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

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

13th November 2017: Building with dirt to clean our homes

Dr Daniel Maskell BRE Centre for Innovative Construction Materials, University of Bath

Are modern low carbon buildings detrimental to our health? Modern buildings have been developed to be very airtight, improving their energy efficiency and reducing their carbon footprint. However, these sealed environments have created unexpected side effects, with research showing that a build-up of potentially harmful chemicals in the air is potentially causing negative impacts on occupants. Dan will present research on how innovation with the use of dirt could result in an improved indoor environment quality.

Bath BaleHaus

Link: Dr Daniel Maskell

9th October 2017: The placebo effect, friend or foe in treatments for mental health

Dr Sarah Chapman, Department of Pharmacy and Pharmacology, University of Bath

Sarah is a psychologist who researches psychological factors influencing patients’ decisions about treatment. In this talk she will explore the role of the placebo effect in mental health care. The placebo effect is when people taking an inactive treatment such as a sugar pill feel better. It is often thought of as a necessary nuisance; an essential comparison for treatments but otherwise basically useless. But, there is a growing body of evidence that placebos can influence bodily and mental processes. There is hot debate over whether placebo effects can be more powerful than some commonly used psychotropic drugs. If we listen carefully to what people tell us about what works for them, can we gain insights into how to improve treatment and individualise mental health care? Do we need to devise placebo comparisons for talking treatments or is this inappropriate? Sarah will explore how an understanding of placebo effects might help us to improve mental health care.

Link: Sarah Chapman