Society & Politics

Examine the ties that bind us as communities and the customs & structures we create

Why do lights connect winter traditions across cultures?

Pardis Mahdavi

What images do you conjure up in your mind when you think of winter? What is it about wintertime that brings people, rituals and remembrance together?

Thu, 22 Dec 2022 7:30 pm UTC

Can rituals change the world?

Professor Dimitris Xygalatas

Do you ever pray, raise a glass to make a toast, attend weddings or birthday parties? Rituals come in many different forms and are practiced by all cultures around the world. But why are they so important to us?

Tue, 13 Dec 2022 7:30 pm UTC

How can we unlock our brain's creative potential?

Prof. Anna Abraham

How can I be more creative? This is the question Professor Anna Abraham is most often asked and in this fireside conversation, she will be sharing the answer to this question, grounded in her research on creativity and the brain.

Thu, 1 Dec 2022 6:30 pm UTC

Where does money come from?

Prof. Raghavendra Rau

From barter to modern-day digital currencies, money has taken many shapes and forms over the years. But how did we originally come to trust a piece of paper?

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Is there creative power in paradox?

Dr. Wendy Smith

Could those moments where uncertainty or contradictions exist foster creativity? Dr. Wendy Smith will share how dilemmas and paradoxes can create the conditions for creativity and innovation and how this exists in all our lives.

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Does artistic genius exist?

Dr. James Fox

Great artists are often described as geniuses. But what is artistic genius and would we know it if we saw it? Where does artistic creativity come from? From God, from imagination, or from hard work?

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Does power really corrupt?

Dr. Brian Klaas

Power is intoxicating, or so we're told. But do we really understand why people in power often end up becoming more tyrannical than benevolent? And why do they cling onto power once they have it?

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Should we want to live forever?

Dr Stephen Cave

Many people believe that science is on the verge of fulfilling an ancient dream: stopping ageing and granting us all radically longer lives. But what will this mean for ourselves, society and the planet?

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Why do countries dominate certain sports?

Prof. Paul Oyer

Freakonomics revealed that economics is everywhere. But what about the world of sport? Why are some countries better at certain sports than others? And what does economics have to do with it?

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How does pop culture influence art?

Ferren Gipson

From the paintings of Van Gogh to the music of Beyonce, art has a very close relationship to popular culture reflecting the trends and tastes of a given time, and provide insight into tastes in music, fashion, popular stories and much more

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How was China born?

Bill Hayton

China appears to us as timeless and permanent, homogenous and unified - but how true is this? How did modern day China emerge?

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Is obesity a choice?

Prof. Giles Yeo

According to the World Obesity Federation it is estimated that over 1 billion will be affected by obesity by 2025. Does obesity lie within our control? What impact do genes have on our appetite and body weight?

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Food Futures: Could new plants solve a food crisis?

Dr Jordan Dowell

Agriculture has been at the centre of civilisation for thousands of years. However, when we shop for our food, have you wondered about what developments have led to the food getting on our plates.

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Why should we value refugees?

Professor Alex Betts

Wars, famines, persecution & economic inequality are creating forced migration across the world with millions displaced. But many aren't welcomed in their new home. How & why should we value refugees?

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Is capitalism Disney’s best untold story?

Jennifer Begakis

Disney is inseparable from American culture and Hollywood entertainment, and it has become synonymous with global consumer capitalism. But what can we learn about the history of capitalism from Disney?

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Would a wealth tax work?

Dr. Arun Advani

Societies are becoming more economically unequal over the last 50 years. The wealthiest 10% of households now hold 43% of all the wealth in Great Britain. Should we tax wealth? And if so, how?

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How does our early education shape our future?

Christine Farquharson

What do you picture when you think of education? Schools, teachers, homework, probably exams... But education actually starts much earlier in life. Why are the early years so important, and how can they impact how a child grows up?

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Can art change society?

Dr. James Fox

Many artists have tried to re-shape society, using art as a tool for propaganda and protest, to bring about social change, and to improve people’s lives. But can art really make a difference? And where would we be without it?

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Is our anatomy our destiny?

Alice Dreger

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?

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Could Putin be held to account for war crimes in Ukraine?

Dr. Jennifer Cassidy

News broke that Ukraine was 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?

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Is economic inequality a problem?

Paul Johnson

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?

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How can we avoid nuclear war?

Dr. Lyndon Burford

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?

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Is social media today's central battlefield?

Dr. Jennifer Cassidy

International diplomacy in the age of social media is no longer conducted by letter or phone call but Live Tweeted in real time & in public. From Trump vs North Korea to Wars, how are foreign relations conducted in the Digital Age?

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What turns a leader into a dictator?

Prof. Fathali M. Moghaddam

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?

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Why can't Putin accept Ukraine's independence?

Prof. Nathaniel Knight

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?

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What does fiction say about the world we wish we had?

Prof. Matthew Beaumont

Imagining new worlds in speculative fiction and sci fi doesn't just help us envision possible futures; it also gives us a 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?

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Could the metaverse perfect our imperfect world?

Prof. Andy Miah

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?

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Why did WW1 inspire so many utopian experiments?

Dr. Anna Neima

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?

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What conditions create witch hunts?

Dr. Mikki Brock

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?

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Are we living in an age of persecution?

Prof. Fathali M. Moghaddam

What's driving us when we act as a collective? And why does modern life mean more people feel persecuted than ever before?

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Why do we think white means pure?

Dr. James Fox

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?

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What is the future for our children?

Prof. Anthony Costello

Prof. Anthony Costello discusses his decades in public health. How has social, economic and health development affected the health of our planet?

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How do cultures around the world think about property and ownership?

Dr Saskia Vermeylen

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?

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How do you separate fact from fantasy in a cold case?

Professor Jim Fraser

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?

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Is it ethical to use biometrics to catch criminals?

Dr. Richard Guest

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?

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Why are our universities getting whiter?

Prof. Kalwant Bhopal

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?

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How do we handle mentally ill offenders?

Dr Sohom Das

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?

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Is the human brain pink, blue or fifty shades of grey matter?

Prof. Gina Rippon

Do the anatomical differences between men and women extend to the biology of the brain? Or does it all come down to environmental influence?

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How can investigators identify a criminal when they don't leave DNA?

Dr. Candice Bridge

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?

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Why isn't DNA analysis a silver bullet for solving crimes?

Dr Georgina Meakin

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?

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Rethinking Serendipity: How is luck created?

Dr. Christian Busch

Research has proven that there's more to luck than simple chance. How can the right mindset turn uncertainty into serendipity?

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Rethinking Forensic Science: We know what it is, but what does it mean?

Prof. Ruth Morgan

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?

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