Glasgow Cafe
 

Launched March 2004

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

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Date:
 

September 23rd 2004

Title: 'What was that Big Bang?'
 
Speaker: Simon Singh
 
Description:

What is the Big Bang, who came up with the idea and why do we believe in it? Simon Singh discusses the Big Bang theory, from its birth in the 1920s to the observational evidence that backed it and then clinched it. As well as describing the development of the Big Bang theory, Simon will also chat more generally how new scientific ideas are invented, developed and adopted, which will include the partnership between theory and experiment and the role of personalities and politics. Simon Singh received his PhD in physics from the University of Cambridge. He is the author of ‘Fermat's Last Theorem’ and ‘The Code Book’, and he has just published "Big Bang", the story behind one of the most important theories in the history of science. His website is at www.simonsingh.net
 

Date:
 
October 21st   2004       
Title: 'Should Scotland be a GM nation…or not?'
 
Speaker:
 
Dr Donald Bruce
Description:

After an unofficial 5 year moratorium, the UK Government has recently announced it would allow the first commercial growing of a GM maize but not other crops. This follows the advice of its environmental advisory committee ACRE, but it goes against the clear result of last summer’s GM Nation public consultation. The general public might see benefits from GM in the longer term future, but does not want GM crops to be grown at this time. So what does the Government's decision say for democratic and public consultation? Are EC and WTO demands for "scientific evidence" the real driving force and are mere public values irrelevant? Should Scotland take a stand and abide by the people? Or is the Government right to consider the risks of GM are much lower than campaigners have made out? And if GM crops are grown in Scotland, do non-GM growers have the moral right to demand zero-GM, or just a reasonable threshold to enable co-existence? Dr Bruce is a scientist and bio-ethicist and currently the Director of the ‘Society, Religion and Technology Project’ of the Church of Scotland.
 

Date:
 
25th November
Title: 'Why are Scots so unhealthy?'
 
Speaker:
 
Prof Phil Hanlon, Professor of Public Health
Description:

Scotland's ranking in the international league table of health has not always been so poor as it is today. Earlier in the 20th Century Scots enjoyed a much a higher ranking in life expectancy. Now, our nearest neighbours are Costa Rica, Cuba and Portugal and we are losing ground to most other western European countries. Although life expectancy is rising, healthy life expectancy is static so added years of life are being lived with limiting illness. Importantly, inequalities are widening. Also, a variety of problems are getting worse in absolute terms - obesity, sexually transmitted diseases, alcohol related harm and mental health. The question is why? Deprivation and poverty are clearly important but what is the role of culture? Is there something about the way we now live our lives and the values that drive us that are making us unhealthy?

Phil Hanlon is Professor of Public Health at Glasgow University and has spent the past 20 year grappling with academic and practical issues associated with health in Scotland.

 
Date:
 
20th January 2005
Title: 'Climate Change Begins at Home'
 
Speaker:
 
Dave Reay
Description:

For most of us climate change has so far meant warmer winters and pictures of flooding on the news, but climate change isn't just going to stay on your TV. It's coming to your house, your garden, your car, even your bank account. Find out how it will affect you, and how you affect it. Dave Reay is editor of the leading climate change website 'Greenhouse Gas Online' and a research fellow at Edinburgh University. He has worked on climate change for over a decade, in environments ranging from the Southern Ocean to evil-smelling drainage ditches. He lives in a house well above sea level.

NOTE: Just for our January 20th date  the event will be held in The College club, Glasgow University, University Avenue for one night only.
 

Date:
 
17th February
Title: 'Did we really land on the Moon?'
 
Speaker:
 
Drs Martin Hendry and Ken Skeldon
Description:

When Neil Armstrong uttered those immortal words "One small step for Man", was he really on the surface of the Moon or in a Hollywood film studio?  A surprising number of people believe the entire Apollo programme was an elaborate hoax, and point to damning evidence in NASA's archive footage: the American flag waving in the breeze; no stars in the lunar sky; astronauts lit by multiple floodlights. Martin and Ken will debate the myths behind the Moon landings, exploring the "Top 10" reasons why it's claimed that the Apollo missions had to be faked. Did we really land on the Moon?  Come along and make up your own mind!

