Dr. Louise Naylor: Designer Babies—Fact or Fiction
With more than a million babies born through IVF and other assisted conception techniques, explore the facts and the fiction behind the headlines. As reproductive medicine continues to push back the boundaries of parenthood, debate the extent to which we can or should manipulate human life in this way. Come and hear about the recent scientific advances in this area (from conception to cloning) and discuss the ethical implications for mankind.
Dr. Chris Solomon: Catching criminals with automated face recognition.
The human face has been described as "the most important square foot on the planet." From a certain perspective, we are all experts on the human face, able to infer people's intentions, emotions and arguably, even their character from their facial appearance. Despite this, it is only in recent decades that the human face has been subject to scientific and mathematical analysis. In this talk, we will present some of the work carried out within the forensic imaging group at Kent University which is being put to a number of practical uses in identification software for the police and even in studying the mathematics of beauty.
Dr. David Oliver: Palliative care—not just for the end of life
Palliative care aims to provide a holistic approach to people with life threatening illness, involving not only the person affected by the disease but also their family. It is often thought that involvement of a palliative care professional, who is often based in a hospice, means that the person is imminently dying and in the last few days or weeks of life. Come and hear how palliative care may be involved in the care of people with life threatening illness and what may be provided to help them live their lives as fully as possible.
Dr. Colin Johnson: Collective Intelligence: Do Swarms and Crowds Think?
In this talk we will look at collective behaviour: for example, that of swarms of insects or crowds of people. Often these seem to exhibit a collective intelligent behaviour without there being any central control. We will look at this through computer simulation: starting by looking at how swarms and crowds are simulated in animation and CGI for films, showing how this helps us to answer practical and scientific questions, and considering how these ideas are used in other areas of technology such as telephone call routing and synthesized music.
Prof. Frank Furedi: When risk becomes everything
These days virtually every human experience has become the subject of risk management. Consequently just about everything we do comes with a health warning. What happens when everything is represented as a risk? Do we stop taking or risks or do we just become disoriented or confused? The aim of this presentation is to explain why we have become suspicious of the risk taker and what this means for our lives in the future.
Dr.Dan Lloyd: Kill or Cure: The consequences of damage to our genes
We are constantly exposed to a wide variety of agents, present within the environment, that damage DNA. Exposure to these DNA damaging agents, and the consequent damage to the genetic material they induce, is implicated in diseases such as cancer. However, the DNA-damaging characteristics of certain agents, including ionising radiation and some chemotherapeutic drugs, have also been harnessed in the clinic to provide effective treatments for a range of human tumours. An understanding of how human cells respond to DNA damage is pivotal to our understanding of how these agents work, and how we can improve their therapeutic potential. This discussion will describe some recent developments in exploiting the beneficial characteristics of certain DNA damaging agents with a view to their use in a clinical setting.
Prof. Mark van Vugt: Mark van Vugt: Evolutionary Social Psychology; a theory about sex shopping and warfare
Evolutionary psychology is the scientific study of the brain as the product of evolution through natural selection. It is a novel field with many interesting applications. Here I argue that the human brain is primarily social. This social brain enabled human ancestors to solve many important social problems such as finding a mate, caring for off-spring, sharing food, negotiating status hierarchies, and coordinating groups to fight rival groups. Unfortunately, our Stone Age minds are sometimes ill prepared to cope with the many challenges of modern society. For instance, we are more afraid of spiders and snakes than of cars and electricity, although the latter are far more deadly. In this talk I will discuss various examples of a mismatch between modern and ancestral human environments creating problems related to sex, shopping and warfare.
Dr. Jon Williamson: Machines that Reason
In this talk I'll try to convey some of the importance of work on artificial intelligence for philosophy and vice versa. I'll distinguish two kinds of AI - psychological and logical - and focus on some interesting connections between the latter and research on reasoning in philosophy. I'll also discuss my own interest in this area: causal and probabilistic reasoning and its automation.
