Dr Hannah Fry is a mathematician and complexity scientist from University College London’s Center for Advanced Spatial Analysis. Fry also regularly presents the Number Hub strand of BBC Worldwide’s YouTube channel, and regularly appears on radio and tv in the UK, most recently Climate Change by Numbers on BBC4. Her first TED talk attracted more than 500,000 views and evolved into her first book, The Mathematics of Love.
Jon Ronson is an award-winning writer and documentary maker. He is the author of many bestselling books, including Frank: The True Story that Inspired the Movie, Lost at Sea: The Jon RonsonMysteries, The Psychopath Test, The Men Who Stare at Goats and Them: Adventures with Extremists. His first fictional screenplay, Frank, co-written with Peter Straughan, starred Michael Fassbender. Jon’s latest book is So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed.
“Science is what stops us living in caves”
In this episode Professor Brian Cox takes us back to the beginning of the universe to discuss what the Large Hadron Collider will do for science and what science does for us.
“The further back in time you look the simpler it appears, if you want to understand the building blocks but also the forces that stick them together this is the best way to do it”.
The LHC accelerates protons to 99.999 per cent of the speed of light, around the ring 11,000 times a second.
Cox hopes the LHC will help us understand the fundamental mechanism of how mass was generated.
But more than that, the LHC may answer some unexpected questions. “The universe is full of things we don’t understand, like dark matter. We might discover extra dimensions, or signposts as to why gravity is such a weak force.”
Science receives 0.23 per cent of GDP, roughly £3.5 billion a year. With so many questions to answer, Cox argues that current funding is inadequate.
“We built the modern world, and that’s only from a few people doing a bit of research, because it’s under funded. We spent £800 billion bailing out the financial sector. That’s more money than we spent on physics since Jesus”.
With investment in research and development but also scientific literacy, Cox hopes we will find some of the answers to our questions and predicts that “something beautiful and profound will emerge in the next 20 years”.
Filmmaker Adam Curtis discusses power, politics and his searing cybernetic vision of the future.
The notion of cybernetics looks at the whole world, from society to cells, as systems. For Curtis, it is a highly political ideology whereby systems of nature and systems of computers have become intertwined.
“It’s a beautiful vision of this interconnected world, resonant of the cyber-utopian mood of our time, bleeding into nature”.
Curtis sees the increasing salience of cybernetics as a fundamental shift in the way we view human beings.
“We are moving away from the old enlightenment idea than human beings are separate, above the rest of the world and can shape and bend the world. In fact we are all components in systems of an interwoven network where everyone is connected”.
In this connected world, Curtis argues democracy is not about lots of individuals, but about mediating the powerful. Regulating those who often use their unequal access to power at the expense of the weak.
“It’s about electing people who will stand up and represent the weak and negotiate against the powerful. All evidence in western society shows power becoming more concentrated and unequal.”
First broadcast 20/05/11
Ian McEwan discusses his climate change and his novel Solar
McEwan dismisses the idea that virtuous living will solve climate change. He argues our fuel deficit can only be filled by an alternative energy source.
“Our ingenuity got us into this; it was clever to replace human labour with machines and fossil fuel. Our cleverness will have to get us out.”
Anita Sethi discusses how we are all connected and what the internet means for dictatorship and democracy.
Anita maps her ancestry back to Kenya and argues the need to connect is amplified in diaspora communities.
“Migrants have a greater desire for tactile connection; if it was a forced exile or removal many experience the anxiety of loss. You can’t control the way you left so you try to connect, either by mapping your own journey or by retaining a physical representation of origin.”
The internet and social media have exponentially increased the ability to connect. In Kenya, where the majority of the population is under 30, Sethi argues there has been a huge impact in the democratisation of society.
“In a country where it used to take five years to publish a book, the outlet for information and the ability to instantaneously connect is empowering.”
Being able to communicate an idea with such speed is a privilege, but access to information is a right. Sethi argues that dictators use the restriction information as an authoritarian weapon.
“When a regime feels threatened it cuts off means of information."
Closer to home, Sethi finds the growing closures of British libraries worrying.
“Libraries provide wisdom, knowledge and the right to learn for all. The ability to challenge thinking is a human right.”
David Stubbs joined the music magazine Melody Maker in 1986, and worked there for 12 years. His most famous creation, Mr Agreeable periodically reawakens over at The Quietus.
He has also written for The Guardian, NME, The Wire, When Saturday Comes and Uncut, and was a presenter of the Resonance FM football show Café Calcio.
