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Dr. Lewis Dartnell

Presenter: Dr. Lewis Dartnell

Email address:


Phone number: 07799 532842

Space Research Centre
University of Leicester

Last Modified: 19 March 2014

Description: I am a young research scientist at University of Leicester, and also write regular freelance articles in newspapers and magazines. I have published two popular science books: 'My Tourist's Guide to the Solar System and Beyond' (2012, Dorling Kindersley) and 'Life in the Universe: A Beginner's Guide' (2007, OneWorld).

I offer a number of popular science talks that I have presented many times at schools, science festivals, the Royal Albert Hall and Royal Institution, and even for passenger entertainment aboard cruise ships! I also present at science careers events. Details on my various talks are here:

1) Astrobiology - The Hunt for Alien Life - 'Astrobiology' is a brand new field of science, encompassing research into the origins and limits of life on our own planet, and where life might exist beyond the Earth. But what actually is 'life' and how did it emerge on our own world? What are the most extreme conditions terrestrial life can tolerate? And what would an alien actually look like - how realistic are the life-forms envisaged by science fiction novels and films over the years? Join Dr. Lewis Dartnell on a tour of the other planets and moons in our solar system which may harbour life, and even further afield to alien worlds orbiting distant stars, to explore one of the greatest questions ever asked: are we alone...?

2) Hacking the Brain: What optical and auditory illusions can tell us about how the mind works - Our brain runs as an organic computer to allow us to see and hear the world around us. Optical illusions 'hack the brain' to disrupt this process and so allow us to understand how the brain works. With live demonstrations of a great variety of optical and auditory illusions, this talk will reveal the inner workings of the mind. Warning: you may begin to see the world in a whole new way!

3) Sounds of the Cosmos - They say that in space no one can hear you scream, but if you took your space helmet off on Mars they could certainly hear you scream your lungs out, quite literally! Any planet or moon with an atmosphere can transmit sound, and the universe is abuzz with radio emissions which really come alive when played as audio. Hear the surface of the sun ringing like a bell, the eerie whistle from Jupiter's intense magnetic field, the pitter-patter of the rings of Saturn, and the rapid beat of pulsars. With plenty of astounding audio recordings, this talk will transport your ears to all corners of the universe and show you what space scientists can learn from the sounds of the cosmos!

4) A Scientist goes to the movies - There’s much more science in the cinema than you might have thought. Either subtly incorporated into the storyline or used explicitly as in sci-fi, science is woven into many popular films, but not all of it very convincingly! Which famous romantic comedy gets its teeth into the weirdness of quantum mechanics, and in which clangers are the laws of science apparently different in Hollywood from the rest of the Universe? Bring your popcorn and settle comfortably into your seat as we take a humorous look at some of the greatest Hits and Misses of science in the movies.

5) Alien Evolution - 'Astrobiology' encompasses research into the origins and limits of life on our own planet and where else this marvellous phenomenon might have emerged. On some worlds the conditions could be stable enough to allow life to progress beyond microbes. These alien plants and animals would be subject to the same physical constraints as life on Earth, and so certain features might be universal throughout the galaxy, whereas other alien features would have evolved as ingenious solutions for survival in environments very different to Earth. So what might an alien actually look like? Building on firm scientific foundations, where evolutionary biology, astrophysics and planetary science overlap, we’ll see just how plausible are the aliens that populate our sci-fi films and TV shows.

Type of presentation: Talk/Lecture

Duration of presentation/timings: Anything from 30 mins to 90 mins

Subjects covered:
Life processes and living things
Physical processes

Regions covered: East Midlands, East of England, South East & London, South West, West Midlands, Yorkshire and Humber

Details of catchment area: I'll travel anywhere within an hour or so of London on the train

Audience types: 11-14 (Key Stage 3/ P7/ S1-2), 14-16 (Key Stage 4/ S3-4), 16 years +, 7-11 (Key Stage 2/ P3-6), Adults, Families, Professionals, Students

Group size: I have spoken to audiences from 40 to over 400

Special education needs catered for: No

Space/facility/venue requirements: Projector

Level of experience: Professional science communicator

CRB checked or Disclosure Scotland: Yes

Science & Engineering Ambassador: Yes

Booking details: Contact

Free: No

Charge details (if applicable): From £100 + travel expenses

Rating: 5 Stars


5 Stars - Andrea Martin - Andrea Martin - Grange Park Primary School Lewis visited us here in Telford to deliver 'Sounds of the Cosmos' as part of our Space Week. The children were immersed in these sounds, and the idea that they come from space, and couldn't wait to ask him the millions of questions running around their heads. He was fantastic with all the children - even our youngest who are only 4, but definitely had the most probing questions! We wouldn't hesitate to invite Lewis to visit us again, indeed we hope he will if he's ever in the area.

5 Stars - Roger Farnworth - Lewis spoke at Mensa's first science day and helped to guarantee the success of future days through his fascinating talk. It received over 90% "excellent" rating on the feedback form. He was very good at answering wideranging questions on his subject. I think we will be hearing much of the department of Astrobiology at Imperial in the future.

5 Stars - Marc Coton - Dr Lewis Dartnell visited our college in Devon to present ‘Sounds of the Cosmos’ and ‘Life on Mars’. His audience was chosen from KS3 across three colleges with an interest in science, and his manner and presentation was ideal for a young audience. The students were overwhelmingly positive about the day, really enjoying the Biovisions film inside our body, and the sounds and images that Lewis used to explore space. He handled audience participation with the skill of an experienced and knowledgeable teacher and showed a genuine enthusiasm for encouraging young people to explore ideas and develop enterprising skills. Highly recommended.

