microTALKS: Infectious Diseases

Ever wondered where the next pandemic virus will emerge? Or how scientists are combating antibiotic resistance? We had a chat with cell biology researcher and Jurassic Park fan Connor Bamford. 

ebola

Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Connor Bamford and I am from Belfast, Northern Ireland originally but now I work at the MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research where I am one of the researchers who investigates the cell biology of virus infection. One of the viruses we focus on is the hepatitis C virus, which is an incredibly important infection across the world and in particular, Glasgow and Scotland.

What brings you to Glasgow Science Festival this year?

The science festival is a great opportunity to communicate research from your field. I felt that  microbiology and virology research had a lot to communicate and engage the public with, given the serious nature of antibiotic resistance and emerging viruses, such as Ebola. Our event aims to explain some of these important areas of research.

The Matrix, District 9, Moon… what sci-fi classic floats your… uhh… spaceship?

Jurassic Park. Hands down.

2015 is Scotland’s Year of Food and Drink and among other things, we’re exploring how eating insects might be the future. What’s the weirdest thing that you’ve eaten?

Lukewarm coffee mistakenly stored in a bottle of Coke.

Impress us with your favourite science fact or joke.

On a serious note: recent studies have estimated that there might be precisely 320,000 mammalian viruses out there in existence. Sadly, we only know a very small fraction of these and many probably have the potential to cause serious disease and outbreaks in people and animals at a great cost to society.

Join Connor and an international panel of scientists at the University of Glasgow’s Boyd Orr Building on Thursday 11th June from 7.30pm. Book online

Café Scientifique en Français

Cette année, le Festival des Sciences de Glasgow organise en partenariat avec l’Alliance Française de Glasgow un « Café scientifique » pour célébrer l’Année Internationale de la Lumière. Nous avons eu le plaisir de parler avec Dr Nicolas Labrosse, enseignant-chercheur en physique à l’Université de Glasgow et un organisateur de cette soirée.

This year Glasgow Science Festival is teaming up with the Alliance Française de Glasgow to bring you a special French-language Café Scientifique celebrating l’Année Internationale de la Lumière. I chatted with University of Glasgow physicist and Café Sci organizer Dr Nicolas Labrosse.

scifestt

Bonjour Nicolas, pouvez-vous nous parler un peu de vous?
Who are you and what do you do?

Je m’appelle Nicolas Labrosse (mais on m’appelle Nic). Je suis University Teacher à l’Université de Glasgow. J’y enseigne la Physique et l’Astrophysique, et je fais de la recherche en physique solaire.

My name is Nicolas Labrosse (you can call me Nic). I am a University Teacher at the University of Glasgow. I teach Physics and Astronomy, and scratch my head on some solar physics research questions.

Qu’est-ce qui vous a amené à travailler avec le Festival des Sciences de Glasgow cette année?
What brings you to Glasgow Science Festival this year?

J’aime la physique, l’astrophysique, et les sciences en général. Le GSF est un excellent moyen d’intéresser les gens aux sciences pendant une heure ou pour toute la vie (la durée importe peu, mais plus c’est long et mieux c’est!). En mars dernier j’ai lancé un Café Scientifique à Glasgow en français, ce qui permet de toucher un public différent des évènements plus “traditionnels” (d’un point de vue linguistique), et qui permet également aux chercheurs de parler de leur travail dans la langue de Molière. Le Café Scientifique du 9 juin s’intègre parfaitement dans le programme du GSF puisqu’il sera lié à l’Année Internationale de la Lumière (IYL2015).

I love Physics, Astrophysics, and Sciences in general, and GSF is a great way to get people interested for one hour or for a life time (it doesn’t matter how long, though the longer the better!). I’ve recently started to run a Café Scientifique in French, to reach a different audience than more traditional (from a language perspective) public events, and to give French speaking scientists an opportunity to talk about research dans la langue de Molière. Our June 9th event fits nicely in this year’s GSF programme, as it will be linked to IYL2015.

Matrix, District 9, Moon… Quels sont vos films de science-fiction préférés?
The Matrix, District 9, Moon… what sci-fi classic floats your… uhh…spaceship?

J’ai bien aimé Avatar, et je suis assez sensible aux questions éthiques liées à l’exploration de terres inconnues.

