Autumn 2009

View older lunch hour lectures as streamed media files (below), or visit the UCL iTunes U site to view and download all UCL Lunch Hour lectures.

The spirit of UCL (13 Oct 2009)

Professor Malcolm Grant (UCL President and Provost)

Professor Malcolm Grant discusses the challenges facing universities and how UCL is uniquely placed to engage with the major issues of our times.

Why psychiatry has to be social (15 Oct 2009)

Professor Paul Bebbington (UCL Mental Health Sciences)

Professor Bebbington explores the idea that psychiatry has an essentially social component because the phenomenon it seeks to explain have inherently social attributes. Psychiatric symptoms relate to our internal experience of external reality, and therefore comprise elements of both the internal and external world. A full account of psychiatric disorder must invoke the interaction of biological and social factors, acknowledging that the balance between these factors will vary between individuals.

The new biology of ageing (20 Oct 2009)

Professor Dame Linda Partridge (UCL Genetics, Evolution and Environment)

Research into ageing has been rejuvenated by the discovery that genetic alterations extend the lifespan of laboratory animals. These mutations keep animals healthy for longer and protect them from many of the diseases of ageing. Professor Partridge will look at how this and other discoveries have led to a new wave of research directed at understanding how these changes can increase healthy lifespan in humans.

Dhoti, Suit and Trilby: M.K Gandhi and his opponents (22 Oct 2009)


Professor Christopher Pinney (UCL Anthropology)

M.K Gandhi, famously described as a ‘half-naked fakir’, has been visually defined by his dhoti (loincloth). In contemporary India his public image competes with those of other political figures of his era who are depicted in a suit (the Dalit leader B.R Ambedkar) and a trilby (the Marxist revolutionary Bhagat Singh). Professor Pinney will consider what these costumes signify and the very political choices they continue to embody.

Seeing the invisible: Observing the dark side of the universe (27 Oct 2009)

Dr Sarah Bridle (UCL Physics & Astronomy)

Dr Bridle will describe in pictures ‘gravitational lensing’, the bending of light by gravity, which is predicted by Einstein’s General Relativity. The mysterious dark components that constitute most of the universe do not emit or absorb light, but they do exert a gravitational attraction, and gravitational lensing is one of the most promising methods for finding out more about them. Dr Bridle will review the current observations and upcoming surveys.

Tales of vampires and the undead (29 Oct 2009)

Dr Rebecca Haynes (UCL SSEES)

This lecture will look at tales of vampires and the undead with special reference to Central and Eastern Europe and some orthodox funeral customs used to placate and hopefully prevent their return as revenants to the world of the living. Participants are advised to bring garlic!

Why the courts are as important as hospitals to the nation’s health (3 Nov 2009)

Professor Dame Hazel Genn (UCL Laws)

Professor Genn will focus on the critical ways in which courts support society and the economy and on how they have directly improved standards of medicine practice and health care. She will also discuss new evidence about the link between access to justice and health and consider whether much of what turns up in doctors’ surgeries (including requests for anti-depressants) are in fact the results of an inability to access the courts.

The power of Lagerlöf (5 Nov 2009)

Dr Helena Forsås-Scott

Swedish author Selma Lagerlöf (1858-1940) was the first woman  to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. Her novels inspired epoch-making early films, when she turned 80 she was one of the most widely translated Swedish authors ever, and her work continues to attract new readers today. This lecture gives a flavour of the range of her writing, looks at the explanations for her success and tests the findings of more text-focused scholarship.

Recession and the public health – what is the evidence? (17 Nov 2009)

Professor Mel Bartley (UCL Epidemiology & Public Health)

Can we use evidence from the social epidemiology carried out in previous times to help us predict the likely effect of the present recession on public health? Mortality in unemployed men in the 1970s and 80s was around 30% higher than average. However, the 1980s saw a rapid increase in life expectancy in the population as a whole. Professor Bartley argues that we can now use evidence from longitudinal studies to understand the complex impact of recession on public health.

Liverpool to Liverpool (19 Nov 2009)

Simon Faithful (UCL Slade School of Fine Art)

Travelling by container ship, train and bus in the summer of 2008, Simon Faithful completed a journey between one Liverpool and another. The lecture will use 181 digital drawings made on the expedition to present the minutiae and randomness of travel and describe the dislocation of one person along the historic paths of trade and exodus between the ‘old’ world and the ‘new’.

A visual people and a visual language (24 Nov 2009)

Professor Bencie Woll (UCL Cognitive, Perceptual and Brain Sciences – Deafness, Cognition and Language Research Centre)

There are many myths surrounding British Sign Language (BSL) – the third most widely used indigenous language in the UK. In this lecture, Professor Woll will try to dispel some of them by introducing BSL, explaining how it works and exploring the community it has created.

Living buildings: Towards sustainable cities (26 Nov 2009)

Dr Rachel Armstrong (UCL Bartlett School of Architecture)

Dr Armstrong will discuss the potential of ‘metabolic materials’ that possess some of the properties of living systems. By generating such materials it is hoped that our cities will be able to replace the energy they draw from the environment, respond to the needs of their populations and eventually become regarded as ‘alive’ in the same way we think about parks or gardens. Metabolic materials could become a key sustainable technology with the potential to transform the world’s urban environments.

The challenge of HIV refuses to disappear (1 Dec 2009)

Professor Deenan Pillay (UCL Virology)

This lecture discusses how the AIDS epidemic continues to grow despite our immense knowledge of the virus itself. Professor Pillay will examine some of the failures of the HIV vaccination programme and look at how the roll out of antiretroviral therapy (ART) to the developing world is a priority. Professor Pillay will also discuss how ART is merging with prevention and rapidly becoming the major tool in the fight against HIV.

Studying dinosaur evolution – An early 21st century perspective (3 Dec 2009)

Dr Paul Upchurch (UCL Earth Sciences)

The study of dinosaur evolution is a growing field – thanks in part to an influx of new information from China, Argentina and other previously neglected parts of the world. New technology is also providing palaeontologists with new ways of extracting data from fossils discovered decades ago. This lecture will provide an update on new insights into dinosaur evolution and set out some of the prospects for future research.

The right to obscene thoughts (8 Dec 2009)

Professor Stephen Guest (UCL Laws)

This lecture discusses how genuine freedom must include all manner of thought, including the irrational, the bad, and the obscene, and how the recent new offence of possessing extreme pornography has breached this principle.

The making of Johnson’s dictionary (10 Dec 2009)

Professor John Mullan (UCL English Language and Literature)

Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language taught the British how to spell, established Shakespeare as their greatest writer and provided the first and longest lasting map of the English language in all its subtlety and variety. This lecture will tell the extraordinary story of how the first dictionary was made and take you inside what has become the least well known great book in our literature.

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