Watch & enjoy past talks in our Garden Library. The same fascinating content, ready when you are.
Choose from 80 past Garden talks.
Why are some artists famous and others forgotten? Why are some artworks priceless and others worthless? And in an era where so much art is so hard to fathom, how do we know whether a work of art is any good?
In 1911, French doctors thought LS, a fashion model, had herniated ovaries. No one expected them to be testes. What is intersex? And what can we learn about sex and gender development from it?
The devil is one of the most recognisable figures in the western world, making frequent appearances on screen, in art and literature, and even in political rhetoric. Why, in our comparatively secular age, does the demonic continue to captivate us?
Art is an essential part of what it means to be human. But what is art? When did we start creating it? And why do we still need it?
Stress starts in the mind, but it can take an enormous toll on the body too. Left unchecked, it can even prove fatal. What is stress, from a scientific perspective, and how does it wreak havoc on our bodies when we're in a state of burnout?
In 1988, art curator James Birch, travelled to Moscow to mount the ground-breaking Francis Bacon exhibition. How was Bacon perceived at the time & how did this exhibition change society?
News has recently broken that Ukraine is preparing war crimes charges against Russian military personnel. How feasible or likely is it that participants in the war could end up in the docks in Ukraine or the International Criminal Court in The Hague?
Irish-born painter Francis Bacon was one of the most important artists of the 20th century, his raw, unsettling imagery emerging from some of the most traumatic events of the modern age, including two world wars. Who was he, as an artist and as a man?
Many societies have become more economically unequal over the last 50 years; the world’s richest 1% now owns nearly 50% of the world’s wealth. What has driven this increase in inequality, and is it actually a problem?
Romeo and Juliet are often held up as the romantic ideal, willing to risk it all for their one great love. But if Shakespeare really agreed that this is what true love looks like, why are so many of his favourite couples distinctly... middle-aged?
We often think of plants as organisms left on their own to survive. Seemingly still and unable to make any noise they managed to fight with the rollercoaster of evolution. But plants talk to each other. So, what do they talk about?
Climate change is resulting in ever-more intense weather events of all kinds, from heat waves and forest fires to hurricanes and floods. If extreme weather becomes the new normal, can we survive it? And if so, how?
The Easter story of the death and resurrection of Jesus is central to the religion of millions of Christians around the world, and its key events are recognisable to many millions more. Did Early Christians really believe in a literal resurrection?
Plants wouldn’t have made it out of the water 450 million years ago if not for their collaboration with fungi. They are an ancient and extraordinary kingdom that exists everywhere. But if fungi are so essential, why are they so easy to miss?
Meditation - training your attention and awareness to reach a calm and stable state - is an ancient practice found all over the world and used in the modern day to manage stress. What's going on in your brain when you achieve this level of focus?
We could not exist without flowering plants, but to this date researchers cannot explain where they came from. Why did Darwin describe the origin of flowering plants as an “abominable mystery”?
From the Cuban Missile Crisis to the Cold War, the spectre of nuclear war has loomed over the planet many times since WWII. How did we step back from the brink, and what does that tell us about how to handle Putin's threats?
International diplomacy in the age of social media is no longer conducted by letter or considered phone call but Live Tweeted in real time & in public. From Trump vs North Korea to the Ukraine War, how are foreign relations conducted in the Digital Age?
We often hear about nature vs nurture, but did you know that science can pinpoint specific personality traits that can be traced to the environment we grew up in? How much of our adult personality has its roots in not who we were born, but where?
The 20th and 21st centuries are said to be the age of dictatorship, and this month's invasion of Ukraine is the latest frontline. With our world's leaders in the spotlight, what traits do they share, and when and why do they cross society's boundaries?
Love can make us act against logic and reason. It can make us irrational. It can make us forget about our own best interests, or even risk our own safety. Why have we developed such a strong instinct to love, when in so many ways it would be easier not to?
The study of dreams is a fascinating journey through neuroscience, biochemistry, psychology, history and anthropology. How do dreams differ around the world, and what do they tell us about the world itself?
The invasion of Ukraine by Russia took the world by surprise. But tension between these two nations has been bubbling for many years. Why is Ukraine so important to Putin? And how did we get from Ukrainian independence to invasion?
Humans have always speculated about what a perfect world might look like, whether as a reward in the afterlife, part of an origin story like the Garden of Eden, or a real place on Earth. How do we see these ideas play out in the art we create?
There have been nearly 6m victims of Covid-19, but even this enormous death toll represents just a fraction of those lost to the Bubonic Plague in the Middle Ages. What do you need to know about the most fatal event in human history?
Imagining new worlds in speculative fiction, fantasy and sci fi doesn't just help us envision possible futures; it also gives us a powerful way to think about our world as it is now. What do our fictional worlds tell us about the world we want to live in?
When people talk about the metaverse, they mean a future where there's a seamless connection between physical reality and the virtual world. But will that future be better than the world of today?
Have you ever arrived at your destination with no memory of the journey that got you there? Your unconscious mind has been at work. Does that mean we don't always have free will over our actions and decisions? And what does that tell us about the brain?
We think of sleep as a period of relaxation and recuperation, but while we snooze, our brains remain incredibly busy, often with intriguing "side effects" like dreams and sleepwalking. What does the mind get up to when we're not paying attention?
A century ago, the world was reeling in the wake of the First World War and the Spanish Flu pandemic. How did these catastrophic global events motivate people to live in new ways?
Witch hunting is, by and large, a thing of the past, yet we remain captivated by the concept. What drives this fascination, and why are we still talking about witch hunts today?
What's driving us when we act as a collective? And why does modern life mean more people feel persecuted than ever before?
The last 150 years has brought about the greatest revolution there's ever been in colour. How have we ended up living in a hyper-coloured world?
