For Science!

Science! Going where no human has dared go before! Join us to hear just a few of these brave and intrepid explorers share their stories about the unknown, the unusual and the totally awesome. What will our relationships look like in twenty years' time? When will we be able to colonise space? And can mathematics really save us from the upcoming zombie apocalypse?

Future Sex: what will sex and relationships look like in twenty years? with Meg Barker
Legal Regulation of Robots, with Lilian Edwards
Brave New Worlds: exploring new planets, with Marek Kukula
Could Saturn's Moons Support Life? with Leah-Nani Alconcel
Diffusion Of The Dead: mathematically modelling the zombie apocalypse, with Thomas Woolley
Infrared Astronomy, and the Herschel Space Observatory, with David L Clements
Science Fact or Science Fiction? Exploring the science in classic sci-fi films, with Brendan Owens
Infosec 101: Pseudonymity, security, and risk on the internet, with Ian Peters


Future Sex: what will our sex and relationships look like in twenty years?

In this presentation, sex researcher and sex therapist Dr. Meg Barker considers four common current cultural understandings about sex: that it is vital to our identities and relationships that we are sexual; that our sexuality is all about our gender (man/woman) and the gender that we are attracted to (man/woman); that 'proper' sex is penis-in-vagina penetration leading to orgasm; and that it is very important to be sexually 'normal' and 'functional'. Meg locates many of the anxieties and difficulties that people currently have around sex in these assumptions, and suggests that much can be learnt - in each area - from people who are doing 'it' differently.

The presentation explores what future sex might look like which didn't regard sex as compulsory; which located sexuality in aspects other than gender; which was open to a diversity of sexual practices; and which drew lines around consent or pleasure rather than around normality. In each area Meg draws on the writings of members of online sexual communities as well as examples from sci-fi and fantasy fiction to offer potential expansions to our erotic imaginations. The presentation concludes by considering what asking these questions about sex might have to offer us on a much wider personal/political level, in terms of how we treat ourselves and other people.

Dr. Meg Barker is author of the 'Rewriting the Rules' book and blog and a committed activist, therapist, writer and academic. Meg has published extensively on sexual communities including bisexual, polyamorous and kink communities, as well as on authors of slash fiction and non-binary gender communities. They are the lead author of The Bisexuality Report, which informs UK policy and practice around bisexuality, the editor of the journal Psychology & Sexuality, and co-organiser of the Critical Sexology seminar series. Meg's work brings together psychological, sociological and therapeutic theories with Buddhist mindfulness and existential philosophy, but in a way that aims to be accessible to all. This presentation offers a preview of work which will be published as a book titled 'Re-Thinking Sex' next year.

Legal Regulation Of Robots

Robots are emerging from the pages of science fiction and screenshots of Hollywood movies into a world where they are already commonplace in industry, and will soon be equally so on the battlefield and in domestic and public environments like homes, hospitals, schools and shops; where driverless cars already roam Nevada albeit under human escort; and Japanese children, adults and elderly are comforted by robot seals, tele-avatars of their children and sexbots (as appropriate). Hard legal questions are emerging which need answers soon or better still, now, such as : Who is responsible for a robot? What happens to our privacy when robots share our homes? What do we when a robot kills or destroys property? Should robots fight our wars for us? Do we need Asimov's Three Laws in real life?

Lilian Edwards is a Professor of Internet Law at the University of Strathclyde and a frequent speaker on matters of popular culture and technology. In her public talks she adresses such topics as social media profiles after death, regulation of robots, Facebook privacy, online free speech and Wikileaks. She is co-editor of Law and the Internet, and co-organiser of the Gikii conference on pop tech.


Brave New Worlds

For centuries astronomers have gazed at the stars and wondered whether they, like our Sun, were accompanied by their own systems of orbiting planets. In the last twenty years that question has been decisively answered: we now know of literally hundreds of exoplanets and astronomers are finding more almost every day. Some of these newly-discovered worlds are turning out to be more varied and strange than we could ever have imagined, challenging our ideas of how planets form and evolve. But amongst these exciting Hot Jupiters, Lava Planets and Super Earths, the greatest prize of all may be just around the corner: habitable worlds which resemble our own planet.

Marek Kukula is Public Astronomer at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, where he helps to ensure that the Royal Observatory’s exhibitions, talks and planetarium shows accurately reflect the latest findings in astronomy, and helps to explain new discoveries in space to the public and press.

Could Saturn's moons support life?

