Autumn 2018/Winter 2019 season
Maths, friend or foe?
For the autumn and winter of 2018/19, our programme of talks was entirely given over to one area whose pervasive influence on all our lives has lately become ever more apparent: mathematics.
Over this season, the Cornwall Branch of the British Science Association hostedyou five interconnected discussions in the Cafe Sci format on the growing role of algorithms, big data and mathematics in our lives.
From Tariq Rashid on algorithms in art to Stuart Townley on maths in everyday life, from big questions over the very nature and possibility of mathematics in a world that evolution has brought about; and Toby Lowe on the ambivalent impact of endless targets on the culture of public services; and finally, a round table discussion with questions over the safety in use of personal data*.
January 23rd 2019, 7.45pm
Falmouth Polytechnic in the Library
"What counts is what's counted"
Exploring the impact of a culture of the 3 Ms - markets, management and measurement - on education and the welfare state.
With Toby Lowe, of Northumbria University, asking: is there an alternative?
In the past 30 years, there has been a quiet revolution in the 'delivery' (sic) of public services and public goods, from schools and universities to health and social care, housing and homelessness, the police and prisons, buses and railways.
Cost centres and contracts, internal markets, commissioning, targets and outcomes and other business models - we now all talk a language never heard at the origins of the welfare state, or the university expansion of the 60s and later, when it was safely assumed that professionals could be trusted to do their best for their charges, whether students, patients, clients, tenant - now all 'customers' - and swathes of accounting and tiers of management were not needed.
For good or ill, what happened? And why was no-one asked to vote for this?.
For some very useful - and quite accessible - background reading, on the fundamentalist economic philosophy behind the approach known as 'New Public management', see: "Meet the economist behind the one per cent's stealth takeover of America", published by the Institute for New Economic Thinking: HERE
But for the growing alternative, see: "A Whole New World: Funding and Commissioning in Complexity" ( Collaborate and Newcastle University Research study) : HERE
December 5th, 7.45
Falmouth Polytechnic, in the Library room ( by the bar)
How is mathematics even possible?
This discussion wass jointly hosted by the Philosopher's Hat/ and the BSAC, as a Cafe Sci event on the 'conundrum' of science and maths. That is to say, evolutionary psychology and neuroscience both - at least in their conventional interpretations - suggest that the human mind is highly unreliable, being 'built' for a different purpose than pure thought.
And yet somehow we have been able to discern - or is it to create? - a system of pure thought that seems to deliver up pure and elaborate truths. Not only that, but these truths turn out to reflect, to an extraordinary degree, the physics of the world outside our brains.
What's going on? In a world of causal explanations, can a thought that is 'caused' be nevertheless true? Can a thought be 'caused' by its own status as truth? How is this possible? And if this is possible, what isn't?
For an introduction, members of the Philosophers' Hat group join the Cafe Sci - not claiming to be experts, but to start the discussion off, as to what it means; and why it matters. But we also suggested our audience does some homework, with some at least of two videos, and a recent radio programme.
In the first, although an hour long, the philosopher Ian Hacking raises the issues in how the human mind can have the capacity to develop maths at all, in a lecture on 'The Mathematical Animal', which is HERE.
In the second, mathematician and presenter Hannah Fry queries the nature of maths itself, as she asks if maths was discovered or invented by humans. The first of her recent TV programmes is here: HERE
In the third, The Invention of Numbers, Bridget Kendall explores the history of numbers and counting with anthropological linguist Caleb Everett from the University of Miami, writer and historian of mathematics Tomoko Kitagawa, and Emeritus Professor of Mathematics at Warwick University in the UK, Ian Stewart. This is a podcast download from the World Service's 'The Forum' series, HERE.
(* Ian Hacking is an analytic philosopher of science and mathematics, and winner of the Holberg International Memorial Prize - which has been described as the Nobel prize for the humanities. Hacking's topic touches on many of the otherwise seemingly disparate subjects that the Philosopher's Hat group has/have discussed over the past 6 months.)
November 7th, 7.45pm
in the Library Room at the Falmouth Poly
'Real World Maths',
with Stuart Townley
Professor of Applied Mathematics, Exeter University
Stuart Townley shows how you can get from pen & paper calculations to scientific computing, to show how high level Maths can be used for coding and to explore issues such as: how do diseases spread, what is 'high risk' flooding, how does Amazon minimize its delivery costs?
NB: This talk was also an introduction, one of a series of free short courses, held on the Penryn campus over 2019, which are designed to give those who haven't studied at degree level a taste of what it can be like.
