|Where||It will come as no surprise that it has been decided to suspend Colchester Café Scientifique meetings.|
We will be posting an update in September 2021, hopefully by then the pandemic will have faded allowing us to resume our meetings in October 2021.
|When||Second Wednesday of the month, 6:30pm for 7pm, |
October to May
|Contact||Bob Kemp and Rick O’Gorman|
|Website||Cafe Sci Colchester Facebook page|
Delving into the deep
Dr Will Reid, University of Newcastle
The oceans cover 362 million sq km of the Earth’s surface. Beyond the continental shelf we encounter the deep sea, which is approximately 90% of the ocean volume. This means most of Earth is deep sea but crucially it means that much of the habitable volume is in the dark. The deep sea was originally thought to be homogeneous with no life beyond where light could penetrate. We now know that this is not the case. The deep sea is a heterogeneous environment with life being found in all areas. The seafloor is covered with various habitats including underwater mountain ranges, canyons, seamounts, cold-water coral reefs, hydrothermal vents, mud volcanoes, hydrocarbon seeps, large geological faults and trenches. The animals that live here have developed adaptations to live in these various environments. Will will explore the history of the deep ocean exploration, discuss some of these habitats, animal adaptations to these habitats and some of the treats to deep-sea life.
Dr Elisa Pieri, University of Manchester
100 years after the devastating influenza pandemic of 1918-1919, and in the midst of the current COVID-19 outbreak, we look at the risk of lethal infectious diseases like SARS and bird flu spreading globally. Drawing on sociological knowledge, alongside medical and other knowledges already dominant in current pandemic planning, we will briefly discuss current strategies and mitigation plans and the threat posed by new infectious diseases. Come and explore what might happen in a future emergency and how cities might cope. We will also look at the social consequences of some of the measures adopted during previous pandemics, such as quarantine.
The Story of Sunspots
Prof Lyndsay Fletcher, University of Glasgow
Reported observations of sunspots go back hundreds of years, even to before the days of the telescope. However, with the invention of that instrument in the early 17th century, the serious study of these dark patches on the bright face of the Sun was part of the revolution in our view of the cosmos, and formed the foundation of the modern discipline of solar physics. What were the historical views of sunspots, how do we study and understand them now, and what is their link to solar activity and space weather?
Advertising: the Dark Art
Dr Leslie Hallam, University of Lancaster
Recalling our favourite ads tends to evoke lovely, colourful, tuneful, energetic, often funny executions toward which we feel warmth, even some affection. Small stories, populated with happy, healthy, successful people – people we’d be happy to sit next to at a bar, people we would be pleased to have as our friends, who tell us jokes, show us a new lifestyle, assure us that we, too, can live happily…
At its best, advertising powerfully drives economic activity, brings new, improved, innovative products to market, helps people to live better lives and achieve their dreams. But this potent force has a somewhat Jekyll and Hyde character, carrying along with its outgoing, gregarious, empowering nature a shadow. Uncontrolled (as it currently seems to be in the ‘Wild West’ of social media), advertising can drive profligate consumption – often using expensive credit amongst people who can ill-afford it – in a world increasingly suffering the catastrophic effects of ‘affluenza’ (from obesity to gambling; climate change to body dysmorphia).
The potency of advertising is well-understood by those who use it; much less so by those who are subject to it. At one level (decent, honest, truthful) advertising messages hold up a mirror to our societies; if we don’t like the dark reflections we see, we need to be able to understand its inaccuracies and distortions in order to change it – or, perhaps, change ourselves.
11th March 2020
The Science of Dyslexia
The last 50 years has seen the publication of thousands of research papers investigating the nature of dyslexia. As a consequence, we now have a much deeper scientific understanding of what this condition entails. In this talk, Professor Rick Hanley from the Department of Psychology at the University of Essex will attempt to summarise some of the most important findings to have emerged and will explain why some issues still remain controversial. The issues that he will discuss will include the role that families play, the role of genetics, the role of gender, the role of the English writing system and whether different children experience different types of reading problem.
