Science

Curious about the world we live in? Puzzled or intrigued by developments in science and technology and how they may affect you? Interested in famous scientists and their discoveries? Do you want to learn more?
Our programme has talks by both outside speakers and U3A members, visits to places of scientific interest and even a Christmas quiz. Cost is £1 per session; you do not have to be a member of this group, just come along to any talk which interests you. You will see listed below information on our forthcoming talks and also posts which give you some idea of the topics we have covered recently.

Scout & Guide HQ
1st Wednesday of the month
2.15 - 3.45 pm (Refreshments at 2 pm)
  • Coordinators:
  • Jack Brettle - 01695 422912,   Alan Nolan - 01695 423442
  • Marguerita McBride - 01695 423593,   Patsy Colvin - 01695 722736

Wednesday 7th August 2019

We have no meeting on the 7th August as we are taking our customary summer break however you may be interested to know that Sue Watkinson is taking over the free time slot to organise a visit by a researcher from Manchester Metropolitan University who is studying age related falls.  He will be asking volunteers to fill in a questionnaire and carry out some simple physical walking movements which will be recorded by a specialist camera for later analysis.  Contact Sue at billandsuew@gmail.com or any Horizons meeting for more information and to book your 45 min session.

Wednesday 4th Sept 2019

Dr. Simon Clark, an award winning research fellow at the University of Manchester works on AMD – a common form of sight loss affecting the over 50s.  In his talk “Age Related Macular Degeneration: Causes and Future Treatments” he will provide some background to the disease, the role of genetic mutations affecting the immune system and new therapies currently being researched.

Wednesday 2nd Oct 2019

Atrial Fibrillation is a heart condition which affects 7 in 100 of the over 65s.  To find out more about this about the condition from two world experts come and listen to Professor Gregory Lip and Dr. Deirdre Lane from the newly created Liverpool Centre for Cardiovascular Science.

Are Digital Games All Bad?

Wednesday 3rd July 2019

Older people (us?) often have strong views on digital games, social media, emojis, mobile phones etc. particularly their use by younger people (grandchildren?).  Are these views well founded?   Dr. Linda Kaye, a Edge Hill University psychologist, specialising in understanding the social effects of digital media (a cyberpsychologist no less), came to give us some background to the topic including her own research work in the area.  It became clear that much of the negative views on digital games etc. were based on media reporting of particularly aggressive games, often played by aggressive people and that most of digital gaming was fairly benign.  Linda had many questions put to her both during and after her talk which was a measure of how interesting our audience found it.

Novel Digital Healthcare

Wednesday 5th June 2019

We had a return visit by the NHS North West Innovation Agency with presentations and demonstrations of novel healthcare products. organised by the NHS North West Innovation Agency who are tasked with making the NHS better, safer, faster and more cost effective by introducing new healthcare devices, often for personal use.  We had demonstrations by Alertacall, with an improved personal alarm system; Fastroi, a care management software system; and Hospify, a healthcare communication system similar to WhatsApp but which is compliant with the new GDPR regulations.  The cream teas provided by the Innovation Agency were also gratefully received!

Visit to Heysham Nuclear Power Station

Wednesday 15th May 2019

On the 15th May 37 of us set off to Heysham to visit the nuclear power station.  After a tour of the displays at the visitor centre, a talk on nuclear power generation and a safety and security briefing we were kitted out with our high vis jackets, safety spectacles, hard hats, ear defenders and electronic security passes.  We were then split into groups and shepherded  through the security systems by our 8 guides (no opportunities for wondering off or dallying) and finally were were in Heysham 2, which housed one of two nuclear reactors on site.  We were not disappointed – a visit to the reactor top to see the refuelling system was followed by a visit to the control room and the turbine hall with our expert guides fielding all the many questions fired at them.  After shedding all our gear 37 rather tired U3A members happily snoozed their way home on the coach.

If you want a fascinating trip run by highly competent staff who are dedicated to their jobs – visit Heysham Power Station!

