Tuesday 28 September 2021 at the Royal Institution, London - 7pm. Our understanding of the world around us is based on patterns – without them we would have to learn afresh every time we interacted with anything and there could be no science. A number of key patterns have had pivotal roles in unlocking the secrets of existence. In this talk, Brian will give an overview of the ten and explore five of these essentials: the cosmic microwave background, Feynman diagrams, the periodic table, number lines and the DNA double helix. From the origins of the universe to the mysteries of quantum physics, from the structure behind every chemical reaction to the foundations of mathematics and the practicalities of life, these patterns have shaped reality. Tickets £7 members, £10 concessions, £16 full from the Royal Institution website.
Live at 6pm on October 7 and on demand subsequently. Our understanding of the world around us is based on patterns – without them we would have to learn afresh every time we interacted with anything and there could be no science. A number of key patterns have had pivotal roles in unlocking the secrets of existence. In this talk, Brian will explore five of these essentials: the cosmic microwave background, Feynman diagrams, the periodic table, number lines and the DNA double helix. From the origins of the universe to the mysteries of quantum physics, from the structure behind every chemical reaction to the foundations of mathematics and the practicalities of life, these patterns have shaped reality. Tickets £13 (Earlybird) or available as part of the series price.
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Brian is available to give a range of talks aimed both at school children and adults with an interest in science. He has given these at schools, Cafe Scientifiques, science festivals, the Royal Institution, the British Library and Science Museum Dana Centre in London. Details below - just drop Brian an email at [email protected] to get more information.
Outside the UK? Brian is now available for Skype visits - email [email protected] for more information.
Pricing is £220 for a one hour talk plus questions (£250 if in the evening), £350 for a half day or £500 for a full day. Travel expenses and VAT extra. (Note these prices are for education/public events - see bottom of the page for corporate events.)
Talks - all ages from reception to adult
WRITE NOW – What does it take to make a book? What does being an author involve? A highly interactive range of workshops for all ages from a short session for Key Stage 1 to a half day or full day for sixth forms. These events explore what is involved in being a writer from obtaining the first idea to producing and distributing the book and making translations. There’s lots of activity and inspiration along the way. For adults there is a specific version on getting your non-fiction book published.
An introduction to matter, from basic atoms to quantum theory. How, for example, we can sit on a chair when both the person and the chair are mostly empty space. Gets in lots of basic physics, with practical demos, but coming at it from unexpected directions.
A fun introduction to what science is, what scientists do and how science is communicated. We recreate Newton’s rainbow, explore the different languages science is written about in and find out how a simple question like ‘How old are you?’ can have many answers, bringing in dinosaurs, exploding stars and the origins of the universe.
Time travel makes for wonderful science fiction, but in this talk, we take a trip with science writer Brian Clegg into the real world of time machines. Surprisingly, there is nothing in the laws of physics that prevents us from travelling through time. In fact, time travel is a natural consequence of relativity - though the reality is very different from the time machines of fiction. There is no other topic that captures the imagination so dramatically. From an exploration of the nature of time and why time travellers’ conventions don’t get many attendees to the revelation of our best time machine that has already been built, this talk shatters our illusions on the reality of time travel. Hear a recording of the How to Build a Time Machine talk, given as part of the Bath University external lecture programme:
Click here to play ->
Beginning by inventing our own number system based on goats, we explore the nature of mathematics - how it operates in its own world, and yet can have such a strong connection to our own. We see how apparently unreal concepts like imaginary numbers can have a huge input on practical science and engineering and ask if today's physicists are allowing mathematics to be too much in control. A rare opportunity to think about what maths actually is and what its impact has been.
In What Do You Think You Are?, Brian investigates what makes you the unique individual that you are. From the atomic level, through life itself to consciousness, genetics and personality, we explore how each aspect of you – your DNA, your memories, your flesh and bone – has come to be.
Full of fascinating true stories – featuring royal ancestors, stellar deaths, real-life hobbits and a self-reproducing crayfish, to name a few – this wide-ranging exploration of what makes you you is a one-of-a-kind voyage of (self) discovery.
Available from April 2020.
Quantum physics is fundamental to our understanding of the world around us. Everything from the atoms in your body to the photons in a beam of light are quantum particles, which act bizarrely by appearing to be in many places at the same time or passing through barriers as if they're not there. Not only is this the basis of all matter and light, now a huge amount of technology depends on it - a smartphone contains at least seven different quantum technologies - yet most of us know little about this amazing science and the remarkable stories of the development of quantum applications from lasers to superconductors.
Based on Brian's book about the origins of the universe and what came before it, this talk gives the audience a chance to explore the most popular question asked of the British Science Association - what came before the Big Bang. The event starts with the creation myths and explores how we first began to realize the scale of the universe. From there we see how the Big Bang theory came into being and how it isn't quite as certain as it is often portrayed, looking at the best of the current alternative theories. As the title suggest, we also consider that perennial question, if there was a Big Bang, what came before it... and discover that the answer could be nothing at all.
Data has been with us since we first made marks on clay tablets, but big data takes information technology - and its impact on our lives - to a whole new level. The combination of four key pieces of tech - the internet, advanced computers, smartphones and sophisticated algorithms that manage and interpret huge flows of data has made our systems worryingly powerful. In this engaging talk, Brian Clegg looks at how Netflix used big data to turn TV production on its head, why big data encourages airlines to overbook and how it enables unnervingly personal adverts to appear on our computers. Big data presents us with a huge opportunities… and challenges. It can make our lives better, from improvements in medical diagnosis to the benefits of a smart home, or it can ruin our lives where jobs are managed by algorithms and our finances are managed with no way of understanding how the decisions are made or appealing against them. Big data is here to stay - so we all need to understand it better.