Martin Hendry is a senior lecturer in the department of physics and astronomy at the University of Glasgow. He is highly active in public outreach and recently won an award from the Royal Society of Edinburgh for his contributions to science communication. Ken Skeldon is a research fellow in medical physics at the University of Glasgow and has recently been awarded a NESTA fellowship to promote science across the UK and further afield. Over the past 12 years he has scripted and presented popular science lectures, his Arcs & Sparks electricity show having now reached a total audience of over 100,000.  In 2004, Ken and Martin were awarded a grant by the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council to investigate 'Moon Hoax' theories.

 
Date:
 
14th March, 11AM-3PM
Venue: Princes Square Shopping Centre, Buchanan St
Title: 'Café Scientifique goes shopping!!'
 
Speaker:
 
Prof Sir James Black (FRS, Nobel Laureate), Prof David Porteous (FRSE, Edinburgh) and Dr David Reilly (Glasgow Homeopathic Hospital)
 
Description:

So we couldn’t drag the shoppers off Byres Rd into Café Scientifique. So we are taking Café Scientifique to the shoppers! Come and join us, the shoppers and local school children for a special one day event. This is an official Science Week event, supported by the BA and funded by a ‘Peoples Award’ from The Wellcome Trust. The topic will be MEDICINES - FROM BENCH TO BEDSIDE – CAN OUR GENES AND MIND CHANGE THE WAY WE RESPOND? Discuss the ‘black box’ of drug discovery and the mystery of the Nobel prize with Prof Sir James Black. David Porteous will discuss the application of knowledge emerging from the Human Genome Project to the identification of risk factors, disease processes and how our genes can affect our response to medicines. Dr David Reilly will reveal the secrets of ‘the placebo effect’ and how our minds can influence our response to medicines. So you want to discuss science with real scientists but that shopping must be done? Need to meet friends for a coffee?? Now you can do it all!! Come and join us.

 
Date:
 
17th March
Title: 'Geeks and Anoraks?'
Speaker:
 
Ann Lackie
Description:

On a recent television programme, Carol Thatcher commented that she was ‘surprised how excited the scientists were’ when the Huygens probe landed on Titan. After all, scientists are supposed to be dry and impassive ‘grey men’ working away in underground labs somewhere. Another comment recently heard, referring to (therapeutic) cloning, was ‘scientists are running out of control, playing God.’

Why do scientists have such a bad ‘image’? Why don’t members of the public trust scientists? Why are so few school-leavers going into science? Are scientists themselves to blame, or the media and films and fiction? Perhaps the interaction between science and non-science has always been like this, but the speed and ubiquity of modern communications networks and the search for ‘stories’ has merely made us more conscious of the cultural divide.

Ann Lackie, zoologist and parasitologist, was formerly at Glasgow University before leaving academic life to write and broadcast. She writes novels (under the name Ann Lingard) that use scientists as ordinary people, and has been involved in ‘sci-art’ projects including bringing scientists, artists and writers together through the ‘Words & Pictures’ conferences; see www.annlingard.com . She is currently an Outreach Associate of PEALS Research Institute, University of Newcastle, on the ‘Talking Science in Cumbria’ project, and has been awarded a NESTA grant to set up ‘SciTalk’, a database of ‘writer-friendly’scientists. Ann lives on a small-holding in Cumbria and rears Herdwick sheep.