Solar Energy: Its Journey from the Sun to Your Kettle.

Wednesday 1st May 2019

Professor George King, Manchester University physics department,  explained how solar energy from its birth in the sun through its journey to earth can be harnessed and how we can store this solar energy when the sun isn’t shining.  We had everything from atomic physics to the economics of different forms of renewable energy generation.  A very topical talk considering the current concerns over global warming.  Since the meeting, one of our members, Brian Bennett, has reminded me that a book George King referred to “Sustainable Energy – Without the Hot Air” is available to download from https://www.withouthotair.com/download.html , alternatively Brian, brian@larchgrove.myzen.co.uk , will lend you his copy of the book!

What is Science and How do we Use it?

Wednesday 3rd April 2019 – What is Science and How do we Use it?

In April our own Professor Bill Hale discussed the topic of “what is science” based on his work with government and academic research councils and involvement with many research laboratories.  With a wide range of examples, and a number of the more amusing aspects of his global scientific wanderings, Bill entertained and engaged the audience for a full two hours.

The Great Twin Ponds Project

Wednesday 6th March 2019

Many Lancashire farms have a pond at their field boundaries or in a quiet corner; these are often overgrown and neglected.  Helen Greaves came to tell the Science Group how these lifeless ponds may be restored to health in partnership with local farmers to improve biodiversity and aid wildlife conservation.  Helen is a great enthusiast for this work, this came across strongly in her talk with the result that many in the audience are now much more interested in what can be done in this area.  We expect shortly some “advertising material” which will tell us how we can volunteer and get more involved: so watch this space!

The Mechanics of Walking

Wednesday 6th February 2019

Our speaker on 6th February was Dr. Kris D’Aout, a lecturer in musculo-skeletal biology at the Institute of Ageing and Chronic Disease, Liverpool University.  He studies the mechanics of walking on complex surfaces, the effect of footwear and how gait is affected during healthy ageing as well as in disease.  His talk proved very popular and provided us with a record turn out which meant that unfortunately we ran out of chairs!  Many questions followed the talk and many high heels and sport shoes will be thrown out as a result.  We have spoken to Kris since regarding his need for older but healthy people to take part in his research trials and we might expect an invitation for volunteers to go to his laboratory to take part in these: watch this space.

Christmas Cheer with the Science Group

Wednesday 5th December 2018

We had our traditional Science Group Christmas Cheer event with quizzes and refreshments of Christmas cake, mince pies and a variety of nibbles, biscuits and chocolates.  Proceedings got off to a great start with Patsy’s famous mulled wine which helped everyone’s confidence in doing the quizzes if not their success!  We started with a World Knowledge Quiz which helped everyone decide that they did not know as much about the state of the world as they thought and followed this with a quiz based on the BBC TV show “Impossible” but with science orientated questions.

If you want to try Jack’s World Knowledge Quiz, you can download the Questions, Choices and Answers below:

Some members were interested in more background information on the World Knowledge Quiz and this is given below:

If you would like to have a go at doing Alan’s “Impossible” Quiz, you can download the Questions and Answers below.

The quiz is [very] loosely based on the TV quiz show, “Impossible”, where you have to identify both the ‘correct’ answer (for 3 points) and the ‘impossible’ answer (1 point).

ALICE Seeing Cancer Before it is Cancer

Wednesday 7th Nov 2018

Dr. Michele Siggel-King, a research associate from the Physics Department of Liverpool University explained to us how ALICE, a unique and extremely powerful infrared light source based on a free electron laser facility at the Daresbury Laboratories is being used  in to identify changes within and surrounding cells which indicate  the beginnings of a tumour.  The University of Liverpool has been awarded £3.2 million to develop new diagnostic tests for cervical, oesophageal and prostate cancers which are difficult to detect at an early stage as symptoms only become apparent when the tumours become large.  The talk was a fascinating mixture of high energy physics and biology which emphasised the collaboration between physicists, engineer, analysts and clinicians in government laboratories, universities and hospitals in the North West.