12th February 2020
Why sperm shape matters in fertility
If you have ever seen a diagram of sperm, it probably looked like many little tadpoles. That’s mostly true – for human sperm. However, there are a wide range of weird and wonderful sperm shapes across the animal kingdom, and we are discovering the ways different sperm shapes can affect male fertility. This is also important in healthcare – about 1 in 7 couples have difficulty conceiving, and half of that is due to issues with male fertility.
In this talk by Dr Benjamin Skinner from the School of Life Sciences at the University of Essex, we will review some of the variety of sperm morphologies, the methods we are using to measure shapes, and how this can impact on how well a sperm can fertilize an egg.
8th January 2020
Artificial Intelligence and Labour
In the grim darkness of the near future there is only work
Despite heavy technological progress and contrary to most predictions, the trend in working hour reduction that has been observed since the second industrial revolution has been stalled or reversed. We spend most of our waking hours working or thinking about work. In this talk Dr Spyros Samothrakis from the Institute for Analytics and Data Science at the University of Essex will explore why this took place and how new technological trends (if they go unchecked and unchallenged) have the potential to increase our working hours even more. We will also explore alternative ideas in computing and artificial intelligence that had (and still have) the potential to revolutionise the way we produce, live and cooperate.
11th December 2019
Text for your Eyes: Text Analytics & Eyetracking
Text Analytics is the automated process that allows machines to extract and classify information from text, such as social media postings, news articles, company web pages, scientific articles and beyond. In this talk, Professor Ansgar Scherp from School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering at the University of Essex will present selected examples of Text Analytics some of which are of high relevance for industry. Furthermore, we will see the interdisciplinary aspect of Text Analytics by investigating how the use of Eyetracking data and image processing can help in better understanding the vast amount of multimedia content that is surrounding us in our modern world.
13th November 2019
The Search for Meaning, in the Light of Death
Having spent nearly 20 years exploring the consequences of facing mortality head-on, rather than trying to escape it, Dr. Philip Cozzolino from the Department of Psychology at the University of Essex has found that rejecting the reality of death is akin to denying a true part of who we are. This can lead to inauthentic conceptions of the self and to efforts to find meaning that are based on filling an existential hole that we ourselves dug. Individuals who deny death are seemingly caught in an endless loop of seeking meaning and feeling meaningless. They are simultaneously moving forward in pursuit of meaning, all while looking back over their shoulder to see what they’re missing.
9th October 2019
Like a Fine Wine: The Science of Successful Ageing
Whether it’s physical frailty and disease, dementia and cognitive problems, or irritability and loneliness, we are inundated with images of doom and gloom in the golden years. Is there anything to look forward to as we grow older? In this talk, Dr Vanessa Loaiza from the Department of Psychology at the University of Essex will highlight the scientific research that shows the outlook of older age is not as glum as we are often led to believe. Find out more about how some aspects of life can get better with age, and learn evidence-based tips for managing those that don’t.
8th May 2019
How a concept, such as pain, is defined shapes what is thought, said and understood about it, and so directly informs how individuals and society respond to it. Jo Etherton from the School of Sport, Rehabilitation and Exercise Sciences at the University of Essex is a Physiotherapist who has worked with people experiencing complex and persistent pain ‘problems’ in a variety of settings. In this talk she takes her clinical experiences as a point of departure to explore current debate about the how pain is defined and conceptualised in modern health care while touching upon some contemporary pain research and a dash of pain history.
10th April 2019
Deciphering Food Labels
Every day, we make hundreds of decisions about food, based on information we’re told about its quantities: it could be ‘low in calories’ or have ‘20% of your energy needs’. How do we make sense of this information to judge accurately what we’re eating, and whether it is enough or too much? In this talk, Dawn Liu, Postgraduate Research Student from Department of Psychology will discuss experimental findings in how subtle changes in the language of food quantities affect the way we interpret, pay attention to, and evaluate food. Are we making rational and practical food choices, or are we irrationally biased by the way these quantities are presented? Research suggests that we are neither as smart or stupid about food as we might believe.
