Here you’ll find brief reports of the talks we’ve heard at Society meetings. In these we try to include any web links or other pointers to further information that were provided by the speaker at the meeting. If you were at one of our meetings and would like to correct or expand the report relating to it then please use the Society’s contact form.
Like many, I have watched some of the Royal Institution’s (RI) Christmas Lectures but not all of them. That’s not a bad thing as they have been happening since 1825 and I could not have done that anyway. However, having listened to last night’s informative talk on the history of the Christmas lectures, that will change and they will become an event to look forward to.
Colin Stuart is an astronomical speaker, presenter at the Greenwich Observatory, author of at least seven books, contributor to newspapers, astronomy magazines and television programmes, and Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society. His last book and topic of this month’s talk – ‘13 Journeys Through Space and Time’ – deals with the history of 13 of the great astronomy and science RI Christmas Lectures.
However, this was not just a rehash of the lectures themselves; this was a lateral look at the history, background, ethos of the RI lectures and some of the great scientists and characters that have presented these talks. Some of the names of the more recent Christmas lectures presenters will be fairly well known; such as the wonderful Monica Grady in 2003 (who has also given a talk at OAS in the past) and Kevin Fong in 2015 on how to survive in space. However, some stand out in history, such as Sir Robert Stanley Ball in 1881 (so popular that he was to return another 4 times to give the lecture), Sir James Hopwood Jeans in 1933, Sir Bernard Lovell in 1965 (one of a quartet of presenters) and, of course, the legendary Carl Sagan in 1977.
The Christmas lectures are not a ‘one-off’ affair but take place over a number of days during the festive period and are primarily aimed at providing plenty of practical opportunities for the children attending to get their hands on to some actual experiments and explosions; the presenting area often crammed full of children from the audience!
Stuart’s book, ‘13 Journeys Through Space and Time’, was available to purchase on the night and I now proudly own a signed copy and am looking forward to a read which will take me back through the history of these wonderful lectures, the little known associated intrigues and the presenters that made RI Christmas Lectures the wonderful event they were and are.
As you know I am closely linked to the Society’s commitment to Outreach and was therefore greatly moved by the quote from former RI Director Sir Lawrence Bragg who perhaps summed up the ethos of the talks best when he wrote to his assistant encouraging – “Never talk about science, show it to them”.
Thanks to Colin Stuart for a great talk.
Hugh Alford ~ Vice-Chair
Our June 2017 Society Meeting saw a wonderfully entertaining talk from Dr Francisco Diego, University College London, who is currently a Senior Teaching Fellow at the Department of Physics and Astronomy. Dr Diego hails originally from Mexico and is a … Continue reading
In November we scheduled an extra meeting “It’s About Time” presented by Professor Donald Kurtz. Don Kurtz is Professor of Astrophysics at the University of Central Lancashire. His research is in asteroseismology and magnetic stars and he teaches the undergraduate … Continue reading
A talk by Greg Smye-Rumsby. The planet Uranus is named after the Greek god Ouranos, meaning ‘sky’ or ‘heaven’. It is the coldest of the planets, an ice giant with a tumbling orbit which takes 84 years to orbit the … Continue reading
Roy Easto from Croydon Astronomical Society led a QI type quiz with two teams of two ‘volunteered’ from the membership. This was a change from our usual Christmas Quiz when everyone participates, but the teams played their parts sportingly and … Continue reading
Chris Lintott was unable to visit us as he was on La Palma, so Tony Sizer stepped into the gap at short notice, and gave us an informative and entertaining talk entitled Violent Universe. The Universe is not as benign … Continue reading
At our April meeting Andrew Norton of the Open University spoke to us about Finding Exoplanets. The idea of exoplanets has been around for a long time, but it is only in more recent years that they have been identified … Continue reading
The subject of March’s OAS meeting was The Antikythera Mechanism and the Mechanical Universe and it was presented by Professor Mike Edmunds. He started his talk with a brief history of its discovery. In 1901/2 a hoard of magnificent objects … Continue reading
Our November meeting was addressed by Jack Carlyle, a PhD student at MSSL, who gave us an entertaining and informative talk on how they observe the Sun. With the help of some amazing animations, including one of a collapsing sun, … Continue reading
Our May meeting was addressed by Alec Boksenberg, who gave us a lively talk about The Intergalactic Medium and Other Things. This was a very interesting and wide ranging talk including evidence that dark matter must exist. He said that … Continue reading
Our April meeting was addressed by Paul Money, who gave us a lively talk about his favourite Images of the Universe volume 1. He introduced 10 images and gave an interesting insight into each one. These included diverse topics such … Continue reading
Our October meeting was addressed by Andrew Coates (Mullard Space Science Laboratory), who gave us a talk about ExoMars. Miriam writes: This was a very informative talk about exploration of Mars, and how MSSL is working on an instrument called … Continue reading