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From planetary exploration and micro-sensors to tropical disease and psychosis, two Royal Society Research Fellows discuss their work at the forefront of science. Lowe’s research at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine involves understanding how environmental and socio-economic factors interact to determine the risk of disease transmission. Modinos’ work at King’s College London attempts to understand the neural mechanisms of emotion and stress response in schizophrenia. Chaired by Hannah Critchlow.
The neuroscientist and writer explains how the mind works – from memory to emotion, navigation to creativity, through nine extraordinary case studies.
A majestic distillation of our current understanding of the birth of the universe, of the solar system, of the oceans, of mountains and minerals, of all life on earth and of the driving dynamics of human culture and achievement. Christian is a Distinguished Professor in History at Macquarie University in Australia and the co-founder, with Bill Gates, of The Big History Project.
Adam, an editor at Nature, explores the ground-breaking neuroscience of cognitive enhancement that is changing the way the brain and the mind works – to make it better, sharper, more focused and, yes, more intelligent. Sharing his own experiments with revolutionary smart drugs and electrical stimulation, he delves into the sinister history of intelligence tests, meets savants and brain hackers, and reveals how he boosted his own IQ to cheat his way into Mensa.
The author of The Compatibility Gene introduces the revolutionary new science of the immune system with its breakthrough medical cures. He discusses how stress, sleep and ageing affect our health. “As David Attenborough opens our goggling eyes to the natural world without, so Daniel Davis brings us face to face with the stunningly clever and, yes, beautiful world within” – Stephen Fry. Davis is Professor of Immunology at the University of Manchester.
Chaired by the Adam Rutherford, presenter of BBC Radio 4's Inside Science.
Dr Gallagher from the Department of Radiology at the University of Cambridge discusses the basis of MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), how it is currently used to image cancer and what the future of oncological imaging may entail.
A theologian and a neuroscientist explore the concept of consciousness: is it unique to humans? Are we all simply machines? Do we have free will? Can we invoke an enhanced collective consciousness? Bringing together findings from science and insights from religion they unpick what it means to be conscious. Williams is Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge and a former Archbishop of Canterbury. Critchlow is named as a British Council's Top 100 UK Scientists for her work in communication and author of Consciousness: A LadyBird Expert book, which will be launched at Hay.
What happens when you bring together two people at the top of their game but from different spheres? Shuckburgh is a climate scientist and deputy head of the Polar Oceans Team at the British Antarctic Survey. Haughton is a designer, author and illustrator of numerous publications including A Bit Lost, Oh No George! and Shh! We Have a Plan. They have collaborated to create an original piece of work that will explore the issues around polar science and climate change. The Trans.MISSION project was created to bring science and culture together with the aim of communicating cutting-edge science to new audiences through new methods. More information about the Trans.MISSION project can be found here.
AI is going to transform society over the next couple of decades, and we can’t wish it away. But can we ride the robot tiger and make it serve, rather than enslave, us? Can AI be a tool of liberation and sustainability, not just a scarily efficient way of making rich corporations richer, while robbing us of all our privacy? Do we need an ethical code for computers – a Hippocratic Oath for the algorithms? And if so, how do we go about creating one – and getting it adopted? Chaired by Writer and Green Futurist, Martin Wright.
Why can some people achieve greatness when others can't, no matter how hard they try? What are the secrets of long life and happiness? The New Scientist Managing Editor takes us on a tour of the peaks of human achievement. Drawing on interviews with a wide range of superhumans as well as those who study them, Hooper assesses the science of peak potential, reviewing the role of genetics alongside the famed 10,000 hours of practice.
Imagine a future in which humans fundamentally reshape the natural world using nanotechnology, synthetic biology, de-extinction and climate engineering. Emerging technologies promise to give us the power to take over some of nature’s most basic operations. It is not just that we are exiting the Holocene and entering the Anthropocene; it is that we are leaving behind the time in which planetary change is just the unintended consequence of unbridled industrialism. The philosophy professor argues that a world designed by engineers and technicians means the birth of the planet’s first Synthetic Age. Chaired by Gabrielle Walker.
“Anyone who is not shocked by quantum theory has not understood it.” Since Niels Bohr said this many years ago, quantum mechanics has only been getting more shocking. We now realise that it’s not really telling us that “weird” things happen out of sight, on the tiniest level, in the atomic world. Rather, we can now see that everything is quantum: our everyday world is simply what quantum becomes at the human scale. But if quantum mechanics is right, what seems obvious and right in our everyday world is built on foundations that don’t seems obvious or right – or even possible. The writer Philip Ball was formerly an editor at Nature.
