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Department of Physics

Saturday Morning Science 2018

A series of 22 exciting public talks from world-leading scientists across Durham University's Science departments, available on a range of dates*, every Saturday between 29th September - 1st December 2018, 2nd February - 30th March 2019 and 27th April - 11th May 2019. These will take place in the Calman Learning Centre.


• Saturdays at 10:30am, selected dates (see programme for details)
• No pre-booking needed
• 60 minute talks (45 mins plus questions)
• Coffee break at 11:30am
• Other activities after (e.g. lab tours)

29th September

The Big Bang Show

Prof.Richard Bower, Institute for Computational Cosmology & Centre for Extragalactic Astronomy, Department of Physics

How does the Universe begin? This question has pre-occupied human thought for more than 3000 years. But contemporary cosmologists think they know the answer. We’ll explore our place in the Universe, what the Universe is made from and the evidence for the expansion of the Universe. We’ll discuss how astronomical and cosmological observations have lead to the big bang model in which the Universe is created in a cosmic “big bang”, a hot explosion of matter.

6th October

Do you hear what I hear? The science of auditory hallucinations

Prof. Ben Alderson-Day, Department of Psychology

Why do some people hear voices or see things, when other people do not? What makes someone more hallucination-prone? In this session we will explore what science can tell us (so far) about how and why hallucinations occur. We will talk about using sine-waves to mask hidden speech, how our brains test hypotheses about the world around us, and what this might tell us about mental health conditions such as schizophrenia. There will also be a chance to try out experiments designed by Durham University's "Hearing the Voice" project, an 8-year investigation of auditory hallucinations.

13th October

Lights, colours, camera, action!

Dr. Robert Pal, Director of Research and Development, Biophysical Sciences Institute

What do sweet wrappers, Pink Floyd and Darth Vader have in common? It’s light! Join Robert Pal from Durham University in a quest to understand light in all its glory. This demonstration will guide the audience through the wonderful phenomena that is light. From its humble origins from the stars through all the colours of the rainbow we aim to shed light on diffraction, refraction and reflection. We will chart the invisible by understanding the full spectrum of light from ultra violet to infra red touching on subject such as sun cream, glowworms and fiberoptic broadband.

20th October

UK Electricity System: The future ain't what it used to be

Professor Simon Hogg, Ørsted Professor in Renewable Energy, Head of the Department of Engineering

Electric power generation is changing globally driven by carbon reduction targets to safe-guard the environment and the need for security of supply at affordable prices. For the UK this has led to the retirement of most of our coal-fired power plants and the exponential growth in wind power seen in recent years. This lecture will provide an overview of the conventional and renewable generating technologies that are currently contributing to supplying the UK National Grid, how this mix is expected to change over the next decade and the challenges that need to be overcome in order to deliver this.

27th October

Sensing for Driverless Cars - the technology being driven to a street near you

Prof. Toby Breckon, Professor in the Innovative Computing Group at the Department of Engineering and Department of Computer Science

It appears autonomous vehicles (driverless cars) may become one of the most significant changes to the way we travel in over 100 years. Central to this fast moving technological development is the use of computer vision – how can computers see? - and machine learning – how can computer learn to perform complex tasks? Advances in these areas of computer science and information engineering present many opportunities and implications for our daily lives. This talk will explore research work at Durham on automotive visual sensing, outline the underlying scientific advances that underpin driverless car technology and also some research challenges that remain to be addressed. More broadly, I will discuss wider technological developments in the field and the potential impacts of future driverless vehicles appearing on our roads and beyond.

Image of Prof. Toby Breckon demonstrating driverless car technology
Image of the poster for Saturday Morning Science at Durham University