13th March 2019
Sport – a dress rehearsal for life!
Sport is in many ways, a dress rehearsal for life; be it receiving feedback, learning about one’s roles, responsibilities, obligations, and expectations; developing discipline, organisation, and communication; or experiencing highs and lows, victory and defeat. As a social context capable of impacting others’ rights and wellbeing, sport also represents an important setting for the development of ethical thought and action (Bandura, 1991). However, sport, as of itself may not be a teacher. Instead, sport may simply provide opportunities for teachable moments. It is how we think and act in these moments, that, over time, shape who we are.
In this talk, Dr. John Mills from the School of Sport, Rehabilitation and Exercise Sciences at the University of Essex will explore some contemporary research around sport and sports coaching, with the view of introducing and highlighting the role sport can play in developing both the person and the player.
13th February 2019
How do bacteria evade antibiotics?
The fight against antibiotic resistance has become one of the most critical global issues in the last years. Resistance is a particular issue with many bacteria, such as Salmonella, possessing a double membrane envelope which is pretty impenetrable to most antibiotic molecules. Bacteria of this type (known as Gram-negative bacteria) have evolved highly-specialised nano-machines called efflux-pumps to expel antibiotics out of the cells. Understanding the structural mechanisms of these nano-machines is crucial for our ability to block their function and for the design of novel and better antibiotic compounds.
Dr Vassiliy Bavro from the School of Biological Sciences at University of Essex, who is actively involved in antimicrobial research, will present some of his latest findings. During this session we will discuss the principal mechanisms involved in antibiotic resistance and the new approaches currently developed to combat them, with a special focus on efflux-pumps.
9th January 2019
Habits: Can’t Live With Them. Can’t Live Without Them
Professor Sheina Orbell from the Department of Psychology at the University of Essex will explore the scientific basis of habits. Habits are ubiquitous in daily life. It has been estimated that about fifty percent of all the activities a person undertakes in a given day might be considered habits. Habits enable us to get dressed, get to work, or make a cup of tea while thinking about something else. They also explain why we might open the fridge door and reach for the wine as soon as we arrive home, or continue to eat chocolates beyond the point of satiety.
What are habits, and how do our deliberate actions differ from our habituated actions? How do we acquire habits? Why are habits so useful and why are they so very difficult to change? This talk will consider the answers to these questions and provide some tips for harnessing the science of habit to create new habits.
12th December 2018
The Meaning & Value in our Relationships in Uncertain Times:
Has Brexit had an impact on your relationship? – Would a Spanish Flu outbreak change how you feel about your romantic partner?
Dr Veronica Lamarche from the Department of Psychology at the University of Essex will discuss the role relationships play in managing feelings of uncertainty and vulnerability. Whether natural or man-made, the world can sometimes feel like a confusing, and dangerous place. As social creatures, most people rely on close relationships as an important source of meaning and security. But does it work this way for everyone? This talk will draw on experimental findings to explore how a world turned upside down can shift the way some people feel about their close relationships – for better or for worse.
7th November 2018
Why Data Sharing is Good!
Data science improves our world
You may find it annoying that businesses, search engines and social media platforms use what they know about you to send you advertisements. However, did you know that other information or ‘data’ about us (such as census and survey data) can benefit society? In a joint event between Café Scientifique and the Festival of Social Science, Chris Coates, from the UK Data Service at the University of Essex, will look at how researchers use social, economic and population data to gain insights into how we live which can lead to policies that change our lives for the better. When conducted responsibly, this type of research can be a way of making our voices heard, and can help to make a better and fairer society.