If you’ve ever felt the shock of listening to a recording of your own voice, you realise how important your voice is to your personal identity. We judge others not just by their words but by the way they talk: their intonation, their pitch, their accent. The Professor of Acoustic Engineering explores the full range of our voice – how we speak and how we sing; how our vocal anatomy works; what happens when things go wrong and how technology enables us to imitate and manipulate the human voice.
Mary Shelley was brought up by her father in a house filled with radical thinkers, poets, philosophers and writers of the day. Aged 16, she eloped with Percy Bysshe Shelley, embarking on a relationship that was lived on the move across Britain and Europe, as she coped with debt, infidelity and the deaths of three children, before early widowhood changed her life for ever. Most astonishingly, it was while she was still a teenager that Mary composed her canonical novel Frankenstein, which was published exactly 200 years ago. In this fascinating dialogue with the past, Sampson sifts through letters, diaries and records to find the real woman behind the story.
The writer and doctor considers the transformations in mind and body that continue across the arc of human life. Some of these changes we have little choice about. We can’t avoid puberty, the menopause or our hair turning grey. Others may be welcome milestones along our path – a much-wanted pregnancy, a cancer cured or a long-awaited transition to another gender. We may find ourselves turning down dark paths, towards the cruel distortions of anorexia, or the shifting sands of memory loss. New technologies and medicine have unprecedented power to alter our lives, but that power has limitations.
The smart-machines revolution is re-shaping our lives and our societies. Shadbolt dispels terror, confusion and misconception. We are not about to be elbowed aside by a rebel army of super-intelligent robots of our own creation. We were using tools before we became homo sapiens, and will continue to control them. How we exercise that control – in our private lives, in employment, in politics – and make the best of the wonderful opportunities, will determine our collective future well-being. Shadbolt is one of the UK’s foremost computer scientists. He is a leading researcher in artificial intelligence, a Professor of Computer Science at the University of Oxford, and chairman of the Open Data Institute, which he co-founded with Tim Berners-Lee.
AIDS. Ebola. Bird flu. SARS. These and other epidemics have wiped out millions of lives and cost the global economy billions of dollars. Experts predict that the next big epidemic is just around the corner. But are we prepared for it? And could we actually prevent it? Somewhere out there, a super virus is boiling up in the bloodstream of a bird, bat, monkey or pig, preparing to jump to a human being. This as-yet-undetected germ has the potential to kill more than 300 million people. That risk makes the threat posed by a ground war, a massive climate event, or even the dropping of a nuclear bomb on a major city pale in comparison. But there is hope. The doctor and Harvard instructor explains the science and the politics of combatting epidemics and tells the stories of the heroes who’ve succeeded in their fights to stop the spread of illness and death.
A conversation about how her Quaker faith has informed the life and work of one of the world’s greatest scientists, celebrated for her discovery of pulsars when she was a postgraduate student in 1967, and now the Oxford Professor of Astrophysics.
What happens when you bring together two people at the top of their game but from different spheres? Ally Lewis is an atmospheric chemist and works for the National Centre for Atmospheric Science (NCAS) and the University of York. His main research focus is air pollution and how to detect chemicals in the atmosphere. Dan Binns is a Commercials director at Aardman, the multi-award-winning studio, creators of Wallace & Gromit. They have collaborated to create an original piece of work that will explore the issues around air pollution. Chaired by Andy Fryers
The Trans.MISSION project was created to bring science and culture together with the aim of communicating cutting-edge science to new audiences through new methods.
More information about the Trans.MISSION project can be found here.
We often joke that teenagers don’t have brains. For some reason, it’s socially acceptable to mock people in this stage of their lives. The need for intense friendships, the excessive risk taking and the development of many mental illnesses – depression, addiction, schizophrenia – begin during these formative years. Drawing upon cutting-edge research in her London laboratory, the neuroscientist explains what happens inside the adolescent brain, what her team’s experiments have revealed about our behaviour, and how we relate to each other and our environment as we go through this period of our lives. She shows that while adolescence is a period of vulnerability, it is also a time of enormous creativity – one that should be acknowledged, nurtured and celebrated. Chaired by Claire Armitstead.