In 2003, Russian physicists André Geim and Konstantin Novoselov found a way to produce graphene – the thinnest substance in the world – by using sticky tape to separate an atom-thick layer from a block of graphite. Their efforts would win the 2010 Nobel Prize for Physics, and now the applications of graphene and other ‘two-dimensional’ substances form a worldwide industry. Graphene is far stronger than steel, a far better conductor than any metal, and able to act as a molecular sieve to purify water. Electronic components made from graphene are a fraction the size of silicon microchips and can be both flexible and transparent, making it possible to build electronics into clothing, produce solar cells to fit any surface, or even create invisible temporary tattoos that monitor your health. Ultra-thin materials give us the next big step forward since the transistor revolutionised electronics. Get ready for the graphene revolution.
An enjoyable exploration of the science that you will experience on a plane journey, both in the flight itself and also in the view from your airplane window. From Newton’s laws to relativity, from fractals to cloud formation, there’s something fascinating every moment. Do you know why you can’t make a good cup of tea on a plane? Or that sat nav would be wrong by several kilometres in one day if they didn’t allow for relativity? All will be revealed.
Based on Brian's book The First Scientist and a debate he devised for the Royal Institution, this is an exploration of what science is. The talk hangs on key people who might be considered to be the first scientist - people like Archimedes, Roger Bacon, Leonardo da Vinci, Galileo and even Maxwell. But apart from giving some entertaining insights into these key characters in the development of science it's also an opportunity to explore the nature of science and why we do it. Optionally we can have a vote at the end to see who the audience believe was the first scientist.
Most of us struggle with memory. But in this fun, interactive talk with plenty of activities, there's a chance to learn a little about how memory works and try out some practical techniques that will help you remember people's names, numbers and lists of information. It's a talk you can't fail to remember.
Linked to Brian's book Ecologic, this talk/discussion looks at how our attitude to green issues from recycling and carbon footprints to Fairtrade and organic food tend to be influenced more by emotion than by logic. The talk provides students with a toolkit to take a more realistic, less black-and-white view of the environment.
Where did the idea of infinity come from? Who were the people who defined and refined this paradoxical quantity? Why is infinity, a concept we can never experience or truly grasp, at the heart of science? How can some infinities be bigger than others? An exploration of the most mind-boggling feature of maths and physics, this talk examines amazing paradoxes and the people who devised and refined the concept.
This fascinating exploration of probability, statistics and randomness explains how chaos and randomness are often behind the realities of everyday life. We learn how to toss a head ten times in a row, how to make predictions with impossible accuracy, why people volunteer to give up thousands of pounds for no good reason, and a recreate a game show that left the woman with the world's highest IQ being reviled by a whole list of academics... until they discovered she was right. The video below is of my Dice World talk at The John Rylands Library as part of the Manchester Science Festival, courtesy of the Royal Society.
Once, we sought absolutes, certainties, and facts to explain the world around us. But as science has developed, relativity has swept away many of those certainties, leaving only a handful of unchangeable essentials: absolute zero, nothingness, and light. As a result, is science better now and is it taking us closer to the essence of being human? By building a universe from scratch, we see the importance of relativity and frames of reference. From the essentials of space, stuff and time through life and human creativity, this exploration of relativity establishes humanity's place in the universe.
This is the story of a groundbreaking scientist, a great contributor to our understanding of the way the world works, and his duplicitous demon. Maxwell explained how we perceived colour. He uncovered the way gases behave. And, most significantly, he transformed the way physics itself was undertaken in his explanation of the interaction of electricity and magnetism, revealing the nature of light and laying the groundwork for everything from Einstein's special relativity to modern electronics. Along the way, he set up one of the most enduring challenges in physics, one that has taxed the best minds ever since. 'Maxwell's demon' is a tiny but thoroughly disruptive thought experiment that suggest the second law of thermodynamics, the law that governs the flow of time itself, can be broken. It's a great story, introducing some of the fundamentals of modern physics.
All the matter and light we can see in the universe makes up a trivial 5 per cent of everything. The rest is hidden. This could be the biggest puzzle that science has ever faced.
Brian tells the story of the discovery of the universe's secret matter and unexpected energy, and explores the many attempts to discover dark matter particles, the range of possibilities for what it is (including nothing at all), and the confusing nature of dark energy.
Let go of something - it falls. Of course it does. But why? Starting with this question we explore the weakest of the four forces of nature, yet the one that is responsible for the formation of stars and planets and the existence of life. What did people used to think gravity was? Why did Newton's contemporaries laugh at his ideas? How does general relativity explain that an apple falls because of a warp in time? Brought right up to date with a section on gravitational waves, their discovery and their significance.
Eadweard Muybridge was an eccentric Victorian photographer who produced the first high speed motion photographs, analysed the movement of animals and humans, devised the first motion picture projector and ran the first cinema. He travelled out from his birthplace of Kingston upon Thames to the wild world of 1870s California, where he murdered his wife's lover. It's a story packed with drama and fascinating technological developments.
Brian has been giving workshops on creativity and innovation for over 20 years, and thanks to his experience in having over 50 books published and writing for many newspapers and magazine, he has now extended this service to workshops on improving your writing skills. Creativity clients range from a small organic mattress manufacturer to the BBC, the Met Office, Sony, the Treasury and EWS Railways, while Brian has given a number of Guardian Masterclasses on science writing and gives writing workshops for business and organisations as part of Writing Project.
For more information on workshops, see the Creativity Unleashed website.
Bite-sized 1.5 hour events cost £800, half day £1400 and full day £2000 (discounts for schools, universities and charities). Travel expenses and VAT extra.