Prof. Mark Burchell: Life in space and how will we find it
Is the Earth unique or are the materials and conditions for life widespread in space? In which case is there life elsewhere and how will we be able to find it? Indeed did life even start here on Earth or arrive from elsewhere ? Astrobiology is a field with many fundamental questions: slowly scientists are starting to be able to find answers. ￼How far have we got and how far have we still to go? There is plenty to talk about.
Dr. Andy King: Tick-bites and odd-bods: Using science to hack computer systems
In mid-life you are supposed to have a crisis when you do something crazy like buy a big motorbike and don leathers. The crazy thing that I have done is to give up my secure academic day job as theoretic computer scientist to learn about the dirty world of computer hacking from a bunch of hackers that are typically half my age. I will describe a bit of my experience and why the world of hacking and theoretical computer science are more closely related than one would initially think.
Prof. Fritz Muehlschlegel: How to stay healthy in the hospital
The high media profile given over to topics such as MRSA, Clostridium difficile, Norovirus, dirty hospitals and poor compliance with hand hygiene, old infectious diseases and the emergence of new ones, together with the changing face of healthcare and new guidance, drives and initiatives to understand infection better, thus reducing infection rates. In fact the prevention and control of infection is highly cross-disciplinary and a priority for everyone. The National Audit office has estimated that the cost of hospital acquired infection in the United Kingdom is around £s;1 billion per year. This economic equation combined with the growing realization that current levels of healthcare associated infection are unacceptable, has led to strong interest and investment in driving down hospital infection. Performance management of hospital infection parameters has been introduced and infection control teams and microbiology departments are being provided with significantly increased resources. The Department of Health is supporting a zero tolerance approach to preventable hospital acquired infection. If this campaign is to be successful, it will be essential to be supported by good infection control. In fact it is essential that modern healthcare professionals have a firm grasp of the principles of infection control. Importantly the global impact of infection control (pandemic Flu or SARS) and international health must be considered.
Dr. Sarah Johns: Teenage Motherhood and Pregnancy
Teenage pregnancy and motherhood are considered to be pressing social concerns in the United Kingdom today, and are often viewed as problems in need of solutions. Although a plethora of studies across different disciplines have identified social correlates such as abuse, poverty, peer pressure, alcohol use etc. the underlying causes remain elusive (why should these correlates lead to teenage motherhood?), and policies aimed at helping teenage mothers and preventing teenage motherhood are often disjointed. An evolutionary approach, however, appears to be a useful way of answering the “why” question. Research within an evolutionary framework suggests that having a child as a teenager is an evolved reproductive strategy which some girls pursue when they are faced with conditions of environmental uncertainty and risk; conditions they perceive will affect their chances of experiencing a long and fortunate life. This perspective can help us to understand why particular environments or social situations should lead to teenage motherhood by exploring how risk and uncertainty are related to reproductive timing.
Dr. Andy Hone: The Nature of Truth
We are all taught arithmetic at school, and the rules are usually drummed into us, so that statements like 1+1=2 acquire a certain inherent correctness which is hard to question, and it becomes difficult to imagine how one and one could make anything else. However, if one studies higher mathematics, then some facts which were previously obvious can be called into question, and one is forced into trying to justify why they must be "true". In this brief talk, I will describe what motivates me in my research, and give a very personal perspective on what truth means to me as a working mathematician. I will also mention how this might relate to notions of truth in other areas of science.
Prof. John Dore: The Magic of Molecular Science
Water is a familiar material but it is not widely appreciated that its properties are quite distinct from other liquids. Everyone above the age of about eight knows that the chemical formula is H2O and that snowflakes usually have a hexagonal symmetry. They also know that water is essential for life and that some space research is actively engaged in the search for water on other planets as a possible indicator of extra-terrestrial life. Water also has a direct influence on our weather and through geology has played a central role in shaping our planet. Consequently, one would expect that scientists would know all that there is to know about this important chemical. Surprisingly, this is not the case and, despite much experimental investigation, there are still many aspects that are not fully understood at a molecular level. The talk will explain some of the unusual properties of water and answer questions such as 'why does ice float on water', 'why is water wet?' and 'why do oil and water not mix?'. A key concept in describing how water molecules interact with each other is the 'hydrogen-bond' and this will be explained. Finally, the role of water in a bio-sciences context will be discussed before a brief consideration of some fascinating but controversial new ideas that could explain the unusual nature of liquid water.