Innovation Agency Meeting on Digital Healthcare

Wednesday 3rd Oct 2018

Digital Healthcare is being introduced into the National Health Service to make it safer, faster and more cost effective.  This  Science Group meeting was hosted by the NHS Innovation Agency, whose job it is to promote innovation and so improve health care in the region.  After some presentation by agency staff explaining their work, five small companies developing these innovative devices explained and demonstrated them and members had the chance to try them out and give  feedback; this is important to the companies involved to ensure that their products meet our needs.   The companies involved were: Continue reading

Reasoning Machines: Could a Machine Think?

Wednesday 5th Sept 2018

We hear a lot about artificial intelligence in the media but with Dr. Louise Dennis’s talk we had the opportunity to listen to, and question someone who really knows; Louise is a researcher in the School of Electrical Engineering, Electronics and Computer Science at Liverpool University who has a background in artificial intelligence, robotics and automated reasoning.  We started from scratch, with a teach-in on Turing’s Universal Machine, followed by machine learning and neural networks to finish with the ethics of artificial intelligence; all deep concepts very well explained by Louise – not surprisingly there were many questions at the end of this fascinating talk.

Summer Break

There was meeting on the 1st August as we took our usual summer break.

Science on the 4th July

Wednesday 4th July 2018

What else did we have on the 4th July, but an Independence Day quiz and a series of 10 minute snippets by some of our members on science related events which happened on that date throughout history: american astronomy, Benjamin Franklin, Antoine Lavoisier, Giovanni Schiaparelli, Madame Curie and the beginnings of modern geology.  A mixture of puzzlement, science and history to entertain and amuse us all.

A Vision of the Future

Wednesday 6th June 2018

A Vision of the Future was the title of the talk given Neil Heyes, a well known local ophthalmic optician.  He told us about the latest developments in ophthalmology and optometry equipment such as Optical Coherence Tomography used to examine our eyes to detect and monitor any problems which may be developing.  Things have moved on apace from basic eye testing and prescription of glasses; the modern ophthalmologist is becoming the first line provider of general eye care and diagnosis.

Climate Records from Small Lakes

Wednesday 2nd May 2018

How has the UK climate changed in the last 15,000 years?  Professor Jim Marshall from Earth, Ocean and Ecological Sciences Department at Liverpool University explained how lake sediments preserve chemical and biological records of environmental change and help us identify abrupt changes in the UK climate since the last ice age which mirror similar events in Greenland and North America.  We had the results of over 30 years of his research work delivered in 60 minutes with a fascinating insight into how research work is actually done.

Martin Mere – Its Origins and Demise

Wednesday 4th April 2018

On the 4th April one of our own members, Professor Bill Hale, told us all about Martin Mere (the lake not the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust  Centre).  The talk covered the science and engineering, over nearly 15,000 years, of how the lake was created in the first place and why it is trying very hard, with a little help, to come back.  The talk was peppered with references to local landmarks and events so the audience could feel that they were really a part of the history of Martin Mere.

The Role of a Pharmacist in a GP’s Practice

Wednesday 7th March 2018

The speaker for our March meeting was Julia Bate who has worked as a hospital and local pharmacist, in pharmaceutical primary care giving prescribing advice to GPs, and has run clinics for chronic disease management and medication reviews.  Her talk covered how a pharmacist can influence prescribing in relation to safety, efficiency and cost effectiveness.  The audience were kept on their toes as Julia asked questions of them in her “interactive” presentation.  Pharmaceutical science is something which impinges on anyone who has prescriptions from their GP and so, not unexpectedly, we had a busy question session after the talk.

