Aboutus slide 1

Several Nobel Laureates and prestigious international researchers from different scientific disciplines will share with the audience their passion and knowledge on a wide range of subjects, such as astrophysics, cosmology, quantum physics, botany, intelligent biomaterials or paleoanthropology. Tales of exploration, scientific challenges and a generous dose of Passion for Knowledge in the flagship sessions of the festival.

The keynote talks will take place every day in the Victoria Eugenia Theatre in San Sebastián. Moreover, on 3 and 4 October, some of the guest lecturers will also be giving talks in the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao and the Baluarte Conference Centre in Pamplona.

Admission to all the Plenary Lectures is free of charge however, due to the limited capacity of the venue, prior registration is recommended.

Simultaneous interpretation service into English, Basque and Spanish will be available, and all sessions will be streamed live over this website.


Aboutus slide 1
  Monday, 30 SEP
Afternoon
18:30 - 19:50 Plenary Lectures imagen ponente

Victoria Eugenia Theatre, San Sebastian

18:30

Dame Jocelyn BELL BURNELL Astrophysics, Oxford University, UK

One hundred years ago, just after the end of the 1914-8 war, Albert Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity had its first experimental confirmation. The person responsible for this was the British astronomer Arthur Stanley Eddington. The confirmation came through observations made during a solar eclipse. Eddington had received Einstein’s manuscript from behind enemy lines and, fortunately for Einstein, was one of the few people in the world capable of understanding it and appreciating its importance. He was also an excellent communicator and was largely responsible for making Einstein’s work known in the English-speaking world.

I will tell the story of Einstein, Eddington and that eclipse, of what was found and how the world reacted.
19:10

Serge HAROCHE Physics, Collège de France, France

At a time when fake news and “alternative” facts are pervasive in media and in social networks, science is under attack. And yet, only science can solve the urgent problems that humanity is facing. It is thus now more than ever important to make the general public aware of how scientific truth has been built over the centuries, through a permanent exchange between observations, experiments and theoretical models. Basic research, driven by curiosity, leads to discoveries which open the way to inventions of devices that in turn allow scientists to probe deeper the laws of nature, sometimes leading to drastic revisions of prevailing concepts. In this unending quest for knowledge and truth, scientists must sometimes shed aside their illusions and biases and accept that Nature obeys to laws at odds with our common intuition. Education, from elementary school to universities, should train students to understand how science progresses by rational thinking and critical doubt. Only informed citizen will then be able to make the difference between scientific truths and dangerous conspiracy theories.

  Tuesday, 01 OCT
Afternoon
17:30 - 19:30 Plenary Lectures imagen ponente

Victoria Eugenia Theatre, San Sebastian

17:30

Juan Ignacio CIRAC Theoretical Physics, Max Planck Institut für Quantenoptik, Garching, Germany

Quantum physics and information science have revolutionised the modern world, much more than anyone expected. While the former is responsible for providing a much more precise description of the microscopic world, the latter constitutes the basis of the modern technologies used to process and transmit information. Thanks to technological development, computers' calculation capacity has grown exponentially, as has the quantity of data that circulate around our networks. But will things continue in the same vein in the future? Where are the limits?

All forecasts warn that this rate of growth cannot continue indefinitely unless a substantial change occurs in the way we handle information. Indeed, we are currently witnessing a new scientific and technological revolution, in which information science and quantum physics combine to give rise to new forms of coding, handling and transferring information that promise to break through existing barriers in the field of computing and communication. In this talk I will explain how these quantum computers and communication systems work, the impact they may have on our society and how likely it is that they will become part of our everyday lives in the not-too-distance future.
18:10

Albert FERT Condensed Matter Physics, Université Paris-Saclay, France

I will describe how breakthroughs in fundamental physics are the roots of all information technologies coming into our life today.

First, the emergence of the digital world was significantly helped by the huge (x1000) increase of the information storage density in hard disks brought by the discovery of a new phenomenon, the Giant Magnetoresistance (GMR). In addition, the GMR kicked off fundamental researches on a new type of electronics called spintronics. The massive production of STT-RAM spintronic components started recently and their introduction in computers and telephones will reduce significantly their energy consumption. Actually, “low energy” may be one of the most important challenges of today in information technologies, especially when one looks at the huge and still increasing energy consumption by data centers and computers in the world.

