Quantum Words is a one-day festival that maps moments where science and writing converge.
Tackling questions around scientific hubris, consciousness, and the apocalypse, amongst many more, Quantum Words 2018 explores the ways we come to understand ourselves, our world, and the expansive universe we live within.
This year’s program will bring together researchers and artists at the forefront of their disciplines, including speakers such as Fred Watson, James Bradley, Emma Johnston, Delia Falconer, Π O, Danielle Clode, and Evelyn Araluen.
See full program below.
Quantum Words Science Poetry Competition
The inaugural Quantum Words 2018 Science Poetry Competition has now closed for submissions. Find out more about the prize here.
Croakey Go Walk
Before the festival starts up, join the Croakey Go Walk team for a morning of walking journalism. Once you’ve purchased your Quantum Words ticket, you don’t need to register for this event. Meet at the Writing NSW car park at 8.15am.
Deborah Abela talks to Belinda Murrell about the highs and lows of Deborah’s career, her passions, inspiration, writing process, and being part of a writing community.
Philosophers and scientists have long struggled to define the nature of consciousness. A neuroscientist, an expert in artifical intelligence and the author of a book on anaesthesia try to pin down this elusive state. With Kate Cole-Adams, Ian Gibbins, Jane McCredie (chair), and Toby Walsh
Whether it’s immunisation or climate change, science often seems to be under attack in our post-truth world. Do we need more understanding of science in the community? And what can writers and scientists do about it? With Craig Cormick, Emma Johnston , Benison O’Reilly, Nicky Phillips, and Jonathan Webb (chair)
Mary Shelley’s 'Frankenstein' celebrates its 200th birthday in 2018, but the questions it inspires are as relevant as ever. What happens when scientists over-reach, creating more problems than they solve? And how might writers respond to such hubris? With Ellen Broad, Benjamin Dodds, Natasha Mitchell (chair), and Margaret Morgan.
Poets have been mining science for ideas and imagery since at least the days of John Donne. Five contemporary poets explore the ways science has enriched their work. With Tricia Dearborn, Benjamin Dodds (chair), PS Cottier, Ian Gibbins, and πO
Writing about nature has often been seen as a romantic pursuit, but it can also have political and social implications. A historian, a poet, a critic and a zoologist discuss the many ways writers engage with the natural world and how that might be changing. With Evelyn Araluen, Danielle Clode, Delia Falconer (chair), and Tom Griffiths.
Have a brilliant science story idea but don’t know where to place it? Whether you’re a scientist, a writer or both, this is your chance to give a two-minute pitch to a panel of expert editors, publishers and broadcasters for instant feedback and advice. Submit the title of your work into the 'writer' or 'scientist' pitch box at registration between 10am–2.30pm. Stephen Pincock will chair a panel including Kate Aubusson (Sydney Morning Herald), Catherine Armitage (Nature), David Henley (Brio Books), Karen McGhee (Australian Geographic), and Jonathan Webb (Radio National).
How do you go about writing a lived experience of mental illness? Is it all right for people without that experience to write about such subjects and, if so, how? Writers with a diverse range of experiences wrangle these complex questions. With James Best, Annaliese Constable, Peter Polites, and Nicola Redhouse (chair)
It’s the biggest topic of them all. Poetry, Indigenous knowledge, speculative fiction and Western astronomy come together in this session on writing about the universe. With Cathy Craigie, PS Cottier, Simon Petrie (chair), and Fred Watson
Apocalyptic tales have always been a staple of speculative fiction, whether it’s climate change or nuclear destruction. Fiction writers and a climate scientist talk about what draws us to such stories and the meanings they have today. With James Bradley, Hannah Donnelly, Lesley Hughes (chair), and Lisa Walker
If you're up for an early start why not join the Croakey team for an act of walking journalism. Be prepared to talk and tweet your way around the beautiful grounds of Callan Park, as we contemplate the healing powers of nature and the challenges facing public interest science journalism. Bring a hat, and a passion to share. Meet in the Writing NSW car park at 8.15am. With Ruth Armstrong, Lesley Russell and Melissa Sweet.
You’ve done some great research, you have a really interesting story to tell, but how do you go about writing for an audience of non-scientists? Come to this workshop with author, journalist and publisher Stephen Pincock to learn from one of the best. After you've purchased your ticket, register for the workshop by Sunday 28 October to email@example.com with the subject line 'Pincock Workshop.' In the Henry Lawson room.
