Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Kavli Royal Society International Centre for the Advancement of Science

The Royal Society, the UK's national academy of science, is to open a new centre for the advancement of science at Chicheley Hall, outside Newport Pagnell. The Royal Society has purchased the historic stately home and will be developing it to establish a new residential centre where scientists from all over the UK and the world will be able to meet to discuss and develop their work.

Stephen Cox, Executive Secretary of the Royal Society said: "The Kavli Royal Society Centre will gather some of the world's greatest scientific minds. In bringing these people together in a residential atmosphere we hope to create the sort of intense thinking and activity that gave rise to major breakthroughs such as the Apollo project or the decoding of the human genome."

"The Kavli Royal Society Centre at Chicheley Hall will be the new 'home of science' where scientists, technologists and engineers from all over the UK and the world will be able to meet in a residential setting to discuss and develop their work. The Centre is a new venture for the Royal Society and represents a long term investment in UK science by the Society and the Kavli Foundation.

The Royal Society has received significant support from the Kavli Foundation and others, to assist in the purchase and development of the Grade 1 listed early Georgian Country House, Chicheley Hall. Chicheley Hall is located in North Buckinghamshire, just outside of Milton Keynes. Work has started on the renovation and is due to be completed in early summer 2010.


Royal Society call for public dialogue about nanotechnologies and food

The Royal Society has responded to the House of Lords Science and Technology Select Committee call for evidence on nanotechnologies and food.

The Society agreed with the Committee that the use of nanotechnologies and nanomaterials in the food sector requires investigation. Nanoscience is likely to bring benefit to manufacturers and consumers of foodstuffs and related products. However they noted there is a lack of information on the current state of commercial development, and that there are technical and social uncertainties that need to be addressed.

The Royal Society believes nanotechnologies and food is an area that now needs public dialogue and opportunities should be sought for the findings to feed into policy and innovation processes. Open dialogue between the science, policy, commercial and public communities will be an important part of realising the potential benefits of nanoscience applied to food.

What is nanoscience?

NanotubeImage of nanotube from www.royalsociety.org

Nanoscience and nanotechnology involve studying and working with matter on an ultra-small scale. One nanometre is one-millionth of a millimetre and a single human hair is around 80,000 nanometres in width. Nanoscience and nanotechnology encompass a range of techniques rather than a single discipline, and stretch across the whole spectrum of science, touching medicine, physics, engineering and chemistry.

What is nanoscience and nanotechnology?


Monday, 30 March 2009

British scientists offer stem cell hope for deafness

Researchers at the University of Sheffield have created the complex hair cells and the neurons needed for hearing from human stem cells.

They found they could encourage stem cells from the inner ears of human foetuses to grow into these highly specialised hearing cells.

The scientists hope they will eventually be able to use the cells to perform cell transplants in deaf patients to replace the hair cells and neurons that are damaged in a form of deafness known as sensorineural hearing loss.

Sensorineural hearing loss one of the most common forms of deafness, accounting for 90 per cent of cases and affecting more than 6 million people.

The only treatment currently available is cochlear implants, but these electronic devices can never restore the full range of hearing.

Read more from the Telegraph: http://tinyurl.com/d8uf84

Government launches new national centre of expertise in chemistry

The Science & Technology Facilities Council Daresbury Laboratory is playing a key part in driving growth and innovation in the UK chemicals industry as part of a new centre launched by John Denham, Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills.

The Knowledge Centre for Materials Chemistry (KCMC) brings together leading edge knowledge and capabilities in applied materials chemistry from Daresbury Laboratory and the universities of Bolton, Liverpool and Manchester. It will provide a national centre of expertise to drive innovative, multi-disciplinary research and knowledge transfer for companies of all sizes by providing a ‘one stop shop’ for companies to access a substantial range of world class facilities and expertise in materials chemistry.

With an initial investment of £15 million from the North West Regional Development Agency and academic partner institutions, the centre will drive industrial growth for the UK chemistry-using industries through the coordination, development and exploitation of leading edge materials chemistry research.

John Denham said:

“It is highly appropriate for this new chemistry hub to include Daresbury. It fits well with our ambition for the campus to be a major science and innovation centre of national and international importance.

The Daresbury heritage is synonymous with some of the very best science that has been carried out here and across the world. I believe that by working together we can ensure its future can be equally bright and strong.”

Read more:






Friday, 27 March 2009

Scientists film HIV spreading

The Telegraph today reports on a US study where experts created a molecular clone of infectious HIV and inserted a protein into its genetic code which glows green when exposed to blue light.

This allowed scientists to see the cells on digital video, and capture the way HIV-infected T-cells interact with uninfected ones:


Wednesday, 25 March 2009

How green is the music industry?

Thanks to the research and campaigning being undertaken by Julie's Bicycle, the UK music industry is tackling climate change head on.

Julie’s Bicycle is a not-for-profit coalition of industry, science and energy experts who are working to create a low carbon future for the music, and creative industries.

Research underpins all of Julie’s Bicycle’s strategic and practical programmes – ensuring they can identify achievable and measurable carbon emission reduction targets.

In August 2007 Julie’s Bicycle commissioned the Environmental Change Institute, Oxford University, to

- estimate annual greenhouse gas emissions of the UK music industry.
- identify the key constraints and opportunities for reducing emissions.
- make initial recommendations for specific actions and priorities for the medium term.