Dr. Arnaud Wisman: How do we regulate the awareness of our own mortality?
Why is it so hard for people to coexist in peace? Why do people need to feel good about ourselves? Why do people want to have children? Why do people try to control their bodies and, why is sex a taboo in most cultures? And finally, what has our awareness of mortality to do with all these big questions. In my talk I will provocatively and optimistically argue that all these big questions can be answered inspired by Experimental Existential Psychological theories and the help of rigorous experimental methods derived from cognitive and social psychology.
Prof. Darren Griffin: Designer Babies Parte Deux: Now it's personal
The definition of a ``Designer baby'' is ``a baby that has been designed by its future parents to have all the desirable genetic traits that the parents would wish for - presumably to give the resulting child the best possible start and advantages in life.'' The purpose of this talk will be to explore some of the facts that surround this much-vaunted media phrase and, in the process, dispel some of the myths that surround it. The practices of Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD), cloning and germline therapy will be introduced along with an appraisal of how the practicalities of these procedures justify the hype that accompanies them. Finally, I will explore the most practical means through which we can all try to have our own designer babies. Darren Griffin is Professor of Genetics at the University of Kent. In the early 1990s he collaborated with Professors Alan Handyside and Robert Winston and became the first person to use a technique called ``FISH'' to diagnose sex in IVF embryos. This is a technique used to the present day and Professor Griffin's work has taken him into the genetics of human sperm, birds, fatness in pigs, sex determination and computer-based learning. More recently, again in collaboration with Alan Handyside, he has been a major contributor to the test dubbed the ``Genetic MoT for embryos.''
Prof. Martin Warren: The madness of King George III
King George III was one of the country's longest serving monarchs who is best remembered for losing the American colonies and for his bouts of madness that triggered the regency crisis in 1789. Did he suffer from manic depressive psychosis or were his bouts of mental incapacity due to an organic illness? Evidence for the latter will be presented, demonstrating that it is likely that the King suffered with a rare metabolic disorder. The nature, symptoms and causes of this inherited illness will be described. By examination of some of the King's hair it has also been shown that he was being accidentally poisoned by his own physicians. The role of science in the emerging discipline of scientific historiography will be discussed. Martin Warren is professor of biochemistry and a research fellow in the Department of Biosciences at the University of Kent. His research interests are the so-called, "pigments of life," that are associated with the colours found in grass and blood.
Dr. Alison Edwards: Some Sweet Chemistry
A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down. Carbohydrates are biological molecules which are vital for everyday life. We are all aware of the importance of glucose in our diet to give us energy but the biological significance of carbohydrates is vast and still not completely understood. Carbohydrates are used for a range of functions such as structure and cell-cell recognition. Further to this, the relatively new field of glycobiology, has started to make connections between glycosylation (attachment of sugars to other biomolecules) and disease. Can carbohydrates indicate disease or does disease occur because of changes in glycosylation? The presence of carbohydrates in every day life will be discussed along with their future with regard to therapeutics such as medicines, vaccines and materials.
Dr. Owen Lyne: "Chancing it": Luck, Lotteries and Life
Dr. Rosie Cowell: Brain-reading: how modern neuroscience techniques can tell what you're thinking from the activity of your neurons
Dr. Colin Johnson: Machine Ethics
What might it mean for a robot, or a computer system, to act ethically or morally? Is it meaningful for a machine to act within an ethical framework, or are such ideas appropriate only to describe human activity? Will robots ever have be able to have sufficient "free will" that they can be described as having ethical or moral responsibility, or will we always be able to place the ethical responsibility for their actions onto their creators? These questions have been explored for decades by technologists, philosophers and science-fiction writers. In this talk I will give an overview of these ideas, which will be followed by a discussion.
Prof. Laurence Goldstein: Adjusting Speech to Context
Most conversational utterances are concise. There are standard means of achieving conciseness (ellipsis) but the most interesting way, to be discussed this evening, consists of opportunistically exploiting features of the particular convers ational environment. Speakers do this routinely, in real time, so we tend not to notice what a truly amazing achievement it is.
