|Where|| Henley on Thames Hockey Club, Reading Rd, Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, RG9 4HE |
We are now holding hybrid events. Please register on this email address: Cafe Sci Henley and let us know whether you want to attend in person (max 50 attendees) or have a Zoom link to attend online.
|When||7:30pm-9:30pm; doors open 7:15pm.|
|Contact||Cafe Sci Henley|
Henley Cafe Sci welcomes the sponsorship of Quintessa.
Wednesday, June 15th
Saliva and salmonella: How oral immunology may contribute to protection against disease
Non-typhoidal salmonella typically causes food poisoning in heathy adults in the western world but in Africa, in children and people with other conditions, such as HIV, it can cause a deadly invasive disease.
Despite salmonella being an orally acquired pathogen, little research has been done into understanding how oral immunity can contribute to protection against the disease.
Wednesday 18th May
Avian influenza – what, why, where?
Before Covid-19, influenza was probably the most well-known respiratory infection both as the regular annual ‘seasonal flu’ and for the periodic occurrence of pandemics (such as in 2009) caused by a new strain.
However, in recent years we have seen increasing reports of avian flu in the UK. This is a form of influenza associated with wild birds; if it spreads to domestic poultry, it can lead to devastating losses and lockdowns of the premises affected.
What is avian influenza, why do we have it and where has it come from? How do we treat it, is it a risk to people and if so, should we make and store vaccines just in case?
Wednesday 27th April
Contemporary occupational lung diseases
Many people will, quite reasonably, assume that the acquisition of a lung disease as a direct result of exposure in the workplace is a thing of the past. One of the most commonly known examples is mesothelioma, a consequence of exposure to asbestos, but many of the everyday products we buy and use – from popcorn to kitchen worktops – can cause lung disease in those who manufacture them.
Johanna will use clinical cases from her specialist clinic at Royal Brompton Hospital to illustrate a range of different contemporary industrial lung diseases, such as severe asthma, that are difficult to treat.
Wednesday 16th March
How to stop the sky falling on our heads
Around 2,000 active satellites, 3,000 redundant ones and more than 31,000 pieces of space junk orbit the Earth. On December 3rd 2021, the International Space Station performed an emergency manoeuvre to avoid a potentially fatal collision with a fragment of a US launch vehicle. But all is not lost. The UK is home to several fast-growing space hardware companies. Two – Astroscale UK and Oxford Space Systems – are developing and testing the craft and equipment needed to remove the most threatening pieces of debris from lower Earth orbit.
Wednesday 16th February
Science of sex and gender: it’s not all what it seems
Although we think that biological sex is binary, it is quite a complex thing to achieve and the process of sex differentiation frequently goes wrong, leading to what is known as DSD (difference of sex development). Gender, an individual person’s personal identity, is an even more complex construct; and a disparity between biological sex and gender can cause a considerable perturbation, or gender dysphoria.
Wednesday 12th January 2022
Hormone-disrupting chemicals: why we are all toxic consumers
Elizabeth Salter Green
Hormone-disrupting chemicals, also known as endocrine-disrupting chemicals (or Gender-Benders if you read the Sun!) are in the food we eat, the water we drink, the air we breathe and the very fabric of our lives, from our mobile phones and other electronic products to cosmetics and personal care products, not to mention toys, soft furnishings and plastics. They are an issue that, to a large extent, flies under the radar but are a concern for our health now, as well as that of future generations. Elizabeth will discuss how hormone-disrupting chemicals work and the steps that should be taken at the policy, legislative, environmental and personal levels to control their impact.
Wednesday 15th December
Café Scientifique Henley celebrated its 100th cafe!!
What makes a scientist?
Richard Fortey, a local and leading scientist and writer, in discussion with Dick Way, man of the river and second-hand books, about his latest book A Curious Boy, which shows how restless curiosity and enthusiasm about the natural world was fundamental in his success. There will be lots of adventures and misadventures to be recalled from a special and unforgettable life.
Richard Fortey, is a palaeontologist with the Natural History Museum and Fellow of the Royal Society.
Wednesday 17th November 2021
Colliding black holes and neutron stars: detecting gravitational waves
Gravitational waves are ripples in the fabric of spacetime which travel at the speed of light. Merging black holes and neutron stars are some of the best sources of detectable gravitational waves here on Earth. To date, more than fifty gravitational-wave signals have been detected. These observations are transforming our understanding of our universe.
Wednesday 13th October
Developing agro-ecological schemes
Chris will reflect on how we develop policy, the research required to support it and how this could play out as we develop agro-ecological schemes. His views are personal and not those of any organisation.
Wednesday 15th September
Breathing art and science into the environment
As we enter the 4th revolution, or the ‘Conceptual Creative Age’, in an increasingly anthropogenic world, we must find an answer to our scientific and technological progress based on one of the best things that make us human: our stories and our ability to connect the dots between seemingly unrelated things.
