The Science Café is a chance to informally explore the latest ideas in science and technology and debate the issues. All are welcome.

The next Science Café will be in September

We break now for the summer so the next Café will be on September 12th. Check back here at the end of August for details of the next talk. Alternatively use the link on the right to subscribe to our E-mail.

If you have an idea for a future Science Café, whether you have a suggestion for a talk, can recommend a speaker or even want to come and give a talk yourself, then please get in touch.

Have a good summer.

July 11th. Understanding Epilepsy: from Moon Gods and evil spirits to brain tissue in a dish

Roland Jones, Pharmacy and Pharmacology, University of Bath

Epilepsy is one of the most common neurological disorders an has been know to afflict human beings throughout most of recorded history. It is only over the last 150 years that our understanding of its nature has shifted from the work of supernatural powers to an inorganic disturbance of brain function, and in I will briefly trace the history of the disorder and it’s treatment. I will also discuss how much of our recent knowledge of epilepsy has depended research on using animal models of the disorder, but how we are moving towards the use of living human brain tissue to gain a more detailed understanding of causes in man.

Link: Roland Jones

May 9th. 3D-printing: Manufacturing for the Masses

Adrian Bowyer, RepRap Ltd

3D printing is about thirty-five years old. It has two key characteristics: it is very slow, and it is very easy to use. And now that all the patents on it are expiring, it is also becoming very low cost. These characteristics are the fundamental ones needed for a distributed technology – a technology that it makes more sense for individuals and small groups to own than to gather together in big economies-of-scale factories.

The RepRap Project is the main reason for the falling costs of 3D printing. But it was not primarily established as a 3D-printing project. It was established to make a useful self-replicating machine. 3D printing was merely the most appropriate technology to use for self-replication.

After the fundamental interactions of physics, self-replication is the most powerful phenomenon that there is. It has transformed this entire planet, which has been knee-deep in self-replicating machines for the last three and a half billion years. (Indeed, your very knees are made out of self-replicating machines.) And, driven by the inexorable operation of Darwin’s Law, it is also the most efficient method of production that we know.

This talk will be about the introduction of open-source self-replicating machines as a primary means of engineering production, and the possible social and economic consequences of you (and everyone else) making many of the things you need for yourself rather than buying them.

Download the slides from the talk: PDF (5.4MB)

Links: Adrian Bowyer & RepRap Ltd