A Podcast by the Oxford/Berlin Research Partnership, in which researchers from Berlin and Oxford look at the great challenges of our time.
With boundless curiosity, researchers from Berlin and Oxford look at the great challenges of our time. In this podcast, they talk about their work, about small and large projects that cross borders and open up new insights into our world. Not only in Europe, but globally. What can robots learn from parrots? How do we prepare for the next pandemic? And, most importantly, how can we answer all these questions together?
BE:CURIOUS goes on a journey in which researchers in Oxford and Berlin jointly confront the challenges and issues of our time.
BE:CURIOUS is the joint podcast of the University of Oxford and the Berlin University Alliance. Insights and deep dives into complex topics, made for all who are fascinated by their environment and want to learn more about other worlds.
Finding the Words: Poetry and The Art of Translation
Durs Grünbein, German poet and essayist, born in Dresden in 1962
Prof. Karen Leeder, British writer and translator. She is Schwarz Taylor Chair of the German Language and Literature, University of Oxford
Poetry, in its attempt to take the ineffable things of life and put them into words, is an incredibly subtle form of language use. Which means that translating a poem between languages is anything but straightforward. In today’s episode, we talk to two minds about the art of doing just that. Born in East Germany in 1962, Durs Grünbein is one of the most prominent German poets of his generation. Known for often dealing with political matters in his work, Grünbein has published more than thirty books of poetry and prose. Karen Leeder, who is currently a BUA/Oxford Einstein Visiting Fellow, is a professor of modern German literature at Oxford University and has translated several of Durs' poetry collections into English. In a wide-ranging conversation, we discuss poetry, politics, and the delicate art of translation.
Faith in our Planet – How religious groups have become key to solving our environmental crisi
Dr Séverine Deneulin, Director of International Development at the Laudato Si’ Research Institute and Associate Fellow at the Oxford Department of International Development
Dr Philipp Öhlmann, Head of the Research Programme on Religious Communities and Sustainable Development, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
For those who believe, religious belief is something that impacts all aspects of life, including how one views the environment. But how has religious belief shaped modern views toward sustainability? And in this time of multiple environmental crises, could religion play a role in potentially solving them?
That’s what my two guests today Philipp Öhlmann and Severine Deneulin have been looking at in their joint research project funded by the Oxford Berlin Research Partnership.
Philipp Öhlmann is a researcher based at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin and researches questions of religion and sustainability, with a focus on African Christianity. And Severine Deneulin is based at the University of Oxford where she has been working on the relationship between religion and development. We discuss how religious belief within Christianity and Islam has impacted how we have come to treat the natural world, as well as influenced the modern move toward sustainability.
Going Green – How the Public Is Affecting the Coming Energy Transition
Dr. Jake Barnes, Environmental Change Institute at the University of Oxford, and Dr. Sabine Hielscher, Institut für ökologische Wirtschaftsforschung (IÖW)
Transitioning to a clean economy which relies on renewable, or carbon-free electricity generation is essential for avoiding the worst of climate change. But what role does the public play in this transformation, and what forms of participation do ordinary citizens have at their disposal to take part? That’s what Jake Barnes and Sabine Hielscher looked at in their joint research project called “Public Participation for Energy Transitions.” In our conversation about their seed-funded project, we discuss why public participation is valuable when it comes to the current energy transition, the myriad forms such participation can take, and the opportunities and challenges that may come from the current energy crisis facing Europe.
Understanding Security – what makes migrants and their host countries feel safe or unsafe in times of crises
Dr. Annette Idler, Director of the Global Security Programme and Senior Research Fellow at the University of Oxford’s Pembroke College and Blavatnik School of Government.
