Ever Wondered? is the science show that takes you behind the scenes looking at what is being achieved at the forefront of cutting edge science and technology. Each episode takes you on a journey of discovery with some of the best scientific minds around the world. Topics include DNA, cancer, natural disasters, genetics, space, air pollution and the future of food.
Series 1 - Episodic Synopses
S1 E1 - Science's Impact on our Physical Performance
In this episode we are looking at how science is changing the way we look at physical endurance, and the discoveries that could change our future for the better. We meet a scientist who is developing world-leading research into the differences that carbohydrate fuel can make to football players, in particular the benefits of carbohydrates ingested during a game. These scientists are using technology trialled by NASA. The results are intriguing and lead us to an exciting discovery regarding how we’d previously view the way our body works.
S1 E2 - Air Pollution
In this episode we take you behind the scenes to look at what kiwi science is doing to tackle air pollution and the effects it is having on our health. The National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research - NIWA - uncover the main pollutants - the ‘dirty 5’ – and conclude the main offenders to be vehicle emissions and wood fires. We head out into the field to see what happens when science meets up with our urban transport systems by conducting a series of field tests to monitor varying pollution exposure on a particular travel route travelling by bike, bus, train and inside a baby stroller!
S1 E3 - The Future of Food
In this episode host John Watt takes us out of the cafes and kitchens and into the laboratory to discover how science is not only changing but also shaping the foods of the future. He travels up and down the country meeting scientists involved at the sharp end of food research and development. In the blender this week is a scientist developing an anti-anxiety mood-food beverage, an iconic kiwi ice cream company producing an extra special flavour, a bunch of over achieving blackcurrants, and a machine that prints techno-food to your exact personal tastes and nutritional requirements.
S1 E4 - What is Science is doing to predict Natural Disasters?
In this episode host John Watt tackles the titans of Mother Nature – the earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanoes that have shaped the very bedrock of New Zealand. Through a series of intelligent interviews, explosive field-testing and gritty archival footage we see what science is doing to demystify our biggest natural phenomena.
S1 E5 - Medical Technologies
In this episode host John Watt discovers just what the latest advances in science and technology are doing to assist unwell and infirm citizens. Ever Wondered? sheds light on an amazing technicolour breakthrough lead by a Father and Son team from Christchurch and on a flow cytometry suite in Wellington where lasers are used to excite fluorescent dyes in their quest to develop immune-based therapies for the treatment of a host of diseases. Back in Auckland we are introduced to ‘biomimetics’ where artificial muscles, soft machines and prosthetics are being used to imitate and assist our natural systems, and just up the road at an old folks home we stop in for a nice cup of tea where a bunch of helpful healthbots are hard at work.
S1 E6 - The Science of What We Wear
Through a series of insightful interviews and cleverly constructed field trials leading experts reveal just what the latest advances in science and technology are doing to aid and abet our burgeoning fashion and textile industries. Carpet designed specifically to assist the elderly, garments created to repel both fire and knives, highly desirable golden fleece that’s impervious to decay, environmentally sound fibreglass made using local, natural fibres – these are just a few of the areas scientist and host John Watt delves into during this weeks episode, and in doing so manages to head out for a surf, sit front row at a fashion show and get himself fleeced, burnt and stabbed!
S1 E7 - Space
In this weeks explosive episode we’re looking upwards, way, way up, beyond the clouds, the stars and our very own galaxy, into the wide blue yonder to unearth just what it is that we already know and what we are yet to discover about the science of space. The number of kiwis involved at the cutting edge of global astronomical research is impressive and something to be proud of. The potential of the international projects being undertaken in this country is mind-boggling, the possibilities limitless and the science, absolutely extraordinary.
S1 E8 - Man's Impact on the Atmospere
In this week’s enlightening episode we uncover the impact that humankind and industrialisation are having on our earth’s atmosphere. From the depths of the ocean to the stratospheric heights of the ozone, and from inside the bellies of our grazing stock to the emissions of our motor vehicles, maintaining safe levels of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere is an incredibly complex issue. As is the solution, but one from which it’s heartening to know that scientists are not shirking, and in fact, are at the forefront of endeavouring to solve.
S1 E9 - Mapping Biodiversity
After a couple of weeks of looking upwards in our quest for a greater scientific knowledge of our planet, this week we’re heading underground to discover what part paleontology and archaeology play in understanding just who we are as a country and where we might be heading in the future. As an island nation in the Pacific, we’re unique and biologically diverse due to a number of geologic, climatic and geographic variables. Through a series of enlightening interviews with some extraordinarily smart folks, we learn how these variables have affected our flora and fauna, and through the mapping of these changes in our past we are better able to predict what the future may hold.
