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Press release

  • 10 February 2009

University’s bright sparks light up Brighton science fest

Keeping an eye on the secret life of ants for the Brighton Science Festival

Keeping an eye on the secret life of ants for the Brighton Science Festival

Why do some people see numbers as colours? What do shampoo and cheese have in common? What's the day in the life of an ant like?

The answers to these questions and others can be found at a series of entertaining and informative public talks and demonstrations being given by scientists from the University of Sussex at this year's Brighton Science Festival (21-28 February 2009).

Academics from astrophysics, biology, energy policy, biochemistry and computing will be sharing their passion for science and demonstrating how it shapes our everyday lives.

  • The eight day festival kicks off with the Bright Sparks Family Fun Day on Saturday 21 February, where Sussex psychologists will show off futuristic interactive desks that 'talk back' to users. Meanwhile, Dr Peter Scott, Senior Lecturer in plant developmental biology, will be answering questions about stag beetles.
  • Next, the White Heat Family Fun Day (Sunday 22 February) includes a demonstration by the Department of Biochemistry on proteins found in shampoo and cheese, and a creative thinking workshop lead by Naser Sayma, Professor in Computational Fluid Dynamics.
  • Dr Jamie Ward, Reader in Psychology, will speak at a special one-off Café Scientifique event on Tuesday 24 February about his recent book The Frog who Croaked Blue: Synaesthesia and the Mixing of the Senses. For the price of a cup of coffee or glass of wine, visitors can explore this fascinating condition in which music can have colour, words can have taste, and time and numbers float through space.
  • Also on 24 February, Professor Gordon MacKerron, Director of SPRU - Science and Technology Policy Research, will join other UK energy experts in discussing the immediate climate change challenges facing the UK. The 'Too Hot to Handle' event at the Friend's Meeting House in Brighton city centre will focus on what the Government needs to do now to avoid catastrophe.
  • On Wednesday 25 February, Sussex psychologist Dr Julie Coultas talks at the Catalyst Club about Murphy's Law and conformity - explaining how "when people are told they can do what they want, they all do the same".
  • On Thursday 26 February, Lecturer in Education James Williams celebrates Charles Darwin's 200th birthday by challenging Creationism, Intelligent Design and the audience in what promises to be a lively discussion. The Physics and Astronomy department, meanwhile, will be looking to infinity and beyond with a demonstration of cosmic rays as part of the Big Space Show.
  • The festival concludes on 28 February with Big Science Saturday. Dr Peter Scott makes his second appearance of the week, talking about Darwin and flesh-eating plants, while biologist Professor Adam Eyre-Walker explores the very high rate of harmful mutation in humans. Finally, biologist Dr Paul Graham reveals the secrets of ant behaviour.

Speaking about the importance of science, Dr Peter Scott says: "Science is all around us, right under our noses. You don't need to be some egghead professor to begin to explore the world of science. The Brighton Science Festival is an excellent event for getting children and adults to think about the world around them and why things do what they do. Perhaps then the heroes of our future will be scientists rather than pop stars!"

Notes for editors

For full details of the Festival events listed above, and more, see Brighton_Science_Festival


For more information about science research at the University of Sussex, see Research


University of Sussex Press office contacts: Jacqui Bealing, Maggie Clune and Danïelle Treanor. Tel: 01273 678 888 or email


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