Nineteen academics from a wide range of disciplines will take part in this year’s Cambridge Series of talks at the Hay Festival, one of the most prestigious literary festivals in the world.

We are excited for another year of talks and debates around the research and emerging ideas from Cambridge, which have global relevance and potential for world-changing impact

Ariel Retik

The Series is now an established feature of the Hay Festival and is now in its eleventh year. This year’s speakers include experts on the localised effects of climate change, combatting fake news, black holes, food security and the impact of dinosaurs on the British landscape.

The Series is part of the University of Cambridge’s commitment to public engagement. The Festival runs from 25th May to 2nd June and is now open for bookings.

Several speakers will address how experts navigate a world of fake news and artificial intelligence. Bill Sutherland, Miriam Rothschild Chair in Conservation Biology, will describe attempts to make global evidence available to all, improve the effectiveness of experts and change attitudes toward the use of evidence, especially in relation to conservation.  Sander van der Linden from the Cambridge Social Decision-Making Lab and Department of Psychology will speak about how we can counter fake news and whether we can inoculate the public against misinformation. His forthcoming book will investigate the psychology of trust and how to communicate about facts and evidence in a post-truth society. Rapid changes in the use of artificial intelligence and the social and ethical implications of these will be discussed by Adrian Weller, a senior research fellow in machine learning.

Other speakers will address how reading is being transformed in a digital age. Writer, editor and researcher Tyler Shores will explore reading in an age of digital distraction while literacy education expert Fiona Maine will speak about the potential of complex, ambiguous wordless picturebooks and short films as springboards for children’s critical and creative discussions about the world and how we live in it.

From the world of science speakers include Professor Nicole Soranzo on the evolution of human genetics and how new genetic evidence is being used to better understand the interplay between our DNA (‘nature’) and the environment (‘nurture’). Professor Christopher Reynolds will  describe how black holes stretch our understanding of space-time to the limits and power some of the most energetic phenomena in the Universe. Neuroscientist Professor Paul Fletcher will explain how different processes in the brain can lead to seemingly irrational decisions when it comes to what we eat. Dr Catherine Aitken will explore how life in the womb affects not only children’s lifelong health and well-being, but maybe even that of grandchildren.

Responses to climate change feature in several Cambridge Series sessions: climate change scientist Emily Shuckburgh will speak about her research on modelling localised effects of climate change and will also be in conversation with former Irish president Mary Robinson about climate justice. Another Cambridge Series session on female voices on climate change will see a panel of researchers talk about what kind of adaptations may be required as global warming increases and how we bring a broad range of the public on board, particularly with regard to the more complex issues around climate change. Speakers include Chandrika Nath, executive director of the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research, Professor Melody Clark from the British Antarctic Survey and two Gates Cambridge Scholars - Morgan Seag, co-chair of the international council of the Association of Polar Early Career Scientists, and anthropologist Ragnhild Freng Dale from the Scott Polar Research Institute and the Western Norway Research Institute.

Other sessions explore issues of identity. Professor Michael Kenny will take part in a panel discussion on Brexit and the politics of national identity in the UK with Welsh government minister Eluned Morgan and Adam Price, leader of Plaid Cymru, while economist Victoria Bateman will address the role of women in the economic rise of the West.  Her new book The Sex Factor - how women made the West rich argues that, far from the Industrial Revolution being all about male inventors and industrialists,  the everyday woman underpinned Britain’s – and the West’s - rise.

For those interested in the more distant past Anthony Shillito and Neil Davies will explore their research on how ancient creatures, from dinosaurs to giant millipedes, shaped the land around them and what secrets are held within their prehistoric footprints.  Martin Jones, Emeritus Professor of Archaeological Science at the University of Cambridge, will discuss the vital question of food security, showing how our prehistoric ancestors built resilience into their food supply and what we can learn from them.

Peter Florence, director of Hay Festival, said: "Cambridge University is home to some of the world's greatest thinkers, at the forefront of debate and exploration in the arts, sciences and global affairs. We're proud to open those ideas into conversations that resonate around the world from our field in Wales. Join us."

Ariel Retik, who oversees the Cambridge Series, said: “We are proud to continue our valued relationship with Hay. The Festival is a wonderful way of sharing with the public the research and learning that happens in Cambridge. We have found that Hay audiences are diverse, engaged and intellectually curious. They are an incredible cross-section of the public: from potential students and tourists, to journalists and policy-makers – everyone is represented. They are always interested in the research and, importantly, ask fantastic and challenging questions! We are excited for another year of talks and debates around the research and emerging ideas from Cambridge, which have global relevance and potential for world-changing impact."

Other University of Cambridge speakers at the Festival include Professor Martin Rees, neuroscientist Giles Yeo, author and lecturer Robert Macfarlane and neuroscientist Hannah Critchlow. Charlie Gilderdale, NRICH Project Secondary Coordinator, will once again be running maths masterclasses with Alison Eves from the Royal Institution.

Book tickets

Full line-up of the Cambridge Series

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