In science we are bound by the natural laws, in art by our imagination but by joining the two in an increasingly fragile natural world, we can find the amazing innovations we need to address the most pressing problem of our age: the climate crisis.
Wednesday 19th May
Two related discussions: tick management and Lyme disease
Alix Whitaker and Stella Huyshe-Shires
Ticks (Ixodes Ricinus) cause significant animal welfare problems and economic impacts for moorland managers. The control of ticks to protect livestock and moorland species is never-ending and multi-faceted. Alix will discuss the tick life cycle, habitat and methods of control. Alix is a hill farmer with a degree in agriculture.
Who does what to whom in Lyme disease? Lyme disease is fascinating when we dip into the detail. Stella will explore the interactions between pathogen, host, vector, medicine and more. Stella is the Chair of Lyme Disease Action.
Wednesday 14th April 2021
University of the future
Universities are of central importance to our society and therefore we need to be concerned that they are operating effectively. Universities have attracted enormous criticism over the last decade and now the disruption of Covid-19 has been added to their problems. Dan is the author of Responding to Covid-19 – The University of the Future
Wednesday 17th March 2021
The wonderful world of plankton
A look into the wonderful world of plankton and what it can tell us about the Earth’s past.
Plankton (floating microscopic organisms) exist in a variety of forms and several groups have left a long fossil record. Bridget will talk about the main groups of plankton, how we can study their fossil record and what they can reveal about the oceans.
Wednesday 17th February 2021
Ocean circulation in a changing climate: how small changes make big differences
The oceans are vast. They cover more than 70% of the planet’s surface and contain 1,400,000,000,000,000,000 tonnes of water. Yet a small change in temperature of just a fraction of a degree can reverse how this gargantuan mass of water moves around our planet, affecting life on land and oceans.
Wednesday 20th January 2021
The ubiquitous nanoparticle – a host of applications
William will introduce the seemingly endless applications of nanoparticles, from rose windows to saving the planet.
William Paterson is the Chief Technical Officer and founder of PolyCatUK Ltd. Before that, he spent thirty years developing fibreoptic sensors for the intravascular monitoring of blood gases and glucose.
Wednesday 9th December 2020
Bringing back the beaver
Derek farms in Devon and Cornwall, where he plays a significant role in the reintroduction of beavers, water voles and white storks. He will offer a first hand account of how – despite its ups and downs – the movement to rewild beavers into the British landscape can be critical as part of sustainable fix for the UK’s growing flooding and drought problems.
He is the author of Bringing back the beaver; the story of one man’s quest to re-wild Britain’s waterways, published by Chelsea Green
Wednesday 11th November
The Millennium Seed Bank Partnership – the world’s biggest plant conservation project!
Is seed banking the answer to our currnt extinction crisis?
The Millennium Seed Bank Partnership is an international network of 160 seed banking partners located near Haywards Heath in West Sussex and managed by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. The Millennium Seed Bank holds more than two billion seeds, representing more than 40,000 native plant species from 190 countries.
Wednesday, October 14
The Elizabeth Line — how was it built under London and how will we look after it?
The central section of the £19billion Crossrail project is planned to open for passenger service in 2022. The business case envisaged benefits of £42 billion, with some 10 per cent of journeys made on the London Underground involving the Elizabeth Line and journey times across London substantially reduced.
To achieve this has required the creation of 42km of 7m-diameter tunnels deep below the capital. John will describe the challenges encountered in the engineering of the tunnels and stations and the very different approach to the monitoring and maintenance of the new railway infrastructure compared with the existing Underground.
Wednesday 16th September 2020
Managing land use through climate change
Professor Colin Campbell is CEO of the James Hutton Institute and a Member of the Scottish Government’s Forum on Natural Capital. He is interested in sustainable agriculture, with a wide range of interests, from soil to vertical farming.
The James Hutton Institute was formed in 2011. With more than 550 researchers, it is one of the largest research organisations in Scotland.
Wednesday 15th July 2020
The solar wind
Space is not empty.The regions between the Sun and the planets are filled with a constantly-blowing stream of material: the solar wind. The solar wind is a plasma (the fourth state of matter along with solid, liquid and gas) and its fluid behaviour is modified by electric and magnetic fields. The temperature of the Sun’s outer atmosphere, the corona, is around a million ℃, much hotter than its visible surface (6,000 ℃). Ions and electrons can escape the Sun’s huge gravity and expand supersonically into the solar system, interacting with any planets, comets and asteroids in the way, until the wind reaches interstellar space.
Wednesday 10th June 2020
Closing the gap: the quest to understand prime numbers
Prime numbers have intrigued, inspired and infuriated mathematicians for millennia and yet mathematicians’ difficulty in answering simple questions about them reveals their depth and subtlety.
Wednesday 13th May 2020
Repurposing old drugs against new targets: science’s flurry of activity against CoVid-19
Rachel Quarrell is Fellow, Dean and Lecturer in Chemistry, Balliol College, Oxford.
