Douglas Adams Memorial Lecture

11 Mar 2014
1 Kensington Gore, London, SW7 2AR, Royal Geographical Society (with IBG)

The Science of Harry Potter and the Mathematics of The Simpsons 

By Roger Highfield and Simon Singh


Douglas Adams, one of Britain's best loved authors, is most famous for writing The Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy. But Douglas was also a founder patron of Save the Rhino International (SRI) and remained a dedicated spokesperson for rhinos until his early death in 2001. Since 2003, Save the Rhino has held the Douglas Adams Memorial Lecture each year, on a date close to Douglas' birthday, to raise money for conservation projects.

This year's lecture will explore a theme close to the hearts of many of Douglas' fans. We will be exploring science in fiction, taking a closer look at two popular fictional worlds - Harry Potter and the Simpsons - and exploring the science within.

Please read below for a summary of the lecture and biographies of our speakers.

The Science of Harry Potter

Roger Highfield, author of SuperCooperators and Can Reindeer Fly?, has interviewed the world's best Muggle scientists to identify the explanations behind everything from Floo Powder and dragons to the Invisibility Cloak.  In the "The Science of Harry Potter" Highfield aims to shed light not only on Harry Potter's enchanted realm, but also on the magic that is taking place in labs and science classrooms in our own world.

Roger Highfield was born in Wales, raised in north London and became the first person to bounce a neutron off a soap bubble. He was the Science Editor of The Daily Telegraph for two decades and the Editor of New Scientist between 2008 and 2011. Today, he is the Director of External Affairs at the Science Museum Group. Over the decades, Roger has written seven books and had thousands of articles published in newspapers and magazines.

The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets

Simon Singh, author of Fermat's Last Theorem and Big Bang, talks about his latest book, which explores mathematical themes hidden in The Simpsons. Everyone knows that The Simpsons is the most successful show in television history, but very few people realise that its team of mathematically gifted writers have used the show to explore everything from calculus to geometry, from pi to game theory, and from infinitesimals to infinity. Singh will also discuss how writers of Futurama have similarly made it their missions to smuggle deep mathematical ideas into the series.

Additional information

  • Doors on the evening will open at 6.30pm for a 7.30pm start
  • There will be a cash bar available before the lecture