Royal Academy of Engineering Fellow, Professor Dame Wendy Hall, will be leading one of three Academy events at this year’s Times Cheltenham Science Festival. Dame Wendy is one of three guest directors for the Festival, alongside the science minister Rt Hon David Willets MP and comedian Dara O’Briain.

Dame Wendy will be curating a number of events to unravel and explore society’s relationship with the internet. The Web and Us will explore how society is shaping the Web, and how the Web can shape the way we think. For this Dame Wendy will be joined by Academy Fellow and Professor of Artificial Intelligence Nigel Shadbolt, social scientist Aleks Krowtoski and neuroscientist Professor Uta Frith. The discussion is supported both by the Academy and the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering, which this year was awarded to Louis Pouzin, Robert Kahn, Vinton Cerf, Sir Tim Berners-Lee and Marc Andreessen for their pioneering work on the World Wide Web and the internet.

Dame Wendy says: “I am delighted to be a guest director at this year’s Times Cheltenham Science Festival, which does such a great job at bringing the public together with working scientists and engineers for real debate and discussion. In a relatively short timeframe the Web has had a massive impact on the way we conduct our lives, and I am looking forward to some lively discussions with both my fellow panellists and the Cheltenham audience.”

Earlier in the Festival week, Academy Fellow Professor Paul Cannon will join solar scientist Dr Lucie Green to discuss space weather and its potential impact on our daily lives. The talk will be chaired by BBC presenter Maggie Philbin. The discussion follows an Academy study, led by Professor Cannon, which explored the effect of extreme space weather on the engineered systems and infrastructures that we all use on a day-to-day basis.

Rounding off the week is Call my genetically engineered bluff, which will put an engineering spin on the well-known TV quiz. Written by BBC’s Call My Bluff original screen writer, Marcus Moore, the quiz will feature two teams of Cheltenham Festival favourites, including Festival Directors Professor Kathy Sykes and Professor Mark Lythgoe, battling it out to prove they have the best engineering knowledge.

Royal Academy of Engineering events:

Solar superstorms: global threat or storm in a tea cup?

Wednesday 5 June 2013, 6:30pm to 7:30pm

Our lives revolve around technology. But this reliance means we are at the mercy of phenomena like space weather, which can disrupt satellites, power supplies, air travel and other technologies. How much should we worry about this? Could it ever cause a catastrophic electronic black out? And how can we protect ourselves against its effects? Solar Scientist Lucie Green is joined by Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering Paul Cannon to explore space weather and its impact on our daily lives.

The Web and Us

Saturday 8 June 2013, 12.45pm to 1.45pm

It's not a coincidence that patterns of connectivity in our brains are similar to the patterns of connectivity on the Web. The Web is not trying to replicate human intelligence, but it might be getting close because of the way that we, as humans, use it. How will it continue to evolve? Guest Director Wendy Hall leads this discussion about how society is shaping the Web as the Web is shaping society, with neuroscientist Uta Frith, social scientist Aleks Krotoski and Artificial Intelligence Professor Nigel Shadbolt. Joined on stage by Twitter chair Bill Thompson.

Call my genetically engineered bluff

Sunday 9 June 2013, 3.00pm to 4.00pm

A complex algorithm of an event, during which some eminent machines probe, modify, and tell outrageous porkies about the nuts and bolts of obscure technological words and phrases. Base pair Kathy Sykes and Mark Lythgoe, lead the research, assisted by Timandra Harkness, Helen Arney, Frank Burnet and Matt Parker. Uncivil engineer Marcus Moore draws doodles of their findings on the back of an envelope.

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Notes for editors

  1. Cheltenham Science Festival: 4 – 9 June 2013
    For more details visit:
    #cheltscifest @cheltfestivals

    The Times Cheltenham Science Festival is a six-day celebration of science, engineering and the arts and is produced by Cheltenham Festivals. A rare opportunity for the public to come face-to-face with around 300 of the world’s leading scientists and thinkers, the Festival annually issues in excess of 39,000 tickets whilst the free interactive Discover Zone and other free events and exhibitions attracts over 14,000 visitors. The six-day Festival promises a mix of serious debate, live experiments and surprising discoveries all based at Cheltenham Town Hall.
  2. Founded in 1976, The Royal Academy of Engineering promotes the engineering and technological welfare of the country. Our fellowship - comprising the UK's most eminent engineers - provides the leadership and expertise for our activities, which focus on the relationships between engineering, technology, and the quality of life. As a national academy, we provide independent and impartial advice to Government; work to secure the next generation of engineers; and provide a voice for Britain's engineering community

For more information please contact

Manisha Lalloo at The Royal Academy of Engineering
Tel. 020 7766 0683; email: Manisha Lalloo