Wednesday 11 March 2020
250 years of weather in Oxford
Weather observations have been made at the Radcliffe Observatory in Oxford from 1772 to the present day; the longest continuous record in the British Isles and one of the longest in the world.
From the prolonged frosts of January 1776 to the record heat of July 2019, Stephen will celebrate this unique and priceless Georgian legacy by delving into the extremes and the quirks of British weather, using contemporary local photographs and expert analysis.
How were (and are) the records made? When was Oxford’s coldest winter? Its deepest flood? Has it ever snowed in summer? What do the records tell us about climate change?
Wednesday 12th February 2020
Fracking: behind the tabloid headlines
Jim will give a brief introduction to the history and development of fracking in the US and in the UK and use some US datasets to take a more detailed look at fracking, with details of some of the details of the minor earthquakes that have happened in the UK and how earthquakes are measured. He’ll consider the pros and cons of fracking in the UK energy context, how gas fits into this mix and how sources of gas are rapidly declining.
Wednesday 15th January 2020
For Chris, a recent trip to Uganda highlighted the rapid shrinkage of wildlife habitats, and particularly the effects on elephants living in formerly pristine environments. This throws the efforts of modern zoos in promoting conservation, education and research into the preservation of species to the forefront.
Zoos have evolved enormously since the 1960s, from dismal animal prisons into spectacular and encouraging enterprises that not only account for the natural behaviour of the species they maintain but also educate people about wildlife and its value.
Wednesday 11th December 2019
Biological solutions for plastic recycling
The latest work of the Centre for Enzyme Innovation (CEI) reveals how an enzyme works to digest polyethylene terephthalate (PET), the main plastic used in single-use drinks bottles, clothing and carpets.
PET can take hundreds of years to break down in the natural environment and, together with other plastics, is causing a global pollution crisis. The CEI’s longer-term aim is to help to reduce the pollution in our oceans and the greenhouse gasses associated with current plastic production and disposal methods, such as incineration and landfill.
Wednesday 13th November
Carbon Net Zero Challenge
In the last 12 months climate change has catapulted to the forefront of the public mind. The reasons given for this have ranged from David Attenborough’s Blue Planet to the recent school strikes that garnered the support of millions across the world.
This huge public interest has required governments to at least state their current stance on the topic. The UK has led the way by announcing a carbon net zero target by 2050, while other countries have lagged behind.
Wednesday 16th October
Beacons of the past: citizen science and LiDAR; shedding light on the history of the Chilterns’ landscape
The results of the UK’s largest-ever archaeological LiDAR survey have recently been made publicly available to citizen scientists. The 1400 km2 survey, covering the Chilterns AONB and its surroundings, shows lumps and bumps across the landscape, some of which were formed by natural processes, some of which reflect modern activity, but many of which are archaeological: evidence of people living and working here, from the Neolithic to the twentieth century. The technique is particularly powerful in wooded landscapes, able to show topography beneath the tree canopy, where archaeological survey using ground-based or aerial methods has traditionally been very difficult. With more than 20% tree coverage, the Chilterns AONB has many secrets to reveal.
Wednesday 18th September
Battery material development
Climate change, the reduction of greenhouse gasses and air pollution in large cities are major drivers of the drastic transformations of our energy supply and consumption. Recent years have seen a significant increase in renewable energy supplies, amid ever-growing demand for energy. At the same time various factors are increasing pressure on the electricity grid network. Energy storage technologies offer great potential and will play an essential role in the transition to a fully-renewable energy supply. Further, the automotive sector plays a key role in reducing CO2 emissions and air pollution. The UK’s target to achieve net zero emission by 2050 means that almost every vehicle must be electrically powered.
Wednesday 19th June 2019
Weather balloon measurements of the atmosphere: past, present and future
Since the late eighteenth century, scientists have been yearning to measure the atmosphere above them. The first pioneers put their lives at risk making measurements from hydrogen-filled balloons. Nowadays, the process is much safer; thousands of weather balloons take up sensor packages called radiosondes, small smartphone-sized instruments packages which send the information back to base over a radio link.
Wednesday 15th May 2019
Fungi: that other kingdom
The fungi comprise a kingdom as diverse as animals and plants, are vital in the functioning of terrestrial ecosystems and sensitive environmental indicators, yet are comparatively neglected.
We still only know a fraction of their biodiversity. Although fungi are often portrayed in a negative way, their contribution to relationships, such as mycorrhiza, makes them central to the survival of plants and to human welfare.
Wednesday 17th April 2019
ALBATROSS: a film
ALBATROSS, a film by artist Chris Jordan, is a powerfully moving work of love for the natural world.
On a remote atoll in the North Pacific Ocean, albatross chicks are dying, their bodies filled with plastic. ALBATROSS unflinchingly shows the horror and grief of this tragedy, but ultimately brings us to a deeply felt experience of beauty and love for life on Earth. Stepping outside traditional documentary film style, ALBATROSS delivers a profound message of reverence and renewal.