Graphene – Unexpected Science in a Pencil Line

Wednesday 7th February 2018

On the 7th February we had an audience of over 100 (a record for a science group meeting) for a lecture by Rory Phillips from the Graphene Institute, University of Manchester, entitled “Graphene – Unexpected Science in a Pencil Line”.  Rory was a last minute stand in for his colleague, Aravind  Vijayaraghavan, who was due to give the talk but was called away at short notice.  Graphene is a new form of carbon discovered in Manchester by two Nobel Prize winners and is generating enormous interest for applications in microelectronics, life sciences and engineering.  Rory gave a fascinating presentation which generated plenty of questions from the audience – particularly on the potential applications of this exciting new material …….. and if you want to know what it has to do with a pencil line you will just have to come to science group meetings!

Christmas Cheer Event

Wednesday 6th December 2017 – Christmas Cheer Event

Puzzles, odd one out quiz, who am I and what am I games, a table full of strange objects to identify – all part of the Christmas Cheer entertainment event, helped along of course by mulled wine, Christmas cake, stollen, mince pies. Lots of fun was had by all.  No wonder we had a record turn out for a December meeting!

The Cleaning up of the Mersey Basin

Wednesday 1st November – The Cleaning up of the Mersey Basin, 1980 – 2005 – David Moore

This span of time covers the period from when the Mersey was regarded as one of the most polluted rivers in Europe with virtually no aquatic life to when there are now over 40 different species of breeding fish resident in the river.

Having worked for North West Water/United Utilities from 1975 to 2010 in the Wastewater Management Section, David had first hand experience and knowledge of the issues involved in this major environmental improvement project and was able to give a very interesting account of the transformation after years of neglect.

The Moore Bridge, crossing the Bridgewater Canal

“Special Earth” – the Scientific case

Wednesday 4th October – “Special Earth” – the Scientific case – Edmund Moynihan

Edmund prepared a version of this talk for Southport Astronomical Society, so we were delighted to receive a preview.

His Special Earth presentation covered:

  • The Solar System
  • Recent discoveries about exo-planets, etc
  • The history of astro-biology
  • Mars as a case study
  • The special characteristics of Earth e.g. plate tectonics
  • A quick survey of Earth’s geological history
  • Earth’s biology e.g. the origin of life
  • The scientific and philosophical conclusions of Earth’s special status e.g. the principle of plenitude is wrong!

As always, Edmund presented his talk with some superb slides and elaborated his points with a wide-ranging and well researched brief. We certainly enjoyed an interesting, informative, and thought-provoking afternoon.

The Digital Revolution – Southport 2030 and Industry 4

Wednesday 6th September – “The Digital Revolution” – Dave Sutton

Dave Sutton is a major contributor to an initiative called “Southport 2030” aimed at helping Southport and Sefton prepare for the future as it is likely to be in 2030. This is the date when the “4th Industrial Revolution” is likely to be widely acknowledged by its effects on society: work, health, education and leisure. The drivers for this will include Artificial Intelligence, Robotics and automation, Big Data Analytics, and the Internet of Things.

 

Coach visit to Lion Salt Works and the Anderton Boat Lift

Wednesday 5th July 2017 – COACH VISIT to the Lion Salt Works and the Anderton Boat Lift

We had a very successful visit to two local heritage attractions in the summer

Martin Mere Wetlands Centre

Wednesday 7th June 2017 – Martin Mere Wetlands Centre – Eileen Seabright

We were privileged to have one of our members, Eileen Seabright, a volunteer educational adviser at Martin Mere, come along to tell us about some of the history of the Mere, and the work of the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust that goes on there. The wetlands are home to many species of ducks, geese, cranes, flamingos and swans from around the world, and provide a stopover for thousands of migrating birds – the arrival of the Icelandic Whooper swans in the autumn is a spectacle not to be missed!

Connected Health Cities

Wednesday 3rd May 2017 – Connected Health Cities – Debbie Parkinson

(Debbie Parkinson is the Patient and Public Involvement Lead for the Innovation Agency North West Coast)

The Connected Health Cities pilot project in this area is being delivered by the Innovation Agency North West Coast, which is the Academic Health Science Network (AHSN) for the area.
It is one of 15 AHSNs set up by NHS England to act as catalysts for the spread of innovation; connecting businesses, NHS, academia, local authorities, third sector and other organisations to improve health and generate economic growth.

