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    Archive for the 'Maths and Physical Sciences' Category

    Lunch Hour Lecture: From gases to gloops – instabilities in fluids

    By Thomas Hughes, on 25 February 2016

    Gases, gloops, waves and cloud formations: Dr Helen Wilson (UCL Mathematics) helped us explore the mathematical explanation for such instabilities in fluids in this Lunch Hour Lecture.

    Waves and drips: instabilities in nature

    Instabilities in fluids can be caused by a myriad of different factors.  Dr Wilson talked us through a number of common instabilities that we can see in our everyday lives.

    Waves and some cloud formations for example are caused by shear. This is the idea of two or more streams moving at different speeds or directions. This is called the Kelvin-Helmholtz instability and creates the familiar wave shapes as the streams push in different directions.

    Some natural instabilities are caused by density. Pour a dense, gloopy fluid into a less dense fluid and through additional factors such as gravity, the denser fluid will move through the less dense fluid. This is called the Rayleigh-Taylor instability (see image).

    Rayleigh-Taylor Instability via Wikimedia Commons

    Rayleigh Taylor Instability via Wikimedia Commons

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    Social Research on Off-Grid Solar conference

    By Guest Blogger, on 23 December 2015

    pencil-icon Written by Iwona Bisaga (PhD student at UCL Urban Sustainability and Resilience)

    Off-grid solar

    Image: SolarAid

    The Social Research on Off-Grid Solar (SROGS) conference took place at UCL on 9 and 10 December. It was jointly organised by Declan Murray (School of Social and Political Science, University of Edinburgh) and I.

    This two-day event saw speakers and attendees from a diverse range of disciplines get together to discuss a variety of themes around off-grid solar solutions for energy access in Sub-Saharan Africa, South-East Asia and Latin America. Presenters included academics, PhD students, private sector representatives, policy makers, practitioners, physicists and engineers, which provided a solid overview of the sector and the challenges it is (and has been) facing since it came to prominence in the 1990s.

    The series of presentations and breakout group discussions focused on existing business models and technology designs, linking them to the user experience and the ways in which users and customers are included in (or excluded from) those processes, and how that could be changed to better reflect their needs and aspirations throughout the whole value chain: from product design to after-sales services and dealing with solar waste.

    Socio-economic impacts and what they mean for the users, including women and marginalised communities as particularly vulnerable groups, were given a lot of attention, though it quickly became clear that there still remains a lot to be done in order to fully understand what actual impacts off-grid solar has on users, and how exactly it is utilised within households.

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    Could this be the way to get your research into the public eye?

    By Guest Blogger, on 15 December 2015

    pencil-icon  Written by Olivia Stevenson & Greg Tinker with Michael Kenny, Catherine Miller & Graeme Reid

    Scientists and researchers from across academia are engaged in research that could make a difference to the world, but until you take it beyond the university doors its impact and reach will remain low.

    Select Committee noticeUCL and the Mile End Institute at Queen Mary, University of London, teamed up to host a public event with parliamentary insiders and evidence experts, exploring how academia could engage the world of government, particularly through select committees.

    The question on everyone’s mind was ‘can this type of academic-government engagement generate real world impacts?’ Here is what our speakers told us:

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    Getting science into policy in international development: faults on both sides?

    By Guest Blogger, on 2 December 2015

    pencil-icon Written by Ms Helen Hopkins, Dr Olivia Stevenson and Mr Greg Tinker (OVPR)

    These days you are just as likely to hear academics as you are policymakers use terms such as ‘evidence-based’, ‘evidence-informed’, or ‘evidence-led’ policy. Yet barriers to getting science into policy in international development remain.

    Professor Christopher Whitty has witnessed this first hand as Chief Scientific Advisor (CSA) and Director of Research and Evidence to the Department for International Development (DFID). Now his term has come to a close, he joined us at UCL to reflect on the challenges of the CSA role and to answer the question, ‘How do we increase the uptake of academic research within policy?’

    Science in emergencies: the need for speed
    The 2015 Nepal earthquake, the 2014 Ebola crisis and Typhoon Haiyan, which hit the Philippines in 2013, all happened while Professor Whitty was DFID CSA. He soon learnt that during emergencies, ministers were keen to listen to scientific advice: action needed to be taken quickly, backed up with solid evidence. Professor Whitty described this as the easy part of his job, as he had a captive audience.

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