HowTheLightGetsIn 2016: our top picks

We take a look at the top events from the HowTheLightGetsIn 2016 festival.

Published: March 2, 2016 at 12:00 pm

This year's HowTheLightGetsIn festival takes place 26 May to 5 June in the literary town of Hay, and we have scoured the 2016 programme to find out what's in store for those interested in all things cosmic.


The entire programme is available to view at the festival’s website, but take a look below at our personal highlights for 2016.

Why The World Exists

Saturday 28 May 10.30am

British theoretical physicist John Ellis asks “where did the Universe come from?”

Addressing current theoretical hot topics like dark energy and cosmic inflation, Ellis looks to explain how it all began.

Space Hacks

Saturday 28 May 11.00am

Patricia Lewis is research director at Chatham House and a specialist in space security.

In this talk, she reveals how attacks on satellites could cause mass destruction on Earth and asks “why are we ignoring the risks?”

Life in the Universe

Saturday 28 May 3:00pm

What is it about humanity’s psyche that makes us look to the stars and wonder whether we are alone?

Author, theologian and astrophysicist David Wilkinson discusses our search for extraterrestrial life.

After the Higgs Boson

Sunday 29 May 12:00pm

In his second talk as part of this year’s festival, CERN physicist John Ellis looks at the recent discoveries of the Higgs Boson and gravitational waves, and what comes next.

The Dark Side of the Universe

Friday 3 June 10:30am

Dark energy continues to allude both observation and definition, yet revealing its mysterious qualities is fundamental to our understanding of the formation and evolution of the Universe.

Science writer Philip Ball hosts this discussion with physicist Mike Duff, cosmologist Laura Mersini-Houghton and expert in galaxy formation Carlos Frenk.

A Goldilocks World

Friday 3 June 1:15pm

The ‘Goldilocks zone’ is the area in which a planet must orbit its host star in order for life as we know it to exist and thrive.

When we look at the wider Universe, it seems acutely tailored to support life. Is this indeed the case, or does it just appear this way?

Professor of physics at the University of Liverpool Tara Shears hosts this session with Massimo Pigliucci, Bernard Carr and Chiara Marletto.


Friday 3 June 4:00pm

Gravity remains a crucial yet elusive force in physics, but how close are we to understanding its properties?

David Malone hosts this session with Frank Wilczek, Laura Mersini-Houghton and Erik Verlinde asking: “what have we yet to learn?”

Newton’s Fall

Friday 3 June 6:00pm

Theoretical physicist Erik Verlinde ponders whether the mysteries of dark energy and dark matter could reveal a strange uncovered reality, and outlines his new theory on the subject.

Cosmic Dreams

Sunday 5 June 3:00pm

Professor James Layman looks at the emergence of string theory and what it has taught us since its inception over 40 years ago.

Science, Spacetime and Reality

Sunday 5 June 4:00pm

Einstein’s theories on spacetime continue to play a key role in the advancement of physics, but is spacetime merely an illusion?

Dr Eleanor Knox of King’s College London asks whether space and time are stranger than we imagine.


For more information about this year's festival, visit


Iain Todd, BBC Sky at Night Magazine
Iain ToddScience journalist

Iain Todd is BBC Sky at Night Magazine's Staff Writer. He fell in love with the night sky when he caught his first glimpse of Orion, aged 10.

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