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2006 Town Hall Lectures – Life, Earth and Happiness: An Evolutionary Tale – University of Reading

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2006 Town Hall Lectures – Life, Earth and Happiness: An Evolutionary Tale

Release Date 23 January 2006

artistic impression of earth in the mindThe Reading Town Hall Lecture Series is back with a big bang this Spring. An elite group of distinguished scientists are the speakers for what are guaranteed to be five fascinating lectures. Organised by the University's School of Continuing Education, the series covers several distinct areas of science: geology, genetics, psychology, neuroscience and archaeology. Together, they provide some clues about why we are here and how we have evolved. On Tuesday 7 February, Professor Richard A Fortey (FRS) presents the first in the series with Earth: An Intimate History. Professor Fortey suggests we should think of the Earth as a recycling system. He will demonstrate how human culture, natural history and even the shape of cities, spring from a deeper geological truth. Richard is a leading popular scientist and palaeontologist, researching fossils at the Natural History Museum and author of best-selling books 'Trilobite!' and 'The Earth: An Intimate History'. This captivating series continues with Dr Armand M Leroi's talk The Genes That Make Us Human. How close to apes are we? Are we all mutants? What makes us human? Dr Leroi asks if humans are so much like the apes, what exactly are the differences? Armand is Reader in Evolutionary Developmental Biology at Imperial College London and was awarded the Royal Institution's 'Scientist for the New Century' in 2001. His critically acclaimed book 'Mutants: On the Form, Varieties and Errors of the Human Body' became the basis of a major Channel 4 documentary series. In The Science Behind Your Smile, Dr Daniel Nettle uses the latest scientific research to address important questions about the pursuit of happiness. Do we know what happiness is? Why are some people happier than others? Will we ever develop drugs that make people happy, and if we did, would it be desirable to take them? Daniel is Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Newcastle and author of 'Happiness: The Science Behind your Smile'. Professor Colin Blakemore (FMedSci FRS) will consider Is the brain a machine? Is the mind a myth? The brain is the most adaptable organ in the body, not just in the early years, but throughout life. Professor Blakemore looks at how harnessing this capacity for reorganization and repair might not only help all of us to maintain healthy minds into an old age, but give us tools to treat strokes, degenerative diseases and even psychiatric disorders. Described as "one of Britain's most influential communicators of science", Colin is a neuroscientist and Chief Executive of the Medical Research Council, and a frequent broadcaster on radio and television who has written widely for the general public. Professor Steven Mithen (FBA) ends this compelling series with Becoming Human: A Story of Bones, Stones and the Modern Mind. The last decade has seen enormous advances in our knowledge of the human past. Bones and stones of the archaeological record reveal not only how the human body evolved, but also the origins of language and intelligence. This lecture covers the remarkable story of human evolution as revealed by archaeological discoveries and the latest scientific techniques. Stephen is Professor of Early Prehistory at the University of Reading and author of 'After The Ice: A Global Human History 20,000 – 5000 BC' and 'The Singing Neanderthals: The Origins of Music, Language, Body and Mind'. "We are extremely fortunate to have speakers of this calibre," said Dr Nina Brooke, Co-ordinator of Public Engagement with Science and series organiser. "These lectures offer a fantastic opportunity for the public to be informed and entertained. They are always presented in an entertaining and accessible manner so you don't have to be a scientist to enjoy them." The full schedule of the Town Hall Lecture Series is: 07/02/06 – Earth: An Intimate History Professor Richard A Fortey 21/02/06 – The Genes That Make Us Human Dr Armand M Leroi 07/03/06 – The Science Behind Your Smile Dr Daniel Nettle 21/03/06 – Is The Brain A Machine? Is The Mind A Myth? Professor Colin Blakemore 28/03/06 – Becoming Human: A Story Of Bones, Stones And The Modern Mind Professor Steven Mithen Lectures begin at 7.30pm. Tickets for the series (£32 or £27 concessions) and individually (£8) can be booked in advance through the Hexagon Box Office by calling 0118 960 6060. Individual lecture tickets are also available at the door on the night. For further information, please contact Dr Nina Brooke in the University's School of Continuing Education on (tel) 0118 3787453 or (email) End For further press information please contact Craig Hillsley, University press officer. Tel: 0118 378 7388 Email:

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