UK: Wantage

The Beacon Cafe
OX12 9BX
Second Tuesday of the month, doors open at 7 for 7:30pm start


Runs on the second Tuesday of most months

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Mim Norvell
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Next Talk Jan 9th, 7.30pm at The Beacon:

Solar & Wind Energy The rapid development of wind and solar power has surprised even keen advocates, and discussions are now focusing on how far and how fast we got to an energy future that is largely renewable.

Chris Church will discuss our ‘renewable future’ with an overview of the core issues and will then look at why we have seen such rapid growth and at the ways in which our electricity supply and management systems are likely to develop in the next decades.

Chris is a Trustee of the Westmill Sustainable Energy Trust, a charity funded by the community-owned wind and solar farms at Westmill near Shrivenham. He is a former chair of the Low Carbon Communities Network and was a member of the London Sustainable Development Commission appointed by the Mayor of London.


Recent speakers   

Last Talk November 14th:

Spotlight on Temperature With Matt Hills from Rutherford Appleton Laboratory
Cryogenics Department

10th October: Science and Music with Paul Steadman

12th September: Do My Genes Make me Sad? Recent research from Oxford University connecting genes to our mental health.

Wantage: The Last 600 Million Years with Mike Simmons

Tuesday 11th July 7.30pm (doors 7pm)

The rocks around and beneath Wantage allow us to visualize an ever-changing landscape over the last 600 million years. Plate tectonics have moved our location around the globe and this, coupled with changes in climate and sea-level and episodes of uplift related to mountain building, mean that past environments can be interpreted to include everything from arid deserts to deep tropical seas.

Each has its own distinctive fauna of now extinct creatures. We will explore how geologists are able to determine these past environments and what you can see for yourself in the geology around Wantage.

Join us as we take a journey back into deep time!

Mike Simmons works as a geologist for Halliburton at Milton Park and holds honorary positions at the University of London and The Natural History Museum. His 35 year career has taken him across the continents in search of interesting geology and he has worked in both industry and academia.Fusion - Why we need it and how to achieve it with Alan Sykes

Tuesday 13th June

Going Viral!
with Dr Mike Skinner
Tuesday 9th May 7.30pm (doors 7pm)
at The Beacon Cafe, OX12 9BX


Viruses always seem to be in the news: Bird flu, H5N1, H7N9, Ebola, Zika... but they are all around us, the most abundant "organisms" on Earth, playing important roles in ecology and even climate. What are the real threats? Where do they come from? What can we do about them? 
Hear about the fascinating, unseen world of viruses from Dr Mike Skinner, Reader in Virology at Imperial College London, who has worked on viruses such as a relative of SARS and MERS, polio, HIV, relatives of smallpox and, with his colleague Prof Wendy Barclay, on host range of bird flu.

Cryogenics - How low can you go?

Tuesday 11th April

Cryogenics is an enabling technology behind the scenes in food, healthcare, energy, science and space - without which our next speaker thinks our lives would be miserable!

A recent economic impact study estimated 17% of the UK economy was broadly associated with cryogenics. The UK has a particularly strong presence in Cryogenics, with its centre of gravity around Oxford - with a brilliant heritage associated with development of superconducting magnets [from which we have MRI scanners] and the ‘Oxford Cooler’ [which gave us - honestly - better weather forecasts !]

As well as previous pedigree, the sector has a strong future - with new applications in renewable energy, fields like the ‘Cold Chain,’ and in Quantum Technology.

John Vandore will explain how Cryogenics, or Low Temperature Technology, impacts on our lives - and how Oxfordshire came to have a special role. John is based at Rutherford Appleton Laboratory helping to promote Cryogenics.

Transforming Chernobyl
Tuesday 14th March

In 1986 the world's worst nuclear accident happened at Chernobyl when unit 4 exploded, destroying the reactor and releasing radioactive material that travelled round the world.

