Cogito Ergo Summary: Your Weekly Science Listings

By M@ Last edited 152 months ago
Cogito Ergo Summary: Your Weekly Science Listings
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These listings appear every Wednesday. If you want to let us know about any upcoming science or technology events, you can contact us on

Event of the Week

Breaking the spell at the RSA on Monday

Science and religion. The two have been at loggerheads since the garden of Eden. ‘Eve,’ says Adam, ‘Did you know that we were created by the Lord, in His image?’. After a long pause, Eve says, ‘Really? Cool. But then I wonder what our bellybuttons are for?’.

With the well-documented rise in religious fundamentalism, the interface between the rational outlook and belief in supernatural beings is once again under the microscope. How can we possibly find common ground? Ever-resourceful, Londonist has its own three-step plan for using science to determine the nature of God, or at least the Christian version thereof. Don’t try this at home:

1. Obtain a small fragment of the Turin Shroud, or another relic connected with Jesus.

2. Using the modern techniques of molecular biology, extract residual DNA, amplify and create a clone.

3. We now have a bona fide second coming. Test for miracles.

All of that nonsense is a long-winded way of introducing our ‘Event of the Week’. Breaking the Spell (Monday) pairs philosopher Daniel Dennett with theologian Alister McGrath for a look at the roots and validity of religion.

Like all institutions, it must have evolved from simpler origins, but what might those have been? Was it embedded in our nature or the product of rational choice? And in a society stretched tighter between secular and faith-based movements, is religion an addiction or a genuine need we ought to try and preserve?

Polly Toynbee chairs what will surely be a stimulating debate.


A couple of other free events battle for our attention on Monday. Tony Crowther at the Royal Society elaborates on his techniques for visualising viruses using lots of computer power and a really good freezer. The Dana Centre, by complete contrast in scale, has a series of short film about climate change, followed by a discussion with the experts.

Here’s a thought to make you choke on your cheeseburger: a thousand UK citizens die every week from badnesses related to obesity. If we try and visualise that number, it’s like everyone you’ve ever known in your life passing away each and every week because they have accumulated too much fat. It’s easy to mock the globally enhanced. Why don‘t they just stop eating and run around a bit? Well, it’s not always that simple, and there is a strong body of evidence supporting genetic links to obesity. Come and explore such issues, along with other food-related themes at the Dana Centre on Tuesday.

Last week, we featured the Node.London series of events, and we refer you back to their site for further details. Also worth noting, and then visiting, is the Science Museum’s newly revamped Science and the Art of Medicine gallery. This extensive collection of surgical tools, shrunken heads and medical paraphernalia is hidden away on the crows nest fifth floor. The collection perhaps appeals more to those in the medical professions, but we repeat: shrunken heads!

So, finally, we work our way round to the Natural History Museum. If you ever get a chance, give one of these free lectures a go. You can wander in to the open-plan event area at any point. It’s all very friendly and informal. The latest batch begins with a couple of discussions on energy and the environment. Tomorrow, the NHM wonders if one of mankind’s oldest materials, clay, can help contain one of the newest, nuclear waste. The following day, oil is in the spotlight (not literally, that would be dangerous), when the usual questions are raised. Just how big are our reserves? When will they run out? And who shot JR?

Continuing the environment slant, talks on Saturday and Monday look at the correlations between global warming and the increasing numbers of exotic fish found in UK waters. We’d have called it Strangers on the Shore, but the talk goes by the more prosaic name of ‘Fishes and Climate Change’. Yes, the plural is fishes and no, the Thames whale was not a fish. Finally, and proving that the one constant in science lectures is climate change, comes a talk on Sunday and Tuesday about how columns of mud tell us much about climatic history.

When and Where?

Breaking the spell, 6pm, Monday, RSA, John Adam Street, FREE

Microscopy goes cold, Monday, 6.30, Royal Society, FREE

My Climate is Changing, Monday, 6.30, Dana Centre, FREE

Food for Thought, Tuesday, 7.00, Dana Centre, FREE

All Natural History Museum events take place at 2.30, with additional slots at 12 at the weekend.

Last Updated 08 March 2006