UK: Leeds (Headingley)

New Headingley Club,
56 St Michael’s Road,
Leeds
LS6 3BG
Tel: 0113 2757712 (for venue info.)
Admission £2
 
7.30pm to 9.30pm second Monday of the month
    
 
    
Larry Brownstein
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Dave Webb; Paul Marchant
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Website Cafe Scientifique Headingley
Twitter @cafescihead
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Monday 8th September 2014

 

Olver Wright


The Science & Technology of Photography from a Practical Perspective

 

 

 

 

Oliver Wright is a local professional photographer whose photographs span nature, architecture, and landscapes, from the very small to the very large. Examples of each and some of the technicalities involved in getting a great image will be described. Many of his images, particularly those of small insects in the wild, are technically difficult to arrange compositionally in real time. And virtually all require a deep understanding of the relationship of the technical workings of the camera to that of the human eye. A great deal of understanding of science, both theoretical and practical, goes into the taking of great photographs, which is not necessarily obvious to the viewer of such photographs.

 

Oliver will bring some of his cameras to the talk so that members of the audience can obtain a better idea of how Oliver uses his equipment to obtain his results.

 

 

 

 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recent speakers   


 

Monday 14th July 2014 

 Life in extreme environments on earth, and the possibility of life on Mars by Liane Benning

 

Life can be found everywhere on Earth – even in the most extreme environmental conditions. Surely then there is a possibility of finding life on planets where conditions are not too much different from the extremes of Earth – like Mars?

 

 

 

Professor Benning from the University of Leeds will be talking about her work in designing, building, testing and deploying instrumentation that aims to assist in the search for life in hostile environments – and can be deployed on spacecraft such as the Mars rovers. She will also identify some of the places on Earth where extreme conditions exist and which she has visited in order to carry out the severe testing required before instruments are ready to be used. The talk is illustrated with photographs from some of the places she has visited.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Monday 9th June 2014 

 Why Austerity Isn’t Working:  How the Real Economy Actually Works by Larry Brownstein

 

One of the central tenets of the neoclassical paradigm, which is the one being followed around the world, especially by Osborne, is the conception of the nature of money and how it works. Another tenet that has been used over and over is that governments are like households and individual firms. Nothing could be further from the truth. These two assumptions of the neoclassical paradigm are intimately related, though logically independent, and tend to reinforce one another, at least psychologically.

 

 

 

Another myth perpetrated by the neoclassical proponents is that the UK is like countries in the Eurozone, particularly Greece, and that without a well-conceived austerity program, could become like Greece. This is absolute nonsense. Since the UK is the sovereign issuer of its own currency, which Greece is not, it can never go bankrupt, unless Parliament forces it to. The same is true for the US, Japan, and other like countries. Greece is different in that it, like other members of the Eurozone, gave up its currency in order to use a foreign one, the Euro.

 

 

 

Another myth to which the public has been inundated time and time again is that the UK is suffering from a public debt crisis. This is an outrageous falsehood. The UK along with a number of other countries are suffering from a private debt crisis which has been turned into what appears to be a public debt crisis. There is no public debt crisis, even though numerous governments bailed out the large insolvent banks, which were, and still are, the heart and soul of the problem. In fact, some of the largest banks are so insolvent that there is no way that they could ever pay down their debt. But this unpleasant fact is being largely hidden from public discourse.

 

 

 

Monday 12th May 2014

 

From dust to dust: a cosmic cycle : Alan Harris

 

 

 

 

 Prof Alan Harris, DLR Institute of Planetary Research, Berlin will talk on collisions between planetesimals, the precursors of present-day asteroids and comets, and growing planets which forged the Solar System around 4.5 billion years ago. Planetesimals from diverse regions of the planetary disk probably enriched the early Earth and other planets in minerals, water, and organic materials.

 

In later epochs, impacts of asteroids and comets on the Earth may have abruptly altered the course of evolution and paved the way for mankind.

