2021 Archive

See youtube.com/WinchesterCafeScientifique for recordings of online talks

Mon 6th September “Slowdown” – Prof Danny Dorling

Danny Dorling talking about the pandemic as well as some of the ideas in his book: “SLOWDOWN: The end of the Great Acceleration – and Why It’s Good for the Planet, the Economy, and Our Lives”

Do you think human population growth is out of control? Maybe it isn’t!

 Are you often told that the pace of technological change is speeding ever faster and faster? But is it?

 Are we becoming ever more productive worldwide with economic growth each decade always out stripping the past? No?

 So, what is speeding up and when was the great acceleration?

 Come hear a few ideas, ask questions, argue, tell where I am wrong and on what we might agree    

Danny Dorling is a professor in the School of Geography and the Environment at the University of Oxford. He was previously a professor for a decade at the University of Sheffield, and before then a professor at the University of Leeds. In early 2021 the paperback edition of his book with Yale University Press on: “Slowdown: The End of the Great Acceleration—and Why It’s Good for the Planet, the Economy, and Our Lives was published. Later in 2021, jointly with Annika Koljonen, he is publishing an updated paperback edition of: Finntopia: what we can learn from the world’s happiest country with Agenda publishing and Columbia University Press. He is a patron of the road crash charity RoadPeace, and in his spare time he makes sandcastles.    

Monday 2nd August 7.30pm Ten Days in Physics That Shook the World” –Brian Clegg

Physics informs our understanding of how the world works – but more than that, key breakthroughs in physics have transformed everyday life. We journey back to ten separate days in history to understand how particular breakthroughs were achieved, meet the individuals responsible and see how each breakthrough has influenced our lives. Each date and breakthrough focuses on discoveries that have had a practical impact on our day-to-day life.

Without Rudolph Clausius’ research in thermodynamics, we wouldn’t have fridges or air con and without Marie Curie’s discovery of polonium, we wouldn’t have life-saving radiotherapy treatments. We shouldn’t forget how Newton’s research into gravity has allowed us to use satellites for our Satnavs and put astronauts into space!

Brian Clegg is a popular science writer whose Dice World and A Brief History of Infinity were both longlisted for the Royal Society Prize for Science Books. He has written for publications including Nature, The Times and BBC Focus.

Mon 5th July 7.30pm “Looking to nature for solutions: recycling of plastics with enzymes” – Prof John McGeehan

John is a Professor of Structural Biology focused on the global challenge of plastic pollution and leads a team of scientists researching natural enzyme discovery and engineering. Their work revealed the detailed workings of an enzyme that can digest polyethylene terephthalate (PET), and more recently, demonstrated that engineering these enzymes can increase the speed of breakdown. Found in single-use drinks bottles, packaging, clothing and carpets, PET can take centuries to decompose, and together with other plastics, is accumulating in our environment at a staggering rate. A biological catalyst that can break PET down into its original building blocks opens new opportunities for recycling towards a circular plastics economy.
Their work on PET-digesting enzymes has been widely covered in the media following two key papers in 2018 and 2020 in the journal PNAS, and the project received the Times Higher Education STEM Research Project of the Year in 2019. The group is rapidly expanding due to a £6 million grant from Research England which has allowed the recruitment of 15 additional researchers for the new Centre for Enzyme Innovation (www.port.ac.uk/cei). The focus of the group remains the engineering of biological catalysis for the breakdown of a wide range of natural and synthetic polymers. The group recently joined the BOTTLE (www.BOTTLE.org) consortium which offers new opportunities for true interdisciplinary research across the diverse areas required to tackle the global plastic pollution crisis.

John graduated from the University of Glasgow in 1993, with a BSc (Hons) degree in Microbiology, before going on to complete a PhD in Virology at the MRC Virology Unit, Glasgow. His research career continued at the University of York, before joining the University of Portsmouth in 2000, working on DNA-binding proteins. In 2005, he completed a Postdoctoral Fellowship with the EMBL-Grenoble, France, researching crystallography at the large European synchrotron. In 2007, he re-joined the University of Portsmouth as an RCUK Fellow, was appointed to Reader in 2012 and Professor in 2016. He founded the Centre for Enzyme Innovation in 2019 as Director.

