Science Talks

The following illustrated talks (each of about 45 mins duration) are available to schools, colleges and professional bodies, within a 50-mile radius of Central London. They are suitable for ages 15+, and reflect various aspects of my current teaching, research and scholarship. Due to the volume of demand and the pressure of work, I have to limit the number of invitations I can accept in any year.

Cyber Crime - the Ultimate Scam?
A new type of criminal has emerged. Educated, intelligent and technically sophisticated, the computer crook may appear in the role of villain or hero. Potentially capable of `the perfect crime', his/her toolkit includes logic bombs, worms, viruses, and Trojan horses. A video reconstruction of a celebrated computer crime is included!

Is IT Safe - Should we Trust Computers?
Our everyday lives are increasingly in the hands of computers. These so-called `safety critical' systems are potentially life-threatening if they go wrong. So how do we know they are safe? With the aid of a short video an unsettling conclusion is offered.

Can You Keep a Secret? - Cryptography and Privacy
Modern cryptography and steganography have developed to the point where anyone with a PC can not only generate messages which are virtually undecipherable by even the best equipped government intelligence agency, but also conceal the fact that they are using strong cryptography at all! This is excellent news for individual privacy and for human rights campaigners operating under oppressive regimes. But what about the international terrorists, drug barons, paedophile rings and pornography peddlers who also use this technology? Video illustrated.

Information Warfare - Battles in CyberSpace
As our society places ever greater reliance on computers for its day-to-day operations and transactions, it becomes increasingly vulnerable to attack by hackers, terrorist groups, counterintelligence agents and military forces of hostile governments. It is at least possible that a future conflict will be waged at the level of computer networks and information infrastructures, rather than with bombs, guns or missiles. What are the likely CyberWar scenarios? And would they lead to a `Clean War'?

Artificial Neural Networks - Novelty from Neurons
Taking inspiration from the structure of the brain, ANNs can be trained to perform a wide variety of complex tasks, including recognition and discrimination and classification. On the other hand, the only computer programs that have beaten international chess grandmasters are essentially reliant on 'brute force' for their success.

Artificial Immune Systems - Learning from Lymphocytes
It has been claimed that the human immune system (HIS) is more complex than the human brain, capable of adaptive learning and remembering. It has inspired the development of AISs which can be used to recognise the kinds of abnormal behaviour patterns that are apparent in criminal activity such as financial fraud and malicious cyberattacks on computer systems and networks.

Artificial Life - Evolution 'in silico'
Evolving populations of hypothetical 'creatures' in a virtual 'environment' can lead to adaptations (or 'biomorphs') of withering strangeness and complexity using very simple principles. This implies that genetic algorithms and genetic programming can be used to evolve good (but not necessarily ideal) solutions to a wide variety of complex problems, such as winning strategies for games.

Computers, Competition & Cooperation - the Evolution of Altruism?
In the Prisoners' Dilemma, the payoffs favour the partner who defects on, rather than cooperates with, the other. However, if they play each other repeatedly, a player whose strategy is always to defect does not win out ultimately - a more cooperative strategy yields higher long-term payoffs. Can this justify/explain the existence of altruism?

Schroedinger's Cat is Alive and Well! - Quantum Computing & Quantum Cryptography
The quantum world allows us to process information in ways undreamed of in our everyday classical world. Quantum superposition and quantum entanglement are two features of quantum information processing which promise the ability to break the toughest known ciphers and to transmit guaranteed tamper-proof messages.