Episode 1 Bang Goes the Theory

Episode 1

Science series. Jem makes his own diamond and then proves they aren't forever, Dr Yan explains the science of popcorn and Dallas investigates why we haven't cured cancer yet.

Similar Content

Browse content similar to Episode 1. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!



On tonight's show, Jem discovers how diamonds are going to change


our world, and then, as only Jem can, he tries to make a diamond for


himself. Do I let it go further with the chances of bigger diamonds,


or do I quit now before I lose everything? And Dallas gets to


grips with a disease that affects one in three of us, cancer, and he


meets the team taking a crucial step in the race to find a cure.


Are we ever going to get zero people dying from breast cancer? Is


it going to happen in our lifetime? In my career. That's Bang Goes The


Theory, revealing your world with a bang. Hello, and welcome. Bang is


back, and for the next eight weeks we're going to bring you all the


latest scientific research, and we'll also be demo-ing the


technology that's about to change our lives, right here on BBC One.


That's right, we're going to be covering a huge range of topics,


everything from the nasty creatures that visit us in our beds, to how


to supercharge your memory so you'll never lose your keys or


forget a name. But first this, diamonds. They used to be a girl's


best friend. They still are, my love. Not if you're cutting through


concrete. Diamond-tipped cutting discs are very much a bloke's best


friend. But slicing stonework and looking pretty is a bit old hat.


It's all the other astonishing properties of diamond that make


them set to revolutionise things as diverse as hip replacements and


quantum computers. Diamonds, generally famous for three things,


being very beautiful, very expensive, and very, very hard. But


it turns out they also have a whole load of extraordinary properties.


Some of which we're only just discovering. I never knew that


diamonds could glow in the dark. This is just one of the properties


that mean diamonds are staying at the cutting edge of technology. So


what makes diamonds so special? Although they may look very


different, this is actually made of the same stuff as the graphite in


this pencil, and even the charcoal from a barbecue. They're all


basically carbon. Which means diamonds are probably not forever.


They'll burn, just like charcoal. So, with a blowtorch, the tiniest


high street diamond... And some liquid oxygen for encouragement, I


can easily cause a little diamond inferno. Pretty, but not the


cheapest fossil fuel. It's completely gone. It was a diamond,


it's now just carbon dioxide. So how can one form of carbon be so


different from the others? It's all down to the way its made. Atoms


tend to form bonds to bind to each other. Carbon likes to have four of


them, but it's only when all four are of the strongest type possible


that it becomes diamond. And that takes extreme pressure. Diamond is


essentially what you get when you With mere muscle power, I can't get


anywhere near the pressure I need to create a diamond. I need


something a bit more... LOUD BANG.


