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Royal Institution Christmas lectures

 
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rynner2Online
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PostPosted: 31-12-2010 22:21    Post subject: Royal Institution Christmas lectures Reply with quote

1. Why Elephants Can't Dance

How can a hamster survive falling from the top of a skyscraper, ants carry over 100 times their own body weight and geckos climb across the ceiling?

In the first of this year's Christmas lectures, Dr Mark Miodownik investigates why size matters in animal behaviour. He reveals how the science of materials - the stuff from which everything is made - can explain some of the most extraordinary and surprising feats in the animal kingdom.

By the end, you will understand why you will never see an elephant dance.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00x1v7l/Royal_Institution_Christmas_Lectures_2010_Why_Elephants_Cant_Dance/
Plus two more lectures - links from first lecture
(2. Why Chocolate Melts and Jet Engines Don't; 3. Why Mountains Are So Small.)

The presenter looks rather like Adrian Edmondson from Bottom
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bottom_(TV_series)
And he has a similar lively and active sense of humour, and he works very well with his teenage audience.

An excellent piece of TV all around, in terms of both technical presentation, humour, and audience participation.

In fact, given how many times he mentions Bottoms in Lecture 3, I wonder if he really is Adrian Edmondson...
Wink


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coalyOffline
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PostPosted: 01-01-2011 01:50    Post subject: Reply with quote

I was concerned that some kids might throw their hamsters off buildings, thinking they could actually survive, as he implied that survival equated with not disintegrating! Shocked
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rynner2Online
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PostPosted: 01-01-2011 09:34    Post subject: Reply with quote

coaly wrote:
I was concerned that some kids might throw their hamsters off buildings, thinking they could actually survive, as he implied that survival equated with not disintegrating! Shocked

AFAIK, they would survive. Their light fluffy bodies would only reach a modest terminal velocity, and their relatively strong muscles and bones could handle the impact.

But humans would be killed, while elephants would go SPLAT...
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PostPosted: 01-01-2011 10:10    Post subject: Reply with quote

rynner2 wrote:

AFAIK, they would survive. Their light fluffy bodies would only reach a modest terminal velocity, and their relatively strong muscles and bones could handle the impact.

But not after they reach the ground and get run over by a bus. Smile
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PostPosted: 01-01-2011 11:44    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oooh no! Simple drops to the carpet from about 2 foot can seriously, and often mortally damage a small rodent. They usually die from internal bleeding, or shock. Especially hamsters, as they are 'designed' for a sandy climate.
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rynner2Online
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PostPosted: 26-12-2011 10:52    Post subject: Reply with quote

Heh heh! A quck title edit leaves us with an everlasting thread for the RICL!

And this year we have the Brain...


Royal Institution Christmas lectures will unwrap the human brain
In this year's Christmas lectures on BBC Four, Professor Bruce Hood aims to reveal the brain in all its mystery and complexity
Alok Jha, science correspondent
guardian.co.uk, Sunday 25 December 2011 13.27 GMT

Human beings are the most intelligent species on the planet because our brains have evolved to cope with complex social situations, according to this year's Royal Institution Christmas lecturer, Professor Bruce Hood. This important function takes decades to develop properly, however, and explains why we humans spend a much larger proportion of our lifespan as children than any other animal.

In three one-hour lectures – entitled Meet Your Brain – Hood will examine how the brain is constructed and creates the world we perceive around us. He also hopes to inspire a new generation of neuroscientists from among his audience of schoolchildren by showing that scientists are only beginning to understand the workings of the brain.

"I'm going to leave open a lot of questions and, hopefully, they'll see that this has got many years of work in future," says Hood, an experimental psychologist at the University of Bristol.

Whether or not they (or the millions watching at home) end up studying the brain, Hood hopes that people come away from the lectures with a deeper appreciation of the white and grey matter. "We take it for granted – the things we do every day. We don't understand how complicated they really are. I want people to come away with a sense of wonder about how a thing like the brain has such flexibility and such powerful processing capability to create this experience we have."

The Royal Institution's Christmas lectures were initiated by Michael Faraday in 1825 as an attempt to bring science to young people. They have run every year since (except during the second world war) and lecturers have included David Attenborough, Richard Dawkins and Dame Nancy Rothwell.

From a set that resembles a 1950s horror movie, Hood plans to take viewers on a trip through the capabilities of our most important organ. "The brain is seven times heavier than you would imagine for an animal our size. It's full of billions upon billions of brain cells," he says. "It's not the number of cells that's really fascinating, it's the connection between the cells because that's the secret of the processing power of the brain. It's connections that encode information."

Babies are born with almost their full complement of brain cells, so it's the increase in the number of connections between the cells that explains the change in the size and weight of the brain as it matures. All of this helps to create a representation of the external world.

"You're encoding experiences and storing that," says Hood. "When the brain brings these back to think about them, it's almost recreating the original experience. It's not a photograph captured in time, these things are constantly dynamic and changing."