 

 

 

 

 

 

However, this natural process has not ceased. In particular, the current population of so-called near-Earth asteroids contains many objects that are considered potentially hazardous.

 

 

 

Alan will discuss the origin of our Solar System, the contribution of asteroids and comets to the development of life, and the steps being taken to improve our understanding of the present-day impact hazard and determine what defensive measures are appropriate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monday 14th April 2014 - The New Media competition of the National Institute for Health Research: a public judging session

 

 

 

 This meeting of Headingley Café Scientifique is rather different from usual; it is about helping the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) with its New Media Competition entries. The NIHR, funded through the Department of Health, has asked its researchers to create short films that aim to enthuse and inform patients, colleagues, friends, family and the public about their research. This is the third round of the competition and the NIHR would very much like the Café Scientifique audience to help it to judge the entries. 

 

 

 

 Monday 10th March 2014

Surviving the future: Pathways to a sustainable energy system

Tim Foxon

 

Climate change represents an existential threat to our current way of life and global civilisation. Access to affordable energy services of light, heat, power and mobility has helped to drive economic development, but the fossil fuels that have provided these services need to be rapidly substituted by renewable and low carbon sources to prevent catastrophic climate change. This will require a transition to efficient and low carbon energy systems for the UK to take its fair share of global carbon emissions reductions. 

 


 

Monday 1oth February 2014

 


Casting Light on Evidence … & Evidence on Light

 

 Paul Marchant 

 

It is hard to argue against using ‘scientific’ evidence to decide policy;   which health care interventions should be employed or which policy actions should be used in the social sphere. Randomised controlled trials give clear, accurate results … if everything works out perfectly. However everything does not always work out perfectly. There are big problems from studies even in the tightly regulated medical arena. (Recently, 3rd Jan 2014, the Public Accounts Committee published a damning report on the multi-million pound acquisition of the drug ‘Tamiflu’).

 

 

 

It seems that many reports, written in the language of science, can have totally misleading or at least questionable conclusions. (It should be said at the outset that non-randomised studies have additional problems and so it is even more tricky to ensure reliable results.) 

 

 

 

This talk will discuss these issues and give some examples of the sorts of things which can go wrong. It will mention the intriguing problem of determining the effect of spending money on road lighting, an issue the speaker discussed on Radio4’s ‘More or Less’; the matter also made it into the investigative magazine Private Eye. Ideas will be given on what needs to be done to improve the quality of scientific evidence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

Monday 13th January 2014 

 

 

An Optimistic Assessment of Prospects and Problems for the EU

 

Prof. Barry Robson, University of Maryland.

 

If one is to believe the British media, since the Euro crisis of 2009, the EU and its currency system seem to be in paralysis, sliding into terminal decline. The 'rise' of UKIP and the constant anti-EU (bordering on xenophobic) tirades of the right-wing press, allied with the euro-sceptic stance of a significant section of the Tory Party, have combined to create an impression of a failed association that should be exited at the first available opportunity.

 

Nothing could be further from reality; the EU is moving inexorably towards being one of the dominant economic and political blocs in the world, and to leave it would be an unmitigated disaster. There is an excellent case that can be made for an 'ever closer union'. While the EU is akin to a jigsaw puzzle, it is not in danger of imminent dis-assembly.

 

 

Tuesday 10 December 2013

 

Speaker Identification: Problems with establishing a Fixed Biometric.

Peter French
  
Despite decades of research into developing a biometric for uniquely identifying an individual by their voice, success has been somewhat limited. Although automatic speaker recognition systems are nowadays capable of performing with relatively low error rates, it seems that we have reached the point where the remaining error rates cannot be further improved.
Those responsible for developments in this area are largely from sound engineering and signal processing backgrounds and conceive of progress towards perfection in terms of making improvements to the algorithms used in the speaker recognition software. I shall present an alternative view - based on research findings from linguistics, phonetics, acoustics, and human biology - which is that perfection may never be achieved, as - voice-wise - people are just too similar to one another for complete separation within any population.
The author is a practising forensic speech scientist and considers what this view might mean for the identification of speakers in criminal recordings. 
The talk includes food for the seriously scientific mind, as well as case details and snippets from seedy criminal recordings to satisfy the interests of the seriously prurient amateur.

