April SciBar: The Air We Breathe: experience investigating occupational and environmental causes of “asthma”

Monday 8 April 2019

Asthma is the most common respiratory disease in the UK outnumbering all other lung diseases combined. More than 8 million people have been diagnosed with asthma and currently more than 5 million people are on treatment. The incidence in all age groups is about 160,000 new cases each year. Whilst there is a broad spectrum of severity, those with the condition know how distressing an attack can be, and at its worst asthma can prove fatal; about 1200 patients die each year.

At least one in every ten new cases of adult onset asthma has been caused by exposure to an agent in the workplace. The repercussions of occupational asthma for those affected can be disastrous, affecting not only their health, but with social, psychological, and financial impact on quality of life. In order to offer those affected the best chance of a positive outcome it is important to make an accurate diagnosis at an early stage. For some cases the diagnostic process can be straightforward, but other cases might require the use of specialised facilities that are only available in a few centres across the country.

A wide variety of agents are recognised as causing occupational asthma, many of which will be familiar to us. New cases continue to be reported, expanding the number of causes. Research continues into the mechanisms of causation and factors that might make individuals more susceptible to the disease. These studies have contributed to our wider understanding of asthma in general and conditions that might mimic asthma, leading to improvements in treatment.

Our speaker is Dr Bernie Graneek, formerly of Royal Brompton Hospital

Begins 6.30pm prompt at the Vale Inn, Adlington Road, Bollington. All welcome, no charge. Arrive early to be sure of a seat.

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Bollington Festival science scarecrows

2019 is the official International Year of the Periodic Table of Chemical Elements.

Having obtained a small grant from the Royal Society of Chemistry for the creation of a Periodic Table themed Scarecrow Trail for the Bollington Festival, the organisers now need people to take part by creating scarecrows for around 20 elements. The elements tin, mercury and einsteinium have already been claimed. Perhaps you have an idea for neon, radium, or ….?

The aim is to have scarecrows built by the start of May and have them in place for the duration of the Festival (10 to 27 May).

Organiser Lindsay Ness will be in the Vale Inn from 7-8pm on Monday 18 Feb to talk to anyone who would like to make a scarecrow and wants to meet others to make one with, or would like to help in any way. No age or ability barriers!

Email Lindsay at scarecrows@bollingtonfestival.org.uk to find out more and get involved.

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February SciBar: The Antikythera Mechanism

Monday 11 February 2019
Maurice Rushby, a retired chemical engineer with a strong interest in mathematics, will talk about the Antikythera Mechanism, which is (quoting directly from Wikipedia): “an ancient Greek analogue computer and orrery used to predict astronomical positions and eclipses for calendar and astrological purposes decades in advance. It is a complex clockwork mechanism composed of at least 30 meshing bronze gears.” It was discovered in the sea in the early 1900’s, and is believed to have been constructed many decades BC.

Maurice has spent a lot of time researching this on the internet, and has put together a presentation. In his words:

“The Antikythera Mechanism is something which caught my imagination when I first heard about it. – A computer made in the years BC! It’s mechanical and not electronic, which is hardly surprising, and is programmable. It emulates the solar system and can predict things like a solar eclipse, many years ahead, giving not just the date and hour, but the colour of the eclipse. It’s mathematics includes the fact not only that the moon’s course is elliptical, but includes the precession of that ellipse.

There are the questions of where and when was it discovered, how did it get there? How was it understood/ and of course, who made it?”

Talk begins prompt 6.30pm,. Vale Inn, Adlington Road, Bollington
All welcome, no charge

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May SciBar: Graphene – Unexpected Science in a Pencil Line

Monday May 13th 2019

Graphene is the world’s first 2-dimensional material and the subject of the Nobel Prize winning research led by Prof. Geim and Prof. Novoselov at The University of Manchester.

Graphene was first isolated in Manchester in 2004 using the ‘Sellotape technique’, but the history of graphene dates back over 50 years. Graphene has been studied as a theoretical material since it is the building block for graphite, a material of great technological relevance, especially in the nuclear industry. Graphene is the basis for other carbon allotropes as well, such as the 1-dimensional carbon nanotube and the 0-dimensional fullerene. Graphene can be mass produced by methods such as chemical vapour deposition, solution exfoliation, etc, and kilos of graphene ink or 100s of square meters of graphene coatings can be produced these days. Graphene has a number of superlative properties – it is the strongest and lightest material, the best conductor of electricity and heat, etc. By a careful combination of these properties, a number of exciting applications of graphene are being developed. Graphene coatings could replace indium-tin-oxide for the conductive layer of touch-screens in today’s devices, or form the conductive touch coating in future bendable and flexible electronic devices. Graphene can be mixed with polymers to form strong and conducting composites. Graphene can even be used in biomedical applications such as drug screening and drug delivery. Finally, the world of 2-d materials doesn’t stop with graphene. We now have a family of 2-d materials including modifications of graphene and other unrelated 2-d materials, and new 2-d materials continue to be isolated. The research and technology of graphene will be accelerated in the newly constructed National Graphene Institute in Manchester.

