Parker, Steve Mould and Helen Arney - have created a podcast. It’s called A Podcast Of Unnecessary Detail, and this is the trailer for it.  Want to get in touch? We’re on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or email us on podcast@festivalofthespokennerd.com.  Come for the Unnecessary Detail. Stay for the A Podcast Of.  This podcast is sponsored by Brilliant.org, where you can learn science, maths and engineering through online interactive courses. Use this link for your free trial and 20% discount on annual subscription: https://brilliant.org/apoud.

Nov 2018

1 min 2 sec