Mon 7th June 7.30pm “What is Blockchain?” – Walid Al Saqqaf

Blockchain often confused with Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies is a new technology that is increasingly being used, within an enterprise context, in industries all around the world. From trade finance, to insurance, to supply chains, banking, pharma, food & agriculture and much more. This talk will explain what is blockchain, its disruptive potential and why it is often described as a trust foundational layer for the creation of new business models.

Walid Al Saqqaf has been a Financial Technology specialist for over 20 years. He has created 7 technology startups, the latest of which, Rebalance Earth uses blockchain technology to fight climate change and regenerate biodiversity. His podcast at Insureblocks.com has over 160 interviews with blockchain pioneers across industries and jurisdiction. He is the proud father of two young daughters.

Mon 3rd May 7.30pm “5G and the Internet of Everything” – William Vine

We’ve had mobile phones for nearly 35 years. Why do we need ‘another’ G? How 5G be any different to the others? Will connecting ‘Things’ to the internet over 5G deliver the 4th Industrial Revolution?

Originally a chemist, William has worked in mobile technology for over 20 years. He has an eclectic interest in science communication and the history of science.

Mon 5th April 7.30pm “Cells & immunity” – Andrew Seber

How do human cells make immunity possible? Why are mutations important? What are B cells and T cells? Andrew Seber recaps and builds on his June 2020 talk on the basics of immunity, using his teaching experience to explain the background to a subject that has dominated the news for the past year. 

This is a follow on talk from last year’s “What is immunity” 

Mon 1st March 7.30pm “Science in the time of Covid, stories of palaeontology in peculiar times” Dr Neil Gostling

Neil Gostling is Lecturer in Evolution and Palaeobioloy in the School of Biological Sciences, and the University of Southampton. Over the last year, he, and his students and colleagues have had to adapt to the global situation, but science hasn’t stopped, and neither has he. A new dinosaur (or 2); and a new understanding of mammalian physiology at the groups appearance, are just two of the things he will discuss in his talk.

When he is not working on dinosaurs or stem mammals, Neil is the programme leader for the Zoology degree programme, and the MRes Evolution, from the Galapagos to the 21st Century. This exciting programme takes students to the Galapagos, and explores evolutionary processes across 9 Schools’ at the University of Southampton, from Biology to engineering, medicine to philosophy. Evolution underpins the science of biology.

Mon 1st February 7.30pm “Winchester College – historic science books”

The Fellows’ Library of Winchester College was established at the beginning of the 15th century. The collections include many scientific works, from medieval manuscripts of the works of Roger Bacon, to first editions of Kepler, Hooke and Newton. This talk, given by Richard Foster (Fellows’ Librarian) and Sarah Griffin (Assistant Curator), will explore some of the highlights.

Info on the Fellows’ Library: https://www.winchestercollege.org/explore/archives-libraries-treasury/fellows-library – details of how to search the collection under ‘Catalogues’ at the end.

Info on Treasury (the school’s museum): https://treasury.winchestercollege.org

A recently published book about the College’s collections: https://treasury.winchestercollege.org/new-design/pages/forms/50-treasures-of-winchester-college-order-form-

Information on some highlights of the Science School collection: http://winchestercollections.co.uk/?collection_cat=science-collection

Mon 4th January 7.30pm “AI and Big Data” – Ajit Jaokar

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the science of making computer systems smart, and an umbrella term for a range of technologies that carry out functions that typically require intelligence in humans. AI technologies already support many everyday products and services, and the power and reach of these technologies are advancing at pace.

Ajit’s  work spans research, entrepreneurship and academia relating to artificial intelligence (AI) with Edge Computing, 5G and Cybersecurity. He is the course director of the course: Artificial Intelligence: Cloud and Edge Implementations at the University of Oxford. Besides this, he also conducts, amongst others, the University of Oxford courses: AI for Cybersecurity and Computer Vision.

Ajit works as a Data Scientist through his company feynlabs – focusing on building innovative early stage AI prototypes for domains such as cybersecurity, robotics and healthcare. He is also currently working on a book to teach AI using mathematical foundations at high school level.

His PhD research is based on AI and Affective Computing (how AI interprets emotion).
Ajit has contributed to the World Economic Forum and  the European Parliament on technology and AI themes.