I enjoyed Avatar as it has a few themes that I have a keen interest in such as the exploration of other worlds and its associated ethical questions.

Cette année, l’Ecosse célèbre la richesse de sa gastronomie avec la campagne « Scotland’s Year of Food and Drink ». Au Festival des Sciences, nous explorerons la possibilité que les insectes puissent représenter l’avenir de l’alimentation pour les humaines. Quel est l’aliment le plus bizarre que vous ayez mangé?

2015 is Scotland’s Year of Food and Drink and among other things, we’re exploring how eating insects might be the future. What’s the weirdest thing that you’ve eaten?

Je dois avouer qu’après bientôt huit ans passés à Glasgow, je n’ai toujours pas bu une goutte d’Irn Bru! Cela ne me pose aucun problème de manger des escargots ou des cuisses de grenouilles (après tout, je suis français!). Je suis prêt à manger presque tout, du moment que c’est naturel.

If I told you that in nearly 8 years in living in Glasgow, I’ve never tried Irn Bru…! As a true French man, I have no problem eating snails and frogs legs; I am happy to eat almost anything, as long as it’s more or less natural!

Connaissez-vous une bonne blague scientifique pour nous faire rire?
Impress us with your favourite science fact or joke.

Je suis toujours en admiration quand je songe aux connaissances que nous avons accumulées – et que nous continuons d’acquérir – sur notre Univers en analysant la lumière que l’on détecte autour de nous. Les photons, qu’ils soient vieux de plusieurs milliards d’années après leur odyssée à travers l’espace, ou simplement de quelques minutes quand ils viennent du soleil, contiennent tant d’Histoire en eux!

I am constantly amazed at how much we have learnt, and continue to learn about our Universe, by studying the light we observe around us. Photons as old as several billion years which have travelled through space, or those which have left the Sun a few minutes ago, carry so much history with them.  As for a Physics joke, here is this one: Why can’t we trust atoms?… – Because they make up everything!

Les passionnés de sciences et les francophones sont les bienvenus au Café Scientifique, le jeudi 9 juin de 19h à 21h à l’Alliance Française de Glasgow. L’entrée est gratuite mais la réservation est conseillée. Vive la science!

Francophiles and science enthusiasts alike, join Nic and others at the Alliance Française on Tuesday 9th June from 7-9pm for informal enlightenment. The event is free, but places can be booked. Vive la science!

The Invention that Changed the World

The legacy of James Watt is a hot topic at this year’s Glasgow Science Festival, as we celebrate 250 years since his invention of the separate steam condenser. One of the festival’s contributors, Kiara King from STICK (Scottish Transport & Industrial Collections & Knowledge network) stopped for a chat.

Kiara

Who are you and what do you do?

I’m Kiara King, Archivist at the Ballast Trust and member of the STICK network. I work with business archives and represent the archives sector on the STICK committee who work to promote the care and enjoyment of the transport and industrial heritage collections held in Scotland. These types of collections provide a vital insight into our social and economic history and represent the success of Scottish innovation in the field.

What brings you to Glasgow Science Festival this year?

Together with the University of Glasgow, STICK has organised a conference to mark the 250th anniversary of James Watt’s invention of the separate steam condenser which falls in 2015. In 1765, Scottish inventor James Watt had a ‘eureka’ moment during a walk on Glasgow Green, leading to revolutionary advances in steam engine technology. Our conference is bringing together experts to celebrate the legacy of this famous engineer.

firstcondenser

James Watt invented the first separate condenser. Steam was condensed in a separate container from the engine’s cylinder, which reducied fuel consumption by 75% compared with older engines. Photo from the Science Museum.

The Matrix, District 9, Moon… what sci-fi classic floats your… uhh… spaceship?

I’m a fan of the original Star Wars trilogy but must also include Star Wars Episode II for the scene featuring the Jedi Archives.

2015 is Scotland’s Year of Food and Drink and among other things, we’re exploring how eating insects might be the future. What’s the weirdest thing that you’ve eaten?

Nothing more exotic than a deep fried mars bar I’m afraid!

Impress us with your favourite science fact or joke.

The term “horsepower” was adopted by James Watt in the late 18th century to compare the output of steam engines with the power of draft horses. One horsepower equals 33,000 foot-pounds of work per minute (the power necessary to lift a total mass of 33,000 pounds one foot in one minute). However, this value is actually about 50 percent more than the rate that an average horse can sustain for a working day.