Researchers worked with over 100 companies across the music business supply chain - limited to UK decision control. The report is the most extensive and rigorous research yet to examine a creative industry supply chain in the UK.

The indicative total shows that the UK music market is responsible for approximately 540,000 tonnes CO2e per annum. While this is not as intensive as many industries, it is a significant challenge to reduce CO2e emissions by 80% by 2050.

Current research projects include:

- An analysis of the climate impacts associated with touring designed to inform artists, tour/production managers, and audiences. This research spans the super band through to the chamber orchestra.

- An analysis of the climate impacts of the digital revolution. Is the assumption that digital is really less carbon-intensive than physical borne out by fact?

Read more at: http://www.juliesbicycle.com

UK funding for Caribbean climate change project

A project to save hundreds of Caribbean islands from the impacts of climate change has been given a boost with seed funding of £240,000 from the UK government.

The project called CARIBSAVE, led by the University of Oxford and the Caribbean Community Centre for Climate Change, aims to raise US$35 million over the next 3-5 years to tackle the challenges of climate change and its effect on tourism in the Caribbean region.
Part of the seed funding from the UK Department for International Development (DFID) will be spent on a six-month pilot study of two Caribbean destinations, Eleuthera in the Bahamas and Ocho Rios in Jamaica. Eleuthera is famed for its coral reefs and pink sandy beaches; while Ocho Rios attracts visitors keen to experience the island's lush, verdant scenery and tropical waterfalls. In a matter of weeks, climate change scientists will start monitoring the islands as test cases for the entire region's tourism industry.

By analysing destinational climate models of data collected between 1961 and 2008, the researchers will calculate the islands' likely climate until 2100. They will predict likely levels of rainfall, wind-speed, the rate of rising sea temperatures and sea levels, as well as the frequency of extreme weather events like hurricanes or monsoons. They will also assess the particular vulnerabilities of each island to physical impacts, such as coral bleaching or beach erosion. The climate science and physical impacts will be linked with socio-economics and other factors such as health, for instance whether rising sea levels could contaminate water supplies, and the increased risks of dengue fever and malaria posed by more frequent flooding.

Read more here

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Professor Linda Partridge: Woman of Outstanding Achievement

Professor Linda Partridge (UCL Genetics, Evolution & Environment) has been named a Woman of Outstanding Achievement 2009 for discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship by the UK Resource Centre for Women (UKRC) in Science, Engineering and Technology.

Professor Linda Partridge

Professor Partridge is a leading evolutionary biologist who specialises in ageing research; she holds the Weldon Chair of Biometry at UCL and is the Director of the UCL Institute of Healthy Ageing.

On receiving the commendation, Professor Partridge commented: “I am delighted to be chosen as one of the UKRC’s Women of Outstanding Achievement 2009. Young female scientists and engineers need senior females to relate to, especially at the difficult beginning of their research careers. What I try to do is show that you can be a successful scientist and have a rounded life.”

Professor Partridge has also recently won a grant from Research into Ageing, the biomedical research arm of Help the Aged, to advance knowledge on why bodies age. The findings of the study will be used to promote health and independence in later life.

The project will aim to gain a better understanding of the process of autophagy, the mechanism which cells use to remove damaged components from within themselves. The research will determine whether speeding up the rate of autophagy in fruit flies extends a healthy life span. Knowing why the organs, cells and molecules of the body age is vital in helping to combat diseases such as stroke, osteoporosis and dementia, where the single biggest risk factor is age.


Ada Lovelace Day

Today is an international day of blogging to draw attention to women excelling in technology.

Women’s contributions often go unacknowledged, their innovations seldom mentioned, their faces rarely recognised. We want you to tell the world about these unsung heroines. Entrepreneurs, innovators, sysadmins, programmers, designers, games developers, hardware experts, tech journalists, tech consultants. The list of tech-related careers is endless.

Recent research by psychologist Penelope Lockwood discovered that women need to see female role models more than men need to see male ones. That’s a relatively simple problem to begin to address. If women need female role models, let’s come together to highlight the women in technology that we look up to. Let’s create new role models and make sure that whenever the question “Who are the leading women in tech?” is asked, that we all have a list of candidates on the tips of our tongues.


UK-funded study shines light on sun's million-degree corona

The increase in temperature from approximately 6000 degrees on the visible surface of the Sun (photosphere) to well over a million degrees in the higher overlaying solar corona, has remained at the forefront of astrophysical research for over half a century. However, new observations of the lower atmosphere made with the Swedish Solar Telescope in the Canary Islands by scientists from Queen's University Belfast, the University of Sheffield and California State University Northridge.reveal the process behind this phenomenon.

Scientists have observed giant magnetic solar twists that reach from the surface of the sun to the corona carrying huge amounts of energy.

Prof. Mathioudakis, the leader of the Queen's University Belfast Solar Group, said, "Understanding solar activity and its influence on the Earth's climate is of paramount importance for human kind. The solar corona, visible from Earth only during a total solar eclipse, is a very dynamic environment which can erupt suddenly, releasing more energy than 10 billion atomic bombs."

