Black hole Firewalls with Sean Carroll and Jennifer Ouellette
What would you experience if you jumped into a black hole?
Conventionally, physicists have assumed that if the black hole is large enough, the gravitational forces won’t become extreme until you approach the singularity. There, the gravitational pull will be so much stronger on your feet than your head, that you will be ‘spaghettified’. Now, a new theory proposes that instead of spaghettification, you will encounter a massive wall of fire that will incinerate you on the spot, before you get close to turning into vermicelli.
In this special Ri event, science writer Jennifer Ouellette and physicist Sean Carroll explore the black hole firewall paradox, the exotic physics that underlies the new theory and what the paradox tells us about how new scientific theories are proposed, tested and accepted.
Who needs goal-line technology when you have physics? Watch as Andy explains how a little bit of physics could’ve proved that Lampard’s disallowed 2010 world cup goal went in.
In a crucial World Cup 2010 knock-out match, with the game in the balance, Frank Lampard scored a beautiful goal from outside the area. It thwacked the underside of the crossbar, bounced inside the goal, and then bounced back out.
But the celebrations were over before they had even begun. Neither the referee nor linesman thought the ball had crossed the line. No goal was given, play continued, and England ultimately crashed out of the competition.
Goal-line technology is the solution many called for, but perhaps there was a simpler option: teach referees a bit of physics. Here, Andy returns to the Ri Prep Room to use a simple demo to explain how the spin of the ball made it bounce out of the goal, and why the referees shouldn’t have needed any technology to know it was a goal.
Copy number variation and the secret of life - with Aoife McLysaght
Evolution is powered by variation: the differences in DNA sequences. One hugely important form of difference is copy number variation, where genes are duplicated or deleted from one generation to the next.
In this Ri event, Aoife McLysaght from Univeristy of Dublin explains how copy number variations gave us colour vision, a sense of smell and haemoglobin in our blood, before exploring the role they play in diseases such as cancer, autism and schizophrenia.
The event ‘Too Much of a Good Thing’ was presented at the Ri on Friday 28 March and forms part of the Ri’s all-women line up for Friday Evening Discourses in 2014 as part of a year-long celebration of women in science.
If you ask people what makes them laugh, they will tell you they laugh at jokes: however if you look at when they laugh a very different pattern emerges, in which laughter can be seen as an extremely important social emotion.
In this Ri event, Sophie Scott explores the science of laughter, from laughter in other animals to the acoustics of laughter, and the ways that laughter is processed in our brains.
The science of laughter was presented at the Ri on Friday 28 March 2014.
This event is part of our all-women line up for Friday Evening Discourses in 2014 as part of our year long celebration of women in science.
If you were able to make a substance change colour, or turn from a solid to a liquid, would that be magic? In this Ri event from Wednesday 23 April 2014, Andrew Szydlo leads us through a world of magical molecules and enchanting elements. From a liquid that boils at room temperature to gases that are heavier than air, this family event is full of practical demonstrations of the magic of chemistry.
How do you catch an asteroid? Is there really ‘life’ on Mars? Could Lego help us reach the Red Planet?
NASA’s Chief Scientist, Dr Ellen Stofan and Deputy Chief Technologist, Jim Adams provide an overview of NASA’s plans to develop a human exploration pathway to Mars, including ideas for a human mission to an asteroid.
Hosted by Alok Jha the event explored how science and technology will shape, and be shaped by, these ambitious plans and what new opportunities exist for international cooperation.
Mars Diffracts! X-ray Crystallography and Space Exploration
An epic journey into the role of X-ray diffraction in space!
Astrobiologist and intrepid science communicator Lewis Dartnell reveals the crucial role that x-ray crystallography is playing in understanding the formation and history of our planetary neighbour, Mars.
Explaining the techniques used by the Curiosity Rover to analyse the Martian surface, Lewis reveals what the discovery of clay might mean for the possibility of life on the Red Planet.
Joined by space scientists responsible for designing and operating instruments over 60 million kilometres away, Lewis delves into the mysteries of interplanetary exploration including: How do you design reliable instruments for use on other planets? Should we send humans to Mars? And, what does the next mission to the Red Planet look like?
Featuring instrument scientist Graeme Hansford (University of Leicester) and John Bridges, a participating scientist with the NASA Mars Science Laboratory working on the current Curiosity mission.
This film was supported by the Science and Technologies Facilities Council (STFC).
Born to Engineer - Biomedical bubbles with Eleanor Stride
"If I were to say that the complexity of what we do is the same as the complexity of designing a car, I wouldn’t be exaggerating."
Since 2007 biomedical engineer Eleanor Stride has been designing a revolutionary new method of delivering drugs by injecting tiny microbubbles into the bloodstream.