Join one of our experts for a small, informal group chat where you get to ask the questions. Register for one of the half-hour sessions on the day. Inside big data (Ellen Broad). Living with animals: pets, pests & endangered species (Danielle Clode). Indigenous knowledge: land and sky (Cathy Craigie). All about the brain (Ian Gibbins). Climate change (Lesley Hughes). Smart robots (Toby Walsh). So you want to be a science writer? (Best Australian Science Writing editors Bianca Nogrady & John Pickrell).
Drinks on the verandah with a performance from Π O and the announcement of the Quantum Words Science Poetry Competition winners.
Registration opens9:30 am - 10:00 am
Writing with Passion10:00 am - 11:00 am
What Is This Thing Called Consciousness?With Kate Cole-Adams, Ian Gibbins, Jane McCredie (chair), and Toby Walsh10:00 am - 11:00 am
Alternative Facts: Writing About Science in a Post-Truth WorldWith Craig Cormick, Emma Johnston , Benison O’Reilly, Nicky Phillips, and Jonathan Webb (chair)11:00 am - 12:00 pm
Frankenstein's Monster: Scientific HubrisWith Ellen Broad, Benjamin Dodds, Natasha Mitchell (chair), and Margaret Morgan.12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
Lunch1:00 pm - 2:30 pm
The Poetry of ScienceWith Tricia Dearborn, Benjamin Dodds (chair), PS Cottier, Ian Gibbins, and πO2:30 pm - 3:30 pm
Writing NatureWith Evelyn Araluen, Danielle Clode, Delia Falconer (chair), and Tom Griffiths.3:30 pm - 4:30 pm
Pitch Your Science Story IdeaWith a panel of industry experts4:30 pm - 5:15 pm
Registration opens9:30 am - 10:00 am
Beyond Stereotypes: Writing Mental IllnessWith James Best, Annaliese Constable, Peter Polites, and Nicola Redhouse (chair)11:00 am - 12:00 pm
Writing the UniverseWith Cathy Craigie, PS Cottier, Simon Petrie (chair), and Fred Watson.12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
Lunch1:00 pm - 2:30 pm
Loving the ApocalypseWith James Bradley, Hannah Donnelly, Lesley Hughes (chair), and Lisa Walker2:30 pm - 3:30 pm
Croakey Go WalkBefore registration opens, join the Croakey team for an act of walking journalism.8:15 am - 9:30 am
Registration opens9:30 am - 10:00 am
Workshop: Writing For ScientistsWith Stephen Pincock.1:00 pm - 2:00 pm
Meet the ExpertsJoin one of our experts for a small, informal group chat where you get to ask the questions.1:15 pm - 2:15 pm
DrinksWith a performance from Π O and the announcement of the Quantum Words Science Poetry Competition winners.5:15 pm - 6:15 pm
Born: Greece 1951. Came to Australia 1954. Raised: Fitzroy / Melbourne. Reason for living: Stupidity! Occupation, retired survey draughtsman. Has performed at most venues in and around the south eastern portion of Australia. Represented Australia at the International Poetry Festival in Colombia, the Weltklang Festival in Berlin, Bangkok, and toured the USA (16 cities). Currently […]
Evelyn Araluen is a poet, teacher and researcher working with Indigenous literatures at the University of Sydney. She won the the Nakata Brophy Prize for Young Indigenous Writers in 2017 and the Judith Wright Poetry Prize in 2018. Her writing has been published in Overland, Cordite, Southerly and more. Born and raised in Dharug country, […]
Ruth Armstrong is an editor at Croakey and the Croakey books editor. She is also a writer of short fiction. With a background in general practice, she worked from 1997-2015 on the editorial team of the Medical Journal of Australia.
Kate Aubusson is the health editor at the Sydney Morning Herald. She was previously the Herald‘s breaking news reporter. She worked at Australian Doctor, breaking political and medical news, as well as reporting across eleven Specialist Updates titles for medical specialists. In 2015, Kate presented the ABC documentary Lest We Forget What, and has freelanced […]
Dr James Best
Dr James Best is an award-winning GP who developed a special interest in autism, after his youngest son Sam was diagnosed in 2004. In 2017 his book, Sam’s Best Shot, chronicled a 6-month backpacking journey he and Sam undertook around Africa, which was also featured on Australian Story.