Wednesday 20th March
Dentistry – revolution or evolution?
Is dentistry undergoing a revolution or is it purely evolution? Traditional techniques and careers are being challenged by so-called ‘disruptive technologies’. Dentistry is not immune: we will explore some of the new digital technologies that are revolutionising dentistry, including 3D scanning that eliminates the need for those dreaded impressions
Wednesday 13th February 2019
Space Traffic Control
Whether we realise it or not, we now depend significantly on the satellites that orbit our planet. A number of hazards threaten our continued access to these valuable assets, including eruptions on the sun and the thousands of pieces of space junk that we’ve launched since 1957. Stuart will discuss what Space Traffic Control is and why it is so important.
Wednesday 16th January 2019
One Body , One Life!
Are you always stressed, constantly busy, prioritising others over yourself? Do you feel that time is slipping by and your health is not what it was? Do you recognise what is “good” and what is “bad” for your health? The solution: assess where you are now and then follow a series of easy, sustainable, changes that you can stick to, get the balance right, and reclaim your health. You only have One Body and One Life! Don’t Screw it Up!
Wednesday 12th December
Reinventing the wheel
Bronwen Percival and Francis Percival
In little more than a century, industrial mindsets have altered every aspect of the cheesemaking process, from the bodies of the animals that provide the milk, to the microbial strains that ferment it, to the methods used to make the cheese. What has been lost as raw-milk, single-farm cheeses have given way to homogeneous factory production?
Bronwen and Francis will discuss how scientists—and the most enterprising cheesemakers—have begun to explore the cheesemaking techniques of their great grandparents. Taking advantage of the latest high-throughput molecular methods, researchers have begun to challenge conventional wisdom about the role of microbes in every part of the world around us, and to reveal the resilience and complexity of the indigenous microbial consortia that contribute to the flavour and safety of cheese. Bit by bit, one experiment at a time, these dynamic communities of researchers and cheesefarmers are reinventing the wheel.
Wednesday 14th November 2018
Tackling the silent killer on our streets
Ambient air pollution is harmful to human health from before birth to old age, contributing to approximately 34,000 early deaths in the UK each year. Improving air quality requires an interdisciplinary research approach to identify the most effective intervention measures which optimise health benefits. Suzanne will consider the contemporary challenge of air pollution including action we can all take to reduce toxic emissions.
Wednesday 17th October 2018
The strange origin of the sweet apple
Barrie Juniper is Reader Emeritus in Plant Sciences at the University of Oxford, Emeritus of St Catherine’s College, Oxford
Wednesday 19th September 2018
Understanding the failure of high performance structural materials through the medium of biscuits
High-strength low-weight materials require continued improvement to allow progress in industries such as aerospace, transport and power generation. Finn will discuss how we understand and measure the failure of these materials using high resolution imaging techniques, and how this can be used to design better materials in the future.
Wednesday 18th July 2018
Plant sciences research for 21st-century challenges
Population increases and climate change demand a rethink of the ways in which we produce our food. Jane will discuss why we need new approaches, what types of crops are needed, and how research in plant sciences can provide solutions.
Wednesday 20th June 2018
Neonicotinoids and bees
Neonicotinoids are one of the most widely used pesticides in the world. However, their frequent use on flowering crops (such as oilseed rape) has raised concerns over risks to honeybees and wild bees, as the chemical is often found in the pollen and nectar of crops that they feed on. While many studies have identified negative effects on honeybees and wild bees, they have often been criticised for not reflecting what we see under normal agricultural conditions. Ben will discuss the findings of the largest study undertaken under ‘real world’ conditions to assess the effects of neonicotinoids on bees and the implications of the use of these pesticides in the UK and Europe.
Wednesday 25th April
The viruses of blood-feeding insects and ticks
Anthony will discuss the biology of blood-feeding insects and ticks, how this affects the spread of the viruses they transmit and the likelihood that strategies for their control will succeed.
Wednesday 21st March 2018
Illuminating the brain in sickness and in health
How can you monitor the brain using light? Gemma will demonstrate by measuring the brain activity of someone in the audience! and discuss her group’s results from monitoring brain health in new-borns with brain injury.
Wednesday 14th February 2018
String theory – then and now
Is string theory bullshit or the one true theory? Joseph will describe string theory and the many evolutions it has taken since it was first formulated fifty years ago. Why do so many people work on a topic without direct empirical support?
Wednesday 17th January 2018
A slippery situation: melting ice in the polar regions
The media are full of reports of changes to the polar regions, from trillion-tonne icebergs breaking away in Antarctica, to melting sea ice. How much do we know about these changes and how worried should we be? Will they affect us?