Peter French is Honorary Professor, Department of Language and Linguistic Science, University of York. He is Chairman of an independent forensic speech and acoustics laboratory (JP French Associates), which involves acting as an expert witness in legal cases arising from jurisdictions across the world.
  

 

Tuesday 12 November 2013      

 

What Gregor Mendel did for (and to) us

 

Prof. Gregory Radick, University of Leeds

 

 

In 1865, the Brünn monk Gregor Mendel gave a couple of talks to his local natural history society about some recently concluded experiments he had done involving the crossing of purified strains of garden peas.   Famously, his audience was underwhelmed.  And for decades afterward, the subsequently published paper received occasional respectful attention from specialists, but nothing more.

 

All of that changed in 1900.  Suddenly Mendel – by now dead – was being hailed as having established the foundation for a new, true, powerful science of inheritance.  Within a few years there were growing numbers of “Mendelians,” who rebranded this new Mendelian science “genetics.”  From “genetics” in short order came a new name for the factors by which Mendel had explained the patterns he obtained in his experiments: “genes.” 

 

Now, talk of “genes” is everywhere, in and out of science.  So, wherever genetics is taught, is Mendel.  From primary school to university, students get their introduction to the science of inheritance via the simple patterns Mendel described and, with updated vocabulary, the simple processes by which he explained those patterns.  And they learn to admire Mendel’s purifying methods as having provided a royal road to scientific understanding.

 

In this talk I want to look at the case against the Mendelian organization of knowledge about inheritance.  The case is inspired in part by recent historical work looking at the criticisms levelled at Mendelism back in the early twentieth century.  A major concern was that a Mendelian perspective misleadingly downplays interaction between heredity and environments, inner and outer.  I want to suggest that, given changes in both biology and society over the last century, this concern is significantly greater now than it was then. I’ll also sketch a promising alternative, now being trialled at the University of Leeds.  

 

Greg is a philosopher and historian of biology and an expert in this area and the work of Darwin. His book The Simian Tongue: The Long Debate about Animal Language (2007) won the 2010 Levinson Prize for best book in the history of biology and natural history. He is also co-editor, with Jonathan Hodge, of The Cambridge Companion to Darwin (2nd edition 2009) and coauthor, with Mike Dixon, of Darwin in Ilkley(2009).                                      

 

 

Cosmology & dark energy

 

Dr. Jonathan Pearson, Durham University

 

Cosmology is the study of the Universe as a whole. The aim of cosmology is to describe how the universe expands, how structures (such as galaxies) form, how light rays pass through the universe, and ultimately prescribes the fate of the universe.

 

There is a "standard model" of modern cosmology, which is based upon Albert Einstein's theory of gravity: General Relativity, and a few (well educated) guesses as to the shape and content of the universe; it is also assumed that we do not occupy any "special" place in the universe. This picture (gravity theory plus shape plus content) produces highly testable predictions. These predictions have been rigoriously tested over the past few years. In March of this year, an ESA space mission, Planck, released its data.

 

The data concreted our suspicions: our simple model of a universe made from substances we can see is completely wrong. The observations have firmly established that the universe has a substantial "dark side". There are two main components of the "dark side" of our universe: dark matter and dark energy. My main focus (in my research & this talk) will be on dark energy.

 

 Dark energy is an incredibly mysterious substance: it seems to be causing the universe to accelerate in its expansion. This means that the dark energy acts like an "anti-gravity" substance. Even more bizzarely, about 70% of the total content of the universe must be made of this anti-gravity.

 

 As a scientific community, we have absolutely no idea whats actually going on. Being honest about it, the dark side is nothing more than a "cosmic fudge factor". We have realized that the simple picture is wrong, and we vaguely understand how to modify the mathematics, but we do not understand the physical origin of these modifications.

