Premonitions are impossible. But they come true all the time. What if you knew that something terrible was going to happen? What if you could share your vision? Could these forebodings help the world to prevent disasters? In 1966 John Barker, a dynamic psychiatrist working in an outdated British mental hospital, established the Premonitions Bureau to investigate these questions. He would find a network of hundreds of correspondents, from bank clerks to ballet teachers. Among them were two unnervingly gifted ‘percipients’. Together, the pair predicted plane crashes, assassinations and international incidents with uncanny accuracy. And then, they informed Barker of their most disturbing premonition: that he was about to die.
Sam Knight’s The Premonitions Bureau is an enthralling true story, of madness and wonder, science and the supernatural — a journey into the oddest corners of ‘60s Britain and the most powerful and unsettling reaches of the human mind. He talks to LBC radio host Matt Stadlen.
MacManus, aka DJ and broadcaster Annie Mac, discusses her new direction – a writing debut. A powerful coming of age novel and an intimate family study, Mother Mother examines the cost of unconditional love.
Mary McConnell grew up longing for information about the mother she never knew – who died suddenly when Mary was only a baby. Her brother Sean was barely old enough to remember, and their father numbed his pain with drink. Now thirty-five years old, Mary has lived in the same house her whole life. She’s never left Belfast. She has a son, TJ, who’s about to turn eighteen, and is itching to see more of the world. One Saturday morning, TJ wakes up to find his mother gone. He doesn’t know where – or why – but he’s the only one who can help find her.
Mother Mother takes us down the challenging road of Mary’s life, while following Joe’s increasingly desperate search for his mother, as he begins to understand what has led her to this point.
Join Helena Merriman (Creator of Tunnel 29 and Room 5) for a special recording of BBC Radio 4’s new series all about our minds and bodies – and what happens when they behave in ways we don’t understand.
Helena’s guest is Abi Morgan - the BAFTA and Emmy-award winning playwright and screenwriter whose credits include The Iron Lady, Suffragette, Sex Traffic, The Hour, Brick Lane and Shame. Abi Morgan is also the creator and writer of BBC drama, The Split.
Abi will be talking about her book - This is Not A Pity Memoir. One June morning, Abi came home to find the man she loved lying on the bathroom floor. Rushed to hospital, he was put into a coma and it was clear that life as they knew it would never be the same again.
From ghostly phantoms to UFOs, The Battersea Poltergeist’s Danny Robins investigates real-life stories of paranormal encounters with special guests paranormal experts Ciaran O'Keeffe and Evelyn Hollow.
It’s 2010. Staggeringly successful and brilliant tech entrepreneur Bix Bouton is desperate for a new idea. He’s forty, with four kids, and restless when he stumbles into a conversation with mostly Columbia professors, one of whom is experimenting with downloading or ‘externalising’ memory. Within a decade, Bix’s new technology, Own Your Unconscious – that allows you access to every memory you’ve ever had, and to share every memory in exchange for access to the memories of others – has seduced multitudes. But not everyone.
Egan spins out the consequences of Own Your Unconscious through the lives of multiple characters whose paths intersect over several decades. Intellectually dazzling and extraordinarily moving, The Candy House is a bold imagining of a world that is moments away. Egan explores the darker aspects of our technology-driven, image-saturated culture and the tenacity and transcendence of human longing for real connection, love, family, privacy and redemption.
Louise O’Neill’s Idol interrogates our relationship with the world of online influencers, asking how well we can ever really know those whose carefully curated profiles we follow online. Emma Gannon’s (Dis)Connected is a toolkit for people overwhelmed by digital overload, offering help to avoid being engulfed by algorithms.
Louise O’Neill writes for YA and adult readers and is author of Only Ever Yours, Asking For It, Almost Love, The Surface Breaks and After the Silence (Crime Novel of the Year at the Irish Book Awards). Emma Gannon is author of Ctrl Alt Delete: How I Grew Up Online and The Multi-Hyphen Method.