10th October 2018
Are we still evolving?
Dr Jordi Paps, Lecturer in the School of Biological Sciences at The University of Essex will consider this tantalizing question. Evolution has produced the current and past diversity of life forms on the planet, including humans. The advent of medicine and technology has changed how humans confront the challenges of the natural world, and the recent developments of genomics and genome editing have pushed further our control over nature and our own biology. Are these technologies nullifying the effect of evolution, or are Humans still evolving? We will try to answer this question and many others during this talk.
Thursday 21st June 2018 at FIRSTSITE
in conjunction with Clean Air Colchester
Around 40,000 deaths each year, in the UK, are attributable to outdoor air pollution, including over 140 in Colchester. The economic cost of outdoor air pollution is around £20 billion a year. Despite emissions from motor vehicles falling by 12% from 2012 to 2016 Britain remains in breach of European limits for nitrogen oxides in 16 cities. This talk by Professor Ian Colbeck from the School of Biological Sciences, University of Essex, will consider ways cities around the world are tackling air pollution.
It will also address such questions as:
Can air pollution negate the health benefits of cycling and walking?
Are shampoos and deodorant a bigger source of air pollution than vehicle exhausts?
Do trees really help clean the air in our cities?
9th May 2018
Should we choose to believe in it?
What is free will? Does free will exist and if it does, do we all have it all of the time? If we don’t have it, should we pretend that we do? The answers to these questions have big implications for how we, as fundamentally social beings, understand ourselves and promote pro-social, moral behaviour. This talk by Peter Gooding from the Department of Psychology at the University of Essex will look at competing understandings of what free will is and evaluate its existence using current empirical evidence. We will examine research that seeks to experimentally undermine peoples’ belief in free will in order to study the impact on peoples’ moral attitudes and behaviours. This talk will draw upon experimental findings, contemporary debates and some personal opinions. These are big complex questions with few firm answers. So let’s have fun chewing it over!
11th April 2018
A Decade of Health Changes & the Impact on the NHS
Health policy for 70 years has been problematic from the start of the NHS in 1948. It quickly became very popular and the funding became a problem even then, hence the introduction of prescription charges in the early 1950’s. Since then it has been a rollercoaster, with each successive policy asking for different goals to be achieved. The change has also been more of a focus on patients and their needs, rather than the needs of the NHS and the clinicians, which is as it should be. NHS management has vacillated between clinical and bureaucratic management with few winners on either side! The Mid Staffs enquiry certainly highlighted many issues with funding and care delivery, and as a result clinical practice and health professionals’ education has and will change. Mrs Sherrie Green, Lecturer at School of Health and Social Care from the University of Essex will be presenting this talk.
14th March 2018
Impact of human-made nanoparticles on coastal systems
Minute they may be, around billionth of a meter, but due to their unique properties nanoparticles are now produced in large quantities to be added to numerous consumer products such as clothing and sunscreens. And this is where the dangers may arise. These products release nanoparticles in water where they might be toxic for natural systems, especially for coasts where nanoparticles tend to accumulate. Dr Claire Passarelli, Researcher at the School of Biological Sciences, University of Essex, will talk about the threat of nanoparticles in coastal systems which, as areas of human recreation, food and oxygen production, are vital to our health and well being. Highlighting their impact on local organisms and the functioning of coastal systems. Dr Passarelli will assess the dangers from nanoparticles to the environment and us.
14th February 2018
From Thirsty Crows to Cognitive Robots
Unlike traditional applications of robotics in industry, this talk will explore how robots are also valuable tools to understand how the brain works. While trying to make our robots act intelligently in a complex unstructured world, engineers are attempting to solve the same problem that the brain solves to make us act intelligently in similar situations! In this context, Dr Vishwanathan Mohan from the University of Essex will summarize what happens when playful experiments related to “learning, reasoning, and creativity” originally conducted on human infants, crows, chimps are re-enacted on robots. Ongoing work to deploy cognitive robots (or Cobots) in several sectors like Elderly Care, ManufacTuring and Agriculture among others will be briefly described.