For more on Stuart's work, see:
Research - http://emps.exeter.ac.uk/mathematics/research/mathematics-environment/
Webpage - http://www.exeter.ac.uk/esi/people/townley/
October 17th, 7.45pm
in the Library Room at the Falmouth Poly
Fractals - Nature's Beauty Hidden in Simple Mathematics
with Tariq Rashid
Nature has some of the most beautiful forms and intricate patterns - from the intriguing self-similarity of the humble cauliflower, to the impressive branching of lightning, from the gentle fluffiness of clouds to the architecture of the human vascular system. It might surprise you that mathematics, even simple school mathematics, contains within it similar intricate forms, from regular self-similar to the hauntingly beautiful Mandelbrot forms.
In this talk, take a tour of these patterns, and see how even simple mathematics can craft intricate and even organic infinitely-detailed forms.
Tariq Rashid runs the Algorithmic Art group, has established a children's code club (coderdojo) and has just launched Data Science Cornwall (https://www.meetup.com/datasciencecornwall/) for professionals and individuals interested in machine learning, data mining and artificial intelligence.
Spring to Summer 2018
July 11th, 7.45pm at the Falmouth Polytechnic
Rock, Paper, Scissors –
When microbes play games
with Mariann Landsberger, researcher at University of Exeter,
"Rock, Paper, Scissors – When microbes play games” is a graphic novel telling the tale of the toils and hardships of a cunning little virus triumphing over its enemies with the help of a valiant knight.
Mariann Landsberger knows many tales of viruses of ba cteria struggling with bacteria, and has teamed up with Andrei Serpe, recent Fine Art graduate from Falmouth University, to paint their pictures and tell of their adventures.
This talk features the great adventures of bacteriophages (viruses that infect bacteria), the famous CRISPR-Cas scissors, and anti-CRISPRs, as well as an account of this interdisciplinary collaboration; the process from inception, writing a storyline to printing the graphic novel.
For more information, please visit: https://rpsnovel.tumblr.com/
Prestige and dominance in social groups
With Dr Charlotte Brand, Post Doctoral Research Associate, Human Behaviour and Cultural Evolution.
'Prestige' and 'dominance' are thought to be two distinct routes to gaining status and influence in human social hierarchies. Our research is concerned with how people come to be perceived as 'prestigious' or 'dominant' by other members of their group.
Research into social hierarchies, including who people choose to learn from, helps us to better understand how information is transmitted through communities, who people trust, who they believe, and what information they pay attention to. This can have implications for people's political decisions, health and lifestyle choices, parenting decisions, and many other aspects of our modern lives in which we are swamped with constantly changing information.
We ran an experiment with 150 people from all over Cornwall, in teams of 5. The teams took part in a 'pub quiz' style activity, and rated various members of their team and community on scales of prestige and dominance.
We will discuss the results of this experiment, including what it can tell us about who people pay attention to, when they pay attention to them, and why.
NB: all 150 members of the study groups are invited; plus any others with a interest in prestige and dominance, and in cultural evolution theories.
March 21st, 7.45pm in the Library at the Poly
Earth, water, fire and air
To celebrate the opening of the community kilns at the Polytechnic, we have a talk on the science of pottery, with Simon Thomson and Karl Owen (plus one mystery guest....) .
Cornwall is one of the richest and most diverse geological areas in the world and has all the ingredients for creative work in Pottery / Ceramics. We have:
EARTH: Cornwall has many clay and mineral deposits to make functional and none functional work with a rich variety of decoration and glazes.
WATER: Clay has differing water contents and the processes to remove this are many and varied due to the types of clay and the inclusions they may contain.
AIR: Air not only helps dry clay but its oxygen component can be used or excluded to alter the firing process and qualities of finish. It can also be used to make music!!
FIRE: There are many fuels that burn, and types of kiln from Pit, Sawdust, Coal, Wood, Oil, gas, straw, to name but a few that burn up the oxygen to produce a reduction atmosphere.
NB: this event was shot on video; and one day we hope to get it edited, as a lasting record of the development of the Poly, and Falmouth as a makers' community..
February 21st. 7.45 pm, in the new Library at the Poly
The New Hadron Collider for Ideas
Designed to bring out and question the subtler connections between things - any things - and developed originally at the Nottingham Cafe Scientifique during a period when the better known collider at Cern was down for repairs after a rogue baguette incident, the HC(i) takes two apparently un-related ideas, accelerates them round in a circle in opposite directions, until the gradually entangle and 'collide'.
Rumours and fears that such collisions might ultimately reveal or unleash the so-called 'God article' have been unsubstantiated - so far. But this has never before been attempted here in Cornwall, where, between the Radon and the Celtic Saints, all things are possible.
