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Sparks! Talks – videos available online

Sparks! Talks - Second edition
(Image: Carole Parodi)

Two months after our Sparks! Talks event, we are happy to announce that the videos of the individual presentations are now online on the CERN YouTube channel. We invite the community at large to dive back into the event, which was centred around future technology for health – covering aspects from the use of CERN technology for imaging, to DeepMind’s breakthroughs with AI for AlphaFold, to the complexity of changing ethics in a world of quickly evolving technology.

The Sparks! Talks were held at the Globe of Science and Innovation at CERN on 17 November 2022. Bruno Giussani (TED) once again hosted our live Sparks! event, not only introducing our guests, but also interviewing some of them. In session 1 he addressed “Treating people”, while in the second, the subject was “Keeping people healthy”. In a now long-standing collaboration, our opening sequence was a video creation by art collective Ouchhh, who this time used data from the Human Cell Atlas to create stunning visuals on our theme of future technology for health.

Given that we will be hosting the next Sparks! Talks from Science Gateway, we look forward to continuing to develop content that speaks to as wide an audience as possible in order to maximise CERN’s outreach mission. For now, we leave you with the CERN YouTube playlist where you can see all the videos from this year here.

Sparks! is part of the CERN & Society programme. CERN & Society activities are only possible thanks to the support of our partners, in particular Rolex and its long-standing association with the Organization. The 2022 Sparks! event was also supported by the Didier and Martine Primat Foundation.

Let’s take a closer look at the programme

The first talk was given by WHO’s Chief Scientist, Soumya Swaminathan, who addressed “Digital tools and other efforts for preventing and dealing with future global health challenges”, a highly relevant subject in these times, allowing us to bring our audience into the heart of the subject and its importance for society at large. Then, Bruce Levine gave us an overview of the technology he researched and developed in a talk entitled Treating untreatable cancers with gene therapy. Bringing matters back to CERN-centred technology, Magdalena Kowalska then presented her work in the “Future of detection and imaging”, which was followed by CERN Director for International Relations Charlotte Warakaulle answering Bruno Giussani’s questions about the Organization’s involvement in “CERN technologies for health”. Olaf Blanke, a professor at the nearby EPFL, presented his work in neuroscience and “AR/VR technology for brain research”. Then, bringing the subject back to a more global dimension, Els Torreele gave a talk about “Rethinking health innovation”. Finally, Bruno interviewed Andrew Hessel, who joined us via Zoom from California and answered questions about a “Genetic network”.

The second session started with another remote interview conducted by Bruno, this time with Jane Metcalfe, co-founder of Wired and now the head of NEO.LIFE, who answered questions about “Biological revolution, synthetic biology”. Continuing on the session’s theme of “Keeping people healthy”, Mark Kendall of WearOptimo presented his take on “Wearable sensors for better health”. Speaking on behalf of the Snyder Lab at Stanford, Ariel Ganz followed up with “Precision health and thriving”, giving us an insight into how data from sensors is useful further down the line. Coming back to the global level, Rolf Apweiler from EMBL-EBI spoke about “The bioinformatics revolution”, bringing data management to the forefront. From there, Ankur Vora of DeepMind introduced us to “AI for health and the AlphaFold case”, reminding returning viewers of last year’s Sparks! theme: future intelligence. Giving us a successful example of a collaborative method for future science, Muzlifah Haniffa gave a talk about the “Human Cell Atlas”. Concluding the event this year, author Juan Enriquez reminded us of the importance of ethics and the changes in definition we will continue to be faced with in the future with his talk “Evolving technology changes ethics”.

Given that multidisciplinarity is at the heart of Sparks! mission, we included two art pieces in the programme: SciArt Work: The Beauty of Blood Flow Analysis by the Fraunhofer Institute for Digital Medicine, and an extract from a film called Bringing Bones to Life about artist Amy Karle and her artwork Regenerative Reliquary. We believe that the inclusion of artistic pieces in the Talks programme not only allows the audience to take a break from the content-intensive presentations, but also helps us remember that, when talking about visions of the future, art has its place in the conversation.