10th January 2018
From the Womb to the World
How babies and children learn to understand themselves and others
We constantly feel, see and move our body, and have no doubt that is our own. But imagine not having control over your bodily movements or not being able to recognise that the face you see in front of a mirror is your own face. Without a sense of self, we would not be able to perform actions or interact with other people. Based on recent studies carried out at the Essex Babylab, you will hear about how even the first movements babies make in the womb are related to the development of infant personality. How do we develop the ability to sense that our body belongs to us? What other factors contribute to determining baby’s temperament? Join us for this presentation by Dr Maria Laura Filippetti and Dr Silvia Rigato from the Department of Psychology at the University of Essex.
13th December 2017
Physical and Social Pain in the Brain
In this talk Dr Elia Valentini from the Department of Psychology at the University of Essex will guide us through the complexity of pain. He will move from the contemporary discussion on the definition of pain, through the theoretical and methodological considerations scientists are challenged with when studying pain, and eventually briefly outline the debate on how pain is represented in the brain. Last but not least, Dr Valentini will introduce us to the longstanding controversial debate on whether pain originating from social and psychological events is processed by the very same brain mechanisms responsible for the experience of physical pain.
8th November 2017
Invisible to the naked eye, but incredibly abundant, microorganisms are key to the welfare of our planet. They live almost everywhere on earth, they drive global processes and their species diversity is enormous, exceeding that of visible organisms many times over. Dr Etienne Low-Decarie from the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Essex will explain how we are only just beginning to understand even basic biology for this large portion of the biosphere. In our effort to understand these organisms, we discovered that even a normal lake is host to critters that can grow in extreme conditions. We are now pushing back what were thought to be the chemical and physical limits to life. These findings require that where we look for industrially useful microorganisms and even where we look for life on other planets be thoroughly rethought.
11th October 2017
The fastest Algorithm
How difficult is it to multiply two matrices, really? A true story
Dr Vanni Noferini, Lecturer in Mathematics at the University of Essex, will tell the story of how in the 1960s a young German mathematician shocked the mathematical community by discovering a revolutionary new practical method to perform a certain mathematical task (that is, a new “algorithm”). The novelty amazed the maths world, defying more than one century of prior beliefs on how things should be done. This led to a worldwide race to the fastest algorithm: a competition that is still alive and well. Dr Noferini will guide us through the fascinating story of fast matrix multiplication, sharing the most understandable mathematical details, summarizing the ideas beyond the most advanced parts, and emphasizing the human side of this tale of mathematical research.
10th May 2017
Bioinformatics – how biologist master their data
Biologists try to understand life by observing nature, and running experiments. But not all scientific research is conducted in the lab or in the field. A significant amount of biological sciences’ research is now done with computers. As a matter of fact, many biologists spend most of their time developing algorithms and software. Within the last decade, the amount of biological data generated by research has been so massive that there is more data than can be analysed at once. Thus, biologists rely on computers to make sense of all the data. This branch of biology is called Bioinformatics and it is a major area of research. Without computers, for instance, we wouldn’t have sequenced the human genome. Dr Antonio Marco, lecturer from the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Essex, will talk about the origins of Bioinformatics, and how essential this is to understand life, health and diversity.
12th April 2017
How it works, and what happens when things go wrong
For most people, communicating with others – either face-to-face or via a media – is a fairly common activity. However, this does not imply that communication is easy: in fact, research suggests that the psychological processes which are involved in communication are complex, and that there are many ways in which people can fail to understand each other as they interact. Based on recent findings from experiments involving spontaneous dialogue between pairs of participants, you will learn all about human communication and how it works. You will also learn what happens when communication doesn’t work – and why this might happen more often than you think! Join us for this talk by Dr Dominique Knutsen from the Department of Psychology at the University of Essex.
