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Public events


Science Festival, 9-22 March 2015

The theme of this year’s festival is “light”. Here's a selection of events relating to language. For the full programme, or to download the festival app, visit

Pre-book* via the website, or tel: 01223 766766


Tuesday 10 March


What your Facebook says about you

Mill Lane Lecture Rooms, Room 3, 8 Mill Lane, CB2 1RW

Discover from Dr Alex Kogan the insights that can be gleaned about people’s beliefs, values, and personalities from small bits of their Facebook data. Learn how these insights are beginning to transform the fundamental approach social scientists take to understanding human nature and societies.

Event: 28, Map: 30, Talk, Age 12+, Pre-book*


Wednesday 11 March


Science based approaches to early education: the case of rhythm and literacy

Anglia Ruskin University, East Road, CB1 1PT

Teaching programmes based on scientific research are gaining popularity in primary school classrooms. Tune Time is one example. In this Year 1 resource, children learn either a series of rhythmic rhymes or the same rhymes as songs. Our early indications are that children learning the spoken rhymes make the most progress in their early literacy skills. They are significantly above comparison children who receive no supplement to their normal classroom routine. In this talk the experimental evidence underpinning the Tune Time programme will be outlined. Wider implications in regards to the teaching of early literacy will also be discussed. 

Event: 32, Map: 1, Adults, Talk, Pre-book tel: 0845 196 5060,

email: or visit:


Thursday 12 March


The naked apes

CB2 Café, The Basement, 5-7 Norfolk Street, CB1 2LD

Two hairless comedians expose the naked truth of what it really means to be human (no nudity...promise). A comedy show that addresses the weighty themes of language, bipedalism, evolution and the future of our species with low, middle and high-brow jokes. Plus some dodgy props and a slide...

Pre-book, £5.50, Performance, Ages: Adults


Saturday 14 March


Enigma and the secret world of code breaking

Mill Lane Lecture Rooms, Room 3, 8 Mill Lane, CB2 1RW

For as long as we have had secrets we have had secret messages. Dr James Grime looks at the fascinating history and mathematics of codes and code breaking – from ancient Greece to the present day – including a demonstration of an original WWII Enigma machine!

Event: 57, Age 8+


12 noon-1.00pm

Ideas and languages: six more languages that changed the world 


Mill Lane Lecture Rooms, 8 Mill Lane, CB2 1RW

Languages shape human culture and human thought. Some languages have shaped our world more than others, some of them not as obvious as you might think. Professor Ian Roberts continues his tour of some of those languages after last year's successful talk.

Event: 130, Map: 27, Talk, Age 8+, Pre-book*



The language of light!

Mill Lane Lecture Rooms, Room 9, 8 Mill Lane, CB2 1RW

Come and find out why words that have to do with light are special in English and other languages! In this interactive session, we will explore what makes words like “glitter” and “blink” different from “chair” and “table”.

You'll find out how these words get their meaning, why “glow”, “gleam” and “glitter” all refer to light in English, but not other languages, and what this has to do with the way your dog barks.

We will have examples for words relating to light from English, German, Hungarian, and many other languages, so you'll have a great chance to learn some nice words from across the world and fun facts about the way languages work!

Event: 133, Map: 27, Workshop, Age 8+, Pre-book*


Tuesday 17 March

6.00-7.30 pm

Dementia research in Cambridge: from bench to bedside

Sanger Building, Biochemistry Lecture Theatre, Dept. of Biochemistry, 80 Tennis Court Road, CB2 1GA

Sponsored by Alzheimer’s Research UK

Dementia affects over 8,000 people in Cambridgeshire, but the region is also home to some of the world’s leading dementia researchers. Come along and hear short talks from a range of researchers using different techniques from stem cells to brain scans to understand what happens in the brain in dementia and find out what progress is being made to help those affected. Tea and coffee will be available from 5.30pm and the session will end with a Q&A discussion between the audience and the speakers on the panel.

Organisers: Dr Michael Coleman, Alzheimer’s Research UK (ARUK) Network Coordinator and Dr Laura Phipps, Science Communications Manager at Alzheimer’s Research UK, on behalf of the wider ARUK Network of researchers at the University.

What is dementia? - Dr Laura Phipps, Alzheimer’s Research UK
Using stem cells to recreate Alzheimer’s in the laboratory - Dr Tatyana Dias, Gurdon Institute
Understanding molecular highways to reveal clues to why nerve cells die in dementia -
Dr Michael Coleman, Babraham Institute
What brain scans can reveal about how memories are formed and lost - Dr Michael Hornberger, Department of Clinical Neurosciences
Clinical dementia research in Cambridge and how you can get involved
Q&A with the audience.

Event 169, Map 14, Talk, Age 15+, Pre-book*


Wednesday 18 March

6.00-8.30 pm

Exploring mind and brain

MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, 15 Chaucer Road, CB2 7EF

For the first hour, from 6pm, there will be practical demonstrations of experiments for you to try out, and lots of hands-on activities with many of our scientists on hand to explain their work. Then at 7pm our three varied talks begin. Each talk will be 20-25 minutes followed by questions and they will cover our wide range of work on mind and brain which includes research on hearing, speech and language. The event will finish at 8.30pm. 

Event: 182, Map: 31, Hands-on, Talk, Age 12+


Thursday 19 March


Jess Thom: laughter as a catalyst for change

Palmerston Room, St John’s College, St John’s Street, CB2 1TP

Writer, artist and part-time super-hero Jess Thom is ‘changing the world one tic at a time’. She will talk about the often misunderstood neurological condition Tourette’s, which causes her to say ‘biscuit’ up to 16,000 times a day. Performing and writing are transforming her experience of Tourette’s, as well as challenging the perceptions of audiences. She will discuss the power of humour and art to create change, her experience at University and the importance of the Access to Work and Disabled Students’ Allowances schemes.

The event is wheelchair accessible and will be BSL signed.

Event: 191, Map: 38, Talk, All ages, Pre-book*


Festival of Ideas, 20 October - 2 November 2014

These are just two of the language-related talks at last year's Festival of Ideas


Professor Usha Goswami (Centre for Neuroscience in Education) presents her latest research findings on dyslexia (starts 26 minutes in).



Dr Claire Dembry of Cambridge University Press and Robbie Love (Lancaster University) present fascinating insights from a new project to compile a publicly-accessible database of spoken British English. How has British English changed since the last time a similar project was carried out in the 1990s?  Find out how you can get involved by contributing recordings to the project.




For more audio recordings from this year's Festival, visit 



Now Hear This!

Cambridge Science Centre, March 2014

Dr Matt Davis and Professor Sarah Hawkins were among the researchers taking part in this public event at the Cambridge Science Centre on the science of hearing.