Wednesday 6th December 2017
Hedgehogs: how far can they travel, where do they go, how long do they live and what are the current concerns about their apparent decline? Do they have fleas, how many are rescued each year and taken to animal hospitals and what happens to them after being released back into the wild? And do hedgehogs make good pets?
Wednesday 15th November 2017
Joint replacement technology
Steven will discuss the ins and outs of joint replacement surgeries and technology, including what is described as “the metal on metal fiasco”, hip resurfacing, ceramic joints, oxinium, and other materials. Are any of the new materials and ideas actually working? This is an area which merges medicine, material science, immunology and engineering. It’s a complex problem, and one which affects many families.
Wednesday 18th October 2017
Built on Bones
The analysis of teeth and bones from the urban past allows us track changes in the ways we have lived. Brenna will discuss data from the pyramids of Egypt, central Turkey, the Greek islands, northern Thailand and ancient Mesopotamia.
Wednesday 13th September 2017
The wood for the trees
Even a small wood can tell the wider story of ever-changing British landscapes, of human influence on the countryside over many centuries and of the vital interactions among flowers, fauna and fungi.
Wednesday 12th July
Mechanisms of volcanic activity
Hazel has developed and championed the use of microgravity as a tool for monitoring active volcanoes. This technique is now the standrad method for meeting this important challenge and remains the only way to quantify the sub-surface mass changes that occur before, during and after eruptions.
Wednesday 7th June 2017
The 100,000 Genome Project
Jen Whitfield & Jude Craft
The 100,000 Genomes Project — the largest national sequencing project of its kind in the world — aims to sequence the genomes of approximately 70,000 NHS patients living with rare diseases and cancer. Its 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. For some patients, this will mean they can receive a genetic diagnosis, where that wasn’t previously possible; for others, particularly cancer patients, there is the potential for new personalised treatments.
Wednesday 10th May 2017
Garden planning for climate change
Looking at the evidence for climate change in Britain, Michael will consider what we should plant for the future and what we should not, both in our gardens and in agriculture, and how this might affect wild plants and not least, humans.
Wednesday 5th April 2017
John Sumpter’s research group focusses on the effects on fish of chemicals in the aquatic environment. John was responsible for the uncovering of endocrine disruption in fish caused by effluents from sewage treatment works. The group also looks at the impact of other human pharmaceuticals in rivers, such as beta-blockers, steroid hormones and anti-cancer drugs.
Wednesday 1st March 2017
Frontiers in physics; nano and beyond
There is no doubt that quantum physics embodies mind-blowing concepts that force us to question the very nature of reality. If there is a current contender for best ‘theory of everything’ then Quantum Mechanics wins hands down.
Wednesday 1st February 2017
What we cannot know
Café Scientifique Henley celebrated its 50th event in style at Gillotts School on Wednesday 1st February, with special guest Marcus du Sautoy , an ex-Gillotts School pupil who lived in Church Street and also went to Trinity School before going on to become Professor of Mathematics at Oxford University and now a Fellow of the Royal Society. A regular on both radio and television, he was warmly welcomed by the Head Teacher, Catherine Darnton, before he discussed his latest book What We Cannot Know, leading the audience on a thought-provoking expedition to the edges of modern science to see if there’s anything we truly cannot understand. Being an Arsenal supporter gave him an everyday example of things that cannot be explained but he still has faith in them winning the Premiership one day! More seriously, he spent time investigating the randomness of casino dice, of the uncertain depletion of uranium and displaying his array of amusing but educational toys. His interesting and entertaining talk gave everyone an evening to be treasured.
Wednesday 7th December 2016
The role of the natural environment in future cities
Economics for the Environment Consultancy
Ian is one of three directors of the specialist consultancy, eftec, which works to identify, value and interpret how changes to the environment affect people. He first worked on the value of the natural environment for human health as an economist at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds in 2004, and has since applied the growing evidence on the importance of green space in cities in a number of studies for the UK Government and European Commission. The natural environment is increasingly seen as a cost for urban authorities and developers, but should instead be regarded as a valuable asset, central to making future cities economically productive and desirable places to live.
Wednesday 16th November 2016
Adrian founded the Oxford Animal Flight Group in 1996. His research focusses on the aerodynamics and control of flying animals, trying to understand how animals (particularly insects) generate so much lift from such small wings and how they manage to cope with the high levels of turbulence in the cluttered environments they exploit. Recently that work has begun to be exploited in the design of bio-inspired vehicles by his Oxford University spinoff company, Animal Dynamics.
Wednesday 19th October 2016
Simulating the performance of products using engineering software tools
Formula 1 cars need to be strong & stiff enough to perform properly and durable enough to last the race, but they also have to be light enough to be competitive when accelerating and cornering. David Reid, from the SIMULIA division, Dassault Systèmes works with companies across multiple industrial sectors, helping them to assess the performance of their products, long before they have been manufactured and even before a physical prototype has been made.