Join Kiara and engineering experts from far and wide to celebrate the legacy of James Watt on Friday 5th June from 10am-4pm. Tickets are £10/5 and available here.

Alcohol, Music, Technology and You

How might music influence the amount, the pace and the brand of alcohol that people drink?  How do young men and women describe their drinking online and what consequences might this have for their drinking behaviour?  Is what, where, and how you drink a way of displaying your identity? Dr Carol Emslie and her colleagues will explore these questions and more in special event for Glasgow Science Festival.

Discotheque_in_Berlin

Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Dr Carol Emslie and I lead the Substance use & misuse research group at Glasgow Caledonian University (@SubMisuseGcu).  I interview men and women to explore how drinking fits into their everyday lives.  In order to change drinking culture, we need to understand what purpose alcohol serves.  For many people, it is closely interwoven with friendship, and is seen as providing ‘time out’ from busy lives.

carol

What brings you to Glasgow Science Festival this year?

I’m presenting a session called ‘Alcohol, Technology, Music and You’ with my colleagues Dr Alasdair Forsyth and Jemma Lennox. We’ll be discussing the role of entertainers like DJs and musicians in alcohol marketing, examining connections between social media and drinking among young people, and exploring how men and women use alcohol to display their identities (from ‘girly girl’ to ‘playing the lad’).

The Matrix, District 9, Moon… what sci-fi classic floats your… uhh… spaceship?

Blade Runner for Vangelis’ music and a vision of the future which hasn’t dated.  Joss Whedon’s Sci-Fi western ‘Firefly’ for 14 perfect episodes before it was cancelled.

2015 is Scotland’s Year of Food and Drink and among other things, we’re exploring how eating insects might be the future. What’s the weirdest thing that you’ve eaten?

Hmmm, I haven’t intentionally eaten insects.  I was lucky enough to live in Aotearoa New Zealand for three months – the sushi and the traditional Māori food were delicious.

Impress us with your favourite science fact or joke.

Our research challenges the idea that peer pressure only applies to young people. People in their thirties and forties describe how friends and colleagues do not always accept that they want to stop drinking on a night out, illustrated by repeated chants of “go on, go on, go on”, “one for the road” and “just leave the car”. Some said it was easier to just take the car, or say they were on medication or detoxing in order to have an acceptable reason for not drinking.  Heavy drinking is seen as normal, while not drinking alcohol has to be explained in Scottish society.

Uncover the fascinating science and psychology of drinking and join the debate with Carol and her colleagues on Tuesday 9th June at Glasgow Caledonian University from 6-7.30pm.  Tickets are free and can be booked online.

The Science of Survival

Do you have what it takes to survive in the wild? How do animals forage for food and keep safe? At this year’s Glasgow Science Festival, we’re exploring the science of survival with the RSPB.  We spoke to Learning Officer Hannah Grist about what’s in store.

HGrist

Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Hannah, and I’m a Learning Officer for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, based in Glasgow. I am part of a team called the Giving Nature a Home in Glasgow Project, which involves working alongside schools, community groups and the public to celebrate and improve all the amazing green spaces across the city.

What brings you to Glasgow Science Festival this year?

We are an enthusiastic bunch, and spend a lot of time thinking up new and exciting ways to get everyone outside and interacting with nature. Our event this year is called the Science of Survival, but could generally be described as giving not-so-grown-ups a chance to play in the mud, build dens, make fire and toast marshmallows: who wouldn’t be excited about that?!

The Matrix, District 9, Moon… what sci-fi classic floats your… uhh… spaceship?

I recently watched Alien for the first time (I know, I don’t know how I missed this classic either). It’s a brilliantly eerie film with a female scientist and hero, which is always great to see.

2015 is Scotland’s Year of Food and Drink and among other things, we’re exploring how eating insects might be the future. What’s the weirdest thing that you’ve eaten?

I previously worked tracking rhinos in the Namib desert, and we ended up eating something like corned beef hash every night, with anything else we could find during the day added in: I haven’t been able to look at a tin of corned beef since.

Impress us with your favourite science fact or joke.

That’s a really difficult one! I’m currently being excited about swifts. Did you know they eat, sleep and mate whilst flying, catch raindrops in the air to drink, and make nests out of spit?