James Bradley is an author and critic. His books include the novels Wrack, The Deep Field, The Resurrectionist and Clade, all of which have won or been shortlisted for major literary awards, a book of poetry, Paper Nautilus, and The Penguin Book of the Ocean. His latest book is The Buried Ark, the second in […]
Author of Made by Humans: The AI Condition, Ellen Broad is an independent consultant and expert in data sharing, open data and AI ethics. She has worked in technology policy and implementation in global roles, including as head of policy for Open Data Institute and as manager of digital projects for the International Federation of […]
Danielle Clode is the author of nine environmental and historical non-fiction books for adults and children. She has a background in psychology, a doctorate in zoology and lectures in creative and scientific writing. She has won several awards and fellowships for her work, including the Nettie Palmer Award for Non-Fiction and Whitley Commendation for Best […]
Kate Cole-Adams is a Melbourne-based writer and journalist. Her book Anaesthesia: The gift of oblivion and the mystery of consciousness won the Mark and Evette Moran Nib Literary Award, was shortlisted for the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award (non-fiction category) and longlisted for the Stella Prize. It is a personal, journalistic and philosophical exploration of what […]
Annaliese Constable is a writer, performer and queer rights activist working across stand-up, queer performance and theatre. Annaliese explores themes of class, gender, sexuality, disability and race through writing about her own experiences. Renowned for self-deprecating and tragic comedic works, Annaliese is funny for a girl, pretty for a lesbian and, when she can afford […]
Dr Craig Cormick
Dr Craig Cormick is an author and science communicator. He has worked for CSIRO and Questacon and has twice been in Best Australian Science Writing. In 2013 he was voted Unsung Hero of Science by the Australian Science Communicators and is currently President of the ASC.
PS Cottier lives in Canberra. She edited The Stars Like Sand: Australian Speculative Poetry with Tim Jones. Her poem about climate change appears in the latest Best Australian Science Writing, and her prose pamphlet Paths Into Inner Canberra describes wildlife near Parliament House. PS Cottier’s PhD was written on animals in the works of Charles […]
Cathy Craigie is a Gamilaroi and Anaiwon woman from northern NSW and has worked in media and the arts for over 20 years. Cathy’s experience ranges across disciplines and she has worked in health, housing, environmental, legal, media and the arts. She is particularly interested in First Nations’ stories and their relevance today, and is currently developing a play transforming the Gamilaroi traditional […]
Tricia Dearborn is an award-winning poet whose work has featured in anthologies such as Contemporary Australian Poetry, Australian Poetry since 1788 and The Best Australian Poems. She has a degree in chemistry/biochemistry with Honours in biochemistry, and worked briefly in scientific research. Her collection Autobiochemistry (forthcoming in 2019) is named for a long autobiographical sequence […]
Benjamin Dodds is the author of Regulator. He recently completed a chapbook, The Ease of Eggs, and is currently writing a second full-length collection concerning a cross-fostered chimpanzee raised in a psychotherapist’s 1960’s Oklahoma home. Formerly a laboratory technician, Benjamin works as a teacher. He is co-judge of the 2018 Quantum Words Science Poetry Competition.
Hannah Donnelly is a writer. Her work experiments with Indigenous futures, speculative fiction and responses to climate trauma.
Delia Falconer is the author of two novels (The Service of Clouds and The Lost Thoughts of Soldiers) and Sydney, a personal history of her hometown. She teaches creative non-fiction at the University of Technology Sydney. Her review-essay ‘The Opposite of Glamour’, about writing responding to the sixth great extinction, won the 2018 Walkley-Pascall prize […]
Ian Gibbins is a widely published poet, electronic musician and video artist, with three collections of poetry. He used to be an internationally-recognised neuroscientist and professor of anatomy.
Tom Griffiths AO
Tom Griffiths AO is a historian whose books and essays have won prizes in history, science, literature, politics and journalism. He is the WK Hancock Professor of History at the Australian National University and author of Hunters and Collectors, Forests of Ash, Slicing the Silence and The Art of Time Travel.
Lesley Hughes is a distinguished professor of biology and pro vice-chancellor research at Macquarie University. She is a climate change researcher and a councillor with the publicly funded Climate Council of Australia. Lesley is a regular contributor to The Monthly.