 
Date:
 
21st April
Title: 'Heed the  birds'
 
Venue:
 
The OranMor, Byres Road
Speaker:
 
Prof Glen Chilton
Description:

The songs of birds have long inspired poets, musicians and young lovers.  Birdsong has also inspired generations of scientists.  Particularly intriguing are the parallels between the development of speech in humans and the acquisition of song by birds.  What is the message in a song?  Why do songbirds have regional song dialects?  What happens to a young bird who never hears the song of an older bird?   Why do some birds sing only a single song type while others have huge repertoires?  After this talk, a walk in the woods will never quite be the same! Glen is Professor of Biology at St. Mary's University College in Calgary, Canada. He has been studying the songs of birds for 19 years.  This work has taken him to the wildest parts of western North America. He claims that he could be blindfolded and placed anywhere in British Columbia or Alberta, and tell you where he was by listening to the songs of birds! Our first, and long-awaited natural history topic!! Come and find out why ‘bird-brain’ is not such an insult after all!
 

Date:
 
19th May 730pm
Title: 'Help me die-why not?'
 
Venue: Starbucks, Borders Book shop, Buchanan St, Glasgow
 
Speaker:
 
Prof Sheila McLean, Glasgow University
Description:

Should we have the right to decide when it’s time to die?  And how should the law deal with such sensitive human and ethical questions.  This issue has been brought shapely back into focus by the recent case of Terri Schiavo in the USA.  The case of Hillsborough victim, Anthony Bland, brought the issue centre-stage here when he was allowed to die through the withdrawal of food and water - but Lord Mustills, one of the senior judges in the House of Lords, described the law which applies at the end of life as “intellectually misshapen”, expressing considerable unease at the route he had to take to allow Bland’s “treatment” to be withdrawn.   Shelia McLean, Professor of Medical Law and Ethics at Glasgow University, analyses these end-of-life decisions and considers whether Lord Mustills view reflects the reality of the law’s approach.  

 
Date:
 

 23rd June 730pm

 
Title: 'Designer babies: medical miracles or media myth?'
 
Venue: The College Club, University of Glasgow
Speaker:
 
Tom Shakespeare, Newcastle
Description: Pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) allows parents to select the characteristics of their children.  Media coverage of the dilemmas this raises is often couched in the language of science fiction.  What are the real possibilities, limits and ethical issues?  Tom Shakespeare is a sociologist and bioethicist at Newcastle's PEALS Institute (www.peals.ncl.ac.uk). An active member of the disability movement, he has written and broadcast regularly about genetics and recently led a research project about attitudes to sex selection.
 
Date:
 
19th July 700pm
Title: 'Hunting the Antisocial Cancer Cell'
 
Venue: The College Club, University of Glasgow
 
Speaker:
 
Prof Ron Laskey, University of Cambridge
Description: One in three of the UK population will experience cancer in our lifetimes. The success of existing cancer treatments could be improved by earlier detection and proteins that regulate DNA synthesis in the cell could facilitate this. Some are emerging as promising general markers for screening tests to look for many of the commonest cancers, including cervix, colon and lung. Ron Laskey is Director of the MRC Cancer Cell Unit and The Charles Darwin Professor in Cambridge University. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society, the Academy of Medical Sciences and Academia Europaea. He has also written and recorded three albums of “Songs for Cynical Scientists”.

 

Date:
 
18th August
Title: 'Uncanny Valley: Living with Living Machines'
 
Venue: email m.maclean@bio.gla.ac.uk for info
 
Speaker:
 
Richard Evans
Description:

uncanny valley: (n.) feelings of unease, fear, or revulsion created by a robot or robotic device that appears to be, but is not quite, human-like.

For the last 40 years, scientists around the world have been working towards realising the dream of creating humanoid robots. Now, as walking, thinking and even feeling robots and androids take their first tentative steps into reality, writer Richard Evans outlines the latest research into humanoid robotics and discusses the far-reaching ethical and social implications of the coming world of artificial helpers, friends and lovers.

Richard is author of the acclaimed futuristic thrillers Machine Nation and Robophobia, which were researched at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and sponsored by Arts Council England.

More information at www.richardevansonline.com.