Prof. Murray Smith: The Film Instinct
In 1994, Stephen Pinker published The Language Instinct in which he argued that language is an evolved, biological adaptation. Early in 2009, Denis Dutton published The Art Instinct in which he argued, still more contentiously, that art is a universal practice with an evolved, adaptive value. In the intervening 15 years, evolutionary psychology - a crucial influence on both works - has come to the fore of intellectual inquiry. In this discussion we'll consider what pertinence evolutionary psychology, and the arguments of those like Pinker and Dutton, have for our understanding of a modern medium like film, founded as it is on a dvanced technological developments. Is it folly to think in terms of something like a 'film instinct,' or might there be some method to the apparent madness of the idea? And more generally, are the methods and knowledge drawn from the sciences relevant to our understanding of cultural phenomena like film?
Dr. Cyril Isenberg: Understanding Numbers and the Geometry of Roadways (or, How to Impress Friends and Colleagues)
This talk is concerned with (1) some interesting results concerning integers and (2) the geometry of roadways.
Prof. Michael Kölling: Is Computer Programming Hard?
Introductory computer programming courses at universities have one of the highest failure rates, often between 20% to 50%, across many different institutions, countries, cultures, and over several decades. Why is this? Is programming just intrinsically harder than many other technical subjects, or are we teaching it wrong? Have we not been able to discover how to teach it over the past 40 years?
Looking at this issue raises some interesting questions about both programming and pedagogy, and its discussion will have to include thoughts on educational theory, the psychology of learning, constructivism, as well as the nature and technology of programming.
The discussions coming out of this might be more about learning than about programming, so if computing is not your thing, fear not. We might talk about how to organise learning or teaching in general, independent what your area of interest is, or we might go off on other tangents.
Dr. Charlotte Sleigh Patrons of science: then and now
Science has always been an expensive business, and scientists have long relied on patrons to fund their research and to bring it kudos. Historians of science have discovered some entertaining and unexpected things about these relationships; on the basis of their findings we can also ask what form the patronage of science takes in the present, and whether it works for good or ill ...
Sorry - Cancelled due to uncertainty over weather conditions.
Dr. Dan Mulvihill: How yeast are helping to cure cancer
The ability to carefully regulate and execute cell division is one of the most fundamental processes of life itself. This is true from the simplest of single celled organisms such as bacteria or yeast, to humans. The precise control of this mechanism is crucial during growth and development of the complex architecture within multi-cellular organisms. The consequences of improper or unregulated cell division can have drastic consequences upon the organism, leading to congenital birth defects and the development of cancer later in life. A number of key mol ecules regulate the onset of cell division, determining when a cell should grow, when it should divide, when it should stop growing, and when it should die. Work carried out over the last 4 decades in the simple single celled yeast uncovere d the identity and functions of these fundamental molecules and has revealed hug e amounts of information about their role during development and the causes of cancer. During the talk I will discuss this research and highlight some of the major findings that helped uncover the molecular basis of many cancers.
Dr. Jim Ang: Let's Get Serious About Games
Playing computer games has always been traditionally seen as a young male activity which is confined within an individual, isolated space. This stereotypical view is further exacerbated by the violent content in computer games, supported by a plethora of research in games and violent behaviour. However, as the gaming industry is moving towards maturity, we are witnessing a gradual but significant change in public perceptions, the demographics of players, and the industry's effort in developing games with "serious" content, e.g. games that deal with social political issues. Within academia, we are intrigued by the potential of this new interactive medium in various disciplines. Already, there has been research in the use of computer games in healthcare (virtual therapy, rehabilitation, beha viour intervention programmes), education (game-based learning, e-learning in 3D virtual worlds, virtual experiments and scientific exploration), interactive storytelling (story simulators, Janet Murray's vision of "Hamlet on the Holodeck") , artistic expressions (game art exhibition perhaps?), just to name a few. I will talk about serious and innovative uses of computer games which will have an impact on people's life and the society at large.
