Hay Festival

It asks how different the world would have been if you could have switched off all volcanoes at the dawn of human origins.

Dr Clive Oppenheimer, Reader in Volcanology and Remote Sensing in the Department of Geography, discussing his new book

The Cambridge series at the Hay Festival kicks off today with the first three of 18 speakers giving talks on the history of astronomy, colliding universes and how science is shedding new light on Christ's last days.

The series will showcase the huge breadth of subjects studied at the University, ranging from philosophy and volcanology to bird behaviour and global politics.

Today physicist professor Sir Colin Humphreys will begin the series with a talk on how science has been able to reconcile conflicting Gospel accounts of the Last Supper and Christ's final days.

His book, The Mystery of the Last Supper: Reconstructing the final days of Jesus, was published in April.

Mathematician Professor John Barrow will then speak about his book, “The Book of Universes”, an accessible guide to the vast array of potential universes.

Later in the evening, Dr Simon Mitton, a historian of astronomy, will examine Five Books That Changed Our View of the Universe.

This is the third consecutive year the University has been invited to field a series of speakers for the Festival, which is directed by Cambridge alumnus Peter Florence. Four of the Cambridge speakers will also be doing a live online Q & A with the public during the Festival, which runs from 26 May to 5 June.

The series' speakers include Dr Amrita Narlikar, director of the Centre for Rising Powers, who will argue the need for the decision-making process of global institutions such as the World Trade Organisation to adapt to a more pluralistic system. “The current system greatly delays the benefits of increasing diversification and creates a very polarised system which is not good if we value stability,” she says.

Her Centre, which held its inaugural lecture earlier this month, is committed to cutting-edge research, but with a view to informing and engaging with policy.

The series also features the latest in scientific research. For example, Dr Clive Oppenheimer, Reader in Volcanology and Remote Sensing in the Department of Geography, will discuss his new book, Eruptions that shook the world, which is published at the end of May.

It describes how volcanic eruptions have had a huge impact on world history – from the demise of the dinosaurs to the rise of fascism in Europe.

“It asks how different the world would have been if you could have switched off all volcanoes at the dawn of human origins,” he says.

The series is a spin-off of the University's highly successful Festival of Ideas and Science Festival and aims to encourage greater engagement between academic and the general public.

Four of the Cambridge speakers – The Reverend Dr John Polkinghorne, Dr Ulinka Rublack, Dr Ha-Joon Chang and Professor Michael Lamb - will be taking part in an online debate during the Festival.

Members of the public can go to the Q&A website at any time before or during the session and write in a question. Questions are stored in the system and answered by the author at the advertised time for half an hour. questions and answers go live on the website as the answers are written. The live written Q&A will remain available to read on the website .

For more details, go to: www.hayfestival.com and click on the Q & A portal on the home page.

Full details of the Cambridge at Hay speakers, their talks and the timetable of events can be found at https://www.admin.cam.ac.uk/offices/communications/community/hay.html.  The site will be updated regularly with blogs and vox pops during the Festival.


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