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    UCL Events blog

    By Nick Dawe, on 6 May 2011

    Reviews of UCL public lectures, debates, exhibitions, shows, and more…

    English Grammar Day 2014

    By Sophie E Pleterski, on 29 July 2014

    In a world where economics and technology dominate, what is the place of grammar in our society? Is it important?

    The English Grammar Day 2014  (held on July 4) sought to tackle these questions. Organised by Charlotte Brewer (University of Oxford English Language and Literature) and Bas Aarts (UCL English Language & Literature) in association with the British Library, this conference brought together some of the preeminent authorities on language use: Debbie Cameron, David Crystal, Dick Hudson, Debra Myhill and John Mullan.

    David Crystal

    David Crystal

    The event traversed the history of the “grammar debate” from Jonathan Swift’s Proposal for Correcting, Improving, & Ascertaining the English Tongue (1712) to Michael Gove’s new curriculum. Yet the overriding theme of the day was the teaching of grammar (or lack thereof) in schools.

    Montaigne’s assertion that ‘the greater part of the world’s troubles are due to questions of grammar’ was perhaps hyperbolic, but as Dick Hudson (UCL Psychology & Language Sciences) pointed out in the opening lecture, London is experiencing a literacy crisis. Citing an article in the Evening Standard from 2011 which claimed that one million people in London could not read, he discussed the consequences of the decline in the teaching of grammar in the 20th century. ”From the 1920s to the 1960s grammar research died. The effect of a subject dying at university means that the next generation of school teachers never hear about it during their undergraduate years–a recipe for disaster”, he argued.

    Each speaker had their own ideas of how this could be remedied, but the prevailing opinion was that a playfulness with language is imperative. As Debra Myhill observed, British humour is often based on grammatical nuance: grammar is the difference between knowing your shit and knowing you’re shit (not an example for the primary school kids).

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    Rosetta: chasing a time-capsule bigger than Mt. Fuji

    By Rebecca L Caygill, on 10 July 2014

    “Comets can be thought of as the deep frozen leftovers from the formation of the solar system,” said Dr Matt Taylor from the European Space Agency, opening his public lecture yesterday titled ‘The Rosetta Story: A comet, an amazing spacecraft and their journey around the Sun’, part of the Sixth Alfven Conference hosted by UCL.

    CG-comet

    How big is Rosetta’s comet? Credit: ESA

    Studying these “potato-shaped”’ (his words, not mine) left-overs might provide scientists with answers about how water and the building blocks of life were delivered to Earth. Rosetta is a mission that aims to do it in a way never tried before, by getting up close and personal with a comet.

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    Medical imaging with light, sound and sugar (!) at the Royal Summer Science Exhibition

    By Thomas A Roberts, on 9 July 2014

    Have you ever broken a bone and been for an MRI scan? Perhaps your dentist has interrogated your fillings with an14520757366_9435d47805 x-ray of your jaw. Or maybe you’ve seen a baby curled in its mother’s womb on an ultrasound machine. Medical imaging has revolutionised our lives to the point where we can see inside our bodies with incredible clarity. But now a new wave of imaging techniques is coming.

    Now, we can use light to illuminate deep inside our bodies to see individual, microscopic cells dividing. We can use sound to generate exquisitely detailed images of blood vessels. And, we can even use sugar to make tumours within our bodies glow.

    At this year’s Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition, held last week, my colleagues and I from the UCL Centre for Advanced Biomedical Imaging (CABI) exhibited the next generation of techniques that we are developing in our lab which push the boundaries of what we can see inside the human body. Having conquered the Cheltenham Science Festival, the CABI team showcased  a completely new exhibition.

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    Science and the First World War

    By Siobhan Pipa, on 9 July 2014

    German scientist Fritz Haber

    German scientist Fritz Haber

    The relationship between science, technology and warfare is a topic I find incredibly intriguing – partially kick-started from taking a module in Science, Warfare and Peace back when I was an undergraduate in UCL Science & Technology Studies.

    So, with high hopes I headed down to The Guardian offices to watch the final instalment of UCL’s Lunch Hour Lectures on Tour – given by Professor Jon Agar (UCL Science & Technology Studies), titled Science and the First World War.

    Opening with the haunting image of ‘We are making a new world’ by Paul Nash, Professor Agar points out that there is frequently no force so associated with the making of a new world as science.

    If there’s one thing I took away from my undergraduate degree, it’s that science, like nearly every other topic in the world, is not an isolated endeavour – there are always outside influences at play.

    And there is probably no bigger outside influence than the First World War. Often considered the first ‘total war’, science was driven and transformed by the events of a hundred years ago.

    Along with shaping the path science took during this period, the First World War also raised a number of profound and troubling questions about the very nature of science.

    Is science a force for construction? Or is it a force of destruction? Does science transcend international boundaries or should science be recruited to further a country’s cause? How should scientists be used during warfare and is there a way to organise science in the most efficient way?

    Using some of the most prominent scientists of the First World War, Professor Agar proceeded to examine these themes at a much more personal and intimate level.

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