Debbie gave an interesting account of some of the work going on to bring novel health-related technology to help improve health outcomes. With examples including a very portable atrial fibrillation detector, and a fitness tracker app for smartphones, Debbie demonstrated the benefits of these developments especially within an ageing population.

The Genetics of Cancer

Wednesday 5th April 2017 – The Genetics of Cancer – Ann Parker

Ann was a leading contributor to the “Understanding Tomorrow’s World” discussion group led by Jack Brettle last year, and particularly the Genome topic and the genetic mechanisms involved in the development of cancer.

Ann’s talk highlighted some of the research and developments in cancer therapies arising from the knowledge gained and improved techniques developed as a result of The Human Genome Project. Ann has provided some useful links that you may wish to explore:

50 Shades of Grey

Wednesday 1st March 2017 – 50 Shades of Grey: The Fascinating World of Radiology – Professor Gill Baynes

Gill Baynes of Lancaster U3A gave a fascinating talk about the difficulties of interpreting medical x-rays and problems in deciding treatments based on medical scans and diagnostics. Interspersed with scans of all types, this was a humorous overview of the various techniques used in Radiology e.g. CT, MRI and Ultrasound and their uses in Medical Screening, Veterinary Radiology, Forensic Radiology and detecting Foreign Bodies.

Britain’s Industrial Decline

Wednesday 1st February 2017 – Britain’s Industrial Decline – Edmund Moynihan

Edmund, like many U3A members, had worked for some failed major British companies e.g. in textiles and polymers. Drawing on his experience with these companies, and his interest in historical developments in science and engineering, Edmund espoused his view of what actually happened and why. His talk was as entertaining as usual, though his views did provoke some lively debate afterwards.

Christmas Cheer

Wednesday, 7th December 2016 – Christmas Cheer 2016

The Science Group finished off a very successful and enjoyable year with mulled wine, mince pies, Christmas cake and stollen, and some lighthearted Science thrown in for good luck!

After a warming glass of Patsy’s extra special mulled wine, Marguerita got the afternoon off to a convivial start with a “Piecing the Puzzle” game in which teams had to match up large jigsaw pieces to complete some chemical formulae. Alan followed that with a couple of simple science quizzes – simple if you know the answers, of course.

Edmund talked about GoldFollowing the festive treats, we met the “Three Kings”. To the theme from “Goldfinger“, up strode Edmund Moynihan to give a short, but fascinating talk on Gold, laced with cultural, historical, industrial and scientific references. Bill Hale followed with an amusingly embroidered talk on Frankincense and Myrrh.

Finally, Marguerita introduced a quick “Make an Origami Christmas Tree” game with the resulting decorative trees being raffled.

Many thanks to Christine for organising the refreshments and to everyone who has helped her during the year.

The Physics behind Global Warming

Wednesday, 2nd November 2016 – The Physics behind Global Warming – John Bradshaw

Dr. John Bradshaw is a Chartered Physicist, a Member of the Institute of Physics and a Member of Mawdesley U3A.  His talk concentrated on the Physics behind Global Warming, rather than the social and political implications.  Using his background as a physicist at Pilkington’s, he explained some of the simple physical ideas of thermal radiation, heat flows and atmospheric absorption which underlie our understanding of the “greenhouse effect”.

The Greening of Birkdale Beach

Wednesday, 5th October 2016 – The Greening of Birkdale Beach – Phil Smith

Phil is an expert on the ecology of the Sefton Coast, and has previously given us a beautifully illustrated talk about dragonflies.

He was due to give a talk about the protected Natterjack Toad, until his computer “had a meltdown” as he put it.