Professor Keith Mason, CEO of the Science and technology Facilities Council which funded the study said, "These are extremely interesting results. Understanding the processes of our Sun is incredibly important as it provides the energy which allows life to exist on Earth and can affect our planet in many different ways. This new finding of magnetic waves in the Sun's lower atmosphere brings us closer to understanding its complex workings and its future effects on the Earth's atmosphere."


Monday, 23 March 2009

Students inspired into careers in science by Particle Physics Masterclasses

Image source: Science & Technology Facilities Council website

Seventy percent of students attending this year’s Particle Physics Masterclasses at the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxfordshire have said they would consider a career in science after being inspired by the activities.

The National Particle Physics Masterclass is a popular series of one day events for sixth form students and their teachers, run by practicing particle physics researchers at various institutes all over the country and co-ordinated through the Institute of Physics. They form part of the government’s campaign to try and increase the number of people studying science, technology, and engineering subjects and entering related careers.

The sessions at the world famous laboratory last week included interactive workshops, where students simulated the large particle collider experiments at CERN. They also had lectures from physics experts and tours of some of key physics facilities including ISIS (the world-leading neutron and muon source) and Diamond (a giant electron synchrotron the size of five football pitches).


£18 million towards UK energy research

The UK Energy Research Council (UKERC) has secured £18.5million towards the search for future energy solutions and reductions in carbon emissions.

The UKERC is a key part of the UK Research Councils' Energy Programme which brings together engineers and physical, natural, social and economic scientists, not just to create the technologies but to examine their social and economic consequences. This April it will present the results of UKERC Energy 2050 - a key project showing how the UK can meet its goal to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050 while dealing with anxieties about energy security.

Lord Drayson, Minister for Science and Innovation, said:

"This funding will help our drive to build a thriving, low carbon economy – one that allows us to compete in a changing world and deliver our climate change commitments."

"Climate change is the biggest challenge of our generation. We can rely on science to find solutions to the complex environmental challenges that lie ahead, but one of the real strengths of the UK Energy Research Centre is that it will bring together scientists from a variety of disciplines, to find these solutions faster".


Thursday, 19 March 2009

Are scientists confusing politicians about climate change?

An opinion piece written in New Scientist this week claims that the hundreds of scientists gathered at the recent climate change conference in Copenhagen failed to make clear exactly what policy changes needed to be made by governments.

Catherine Brahic writes that "some delegates worry the meeting has only created more confusion, leaving policy-makers even less clear about where to set their emissions targets." She describes how the conference "appeared to satisfy the needs of scientists but not the policy-makers present."

John Ashton, the UK government's special representative on climate change, says it's "wrong and dangerous" for scientists to confuse politicians and it "will make it harder to get the intensity and urgency of effort required".

The problem, says Martin Parry of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment in London, is that such a large and short meeting was never going to deliver a consensus on climate change. "If you had put another group of scientists on the panel of the plenary sessions, you would have had a different picture," says Parry.

Parry believes that politicians should ignore the indecision of scientists at the meeting and stick to their targets. "Studies continue and there isn't time to take a careful evaluation of all these, let alone get government agreement so science is working back-to-back with policy," says Parry.

Within the scientific community there is little disagreement about the threats that climate change pose, but questions are being raised about the extent that scientists need to work even more closely with policy-makers and frame their research in terms that politicians can understand and use quickly and effectively.


Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Cousin-marriage children under greater threat from infectious disease

In a newly published study that has ominous undertones for the current high-profile trial of an Austrian man who fathered children with his daughter, scientists have shown that human populations where close relatives marry are more likely to suffer from infectious diseases.

The journal Biology Letters published research today focusing on comparisons between communities in the Gambia, India and Italy. The researchers found an increased risk of developing hepatitis B and tuberculosis (TB).

Professor William Amos from the University of Cambridge says, "consanguinity is the extent to which two individuals are related when they marry, so we talk about consanguineous relationships, for example, when two second cousins marry."
In The Gambia, consanguineous marriages expose the offspring to more genetic defects. These reduce the immune system efficiency of the children, leaving them more prone to these infectious diseases.

"We found two positive results where there was a big difference in consanguinity between affected children and their unaffected parents. And these were both in the Gambia for hepatitis B and tuberculosis," says Amos. "Here we found that consanguinity greatly increased your risk of getting the disease."


Tuesday, 17 March 2009

DIUS wants £1billion cash boost for UK science

The Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills is in discussions with the Treasury to include £1billion for science as part of the current economic stimulus package.

The BBC reports that the approach is intended to keep academic talent in the UK while putting money quickly into the ailing economy.

President Obama recently boosted US science spending by more than $21bn (£15bn) as part of his economic stimulus package.

Westminster ministers with responsibility for science are telling the Treasury that the UK should follow suit.

Unless it does, they argue, the downturn will destroy scientific skills that draw high-tech companies to the UK.


Friday, 13 March 2009

Can science use the length of your fingers to predict how fast you can run?

A Medical Research Council funded study at Southampton University has suggested that men whose ring fingers are longer than their index fingers run faster.

Researchers think finger length reflects exposure to the hormone testosterone in the womb, the Telegraph reports.

The scientists at the Medical Research Council's Epidemiology Resource Unit, based at Southampton University, studied 241 boys aged 10 to 17 who took part in a sports talent-spotting competition in Qatar.

