And the next talk is…

Plants: understanding their structures and growth
Speaker: Professor Paul Knox
Sunday 14 September 2014, 11.30am to about 1.00pm

As always, there will be tea, coffee and scrumptious cakes available to purchase from the café if you wish, but the talk is totally free.

Do join us: the more, the merrier!

Our atmosphere: chemistry matters

Speaker: Professor Dwayne Heard
Sunday 8 June 2014

Climate change and the debate about its causes are so often in the news that we probably all know more about this scientific subject than almost any other. The chemistry behind it all isn’t quite so widely discussed, however, so this week’s Café Sci was of particular interest. It is always difficult to reduce my pages of notes to a semi-succinct paragraph or two, and this week’s talk covered so many issues, it would have been even more difficult than usual. Fortunately, though, Professor Heard suggested some great short films on the subject.

The first looks at where it all began: right around here, during the Industrial Revolution. Here’s a time-lapse history of human global CO2 emissions since 1750 (on YouTube).

The second short film has a similar theme, but a slightly more upbeat ending. Humans are now the dominant influence on the planet, and given that the IPCC is 95% certain that we are the cause of climate change, can we find ways to fix the mess we’ve made? Welcome to the Anthropocene (on Vimeo).

At the University of Leeds, Professor Heard is investigating the behaviour and future potential of ‘nature’s detergent’, the hydroxyl radical, OH. So, here’s the final little movie, about the Outlaws in Air City (again, on YouTube).

(Apologies if any of those links go astray over time.)

How ‘Earthlings’ have fun looking for life in a MARS analogue site

Speaker: Liane Benning
Sunday 13 April 2014

Would you want to be an astronaut on a trip to Mars? This was a question put to us by Professor Liane Benning from the University of Leeds. We considered the work necessary to design and build – and then employ – the instruments looking for life, such as the Mars rovers. We learned about extreme conditions, and the places on Earth used for the years of testing it takes before instruments are ready to deploy. We thought about what ‘life’ might actually look like (hint: not little green men), and discussed the dangers humans would face on a mission to Mars.

Parasites and rhinoceros poo

Speaker: Andrew Stringer
Sunday 9 February 2014

This time we met a man who collects Black Rhino poo for his research. Following a brief history of epidemiology, we learned about the ‘charismatic’ parasites (nematodes and tapeworms) that Andrew Stringer studied in his work to determine if their abundance of transmission in rhinos was due to methods and environmental circumstances or (as proven) to density of the host. The speaker then talked about the Oxpecker bird and its advantageous relationship with the rhino, and a theory that this is only a recent development as a defence against humans. We heard about the Red Queen hypothesis, the conservation conundrum, and alongside some amusing anecdotes we had a demonstration using a teapot, a coffee cup and a shopping bag. Only at Café Sci, folks.

Alfred Russel Wallace: the other Darwin?

Speaker: Heather Mikhail
Sunday 12 January 2014

An excellent start to the new year! This week Heather Mikhail, a biology curatorial trainee at Leeds City Museum, gave us a comprehensive talk on the life and work of Alfred Russel Wallace (1823-1913), a biologist and so much more, who was one of those (along with Charles Darwin) to discover evolution by natural selection. Rather than trying to cram into one paragraph the enormous amount of information that we were given, this week I’m going to cheat and send you to the Alfred Russel Wallace website instead.

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