Science Events In London This Week: 5 – 11 December

Monday

December’s FictionLab book club at the RI tonight: Cannery Row by John Steinbeck. No need to book, just read it and turn up. 7pm; free.

Tuesday

The Chemistry Centre hosts the launch of a new interactive Periodic Table tonight, with a host of guests including the artist. 6:30 – 8:30pm; book now.

Wednesday

‘Introduction to Science Policy’ is a two day workshop hosted by Newton’s Heirs at the House of Commons this afternoon, promising to look at how regulatory and policy process work and how your research can be used to influence policy. 4-6pm; booking essential.

Thursday

Well known popular science authors Peter Ward and Don Brownlee come together at UCL tonight to discuss the topic of their 2000 book, “Is Life Rare?”. Their argument centres around the idea that complex life in the universe is rare because habitable planets themselves are rare. 5:30 – 8; free but book.

Friday

A weekly one now we’re into winter: evening sky observing at the Hampstead Observatory. 8-10pm on clear Friday and Saturday nights from September through to April. All welcome and no need to book.

Saturday

One for the whole family at the Wellcome Collection with Professor Kneebone’s Pop-up Anatomy Lesson. Despite the unlikely name, Professor Roger Kneebone is real, and Professor of Surgical Education at Imperial, where he leads a multidisciplinary team working on hybrid simulation, aligning inanimate simulators with real people to create realistic yet safe clinical encounters. The day’s activities will feature a portable operating theatre. From 10am, free, no need to book.

Sunday

Brian Cox and Jeff Forshaw bring their new book The Quantum Universe to the Southbank Centre this evening in a live event attempting to explain the workings of nature through the complexities of quantum physics. 7:45; book now.

You can follow the Nature Network London Google calendar of events in London at http://blogs.nature.com/london/2011/05/17/scientific-events-calendar. Updated daily.

Science Events In London This Week: 28 November – 4 December

Monday

The Royal Society hosts a lecture on biology-inspired technology tonight, looking at advances in the treatment of Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease as well as an on-the-spot DNA diagnostic test, a wireless disposable ‘digital’ plaster that measures heart and respiration continuously, a silicon based artificial pancreas, retina, cochlear and other body sensors wirelessly connected through mobile technology. The lecturer is Imperial’s Professor Chris Toumazou, Director and Chief Scientist of the Institute of Biomedical Engineering, which he himself set up. 5:45 for 6:30: free.

Tuesday

We normally try to feature events from as many places as possible, but the Royal Society gets its second mention in two days with a very worthy event ahead of world AIDS day: HIV and AIDS: More than 25 years on, what challenges still remain? 6pm; free but book.

For a more interactive event, the Grant Museum has A hands on history of the skull, a workshop promising to feature real skulls and evolutionary mysteries. Currently fully booked, but they advise you to watch the website for drop-outs. 6:30pm; free.

Wednesday

WikiLeaks comes into the spotlight at LSE tonight with a lecture on its history by Charlie Beckett, the director of media thinktank Polis and former BBC and ITN journalist. 6:30pm; free, first come, first served.

Thursday

One for a specialist audience at the Royal Institution tonight: a meeting of the 14-10 club, a group exclusively for finance professionals with a background in science. Tonight’s speakers are Lord Robert May and Professor Ray Goldstein, talking on biological complexity and complexity in banking systems. 7:30pm start; £35 trial membership.

Friday

The Hunterian Society has a one day only public viewing of its collections today, with books, artefacts and more related to the eighteenth century surgeons John and William Hunter, after whom the society is named. 1:30 to 4:30pm; no booking required.

Saturday

Back to the RI tonight for The Ghosts of Christmas Lectures Past, a comedy event featuring Robin Ince, Adam Rutherford and Matt Parker amongst others paying tribute to 180 years of the Christmas Lectures. 7pm start, £30 a ticket, book now.

You can follow the Nature Network London Google calendar of events in London at http://blogs.nature.com/london/2011/05/17/scientific-events-calendar. Updated daily.

Science Events In London This Week: 21 – 27 November

Monday

Quiz night at the RI: for a feel for the questions, see some from a previous event attended by a (losing) NNLondon team!

Tuesday

Not often featured in these listings, but Pushkin House has an excellent looking event tonight: The Men Who Fell to Earth: How Russia’s Pilots, Parachutists and Pioneers Won the Space Race. Simon Ings meets Science Museum space curator Doug Millard to look at the history and future of Russia in space. 7:30pm; £7, Pushkin House near Holborn.

Wednesday

Sadly fully booked now, but you can add yourself to the mailing list for a video of another fascinating sounding talk in Imperial’s spy series. Drawing on the history of MI6 over its first 40 years (1909-49), Keith Jeffery will investigate the extent to which the profession of intelligence might be described as a science, and also explore the role of science itself in both the working and the targeting of British intelligence operations in peace and war.

Thursday

The Dana Centre looks at another controversial topic tonight: Food for Thought: Global or Local? asking whether the UK’s two-thirds self sufficiency where food production is concerned is enough. 7pm start, free; book now.

Meanwhile at the Royal Institution this year’s Christmas lecturer Bruce Hood gives us a sneak preview into some of the demonstrations which will feature in his Christmas lectures on topic of the human brain. 6pm start, £10, book now.

Friday

The two day Intelligence Squared conference begins today: a full two days of 15 minute talks from people from Susan Greenfield to Lewis Dartnell with dozens of other well known and unknown names in between. The theme is tomorrow’s world and with speakers covering science, technology, architecture and more, the range is vast. It’s not cheap at £299 for a two day pass, but day and half day passes are also available: book now.

