UCL Lunch Hour Lectures
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- Autumn 2011
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Professor Robert West (UCL Epidemiology and Public Health)
One fifth of adults in Britain still smoke, and half of those who do not stop will be killed by their cigarettes a typical 20 years before their time. Cigarettes deliver nicotine to the brain faster than an intravenous injection, changing the brain so that it craves cigarettes, and of the four million British smokers who try to stop this year, fewer than 5 per cent of them will succeed. Fortunately research has found ways of boosting the chances of success by some 300 per cent. This lecture will present the latest evidence on the best ways of beating cigarette addiction.
Professor Steffen Huck (UCL Economics)
Economics is largely about interpretation: about questioning and analysing worldly phenomena as the economist finds them; whether they are the pricing policy of a company or the structure of a market. Professor Huck will take economic analysis to a different context, usking key tools, including counterfactual reasoning, to analyse the actions of fictional characters. He will focus on two examples from Richard Wagner's operas, Tannhauser and Lohengrin.
Professor Mairéad Hanrahan
Deconstruction is now over forty years old but although the term has passed into common parlance, no consensus has yet emerged about what it means or seeks to do. Many in various disciplines extol it as one of the most significant intellectual breakthroughs ever; others dismiss it as anti scientific obscurantism. This lecture attempts to explain why, after such a long time (an eternity in academic terms), deconstruction can still arouse such passionate disagreements.
Dr Saladin Meckled-Garcia (UCL Political Science)
Marking Holocaust remembrance day on 27 January, this lecture will focus on the status of Genocide denial, beginning with the Holocaust, but working through a number of 20th and 21st century genocides. Industries of denial spring up to counter the claims of victims of ethnic cleansing and genocide. The deniers or revisionists could be treated as other eccentric authors have, like quirky conspiracy theorists and UFO watchers. However, there seems to be something more sinister, more demanding of our attention, in this Genocide Denial Industry; something which requires a special attitude to its proponents.
To tackle this question, the lecture will move through a discussion of the ethical grounds for the special category of Genocide as a political crime and its relation to human rights. It will engage with the troubling question of censorship and freedom of expression, and will conclude by locating the special (im)moral status of denial in the nature of Genocide as a political crime.
Professor Steve Humphries (UCL Medicine)
With the huge advances in genomics following the completion of the entire human genome sequence, it is now becoming feasible to use genetic information to identify individuals with a predisposition to heart attacks, hypertension, obesity and cancer. However, the emergence of commercial companies offering the DNA testing of saliva samples sent through the post raises many questions of whether such information could cause fatalistic attitudes, or a false sense of reassurance. This lecture will explore the need to address the issues and find efficient, acceptable and cost-effective ways of using genetic information for patient benefit.
Dr Lewis Dartnell (UCL Centre for Planetary Science)
'Astrobiology’is a new field of science, encompassing research into the origins and limits of life on our own planet, and where life might exist beyond the Earth. There is every expectation that a new space telescope, Kepler, will discover dozens of Earth-like planets orbiting distant stars in just the next three years. Extraterrestrial plants and animals developing on these worlds would be subject to the same laws of physics and engineering constraints as us, but may have followed evolutionary paths unexplored by terrestrial life. So what might alien life really look like? And more importantly for the science of astrobiology, how will this understanding help us to actually detect signs of life on another world?
Dr Sarah Bell (UCL Civil, Environmental & Geomatic Eng)
Safe and reliable water systems are essential for good public health and modern urban life. Current systems of water provision and levels of water consumption in developed countries are unsustainable. Population growth, urban development and climate change are placing pressure on water resources and increasing the risk of flooding. Addressing these challenges will require radical changes in how water is sourced, treated, distributed and used in cities and homes. This lecture will outline new approaches to understanding water in cities, highlighting the importance of the relationship between technology and society in achieving sustainability.
Professor Philip Schofield (UCL Bentham Project)
What is Jeremy Bentham’s corpse doing in the South Cloisters? Did he provide the financial backing for the foundation of UCL? Was he a professor in the Department of Laws? Does his ghost trundle around the College at night? Does he attend Council meetings, and is he recorded in the minutes as ‘present, but not voting’?
As for the corpus, this consists in 60,000 folios of manuscripts deposited in the College Library. For fifty years the Bentham Committee has been overseeing the editing and publication of a new edition of Bentham’s works. Is this extraordinarily large collection of material, much of it in barely decipherable handwriting, as dead as the philosopher himself? Or is it still relevant today?