..Explosive. An explosion has enough pressure. But tends to fry


the diamonds as much as it makes them. You need a microscope to see


any that are left. Sustained pressure is what you want, but a


lot more than I can muster. To get yourself in the right ball-park,


you'd be looking at more like packing your carbon into a small


space, making it airtight... Heating it up to a few hundred


degrees, and then hoping it holds itself together whilst you park the


entire weight of the Titanic on that for a week. That's how natural


diamonds are formed, 100 or kilometres under the earth. But


there is an alternative to brute force. It turns out you can grow


diamonds right in the middle of a flame. Now, this torch burns a gas


called acetylene, which is made up of carbon and hydrogen. And under


some circumstances, not all the carbon gets burned and it comes off


as a kind of soot. By adjusting the amount of oxygen I feed into this


flame, I can control its temperature and exactly how much


unburnt carbon there is left. At this point, it's extremely hot. And


just there, in that light blue feather, the conditions are right


to grow a diamond. It's 2500 degrees in there, and inside that


flame there's all sorts of chemical chaos. All the time, different


carbon compounds are forming then burning away again. But if I get


the conditions just right, the hardest molecules will survive, the


diamonds. I really have no idea if this is going to work. But if


diamonds are going to grow, they'll grow right there, where the flame


meets the plate, and they're going to grow atom by atom, so it could


take quite a long time. As far as I know, no-one in Britain has ever


managed to do this, and I need to run it for hours before I even know


if it's working. You can actually see sparkly stuff heaping up,


albeit only slightly, in the middle of that metal plate. So far, this


has taken... Eight hours, seven hours? It's a long, long stint just


to get that. But the longer you leave it, it's like gambling. Do I


let it go further, with the chances of bigger diamonds, or do I quit


now before I lose everything? I don't want to quit now. I want to


keep it going. If I've got this right, those tiny crystals are


going to grow as layer after layer of carbon atoms are laid down,


forming lovely, sparkling diamonds. But only if I've got this exactly


right. These diamonds, if, in fact, they are diamonds, may be tiny, but


they are the start of something very big. Because it's only by


growing diamonds in this steady, controlled way that we stand a


chance of being able to take advantage of all their other


amazing properties, beyond just being very hard and very shiny. Now


I'm going to try and get these things out of here without


destroying them. It still shines, just with a blackened sheen. Now


what I need to do is take these little fellas somewhere where


somebody can tell me, for certain, whether we've made diamonds or not.


I so hope we have. Dr Mark Newton at Warwick University should know.


He's at the cutting edge of diamond research, and starts by showing me


a large bona-fide gemstone. There is a diamond, looks like a diamond,


it's cut and polished like a diamond. So if you pop that in your


machine, we'll be able to see exactly what it is we're hoping to


see off my diamond? Exactly. There is one very easy test, a technique


called Raman scattering. By shining a laser light on the sample and


looking at the light that's scattered back from the sample.


Diamond is really simple. There's one characteristic Raman frequency


at 1332, really nice diagnostic that the material we're looking at


is diamond. And if it comes out with the correct Raman frequency,


it is unequivocally diamond? Unequivocally diamond. All right,


let's see what the real thing looks like. OK, just pop it underneath


the microscope. You can see the diamond, you can see the nice sharp


edges underneath. Switch the laser on, set to run. There we go. A


really sharp peak, so sharp that it's just clipped off the top. Bang


on, that's diamond. So that's what I'm hoping for with this? Shall we


have a look? Yes. They're definitely sparkly. I think we may


be in danger of getting carried away here. Right. I'm not massively


heartened. OK, we can see we're sitting on top of the crystal,


laser on. Is this it now. This is it, the moment of truth. It is


diamond! Is it?! I'm flabbergasted! No way! I was about to say... That


is exactly the same peak! Oh, yes! I would've bet against that! You've


grown diamond! If you look down there, it's not bad. What's the


slope about? Your diamond has a much, much higher concentration of


impurities. Are they a bad thing? No, the impurities can change the


properties. They can change the optical properties so the diamonds


are different colours, you can get blue, brown, pink diamonds. But


also they can give very useful properties that you can exploit.


That's one of them! That means it's likely that not only have we made a


diamond, we've made thousands of them! This fella looks like, that's


a chunky-looking rock. There's a big one. If that's a diamond...


Switch the laser on and scan through to see if we have a diamond


Raman... And we do! Look at that! That's almost identical to the


calibration diamond! I'm glad I put that deposit down on a yacht now.


hope it's a very small yacht! on a sec, can we just pause for a


minute? You've just made a diamond from scratch?! Utterly impressive.


From nothing at all? That is amazing. It may well have been one


of my smaller builds, but atomically I couldn't be more proud.


It begs the question, though, if you can make a diamond from scratch,


why don't you turn the gas on a bit more and make a bloomin' big one,


then we can all retire? Ooh, yes, please! I'm slightly limited by my


flame size, but the size of the diamond is not the point. It's by


growing our own diamonds that we can make them more pure than nature.


Oh, interesting. I'm presuming you could also add certain impurities,


depending on the type of function you want that diamond to have?


