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Wooden bathrooms, golden spoons and other tales of materials in society

Clare S Ryan15 March 2013

This morning, crawling out of my bed in icy south London my first post-sleep experience was of a chilly, tiled bathroom.

Sullenly brushing my teeth with my feet on the cold floor, new questions popped into my head. Are cold tiles really the best material to clad the bathroom in? Who made these tiles in the first place? What are they made of?

Professir Mark Miodownik

Professor Mark Miodownik

Before attending Professor Mark Miodownik’s Lunch Hour Lecture ‘Stuff matters’ these were not questions that routinely entered my head – the appearance of my first coffee was a much more pressing matter.

But Mark’s view of the world is perhaps different to most people’s, and it probably explains why he is the UCL Professor of Materials & Society (note the ‘society’ part) and we are not.

Materials and Society
If you look around you now you will see a lot of materials that once started out as rocks, sludge and various non-identifiable living things. Take, for example, the plastic of your keyboard, the water glass on your table, the concrete on the pavement outside or a stainless steel fork that you ate your lunch with (perhaps that last one’s just me). (more…)

The biggest Science Showoff ever

Katherine Aitchison8 November 2012

“There are massive f***ing error bars on every adjective I’m going to use tonight.”

Those are the words every scientist wants to hear at the start of a comedy night. We like to be assured that all the jokes we’re about to hear have been properly tested and subjected to significance testing.  Of course, if the error bars are massive then the results probably aren’t significant – but we won’t go into that.

So this was Science Showoff, a monthly open mic night for scientists, science communicators, science historians or anyone else in any way connected with the scientific world to come and be funny whilst talking about what they love. It’s a monthly event which has been running for just over a year and 7November saw the biggest Showoff to date in the Bloomsbury Theatre.

(more…)