Weymouth and Portland U3A Science Club
Talk Programme from September 2018 to June 2019
All talks on second Tuesday of the month at 1000h in St Aldhelms Church Hall in Spa Road, Weymouth http://www.staldhelmschurchcentre.co.uk/
(£1 payable at the door for U3A-controlled expenses plus voluntary 20p for Tea/Coffee and biscuits)
Organised by Alex Scott (contact number 01305 760748; alexscott1720b at gmail.com).
Sep 11 Nuclear Criticality - Accidents and Control By Bernard Franklin
Bernard retired as a Principal Consultant on Reactor Physics and Criticality Safety in 2014 after 40+ years in the nuclear industry, based at Winfrith. His early work included measurement of Fast Reactor neutron spectra and developing subcritical monitoring techniques. This was extended to thermal reactor fuel storage accident simulations. In the early 1990s he worked, on secondment, for the CEA at Cadarache in Provence. After that, he worked on criticality and reactor physics issues both within the UK and abroad.
Nuclear criticality safety is a field of nuclear engineering dedicated to the prevention of nuclear and radiation accidents resulting from an inadvertent, self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction. The talk will define what is meant by criticality including the conditions and materials that can contribute to a criticality accident. It will also review some examples of criticality accidents and how they could have been prevented. [Alex says - this sounds yet another very interesting topic that nicely complements the recent talk that we had on the atomic bomb]
Oct 9 Battery development by John Gifford
I am sure you have noticed that torch batteries now last for longer, model planes fly on electric power, electric cars are a reality and all our latest devices are fitted with rechargeable batteries that work so well that even Dyson recently decided that there was no point in continuing to make vacuum cleaners that need to be plugged into the mains. John Gifford, a loyal supporter of the group, has agreed to put together a talk on the scientific and technological basis of advances in battery design.
[John has been a loyal supporter of the Science Group since its inception (most of you will know him) and has given several talks during that time, the last one in 2016 being on the problems with diesel engines]
Nov 13 The light at the end of the tunnel: the challenges to make the first laser. by Peter Blood
Peter studied physics at the University of Leeds then worked for 20 years at Philips Research Laboratories, Redhill, during which time he spent a year at the Atomic Energy Research Establishment at Harwell and14 months at Bell Laboratories, Murray Hill in the USA. He was appointed professor at Cardiff University in 1991, where he continued his work on laser diodes. In addition to teaching in Cardiff he has lectured regularly in the UK and overseas. While at Philips he co-authored two books with his colleague John Orton, and his textbook on laser diodes was published by Oxford University Press in 2015. He “retired” in 2011 ….but he’s still to be found in the physics department on Fridays with a group of students……
Semiconductor lasers are at the heart of modern digital information technology, optical fibre communications and optical disc systems, yet at one time they were not regarded as relevant to the telecommunications industry: a solution looking for a problem! Their operation rests upon a concept enunciated by Einstein in 1917 but thought impossible to implement. However, with determination, the principle was demonstrated in 1953 and the first laser made in 1961; the first semiconductor laser was demonstrated in 1962 but it was not until 1970 that a practical device operating at room temperature was made. Many of those who contributed to these advances faced discouragement and had difficulty in getting their work published, but two of them were eventually recognised with the Nobel Prize for Physics in 2000. The history of the laser is as much about the people as about the physics.
Dec 11 Marine toxin threats in the UK By Andrew Turner
As Principal Chemist in the Cefas Weymouth Food Safety Group, Andrew is responsible for the biotoxin testing in shellfish performed on behalf of the UK competent authorities. He oversees the development and implementation of new methods for food safety surveillance and leads the development of research activities of the chemistry team. He has over 18 years postgraduate experience delivering analytical chemistry in a commercial environment. Current research interests include the development of new instrumental methods for marine biotoxins, assessment of rapid testing methods and the impact of cyanobacteria on food safety. They also include the development and production of stable reference materials, risks from new and emerging toxins and chemical contaminants within UK waters.
The talk will include: background and detection methods; cause and implications of dog deaths following mass stranding of fish on East Anglian beaches following recent winter storms; the discovery of tetrodotoxin (the deadly puffer fish poison) in UK waters; Ciguatera fish poisoning from imported fish. [I am one of Andrew’s admirers. While I was still at the laboratory, he worked tirelessly to develop a method for detecting shellfish poisons that did not involve the use of live animals. This was an outstanding achievement]
Jan 8 Elephants to insects by Katie Thompson
Katie Thompson is a Research Associate working at the Faculty of Science and Technology, Life and Environmental Sciences at Bournemouth University, England. She is interested in human wildlife conflict and the broader impact this is having on the environment. Her areas of interest are in African wildlife, where her research focuses on ecosystem level conservation (African elephants and insects), environmental education and sustainable development within South Africa and Kenya. Ultimately, she aims to use this knowledge to facilitate improving long term management of wildlife and their natural habitats, through high impact research and outreach activities. Also, please see https://www1.bournemouth.ac.uk/news/2017-12-15/bu-s-katie-thompson-receives-freedom-city-london !
