Category Archives: Science Group 2

Science 2 – December Meeting

Our meeting by Zoom this month was opened up for other members to attend for a talk by Professor Nicola Pitchford of Nottingham University.

Nicola’s theme was about her current research looking at the impact of using educational technology to improve access to primary education. She explained that in some countries where due to trained teacher shortages and a weak economy for many children, especially girls, schooling only lasts about 3 years. This together with a very short school day leads to weak literacy and numeracy skills which limits lifetime opportunities.

The intervention is to provide what are basically mini computer tablets containing only two programmes, literacy and numeracy in the native language for each individual child. They work on this at home and it has a built in small solar panel which recharges the battery since many places have limited mains electrical supplies.

Progress is measurable and the research includes using the same software in some Nottingham Primary Schools as a comparator. Nicola demonstrated some of the evidence that shows the effectiveness of the programme with different groups of children in different countries. Her team then evaluate and quantify the evidence to consider if this programme of intervention can be scaled up and is sustainable for many more children in countries across the world.

Next meeting by Zoom: January 15th, 2021 at

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Science 2 November Zoom meeting

Science 2 Zoom Friday 20th November 2020

Thirty three members tuned in for this Zoom meeting. John Tedstone began our session with a presentation titled ‘Energy and how it relates to transport’. He explained that we get our electricity from a mix of a fossil fuels, nuclear and renewable – the balance is changing all the time, with the renewable (mainly wind and solar) now increasing share each year.

John then moved on to look at how rail transport has evolved from the early days of the Industrial Revolution.
The final question posed was what have we learnt. The answer probably is that if we’re going to move to a low/zero carbon economy, we need to plan much better, and for the longer term. Railways illustrate that if we don’t, we end up with less than ideal solutions.

Mark Jackson followed with a talk based on one of the Pint of Science meetings he attended in 2019 (those were the days…) The topic was an interesting one: Chrono-nutrition. It is widely known that: If Calorie Intake is more than Calories Burned = Weight Gain. When it comes to eating healthy, we talk about what’s on our plate, but not what’s on the clock (Chrono-nutrition). Our bodies are affected by our individual body clocks. That’s because our metabolism actually changes throughout the day because of our circadian rhythm. – The body’s clock, which tells the body to do the right thing at the right time. Basically it recommends not eating after dark or late in the evening. Colleagues who have experienced shift work shared their experiences which indicate that it is probably not as simple as that.

Finally Alan Ratcliffe spoke with great candour about his recent close encounter with Covid-19. Read more about this in the Newsletter.

Date of next Zoom Meeting: Thursday December 10th at 2.00pm
This will be open to all u3a members for a presentation by Professor Nicola Pitchford, University of Nottingham – ‘Using educational technology to address the global learning crises’. Again more details in the newsletter.

David Rose

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Science 2 – October Zoom Meeting

This month Christine Vincent introduced us to the life of African American Charles Richard Drew who was a surgeon and medical researcher. He researched in the field of blood transfusions, developing improved techniques for blood storage, and applied his expert knowledge to developing large-scale blood banks early in World War II. This allowed medics to save thousands of lives of the Allied forces. Thank you Christine.

My presentation was about energy and energy changes, for instance, chemical energy is converted to kinetic energy when a firework explodes and our chemical energy from food is converted to heat and kinetic energy when we move about.

The law of conservation of energy is a physical law that states energy cannot be created or destroyed but may be changed from one form to another.

We were joined via Zoom by two guests Chris and Ann, from Port Macquarie in Australia, which is about 390 km north of Sydney. Chris is a native of Hucknall and his sister Cynthia is a Hucknall u3a member. Chris had sent me a short video which demonstrates energy changes made as part of a school science task by his grandson James who is 14. I was given consent to show it so thank you James. It demonstrates how the energy of an object can be transferred to another with the process doing some useful work at the end. Basically an intricate domino effect involving a moving car, falling books, weights and an electrical lamp.

Before we finished we heard about how Australia had been dealing with Covid-19.

Next (Zoom) Meeting: Friday November 20th, 10am to 11am.
John Tedstone will be talking about another aspect of energy and I will be posing the question ‘What is Rocket Science’?

David Rose

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Science 2

Science 2 Meeting on Friday 16th September via Zoom

18 members attended the session. Each member has been allocated a letter of the alphabet, the idea being to talk to the group about a science based topic/word beginning with that letter.

Today Christine Vincent spoke about Rhodium which is a chemical element with the symbol Rh and atomic number 45. It is an ultra-rare, silvery-white, hard, corrosion-resistant, and chemically inert transition metal. Christine explained that the major use of rhodium is in catalytic converters for cars (80%). It reduces nitrogen oxides in exhaust gases.

Mark Jackson chose the letter J, Jellyfish. Jellyfish are ‘jelly-like’ creatures that live in the ocean. They have no brains. Jellyfish are estimated to be older than the first dinosaurs. They are invertebrates, which mean they aren’t fish. Mark explained that the Box Jellyfishes are one of the most dangerous of all species of Jellyfish in the world. The fact that they have such a toxic venom that they release is why people don’t want to be around them.

Helen Rose then gave an extended presentation on ‘Women in Maths and Science’ covering some significant women mathematicians and scientists and their contribution across the centuries. She explained that until the 19th century women were excluded from education yet some brilliant pioneer women overcame this major obstacle through their exceptional talent and ability. There were several who had to masquerade as men to attend lectures. Those early pioneers led the way for women to access a general education and specialisation in many spheres of science and maths.

Next Meeting (via Zoom)Friday October 16th 10.00am

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Science Group 2

Science 2: Zoom Meeting August 21st, 2020

This month there were welcome contributions from several members.
David Wormall started proceedings talking about Ellen Ochoa an American engineer, former astronaut and former director of the Johnson Space Centre. In 1993 she became the first Hispanic woman to go to space when she served on a nine-day mission aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery.

Bob McEwen followed with an informative and entertaining talk about Americium a synthetic radioactive chemical element with the symbol Am and atomic number 95. Complete with a ‘Blue Peter’ inspired visual aid Bob explained how:
Americium-241 a very low-activity radioactive element that emits alpha particles, a low-energy form of radiation is used in smoke detectors.
As air passes across the americium source within the detector, the radiation ionises any smoke particles. This ionised air is then picked up by an electronic sensor sounding the alarm.

Initiated by contributions from Ann and Ian Murray there was much lively audience participation around the sustainability of the Earth due to various factors caused by humans such as climate change, fossil burning countries and the demands of rapid population growth. To be continued.

Next Zoom Meeting Friday 18th September, 2020, 10.00 to 11.00am.
David Rose

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