 

 Saying that, there are many thoughts and theories. All of these challenge the fundamental assumptions which went into the "standard cosmology" cookbook. Maybe there really is a substantial amount of anti-gravity in the universe. Perhaps we live in a special place in the universe. Or, maybe, Einstein's General Relativity theory breaks down (in which case we talk of "modified gravity" theories). The break-down of GR could be similar to the break-down of Newton's theory of gravity in the vicinity of the Sun, in its inability to correctly predict the orbit of Mercury (without resorting to inventing planet Vulcan).

 

Whatever the cause, our understanding of the nature of our universe: the nature of matter, and the nature of gravity, has to be rewritten.

 

 This talk will give an overview of our cosmological picture: its successes and failures. It will present and explain some of the state-of-the-art observations of our universe, as well as movies of simulations performed on supercomputers.

Tuesday 9 July 2013

 

The formation of stars, planets and our astrochemical heritage

 

Paola Caselli

 

 

 

Paola Caselli will discuss where and how stars form and what astronomers observe to study these regions. She will show that organic molecules are the best tools to study star forming regions. Such molecules are the building blocks of prebiotic material, so they allow us also to investigate the initial steps toward life.

 

 

 

Paola Caselli is a Professor within the Astrophysics Group of the School of Physics & Astronomy at the University of Leeds. Her research interests include: astrochemistry; galactic and extragalactic star and planet formation; molecular astrophysics; astrobiology

 

 Tuesday 11th June 2013

 

Experiments in Time (medieval clocks)

Malcolm Bell

This story, of testing clocks in Salisbury Cathedral and the British Museum,  making replica clock parts and data analysis, is a story about much more than just clocks. Clocks are the entry point for a deep and fascinating story of our technically minded ancestors. It tells of experimental archaeology into the history of machines to keep time and of our medieval predecessors’ use of mathematics to create brilliant instruments.

 


 

Tuesday 14th May 2013

Is military involvement with science undermining our security?

Stuart Parkinson, Scientists for Global Responsibility 

Throughout history, militaries have made use of scientific and technical expertise to try to achieve 'operational advantage' in order to win wars. But technological developments since the industrial revolution have led to an exponential increase in the destructive power of weapons, with thermonuclear weapons able to kill millions (if not more) in a matter of hours. As civilian casualties in war have rapidly increased, some arms research has been diverted to try to develop 'precision weapons'. But is this not missing the point? Especially now that hugely destructive weapons are available, shouldn't the focus be on using science to help us understand better the roots of conflict and tackling those problems before wars break out? This is especially urgent as global environmental and resource problems - which can be key drivers of conflict - rapidly get worse.

 

Tuesday 9th April 2013

Childhood Obesity in Leeds – Implications for Policy

Claire Griffiths

Obesity is not a new phenomenon, but what is surprising is the increase in its prevalence in virtually every country in the world. Media, health experts and researchers talk about a paediatric ‘obesity epidemic’ and it is now recognised as a ‘principal health concern’ in many developed nations. This cafe will focus on two key areas of interest: 1) the measurement and classification of obesity in children and 2) the relationship between socio-economic status and obesity prevalence.

 

 

Tuesday 26th February 2013

Radiotherapy: a cornerstone of cancer treatment ... technology for cure in 2013

Sue Griffiths

Did you know that radiotherapy cures more people than chemotherapy, and is thirteen times more cost effective? Public awareness of the role of modern radiotherapy in treating cancer is low, yet in a recent high-profile case, Mr Justice Bodey described it as the ‘gold standard’ treatment for medulloblastoma. Although UK cancer specialists prescribe both chemotherapy and radiotherapy, the public has been led to believe that new chemotherapy drugs offer the greatest promise as the 'magic bullet' for cancer. However, surgery and radiotherapy are the main curative treatments for cancers in adults. 