Traditional drug delivery through pills or injection send the active agent through the bloodstream meaning that a high percentage of cells in the body are exposed to the drug. In contrast, the targetted delivery mechanism with bubbles aims to release the drugs only when they reach the part of the body where they are needed.
Some of the bubbles are magnetic and the research team is using groundbreaking techniques developed by the Davy Faraday Research Laboratory at the Royal Institution to control the movement and activation of the bubbles within the body.
This drug delivery method has the potential to avoid the widespread destruction of healthy cells that is presently unavoidable with chemotherapy, which would revolutionise the future treatment of cancer sufferers.
The film was produced by Duckrabbit for the ERA Foundation as part of a pilot scheme to demonstrate how engineering is changing lives and how the world works. Ultimately, the project aims to attract young people towards engineering education and careers.
Understanding Crystallography №2 From Crystals to Diamond
How do X-rays help us uncover the molecular basis of life?
In the second part of this mini-series, Professor Stephen Curry takes us on a journey into the Diamond Light Source, one of the UK’s most expensive and sophisticated scientific facilities.
Generating light brighter than the sun, and hosting a particle accelerator, Diamond is often used to determine the structure of complex molecules. By placing crystalline samples of proteins in the powerful beams of X-rays, scientists can use the data obatined from the generated diffraction patterns to model accurate 3D structures of the protein molecules.
Professor Curry explores the inner workings of the Diamond Light Source to reveal how such facilities are aiding the field of structural biology and continuing the work of the early crystallography pioneers 100 years on.
Understanding Crystallography - Part 1: From Proteins to Crystals
How can you determine the structure of a complex molecule from a single crystal?
Professor Elspeth Garman take us on a journey into the world of crystallography - from protein production and purification to growing the right type of crystals.
In her laboratory at the University of Oxford Elspeth introduces us to some of the tricks of the trade, key techinques and the machines that help her team grow crystals ready for X-ray analysis at specialist facilities like Diamond Light Source.
This film was supported by the Science and Technologies Facilities Council (STFC).
Drugs, science and society; past, present and future
Narcotics have been used by humans since the time of the ancient Egyptians, and even today around 300 million people across the world take drugs each year. But what is a drug? And who is it that should decide what a drug is?
In this Ri event chaired by Kate Kelland, EMEA Health and Science Correspondent for Reuters, Sharon Ruston and David Nutt explore the past, present and future of our societal and political attitudes towards drugs. From supposedly “medical” experimentations in the 18th and 19th centuries, to modern-day government drugs policy and the rise of new ‘legal highs’.
In the 1800s, eminent Ri scientist Humphry Davy carried out numerous experiments on the effects of breathing nitrous oxide, testing it on both himself and others. These experiences lead to his claim that this drug could “destroy our pains and increase our pleasures”. Comparing Davy’s trials with those of Thomas De Quincey with opium, Sharon Ruston, Professor of Romanticism at Lancaster University, explores what were clearly some rather blurred boundaries between medical and recreational drug use at this time. Both nitrous oxide and opium have become invaluable medicines, the first as an anaesthetic, the second as morphine — one of our most powerful forms of pain relief. But it seems during these early experimentations that these drugs’ were heralded as much for their pleasurable uses as for the control of pain, enabling humans to access a new world of “sublime perception”.
Such research was aided by the fact that, in Davy’s day, science had little, if any, interference from politics. Times have certainly changed, and the use and classification of drugs has become heavily entrenched in politics. In the second half of the talk psychiatrist and neuropsychopharmacologist Prof David Nutt, explores this complex relationship, considering the challenges posed by politics, media and the alcohol industry in the future of drugs policy. Nutt raises some controversial questions, including whether alcohol is more dangerous than other drugs, and gives his thoughts on what drugs, and society’s view of them, will look like in the future.
Drugs, science and society - Event Q&A
Psychiatrist and neuropsychopharmacologist Prof David Nutt, and Sharon Ruston, Professor of Romanticism at Lancaster University, explore the past, present and future of our societal and political attitudes towards drugs. From supposedly “medical” experimentations in the 18th and 19th centuries, to modern-day government drugs policy and the rise of new ‘legal highs’. Chaired by Kate Kelland, EMEA Health and Science Correspondent for Reuters.
Our memories are our lives, and a fundamental basis of our culture. Collective memoirs of the past both bind society together and shape our potential future. With our brains we can travel through time and space, calling to mind places of significance, evoking images and emotions of past experiences. It’s no wonder, then, that we so desperately fear the prospect of memory loss.
Many regions of the brain are involved in memory, but one of the most critical components is the hippocampus, which plays a crucial role in the formation of long-term memories. Damage to the hippocampus can therefore result in significant memory loss.
