UK: Didcot

Cornerstone Arts Centre,
Station Road,
OX11 7NE
3rd Tuesday of the month - 7pm for a 7.30pm start

Didcot First

Sarah Hopgood
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Please visit for details on the next talk.











Recent speakers   

 Art & Astronomy 2 - Dr Barry Kellett

Back in 2010 Barry Kellett, from RAL Space, gave a talk on art and astronomy that left us all with a great deal to think about (particularly the background story to Munch's 'The Scream').  To coincide with Artweeks, Barry has offered to give us more insights int ho a knowledge of astronomy can add significant details to the history that lies behind works of art.




Time for a big change by Sir Richard Noble from Bloodhound SSC project

Richard Noble's team see themselves as an extension of the generations that took aircraft design and manufacture from biplanes to jets in 6 years.  The team has built a 1,000mph record car, which the MoD hopes will inspire the next generation of engineers.  Having taken £25m and 160 man years to build, the car will run for the first time in the next few months.  Come and hear the stories and thoughts behind this magnificent feat of engineering.




Stopping bad guys with lasers...and other useful applications of Raman Spectroscopy by Stuart Bonthron, VP of Product Development at Cobalt Light Systems

Local company Cobalt Light Systems is using novel laser-based spectroscopy techniques to see through barriers and identify chemicals within containers.  Applications are airport security, manufacturing raw material check, bomb disposal and in-vivo cancer detection.  Stuart will be bringing some devices to Cafe Sci to demonstrate their capabilities in an interactive talk.



Nuclear Issues by Ian Adsley

Ian has very recently retired from his role as Senior Consultant at Nuvia.  This will be his third and final talk about aspects of nuclear issues.  The first talk covered the good, the bad and the ugly aspecs of nuclear power with his second talk considering the remediation of radium and thorium contamination on the London 2012 Olympic Park Site.  This final talk presents information on the Cold War, the nuclear weapons arms race and, after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1990, the efforts made to control the ex-USSR nuclear legacy wastes.  These efforts were focussed in a G8 initiative called the Global Threat Reduction Programme (GTRP).


Christmas Special - The Star of Bethlehem by Dr Barry Kellett from Science & Technology Facilities Council (STFC)

In December 2010 Barry Kellett came to give us a talk about the 'real' astronomy behind the biblical Star of Bethlehem.  So many people enjoyed that particular session that has gone down in Cafe Scientifique history, causing those that missed it to regret that they did!

We are therefore delighted that 5 years on Barry has promised to give an updated version of that same talk.  As always this will be a fascinating evening, and you'll need to come early to be sure of a seat.


Culham - where we have come from and where we are going 

Chris Warrick is the Communications Manager at the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA), where he has particular responsibility for education and public outreach.  Steven Moss is currently Head of Property for the UKAEA, where he leads the development strategy for Culham Science Centre.

We will be hearing from Chris and Steve about the heritage of fusion research at Culham - focussing on the major achievements and breakthroughs which have pushed fusion to new heights.  Our speakers will also be outlining a vision of the future at Culham - including expansion of technology activities and the widening of the science park.


Breeding crops for the future and why we need to by Jane Langdale, Professor of Plant Development at the University of Oxford

Jane's research focusses on understanding genetic mechanisms that regulate how leaves develop, and on understanding how those mechanisms evolved.  Jane's research focusses on understanding genetic mechanisms that regulate how leaves develop, and on understanding how those mechanisms evolved.  Jane will discuss why we need to think big in terms of crops for the future and explain some of the sicentific challenges that lie ahead.





Reflections and Revolutions: A Science Film Night by Nuffield Dept. of Medicine and Diamond Light Source.

Come join us for a film festival, in the main auditorium, to celebrate the development of X-ray crystallography and structural biology.   panel of scientists will be on hand to answer questions after the screening.  These scientists use Diamond's intense X-rays and state of the art detectors to carry out crystallography experiments - with this amazing technique, the can uncover the structure of a wide range of biological samples and physical materials, leadig to new medicines and technology.




