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
  • Coordinators:
  • Jack Brettle - 01695 422912,   Alan Nolan - 01695 423442
  • Marguerita McBride - 01695 423593,   Patsy Colvin - 01695 722736


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 in his talk “Climate Records from Small Lakes” will explain 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.

Wednesday 6th June 2018

A Vision of the Future is the title of our talk in June when Neil Hayes, a well known local ophthalmic optician, will be telling us about the latest developments, equipment and methods of examining our eyes to detect and monitor any problems which may be developing.

Wednesday 4th July 2018

What else do we have on the U.S. Independence Day but a series of 10 minute talks on the science related events which happened on the 4th July throughout history.  Learn some science, history and perhaps be amused and entertained by these 10 minute snippets.

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

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.

Cumbria Region U3As Energy Conference 2017

On 31 March 2017, Cumbria U3A groups are holding an all-day conference on energy at Rheged near Penrith. This is a follow-up to one held in 2015 attended by 128 people from all over the North West.

The emphasis in the 2017 conference will be complementary to the first meeting. Talks are planned on

  • how the UK will meet its low carbon future in the light of last year’s Paris agreement
  • glacier melting and the effects of rising sea levels
  • planning the electricity grid to meet the changing pattern of energy generation
  • the position and impacts of fracking
  • community energy projects, and
  • the changing ways in which we will use energy in the future.

A star studded line-up of expert speakers from universities and local companies has been assembled and the final speaker will be Lord Andrew Stunell, under-secretary of State for the Dept. of Communities and Local Government in the last coalition government. This conference will be a stimulating and thought provoking experience equal to the 2015 conference.

You can see the Full Programme here.

And download a Booking Form here.

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 100,000 Genomes Project

Thursday, 6th October 2016 – Special Monthly Talk at 10.30 am in Christ Church

Click on the Poster for details.

Click on the Poster for details.

Vivienne Parry (journalist and former Tomorrow’s World TV presenter) is Head of Engagement at Genomics England and a seasoned presenter.

The project will sequence 100,000 genomes from around 70,000 people. Participants are NHS patients with a rare disease, plus their families, and patients with cancer. The aim is to create a new genomic medicine service for the NHS – transforming the way people are cared for. Patients may be offered a diagnosis where there wasn’t one before. In time, there is the potential of new and more effective treatments.

Will a very good turnout in the church, she explained the way the project was organised, the safeguards built in, and how the results might lead to personalised medicine.

For more information about the project see the Genomics England website.

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.

Cumbria Energy Day 2017

Preliminary notice for the 2nd Cumbria Region Energy Conference:

Second Cumbria Region Energy Conference

Following the very successful Cumbria Region Energy Conference at Rheged in October 2015 many of those attending proposed that a follow-up conference should be held. A small group, led by Maggie Potts from the Skiddaw U3A, has begun making plans and has set a date of Friday 31 March 2017, again at Rheged. Provisional ideas for the programme take account of the many suggestions made by those attending the last meeting. A major aim is to provide an update on developments since then and how these impact at a national, local and personal level. Further details will be distributed towards the end of the year.
You can find out more about the first conference by going to the Welcome page of the Skiddaw Group’s website at and clicking the relevant links on the right of the page.