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    Lunch Hour Lecture: The state, science and Humphry Davy

    By Thomas Hughes, on 4 February 2016

    “Science, gentlemen, is of infinitely more importance to a state than may at first sight appear possible”. While few scientists would disagree with this today, it was the 19th-century chemist Humphry Davy who made the observation. In a recent Lunch Hour Lecture Professor Frank James (UCL Science & Technology Studies) took us on a whistle stop tour of Davy’s colourful life, his science and his relationship with the state. Humphry Davy. From: Sarah K. Bolton: Famous Men of Science. (New York, 1889)

    A poet of Penzance

    Born in Penzance on December 17, 1778, Davy initially showed a passion for poetry. This was largely descriptive poetry, such as this extract about St Michael’s Mount in Cornwall: “Beat by the storms of ages, stands unmov’d, Amidst the wreck of things—the change of time.”

    However after his schooling, his godfather apprenticed him to a surgeon and it was in the apothecary there where he discovered what would become a life-long interest in chemistry.

    While living in Penzance he met distinguished natural philosophers including the engineer Davies Giddy who encouraged Davy and offered him the use of his library.

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    Lunch Hour Lectures: Why glaciers don’t like the smell of frying bacon

    By Thomas Hughes, on 1 February 2016

    This Lunch Hour Lecture by Professor Henrietta Moore (UCL Institute for Global Prosperity) looked at humans’ ability to give things in nature; plants, animals, even mountains and rivers, a consciousness and assign intentions to them. Can this help us to build a better relationship with nature and build a prosperous future?

    English Wikipedia, original upload 14 January 2005 by Ben W Bell

    The Athabasca Glacier on the Columbia Icefield

    Professor Moore opened by talking about a modern art project that was just a neon sign of a telephone number. When the number was called and it connected, the caller could hear the live sounds from a glacier.

    So we can hear the glacier, but can it hear us? Many people in the past have certainly believed so. Tribes living on glaciers in Canada believed that the glaciers were social spaces and would react to being disrespected, and that the glaciers particularly disliked the smell of frying bacon. People interpreted the will of the glacier though its “surges” where the glacier would expand or shrink.

    During the Little Ice Age, from the 16th to the 19th centuries, the glaciers moved so far into France that the local people assumed that they had angered it. They ran to it with swords to drive it away and brought a bishop to bless it.

    Many societies around the world continue to venerate forests, rivers and mountains and believe that nature must be compensated if angered or damaged. Ecuador and Bolivia have enshrined these rights in their constitutions. Can this help us form a moral framework to protect nature?

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    Lunch Hour Lectures: The handmaiden’s emissions – international shipping in changing climates

    By Thomas Hughes, on 28 January 2016

    “This lecture on the handmaiden’s emissions is not actually about the flatulence of household servants,” Dr Tristan Smith (UCL Energy Institute) joked at the Lunch Hour Lecture on 26 January. The “handmaiden” is in fact the affectionate nickname used for the world’s shipping – so called because it is globalisation’s servant, without which we wouldn’t have the same food, commodities or fuel.

    Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller, the first Triple-E, passing Port Said in the Suez Canal on its maiden voyage.

    Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller, credit: Maersk Line.

    However, it has a huge environmental cost in CO2 emissions that has continued to grow as GDP and demand has risen. Dr Smith has been working with the team in the UCL Energy Institute to help find solutions to cut emissions, while keeping costs low.

    An average container ship has around 1,500 containers on it, with each container the size to be pulled by a single lorry. There are thousands of these ships, which in total account for about 2-3% of global emissions.

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    UCL President & Provost’s Lunch Hour Lecture

    By Kilian Thayaparan, on 19 October 2015

    UCL President & Provost Michael Arthur speaks at the inaugural 2015-16 Lunch Hour Lecture

    UCL President & Provost Michael Arthur speaks at the
    inaugural 2015-16 Lunch Hour Lecture

    A diverse audience filled the Darwin Lecture Theatre last Tuesday (13 October) for the first Lunch Hour Lecture of the season, given by UCL President & Provost Professor Michael Arthur – as has become tradition for the opening lecture every other year.

    Including staff, students and members of the general public, the audience were in attendance to hear more about the university’s recent accomplishments, its challenges and what lies ahead.

    Professor Arthur began with a frank summary of his time at UCL, so far, stating: “I’ve been at UCL for two years now, and this place can throw up its challenges.” And for a university with so much reputation and history, he emphasised how important its values are to its success, adding that UCL’s current values, although a “bedrock”, are being revisited to adapt to the new challenges that it faces.

    He also touched upon what it’s been like to take over from the previous UCL President & Provost Professor Malcolm Grant, explaining: “I’ve been told that there’s a difference between my style and Malcolm’s – I’ve been told that mine is more ‘managerial’, which I take as a compliment.”

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