Over the past 30 years extensive work has been done to transform the area. The New Safe Confinement, recently moved into position, now encloses the remains of the reactor.

Hear about the process involved from Tony Powell, Radiation Protection Advisor at Nuvia, who worked on the project and helped ensure safety at the site.Tuesday 14th February 

Kite Technology - 

Creating a Power Plant with a Difference


The UK’s first kite power plant is expected to open in

March this year and this technology has the potential

to produce hundreds of megawatts within the decade.

Kites are used at high altitudes to generate wind

energy using a technique called "crosswind kite power". 


Dr Lucas Wilkins & Dr James Thorniley of Kite Power Systems

will give an overview of the physics behind this process

and describe how this can capture wind energy 

more effectively than traditional wind turbines.

 The 100,000 Genomes Project

If you had your genome sequenced, what would it tell you? 

Would you want to know?

- Tuesday 10th January 

The 100,000 Genomes Project aims to sequence the

genomes of approximately 70,000 NHS patients with rare diseases

and cancer. This is currently the largest national sequencing

project of its kind in the world. The ultimate goal is to create

a new genomic medicine service in the NHS, transforming

patient care and enabling research into the causes and

treatment of genetic disease.


Find out more about the project and genome sequencing  

with Jennifer Whitfield from the Oxford Medical Genetics Lab





 Tuesday 14th June 2016

Testing for Space: the story from design to launch

It takes more than a design and a pile of parts to get an idea into space. Hardware needs to survive the bumpy right to space, work in a vacuum, and endure hot and cold temperatures. From choosing materials that are suitable for space (like you might plan for a hiking trip) to using big chambers to do testing there are a lot of little steps that lead to sending something to space.

Join us to hear Christina McQuirk, a systems engineer from RAL Space, talk about this fascinating area of development!

Tuesday 12th April 2016

Cancer Immunotherapy

Join us to hear Dr Demin Li from the Nuffield Division of Clinical Laboratory Sciences at the University of Oxford talk about Cancer Immunotherapy...

Our immune system protects us from invasions both from outside and from within. Cancers are one of the consequences when the internal invasions get out of control. By enhancing/recalibrating our immune system, scientists and doctors are able to treat cancers much more effectively.


Tuesday 8th March 2016

Scientific Computing at Diamond: The challenges of large-scale data collection and processing


Diamond Light Source is the UK national synchrotron facility which operates up to 42 concurrent experimental beamlines at any one time. As each of these beamlines generates data sets from a few gigabytes to hundreds of terabytes a day it is quite a challenge to collect and process this data! Join us to hear Dave Bond talk about how they collect such large data sets, the technology used and the issues they face in the future as experimental data sizes increase and require more complex processing...


Tuesday 9th February 2016

Valentine's special: The Psychology of Romantic Attraction


Are there gender differences in perceptions of attraction? What are we looking for in a potential mate? What other features make us more or less attractive? Join us as Dr Martin Graff (University of South Wales) examines work on attraction and why attraction is important to us. He will cover how our levels of attractiveness are perceived to alter at certain times, in addition to the utility of studying attraction and the other positive features which are related to levels of attraction. The talk will also look at online dating, and conclude by considering differences between males and females in what they seek in a romantic partner!


Tuesday 8th December 2015

Festive Cheer: From Humble Yeast to Brewing Industry


Drinking alcohol plays an important social role in many cultures - especially during the festive season! Humanity has developed a huge range of alcoholic beverages, but all of them rely on yeast converting simple sugars into ethanol. So what is it that makes an ale different from a lager or in fact, a whisky? And what makes a wine a wine? Join Dr Michael Wharmby to find out about the chemistry and biochemistry of this social lubricant and discover how the brewing, distilling and wine making industries have had an impact on modern chemistry. There will also be the chance to take part in a science experiment and sample some for yourself...

