Leeds (Chapel Allerton)

Harrogate Road
Chapel Allerton
Leeds LS7 3PD
First Tuesday in the month, 8pm

The Leeds Cafe Scientifique was the first in the UK and has been running since 1998.

It has an archive website which has details of previous events over the years.


The cafe meets at Seven, Harrogate Road, Chapel Allerton, Leeds

Leeds Cafe Sci
  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Website Leeds Chapel Allerton



Tuesday 17th April 2018

Lessons from illusions

Rob Jenkins


We do not see reality as it is, we see it as it seems. Rob will explore what errors of perception tell us about how the mind works and how to live better.


Dr Rob Jenkins is a cognitive psychologist in the Department of Psychology at York University.  He conducts experimental research on perception, attention and memory. He is a specialist in the area of facial recognition and what we can tell from one another's faces.


Recent speakers   

Tuesday June 27th 2017

Sleep: the science and myths

Graham Law


Scientific research into sleep has dramatically increased during the past decade, with greater understanding of the hormonal and brain activity during sleep that have a key influence on our health and wellbeing.



Tuesday May 16th 2017

Invasive species

Steph Bradbeer & William Fincham


For thousands of years, species of plants and animals have been introduced - sometimes deliberately, sometimes accidentally - by humans to places where they are not native. In some cases, the introduced species has not only survived in the wild, but has out-competed native species, damaging the local ecosystem.



Tuesday 18th April 2017

Domestic heating and pollution

Eddy Mitchell


Eddy will discuss the impact our heating systems have on the air we breathe. He is studying for a PhD at Leeds University (Faculty of Engineering), researching the levels of pollution generated by different household heating systems, including modern wood-burning stoves and micro-CHP units.  He has also studied the impact on air quality, and even on climate, of domestic cookstoves used throughout the developing world.



Tuesday 21 March 2017

That's funny: Science Slam



Tuesday 21st February 2017

Forensic genetics: beyond human identity

Graham Williams


In crime dramas and in real life, criminals try not to leave their DNA at the scene of the crime. How accurate is DNA profiling and to what extent can it be used on tiny or degraded samples? What are the limits of DNA profiling and what are the risks that it can be misapplied?



Tuesday 17th January 2017

Soil sustainability and food security

Jill Edmondson


Soils are fundamental to society, providing vital services including food, fuel, flood mitigation, water purification, regulation of nutrient cycling and stability of the climate. Despite this, conventional agricultural practices have led to widespread soil degradation, resulting in erosion and loss of soil structure, organic matter and biodiversity. This degradation has profound implications for global food security and ecosystem service provision. One of the greatest challenges facing humanity is how to improve the sustainability of agriculture and reduce its environmental impact while also meeting the food demands of the world's (currently) seven billion people.



Tuesday December 13th

Non-repeating patterns in nature

Priya Subramanian


Patterns (made with tiles) and crystals (made up of atoms or molecules) generally repeat themselves (they are "periodic"), as the pattern on a sheet of graph paper does, and have related symmetries. Among all possible arrangements, these regular arrangements are preferred in nature because they are associated with the least amount of energy required to assemble them. In fact, we’ve only known that non-periodic tiling, which creates never-repeating patterns, can exist in crystals for a couple of decades.



Tuesday November 22nd

Leeds University's  ecology field trip to Kenya



Thursday October 27th


Jeff Forshaw



Tuesday 13th September 2016

Human relationships and technology

Kathleen Richardson


Are human relationships optional in an age of machines? Might men soon have the option of a realistic and functional robot girlfriend?

 In our digitally connected society, ever more of your ‘friends’ and ‘followers’ are now bots (internet robots). Real robots are set to become your friends and even your sexual partners – what does this mean for our sense of being human? Can humans realistically opt out of relations with other humans?



Tuesday June 28th 2016

Gravitational waves

Edward Daw



Tuesday 17th May 2016

Mathematical models

Mike Evans

Science relies heavily on mathematical models. If a model is mathematical, can we safely assume that it is exact and reliable? In fact, many distinct types of mathematical model exist. Dr Mike Evans, lecturer in Applied Mathematics at Leeds University, will discuss some of them, add their value to scientific research.



Tuesday 19th April 2016

Atmospheric impacts of a close encounter with a comet

Natasha Aylett

What would happen if the earth were involved in a near-miss with a comet?

