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Science Discussion Group Information

The Science Discussion Group ( SDG ) is currently a group of about 30-40 active members with a split of about 70:30 between men and women. The group consists mainly of retired scientists, engineers and mathematicians although we have members from non-STEM backgrounds who just have an interest in science.

In this era of the pandemic we meet twice a month on the second and fourth Monday mornings using Zoom. The first meeting in the month is a “chat room” where members choose their own topics to discuss and the second meeting, the fourth Monday, is reserved for formal presentations; at these meetings I will normally get academics and researchers from universities to speak to us on a wide range of topics.

The only qualification for joining the group is to have a genuine interest in all aspects of science.

Forthcoming Meetings

December meetings – 7th and 14th of December 2020

The next SDG meetings will be on the 7th and 14th of December due to having to make some changes in dates related to Christmas; it is proposed that the 7th will be a “chat room” and the 14th will be a presentation titled “A Changing Climate and Landscape; Visions of a Future Britain” by Mark Hardiman from the University of Portsmouth.

We do not have a topic for the coming “chat room” but, hopefully, some members can put forward suggestions over the next couple of weeks. Over recent months when members have come to “chat rooms” with topics they want to present then we have had some really interesting discussions.

The current “lockdown” has produced an additional bonus in that Dan, my pilot neighbour of 2 doors away, doesn’t seem to have much flying booked with BA and seems keen to put together a presentation currently titled “ A Day in the Life of a Pilot”; I saw him yesterday and he says he’s still working on it; so something interesting for the future.

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Recent Meetings

Fishbourne style meeting – 23rd November 2020

Thanks to all those members who Zoomed in yesterday for our monthly Fishbourne style meeting and also to those who sent apologies. It was a really good attendance with 25 members joining the meeting.

The presentation was given by Tony Vernon from Kings College, London and although I’m still not sure what Tony wanted the title to be it was essentially “research into the diagnosis and progression of brain disease”. It was a really good presentation with many really interesting diagrams, pictures, photographs, etc of disease in brains of affected people compared with control groups. it was also interesting to get information on early diagnosis of disease and the the techniques used and what may be available in the future. Tony also answered a wide range of questions from the group with
a whole lot of enthusiasm and insight.

We also the used the “chat” function on Zoom to put our questions to Tony during the coffee break. This was the first time we had used this method for real and it worked really well and there was a more structured approach to the Q&A session.

Chatroom meeting – 9th November 2020

Thanks to all those members who Zoomed in on the 9th for our once a month “chat room” meeting and also to those who sent apologies. It was a relatively small attendance with just 9 members joining the meeting but it was probably one of the best “chat rooms” that we’ve had so far. Tony T made a suggestion that we should view a YouTube on Eugenics and then talk about the topic which discussed
issues important to determining sex; we had a really wide ranging discussing from killing damaged “children’ at birth to voluntarily killing ourselves when we were “damaged and a whole lot in between.

We also watched a couple of videos on cows, methane and the damage to the environment; in some ways a follow up to the Mike Newnham presentation a couple of weeks ago and
once again some interesting discussion.

Fishbourne style meeting – 26th October 2020

Thanks to all those members who Zoomed in yesterday for our monthly Fishbourne style meeting and also to those who sent apologies. It was a really good attendance
with 21 members joining the meeting.

The presentation was given by Mike Newnham and was titled “A Vegan World by 2026”. It was an interesting and thought provoking presentation with very visually impactive slides.
Based on extrapolation of data all wild animals will be extinct by 2026 and this is where the title came from. Although all Mike’s data came from reputable sources maybe not all of us would
have bought into his interpretation completely but there is not doubt on Mike’s sincerity when talking about veganism. There were many questions around various aspects of veganism
and this was probably the longest Q&A session that we have had so far. The good news is that Mike will return sometime next year with another presentation on “green” issues.

Chatroom meeting – 12th October 2020

Thanks to all those members who Zoomed in for our second Monday in the month “chat room” meeting yesterday and also to those who sent apologies. It was a reasonably good attendance for a “chat room” with 10 members joining the meeting. This was the first time the SDG had used the Chichester U3A Zoom facility and it worked well so I will now cancel my Zoom contract; hopefully, no complicated exit procedure that will cost extra money.

Although we hadn’t pre-selected a topic Maggie got the meeting going by talking about an article on “balance” that she had seen in the New Scientist; seems like the human race is becoming “unbalanced” as time goes on and this prompted significant discussion.

We had a whole lot of discussion on various drugs and use/misuse of drugs and problems in society generally. Peter also added to our concerns by questioning the honesty of the major internet companies;
his advice was to watch the Netflix programme “the Social Dilemma”.

I added to the confusion by posing the question of how many trees need to be planted to offset a lifetime of carbon dioxide expenditure. The answer is 3,800 if we get to the grand old age of 85 ( see below).

Although we talked about a wide range of topics, or perhaps because of it, there was significant interaction between the whole group; this is the way “chat rooms” should operate.

Fishbourne style meeting – 28th September 2020

Thanks to all those members who Zoomed in for our monthly Fishbourne style meeting yesterday and also to those who sent apologies. It was a really good attendance with 22 members joining the meeting.

The presentation was given by David Gane and was titled “Evolution and Natural Selection” He took a whistle stop tour through life’s evolution on Earth, outlined some of the evidence for it, and explained why Robinson Crusoe didn’t eat beef. It was really interesting as David challenges your views on how well you know a subject; I think we all understand “evolution” but probably not as well as we thought as demonstrated in the “polling” that was included.

The good news is that David is working on some other topics and will present to us again when these are complete.

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