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

12th December: Why aren’t we more resilient to climate change and what can we do about it? An economist’s perspective

Dr Peter Gist

Ten years ago Lord Nicholas Stern produced a report which took a new angle on climate change, by arguing that it was the greatest market-failure ever seen, and presented a challenge for economists as well as scientists and engineers. So how can economists help to adapt to the new realities of a warming planet?

December’s Science Café will explore how we make decisions to invest in making ourselves more resilient to the effects of climate change and extreme weather events. Why are we surprised repeatedly by events and never seem to have spent enough? Given that things seems to be getting worse, how can we improve decision making?

Dr Peter Gist is a Director in the engineering firm Arup Management Consultancy and the Arup Fellow in Economics. He is also a Visiting Professor in the Faculty of Social Sciences and Law at the University of Bristol.

Link: Peter Gist


14th November: Knowing the unknowable: telling the colour of dinosaurs

Professor Mike Benton, University of Bristol

There has been a great deal of interest in determining colour of ancient animals. Once considered impossible, the colour of dinosaurs was presented in 2010, using an ultrastructural method. Current research focuses on extending the method to other taxa, but also looking critically at the method and extending it through ultrastructural and geochemical studies to become a more widely useful tool in identifying a broad range of original pigments.

This kind of study raises wider questions about the nature of science and scientific testing. Some would take a critical view of all historical sciences such as palaeontology because it is not possible to run and repeat experiments. However, palaeontologists, and geologists in general, have some useful tools at their disposal to make the historical earth and life sciences as fully scientific as any other field of the natural sciences.

Link: Mike Benton


10th October: Are we living in a “post-truth” era?

Liam Shaw, Ask for Evidence

Every day we hear claims about health, politics, and society: how to fix education, cut crime, improve our health, or save the environment. Some of these claims are based on reliable evidence. Many are not.

Ask for Evidence is a public campaign set up by Sense About Science that helps people request for themselves the evidence behind news stories, marketing claims and political policies. The campaign isn’t about leading an ‘evidence-based life’; it is about holding powerful figures to account to avoid being misled on important issues. It is making sure that a discussion of the evidence is happening when it really matters.

This talk will be about the background to the campaign, successes we’ve had so far, and the (many!) challenges we still face.

Sense about Science is an independent campaigning charity that challenges the misrepresentation of science and evidence in public life. Founded in 2001, it is run by a small team working with thousands of supporters, from world-leading researchers to community groups.

Liam Shaw is a computational biology PhD student at UCL. He has been involved with Sense about Science since Autumn 2015, when he became an ambassador for the Ask for Evidence campaign.

Link: Ask for Evidence