When the comet's dust particles reached our atmosphere they would rapidly heat, melt and evaporate.  The resulting vapours would oxidise to form "meteoric smoke".  A close flyby would inject a huge amount of "smoke" into our atmosphere, significantly affecting chemical processes and potentially altering our climate.

0 0 1 81 467 University of Western Australia 3 1 547 14.0 Normal 0 false false false EN-AU JA X-NONE /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-priority:99; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0cm 5.4pt 0cm 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0cm; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:12.0pt; font-family:Cambria; mso-ascii-font-family:Cambria; mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-hansi-font-family:Cambria; mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;}

Tasha Aylett is studying for a PhD at Leeds University. 



Tuesday 22nd March 2016

Science Slam! - scientific myths


Six speakers will each speak for 5 minutes about a common scientific myth or misunderstanding.  Myths will be firmly debunked; fallacies will be laid to rest - and all at quickfire pace.

You will be able to put questions to the speakers, or challenge their demolition of your favourite scientific theory:


Miriam Moss - Why a crowd is not a mob

Bruce Yardley - Soaking up the idea of underground lakes

Hugh Hubbard - The futility of the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence

Des McLernon - The most complicated solution is not always the best

Anzir Boodoo - Rail timetabling: it's not rocket science!

Alasdair Beal - Why did the World Trade Center's twin towers really collapse?


9th February 2016

Scientific research in the NHS in Leeds

12th January 2016

Air pollution

James Lee

8th December 2015

Climate change

0 0 1 22 128 University of Western Australia 1 1 149 14.0 Normal 0 false false false EN-AU JA X-NONE /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-priority:99; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0cm 5.4pt 0cm 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0cm; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:12.0pt; font-family:Cambria; mso-ascii-font-family:Cambria; mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-hansi-font-family:Cambria; mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;}

Piers Forster


Tuesday 13th October

Exoplanets and the apocalypse: the lifespan of habitable worlds

Andrew Rushby


The Earth has a finite lifespan, and increasing radiation from the Sun will eventually render it uninhabitable. Over the past two decades, new telescopes and detection techniques have revealed nearly 2,000 planets in the orbit of other stars in the Galaxy, a handful of which may be considered 'Earth-like' or even habitable. How does the Earth compare in terms of its predicted lifespan when compared to these newly-discovered worlds, and why is it important?



Tuesday 15th September 2015

The ozone layer

Ken Carslaw


The hole in the ozone layer was discovered over the Antarctic in 1985 and is perhaps the most dramatic example of humanity damaging its environment. Within two years, the cause of the hole was understood and the Montreal protocol was signed to phase out production of the substances responsible for ozone depletion. This international co-operation was a major success for science; but what would have happened if we had not acted?


Tuesday 23rd June 2015

The evolution of mimicry

Christopher Hassall


How does an insect evolve to resemble a bit of twig?  How do harmless flies come to look like fierce wasps?  The power of evolution has given the world plants that look like animals; animals that disappear when they alight on a tree; and other animals that vanish in direct sunlight.  Some of these resemblances are very close, whereas others appear only vaguely similar to our eyes.



Tuesday 21st April 2015

Science communication

Greg Radick and Bruce Turnbull


Is there anything more important in science than communication? Do you trust what scientists tell you - about dark matter, climate change or their own research results? Does the BBC communicate science well?  Does the Daily Mail? Are the scientific journals and other specialist media really any better? Do scientists need to explain themselves more (and better) to justify public funding? If scientists can't explain thier science, who should? What makes a science lecture / talk / presentation good? Is the internet a useful resource, or full of misleading junk science? How can the various forms of science communication be improved?



Tuesday 24th March 2015

Science slam

We are planning a special Cafe Sci meeting with multiple speakers, each giving a short presentation (about 5 minutes) on a novel scientific theory, or specialist area.  This will be similar to the Science Slam we held in November 2014.

    Do you have the solution to the "dark matter" problem? 

    Have you been holding on to a scientific theory, waiting for an audience?

    Have you got a big idea that will use science to make life easier?

    Are you a scientist with a sideline that (annoyingly) you are never asked to speak about?