 

Date:

Monday December 3rd

Title:

Nature's bright lights: bioluminesence

Speaker:

Anne Glover, Aberdeen University

Description:

Bioluminescence is widespread in nature but why and how the phenomenon evolved is a mystery. It is found in organisms as diverse as marine microbes and fireflies and from the Tropics to the seas of the coast of Scotland (as long as we know how to look!).

Why should we be interested in bugs that glow in the dark? Scientists have identified the genes involved in coding for bioluminescence and have exploited the phenomenon to find out what is going on inside living cells and how they interact with their environment. This has proven incredibly useful in areas such as cancer research and contaminated land remediation, where glowing bugs have been used to sleuth out contaminated land and also provide solutions for its clean up.

Come along and find out more about one of Nature's truly beautiful phenomena, including how the study of this simple system has allowed us to understand much of how microbes communicate so that they can co-ordinate powerful attacks on our bodies.

Anne is the newly appointed Chief Scientific Advisor for Scotland. She works three days a week at the Scottish Executive and the rest of the time pursues her research at the University of Aberdeen. She became interested in bioluminescence while swimming off the shore of Portugal (more of that in the talk) and also set up an environmental biotechnology company to exploit the phenomenon to clean up contaminated land.

Date:

Monday 4th February

Title:

Identity and mistaken identity: face recognition in a surveillance society

Speaker:

Rob Jenkins

Description:

Twenty years of research into the psychology of face perception has led to great progress in understanding everyday face recognition. In doing so, it has also revealed fundamental limits to the face recognition abilities of both humans and machines. These limits have profound implications for today's surveillance society and with CCTV, identity cards, and national security high on the political agenda, it has never been more important to understand them. This talk will illustrate the strengths and weaknesses of human face recognition, using real-life examples and live demonstrations. It will also explain how machine performance can be improved by incorporating discoveries from psychological research.

Rob obtained a first class honours degree in Cognitive Science from  the University of Westminster in 1996. He then moved to the Psychology department of University College London, where he obtained  a PhD on the topic of Attention and Face Processing. In 2000 he took  a postdoctoral research position at the Psychology department of the  University of Glasgow, to work on computer modelling of face recognition. In 2002, he was awarded the prestigious 3-year British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship to continue his research on face perception. He later moved to the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit in Cambridge to combine social cognition research with neuro-imaging expertise. In 2006, Rob took up a lectureship at the Psychology department of the University of Glasgow. He was awarded the 2007 BAAS Joseph Lister prize for science communication.

Date:

Monday 3rdMarch

Title:

Climate change – who’s got the answers?

Speaker:

Alan Morton, London

Description:

In the UK we’re offered with a bunch of technical fixes to meet the challenges of climate change. The nuclear industry is re-inventing itself as a low-carbon option with built-in energy security, the utilities generating electricity from coal and gas plan to capture their own carbon dioxide, and the different renewable energy technologies have great potential. But which will become the technologies of choice?

Help find the answers - before you have to retreat into your well-insulated cave powered by a domestic wind turbine from your local superstore.

Alan Morton is in the team at NESTA that’s launched the Big Green Challenge, a prize fund of £1m for communities who innovate to reduce their carbon use. See www.biggreenchallenge.org.uk Previously he was curator of energy and modern physics at the Science Museum in London.

Date:

Monday 7th April

Title:

Obesity: rates, risk, research, reality

Speaker:

Naveed Sattar, Glasgow University

Description:

So how bad is the obesity epidemic? And what are the major factors responsible for it? Based on the best available evidence, this talk will outline many relevant issues and explain how obesity, via ‘ectopic’ fat, leads to diabetes and other disease. Naveen will also explain why it is so difficult to lose weight once obese, outlining concepts not widely appreciated. The contributions of government, food industry, the media and the health professionals in tackling this epidemic will be scrutinised, with the audience’s views welcome.

