Oxford University Scientific Society - Trinity Term 2012

NEW! Full video of the debate is on the web.

Here is Part 1 (the debate itself) and Part 2 (audience Q&A).


Dr Aubrey de Grey and Prof. Colin Blakemore, moderated by Professor Sir Richard Peto - Wednesday, 25th April 2012, in the Sheldonian Theatre at 7.00pm

This event is FREE and open to EVERYONE.

Tickets will be available at the door, before the talk at the Sheldonian (Broad Street, Oxford).

Register your opinion on the question beforehand here.

Please arrive EARLY (by 18:15) to be seated.


Dr Aubrey de Grey is the Chief Science Officer of SENS Foundation. He is also Editor-in-Chief of Rejuvenation Research, the world's highest-impact peer-reviewed journal focused on intervention in ageing. His research interests encompass the characterization of molecular and cellular side-effects of metabolism (damage) that constitute mammalian ageing and the design of interventions to repair and/or obviate that damage. He has developed a possibly comprehensive plan for such repair, termed Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS).

Dr de Grey is a Fellow of the Gerontological Society of America and of the American Aging Association.

Web site: http://www.sens.org/users/aubrey-de-grey

This article written by Dr Aubrey de Grey in 2005 is certainly relevant to the debate.*

*EMBO reports 2005; 6(Special Issue): S49.


Prof. Colin Blakemore is Professor of Neuroscience at Oxford University. He has formerly been Waynflete Professor of Physiology at Oxford, director of the Oxford Centre for Cognitive Neuroscience, and Chief Executive of the Medical Research Council. Colin's research has been concerned with many aspects of vision, the early development of the brain and plasticity of the cerebral cortex. He was made a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1992. Colin is actively involved in the public communication of science through television, radio, and as the author of numerous books and articles.

Web site: http://www.dpag.ox.ac.uk/academic_staff/colin_blakemore/

This article and this article, both from the Times science supplement 'Eureka', were written by Prof. Blakemore.†‡

The Times Eureka 2012; January: 32–7.
The Times Eureka 2009; 5th November.

Chaired by:

Prof. Sir Richard Peto is Professor of Medical Statistics & Epidemiology at the University of Oxford, and director of the Clinical Trial Service Unit. His work has included studies of the causes of cancer, particularly the effects of smoking, and the establishment of large scale randomized trials. He has been instrumental in introducing combined 'meta-analyses' of results from related trials that achieve uniquely reliable assessment of treatment effects. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (for the introduction of meta-analyses) in 1989, and was knighted (for services to epidemiology and to cancer prevention) in 1999.

Web site: http://www.ctsu.ox.ac.uk/about/biographies/professor-sir-richard-peto

This article in the British Medical Journal, co-written by Professor Sir Richard Peto, is relevant to the debate; the points it makes should not be overlooked.§

§BMJ editorial 1997; 315: 1030.

Press Release:

Oxford University Scientific Society is hosting a debate on Wednesday, 25th April, 2012. The debate will begin at 19:00 in the University of Oxford's Sheldonian Theatre; doors open 45 minutes earlier.

Dr Aubrey de Grey will propose the motion "This house wants to defeat ageing entirely" and Professor Colin Blakemore will be opposing. The debate will be chaired and moderated by Professor Sir Richard Peto. This debate will address the whether it is feasible and appropriate to consider ageing as a target of decisive medical intervention, raising the possibility of substantial extension of human lifespan.

Aubrey de Grey is currently Chief Science Officer of SENS Foundation, a biomedical research charity that aims to develop, promote, and ensure widespread access to rejuvenation biotechnologies that address the diseases and disabilities of ageing. Its research agenda consists of the application of regenerative medicine to ageing — not merely slowing the ageing clock, but resetting it to early adulthood.

Colin Blakemore is Professor of Neuroscience at the University of Oxford Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences. He is an expert in vision, development of the brain and neurodegenerative disease. He is active in communication of science and is president and adviser to several charities concerned with brain disorders. Colin Blakemore was formerly Chief Executive of the Medical Research Council, the UK's largest public funder of biomedical research.

Along with presentations and discussion from Aubrey de Grey and Colin Blakemore, the debate will provide an opportunity for questions from the audience.

The entire event will be moderated by Professor Sir Richard Peto, Professor of Medical Statistics and Epidemiology at the University of Oxford, and an expert on the hazards of smoking and benefits of stopping.

Oxford University Scientific Society is a student society that aims to disseminate science research and to promote scientific discussions. For more information on the debate, please visit http://users.ox.ac.uk/~science/

Directions and contact information for the Sheldonian can be found at the facility's website: http://www.ox.ac.uk/subsite/sheldonian_theatre/sheldonian_theatre/

For background information on Dr de Grey and Prof. Blakemore, please see the following links:


"The Botanic Garden — Your Modern Medicine Cabinet"

Dr Alison Foster (Oxford University Botanic Carden) — Wednesday, 2nd May 2012 at 8.15pm

Dr Alison Foster is responsible for the Public Education Programme and research collaborations portfolio of the Botanic Garden. Alison has a PhD in organic chemistry and worked in the pharmaceutical industry before retraining in horticulture when her passion for plants got the better of her. Her particular interest is in medicinal plants. She has recently introduced a new medicinal plants collection to the Botanic Garden and written a short book to accompany the collection. This talk will share the development of the new collection.

"Optical Flow, Collective Behaviour, and Animal Welfare"

Prof. Marian Dawkins (University of Oxford) — Wednesday, 9th May 2012 at 8.15pm

Any chicken you eat is probably less than 6 weeks old — so rapid has been its growth from fluffy chick to tikka masala. But what has this massively efficient conversion of food to meat done to the welfare of the birds themselves? A joint Zoology/Engineering Science project is using the optical flow patterns produced by the movements of large flocks to decipher not just what is happening to the animals at any one time but also to predict what their welfare will be days and even weeks ahead. Camera technology is coming to the aid of animal welfare.

Marian Dawkins works in the Department of Zoology here in Oxford and has recently published (March 2012) Why Animals Matter: Animal Welfare, Animal Consciousness and Human Well-Being and (with Aubrey Manning) An Introduction to Animal Behaviour 6th edition.

"Confounding Colour Curiosities: the Science of Seeing Colour"

Dr Andrew Hanson (National Physical Laboratory) — Wednesday, 16th May 2012 at 8.15pm

New location: Physical & Theoretical Chemistry Laboratory lecture theatre, South Parks Road.

Colour is a three dimensional sensation derived from three species of retinal cone types. If only it were that simple. The flexibility and intricacies of the human visual system makes colour a really hard thing to model, measure and specify for a world who relies on it extensively for safety, informing and consumer choice. So how would you measure colour, or build a machine to measure the shininess of cats?

"How the Current Drug Laws Hold Back Science"

Professor David Nutt (Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs)—Wednesday, 23rd May 2012 at 8.15pm

At the usual location: Inorganic Chemistry Laboratory lecture theatre, South Parks Road.

Professor David Nutt is currently the Edmond J. Safra professor of neuropsychopharmacology at Imperial College London and director of the Neuropsychopharmacology Unit at the Hammersmith Hospital. His research is on drugs that affect the brain and conditions such as addiction, anxiety and sleep. He went on to launch the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs after his controversial sacking as chair of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs in 2009 for allegedly 'crossing the line' from science to policy.