French astrophysicist Françoise Combes and her remarkable discovery

Audio 18:25
Sound Kitchen Podcast
Sound Kitchen Podcast RFI

This week on The Sound Kitchen you’ll hear the answer to the question about French astrophysicist Françoise Combes. There’s some edifying information on how mountains are measured (didn’t you always want to know?), listener news, and music from The Sound Kitchen’s Producing Engineer, Erwan Rome. All that, and the new quiz question too! Just click on the “Audio” arrow above and enjoy!


Hello everyone! Welcome to The Sound Kitchen weekly podcast, published every Saturday – here on our website, or wherever you get your podcasts. You’ll hear the winners' names announced and the week’s quiz question, along with all the other ingredients you’ve grown accustomed to: your letters and essays, “On This Day”, quirky facts and news, interviews, and great music … so be sure and listen every week.

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Welcome to our new RFI Listeners Club members! All three are from Bangladesh: Taoseen Hasan from Narayanganj, Rashed Ahmed from Dhaka, and Sagar Mia, who is the president of the “Let's Go on the Right Path and Tell the Truth Radio Listener Club”, which I find a fine name! Mr Mia and his club are in Kishoreganj.

So glad you have joined us, Taoseen, Rashed, and Sagar!

You too can be a member of the RFI Listeners Club – just write to me at and tell me you want to join, and I’ll send you a membership number. It’s that easy. When you win a Sound Kitchen quiz as an RFI Listeners Club member, you receive a premium prize.

This week’s quiz: On 13 March, I asked you a question about the French astrophysicist Professor Françoise Combes, whom RFI English journalist Dhananjay Khadilikar interviewed earlier that week. Professor Combes won the CNRS Gold Medal for 2020, and last month she was named one of the five laureates of the L’Oréal-Unesco Women in Science Award for 2021.

In his interview, Dhananjay asked Professor Combes what she sees as the key milestones in her scientific career. What did she answer? That was your question – you were to write in with what French astrophysicist Professor Françoise Combes noted as one of the most significant findings in her career.

The answer is:  Professor Combes told Dhananjay that back in the ’80s: “We were discovering new organic molecules like acetone and alcohol. The existence of these molecules in the interstellar medium was a surprise.

And then we went on to discover these molecules in other galaxies, like Andromeda. We were the first to discover molecules of carbon monoxide in the Andromeda galaxy. Then it went further and further until the Big Bang. It’s fantastic that we could detect molecules more than 12 billion light-years away. These molecular clouds are cradles of stars, planets, and certainly of life.”

This finding by Professor Combes and her team was significant, to say the least, because the discovery of these molecules was the gateway to confirming the Big Bang theory, the leading explanation about how the universe began. At its simplest, it says the universe as we know it started with a small singularity, then inflated over the next 13.8 billion years to the cosmos that we know today.

The winners are:  RFI Listeners Club members Radhakrishna Pillai N from Kerala State, India; S Rakesh from Tamil Nadu, India; Zosna Rahman from Munshiganj, Bangladesh; Abdul Mannan Teacher from Sirajganj, also in Bangladesh, and listener Hayat Khan Sahta from Rajasthan, India.

Congratulations winners!

Here’s the music you heard on this week’s programme: “Take the A Train” by Billy Strayhorn and Duke Ellington, performed by Duke Ellington and his orchestra; “The Flight of the Bumblebee” by Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov; Themes from the film Close Encounters of the Third Kind by John Williams, performed by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by the composer, and “Sabroso guateque” by Aresnidio Sarmiento Camacho, performed by Tin’del Batey, Erwan Rome, tumbadoras.

Do you have a musical request? Send it to

This week’s question ... You'll have to listen to the show to participate. You have until 3 May to enter this week's quiz; the winners will be announced on the 8 May podcast. When you enter, be sure you send your postal address in with your answer, and if you have one, your RFI Listeners Club membership number.

Send your answers to:


Susan Owensby

RFI – The Sound Kitchen

80, rue Camille Desmoulins

92130 Issy-les-Moulineaux



By text … You can also send your quiz answers to The Sound Kitchen mobile phone. Dial your country’s international access code, or “ + ”, then 33 6 31 12 96 82. Don’t forget to include your mailing address in your text – and if you have one, your RFI Listeners Club membership number.

To find out how you can win a special Sound Kitchen prize, click here

To find out how you can become a member of the RFI Listeners Club, or to form your own official RFI Club, click here

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