Why it takes guts to be a happy, healthy human

Shoreham Academy art students with University of Sussex Vice-Chancellor Michael Farthing and his artist brother Stephen Farthing

Are yoghurt and baked beans really good for you? Can tummy bugs be friendly bugs? Are we too squeaky clean these days for our own good?

All these questions and more will be covered in a special lecture by University of Sussex Vice-Chancellor Professor Michael Farthing for the Ropetackle Art in Life Science Festival this week (Tuesday 19 October).

Professor Farthing, who is also a renowned gastroenterologist (a medical specialist in the human digestive system) will take his audience on a virtual tour through the human gut, complete with battling bugs and gurgling sound effects).Professor Farthing is well known for his research into digestive disorders, including those related to diet, psychological factors and social conditions. His work includes studies of infectious disease in the Developing World.

Aided by art students from the Shoreham Academy, Professor Farthing's lecture - Gut Microbes and Man - will look at the science that links human digestive health not only to what we eat, but how we think and where and how we live.

The talk will also look at the close relationship humans have with all manner of bugs - some good, some bad - that live within the digestive tract.

Professor Farthing says: "The talk will feature bugs, worms, still and moving medical images, original work, drawings and paintings, while students from Shoreham will be adding a multimedia sound and picture setting, using pulsing rhythms - and the sounds of people's tummies."

He adds: "The alimentary tract is the only organ which is open at the top and bottom! It is directly exposed to harmful influences in the environment, such as infective organisms, poisons and other noxious chemicals and carcinogens. "

The audience will learn why some bugs and a little bit of dirt are good for you, why baked beans and yoghurt really are health foods and why social conditions and psychology also play a big part in digestive health.

Professor Farthing adds: "Pictures speak louder than words, so the work of pupils from Shoreham Academy is particularly welcome, as they can help to convey difficult ideas in a visually entertaining way."

Professor Farthing's brother, the celebrated artist and Royal Academician Stephen Farthing, who has an exhibition of his work opening at the Royal Academy, London, on 10 November, will be on hand on the night to provide a commentary on the featured art work and to argue the idea that art and science can learn much from each other.

The Ropetackle series of lectures is welcomed by Professor Farthing, who says: "I think it's important to improve and enhance the public understanding of science: it's vital for its future. We all have to understand the importance of enquiry and innovation if we are to help developing societies."

Notes for editors


Guts, Microbes and Man is sponsored by DMH Stallard. It takes place on Tuesday 19th October Doors 7pm; Start 7.30pm.Tickets £6.  Book here.

Stephen Farthing's exhibition, Back Story, opens at the Royal Academy, London, from 10 November to 19 December 2010.

University of Sussex Press office contacts: Maggie Clune, Jacqui Bealing and Daniëlle Treanor. Tel: 01273 678 888. Email: press@sussex.ac.uk

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Last updated: Tuesday, 19 October 2010