How we rely on nature, and nature relies on us by Dr Michael Pocock

Dr Michael Pocock is an ecologist from Centre for Ecology & Hydrology in Crowmarsh Gifford, near Wallingford. Much of his research relies on thousands of people across the country getting involved to help answer qustions about how wildlife is changing in the UK.  Based on the public event he ran in Didcot town centre in July, he will talk about why wildlife declines matter to us and how anyone can get involved with discovering more.




The Little Neutral one... seeing the Universe in a new 'light' by Dr Barry Kellett, from STFC

Dr Barry Kellett, a space scientist and astronomer from Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, is returning to talk about the neutrino and all sorts of stories connected to it, including dry cleaning fluid down a gold mine and a 1km x 1km telescope made of solid ice in Antarctica!



 Innovate in UK & Make in UK by Ian Macafee, CEO at Oxsensis Ltd.

Ian has an Honours degree in Mechanical Engineer, an MBA & is a Fellow at IMechE.  Ian has spent most of his caree in the turbomachinery & energy sectors with Rolls-Royce, RWE & Alstom before joining Oxsensis Ltd.

Starting in 2003, Oxsensis, is the Leader in harsh environment optical instrumentatin, applied to flight & land based gas turbines, airframes, oil & gas.  Talking opticial telecommunications technology & marrying it with high temperature material & structures, it created 1000 degC instrumentation that now accesses new measurement locations & enables new control & protection approaches for energy intensive systems.  Oxsensis Ltd. runs in partnership with several major aerospace OEMs & is developing a product with will be manufactured locally in a new facility.

The talk will covered the optical technology developed by Oxsensis Ltd., and their approach to scaling it up industrially for their customers.


Fusion Power: Within our Grasp? by Professor Steve Cowley, Director at Culham Centre for Fusion Energy (CCFE)

This Cafe Sci is in association with CCFE & Cornerstone.  Prof. Steve Cowley will be giving a talk on the research into nuclear fusion energy. 




Owain Johns, Principal at UTC Oxfordshire on Local Science Education

Owain Johns, the new UTC Principal, will now also be joined by Grace Thompson, Head of Talent & Skills at Science & Technology Facilities Council (STFC), on Tuesday 17th March from 7.30pm. Owain will be talking about the college and why local science organisations are supporting it. Grace will be talking on why it is important for STFC to engage with schools. We will also be looking at science apprenticeships in this area.



Dr John O'Hagan, from the Laser & Optical Radiation Dosimetry Group at Public Health England

Dr John O'Hagan is Group Leader of the Laser & Optical Radiation Dosimetry Group at Public Health England and is responsible for advice to Government on the detrimental and beneficial effects of optical radiatio on people.  The Group's research programme includes developing national/ international standards and guidance.  John is a physicist by training, but works across a wide range of scientific disciplines.

2015 is the UN International Year of Light and Light-based Technology.  This talk will ocver the types of light we are exposed to, how this has evolved and the implications for health/ well-being.  Too much light can be harmful, but so can too little.  How do we find the right balance, and is that balance the same for everyone?  How can we make really significant changes to people's lives, just by changing the type of light they have available?  Is the drive for better energy efficiency always good for health?  Come along and find out....



Tuesday 16th December 2014

Timothy Walker, Lecturer in Plant Sciences at Somerville College, Oxford

Timothy will be talking to us about plants from all over the world that we associate with Christmas; almonds and sugar for marzipan, a tree for the presents, poinsettas for the table and, of course, mistletoe!




Tuesday 18th November

Camera-based Healthcare Montoring

Our speaker for our November Cafe Sci is Ben Wensley Stock, who is Chief Technical Officer at Oxehealth.  He will be giving us a fascinating look at 21st century medical diagnostics.



Tuesday 21st October 2014

Prof. John Womersley - Engineering Past & Future

Engineering plays a vital role in all our lives, from steam engines of the past to computers, mobile phones and the technologies which will help solve the problems of tomorrow.  Not only are STFC's science facilities used to study engineering problems, from testing components to be sent into space to measuring the stresses on materials such as aircraft wings, but engineers are critical in designing and running all of those facilities, from the Diamond Light Source to CERN's Large Hadron Collider. 



