Two of the presenters describe themselves as cyborgs. Neil Harbisson was born colour blind, but can hear colours via an antenna that has been implanted in the back of his head. Photo: Hector Adalid

More than 30 presenters signed up for NTNU’s science festival, The Big Challenge

Comedian Stephen Fry is coming. So is the man who created the drone show that Metallica takes on tour, and a cyborg artist who had an antenna surgically implanted in the back of his head so he can hear colours.

The programme for NTNU’s four-day science festival is nearly complete. One of the presenters will be comedian and author Stephen Fry, known from his work with the BBC and the science programme QI.

Stephen Fry is an English screenwriter, author, playwright, journalist, poet, comedian, television presenter, and film director. He is coming to Trondheim and the Big Challenge Science Festival.

“We’ve been looking forward to putting together our own science festival for some time, and now that the programme is nearly complete, we’re feeling pretty proud as well. Most of the details have been finalized, although there may still be some late-breaking additions,” says Bjarne Foss, NTNU’s Pro-Rector for Research.

Misogyny in a digital age

The festival extends over four days, with more than 30 lecturers organized according to themes on the different days. A limited number of day tickets will be available for purchase. Each day ticket will include evening concerts with artists such as Sting, Sondre Justad and Patti Smith. There will also be special, reduced-price tickets for students.

Ben Goldacre, whistleblower Edward Snowden and the futurist Amy Webb were among the earliest presenters to be signed up. Donna Zuckerberg is also coming to talk about misogyny in the digital age.

A surgically implanted bluetooth

Two of the presenters describe themselves as cyborgs. Neil Harbisson was born colour blind, but can hear colours via an antenna that has been implanted in the back of his head. Moon Ribas has had sensors implanted in the soles of her feet so she can feel earthquakes. Both also have surgically implanted bluetooths in their jaws.

“Both of these people work at the crossroads of art and technology. They are thought provoking and make people curious about what and why they’ve done what they have done. We think that’s exciting,” says Foss.

See video of Neil Harbisson here. 

Among the newest additions to the roster is the man behind the drone swarm featured in Metallica’s WorldWired Tour indoor concerts. Raffaello D’Andrea is a professor of dynamic systems and control at ETH Zurich and the founder of Verity Studios. He is a professor, artist and entrepreneur.

Equal access to technology the most important challenge

“My hope is that my technical creations will inspire us to rethink what role technology will have in shaping our future. The biggest challenge ahead is equality. We need to make the benefits of advanced technology and globalization available to everyone,” says D’Andrea.

He started the company Kiva Systems, which is an automated distribution system consisting of thousands of mobile robots. Kiva was bought by Amazon in 2012 for US $775 million and is now operated as Amazon Robotics. His artistic works have been exhibited under the Venice Biennale and some are also part of the permanent collections of the National Gallery of Canada, the Heinz Nixdorf Museum in Germany and the French FRAC centre.

See video of drones playing soccer here. 

“His ideas on robotics, drones and automation are very thought provoking for business leaders, students and people in general,” says Foss.

In addition to speakers from abroad, a number of NTNU professors and other speakers from Norway will take the stage. These include the technologist Gunnar Tufte, biologist Trond Amundsen and the philologist Thea Selliaas Thorsen.

The programme and speakers can be found here.