Welcome to the UCL Science Society

The UCL Science Society is a social dining club for members of UCL with a general interest in Science. We meet five times per year to enjoy a talk on a scientific topic of general interest and have dinner together. If you would like to join the society, please write to the secretary. New members are elected at our annual general meeting. Membership of the society costs £10/year. Non members are welcome to join us for the talk only, but need to book in advance using the form below. Read more about the society.

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Next Science Society Meeting

Time & Date18:00 Tuesday 24/10/2017
LocationGordon Square (25) 107. Enter via rear on campus.Map was sent. Dinner in Wilkins Garden Room.
Title"How might Gower Street pavement failures help explain some fundamental problems of geology?"
Speaker Prof James Croll (UCL)
AbstractHow might Gower Street pavement failures help explain some fundamental problems of geology?
James Croll FREng, FICE, FIStructE, FRSA
Emeritus Professor of Civil Engng., UCL


Triggered by an attempt almost two decades ago to explain the emergence of fields of curious blisters on newly laid asphalt pavements outside my office on Gower Street, I soon found myself exploring the possibility that similar mechanics could be at work in the formation of a number of curious and imperfectly understood geomorphic features in permafrost and periglacial environments – albeit at different orders of magnitude of temporal and spatial scales. Contrary to conventional wisdom all in one way or another appear to involve cyclic heating and cooling in which the accompanying fluctuations of compression and tension loading, arising from the restraints to expansion and contraction, result in the non-recoverable deformation failures that define these geomorphic features. Recent images from space probes show very similar features on some of the outer planets and their satellites. All appear to involve one or other form of thermal ratchet failures.

Driven by the conviction that very similar thermal mechanics could be at work in the motion of glaciers and ice sheets, along with some very curious familial happenstance, more recent work has focused on whether glacial and interglacial cycles of thermal loading at 20 -100ka periodicity occurring within the cycles of hot-house and ice-age periodicities of circa 120Ma, related mechanics could be helping to shape the Earth’s crust. Some of the geological evidence seemingly at odds with the predictions of the current ruling geological paradigm of plate tectonics will be reviewed and an alternative model relying upon these very long term cycles of thermal loading will be briefly outlined. It will be suggested that the evolution of the Earth’s crust might have closer links to the formation of Gower Street blisters than it does to the boiling of a bowl of porridge.

NotesJuice/sherry at 17.30 hours; talk at 18.00 (free); dinner for members and guests (£25) at 19.00 hours in the Wilkins Garden Room

    Attendance at this event:

    • Advance booking is closed for this event.

Membership Dues

Membership of the Science Society is £10/year. If you are already a member and wish to pay your membership fee only: Pay membership fee now.

Officers of the Society

Prof. Shamshad Cockcroft Dr. Margaret Mayston Prof. Stephen Bolsover


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