Feb 12 SONAR - SOFAR (50 years of UK sonar development) by Kevin Butcher
Kevin’s 50 year career (1967-2017) in the defence industry has been almost entirely in underwater technology. Since joining the Admiralty Underwater Weapons Establishment (AUWE) at Portland in 1967 he has been involved in one way or another with the; Design, Integration, Acceptance, Support, Modelling and Training of every sonar system in service with the Royal Navy to date. During this time has also worked with; if not for, every major UK defence contractor and been at sea on more than 20 submarines - UK and export. The talk will cover the journey and evolution of these systems in the context of their requirement, application and political motivation, through a series of personal experiences and anecdotes.
Mar 12 Prescribing Practice in Dorset by Paul Mason
Paul qualified as a doctor in 1981 at Southampton , worked in a variety of junior hospital jobs, including 5 months at a mission hospital in Zambia in 1985 and then in Brisbane in 1987. He retired as a GP on Portland in 2018, having worked there for 31 years (Paul says: a lot of hard work but also a privilege to try to serve a community). He set up the education programme in the practice in 1993 and the diabetes clinic in the same year, performed minor surgery, worked in the local hospital and all 3 prisons on Portland. He started working in prescribing support for Weymouth and Portland Primary Care Group in 1996, arranging meetings with GPs and pharmacists in this area. He then worked for South West Dorset Primary Care Group until 2006, when he became GP prescribing lead for Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), a role in which he continues. This work entails talking to GPs about prescribing, working with the CCG medicines management team to look at policy and drug management, sitting on many committees at county level and chair the Dorset Medicines Advisory Group which discusses and makes recommendations about medications and their use in care pathways throughout all medical care in Dorset. It can be a complex juggling act between evidence, industry and patient pressure to provide high quality care within a very tight budget.
Apr 9 The Skylark Rocket by Robin Brand
These days, few have heard of the Skylark sounding rocket. Yet in November 1957, it was the first British rocket to reach space, and became the basis of Britain’s earliest space programme. Hundreds were fired, launching into space thousands of scientific instruments. This talk tells the story of this space rocket, originally designed and built by the RAE (Royal Aircraft Establishment) Farnborough, Hampshire. Amongst the topics will be: General introduction including subject and speaker; Clarifications on purpose of sounding rockets and 48 year service life; Design & development at Farnborough; Where originally launched at Woomera in Australia with b&w video 5; SL04 first into space on 13th Nov. 1957 and science programme begins; Enhancements – Cuckoo boost motor, parachute recovery and payload attitude control; Pioneering UV and X-ray astronomy – observing the Sun, stars and other cosmic sources 8; Test launches from the UK; A new role - Earth resource measurements in Australia and Argentina, saving archive films; Launch from Spain, end of UK sponsorship after 21 years; Microgravity application missions from Sweden, last launch in 2005; Where Skylark artefacts can be seen today
This presentation is based on research in the BIS library and elsewhere, for Robin’s book of a similar name (the first ever written of the full story of the Skylark), which was published on 1st December 2014.
May 14th Royal Navy marine engineering in WW2 up to the present By Rod Harris
Rod worked on the design and development of improved combustion equipment for RN boilers. He was appointed Chief Marine engineering overseer for two Frigates for the Chilean Navy followed by two for the Brazilian Navy. He transferred to Portland where he specialised in lightweight and heavyweight torpedoes and their submarine interfaces. He was promoted to Project Manager, responsible for the torpedo tubes of four new diesel submarines for the RN. He took five years to modify the system to overcome major safety issues, under the direction of a Rear Admiral. He is author of an article in the Journal of Naval Engineering on the safety issues and the solutions to solve them. He was awarded an OBE for his services to submarine safety. He served as a Project Manager again for a major update to RN mine warfare vessels. After retirement, he became a consultant working on a major update for a torpedo range in Scotland.
June 11th Why do we still ring birds? By Allen Reese
Allan is by profession a statistician and data scientist, having worked at the Universities of Sheffield and Hull, and for ten years until retirement, at Cefas. He is still active with the Royal Statistical Society and writes for Significance magazine. He has also been a lifelong birdwatcher for nearly 60 years.
The practice of attaching metal rings to identify wild birds individually has been undertaken for over 100 years. In the UK it is mainly carried out by amateurs, licensed by the Home Office and coordinated by the BTO, a scientific charity: classic citizen science. In other countries ringing is carried out almost exclusively by professional biologists. In the last few decades other tracking methods have become available. Allan will inform us about these various methods and schemes, and will also cover what ringers do, how they are coordinated, and why. He will compare the scientific benefits that comes from the various methods of tracking.
July/August Summer Break
Note: Talks may be cancelled or re-arranged under certain circumstances. If your name is on the contact list, you will be informed of these changes by email.