Each runner had their hands measured to see the difference between their ring fingers and index fingers.

They were then timed over a 50 metre sprint.

The results, published in the American Journal of Human Biology, showed those with longer ring fingers were faster at every stage of the race.

Dr John Manning, who led the study, said it's unlikely that boys exposed to higher levels of testosterone in the womb are simply stronger than their rivals.

Instead, they may owe their sporting success to better aerobic efficiency, the heart's ability to pump oxygen rich blood to hard-working muscles.

"We found finger ratios of the right and left hand were positively linked with sprinting times in boys,' said Dr Manning.

"The advantage they had was soon apparent after the start of the sprint and remained steady thereafter."

Previous studies have shown long-distance runners have the same feature.

But longer ring fingers have also been linked with everything from a lower risk of heart disease and exam success to male aggression and higher earnings in the workplace.

Click here for the full article in the Telegraph

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Only 4 days left of National Science and Engineering Week!

But don't worry there are still lots of events to come all over the country. What could you do today?

As part of the Economic and Social Research Council's Festival of Social Science, also this week, today you could explore the phenomenon of Street Arts, which from 2009 will be the focus of a major four-year Olympic Legacy Trust programme across Cumbria. It asks why spectacles like La Machine in Liverpool and Mintfest in Kendal have captured the public imagination and how we can understand their wider benefits.

More details click here.

Or online today,
you could help find the 100 most important questions facing plant science.
What are the top 100 contributions that this generation of plant scientists might make in Economic, Global, Scientific, & Social Arenas?

Anyone is welcome to contribute, including members of the general public; agriculture, horticulture and forestry industries; charities; policy makers; food, fibre, fuel and pharmaceutical industries; funding bodies; and researchers.

To submit your questions or view those that have been submitted visit http://www.100plantsciencequestions.org.uk/

There are hundreds more events over the next year - Click here for the event planner:

National Science and Engineering Week (NSEW) is a ten day celebration of science, engineering and technology which will run from the 6 - 15 March 2009. Last year around 1.4 million people attended over 3,500 events across the UK and this year we aim to make it even bigger!

National Science and Engineering Week is coordinated by the British Science Association, funded by DIUS (Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills), in partnership with the ETB (Engineering Technology Board) and is made possible by the hard work and effort of hundreds of event organisers around the country.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

UK-based scientists researching new ways to reduce the number of mice used in lab tests

The RSPCA and leading funders of medical research are calling on scientists to share information and animals more in order to help reduce the increasing number of genetically-altered (GA) mice used in experiments.

Organisations including the RSPCA, Medical Research Council, and Cancer Research UK are launching new guidance in the form of a booklet aimed at scientists working with animals.

The number of GA mice used in scientific procedures has been rising significantly and so the sharing and archiving of such animals is becoming an increasingly important means of both reducing and refining animal use to minimise suffering.

The most recent Home Office figures show more scientific procedures were carried out on animals in 2007 than any year since 1991. This is largely due to the increasing use of GA animals, which were used in 1.46 million regulated procedures in 2007 (46 percent of all procedures).

The new booklet, which contains information on what to archive and when, how to archive and how to share, along with a list of useful resources, is supported by the Government.

Home Office Minister Meg Hillier said: "The Government strongly supports initiatives that lead to greater implementation of the 3Rs [replacement, reduction, refinement]. I therefore welcome this report and the constructive liaison between the major funding bodies and the RSPCA in working towards this goal.

“The number of genetically-altered mice used in scientific procedures has risen consistently over recent years and this trend appears to be continuing. Whilst the use of these mice has enabled significant advances in science, this increasing use raises practical, scientific and ethical issues.

“As more novel genetically-altered mouse lines are produced, and their use becomes more widespread, the sharing and archiving of information and material related to these animals is becoming an increasingly important means of both reducing animal use and of refining procedures to improve animal welfare.”

More at: http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/media/releases2009/090311_reduce_number_of_mice.html

Science Minister launches Bloodhound@University

Lord Drayson, Minister of State for Science and Innovation will visit the University of the West of England on Wednesday 11 March to launch Bloodhound@University – a new online resource for young engineers to get involved with the development of the Bloodhound supersonic car.

In addition to launching the new web-based project, Lord Drayson will meet university engineering students, year 10 and 11 pupils from Bristol schools. He will also tour the Bloodhound Project at UWE which will showcase the engine and a mock up of the car that aims to break the world land speed record and achieve 1,000 mph.

The Bloodhound engineering team have developed the Bloodhound@University site to share a range of data and enable the Project to be integrated into engineering education.

Data such as the aero dynamics of the car, forces on its wheels and cockpit and the performance of the engine and rocket will be available to undergraduate and postgraduate students at universities across the UK. It is hoped students will get involved and work to solve the problems raised by the Bloodhound engineering team.

Commenting on Bloodhound@University initiative, Lord Drayson said:

“This web resource offers huge potential for both students and universities to get involved in this exciting project. It offers a great educational resource and a unique real-life project for engineering students to get to grips with.
“Unlike most cutting-edge engineering science projects with industry, where there is secrecy around detailed technical information – the data about Bloodhound is available to all. Few if any students would have the opportunity to work on a supersonic car as part of their university curriculum, but what better way to inspire young engineers?”