At any one moment, at least a few regions of the world are undergoing great social upheaval. From war and economic collapse to crime and pandemics. What follows are often large flows of people fleeing the situation. But this can also create dramatic changes in how people feel about their security, and not just in the home country itself, but also in the neighbouring countries that people flee to. How exactly citizens living through these situations react, and what influences their sense of security is something that Dr. Annette Idler, of the University of Oxford examines. In our conversation about her current project "Transitions and Social Cohesion in Context of Multiple Crises" which she is leading along with Freie Universität Berlin professor Sérgio Costa, we talk about what it really is that influences people's perceptions and experiences of security. And to what extent refugee flows and organized crime matter in the breakdown of social cohesion.
Circadian Rhythms – The Science and Treatment of Internal Clock Disorders
Prof. Dr. Achim Kramer, the head of Chronobiology at Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, and Russell Foster, a professor of sleep and circadian neuroscience at the University of Oxford, talk about their work on sleep cycles and the internal clock.
Our bodies are ruled by the daily solar cycle of the earth. But we also all have our own internal biological clocks, which more or less sync up to this daily rhythm. This internal clock is crucial not only for our patterns of sleeping and waking but for all kinds of activities which our bodies and cells undertake.
But if our internal clocks and that of the outside world are out of sync, then the consequences can be profound and come with serious health implications. This is particularly problematic for blind people whose circadian clocks aren’t kept synced to the outside world’s rhythms by exposure to sunlight.
Our two guests today, in a project supported by the Oxford/Berlin Research Partnership, are working on a new method to better measure and diagnose these disruptions to someone’s circadian rhythm; something which can then be used to resync the patient’s internal clock and improve their quality of life. They are Achim Kramer and Russell Foster. We learn about their work, and why these circadian rhythms are so vital to our health and happiness.
Investigating Intelligence – What Birds and AI Robots Can Teach Us About Learning
Oxford Professor Alex Kacelnik who specializes in animal behaviour, and Oliver Brock at the Technische Universität Berlin who is an expert in robotics and AI
You might not think that artificial intelligence has much to do with puzzle-solving parrots, but that's exactly what Alex Kacelnik and Oliver Brock combine in their envelope-pushing research.
Their research involves filming cockatoo parrots as they solve novel kinetic mechanical problems. This video is then analyzed and used to help create a robot powered by artificial intelligence that can solve similar problems. In the process, they're exploring some of the most fundamental questions about the nature of intelligence.
The Plunders of War - Uncovering the Dark Side of European Museum Collections
Dan Hicks is an archeology professor at the University of Oxford, Bénédicte Savoy is an art historian based at Technische Universtiät Berlin, and together they are working on a project funded by the Oxford Berlin Research Partnership.
From the British Museum in London to the new Humboldt Forum in Berlin, museums across Europe are filled with precious ancient artifacts sourced from around the world. But how those artifacts actually ended up in the collections of these museums is, more often than not, connected to stories of colonial conquest, war and violence – something that up until relatively recently was largely forgotten or ignored. But Dan Hicks and Bénédicte Savoy are hoping to change that.
The project is called The Restitution of Knowledge and aims to uncover, document, and share the knowledge of the unjust means by which many of these artifacts came to be sitting in European museums. They discus what their research has uncovered, what it means for museums, and what they think should happen to the objects that have been found to have been taken in illegitimate ways.
From Covid to Gentrification – Using Big Data to Help Wider Society
Fabian Braesemann and Fabian Stephany are both based at the Oxford Internet Institute, where they are research associates.
Every day through our computers and devices, a myriad of apps and services track our behaviour in precise detail. Most of this information is collected and analysed by companies that are trying to sell us things; whether it’s Amazon trying to sell us products, or Google looking to sell ads that are precisely targeted to us as individuals.
But could this wealth of data also be used in ways that actually benefit wider society? That’s what economists and data-scientists Fabian Braesemann and Fabian Stephany are hoping to do with DWG, a Berlin-based company that they are currently founding as a planned spinout from University of Oxford. The idea was born when the two founders applied for project funding to the OX/BER Research Partnership.
As the podcast explores, by combing data sets in novel ways DWG is able to shed new light on complex societal dynamics: from looking at the economic vulnerabilities from Covid, to finding ways of predicting gentrification. This information can then be used to help governments and organisations make better decisions.