Duration: 45 minutes
First broadcast: Thursday 21 October 2010

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the history of logic.

Logic, the study of reasoning and argument, first became a serious area of study in the 4th century BC through the work of Aristotle. He created a formal logical system, based on a type of argument called a syllogism, which remained in use for over two thousand years.

In the nineteenth century the German philosopher and mathematician Gottlob Frege revolutionised logic, turning it into a discipline much like mathematics and capable of dealing with expressing and analysing nuanced arguments. His discoveries influenced the greatest mathematicians and philosophers of the twentieth century and considerably aided the development of the electronic computer. Today logic is a subtle system with applications in fields as diverse as mathematics, philosophy, linguistics and artificial intelligence.

A.C. Grayling
Professor of Philosophy at Birkbeck, University of London

Peter Millican
Gilbert Ryle Fellow in Philosophy at Hertford College at the University of Oxford

Rosanna Keefe
Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Sheffield.

The Cool Universe

Duration: 45 minutes
First broadcast: Thursday 06 May 2010

The Cool Universe is the name astronomers give to the matter between the stars.

These great clouds of dust and gas are not hot enough to be detected by optical telescopes.

But over the last few decades, they have increasingly become the focus of infrared telescopy.

Astronomers had long encountered dark, apparently starless patches in the night sky.

When they discovered that these were actually areas obscured by dust, they found a way to see through these vexing barriers, using infrared telescopes, to the light beyond.

However, more recently, the dust itself has become a source of fascination.

The picture now being revealed by infrared astronomy is of a universe that is dynamic.

In this dynamic universe, matter is recycled – and so the dust and gas of the Cool Universe play a vital role.

They are the material from which the stars are created, and into which they finally disintegrate, enriching the reservoir of cool matter from which new stars will eventually be formed.

As a result of the new research, we are now beginning to see first-hand the way our planet was formed when the solar system was born.

Carolin Crawford
Member of the Institute of Astronomy, and Fellow of Emmanuel College, at the University of Cambridge

Paul Murdin
Visiting Professor of Astronomy at Liverpool John Moores University’s Astronomy Research Institute

Michael Rowan-Robinson
Professor of Astrophysics at Imperial College, London


Duration: 45 minutes
First broadcast: Thursday 24 September 2009

Melvyn Bragg discusses the epic feud between Sir Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz over who invented an astonishingly powerful new mathematical tool – calculus. Both claimed to have conceived it independently, but the argument soon descended into a bitter battle over priority, plagiarism and philosophy.

Set against the backdrop of the Hanoverian succession to the English throne and the formation of the Royal Society, the fight pitted England against Europe, geometric notation against algebra. It was fundamental to the grounding of a mathematical system which is one of the keys to the modern world, allowing us to do everything from predicting the pressure building behind a dam to tracking the position of a space shuttle.

Melvyn is joined by Simon Schaffer, Professor of History of Science at the University of Cambridge and Fellow of Darwin College; Patricia Fara, Senior Tutor at Clare College, University of Cambridge; and Jackie Stedall, Departmental Lecturer in History of Mathematics at the University of Oxford.