Tuesday 10th November 2015

Skylon and the SABRE engine - the future of space flight


Driven by an extensive and pioneering technology programme, Reaction Engines Ltd has made a breakthrough in aerospace technology that is now allowing the development of engines that will propel aircraft at speeds of up to five times the speed of sound or directly into Earth orbit. Richard Parker, Principal Design engineer, will be taking us through the worlds of SABRE, Skylon and the future of space flight!

Tuesday 13th October 2015

Under Pressure: The Science of Aerosol Containers


Robert Fell, R&D Manager for Aerosols at Ardagh Group and a Director of the British Aerosols Manufacturers Association will be talking about the different types of metal aerosol containers currently available for purchase in the UK, and cover how aerosol containers are made and what steps the industry takes to ensure these pressurised containers are safe for the consumer to use. The talk will also cover the topic of the sustainability of metal aerosol containers.


Tuesday 11th Aug 2015

Fragmented Sleep, Fragmented Mind


Christopher-James Harvey and Dalena Van Heugten from the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences are joining us to talk about the science of sleep - an overview of what it is, the circadian system and a look at sleep and dissociation.

Tuesday 14th Jul 2015

Fusion - within our grasp?


With fossil fuel reserves diminishing and concerns over climate change increasing, the hunt for alternative sources of energy has never been more important. In the middle of rural Oxfordshire, a thousand scientists and engineers are undertaking a project to develop a new source of energy – nuclear fusion.

Join us to hear Chris Warrick from the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy talk about the quest for this seemingly ideal power source...

Tuesday 9th Jun 2015

What is Forensic Science?


Amy Kuzemka from LGC Forensics joins us to talk about the work carried out in a Forensic Biology department, including item examinations, DNA profile interpretation, case reporting and attending court. 

Tuesday 12th May 2015

Why are snowflakes hexagons? A Diffraction Story...


All snowflakes that fall from the sky have a hexagonal shape and all salt crystals are cubic, but why? Both of these observations can be explained by crystallography, a field in which there have been nearly 30 Nobel Prizes awarded and which is vital to modern science, yet remains not widely known outside the lab. Drawing on his research experience, Dr Michael Wharmby will tell the story of crystallography from its roots in 18th century studies of minerals, through to its more recent use to understand the role of proteins in biological systems, explaining along the way how this important technique works with the aid of lasers & marshmallows…

Tuesday 14th Apr 2015

Was it right to build the LHC? The moral and ethical implications of Big Science.


In this cafe sci accelerator physicist and science communicator Dr. Suzie Sheehy from STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory is going to share some of the questions that keep her awake at night, tough questions about her own field of research. Is it right to spend billions of pounds on building the Large Hadron Collider when there are people living in extreme poverty? What are the moral and ethical implications of Big Science? Is it justifiable for scientists to fly thousands of miles to conferences while the rest of us are encouraged to cut down our carbon footprints? With many scientists just down the road at RAL and in Oxford working on current and future ‘Big Science’ projects, this is a chance to examine and discuss these projects and how we spend taxpayers money on them from a wider perspective, be that moral, philosophical or scientific.


Tuesday 10th Mar 2015

The Clever Science of Canned Food


Bryan Donald, Senior Microbiologist for local company Crown Technology, joins us to talk about the science behind a very everyday item - canned food! There is more to canned food than simply metal containers...Microbiology and other sciences play a major role in ensuring the safety of canned food. Bryan will explore the process behind canning food, with an emphasis on microbiology and other interesting areas!


Tuesday 10th Feb 2015

Catalytic Science for the Future


Dr Josie Goodall joins us to talk about Catalysis - a process at the core of today's and tomorrow's science research and industry.  Catalysis is helping deliver new fuels from bio fuels to Hydrogen, helping make more efficient batteries, solving rising Carbon Dioxide levels, dealing with pollution and finding more efficient cleaner routed to existing chemicals.  Catalysis is a core area of contempory science posing major fundamental and conceptual challenges, while being at the heart of the chemical industry - an immensley successful and important part of the overall UK economy (generating in excess of £50bn each year).