WHAT does science really tell us about the world? How is York helping in the fight against global terrorism? And why do poorer people have worse health?

If you’re intrigued by any of these questions, get over to the University of York tomorrow.

The university’s annual York Talks event will feature a whole day of free 15-minute talks by academics about the amazing work they’re doing, covering everything from the ‘biological life of robots’ to deciphering Charles Dickens’ handwriting.

There will be 16 talks in all, in four sessions between 9am and 5.15pm. They’re all free (though you’ll need to book online), and held in the Spring Lane Building on the university’s original campus.

Vice-chancellor Professor Koen Lamberts said: “The university is home to an extraordinary range of innovative research. York Talks is an excellent way to learn more about how our academics are working to tackle some of the world’s biggest challenges.”

So if you’re curious about what all those academics get up to, why not make it a date?

Here’s a taster...

- Deciphering Dickens: John Bowen, Department of English and Related Literature (part of session 1, 9.10am-11am) You might think that every word Dickens ever wrote had been studied and argued over until there was nothing left to say. Not so, says Prof Bowen. “Research into the life of this global literary giant is only just beginning.”

In collaboration with the V&A, Professor Bowen is leading a global effort to decipher a treasure trove of Dicken’s’ handwritten drafts, notes and corrected proofs that form one of the most remarkable records of a major author’s creative processes.

Until now the collection has been known mainly to scholars. But by digitising it, Professor Bowen and his colleagues will recruit Dickens lovers throughout the world to help decipher Dickens’s handwriting.

-What does science really tell us about the world?: Mary Leng, Department of Philosophy (Session 2, 11.30am-1pm) How do we know electrons exist? Have you seen one? Of course not.

But scientists accept the reality of electrons because doing so helps us understand how the physical universe works.

So what about mathematical ‘objects’ such as numbers? These play a vital role in helping us understand how the world works: so should we accept they are real?

Dr Leng embarks on a challenging philosophical journey from Plato to Prince by way of prime numbers, God and Darwin.

-A multi-million dollar detection story - how York is assisting the fight against global terror: David Jenkins, Department of Physics (Session 2, 11.30am-1pm) Professor Jenkins and his team are at the forefront of developing radiation detection technologies that are playing a vital role in the UK’s ability to defend against dirty bombs. And they’re doing it using the same technology as that behind the development of new tools for detecting and monitoring the treatment of cancer...

-Less wealth, worse health - can the NHS do more to break this unfair link?: Richard Cookson, Centre for Health Economics (part of session 3, 1.45pm-3.15pm) Health economist Professor Richard Cookson argues the NHS has been over-reliant on ways of measuring health outcomes that focus on an ‘average’ citizen and ignore social inequalities.

He and his team are developing methods to better identify who gains and who loses from decisions about health priorities and spending. This will help the NHS and other public services do more to bridge the UK’s health divide...

-York Talks, Wednesday January 11, 9am-5.15pm, Spring Lane Building, University of York. To find out more or to book free tickets visit york.ac.uk/research/yorktalks/