Instead, Phil gave us a wonderful talk about the way the beach at Birkdale has been changing in recent times. It began in 1986 as scattered patches of Common Saltmarsh-grass Puccinellia maritima. These accumulated blown sand forming low hummocks, which grew forming embryo dunes which were then colonised by Sand Couch and later Marram Grass. Behind this dune ridge was initially saltmarsh but the ridge impeded drainage both from the original dune edge and the land drains taking surface water onto the shore from the coastal road and the golf course. This resulted in seasonally flooded lagoons which eventually developed into dune-slack, saltmarsh and swamp.

Illustrated by diagrams and photographs (before and after), Phil showed us what a diverse habitat has now developed and become home to many species of plant and animal life. An excellent substitute for the Natterjack talk! Thanks Phil.

Chemistry, Colour, Paper and Cloth

Wednesday, 7th September 2016 – Chemistry, Colour, Paper and Cloth – Marguerita McBride

It's a colourful world

It’s a colourful world

Our colourful world is amazing and yet it took lots of experimentation through hundreds of years to develop techniques for colouring paper, cloth and, more recently, to have coloured plastics, even coloured bubbles.  Modern techniques and materials have allowed for an explosion of colour. Dyes, pigments, heat transfer processes, clever use of Chemistry and of course, the development of modern synthetic fibres. We have come a long way since mauveine and Queen Victoria.

As you might imagine, Marguerita’s talk was both colourful and fascinating.

Road Racing Bikes

Wednesday, 6th July 2016 – The Development of the Road Racing Bike since 1945 – Bill Soens

Eddie Soens Memorial Road Race, 12th March 2016

Eddie Soens Memorial Road Race, 12th March 2016

Bill really does know a lot about how bikes have changed over the years, being not only a keen rider but having run his own bike shop called Eddie Soens, of Boaler St, Liverpool, where he hand built over 800 bikes over many years.

Bill gave us all a brilliant talk with lots of anecdotes and personal touches that brought to life a subject that could so easily have been rather dry.

He brought along a modern racing bike, some old racing shoes and an ancient rubberised fabric tyre to demonstrate the technical advances in racing bikes and equipment since 1945.

Chemistry is Magic – a 6-week course for beginners

chemistryismagic heading

This is a repeat of the very successful course run in autumn 2012.

Chemistry is Magic is from 09:45 to 11:45am at the Scout & Guide HQ on Wednesdays as follows: April 13th/20th/ 27th / May 4th/ 11th/18th 2016.

If you missed out on Chemistry at school, but would like to know more, this course is for you.  The course is designed for those with no, or very limited, knowledge of chemistry perhaps from school days and those for whom Chemistry is ‘rusty’ and would like to update. Continue reading

Defying Dementia

Wednesday, 1st June 2016 – Defying Dementia: from Compound to Clinic – Dr Penny Foulds

Dr Foulds, an Honorary Researcher at Lancaster University, gave a most interesting and useful talk about their efforts to develop a new treatment for dementia. Continue reading

Lunacy about the Moon

Wednesday, 4th May 2016 – Lunacy about the Moon – Edmund Moynihan

“Ex Luna Scientia” (“Knowledge from the Moon”): this motto from Apollo 13 summarises Edmund’s presentation, in which he examined what we know scientifically about the Moon, and some of the crazy ideas about our only natural satellite.
Besides the basic science of the Moon, Edmund talked about

  • The work of centuries of “lunatic” mathematicians
  • Lunar geology and possible life there!
  • Lunar exploration
  • Crazy projects and weird ideas about the Moon
  • Comparing our Moon with other fascinating moons
  • DIY astronomy

With his usual aplomb and wide-ranging knowledge of his subject matter, Edmund once again captivated the audience.

Internet of Things

Wednesday, 6th April 2016 – the Internet of Things (IoT) – by Alan Nolanscience-20160207-internetofthings

We had hoped to have a speaker from another local U3A to talk about the “Internet of Things” but he had to withdraw. We then hoped to have someone involved in the burgeoning IoT movement in Liverpool to come and speak but didn’t manage to get him either. In the end, Alan gave a presentation, outlining what this new-fangled thing is all about.