 


 

Tuesday, 12 February

Claps and Claptrap: how politicians win applause at political meetings

Peter Bull

 

Oratory has always been an important form of political communication. Its study dates back to ancient Greece and Rome but now, the detailed analysis of video and audio recordings offers significant insights have been gained into how politicians interact with their audiences. Pioneering research on British political speeches shows how politicians use rhetorical devices (or 'claptraps') to invite audience applause.

 


 

Tuesday 29th January 2013

New Generation Transport (NGT): moving forward with the trolleybus proposals

Dave Haskins

 

NGT’s Line One will run from Holt Park in north Leeds. With around 3,000 Park & Ride spaces in total, the route runs along the A660 through Lawnswood, Headingley and Hyde Park. It passes the universities and the new Leeds Arena and crosses the city centre via Park Row, City Square and the Rail Station before heading south via Clarence Dock and Hunslet to Stourton, in the south of the city, near the M1/M621intersection.

 

The cafe provides an opportunity to discuss issues around the project in the context of wider transport problems in Leeds and the next stages of work.

 


 

Tuesday 8th January 2013

The future: a users' guide

Adrian Nixon

 

For most of us the future has arrived. But was it what we expected? And who decided it? Adrian Nixon is a scientist who advises businesses on the future yet is keenly aware that the 'future' which interests corporations usually equates to the average tenure of their chief executives; little more than five years.

 

 


 

Monday 6th August 2012

A cafe with a difference: a discussion on the ethics of human enhancement. 

The Democs game is part of a European Community project ‘Science in Society’ and is a chance to explore whether we should try to enhance the human body and brain using new technologies. Feedback from these discussions will help produce a report to the EC about public views on enhancement and whether regulations might be needed. 

To find out more go to www.edinethics.co.uk 

 

 


 

Monday 2nd July 2012

Sustainable biofuel: common misconceptions and realistic opportunities

Jurgen Denecke

 

 

 

Despite popular concerns regarding food security and alleged competition between food and fuel crops, the most promising strategies for sustainable biofuel production have either never been considered or hardly begun to make a global impact. For this reason, it is of growing importance to raise awareness of the specific role biofuels can play in the future energy strategy. To be competitive, we must explore systematically how bio-fuel production can interface with the need to produce more food and more materials from plants per time and land occupied. This presentation will introduce a remarkable number of popular misconceptions that currently prevent full exploitation of the tremendous potential plant-based fuel strategies have to offer. It will also illustrate how thinking outside the box can lead to surprisingly simple opportunities to increase both food and fuel production efficiencies.

 

 

 

 


 

Tuesday 1st May 2012 

How to get from pitch to plinth: predicting stadium statue subject selection

Chris Stride, University of Sheffield

 

From the beginning of the 1990s, the number of statues of English soccer heroes has risen inexorably. Over 50 football players, managers or chairmen have been, or are soon to be depicted by statues inside or adjacent to the grounds they once performed at. This includes the unveiling of a statue in honour of Leeds United’s Don Revie at Elland Road on 5th May 2012.

 


 

Friday 9th March 2012

The Effects of the Libel Laws on Science: A Personal Experience

Peter Wilmshurst

 

Dr. Wilmshurst was the principal cardiologist in a clinical trial sponsored by an American corporation, NMT Medical. After reporting the conduct of the company at a medical conference in the USA, he spent four years defending their defamation claims against him in England, until NMT went into liquidation. His concerns about the trial have been vindicated. He has spent the last two decades trying to expose research misconduct.

 


 

Monday 6th February 2012

Identification of Genetic Variants in Autism

Janine Lamb

Autism is a behaviourally defined neurodevelopmental disorder, with evidence for a genetic involvement. Recent research has shown that several rare genetic variants within genes, and relatively small deletions or duplications of regions of DNA increase an individual’s risk of developing autism.

 


 

Monday 16th January 2012 

DNA Sequencing - What it is and what we can do with it

Wally Gilks

We live in an era of unprecedented scientific discovery and technological advancement, much of it based on DNA. Our understanding of DNA, our ability to read DNA sequences and see how they differ among individuals and how they compare between distantly related species, and our increasingly powerful techniques for modifying DNA sequences, bring huge opportunities and responsibilities. The pace of progress is such that it is impossible to predict the possibilities ten years from now.

