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Autumn 2010

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


Incest and folk-dancing:  why sex survives (12 Oct 2010)

Professor Steve Jones (UCL Biology)

Sir Thomas Beecham once said: "Try anything once but incest and folk-dancing" (he pointed out that brass bands, too, are all very well in their place, "in the open air and several miles away"). Sex with a relative is often frowned upon, but is in fact universal, for we all share ancestors in the recent past. On average, two randomly chosen Britons of European descent are sixth cousins, with their common ancestor alive in Darwin's day. Darwin himself was worried about the effects of close intermarriage, for he married his own first cousin. This lecture will talk about sex, about how inbreeding is an escape from true sexual reproduction, about how some creatures abandon sex altogether - and about how mating within the family is still surprisingly common in some populations (including some within Britain) although it may, at last, be on the way out.

Eyeing the brain (14 Oct 2010)

Professor Francesca Cordeiro (UCL Ophthalmology)

Instead of the eyes being the window of the soul, they have recently been shown to offer new insights into brain disease. After all, the retina is an extension of the brain.....

This could mean that a simple eye test could provide a new way of diagnosing major neurological disease. It may one day mean conditions such as Alzheimer's could be identified and treated early, before symptoms even develop, just by a routine visit to your high street optician.

This lecture marks World Mental Health day on 10 October

Bubbles in the blood: from the "bends" to magic bullets (19 Oct 2010)

Dr Eleanor Stride (UCL Mechanical Engineering)

The presence of bubbles in the blood stream is normally considered to be highly undesirable. Celebrated as the undetectable murder weapon in the plots of 1930s detective novels, they certainly represent an all too real hazard for deep sea divers and astronauts. There are, however, a rapidly growing number of biomedical applications in which bubbles can offer significant benefits. In this talk Eleanor Stride will describe how bubbles have transformed the state of the art in ultrasound imaging and are emerging as powerful therapeutic tools in treatments for major diseases including stroke and cancer.

From dust to diamonds (21 Oct 2010)

Dr Adrian Jones (UCL Earth Sciences)

Surprisingly different methods of diamond synthesis in the laboratory are still unable to approach the complexity of growth revealed in natural diamond. Diamond research is intimately coupled to technological advances and recent examples will be illustrated which range from formation of earths atmosphere and evidence of cosmic catastrophes to exotic unknown extraterrestrial micro-minerals.

This lecture coincides with the “Dust to diamonds” exhibition taking place in UCL’s North Cloisters until 12 November 2010.

What does London owe to slavery? (26 Oct 2010)

Dr Nick Draper (UCL History)

For Liverpool and Bristol much work has been done in tracing the role of the slave-trade and slavery in shaping the cities' histories, but the scale and complexity of London's growth in the 18th and 19th centuries has obscured the contribution of slavery to the formation of the modern capital.   This lecture explores the evidence for the centrality of slavery in understanding how London became what we know it as today.

This lecture marks Black History Month.

Breast screening; some inconvenient truths (28 Oct 2010)

Professor Michael Baum (UCL School of Life and Medical Sciences)

The pro-screening lobby is locked into a mindset dating back to the late 1980s. Since then our understanding of the biology of breast cancer and its treatment has moved on whilst the screening programme continues without modification based on the results of trials reported in 1987. This lecture will discuss some of the harmful problems of this over-diagnosing system, and will look at the need for radical change to bring the entire programme up to date with modern practice based on risk assessment and risk management.

This lecture marks Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Piracy: The Law of the High Seas (2 Nov 2010)

Professor Keith Michel (UCL Laws)

Somali pirates have taken to hijacking and ransoming commercial shipping while dozens of warships patrol the Gulf of Aden to repress their activities. Why do navies not just blow piracy suspects out of the water? Why are suspect pirates sometimes released? Who can put pirates on trial and why are European States transferring pirates to Kenya or the Seychelles for prosecution? UCL’s Professor Keith Michel explains these and other issues.

Doomed to fail? The challenges of coalition government for Westminster and Whitehall (4 Nov 2010)

Professor Robert Hazell (UCL school of Public Policy/Constitution Unit)

Disraeli said 'England does not love coalitions'. The 2010 election led to the formation of the first coalition government at Westminster for over 60 years. Is it doomed to fail? In this lecture Prof Robert Hazell will talk about how the new coalition government operates, and its plans for much wider political and constitutional reform. He was closely involved in helping Whitehall and Westminster prepare for a hung parliament, and now in dealing with the reality. 