That's exactly it. You add a bit of boron to the diamond, and suddenly


it conducts electricity. And you can even inject individual atoms in


there, and you're sort of halfway to a quantum computer. The more


we're discovering about diamonds, it's almost the more astonishing


and useful they're becoming. Yes, indeed. Moving on, as you know, the


ever-popular Dr Yan likes to get out and about, bringing science to


a place near you. And this week he's turned his attention to the


quintessential cinema snack popcorn. Salty or sweet? Salt. Sweet.


salt all the way. It's got to be salt. �76 million worth of the


stuff is eaten every year, but how exactly does corn turn into


It's one of our favourite movie snacks, but have you ever wondered


what makes popcorn pop? How to get from these hard kernels of corn to


this lovely, fluffy popcorn? It's absolutely amazing when you watch


it happen. Just look! That's brilliant! It's like a mini


It's not just luck that popcorn pops so well. It's actually a sub-


species of maize called Zea mays averta that's been selectively bred


to have ideal popping qualities. Firstly, a popcorn kernel has a


hard outer coating and it's much tougher and thicker than in the


other grains. And that makes each of these kernels act a bit like a


mini pressure cooker. As the temperature in there goes up and


gets to over 100 degrees, then the moisture inside tries to turn to


steam and expand. But of course it can't, because it's trapped inside.


As the temperature goes up, the pressure goes up, too. And when


that temperature gets to over 180 degrees or so, the pressure in


there is so high that the outer coating can't take it anymore, and


the popcorn literally explodes. Now, that tough, dry coating is


absolutely crucial. If it's got a split or a crack in it, like this


one, or if it's soft and wet, like these ones, then the pressure just


won't build up. The crack here, that just lets the steam out as


soon as it's formed. And the soft coat here, that makes the popcorn


pop too early. So instead of nice white, fluffy things like this, you


get this. It's only when everything's just right that you're


guaranteed the perfect pop. But the pop's only half the story. It


doesn't explain why we end up with nice fluffy, white stuff. For that,


we've got to look inside the kernel, so I'm going to cut one open and


show you. Now, the white bit at the bottom there, that's the embryo,


and that's what would grow if I planted it. What's important for


the pop is this yellow bit at top, and that's called the endosperm,


and it's full of starch. Starch is basically just lots of little


glucose molecules all joined together into long strands. And


those strands are really neatly packed together, a bit like this


spaghetti, forming orderly granules. But when you heat the popcorn


kernel, then that starch changes. Between about 65 and 80 degrees,


that compact structure starts to break apart. You end up with a


disordered mix of long, floppy strands, which get all tangled


together, leaving you with a thick, gloopy mess. It's the combination


of that gloopy starch and the high- pressure explosion which gives us


the perfect popcorn. You see, when the coat ruptures, then the high


pressure inside is suddenly released and the hot water in there


instantly turns to steam. And that makes it expand over 1000 times in


volume and stretches out that thick, gloopy starch into a mass of foamy


bubbles, which set to give us that perfect fluffy, white popcorn.


sorry, is Dr Yan looking even more showbiz this series, or is it just


me? He's looking good, he's gunning for Strictly, I reckon. Spray tan!


He does look a little slick, but that's not what struck me about the


film. What really shocked me was the horrific experience that these


little fellas go through on the way to becoming a popcorn. Those


boiling-liquid explosions are about as bad as it gets, and at the


temperatures Dr Yan was talking about, the steam pressure in here


would be getting on for five times what you'd get in a car tyre.


a lot. It's just nasty. It is, but please don't put that back in the


bowl - look at the state of your fingers! Does he ever wash his


hands? He's never washed his hands! Anyway, for the next eight weeks,


we're going to be setting you a little science-y brainteaser, and


this is the first one. They're courtesy of Dr Yan, of course.


