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Institute of Art and Ideas : Cutting Edge Debates and Talks From the World's Leading Thinkers
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1.

Bang Goes Another Theory of the Universe: Are Black Holes a Fantasy?

Early in his career, Hawking described black holes and claimed they break all physical laws. Since then they have been 'found' at the centre of galaxies. Now leading cosmologists, Hawking amongst them, doubt they exist. Are black holes a fantasy? If so, much is at stake including relativity and the origin of the universe. The Panel Theoretical physicist Laura Mersini-Houghton, author of The Perfect Theory Pedro Ferreira and former Royal Astronomical Society president Michael Rowan-Robinson explore beyond black holes.
Online
2016; 2015
2.

Everything and Nothing: Is Nothing an Illusion?

Some claim it created the universe. Sartre argued it was central to our being. Yet Nothing turns out to be strangely elusive. Scientists can't find it or describe it. Bertrand Russell argued it was just a logical mistake. Is Nothing an illusion, a fictitious error? Or is it a vital key to our understanding of the universe and who we are? The Panel Multiverse cosmologist Laura Mersini-Houghton, CERN physicist John Ellis and philosopher of science and James Ladyman, author of "Every Thing Must Go".
Online
2016; 2015
3.

Guns and Butter: Hard and Soft Power

Early in 2014, Obama teased Putin that we had grown out of military solutions. That was before Russia invaded Ukraine and US bombers returned to the Middle East. Is it a fantasy to imagine the economy has replaced the barrel of the gun as the real source of power? Or is this a short route to Armageddon? The Panel Oxford historian Rana Mitter and politician Clare Short, who resigned from the cabinet over the Iraq war, are joined by Tony Blair's chief speech writer Philip Collins to question where true power lies.
Online
2016; 2015
4.

Hidden Desires and Secret Thoughts: Are We in Control of Our Selves?

Many have been skeptical of Freud's claim that unconscious desires control our lives. Yet recent studies show the conscious brain processes only a tiny fraction of the brain as a whole. Are hidden desires and secret thoughts driving our actions, or is our conscious brain in full control? The Panel Clinical psychologist and author of Madness Explained Richard Bentall, philosopher of mind Barry C. Smith, and BBC New Generation Thinker Shahida Bari uncover the unconscious.
Online
2016; 2015
5.

In Search of the Self: Who Are We?

There is no self, no "I," only a flickering illusion. So claim many neuroscientists and philosophers. Yet for the rest of us, the denial of the self feels like a bitter pill to swallow. Is the self a fantasy? Or is it essential to our being and consciousness? The Panel Cambridge and NCH philosopher Simon Blackburn, neuroscientist Colin Blakemore, philosopher and author of Are You an Illusion? Mary Midgley seek out the all seeing I. In association with New College Humanities.
Online
2016; 2015
6.

Matter and Mind: Is Consciousness Inexplicable?

Neuroscience has enabled us to explain how the brain affects the body. Yet there is no theory to explain how the matter of the brain creates thought and experience. Is consciousness inexplicable because it is not part of the material world? Or is it somehow physical after all and within our grasp? The Panel German philosopher Markus Gabriel, philosopher and author of Nihil Unbound Ray Brassier, and evolutionary biologist Eva Jablonka seek answers. Prize winning novelist Joanna Kavenna hosts.
Online
2016; 2015
7.

Rethinking Capital: Are There Alternative Economic Systems?

As China and Russia adopt their own variants, the reign of capitalism seems absolute. Yet there are many who wish for an alternative and some who claim a final crisis is in the making. Is there a radical alternative that we have not yet discovered? Or is the reality that capitalism is the only viable economic system? The Panel Former Secretary of State for Health Stephen Dorrell, Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman and Marxist political theorist Alex Callinicos reimagine capitalism and the current economic system.
Online
2016; 2015
8.

Strange New Worlds: Imagining Reality

From writing to art, the intense to the light hearted, imagination transports us to untold fantasy worlds. Yet Picasso claimed "everything you can imagine is real." Should we dismiss this as the overblown claims of a celebrity artist, or might what we take to be reality actually be the product of imagination? The Panel Literary critic Terry Eagleton, New york University philosopher Paul Boghossian and Chocolat author Joanne Harris find places where reality ends and the power of imagination begins.
Online
2016; 2015
9.

The Fantasy of Money: Are There Alternatives to Currency?

When backed by gold money had a real value. Yet now it floats free, a fantasy made real by our belief. Are there alternative fantasies that we could create to generate different and perhaps better realities? Or is there something special about the fantasy of money that makes it irreplaceable? The Panel Guardian columnist Stephen Hewlitt asks CEO of Timebanking UK Sarah Bird, reporter for the Financial Times Izabella Kaminska and The Social Life of Money author Nigel Dodd to explore the alternatives to money.
Online
2016; 2015
10.

Time, Space and Being: Are Space and Time Just a Human Fantasy?

We think space and time are the structure of the universe. Yet Einstein argued 'space and time are modes by which we think and not conditions in which we live.' And philosophers, Kant and Heidegger, saw space and time as the framework of thought not the world. Are space and time just a human fantasy? The Panel Physicist and author of The End of Time Julian Barbour, Cambridge metaphysician Huw Price and philosopher of science Michela Massimi think outside space and time.
Online
2016; 2015
11.

