#61 A family reunion

Photo: Mark Harris Illustration: Eva F. Careers

Thijs Ettema, evolutionary biologist from Uppsala University, and the family tree of life.        Photo: Mark Harris                                                                                            Illustration: Eva F. Careers



The winter holiday season is often spent with family. Well, in this episode of RadioScience, we will do just that. Our intern Margarita Bartish has talked to Thijs Ettema, an evolutionary biologist from Uppsala University who did some searching in our family tree to dig up (literally) a tiny cousin we didn’t know we had. A cousin not just to you and me but to your cat and your house plant and in fact to everything you see around you that moves or grows or just has a nucleus in its cells. This cousin has a fascinating story to tell. Not only is he named after a god, but he also has answers about the very origins of life. Answers that can explain how you and me, your cat and your houseplant, came to exist. How our big, loud, diverse and messy family with the surname Eukaryota got started and who our parents could have been. It’s time we invited our cousin to our family reunion and listened to his story.

If you would like to know more Thijs’ research, visit his lab’s website or read the recent paper Thijs’ lab published about Loki and his Asgard siblings.

Music in this episode:

  • Thomas Dolby – She blinded me with science
  • Led Zeppelin – Immigrant song
  • David Bowie – Space oddity
  • Rebellion – Asgard

This episode was produced by RadioScience’s intern Margarita Bartish with financial support from Karolinska Institutets Career Service. Thanks!

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#33 Soccermatics – the science of football

UPPSALA 2013-12-20 David Sumpter, profesor i matematik vid Uppsala universitet. Foto Fredrik Funck / DN / TT / Kod 3505 ** SVD OUT **

David Sumpter, professor in mathematics at Uppsala University.
Photo: Fredrik Funck

”What could be more fun than writing a book that combined the hobby that I loved with the work that I loved? So I decided to write the book that combined football and maths. And what was first written as a sort of joke, became the introduction to Soccermatics.”

David Sumpter has two passions: mathematics and football. When he decided to write a popular science book he discovered that football is a very mathematical sport, maybe the most mathematical of them all. From the triangles created by playing a one-two to the geometry of formations, from the dynamics of passing to the synchronisation of defences. The strategies adopted by managers both to beat the opposition and to get their teams to work together.

Listen to David Sumpter when he explains that Barcelona’s dynamic movements are similar to the movement of fish schools, Bayern Munich’s defending is similar to hunting by lionesses, Dutch total football became more than the sum of its parts in the same way as ant colonies perform better when the ants co-operate and that a manager’s tactics evolve in the same way as birds behaviour does.

In this episode David Sumpter tells us more about his work with the book and how we can use the generated knowledge to create a better and more exciting game.

This episode is also available in Swedish.


41j2SXHBItLDavid Sumpter is professor in mathematics at Uppsala University and does research on collective animal behaviour, social dynamical systems and outreach and analytics. Nowadays he is even a football journalist, contributing to the Magazine FourFourTwo, the Telegraph and The Economist. He is on Twitter och his book is available here in English.





David’s choice of music in this episode – listen on Spotify:

  • Three Lions – Baddiel. Skinner & Lightning Seeds
  • Belle & Sebastian – The Boy with the Arab Strap
  • Robyn – Hang with me
  • The Ark – Calleth You, Cometh I

This episode was produced with the support of Formas, the Swedish research council for sustainable development, and Naturvetarna, the Swedish Assocation of Professional Scientists.