Tag Archives: Science

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.

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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 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!

 

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!

Prof Peter Doyle – Disputed Earth: Geology and the Western Front

On Wednesday 4th October we’re pleased to welcome Professor Peter Doyle of London South Bank University, who is a geologist and military historian. Peter will be exploring the significance of terrain, geology and geologists in the Great War (1914–1918), drawing on examples from his new book Disputed Earth (you can buy a signed copy on the night if you like!)
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To the outside observer the trench warfare of the First World War I seems like a static slog of attrition, but in reality the trenches pitted military engineers against artillerymen in an arms race that saw trenches and artillery pieces become ever more sophisticated.
Trench lines snaked across Europe, cutting through varied terrain, with every aspect of the ground conditions having an impact on the health and well-being of the men. This included the ability of the trenches to protect their occupants, stop attacks, and aid in the assault. Men were mired in seemingly bottomless mud, facing hills and ridges, with high ground to be taken at all cost, the significance of geology to the outcome of the conflict was very real. Military engineers enlisted geologists, who helped drain the trenches, map out and combat unsuitable ground, design and build dug-outs and pill-boxes. Geologists ensured the supply of water and other resources and improved the lot of the frontline soldier.
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Geology had a significant role in this defensive war; but arguably it had an even greater one in planning the offence, by influencing the effects on artillery fire, undermining the enemy, controlling the flow of poisonous gas, or permitting the use of tanks. A tangible example of how knowledge can become power in the most immediate sense.
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 Erica McAlister – The Secret Life of Flies

On Wednesday 6th September we’re absolutely delighted to have Dr Erica McAlister joining us, with a talk relating to her excellent new book The Secret Life of Flies.

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Erica is a Senior Curator at NHM London and she’s a bit of an entomological megastar, dominating the airwaves with her humour and passion for tiny animals that most people think of as disgusting. Flies are seen as the nuisance species of the planet – hated, demonised and blamed for the worst of human suffering. But Erica will explore whether this is really the case (and once you hear about what some of them get up to you might still think they’re disgusting, but for very different reasons).

If you fancy picking up a copy of Erica’s book there will be copies available on the night and she’ll be happy to sign them for you.

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 Mike Shanahan – How fig trees can save the planet

On Wednesday 2nd August Dr Mike Shanahan will be making his second attempt to join us at PubSci, after the first was scuppered by disruption following the terrorist attack in Borough back in June. Mike is a freelance writer and illustrator with a research background in rainforest ecology, who will be talking about the ecological and cultural importance of fig trees.

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Fig trees fed our pre-human ancestors, influenced diverse cultures and played key roles in the dawn of civilisation. They feature in every major religion, starring alongside Adam and Eve, Krishna and Buddha, Jesus and Muhammad. This is no coincidence – fig trees are special. They evolved when giant dinosaurs still roamed and have been shaping our world ever since.

And all because 80 million years ago these trees cut a curious deal with some tiny wasps. Thanks to this deal, figs sustain more species of birds and mammals than any other trees. As Mike will explain, fig trees could help restore lost rainforests, conserve wildlife and tackle climate change. In a time of falling trees and rising temperatures, their story offers hope.

Mike’s book Ladders to Heaven: How fig trees shaped our history, fed our imaginations and can enrich our future was published in 2016 – copies will be available on the night if you fancy getting the detailed inside scoop.

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!

CANCELLED-Dr Mike Shanahan – How fig trees can save the planet

Unfortunately tonight’s planned talk has been rescheduled to August due to disruption following the recent terrorist attack in nearby Borough Market. However, the Old King’s Head should be reopened today and some of the PubSci regulars will be there to socialise.

On Wednesday 7th June we’re delighted to welcome Dr Mike Shanahan, a freelance writer and illustrator with a research background in rainforest ecology, who will be talking about the ecological and cultural importance of fig trees.

FigTree

Fig trees fed our pre-human ancestors, influenced diverse cultures and played key roles in the dawn of civilisation. They feature in every major religion, starring alongside Adam and Eve, Krishna and Buddha, Jesus and Muhammad. This is no coincidence – fig trees are special. They evolved when giant dinosaurs still roamed and have been shaping our world ever since.

And all because 80 million years ago these trees cut a curious deal with some tiny wasps. Thanks to this deal, figs sustain more species of birds and mammals than any other trees. As Mike will explain, fig trees could help restore lost rainforests, conserve wildlife and tackle climate change. In a time of falling trees and rising temperatures, their story offers hope.

Mike’s book Ladders to Heaven: How fig trees shaped our history, fed our imaginations and can enrich our future was published in 2016 – copies will be available on the night if you fancy getting the detailed inside scoop.

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!