25th of April 2018
“Cloudy with a chance of moths and bees”
Studies of insect movement ecology: the how and why
by Dr. Jason Lim
Insects are one of the most important groups of animal in the development of human cultures and civilization. The abundance of insect pests in our crops determines the quality and quantity of our harvest, while insect pollinators determine the variety of food in our diet. Beautiful insects such as butterflies, ladybirds and dragonflies have inspired scientific endeavour and literature for generations and they continue to do so. It is generally agreed that insect pests consume or destroy 10% of GDP in industrialized nations and 25% in developing countries. On the other hand, the global economic value of insect pollination and ecosystem services was estimated to be US$215 billion or 9.5% of global food production. The need to understand the movement of both migratory insect pests and pollinators is more important than ever if the current agricultural food production is going to feed a human population of 10 billion by 2050. In this seminar I will showcase the world’s leading insect monitoring and tracking technologies developed by the Rothamsted Radar Entomology Unit. The seminar will conclude with the current and future research directions of this unit and an invitation to participate in the rapidly growing science of Aero-Ecology.
28th of March 2018
Charles Dawson: Piltdown and his other hoaxes
by Andy McGrandle
Abstract: This is the story of a man so desperate for academic recognition that he routinely faked his archaeological finds in order to supply the “crucial” artefact to the academic world. Piltdown Man in 1912 was his most famous hoax, but recent work has brought to light 31 other fake artefacts that he presented to learned societies and museums during his lifetime and there are probably more out there. The academic hierarchy protected and supported him even though not everyone at the time was convinced by Dawson’s finds. Many of Dawson’s hoaxes could only be accurately exposed using modern archaeological and analysis techniques and the misinformation created by of some of his hoaxes survived in school text books until the early 1970’s. Charles Dawson never lived to see his hoaxes exposed or the damage he did to the credibility of academia in his own and later decades - he really is a warning from history.
28th February 2018
Joint meeting with the Institute of Physics
at University of Hertfordshire, Hatfield
Ripples from the Dark Side of the Universe
by Jim Hough
Gravitational waves – a prediction of Einstein’s General Relativity – are still among the most elusive signals from far out in the Universe. Over the past decade the laser interferometric detectors LIGO (at Hanford and Livingston in the USA), Virgo (at Cascina in Italy) and GEO 600 (at Ruthe in Germany) have been commissioned and operated at their design or close to design sensitivity. However in keeping with source strength predictions, and as expected, no gravitational wave signals were observed.
Now these detectors have been upgraded, observations with the Advanced LIGO detectors have begun again and have already made detections of signals from black hole binary systems. This is particularly exciting as the existence of the black hole system first observed was a surprise to the astronomy community! The Virgo detector in Italy has recently joined the observations. In this talk I will explain the nature of gravitational waves, why it is scientifically important to observe them, potential new results and the highlights of the technology.
Prof Jim Hough is a research Professor at the University of Glasgow and Kelvin Professor of Natural Philosophy Emeritus. He has researched in the gravitational wave field at the University of Glasgow since 1971, is the UK Principal Investigator for the German/UK GEO600 detector and a member of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration.
31st January 2018
Bletchley Park Museums
by Nick Hill
Nick’s talk was not intended as a potted tour of the two museums on the Bletchley Park site: Bletchley Park Trust (BPT) and The National Museum of Computing (TNMOC).
Instead, Nick showed and described what you might see when you make your visit(s).
In BPT you will discover the story of the breaking of Enigma, which gave Germany and its allies the equivalent capability of today’s battlefield tweets. Enigma was used for the encryption of short messages at all levels, except the highest, of the German ‘war machine’.
At TNMOC you will discover the story of the breaking of the Lorenz encryption machine. Lorenz was more sophisticated than Enigma – 183 million, million, million possible settings, as opposed to Enigma’s 156 million, million – and was unknown to the Allies at the start of the war. It was used by Hitler and all the members of the German High Command to encrypt messages relating to their strategic plans, battle plans etc. The breaking of Lorenz from the interception of just two messages is ranked as one of the most astonishing intellectual achievements of the 20th century.
29th November 2017
by Alex Godfrey of Lockheed Martin
Engineers at Lockheed Martin’s site in Ampthill, Bedfordshire, will develop two key parts for the Space Rider, which is a reusable space plane being developed by the European Space Agency (ESA). The small, unmanned craft will be launched from a rocket and will be able to gather scientific data, carry out exploration missions as it orbits the earth, and deliver cargo to and from the International Space Station. Crucially, Space Rider will be capable of surviving re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere, making it reusable and an affordable way to bring important findings back from space.
Lockheed Martin will develop the actuator system, which operates flaps to steady the flight during re-entry; and the landing system to bring the spacecraft safely back to earth.
Alex Godfrey, the technical lead on the project for Lockheed Martin UK explains: “Space Rider will re-enter our atmosphere at 7.5km a second. Making sure it lands back on earth safely is a major part of the project. We’re looking at two solutions, pulling in expertise and capabilities from across Lockheed Martin Corporation."
“The first is a mid-air retrieval system, or MAR, which will mean the spacecraft is slowed down by a parafoil and then captured in the sky by a helicopter; the second is more traditional wheeled or skidded landing gear, with it coming to rest on a runway."
Friday 22nd September 2017
London and Hertfordshire Sections
16th Annual Golf Challenge
at Redbourne Golf Club.
The 16th Anniversary saw us return to Redbourn Golf Club, the venue of many previous events. It was a very successful day, and raises a very useful sum for our educational activities.