Emma Johnston AO
Emma Johnston AO is dean of science and professor of marine ecology and ecotoxicology at UNSW Sydney. She is president of Science & Technology Australia and a board member of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and the Australian Antarctic Foundation. Professor Johnston frequently contributes expert opinion to government agencies and is a sought-after […]
Jane McCredie is a writer, journalist and a former book publisher who is now CEO of Writing NSW. She is a former science publisher and a writer and journalist with a special interest in science and medicine. She is the author of Making Girls and Boys: Inside the science of sex and was coeditor of […]
Natasha Mitchell is a multi-award-winning journalist and host of ABC Radio National’s new science, culture and storytelling show, Science Friction. She has presented flagship ABC programs including All in the Mind (2002-12) and Life Matters (2012-16), served as vice president of the World Federation of Science Journalists, was an MIT Knight Journalism Fellow, and past […]
Margaret Morgan has worked as a solicitor in criminal law, as a screenwriter, and in biology. Her short fiction has been published in literary journals including Meanjin, while her works for stage (librettos for music theatre) have been performed at major Australian arts festivals. She has won an international popular science writing award. The Second […]
Bianca Nogrady is a freelance science journalist and author with more than a decade of experience as a full-time freelancer writing for outlets such as ABC and BBC, Nature, Australian Geographic, the Australian, Scientific American, and Ecos. Bianca works from home in the Blue Mountains and wouldn’t give it up for any office job in […]
Benison O’Reilly is a medical writer and pharmacist. She is co-author of two health books for consumers, the bestselling Complete Autism Handbook and Beyond the Baby Blues, and her freelance articles have been published in the Sydney Morning Herald and the Guardian. A passionate ‘autism mum’, Benison has closely followed the vexed vaccines-autism debate for […]
Simon Petrie is a NZ-born, Canberra-based science fiction writer and research scientist. His work is characterised by scientific detail, humour, and the Oxford comma. He’s a three-time winner of the Sir Julius Vogel Award and in 2012 achieved a coveted Dishonourable Mention in the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest.
John Pickrell is an award-winning journalist, the author of Flying Dinosaurs and Weird Dinosaurs and a former editor of Australian Geographic. He has worked in London, Washington DC and Sydney for publications including New Scientist, Science, Science News and Cosmos. John’s articles can also be found at Nature, National Geographic, Scientific American, Focus, BBC Future, […]
Peter Polites emerged from SWEATSHOP: Western Sydney Literacy Movement. He has been published in Overland, Meanjin and The Lifted Brow. His first book is Down the Hume, a queer noir published by Hachette.
Nicola Redhouse is interested in the ways we conceive of mental experience. Her hybrid memoir Unlike the Heart: a story of brain and mind is out through UQP in March 2019. Her work is in Meanjin, Island magazine, The Big Issue and Kill Your Darlings. She has worked as a book editor for the past […]
With a background as a health policy advisor in Australia and the US, Lesley Russell is an adjunct associate professor at the Menzies Centre for Health Policy at the University of Sydney. She is a contributing editor at Croakey, and writes the regular Health Wrap column and CroakeyGO.
Melissa Sweet is an independent journalist, media columnist, author, blogger and researcher, and the founding editor of Croakey. She has been covering health matters for more than 25 years. She is the author or co-author of several books, including Inside Madness, The Big Fat Conspiracy, Ten Questions You Must Ask Your Doctor and Smart Health Choices.
Lisa Walker’s climate change comedy, Melt, and her debut young adult novel, Paris Syndrome, came out this year. She has also published three other novels and an essay about climate change in Griffith Review. Lisa has previously worked in environmental communication and has Masters degrees in creative writing and natural resource management.
Toby Walsh was named by the Australian newspaper as a “rock star” of Australia’s digital revolution. He is Scientia Professor of Artificial Intelligence at UNSW and a fellow of the Australian Academy of Science. He regularly appears in the media talking about AI and robotics. His latest book, 2062: The World that AI Made was […]
Fred Watson has recently been appointed Australia’s first Astronomer-at-Large, following his career with the former Australian Astronomical Observatory. He is best known for his radio and TV broadcasts, talks, and other outreach programs, which earned him the 2006 Eureka Prize for Promoting Understanding of Science. He has also written a number of award-winning books and […]
Jonathan Webb is a lapsed neuroscientist and a former BBC science reporter, now working as the ABC’s science editor. He manages a team of 20 science journalists and producers working across radio, the web and social media, and appears regularly on Radio National.
David Henley is founder and publisher of Brio Books with a special interest in science and science fiction. He has worked in Australian trade publishing for his entire adult life and is the author of the acclaimed Pierre Junior series. Brio Books is one of Australia’s fastest growing independent publishers. From non-fiction through to literary, […]
Catherine Armitage is chief editor of Nature Index at Nature Research. She is an award-winning journalist and editor whose work has won prizes across the fields of science, education, business, legal affairs and social affairs.
Talking Writing: India
India has long been the subject of literary fascination, from within and without. But what does it mean to write about a country, particularly when your sense of belonging may be complicated or compromised? And as far as muses go, what particular appeal or challenges does India present as a place and culture? Manisha Jolie Amin (Dancing […]