In this Friday Evening Discourse, Eleanor Maguire draws on evidence from virtual reality, brain imaging and studies of amnesia to show that the consequences of hippocampal damage are even more far-reaching than suspected, robbing us of our past, our imagination and altering our perception of the world.
Maguire also explains how, despite our beliefs, our memories are not actually as accurate as you might think. In fact, they’re not really even about the past.
Try it yourself - there are two demos in this talk that you can try at home, both of which relate to a fascinating phenomena of how we perceive and recollect visual scenes.
1. Image distance demo:
In this demo viewers are given a 3 second countdown before seeing a quick sequence of two pictures of the same object, divided briefly by a visual mask. The challenge is to identify whether the second picture is the same view as the first, or whether it’s moved closer or further away. Try it yourself at 6:56
2. Drawing from memory demo:
You have 15 seconds to look at a picture, which you’ll then be asked to draw, as accurately as possible, from memory. See how you get on at 35:20.
Often called the “birthplace of civilisation”, Ancient Greece heralded numerous advances in philosophy, science, sport and also mathematics. Over six centuries from 600 BC a group of revolutionary thinkers – from Thales, Pythagoras, Democritus and Aristotle to Euclid, Archimedes and Hypatia of Alexandria – formalised the rules and language of modern mathematics.
This animated adventure brings to life some of these key figures to demonstrate the crucial role played by the Ancient Greeks in the story of maths.
For Greek thinkers, maths wasn’t simply a means of calculating amounts but a way of testing reality and understanding the true nature of the world around them. Indeed, Pythagoras is believed to have coined both the words “philosophy” (“love of wisdom”) and “mathematics” (“that which is learned”). In turn, Euclid came to be known as the “father of geometry”.
At the heart of this new understanding, was the concept of “the proof”, developed by Euclid in what is commonly regarded as the most important and successful mathematical textbook of all time – the “Stoicheion” or “Elements”. Built upon the axiomatic method, mathematical proofs were a way of testing assumptions by building up a mathematical argument using self-evident or assumed statements (or, “axioms”).
It is this methodology that formed the foundational language and logic of modern mathematics throughout the world. Indeed, Euclid’s Elements was widely used as the seminal maths textbook right up until the start of the twentieth century.
Many thanks to James Grime for his expert help on the script and recording the voice-over. Follow him @jamesgrime or find out more at singingbanana.com.
Thanks also to the wonderful 12foot6 and Phoebe Halstead for bringing our ideas to life in animated form: 12foot6.com
This video was created as part of the Greek Legacy Masterclass project, generously supported by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation: snf.org
Jared Diamond - What can we learn from traditional societies?
Pulitzer Prize-winner Jared Diamond takes you on an epic journey into our rapidly receding past, revealing how tribal societies offer an extraordinary window into how our ancestors lived for millions of years — until virtually yesterday, in evolutionary terms — and how they can provide unique, often overlooked insights into human nature.
This Ri event, titled “The world until yesterday’, took place on 1 October 2013.
Roger Penrose - Forbidden crystal symmetry in mathematics and architecture
Sir Roger Penrose provides a unique insight into the “forbidden symmetry” of his famous penrose tiles and the use of non-repeating patterns in deisgn and architecture.
It is a rigorous mathematical theorem that the only crystallographic symmetries are 2-fold, 3-fold, 4-fold, and 6-fold symmetries.
Yet, since the 1970s 5-fold, 8-fold, 10-fold and 12-fold “almost” symmetric patterns have been exhibited, showing that such crystallographically “forbidden symmetries” are mathematically possible and deviate from exact symmetry by an arbitrarily small amount. Such patterns are often beautiful to behold and designs based on these arrangements have now been used in many buildings throughout the world.
In this Ri event Sir Roger Penrose reveals the mathematical underpinnings and origins of these “forbidden symmetries” and other related patterns. His talk is illustrated with numerous examples of their use in architectural design including a novel version of “Penrose tiling” that appears in the approach to the main entrance of the new Mathematics Institute in Oxford, officially opened in late 2013 (http://www.maths.ox.ac.uk/new-building).
The tiling is constructed from several thousand diamond-shaped granite tiles of just two different shapes, decorated simply with circular arcs of stainless steel. The matching of the tiles forces them into an overall pattern which never repeats itself and exhibits remarkable aspects of 5-fold and 10-fold symmetry.
Similar features have been found also in the atomic structures of quasi-crystalline materials. The initial discovery of such material earned Dan Shectman the 2011 Nobel Prize for chemistry, his work having launched a completely novel area of crystallography.
The filming and production of this event was supported by the Science and Technology Facilities Council: http://www.stfc.ac.uk
Roger Penrose: Forbidden crystal symmetry - Event Q&A
The event question and answer session from an Ri event with Sir Roger Penrose in October 2013.