25th October 2017
Airlander 10 - A talk by Andy Barton of Hybrid Air Vehicles
Andy gave a very interesting talk about the development to date of Airlander 10, and the development of future aircraft. The Airlander 10 is the world’s largest aircraft, designed and developed by Hybrid Air Vehicles. It is currently undergoing flight trials at Cardington near Bedford. Airlander 10 is underpinned by the company’s numerous patents vested worldwide. From the latest materials technology, to the aerodynamic effects of its shape, it is full of innovation. There is no internal structure in the Airlander – it maintains its shape due to the pressure stabilisation of the helium inside the hull, and the smart and strong Vectran material from which it is made. Carbon composites are used throughout the aircraft for strength and weight savings. Airlander is designed to fly continuously for up to 5 days when manned, or longer if unmanned. It can fly up to 20,000 feet, and has a maximum cruising speed of 80 knots (92mph).
27th September 2017
Sands of Time - Leighton Buzzard Narrow Gauge Railway
by Nick Hill
Nick explained how the railway came to be built as a consequence of Belgium’s neutrality at the start of World War I. From 1919 until the mid-60s the railway was used to move sand to both the mainline railway and the Grand Union canal in Leighton Buzzard. 50 years ago a group of enthusiasts were granted permission to run trains at the weekends. Nowadays the railway is devoted to preserving the history of industrial, narrow gauge railways and the entire railway is a museum. On 2nd June 2017 it was announced that that the railway has been awarded the prestigious Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service. Nick’s talk was illustrated with many slides covering the history of the railway over the last fifty years.
Nick has been a volunteer at the railway for 11 years, working initially in the Steam Department and then transferring to the Carriage Department.
From his work in these departments Nick has become a qualified Guard and Diesel Shunting Driver. For over seven years, until June 2017, Nick was a member of the Executive Committee, so was involved in the management of the railway. For some years Nick has also been the Head of the Membership Team.
26th April 2017
LIDAR - The new illuminating the past
by Andy McGrandle
This presentation was preceded by a short AGM.
The UK topography which has traditionally been defined by teams of Ordnance Survey surveyors is now defined in great detail by a countrywide program of LIDAR laser scanning. This talk showed how this new data is acquired and what it can show us with reference to a small village in north Buckinghamshire where this modern high-resolution data is being used to illuminate long forgotten features seen on maps of the area from the late 1700’s. The LIDAR data has been commercially available for several years and was very expensive, but since December 2015 it has been on open release for anyone to download.
Andy McGrandle has worked in the oil industry since 1977 after graduating from London University with a degree in Geology. After working with US and UK based potential field geophysics companies, along with Kitty hall and Richard Gleave, he founded ARK Geophysics Ltd in 1986, which specialised in conventional potential field geophysics. In 2004 the same team founded ARKeX Ltd which focussed on airborne gravity gradiometer surveying. In 2007 he sold his shares in ARK Geophysics and two years later in 2009 he retired. 3 months of boredom ensued followed by the creation of Big Anomaly Ltd. Since 2009 he has worked on numerous interpretation projects around the world that have kept his brain ticking over and warded off the need for a bus pass. He has never been happier.
29th March 2017
The Enigma Line - Past, Present and Future of the Marston Vale Line
by Stephen Sleight,
Transport Team Leader, Marston Vale Community Rail Partnership Officer, Bedfordshire Rural Communities Charity
This talk was very well attended, as many people were interested in this historic route, which is due to play a strong part in the future of the railways. During this talk, Stephen told us about the Marston Vale Line, which currently connects Bletchley in Milton Keynes with Bedford.
The talk included details of the history of the line, its exciting future with East West Rail, the work of the Marston Vale Community Rail Partnership, and the Ridgemont Station Heritage Centre.
22nd February 2017
Will the coming Tech Revolution be a force for good?
by Stephen Pattison of ARM
This was our annual joint meeting with the Institute of Physics, and took place at the University of Hertfordshire, in the Lindop Building, College Lane Campus, Hatfield, AL10 9AB.
The presentation started at 7:00 pm, with free coffee and biscuits beforehand.
A new age of technology is fast approaching. But there are many concerns: will cyber criminals ransack our bank account? Will robots take our jobs? Or take over the world? Will data scientists predict our every wish? Will hostile intelligence agencies undermine our politics and flood us with fake news?
Stephen Pattison kept us enthralled with an engaging talk using only one slide! He considered these issues in the context both of what cutting edge technology can do to help mitigate some of the risks, and what will require a wider policy debate about the ethics of some of the possibilities the technology will create. His starting point was that the new technology can deliver huge benefits for us: but for those benefits to be realised we need to have confidence in it. If the Internet of Things doesn’t empower people, it will fail.
Stephen Pattison is VP Public Affairs at ARM, a global leader in microprocessor technology. His role is to demonstrate ARM’s thought leadership to a wide audience including governments and policy makers. He has wide experience in both the public and private sectors.
25th January 2017
Industry 4.0 - The hype removed to reveal the opportunity
by Graeme Philp, Chief Executive of GAMBICA.
This meeting was held at the ABB site in Howard Road, Eaton Socon, St Neots, PE19 8EU. We were made very welcome, and ABB provided a fine spread of food, so we look forward to holding meetings at this site in future years.
There has been a lot of hype surrounding Industry 4.0. This is a shame because there is real substance behind the concept of harnessing the ubiquitous connectivity, offered by the Internet of things to streamline the entire supply chain of the manufacturing industry. Dr Philp will link Industry 4.0 with the business plan imperatives of servitisation & the circular economy and will peel away the hype to reveal some solid opportunities both for the UK as a future manufacturing economy and for the instrumentation and automation industries.