Dr Aravind Vijayaraghavan is a Reader in Nanomaterials in the School of Materials and the National Graphene Institute at The University of Manchester. He leads the Nano-functional Materials Group and his research involves the science and technology of graphene and 2-dimensional materials, particularly for applications in composites, electronics, sensors and biotechnology.

Graphene fell running shoes developed with University of Manchester School of Materials

Begins 6.30pm prompt at the Vale Inn, Adlington Road, Bollington. All welcome, no charge. Arrive early to be sure of a seat.

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January SciBar: Building Brains

Monday 14 January

Understanding the brain remains as one of the great frontiers of science – how does this organ upon which we all so critically depend perform its function as an information processing system?

The SpiNNaker (Spiking Neural Network Architecture) platform has been developed to
support real-time modelling of large-scale brain subsystems with the objective of accelerating our understanding of the inner workings of the brain. It incorporates a million ARM processor cores with a bespoke interconnect fabric specifically designed to enable the very high connectivity of biological brains to be modelled. The SpiNNaker platform is openly accessible under the auspices of the EU Flagship Human Brain Project, and is currently being used to support a wide range of neuroscientific research.

The SpiNNaker machine was switched on for the first time in November 2018. Read Steve Furber’s interview in the Independent.

Talk by Steve Furber, Professor of Computer Engineering, School of Computer Science, The University of Manchester

Begins 6.30pm prompt at the Vale Inn, Adlington Road, Bollington. All welcome, no charge. Arrive early to be sure of a seat.

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12 November Science Pub Quiz

SciBar on November 12 will be a science pub quiz! The questions are of the ‘general science / science in the news’ type rather than needing a science education or science career. The questions will span 50 years of scientific discovery in Space, the Environment, Computing, Biology and Physics. There will be lots of pictures to give clues, and bonus points in some questions – general aim is to have fun.

We suggest ‘table teams’: either plan a team in advance, bring the family, or turn up and find a like-minded person(s) to team up with. Though there’s nothing to stop you pitting yourself as a solo against larger teams.

Quiz starts prompt at the Vale Inn at the usual time of 6.30 pm, so arrive in good time to sort out your team and collect a pen and paper.
All welcome, no charge.

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Bollington Festival periodic table scarecrows

2019 is the International Year of the Periodic Table and 150 years since Mendeleev first published his influential periodic table.

As part of the 2019 Bollington Festival in May 2019, scarecrows depicting the discovery and uses of different chemical elements will form a periodic table science trail. The aim is for local groups or interested individuals to be involved in making around 20 scarecrows. Or more! Mercury and Einsteinium are already ‘bagged’.

Feeling creative and want to make a scarecrow? Due to a successful grant application to the Royal Society of Chemistry, there are funds available for materials to help the scarecrows (and accessories) and to create the downloadable trail map and podcasts.

Anyone interested in being involved in any aspect should contact Lindsay Ness, c/o the Bollington scibar email bollingtonscibar@hotmail.co.uk.

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Delivering the genomic revolution in health

Monday 10 September

Genomics is the study of an individual’s entire genetic make-up, used within healthcare to tailor treatment, make prognoses and diagnoses. Technologies now allow the rapid decoding of DNA sequence, enabling the sequencing of a genome in a matter of days, though interpretation of this data is much more complex. Dr Ang Davies, Senior Lecturer in Clinical Bioinformatics and Genomics at the University of Manchester, will describe some of these innovative technologies, the data they generate and how we are developing the skills of healthcare professionals to enable this genomic revolution.

Talk begins 6.30pm prompt at the Vale Inn, Adlington Road, Bollington.
All welcome, no charge. Arrive early to be sure of a seat.

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Our changing rivers and the menace of microplastics

This talk will explore our changing relationship with the rivers of Manchester from the Industrial Revolution to the present day. It will look at historical records of river environments and consider the implications of very recent research by a team from the Department of Geography at The University of Manchester that has identified a new contamination problem – the menace of microplastics.

Talk by Professor Jamie Woodward
Talk begins 6.30pm prompt at the Vale Inn, Adlington Road, Bollington.
All welcome, no charge. Arrive early to be sure of a seat.

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New CAMERA (Chemistry at Manchester Explains Research Advances) video out

Steve Liddle who gave us the May SciBar (Uranium: A case of Dr Jekyll or Mr Hyde?) thought we would be interested to learn that his group has just released the next video in the CAMERA (Chemistry at Manchester Explains Research Advances) project. The new video is on catalysis by gold.

The video is here
A link for all the videos is here

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