Tuesday 10th February 2015

Arctic climate change

Ian Brooks


The climate of the Arctic is changing rapidly; it is warming at twice the global rate.  Arctic sea ice is reducing in area and getting thinner. Climate models struggle to reproduce the observed rates of change, in part because we lack understanding of many small-scale meteorological and oceanographic processes in the Arctic, due to the difficulty of obtaining measurements in the Arctic environment.



Tuesday 13th January 2015

Rewilding - bringing nature back in

George Holmes 


Rewilding is a new (and controversial) wildlife conservation technique. We are surrounded by landscapes modified by millennia of human intervention and activities. In recent years, ecologists and conservationists have started to explore how nature can be brought back in, particularly how these landscapes can be "rewilded", so that nature can take its course. Rewilding would mean the removal of local agriculture and the reintroduction of locally extinct species (such as beavers in Scottish rivers and wild cattle in the Netherlands).



Tuesday 2nd December 2014

Evolutionary psychology - no better than religion?

David Canter

 Biological explanations of the causes of human behaviour, whether from evolution or genetics, are very fashionable. Professor Canter will argue that many of these claims are little better than religious beliefs. Without denying the importance of biology, and from a strongly atheistic viewpoint, he claims that being a person is more than the sum of our organic components.



Tuesday 7th October 2014

William Astbury, pioneering physicist

Kersten Hall

Kersten will highlight the role played by William Astbury in developing X-ray diffraction techniques and the contribution he made to biological research. Astbury carried out his research at Leeds University between 1928 and 1961, when he effectively pioneered the emergence of the powerful new science of molecular biology.




Tuesday 9th September 2014

New research into how ageing might be prevented - and its ethics

David Clancy


David Clancy will consider our understanding of why we don't stay young forever. He will describe the latest research into the prevention of ageing and the ethical dimension of anti-ageing therapies.



Tuesday 17th June  2014

The science behind making bicycles

Martin Strangwood

Two weeks before theTour de France starts in Leeds, Martin will discuss the science behind the bicycle.



Tuesday 20th May 2014

Relativity and other theories of the Universe

Ruth Gregory

The most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible

This quote from Einstein is to be particularly apt in the context of modern cosmology. Ruth Gregory will talk about how we believe we understand the universe we live in, describing it by physical theories that were developed in a very different arena and for different reasons. She will also assess the cosmological constant, which many people have described as "Einstein's biggest blunder" but she will suggest that it seems necessary to explain the astronomical observations we see today.



Tuesday 22nd April

The origin of monogamy in primates


Susanne Shultz



Tuesday March 11th 2014

Sonic wonderland

Trevor Cox



Trevor Cox is Professor of Acoustic Engineering at the University of Salford.  He carries out research on architectural acoustics and audio perception.  He was involved in the search for the 'worst sounds' to the human ear and debunked the myth that a duck's quack doesn't echo.



Tuesday February 4th 2014

High-energy cosmic rays - the energy frontier

Alan Watson


The energies of the rarest cosmic rays far surpass the energy of the fastest proton beams at the LHC (Large Hadron Collider) at CERN.  Prof Watson will outline the role of cosmic rays in the development of particle physics and describe the observatory in Argentina, covering an area the size of West Yorkshire, which is used to study particles with kinetic energies comparable to that of a tennis ball hit by Andy Murray. 



Tuesday January 21st 2014

3D printed robots


Rob Richardson


Tuesday 17th December 2013

Pre-Christmas pub-style quiz on a science theme


(PhD not necessary)


Tuesday December 3rd 2013

The early development of radio technology, and the use of radio in World War 1

Elizabeth Bruton



At the outbreak of the Great War, the British government quickly realised what a valuable and dangerous tool wireless telegraphy could be. They immediately sealed up the transmitters of the limited number of wireless amateurs licensed and operating in Britain. However, this was not the end of the war for wireless amateurs - they established signals intelligence (or SIGINT), "listening in" to German wireless transmissions and locating enemy vessels.  They filled the gap while the Marconi Company hastily trained up wireless operators for wartime usage.  They also listened out for German spies using wireless to send secret messages, though this may have been more myth than reality.


Tuesday November 12th 2013

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

Liane Benning


Life flourishes everywhere on Earth, even in the most extreme environments. Organic signatures suggestive of life are prime targets for NASA's and ESA's Search for Life space missions to Mars and elsewhere. Professor Benning will discuss how we prepare our terrestrial life detection technology to search for life elsewhere and consider whether Earth's 'extremophiles' are good analogues for life elsewhere.


