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IHRR’s Tipping Points project will be at the 2013 British Science Festival in Newcastle with the event Tipping Points in Nature and Society on Wednesday, 11 September.  You can now book this event on the British Science Festival’s website.  We have put together a fascinating group of presentations for the festival and plan to have some exciting discussions about critical thresholds that affect nature and society.  How does a bank network collapse?  How can we better understand present and future climate change?  How do terms like ‘tipping point’ spread? Do they have meaning or are they simply meaningless buzz words?  These plus a series of other related questions will be explored at Tipping Points in Nature and Society.


Critical Transitions in Climate

What can studying the climate of the distant past tell us about our present climate? Rapid changes in climate have occurred in the past, long before direct measurements were made, but are these ‘tipping points’ in the climate system? Does irreversible change happen? Climate scientists Professor Antony Long, Dr Eleanor Maddison and Dr Sarah Woodroffe will help shed some light on the mystery of abrupt environmental change by introducing how studying past climate change can help us understand what changes may be in store for our planet in the future.

Banks, Networks and the Financial Crisis

The global banking crisis, including the Euro Zone crisis, came about due to a number of powerful banks collapsing suddenly, causing irreparable damage that spread like a virus throughout the entire financial system. What triggered the banking crisis in the UK that began with Northern Rock, RBS and other financial institutions? What can we learn about the instability and failures of the banking system by combining research in financial history, biology and computer science?  Financial historian Professor Ranald Michie and computational biologist Dr Philip Garnett will show how history and science can inform each other in studying the behaviour of bank networks.

The Spread of the Tipping Point Metaphor in Science and Society

When the ‘tipping point’ metaphor was popularised in the early 2000s scientists from disparate fields such as sociology, physics and biomedicine used it persistently in their academic publications. Ironically, this term became frequently used and cited in the sciences not as result of academics first using it, but through a journalist working for the New Yorker, Malcolm Gladwell. Do metaphors like ‘tipping point’ also ‘tip’ in and out of popularity?  If so, why do certain metaphors get taken up by scientists more than others? Social scientist Dr Pojanath Bhatanacharoen will take us on a tour of how ‘tipping point’ spread throughout science and share some insights into how it is used in academic research and society.

Multimedia Interactive Discussion

After talks given by presenters, a diverse panel of researchers will join us for an interactive discussion with the audience about what tipping points actually mean for the world we live in. This will include audio/visual examples of tipping points that have been used widely in science, popular culture and philosophy to see how far tipping points can stretch the human imagination into thinking about science, society and nature in new and creative ways.

This event is part of the British Science Festival in Newcastle from 7-12 September 2013. Details of all events are available online at Tickets can be booked online or by calling 020 7019 4947. More information about the Tipping Points project based at Durham University’s Institute of Hazard, Risk and Resilience is available at: