Café Scientifique–2014/15 schedule

There’s a good half-dozen scientific talks coming up in Reading, covering the brain, bees, the weather, art, the gut and space – you’d be hard-pressed to find a wider range in subject matter. Unless you include the previous season of Café Scientifique talks, that is, or the Skeptics in the Pub.

Thanks to the Thames Valley Branch of the British Science Association, the University of Reading and Café Scientifique for organising the events.


September 8th

Treating the brain to beat the pain

Presented by Dr. Tim Salomons, University of Reading

Tim is a Lecturer and Marie Curie International Incoming Fellow in the School of Psychology at the University of Reading.  His work uses functional neuroimaging to examine how pain is processed in the brain and how the brain can alter pain depending on the context in which it occurs.  He is particularly interested in how thoughts and feelings change pain and whether the brain can be trained to cope more effectively.

The talk will describe how the brain shapes the experience of pain and give an overview of Dr. Salomons’ research into how our thoughts change this process.  In particular, Dr. Salomons will discuss some of his recent findings suggesting that training individuals to think differently about pain can alter not only their emotional response, but their actual sensitivity to painful stimuli.

The press release for the report came out last month.

October 13th

The high-flyers and pollinators: tracking the movement of bees and other pollinating insects

Presented by Dr. Jason Lim, Rothamsted Research

Insect migration and spatial movement have significant implication in our modern agricultural and ecological systems. The use of harmonic radar to study the movement and foraging behavior of low flying insect pollinators such as honeybee and bumblebee in agricultural landscapes allows us to understand the consequences for their population dynamics and crop and wildflower pollination.

On the other hand, insect echoes recorded from our vertical looking radars offers better understanding of the movement of high flying insect in the spatial structuring of insect populations and prediction of these patterns. Jason’s work using entomological radars have recently led to major advances in our understanding of how long-range migrants such as the Silver Y moth and Painted Lady Butterfly successfully move between breeding locations separated by hundreds of kilometers in just a few days.

November 10th

Weathermen at war

Presented by Professor Andrew Charlton-Perez, University of Reading

December 1st

Exploring the invisible

Presented by Dr. Simon Park, University of Surrey

Welcome to Exploring the Invisible, my biological playground.  I’m a scientist artist who works with living matter in order to explore the inherent creativity of the natural world and to reveal its subtle, and usually hidden, narratives.  I am unlike many  artists though, as I choose not to impose any strict human-centred design upon nature, and prefer to evoke it as a co-author in the creative process. My hope is that my works will allow the interested observer to perceive biological phenomena that would otherwise be perpetually invisible, so that the hidden machinations of the natural world are brought to light.

Also check out content from artist Anne Brodie, one of his collaborators on the Wellcome Trust funded project.

January 12th

Friends in low places: Human gut microbiology and health

Presented by Professor Glenn Gibson, University of Reading

From “Interview with Professor Glenn Gibson

Glenn is probably best known for creating the concept of ‘prebiotics’ together with a colleague, Marcel Roberfroid; these are non-digestible foods which selectively modulate the gut bacteria to bring about health benefits to the host. The concept has led to a huge amount of research, the term that is now widely used, and many commercial products are based on the concept and are considered to be complementary to probiotics.

You can also listen to Professor Glenn Gibson and Dr Gemma Walton chat about working in the University’s smelliest lab.

9 February

What is Dark Matter?

Presented by Professor Justin Read, University of Surrey

Since its discovery by the Swiss astronomer Fritz Zwicky in the 1930′s, dark matter has continued to capture the public imagination. It raises the read_justin_newsvelocity of stars and gas in galaxies, bends light around massive galaxy clusters and promotes the growth of structure in the Universe. In this talk, Justin will explain the key evidences for dark matter, and our latest theories for what it is. He will show that the latest data points towards dark matter being some new particle that lies beyond the standard model of particle physics. If this is correct, then billions of these particles will flow through your head by the time you finish reading this paragraph (without effect thankfully). This is such a striking thought that it has already inspired many artists and writers, from Cornelia Parker’s “Cold Dark Matter” sculpture to Philip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials”. Justin will conclude with a look to the future and our prospects for detecting or creating such a particle in the next five years.

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