In fact, the notion of the Internet of Things is about how everyday objects can communicate with one another (and with us) via the internet to enhance their usefulness. Alan explained this with a range of examples showing the current and potential scope of the IoT, and touched on some of the underlying technology.

Finally, Alan drew attention to some of the major challenges, including privacy concerns, security weaknesses, technology limitations and environmental worries that still need to be addressed.

Radioactivity

Wednesday, 2 March 2016 – Radioactivity (or how to love the atom) – by Jack Brettle

radioactivity-20160207Jack gave a highly informative and entertaining talk about Radioactivity. He explained just what radiation is, the different types of radiation, and where it comes from.  We encounter it in many forms not only in reactors and bombs, but also in medical instruments such as x-ray machines and MRI and PET scanners. We are constantly bombarded with radiation from the sun and outer space, and from radioactive radon gas released by uranium-bearing rocks and soil as the uranium undergoes natural radioactive decay.

Addressing such questions as How dangerous is it? Can you avoid it? and Should I worry about it? Jack put the relative risks associated with different types and sources of radiation into perspective, finally dispelling the myth that eating too many bananas is a radiation health hazard.

The Mersey Chemical Industry

Wednesday, 3 February 2016 – The Development of the Mersey Chemical Industry – Paul Davies

One of our own members, Paul was a senior manager in the Health and Safety Executive. Since retiring he has taken a great interest in the Chemical Industry on Merseyside. He illustrated his talk with nuggets of information that only a keen researcher would have known. Superb!

Paul has a ‘soft-spot’ for the Merseyside Chemical Industry. science-20160124-mersey-chemicalsIt was where he got his first proper job and where he met his wife, Sheila, when they both worked for Unilever at Port Sunlight. In the 1980s whilst working for the HSE, he visited some of the largest chemical works on Merseyside as part of his work to model the effects on the public of large accidental releases of toxic gases like Chlorine. It was then he realised how little he knew of why and how such a large industry came to be on Merseyside.

Science in Art

Wednesday, 6 January 2016 – Science in Art – Patsy Colvin

Although Science and Art seem to be diametrically opposed, with the advent of new techniques science can be used to study paintings and gain insight into the methods used in the past by artists. These techniques can also be used to detect forgeries or show that suspect paintings are genuine.

Patsy Colvin talked about how the use of pigments had changed over the years, and how spectroscopic techniques are now used in the National Gallery to verify a work’s authenticity.

Christmas Cheer

We had our annual Christmas Cheer event on Wednesday, 2 December 2015, and it was a real feast.

The Menu:

The Periodic Table treasure hunt needed quick thinking

  • mulled wine reception
  • a 15 minute talk by Chris Procter on mistletoe
  • a 5-minute quiz by Jack Brettle
  • a Periodic Table Treasure Hunt – with prizes
  • mince pies and cake, stollen, tea and coffee
  • Edmund Moynihan (about the Star of Bethlehem)
  • a “build a marshmallow catapult” game – with even more prizes!
science-20151202-02

Getting into the Christmas spirit

Our reputation for lively and entertaining events seems to be growing, as sixty people attended – a record for any December Science Group meeting.

Mobile phones and sunbeds

 

Wednesday, 4 November 2015Mobile Phones and Sunbeds
Are you worried by what you see written in the press about the danger of radiation from mobile phones, or mobile phone masts?

Are you less worried about the possible dangers from sunbeds?

Those who attended the talk by Professor Peter Cole will have been reassured about one of these, and even more concerned about the other.

Peter Cole is a Professor in the Department of Physics at Liverpool University and current President of the Society for Radiological Protection. Peter gave a stimulating and informative talk, laying to rest many myths about the dangers of radiation. It seems that radiological dangers relating to mobile phones have been vastly exaggerated in the popular press, while the much greater danger from unsupervised or incorrect use of sunbeds has been largely ignored.

