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UCL events news and reviews


Grant Museum Show’n’Tell: Soda Lakes

By ycrnf01, on 29 October 2014

Cichlid fish. Image courtesy of  Dean Veall and Antonia Ford

Cichlid fish. Image courtesy of
Dean Veall and Antonia Ford

The Grant Museum of Zoology is just one of UCL’s many interesting and engaging museums, conveniently located almost directly opposite the Quad, and so, perfect for a fly-by lunchtime visit.

The museum hosts plenty of events throughout the year including its exciting Show’n’Tell series. I took the opportunity to go along to an edition and hosted on Wednesday 22 October.

Home to no less than 68,000 fascinating objects, the museum’s collection covers everything from the Tasmanian tiger and Dodo to brain matter and skeletons from species right across the animal kingdom. I heard from a UCL researcher who was asked to showcase just one object from the vast options on offer and tasked with sharing all they know about it to a keen and inquisitive audience.

It was certainly a unique experience to be surrounded by thousands of specimens as the talk took place at the heart of the museum among the many exhibitions. The event began with a short welcome and introduction to the museum, including an overview of its 170-year history, by our host for the hour, Dean Veall (Grant Museum, Learning and Access Officer) who then introduced PhD student Antonia Ford (UCL Genetics, Evolution and Environment).


Snails in art and the art of snails

By George Wigmore, on 11 October 2012

Professor Steve Jones’ personality remains a significant draw for life sciences at UCL, with his excellent lectures well-known not only for their wit and subject matter, but also for their enduring popularity.

At this point, I must confess that I am a Professor Jones newby, so it was with much excitement that I headed down to join the queues outside the appropriately named Darwin Lecture Theatre to find out more about snails in art, and the art of these little molluscs. (more…)

Dissection, Darwin, Dawkins and Dr Death: An interview with Simon Watt

By Rupert P Cole, on 6 September 2012

Simon Watt is an evolutionary biologist and all-round expert in science “edutainment”. I caught up with Simon at the British Science Festival. (You can find audio from the interview at the bottom of this post).

Simon gave two talks at the festival. In “Dissections Uncut,” he ran through some of the material that didn’t make the final edit of Channel 4’s Inside Nature’s Giants – a series he co-presented.

My personal highlight was the exploding whale video. Yes, exploding. I should clarify that in Simon’s footage no dynamite was used (though this did happen once in Oregan – worth a google). Rather, when whales decompose, gas inside builds up, which can then result in an eruption of organs.

Let’s talk about sex
Simon’s other talk, “Sperm Warfare”, took us on a biological ride through the world of sex, from weasels to humans, and many in between. He warned us:

“At the end of the show you will probably think I’m a pervert.” (more…)

Nick Lane: Is complex life a freak accident?

By George Wigmore, on 31 January 2012

“In the beginning, the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and has been widely regarded as a bad move.”

While the above Douglas Adams quote may aptly describe the prevailing universal sentiment, we still continue to search the skies with SETI for any signs of complex life.

In the 50 years of searching, SETI has turned up nothing, yet the question still remains as to whether complex life itself is a freak accident, or an event that could have occurred somewhere else in our universe.

It was this question that Dr Nick Lane (UCL Genetics, Evolution and Environment) and author of Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution, aimed to answer in the 35 brief minutes that he had to contextualise, and explain the background to an incredibly difficult question that is still hotly debated.