Session 138 Spring Schedule

The Challenge of Marketing New Photographic Chemistry

Michael Maunder

Tuesday 14 January 2014

What does a successful Government Chemist in the Civil Service do when boredom starts to set in? Most people would grit their teeth (particularly in the present economic climate) & carry on working their passage. Michael took the bold step of starting a second career in chemical manufacturing. More than 35years later he is still producing innovative photographic chemistry under the brand name 'SPEEDIBREWS'. His latest ventures are intended to overcome Chemiphobia in the general population with safe developers and a novel new photographic process that's a lot faster than conventional Ag+. Speedi-make it yourself cutting edge ideas.

How quantum physics democratized music

Michael Berry

Tuesday 21 January

Connections between physics and technological invention and aspects of human life that seem far from science are both unexpected and unexpectedly common. And rather than flowing one way - from physics to gadgets - the connections form an intricate web, linking all aspects of human culture, in a way that frustrates our convenient compartmentalisations and coarse interventions aimed at promoting technology transfer. Michael will discuss this theme with examples, ranging from music to the colour of gold.

You can read an article about this talk on the Chemistry Department Blog.

I ♥ Computer Science

Prof Anthony Finkelstein, University College London

Tuesday 28 January 2014


Think computer science is interesting and important, and want to know more about it?  Then this is the talk for you!  This talk contains a very little mathematics and a little engineering too, but is built around a compelling story. At the end you should know what computer science is and why you should care.

From Vulcan's Forge to the Kingdom of Hades: What happens to chemistry and biology at extremes of pressure

Prof Paul McMillan, University College London

Tuesday 4 February 2014

Most of chemistry we know and are taught is derived from observations made at or near the surface of the Earth, under an atmospheric pressure of around 15 psi. All our rules concerning molecular structure and chemical bonding including concepts such as valency, preferred oxidation state as well as the relative ordering of elements in the periodic table are made from these observations, that imply a certain distribution of electrons around the atomic nuclei. But what happens when the density is increased to more than twice or three times that at 1 atmosphere, as exists deep inside planets and stars? Does the chemistry of the elements change? That is one conclusion emerging from recent theoretical and experimental studies under extremely high compression. The results will change the way we think about some of the most basic chemistry concepts. Life as we know it is likewise concentrated at the surface of our planet. However sampling expeditions to the deepest ocean trenches and below the rocky surface are discovering life forms that exist happily to pressures nearly two thousand times above atmospheric, and laboratory studies are revealing survival of organisms to pressures exceeding 20,000 atm. Like chemistry studies these high pressure biology experiments are causing us to re-examine fundamental ideas about what factors set and constitute the absolute limits for life.

An article about this talk is on the Chemistry blog.

Raising Cane – but the Beet goes on: a short history of competing sugar technologies

Nick Bourne

Tuesday 11 February 2014

Sugar is probably unique among food commodities in that it can be commercially obtained from two very different plants: a semi-tropical grass (sugar cane) and a temperate root (sugar beet).  This talk will explain how this situation arose, the differences in technology used, and what the future might hold.

The Magic of Bubbles

Dr Cyril Isenberg, School of Engineering and Digital Arts, University of Kent

Tuesday 18 February

This demonstration talk will highlight some of the spectacular visual properties of soap films and bubbles that have remained largely unknown. Giant films and bubbles, that are not spherical, will be demonstrated. Their colours, vibrational behaviour and minimization properties will be investigated. An analogue bubble computer will be constructed to solve the problem of the minimum roadway linking a number of towns. Bubbles, films and drops exist in our food and drink, in our washing up bowl, in the clouds; they are responsible for cavitation and have applications in the medical treatment of kidney stones, bubble chambers, cosmology… A world without bubbles is ‘unthinkable’!

The British Tommy of The Great War, his equipment, weapons and routine

James Gage

Tuesday 25 February 2014


James Gage, a World War I reinactor, will talk about what he believes to be the interesting aspects of World War I.The talk will be on the uniform and equipment, with a brief description about how and why it came about. Followed by a talk on the rifle, bayonet, bombs (grenades) and gas, trenches and Britain's involvement in the war - plus dispelling a few myths.

Purple Haze, Northern Lights…..do different strains of cannabis have different psychological effects?

Prof Valerie Curran, UCL Phycology

Tuesday 4 March 2014

Two thousand years ago, cannabis was an important medicine in both China and India.  Today in the United States the approved medical use of marijuana is spreading and Uruguay has just become the first country in the world to make it legal to grow, sell and consume marijuana. Most research, however, has focused on the negative effects of cannabis rather than its hedonic or medicinal properties.  We now know that there around a 100 different ingredients – ‘cannabinoids’ – in cannabis.  THC is what makes people stoned but other ingredients moderate THC’s effects. 

This talk will briefly review the desired effects of cannabis and four major areas of mental health harm: addiction, cognitive impairment, anxiety/depression and psychosis.  We will ask what determines the marked individual variation in the experience of the psychological effects of cannabis and how relative levels of cannabinoids in different strains influence this.  Finally we will ask how scientific knowledge of cannabis could inform drug policy. 

Vice-Presidential Lecture

Fizz Pop Whizz Bang!  The chemistry behind special effects

Caroline Knapp, UCL

Postponed - now Tuesday 1 April 2014

Caroline will take us on a tour through the internet looking at some of the unusual methods behind special effects in the movies. Pre-CGI there was quite a bit of chemistry at work; from gory horrors, through sci-fi all the way to action, see some of the secrets revealed!

Presidential Lecture

The Hotter the Better: The Barbarity and Beauty of Solid State Synthesis

Dr. Robert G. Palgrave, UCL

Tuesday 25 March 2014

Solid state chemistry can be barbaric. While the molecular chemist elegantly assembles their structures under kinetic control, like a conductor cajoling an orchestra to produce beautiful music, the solid state chemist will more than likely mix the elements he wants and heat them as hot as he can. There are several categories of solid state synthesis that work by setting your reactants on fire. So far this hasn’t caught on with the organic chemists. In this talk I’ll discuss the various kinds of solid state synthesis why high temperatures are necessary, and how the search for higher temperatures has enabled new synthesis. Finally, in the past few years, new techniques that allow kinetic control of solid state structure assembly have been developed, maybe signalling a new era of sophistication in solid state synthesis.


You can see Session 138 Autumn Schedule here.