S1 E10 - New Energy Tech & Alternative Energy Sources
The global demand for energy is ever increasing, however the ability to fairly meet this demand now and in the future is rapidly diminishing. This week we tackle the pressing issue of what we can do to break away from our dependence on imported liquid transport fuels. We find out what research scientists are doing in the field of new energy technology and what discoveries have been made in our search for alternative energy sources.
Series 2 - Episodic Synopses
S2 E1 - Brains
How much do we really know about the human brain and what’s new when it comes to treatments for brain disease? Scientist, tv host and our own guide to the human brain, John Watt introduces us to some key players in the world of brain research who are adopting some new innovative ways of looking at the human brain and developing treatments for Alzheimer’s Disease and Strokes.
S2 E2 - Virtual Worlds & 3D
How virtual worlds being created by our kiwi scientists are helping in our real world by revolutionising entertainment, medical research and sports? John catches up with just how virtual technology has developed since the 80’s and the days of clunky NASA headsets and cardboard 3D movie glasses.
S2 E3 - Cancer
How you make a more effective, less toxic anti cancer drug? PR509 is just such a new drug which has been designed to treat certain types of solid tumors by a team of scientists at The Auckland Cancer Society Research Centre. In effect the researchers have found cancer’s Achilles heel by targeting the very characteristics that define a cancer cell.
S2 E4 - Mysteries of The Deep
What lurks beneath our vast oceans that’s yet to be discovered? How many sea creatures are out there and what secrets and potential benefits do some of them have? John tries to get to the bottom of the mysteries of the deep and meets some newly discovered, alien-like sea life.
S2 E5 - Genetics
What role do genetics play in developing heart disease, Gout or even obesity? And is there a connection between depression and our DNA? When it comes to genetics many scientists and lay people alike have long discussed and debated the concept of nature versus nurture. So what is the answer, how much of us is our environment and how much lies deep in our cells, in our genes?
S2 E6 - Water
How New Zealand is placed for a drought or flood? Or how climate change is going to affect how much water we’ll have in the future? In New Zealand Agriculture accounts for about 81% of our water usage and is the life blood of our economy. So it’s vital that we stay one step ahead of the game and figure out what our water map looks like and how we can use our water more efficiently. Thanks to some clever, innovative kiwis and their cutting edge technology and gadgets we are doing just this. It’s debateable whether or not we are living in the age of Aquarius but one thing’s for sure water has never been so vital to the lives we lead.
S2 E7 - Bees
What we can learn from the humble honey bee? Well it appears a lot more than you’d expect, bees may help us get closer to understanding genetic links to obesity and diabetes and even unlock some of the mysteries of the human mind. So what role do we play in ensuring that our friends the bees will continue to be around to help pollinate the planet and propel us into new areas of scientific discovery?
S2 E8 - Mathematics
What science lies beneath the existence of a species, evolution itself or finding the best way to do something - Mathematics. Maths is a language, in it’s purest form it can provide endless riddles and puzzles to solve but it can also provide solutions and answers to some of life’s biggest questions. And in practical ways it can help us make the best possible choices. No flashy experiments or gadgets to see, math writes the blue prints that create our world and many would say is the unsung hero of the science world.
S2 E9 - Forensics
Ever wondered what kind of cutting edge research is happening in forensic science right? And just how the real life forensic scientists measure up to their tv counterparts? Dr. Michael Taylor gives John a crash course in Forensic Science and explains his own field of expertise, Backsplatter. Nardia Foote is a Masters student who works with Michael to try and understand the process of backsplatter relating to cranial gun shots. John catches up with Nardia at a firing range where she’s set up an experiment to try to find out what happens when a head is shot with different calibre guns. Using several different guns, some moulded gelatine and plastic casing- to simulate a head and a high speed camera Nardia sets to work recreating her very own crime scene.
S2 E10 - Chemistry
Chemistry is how science investigates what makes the world around us. It’s every piece of matter, every molecule. So how are our top Kiwi Scientists contributing to this vast pool of knowledge? Jeremy Warnes is trying to replace petro chemicals with Green Chemistry. One area they are focusing on is coming up with a more eco friendly alternative to Polystyrene. In one of the Scion labs John gets a crash course in how to make a polystyrene replacement using a bio-plastic made from corn. It may pop like pop corn but in almost every way it looks just like good old polystyrene.