Wednesday 14th September 2016
Understanding and coping with pain
How does ongoing pain, or a reduction in ongoing pain, change the brain? Why are some people able to cope with pain whilst others are unable to maintain normal functions? Our cognitive and biological mechanisms can make pain noticeable and individual differences in these mechanisms might underlie differences in how people cope and respond to treatment.
Wednesday 15th June 2016
The singular origin of complex life
All complex life on Earth shares a common ancestor that arose just once in four billion years of evolution. That common ancestor had a large number of complex traits, from the nucleus to sex, none of which is known in bacteria. Nick argues that the common ancestor of complex life was a chimeric cell, in which a simple host cell engulfed a bacterium, the ancestor of mitochondria. This endosymbiosis changed the basic architecture of cells, ultimately giving them orders of magnitude more energy per gene. He will discuss the singularity of complex life: why mitochondria enabled the evolution of enormous genomic complexity, while simultaneously forcing the evolution of so many curious traits.
Wednesday 11th May 2016
The Origin of our Species
Human evolution can be divided into two main phases: a pre-human phase, in Africa, more than two million years ago, where walking upright had evolved but many other characteristics were still essentially ape-like; and a later human phase, when both brain size and behavioural complexity increased, and there was a major expansion of the population out of Africa.
The evidence points strongly to Africa as the major centre for the genetic, physical and behavioural origins of both ancient and modern humans, but new discoveries are prompting a rethink of some aspects of our evolutionary origins, including the likelihood of interbreeding between archaic (for example the Neanderthals) and modern humans.
Wednesday 13th April 2016
The phenology of butterflies and moths
Butterflies and moths are amongst some of the most well-studied creatures in the UK. Over the past 40 years, butterfly population trends have been used in conservation management and as biodiversity indicators. As cold-blooded organisms, butterflies show strong responses to changes in temperature and the effects of climate change. Flight periods are no exception, with some species now being on the wing more than three weeks earlier than in the past.
Wednesday 16th March 2016
Social class in the twenty-first century
What kind of social class divisions exist today? Mike will discuss how the old world, in which we used to distinguish between middle and working class, is changing rapidly, and that today we are seeing a much smaller wealthy elite class pulling away from the majority of people in the middle layers of the class system. He will discuss some of the worrying features of this trend, including growing age and generational divisions, intensifying geographical divisions, and the role of élite universities (notably Oxbridge and the colleges of the University of London) in reinforcing social inequalities.
Wednesday 17th February 2016
Towards a therapy for retinal disease
Jörn Lakowski, Fight for Sight Investigator
Jörn will reveal some of the approaches being investigated to develop treatments for retinal dystrophies, focussing on cell therapy. He will describe both the current state of the art in stem cell systems and how they can be harnessed to produce donor cells for therapy. Jörn will discuss some examples of disease modelling, such as for drug screening and some of the non-scientific challenges to progress in this field.
Wednesday 20th January 2016
Erupting volcanoes of the East African Rift
The East African Rift is caused by the Earth’s crust pulling apart. As it does so, hot, deep rocks are drawn upwards and tend to melt, producing magma that powers volcanism along the Rift. This volcanism is distinctive, with some unusual characteristics. Geoff will discuss three volcanoes that have erupted in recent years: Dabbahu in Ethiopia, Oldoinyo Lengai in Tanzania and Nyamuragira/Nyiragongo in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and ask: could it happen in the UK?
Wednesday December 9th 2015
Precipitation, snow and hazardous weather
Anthony Illingworth, Professor Emeritus of Atmospheric Physics at Reading University
Can we improve forecasts of hazardous weather – such as heavy rain that may cause flash floods, snow likely to disrupt traffic and strong winds that will bring down trees and block transport routes? How are the present forecasts produced? Will the new satellites to be launched in the next few years help to produce more specific detailed warnings? Finally we consider if severe weather events are becoming more frequent and if we will get snow for Christmas.
Wednesday 11th November 2015
The perfect meal : the multisensory science of food and dining
Charles Spence, Experimental Psychologist, Oxford University
The author of The Perfect Meal examines the elements (taste,vision,hearing,touch and smell) that contribute to the diner’s experience of a meal (primarily at a restaurant) and investigate how each of the diner’s senses contributes to their overall multisensory experience.Driven by well known chefs such as Blumenthal and Carluccio, as well as young modernist chefs including molecular mixologists, novel approaches are needed to understand the diner’s experience in the restaurant setting from the perspectives of neuroscience, marketing, design, and psychology.
Wednesday October 14th 2015
Fusion power: safe, clean and inexhaustible?
Fusion power – the power source that drives the sun and the stars – has the potential to solve all our energy needs for thousands of years, with minimal environmental impact. Thousands of scientists and engineers in many countries are working to realise it. In the process, they are building and using extraordinary machines that achieve conditions that stretch the imagination to the limit; for example, temperatures of 100 million degrees.