NB: for a video with a brief introduction to the new Hadron Collider for Ideas, see HERE
More Laughter, Less Worry
Insights into the science behind laughter.
With Katie Rose White, Laughter Facilitator and founder of The Best Medicine.
Laughter is a strange thing; it bursts out of us involuntarily, makes our sides ache and our undergarments damp, but ever wondered why we do it? Katie unpicks this universal expression and explore how laughter might have the capacity to improve our emotional resilience.
(For more on Katie's work, click HERE)
18th October 2017
Shelterbox: mapping vulnerability
Malcolm Shead of Shelterbox and colleagues talking on the collection and analysis of data in order to understand operational successes and failures, to measure the impact of their disaster relief work, and prepare for emergencies.
This talk, covering how they use different sources of data in the needs assessment phase of their response, drew from approaches more commonly associated with the social sciences, and Malcolm discusses the challenges around quantifying qualities and multi-faceted complexities.
NB: this talk was video'd, albeit roughly; and we hope some day to be able to make this available to watch again.
September 28th (NB: a THURSDAY)
Strange New Worlds:
Planets beyond the Solar System.
with Elisabeth Mathews, Exeter University Department of Physics and Astronomy
Astronomers today believe that more than half of the stars in the sky have planets orbiting around them. Some of these are like our own Earth, but some are much weirder; there are planets 10 times the mass of Jupiter, planets so hot that it rains glass, and planets with three stars.
In this journey through the galaxy, we explore the weird and wonderful world of planetary systems, and discover how we find and learn about planets far, far away.Elisabeth Mathews is a PhD student at the University of Exeter. She specialises in the direct imaging technique for finding and characterising young exoplanets. This research allows us to understand the way that planets interact with debris discs like the asteroid belt, and how planetary systems like our own form.
NB: this talk was video'd, albeit roughly; and we hope some day to be able to make this available to watch again.
More on Elisabeth herself HERE
NB: This was the first of what we hope may become on-going collaborations between the Institute of Physics, Falmouth Polytechnic, BSA[C] and the Cafe Sci.
September 20th 2017, 7.45pm sharp, in the Main Gallery
Lithium mining in Cornwall
with Jeremy Wrathall CEO - Cornish Lithium Ltd
1. What is lithium and what makes it so important to the electric car and battery storage revolution?
2. A brief update on electric cars and battery storage. Why is this revolution happening so fast? What other materials are needed to sustain the battery revolution?
3. Where and how is lithium currently extracted? What new extraction technologies are on the horizon? What is the environmental impact of lithium extraction using current methods?
4. Lithium in Cornwall - the history and the geology. How modern extraction methods make a lithium industry in Cornwall possible.
5. Cornish Lithium - The story so far.
NB: this talk was recorded with some video; we intend to edit this to make it more widely available.
June 21st, 7.30 for 7.45 at the Poly
Can we make history a scientific discipline?
with Dr. Thomas Currie
Senior Lecturer in Cultural Evolution & Program Director, BA/BSc Human Sciences
The discipline of History tends to employ narrative descriptions of particular periods and places in the past. Historians, and many in the related disciplines of Anthropology and Archaeology, generally spend a long time gaining in-depth knowledge about their particular specialization, and can be skeptical, if not down-right hostile, to attempts to generalize or extend their findings beyond their own narrow scope of study.
Here Tom argues that the same kind of comparative techniques routinely used in the natural sciences can be employed to tackle questions relating to human history. To do this we need a suitable theoretical framework and approaches to systematically collecting data that have previously been common.
In this talk Tom explains new research that shows how evolutionary theory & big data can help build bridges between different disciplines and uncover the patterns of human history and the processes that have shaped the world we live in today."
See more on Tom's work HERE
May 24th 2017
A medieval man of science?
The extraordinary life and times of John of Trevisa: possibly Cornwall's most influential forgotten intellectual.
With Robin Johnson (the Cafe Sci organiser)
This account of the extra-ordinary life and times of John of Trevisa, one of the most intriguing figures in Cornwall's history, is almost a detective story. Sifting fact, fiction and faction, Robin outlines what is known, and what can only be glimpsed, of the life of the third most frequently cited source for the first evidence of a word, and the founder of much of the the vocabulary of science, in English.
Starting from this one undisputed fact, Robin will be exploring the evidence that Trevisa was one of the team first translating the Bible into English, with John Wycliffe; and what this may tell us about dispute and dissent, in a time two centuries before the scientific revolution.
NB: this talk will soon also be available in podcast and video format
April 19th 2017
Energy Democracy – how can we achieve it?
And why is it a good idea for Falmouth?