The last part of the talk is on recent research breakthroughs: 1) The discovery of magnetic quasi-particles called skyrmions, “nano-balls of spins” for combined treatment and storage of information 2) Recent advances on nano-components mimicking neurons and synapses for computers inspired by the brain.
18:50

Barry BARISH Physics and Astrophysics, Caltech and UC Riverside, USA

Most of us learned about gravity from Isaac Newton, who published his ‘Universal Gravity’ in 1687. Then, Albert Einstein introduced a new theory of gravity, his ‘Theory of General Relativity’ in 1915. Why? The following year, he predicted the existence of gravitational waves, a consequence of this new theory. I will trace the one hundred year quest for the existence of gravitational waves, finally leading to our discovery 100 years later. Gravitational waves will open exciting new science, being a completely new way to explore our universe.

  Wednesday, 02 OCT
Afternoon
17:30 - 19:30 Plenary Lecture imagen ponente

Victoria Eugenia Theatre, San Sebastian

17:30

María MARTINÓN-TORRES Paleoanthropology, CENIEH National Research Center of Human Evolution, Spain

We are the only species that lives with the knowledge that we are someday going to die. Despite being the longest-lived primate, humans live their entire lives under the long shadow of the cypress tree. Beyond our instinct for survival, which is common to all animals, we Homo sapiens dedicate considerable time and effort to prolonging our time on this planet. At what moment did we become aware of the finite nature of our existence? How has humankind's struggle to become immortal evolved over the last few hundred thousand years? What weapons do we have in our arsenal and what price will we have to pay? The fossil record preserves mankind's memory and enables us to reconstruct the heroic deeds and exploits of a battle that was lost before it even began... or was it?
18:10

Sir John PENDRY Photonics, Imperial College London, UK

Conventional optics controls light on the scale of roughly a micron – approximately the wavelength of visible light. To control light in the world of nanoscience requires a new understanding in which we look inside the wavelength at the component electric and magnetic fields. Exploiting the new concepts we have designed devices that compress light into less than a square nanometre, thus enhancing the energy density by a factor of a million which opens the way to single molecule sensing and switching light with light – the optical transistor. Finally I shall discuss negative refraction and how it leads to the construction of a lens whose resolution is unlimited by the wavelength of light.
18:50

Ginés MORATA Genetics, Centro de Biología Molecular Severo Ochoa, Spain


  Thursday, 03 OCT
Afternoon
17:30 - 19:30 Plenary Lecture imagen ponente

Victoria Eugenia Theatre, San Sebastian

17:30

Nekane BALLUERKA Behavioural Sciences Methods, University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU), Basque Country

In this talk will be analysed the precedents required to understand everything that this small region, known as the Basque Country, has achieved in the field of science. To do this, the main intellectual, scientific, economic and political movements that have taken place since the 16th century will be described. Since the founding of the University of Oñate, to the present day, with the creation of the Basque Network of Science, Technology and Innovation, and will be outlined some of the key decisions that were made at certain pivotal moments. The current situation of the Basque Country in the field of scientific research and technological development will also be described. Finally, some brief reflections will be made on the scientific-technological revolution in which we are currently immersed and the steps we need to take in the future in order to become a true knowledge society.
18:10

William FRIEDMAN Botany, Harvard University, USA

Charles Darwin is the obvious answer to this seemingly simple question. But, a careful reading of the record shows that roughly 70 different individuals published papers or even whole books on the topic of evolution before Darwin first did so. Between 1748 and 1859, the year that Darwin’s On the Origin of Species was published, evolutionary ideas were emerging across Europe and the United States. These early evolutionary thinkers, now almost entirely forgotten, included biologists, geologists, horticulturists, physicians, clergymen, atheists, philosophers, high school teachers, and poets. Professor Friedman will introduce some of the cast of pre-Darwinian evolutionists. In doing so, he will examine the nature of scientific discovery and attribution. What does it mean to “discover” or to have an “idea” in the sciences? And is Charles Darwin, the seventy-first evolutionist, deserving of historical credit for being the person who brought forth an evolutionary view of the world.
18:50