Wednesday September 23rd 2015
Senior Analyst, Kings College,London
Wednesday 17th June 2015
CO2: saint or sinner?
Carbon dioxide absorbs and reflects infra-red radiation, so it may be responsible for all the climate change we see today. An carbon dioxide levels ares increasing. But maybe it isn’t a died-in-the-wool villain; maybe it’s just misunderstood. You can use it for good too: with it, you can grow plants more quickly, sort out alkaline waste water or freeze hamburgers. You can even make ice cream with it!
Wednesday 20th May 2015
Britain is reported to be the most important country in northern Europe for ancient trees. What are they? Why are they important? What is the future for these trees? The Ancient Tree Forum aims to stop all avoidable loss of ancient trees but there is still a lot we don’t know about them; and in the mean time, they are mismanaged and felled due to lack of protection
Wednesday 15th April 2015
Exploring the realm of the giants
Beyond the orbit of Mars, in the realm where water ice dominated the building blocks of our solar system, four enormous balls of hydrogen-helium gas coalesced from the proto-solar nebula. The four giant planets, grouped as the gas giants Jupiter and Saturn and the ice giants Uranus and Neptune, exhibit startling diversity in their environmental conditions and climate, despite the similarities in their origins. They serve as perfect templates for giant worlds being discovered around other stars, from the coldest ice giants to the hottest of exo-Jupiters. Given their great distance, missions to the giant planets are ambitious, complex and rare undertakings but our initial survey of the realm of the giants is complete and we’re beginning a detailed reconnaissance of these distant worlds.
Wednesday 18th March 2015
The plight of the bumblebee
Bumblebees are icons of the British summer but they’re in trouble. Two of Britain’s 27 bumblebee species became extinct during the twentieth century; several more are thought to be on the brink, prompting the establishment in 2006 of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust. Often eclipsed by their domesticated cousin, the honeybee, bumblebees are misunderstood and under-studied but fascinating creatures.
Wednesday 18th February 2015
Graphene and its 2D friends: 2D Materials in future technology
Jamie H. Warner, Department of Materials, Oxford University
Wednesday 14th January 2015
Viruses fight back
Wednesday 3rd December 2014
The construction of Dorney Lake
Dorney Lake was constructed as the venue for the 2012 Olympic rowing and canoeing events. This 2.4km. long lake, with a return lane, is substantially wider than the adjacent River Thames and is surrounded by new parkland and nature reserves created after ten years of gravel extraction. Although the project, with its large boathouse, finish tower, car parking and roads is in the Green Belt and was refused permission by the planning authority, the Rowing Lake won the 2009 RTPI National Planning Award for Arts, Culture and Sport.
Wednesday 12th November 2014
Alexander Parkes and the early days of plastics
Plastics are largely thought to be a twentieth-century phenomenon. However they have their roots in the nineteenth century – a time of enormous creativity and innovation in the field of new materials.
The story of Alexander Parkes, Parkesine, Celluloid and the birth of the plastics industry is a story with many twists and turns. The early pioneers had many setbacks and it was their successors who were to reap the financial rewards of the development of a global plastics industry.
Wednesday 15th October 2014
Cosmic Quest – from Babylon to the Big Bang
Heather Couper and Nigel Henbest
Our glorious night sky is the ultimate landscape. But where do we fit in?
For thousands of years humankind has sought to find our place in the cosmos. Starting with superstition, astronomy has flourished, to become the most all-embracing of the sciences. Its progress has been led by inspirational characters – and outright mavericks! – who have pushed our knowledge of the heavens forward, forever testing the limits of our imagination in the quest to understand the Universe.
Wednesday 17th September 2014
Extreme weather and climate change
Ray Bell, Department of Meteorology, University of Reading
What role does climate change play in the recent extreme weather in the UK and in other parts of the world? Coastal flooding and heavy rain this winter caused an estimated £1bn worth of damage. Typhoon Haiyan in November 2013, which was one of the strongest cyclones every observed, killed at least 6,300 people in the Philippines. How might extreme weather change in the future?
Wednesday 16th July 2014
Solar Max: what the Sun is doing and why we should care
Solar Research Fellow, Mullard Space Science Laboratory, University College London
Lucie will focus on the solar cycle, especially on where we are today, with references to sunspots, solar eruptions and magnetic bubbles.
Wednesday 18th June 2014
Ecology of ladybirds in Britain
Head of Zoology, Biological Records Centre, Centre for Ecology & Hydrology
Tens of thousands of people have contributed to the UK Ladybird Survey, which has records dating back to the 1800s. Working together, volunteers and organisers of the UK Ladybird Survey have unravelled many aspects of the ecology of ladybirds in Britain. However, there there is still much to discover …
Wednesday 21st May 2014
Friends in low places!
This cafe will offer an overview of the trillions and trillions of bacteria that inhabit the human gut. Glenn will describe who the bugs are, where they come from, how many there are inside the human body and how they handle our daily diet. He’ll describe the critical role of gut bacteria in promoting better health and suggest how our diet can help sustain them. He’ll also discuss the probiotics and prebiotics and their ability to alter the composition of gut bugs.
