Science & Technology
Coordinator: Mike Green; Deputy: Nigel Nixon
Web page editor: Mike Green
Meetings: Fourth Monday in the month, September to April, excluding December, in the upstairs meeting room, Ambleside Library. There is now lift access to this room.
The Science & Technology group had a highly successful session in 2018-9 with seven meetings (including three excellent external speakers) and a visit to the Barrow Mechanical Biological Treatment Centre in June. We plan to repeat this pattern in 2019-20.
We arrange talks followed by discussion on a wide range of topics in the field ranging from the latest developments in research to the history of science and technology. We aim to present material in a way that is accessible to those with an interest in the field but who do not have any formal knowledge or experience.
For our first two talks in 2019-20 we have external speakers. In September Dr Janet Hefferman, an independent statistical consultant who appears as an expert High Court witness, will discuss how statistics can be used to understand very rare events, such as sudden sinking of large ships. No previous maths knowledge is required! At our October meeting Dr Catherine Isherwood, a geological consultant will give a geologist’s perspective on the fracking debate.
Visit to the Mechanical Biological Treatment Plant in Barrow
Following the talk to the group by Andy Vickers in February (click on the link upper right or look at the May 2019 newsletter for a summary) we made a visit to the Mechanical Biological Treatment Plant in Barrow on 19 June. Perhaps expecting to see conveyor belts will people sifting through our waste to sort it we were amazed at the level of mechanisation of the operation, which employs just seventeen people.
In South Cumbria, after we put our “non-recyclable” rubbish into our black bins, there is no more human interaction with it. The “bin lorries” take it to Barrow, dump it through doors into a very large pit from where it is lifted by a crane into a shredder. Now left for two weeks with warm air circulating through it to allow organic material to decompose and for it to dry it is then separated using magnets, drums, sieves and blowers into ferrous and non-ferrous metals, aggregate replacement (stones, glass, etc.), shredded paper, wood, plastic foil and similar, and “fines” (organic, soil-like material). Metals are sent for recycling, aggregate to road making, the shredded material to be burned for industrial heating, and the fines are typically used for covering old landfill sites. The only material sent for burial in landfill is the dust that collects in the plant. The loading of all this material into separate trailers is also fully automated.
We had many questions as we tried to understand the process but perhaps one of the most interesting was “would it be possible to process material that has been left in landfill sites in the past” to which the answer was a very positive “yes”.
The kitchen waste put into our bins is very welcome since it helps the decomposition process and there seems to be no need for South Cumbria County Council to set up an expensive collection service for such material. Don’t feel guilty about putting it into your black bin.
A truncated description of the operation of a similar facility in Dumfries and Galloway can be found on YouTube.
If you are interested in receiving updates by email contact the coordinator or register as a member of the group using the Beacon portal (for this you need your membership number).
|Dates for your Diary|
|Mon Jan 27th||A brief history of canal engineering|
From stop locks to present day models, alternatives to locks and means of water conservation.
|Mon Feb 24th||The Fall and Rise of Alfred Wegener|
In this talk John will describe the story of plate tectonics including a basic explanation of plate boundary activity.
|Mon Mar 23rd||Have we made genetic engineering safe?|
Genetic engineering received a bad press when it was first proposed (in some cases quite rightly). However, recent advances show that it can be applied to the benefit of mankind without the earlier scientific objections. We'll look at the most recent advances and the benefits they can provide for human health and the environment. Political objections still occur within the EU (and elsewhere) - so we'll examine their validity. Spoiler alert: most cars are safe - but are the drivers?
|Mon Apr 27th||The greatest – Einstein or Newton?|
Terry Sloan (Emeritus Professor, University of Lancaster)
Terry has given us a number of excellent talks in the past on a variety of topics. This time he turns to aspects of the history of science and will review the legacies left from the work of Newton and Einstein and then encourage a debate on the question posed. Hopefully some of the philosophy of science will emerge from the debate.