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Spring 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.

Who enjoys shopping in Ikea? (18 Jan 2011)

Professor Alan Penn (UCL Bartlett School of Architecture)

Professor Alan Penn describes the way that architects use space to sell you things, showing how space creates patterns of movement bringing you into contact with goods. In IKEA though, the story gets more interesting, here the designers deliberately set out to confuse you, drawing you into buying things that are not on your shopping list.

Building scientific models with computers (20 Jan 2011)

Professor Richard Catlow (UCL Chemistry)

Model building is one of the oldest scientific activities and is essential for allowing us to understand the complex reality of nature. Modern computers have allowed scientists to develop models of unprecedented accuracy and detail, and this lecture will explore and illustrate some aspects of the contemporary field, using examples ranging from cosmology and geosciences to engineering and materials sciences. This lecture marks 2011 as the International Year of Chemistry.

Stabilising the global population: Where next for the Millennium Development Goals for health and nutrition? (25 Jan 2011)


Professor Anthony Costello (Institute of Child Health)


In many poor countries the Millennium Development Goals for improvements in nutrition and health, especially of mothers and children, will not be met by the target date of 2015.  This talk will review progress towards these targets and consider critical obstacles to success.  New strategies will be considered to improve nutrition and to accelerate reductions in death and fertility rates so that the global population will be stabilised by mid-century.

Lisbon, 1939-45: the untold story of Portugal and the Jewish refugees (27 Jan 2011)


Dr Neill Lochery (UCL Hebrew and Jewish Studies)


During World War II, Portugal was frantically trying to hold on to its self-proclaimed wartime neutrality, but was increasingly caught in the middle of the economic, and naval wars between the Allies and the Nazis. To complicate matters further, thousands of refugees, many of them Jewish, flooded into Lisbon seeking a passage to the United States or Palestine.  This talk will present the little known, and yet vitally important history of the Portuguese capital, Lisbon, during World War II. 

This lecture marks Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Homophobia: a global phenomenon (3 Feb 2011)

Professor Michael King (UCL Mental Health Sciences)

To mark LGBT History Month, Professor Michael King looks at why homophobia has existed in nearly every society throughout history, and what motivates the hatred of gay people around the world.

Note: This lecture is sign language interpreted


Landing on a planet at 600 miles per hour (8 Feb 2011)


Professor Alan Smith (UCL Mullard Space Science Laboratory)


Unmanned robotic missions are essential for understanding the planets within our solar system. Current missions comprise of gentle landings combined with rovers to explore the local region. Due to the expense of such missions, and their sometimes unsuitability as scientific outposts, UCL’s Mullard Space Science Laboratory is developing Planetary Penetrators, which aim to land on planets at very high speed, penetrating the planet and implanting equipment just below the surface. This lecture will discuss the engineering difficulties of ensuring delicate instrumentation remains intact and operable after such high impact; and will highlight the biggest hurdle of all - convincing the space agencies to adopt the equipment in the first place! With a whole solar system waiting to be explored, in 40 minutes this talk will describe the UK Penetrator Programme - where we've been, what we've achieved and the opportunities for the future.

From prehistory to the London blitz: foreshore archaeology and a rising river (10 Feb 2011)

Gustav Milne (UCL Institute of Archaeology/Thames Discovery Programme)

When the tide is out, the Thames foreshore is the longest archaeological site in London. The remains cover a wide range of our long history and include prehistoric forests, a Bronze Age bridge, Saxon fish traps, Tudor jetties, later shipyards, watermen's causeways, and the hulks of boats, barges and ships. Our most recent study has even found evidence for bomb-strikes from the London Blitz, exactly 70 years ago. Much of this evidence is suffering from the river's increased erosion or by modern redevelopment. The Thames Discovery Programme team is training up a group of committed Londoners to survey the sites on a regular basis, recording the history on the foreshore before its washed away forever.

Sex education via the media: promises and pitfalls (22 Feb 2011)

Dr Petra Boynton (UCL Division of Medical Education)

This lecture will draw on Dr Boynton's experiences of delivering sex advice through the media - as an agony aunt in magazines and online ,and for education radio and TV such as Channel 4's The Sex Education Show. Drawing on research on media advice giving internationally Petra will highlight where media gets it wrong and right, and how we can inform sex education media for young people and adults through evidence based practice and research.

Will robots take over the world? (24 Feb 2011)

Dr Kathleen Richardson (UCL Anthropology)

2011 is the 90th anniversary of the robot, first imagined as a character in a play, performed in Prague in 1921. It is also the 50th anniversary of the first use of robots in industry with the robot ‘Unimate’ for General Motors in 1961.

Since the origin of robots they have undergone a number of transitions from the popular idea of the robot as a domestic, a vision popular from fiction such as the 1970's cartoon ‘The Jetsons’, to the last fifteen years imagining robots, not just for work, but to act as companions, exercise coaches for the elderly or stroke patients, and assistants for children with autism spectrum conditions.