Tuesday October 8th 2013

What does it feel like to be a bird?

Tim Birkhead



Tuesday September 10th 2013

Using synthetic biology to solve real-world engineering problems

Fiona Meldrum

Synthetic biology uses engineering principles to design and construct new devices and systems based on biological components. Applications include the manufacture of biofuels and the development of smart therapeutics.



Tuesday 9th July 2013

Global sustainability: human population, agriculture and the environment

Tim Benton


The world is changing very quickly; people are eating more food and demanding more "expensive to produce" food globally.  To what extent can the planet support the growth in demand for food or does something have to give?  Can sustainable agriculture produce sufficient food without significant impacts on the natural world?  


Tuesday 18th June 2013

Glaciers (and rising sea levels)

Andrew Shepherd

Leeds University


Changes in the mass of the polar ice sheets are of considerable importance to society, because they affect global sea levels and oceanic conditions. The advent of satellite observations has revolutionised the way that changes in ice-sheet mass are estimated and, since 1998, there have been more than 30 different surveys. Unfortunately, these studies have variously concluded that the polar ice sheets have added 1.9 millimetre per year to sea level rise; and that the ice sheets have reduced sea levels by 0.2 millimetre per year; and points in between.  Now (in 2012) the IMBIE** project has produced the first community assessment of ice sheet losses, and the most accurate measurement to date.  Prof. Shepherd will describe the findings of the IMBIE** project, which he led from Leeds.

** IMBIE - Ice Sheet Mass Balance Inter-Comparison Exercise



Tuesday 21st May 2013


Nessa Carey


Epigenetics is the fastest moving field in biology today.  If you thought that cells read the genetic code in DNA like a template or a factory mould that replicates the same result each time, prepare to be surprised.  Find out how a single genetic code can result in multiple different outcomes, and how this explains a diverse range of phenomena in the natural world.



Tuesday 7th May 2013

What next for our nuclear waste?

Bruce Yardley


Nuclear waste exists in the UK and, as in all democracies, government policy is to seek disposal sites in areas where the local community has volunteered to host it.  So far, only West Cumbria has volunteered to host a UK waste site, but in January 2013 Cumbria County Council voted to stop the necessary investigations into possible suitable sites.  Is this just a small hiccup in the process of safely disposing of the UK?s nuclear waste?  Or were spurious technical arguments used to prop up NiMBYism against the national interest?  Are diehard opponents of nuclear power putting us all at risk by preventing safe disposal of existing waste?  What should happen next, and where?



Tuesday 16th April 2012

X-ray diffraction, William Bragg (& Son)

Chris Hammond


At Leeds University in 1913, William Henry Bragg and his son William Lawrence Bragg, undertook pioneering work and made important breakthroughs in the use of x-rays to determine the atomic structure of crystals. They shared the Nobel prize for physics two years later.


Marking the centenary of the Braggs' discovery at Leeds of the first crystal structures, Chris Hammond will explain their achievements and the significance of their work on x-ray diffraction to crystallography and materials science today. 



Tuesday 5th March 2013


John Bancroft


The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) Laboratory in  Cheshire is home to the UK?s most powerful supercomputer, capable of  more than a thousand trillion calculations per second (a 'petaflop'),  the equivalent of a million laptops.


Supercomputers have become essential to the modern world, aiding  research and innovation. They will make significant improvements to  our ability to predict natural disasters such as earthquakes and  floods. Their computational power will enable scientists to simulate  the most complex systems, such as the Earth's climate or the human  brain, the data from which would overwhelm even the most powerful  systems in use today.

By 2020, supercomputers will be thousands of times faster  again. What will they be able to do that is beyond today?s  supercomputers? What important tasks should they be given?


Tuesday 12th February 2013

What are scientific theories?

Steven French


What kinds of things are scientific theories? Are they like paintings  or photographs, in the way they represent the world? Are they created  in the same way as works of art? Are they discovered through flashes of insight (the 'Eureka moment')? Was Einstein like Mozart when it came to being creative? Or is the  creative process in science different from that in art?



Tuesday 15th January 2013

Using randomised trials to improve government policy

David Torgerson


Governments routinely introduce massive changes in policy that affect our lives, usually with very little underpinning evidence.  In contrast, changes in medical treatments are required, by law, to have rigorous testing using randomised controlled trials.  