Hood will also discuss a uniquely human capability that our brains have evolved: the ability to be social. "Childhood used to be thought of as a time of immaturity," he says. "But we now realise that this is the period where we're becoming social. The species which have the longest periods of childhood tend to be the ones which are more flexible or intelligent."

Not only do human children learn from others, they learn to become like others. "We spend up to 15-20 years in childhood and that's a large proportion of human lifespan and that can only be because it serves a really important process, which I think is learning from others and learning to communicate and share information," says Hood. "We don't simply read behaviours, we put ourselves in other humans' shoes, we take their perspectives, we can empathise, we can see their points of view. This is a whole area called 'theory of mind'. Without that you cannot anticipate what other people are thinking and doing."

The human desire to socialise, to see people around us, can also trick us. "Seeing faces [in inanimate objects] is a very common thing because faces are the most important social stimuli to humans. We have areas of our brain dedicated to processing faces," says Hood. "The problem is that we're trip-wired to seeing anything that could be face-like. This has often explained why people have seen faces in clouds or trees. Often, religious deities are the things that people spot."

Hood's own research involves examining the human ability to form connections with objects by inferring some internal property that gives them a specific character. "Children at 3-4 years of age will know that cats are different from dogs but they can do that over and beyond the outward appearance. They start to think there must be something inside a cat that makes them different to a dog – a catty essence," he says. "They're starting to infer a deeper property to the living world."

In recent experiments, Hood has found that people wanted to wash their hands after touching or wearing a cardigan that they have been told once belonged to a murderer; but they wanted to hold a pen that had been told had belonged to Albert Einstein. "I think this is the basis of why we go to museums and collections: we want to see the original objects," says Hood. "As soon as we discover it's not the original, our regard for it disappears."

• The Royal Institution Christmas lectures will air on BBC Four at 8pm on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2011/dec/25/royal-institution-christmas-lectures-brain
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rynner2Online
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PostPosted: 30-12-2011 20:26    Post subject: Reply with quote

Royal Institution Christmas Lectures - 2011
- 1. What's in Your Head?

Why does your brain look like a giant walnut, how does it fit in enough wiring to stretch four times around the equator and why can a magnet on your head stop you in mid-sentence? In the first of this year's Christmas Lectures, Professor Bruce Hood gets inside your head to explore how your brain works. He measures the brain's nerve cells in action, reads someone's mind from 100 miles away and reveals how the brain ultimately creates its own version of reality.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b018l6vy/Royal_Institution_Christmas_Lectures_2011_Whats_in_Your_Head/


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PostPosted: 31-12-2011 22:10    Post subject: Reply with quote

2. Who's in Charge Here?

Professor Bruce Hood tests the limits of our memory, finds out how we learn, how our brain takes shortcuts and why multi-tasking can be dangerous.

Your brain is constantly being bombarded with information, so how does it decide what to trust and what to ignore, without you even being aware? Professor Bruce Hood leads us through the second of this year's Christmas Lectures - testing the limits of our memory, finding out how we learn, how our brain takes shortcuts and why multi-tasking can be dangerous. Bruce will make you say the wrong thing and fail to see what's right in front of you. Can you really believe your eyes? Possibly not.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b018l6wx/Royal_Institution_Christmas_Lectures_2011_Whos_in_Charge_Here/#programme-info

3. Are You Thinking What I'm Thinking?

With a little help from a baby, a robot and a magician, Professor Bruce Hood uncovers what makes us truly human in this final lecture.

Have you ever seen a face in a piece of burnt toast, or given your car a name? Why do you feel pain when someone else is hurt? Why are people so obsessed with other people? In the last of this year's Christmas Lectures, Professor Bruce Hood investigates how our brains are built to read other people's minds. With a little help from a baby, a robot and a magician, Bruce uncovers what makes us truly human.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b018l71s/Royal_Institution_Christmas_Lectures_2011_Are_You_Thinking_What_Im_Thinking/
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rynner2Online
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PostPosted: 27-12-2012 20:12    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's that time of year - here we go again:

Royal Institution Christmas Lectures - 2012: The Modern Alchemist - 1. Air: The Elixir of Life

The medieval alchemists made elements react to create magnificent shows, enthralling kings and commoners alike, but their secrets were never revealed until now.

In the first of this year's Christmas Lectures, Dr Peter Wothers explores what the alchemists knew about the air we breathe and reveals how our modern knowledge of these elements can be used to control fire, defy gravity and harness the power of a lightning storm. Peter is joined by the cast of the musical Loserville and is helped in his exploration of the 118 modern elements by a periodic table made from audience members at the Royal Institution.


http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01pjqpk/Royal_Institution_Christmas_Lectures_2012_The_Modern_Alchemist_Air_The_Elixir_of_Life/


Available until
8:59PM Fri, 4 Jan 2013


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rynner2Online
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PostPosted: 30-12-2012 21:12    Post subject: Reply with quote

The next two:

2. Water: The Fountain of Youth

Medieval alchemists wrote of a mysterious fountain of youth, whose waters could rejuvenate anyone who drank them. But can water really be magical?

