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    UCL Events blog

    By Nick Dawe, on 6 May 2011

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

    Out of this world: The Petrie Museum and CASA at LonCon3

    By Guest Blogger, on 20 August 2014

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    Written by Dr Debbie Challis

    Where can you mingle with a Hawaiian Dalek (image 1), attend events on ‘alien sounds’ and get fit by playing quidditch? The answer is WorldCon, or for its third London venture LonCon3 – the biggest science fiction (SF) convention in the world, which took place over a five-day extravaganza of all things SF at the ExCel Centre between 14 and 18 August.

    The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology had a stall in the exhibits hall – among the dealers, SF publishers, academic posters, astronomers and English heritage (among others) – where we promoted the museum and different ways of thinking about ancient Egypt and archaeology.

    This year, LonCon3 had over 10,000 attendees (many attend virtually – one man in the USA even sent his own robot!) and made the front page of the Guardian on Saturday 15 August. The scale of it was enormous, with hundreds of events, screenings, signings and an enormous chill out space (image 2).

    I didn’t get a chance to see very much but what I did see was impressive in quality, such as the Astronomer Royal Lord Rees on ‘A post human future’ or a fascinating presentation on reworking the Pygmalion myth in film by Paul James (Open University). Annie, one of our volunteers and ‘Friends of the Petrie’, reported back on an excellent talk on bacteria and the increasing uselessness of antibiotics, entitled ‘Revenge of the bugs’, by UCL’s Dr Jenny Rohn (UCL Clinical Physiology).

    The Petrie Museum was not the only representation of UCL in the Exhibits’ Hall – The Bartlett’s Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (CASA) brought their interactive Pigeon Sim and every time I passed the stall, people were flapping their arms to virtually fly across London (image 3).

    We did get the question as to why a museum of ancient Egyptian and Sudanese material was at a SF convention, but as soon as I said that we were persuaded by the idea that many people into SF were into Egyptology, archaeology and thinking about different worlds, people nodded sagely. In fact, most visitors to our stall did not question as being there but gathered up trails and information and many were extremely well informed about archaeology, even if they had not heard of the Petrie Museum (image 4).

    And so, what was most popular with SF fandom? Our ‘Timekeeper in Residence’ report on different ideas about measuring time flew from the stall, as did information on our meteoritic beads and our ‘SciFi Egypt’ trail. Perhaps more surprising was the popularity of our coptic sock knitting (nailbinding) pattern and Egyptian cat trail. The talk I gave on Friday was very well attended and by the end Laura (our faithful volunteer) and I were utterly exhausted from talking to so many people (image 5).

    After five days of great conversation and a wonderful inclusive atmosphere, thanks must go to the organisers, vast numbers of volunteers and, in particular, exhibit hall organiser Professor Farah Mendelsohn (Anglia Ruskin University) for inviting us in the first place.

    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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