Tuesday 4th December 2012


David Healy


Are prescription medicines safe? Are the side effects of drugs brushed under the carpet? Who regulates medical testing? Who controls the regulators? Why do we not see all the results of medical tests? Why are drugs so expensive? Have the large pharmaceutical companies hijacked the healthcare budget? In the struggle against money, can data, honesty and evidence prevail?



Tuesday 20th November 2012

Alan Turing

Barry Cooper


2012 is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Alan Turing - mathematician, Bletchley Park decoding genius, father of computer  science, and seminal figure in artificial intelligence and  developmental biology. Every stored-program computer is an  embodiment of his 1936 Universal Turing Machine. Turing was driven by the need to understand the human brain and mental processes.  When building the first computers, in the 1940s, he is quoted as  saying "I am building a brain" but Turing's investigations, and  the later history of artificial intelligence, have led to a much  better understanding of the challenges.



Tuesday 23rd October 2012

Graphene: the science of Flatland

Chris Marrows


Graphene is 'the new wonder material', for which the 2010 Physics Nobel Prize was awarded. According to Nobel Laureate Andre Geim, it is the world's thinnest, strongest, stiffest, most stretchable, most thermally-conducting material with the most mobile electrons known to science. Graphene has inspired a thousand more scientific discoveries and has potential in applications as diverse as ultrafast electronics, ultrathin displays, single molecule gas detection, cheap solar energy and room temperature distillation of vodka.



Tuesday 2nd October 2012

Piezoelectric materials

Andrew Bell 

This cafe was sponsored by the Leeds Bradford Materials Engineering Society


Piezoelectric materials convert mechanical to electrical energy, and  vice-versa. They have excited the interest of scientists since their  discovery by the Curie brothers in 1880. Perhaps more fascinating are  the thousands of today's devices and technologies that rely on these  little-known materials. But environmental legislation threatens the  benefits these materials bring to our lives in healthcare, transport  and entertainment, so there is a global search for new piezoelectric  materials.



Tuesday 18th September 2012

Science and sport

David James


Sport captures the imagination, ignites passion and creates heroes. Whilst we love to shroud sport in mystique and elevate our greatest athletes to the status of demigod, the laws of physics can explain even the most extraordinary sporting phenomena. Athletes may try to bend the rules of the game  but they can never break the laws of physics.



Tuesday July 3rd 2012

Pharmageddon! - the failings of the pharmaceutical industry

David Healy


Are prescription medicines safe? Are the side effects of drugs brushed under the carpet? Who regulates medical testing? Who controls the regulators? Why do we not see all the results of medical tests? Why are drugs so expensive? Have the large pharmaceutical companies hijacked the healthcare budget?In the struggle against money, can data, honesty and evidence prevail?


12th June 2012

How different are men's and women's brains?

Laura Nelson

Do boys and girls, and men and women, think and behave differently or is this a false assumption? Set aside your prejudices and prepare for controversy as Dr Laura Nelson dissects the landscape in the science underlying the gender debate and explains why it matters to society.


Tuesday 15th May 2012

Thorium: fuel of the future?

Bob Cywinski

Iran's enrichment of uranium, and the recent meltdown at Fukushima, are only two of the issues facing the nuclear power industry.  If the worst projections of climate change are to be avoided, the global population will be increasingly reliant on nuclear power, but how can it be made cleaner and safer?  And will we always be worried that the nuclear fuel could be adapted to create apocalyptic weaponry?  


Tuesday 27th February 2012


Ernie Rutter 

The controversial method of extracting natural gas from below the shale rock of Lancashire and other places is known as “fracking”.  Find out how fracking works, whether this is Britain’s best chance of obtaining short-term energy security, whether it could lead to ground-water pollution and have fracking tests already caused earth tremors near Blackpool?  


Tuesday November 1st 2011

Project Sunshine

Tony Ryan

Tony Ryan leads Sheffield University’s Project Sunshine, which incorporates pure and applied scientific research in energy, food and global change. The project aims to 'harness the power of the sun to tackle the biggest challenge facing the world today: meeting the increasing food and energy needs of the world’s population in the context of an uncertain climate and global environment change’. Hopefully Project Sunshine will change the way scientists think and work and will become the inspiration for a new generation of scientists focused on solving the world’s problems.