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Public events

Science Festival 2017


Cambridge Science Festival

Monday 13 March - Sunday 26 March 2017


Here's a selection of talks and events related to language sciences presented as part of the Science Festival. For the full programme visit the Festival website.

There's no need to re-book events unless specifically stated. Bookings open at 10:30am on Monday 20 February and are via the Festival website or by phoning 01223 766766.


Monday 13 March, Wednesday 15 March, Friday 17 March

See your baby's brain learn


Department of Experimental Psychology, Downing Street, CB2 3EB

Do you feel ‘in tune’ with your baby? How does play help your baby to learn? Why is face-to-face interaction so important for babies?

Researchers at the Baby-LINC (Learning through Interpersonal Neural Communication) lab are using the latest wireless EEG (electroencephalography) brain imaging technology to answer these questions.

Mothers and babies (8-15 months) are invited to visit the Baby-LINC lab and take part in a 1 hour hands-on "EEG-and-play" session as part of our study into social learning in infants. During this fun session in our baby-friendly lab you will get to see your baby's brain activity as he/she takes part in learning activities (and explores our extensive toy box).

You can learn more about our work on our website:

Please contact for more information and to book a time.

All ages, Hands-on, Free


Wednesday 15 March

Exploring your mind and brain


Friday 17 March

Why is my AI so racist? The pitfalls of data sets, neural networks and Twitter bots


NOTE: VENUE CHANGE - now at Mill Lane Lecture Rooms, 8 Mill Lane, CB2 1RW

Artificially intelligent systems - in particular those reliant on deep neural networks - are becoming increasingly woven into our everyday lives, used to predict everything from crime statistics to speech patterns. They’re powerful, flexible, fast and developing every day. But they’re not without their flaws: from an AI beauty contest that judged white features to be the most attractive, to unintended racial profiling by police camera software, AI prejudices have moved past ‘teething problems’ and into a unhealthy reflection of existing biases.

So how to get around this? And how do we deal with the biased systems that already exist?

Pre-book. Age 15+, Talk, Free

Saturday 18 March

Babies: Rhythm and language


Department of Psychology, Psychology classroom, Department of Psychology University of Cambridge Downing Street, CB2 3EB

Have you ever wondered how infants learn language? Evidence shows that brainwave rhythms alter to align with rhythms in speech. At the Centre for Neuroscience in Education BabyLab we measure this "rhythmic processing" in babies' brains. Using brainwave scanning caps and motion capture cameras (like in the movies) the CNE BabyLab measures how brainwaves and movements develop in infants and how this affects language. Come visit our labs to discover how we do this and see if your baby would like to take part.

All ages, Hands-on, Tour, Drop-in, Free


Alan Turing and the Enigma machine


Babbage Lecture Theatre, New Museums Site, Downing Street, CB2 3RS

Can we build a machine that can solve any problem? How can we break a code others believe unbreakable? Why do leopards have spots and zebras stripes? These questions were all answered by Alan Turing. Mathematician James Grime explores Turing's childhood fascination with maths and how it led to the breaking of the infamous Enigma cipher. Including a demonstration of an original WWII Enigma Machine!

Age 12+, Talk, Free

Understanding autism


Department of Physiology, Development and Neuroscience, Physiology Building Lecture Theatre, Physiological Laboratory Downing Site, CB2 3EG

With the growing number of people diagnosed with autism in the UK, there is also increased interest in understanding what is autism. How does autism affect people's lives and relationships? And what has research revealed about the causes of autism and potential treatments? This talk will provide an introduction to how these questions are being addressed in the clinic and in the laboratory. 

Talk, Free

Accessibility: Partial access - please call 01223 766766 for details.

Tread softly because you tread on my data


Alliance Française Cambridge, 60 Hills Road, CB2 1LA

Having dedicated over a decade helping businesses get insight from their data, Adrien Arculeo, Chartered Engineer from France, MIT and Stanford Ignite, evaluates how Big data is used by Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and others, and asks what can or should we do as citizens and consumers?

Pre-book. Age 15+, Free

Accessibility: Partial access - please call 01223 766766 for details.


Monday 20 March

Towards general artificial intelligence


Churchill College, Wolfson Lecture Theatre, Storeys Way, CB3 0DS

Dr. Demis Hassabis is the Co-Founder and CEO of DeepMind, the world’s leading General Artificial Intelligence (AI) company, which was acquired by Google in 2014 in their largest ever European acquisition. Demis will draw on his eclectic experiences as an AI researcher, neuroscientist and videogames designer to discuss what is happening at the cutting edge of AI research, including the recent historic AlphaGo match, and its future potential impact on fields such as science and healthcare, and how developing AI may help us better understand the human mind.
Demis is a former child chess prodigy, who finished his A-levels two years early before coding the multi-million selling simulation game Theme Park aged 17. Following graduation from Cambridge University with a Double First in Computer Science he founded the pioneering videogames company Elixir Studios producing award winning games for global publishers such as Vivendi Universal.
After a decade of experience leading successful technology startups, Demis returned to academia to complete a PhD in cognitive neuroscience at UCL, followed by postdocs at MIT and Harvard, before founding DeepMind. His research connecting memory with imagination was listed in the top ten scientific breakthroughs of 2007 by the journal Science. Demis is a 5-times World Games Champion, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, and the recipient of the Royal Society’s Mullard Award and the Royal Academy of Engineering's Silver Medal.

Age 12+, Talk, Free to students and CSAR members, others £3

Saturday 25 March, Sunday 26 March

Discovering humanity through human evolutionary studies


Leverhulme Centre for Human Evolutionary Studies, Henry Wellcome Building 13A Fitzwilliam Street, CB2 1QH

Biological anthropologists at the Leverhulme Centre for Human Evolutionary Studies (LCHES) use cutting edge science and archaeology to uncover our past. Come visit us on Saturday 25th and Sunday 26th March to explore the Leverhulme Centre’s laboratories and collections and discover the origins of humanity.

People of all ages and backgrounds are invited to view our extensive hominid fossil cast collection, study bones using casts and real skeletal material, learn about funerary practices across time and space, and handle real stone tools.

Throughout the weekend, members of LCHES will speak about their research projects, including: prehistoric hunter gatherers, ancient DNA and palaeogenomics, evolutionary anatomy, the origins and development of stone tool technology, and the journey of ancient humans out of Africa.

A special series of lectures and activities will cover the "In-Africa" project, an ERC research programme directed by Dr Marta Mirazon Lahr to investigate the origins and diversity of Homo sapiens within Africa. The project has yielded stunning finds, including the earliest evidence of inter-group conflict, dated 10,000 years ago on the shores of Lake Turkana. Dr Mirazon Lahr and her fellow researchers will discuss these findings and how they impact our understanding of human origins.

Bookings for lectures and events can be made through the department’s website:

Talks from previous events


Professor Usha Goswami (Centre for Neuroscience in Education) presents research 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