We've got two airports here, A and B, and we've got a plane that's


making a round trip from A to B at constant air speed, with no wind


blowing in any direction. OK? With me so far? Trip two, however,


there's wind blowing from A to B. So, the plane is flying with wind


behind it, and then returning with wind against it. The question is,


is trip one shorter or faster or the same length as trip two? I know


the answer to this. Do you know the answer to this? I think I do,


anyway. Bonus question for both of you - any idea what kind of plane


that is? Little red one. You should know. It's a Hawk. Oh. I think


you've been in one of those. I've been in one. Yes, I've been in one


of those. It was black. If this had been black, I would have totally


recognised it. If you're stumped by this little brainteaser, Dr Yan


explains it very eloquently on our website. As always, it's /bang.


While you're there on the website, check out the dates and details of


our Bang live shows. We're across the UK this summer, so make sure


you book your free tickets at /bang. Yes, and we'll see you there at the


road shows. OK, up next, a word we all dread, it's a word we all fear,


and it's cancer, because one in three of us is going to get some


form of cancer. It really is something that affects all of us,


either directly or indirectly. My own sister is recovering from


breast cancer at the moment, and like all families, you feel like


you want to do something to help, go on a fun run, raise money for


charity. But it got me thinking, what actually happens to all that


money that we raise, particularly the money that goes into research?


Are we any closer to finding a cure? Before we get into that, what


actually is cancer? Very simply, it's when the cells in our body


start to behave abnormally, but how And just a quick word of warning -


there are scenes in this film that some of you might be a little bit


uncomfortable with. So, imagine for a moment that this tower is a cell,


OK? Each one of these blocks here is a cell process, so things like


controlling the rate of growth, knowing when to stop growing when


it's big enough or when to die when it's past its usefulness. The thing


is, each one of these cell processes is controlled by your


genes very, very tightly. Your genes are constantly undergoing


mutations or changes Which directly affects the cell processes that


they're controlling. These mutations can be caused by a whole


raft of things - things like smoking or drinking too much, or


staying out too long in the sun. Now, quite often, these mutations


can fix themselves, and everything's OK. But sometimes they


can be a lot more serious. Within our cells, there are six hallmark


processes Which lead to cancer. If you're very unlucky, damage to just


one of these processes could trigger cancer, but you'd have to


be really, really unlucky. But if that same cell accumulates more


mutations that damage more of these key hallmark processes, it becomes


more and more likely that that cell The trouble really comes when,


perhaps over many years, the cell accumulates all six of these


hallmark changes, and when the final cell process is damaged, then


that person is going to develop cancer. So, given that we know how


genetic mutations cause cancer, and that it's a problem affecting


around 13 million people every year, including my sister, I wonder why


doctors can't just fix it once and To answer that, I've come to see


James Flanagan, a research scientist who's already devoted a


decade of his life to beating breast cancer. Why don't we have a


cure yet? Why don't we have a cure for cancer? That's a tough question.


The obvious answer is that cancers are clever. Let's think about a


cancer cell, everything's gone wrong in that cancer cell.


cell? One cell, eventually something goes wrong. It turns into


a cancer cell. Yeah. And that cancer cell then divides - two


cancer cells, four cancer cells, and then it expands from there.


Each time it expands, because all sorts of weird things are going on


in that cell, different changes are happening to different parts of


that cell, so by the end, when you've got a large lump, all of


those cells are very different. When we've developed our therapies,


we've taken that lump and developed them based on the combination of


that entire lump. So we've got a therapy that targets the majority


of those cells. You might kill them all off, but there'll be some,


because of that evolutionary change, resistant to that therapy, for


instance. To make matters worse, cancer cells differ between


different individuals. That means James and his researchers have to


test their experimental treatments on huge numbers of real human


tumour samples. So, we want information that's consistent and


applicable to the general population. So if you study 100


tumours, there's no reason to think that what you discover in that 100


tumours is going to be applicable to 47,000 tumours, Which is what


happens every year. What you want to be doing is looking at as many


tumours as possible, to get the information as consistent as


possible. Up to now, getting hold of large numbers of samples has


been difficult, for a whole host of reasons, but a new initiative is


going to give researchers like James access to much-needed tissue.


