Last updated: 7 April, 2009 - 14:27 GMT

29/03/2009 - The Forum

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Meet the guests

CARL DJERASSI

Austrian-born Emeritus Professor of Chemistry at Stanford University in the US, Carl Djerassi, was partly responsible for one of the biggest cultural shifts of the 20 century: the idea that sex didn't have to result in pregnancy, with the introduction of the contraceptive Pill in the 1960s. His work was instrumental in bringing about a sexual revolution, but now he's convinced more sophisticated in vitro fertilization procedures will bring about a new revolution in which the ties between sex and reproduction will be all but broken.

MARY BEARD

One of Britain's best known classicists, Mary Beard has written extensively on ancient Greece and Rome and is currently examining what laughter meant in ancient times. She tells some ancient Roman jokes as she explores how laughter travels across time and culture, revealing the secret ingredients that had the Romans rolling in the aisles, and how far people nowadays share their sense of humour.

HAROLD VARMUS

Harold Varmus, a Nobel prize winning scientist and one of the advisors to President Obama, is leading a revolution to democratise science and change the way in which ideas are shared. He wants to free the flow of scientific discoveries to make the latest findings accessible to everyone via the internet, bypassing academic journals, so that scientists and non scientists the world over can access the information regardless of their ability to pay.

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