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The University of Reading Public Lecture Series 2007-2008 – University of Reading

Release Date : 15 October 2007

Diet and genetics, corruption and greed in high office, and the sinister side of artificial intelligence are just three of the subjects which will be showcased in the forthcoming University of Reading's Public Lecture Series.

Starting at the end of this month, the fascinating and popular series – which sees University of Reading experts share their knowledge with the public in series of free evening lectures – will cover diverse and varied topics in an accessible and interesting way.

The series kicks off on October 30 with leading architect Professor Frank Duffy CBE, co-founder of the architectural and consultancy practice DEGW, scholar and a former President of the Royal Institute of British Architects.

Professor Duffy, who is a visiting professor at Reading's School of Construction Management and Engineering, will talk about what is means to have a 'place', and if, in a virtual world we can justify having workplaces and living spaces.

He said: "My theme is the future not only of the office but of the city. What will the workplaces and urban fabric of the 21st Century be like?

"This lecture is not just an account of how the relationship between architecture, information technology and people has developed within the workplace and the city. It is also an attempt to explore what the future may have in store for us all in the developing knowledge economy."

In November, Dr Averil Macdonald, one of the Britain's leading experts in plastics and an award-winning lecturer, will talk about what changes science will bring in the future, in her talk "Future Fantastic".

Dr Macdonald explains: "Scientists are frequently accused of trying to 'play God' and, having watched too many James Bond films, the public is ever ready to believe that we scientists are only really doing what we do in an attempt to take over the world.

"This lecture will take you through some of the latest developments that science has to offer and demonstrate just how different the world will be in 10, 10 or even 50 years time."

Next up, cyber expert Dr Will Browne will talk about the potentially sinister side of artificial intelligence in our lives in his talk entitled "Will humans continue to win?".

Dr Browne said: "Playing games with artificial intelligence (AI) is fun, but the impact of intelligent agents on everyday life may be much darker. Does your online poker opponent have the benefit of silicon-based memory? Is your second-life friend real? And what happens if your pension fund gets miss-invested by a computer?"

The New Year will see nutritionist Dr Anne-Marie Minihane discuss diet and genes; how choosing your food - and your parents! – carefully effects your quality life. Dr Minihane said: "It is becoming increasingly evident that variations in our genes impact not only on our risk of disease but also our response to dietary change. The benefit gained from making positive changes to our diet is known to be highly variable and is likely to be in large part determined by our genetic make-up."

Meteorologist and climate expert Professor Julia Slingo's talk in February focuses on understanding and forecasting the Indian Monsoon and the effects of climate change, what it means for India, and the history of the UK's involvement in Indian climate science. It will also look at what the challenges are for future monsoon research.

Finally, in the last lecture of the series, a controversial talk is promised by Professor John Hendry of the University's Business School, who will discuss greed and corruption in business and government.

Professor Hendry said: "Power, as Lord Acton famously observed, tends to corrupt. So too does money, and when business and government interact the potential for corruption is compounded.

"Focusing on examples from oil, arms and gambling, this lecture explores the space between the human ideal, that people should always behave morally, and the human reality, that sometimes they don't. How far should we tolerate greed and corruption as "necessary evils" of business practice and wealth creation? Who should we hold accountable when things go badly wrong? And who should we blame?"

As always the six lectures are free and open to everyone. They feature some of the University's top academics talking about a diverse range of fascinating subjects in a manner that is easily understood by all.

Each lecture lasts for approximately 40 minutes and afterwards time is allowed so the audience may comment and ask questions, giving a real chance for people to get involved and make the most of their evening. The night seldom ends without some lively debate!

"As one of the major providers of education in the Thames Valley, we are proud to hold these kinds of public lectures," said Alison Fabian, Lecture Series organiser.

"What makes our lectures so unique and popular is the quality of speaker, their ability to engage the audience and of course some wonderfully varied topics. They offer a unique opportunity to learn about the research, teaching and people that make the University a world-class institute."

All of the University Public Lectures start at 8pm and will be held in the Palmer Building on the University's Whiteknights campus. Lectures are free to attend and no ticket is required.

For further information, please click here or contact Alison Fabian in the University's Communications Office on (tel) 0118 378 7110 or send her an email.


For media enquiries only, please contact Lucy Ferguson, the University's Media Relations Manager on: 0118 378 7388 or send her an email.

The full schedule of lectures is:

Justifying Place... a virtual world

by Professor Frank Duffy PPRIBA

Tuesday 30 October 2007, 8pm, Palmer Building

Future fantastic

What changes will science bring?

Dr Averil Macdonald

Tuesday 13 November 2007, 8pm, Palmer Building

Will humans continue to win?

Playing games with artificial intelligence

by Dr Will Browne

Tuesday 27 November 2007, 8pm, Palmer Building

Diet and genes

Choose your food or your parents carefully

by Dr Anne-Marie Minihane

Tuesday 15 January 2008, 8pm, Palmer Building

For the rain it raineth...

...every day...or does it?

by Professor Julia Slingo

Tuesday 5 February 2008, 8pm, Palmer Building

Only human

Greed & corruption in business and government

by Professor John Hendry

Tuesday 26 February 2008, 8pm, Palmer Building


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