 


 

Monday 7th November 2011

Genetics and intelligence

Tony Payton

The history of intelligence genetic research and findings in this field, including the results of an ongoing £1.3 million project to find genes associated with intelligence and the decline of intelligence in the elderly. The controversies within this area of research will be weighed against the potential benefits that a better understanding of our cognitive abilities may bring.


 

Tuesday 2nd August 2011

Neutrinos and the Universe

Susan Cartwright

Every second, 65 billion neutrinos from the Sun pass through every square centimetre of your body. They do you no harm - they don't even notice you (indeed, they don't notice the entire Earth: almost all of those 65 billion will still pass through you as you sleep, having gone through the Earth to do so). Almost massless, almost devoid of any interaction with other matter, neutrinos would seem to be as close to nothing at all as it's possible for matter to get.


 

Tuesday 4th July

Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors (LFTRs)

Colin Megson

The Silver Bullet – The Magic Wand – A forty-year-old technology capable of solving many of humankind’s worst problems? LFTR technology was developed by Alvin Weinberg, a doyen of nuclear engineering, following the frenetic period of the Manhattan Project. Militarily, the Thorium Fuel Cycle does not produce weapons-grade plutonium, so it was sidelined, starved of funding and all activity ceased in the early 70s. All that remained was a significant, archived body of paper records, detailing many successful years of experimentation and operation.


 

Tuesday 7th June 2011

Radiation and reason

Wade Allison

For more than 60 years it has been accepted that nuclear radiation is quite exceptionally dangerous. Wade will re-examine this question and show the answer to be rather unexpected. In the light of such fresh understanding, nuclear technology may be viewed differently – indeed welcomed and used carefully to benefit the environment for the future, without fear or excessive cost.


 

Tuesday 3rd May 2011

Can we use viruses to treat cancer?

Jay Naik

There are a number of reports of patients undergoing remission of cancers following viral infections over the past century. It may surprise you to know studies were taking place as long ago as the 1950s. Following a lull, improvements in virus manufacture, understanding of virus biology, immune effects and new viral candidates has led to resurgent interest over the past few years. Ongoing trials in melanoma suggest we are not far from seeing the first oncolytic virus approved in the West.


 

Monday 7th March 2011

Resource management  - the imperative and the practice. Why should we recycle and does it work?

Simon Drury and Rachel Charlton

What is the true cost of waste and how can understanding this help managers to drive a greater business commitment?


 

Tuesday February  7th 2011

What is the spirit of sport?

Jim Parry, Andy Miah

In the build up to the London 2012 Olympics how should sport react to emerging enhancement technologies such as bionics and gene doping? It is often presumed that the Paralympic Movement retains more ‘spirit’ than mainstream sport, but is this really the case? Is the idea of a ‘natural’ athletic performance still relevant or are we all living in a trans-human state? What is the difference between using a drug to enhance one's performance and using a new piece of technology? Is there such a thing as technology doping?


 

Tuesday 11th January 2011

Through the Looking Glass: the wonder of aroma and flavour

John Bradley

Why do certain tastes trigger memories? How does aroma modify flavour sensations? How does molecular symmetry affect flavour?


 

Tuesday 16th November 2010

What’s on the Moon?

Ray Emery

What features can we expect to see if we look for ourselves with optical aid? How did these features get there, and what do they tell us about the origins of our nearest neighbour in the solar system? For its size, our Moon is the largest natural satellite in the solar system as compared to the size of its home planet.  Not only does it provide us with the tides and moonlight, it is crucial to the stability of the Earth itself and provides our very own stepping stone into the cosmos.


