☰  Cardiff Scientific Society

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Tsunamis Earthquakes and Explosive Volcanoes: the Hazards of Living on Active Continental Margins

Professor Julian Pearce
Cardiff University

Active continental margins mark the sites where oceanic plates sink (subduct) beneath the margins of continents. Earthquakes result because of the relative movement on the plate boundary, the bending and unbending of the subducting plate, and mineral transformations within the subducting plate as it descends into the Earth. The tsunamigenic earthquakes, such as the recent event off Sumatra, are typically those which are shallow and displace the ocean floor. A further consequence of subduction is the dehydration of the subducting plate as it descends: this water enters the overlying mantle, triggers melting, and produces water-rich magma which may cause explosive eruptions. With many important cities, such as Tokyo and Seattle, located at active continental margins, understanding these 'geohazards' has important socio-economic implications.

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Music Versus the Machine

Ms Wendy Sadler
Cardiff University

Can musicians be replaced by machines? How do machines generate sounds and can they put them together to make music? With audio examples and video clips, this talk will look at the ways that technology and music work together to see just how close we have come to generating purely electronic music.

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Water - A Vital Public Health Service

Dr Tim Masters
Head of Quality and Assets, Dwr Cymru/Welsh Water

Water is one of life's essentials. Indeed it can be argued that the provision of a clean drinking water supply has been the most significant factor in improving public health. This presentation will take a journey through the centuries to look at how the provision of safe drinking water has presented a series of challenges to different communities. In particular, the impact of the industrial revolution and the growth in urban population necessitated the development of services for the supply of clean water and for the treatment of sewage with associated improvements in public health.

In this country major outbreaks of water borne disease are thankfully rare. But, as we start the 21st century, our concerns are around the perceived health issues associated with our water supply. This presentation will also consider the current position regarding the regulation of drinking water and the new challenges the industry faces to maintain public confidence.

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The Lord Phillips Memorial Lecture: Diabetes, a Global Epidemic; Who's Next - You?

Professor Stephen Tomlins
Cardiff University

The number of people with diabetes worldwide is predicted to increase from around 150 million to more than 300 million by 2025. Until recently type II diabetes, by far the most common form, was thought not to occur in children. However, with the marked increase in the prevalence of obesity in children there appears also to have a corresponding increase in the instance of type II diabetes. Obesity, high blood pressure and high cholesterol are all associated with diabetes as a disease complex, Evidence suggests there is an inherited susceptibility to these problems that is influenced by environmental factors beginning in utero and continuing through childhood and adolescence into adulthood. Lifestyle including nutrition and physical activity are determinants of the disease complex (sometimes referred to as the metabolic syndrome or the syndrome of insulin resistance) in adulthood. Life span is reduced by decades and complications such as heart disease, strokes, blindness, loss of limbs and kidney failure are at least disabling if not fatal. Both complications and disease complex are preventable. However, a complex disease requires complex intervention; there is no "pill for every ill": so who will be next and what can be done to stop it?

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The Trouble with Prostates

Dr Maureen Harper
Cardiff University

Today one is more likely to hear the term prostatic cancer whithin one's family, social circle and in the media than in the whole of the last century. Interestingly, in was the first cancer to be treated by endocrine drugs in the 1930's, an approach which incidentally remains the main therapy option. It was largely ignored by the sufferers, doctors, research and funding bodies because it occurred in elderly men. As a result of the rising life expectancy, prostate cancer now has the dubious honour of having the highest incidence of any cancer in males in the UK ans USA. This adverse statistic and better diagnostic tools have increased awareness and resulted in much needed research in the medical scientific and pharmaceutical sectors into this malignancy. Research has uncovered additional non-endocrine related pathways to prostatic cancer growth and invasion and the identities of these genes represent the current targets for drug development. Additionally, epidemiological evidence has highlighted the importance of epigenetic changes in prostatic cancer progression and has resulted in new nutritional trials.

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Shape and Form in the World of Crystals

Professor Kenneth D.M. Harris
Cardiff University

Solids can be found in many shapes and forms in the world around us, but few scientists and laymen alike would dispute the fact that crystalline solids have a particular appeal in view of the regular and well-defined shapes and often perfect symmetries that Nature confers upon them. These special external features of crystals reflect an underlying regularity and orderliness in the arrangement of the atoms and molecules within their internal structure. But why do crystals grow in such regular ways and what are the scientific and technological implications of crystal shape and form? The lecture will follow a journey through the world of crystals, discussing some of the issues of scientific and technological importance that depend (often critically) upon understanding crystal shapes, understanding the arrangements of atoms and molecules within crystals and, in particular, understanding how we may be able to exert control over these properties. Modern research in this field is driven not only by fundamental scientific curiosity, but also by the recognition that the control of crystal shape and form can hold the key to the successful development and production of improved materials for use in society, such as new pharmaceuticals and new pigment materials.

