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Even the most ordinary objects have extraordinary stories to tell. Explore the past, present and future of the everyday things in your home with host Nihal Arthanayake.

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About A Brief History of Stuff

The podcast is hosted by BBC Radio 5 Live’s Nihal Arthanayake and filled with fascinating stories about the ordinary objects around you.

Each episode explores the past, present and future of an everyday object in your home, from bath toys to sticky tape and vacuum cleaners to the microwave oven, revealing how they changed science—and our world.

Join Nihal, experts and enthusiasts—from air traffic controllers to beachcombers and our curators—to hear remarkable stories about the stuff around you, all inspired by incredible items from the Science Museum Group Collection.

If you’ve got an idea for a future episode or want to share your thoughts on our podcast, please contact us via Twitter (#ABriefHistoryOfStuff) or send us an email. To help others discover our podcast, we’d love it if you could rate A Brief History of Stuff wherever you listen to your podcasts.

EPISODES

Episode 1: Bath toys

Dive into the story of what happened when 30,000 bath toys washed overboard during a storm in 1992 and how these cute plastic critters helped scientists uncover the mysteries behind ocean currents.

In this episode, curator Alex Rose from the Science Museum reveals the epic ocean voyage take by ordinary bath toys, while beachcomber Tracey Williams shares stories of her interesting finds on the Cornish coast. You’ll hear stories of flotsam and the global beachcomber network and discover more about the ocean and the impact of our desire to consume ever more stuff.

Read the episode transcript

Episode 2: Sticky tape

The wonder material graphene can be found in any pencil, but for years scientists couldn’t isolate its incredibly thin layers. Listen along with our host Nihal Arthanayake to the story of how graphene’s layers were first peeled away and uncover how its remarkable properties might transform our world.

Andre Geim and Kostya Novoselov won the Nobel Prize in 2010 for isolating graphene at last, using little more than their curiosity and sticky tape.

In this episode, Science and Industry Museum curator Sarah Baines reveals how that everyday sticky tape, thinking outside the box and making a frog levitate helped scientists isolate the thinnest and strongest material ever discovered, while, luxury gift wrapper Rebekah Chol shares her advice on the best ways to wrap your gifts.

Read the transcript for episode 2

Find out more

Everyday Technology

From light bulbs to motorways and cups of tea to concrete, discover the extraordinary science stories behind familiar objects and technologies we encounter every day.

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