Friday, 25 August 2017

Radio Review: 25 August

A fascinating look at how to resurrect extinct species

Written by Louis Barfe
If a programme makes you sit in the car park of a large hardware chain store so you can hear it to the end, it’s fair to assume it is a hit. Thankfully, Ben Garrod’s Bone Stories (Radio 4, available on iPlayer) was only 15 minutes long, but the programme about the dodo had that precise effect.Louis-Barfe-colour-176

Garrod was looking into the possibility of recreating the extinct bird from the DNA of the surviving remains. Amazingly, Oxford University has a preserved head and foot, and Garrod noted that the skin looks very much like jerky. Could this unappetising dried meat product be enough to allow scientists to bring the dodo back?

Science writer Matt Ridley said that it would be a stretch, given how little survived and how much genome tinkering would be required. However, he added that de-extinction in the not-too-distant future was a possibility for better documented creatures such as the passenger pigeon. Genetic modification in food might be a terrible idea, but it clearly has its uses elsewhere.

Another delightful miniature that captivated me until the credits, this time when I was standing in the kitchen, was an episode of Life at Absolute Zero, Lynne Truss’s series about the fictional south coast town of Meridian Cliffs (Radio 4, available on iPlayer). The one that grabbed me, entitled Free Parking, ran the local football team’s unexpected victory against their local rivals against the sad story of one of its supporters losing his wife and realising he’s on his own.

The emotional gear changes were deftly and lightly handled, so while moved, I didn’t start weeping into the washing up. Also, very few writers read their own work well on the radio, but Truss is an exception. Her voice and timing suit the material perfectly.

Louis on Twitter: @AlanKelloggs or email: 

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