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Can delusional beliefs and distorted memories have redeeming features? Psychologists have consistently found that we are more optimistic than is warranted by the evidence. This form of ‘unrealistic optimism’ leads to mild distortions of reality but it has been shown to contribute to good mental health, motivation and productivity. Bortolotti is Professor of Philosophy at University of Birmingham.
Two authors discuss how bereavement encouraged them to tell their own life stories against all the odds, in a society where men still often suffer silently. Historian and Professor Hywel Francis chairs Byw Nawr/Live Now, the end-of-life-care coalition in Wales. He talks to ex-miner George Brinley Evans and broadcaster Phil Steele. Taubert is a palliative and end-of-life-care consultant at Velindre Cancer Centre. They offer a clinical perspective on male depression and grief.
Among the bravest fighters for the Amazon rainforest are the Wampis people from Peru. They’re supported by the Size of Herefordshire, a local group, who are just back from visiting them and join us with photographs, films and stories.
What do we do when the going gets roughest, and what on earth can we say? Rev LT Col Feltham-White is an army chaplain who has dealt with the full psychological cost of war both on the frontline and behind it. Worden is a farmer and campaigner whose father made an attempt on his life after the family farm had to be sold. With wisdom, humour and insight, they talk about when and how to listen.
Many of us would like to lead healthier lives, so what stops us? The Director of the Behaviour and Health Research Unit explains why risk information doesn’t change our unhealthy behaviour. Chaired by Hugh Muir.
How and why do we survive, and what makes us unique? A conversation between a novelist and a scientist exploring the worlds they inhabit in Doctorow’s superb new speculative fiction Walkaway and Rutherford’s A Brief History of Everyone who Ever Lived: The Stories in Our Genes.
The Australian writer and thinker is often described as the world’s most influential living philosopher. He is known especially for his work on the ethics of our treatment of animals, for his controversial critique of the sanctity of life ethics in bioethics, and for his writing on the obligations of the affluent to aid those living in extreme poverty. His books include Animal Liberation, Practical Ethics, The Most Good You Can Do, The Life You Can Save, Famine, Affluence and Morality, and most recently Ethics in the Real World: 82 Brief Essays on Things That Matter. He talks to the Festival president.
What is it that helps both scorpions and cyclists to survive? What do raw eggs and gyroscopes have in common? And why does it matter? The physicist explores the patterns and connections that illustrate the grandest theories in the smallest everyday objects and experience, linking what makes popcorn pop to Antarctic winds, coffee stains to blood tests or ketchup bottles to aliens in space. Every thread you pull in the fabric of daily life shows you something new about the intricate patterns of our world.
The Director of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton replays and updates his predecessor, Abraham Flexner’s classic 1939 treatise, which describes a great paradox of scientific research: the search for answers to deep questions, motivated solely by curiosity and without concern for applications, often leads not only to the greatest scientific discoveries but also to the most revolutionary technological breakthroughs.
The historian tells the story of the three-in-one great cities of Byzantium, Constantinople and Istanbul, which has long been the gateway between East and West. Archaeologists have measured 42 layers of human inhabitation here on the Bosphorus over the past 6,000 years. It has been the capital of the Roman, Byzantine, Latin and Ottoman empires and, for many years, was known simply as The City.
Join the superstar neuroscientist on a voyage of conscious discovery. A 1.5 kg brain tissue mass magically produces our individual view of the world, our myriad emotions, memories, associations and thoughts that make each of our lives unique. Why are neuroscientists only able to properly probe consciousness now? And what are we yet to discover? Come with an open mind...
A connection with trees and woods helps people find inspiration, inner calm and mental balance. Author and journalist Tobias Jones and poet Zaffar Kunial are both featured in Arboreal, a Common Ground collection of woodland writing. They are joined by the illustrator Jackie Morris to discuss the role of trees and woods in finding inspiration and mental balance in our lives.
Bellaigue tells the forgotten stories of key figures and reformers of Islam’s past 200 years in The Islamic Enlightenment: The Modern Struggle Between Faith and Reason; from Egypt’s visionary ruler Muhammad Ali to brave radicals such as Iran’s first feminist Qurrat al-Ayn. Terror in France: The Rise of Jihad in the West by Gilles Kepel is the explosive account of the radicalisation of a segment of Muslim youth that led to the 2016 atrocities at Bataclan and in Nice, and of the failure of governments in France and across Europe to address it.
Recent developments in Artificial Intelligence and robotics demonstrate that we are aiming towards creating something that is ‘human-like’ in various ways. What sort of experiences should these beings have? And what does the answer to that question tell us about ourselves? Anthropologist Dr Beth Singler is Research Associate on the Human Identity in an age of Nearly-Human Machines project at the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion. Chaired by Daniel Davis.
Everyone has experience, and the deeper your experience of a given subject or area, the greater your expertise. In a culture that trumpets anti-intellectualism, how might we reconcile and re-present academic expertise and practical experience? Churchwell is professorial fellow in American literature and chair of public understanding of the humanities at the School of Advanced Study, University of London.
A crucial guide for parents and teens to the big issues of adolescence: from physical development, sexuality and sociability to cyberbullying and sexting. Professor Winston is the author of The Human Body, Superhuman, Walking with Cavemen and The Human Mind.