David is the author of numerous books, including Fear of Music: Why People Get Rothko but Don’t Get Stockhausen. His latest book is Future Days: Krautrock and the Building of Modern Germany.
Andrew Mueller talks to Neil Denny & Padraig Reidy about the 21st Century.
Andrew was born in Wagga Wagga, Australia in 1968, and has lived in London and hotels since 1990. He currently writes on various subjects for the Independent, Independent on Sunday, Guardian, Monocle, Arena, Uncut, High Life, New Humanist and anyone else who’ll have him.
Andrew was previously the author of Rock & Hard Places and a contributing editor of Robert Young Pelton’s The World’s Most Dangerous Places. His latest book is I Wouldn’t Start From Here: The 21st Century and Where it All Went Wrong
According to Little Atoms regular Jonathan Meades, “Mueller is a gung-ho Candide with a taste for places that it is wiser to avoid. His book is graphic comic, bemused and properly contemptuous of faith and ideology” (Books of the Year, Evening Standard).
Image: (C) Andy Vella / Foruli Ltd 2012. All rights reserved.
Cory Doctorow is a science fiction novelist, blogger and technology activist. He is the co-editor of the popular weblog Boing Boing, and a contributor to Wired, The Guardian, Popular Science, the New York Times, and many other newspapers, magazines and websites. A visiting senior lecturer at the Open University, he was formerly Director of European Affairs for the Electronic Frontier Foundation), a non-profit civil liberties group that defends freedom in technology law, policy, standards and treaties. He is currently on the advisory council of the Open Rights Group..
He has won the Locus and Sunburst Awards, and been nominated for the Hugo, Nebula and British Science Fiction Awards. His most recent novel was Makers, and his previous novel Little Brother, made it to the New York Times Bestsellers.
Dr. Dennis C Reuter is a New Horizons co-investigator at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, and the instrument scientist for Ralph, the New Horizons color imager and infrared spectrometer. New Horizons launched on 19 January 2006 and is scheduled to fly-by Pluto and its moons in July 2015. This is another interview recorded by Little Atoms for audio installation Mind's Eye,which will be coming to Manchester, Bristol and Bradford over the coming months.
Neil Denny in conversation with neuroscientist David Eagleman about time perception, synesthesia and many possible afterlives. The interview includes David reading one of the short stories from his new book.
David Eagleman is is a neuroscientist at Baylor College of Medicine, Texas, where he directs the Laboratory for Perception and Action and the Initiative on Neuroscience and Law. He is best known for his work on time perception, synesthesia and neurolaw. He is also a fiction writer. David’s most recent book is Sum: Forty Tales From the Afterlives.
Cordelia's latest book, Delusions of Gender: How our minds, society, and neurosexism create difference was short-listed for the Victorian Premier's Literary Award for Non-Fiction, the Best Book of Ideas Prize 2011, the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize 2010 and the biannual international cross-genre Warwick Prize 2013. Cordelia is a regular contributor to the popular media, including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Monthly and New Statesman. She also wrote the introduction for the Britannica Guide to the Brain.
Cordelia studied Experimental Psychology at Oxford University, followed by an M.Phil in Criminology at Cambridge University. She was awarded a Ph.D in Psychology from University College London. Between 2002 to 2011 she held research positions at Monash University, the Australian National University, then Macquarie University.
She is currently an ARC Future Fellow in Psychological Sciences and Associate Professor at the Melbourne Business School, University of Melbourne.
Salena Godden writes and performs poetry, fiction, memoir, radio drama and lyrics. Her latest book of poems, Fishing in the Aftermath, was published in 2014 by Burning Eye Books. She runs The Book Club Boutique, London's louchest literary salon, and is lead singer and lyricist of SaltPeter, alongside composer Peter Coyte. She can regularly be heard on Radio 4 and last year presented the documentary 'Try A Little Tenderness – The Lost Legacy of Little Miss Cornshucks'. Her literary memoir Springfield Road was recently published by Unbound.
Kate Hamer grew up in Pembrokeshire. She did a Creative Writing MA at Aberystwyth University and the Curtis Brown Creative novel-writing course. She won the Rhys Davies short story award in 2011 and her winning story was read out on BBC Radio 4. She has recently been awarded a Literature Wales bursary. The Girl in the Red Coat is her first novel.