In the second of this year's Christmas Lectures, Dr Peter Wothers drinks from the fountain and finds out whether the elements lurking in the water can restore his youth. Along the way he discovers how exploding balloons could solve the energy crisis, how water contains the remains of the most violent reactions on Earth and that the real secret to eternal youth might be drinking no water at all.

Peter is joined in his quest by Paralympic champion cyclist Mark Colbourne and finds out what happens when the two most reactive elements on the periodic table, caesium and fluorine, meet each other.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01pp64k/Royal_Institution_Christmas_Lectures_2012_The_Modern_Alchemist_Water_The_Fountain_of_Youth/

Lots of bangs and flashes (and probably smells!) as well as some genuine RI history (Davey and Faraday), and something probably never seen by most people before ("what happens when the two most reactive elements on the periodic table, caesium and fluorine, meet each other"), as the presenter had never actually seen Fluorine before, and his chemistry professsor colleague had never seen caesium! I'm impressed!

3. The Philosopher's Stone

For centuries alchemists have tried to turn base metals into gold. But is such a feat even possible?

In the final Christmas Lecture, Dr Peter Wothers explores the elements within the earth and discovers just how difficult it is for chemists to extract the planet's greatest treasures. He discovers how our knowledge of the elements can allow us to levitate, turn carbon dioxide into diamonds and maybe turn lead into gold.

Peter is joined by Nobel Prize-winning chemist Professor Sir Harry Kroto and together they find out whether a member of the audience is really worth their weight in gold and what happens when you set fire to a diamond.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01pp6bq/Royal_Institution_Christmas_Lectures_2012_The_Modern_Alchemist_The_Philosophers_Stone/

Haven't watched this yet, but I fully expect it to be as good as parts 1 and 2, with an equal mix of enthusiasm, humour, and entertainment. yeay
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PostPosted: 04-01-2013 10:46    Post subject: Reply with quote

Growing up, I thought all posh kids spent their whole Christmas attending lectures like this and got expensive microscopes and telescopes for presents.
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PostPosted: 04-01-2013 14:35    Post subject: Reply with quote

jimv1 wrote:
Growing up, I thought all posh kids spent their whole Christmas attending lectures like this and got expensive microscopes and telescopes for presents.


I did spot an unsually dispiriting little present for the studious child this year. It was in a charity shop and looked unopened - so maybe the original recipient was ungrateful.

It was a "Homework Station" which appeared to be some sort of desk-organizer. The illustration featured the furrowed brows of a bespectacled dweeb junior, who appeared to be mightily focussed on prep. for his Entrance Examinations.

I did receive a rather splendid chemistry set when I was a nipper. Those were the days when several samples were casually noted as poisonous and the set was generous enough to include both a spirit burner and a bunsen! I wonder how many homes had a desk-top style gas-tap for the latter?

Despite this encouragement, I'm afraid my idea of science was to mix up any old foaming compound and clutch my throat in melodramatic style, sinking under the table, then lifting the dog to signal the transformation was complete.

Aunt Bertha's gifts became simpler in subsequent years. Sad
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jimv1Offline
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PostPosted: 05-01-2013 12:15    Post subject: Reply with quote

JamesWhitehead wrote:

Despite this encouragement, I'm afraid my idea of science was to mix up any old foaming compound and clutch my throat in melodramatic style, sinking under the table, then lifting the dog to signal the transformation was complete.



Best use of present ever!
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rynner2Online
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PostPosted: 29-12-2013 21:50    Post subject: Reply with quote

Here we go again: Cool

Royal Institution Christmas Lectures - 2013: Life Fantastic - 1. Where Do I Come From?

One of the greatest conundrums of life is how we emerge from a single cell into a walking, talking, multi-trillion-celled organism that we call the human body.

In the first of this year's Christmas Lectures, Dr Alison Woollard from the University of Oxford reveals just how this incredible transformation takes place. Using dramatic live experiments she shows how each of those trillions of cells knows what to do, when to do it and how to organise themselves to carry out vital specialist roles in our body.

Following on in the great tradition of Royal Institution Christmas Lectures that date back to 1825 when Michael Faraday lectured in the same theatre, Alison Woollard will continue to inspire wonder in her young audience.

'Life Fantastic' is a theme that recurs across all three lectures as she delights all curious minds with tales of worms, lobsters and naked mole rats.

Live in the lecture theatre, we witness the creation of life, following the 'real-time' embryonic development of a tiny worm on its journey to adulthood. Alison is passionate about what these tiny creatures can tell us about developmental biology. Joining her on this journey is Sir Paul Nurse, who won his Nobel Prize for his work on yeast. Such organisms may seem a long way from us, yet by understanding how cells divide and function, they have helped scientists make significant advances in the treatment of cancers.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b03mv59j/Royal_Institution_Christmas_Lectures_2013_Life_Fantastic_Where_Do_I_Come_From/

Available until 2:49AM Sun, 5 Jan 2014
Duration 60 minutes
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