Last Thursday I went to a meeting of the London Forum for Science and Policy (LFSP). I didn’t really know what to expect from this, but it was amazing! It is a newly set-up student think -tank whose job will hopefully be to mediate conversation between scientific experts in their fields and politicians. Through it you can learn about writing policy papers, the way that policy is implemented and hopefully help policy makers get the evidence they need. In this meeting we were spoken to by Dr. Jason Blackstock a senior lecturer in Science and Global Affairs from UCL, who introduced to us just how vital it is to teach scientists the workings of policy.
For seconds, lectures are already interesting 😛 I finally found out what people are going on about when they say ‘centrifugal force isn’t real’ and how Newton’s laws can apply when we are not in an inertial reference frame. That has bugged me for years—being on a spinning planet flying across the solar system, how can we use F=ma if we are already always accelerating?
It turns out when you look down at the Earth from a stable—let’s say relative to the Sun, vantage point, you see things on the surface of Earth moving as you would from Newton’s laws.
So term (and lectures!) have started again and freshers has begun. We are now a week into the ICSM Medics Freshers Fortnight and I am SO TIRED. It is seriously bizarre to think that schools around the UK are about to break up for half term and we are still having our freshers fortnight.
It has been so much fun being on the Student Union during freshers but it has also been so nice to have a night off and just being able to sleep. The meetings, the 4am calls from lost freshers and the 300 t-shirts we had to iron have taken its toll on me.
The new term is underway 🙂 I hope all freshers are looking forward to getting hundreds of emails detailing the events of meat appreciation soc and all those other weird societies they signed up to because they felt guilty about taking the free sweets. If you are anything like me, you will never unsubscribe from these emails.
I actually didn’t make it to the freshers fair in the end because I spent the day learning to film (!) but there is a list of all societies on the imperial college union website that I am currently scrolling through- I would really like to join imperial radio and tv as well as the society on science policy and debate which I had never heard about before.
So Freshers finally starts next week! Imperial offers a fair amount of stuff, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, but Halls also offer a lot more, which I can’t remember if you find out about beforehand or not. My halls took us to clubs, for a boat party, on a bus tour, paintballing, to markets and loads more stuff.
I hope you are all excited! I am, even though it’s my third one!
I am sure there are enough freshers tips (including mine!) )for anyone nervous to read and make themselves more nervous, so instead of that, I have a made a freshers map.
This blog is inspired by the first lecture I went to last week at the British Science Festival, about virtual palaeontology. It was given by two excellent speakers, Dr Russell Garwood and Dr Imran Rahman and I’ve now done a bit more research into what they spoke about, as well as found a video of some 3D fossils like I promised!
First of all, here is a video made by Dr Garwood about using Micro-CT to get 3D images of fossils. The crack you can see through all the scans is the break that was made that allowed the fossil to be discovered.
There was another day of the festival on Friday, but in the end I couldn’t make it, except for one final talk on brain stimulation. In the tradition of my other blogs here is a little summary of some of the interesting points:
Brain Stimulation: Perils and Promises
The first speaker talked about working with Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation which seems to be as simple as slapping and anode and a cathode on the head, the anode on the bit of brain you want to increase activity in and the cathode on another bit to reduce activity.
This is a cheap, non-invasive and portable method that simply raises or lowers the threshold for activity that the neuron needs to fire, kind of like how a catalyst can lower the energy needed for a reaction to start.
Today was my last full day at the festival, which is sad, but to be honest I probably have more than enough things that I need to do more research into by this stage.
One thing I’ve noticed this week is that so many speakers still apologise for putting maths and science into their talks… This is surely nonsense. There is no need to say ‘there will be no more maths, I promise! ‘or ‘this is the last sciency looking graph you will have to deal with’ or ‘I’m sorry this is a log scale.’ For goodness sake. If people don’t know what a log scale is they aren’t going to burst into tears or run out of the talk.
All of the talks I’ve been to have left time at the end for questions and discussion with the speaker. I started the week thinking this would add a lot of value to the lectures but I’m not so sure anymore.
That is because most of the questions run like this:
‘Hello! I am someone who came to this talk because I have my own strong, slightly (through to ludicriously) batty opinion on this topic which I will now use this opportunity to hold forth about, even though it bares little resemblance to anything you actually mentioned in your talk and makes everyone else feel uncomfortable.’
Hello 🙂 here goes another late night blog writing session from me. To avoid the whole tedious: ‘first I did this and then I did this’ approach, I am going to put subheadings about each of the talks I went to (because they are genuinely all too interesting to miss out).
This talk was on how smartphones, smartwatches, Google Glass etc. could be used to monitor people’s movements, speech patterns and all sorts of other things like text message content, to give doctors objective information on their symptoms over time.
I’ve read about this topic before, but hadn’t thought about how some of this information is already being measured by our phones and being thrown away, for example in the technology that flips the screen when your orientation changes– this measures the direction of gravity acting on your device (something I am completely in awe of the accuracy of, having tried a similar thing in the lab).