Are our brains hardwired to hate? Is social media to blame for an increase in hateful abuse? With hate on the rise, what can we do to turn the tide? Drawing on twenty years of pioneering research – as well as his own experience as a hate-crime victim – world renowned criminologist and Director of Cardiff University’s pioneering HateLab, Matthew Williams explores one of the pressing issues of our age. Surveying human behaviour across the globe and reaching back through time, from our tribal ancestors in prehistory to artificial intelligence in the twenty-first century, his The Science of Hate is a groundbreaking and surprising examination of the elusive ‘tipping point’ between prejudice and hate.
Human journeys into space fill us with wonder. But the thrill of space travel for astronauts comes at enormous expense and is fraught with peril. As our robot explorers grow more competent, governments and corporations must ask, does our desire to send astronauts to the Moon and Mars justify the cost and danger? Martin Rees believes that beyond low-Earth orbit, space exploration should proceed without humans.
The United Kingdom’s Astronomer Royal, Martin Rees was previously Professor of Astronomy and Director of the Institute of Astronomy at the University of Cambridge. His latest book, co-written with Donald Goldsmith, is The End of Astronauts. Professor Catherine Heymans is Astronomer Royal for Scotland.
Brazilian-born botanist Alexandre Antonelli is Director of Science of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, where he leads the work of over 300 scientists in a quest to protect and restore biodiversity. Founder of the Gothenburg Global Biodiversity Centre and a Cisneros Visiting Scholar at Harvard University, he is one of the world’s most highly cited scientists and has received numerous awards and prizes. His debut book The Hidden Universe: Adventures in Biodiversity is an exploration of the science, stories and wonders of biodiversity. He talks to journalist and editor Rosie Boycott.
Dr Leor Zmigrod, Research Fellow at the University of Cambridge, discusses how political neuroscience can increase our understanding of extremist behaviour and how to tackle it. Her research combines methods from experimental psychology, cognitive science, and neuroscience to investigate the psychology of ideological adherence and group identity formation. She focuses on investigating cognitive characteristics that might act as vulnerability factors for radicalisation and ideologically-motivated behaviour.
In his breathtakingly honest Memoir of Race, Identity, Breakdown and Recovery David Harewood reveals how investigating his own experience of psychosis and exploring stigma around mental health has given him the freedom to look at his life from a new perspective – one that throughout his acting career he had been unable to process until now, thirty years after the event.
When David was twenty-three, only two years out of drama school with a career starting to take flight, he had what he now understands to be a psychotic breakdown and ended up being sectioned under the Mental Health Act. He was physically detained by six police officers, sedated, then hospitalised and transferred to a locked ward.
Since making an award-winning documentary about his experiences for the BBC, David came to understand the extent to which his psychosis and subsequent treatment was rooted in race and racism. David talks to Stephen Fry about the statistics around mental health in the UK and how adversely the numbers are stacked against Black people.
Elizabeth Zott is a one-of-a-kind scientist in 1960s California whose career takes a detour when she becomes the unlikely star of a beloved TV cooking show. Her unusual approach to cooking (“combine one tablespoon acetic acid with a pinch of sodium chloride”) proves revolutionary. As it turns out, Elizabeth isn’t just teaching women to cook. She’s daring them to change the status quo. Debut writer Bonnie Garmus talks to Stephanie Merritt.
The Enigma Machine was an electro-mechanical device used in the mid-20th century to encrypt communications. An ingeniously simple and elegant combination of cogs, wires and lamps, all fitting into a portable case, it provided some of the strongest encryption possible at the time.
In this event Dr Reuben Binns recreates this important development in the history of computing through a project to build an Enigma machine using modern electronics components and digital design techniques. This is followed by a Q&A and a demonstration where you can see the home-made Enigma machine in action and have a go at encrypting and decrypting a message. Reuben Binns is Associate Professor of Human Centred Computing at the University of Oxford.