Look out for Hannah and the RSPB team on Saturday 6th and Sunday 7th June from 1-3.30pm in Kelvingrove Park. Learn survival tips, build a den, cook outdoors and more! These events coincide with our weekend of science activities at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. For details visit our website.

Seeing Speech

At Glasgow Science Festival we aim to showcase the incredible research carried out in and around the city. Science Sunday is the University of Glasgow’s flagship family festival event and this year it’s bigger than ever! We chatted to Fabienne Westerberg to find out what she’s up to this time.

fabiennew_headsetWho are you and what do you do?

My name is Fabienne, I’m a linguistics research student at Glasgow University. My research looks at the way the tongue moves when we produce certain speech sounds, and I use ultrasound to see what the tongue is doing inside the mouth.

What brings you to Glasgow Science Festival this year?

Last year’s event in GULP (Glasgow University Laboratory of Phonetics) was really popular, and I missed it! We  want to give people a chance to see language in a different way, and see how complex it is, from the way we physically produce sound to the way we use language to show our identity.

GULPlogo
The Matrix, District 9, Moon… what sci-fi classic floats your… uhh… spaceship?

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a clear favourite – the idea of the Babelfish is fascinating. Imagine being able to understand all languages, even if it meant having to put a fish in your ear…

2015 is Scotland’s Year of Food and Drink and among other things, we’re exploring how eating insects might be the future. What’s the weirdest thing that you’ve eaten?

I’m Swedish, and we eat a lot of weird stuff. Smörgåstårta (“sandwich cake”) is one of them, it’s a savoury cake normally made up of layers of bread, mayo, salad, meatballs, shrimps and grapes. Delicious!

Impress us with your favourite science fact or joke.

Pigeons can read! They recognise letters of the alphabet, and remember the written names of the shops where they live. Impressive but also slightly terrifying.

Join Fabienne and friends as part of Science Sunday on the 14th of June in the GULP lab at 13 University Gardens, where researchers from the phonetics lab will shed some light on the visual techniques used in speech research (and help you image your tongue!).The event is free, but please book online to guarantee a space! 

Reclaiming the Human Future

This year marks the 250th anniversary of James Watt’s invention of the separate steam condenser and Glasgow Science Festival is celebrating with a series of events. We chatted to Professor Colin McInnes from the University of Glasgow.  

unnamedWho are you and what do you do?

I’m Colin McInnes, James Watt Chair, Professor of Engineering Science at the University of Glasgow. Much of my research has centred on space engineering but I also dabble in a wide range of other areas including climate engineering and energy policy. I’m also interested in the long-term societal impacts of Engineering Science and often write on Energy, Innovation and Environment issues for the print and on-line media, reflecting my firm belief in the socially and environmentally progressive nature of Engineering Science.

What brings you to Glasgow Science Festival this year?

I’m giving a talk on ‘Reclaiming the Human Future’ which will help mark the 250th anniversary of James Watt’s invention of the separate steam condenser which falls this year. The talk will make the case that we need to rediscover both the unconstrained free-thinking of James Watt and enlightenment-era ideas of progress to deliver an innovation-driven, human-centred future. The talk will also cover some off-the-wall ideas for the deep future on so-called terraforming and Dyson spheres, both of which are actually connected to James Watt’s heat engine in unsuspected ways.

The Matrix, District 9, Moon… what sci-fi classic floats your… uhh… spaceship?

Oh, easy. It would need to be Dark Star, John Carpenter’s quirky low budget film, which also had a leading role for Dan O’Bannon who went on to write the screenplay for Alien.

2015 is Scotland’s Year of Food and Drink and among other things, we’re exploring how eating insects might be the future. What’s the weirdest thing that you’ve eaten?

As an academic I travel frequently and have had to sample some real gems, such as raw horse meat, but also delights such as roast duck in the fantastic Quanjude Qianmen Restaurant in Beijing.

Impress us with your favourite science fact or joke.

Nuclear energy, which is still Scotland’s largest generator of electricity, comes to us from the final instant of the collapse of ancient stars before they exploded as supernovae; lighter elements were fused into Uranium and then scattered through space. Your smart phone or tablet is at least partly working off those ancient cataclysmic events.

Join Colin for Reclaiming the Human Future on Thursday 4th June at the University of Glasgow. The event is free, but please book online to guarantee a place!