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Recent events from the economic downturn to climate change mean that there has never been a better time to be thinking about and trying to better understand the concept of risk. In this book, prominent and eminent speakers from fields as diverse as statistics to classics, neuroscience to criminology, politics to astronomy, as well as speakers embedded in the media and in government, have put their ideas down on paper in a series of essays that broaden our understanding of the meaning of risk. The essays come from the prestigious Darwin College Lecture Series which, after twenty-five years, is one of the most popular public lecture series at the University of Cambridge. The risk lectures in 2010 were amongst the most popular yet and, in essay form, they make for a lively and engaging read for specialists and non-specialists alike.
The chapters in this book originate from lectures given as part of the 2010 Darwin College Lecture Series on the subject of risk. This series constitutes one of Cambridge University's largest and longest-running set of public lectures. Begun in 1986, the Darwin College Lecture Series has, each year, focused on a single theme and invited eminent speakers from around the world to reflect on what that theme means in their field. Over the last twenty-five years the chosen themes have ranged from survival to serendipity, conflict, power, structure, sound, evidence, evolution, the fragile environment, predicting the future, time and identity, reflecting many of the key issues that affect our local and global societies, as well as celebrating important milestones in our history. ‘Origins’ was the subject of the first Darwin College Lecture Series in 1986. ‘Time’ was chosen to commemorate the 2000 millennium series, and in 2009, the title of the series was ‘Darwin’, celebrating the anniversary of Charles Darwin by looking at his ideas and influence.
The cornerstones of the Darwin College Lecture Series, and the books which accompany them, are their interdisciplinary approach and target audience. In the book following the first Darwin College Lecture Series in 1986, D. H. Mellor, Vice-Master of Darwin College, put it like this:
University research covers a great range of subjects. To try to comprehend all of them would be foolish: life is too short, and anyway no one is good at everything. But most subjects are to some extent spectator sports. You needn't be a musician to appreciate some modern music – though no doubt it helps – nor a cosmologist to appreciate some modern cosmology. And many spectators have common interests in very different subjects…there is, therefore, a predictable demand for a series of public lectures by leading authorities in interdisciplinary topics…and not only for lectures: such interests are not confined to Cambridge, nor to any one year.
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