Space Weather and the Earth’s Magnetic Shield

Wednesday, 7th October 2015 – Space Weather and the Earth’s Magnetic Shield – Prof. John Shaw

The Earth’s magnetic field shields the Earth from the solar wind and high energy particles that are released from the sun during solar storms. science-magnetosphere-20151122-internetIs the magnetic shield constant or does it change, can it collapse completely? What do we know about the behaviour of the magnetic field in the past? What could happen to civilisation if the field decreases? The answers to these and many other questions can be found in the ancient recordings stored in ceramics and rocks. John Shaw gave us a fascinating account of how the earth’s magnetic field protects us from harmful rays and particles ejected from the surface of the sun, and went on to explain what might happen if the magnetic field disappeared. He rounded off the talk by showing us how to make a DIY megnetometer, mainly using a handful of household objects.

Himalayan Medicine

Wednesday, 2nd September 2015 – Himalayan Medicine – Dr John Winter

Book title: Aiming High - Overland to the Himalayas

Aiming High – Overland to the Himalayas

John Winter is the author of “Aiming High, Overland to the Himalayas” Aiming High – Overland to the Himalayasand a local member.

He travelled to Everest, Annapurna and Indrasan in the nineteen seventies as a newly qualified medic to help with the treatment of climbers suffering from altitude sickness.

With some stunning photographs, and sketch maps of the region, he gave an overview of the risks and medical problems associated with high altitude mountain climbing and trekking in the Himalayas.

Predators in Liverpool Bay

Wednesday, 1st July 2015 – Predators in Liverpool Bay – Mathew Clough

Mathew Clough is Director of the Liverpool Bay Marine Life Trust, and came along to tell us about the seals, cetaceans and sharks on our own doorstep.

Liverpool Bay is often forgotten in regard to its marine life and there is an image of it being polluted. Hard work and a lot of clean up programmes have bought life back to the bay though and Mathew described just how many of the large predators are now found within Liverpool Bay and where we see them.

Solar Eclipses

Wednesday, 3rd June 2015 – Solar Eclipses – Phillip Pendred

Last year Phillip talked to us about ‘Time’, or the measurement of time to be precise, illustrating his talk with some wonderful slides. This year he gave us a very instructive talk about Solar Eclipses – how they come about, why they last for varying lengths of time, why they don’t occur more frequently at any one place on earth and more.

Illustrated with computer simulations of the movement of the moon and earth in relation to the sun, he explained the various astronomical cycles that ancient observers used to predict eclipses, even without our modern understanding of the solar system.

How do we know where we are?

Wednesday, 6th May 2015 – “How do we know where we are?” Prof Matthew Nolan

Matthew (Alan’s nephew) is Chair of Neural Circuits and Computation, University of Edinburgh Centre for Integrative Physiology, whose research is interested in the mechanisms used within the brain to mediate cognitive processes and guide learned behaviours!

Matthew gave an extremely interesting talk about how neurons interconnect and the mechanisms involved. He described some of the research methods his team uses to identify exactly which neurons are involved in the brain’s ability to keep track of location. Unusually, the talk was right at the cutting edge of scientific research yet it was delivered at a level that we could easily follow and enjoy.

Forensic Geology

Wednesday, 1st April 2015 – Forensic Geology – Dr Maggie Williams

Dr Williams, from the School of Environmental Sciences at the University of Liverpool, gave us an insight into the science of Forensic Geology and how it is applied in the investigation of crime scenes.

Lovey Dovey

Wednesday, 4th March 2015 – Lovey Dovey – Graham Cawdell, seagullConsultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist at Whiston Hospital. Graham came along to tell us about breeding, egg laying, incubation, feeding, nurturing and fledging in birds. Many of these things vary greatly from one species to another, and there seems to be an almost limitless number of combinations, each designed to ensure the continuity of that species in its niche environment.

Graham’s talk was both entertaining and informative – and obviously delivered by someone whose interest in birds was kindled at a very early age. A thoroughly enjoyable session.