8th March 2017
The Healing Power of Crystals
Don’t believe the lies! Crystals truly do have some amazing healing properties… but probably not in the way that you’re thinking if chakras spring to mind. Crystallography, the science of determining the arrangements of atoms in a crystalline solid, has been working tirelessly for the past 100 years to expand our knowledge of the unseen atomic world. Starting from humble beginnings with the two-atom structure of table salt, sodium chloride, crystallography has since worked its way up to complex molecular machines collecting 29 Nobel Prize winners along the way. In this talk, Dr Sam Horrell from the University of Essex will demonstrate the true healing power of crystals through structure based drug design using X-ray crystallography.
8th February 2017
Switching off Cancer Cells!!
What structural biology and biochemistry can tell us about cancer: the study of the p90 Ribosomal protein S6 kinase protein family (RSK). Cells are like rooms with lots of switches, but we don’t know which switch turns on which light. Only by knowing which switch is connected to a light bulb, can we control the light in the room. The same happens in a cell: the switches are proteins called kinases and the light bulbs are new proteins produced in the cell. Dr Filippo Prischi, Lecturer in Biochemistry at University of Essex will discuss his work on a unique group of kinases, RSK protein family, which is a promising target for new anti-cancer drugs. By knowing how RSK works, we can understand, and eventually control, the fate of a cell. This information will be indispensable for the development of novel molecules that are able to target only the right “switch”, thus providing a treatment that can stop the continued growth of cancer cells.
11th January 2017
The Devil’s Greatest Trick:
Attitudes and Prejudice in the 21st Century
Do you really know why you say the things you do? In the past 20 years, Psychology has begun to question if we actually do. Perhaps there are attitudes that lie beneath our conscious awareness, but still have the power to shape our behaviour. What does this mean for our understanding of how attitudes and prejudice work in the mind? What does this mean for efforts to reduce racism, sexism, and other prejudices? Join us for this presentation by Dr Anthony O’Reilly of the Department of Psychology at the University of Essex and find out if we can change thoughts that we don’t know we’re having!
14th December 2016
Understanding the Brain: How Mathematics can help
The human brain is unambiguously the most complex organ and the mechanisms underlying its functioning are still unclear and not understood, despite decades of intensive research. We still do not know how information is processed, stored, or recalled; how motor commands emerge and become effective; how we experience the sensory world; how we think or feel! There are more neurons in the brain than stars in our galaxy, and we form more than one million new connections among these neurons each day. The scope of the challenge is simply awesome. Join us for this presentation by Dr Chris Antonopoulos of the Department of Mathematical Sciences at the University of Essex and find out how Maths can help unravel the mysteries of the workings of the brain!
9th November 2016
The Great Fossil Mine off the Essex Coast
The Essex coast is a great source of treasure which gives us unique clues regarding the environment and our predecessors over the past million years and more. Dr Rachel Bynoe from the Natural History Museum, London will illustrate how much we learn from ancient bones of mammoths, woolly rhinos, sabre toothed tigers and other long extinct species, trawled up by fishing nets around the British coast, especially off Clacton. Britain was once a peninsula of the European continent and there are remains of landscapes hidden under the North Sea. Come along and find out what the evidence tells us about the former residents, their environments and the remains that still exist under the sea.
12th October 2016
Mysteries of Memory in the Ageing Mind
Why do you forget some things, like where you put your glasses, but not other things, like interesting historical facts? Why is it that you can walk into a room and forget why you went there, yet at other times personal memories seem to randomly pop into mind? Why do you seem increasingly to encounter memory slips as you grow older? Is there anything that can be done to deter or even reverse those changes? Join us for this interactive and hands-on presentation by Dr Vanessa Loaiza of Department of Psychology at the University of Essex. You will learn how memory works, why it seems to not work so well with age and learn practical, research-based tips for improving your memory in your daily life.