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

12th March 2018: Watching the world’s volcanoes

Dr Juliet Biggs  School of Earth Sciences, University of Bristol

800 million people around the world live on or next to a volcano – many of whom rely on warnings to keep them safe from eruptions. But how can we tell if a volcano might erupt? And with over 1,500 volcanoes on land, how can we monitor them all? Juliet Biggs introduces a ground-breaking initiative developed by a multi-institution team at the Centre for Observation and Modelling of Earthquakes, Volcanoes and Tectonics (COMET), which will transform the way we monitor and respond to volcanic risk around the world. (

Juliet Biggs received BA and MSci degrees in Natural Sciences in 2003 from the University of Cambridge where she specialised in geology and geophysics. Since then, she’s been using satellite data to study active tectonic processes such as earthquakes and volcanoes. She received her PhD in 2007 for my work on the earthquake cycle in Alaska and then spent 2 years in Miami working on volcanoes in Central and South America. In 2010, she moved to the University of Bristol and now works on using satellites to monitor volcanoes around the world, and the tectonics and volcanism of the East African Rift. In recent years, she has won awards from the American Geophysical Union, the British Geophysics Association and Lloyds of London.

Link: Juliet Biggs

12th February 2018: What Can Network Science Tell Us About Cities?

Dr Nick McCullen, Dept of Architecture and Civil Engineering

Cities are highly complex systems where people interact and communicate in a variety of ways. The science of how cities function is in its infancy, but we are starting to understand some of the rules of interaction governing their behaviour. The physics of interactions between individual components of complex systems is described by the mathematics of networks. In this talk I will introduce some of the scientific and mathematical theories which have been used to explain complex phenomena in human interactions​ in cities, with sometimes surprising results.

Link: Dr Nick McCullen

8th January 2018: Designing Virtual Reality Experiences with Perception in Mind

Dr Dan Finnegan, Computer Science Dept at Bath University

Arguably, 2017 was the year virtual reality, or VR to those in the know, came to maturity. It has been around for some time however. While processing power and memory are much improved on over previous hardware generations, people’s expectations of virtual reality experiences are increasing. Simulating physical phenomena in a machine is a gargantuan task. Luckily, we may not have to physically simulate environments for them to be perceived as realistic. In this talk, I’ll discuss how studying fundamental human perception can lead to better designed virtual worlds that seem real to us.

Link: Bath University Computer Science Dept