Sussex lecturers explain life, the universe and everything

Praying or preying? Dr Peter Scott reveals the lives of insects such as this mantid at Brighton Science Festival

University of Sussex academics will be sharing their passion for science at the 2010 Brighton Science Festival, discoursing on life, the Universe – and Sudoku.

Sussex is well represented in the Festival, which showcases science to the public in informative and entertaining ways.

University lecturers will be introducing audiences to the secret lives of insects and plants, the wonders of Space, hands-on experiments with protein, a play about carbon and showing how business can learn from the organisational skills of ants.

Events throughout the week include: 

  • Alien Beetles: Biologist Dr Peter Scott explains the life cycle of and answers questions on a range of special insects, including weird wonders such as the giant Hercules beetle, at the Bright Sparks event during FAMILY FUN DAY, Saturday 13 February, at Hove Upper Park School, Nevill Road, Hove, from 10am to 5pm.           
  • Protein Pummelling: Dr Darren Thompson and fellow biochemists from the University will show visitors how find out which substance has more protein – cheese or shampoo – and offer the chance to play with all things protein-y in a hands-on protein-building workshop. Bright Sparks at FAMILY FUN DAY, Saturday 13 February, at Hove Upper Park School, Nevill Road, Hove, from 10am to 5pm. 
  • Do We Need Managers?: Professor Jonathan Bacon offers a thought-provoking breakfast lecture for business leaders when he draws on observations of bee and ant colonies to examine how societies – from ants to humans – interact management-free. 'Swarm intelligence' in ants emerges as a result of interactions between each ant and its neighbours. Much human activity is also management-free, the result of multiple interactions. Includes breakfast and networking. Inspirational Breakfast with Sussex Enterprise, Tuesday 23 February from 7.30am to 10am, at Arora International, Gatwick, Southgate Avenue, Crawley 
  • Unweaving the Rainbow: To mark the 20th anniversary of the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope, physicists share and explain breathtaking images of the cosmos, from the biggest bangs since the Big Bang, to the Big Bang itself. Speakers include Sussex scientists are studying the hottest stars and the coldest regions of Space, where the temperature drops to -270°C. Dr Darren Baskill, Dr Kathy Romer, Dr Seb Oliver and Dr Andrew Liddle are the guides, with images from the Hubble, Herschel and Planck space telescopes. Supported by the Institute of Physics. Wednesday 24 February at 7.30pm at the Sallis Benney Theatre, Grand Parade, Old Steine, Brighton.  
  • The 300 Million Years War: Another chance to hear Professor Sue Hartley deliver highlights from her Royal Society Christmas lectures for children, which were televised on Channel 4 at the end of 2009. She shows how seemingly passive, defenceless plants are anything but. Now it is the adults' turn to have some fun. BIG SCIENCE SATURDAY, Saturday 27 February at 4.45pm at the Sallis Benney Theatre, Old Steine, Brighton 
  • Mathematical magic: Dr Istvan Kiss and a team from the University of Sussex department of Mathematics will be offering all kinds of maths therapy in between talks on Big Science Saturday. Enjoy maths games, improve your number skills with a spot of Sudoku therapy, marvel at the maths in card tricks and solve the riddle of a real-life human knot! BIG SCIENCE SATURDAY, Saturday 27 February from 10am to 6pm, at the Sallis Benney Theatre, Old Steine, Brighton 
  • Elementary Carbon: Professor of Theoretical Chemistry Malcolm Heggie is the special guest star of a new piece entitled Elementary Carbon, devised by the critically-acclaimed company Organic Theatre. John Dean, Alex Bird, and Melanie Jordan immerse themselves in the microscopic world of carbon science and play with public perceptions of this awesome and controversial chemical element. Professor Heggie collaborated on the project and delivers a virtual lecture. Supported by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh. Saturday 27 February  at 7pm at The Nightingale Theatre, 29-30 Surrey Street (above the pub), Brighton 
  • Life, the Universe and Everything: A full day on one theme – the common link between all living things. Sussex scientists taking part will explore emergence: how order emerges from chaos and where humans fit in to the pattern. Each talk is followed by break-out sessions, led by experts, to explain and discuss the topics. University speakers include Dr Blay Whitby (Lecturer in Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence); Dr Paul Graham of the University’s Insect Navigation Group; and Professor of Apiculture Francis Ratnieks, who looks at the collective intelligence of ants and bees. Organised by Professor Jonathan Bacon. Sunday 28 February, 11am to 5.30pm at the Sallis Benney Theatre, Old Steine, Brighton. Full details for the day at Life the Universe and Everything

Dr Scott, who is taking part in the Family Fun Day, says: “The Brighton Science Festival is an excellent place to get children and adults thinking about the world around them and why things do what they do, and to rekindle some of our lost enthusiasm for science.”

Notes for Editors


Full details at Brighton Science Festival

For further details about the work of contributing scientists at the University of Sussex, contact the University of Sussex Press office.

Press Officers: Maggie Clune, Jacqui Bealing and Danielle Treanor. Tel: 01273 678 888 or email

Home page image: The Cats Eye Nebula seen by the Chandra X-ray and Hubble Space telescopes (Courtesy of NASA/CXC/SAO/STScI)

Last updated: Tuesday, 9 February 2010