Currently 98% of what we spend on energy leaves Cornwall: and 15% of households live in fuel poverty. Yet we could be generating, owning and using our energy locally to reduce bills. Renewables present the perfect opportunity for citizens to own and manage the sources of their energy and revitalise their communities. In Germany the Energiewende, or ‘energy transformation’ has been driven by citizens for citizens and is official energy policy. In the UK we have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to democratise our energy system before the big utilities snap it up.
What does it mean to democratise our energy, why should we be pushing for it and what can we learn from the Germans? Members of the Fal Energy Partnership (www.falenergy.co.uk) were discussing these questions and presenting their plans for our area. Energy Democracy – it’s now or never!
NB: this talk will soon also be available in podcast and video format
Our Herring Gulls: Nuisance or Necessity? A natural history of herring gulls in Britain.
with Anne Osman, on 15th March, 7.45pm, at the Poly.
This talk was designed to give the facts of the natural history of British herring gulls, from the beginning of the Industrial Revolution to the present day. Their role as villain or hero was explored and explained through careful scientific research supplemented by nearly forty years of personal observation.
February 6th 2017
Are humans still evolving?
with Adam Fitton, Ian Skicko, Alice Williams, and Paula Majamaki
February sees the anniversary of Darwin's birth; and a group of post-grad students of Penryn campus would like to propose an annual Darwin-related Cafe Sci talk. We started off this brand new tradition with a round table/panel discussion, three Exeter PhD students, Adam Fitton, Ian Skicko and Alice Williams, supported by Paula Marjamaki, on the question of cultural/human evolution.
Beginning here with a short introduction to Darwin's evolution by natural selection, and how that drives change in the natural environment, the idea is for these evenings to be more of a group effort, followed by arguments for and against the title question, of whether humans as a species are still evolving. The introductory talks from a panel should hopefully provide us all with some background, and then stimulate further questions/arguments from the audience.
January 11th, 2017
Life, the universe and everything: self-organising structures and the new thermodynamics
with James Clewett
Physics is replete with modified theories of gravity, alternative explanations for the underpinnings of quantum mechanics and similar. In general physicists enjoy exploring new ideas and determining the consequences of tweaking the accepted model. It's fun and it might even win you a Nobel prize. In stark contrast is the untouchable second law of thermodynamics. The primary observation of the second law is that dynamical systems become increasingly disordered. Entropy increases. It follows that the universe should be tending towards a cold and boring homogeneity.
Therefore it should be surprising that matter should form from energy at all; or that a cloud of hydrogen and trace elements should come together to form well-known ordered structures, for example a star, a solar system, water, amino-acids and complex life forms such as scientists. It is one of the great challenges facing 21st century physics is to write down a new thermodynamics that allows for our very existence. In this talk, James will briefly present his own recent breakthrough research self organising patterns in non-equilibrium systems; and some of best of the rest.
NB: November and December's talks both moved to 2017
October 8th 2016
Introducing: BSA Cornwall
with the BSA core team
October's Cafe Sci is a bit different - even by Cafe Sci standards! With the creation a British Science Association Cornwall branch, we are teaming up with the rest of BSA for the open day at the Poly on 8th October. We will have a small stand in the bar area where interested folk can talk with BSA members about upcoming scientific events at The Poly (such as Cafe Sci, the Science of Christmas and future BSA Cornwall events) and engage visitors with science through the medium of cake, giving them a flavour of what they might experience at The Poly in future.
Yes, that's right: cake. We're aiming to have a series of geo-cakes, with layers that represent the structure of the Earth and ocean, (layers will be coloured to indicate the crust, mantle and core for the Earth and seafloor, deep sea and sea surface for the ocean). These can be 'sampled' using clear plastic straws to get a core of cake and take a closer look at how the Earth/ocean is made up. Sarah Mynott, Exeter PhD student and BSA Cornwall secretary, says: "This is a much simpler version of how geologists would take cores of ice caps, lake sediments and suchlike, but should be a tasty and engaging way to explore science on the day......"
21st September 2016
Coming to your senses: sensory development and engagement
with Joanna Grace
Many people experience the world in a primarily sensory way, for example people with profound and multiple learning disabilities, babies in their first months of life and people with later stage dementia.The experiences we respond to first in life are the first to form neural pathways in the brain, and as such are also the most rehearsed throughout life and so they are often the ones that most robustly persist into old age.
Sensory engagement specialist Jo Grace shares her insight into what makes a great sensory experience. Through interactive challenges Jo will enable you to discover more about the sensory world and how you can enter into communications within it.