David Aaronovitch, writer, broadcaster and commentator on international politics and the media joins Little Atoms to discuss the role of the conspiracy theory in shaping modern history.
“A very committed conspiracy theorist is as attached to their theories as any significant religious person is to their faith or a political ideologue to a political idea that they really don’t want to give up.”
His book, Voodoo Histories: The Role of the Conspiracy Theory in Shaping Modern History explores the importance of rationality in the information age.
“The sources of information available to young people today are at a level that we never dreamed of. It will be increasingly important that as the information revolution deepens, to create spaces that have a rationalist kite mark on them - spaces that have a badge of quality on them. I think its going to be one of the big discussions of the next 10 years.”
For Aaronovitch deconstructing conspiracy theories and finding the truth is vitally important.
“It matters because one is true and one isn’t. It matters trying to get at the true versions of history and the true versions of science as far as we can know them. That effort matters.”
First broadcast 29/05/09
Johann Hari is a journalist who has written for the New York Times, the LA Times, the Guardian,Le Monde, Slate, the New Republic and The Nation among others. He was a columnist on the Independent for nine years and was twice named Newspaper Journalist of the Year by Amnesty International UK. He has also been named Cultural Commentator of the Year by the Editorial Intelligence awards and Gay Journalist of the Year by Stonewall.
This is the biography from Johann Hari's new book Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs. It leaves out rather a lot. In this interview Neil Denny talks to Johann about the book, but not before he has apologized to some other friends of Little Atoms.
Stewart Lee is a writer and stand-up comedian. He has written for radio, television, theatre, newspapers and magazines and performed as a stand-up comedian all over the world. His first novel, The Perfect Fool, was published in July 2001. He is co-author with the composer Richard Thomas of Jerry Springer: The Opera, which was denounced by the good folk of Christian Voice as “crude, offensive and blasphemous in the extreme”.
John Lanchester is the author of Whoops! Why Everyone Owes Everyone and No One Can Pay.
As a journalist and novelist, he was winner of the Whitbread First Novel Award for his debut The Debt to Pleasure.
John’s article on our love affair with the City,Cityphilia generated much response on its publication in January 2008, and indeed predicted a worldwide crash based on the misuse of financial derivatives.
First broadcast 15 April 2011
Edward Slingerland is an internationally recognized expert in both early Chinese thought and the links between cognitive science and the humanities.
He is Professor of Asian Studies, Associate Member in the Departments of Philosophy and Psychology, and holds the Canada Research Chair in Chinese Thought and Embodied Cognition at the University of British Columbia. He is the author of Effortless Action (2003) and What Science Offers the Humanities (2008). His latest book is Trying Not to Try: The Ancient Art of Effortlessness and the Surprising Power of Spontaneity.
Adam Rutherford is a geneticist, writer and broadcaster, whose work includes the award-winning series The Cell (BBC4), The Gene Code (BBC4), Horizon: 'Playing God' (BBC2) as well as numerous programmes for BBC Radio 4 such as the recently launched Inside Science. Previously an editor at the science journal Nature, Adam often writes for the Guardian and has given numerous prestigious lectures, as well as appearing in the 'Uncaged Monkeys' tour. His first book is Creation: The Origin of Life/The Future of Life.
Interview one first broadcast on 16th October 2009.
Interview two first broadcast on 12th July 2013.
Paul Anderson is a former editor of Tribune and deputy editor of the New Statesman, currently a lecturer at City University. His book of George Orwell's columns for Tribune, Orwell in Tribune, is published next month by Politico's. Pauls Blog can be found here.
Interview first broadcast on 18th August 2006.
Timothy Garton Ash is the author of eight books of political writing or “history of the present”. They include The Magic Lantern, The File, History of the Present and Free World. His latest is Facts Are Subversive: Political Writing From a Decade Without a Name.
He is Professor of European Studies and Isaiah Berlin Professorial Fellow at St Antony’s College, Oxford, and a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. His essays appear regularly in the New York Review of Books and his weekly column for the Guardian is widely syndicated in Europe, Asia and the Americas. Garton Ash has received many awards for his writing, including the Somerset Maugham Award and the George Orwell Prize.
Jonathan Meades is a broadcaster and the author of several books including three works of fiction - Filthy English, Pompey and The Fowler Family Business - and several anthologies of which the most recently published is Museum Without Walls, which received 11 nominations as a book of the year in 2012.
Professor Will Alsop is one of Britain’s most renowned architects. He is currently a professor at the Technical University of Vienna.