The Anthill

Anthill 4: Fuel

Anthill 4: Fuel.

It’s not just cars and aeroplanes that need to take on fuel: our bodies and brains do too. So think of your summer holidays as a pit stop in your frantic year – a time to recharge the batteries.

It’s fuel – the stuff that makes both us and the world go round – that we’re focusing on in this fourth episode of The Anthill, a podcast from The Conversation UK.

It’s clear that some of us need to take on more fuel than others – especially those with dreams of being an Olympic champion. Dietitian Emma Kinrade explains what the world’s fastest man over 100m, Usain Bolt, needs to eat to reach his top speed. The amount of energy he uses up over in those 9.81 seconds might surprise you.

Usain Bolt: lean burn. EPA

If food fuels our muscles, it’s sleep that fuels our brains. But what happens if we don’t get enough of it? Sleep psychologist John Groeger and his colleagues have been depriving people of sleep to find out. They’ve discovered that some of us have genes than mean we need more of a lie in than others.

From calories to shut eye, we turn to the scientists around the world trying to find the latest super fuels. While some have made the case for the energy potential of left-over coffee grinds and human waste, thin air might be the real fuel of the future, as Jonathan Radcliffe and Peter Styring explain.

For now though, much of world’s economy still relies on fossil fuels. And for countries that are home to oil reserves, it can be a both blessing and a curse. As maritime security expert Lisa Otto tells us, a huge illicit economy has grown up around this black gold in Nigeria’s oil-rich Niger Delta.


The Anthill theme music is by Alex Grey for Melody Loops. Background music during the sleep segment was, Atlantean Twilight by Kevin MacLeod via Incompetech. Music during the Niger Delta segment was by the Barcelona Afrobeat International Orchestra. Sound effects by freesound.org.

A big thank you to City University London’s Department of Journalism for letting us use their studios.

This is the fourth episode of The Anthill. Click here to listen to our previous episodes, About time, Brexit and Rooting for Underdog.

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