This lecture will explore the history of the robot, and how it has changed and been re-imagined in fiction and labs over the last 90s years.

The origins of the ‘ndrangheta of Calabria: Italy’s most powerful mafia (1 March 2011)

Professor John Dickie (UCL Italian)

On 15 August 2007, six young men with origins in the Italian region of Calabria were ambushed and murdered in the German steel town of Duisburg. This was northern Europe’s St Valentine’s Day massacre, the worst ever mafia bloodbath outside Italy and the United States. Suddenly, journalists across the globe were struggling with what the New York Times called an ‘unpronounceable name’: ‘ndrangheta (en-drang-get-ah.) In the 1990s, the ‘ndrangheta placed itself in a leading position in the European wholesale cocaine market by dealing direct with South American producers. It is now thought to be the wealthiest and most powerful of Italy’s major criminal brotherhoods. But how, when, and why did it first emerge?

The Earth Bites Back (3 March 2011) - THIS LECTURE FAILED TO RECORD

Professor Bill McGuire (Benfield UCL Hazard Research Centre)

Whilst the 2007 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change paints a pretty bleak picture of the future, the scariest thing about it is that it may not be scary enough. New research points not only to higher temperatures, bigger storms and more floods, but to a world in which melting polar ice drowns coastal towns ands cities across the planet, and the crust itself joins in with more earthquakes, submarine landslides, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions. Is this a world we wish to bequeath to our children and their children? If not, we may have less than 10 years to do something about it.

Genetic testing in the 21st century:  Should we screen the human embryonic genome before implantation? (8 March 2011)

Dr Joyce Harper (UCL Centre for preimplantation genetic diagnosis)

In preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), embryos are created by IVF and cells removed from these embryos for genetic analysis.  Until recently, testing was solely for the disease the couple carried.  The use of array-comparative genomic hybridisation and single nucleotide polymorphism arrays has entered the PGD arena.  These techniques allow all chromosomes and many genes to be examined.  The analysis of the whole genome prior to implantation brings ethical concerns.  Will healthy couples opt for PGD to select their ‘best’ offspring?

Sex, Drugs, the Internet and Juries (10 March 2011)

Professor Cheryl Thomas (UCL Laws)

Is it true that juries rarely convict defendants in rape cases and are more likely to convict ethnic minority defendants than White defendants? And why can’t jurors resist going home at night and googling the defendant or tweeting about the case – against the express instructions of the judge. This lecture reveals the truth behind a number of widely held beliefs about juries in this country and examines why the internet may now be the biggest threat to our jury system.


Should the brain be left to neuroscientists? (15 March 2011)

Dr Daniel Glaser (UCL Psychology)

Since the 'decade of the brain' in the 1990s an increasing range of previously taboo subjects have been examined by neuroscientists. These include autobiographical memory, aesthetics, love and of course consciousness itself. The rise of imaging techniques which provide engaging pictures of brain activity have added to the appeal. Of course plenty of other discplines within the arts as well as science put the brain at the heart of their project. But how effectively has neuroscience integrated these other approaches into its work? And should the direction of brain research be left to scientists anyway?

This lecture marks Brain Awareness Week 14-20 March.

Great 2 meet u IRL :-) Twitter and digital identity (Thursday 17 March)


Dr Claire Warwick, @clhw1 (UCL Centre for Digital Humanities, #UCLDH)


Is Twitter an ephemeral technology, consisting of mundane chat about people's personal lives? Or can a study of its use help us to understand how we express our identities on and offline? Can Twitter be used for professional or academic activity, and should we try to separate our public and private digital personae? This lecture addresses such questions, with the aid of slides of 140 characters and live tweets from the audience at UCL and on the internet.

This lecture marks 5th anniversary of Twitter, 21 March 2011

Co authors: Melissa Terras, @melissaterras, #melissaterras (UCLDH); Claire Ross, @clairey_ross (UCLDH); Anne Welsh, @AnneWelsh (UCLDH)


Would you give your right arm to protect your heart? (22 March 2011)


Professor Derek M Yellon (UCL Cardiovascular Medicine)

During a heart attack the cells that make up the muscle of the heart are subjected to a restricted blood supply, this is usually caused by a blood clot or a narrowing of the coronary arteries. If the blood supply is not restored quickly it will result in the death of the heart muscle, and to protect against this injury, blood clot prevention drugs, inflating balloons and artery bypass surgery are all used to restore blood flow as quickly as possible. Paradoxically, however, the very act of restoring such blood flow can also cause a significant amount of heart cells to die. In this lecture, Professor Yellon discusses why this injury occurs, how simple techniques such as inflating a blood pressure cuff on the arm can protect the heart against such injury, and how developments in UCL’s laboratories are already benefiting patients at risk. This lecture marked Heart Awareness Month in February

Page last modified on 11 may 11 10:45


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