2015 Talks

Mon 7th December 2015 – Andrew Seber – “Where Did You Get Those Genes?”

Andrew gave a talk in September 2014 on DNA and the molecular basis of genetics. He will now take this further to look at how humans inherit the characteristics that make us what we are. Dominant and recessive genes, sex-linked inheritance and mutations will be amongst the areas explained and discussed.

Mon 2nd November 2015 – Prof Tim Sluckin – “History of Liquid Crystals”

Liquid crystal displays can be seen everywhere in our world. Over the last twenty years, flat screens of some sort (for computers, TV, personal communication devices) — mainly although not universally using liquid crystal technology — have revolutionised information transfer between people and machines, and hence between people and people. Not without reason is it said that this has been the greatest communication revolution since Gutenberg invented printing in 1450.

But the very term liquid crystal is a contradiction in itself, as many liquid crystal scientists discover, when they try to translate their work into terms that their nearest and dearest can understand. The term seems to have been invented in the 1890s by the Karlsruhe physicist Otto Lehmann (1855-1922), who is usually recognised as the discoverer of “liquid crystals”, following some serendipitous observations on carrots by the Prague biochemist Friedrich Reinitzer (1858-1927). But even Lehmann realised that there was a problem (the first line of this paragraph echoes the first line of his first paper, indeed!). His earnest but sometimes tactless efforts to reconcile the apparently irreconcilable did not always earn him the respect or love of his colleagues.

This talk will include both the basic elements of liquid crystal science and give a sketch of the history of the subject. I shall concentrate on the personal and intellectual disputes which dogged its early history, often using quotations from the scientists themselves. As always during periods of paradigm change, these disputes were very bitter, revealing at the same time personal and intellectual fault lines. The quarrels occur mainly within the German-speaking world, but the poisonous atmosphere eventually also leaked across the Rhine. The often unpleasant exchanges were always heartfelt, frequently amusing, but still of great historical interest. I shall touch on the personal and intellectual motives of the main protagonists, which go well beyond the world of soap opera all the way to the world of soap itself. The talk will follow the tortuous intellectual course leading from Reinitzer’s carrots to today’s optical device technology, and speculate about the philosophical significance of liquid crystals on life, the universe and everything.

Tim Sluckin is Professor of Applied Mathematical Physics in the School of Mathematical Sciences, University of Southampton, UK. The material in this lecture is covered in his books:
“Crystals that Flow: classic papers from the history of liquid crystals” (with David Dunmur and Horst Stegemeyer) (Taylor and Francis, London 2004)
“Soap, Science and Flat Screen TVs: a history of liquid crystals” (with David Dunmur) (OUP 2011)

Mon 5th October 2015 – Prof Philip Calder “Omega 3: the Science Behind The Headlines.”

What are “Omega 3”? Where do you get them from? Why are they good for you?

Philip Calder is Professor of Nutritional Immunology within the Human Development and Health Academic Unit of the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Southampton. He has broad interests in the way that nutrients interact with human cells, especially those related to immunity and inflammation. Much of his research work has been devoted to exploring the metabolism and function of fatty acids with an emphasis on the roles of omega-3 fatty acids. Dr Calder is regarded as an international authority on the effects of omega-3 and their mechanisms of action. He is widely published and cited and he has received a number of awards for his work. He has served on many committees of professional societies and was for three years President of the International Society for the Study of Fatty Acids and Lipids (2009-2012). Dr Calder is currently Chair of the Scientific Committee of the European Society for Clinical Nutrition and Metabolism. He was Editor-in-Chief of the British Journal of Nutrition from 2006 to 2013 and he is currently an Associate Editor of Clinical Science, Journal of Nutrition, Clinical Nutrition, Lipids, and Nutrition Research. He is a member of the several other Editorial Boards of journals in the nutrition, clinical science and lipid fields.

Mon 7th September 2015 – Dr Jay Amin – “Dementia – does the immune system hold the key to a cure?”

The number of people with dementia in the UK is expected to double by 2040 – and the associated costs to the economy are likely to treble. However, we still know very little about the causes of dementia and we have no way to prevent the deterioration that people suffer. Recent research has suggested that an overactive immune system could play an important role in causing Alzheimer’s disease. So what do we know about the immune system in dementia and how can we target it to develop an effective treatment?

Following the completion of my junior doctor training in Hampshire, I specialised in the assessment and treatment of people with dementia. I am now a Clinical Research Fellow, funded by Alzheimer’s Research UK, and involved in a research study investigating the role of the immune system in Alzheimer’s Disease and Lewy Body dementia.

Mon 3rd August 2015 – Olly Rouse – Head Chef – Lainston House – “Foam At Home”

A demonstration on various different foams and bubbles, how, when and why to use them. The demonstration will involve hot, cold, set, savoury and sweet foams and bubbles. Olly will share the physiology behind creating this technique, and the phycology of eating them.

This event is presented in association with Hampshire Food Festival and Winchester Science Festival.

Mon 6th July 2015 – Dan Oakley – Dark Sky Ranger – “Dark Skies Over the South Downs”

The South Downs National Park Authority is trying to become an International Dark-Sky Reserve and join the handful of designated landscapes in the world.  The talk will cover what the project is about, where the dark skies are, how you can help and –importantly – how you can enjoy them.  Covering everything from Planning to Photography you should leave with an understanding of why dark skies are important and why the SDNPA is trying to protect them.

This event is held in conjunction with Winchester Science Festival 2015

Mon 1st June 2015 – Tony Pryor CBE – ex CEO Hafren Energy – Severn Barrage

The talk will cover the long history of attempts to demonstrate the feasibility and business case for a tidal power scheme based on a Severn Barrage and particularly the most recent attempt by Hafren Power. This was a special purpose vehicle set up to develop the Barrage project and take it through the various approval loops that was disbanded in 2013 after Dept of Energy declined to back the project. This will include discussion of the technical options and the economic  case compared with alternatives such as nuclear and the validity of some of the various objections raised.

