Previous Events

Please see below for adetails of previous Science Cafe events. If you have an idea for a future event please contact us on

2015 programme:

February 2015

What’s in the soil – an investigation into the distribution of toxocara spp. and other parasites – Cerys Erwood

Toxocara spp. are common gastrointestinal parasites of canids and felids. If humans ingest Toxocara eggs then they are at risk of developing Toxocariasis. Children are at particular risk of coming into contact with Toxocara spp. eggs and infection can cause several health issues, the most concerning being loss of sight. The BARC project aims to determine the distribution of Toxocara spp. eggs throughout the UK and identify areas where Toxocara contamination is highest. BARC then aims to reduce levels of environmental contamination by introducing anti dog fouling measures and educational programmes.

2011-12 programme:

May 2012 – Understanding Earthquakes, Professor Chris MacLeod, School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, Cardiff University.

Reminders of the devastating power of earthquakes have been all too common in recent years, but how far are we from truly understanding them? Professor Chris MacLeod outlined these issues and discussed how modern tools are allowing scientists to see what is happening during and between earthquakes – leading to a greater understanding of how and why they occur.

April 2012 – Synthetic Biology, Dr Dafydd Jones, School of Biosciences, Cardiff University

The advent of genetic manipulation led to a revolution in our ability to change the very basis of biological systems and life itself. The recent advent of synthetic biology goes beyond the original ideas and tries to apply the rules of engineering process to generate defined and complex systems by demand. What’s more, synthetic biology goes beyond genetic manipulation in that new components not currently part of the natural repertoire can be generated for uses within biology and totally unnatural environments.

March 2012 – Diamond: not all that glitters is gold, Dr Oliver Williams, School of Physics and Astronomy, Cardiff University.

Scientists can make better diamonds than nature by compressing carbon at extreme temperatures and pressures, heating gases to extreme temperatures with microwaves, or by blowing things up. Man’s diamonds of the future have applications as diverse as ultra-fast devices for computers and mobile phones to smart drug delivery.

December 2011 – The Science of the singing voice, Dr Alan Watson, School of Biosciences, Cardiff University

Dr Alan Watson explored the secrets of how the voice is produced. He discussed how opera singers can project their voices to fill large halls with sound without having to use electronic amplification but also revealed how this comes at a price – a loss of intelligibility of the very words that they sing.

November 2011 – Protecting next generation composite aircraft against lightning strike damage, Rhys Phillips, Research Engineer, EADS Innovation Works

To reduce their impact on the environment, aircraft are now designed to be lighter and more efficient. This has resulted in an increased amount of carbon-fibre composite material replacing aluminium in the structure of the aircraft. Whilst this can save up to 20% in aircraft fuel emissions, it does pose an issue for lightning strike scenarios. This interesting talk outlined the basic physics of lightning generation and its interaction with aircraft before taking a look at current protection techniques and how they are developed.

October 2011 – Venus Transit Expedition, Huw James, Science Junkie

In 2012, one of the rarest natural scientific events took place in the form of a Transit of Venus across the face of our Sun. Huw James planned to lead an expedition to record this phenomenal event and share it with the world. In this talk he discussed the trials and tribulations of those that went before him and the obstacles the team would need to overcome.

Older events:

May 2011 – Radiation and reason: should we still welcome nuclear power?, Professor Wade Allison, Oxford University.

March 2011 – Fears and phobias: can we train our brains to be fearless?, Dr Xavier Caseras, School of Medicine, Cardiff University.

February 2011 – Can you really find true love on, Dr Martin Graff, University of Glamorgan

December 2010 – ‘Buy it now!’ How retailers influence consumer buying,  Dr Paul Buckley, UWIC

November 2010 – Dogs Cause Cancer: Prevention, Perception and Risk, Dr Ian Lewis, Tenovus.

GM Foods, Prof Denis Murphy, University of Glamorgan

Disasters are a part of life aren’t they?, Prof Alan Hawley, University of Glamorgan

Engineering in Development – A Philosophical approach, Dan Smith, Co-President, Cardiff Branch of Engineers without Borders-UK

A bird’s eye view of the world: A sideways look, Dr Jonathan Erichsen of Cardiff University

Exploring the Universe, Dr Chris North, Cardiff University

LHC: the first collisions, Alan Barr

Highs and lows of a hundred million years of climate history from Tanzania, Professor Paul Pearson, School of Earth and Sciences, Cardiff University

The Mystery of the Missing Puppy, Family Science Cafe

Fossil workshop, Family Science Cafe

Creepy Crawly workshop (Bristol Zoo), Family Science Cafe

Quarantine, Lynne Lawrence, UWE

Should everyone be added to the Police’s DNA database? Dr Rachel Iredale, University of Glamorgan

A chat with Darwin, ProfessorAnthony K Campbell, Cardiff University and Scientific Director of the Darwin Centre, Pembrokeshir