Loss and adversity are part of the human condition, but an imperfect past isn’t always an indicator of what’s to come. Often the people with the hardest beginnings in life – children who experience displacement, financial ruin, abandonment or bereavement – become the most high achieving adults. From world leaders to CEOs, actors to archbishops, Olympic sports stars to Nobel Prize-winning scientists, many have overcome immense challenges, tragedies and difficulties in early life before going on to achieve extraordinary success and fame.
Rachel Sylvester and Alice Thomson (What I Wish I’d Known When I Was Young) consider why this is and how the psychological impact of trauma propels people to strive harder, commit more fully and not give up. They bring together the latest psychological research with interviews with the likes of Marcus Rashford, Russell Brand, Brian Cox, Andy Murray, Lemn Sissay, Grayson Perry, Sajid Javid and Hilary Mantel, to help us better understand the art of resilience, motivation, perspective and courage.
Despite remarkable recent advances, Artificial Intelligence systems are still heavily task-focused, still obsessively following a (usually) single goal. Even Deep Learning has to be trained on very specific data for a given problem. But AI systems should be more perceptive, animated, and responsive – more like humans and less like computers, more social than machine-like, and more playful and less programmed.
A new developmental paradigm offers a way forward in which models of infant learning show how computers and robots can learn from their own experience, develop a sense of ‘self’ and eventually become great social conversationalists.
Imagining a new path towards human-centred technology, Mark Lee shows how this truly significant step-change in human-computer interactions will influence and shape all future digital technology. Lee is an Emeritus Professor of Computer Science who has researched AI and robotics for 40 years and is author of How to Grow a Robot: Developing Human-Friendly, Social AI.
How has humanity sought to harness the power of the sun, and what roles have literature, art, and culture played in imagining the possibilities of solar energy? Gregory Lynall explores the stories that have been told about solar power, from the Renaissance to the present day, how they have shaped developments in science and technology, and how they can help us think about solutions to the climate crisis. Lynall is Professor of English at Liverpool University and author of Imagining Solar Energy: The Power of the Sun in Literature, Science and Culture.
After the lecture, Gregory is joined by Jane Davidson, former director of the award-winning INSPIRE at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David, and Brycchan Carey, Professor of English Literature at Northumbria University, for discussion and Q&A.
Recent and dramatic breakthroughs in our understanding of the body will profoundly change the experience of being human in the coming century. Already they are opening up boundary-breaking possibilities for intervention at every level, from our brains and genes to our microbiomes and immune systems. These will confer unprecedented powers over health, childhood development, our cognitive and physical abilities, and affect every aspect of how we live our lives and think about ourselves.
The author of The Secret Body: How the New Science of the Human Body Is Changing the Way We Live shows how these radical possibilities have been made real – thanks to the decades long work of scientists whose breakthrough discoveries are transforming our understanding of how the body works, what it is capable of and how we might manipulate it.
Free access to information was once envisioned as a way to promote shared understanding and values. Yet at a time when we need to demonstrate the trustworthiness of science to our global community, endless divisions endanger critical vaccination programmes.
Our three presenters explore vaccine hesitancy from different disciplinary perspectives, demonstrating the challenges they face as researchers communicating new science. Of equal if not greater importance, they seek to engage the audience in discussion to understand how they can do better as researchers, practitioners and people. Thomas E Woolley is a Covid-19 modeller and Emma Yhnell a neuroscientist and science communicator, both at Cardiff University. Daniel Artus is a Postgrad Researcher into vaccine hesitancy at University College London.
Award-winning Irish neurologist Dr Suzanne O’Sullivan investigates psychosomatic disorders, travelling the world to visit communities suffering from these so-called mystery illnesses. From a derelict post-Soviet mining town in Kazakhstan to the Mosquito Coast of Nicaragua to the heart of the María Mountains in Colombia, O’Sullivan records the remarkable stories of syndromes related to her by people from all walks of life. She recounts these riveting and often distressing case studies to writer and journalist Oliver Balch as the syndromes continue to proliferate around the globe.