The sixth planet in our solar system, the gas giant Saturn, has more than sixty moons. Most of them are cratered and rocky like our own Moon. However, two of them, Titan and Enceladus, have more in common with the Earth than you might expect. The Cassini spacecraft, which orbits Saturn, has been used to explore the features of these moons. Data from the spacecraft can be used to examine properties that life as we know it might need to survive in these moons' environments.

Magnetic fields are everywhere in our solar system, and are vital for protecting life on Earth. Distortions to magnetic fields can be detected at extremely low levels. Observing magnetic fields in space, therefore, can often produce results when other observations don't show significant changes. Significant discoveries at Saturn by Cassini have been made through measurement of the magnetic field, and these can be used to assess the habitability of Saturn's moons.

Dr Leah-Nani Alconcel has worked as a spacecraft engineer in the Physics department at Imperial College London for the past seven years. Our lab specializes in designing, building and providing post-launch support for magnetometer instruments on board planetary and space missions.

Diffusion Of The Dead: Mathematically Modelling the Zombie Apolocalypse

Knowing how long we have before we interact with a zombie could mean the difference between life, death and zombification. Here, we use diffusion to model the zombie population shuffling randomly over a one dimensional domain. This mathematical formulation allows us to derive exact and approximate interaction times, leading to conclusions on how best to delay the inevitable meeting. Interaction kinetics are added to the system and we consider under what conditions the system displays an infection wave. Using these conditions, we then develop strategies which allow the human race to survive their impending doom.

Thomas Woolley is a post-doctoral researcher of mathematical biology at the University of Oxford. Due to maths being his career he fully understands how esoteric it may seem to the outsider. Thus, in his spare time, he tries to entertain and educate people about serious mathematics through frivolous applications. One day he hopes that humans and zombies can live in peace together.


Infrared Astronomy, and the Herschel Space Observatory: two shorter talks by astronomer David L Clements

Seeing the Heat: An Introduction to Infrared Astronomy
We see different things when we observe the universe, and the everyday world, at different wavelengths. Using data from new generations of telescopes, including some of the largest on the ground and in space, as well as live demonstrations with a thermal imaging camera, Dave Clements will introduce the field, and highlight some successes and potential for the future.

The Herschel Space Observatory: The Largest Telescope in Space
The ESA Herschel Space Observatory is the largest astronomical telescope ever launched into space. It works in the far-infrared, which is a largely unexplored part of the electromagnetic spectrum, and has thus brought radical new insights into objects from our own solar system to the furthest depths of the universe. This talk will discuss the mission and present some of Herschel's greatest hits so far.

David L Clements works at Imperial College London on extragalactic astronomy and observational cosmology, using both ground and space based observatories. He has been involved with the ESA Herschel and Planck missions since 2001. He also writes hard SF, with publications in Analog, Nature Futures and a number of anthologies.

Science Fact or Science Fiction? Exploring the science in classic sci-fi films

Is it possible to travel through the fourth dimension? Are aliens out there? What would really happen if you took off your helmet in space? Brendan Owens, of The Royal Observatory Greenwich, is here to help answer these questions and more through a mash-up of the science behind the fiction in films including Back to the Future, War of the Worlds, Moon and much more! He’ll be putting these Sci-Fi classics, old and new, through their paces and divulging the secrets of time travel, interstellar travel and surviving the vacuum of space.

Brendan Owens is Astronomy Programmes Officer at the Royal Observatory Greenwich. As one of the astronomers at the Observatory, he presents planetarium shows, develops and presents schools workshops, looks after the operation of the largest lensed telescope in the UK and also frequently talks about science fact versus science fiction. He holds a B.Sc. in Physics and Astronomy and an M.Sc. in Science Communication both from Dublin City University and has worked on projects regarding Solar Physics.

Infosec 101: Pseudonymity, security, and risk on the internet

Humans are terrible at evaluating risk, especially when we rely on subjective 'gut' feelings, or pay too much attention to certain parts of the press. With the recent allegations of Snowden, hackers breaking into commonly used websites, and a slew of security issues on smartphones and computers - how afraid should you be, and is there anything you can do? In this presentation, Ian Peters will introduce some of the key concepts of Infosec (crypt, threat modelling, using your brain), explain how they can be used to think about what technical risk one has, and introduce assorted tools to allow users to reduce this risk to an acceptable level.

Ian Peters has been working in Infosec for 15 years. After initially working for the government, he joined the private sector and spent several years jet-setting around the world performing security reviews for a large range of clients. He now works in telecoms looking after security certifications.