UWE students will link with fellow students at the universities of Swansea and Southampton via a live web video link for a series of presentations from Richard Noble – Project Director and staff at UWE, Swansea and Southampton who have been working on the project.

Bloodhound SSC is an iconic adventure that will push technology to its limit and provide a once in a lifetime opportunity to inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers. The Bloodhound Education Programme will be available to all pupils from primary and secondary schools, and to students in further and higher education in addition to a series of activities outside the school environment to engage more broadly with society.

Richard Noble, the project leader and a previous world land speed record holder will be speaking to school pupils and students on the 11 March about the latest developments in the project. He says, “Bloodhound@University gives students the chance to converse with the nation’s leading mathematicians, scientists and engineers and contribute to a pioneering engineering project. We hope this unique British project will help motivate the next generation of scientists and engineers, whom we will depend on to find the solutions to everything from climate change to growing population pressures. It is undoubtedly the most stimulating and challenging programme I’ve ever been involved with.”

John Lanham, Head of Design and Engineering, who is leading the education aspects of the project for UWE says, “We want this project to be an open access project, where students can learn from the design and development of the car as it progresses. It is a rare opportunity to bring real world challenges of engineering into the classroom and the lecture theatre. Many of the complex issues we now face on a global scale need the insight and expertise of a new generation of technologists and scientists. We want this project to both inspire and educate the engineers of tomorrow.”

“In the morning we are giving Bristol school pupils the chance to configure their own supersonic car using the technology and data from Bloodhound. Using special software designed by the University of Southampton they will make decisions about the key factors which will help or hinder the performance of this car. For example they will have to choose the size of the engine, and make decisions about the thrust, drag and acceleration, so see how the various factors impact on the performance of the car. This enables them to experience first hand the compromises and trade offs that are at the heart of complex engineering design.”

In the evening, employers, VIPs and business leaders from Bristol will have the opportunity to see the scale mock up of the car, and the cock pit which has been designed by UWE Product Design students. The cockpit test rig aims to ensure that components such as chair and controls are in the optimum ergonomic position for the challenge. Twenty second-year product design students designed and built the cockpit test rig as part of their design studio class during a five week project.

The Bloodhound Project is based at UWE. UWE is a founder sponsor of the Bloodhound Project, along with Swansea University, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research council, SERCO plc and STP. For full details see: http://www.bloodhoundssc.com/

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

UK scientists begin multi-million pound research into potential cancer treatments

With a £4.5 million pound grant from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) scientists in the UK this week began a project aiming to gain a better understanding of how new drugs could be developed to help treat cancer. Ultimately the scientists want to try and save more lives as well as money, by matching the right medication to the right patient.

The project is a collaboration between the Science and Technology Facilities Council's Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL), King's College London, and Cambridge and Oxford Universities.

More at: http://www.scitech.ac.uk/PMC/PRel/STFC/RALKings.aspx

UK harnesses space technology to tackle global environmental challenges

A centre dedicated to harnessing space technology for environmental research has been launched. Science minister Lord Drayson, spoke at the launch:

"Society is relying on science for answers to the most complex and daunting environmental challenges facing the planet. The launch of the National Centre for Earth Observation represents the UK's determination to use the full potential of space technology for environmental research and make the most of this country's considerable expertise.

"Satellites offer a unique perspective on the interconnected processes that are shaping our world. Research undertaken at the NCEO will bring together seismologists, oceanographers and computer modellers to analyse data generated from British satellites and from European Space Agency programmes. In particular, I'm pleased to report that the NCEO will provide an essential national resource for the ESA Global Monitoring for Environment and Security programme, which the UK government has recently invested &pound82m.

"In short, this centre will help to understand and tackle some of the biggest global challenges of the 21st Century."

More at: http://www.nerc.ac.uk/press/releases/2009/04-nceo.asp

Change Exchange

The Change Exchange blog has been created to celebrate National Science and Engineering Week (6-15 March 2009), a national celebration of science which sees millions of people attending events and taking part in activities across the country. We want you to submit your comments on what you would like to see happen in the future and what you don’t want to see...

what are your hopes and concerns on the future of science and engineering?
Are you worried that your house will flood?
Nervous at the thought of choosing characteristics for babies?
Looking forward to the first person to walk on Mars?
Or just want the trains to run on time?

This is your chance to discuss your thoughts with scientists and engineers and to find out what the possibilities are of these becoming realities....!Add your comments to our dedicated website

Monday, 9 March 2009

National Science and Engineering Week: 6 - 15 March 2009

National Science and Engineering Week (NSEW) is a ten day celebration of science, engineering and technology which will run from the 6 - 15 March 2009. Last year around 1.4 million people attended over 3,500 events across the UK and this year we aim to make it even bigger!

National Science and Engineering Week is coordinated by the British Science Association, funded by DIUS (Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills), in partnership with the ETB (Engineering Technology Board) and is made possible by the hard work and effort of hundreds of event organisers around the country.

Click here for more information.


The BLOODHOUND Project - which aims to break the world land speed record by achieving 1,000mph - is an iconic adventure that will push technology to its limit. BLOODHOUND SSC provides us with a once in a lifetime opportunity to inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers. The BLOODHOUND Education Programme will be available to all pupils from primary and secondary schools, and to students in further and higher education. Lesson ideas are available now.