Jean-Marie LEHN Supramolecular Chemistry, Université de Strasbourg, Estrasburgo, France

The evolution of the universe has generated more and more complex forms of matter through self-organization, from particles up to living and thinking matter. Self-organization is the process by which steps towards life and thought have emerged. Animate as well as inanimate matter, living organisms as well as materials, are formed of molecules and of the organized entities resulting from the interaction of molecules with each other. Chemistry provides the bridge and unravels the steps from the molecules of inanimate matter and the highly complex molecular architectures and systems which make up living and thinking organisms. The field of chemistry is the universe of all possible structures and transformations of molecular matter, of which those actually realized in nature represent just one world among all the worlds that await to be created. Conceptual considerations on science in general will be presented.

Afternoon
19:00 - 20:30 Plenary Lecture imagen ponente

Museo Guggeheim, Bilbao

19:00

Jean-Pierre SAUVAGE Chemistry, University of Strasbourg, France

An important family of molecules is that of interlocking or threaded rings named catenanes and rotaxanes respectively. The simplest catenane, a [2] catenane, consists of two interlocking rings. Rotaxanes consist of rings threaded by acyclic fragments (axes). These compounds played an important role in the emergence of the field named "molecular machines". This field has experienced a spectacular development, in relation to molecular devices at the nanometric level or as mimics of biological motors. In biology, motor proteins are omnipresent and crucial in a large variety of processes essential to life (ATPase, a rotary motor, being particularly impressive). Numerous examples of artificial molecular machines are based on simple or complex rotaxanes or catenanes. Non-interlocking ring compounds have also been used. In particular, light-driven rotary motors have been created by the team of Feringa. Finally, potential applications and future developments of this active research area will be mentioned.
19:40

Barry BARISH Physics and Astrophysics, Caltech and UC Riverside, USA

Most of us learned about gravity from Isaac Newton, who published his ‘Universal Gravity’ in 1687. Then, Albert Einstein introduced a new theory of gravity, his ‘Theory of General Relativity’ in 1915. Why? The following year, he predicted the existence of gravitational waves, a consequence of this new theory. I will trace the one hundred year quest for the existence of gravitational waves, finally leading to our discovery 100 years later. Gravitational waves will open exciting new science, being a completely new way to explore our universe.

  Friday, 04 OCT
Afternoon
17:30 - 19:30 Plenary Lectures imagen ponente

Victoria Eugenia Theatre, San Sebastian

17:30

Maria VALLET-REGí Smart Biomaterials, Universidad Complutense de Madrid (UCM)CIBER-BBN, Spain

Our bones can suffer different types of illness such as cancer, osteoporosis or infections. But there is a nanoagent that can offer solutions to these problems: mesoporous silica nanoparticles.

These nanoparticles can be chemically treated to insert anti-tumour medication into them to destroy cancerous cells, biomolecules to combat osteoporosis or antibiotics to treat infections. And to stop them releasing their load prematurely, smart nanocoverings or coverings of certain polymers can be added.  UV radiation, ultrasound, heat or magnetic signals can be used to make them release their load in a particular place and at the right time.

These nanoparticles are authentic super-agents: versatile, able to recognise problems and provide solutions to cancer, osteoporosis and infections.

And they can do this selectively by attacking only the exact places where the problem exists.
18:10

Christophe ROSSEL Physics, IBM Research- Zurich, Switzerland

A relevant open question is whether machines and robots will one day surpass all human intelligence, in a runaway process, thanks to their ability in learning and self-improving. Today the progress in Artificial Intelligence (AI), machine learning, artificial neural networks and deep learning are enormous, triggered by powerful computing and memory capabilities, and better algorithms. AI is proving very effective for existing applications such as image and speech recognition, smart home or autonomous vehicles. It opens the door also to many totally novel applications and products. Of particular interest are the recent advances in neuromorphic computing or engineering that uses analog circuits based on artificial neurons to mimic neuro-biological architectures present in the brain. With the recent evolution of AI we are entering a new and challenging era that is no more the science-fiction of 50 years ago!
18:50