Louise Jones is a pathologist who's helping to pioneer a brand-new


breast-cancer tissue bank. She works with tissue that's been taken


from cancer patients. Hi Louise, I've got the tissue from theatre.


Great, thanks. Before taking any samples for the bank, she carries


out a routine diagnosis. So, this is a fresh tissue sample from


somebody who's still in theatre? Exactly. So, what's the process


now? The first thing that we're going to do is paint the surface of


it. The reason that we do that is that it marks the margins, so if


any abnormality goes to the paint, then we know that that is too close


to the patient. So it's a marker? It's a marker, exactly. And so now,


what we have to do is actually cut it. Ugh, this is the bit where I


look away. What we're trying to ensure is that there's no tumour in


here that we would have to alert the surgeon to straightaway. How's


it looking? It looks completely normal. There's no evidence of a


tumour in it. So in terms of the tissue bank now, what's the next


step? We're still interested in keeping normal tissue in the tissue


bank, as a good control. So, what we're going to do now is select an


area that we can then freeze down. OK. So, we just dissect out and


area, and the idea is to freeze down very small pieces, because


they will freeze then very rapidly. And then, in fact, we actually put


it onto foil, just ordinary foil, because this allows us to freeze


multiple pieces simultaneously. So now, I'm going to just immerse


it into this liquid nitrogen that we've got here. Which is super cold.


So that's instantly freezing it. Absolutely, yeah. And then Sally


will transfer those pieces of tissue into small tubes, Which will


allow us to bank each piece of tissue separately for a long-term


storage. Right. Thankfully, this patient didn't have a tumour, but


more often than not, Louise receives samples Which do contain


cancerous tissue. Yesterday, we had a case, a specimen from a lady who


has got breast cancer. The yellow is the background fatty tissue, and


this is the tumour, Which you can see quite clearly. Very pale, round


tumour. Just looking at that, is that considered to be a large


tumour? This is a fairly large tumour, Which obviously means it's


possible for us to take additional tissue for research. At this point,


I was starting to feel uneasy, thinking about this patient, and,


indeed, my own sister's condition. And then we need to take our


specimens back to the tissue bank. OK, can we go and see the tissue


bank? Yes. Brilliant. The tissue bank is on another site, and Louise


routinely walks samples through the streets of London. It's housed in a


very unassuming building simply known as the cryo-shed. Oh, wow, it


really is a shed. This is the cryo- shed! When you said cryo-shed, I


didn't really believe the shed bit, but it's a shed. In this one small


building, tens of thousands of samples can be stored. Here we are.


It looks quite lo-tech. They're kept at a nippy minus 184 degrees,


and will only be defrosted when they're needed for vital research.


How important is the tissue bank, this facility? It's going to make a


difference because, ultimately, anything that makes a difference


has to be proven in tissue samples first, so availability of this kind


of tissue to researchers will make a difference. It seems amazing that


such a basic problem as not having enough tissue has been holding up


breast-cancer research. But according to James Flanagan,


something as simple as this could revolutionise his work. I think the


breast-cancer tissue bank will actually have a big impact because


of the numbers of samples that they're collecting. So what for you


personally is the goal? What's the endgame? For me, the research goal


is to end up where you get to a point where you can say nobody is


dying from breast cancer. Is that achievable? Are we ever going to


get zero people dying from breast cancer? I think so. In our


lifetime? I think so, in my career. You're a young man! I have a long


career ahead of me, hopefully, but hopefully within my career I'll be


able to say that we've actually taken the mortality rate down to


Jem makes his own diamond and then proves they aren't forever. Dr Yan explains the science of popcorn, and Dallas investigates why we haven't cured cancer yet, meeting the team that hope to change that.

Download Subtitles