Dawkins, Foster among guest lecturers at 2015 Sofia Science Festival

Written by on April 14, 2015 in Leisure - Comments Off on Dawkins, Foster among guest lecturers at 2015 Sofia Science Festival

World-renowned evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins and British neuroscientist Russell Foster are among the guest lecturers appearing at the 2015 Sofia Science Festival, being held from May 14 to 17.

This is the fifth consecutive year that the Sofia Science Festival is being held. Created in 2011 by the British Council and the Forum Democrit, and under the patronage of Bulgaria’s Ministry of Education and Science, the festival customarily attracts huge crowds of school pupils and adults to its fascinating lectures and displays.

High-profile foreign guest lecturers also are a tradition of the festival, and 2015 is no exception.

Dawkins, a best-selling author of numerous books and from 1995 to 2008 professor of Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University, will deliver a lecture entitled “Queerer than we can suppose”.

Taking the title from a quotation by biologist JBS Haldane, Dawkins will make a case for “thinking the improbable” by looking at how the human frame of reference limits our understanding of the universe. Dawkins’s lecture is on May 16 at 6.30pm at the main stage of Theatre Sofia in Zaimov (also known as Oborishte) Park in central Sofia.

Irish scientist Padraic Flood, post-doctoral fellow at the Max Planck Institute in Germany, takes on the potentially prickly theme of “why we need GMO products” in a lecture on May 16 at 12.30pm at the main stage.

Flood will argue that today’s technology for genetic modification is sufficiently advanced and safe, but also necessary for the survival of civilisation. The lecture, in English with Bulgarian translation, is being held in partnership with the embassy of Ireland in Sofia.

On May 15 at 8pm, there is one for the over-18s only: Simon Watt – a biologist, science communicator and head of the Ugly Animal Preservation Society – presenting a comedy night on the topic of frogs and people.

Watt holds that frogs are among the most amazing and bizarre creatures on the planet, some of them the most poisonous animals, some able to fly and some can even survive freezing. Studying their biology helped to create the first pregnancy tests, cloning technology, hallucinogenic drugs, medicines for cancer and new generations of antibiotics. The event will be in English with translation into Bulgarian, with tickets required for admission.

“Will the mouse eat the book?” is the title of Polish chemist Monika Koperska’s presentation on May 16 at 3pm at the Laboratory Stage. Koperska, who specialises in the field of cultural preservation, will address topics such as how museums deal with “enemies” such as light, moisture and oxygen, and the question of whether books will “live” longer than flash drives and discs. She is inviting attendees to bring along their favourite books – to check how many of those books will survive.

Russell Foster, head of the Nuffield Laboratory of Ophthalmology and the Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Institute at Oxford University, will speak on “light, clocks and sleep” in a lecture guaranteed to be anything but soporific, on May 16 at 8pm at the main stage. Foster will explain how light creates and regulates the 24-hour circadian rhythms and the finding that the human eye had a third class of photoreceptors for organic time.

In an event in partnership with the Cervantes Institute, the Spanish winner of FameLab 2013 and co-founder of the Big Van Theory, mathematician Eduardo Sáenz de Cabezón will speak on “large, huge and monstrous numbers” – billed as a surprising journey into the world of big, bigger and even bigger numbers. The event will be in English with translation into Bulgarian.

These events in English are selected from the festival’s extensive programme, which can be found in full in Bulgarian here. Further details about the Sofia Science Festival can be found on its Facebook page and at its website.

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