Randall Munroe with Marcus du Sautoy on Making the Complicated Simple

Monday 2 October 2017, 7pm | PODCAST NOW ONLINE

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‘If you can’t explain something simply, you don’t understand it.’ — Bill Gates

On 2nd October, Intelligence Squared brought together two of the world’s best- loved masters of explaining and popularising science, to lift the lid on the technology we love and on the cutting edge of current scientific research.

Randall Munroe is a physicist who once built robots for NASA. His webcomic xkcd uses simple cartoons and diagrams to make science funny, touching and incredibly clear. It gets a billion hits a year. In his latest series, Munroe has simplified the workings behind everything from space rockets to smartphones, while using only the thousand most common words in the English language.

On stage with Munroe was Oxford’s professor for the public understanding of science Marcus du Sautoy, who has won a wide following through his bestselling books and TV programmes explaining the elegance and complexity of mathematics.

While Munroe unpicked the detailed mechanics behind such technological breakthroughs as the large hadron collider at CERN, du Sautoy examined some of the broader, philosophical questions about the nature — and limits — of scientific enquiry itself.


Creator of webcomic xkcd and former NASA roboticist. He has been nominated for three Hugo Awards (the top prize in the sci-fi and tech world) and won ‘Best Graphic Story’ in 2014. Wired magazine chose xkcd as a key influence of the last 20 years, alongside Steve Jobs and online dating. The International Astronomical Union recently named an asteroid after him; asteroid 4942 Munroe is big enough to cause a mass extinction if it ever hits a planet like Earth.

One of the country’s best known science broadcasters. He is Professor of Mathematics at Oxford University, where he holds the prestigious Simonyi Chair for the Public Understanding of Science. He has presented numerous programmes on television and radio, including the internationally acclaimed BBC series The Story of Maths. His bestselling books include The Music of the Primes, The Number Mysteries and, most recently, What We Cannot Know: From Consciousness to the Cosmos, the Cutting Edge of Science Explained.


Dr Xand van Tulleken

Medical doctor and broadcaster who has presented numerous shows for the BBC and Channel 4, often alongside his twin brother Chris. Their 2014 BBC1 Horizon programme on the Sugar V Fat debate opened up one of the great health debates of our time. Xand has also fronted Blow Your Mind, Secret Life of Twins and Medicine Men Gone Wild, and his book How to Lose Weight Well, which accompanied the TV series, went straight to the top of the Amazon book charts.


Speakers are subject to change.