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Ri Lates: Questioning reality

Come for another eclectic night at the Royal Institution, exploring the concept of reality and how what we perceive may not be as it seems

Playing with magnetic pendulums at the Ri
Katherine Leedale

Event description


Please click the 'Book Tickets' link to add yourself to the waiting list.After the fun of the last Ri Lates, we are back for more hands-on activities that are normally reserved for children.

Can we trust what we perceive to be out there in reality? What happens when our brain is telling us something else? And why is it that some people see the dress as white and gold while others see it as blue and black?! Come to another adults-only building takeover with workshops, short films, demonstrations and talks to answer these questions and more.

Fool your taste buds, listen with your eyes, get your hands on a brain and have a go on an oculus rift rollercoaster to deceive your body with virtual reality. How do owls and bearded dragons perceive the world around them? Get close up to them in our animal show to find out!

Take part in touching experiments, dissect an eye, and find out whether we can ever understand something when it seems to be two things at once? There'll be food and drink to enjoy after learning about the bizarre quantum world, hearing how recreational drugs affect our pain perceptions and being put through illusions that will have you questioning reality. An alternative Friday night out. Download the programme to take a look at what's on offer.

Please note

This event is for over-18s only. If you look younger than 21, you may be asked for ID at the door.


The Quantum Bizarre

How can light be a wave and a particle at the same time? What do we know about quantum phenomena through maths which cannot yet be explained with experiments? Question reality in the quantum world with Ben Still.

Drugs on the Mind

How do we perceive pain and what does it do to our nervous system? What do drugs such as opioids do to relieve this and how does our brain interpret reality differently when enjoying recreational drugs? Join Anthony Dickenson from UCL to explore these questions and delve into the reward pathways in our brain.

That Dress and the Illusion of Reality

Last month, the internet was torn apart by a dress that some saw as blue and black and others, white and gold. The reason that people saw different things is because you don't see with your eyes, but with your brain and the brain is constantly making up stories. In this short lecture, Bruce Hood will demonstrate some classic illusions and why reality and illusion are more surprising than you think.This talk has been supported by the Society of Biology

Timed activities

These workshops have limited spaces so come early on the night to sign up.

Animal senses: the way animals perceive the world7.10pm, 8.00pm, 8.40pm

In this live animal show, join Stuart Short as he introduces you to different live animals, from owls to bearded dragons. Explore how our senses help us determine reality, and how this can vary dramatically within the natural world. Each 20-minute show will revolve around different animals and senses.

Ri Tour7.00pm, 7.45pm, 9.15pm, 10.00pm

Hear from our Curator of Collections, Charlotte New, as she takes you on a 30-minute tour of our collections.

The softness factor7.30pm, 8.30pm, 9.30pm

Join Katerina Fotopoulou and her team from UCL to explore touch and the perception of softness in this 30-minute workshop. Come with a friend, a partner or on your own.


Here's a snapshot of what you can expect to find throughout the building on the night. All activities are included in the price, although some have limited spaces so come early to book yourself a slot!

Defying gravity

Defy gravity with Science London, who will be sporting a host of gyroscopic curios. And you can even make your own flying gyros to take away!   

Listening with your eyes

How does your brain cope when you have conflicting messages from your senses? Come and discover how the brain fools us for yourself in our illusionary play area.

Are your eyes deceiving you?

Join a Roger Newport from Nottingham University to see your fingers stretching before your eyes and your bodily perceptions being fooled.

Molecule builder

Know your hallucinogenic drugs? Come and build a model of the chemical call in our chill out bar area.

Dissect an eye

We may know that our eyes have rods and cones to detect light and help us paint a picture of the world around us. But what’s behind that pupil of yours, and how does this help us visualise our reality?

Oculus Rift

Take on the Oculus Rift Challenge with Go8-Bit's Steve McNeil and Rob Sedgebeer - test your nerve in the virtual world and see how your body responds to a different ‘reality’!

Teaching your eyes to feel

Learn from Fernando Bello and Roger Kneebone, surgeons at Imperial College London, about how virtual reality can be used to inform reality by trying these hands-on haptic technologies. And find out how to make the leap from the virtual world into reality.

Quantum weirdness

Join Dr Ben Still after his talk to get hands-on with a diffraction demo, explaining the double slit experiment, and its extrapolation – multiple slits. 

Animals and us

Get your hands on unique objects with the Royal Veterinary College - skulls with strangely positioned eye sockets, brains, and cells in close-up detail.

Shocking perspective

Take part in a psychology experiment to see how your perception of reality can be affected by your state of mind with a team from the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, UCL.

Science busking

Science communicator, Dr Emily Grossman, will be on hand around the building to puzzle your mind with tricks.