 

Monday 4th October 2010

How I wonder what you are - the birth, life and death of stars

Paul Ruffle

'Twinkle, twinkle, little star, how I wonder what you are!' How often did we sing that as a child without realising what we were asking? The wonder of what stars revealed: how stars form in clouds of molecular gas and dust scattered about in the interstellar medium (ISM) of our Milky Way galaxy, how they then evolve and synthesise the elements that make life possible and how at the end of their lives, they return this material to the ISM for the next generation of stars, either as red giants and planetary nebulae or more catastrophically as exploding supernovae.


 

Monday 2nd August 2010

New generation transport: why Leeds needs a modern transport system

Dave Haskins

Following the cancellation of Leeds Supertram in 2005, Metro and Leeds City Council have been working in partnership to develop a high-quality Rapid Transit system for Leeds.  Almost £250m of funding has been allocated to the New Generation Transport (NGT) trolleybus project, and the Department for Transport has accepted that the scheme has a strong business case. The current Comprehensive Spending Review will re-evaluate the role that the NGT system has to play in Leeds and a decision will be taken in the autumn as to whether the scheme will go ahead or not.


 

Monday 5th July 2010

Chips, Crime and Cancer:  What Have Ion Beams Ever Done for Us?

Melanie Bailey and Roger Webb

Using a particle accelerator to generate “ion beams”, researchers at the University of Surrey Ion Beam Centre are making new generations of computer chips, fighting crime and helping develop new cancer treatments. High speed particles interact with materials in ways that give clues about their composition, enabling analysis of items as diverse as gunshot residue, fingerprints, works of art and biological materials. Ion beams are used in the processing and manufacture of every silicon chip found in mobile phones, laptop computers etc.  They also affect the biological properties of materials and this “particle therapy” is being used in a small number of hospitals around the world for the treatment of certain types of cancer.


 

Monday 7th June 2010

The psychological and physiological effects of meditation

Peter Malinowski

Meditation is becoming an increasingly studied topic within psychology and cognitive neuroscience. More and more beneficial effects of meditation practice are being described and different meditation-based interventions have already been implemented in clinical as well as non-clinical contexts. Meditation research spans a broad range of aspects, including meditators who spent up to 50,000 hours in meditation as well as the application of mindfulness meditation as an adjunct to cognitive behavioural therapy for helping people with depression. 


 

Tuesday 4th May 2010

Synthetic biology – a brave new world?

Bruce Turnbull

Imagine a world in which we could make fuels or pharmaceuticals in the same way we ferment malt to make beer.  A world in which materials as strong as steel are made without industrial waste, or artificial viruses can be used to administer anti-cancer drugs without the usual side-effects of chemotherapy. Synthetic biology promises new technologies that could change our lives through the construction of new biological parts and devices, and the redesign of existing biological organisms for new purposes. 


 

30th March 2010

The hunt to find the genes that make us human

Jeremy Taylor

How many gene mutations does it take to make a human out of something that looked very much like today's chimpanzee? It is a question frequently posed by the popular science media ever since the publication of the full read-out of the chimpanzee genome, less than five years ago. The real story, however, is much more complicated - but also much more interesting - than the simplistic notion that "human-ness" can be accounted for by a mere 1.6% difference between the genetic code of humans and chimps. 


 

Tuesday 2nd March 2010

Standards: the boring stuff that shapes virtually everything we do

Lawrence Busch

You're probably reading this on the screen of your standard laptop computer, which is plugged into standard current. The light overhead comes from a standard bulb. The shoes you are wearing are of a standard size. Your dinner was of a standard variety in a package of standard weight. Perhaps you recently took a standard exam for a driving licence. Standards exert enormous power, even as we cannot do without them. They provide us with rules to follow as well as set the range of possible choices we make. But who makes these standards? How are they enforced? 


 

Tuesday 2nd February 2010

How to build a zero-carbon house

Matthew Hill

Matthew examines what the Government's target of building zero-carbon homes by 2016 actually means and what options we have to achieve that target. This will be a practical science presentation rather than a theoretical one, and will aim to generate discussion on what steps people can take to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from their own homes.

Followed by: Almost Everything Explained – the nearly complete guide to the universe.

 

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