Tuesday 16th September 2014
The Remediation of the London Olympic Park Site

Ian Adsley from Nuvia last came to talk to us on 'Radioactivity and Radiation Worldwide'.  This time he will be talking about his involvement with the project to turn a brownfield site into the impressive and unforgettable London 2012 Olympic Park.




Tuesday 19th August 2014

Alastair Adams talk on Data Storage

With Cornerstone closed for their summer break, we will be on the move to the Harwell Oxford campus for one month only.  No need to book in advance, just arrive at RAL Reception, Fermi Avenue OX11 0QX (just beyond the Diamond building as you head onto the campus) by 7.15pm – there will be parking available on site.  Refreshments also for sale. This month's talk is on computer storage – in some ways it has changed enormously over the last 20 years, and in others it has stayed the same.  Whether you use webmail at home, are interested in how your data is stored at work, or simply wonder how vast quantities of data are handled, you'll find this talk fascinating.  How did we get to where we are now, and what will the future hold? Our speaker, Alastair Adams, has over 20 years' experience of business computer networking, most recently working for Datacore Software.  He promises us a talk that can be understood by all, so come along and expand your knowledge!




Tuesday 15th July 2014

Thomas Fink, Director of the London Institute of Mathematical Sciences

Creativity & Calculation: the life of a theoretical physicist.  Thomas' research interests are statistical mechanics, discrete gynamics and theoretical biology; he is interested in design, simplicity and mathematics in culture, so his talk should be fascinating!


Tuesday 17th June 2014
Dr Barry Kellett from Rutherford Appleton Laboratory
Pierre Auger Observatory
Dr Barry Kellett, space scientist and astronomer, will be talking abou the Pierre Auger Observatory, an international cosmic ray observatory designed to detect ultra-high-energy cosmic rays.  Located in Argentina, it has a detection area of 1,200 square miles, which is approximately the size of Luxembourg, making it the largest 'telescope' in the world!


Tuesday 20th May 2014

Prof. Nick Terrill from Diamond Light Source - Old Bones to Aerosols - Small Angle X-ray Scattering at Diamond (the last resort of the Desperate!)

In the next of our series of talks by experts from Diamond, we welcome Nick Terrill in a talk which explores Small Angle X-ray Scattering (SAXS) is being used to shed light on science challenges from both the past and present.


 Tuesday 15th April 2014

 Lizzie Rhymes, Environment Agency & Chris Parker, Earth Trust

 The River of Life - creating new wetland habitats along the River Thames

In 2013 Earth Trust & the Environment Agency completed the first phase of this project to create new wetland habitats across 50ha of farmland.  Lizzie & Chris will tell us about the challenges of digging wetland habitats, the results to date, plans for the future and the environment and social benefits this project will provide.



Tuesday 20th December 2011

Chris Maslanka

Christmas and the New Year are traditional times for sitting down, either individually or as a family, with puzzles of all types. Newspapers and magazines are full of crosswords, quizzes and conundrums, and we love to have a go. But have you ever wondered about thought processes and methods of the people who compile them?



Tuesday 15th November 2011
New technologies in joint replacements
Steven Cutts
The world of medical science is an exciting place in the 21st Century... and is becoming more advanced as each year goes by.  As we live longer lives (often with less personal help than previous generations) we depend on the latest developments to keep us 'on the move'.


Tuesday 18th October 2011

Pluto – A Planet No More     

Barry Kellett

Dr. Barry Kellett, a Space Scientist/Astronomer at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, explains why Pluto was “voted off” the major planet list and why it is likely to stay off in the future!


Tuesday 20th September 2011

Improving Reading's railway...

How do you unplug a bottleneck? What factors influence the design and installation of a 1000 tonne railway bridge in an urban environment? What behind the scenes activities (i.e. waste management, on-train catering, retail services, etc.) can make or break the building of a major station? How do you build a new station and viaduct whilst keeping the existing railway safe and operational?


Tuesday 17th May 2011

Science education

We live in an area rich in science, innovation, IT and engineering companies.  How does that filter through to the teaching of science locally?  Do local pupils move into these companies when they leave school?  What's the situation with local apprenticeships and courses?


