Category Archives: Science Group 2

Science 2 – 19th March 2021

For our March meeting we welcomed three guest speakers associated with the well established Sherwood Observatory. Last month they were guests at the Science 1 session and it’s thanks to Jim and the group for suggesting that we should contact Steve Wallace who is the project manager at the Observatory. Steve presented the first half of the meeting.

The focus of Steve’s talk was about the chances of life on other planets /moons in our solar system and beyond into deeper space. For life water is an essential ingredient so only places with water have the potential to support life. Much of our expanding universe is too hot or too cold to hold liquid water.
Those life forms would be pretty basic microscopic life which needs billions of years to evolve into complex living things. Basically those green aliens are a figment of our imagination.

The second part of the session was led by two students from Nottingham Trent University, Blaine and James, who introduced us to the project to develop a visitor centre and planetarium on the current site. Part of the process was to ask the group for ideas about what the site could offer to help make it an exciting venue for families and visitors of all ages.

It was followed up by a questionnaire which was completed on an individual basis.

Next Month: Friday 16th April at 10.00 am. Ann Murray has kindly volunteered to lead the session on the theme ‘Glaciers and Icebergs’.

David Rose

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Science 2 – February Meeting

Our guest speaker was Prof Jim Turner from Beeston u3a. We had some initial Zoom problems, one of which was that Jim could not get vision which meant we could not see him but fortunately his sound and screen share facility were both working.

His talk was titled ‘What we owe to Einstein’
It was useful to have some prior knowledge to understand some of the talk but here is a short précis of Einstein’s breakthrough achievements.

Albert Einstein was a German-born theoretical physicist, universally acknowledged to be one of the two greatest physicists of all time, the other being Isaac Newton. Einstein developed the theory of relativity, one of the two pillars of modern physics. His work is also known for its influence on the philosophy of science. His mass–energy equivalence formula E = mc² has been dubbed “the world’s most famous equation”. He received the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics “for his services to theoretical physics, and especially for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect”, a pivotal step in the development of quantum theory. His intellectual achievements and originality resulted in “Einstein” becoming synonymous with “genius”.

In 1905, Albert Einstein published the theory of special relativity, which explains how to interpret motion between different inertial frames of reference — that is, places that are moving at constant speeds relative to each other.

The most famous work of Einstein’s life also dates from 1905 (a busy year for him), when he applied the ideas of his relativity paper to come up with the equation E = mc2 that represents the relationship between mass (m) and energy (E) with c being the symbol representing the speed of light.

He was born on the 14 March 1879 and died at the age of 76 on the 18 April 1955.

Next Meeting: Friday, March 19th, 2021 at 10.00 am

David Rose

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Science Group 2 – January 2021

Science 2 – January 15th Meeting – The theme was ‘Rocket Science’

Rocket science is all about using rocket propulsion to move anything from a firework to a manned spaceship. At the heart of rocketry is Isaac Newton’s Third Law of Motion, something that’s been established for over 300 years. It says that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. If you stand in front of a wall and push it hard, you will move backwards.

In a rocket, the ‘object’ being pushed is the end product of burning fuel, which shoots out of the back of the rocket as the fuel burns, forcing the rocket to move in the opposite direction. There are three basic requirements to a working rocket: get it moving, overcome the pull of gravity and plot a course. Each of these depends on physics that has been known since Newton’s day.

One of the biggest differences between the rockets of early science fiction and the actual ones that took people into space was that the real rockets had multiple stages that fell away as the rocket left Earth. The stages reflect the need to carry a lot of fuel to allow the rocket to escape Earth’s gravitational pull. When the fuel tanks are empty, they’re just extra mass that needs to be accelerated, wasting fuel. By dropping off a stage when its fuel is exhausted (or having disposable external tanks like the Space Shuttle), the remaining craft becomes much lighter, needing less fuel to accelerate it.

We also watched a short video about the Elon Musk’s innovative SpaceX Falcon rocket the first stage of which returns to land on Earth and can be reused.

The International Space Station

Next Meeting: Friday, February 19th, at 10.00 am – I am pleased to announce that we have a guest speaker-Professor J J Turner FRS Emeritus Professor of Chemistry University of Nottingham.

He writes: I am clearly a retired academic, but perhaps more importantly I was a founder member of Beeston u3a, the first Group Coordinator, and Science Group leader for many years. The talk, ‘What we owe to Einstein’ lasts 45 minutes, is designed for a “lay” audience; there are two elementary pieces of science and quite a bit of history. Thus it would be appropriate to extend the invitation to a wider audience than the science group.

David Rose

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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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