Jean-Pierre SAUVAGE Chemistry, University of Strasbourg, France

An important family of molecules is that of interlocking or threaded rings named catenanes and rotaxanes respectively. The simplest catenane, a [2] catenane, consists of two interlocking rings. Rotaxanes consist of rings threaded by acyclic fragments (axes). These compounds played an important role in the emergence of the field named "molecular machines". This field has experienced a spectacular development, in relation to molecular devices at the nanometric level or as mimics of biological motors. In biology, motor proteins are omnipresent and crucial in a large variety of processes essential to life (ATPase, a rotary motor, being particularly impressive). Numerous examples of artificial molecular machines are based on simple or complex rotaxanes or catenanes. Non-interlocking ring compounds have also been used. In particular, light-driven rotary motors have been created by the team of Feringa. Finally, potential applications and future developments of this active research area will be mentioned.

19:00 - 20:30 Plenary Lecture imagen ponente

Baluarte, Pamplona

19:00

Pamela DIGGLE Botany, University of Connecticut, USA

How do plants "know" when to flower and fruit? Why should we care? The 100+ million years of flowering plant and animal coevolution is critical to the world that we know. In a finely tuned set of interdependent relationships, plants offer food or other rewards to attract animals, and animals work to pollinate flowers and disperse fruits. The key is to know when to flower and fruit. For this, plants depend on environmental cues such as temperature, yet temperatures are changing rapidly across the globe. We will travel to Alaska, where the pace of climate change is particularly pronounced to glimpse what the future holds for the rest of us. There, in the far northern reaches of North America, we can witness how plants are responding to unprecedented increases in temperatures and how we use this knowledge to understand and even predict plant responses to climate change in our own, more familiar, environments.
19:40

Jean-Marie LEHN Supramolecular Chemistry, Université de Strasbourg, Estrasburgo, France

The evolution of the universe has generated more and more complex forms of matter through self-organization, from particles up to living and thinking matter. Self-organization is the process by which steps towards life and thought have emerged. Animate as well as inanimate matter, living organisms as well as materials, are formed of molecules and of the organized entities resulting from the interaction of molecules with each other. Chemistry provides the bridge and unravels the steps from the molecules of inanimate matter and the highly complex molecular architectures and systems which make up living and thinking organisms. The field of chemistry is the universe of all possible structures and transformations of molecular matter, of which those actually realized in nature represent just one world among all the worlds that await to be created. Conceptual considerations on science in general will be presented.

  Saturday, 05 OCT
Afternoon
18:30 - 19:50 Plenary Lectures imagen ponente

Victoria Eugenia Theatre, San Sebastian

18:30

Pamela DIGGLE Botany, University of Connecticut, USA

How do plants "know" when to flower and fruit? Why should we care? The 100+ million years of flowering plant and animal coevolution is critical to the world that we know. In a finely tuned set of interdependent relationships, plants offer food or other rewards to attract animals, and animals work to pollinate flowers and disperse fruits. The key is to know when to flower and fruit. For this, plants depend on environmental cues such as temperature, yet temperatures are changing rapidly across the globe. We will travel to Alaska, where the pace of climate change is particularly pronounced to glimpse what the future holds for the rest of us. There, in the far northern reaches of North America, we can witness how plants are responding to unprecedented increases in temperatures and how we use this knowledge to understand and even predict plant responses to climate change in our own, more familiar, environments.
19:10

Dudley HERSCHBACH Chemical Physics, Harvard University, USA

Here I urge a view of science including co-inhabitants of our earth that preceded our species by many million years, the dolphins. It is prompted by an allegory published 60 years ago by Leo Szilard, a remarkable Hungarian. The last paragraph of my essay is offered as an earnest creed: Think of yourself as a dolphin oracle and ask about any issue of the day. Try problems involving differences in gender, race, religion, political persuasion, national identity, or the like; all recede when confronted by our common humanity. Let your mind try out also, now and then, other supercivilized traits of the dolphins, including exuberant leaps, whistles, and happy chortling. It can only do humankind good to become more aware that along with the dolphins and other incredible creatures, we really belong to a much wider universe of the mind; it could be called mindkind.