Lectures

The 2017 lecture programme will appear here in the summer of 2016.

Here is a summary of the 2016 lectures:

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Public lecture: Seeing in the dark: Finding hidden objects in the Universe

Sarah Hutton

Dr Sarah Hutton (UCL Physics & Astronomy)

The Universe is a fantastic place, but if we only ever observed it with our eyes we would never see its most amazing phenomena. In this talk I discussed what our galaxy, the Milky Way, looks like in different wavelengths before moving on to discover the exotic entities that can only be observed in the wavelengths that are invisible to our eyes. I finished by showing the current limits of what we can see and what we hope the next generation of telescopes and satellites will reveal to us.



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Public lecture: THINK UNIVERSE! Why Bring ‘Big’ Science into Elementary Education?

Dr Francisco Diego (UCL Physics & Astronomy) talked about the THINK UNIVERSE! project, a one-term integrated science programme to be taught in schools to pupils aged 9-12.

Francisco Earth

THINK UNIVERSE! deals with the fundamental nature of the visible Universe, from its very simple and still mysterious origin, to the complexity and diversity around us today. We followed the cosmic time line and explore a metaphorical cosmic forest where vast numbers of trees of diversity accidentally grow and vanish. We faced the relevant insignificance of the human existence, that has only started as a tiny twig on one of those trees. A single human family that migrated from central Africa only a few thousand years ago. We meet our destiny, where we must learn to be kind to one another and preserve this fragile and unique paradise planet that we call Earth.

In this lecture, we learned about the development of this project and its major challenges ahead. The audience discussion at the end was very stimulating.


(NOTE: Think Universe! has support from the Science and Technology Facilities Council for its essential phase of teacher training).

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Public discussion and panel: LIFE IN THE UNIVERSE


Location: Gustave Tuck Lecture Theatre, Wilkins Building, UCL (map)

What is life? How does it start? With over 2,000 confirmed exoplanets, and the probability of billions more in our galaxy alone, is the emergence of life inevitable? And if it is inevitable, then where are the aliens? Our expert panel guided the audience on the most fascinating challenges to human culture.

Each panelist introduced a topic, followed by a long and diverse discussion with the audience.


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Nick Lane Iceland
From geology to biology, the origin of life in the universe

Dr Nick Lane (UCL Genetics, Evolution & Environment)

How does a sterile planet give rise to living cells? Some geological environments have the perfect flow of energy to drive the formation and organization of organic molecules and eventually cells like bacteria. But getting from bacteria to more complex cells like our own is a much harder transition.

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Zita Martins

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The contribution of comets and meteorites to the origin of life

Dr Zita Martins (Imperial College London) talked about the delivery of the building blocks of life to Earth by comets and meteorites between 4.6 to 3.8 billion of years ago, and how this may have contributed to the origin of life on Earth.

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Peter Grindrod

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The Search for Life on Mars

Dr Peter Grindrod (Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Birkbeck) described the ongoing search for life on Mars. This talk outlined our exploration of the planet, the evolution of habitability and the chances of finding life in the coming decades.

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Ian Crawford A

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Where are the aliens? The Drake equation revisited

Professor Ian Crawford (Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Birkbeck)
Based around a discussion of the famous 'Drake Equation' (which provides a rough estimation of the number of civilisations in our galaxy), this talk discussed what modern results in astrobiology tell us about the prospects for finding intelligent life elsewhere in the universe.


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Giovanna Tinetti

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TWINKLE: a mission to unravel the story of planets in our galaxy

Professor Giovanna Tinetti (UCL Physics & Astronomy) talked about the upcoming TWINKLE mission, which will observe the atmospheres of planets around distant  stars. Twinkle will be able to reveal, for the first time, the chemical composition, weather and history of worlds orbiting distant stars. The Twinkle satellite will be built in the UK and launched into a low-Earth orbit within 3 to 4 years.



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You can also review here the lectures that took place in 2015.

Jonathan lecturing