Ratio 2019 - spring
15 June 2019, Sofia Event Center


Along the warm weather, the Spring Edition of the Ratio Popular Science Forum came and took us on yet another unforgettable scientific adventure!

During the past nine editions of the forum we colonised Space (well, at least in words), we looked into the dark Universe through the eyes of Euclid, linked mathemathics with murder and malaria, edited humans with CRISPR/Cas-9 technology, researched the psychology of ghosts, we examined how our neurons are connecting with each other in our brain! We even had the chance to take a closer look at the life of ants and flies!

Over the past 6 years, the stage of Ratio has welcomed international speakers like Peter Watts, Christopher French, Maggie Lieu, Allain Buisson, Steven Le Comber, and many othersOver the past 6 years, the stage of Ratio has welcomed international speakers like Peter Watts, Christopher French, Maggie Lieu, Alain Buisson, Steven Le Comber, and many others. During the breaks in between talks we ensured that our audience would will not be bored, as well. Throughout the years our guests had the chance to play around in Martian gravity, see a mini-model of the Curiosity rover in action, watch different experiments, and even attend an impromptu stand-up comedy skit by one of our speakers. Guests were provided with interesting and engaging content from out partners, too.

And on 15th of June we made no exception!

Lectures and talks

Matthew Cobb: Where are the aliens?

Matthew Cobb

"Is there life on Mars, or anywhere else in the Universe except from Earth?”

The Universe is vast, and composed of billions of galaxies, each of which contains trillions of stars and uncountable numbers of planets. It seems inevitable that there must be life elsewhere, and yet we have no evidence. The skies are not full of robot probes from other civilizations, nor have our radio telescopes detected the slightest bleep from aliens. The great physicist Fermi put it this way: “Where is everyone?” Part of the reason many people assume that there must be life elsewhere is that they do not understand quite how unlikely the origin of intelligent life on Earth has been. By exploring the only form of life we know – that found here – it begins to look as though we may be alone, in our galaxy at least.

Ceri Brenner: Extreme Lasers

The most powerful lasers in the world generate micro balls of plasma that are heated to millions of degrees in a billionth of a second. They can be used to drive super-strength, micro-sized plasma accelerators that generate bright, highly-energetic beams of x-rays and particles.

The research community is now working with industry and clinicians to develop this new technology for applications such as targeted cancer therapy, and for high resolution 3D x-ray imaging of objects such as carbon-fibre composite materials right up to 3D printed steel aerospace components and jet engine parts, and neutron inspection for mapping the contents of nuclear waste barrels. These super power lasers can now fire beams at 10 times a second so using these extreme lasers for societal impact and industrial solutions is just around the corner.

In this talk Dr Brenner will introduce some of the key physics behind the concept of laser-based particle acceleration in intense laser-matter interactions, and subsequent x-ray generation. Applications of this technology will also be covered, demonstrating the multi-disciplinary impact of this exciting field of research and innovation.

Sheena Cruickshank: Тhe microuniverse in your body

We are never alone with around 38 trillion bacteria co-habiting our body. These bacteria along with a whole host of other organisms make up our microbiome. Our microbiome has co-evolved with us and has many vital roles for our health. Bacteria also have an amazing ability to change and enable their host to do things they couldn’t normally do. However, changes in our microbiome are also linked to a whole host of diseases and conditions including obesity. The big question is whether we can change our microbiome to exploit its beneficial functions. Find out how our microbiome is so important for our wellbeing, the extreme measures some people are taking to manipulate it and what learning about the microbiome may help us do in the future.

Discussion: Lose your self with Tamler Sommers, Joshua Weisberg, Greg Dunn

Neuroscience and experimental psychology have only just begun to probe the depths of the human mind. While there are great difficulties correlating mind and brain, these sciences open new ways to explore foundational issues about mind and self.

Among these, we find new practices and substances that remodel our brains. Long-term meditators, for example, exhibit reduced anxiety, depression, neuroticism, and modulation of brain networks including anatomical changes. And psychedelic drugs show promise in the treatment of PTSD and depression, as well as offering insight into the nature of spirituality and the experience of transcendence.

But the more we understand about such experiences, the more pronounced the question of the self becomes. Is there really a substantial self unifying all our experiences, or are we just a loose fabric of conscious moments, a thin construction of our brains? Tamler Sommers, Josh Weisberg, and Greg Dunn will search for the answers of these questions and also questions of the nature of the self at a moment and over time, how self-awareness might differ from consciousness, what is ego dissolution, and more.


10:00-10:45 Registration
10:45-11:00 Opening
11:00-11:45 Matthew Cobb: Where are the aliens?
11:45-12:10 Coffee break with Nescafe Dolce Gusto
12:10-12:55 Ceri Brenner: Extreme Lasers
12:55-13:45 Lunch break
13:45-14:45 Discussion panel: Lose your Self
14:45-15:10 Coffee break with Nescafe Dolce Gusto
15:10-15:55 Sheena Cruickshank: The microuniverse in your body
15:55-16:20 Coffee break with Nescafe Dolce Gusto
16:20-17:20 Q&A from the audience
17:20-17:30 Closing