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The Science & Technology Group

Organising committee:  Tanya Dempster, Paul McKay, Bill Devitt, Kurt and Lynda Kovach - science@ashbyu3a.co.uk -


This group is for both people who have a general interest in science as well as those whose careers have been in this area. We meet monthly with talks given mainly by members on a mixture of science/ engineering topics, some science news, information about famous scientists, good YouTube ideas and even the occasional practical activity.

We normally meet in the main hall at Packington Village Hall, High Street, Packington LE65 1WJ on the 2nd Tuesday of the month at 2pm.
Parking is limited, so please try to car-share if possible.


Future programme
DateTimeVenueSpeaker & topicDetails

Tue 12th Mar2:00 pmPackington Village Hall. Kevin Reynolds 'Pigeons – from the Gods to the Gutter'Dove of peace or rat with wings? A look at our complex relationship with, and perceptions of, this remarkable bird throughout history.
Tue 9th Apr2:00 pmPackington Village Hall. Jane Barnes 'Tales from a Dairy Farmers Wife'A science twist to dairy farming and making cheese. More details to come - but a chance of cheese tasting!
Tue 14th May2:00 pmPackington Village Hall. Stuart Naylor 'Concept Cartoons: Switching learners on to science'Concept Cartoons are a quick, simple, and effective way to promote discussion, get learners thinking, and find out their ideas. Teachers find them easy to use, and learners of all age groups find them engaging and challenging. This interactive session will get you talking, thinking, and maybe learning a bit of science as well. Stuart Naylor worked as a classroom teacher, teacher educator, writer, publisher and consultant. He is well known, along with his late wife, Brenda Keogh, as the creator and developer of Concept Cartoons. He has a reputation for innovative, creative, and thought-provoking writing and teaching. He is currently chair of Sandbach & District u3a.
Tue 11th JunTBCUniversity of Derby. Dr Graham Souch 'Forensic Science'A visit to University of Derby’s Forensic Science Training Facility and Electron Microscope facility. How do forensic scientists gather vital evidence for serious crimes and how do science students learn these techniques? What is a scanning electron microscope and what is it used for? This visit will show you the answers to these questions and so much more....
Tue 9th JulTBCTBC
Tue 13th Aug - Summer break - No Meeting
Tue 10th SepTBCTBC
Tue 8th Oct2:00 pmPackington Village Hall. Catrin Rutland 'Science Fiction versus Science Fact - Genetics'In the 1950’s a new science was born, yet scientists and literature had long been fascinated with what we now call ‘Genetics’. Before the term genetics existed, writers were effectively exploring the idea of genetic manipulation, breeding and future societies in the light of scientific technology. This talk explores how much of this science fiction has, or will, become fact.
Tue 12th Nov2:00 pmPackington Village Hall. Joe Davis 'The Discovery of the Rutland Water Sea Dragon'The story of how this unique find was discovered, researched and recovered by the man who found it. You could not make it up!
Tue 10th Dec2:00 pmTBCTBC



Tuesday 13th February.

'Science, Climate and Politics' by Professor Geoffrey Boulton

Our speaker on 'Science, Climate and Politics' was Professor Geoffrey Boulton, Fellow of the Royal Society, a distinguished and internationally renowned expert on glaciers and their effect on the Earth’s climate. Having been involved in climate science since the mid-60s with considerable experience of working with governments, he reached the conclusion that there are natural tensions between science and politics because of their differing focus – long term versus short term.

The first step was to consider the conflict between knowledge and beliefs. Beliefs are difficult to change, whereas scientific reasoning makes claims based upon evidence which is subject to peer scrutiny. He referred to the 'climate stand off', looking at the similarities and differences between alarmists and deniers. The workings of the Earth’s climate engine were clearly demonstrated in a series of slides showing how surplus energy is transferred from the tropics to the polar regions.

Photos and data from research in the polar regions illustrated how and why the climate changes. Ice core samples were a valuable tool in determining the fluctuating salinity (resulting in the rising or falling sea level) of the oceans and also analysis of the composition of the air. Ocean temperatures are the highest on record and global temperatures remain at record levels – yet no significant action has been taken! The Professor explained how the Tipping Points interact with each other in ways that can’t always be predicted. The anthroposphere (the coupled earth system) comprises the biosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere and lithosphere. The Greenland ice sheet is certain to disappear with a resulting rise in sea levels. Why do we fail to act? ? Amongst other things, down to populist politics, credibility, lack of imagination, 195 governments in the world with different priorities? Finally Geoffrey referred us to the website of Greg Craven and a quotation from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy 'So long, and thanks for all the fish'. The following lively discussion covered many relevant issues, including carbon capture and population.

Paul then gave a short presentation of videos taken over the last year by his garden trailcam. It was set to activate at night only, using infrared light to capture the nocturnal activities of hedgehogs, badgers and foxes. For these animals to access the garden from adjoining fields needs only a small gap (100mm x 100mm) in a fence or hedge and the absence of this in modern fences accounts partly for the sharp decline of hedgehogs in gardens. Although now in hibernation, hedgehogs were by far the most regular visitors to my garden, showing their eating, climbing and even mating habits. Their well-known defence tactic of curling into a spikey ball was demonstrated by the approach of inquisitive badgers and foxes. Hedgehogs' diet includes snails and slugs, not welcome in most gardens, so why not put out some food scraps and invest in a trailcam instead of slug pellets?

Kevin Reynolds will speak at our next meeting on 12th March 'Pigeons – from the Gods to the Gutter. Dove of peace or rat with wings?' A look at our complex relationship with, and perceptions of, this remarkable bird throughout history.


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