5 Stars - Ed Millar - Lewis came to give a talk on Astrobiology to an audience of 50 non-specialist physics teachers at our summer school. The talk went down extremely well, with delegates giving him top marks on their feedback forms. I found the talk incredibly interesting - one of the best we have had at the summer schools, and Lewis an engaging and enthusiastic speaker.

5 Stars - Ann Lackie - Lewis travelled all the way to Cockermouth in NW Cumbria to talk to our Café Scientifique about astrobiology. Our capacity audience - most of whom are non-scientists - was intrigued and stimulated; the questions came without pause and Lewis answered them fully and with a wide breadth of knowledge of many fields. An excellent and entertaining evening.

5 Stars - Lynda Warren - As an event producer I recently booked Lewis to give a presentation on Astrobiology to a group of 500 6th form students attending an Study Experience/Ri Science event at Disneyland Paris. Whilst not a scientist myself I found his presentation interesting and exciting, his performance was dynamic and held the audiences attention and the feed back from science teachers and students has been great. I would not hesitate to recommend Lewis to any group wishing to book him as a guest speaker. February 2010

5 Stars - John Ellis - John Ellis – Westminster Kingsway College. Lewis gave a talk at our College which caters for 16-19 level 2 and 3 students as well as Foundation year Mathematics and Engineering student. His lecture was perfectly pitched and paced, and kept our students enthralled for the duration. He conducted a Q&A session after his talk with confidence and sincerity and showed due respect to all students who asked questions, whatever their knowledge or understanding. He continued to field questions from eager students well after his allotted slot and succeeded in engaging and inspiring both the most skeptical and less able students. Well Done.

5 Stars - Nick Fisher - The talk on Life in he Universe was one of the best received presenatations we have had at Rugby School. Lewis was very generous with his time, giving a splendid Oxbrideg tutorial to our top sixth formers.

5 Stars - David Elliott - Lewis gave a popular lecture at the Royal Astronomical Society to c.100 members of the public on 'The Search for Life Beyond Earth'. It was extremely well received combining as it did wit and wisdom ( and appropriately pitched for a non-specialist) audience.

5 Stars - Chris Everall - Lewis gave a keynote presentation to 40 teachers that are part of the Leading Space Education programme funded by the STFC and coordinated by the SSAT. the talk entitled 'Astrobiology' was given in the evening and was suitably lively and engaging. Teachers felt inspired and learned about this relatively new field of science and how research teams work together STEM across subjects. The session was rated overall as outstanding and received on of the highest scores at a very successful event.

5 Stars - Jenni Dunne - Lewis gave an inspiring talk to a large group of pupils and parents, which engaged, entertained and enthused all present. He is a superb role model for aspiring young scientists. My Year 12 pupils thought he was "fantastic"!

5 Stars - Maroulla Richardson - Lewis addressed approximately 250 students in our svhool theatre (Kingsmead school) at the end of a teaching day, but manged to entertain them for nearly an hour! His enthusiasm and motivation come across very clearly and he is a very inspiring speaker. The talk was interesting for both staff and students, clearly explaining some complex science so that they could be understood by all. I would strongly recommend Lewis and shall be inviting him back soon for more talks.

5 Stars - Peter Parish - Lewis's talk at our society (Mid Kent Astronomical Society) was both, interesting and informative. Although very knowlegeable himself he has the happy knack when speaking , of making his listeners feel they are at his level while he's really pitching the talk to theirs. On the Astronomical front, the possiblity of life in Europa's Ocean is fascinating. When Lewis finished his talk at our society I was asked by many when he was coming back.

5 Stars - Scott Reed-King - Lewis came to the National Space Centre as a guest speaker and delivered a thoroughly enjoyable presentation on the possibilities of finding life on other Planets and Moons. The content was interesting, sometimes humorous, visually exciting and delivered in a relaxed manner to which our visitors could relate. The feedback was excellent, and I hope to have Lewis back with us in the future.

5 Stars - Anonymous - Lewis' talk was a highlight of our weekly programme of visiting speakers. He commanded the attention of a large audience of teenagers with a riveting talk on the likelihood of extra-terrestial life. He has a natural feel for an audience and some hugely interesting and accessible supporting material. He has my highest possible recommendation. We will be inviting him back for a further talk in the near future.

5 Stars - Mary McGovern - Lewis gave two excellent talks at The Latymer School, 'Astrobiology' and 'Hacking the brain'. Students from year 7 through to sixth form attended both lectures. Feedback from the students and staff alike after both talks was very positive, We would highly recommend Lewis and hope to have him visit our school again soon!

5 Stars - Martin Davies - Lewis recently gave a talk for us at the Royal Institution. He was engaging, entertaining and knowledgable and I would reccomend him for a range of ages and abilities.

5 Stars - Dr Marek Kukula - Lewis helped us to put together a planetarium show for the Royal Observatory Greenwich on the subject of Mars and the search for extraterrestrial life, which he then co-presented live with one of our planetarium officers. Lewis has a great understanding of how to pitch his subject to a very broad audience and to make the facts tell an engaging story. The audience reaction was extremely positive and Lewis was in demand afterwards to answer questions from the public and also stepped in at short notice to help us with a radio interview about the Red Planet. We'll definitely be inviting him back to speak at the Observatory again.

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