In the wake of Colombia’s 2016 Peace Agreement, which put an end to more than 60 years of civil war, the philosopher and law professor reimagines our understanding of conflict, of truth, reconciliation and justice. Guardiola-Rivera is the author of What if Latin America Ruled the World?, Story of a Death Foretold and the forthcoming A New Art of War. Chaired by Helena Kennedy.
A conversation about how their Quaker faith has informed the life and work of three writers: the actor Sheila Hancock’s books include the memoir Just Me and the novel Miss Carter’s War; award-winning poet Philip Gross’s collections include The Water Table, Deep Field and the forthcoming A Bright Acoustic; Tracy Chevalier’s novels include Girl With a Pearl Earring, At the Edge of the Orchard and now New Boy.
Whether the issue is violence, terrorism, women’s rights or slavery, Muslims are today expected to provide answers and to justify what Islam is – or is not. Here’s an introduction to the basics from the Professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies at St Antony’s College, Oxford. Chaired by Sarfraz Manzoor.
Taylor presents the newest research into the cause and cure of the life-changing neurodegenerative diseases, Alzheimer’s and dementia. She focuses on insights arising from the relatively new field of neuro-immunology: the increasing recognition of the important role of the immune system in the brain. Chaired by Rosie Boycott.
In a world of broken institutions and failing states, of corrupted democracies and of post-truth politicians; in a world of fake news, faith schools and fundamentalism, we need a rational and humane voice. We need a new Enlightenment. Where do we start?
Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz is a Professor of Mammalian Development and Stem Cell Biology. Her passion lies in understanding how cells decide their fate for the very first time and how embryos build their architecture. This passion allowed her and her team to reveal the remarkable self-organising properties of human embryos, pioneering the way for future studies of human and mouse embryogenesis. She created a technique that almost doubles the time scientists can culture human embryos in the lab so they can study the beginnings of human life. It raises ethical issues about research on embryos and when an embryo becomes a human. Chaired by Dan Davis.
Bragg’s novel is a hymn both to the landscape of Cumbria and to a disappearing farming world. Poetic, beautiful and tragic, it gives an account of the struggle to preserve traditions and beliefs in the face of change. It is a quietly bold indictment of the treatment of generations of British men, and an assertion of the power to be found in the rituals we pass down through our families. She talks to the poet, academic and former Archbishop of Canterbury.
How will health improvements and a declining birth rate, economic uncertainty and political turbulence affect an ageing population in Britain and around the world? There are new challenges here for states and for individuals. How might we re-imagine lives that run four score years and ten, and longer? Harper is Professor of Gerontology at Oxford University and Director of the Oxford Institute of Ageing. She is the author of How Population Change will Transform Our World. On 1 May she will be become the Director of The Royal Institution. Chaired by Guto Harri.
The philosopher and founder of The Empathy Museum unpacks the history, philosophy and modern-day applications of Carpe Diem while delivering a rousing call to action for anyone up for the daunting challenge of leading a meaningful life. He explores insights from the lives of seize-the-day pioneers including nightclub dancers, war photographers and committed revolutionaries, while drawing on everything from the neuropsychology of regret to medieval carnival rites.
Questions of masculinity have been at the heart of Sheers’ writing for 20 years, in his plays Mametz and The Two Worlds of Charlie F, in his fiction Resistance and I Saw A Man, and in his poetry – most clearly in Pink Mist. In 2012 he was also artist in residence with the Welsh Rugby Union. Here he interrogates ideas of masculinity in essay form, and reimagines a man’s world.
The global children’s charity introduces the world’s biggest campaign for girls’ rights. The founder of the Everyday Sexism project shares her story and talks about barriers facing girls today in the UK and around the world: from online trolling to period poverty and gender stereotypes. Join the conversation and explore what it means to be a girl today.
Krauss takes us on a tour of science and the brilliant personalities who shaped it, often against political and religious indoctrination, enduring persecution and ostracism. He explains our current understanding of nature and the struggle to construct, and then to understand the greatest theoretical edifice ever assembled: the Standard Model of Particle Physics. Krauss is the author of the classic A Universe From Nothing and The Physics of Star Trek.
The Fourth Revolution: How the Infosphere Is Reshaping Human Reality
As the boundaries between life online and offline break down, we become seamlessly connected to each other and surrounded by smart, responsive objects. We are all becoming integrated into an ‘infosphere’. Personas we adopt on social media, for example, feed into our real lives so that we begin to live in ‘onlife’. Following those led by Copernicus, Darwin and Freud, this metaphysical shift represents nothing less than a fourth revolution. Floridi is Professor of Philosophy and Ethics of Information at the University of Oxford. Chaired by Timandra Harkness.
How did the human mind – and the uniquely human ability to devise and transmit culture – evolve from its roots in animal behaviour? The truly unique characteristics of our species – such as our intelligence, language, teaching, and co-operation – are not adaptive responses to predators, disease or other external conditions. Rather, humans are creatures of their own making. The evolutionary biologist traces our rise from scavenger apes in pre-history to modern humans able to design iPhones, dance the tango and send astronauts into space.