ANTHROPOLOGIST, author and broadcaster Professor Alice Roberts, is coming to Somerset.

She will be Digging into Britain’s Past at the Octagon in Yeovil on January 19. Entertainment reporter, Lawrence John put the questions in his Q&A.

Q: What was the most exciting discovery you made independently as a child and has this (what you discovered) had a bearing on the way you have viewed learning and discovery?

A: I loved finding out about biology and palaeontology as a child - I remember my first microscope and how wonderful it was to see all that new detail in natural structures - from a bee’s wing to tiny creatures in pond water. I also enjoyed finding small pieces of pottery when I dug the vegetable patch in the garden - my first experience of hands-on archaeology! That joy of finding things out has stayed with me.

Q: How do you get across your passion for learning and knowing information about a subject to say a viewer of a television programme?

A:That’s a difficult question to answer - I cover subjects I’m personally fascinated in, and it’s lovely to be able to share those stories, discoveries and insights with a wide audience. I enjoy making television, but I love talking to people ‘in the flesh’ as well - which is why I’m going on tour.

Q: Do you think how we learn and how we impart knowledge has changed in the last 5 years?

A: We still do a lot of information sharing face to face, and of course we’ve had various forms of broadcast media for a while. But I do think the internet has changed things a lot. Although people can focus on the negatives - the lack of editorial control, the tendency for strong opinions to be voiced perhaps more readily, and the bubble or echo-room effect - I still think there are huge positives. Allowing people to write for and discover a wide readership (or listeners and viewers) without having to find a publisher or other traditional platform; providing support for people faced with all sorts of challenges who might have been isolated and far away from anyone with common experiences in the past; maintaining friendships and family connections around the world.

Q: As a presenter have you had to change your style or change the way in which programmes are made?

A: I’ve kept to my own style, and resisted the efforts of stylists to change me! Changing the way in which programmes are made - that’s an interesting question, as being an expert presenter always involves collaborating with producers on projects, so the very nature of that involvement and collaboration means the programme is different than it would otherwise have been, because of my involvement. But there have been specific instances when I have been able to argue for a better gender balance in a programme, for instance.

Q: As humans how do you think we have developed/modified in the past 100 years?

A: We made huge technological strides in the last 100 years, and part of the effect of that has been to reduce childhood mortality and extend longevity - in wealthier countries. I think the challenges now involve coming to terms with a relatively new experience for humans - where we expect our children to survive and outlive us, and a society with an ageing demographic. We also need to extend those benefits in terms of health and longevity globally.

Q: NASA have recently send a probe to Mars. This could lead to a ‘manned flight’ to Mars. Would you go on this flight if you could?

A: Absolutely not. I gave Brian Cox the same answer when he asked me this question, and he was surprised. But I’m a biologist - I like life on earth and I don’t see much to interest me (yet!) on Mars. There are no trees - that would be a big issue for me!

Q: If you look at your field of expertise, where do you think he next great discovery will be made and what do you think it could be?

A: The links between genetics, development and the form and function of organisms, in their environment. Connecting up these areas of biology - genetics, anatomy, physiology, ecology - is a very exciting challenge.

Q: What most engrosses you about your television work?

A: Meeting interesting people and helping share their insights.

Q: Have you found your writing career liberating?

A: Very much so - I discovered a love of writing relatively late. I wrote my first book as a tie-in to a tv series, but since then I’ve written many stand-along books, and I love the freedom to explore and go on those extraordinary intellectual journeys. Writing has also become more important to me since I’ve had children, as it offers so much flexibility in terms of when I work.

Q : How do you think Alice Roberts has changed over the years and what do you think is the one lesson she has learnt which made the greatest impact on her?

A: I was always interested in a diverse range of subjects and looking for connections, and I think that as I’ve got older, I’m finding connections between even more diverse areas of human enquiry. But the biggest impact on me personally has definitely come from motherhood. It unlocked reserves of love that I didn’t know I had, and it makes you much less selfish. I think it’s made me a better person.

Q: What do you hope people will get from your evening about Digging into Britain’s Past?

A: I hope - some insights into British history and archaeology, together with some great stories and muddy anecdotes!

Q: What three pieces of music or songs best sum you up and why?

A: Monkey gone to Heaven by the Pixies is an enduring favourite of mine: it’s a great tune with weird lyrics and just brilliant to let your hair down (literally) and dance to to. It makes me feel 17 again!

I chose This is Me from the Greatest Showman to close my Christmas Lectures. I enjoyed watching the film with my kids, and that song captures a spirit of strength and is all about embracing difference and diversity.

My third piece would have to be The Water by Johnny Flynn and Laura Marling. It’s an achingly beautiful piece of music and it’s about merging with the natural world as we disappear from this world. I’m a humanist; I don’t believe in an afterlife - I think we each need to make this one life meaningful. And then slip away like this song.

Q: How much do you feel the past has to tell us where we are going in the future?

A: The past is full of people who lived, loved, fought and faced challenges. Other cultures - past and present - provide us with the context for our own lives, cultures and societies. What I see is common humanity, and that humans have always been at their best when working together.

Q: If you could leave a time capsule for future generations to find what would you include in it and would you include a personal treasure?

A: I think I’d put my 3D printed skull in it - it’s something made by using what seems like quite advanced technology to us now: MRI scanning and 3D printing. It’s also a curious portrait.