Wednesday 9th April 2014
Bubbles: the bath and beyond
Bubbles in liquids are a fascinating and important part of our everyday world, but we still associate them mostly with having baths. What do bubbles do and why are they important? It’s not all obvious – snails blow bubbles, penguins use them to go faster and there is a precise technical reason why bubbles are a champagne connoisseur’s best friend. My research is on bubbles formed by breaking waves in the ocean, and I’ll also talk about how we study bubbles in the ocean, and the difference that they make to weather and climate.
Wednesday 12th March 2014
The viruses in all of us
Did you know that all human genomes contain tens of thousands of viruses? Michael will describe some of his work into the oldest and newest viruses in our DNA and discuss a virus he and his colleagues identified which may have been the ancient origin of HIV. The timescales of paleovirology are enormous. This old virus first infected an ancestral mammal in the early Cretaceous period, some 130 million years ago, and even the newest viruses, some of which may cause certain cancers in humans, are several hundred thousand years old.
Wednesday 19th February 2014
Inertial confinement fusion – a route to limitless energy from sea-water?
Fusion offers a way to generate electricity from seawater. It avoids many of the drawbacks of fission reactors but presents immense technical challenges. Tim will look at the physics of inertial confinement fusion and the exciting progress being made towards demonstrating it in the laboratory, particularly in the multi-billion dollar National Ignition Facility in the USA.
Wednesday 22nd January 2014
Light and the body clock
All life on Earth has evolved under a 24-hour cycle of light and darkness. As a result, virtually all organisms possess an internal ‘circadian’ clock that determines when to be active and when to sleep. What is the basis of these 24-hour rhythms and how do they regulate such a wide range of processes throughout the body? Moreover, how does light set this clock to the correct time and what are the consequences when the process goes wrong?
Wednesday 4th December 2013
Good food for everyone forever
Everyone who is ever likely to be born on to this planet could be fed to the highest standards of nutrition and gastronomy, without cruelty or destroying our fellow creatures. By 2050 we will need to feed 9.5 billion people, which is as big as the world population is ever likely to get.
Wednesday 16th October
James Sowerby and the origin of meteorites
Professor of Mineralogy, University College London
James Sowerby was a remarkable natural historian during the Enlightenment: a fine artist, botanist, zoologist and even mineralogist. What special role did he play at the start of the proper scientific study of meteorites and their origins? And what have we learned, and are still learning, about meteorites and their impacts since then?
Wednesday 18th September 2013
Chris will look at the origins of AI, the development of software and electronics giving the first glimpse of how AI could be implemented and finally discuss where AI is now, as it has developed hand in hand with the rapid increase in processor speeds.
Wednesday 5th June 2013
The ageing brain
“I’ve known her for fifteen years and her name has completely slipped my mind.”
Structural changes in our brain probably underlie such experiences. Like any organ or part of our body, the brain ages. This is healthy, normal, ageing and of course, if we use the brain, keep active and eat properly, we can minimise these effects. However, like any organ, there are many disorders of the brain in which the risk factor is age. These include Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias and Parkinson’s disease: all are associated with the death of specific types of brain cells. Although we cannot stop the death of the brain cells, in one case, Parkinson’s disease, we have a success story in terms of treatment.
Thursday 2nd May 2013
Stem cells and the promise of regenerative medicine
Paul J Fairchild
If newspaper headlines were to be believed, stem cells promised treatments for a plethora of common ailments and diseases and yet, more than ten years after the first derivation of human embryonic stem cells, their impact on clinical medicine has yet to be realised. Furthermore, the use of stem cells has created an ethical quagmire that threatens to eclipse the legitimate benefits they may bring. So are we on the cusp of a revolution in medicine or is all the hype unjustified? Paul will attempt to delve beneath the rhetoric to distinguish fact from fiction and provide a realistic assessment of the future impact of stem cell biology on regenerative medicine.
Wednesday 17th April 2013
What can 500,000 scientists tell us about the past, present and future?
More than half a million people have logged on to Galaxy Zoo and classified galaxies, helping astronomers piece together the history of the Universe. The project’s principal investigator, Chris Lintott, will explain what their results tell us about the Milky Way’s past, the present day Universe around us and its ultimate fate.
Wednesday 13th March 2013
Organic food and farming: global saviour or a case of the emperor’s new clothes?
How can the world’s farmers possibly produce enough food to satisfy the appetite of the ballooning global population, while not devastating the environment in the process? Many people believe that the best answer is to reject modern farming technologies and revert to more traditional approaches such as organic farming. David will critically examine the scientific evidence for these beliefs in the context of plotting the optimum course for the future of arable agriculture.
Wednesday 13th February 2013
Survivors – animals and plants that time has left behind