Topics and Speakers

  • The Promise and Peril of Big Data – Comedian and Author, Timandra Harris
    Science Denial: will any knowledge do? – Dr. Robert P. Crease, Stony Brook University, NYC (Robert also decries Trump’s view of Science)
  • Can you trust your senses? Sensory Perception and Food – Amy Burns, Director of the Food and Consumer Testing, University of Ulster
    Scientific enquiry and brain state: Understanding the nature of knowledge – Professor William (Billy) T. O’Connor, UL.
  • How, Who & What of Scientific Discovery – Paul Strathern – renowned British author and academic.
  • Boyle’s theory of Knowledge – Dr William Eaton, Associate Professor of Early Modern Philosophy, Georgia Southern University.

This boutique festival celebrates the legacy of Robert Boyle who was born in Lismore Castle in 1627 and became of the most important scientists in world history, best known for Boyle’s Law www.robertboyle.ie

Speaker Details

Timandra Harkness will talk about the “Promise and Peril of Big Data”

Big Data holds great promise for scientific advancement in healthcare and many other areas, but do corporations know too much about us? How is Big Data manipulating everything from our shopping to our elections?

Timandra is a presenter, comedian and writer who wrote the critically acclaimed book Big Data: Does Size Matter?

Timandra presents FutureProofing the BBC Radio 4 series. She has also presented documentaries, Data, Data Everywhere, Supersense Me & The Singularity, and was resident reporter on Radio 4’s social psychology series The Human Zoo.

More about Timandra here

Her TedX talk What Is Knowledge In The Age Of Big Data? Can be seen here

Dr Robert P. Crease, professor and chair of the Department of Philosophy at Stony Brook University, New York, asks “Science Denial: will any knowledge do?”

What kind of authority does science have in politics and public life? What should it have? Scientific authority seems at a low point in many countries thanks to the flourishing of science denial, or the rejection of science in areas where political, economic, and religious interests come into play. It is easy to blame this on villains like the press, scientific illiteracy, posturing politicians, and irrationality, but the real answer is complicated. Understanding science denial, and how to counter it, requires shifting the focus from the “What” in the question “What do we know?” to the “we and the “know.”

Professor Crease has written, translated, or edited over a dozen books on history and philosophy of science. Crease is Co-Editor-in-Chief of Physics in Perspective, and writes a monthly column, “Critical Point,” for Physics World magazine, on the philosophy and history of science. His articles and reviews have appeared in the Atlantic Monthly, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Newsday and elsewhere.

Robert’s website can be seen here

And, you can view his TEDxCERN talk here 

Amy Burns,: Can you trust your senses? Sensory Perception and Food

Our senses are the way our brains receive information about the world. They tell us exactly what’s out there, right? Well, think again. Amy Burns will demonstrate how the senses of taste and smell and our brains interpretation of them can be fooled, and she will do this in a most fun way -with food and drink!

Dr Amy Burns is the Director of the Food and Consumer Testing Suite (FACTS) at the University of Ulster. Amy graduated with a BSc in Nutritional Sciences at University College Cork before completing a PhD in biomedical sciences at Ulster University in 2001.Amy has considerable experience of working with private companies in Northern Ireland, other parts of the UK and the Republic of Ireland, researching consumer behaviour and sensory response to food and drink.

More about Amy here 

Professor William (Billy) T. O’Connor is internationally known both for his work in neuroscience and for promoting public understanding of how the brain works. Billy will talk about “Scientific enquiry and brain state: Understanding the nature of knowledge”.

Foundation Chair, Head of Teaching and Research in Physiology at the University of Limerick Graduate Entry Medical School. His previous posts include Head of Neuroscience Research in University College Dublin, and Associate Professor of Pharmacology at the Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden. His main interest is understanding illness of mind and brain as a disorder of the nerve network, and in the emerging field of neuroeducation – the brain science of learning. Billy has a strong commitment to community outreach. This is best illustrated through the popular Inside-the-Brain website, Twitter and Facebook accounts which report on the latest findings from the world of brain research. More about Prof O’Connor here 

Paul Strathern is a British writer and academic who has also written numerous books on science, philosophy, history, literature, medicine and economics. He will discuss the How, Who & What of Scientific Discovery

Paul was born in London, and studied at Trinity College, Dublin, has lectured in philosophy and mathematics and is a Somerset Maugham Prize–winning novelist. Besides five novels, he is the author of two successful series of short introductory books: Philosophers in 90 Minutes and The Big Idea: Scientists Who Changed the World. His book on the history of chemistry entitled Mendeleyev’s Dream (2001) was short-listed for the Aventis Prize, and his works have been translated into over two dozen languages. He is the author of the best-selling The Medici: Godfathers of the Renaissance, Napoleon in Egypt, and The Artist, the Philosopher and the Warrior: Leonardo, Machiavelli and Borgia – a fateful collusion (2009) and The Spirit of Venice: from Marco Polo to Casanova (2012). He extended the Philosophers in 90 Minutes format to writers including Joyce and Beckett. His most recent works are The Periodic Table and “Quacks, Rogues and Charlatans” (both 2015).Strathern was a lecturer at Kingston University, where he taught philosophy and mathematics.More about Paul’s books here

Dr William (Bill) Eaton, Associate Professor of Early Modern Philosophy, Georgia Southern University will speak about Boyle’s theory of Knowledge.

It’s well known that Robert Boyle was a champion of experimental scientific knowledge, but much more can be said about his epistemology. Bill Eaton will discuss Boyle’s view on the nature and limits of scientific knowledge, his rejection of premature speculation, the status of innate ideas and intuitive knowledge, and his anticipation of both the problem of induction and the distinction between real and nominal essence. By seeing his philosophy of science in the larger context of his other epistemological concerns, we come to a better understanding of Boyle’s contribution to the development of the modern world.

William is also an Affiliated Faculty Member of the Centre for Irish Research and Teaching, and a Research Associate at the Centre for Renaissance and Early Modern Studies, at the University of York. His work includes research in Early Modern Philosophy, the History and Philosophy of Science, and Contemporary Analytic Metaphysics. He is currently writing a book that explores the influence of medical science on the development of early modern philosophy. More about Bill Eaton here

Thursday 21st The Robert Boyle Show.

A costumed show recreating the life and works of Robert Boyle with Calmast will start off the festival and set the scene. It will introduce attendees to Boyle and his works. Boyle’s experiments were famous throughout Europe and performed to crowned heads. These demonstrations have not lost their impact after 350 years and they will be faithfully recreated and explained. This show has been performed in several countries and has travelled the Island in 2017 as the Institute of Physics Tyndall Lecture, playing to over 2,000 people.

Sunday 24th: Imponderable Science: Boyle and the history of cold

In everyday language we still talk of heat and cold being different qualities and this was the predominant belief in Boyle’s time. Boyle conducted extensive experiments to investigate cold and temperature and in 1665, published New Experiments and Observations Touching Cold.

Paul Nugent, Dr Sheila Donegan, Eoin Gill and Cordula Weiss will present a recreation and interpretation of Boyle’s own work. Sheila, Eoin and Cordula work with Calmast the STEM Hub for the South East of Ireland based in Waterford Institute of Technology where they manage a large programme of science promotion and communication. Paul is a physics teacher based in Dublin and the Institute of Physics Teacher Coordinator for the Republic of Ireland and one of the leads in the very popular Physics Busking initiative. All four are part of the organising committee and will normally be behind the scenes keeping everything running smoothly. They will come together to recreate Boyle’s own experiments and explain them in the context of understanding of the time and their significance for the evolution of science.


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