Arms and the Fal
Charles Johns, of Cornwall Archaeological Unit,
Charles will be talking on the historic defences of Pendennis Headland and the wider Carrick Roads, and their development from the Tudor period, that turned the Fal from one of the unsafest places in the country, to one of the safest harbours for a fleet. And the rest is history....’.
16th March, Falmouth Polytechnic
with Sasha Dall, John Swaddle, Tom Currie, Lucy Hawkes, and Regan Early
Love Science! is a free public event celebrating British Science Week 2016. The University of Exeter will be teaming up with The Royal Cornwall Polytechnic Society and Falmouth Cafe Scientifique for an evening of learning and laughter, in Game Show format.
Listen to our panel of scientists describe the experiences, experiments, discoveries, and (mis)adventures that made them fall in love with science. After hearing all the tales and getting the chance to question our experts closely, the audience will then decide which of our boffins was the most convincing, and crown him/her the champion of science.
And this event even has its own Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/events/491656277678806/
24th February, the Poly
Positive money & "People's Quantitative Easing'
an introduction to money and banking, outlining the Positive Money campaign, with
Frank Van Lerven, Positive Money Headquarters
You can check out Frank's profile and research interests here
Money, it seems, is never out of the news; but never more so than since the global financial crisis of 2008, which had many people questioning what we had thought were sound foundations in real value - and which many say is not yet over.. After the banking crash seemingly wiped out all credit, with 'austerity' now ruling all the coffers, house prices going fractal, and Jeremy Corbyn's suggestion of 'people's quantitative easing" suggested as a better way to reflate a flagging economy, it's time to ask: what is money anyway?
This talk will take another more experimental format, with the speaker joining us remotely, via a live streaming internet link, for our usual short presentation, followed by extended Q&A. In principle, you can also watch and/or join this conversation from the comfort of your own home, with a standard laptop or smart phone. However, for tonight's talk, the experiment is to use this technology in a group situation, to see how far we can get a different quakity of discussion in a group.
The software we will be using is called Blab. Try Googling for it. Or check out our new page on this new technology, for some handy hints on quick and easy ways to sign up.
3rd February, 7.45 pm, The Poly
The Day in the Life of a Media Meteorologist
Wendy Wheatley, BBC Radio Cornwall
Wendy Wheatley, weather forecaster with Radio Cornwall, will be talking on weather, and the science and art of predicting weather.Beginning with extreme weather i.e. the need for weather forecasts, she will then take us through a normal day at BBC Radio Cornwall where she prepares and delivers forecasts for both Radio Cornwall and Devon. She will talk about the presenters she works with, the forecasts she produces and the added extras such as weather watchers, tide times, the space station and the National Coast watch institute.
Wendy will also tell us how forecasts are put together and some useful websites that we can use in case we miss the station’s forecasts. The talk will also include information about the BBC on the road, as members of the station visit different parts of the county reporting on the various festivals and events.
She will finish with giving us a roundup of her work with the Royal Naval Reserve.
Please note; the talk was free, but there was a collection for the Radio Cornwall appeal, which raised £50.....
Wednesday 13th Jan, 2016
a group interview with Ray Middleton via Blab-im
Over the past few months, with various colleagues, we have been exploring the remarkable potential in some new, free, software that allows live streaming - broadcasting - from any venue ( even from a smart phone). So anyone who cares to join us on Wednesday, 13th, 7.45 pm, for an experiment in community engagement in science, using this new technology (it was only launched in September 2015, and is still technically in the 'beta testing' era), will be welcome.
I will be conducting an interview, live and 'on air' with Ray Middleton, a colleague in Northumberland, to discuss recovery from trauma and mental illness through Open Dialogue. We will be looking specifically at the work of Mikhael Bakhtin; and how this approach is being adopted in mental health services in many countries, including Ray's own work as a system broker for those with 'complex needs', as part of the Fulfilling Lives programme (funded by the Big Lottery).
NB: this discussion is complete; and recorded. You can find and watch a recording here
4th May 2016
Shedding Light on the world
James Ryan, Exeter University
7.45, in the bar at the Poly
This talk aims to provide an overview of the life and work of the Victorian chemist, geologist, photographer, folklorist and popular science writer Robert Hunt (1807-1887). From relatively humble beginnings and early years spent in Devonport, London and Penzance, Robert Hunt forged important connections to gentlemanly circles of science in mid-nineteenth century Britain. He established a significant reputation as an experimenter, an organizer, a record keeper, a writer and lecturer on various aspects of science, particularly matters of light, photography, and practical geology, and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1854.
Between 1840-45 Hunt worked as Secretary of the Royal Cornwall Polytechnic Society and from his home in Falmouth undertook a number of experiments in early photography and published the first English history and manual of photography (1841).