Friday, 6 March 2009

Robotic Surgeon

The "Trauma Pod" robotic operating room could one day carry out emergency procedures while transporting soldiers to the nearest field hospital. (from New Scientist)

Highlights from Pioneers 09

A Daisyphone, Virtual Cocoon and a ‘Smart’ house for people with dementia were just some of the highlights featured at our major research exhibition, Pioneers 09, held on 4 March 2009.

The event brought together forward-thinking UK researchers and business people. It included a dynamic, interactive exhibition highlighting examples of leading-edge university research from over 20 top UK research groups.

There were talks from director of the Bloodhound SSC land-speed record team, Richard Noble and a debate about internet privacy led by BBC science journalist Quentin Cooper, featuring industry expert Tom llube. We also held a Dragon’s Den style workshop where scientists will pitch research ideas to a panel of venture capitalists.

Hear from some of the key exhibitors in the Pioneer Podcast.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

ESRC Festival of Social Science 2009: the wider picture

Social science plays an important part in all our lives. It shows that science is not just test tubes and technology but involves people and society too.

It helps us to make sense of the key issues in the changing world around us such as the implications of global financial crisis, climate change, nuclear power or nanotechnology; or the implications of social issues such as ageing, immigration and population change.

Running from Friday 6th March to Sunday 15th March the ESRC Festival of Social Science, organised by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), will celebrate some of the very best British social science research, highlighting the ways in which it makes a difference to all our lives.

More than 30 UK towns and cities, from Glasgow to Brighton, Belfast to Swansea as well as many places in between, are hosting events during the Festival. Over 100 events are being organised during the Festival ranging from conferences to workshops and debates, exhibitions, film screenings, policy briefings and much more. Plus if you can't make it, there are even virtual events taking place across the week online.

Whether it is school children tramping through the Peak District on a 'Moorland Walk' or getting to grips with the implications of the current financial crisis for business and individuals; discovering the social life of plants or exploring whether teenage behaviour is biological in origin, this Festival has something to capture everyone's interest.

Broadly speaking, social scientists study society, how we behave and our impact on the world around us.

Professor Ian Diamond, Chief Executive of the Economic and Social Research Council points out that: "Year on year, the ESRC funds world class research into areas of national and international importance, such as the economy, crime, health, and the environment. The Festival is an opportunity not just to showcase our research but for people to find out more about the vital role of social science in our everyday lives."

The events during the Festival will touch on many issues affecting Britain today such as:

  • The "credit crunch": consequences for UK households
  • Exploring food, connecting communities
  • Rural England in the 21st Century
  • Lincoln and Darwin: live for one night only
  • What's social about sport?
  • Street arts: people and places at play
  • Natural burial: do we need a headstone?
  • Grandparenting: the challenge of "being there" and "not interfering"
  • Talent and autism
  • The social life of plants
  • Feeding the future city
  • The 2008 crash and the future of the global economy

Further information on the full range of events can be found at the Festival website

Diamond - a Light for Science

"it seems that the Diamond Light Source may be one area in which the UK is managing to punch above its weight in the scientific world stage." Tom Feilden BBC - more

Diamond produces x-ray, infrared and ultra-violet beams of exceptional brightness. These highly focused beams of light enable scientists and engineers to probe deep into the basic structure of matter and materials, answering fundamental questions about everything from the building blocks of life to the origin of our planet.

Synchrotron light is an indispensable tool in many research areas including physics, chemistry, materials science and crystallography. In addition, synchrotron light is increasingly being exploited by new communities such as medicine, geological and environmental studies, structural genomics and archaeology.

Diamond is a third generation 3 GeV (Giga electron Volt) synchrotron light source. Third generation light sources use arrays of magnets, called insertion devices, to generate extremely intense, narrow beams of light, about 10,000 times brighter than the UK facility based at the Daresbury Laboratory in Cheshire.

Diamond storage ring building January 2006Diamond is currently the brightest medium-energy source in the world and is optimised to produce X-rays with energies between 100 electron volts (soft X-rays) and 20,000 electron volts (hard X-rays). In addition, Diamond also provide a good source of X-rays up to 100,000 electron volts.

Many researchers in the UK already use synchrotrons. Extensive consultation with this user community resulted in a portfolio of experimental stations, called beamlines. Diamond's beamlines will be built in several phases. Phase I is now complete, with seven beamlines now in operation. In Phase II, a further fifteen beamlines will be added at a rate of four to five per annum. Phase III is yet to be determined, and will depend on emerging technologies and the requirements of users as the facility develops.

State-of-the-art instrumentation complement the light source, ensuring that researchers from the UK and abroad have access to cutting-edge analytical techniques and services for at least the next thirty years.

For more information visit the official site

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

The Big Bang 4th – 6th March 2009

Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, Westminster, London, SE1P 3EE

What's on at the Big Bang: The Big Bang will span all seven floors of the QE2 centre featuring compelling and engaging theatre shows and hands on investigations covering the entire science and engineering spectrum. There will also be displays and demonstrations of leading-edge UK technology from sponsor companies, and exhibition stands to showcase further inspirational projects. School groups attending the Big Bang will arrive for half day sessions. They will also have time to walk around the exhibitions floor and careers zone to see many sessions come alive.

