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Theodore W. Pietsch, University of Washington
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Scientists discuss the effect of darkness on our senses in partnership with jazz trio Phronesis

Academics from City University London and the University of Oxford are collaborating with a leading jazz trio at the Oxford May Music Festival to explore the effect of darkness on our senses and in particular our listening experience.

Combining music, science and art, the Oxford May Music has been attracting visitors from all over the world for the past years with its unique offer of cutting-edge science and world-class concerts.

In a first for the festival, Professors Ron Douglas and Russell Foster CBE - from City University London and University of Oxford respectively - will explore some of consequences of darkness in the natural world. Following their talk, the critically acclaimed Phronesis jazz trio will then perform their piece entitled ‘The Dark Side’.

Sunlight is vital to life on Earth, as not only does it enable plants to grow it also allows us to see. But it also does much more than this. At the event, Professor Foster, who is head of the Nuffield Laboratory of Ophthalmology and the Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Institute at the University of Oxford, will discuss the many roles light plays in regulating an animal’s (including human) physiology including control of our body clocks, sleep, seasonal rhythms and even alertness. Professor Douglas, from the Division of Optometry at City University London, will also introduce the audience to the deep ocean, an environment devoid of sunlight.

Speaking about the event, Professor Douglas said:

“This event provides a great opportunity to combine science and music, and also explore the many different roles that light plays on land and in the deep sea. Supported by Phronesis, we will also experience the effect of darkness on our senses as they perform their music.

“Light is so important to most animals that in the absence of the sun in the cold, dark depths of the deep ocean they simply make their own as they bioluminesce. In the talk I will explore the many uses of this bioluminescence and describe, for example, how some animals emit blue clouds of light to hide in the featureless ocean, produce ‘invisible’ red light for predation and sex, and use mirrors in order to see the light emitted by others.”

The concert takes place on Sunday, 1 May 2016 between 20:00 and 22:30 at the Holywell Music Room, Holywell Street, Oxford, OX1 3SD. Read more.

By (Theodore W. Pietsch, University of Washington) [CC BY 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
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