Dr. Lavinia Mitton: The integration of ethnic minorities into British society: what we know and what we need to know
There is a strong interest among policy-makers in the integration of Britain's ethnic minorities, but what does 'integration' mean and why have some minority et hnic groups integrated further than others? This talk will discuss the way in which social policy analysts study questions such as this, and how this research interacts with the development of policy and practice in this area.
Dr. Roger Giner-Sorolla: That's Disgusting!
Disgust is an interesting emotion because it is so many-faceted. We express disgust in many situations; worms can be disgusting, but so can corrupt politicians. But are these really all the same emotion? I will make the case that there are many levels of disgust and not all of them are exactly the same. Along the way I will also talk about research in my lab and elsewhere showing some of the unique characteristics of moral decisions that are made based on disgust, versus anger. This will help answer the question of whether we should listen to our disgusted reactions, or try to put them aside, when making moral decisions in everyday life.
Scarlett Thomas: Our Tragic Universe
Scarlett Thomas will be reading from her newly-published novel Our Tragic Universe and talking about how she writes about science.
Dr. Dominique Chu What is Science?
Not at least with all the budget cuts that are expected to come, there is a renewed discussion about how the public should prioritise its spending. One of the stakeholders in this political game is science. Our Universities and research organisations need money, not only to educate students but also to do science. Yet, doing science is expensive. The question is whether it is also worth doing. Before this question can be answered it would be helpful to be able to understand what science actually is. In this talk I will provide some initial suggestions which will then start a debate.
Prof. Bob Newport Using Glass to Mend the Body
Glass is ubiquitous: from wine glasses in shop windows through telescopes to fibre optic cables. We know it as a hard and chemically durable substance without which 21st century life would look very different indeed. A look inside, at the scale of its constituent atoms, reveals a rather complex and subtle material with the potential to hold yet more useful 'secrets'. Indeed, modern research has produced glasses which promote bone growth, help metal prostheses to bond securely within the body, prevent the growth of bacteria and deliver drugs with precision to specific parts of the body. Glass technology is more than five thousand years old, but glass science advances still.
Prof. John Dore Mathematical Games: a Consideration of Concepts and Analysis
Mathematical puzzles and problems have a wide appeal for all ages and across many different communities. This area of Recreational Mathematics has a long history and aims to challenge and entertain at the same time. It uses mathematical ideas in an unusual setting and often engages the solver in thinking in unfamiliar ways. The talk will address some aspects of recreational maths and set the activity in the context of mathematical understanding. As an example, we may cite the popularity of Sudoku and the fact that many newspapers now carry a games page devoted to this and similar activities. Why does this occur when there is apparently a national crisis about the standard of maths achievement at school? Has mathematics teaching become too centred on following a prescribed recipe rather than encouraging creative thinking? There will be an opportunity to try out some unfamiliar puzzles and games with a mathematical basis during the session.
Dr. Ian Blomfield E.coli: Friend and Foe
E.coli all too often appears in the news when an outbreak causes serious illness in young children infected by contact with domestic animals. Yet, on a case-by-case basis, E.coli causes far more infections than are commonly reported in the media. Moreover less well known is the fact that most of us play host to this bacterium without ill effect and that E.coli is a key "model organism" used to study the fundamental biochemical events need for all life to function. And it is a "workhorse" in the biotechnology industry. The talk will focus on the importance of this bacterium to our health, scientific understanding of life and economic prosperity.
Dr. Edward Cartwright Nudge or Shove: The Economics of Behaviour Change
The concept of 'Nudge', popularized in a book by Thaler and Sunstein, has caught the imagination of many. The basic idea, is that small changes to policy, or the way policy is framed, can lead to big changes in behaviour. Proponents argue that Nudge is a cheap and simple solution to many of the worlds ills; it can be used to promote healthy eating, increase saving for retirement, reduce pollution, and much more. Encouraged by such claims the current government has taken Nudge seriously; a 'Nudge unit' exists in the Cabinet office and Nudge is already influencing policy towards health care and the environment. So, is the hype justified? In this session we shall look at the economic and psychological evidence behind Nudge, and provide a framework for evaluating its pros and cons.
