Autumn 2011

View lunch hour lectures below (as streamed media files) by clicking on the lecture titles, or visit us on Youtube or  UCL iTunes U.  

The perfect storm: Can disaster reduction occur in the face of climate change and population growth? (13 Oct 2011)

Professor Mark Maslin (UCL Geography)

In the near future we face the perfect storm; where the combination of climate change and population growth is set to increase the numbers of people affected by 'natural' disasters.  By 2030 globally we will need 50% more energy, with much of this energy generated through fossil fuels, accelerating climate change.  By 2030 we will need 50% more food and 30% more water to feed our expanding population.  To mark International Day for disaster reduction (12 Oct), Professor Maslin looks at these dire predictions for the future and discusses how we, as a global society, can deal with these problems and ultimately reduce society’s vulnerability and save lives.

Voicing Slavery:  Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Mary Prince (18 Oct 2011)

Professor Catherine Hall (UCL History)

Women's voices were central to the struggle against slavery in the early 19th century. Elizabeth Barrett Browning, one of Britain's greatest poets, was the daughter of a slaveowner and the family money came from their Jamaican plantations. She sympathised with the cause of antislavery - but that sympathy was complicated by her family connections. Mary Prince was an enslaved woman who was brought by her 'owner' to Britain, escaped, and recorded her narrative. It was published and provided a moving testimony of the cruelties of slavery and a significant weapon in the war against it. Both these women had close connections with Bloomsbury, and this lecture, in conjunction with the exhibition 'The Slave Owners of Gower Street' will explore their lives and writings and the place of slavery in 19th century Britain.

This lecture marks Black History Month in October. There is also an exhibition in UCL’s South Cloisters on the main campus entitled ‘The Slave Owners of Gower Street’

Osteoporosis: Bouncing babies to crumbling wrinklies - the need to own our own bones (20 Oct 20-11)

Professor Allen Goodship (UCL Institute of Orthopaedics and Musculoskeletal Science)

The skeleton is key to our ability to undertake everyday movements and activities related to well-being and high quality independent living. The general perception of bone is that of a museum specimen – a dry inert structure. This is far from correct; our skeleton is a dynamic and responsive organ. The material properties and structural architecture are conditioned by both genetics and our changing functional demands throughout life. The devastating degenerative conditions such as osteoporosis (in both women and men!) and associated fragility fractures represent a time bomb for society and healthcare requirements in our ageing population. Through an understanding of the pathobiology of bone and the skeleton we can develop strategies to mitigate the risk of these conditions and thus prolong an active and independent life in old age.

This lecture marks World Osteoporosis Day on 20 Oct

What has the King's Speech done to improve public awareness about stuttering? (25 Oct 2011)

Professor Peter Howell (UCL Psychology and Language Sciences)

The King’s Speech provides a backdrop against which to review our current understanding of stuttering, also known as stammering. To mark Stammering Awareness Day (22 October) Professor Howell describes our current state of knowledge about the assessment of this condition, who might be affected, how it is most likely to start in childhood, and how recent work has been successful in predicting which young children will recover by teenage.

Although speech is one of the primary features that indicates stuttering, there are other physical characteristics of the disorder, and this lecture looks at how language complexity, motor performance and psychological adjustment in school affect stuttering. Finally, Professor Howell discusses if stuttering can be treated successfully, examining some of the treatments (successful and unsuccessful) and the robustness of the scientific evidence concerning the treatment of this condition.

Photons, spacecraft, atomic clocks and Einstein - fundamental physics in the space environment (27 Oct 2011)

Professor Marek Ziebart (UCL Space Geodesy and Navigation)

Satellites designed, built and launched by humans orbit the earth to carry out a myriad of tasks, friendly and hostile, commercial and scientific. Many of these missions supply critical data to model, mitigate and predict planet-scale processes such as El Nino events, sea level rise, plate tectonics and the earthquake cycle. The spacecraft move at between 4 and 8 kilometres per second, and are between 500 and 20,000 km above the earth’s surface but for scientific purposes we need to know where they are to within a few centimetres, and we need to know the time they transmit their signals at the nano-second level. This lecture explains how that is achieved using concepts from fundamental physics.

London: the divorce capital of the world. ‘Big money’ divorce cases: fairness, gender and judicial discretion (1 Nov 2011)


Professor Alison Diduck (UCL Laws)

The law gives the courts very broad discretion to determine ‘fair’ property and financial awards when couples divorce. While that discretion is exercised in all cases, it has been shaped by principles developed in the so-called ‘big money’ cases decided in the Appeal Courts since 2000 which have led to increased awards to homemaker wives. Many are unhappy with this turn of events and have said that London has now become the ‘divorce capital of the world’. Professor Diduck reviews these leading cases, the principles on which they were based and their importance for promoting broader gender equity.

When technology design provokes errors (3 Nov 2011)

Professor Ann Blandford (UCL Interaction Centre)

Did you ever forget your chip & pin card in a card reader? Leave the original on a photocopier? Send an email to the wrong person from your address book? The way technology is designed can make errors more or less likely. Most everyday examples are just annoying; if a pilot or a nurse makes similar errors in the course of their work, the consequences can be much more serious. This talk discusses some of the causes of these errors and how the design of technology can provoke or mitigate them.