Unexplained Events: Does Everything Have a Cause and Effect?

We assume all events are caused by something. Yet we happily refer to random chance be it a freak accident, or the state of quantum particles. Might causality be a fiction and inexplicable events written into the character of the universe, or with greater understanding could we find an explanation for everything? Sponsored by BBC Focus Magazine. The Panel Templeton prize winning cosmologist George Ellis, Imperial College string theorist Michael Duff and American philosopher of physics Nancy Cartwright confront unexplained events and untangle cause and effect.
Online
2016; 2015
12.

Unnatural Laws: Are Eternal Laws an Illusion?

From Newton's laws to E=mc2, we think we have uncovered the secrets of the universe. But some claim these laws evolve and others point to their human and cultural origins. Might eternal natural laws be human hubris? Or is the mind of God in our grasp? The Panel CERN physicist and coiner of the term "Theory of Everything" John Ellis, author of The Science Delusion Rupert Sheldrake and American philosopher of physics Nancy Cartwright debate the sacred assumptions of science.
Online
2016; 2015
13.

Catching Sight of Ourselves: Who Looks Back in the Mirror?

Far flung destinations are often home to those seeking to "find themselves." Encouraged perhaps by Socrates' maxim for an ethical life: "know thyself." But do any of us ever arrive? Is the self a real and stable enough "thing" that it can be known? Or can we never catch sight of ourselves in the mirror? The Panel Anthropologist and author of Stuff Daniel Miller, actress and writer Adjoa Andoh, and KCL philosopher Christopher Hamilton examine the limits of self-knowledge.
Online
2016; 2015
14.

Changing the World: Is Activism a Failed Strategy?

From Tahir Square to Hong Kong, Occupy Wall Street to Anonymous, we have seen a surge in grassroots and social media activism. Yet the army is in power in Cairo and bankers continue to draw their bonuses. Is activism a failed strategy? Are political parties the only way to drive change or will student and street activism surprise us yet? The Panel Political campaigner Peter Tatchell, research director at Demos Carl Miller and Telegraph columnist Dan Hodges contest the best ways to bring about change.
Online
2016; 2015
15.

Desire, Dreams and Happiness: Can We Ever Arrive at True Happiness in Life?

Many think wealth, love and fame bring happiness in life. But Proust warned that while desire makes life blossom, possession makes it wither. Is there more value in desire and aspiration than in arrival? And if so should we seek better dreams and fantasies to enrich our lives? The Panel Radical sociologist Steve Fuller, erotic capital theorist Catherine Hakim, and psychiatrist and Chair of the Mental Health Foundation Dinesh Bhugra seek answers. In association with Psychologies Magazine.
Online
2016; 2015
16.

Dreamland: How to Live Your Life

Fulfill your dreams and make the most of your life! So advocate headmasters, moralists and revolutionaries. Yet poet John Betjeman's principal regret was that he did not have more sex. Is life not about goals and ambition but about the moment of being? Or is making our dreams real the only way to fulfillment? The Panel Writer of The Guardian's This Column Will Change Your Life Oliver Burkeman, author of A Life Inside Erwin James, and Absolutely Fabulous star Helen Lederer debate the best way to live.
Online
2016; 2015
17.

Everything We Know Is Wrong: Can Science Alone Uncover the Truth?

At a time of uncertainty and doubt, we often suppose that science alone can uncover the truth. Yet a recent paper found that 90% of scientific studies are not reproducible. Should we see science as a flawed method and look elsewhere for our truths, or is it the only direct line to reality we've got? The Panel Outspoken philosopher of science Steve Fuller, Economist Data Editor Kenneth Cukier and bestselling theoretical physicist and cosmologist Lawrence Krauss tell Gabrielle Walker why so much of what we think we know is wrong.
Online
2016; 2015
18.

How Men and Women Think: Are Mental Differences Between the Sexes Real?

Many neuroscientists believe disorders of the mind will be solved when we understand the differences between the male and female brain. Yet is frequently argued that men and women are not born but made. Are mental differences between the sexes real? Or is this just sexism dressed up as science? The Panel Cambridge psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen, Darwinian philosopher Helena Cronin and eminent neuroscientist Gina Rippon investigate.
Online
2016; 2015
19.

Killing the King: The Myth of the Strong Leader

Ancient cultures often chose their leader and gave them unbridled power of life and death. But if the crops failed the leader was killed. Are voters still in thrall to the same fantasy believing each new leader will work miracles? Do we demand the impossible or are our leaders simply incompetent? The Panel Outspoken columnists Polly Toynbee and David Aaronovitch and journalist John Sweeney put our chiefs on trial.
Online
2016; 2015
20.

Love Incorporated: Can We Measure Our Emotions?

As Romeo and Juliet showed, love is a wild and unpredictable force even when faced with reason and control. But we join online dating sites to increase our probability of finding it. Are emotions and intimacy rational choices that can be measured and explained, or is this the sort of reductionist thinking that love seeks to escape? The Panel Broadcaster and priest Richard Coles, erotic capital theorist Catherine Hakim and consultant psychiatrist Mark Salter investigate love.
Online
2016; 2015