Dr. Ali Hojjat How Medical Image Processing can help Doctors to Reduce the Risk of Errors
The growth in medical imaging systems and their application, like CT, MRI, PET, ultrasound and x-ray imaging resulted in huge volume of data being generated. Processing such data requires substantial resources which is not available especially in screening centres. The quality of the evaluation can be improved if sophisticated algorithms are employed to pre-process such data and provide abstract information before the data is analysed. Such computer aided diagnosis (CAD) algorithms range from simple calculations to very complex stages sometimes with subtle results!
We will study the risk associated with using and not using CAD systems for a couple of applications including cancer detection (breast, lung, and skin cancer), and computer assisted systems for brain surgery. We will also discuss the problems associated with the development and clinical use of such systems in practice.
Dr. Stuart Gibson Constructing the Face of a Suspect: From PhotoFIT to E-FIT and beyond
In the absence of other leads, a facial description may represent the best opportunity for locating a person who is suspected of committing a crime. Systems for developing pictorial representations of suspects' faces have been used regularly in the UK since 1970 when PhotoFIT enabled police to locate the murderer of James Cameron in Islington, London. In 1989 a computerised version of the PhotoFIT system was introduced which became known as Electronic Facial Identification Technique (E-FIT). This system is currently used by 90% of UK police and in over 30 other countries. E-FIT is an effective policing tool but its usefulness can be limited by the witnessÂ¢ ability to describe the suspect's face in detail. Unfortunately witnesses find it difficult to recall descriptions of faces from memory (especially unfamiliar faces). To address this drawback a new approach has been developed that makes use of the inherent human capacity for recognising similarities between faces. Researchers at the University of Kent have pioneered this approach and their work has led to a commercial system, EFIT-V, that is already being used by 50% of UK police.
Steven Cutts Life on Mars
An exploration of Mars itself, following how our perceptions of the planet have changed and leading to the possibilities of finding alien life or establishing our own colonies on this planet. Steve Cutts is an orthopaedic surgeon and science writer. His recent novel Viking Village describes a future settlement on Mars.
Cancelled due to bad weather
Prof. Mick Tuite, Senile Yeast: What can we learn about Alzheimer's Disease by studying Baker's Yeast?
If you live to the age of 75 you have a 1 in 5 chance of developing Alzheimer's Disease but only a 1 in a million chance of developing CJD, the brain disease linked to Mad Cow Disease. Yet both diseases have a common cause and the same impact on the human brain. New research using Baker's Yeast has begun to shed light on what triggers these diseases and other human diseases that affect the brain and I will argue that Baker's Yeast is an important new alternative to animals as a 'model' for such studies.
Dr. Geoff Dunn, The development of a device to investigate the structure of Cocoa trees using low field Nuclear Magnetic Resonance
The talk will briefly cover the theory of NMR before looking at the challenges of building a working device using rare earth magnets.
Dr Dave Colthurst, Keep Smyelin: can school students help us understand the role of Myelin Basic Protein in Multiple Sclerosis?
For the past four years, the Simon Langton Grammar School for Boys has received funding from the Wellcome Trust to run a research programme with their Sixth Form students. The students have learnt techniques in molecular biology and protein chemistry and are applying these to try to understand more about the behaviour of Myelin Basic Protein (MBP), a major protein in the myelin sheath of the central nervous system.
With the help of colleagues from the Biosciences Department at the University of Kent, we have succeeded in cloning the human gene for MBP into a yeast expression plasmid and are now expressing the protein under a Gal-promoter in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. The aim of the work is to identify phosphorylation events and to see if these have an impact on the structural integrity of this protein. www.nbp-squared.org.
Steven Cutts. The Technology of Joint Replacement
Steven Cutts, an orthopaedic surgeon, will talk about about new technologies in joint replacement, including hips and knee and ankle replacements. He will then talk about futuristic alternatives to joint replacement.
Dr. Peter Klappa. "Who Wants to Live Forever? - The Quest for Immortality
A life-long dream of humankind is to achieve immortality. From research on model organisms, we begin to understand that ageing is a very complex process, which involves a plethora of underlying molecular mechanisms. We will investigate the current state of the research into ageing and the associated mechanisms. We will address questions like, "Why do certain organism have a very long life-span?", "Is there a link between life expectancy and certain molecular processes?" and "Can we manipulate some of these processes to extend our own life?". Interesting aspects of the discussion will be the ethical and sociological implications of this kind of research.