Today, we tend to think about happiness as a right: a natural goal all humans strive towards. How could it be possible that this idea came into being just two hundred years ago?
Humans aren't unique in having an adolescent stage, but we are pretty unique in how we react to it. Why do other species find it easier to surf the trials and turmoils of this challenging life phase than we do?
History remembers the persecution of early Christians as a clash between the Roman state and its traditional gods, and the new Christian cult and its upstart God. But is that really all there is to the story?
The colour white has been associated with purity for millennia in religious iconography, architecture and art. But has it come to represent something darker too?
Humans have created art to provoke laughter for millennia. Why does comedy work, and what does it reveal about the counterintuitive biology of the human brain?
Dopamine is our feel-good hormone: the one that encourages us to seek out pleasure. But the relentless pursuit of pleasure can lead to pain too. How can we find contentment in an age of instant gratification and overindulgence?
Until relatively recently in human history, there wasn't a word meaning "blue". Of the ancient cultures, only the Egyptians had a word for this colour. What was everyone else seeing?
Colour is an experience: the colours we see and what they mean to us will differ for every human on the planet. What can art history, science, anthropology, literature and politics teach us about colour?
Many people know the famous story of the birth of Jesus. But what do we know about where it comes from and what happened next?
The law has to decide at what age someone should be held accountable for their actions. What does neuroscience tell us about when that should be?
1 in 15 people globally has a food allergy - a rate that's more than doubled since 1960. What's behind this soaring increase?
More than 75% of sea creatures produce their own light. How do they do it, and what can we learn from this incredible marine firework display?
Old cookery books can tell us a lot more than just how to cook a meal. What do they reveal about topics as diverse as access to technology and the concept of truth?
We know so little about the deep sea, and even less about what it's like beneath the ice of the Earth's polar regions. How does life flourish in one of the most inhospitable environments on the planet?
Peer pressure is a powerful influence on adolescent decision-making. What is it about the brains of teenagers that makes it so important to be liked, and to go along with the crowd?
Besides taste, there are other senses at work when we eat. How much of an influence does the environment have over our food behaviour?
Researchers around the world have been studying the HIV virus for years. But do we completely understand how it behaves and how far are we from finding a cure?
Prof. Anthony Costello discusses his decades in public health. How has social, economic and health development affected the health of our planet?
Not only does DNA control physical characteristics like height, but it also shapes how our bodies react to food. Is it true that you are what you eat?
The Sharing Economy is challenging the West's traditional view of ownership, but other ways of thinking about property and possession have existed for millennia. What do they look like?
There's so much left to learn about the sea and its organisms. Could the ocean be the source of the next drug to change medicine?
Scientists have long used thought experiments to further their understanding of the world. But was Shakespeare the first person to do it?
Not even our closest primate relatives think about food in the way humans do. What does the food we eat tell us about our own evolutionary history?
Conversation is a continuous act of curating, connecting and analysing the events in our lives. How do we decide how we want to be seen?
The tech required to explore the deepest parts of the ocean is coming on in leaps and bounds. What bizarre habitats and organisms have we found, and what still remains to be discovered?
The modern world is increasingly polarised; we see things in black and white. How can Shakespeare teach us to hold two conflicting ideas in our heads simultaneously?
Cold case reviews often have to battle misinformation and conspiracy theories, as well as missing pieces. How do investigators see through the chaos to a solution?
History's leading ladies often come with a bad reputation. What can the Black Queen teach us about the misunderstood women of the past?
The oceans absorb nearly 1/3 of our carbon emissions; they are literally the world's lungs. How does the sea 'breathe', and why does it do it?
What you believe about the world depends on the lens you view it through. What does Shakespeare's Henry V have to tell us about different perspectives and where the real truth lies?
Fingerprints are getting rarer - everyone's seen the TV shows. What new tools can we bring in to confirm a criminal's identity, and is it ethical to use them?
With more scrutiny on it than ever, inclusion in our universities should be the widest it's ever been. So why do so many key metrics tell a different story?
Territory, food, commerce and conquest: what role have the seas played in the development of the nations we see today?
How can someone on an acid trip see sounds or hear colours? And why do some people have this same experience all the time, drug-free?
It's not always clear what drives a criminal to act the way they do. How does the justice system deal with offenders whose behaviour is rooted in mental illness?
Do the anatomical differences between men and women extend to the biology of the brain? Or does it all come down to environmental influence?
DNA is the go-to forensic evidence in many criminal cases. What other trace evidence can be used to identify the perpetrator when they don't leave DNA behind?
The most transformative scientific breakthroughs depend on maths. Which problems are mathematicians working on that will drive scientific change in the coming decades?
The body can create a shocking array of symptoms, from paralysis to seizures, seemingly without any medical explanation. Is the brain responsible, and if so, why does it do it?
As the science improves, we can detect smaller and smaller traces of DNA. Does that mean we could pin someone to a crime scene who was never there at all?
Artificial intelligence systems are built to mimic human intelligence. Do they have any chance of replicating all the abilities of a brain?
Stories make it easier to understand complex topics and make sense of our lives. But why does the brain work this way?
More than 70% of deaths linked to drug use worldwide are related to opioids. How did these drugs designed to treat pain end up crippling communities?
The Abgar Legend tells the story of the King of Osroene, who (it's said) got into a correspondence with Jesus. Are these letters real?
We know some of the basic factors that can disrupt sleep: caffeine, blue light, stress... But how does the way we spend our waking time change our sleeping brain?
Research has proven that there's more to luck than simple chance. How can the right mindset turn uncertainty into serendipity?
We think of forensics as a science - dispassionate and objective. But can we say the same about the humans who interpret it and decide what it means?