Sticking with the large scale challenges, the RI’s Friday Evening Discourse looks at Climate Change on a global scale. FEDs are members and their guests only, formal occasions and from the sound of this one, well worth looking at becoming a member for. 8-9:15pm with drinks and food available at the bar.

Saturday/Sunday

Day 2 of the Intelligence Squared conference including the big debate entitled “For the poor the future will look very familiar”.

You can follow the Nature Network London Google calendar of events in London at http://blogs.nature.com/london/2011/05/17/scientific-events-calendar. Updated daily.

Science Events In London This Week: 15 – 22 November

Monday

One in a quite cool series of talks at Waterstones, Marcus Cheown tells us 10 things you didn’t know about the Solar System. Highlight: Did you know that the planet Uranus was originally called “George”? £8, book in advance.

Tuesday

James Burke is the speaker tonight at the RI in 1+1 = 3, looking at connective nature of innovation and its social effects, the idea that two ideas come together to make a much bigger impact than either alone. With this in mind, what does the internet mean for our future? 7pm; book now.

Over at UCL, the SCI looks at The properties of fats, wisely choosing chocolate as their use case. 6pm; free.

Wednesday

The Grant Museum looks at the biology of fantasy. Mythological creatures including fairies and dragons are common and often winged, but are they biologically feasible? UCL’s Professor Roger Wotton investigates. 6pm; free.

Meanwhile for those of you who remember Sim City, the Dana Centre tonight asks what the city of the future should look like. With green issues in mind, what should be different and what would you do? 7pm; free but book.

Thursday

The Royal Society of Chemistry looks at the woman responsible for 2011 being International Year of Chemistry: The three lives of Marie Curie. 6:30pm; also available to watch online.

Over at the Royal Observatory, science meets religion with Diwali under the stars telling the story of the Hindu Gods under the night sky. 6:30pm; £20, book now.

Saturday/Sunday

A late entry for title of the week: Whose mind is it anyway? How do you know I’m not a zombie?= This gem comes from the Bishopsgate Institute who on Saturday at 2:30pm will be asking questions like “You can be pretty sure you’re conscious. But how do you know I am too? I walk like you, talk like you – but am I really like you? Can we ever know what goes on in someone else’s mind? And why are zombies of scientific interest for this?” Free.

You can follow the Nature Network London Google calendar of events in London at http://blogs.nature.com/london/2011/05/17/scientific-events-calendar. Updated daily.

Diamond Light Source

One of the most exciting scientific locations in Britain is unfortunately just a little too far from Charing Cross to feature much on this blog, but tonight the Diamond Light Source, the UK’s national synchrotron facility in Harwell, Oxfordshire, came to London.

In a special lecture tonight at the Royal Society of Chemistry, Professor Nick Terrill gave attendees an overview of some of of the projects using the Diamond Light Source facility and an insight into his own work, creating photovoltaics (solar panels) using plastic rather than the current, highly inefficient silicon.

The Diamond Light Source facility is the imposing silver circular building to one side of the imposing Harwell Science and Innovation Campus, a cluster of facilities housing around 150 organistions including the European Space Agency, the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority and the Medical Research Council. Professor Terrill began by explaining that Harwell is a world-class research hub with an array of benefits including a visiting researchers programme which brings overseas researchers to the facilities for several months to help develop the projects.

Professor Terrill then moved onto his own facility. Opened in 2007, the Diamond Light Source currently has 18 operation experimental stations (known as beamlines) with funding to increase that number to 32 by 2017. In simple terms, the Diamond is a linear particle accelerator: it uses magnets to move electrons to generate very intense beams of light, covering the Electromagnetic spectrum from Infrared to Ultraviolet.

To give an idea of intensity, Professor Terrill asked us to consider the brightness of a candle. Call that brightness 1. Relative to this, a lightbulb is about brightness 10 and the Sun 100,000. Using this scale, the light generated by the Diamond Light Source is 1,000,000,000,000,000: about ten billion times brighter than our Sun.

This light has a huge range of applications: projects which have used the facility include Formula 1 cars, protein structures and drug discovery work and the conservation of the Mary Rose, which is decaying. Work at the Diamond Light Source revealed that sulphur compounds on the inside of the rigging were responsible for the damage. The facility is open to external groups to use and with over 2000 research projects using it, it is a major contributor to academic and industrial research.

Professor Terrill’s own work centres around clean energy. He revealed that the Sun is generating more than 100,000 times as much energy as a candle, delivering about 160,000 TW of energy to earth. Compare this to the currently global energy requirements of about 18 TW an hour and it is clear that if we could develop a method of harnessing this energy, our concerns about finite energy resources would be over. The most efficient solar cell on Earth has more than 99% efficiency: the plant cell.

Silicon solar cells are, by their very nature, never going to achieve these levels, and Professor Terrill’s team is looking into a new generation of photovoltaics using plastics. Plastics can be very easily and cheaply generated, and most importantly, are stretchy, so can be used as a coating. Professor Terrill visualised a world in which the windows of office blocks and skyscrapers could be coated in photovoltaics, generating their own energy requirements and supplying the excess back to the National Grid.

While the first generation does work, efficiency is still the key. When they began this project, their efficiency was around 3.8%. The current maximum achieved is 5.54%. While the feasibly target of 8% is still some way off, the progress made in a short time gives Professor Terrill and the field hope.

For further details of Professor Terrill’s work, you can see his department homepage at the Diamond Light Source. For more on the Diamond Light Source facility, see its website, including a variety of educational resources.

This event was part of a regular series of lectures put on by the Royal Society of Chemistry. Next week’s lecture looks back at the work of Marie Curie, in this International Year of Science.