Author Archives: PaoloViscardi

Jack Ashby: The unnatural nature of natural history museums

On Wednesday 2nd May we’re excited to welcome author and zoologist Jack Ashby to PubSci, where he will be talking about the unnatural nature of natural history museums.

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Natural history museums are magical places. They inspire awe and wonder in the natural world and help us understand our place within the animal kingdom. Behind the scenes, many of them are also undertaking world-changing science with their collections. Their specimens help us explore incredible evolutionary stories.

But they are places for people, made by people. We might like to consider them logical places, centred on facts, but they can’t tell all the facts – there isn’t room. Similarly, they can’t show all the animals. And there are reasons behind what goes on display and what gets left in the storeroom.

The biases that can be detected in how people talk about animals, particularly in museums, is one of the themes of Jack Ashby’s new book, Animal Kingdom: A Natural History in 100 Objects. Museums are a product of their own history, and that of the societies they are embedded in. They are not apolitical, and they are not entirely scientific. As such, they don’t really represent reality.

Animal Kingdom cover hi res

Jack is the Manager of the Grant Museum of Zoology at University College London. He is a trustee of the Natural Sciences Collections Association and the Society for the History of Natural History, and regularly writes and comments about the roles of natural history museums in science and society. His main zoological interest is in Australian mammals.

Join us upstairs at the Old King’s Head, near London Bridge station. Doors open at 6pm for a 7pm start and as usual the event is free, but we will have a whip-round to cover costs. Jack will also be signing and selling copies of his book if you want a copy (they’ll be going at £20). We hope to see you there!

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Dr Claire Benson – Fire safety in tall buildings

On Wednesday 4th April we’re delighted to welcome back Dr Claire Benson, fire and explosion scientist at London South Bank University and PubSci veteran. Instead of setting things on fire, this time Claire will be looking at the very serious business of fire safety in tall buildings.
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Claire was the go-to expert following the horrific Grenfell Tower incident, highlighting failings in design and planning for fire safety in blocks like Grenfell. Tragedies like this shouldn’t happen in modern multi-storey buildings if proper planning has been undertaken, preventative measures put in place, appropriate materials used and fire regulations met. Claire will talk about these issues, exploring what went wrong and what can be done to prevent future tragedies in tall buildings.

Join us upstairs at the Old King’s Head, near London Bridge station. Doors open at 6pm for a 7pm start and as usual the event is free, but we will have a whip-round to cover costs – we hope to see you there.

Dr Snezana Lawrence – Mathematicians and their gods

On Wednesday 7th of March we’re excited to welcome Dr Snezana Lawrence, historian of maths at Anglia Ruskin university and guest lecturer on geometry at Gresham College and the RI.

Snezana helped reform the national curriculum for maths in 2013 and is a passionate maths educator. She’s currently researching geometry and dimensionality in popular visual culture and in 2015 co-authored “Mathematicians and their Gods” which explores the way mathematicians have been influenced by their religious belief.

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She asks “what would happen if Maths were influenced by belief systems?” and explores interesting and slightly scary examples of how mathematics may (and sometimes does) interacted with faith and religion. Looking at dimensions and the nature of space and time, she’ll ask what mathematicians could teach us about the nature of reality, examine the blurred boundaries between maths and theology, and ask what we can learn from such instances.

Join us upstairs at the Old King’s Head, near London Bridge station. Doors open at 6pm for a 7pm start and as usual the event is free, but we will have a whip-round to cover costs – we hope to see you there!

 

Dr Anne-Maria Brennan – Silk Road Science

On Wednesday 7th February we’re delighted to have Dr Anne-Maria Brennan speaking at PubSci about Silk Road science – the ideas, knowledge and technology that made their way from East to West along with trade goods along the old Silk Road.

Caravan on the Silk Road. Cresques Abraham c.1380 from Atlas Catalan

Caravan on the Silk Road. Cresques Abraham c.1380 from Atlas Catalan

Anne-Maria is Director of Education and Lecturer in Professional Practice at the Centre for Professional Practice at the University of Kent, her area of interest is public engagement with science, particularly the interface between science, technology, culture and the arts. Past winner of the British Science Association’s Sir Walter Bodmer Award and Freeman of the City of London, Anne-Maria is dedicated to bringing hidden stories of science into the light. In her own words “science not communicated is science not done!

With Islamophobia becoming increasingly rampant in Europe and with the divisiveness of Brexit encouraging a whitewashing of British history and culture, it is useful to remember the long history of cultural and intellectual exchange that has existed between East and West. As Anne-Maria has commented in the pastEurope is inundated with links to Islamic culture, yet many still see the two as worlds apart. Take a closer look and we see castles, fountains, books, ceramics, artefacts, tools and many other things throughout Europe – all beautiful reminders of a Golden Age of Islam.” This enriching of European culture, science and technology through links with the East owes a great deal to the old Silk Road.

Join us upstairs at the Old King’s Head, near London Bridge station. Doors open at 6pm for a 7pm start and as usual the event is free, but we will have a whip-round to cover costs – we hope to see you there!

Science in the Pub Quiz

On Wednesday 6th December we’re holding our annual quiz, which has a slightly more scientific spin than your average pub quiz. Rounds are more likely to involve interactive cake and booze identification than knowledge about sport and soap operas.

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It’s just £3 to enter and we suggest teams of five, although don’t worry, you can come on your own or in smaller groups and join up with others on the night – it’s more about fun than prizes. That said, there are cash prizes and spot prizes too!

So join us upstairs at the Old King’s Head, near London Bridge station. Doors open at 6pm for a prompt 7.30pm start – we hope to see you there!

‘Does it Fart’ – the follow through…

On Wednesday 1st November we were delighted to have Dani Rabaiotti talking about farts in the animal kingdom.

On the evening Dani explained how our understanding of animal farts is far from complete and it relies on input from researchers and animal enthusiasts all around the world. If you want to see the database of animals that fart (and puke and sneeze) then you can see it all here and if you want to let Dani know about any animal not on the list that you know the fart status of, drop her a tweet at @DaniRabaiotti

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Of course, there’s more detailed information in Dani’s book and if you missed the talk you can catch Dani in this Brains on! podcast – check it out!

Dani Rabaiotti – Does it Fart?

On Wednesday 1st November we are thrilled to have Dani Rabaiotti talking about animals farting. Yep – Toot. Parp. Poot. Pfirt. Psthhhp. Pop. Pfeeeeew. Pthzzzzzz. These are just some of the noises animals make when they fart. Find out which animals fart, and why, as well as how there came to be an entire book dedicated to this topic.

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Dani is a PhD student at the Zoological Society of London, and author of ‘Does it Fart? – The definitive guide to animal flatulence’. Dani will be chatting about how she went from studying climatic impacts on African wild dogs to becoming an author of a science humour book on the theme of farting animals. She will also be covering a range of animal fart facts, anecdotes, research experiences and discussing the scientific literature on the topic (of which there is surprising amount!) along the way.

If you fancy buying Dani’s book it will even be available on the night and if you ask really nicely Dani might fart on it for you (or at least sign it).

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Join us upstairs at the Old King’s Head, near London Bridge station. Doors open at 6pm for a 7pm start and as usual the event is free, but we will have a whip-round to cover costs – we hope to see you there!