Tony Pryor CBE
Formerly CEO of Hafren Power
Formerly Chairman Halcrow Ltd
Tony has had a long career in engineering and project management with both UK and international experience

Mon 4th May 2015 – Dr Ivo Demedeiros – University of Southampton – “Beyond the standard model of particle physics with family symmetries”.

Recording available here

I will start by going over what we currently know about particle physics

– what is referred to the standard model. The standard model is extremely successful but there are motivations for going beyond. These include the matter/antimatter asymmetry, the existence of dark matter, and the existence of 3 generations of fermions, which I will describe briefly.

I will then cover some theories beyond the standard model which address these shortcomings, focusing on what is referred to as family symmetries that aim primarily to explain the fermion generation.

Undergraduate in Porto, PhD in Theoretical Particle Physics in Oxford finished in 2007 then 3 years Postdoc in Lisbon, (almost) 3 years Postdoc in Dortmund, 1 year Postdoc in Basel, started Marie Curie Fellowship here in Southampton in September 2014.

I do research in models “beyond the Standard Model” of Particle Physics, focusing on issues related to the fermion masses and mixings. Much of my research revolves around family symmetries (also referred to as “flavor” symmetries, I prefer to refer to them as family symmetries).

Mon 6th April 2015 – Dr Robin Wilson – University of Southampton “Monitoring the environment from space: how can we do that and why should you care?”


There are now hundreds of satellites in orbit, and many of these are there to take detailed pictures of the Earth. In this talk, Robin Wilson will explain how we can use these pictures (and, more importantly, the raw data behind them) for environmental monitoring, with a focus on two particular applications: vegetation change and air pollution. His talk will show how data from these satellites are becoming essential in a wide range of fields, and will answer the question “why should I care?”.

Robin Wilson has just finished his PhD at the prestigious Institute for Complex Systems Simulation at the University of Southampton. His research and teaching work focuses on the scientific application of satellite images – a field known as ‘remote sensing’. Over the last few years he has developed a revolutionary new technique to allow monitoring of air pollution at over ten thousand times the level of detail previously possible. His work is described at www.rtwilson.com/academic, and he tweets @sciremotesense.

Mon 2nd Mar 2015 – John Castle – HS2 – “The technical challenge of high speed rail”

Explaining the technical challenge of high speed rail and how that differs from conventional rail and then illustrating how this is being applied to HS2.

High speed 2 (HS2) is the most significant transport infrastructure project in the UK since the motorways were built in the 1950s and 1960s. It will provide a high speed rail line between London and Birmingham and on to Manchester and Leeds. Construction along the line is due to start in 2017 and be completed by 2025. The first train services will run between London and Birmingham from 2026.HS2 is being developed by the Department for Transport (DfT) and High Speed Two Limited (HS2 Ltd). HS2 Ltd performs both a delivery and advisory role in the development of the high speed rail network.


John Castle, Country South Area Manager at HS2, has spent the last 20 years working on major rail projects in the UK including the Jubilee Line Extension, Crossrail, Thameslink and the West Coast Route Modernisation. He joined HS2 Ltd in 2009, becoming one of the first engineers to work on this project. During his time at HS2 he has managed the contract for the development of the route from London to Birmingham as a Senior Route Engineer. Over this period the project went from a blank piece of paper through to the Post Consultation route which forms the basis of the current route. Currently he is responsible for the production of a Hybrid Bill Additional Provision for the Country South section of the route.

Mon 2nd Feb 2015 – Dr Diego Altamirano – University of Southampton – “The heartbeats of Black Holes: hints on how black holes devour their companions”

If Black Holes are black, and space is black, how do astronomers study black holes? This is the question that first caught my interest into the amazing and fascinating world of astrophysics, and the reason why I have spent the last 10 years of my life studying Black Holes. During this talk, I will walk you through the various methods used by astronomers to study black holes. I will explain what we already know about them and what we are doing to find out more about them. My main focus will be the discovery of two particularly amazing black holes in our own galaxy, from which we can see “heartbeats” which tell us how these black beasts are devouring their stellar companions.

Dr  Diego Altamirano studied Astronomy at the University of La Plata, Argentina. After graduating with honors (10 out of 10 in his master thesis), he moved to the Netherlands to do this PhD under the supervision of Prof. Michiel van der Klis.  During the 4 years period, he focused in the study of X-ray observations of neutron-star and black-hole Low-mass X-ray binaries.  He has worked and published in several areas of high-energy astrophysics, including (stable and unstable) thermonuclear burning on the surface of neutron stars, accretion-powered   and nuclear-powered millisecond X-ray pulsars and quasi-periodic oscillations in both neutron star and black holes. After obtaining his  PhD degree in 2008, he was offered a 5 years Postdoc position at the University of Amsterdam to continue his independent work. In 2013 he  was awarded the prestigious University Research Fellowship from the UK Royal Society and he now holds the position of Senior Research Fell ow at the University of Southampton.

His thesis can be found here:

Mon 5th Jan 2015 – Simon Cavill – “Decline of the honeybee: just how bad is it?”

It’s generally accepted that bees and other pollinators are currently having a hard time. Pressures on habitats, pesticides, parasites and intensive agriculture are clearly having an impact. With feral honeybee colonies all but extinct in the UK, the survival of the honeybee as a species is now in question. So what can be done to improve the situation?

Simon Cavill is an experienced beekeeping professional and tutor based in Hampshire. @BeeGood_UK