TUESDAY, JUNE 18, 2019

Tag Archives: science group

Cell Biology

    Science Discussion Group

Our meeting in February was to do with Cell Biology and this was the preparatory material,we will probably return her from time to time.

Rosalind Franklin co-discoverer with Watson and Crick of the “double helix” structure of DNA

About this page
Jill Jenkins introduced me to this topic.We discussed it at the December meeting and this page is the result.Neither of us has a background in Biology so it will be interesting to see if we can lay the foundation for an informed discussion.

Modifying our Genes

Of all the scientific disciplines, Cell Biology stands poised to have the greatest impact on the lives of the next generation .Things are changing rapidly and in the absence of informed public debate things might happen on the basis of “what can be done” rather than “what should be done”. It seem entirely possible that genetic diseases like Huntington’s disease could be edited out of the genomes of future generations and many might agree that this would be a good thing.But the same techniques could be used to create “designer babies ” and maybe we are not ready for that.
I was surprised to learn that recent advances in epigenetics throws light on the balance between “nature” and “nurture”

In the news.

Scientists in China claim to have created the first “Gene-Edited Humans”. The news has not been universally well received.

News that has been well received !
The cost of sequencing a human Genome has fallen from greater than £1Billion to about £1000 and a UK team has just sequenced its 100,000th genome. Genome UK .


Some Background

It would seem that the UK has always been good at this sort of thing. This is someone whose is not much in the public eye but who is a Nobel Prize winner for his work back in the 1950’s .

I understand that anyone who has studied Biology at school knows all about Cells, Genes ,Chromosomes and DNA. I didn’t study biology and found the following helpful.

This video talks about the the effects of our environment on our Genes.

For anyone interested, this video describes the technique used for Gene editing


Something Different

Some of you may remember my attempt to explain Emmy Noether’s contribution to modern physics. I caught this discussion on the radio and it probably does a better job ,although Melvyn does seem a bit bemused at times.


We will be discussing the risks and opportunities associated with these developments in cell biology at the next meeting of the Science Discussion Group to be held on Feb 5th,2019.If you would like to attend the discussion or if you would like to register on the site so that you can leave a comment please email  me.

Science Group Post

    Notice Board
    Art Discussion

Science Group Post

Some Links :U3A Science Network

Welcome Back

Our next meeting will be on December 4th . The debate about women in Physics continues so we will return to it briefly at the next meeting . I am thinking about talking about the Cell Biology an area in which I am particularly unqualified .So I will be learning on the job and it may that be those of you who have some background in Biology will be able to help me out . I hope to move one on in later meetings to DNA and stem cells.

December Meeting


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Earlier Meetings

“click and scroll ” in the area below


November 6th

We talked about the Nobel Prize winning work of Donna Strickland and noted that it is her work that enables the use of Lasers for eye surgery and other medical applications. We were bit surprised about the style of Evan Davis’s interview . We watched a video of Richard Dawkins talking about Physics .He postulated that our size leads to a lot of Physics appearing “counter intuitive”


October 2nd

We discussed the evolution of Artificial Intelligence from the fairly rudimentary start with “Expert Systems”.We noted that machine learning was the “game changer” .We discussed the ethical issues of healthy scans being used to train AI systems to spot anomalies in medical images .Laurence explained that he was really surprised at the progress which has been made in speach recognition

September 4th

We talked about magnetism in the context of Maxwells equations and a little bit about magnetic materials.I hoped to show the video below but failed .It shows Richard Feynman being a bit difficult with an interviewer but the point is well made.I have also found a podcast about J C Maxwell which is well worth a listen.

July 3rd

We discussed the survival of International Space programmes in the face of political tensions.We watched a video of the launch of a Soyuz rocket with three astronauts aboard and destined for the International Space Station,we also watched a video about some basic every day activities on the Space Station.We talked about the evolution of battery technology and the possibility of electrically powered flight.


June 5th

We talked about cyber security in very general terms and watched a video about the techniques which are used to influence us in cyberspace. It was claimed that these were used to influence the outcome of the US presidential election.We watched short video on “multiverses ” and then discussed whether we believed any of it.


Meeting May 1st

We talked about the encouraging trends in renewable sources of energy and then moved on to talk about GM crops. We watched the following video which argues the case against Science Denial quite powerfully.We talked about Science Communication and wondered whether  new technology provides an opportunity for “early exposure” to  difficult concepts .For example  would the video interest a twelve year old ?


Meeting April 3rd

We watched the following talk and most found it disturbing.

We also discussed fracking and the fact that there seems to be vast amounts of shale under Surrey.
We also looked at a clip from Richard Feynman talking about how we can describe gravity but not say how it works.

Meeting March 19th

We watched this video  and noted that this work seemed to provide a Scientific basis for many of the things which we see around us to do with ageing.

Whilst researching this video I was struck by the predominance of women Nobel laureates in the Biological Sciences.My daughter tells me that this is because they are “cleverer”,whilst this may well be true, I also remember that girls used to be pushed towards the subject in the 1960’s and wonder if this practice still lingers on. I will schedule some time to discuss items in the news and  to  discuss topics for future meetings. (I am thinking maybe one of us could go away and research a topic on our behalf.)


Meeting February 6th 2018

Due to some reckless diary management the meeting was cancelled ,instead a short video was posted with some “homework”,solution will be presented March 19th.

Home Work
I have made a short video which continues the theme of “symmetry” (Apologies for production deficiencies) . I have called it” Physics for Old People” because with age comes a certain guile and the ability to take short cuts to the right answer .No worries if you can’t figure out the answer to my question, a lot of real physicists would miss this trick .

To view video click on arrow in the middle of the image below, when the it starts click on square bottom right to go to full screen, you might need to adjust the sound .When video ends presentation “escape” to exit full screen

Meeting January 2 2018

We talked a lot about symmetry,a little bit about “In Our Time” and Gauss.

For anyone who wants to hear the programme in full,here is a podcast.

We went on to discuss Emmy Noether and wondered why she is not well known despite the importance of her work .For those who missed the meeting or for anyone who wants to see it again here is the talk by Marcus Du Sautoy.

( When viewing the video click the little box bottom right to go to full screen and press “esc” to get back)

Meeting November 2017

We talked a bit about “quantum entanglement” and used two identical coins as an example .This video does it another way, the argument here is quite “dense” but I think it does conveys the strangeness of the quantum world (and the enthusiasm of the presenter). I will return to the topic from time to time until someone tells me to refrain.

Updated by Laurence Sept 5th 2018

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