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Universities plan boundary-pushing science festival

The University of Sussex and the University of Brighton have put forward a boundary-pushing programme for the British Science Festival 2017 this September.

The two institutions have filled the first 40 events as co-hosts of the festival, following an open call across both universities that saw more than 100 academics from across schools and faculties submit proposals.

The Festival organisers will now fill the remaining 80 event slots with the best new science from across the rest of the UK.

The University of Sussex will draw on its founding spirit of reaching beyond traditional subject boundaries, with eight of its 11 schools of study represented across 20 events, spanning science, social science and arts and humanities.

World-leading psychologists will entertain Festival-goers with the latest insights into our brains and behaviours, including how a strange phenomenon called synaesthesia could help the blind, the contagious behaviour of crowds, and why we are so bad at judging how much alcohol we are drinking.

The natural world, from bees to sustainable food, will be celebrated alongside pioneering new technologies, including devices that communicate using smell, next-generation wearables and one of the biggest devices in the world – the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland.

And, for those after something a bit different, music lovers can take on Orchestra Hero, a classical spin on the popular rock-band game, delve into the sociology of fun, or learn how to spot a liar.

The University of Brighton’s varied programme will cover everything from birth to old age and everything in between reflecting the breadth of the university’s practice-based and collaborative research and teaching.

Leading academics will take an accessible and engaging look at the impact of human genome research on personal privacy, the myths and truths about food allergies and delve into the depths of mega tsunamis.

Those with an inquiring mind will learn how simple visualisation techniques are helping to solve complex questions, explore new ways to take a breath of fresh air and find out how digital networks are transforming creativity and the sharing of experiences.

More adventurous Festival-goers will be able to take a bike tour around Brighton as they learn how science has shaped the development of cycling, use virtual reality to see into the past at Birling Gap and uncover the facts behind the fiction at a special viewing of Jurassic Park..

Professor Michael Davies, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) at the University of Sussex, said: “Brighton is a city that is always up for doing things differently, and we want this year’s British Science Festival to have that spirit.

“We want visitors to be surprised and delighted as we show them the extraordinary science being done on their doorstep.

“Some of the research we will be showcasing is not being done anywhere else in the world.”

Professor Andrew Lloyd, Dean of the College of Life, Health and Physical Sciences at the University of Brighton said: “This Festival is a fantastic opportunity for the people of Brighton and Hove to see first-hand some of the world-leading research taking place in the city’s two universities.

“The wonderfully diverse programme of events will entertain, engage and inform in equal measure and will help to further underline Brighton and Hove’s reputation as a city where great things happen.”

The Festival returns to Brighton this year for the first time in more than three decades.

The annual event – held this year from 5-9 September - is one of Europe’s leading and longest-established science festivals and was last held in the city in 1983.

First held (as the inaugural and then annual meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science) in 1831, the Festival has been the stage for many iconic moments in history – such as the famous debate on Darwin’s then-controversial theory of evolution between Thomas Huxley and the Bishop of Oxford in 1860. It also saw the first use of the word ‘scientist’, in 1834.

More information on the full schedule of events will be released by the British Science Festival in late June.

By: James Hakner
Last updated: Tuesday, 7 March 2017