33 different Theatre Shows, including: (Ground Floor, Fourth Floor, Sixth Floor)
BAE Systems World of Robotics - BAE Systems will amaze with a demonstration of autonomy and robotics

Bending it like Beckham - This demonstration takes over where the film ends, with volunteer interaction and computer modelling to show that science and technology really do have a place in football

Bloodhound SSC - This presentation will explore the work of the Bloodhound SSC team, which will see Richard Noble OBE (Bloodhound SSC project director) and Andy Green OBE (the world’s fastest mathematician - 763mph) attempt to break the land speed record

Darwins Worms - This play looks at Darwin’s fascination with worms, for example how he would lay them on his billiard table, ask his children to play the bassoon and piano to them, and then study their reactions

ICE: Young Brunel Lecture - Arup Director and ICE Fellow Peter Head OBE will set out a vision of life in a sustainable community of the future, drawing on experience with projects such as the Dongtan eco-city in China

Identifying Faces - This is where the psychology and science of face identification and perception is brought to life – easy for humans maybe, but still a challenge for science

Making art from science - Media company ActionDog will showcase Wellcome Trust-funded projects on Making art from science, including a fashion show and sculptures inspired by images of the brain’s nerve cells

NOISE: Science Cabaret - The acclaimed NOISE Science Cabaret brings lively demonstrations, audience participation and entertaining explanations covering a whole range of science topics with their own unique style

Punk Science - The Science Museum’s Punk Science team takes a sideways look at the science behind climate change featuring comedy, live audience demonstrations, experiments, voting and music

SEE: The Olympic Games - Commissioned by the Royal Academy of Engineering, the Sport, Ethics and Engineering of the Olympic Games lecture offers an exciting insight into the world of engineering and sport

Science that Changed the World - The Royal Institution’s celebrated show will highlight the significant contributions made by British scientists at the Royal Institution, and their implications for the world around us

Shell: The Energy Challenge - This presentation will put to the audience some hard truths about the environment in 2050, and ask what we can do to help

Visualise - Science Made Simple – the company specialising in sharing its enthusiasm for science - will perform their highly acclaimed Visualise show, a mix of physical theatre, live science demonstrations, projected images and music

Your Magical Mind - Teacher and professional magician Andrew Jeffrey will show how the human mind can be trained to perform extraordinary mental feats such as lightning calculation and mind-reading

53 different hands-on Investigations including: (Second Floor, Fourth Floor)
ARM: Rapid Prototyping - Students and teachers will explore leading-edge electronics technology by building and adapting example projects, or even inventing new projects of their own.

CSI: Murder on Mill Hill - The MRC: National Institute for Medical Research will give students the opportunity to solve a murder mystery, by making DNA fingerprints using DNA models and analysis equipment.

Impact Earth: the death of the dinosaurs - This workshop will allow students to handle dinosaur fossils and meteorites (including samples from the Moon and Mars), study impact craters using the Internet, and even create their own ‘virtual impact craters’ using specially designed software.

Science Museum: It takes Guts - The Science Museum brings along its acclaimed outreach team to show It takes Guts. Take a journey through the human body’s digestive system and get to know your gut.

Me, Myself and I: How plants propagate - The Royal Horticultural Society will showcase its Growing Lab Workshop, showing how plants produce clones in the wild, and how students can produce their own at home

BAA: The Invisible World of IR - This workshop will take students on a journey that links the basic physics of infra-red technology through to its exciting real-world applications
The Future of Medicine - This series of workshops will look at a wide range of topics, from psychiatric genetics, through to how medicines are made in the 21st century

IOP: Physics in the Field - The Physics in the Field team will be performing physics tricks – hand-held demos using things you can find at home – and making sure everyone else gets a go too

Lloyd’s Register: All at Sea - This will explore a number of perennial maritime issues such as: pollution, stability, the changing nature of vessels and will also look at some of the emerging technologies that will help the industry

Exhibitions floor: Taking a thematic approach to STEM, this is a cross-disciplinary area encompassing a wide range exhibits that will enthuse and inspire students.

Your Health: This will include exhibits from the Royal Veterinary College with a ’dog bandaging’ demonstration. The Institute of Physics will give the ‘inside story’ showing the role of physics in medicine. There will be an ultrasound machine and x-ray simulator (with objects that can be ‘x-rayed’). ‘Cold wars’ will also show the effect of germs and the need for anti-bacterial wash

Your Planet: This zone will look at both space, including a telescope looking out of the window and lots of model rockets including the Virgin Galactic spaceship, and science closer to home. The British Geological Survey will be on hand and the zone will include a seismic simulator to demonstrate the effect of an earthquake

Your Environment: The Met Office will give young people the chance to experience what it is like to be a weather forecaster. The Royal Meteorological Society will showcase talking heads on TVs from experts talking about climate change. This zone will also include a ‘radioactive’ treasure hunt, where a gamma-ray detector will be used to find a (not real) ‘radioactive’ substance

Engineering and Technology Zone: Featuring organisations from across engineering and technology this zone will include a helipad and Batak Board to test hand-eye co-ordination