The boundaries between various fields of science (such as geology, natural history and chemistry) and between broader domains of ‘science’ and ‘literature’ at this time were flexible and fluid. Hunt’s extensive writings - which ranged from articles on photography and mineral statistics to books of poetry and fiction - therefore needs to be better appreciated within complex and evolving fields of knowledge, technologies of communication and networks of authors, publishers and audiences. His varied activities might appear eccentrically diverse, even incompatible, to audiences today. However, for Hunt and many of his readers, these domains were not antagonistic or contradictory; they were part and parcel of a kind of romantic science; an active, intimate and poetic search for truth.
!st June 2016
Quo Vadis? (Not a talk, but a members' conversation.)
7.45, in the bar at the Poly
The event that we had hoped to set up for this evening, using the live streaming technology that we used for the Positive Money talk, is not going to be ready in time; and it's best not to rush. So instead, I suggest that we have a conversation, a discussion with any who choose to participate, on where the Cafe Sci is at, after exactly three years now of running in Falmouth again.
Is the range of talks right? Should we continue to experiment with new technology? In a world of MOOCs, TED talks, and vast amounts of on-line teaching and inspirational material, what do we come together of an evening for? And more interesting still, perhaps, where does the Cafe Sci sit, at a time when the Poly is about to get a new Director, and there was talk at the Poly AGM about the possibility of a wider role or remit, for what is, after all, formally the Royal Cornwall Polytechnic Society?
If you have thoughts on any of these issues, you could just come along and have a chat over a beer, or a glass of wine.
8th August, 2016
Sustainable development: a positive vision for Falmouth
with Prof Mike Jenks.
Amidst widespread and growing concern over how to balance the benefits of being a university town with the additional pressure on housing that this brings, we invited Mike Jenks, emeritus Professor of Architecture, to give a talk on his work internationally on sustainable urban development, and lead a discussion on how a positive vision of planned development can work. Mike is Chairman of Falmouth Civic Society, and is leading the Spatial Strategy and Housing working group of the Falmouth Neighbourhood Plan; also the President of the Polytechnic itself.
The reason for the rushed timing was that the consultations on the Falmouth Neighbourhood Plan - which is the sole democratic structure in UK planning law that gives residents a say, in the face of developer pressures - needs to be finalised in September. This talk would therefore treat our town as a case study of how, in the light of research on the subject, positive development should be done.
4th December, 2016
This changes everything: a film, based on Naomi Klein's new book
Naomi Klein, author of No Logo, has emerged as one of the most powerful new voices confronting the damage we humans, and the economic system we have created, are doing to ourselves and our environment. This powerful campaigning film is explicitly written and produced to encourage debate within local communities (and there are other showings of the film, on licence, in a number of venues across Cornwall).
NB: The principal intention is showing a campaigning film was to stimulate the discussion after the film
4th November, 2016
The UN Year of Light
2015 has been the UN Year of Light. In this talk, Gareth Parry (of Redruth Cafe Sci, and Porthcurnow museum) will be discussing our new understanding of light is transforming the technologies all around us.
NB: Other listening on uses of light in science and engineering, thoroughly recommended:
A New Ear of the Universe: BBC World Service
7th October, 2016
Cultured Creatures: the Science of Animal Culture
As humans, culture separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom. Or does it? Recent research shows that animals from bees to birds and meerkats to monkeys learn from one another, allowing groups to form distinctive cultural traditions. Dr Alex Thornton will discuss the science of animal culture and what it can teach us about ourselves.
Alex is BBSRC David Phillips Research Fellow, Centre for Ecology and Conservation, Exeter.Alex is a lecturer and researcher at the University of Exeter’s Penryn Campus. His research on Kalahari meerkats, Cornish jackdaws and humans seeks to uncover the secrets of how intelligence and culture evolve.For more on his work, follow @Cornishjackdaws on twitter
or visit: www.wildcognitionresearch.com
July 1st 2016
Martin Graff, Reader and Head of Psychology, University of South Wales,
The Function of Nonverbal Behaviour in Human Courtship
This session will examine the nonverbal communication which is displayed in human romantic relationship initiation.
Unless we are very bold, we don't just walk up to someone and ask for sex. Rather, most of us engage in well established scripts for this purpose, which in psychology means an idea of what we think or expect should happen in a certain situation. These scripts are often nonverbal displays where we use for example our eyes, faces, body orientation and gestures.
This talk will also provide some insights into the psychology behind the types of ‘opening lines’ people use in attempted relationship initiation, and further will examine the function of self disclosure and touch in sexual flirtation.
The session concludes by looking at differences between males and females in what they seek in a romantic partner.
