Hampstead Scientific Society Programme 2018-19
Extra Information

Date Subject (Standard Info) Speaker
Thurs 20 Sept
8:15 pm
The Story of Water on Mars
Mars is currently a hyperarid, cold desert, but since the 1970s, we have seen evidence for past liquid water. Today, we are in a golden era of Mars exploration – a combination of satellites, landers, and rovers provide us with a plethora of evidence for both past and present water on Mars. This talk will discuss some of that evidence and present the case that rivers, lakes, and seas covered the Red Planet billions of years ago.
Dr Joel Davis
(Natural History Museum)
Thurs 18 Oct.
8:15 pm
The Hampstead Storm 1975
During the late afternoon of the 14th of August 1975 north London was struck by a severe thunderstorm which caused flash flooding in the Hampstead and Highgate area and resulted in the death of one person, injuries to several others and damage to properties and infrastructure. Actual precipitation totals have been estimated as being up to 250 mm, much of which fell in 2-3 hours. This event has become known simply as “The Hampstead Storm”. This talk will summarise what is known about the event and the meteorology of the near stationary convective storm and its mechanism and causes. Progress in our scientific understanding of such storms and our ability to predict them will be briefly reviewed.
David Smart
(University College London)
Thurs 15 Nov
8:15 pm
Space Missions to Giant Planets
We are living in a unique era from the point of view of planetary exploration. The Cassini mission orbiting Saturn came to and end in September, 2017, leaving a legacy of important discoveries concerning Saturn and its magnetic environment. In addition, there is the Juno mission currently orbiting Jupiter, investigating the planet’s atmosphere and aurorae. Finally, the JUICE (JUpiter ICy moon Explorer) mission will revisit the Jovian system (launch planned 2022) in particular to remotely ‘sense’ the subsurface ocean of the moon Ganymede. In this talk, we introduce planetary magnetospheres, look at some of the Cassini discoveries and describe some of the plans for JUICE.
Prof. Nicholas Achilleos
(University College London)
Thurs 13 Dec
8:15 pm
How Energy Flow Shapes the Evolution of Life
*** CANCELLED *** and replaced by

An Astronaut in Structure Space:
Re-designing Nucleic Acids Using Synthetic Organic Chemistry

Modern terran life uses several essential biopolymers like nucleic acids, proteins and polysaccharides. The nucleic acids DNA and RNA are arguably life’s most important, acting as the stores and translators of genetic information contained in their base sequences, which ultimately manifest themselves in the amino acid sequences of proteins. But just exactly what is it about their structures that enables them to carry out these functions with such high fidelity? In the past three decades, leading chemists have created in their laboratories synthetic analogues of nucleic acids which differ from their natural counterparts by replacing three key components. The talk will examine in detail the physical and chemical properties of these synthetic nucleic acid analogues, in particular on their abilities to serve as conveyors of genetic information. And if life exists elsewhere in the universe, will it also use DNA?
Prof. Nick Lane
(University College London)

Dr. Kevin Devine
(London Metropolitan University and HSS)
Thurs 17 Jan 2019
8:15 pm
Forensic Science – DNA Evidence
With increasing sensitivity of DNA profiling methods, it is now possible to obtain reliable DNA profiles from just a few cells. This means a detectable body fluid, such as blood or semen, is no longer required to give a good quality DNA profile. Instead, so-called ‘trace DNA’ can be recovered for which the biological source is unknown, be it a body fluid or indeed any other tissue, such as skin. This makes it increasingly difficult to assess whether the DNA recovered really came from someone involved in the crime. In this talk, Dr Meakin will discuss what impact this has on the interpretation of DNA evidence in casework, and consider the need for empirical research to help inform such interpretations. She will also discuss what other issues are in store for us as our technologies advance in the field of forensic DNA profiling.
Dr Georgina Meakin MCSFS FHEA
(University College London)
Thurs 21 Feb
8:15 pm
101 Theories of Dinosaur Extinction
Nearly everybody has heard of the neo-catastrophist ‘Meteorite Impact’ theory for the extinction of the dinosaurs. But many more theories have been proposed by scientists from ‘racial senescence’ to ‘the constipation theory’. And what about the other animals which went extinct at the K/T boundary and those which sailed through it all regardless, what do they tell us?
Mike Howgate FLS
(Amateur Geological Society)
Thurs 21 Mar
8:15 pm
The Roman Water Pump
The Romans used pumps for many purposes, including raising water and, very importantly, fighting fires. Roman engineers cleverly refashioned the Greek bronze design to make a cheaper and better pump in wood. Ten Roman pumps of bronze, and eighteen of wood, are known; there are remains of twenty three. One probably shows the progression from the earlier design to the later one.
This presentation will explain how Roman pumps worked and were driven, and will describe their output, how they were used, and what they were used for. They show the major contribution that machines made to the Roman world.
Dr. Richard Stein
(Hampstead Scientific Society)
Thurs 11 Apr
8:15 pm
Human Colour Vision
The initial stage of human colour vision is a three-variable, trichromatic system that depends upon three cone photoreceptors with different spectral sensitivities, each of which by itself is colour-blind. Consequently, lights can be matched by adjusting and mixing together just three fixed-wavelength “primary” lights (as, for example, in a colour television). We are able to perceive colour by comparing the effects of lights on the three cone types in a colour-opponent fashion. The colours that we ultimately perceive, however, depend on many other factors, such as contrast, assimilation and adaptation, which will be described and demonstrated during the presentation.
Prof. Andrew Stockman
(University College London)
Thurs 16 May
8:15 pm
Brain Oscillations and Mental Health
In the human brain, billions of neurons are connected via trillions of synapses. Each neuron receives thousands of inputs, and transmits to thousands more, including some that connect back to themselves. The result is a complex system of oscillating information networks that enables us to navigate and make sense of our physical and social environment. Neuroimaging techniques such as MEG (magnetoencephalography) can help us understand more about this complex oscillating system, how it can go wrong, and how we can help the brain restructure itself to restore healthy function.
Dr. Elizabeth Liddle
(University of Nottingham)
Thurs 20 June
8:00 pm
AGM: Wine & Cheese £zzz + scientific entertainment

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Last updated  10-May-2019