Dr. Becky Parker. Citizen Science with CERN@school
In the next few months a new cosmic ray detector - the Langton Ultimate Cosmic Ray Intensity Detector (LUCID) - will be launched into space. Unusually, this has been developed by a group of students at a local grammar school. This talk will look at how this has happened, and how people can get involved in discovering new things about radiation in Space and on Earth by analysing data from this project and from detectors at CERN.
Dr. Tobias von der Haar. Faster, faster: How to avoid molecular road rage
Life depends on a huge number of molecular reactions taking place in an ordered manner. Some of these reactions involve physical movement of molecular motors. For example, the synthesis of proteins involves the reading of information from a long linear template (a copy of the DNA gene called RNA), and this reading involves physical movement of a molecular decoding machine along the template. In cells of the human body, 2 million reading machines attempt to decode about 200,000 RNAs. This creates traffic jams, collisions and other issues similar to the road traffic encountered in a big city. I will present some of our recent insights into the rules that govern this traffic inside your cells.
Prof. Alan Chadwick. The Mary Rose: Conserving a Wreck with Nanoscience
The Mary Rose was the flagship of the navy of Henry VIII. Built in 1509 and after an illustrious career sank in Portsmouth Harbour in 1545 in a confrontation with the French fleet. She remained on the seabed until the wreck was re-discovered in 1967 and raised in 1982. A large fraction of the hull was recovered and is currently in the process of conservation prior to exhibition to the public in 2013 in a purpose-built museum. The ship and the 20,000 artefacts represent a unique insight into Tudor life and are a national treasure. The conservators at the Mary Rose Trust were faced with a wide range of problems and in collaboration with scientists at the University of Kent have been studying the Â¡sulfur problemÂ¢. This is the generation of sulfuric acid in the normal atmosphere from reduced sulfur compounds in the timbers and is common in waterlogged wooden objects. The work has used a wide range of techniques with synchrotron experiments playing a major role. A possible solution to the sulfur problem is the treatment of the timbers with alkaline nanoparticles to act as reservoirs that neutralise the acid. This talk will review the progress of this research and some of the general conservation problems with raised wrecks.
Dr. Dominique Chu (dominiquechu.com) Scientists and Soothsayers
One of the questions that has kept philosophers of science awake for a long time is this one (roughly at least): What is the difference between a science and soothsaying?
This question is more than just of academic-philosophical interest. It is practically very important for every single one of us because we, as a society (and to some extent as individuals as well), spend quite some money on scientific advice. Be it for safety reports before building a nuclear power station, to get a cure from a disease or to understand how we could at minimal cost reduce our climate footprint.
Why do we invest in all this expensive science, when we could instead ask a soothsayer for predictions on the climate, or a some other spiritually gifted person for advice on building a nuclear power station. They would certainly be cheaper.
The standard answer to this question is that science is superior to those because it uses the scientific method. The problem with this answer is that during their long sleepless nights the above mentioned philosophers of science have not been able to say what this scientific method is. This is probably best expressed by the philosopher Paul Feyerabend who said in his famous book "Against method" that "Anything goes."
During this evening I would like to explore whether or not the superiority of science as a knowledge generation activity is in any way justified. Is science really better at finding answers to problems than non-science such as soothsaying, casting runes, or simply voting?
This talk will be based on ideas of my recently published book "The science myth."
Prof. John Dore, Chaos, Emergence and Organisation: a Scientist's View of Complexity
Progress in the physical sciences has primarily involved a reductionist approach, where an observed behaviour is explained in terms of simpler/smaller entities (molecules to atoms to nuclei to elementary particles/quarks). This top-down approach has been immensely successful and provides the main paradigm for knowledge advancement but we are also becoming aware of other phenomena, where collective/organised behaviour seems to occur [e.g. colonies of ants, DNA coding, brain function, life itself). There is an increasing interest in the way these hierarchies are formed and organised, so science is moving into a relatively new area of bottom-up research. We will take a brief look at how this is happening and what it might mean for the future.