Naveed was appointed Professor of Metabolic Medicine in 2005. He is interested in the causes of heart disease and diabetes and makes use of existing data to help determine the relevance of both clinical (e.g. body weight) and blood-derived measures (e.g. blood cholesterol) to these conditions. He also has considerable interest in research related to obesity. He was awarded the Professors Prize for Clinical Biochemistry in 2001, the RD Lawrence Lecture for contributions to diabetes research in 2005 (by Diabetes UK) and the John French Lecture for heart disease research (by the British Atherosclerosis Society) in 2006. Finally, but perhaps most importantly, his passions outside work include his two young children (Zara, 4 and Zakee, 6) and playing football wherever the opportunity arises.

Date:

Monday 12th May

Title:

Jumpers, floaters and flappers - the quest for flight

Speaker:

Dugald Cameron

Description:

Humans have always envied birds' ability to fly and sought to emulate them but human flight would not be achieved simply by mimicry: nature tantalises us and keeps her secrets just out of view. Glasgow University’s Percy Pilcher made the first repeated flights in a heavier than air machine, in his “Bat” glider in the summer of 1895. It is just over one hundred years since the Wright brothers succeeded in achieving sustained, powered flight.

In 1809, Sir George Cayley, the father of aeronautics, put it this way - “The whole problem is confined within these limits, viz - to make a surface support a given weight by the application of power to the resistance of air” Nearly two hundred years later that is still largely ‘it’, though dignified by the science of fluid dynamics.

What is required for flight? How do we fly within a three dimensional air space in a sustained and controlled manner? There is still a debate and clearly we still do know absolutely how to do it and not entirely why!

Dugald is well placed to discuss these issues. He has published widely and having retired as Director of Glasgow School of Art in 1999, is now a visiting Professor to the Dept of Aerospace Engineering  University of Glasgow and in Design to the University of Strathclyde. He wishes to add a p.s: What made Concorde so special?

Date:

Monday 2nd June

Title:

Does God play dice with nature?

Speaker:

Miles Padgett

Description:

If you could repeat the same experiment are you always guaranteed the same answer? This question lies at the heart of quantum mechanics - the branch of physics that addresses the fundamental workings of the universe. For much of his life, Albert Einstein argued that the outcome of any experiment was solely dependent on its starting conditions. By contrast, Niels Bohr believed that irrespective of the care taken during any experiment, its outcome was influenced by random chance. Can modern experiments tell us which of them was right? Does random chance exclude pre-determination?

Miles Padgett (Professor of physics at Glasgow University) has an international reputation for his contribution to the fundamental understanding of light's momentum, including conversion of optical tweezers into optical spanners, observation of a rotational form of the Doppler shift and a new form of Heisenberg's uncertainty principle (I am sure he will enlighten us on the day!!). He has made numerous television, radio and popular press contributions and delivered many public lectures -- promoting science and technology to the widest possible audience.

Date:

Monday 4th August

Title:

Science television for children: the end?

Speaker:

Jonathan Sanderson

Description:

Johnny Ball's Think of a Number, How, The Great Egg Race - evocative  names from a quarter of a century ago. What's happened since then? Are scientifically-curious children still as well served by broadcasters, and if not, why not? Television producer and physicist Jonathan Sanderson gives a personal view of the last decade of children's science media, and outlines how he thinks recent disasters might lead to a new 'golden age'.

Jonathan Sanderson worked at the Royal Institution before taking a  degree in Physics. He subsequently fell into television production by fixing Adam Hart-Davis' bicycle, and ended up making popular science  programmes for children and families for the next twelve years. Many of these programmes involved ridiculous stunts or building absurd  contraptions, but luckily none of them featured serious injury.

Date:

Monday 1st September

Title:

Energy - do we need nuclear?

Speaker:

Dave Ireland, University of Glasgow

Description:

Nuclear power is offered as a panacea for generating carbon-free electricity. It is also demonised as a dangerous and polluting process that will leave a toxic legacy for future generations. Why is there such a diversity of opinion? To address this question, Dave Ireland will attempt to explain how nuclear power delivers electricity, pointing out the advantages and disadvantages of this source of energy compared to other sources. It will set nuclear power in context, taking into account the current debate on energy use and action against climate change.