This lecture marks World Usability Day on 10 Nov

Prometheus and I: building new body parts from stem cells (15 Nov 2011)

Professor Martin Birchall (UCL Ear Institute)

Prometheus created life from clay, and within many biologists and surgeons there is a primal desire to do the same from the materials at hand, in an effort to stave off death and disease. Organ transplantation has been one Promethean solution, but a lack of donor organs, ethical and other issues limits the stretch of this technology. We performed the world's first stem cell based organ transplants in an adult and then in a child, and the results suggest a new future for organ replacement. The road will be a long one and raising the funds for the journey and managing expectations in the meantime are challenges. However, driven by such clinical successes, science is incrementally offering more and more opportunities to provide alternatives to and extend the scope of transplantation. A second Promethean myth has him punished for giving fire to man by being chained to a rock and having his liver pecked out by an eagle daily for eternity. In between, however, liver and man regenerate, and this reminds us that ultimately an understanding of the innate properties of tissues and organs to heal themselves may obviate the need for organ replacement altogether.

Against nature? Homosexuality and evolution (17 Nov 2011)

Professor Volker Sommer (UCL Anthropology)

Same-sex sexual behaviour is often condemned on the grounds that it is "against nature". Indeed, biology tells us that selection favours those who leave more offspring. But then, homosexual behaviour is widespread - not only amongst humans, but other animals alike, be they flamingos, gorillas, dolphins or bisons. Doesn't this constitute a paradox for Darwinian Theory? And is there a connection between what goes on in nature and what is morally desirable? This talk will address these controversial topics.

Child development in developing countries (22 Nov 2011)

Professor Orazio Attanasio (UCL Economics)

In this lecture Professor Attanasio talks about the recent interest in child development in developing countries through intervention in early years, and describes a pilot intervention programme that his research team has been developing in Colombia and India. Early years intervention has proved to be very effective in having long lasting impacts on individual development, and this lecture discusses the challenges of identifying modalities that can be delivered at low cost and therefore scaled up in developing countries, and understanding the mechanisms through which these interventions work.

Did Democracy Cause the American Civil War? (24 Nov 2011)

Dr Adam Smith (UCL History)

A hundred and fifty years ago the first shots of the American Civil War were fired. It was a war that was to result in the deaths of perhaps three quarters of a million people. Yet the United States in 1861 was the world's first modern democratic nation -- a place in which virtually all white men could vote and in which mass political parties vied for votes in noisy and hotly contested elections. What was the relationship between the coming of the war and this kind of democratic politics? Contrary to the assumptions of International Relations specialists who have posited that democracies do not go to war with one another, was this a war made more likely, and, once it started, more bloody, by the principles and practice of popular sovereignty?

This lecture marks 2011 as 150 year anniversary of American Civil War

The highs and lows of our nearest star, the Sun (29 Nov 2011)

Dr Lucie Green (UCL Mullard Space Science Laboratory)

There is more to the Sun than meets the eye. Observations from spacecraft have, over the last 50 years, revealed a dynamic and active behaviour to our Sun that cannot be seen from the Earth. Recent reports have given seemingly contradictory information that the Sun is entering a period of high activity but also that in the coming decades the overall solar activity will significantly decline, and could stop altogether. This talk discusses the science behind this activity, or lack of, and show the latest images of the Sun taken by telescopes in space provided by the European, American and Japanese space agencies.

(Images, credit is NASA/SDO http://www.flickr.com/photos/sdomission )

From pathogen to ally: engineering viruses to treat disease (1 Dec 2011)

Professor Mary Collins (UCL Immunology)

Recombinant DNA technology has been in widespread use since the 1980s. It has allowed the engineering of viral genomes to produce a number of safe and useful medicines. To mark World AIDS Day, this lecture discusses the development of engineered viruses, such as HIV, to treat rare genetic disorders – “gene therapy”- and the use of these engineered viruses as vaccines.

Designing for students (6 Dec 2011)

Professor Sir Peter Cook (UCL Bartlett School of Architecture)

Sir Peter Cook and his CRAB STUDIO have two new University buildings under construction : in Austria and Australia. He designs from the experience of more than 40 years' teaching and weaves 'stories'; in and out of the designs. The title can also be read as designing the curriculum...which he sees as being very similar to designing a building. The lecture is illustrated by drawings and cartoons.

The price of the pouch: the evolutionary ramifications of mammalian reproductive strategies (8 Dec 2011)

Dr Anjali Goswami (UCL Genetics, Evolution and Environment)

Mammals are characterized by lengthy maternal care, and this has been linked to manifold attributes of this successful and charismatic group that includes our own species.  However, living mammals display remarkable diversity in reproduction, from egg-laying monotremes, to pouch-bearing marsupials, to long-gestating placentals.  The obvious differences in species numbers, geographic breadth, ecological and anatomical diversity across these three groups begs the question of how much their divergent reproductive strategies are responsible for their success, or lack thereof.  

Page last modified on 14 dec 11 12:40

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