Dr. Yiqing Liang, Who will be your doctor in 20 years?
Humans are very good at inventing tools to extend our abilities: bicycles, planes, telephones, search engines, and many more. Increasingly, these technologies are about communication, in particular providing ways for people to collaborate when they are many miles, or continents, away from each other.
One area in which this will be of increasing importance is in healthcare. Crowdsourcing medical systems allow the knowledge of many healthcare professionals to be pooled. In particular, healthcare workers in remote parts of the world can draw on the expertise of doctors from across the world. The development of such systems would mean that high-quality healthcare could spread around the world without so much need to place highly trained specialists in every location. Furthermore, once a database of such expertise has been developed, there is potential for the system to be trained to extract knowledge from its vast database of previous cases.
This talk will explore a possible future where a doctor's knowledge can be enhanced by the collective intelligence of numerous doctors around the world, from the past to present. How can this be achieved, and is it desirable? In twenty years time, will your doctor be local, on another continent, or even be an artificially intelligent computer system?
Dr. Colin Johnson: The New New Map of Learning: from Teaching Machines to Online Learning
In the last couple of years, there has been much hype in the media about online learning, in particular so-called MOOCs— massive, open, online courses—where an educational institution makes courses available online via video lectures, quizzes, discussion forums and so on, and which are currently free to sign up to. Advocates of MOOCs suggest that they will revolutionise learning in the 21st century. More recently, they have been criticised, both for low completion rates—with one recent study suggesting that only 13% of students on MOOCs complete their course—and, because the model of teaching and learning used is naive and outdated.
This talk will explain the background to MOOCs, put this in the context of developments in educational technology over the last century, and provide a chance to discuss and speculate on whether these new ways of learning and teaching offer anything genuinely innovative to learners.
Matthew Trump: Practical IT Security
Computers security issues are in the news every week. Can your identity and finances be safe online? How can you prevent important documents from vanishing just before deadlines? What kinds of security threats are there, and how can you be safer online? This talk will be a jargon-free discussion of practical issues in computer security, focusing on those issues that are of relevance to the general public.
There will be a practical element to the session: we will recommend some free software that you can download to check how secure your computer is and improve its security. So, please do bring along a laptop to join in the practical session on the night, or bring a notepad and pen so that you can note down some details.
Dr. Ellen Swift: 3-D Scanning of Roman Artefacts
This talk explores the use of the new technology of 3-D scanning in the analysis of Roman artefacts, including objects that can be seen on display in Canterbury's Roman Museum. Artefacts are fragile, and conservation requirements mean that often we cannot carry out experiments on them that would help us to find out how they were used. Using 3-D scanning, however, we can investigate aspects of artefact function that otherwise could not be explored.
Dr. Annemieke van den Tol: 'Beautiful but sad' music can help people feel better
This talk will be based on recent studies that investigate the reasons why people choose particular pieces of music when they are experiencing sadness. The study identified a number of motives for sad people to select a particular piece of music they perceive as 'sad', but found that in some cases their goal in listening is not necessarily to enhance mood. In fact, choosing music identified as 'beautiful' was the only strategy that directly predicted mood enhancement.
The results showed that if an individual has intended to achieve mood enhancement through listening to 'sad' music, this was in fact often achieved by first thinking about their situation or being distracted, rather than directly through listening to the music chosen. Indeed, where respondents indicated they had chosen music with the intention of triggering memories, this had a negative impact on creating a better mood.
The talk will describe these studies and explore issues about how people use music to manage moods.
Dr. David Roesner: Music-based Videogames: the beginning or end of creativity?
This talk will present work from a research network which explores questions around creativity, pedagogical value, interactivity and agency in so-called music based videogames. Games such as Guitar Hero, Wii music, Dance Central, or Sing Star have enjoyed huge economic success in the past few years, but have also been criticised as surrogates for 'real' music-making. The network seeks to differentiate the different games available and look more closely at their potential to facilitate creativity and learning - perhaps in new and different ways?