Tuesday 19th April 2011

The Science of Motivation

John Harris

When you think of motivation, what do you think of?  What truly motivates you?  Sometimes it's tricky to answer that question...

Our personal motivation determines our zest for life and often the results we achieve both professionally and personally; so if motivation is so important, why do so few of us understand and apply the science behind it?  Could there really be a 'science' of motivation?


Tuesday 18th January 2011

Wake up and smell the coffee

Peter Oliver

Sleep is something that influences all our lives.  From the struggle to get up on a Monday morning to coping with jet-lag, the body has to carefully balance our need to be alert or to be at rest.  But how does the brain control this?  How much sleep do we really need?  Why do flamingos sleep on one leg?


Tuesday 21st December 2010

Christmas Special

Barry Kellett

Barry Kellett delighted us earlier in the year when he showed us some amazing examples of how we can learn more about historical events from astronomy depicted in paintings and other art forms. 


Tuesday 16th November 2010 

Our landscape in 2080: do we have a clue and should we bother trying? 


Tuesday 19th October 2010

Exploring Mars – is it worth it?

Helen Walker

There are 6 men isolated in a car park in Moscow, simulating a manned mission to Mars for 520 days.  Is it worth sending people to Mars? Or should we just use orbiting satellites and landers?  We are fascinated by Mars, our next door neighbour, but is there life on Mars? was there ever life on Mars? will Earth end up like Mars?  This will be an informal ramble through some of the science and some of the issues.


Tuesday 17th August 2010

Carbon dioxide from fossil fuels –  the facts, the fallacies and the unknowns

Richard Hotchkiss

Why is carbon dioxide produced when fossil fuels are used?  What are the differences between coal, oil, gas and biomass?  Why should we be concerned about the effects of carbon dioxide and what different technologies can we use to reduce its production and capture it?


Tuesday 20th July 2010

We live in a global hotspot ...

Steve Moss

Did you realise that Didcot is a name known right across the world? Are you aware how important this area is to UK plc?


Tuesday 18th May 2010

Art and astronomy

Barry Kellett

Dr. Barry Kellett, a Space Scientist/Astronomer at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, has over 20 years experience of observational astrophysics across the entire electromagnetic spectrum.  Astronomical objects often appear in paintings or other historical accounts. Such works of art can then be used, by astronomers, to gain a deeper insight into the artist's mind or location. This talk will discuss two paintings by van Gogh and two more by Norwegian artist Edvard Munch, including his famous painting, "The Scream".  Astronomy can place van Gogh on an exact spot about 120 years ago to within about 1 minute!  Astronomers can also date the exact moment that the Roman's invaded Britain and also tell you which "special" star Shakespeare used in his opening lines of Hamlet...


Tuesday 20th April 2010

Mining asteroids – the future is out there

Richard Ghail

The world is full to overflowing:  annually by late summer we've used up more than a year¹s worth of global resources.  Economic development and growing populations mean that demand is spiralling out of control, placing an unsustainable burden on our planet.  Is the only solution to give up our carbon-intensive fossil-fuelled lifestyles?  One alternative has been within our grasp for more than 40 years:  all the resources we could ever wish for are closer to us and easier to obtain than the Moon was in the sixties.  


Tuesday March 16th

Fusion power, from myth to reality

Chris Warrick

With fossil fuel reserves dwindling and environmental concerns over the emission of greenhouse gases, the search for alternative energy sources is becoming a prominent social issue.

A world-wide research programme is studying the viability of nuclear  fusion - the process that powers the Sun - as a future energy source - offering  essentially unlimited energy supplies with no greenhouse gas emissions and  short lived radio-activity compared to fission.

The world's largest  magnetic confinement fusion experiment and European flagship facility,  JET, has been operating at the Culham Science Centre in Oxfordshire for twenty  five years and has successfully demonstrated some 16MW of fusion energy. Work on JET and other devices around the world has helped to design ITER -an international machine that will produce 500MW of fusion power and act  as a single stepping-stone to commercial power.