Dr. David Ireland is a senior lecturer and a member of the Nuclear Physics research group at the University of Glasgow. He has twenty years experience of nuclear physics experiments and has worked at laboratories in Sweden, Germany and the USA. He is currently engaged in looking for new types of particles.

Date:

Monday 6th October

Title:

Stem Cells- a new panacea?

Speaker:

Jo Mountford, University of Glasgow

Description:

Stem cells can be isolated from a number of sources and form an immensely valuable resource. In the body resident tissue stem cells provide an innate resource for organ repair following damage or disease. Additionally stem cells can be exploited in the laboratory in studies of embryonic development, for drug discovery and toxicity testing and to develop therapeutic tools for the treatment of degenerative diseases, cancer and injury.

Jo will introduce the sources of stem cells including adult (somatic) stem cells, embryonic stem cells and the recently generated induced pluripotent stem cells.  We shall also look at the fundamental characteristics that define stem cells and how these properties can be exploited for clinical, pharmaceutical and research purposes.

We will also consider the current state of play in the stem cell field with particular regard to their use for clinical and pharmaceutical applications including a brief outline of some the current limitations of using stem cells and when therapies might be available.

Jo completed a PhD at University of Birmingham in 1994 and subsequently post-doc’d in Strasbourg, Oxford and Memphis before being appointed to a Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service funded post at the University of Glasgow, as Lecturer in Stem Cell Technology (2002). A basic and translational scientist, Jo’s studies have focussed on control mechanisms that regulate the behaviour of haematopoietic stem cells (HSC).

Date:

Monday 3rd November

Title:

Finding E.T.'s home

Speaker:

Martin Dominik, University of St Andrews

Description:

Looking at the little bright spots in the night sky has probably ever-inspired human minds to wonder about the existence of other worlds as well as the origin of our own and its place within the Universe. Over fewer than 15 years, the count of planets orbiting stars other than the Sun has risen from none to more than 300. For the first time in history, living generations are given a fair chance of being provided with a clue about life beyond Earth.

Is there anybody out there, or anything out there, - or are we here by accident?

Dr. Martin Dominik is a Royal Society University Research Fellow at the School of Physics & Astronomy of the University of St Andrews, where his work focusses on studying the population of extra-solar planets using the technique of gravitational micro-lensing. He recently curated parts of the exhibit "Is there anybody out there? Looking for new worlds" at the 2008 Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition and now wants to turn the discovery of other worlds into a public live event.

Date:

Monday 1st December

Title:

Is the rat man's best friend?

Speaker:

Clive Page, King's College, London

Description:

Professor Page will discuss the vital role animals play in biomedical research and how specific species have helped in the discovery and development of many medical advances.

Clive Page is a pharmacologist with twenty years' experience of working with animals in medical research to better understand and treat lung disease.  He has regularly appeared in the media discussing this topic and has experience both in the academic sector and the pharmaceutical industry. 

 

Date:

Monday 2nd February

Title:

MRSA-the superbug Crunch

Description:

Anthony Coates, St Georges, University of London

Professor Coates will discuss whether the human species will survive the emergence of MRSA and superbugs which are resistant to our antibiotics. He will describe the origins of antibiotic resistance, the current crisis and our future.

Anthony Coates is a medical microbiologist with twenty-five years experience of medical research with bacteria. His work in tuberculosis has led to new ideas about tackling superbugs, and he has founded a company which makes novel antibiotics based upon these concepts, now in clinical trials for MRSA.

Date:

Monday 2nd March

Title:

A Play: The Angina Monologues

Description:

The Angina Monologues is a short play about the science and medicine behind obesity, diabetes and coronary heart disease.

Meet Mary, who can’t get pregnant 'cos she’s overweight, genetically engineered mice that argue about whether genes make you fat, a heart attack victim who thinks about smoking and rehabilitation and a drug sales rep. who tries to sell a magic pill which will cure obesity and heart disease.

