The annual Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) Festival of Science

Date: Friday 15th April 2016

Location: Sir Alexander Fleming Building (South Kensington Campus)

The annual Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) Festival of Science is a chance for CDT students to showcase current research and scientific issues to the community of Imperial College London. This year’s theme “Science & Science-Fiction” will explore the role scientific research plays in science-fiction and vice versa through a variety of activities and talks.

Modern developments in science have influenced sci-fi books and movies for decades, but what of the other way round? Many famous inventions were driven by ideas founded in fiction: Simon Lake built the first open ocean submarine based on the Nautilus of Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea; Igor Sikorsky used The Clipper of the Clouds as inspiration for the modern helicopter and H G Wells’ books are known to have stimulated the development of the first fuel-powered rocket. Star Trek was even accredited with influencing the design of Motorola’s first mobile phone and who can forget the push for hoverboard technology since Back to the Future Day last year? The examples are endless!

The symbiotic relationship between science and science-fiction is most prominent in robotics and artificial intelligence (AI). Isaac Asimov, considered the father of modern science-fiction, inspired not just hit films such as I-Robot and Bicentennial Man but the field of robotics itself! In fact Asimov himself coined the term “robotics” and his three laws of robotics are the foundation of many discussions on the ethics of robotics and AI. More recently, blockbusters like Interstellar, Ex Machina (based on the Turing test) and Iron Man all boast AI protagonists. Who knows? Perhaps 2016 will see Mark Zuckerberg’s interpretation of J.A.R.V.I.S.

This year, the CDT Festival of Science will feature speakers both from academia and industry who will share their perspectives on the interaction between science and science-fiction, topped with a panel discussion held on the subject of robotics and AI. Details of speakers can be found here and a provisional programme here. There will be several on-going activities including a virtual reality (VR) experience featuring the Google Cardboard and Titans of Space® apps and the Radial-G: Infinity game. You will also be able to train yourself to manipulate an object in 3-D space with your mind using the Emotiv Epoc EEG device. The final feature is a Sci-Fi Shorts competition with a top prize of £250! The top 3 entries will be presented to the public who will vote for the winner.

CDT Festival 2016 posterfinal