Hacking the Brain: What optical and auditory illusions can tell us about how the mind works

Our brain runs as an organic computer to allow us to see and hear the world around us. Optical illusions ‘hack the brain’ to disrupt this process and so allow us to understand how the brain works. With live demonstrations of a great variety of optical and auditory illusions, this talk will reveal the inner workings of the mind. Warning: you may begin to see the world in a whole new way!

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Sounds of the Cosmos

crabThey say that in space no one can hear you scream, but if you took your space helmet off on Mars they could certainly hear you scream your lungs out, quite literally! Any planet or moon with an atmosphere can transmit sound, and the universe is abuzz with radio emissions which really come alive when played as audio. Hear the surface of the sun ringing like a bell, the eerie whistle from Jupiter’s intense magnetic field, the pitter-patter of the rings of Saturn, and the rapid beat of pulsars. With plenty of astounding audio recordings, this talk will transport your ears to all corners of the universe and show you what space scientists can learn from the sounds of the cosmos!

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Space3DOur armada of robotic spacecraft have been giving us unrivalled close-up views of the other worlds in our solar system. We’ve snapped exquisitely detailed views of the Moon’s barren face, the rusty surface of Mars, and the myriad icy moons orbiting the bloated gas giant planets. These alien vistas, however, are very rarely seen in the glorious 3D that the latest generation of space probes are able to provide. So slip on your 3D glasses, and join Dr Lewis Dartnell as he takes you by the hand on a unique tour of our neighbouring worlds. Swoop along a deep river canyon on Mars, peer into a cavernous lunar lava tube, and experience the grainy texture of the surface rocks so realistic you can almost feel the grittiness. But most intriguingly, hear what space scientists can learn from the detailed 3D views about the exciting history of these alien landscapes and how they were formed. This is a tour of the solar system like you’ve never seen it!

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Alien Evolution

alien18necaAstrobiology encompasses research into the origins and limits of life on our own planet and where else this marvellous phenomenon might have emerged. On some worlds the conditions could be stable enough to allow life to progress beyond microbes. These alien plants and animals would be subject to the same physical constraints as life on Earth, and so certain features might be universal throughout the galaxy, whereas other alien features would have evolved as ingenious solutions for survival in environments very different to Earth. So what might an alien actually look like? Building on firm scientific foundations, where evolutionary biology, astrophysics and planetary science overlap, we’ll see just how plausible are the aliens that populate our sci-fi films and TV shows.

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A Scientist goes to the movies

There’s much more science in the cinema than you might have thought. Either subtly incorporated into the storyline or used explicitly as in sci-fi, science is woven into many popular films, but not all of it very convincingly! Which famous romantic comedy gets its teeth into the weirdness of quantum mechanics, and in which clangers are the laws of science apparently different in Hollywood from the rest of the Universe? Bring your popcorn and settle comfortably into your seat as we take a humorous look at some of the greatest Hits and Misses of science in the movies.

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Jobs with the Stars

BBC Stargazing Live
Lewis Dartnell – Astrobiologist
Each week more planets are being discovered orbiting distant stars and some of them could be capable of supporting life. If they do, what would it be like? That’s what Lewis hopes to discover.

BBC Sky at Night

The Sky at Night annual special show in 2010 was on the search for life beyond the Earth, and I was invited to head the programme to talk about my research and introduce all the diverse topics within astrobiology. I chatted with Sir Patrick Moore about everything from the origins of life on our world, to the possibility of aliens swarming deep beneath the rusty surface of Mars or high in the cloud decks of Venus, to humaity’s chances of ever meeting intelligent life in our galaxy. Watch the Sky at Night clip, originally televised in March 2010 [6 mins]:

I was invited back on to Sky at Night when Patrick was celebrating his milestone episode ‘700 Not Out’, along with special guests Brian Cox and Jon Culshaw. Watch a short clip of one of the questions I was asked:

I  also feel honoured to have appeared on the final episode of Sky at Night that Patrick himself presented, before sadly passing away in December 2012. I talked with Chris Lintott about the latest exoplanet discoveries.

My Tourist Guide to the Solar System

UK_MY_TOURISTSPACE_small_frontThis title contains everything you need to know for an out-of-this-world travel experience. “My Tourist Guide to the Solar System” brings you amazing digital artwork with fun facts to present space as you’ve never seen it before. Take a day trip to the planets and hike along the Mariner Valley on Mars and grab yourself a souvenir icy pebble from a flight through Saturn’s rings. Amazing illustrations and digital artworks will take you on a spellbinding tour of the planets, moons, and asteroids. This goes beyond the realm of regular space books – it’s out of this world.

[Get this on Amazon]

Microbes to Mars

Microbes_to_MarsRussian space scientists are currently locked in a race against time. The Fobos-Grunt space probe was launched successfully on Tuesday, but then failed to fire its own rocket engine to leave Earth orbit. The unmanned spacecraft is currently stranded just above our heads, and the rocket scientists have only a fortnight to successfully contact the stricken probe and fire its propulsion system before the batteries fail and it reenters the Earth’s atmosphere as an expensive shooting star.

Read full story on The Huffington Post website