This lecture marks the anniversary of UCL’s foundation on 11 Feb 1826
Professor Susanne Kord (UCL German)
Women and poison have long been thought of as elective affinities: poison is presumed to be a ‘woman’s weapon’, and poison murder as quintessentially ‘female’. An example documenting these assumptions is the case of Germany’s most famous serial killer, Gesche Margarethe Gottfried (1785-1831), convicted of murdering fifteen people, including her entire family.
This lecture offers an analysis of her interrogation records, her psychological profile (one of the earliest in Germany) and of contemporary fiction about the case. The focus will be on Gottfried’s motives, which she refused to reveal and which have remained mysterious to this day. Can these motives be seen not only as those of a female killer, but as more generally ‘female’?
Professor C J Lim (UCL Bartlett School of Architecture)
Unchecked growth of our cities at the expense of agricultural land is threatening food security and sustainable urban development worldwide. Reframing the way people think about urban green space and the evolution of cities, CJ Lim explores how the notion of the smartcity can reintegrate agricultural practices and cultivated land within urban environments. The hybridization of agriculture and establishment of the city-dwelling farmer can lead to an association that is symbiotic, reducing carbon emissions and food shortage, in addition to less tangible but equally significant environmental and social benefits.
Professor Chris Rapley (UCL Earth Sciences and Director of the Science Museum)
The talk will address the relationship between human energy use and climate change, and the pressing need to maintain our energy supplies whilst stabilising or reducing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere. It will explore the technical and social options available to deal with the problem, progress to date, the outcome of the Copenhagen negotiations, and the range of possible futures that lie ahead.
Energy and climate; clearing the fog (2 March 2010) Professor Chris Rapley (UCL Earth Sciences and Director of the Science Museum) The talk will address the relationship between human energy use and climate change, and the pressing need to maintain our energy supplies whilst stabilising or reducing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere. It will explore the technical and social options available to deal with the problem, progress to date, the outcome of the Copenhagen negotiations, and the range of possible futures that lie ahead.
Professor John Galloway (UCL/UCLH Biomedical Research Centre & Eastman Dental Hospital)
If Darwinian evolution made us, it seems no great step to supposing it also made our most treasured institutions. And what institution is more treasured than the great dream machine of Hollywood, with its stock-in-trade, both on and off set, of sexual chemistry, volent death, and happy endings. Evolution is surely the ghost in that particular machine?
Dr Andrew Gardner (UCL Institute of Archaeology)
A crucial event in the formation of the culture and identity of Britain occurred 1600 years ago - or did it? While tradition has it that the Roman occupation of Britain ended in AD 410, events surrounding this year need to be seen in the context of longer processes of change and of the problems that beset archaeological and historical evidence from this period. This lecture will consider the key question of who and what was 'Roman’ in 4th century Britain as a prelude to thinking about what exactly changed in the early 5th century, and why.
Professor Iain Stevenson (UCL Centre for publishing)
For almost six hundred years, the printed book has provided humankind with education, entertainment, information, and occasionally guiltier pleasures.
The supreme achievements of culture as well as society's day to day needs have depended on print on paper as their essential medium. Today, however, the supremacy of Gutenberg's technology seems under threat from a range of electronic devices and alternative media. The lecture looks at whether books can survive or have they reached the end of their shelf life?
Dr Jennifer Mindell (UCL Department of Epidemiology & Public Health)
The Health Survey for England is an annual survey of the general population, run by UCL and The National Centre for Social Research since 1994. Each year, up to 16,000 adults and around 4,000 children are randomly selected to be visited by an interviewer and a nurse. In this talk, I will be presenting some of the recent findings. Is obesity really increasing as much as people say? Is it worse in children or adults? Are we a nation of couch potatoes? Who are the binge-drinkers? Did the smoke free legislation make any difference? Are we getting better at preventing heart disease?
Dr Sarah-Jayne Blakemore (UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience)
The brain has evolved to understand and interact with other people. We are increasingly learning more about the neurophysiological basis of social cognition and what is known as the social brain. In this talk I will focus on how the social brain develops during adolescence. Adolescence is a time characterised by change - hormonally, physically, psychologically and socially. Yet until recently this period of life was neglected by cognitive neuroscience. In the past decade, research has shown that the social brain develops both structurally and functionally during adolescence.
This lecture marks Brain Awareness Week 2010.
Page last modified on 15 oct 10 13:32