For more on Martin Graff: http://www.martingraff.com/index_files/Talks.htm.
Blake and Newton - Contrary Dialogues
Jason Whittaker, Falmouth University, at Falmouth Art Gallery,
William Blake's hostility to Isaac Newton is well-known, and yet his most famous image of the scientist is also an ambiguous homage to Newton. Using that image, this talk will explore how Newton's materialism and Blake's visionary experience operate as part of a dialogue of contrary experiences without which, Blake once wrote, true progression is impossible.
Prof Jason Whittaker is Professor of Blake Studies and lectures on BA(Hons) Journalism and BA(Hons) English with Creative Writing.
Throughout October we ran, in conjuction with the Poly on Tuesday afternoons, our experimental MOOC-tracking discussion group (Think: internet book club):
SHIPWRECKS AND SUBMERGED WORLDS
"Learn how maritime archaeology investigates our changing relationship with the world’s oceans and seas, from 2.5 million years ago until today. "
The Open University is hosting a series of short, free, on-line courses on a range of subjects, including one run by Southampton University's Centre for Maritime Archaeology on Shipwrecks and Submerged Worlds - https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/shipwrecks These courses are done in your own time and at your own convenience, but Falmouth Café Scientifique also convened a weekly session in The Poly where people can get together to discuss the course and exchange ideas.
This was followed by a visit to the Viking ship replica being built at Ponmsharden, and a discussion with Dr Lucy Blue, in advance of her talk at the Maritime Museum.
Wednesday, 29th January,
Dir: Lucien Castaing-Taylor, Vénéna Paravel – US/FRANCE/UK - 87mins (U)
One of the most highly anticipated films of the year, Leviathan is a thrilling, immersive documentary that takes you deep inside the dangerous world of commercial fishing. Set aboard a hulking fishing vessel as it navigates the treacherous waves off the New England coast - the very waters that once inspired Moby Dick – the film captures the harsh, unforgiving world of the fishermen in starkly haunting, yet beautiful detail.
Employing an arsenal of cameras that pass freely from film crew to ship crew, and swoop from below sea level to astonishing bird’s-eye views, Leviathan is unlike anything you have ever seen; a purely visceral, cinematic experience.
This was a joint event between the Cafe Sci and the Falmouth Polytechnic; a film followed by a discussion. The Poly shows the film, in the cinema, at 7.30 ; and we facilitate an informal discussion, in the bar afterwards, broadly on the lines of the Cafe Sci Q&A session..
NB: to see the film and join the discussion, you must purchase a ticket for the film, via the Falmouth Poly Box Office
Date not recorded
A beginner's guide to Quantum Mechanics
with Gareth Parry
Thursday, 29th May, at
the Tynemill Deli (events square, right by the Maritime Museuam)
The discussion will centre on the perennial question::
What makes us human?
The current perspective within science focusses on a blend of neuroscience and ethology - the comparative study of humanity via the study of other animals, most especially our closest relatives the primates. For essential background, watch the video of Robert Sapolsky's Stanford University address to students, which you will find here.
NB: as a special appetizer, we will have an exclusive (un-published) update, from Sapolsky himself, of what happened next to the troupe of baboons that he describes there.......
Simon Rix on
EXOPLANETS: are we alone?
Watersports Centre, Arwenack Street)
This talk will cover some of the difficulties faced by scientists looking for planets around stars other than our own Sun, as well as some of the successes. There will be a bit of science history too, but mostly the talk will cover a particular space mission that has led to some very interesting findings, which should help us with one of the biggest questions in science - are we alone?
Simon Rix was recently elected as a Cornwall Councillor but many years ago he got a degree in Physics and Astronomy from University College London.
Roger Martin of Population Matters
Stable Populations: an Essential Condition for Sustainability
"It's no use reducing your footprint if you keep increasing the number of feet".
"Three important facts, dictated by the bio-physics of our finite planet, are widely ignored:
a) Total human impact on the planet equals, by definition, average impact per person multiplied by number of people; so each additional person increases the rate of ecological degradation;
b) Natural resources per person are, by definition, total natural resources divided by number of people; so each additional person increases resource depletion and reduces everyone else’s ‘share’;
c) On a finite planet, population growth will certainly end at some point, either sooner by fewer births or later by more deaths; ie through contraception or by the ‘natural’ controls applying to every other species - famine, disease and predation/war.
This is all obvious. So in persistently ignoring human numbers, the environmental and developmental movements are telling a 'silent lie', implying that they can make the world sustainable and prosperous, regardless of how many people it has to support, when they all know it's not true. No rich country, the worst offenders, has a population stabilisation policy; and aid for family planning and women's empowerment remains derisory. I'll discuss the reasons for this 'mad taboo', and what we can do about it."