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The Astrolabe East and West

Dr Stephen Johnston
Museum of the History of Science, University of Oxford

The astrolabe is an iconic instrument from the history of science - beautiful, sophisticated and with a host of uses from astronomy and astrology to time-telling and religious observance. The lecture follows the astrolabe from its ancient Greek origins to the virtual versions now found on the web, focusing particularly on its early development both in Islam and the West.

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The Role of Fossils in Reconstructing Ancient Continental Jigsaws

Dr Robert M. Owens
National Museum of Wales, Cardiff

The fossil record provides evidence of how life on Earth evolved over vast eons of geological time. Attempts to explain the distribution of different fossil faunas and floras with respect to present-day geography threw up many problems, but many of these have been resolved in the aftermath of the 'Plate Tectonic Revolution' of the 1960s. Along with data from other Earth Science disciplines, that from fossils can afford critical evidence to enable us to plot the positions and movement of ancient continents. The lecture will highlight research on this theme currently being carried out by staff from the Department of Geology at The National Museum of Wales, which focuses on the Ordovician Period. During this time, between about 490 and 445 million years ago, the Earth's continents had a distribution very different from that with which we are familiar today, and the British Isles was split between two ancient continents that initially were separated by an ocean, one in equatorial and the other in south temperate latitudes.

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Forensic Analysis of Human Hair

Dr John Wicks
Tricho Tech Ltd., Cardiff

Hair samples may be used in many types of forensic investigations: DNA analysis, elemental analysis as well as drug analysis. It has been known for years that trace metals in the body accumulate in hair and can be detected weeks and months after the original exposure. The same is true of drugs and as a result hair samples can be used to establish an historial persective of drug use in an individual. The advantages of hair over body fluids are:

  • A hair sample can be collected without need of special equipment or medically trained person
  • The collection is non-invasive and not readily altered by dilution, unlike urine
  • The sample is very stable; Cocaine has been found in the hair of Columbian mummies over 5000 years old
  • No special storage requirements are required
  • Hair grows at approximately a centimetre a month enabling a 'tape-recording' of drug use

I will illustrate the use of hair analysis for drugs in Family Care situations, Police investigations and the newer application of pre-employment testing.

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Synchronisation: from Brainwaves to Light Waves

Professor Paul Rees
University of Wales, Swansea

In 1665 Christian Huygens discovered that two pendulum clocks suspended side by side would eventually synthronise to each other. This phenomenon is common to most oscillators which occur in biological, electronic and physical systems. This talk will outline the processes of synchronisation in a wide range of systems ranging from neurons in the brain to laser diodes in optical communications systems.

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Healthy Homes Improving Our Quality of Life

Professor Stephen Palmer
Cardiff University

Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council has been working together with Cardiff University to study the links between housing and health. This collaborative project, HANAH, Housing Neighbourhoods and Health, was funded by the UK Medical Research Council and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council from January 2001 to December 2003.

The aim of HANA is to find out how where we live may affect our health and particularly to look at housing and neighbourhood factors. Previous research has suggested that the incidence of injuries and diseases like asthma and psychological health varies from area to area. But how much of this variation can be explained by who we are, and how much by where we are? To study this properly we need reliable ways of measuring the characteristics and quality of the built environment and its impact on health. We want to help local authorities to target funds to best improve the quality of life and wellbeing of their communities.

The HANAH team has begun its task by exploring links between the type and quality of housing and neighbourhood, in relation to respiratory disease, accidents and injuries and mental health. Results so far have shown that mental health is protected from the effect of poverty by strong social networks, home injuries are twice as common in flats, and asthma can be reduced by mould eradication in the home.

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The Dark Side of the Universe

Professor Mike Edmunds
Cardiff University

How can astronomers dare to look people in eye, when they don't know what 95% of the Universe is made of? Are dark matter and dark energy just the smoke and mirrors behind which a scientific crisis is hiding?

The present state of the problem will be reviewed, together with the future experiments and theories which may allow our ideas to move forward. The changing view of Cosmology is presenting a real and exciting challenge for both fundamental physics and astronomy.