At the end of the play you’ll have a chance to quiz experts, including medics, scientists and health psychologists, on the issues it raises. 

The play (and this Café Scientifique) is funded by the Chief Scientist’s Office, Scotland. The play is produced through Focus Theatre group and directed by Susan Triesman, director of the Ramshorn Theatre at the University of Strathclyde.

Date:

Monday 6th April

Title:

The new evolution: the new medicine

Description:

Frank Ryan, Sheffield University

Most people are familiar with Darwin’s concept of natural selection, which relies on mechanisms of genetic change (variation) for it to work. Since the 1930s people have assumed that the only significant mechanism for such genetic change is random mutation, and this is still widely taught even today. In fact we now know that natural selection relies on a diversity of very powerful genomic forces which, together with mutation, underpin the modern understanding of evolution. It is important to grasp that the various genomic forces of evolution are the same genetic and epigenetic forces that underpin the genetic component of human disease. Indeed, the importance to medicine is major and remarkable.

Frank graduated in medicine at Sheffield University, in 1970, has been awarded a number of medals and prizes, including the John Hall Gold Medal in Pathology, the Welcome Memorial Prize for original undergraduate work on the immune reaction to viruses and the Walter S. Kay Gold Medal in Mental Diseases. For two decades he was a consultant physician at the Northern General Hospital, Sheffield, which is affiliated to Sheffield University Medical School, where he had an interest in gastroenterology and nutrition. Together with Professor Nick Read, he helped set up the Nutrition Institute. In 1990 he entered a new phase of his career when he became a best-selling writer and pioneering evolutionary biologist.

Date:

Monday 11th May

Title:

How to get your science on television

Description:

Andrew Thompson, BBC

Why are some science subjects covered endlessly on television (dinosaurs, string theory) while others barely get a look in (chemistry)?  Why do the commissioning executives who run the channels get so excited about formats and presenters?  Do you feel television science is dumbed-down?  Do you want your pet subject covered more in the media? 

To scientists working outside the media, it must all seem a bit random and a closed shop. But there are a lot of reasons why science on television has evolved the way it has. New channels have brought increasing audience fragmentation; computers and television are merging and there is a constant need to keep an eye on what younger viewers like to watch. 

But there are a few key constants that media folk are always looking for: charismatic and natural presenters who can communicate to an audience well, without lecturing; interesting access - like accompanying a moon mission; a weird obsession with anniversaries; subjects that have a relevance to a general audience; powerful and emotional human stories; adventures. And it's not all bad news. Although it is much harder to get hard-core science on BBC 1, channels such as BBC 4 offer many new niches for scientists. 

Andrew Thompson is a BBC producer/director who has worked on Tomorrow's' World, Horizon and a big Robert Winston medical series. Most recently he made a three-part series on Charles Darwin's experiments for BBC 2 and was executive producer for a film about an American rock star discovering his quantum-physicist father.

Date:

Monday 1st June

Title:

The forensic DNA database

Description:

Prof Graeme Laurie, University of Edinburgh

DNA profiling is an increasingly valuable tool in the detection and prosecution of criminal offenders, and the powers of the police in England and Wales to take DNA are wider than those in any other country. DNA can be taken, without consent, from any person arrested for a recordable offence (mostly offences that can lead to a prison sentence). However, the collection and storage of DNA by the police, and access to the resulting DNA database, raise a number of ethical issues. Are current police powers to take and use bioinformation powers that can affect the liberty and privacy of innocent people justified by the need to fight crime?

Graeme Laurie is Professor of Medical Jurisprudence in the School of Law at the University of Edinburgh and Director of the SCRIPT Law and Technology Centre, which is sponsored by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. He was a member of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics Working Group which produced the report 'Forensic Uses of Bioinformation: Ethical Issues' in 2007.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last Modified 17-06-2009                                                                                                                        Home