Norman Wijker (Team Invictus), on the design of racing catamarans:
"What's a shackle?" - the story of Team Invictus and the 2013 little A*****a's Cup,
8 pm at the Marine Watersports Centre.
In 2002, the “little America’s Cup” (as it had become known) was dead. C class catamaran racing had ceased since 1996, when the USA took the trophy off the Aussies. In 2004 it came back from the dead when the UK’s Team Invictus challenged the Americans and the event has gone from strength to strength ever since, culminating this year in the largest gathering ever for the class in a small village just outside Falmouth. (Mylor) This event was a huge success despite some typically Cornish weather, and Carrick Roads saw some amazing craft whizzing around, sometimes flying just above the water at 3 times the speed of the wind. These boats are high tech, lighter than their crews and were the inspiration for the amazing Americas Cup catamarans that Ben Ainslie recently sailed to victory on in San Fransisco.
This illustrated talk will go into the history of the C class catamaran, its influence on other classes and the technologies used over the years. Its sailing Jim, but not as we know it!
4th December .
Lorna Harries (Exeter Uni),
"Death by Rubber Duck",
7.30pm at the cafe upstairs at the Polytechnic, Church Street
Our population is exposed to many chemicals in everyday modern life. Perfluoro-octanoic acid (PFOA) and bisphenol A are two industrially-important chemicals to which we all have high levels of exposure. PFOA is found in clothing and food packaging, and BPA is used in huge quantities to make plastics. Both chemicals are man-made and extremely stable. They do not break down, but build up in the environment, in wildlife and in the human body in high concentrations.
BPA resembles oestrogen, whereas PFOA resembles fatty acids; both important molecules in human biology. Studies have shown that people with higher concentrations of BPA are statistically more likely to have heart disease, diabetes or obesity-related effects, whereas those with high PFOA are more likely to have certain cancers, thyroid disease or high cholesterol.
Despite these concerns, there have been very few studies on how these chemicals act in living people, rather than animal models or cells in culture. There is growing evidence that certain genes can be switched on or off in response to exposure to toxins and other factors in the cellular environment. Our work has focused on looking at the effect of BPA and PFOA on specific gene pathways involved in cholesterol metabolism (PFOA) or oestrogen signalling (BPA) in living people, and in cell models.
Prof Lora Fleming, Dr. Tim Taylor and Catherine Hale, Knowledge Exchange Officer, European Centre for Environment and Human Health,
On Sharks and Salutogenesis
There are mixed messages about the role of oceans in influencing human health. Risks from oceans include harmful algal bloom, risk of drowning, contaminated seafood and being attacked by sharks. The benefits are often undervalued - in terms of health benefits from seafood consumption, the benefits of being by the sea for mental and physical health (salutogenesis).
In this session, we will explore a range of the risks and benefits of oceans to human health - and look at issues of valuing them in monetary terms. We build on recent work at the European Centre for the Environment and Human Health; and there will be an opportunity to find out more of the current work of the Centre, and possible future talks.
NB: The word salutogenesis has its roots in the Latin ‘salus’ or ‘salis’ meaning health; and the Greek ‘genesis’ meaning origin. This is the word used to describe a new direction in research which addresses the source of health. In turning to the underlying causes of health and well-being, salutogenesis creates a new paradigm in medical research.
Dr. John Chilton, Senior Lecturer in Cell Biology at the University of Exeter Medical School.
The Broken Brain? Too complex to mend?
Why a better understanding of nerve cell development is necessary for modern medicine
In this introductory talk, John will set out to give an overview of what is known about how the brain develops; and he will attempt to demonstrate that this barely scratches the surface of explaining how networks of nerve cells - controlling even relatively simple functions - are formed. This has major implications for the potential of current approaches to repairing brain damage after injury or disease. A common analogy, he suggests, is attempting to repair a computer without knowing how it was wired up in the first place (though noting that he has fallen foul of this metaphor in public when there was once a retired electrical engineer in the audience...)
John will also be coming hot-foot from the inaugural Exeter Neuroscience Department meeting the week before. That should mean that he has had a chance to hear what some of his new colleagues will be doing , and so will have a sense of what talks could be offered in future. In this way this introductory talk provides a useful way to hear the sort of topics people would like to hear more on.
For more on his work, a link to his university homepage is also useful:
8th May 2013
Unintelligent design: understanding the complexities of life
With this talk, Sasha aims to offer a broad introduction to the modern study of evolutionary biology with particular focus on animal behaviour. Sasha will also be able to give an indication of other areas which his research study group; and this may prompt ideas and suggestions for future talks