Who or what killed Franz Ferdinand? (16 Nov 2010)

Dr Bojan Aleksov (UCL SSEES)

If we take the assassination of the Austrian Crown Prince Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo as the reason for the First World War that would be a unique case that a group of teenagers was able to change the course of history and actually provoke the greatest tragedy of mankind ever. This lecture will profile both the assassins and their victims. How much they shaped history and how much were they shaped by it? It is in this later notion that we will look for answers why Europe embarked on the path of selfdestruction that will determine the course of the twentieth century.

This lecture marks World Armistice Day on 11 November


Energising the City (18 Nov 2010)

Professor Yvonne Rydin (UCL Bartlett School of Planning)

The hunt is on for how to make sure that energy consumption in urban areas is reduced and comes from more renewable sources. A major new project at UCL will be considering the contribution that decentralised energy systems can play in terms of carbon reduction and urban sustainability more generally. This lecture discusses the issues involved from cultural acceptance of new modes of engaging with energy systems to the complex interconnections between local, regional and national energy systems.

Philosophy and Public Policy (23 Nov 2010)

Professor Jonathan Wolff (UCL Philosophy)

Can moral and political philosophy be used to help solve problems in public life? How? Some philosophers attempt to derive theories to be applied in practice. This, it will be argued, is not a practical or desirable approach. Rather the philosopher should be to try to understand the values underlying dilemmas of public policy and to explore options for reducing or resolving them. Public policy needs the application of philosophical skills, rather than philosophical theory.

Light and Darkness in the Accelerating Universe (25 Nov 2010)

Professor Ofer Lahav (UCL Physics and Astronomy)

It seems we live in a bizarre Universe. One of the greatest mysteries in the whole of science is the prospect that 75% of the Universe is made up from a mysterious substance known as ‘Dark Energy’, which causes an acceleration of the cosmic expansion. Since a further 21% of the Universe is made up from invisible ‘Cold Dark Matter’ that can only be detected through its gravitational effects, the ordinary atomic matter making up the rest is apparently only 4% of the total cosmic budget.

These discoveries require a shift in our perception as great as that made after Copernicus’s revelation that the Earth moves around the Sun. This lecture will start by reviewing the chequered history of Dark Energy, not only since Einstein's proposal for a similar entity in 1917, but by tracing the concept back to Newton's ideas. This lecture will summarise the current evidence for Dark Energy and future surveys in which UCL is heavily involved: the "Dark Energy Survey", the Hubble Space Telescope and the proposed Euclid space mission.

Can HIV treatment stop the AIDS epidemic? (30 Nov 2010)


Professor Graham Hart (UCL Infection & Population Health)


Prospects for preventing HIV have been boosted by data suggesting that antiretroviral treatment reduces infectivity. It is argued that treating HIV infected individuals results in lower ‘community viral load’ and fewer infections. In San Francisco new treatment policy reflects this: every person diagnosed with HIV in the city is offered immediate treatment. Can we treat our way out of the HIV epidemic? How will this affect prevention campaigns based on condom use? Is it the end of ‘safer sex’? This lecture marks World AIDS day on 1 December 2010.


The Missing 650 Million? (2 Dec 2010)


Dr Maria Kett (UCL Leonard Cheshire Disability and Inclusive Development Centre)


According to current estimates, there are around 650 million persons with disabilities globally, yet they have been largely absent from many of the discussions and decisions that determine their lives. To celebrate International Disability Day on 3 December 2010 this lecture will examine some of the current debates taking place within academia, international development practice, and at policy level about this issue; examine why these voices have been missing for so long, and discuss how an emerging global consensus has begun to see disability as a key issue in international development and global human rights.

This lecture marks the 350 year anniversary of the foundation of the Royal Society and their inaugural lecture by Christopher Wren.


Listening to foreign judges from far away places: Why the European Court of Human Rights is a good idea (7 Dec 2010)

Dr Basak Cali (UCL Political Science)

The lecture will discuss the findings of a three year Economic and Social Research Council project studying the legitimacy and the authority of the European Court of Human Rights and will defend the importance of the Strasbourg Court for the political health of European states.

This lecture marks Human Rights Day on 10 December.


Angels, Putti, Dragons and Fairies: A Biological Dissection (9 Dec 2010)


Professor Roger Wotton (UCL Biology)

Representational art - painting, cartoon film, etc makes myths appear real; with mythological creatures and objects often placed within familiar and naturalistic scenes. One of the myths is that of flying beings. Angels, putti, fairies and dragons are all shown as having wings and an otherwise naturalistic form that we recognise readily. Yet, are they able to fly? If not, why do we wish to suggest they have the same powers of flight as real flying animals?

Page last modified on 21 jan 11 12:49


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