Contemporary Research: This area will feature researchers conducting hands on experiments. Three experiments will running during The Big Bang

International Year of Astronomy: From mapping to stars to the British space program, this stand celebrates the International Year of Astronomy

Journey to South Pole: Ben Fogle and James Cracknell will demonstrate the equipment and techniques they used on their Antarctic expedition in 2008. Students will also be able to measure their lung capacity on a computerised treadmill to see if they could make it to the South Pole

Touch your Future: A major provider of content for this will be BAE systems and it will highlight the potential roles open to engineers, and will feature touch screen displays

TV Centre: Live from the Big Bang: At a live television studio organised by NESTA, students will be able to record ten minute packages which will be broadcast throughout the QEII Centre

Darwin Today: This area will explain the relevance of Charles Darwin to today’s young people and is linked to Darwin 200. Students will be able to map their genealogy with touch screen terminals, and see a giant model of the giant tortoises which mesmerised Darwin in the Galapagos Island

Mechanical Engineering: This area will look at mechanical engineering and feature a Formula Student car. Take a tour down to the lobby and then try out our F1 simulator provided by SOE
Institute of Lighting Engineers: This zone will feature a light sculpture

Careers Zone: (Fourth Floor: Westminster Suite) Organisers of the Big Bang are focused on attracting students from diverse backgrounds, particularly those without an existing interest in STEM subjects. The Careers Zone will help to show young people exactly where STEM can take them. Key parts of the careers zone:

Careers Speed Dating: In half hour slots, 8-10 young people at a time will take part in careers speed dating with a corresponding number of working scientists and engineers. Every three minutes a whistle will blow and young people will move on to learn about a different area of STEM

Meet role models and STEM professionals: Face-to-face interaction with range of role models from science, engineering, technology and maths about their jobs and experiences of education and get some on the spot advice from careers professionals

Graffiti Wall: Students can write their thoughts on a range of STEM topics on a graffiti wall in the Careers Zone

Interactive careers resources: Banks of computers and TV screens will answer questions young people may have about careers in STEM. Literature will also be available throughout the zone

Teachers Zone: For teachers only this room will have literature of interest to teachers and provide a space to network

Industry Area: (Third Floor: Benjamin Britten Lounge) The Big Bang’s many sponsors will provide opportunities for visitors to see some of the amazing real world applications of science and technology. The Industry area will also be home for three days to Titan the Robot, the eight feet tall robot.

The National Science Competition: (Exhibitors: Third Floor: Fleming and Whittle Room / Awards ceremony: Ground Floor: Churchill Auditorium) The Big Bang also features the newly established National Science Competition http://www.nationalsciencecompetition.org
an initiative of the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills. Featuring 183 project stands showcasing highly innovative science and engineering projects, this is open to all 13-19 year olds who will compete alongside regional finalists from the CREST Awards, managed by the British Science Association, and Young Engineer for Britain Competition. A number of prizes will be awarded during The Big Bang, including UK Young Scientist of the Year and UK Young Technologist of the Year. Each winner will receive a personal cash prize of £5000, a trophy, a once-in-a-lifetime international science or technology trip, and opportunities to represent youth science at events across the UK and beyond over the following year. The awards ceremony for the National Science Competition will take place on Thursday 5th March 2009 from 17.30 – 19.00 in the Churchill Auditorium.

Two ceremonies: More awards will be presented during the second awards ceremony on the Friday of The Big Bang. This will be less formal and will see The Punk Scientists act as roving award presenters for the remaining prizes to be handed out at The Big Bang.

The IET Faraday Engineering Challenge Final: (Fourth Floor: Rutherford Room) Three winning teams from 30 regional challenges compete for the title of ‘Faraday engineering team of the year’. The teams comprise of Year 8 students, two selected from science, two from design and technology and two from maths. The final contest will give the teams a further opportunity to research, design, plan and produce their solutions to the engineering challenge. It will be packed with learning across the key STEM subjects and mapped to the new KS3 PoS sitting comfortably in the ‘New Opportunities’ section and covering many aspects of the new PLTS. These regional teams are coming to London to win the title, a trophy, places on Smallpeice Trust Courses and £1000 towards science, design and technology and maths equipment.

Timing of key events at The Big Bang:

Wednesday 4th March
1200 – 1630: Afternoon session for visiting schools groups to The Big Bang
1200 – 1630: Judging of competition entrants takes place (Closed to visiting school groups but open to media)
1500 – 1505: The Big Bang opening ceremony by HRH The Duke of York, KG, KCVO, ADC

Thursday 5th March
0900 – 1315: Morning session for visiting school groups to The Big Bang
1315 – 1715: Afternoon session for visiting schools groups to The Big Bang
1730 – 1900: National Science Competition awards ceremony, presented by Kate Humble

Friday 6th March
0900 – 1330: Morning session for visiting school groups to The Big Bang
12.00 – National Science Competition Highly Commended winners
12.15 – CREST Medals winners
12.40 – Young Engineer YEB awards
13.00 – QinetiQ Award presented by Ben Fogle (project to design a jacket for the cold environment of Antarctica)
13.10 – YEng Club awards
13.30 – Maths Inspiration award
13.35 – CREST runners-up
13.45 – Punk Scientists officially close The Big Bang