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‘Tis the season to be emotional

The University of Warwick’s Christmas lecture series will kick off next week. This year there will be six talks on science topics including gravitational waves in space, the science of emotions and the secret chemistry of home baking.

The Christmas lectures programme has built up momentum over the past five years and has evolved into a six-date spectacular, packed full with special effects and exhilarating experiments and staged in the 570 seater Theatre at Warwick Arts Centre.

Ally Caldecote, senior teaching fellow in the physics department, organises the event every year. She said: “We’re so excited about this year’s programme. These talks will have broad appeal for everyone from eight to 80, and they tackle some really meaty science in an energetic, interactive way.

“Don’t think of them as ‘lectures’ – you won’t be sat silently in your seats – think of them as science extravaganzas. There will be explosions. There will be fire. There will be mind-bending audience participation and there will be Pikachu.”

The University of Warwick’s Christmas Lecture series begins on Monday 28 November and runs until Friday 9 December. All the talks are open to the public and tickets cost £3.50, but are free to schools. Most of the lectures are evening events, beginning at 7pm, but this year there will be two matinees starting at 1.15pm to make it easy for schools to attend. Teachers or science coordinators who are interested should contact the box office for more information.

For details of the Christmas lecture programme or to book tickets visit or contact the box office on 024 7652 4524.

Meet the presenters

Liz Blagrove

Liz BlagroveAge: 44

Talk: I feel it in my fingers, I feel it in my toes - Monday 28 November, 7pm

Your talk in a nutshell: Everything you need to know about emotion. What are emotions, why do we have them and how do psychologists explain them? There’s loads of audience interaction and chances for volunteers to participate in experiments….and the opportunity to pull some really horrible faces at me.

Most Dangerous Bit: When the lights go out……

Best bit about being a scientist: Finding out new things – something nobody else knows!

Fun fact about yourself: I am a fully trained hypnotist.


Richard Lissaman

Richard LissamanAge: 44

Talk: Googling and Gaming by Numbers - Wednesday 30 November, 7pm

Your talk in a nutshell: The maths in the stuff people do every day like searching the web, watching movies and playing games.

Most dangerous bit: Solving millions of simultaneous equations *scratches head*

Best bit about being a scientist: The thrill of using maths to be creative

Fun fact about yourself: I designed a maths puzzle game called Sumaze which has been downloaded 50,000 times.


Ally Caldecote

Ally CaldecoteAge: 36

Talk: There’s No Business Like Snowbusiness - Friday 2 December, 1.15pm

Your talk in a nutshell: We all love a bit of snow around Christmas, but what is it and how does it form? It can be really exciting to wake up surrounded by blankets of it, but what can you do if you’re snowed in?

Most dangerous bit: The cold. The colder-than-the-arctic levels of cold. Brrr!

Best bit about being a scientist: I get to work with some of the most amazing people. Almost everyone around me is an expert in their subject, and they get there by trying their very best without giving up. It’s such an encouraging environment to be in.

Fun fact about yourself: I make ceramics in my spare time.

Greg Brown

Greg BrownAge: 26

Talk: The Chorus of the Cosmos: The Search for Gravitational Waves

Monday 5 December, 7pm

Your talk in a nutshell: One year ago, two laboratories in the USA simultaneously detected an almost imperceptible wobble in spacetime, the mysterious fabric of the Universe. This tiny event, smaller than a thousandth the width of an atomic nucleus, represents the culmination of 100 years of theory and 50 years of observation, all leading up to this, the first detection of a gravitational wave. This opens up an entirely new way to study our Universe, allowing us to listen for the telltale chirps of merging black holes and even enabling us to probe further back in time than we've ever seen before, to the largest explosion of them all, the Big Bang.

Most dangerous bit: Our very own sound-powered light show....with fire, naturally.

Best bit about being a scientist: The "Aha" Moment, the moment when the solution to a problem that's been eluding you for days, even weeks, comes to you in flash of inspiration. Not to be confused with The ", never mind..." Moment. That's not quite so fun.

Fun fact about yourself: Current record holder for most times injuring oneself within a week of starting a new exercise program.


Selina Kermode

Selina KermodeAge: 33

Talk: The Great Christmas Cake Off, Wednesday 7 December, 7pm

Your talk in a nutshell: Everything about cake! What’s in it, what makes it rise, what can go wrong. Along with tips and trivia

Most dangerous bit: I’ve got a whole bit planned about the unknown ‘dangers’ lurking in your kitchen cabinets. There will be plenty of explosions. I’m basically a bit of pyromaniac.

Best bit about being a scientist: Getting to experiment. The pure joy of seeing a reaction happen before your eyes and the impact on the audience. I don’t like calling science magic – it’s much better than that because we can explain why.

Fun fact about yourself: I taught English as a foreign language in China for a year. I wasn’t very good, but I did survive the year.


Rachel Edwards

Rachel EdwardsAge: No thanks, I’m trying not to

Talk: How to Survive in a Cartoon Universe - Friday 9 December, 1.15pm

Your talk in a nutshell: Imagine you have been sucked down a wormhole to a parallel universe – a cartoon universe. You know, where Wile E Coyote runs off a cliff but doesn’t fall until he stands still…that one. My Little Pony lives there and Spongebob and some creature called a Pikachu. How can we pretend to obey the cartoon laws of physics in our own world?

Most dangerous bit: There’s liquid nitrogen!

Best bit about being a scientist: Getting to play with giant, quite dangerous toys. I have a superconducting magnet and a giant laser in my lab.

Fun fact about yourself: I can juggle with fire and I have made balloon animals for the Tate Modern



Andrea Cullis - media relations manager

T: 02476 528050

M: 07825 314874