#BrainFood brings you the best shows on TV and radio, science apps and books to activate your mind, and fun events to visit. This week – the secrets of Silicon Valley, hands-on at Kew Gardens, and the predictability (or otherwise) of evolution.
Kew Gardens, London, 4-6 August, included in standard admission price
This weekend, London’s Kew Gardens is hosting its annual science festival for budding botanists, featuring expert talks, behind-the-scenes tours and hands-on activities. There’ll be opportunities to extract DNA from vegetables, clone a cauliflower, try out plant dyes, meet Charles Darwin, and make your own herbarium from pressed plants. Click here for the full programme.
BBC Radio 4, Wed 9 August, 9:00-9:30pm
Just like our fingerprints, recordings of the human voice can be used to identify and catch criminals. Impressionist Rory Bremner looks at the growing field of ‘forensic phonetics’, asking just how unique our voices are, and whether the automated systems designed to recognise them are as accurate as we like to think. Can he fool them with an impression of Trump…?
Jonathan Losos, Allen Lane, £20
How predictable is evolution? That’s the question that Harvard biologist Jonathan Losos sets out to answer in his new book. Wherever you look, animals have evolved similar features to help them survive – think the wings of birds and bats, or the eyes of vertebrates and octopuses. Losos asks what this ‘convergent evolution’ can tell us about the inevitability of life on Earth, and whether life on other planets is likely to follow similar patterns.
Read our interview with Jonathan Losos here.
BBC Two, Sun 6 August, 8:00-9:00pm
Silicon Valley promises us a brighter future, but what lurks behind its glittering facades? Journalist and tech blogger Jamie Bartlett heads to the States to find out. Along the way, he rides shotgun in an automated truck, meets an AI pioneer who is replacing doctors with software, and visits the remote island hideout of a former Facebook executive, who believes that the new industrial revolution could lead to social breakdown.
iOS (Android version in development), Fieldguide, free
Wondering what that fuzzy, winged creature is that’s just landed on your windowsill? LepSnap is a field guide that uses the power of the crowd to identify pictures of moths and butterflies (collectively called Lepidoptera). LepSnap will suggest possible species for your photo, and allow other community members to verify or correct the identification. The algorithm is continually being trained, with the hope that it’ll eventually be able to recognise all 175,000+ species worldwide.