Faculty of Sciences

Kent Physics Centre

Annual Lectures

Welcome to the Kent Physics Centre. Each year, during the Autumn and Spring terms, the Centre arranges a series of open lectures. The Centre also organises the ever popular Christmas Science Lectures for schools each November, for which we charge £1 per person.

All meetings will be held on Tuesday evenings at 7.30 pm in Rutherford Lecture Theatre 1, unless specified) the main lecture theatre, at the University of Kent.

The lectures are, with great thanks, sponsored by the Institute of Physics. Early booking is recommended!!

If you would like more information about the lectures, please contact Dr Cyril Isenberg, tel 01227 823768.


Autumn Lectures

2nd Oct 12: Strange Materials - Professor Mark Miodownik, Department of Materials, University College London

Animate matter is coming; concrete that can communicate when it is about to collapse, smart hip replacements that can self heal, and working invisibility shields – such innovations are imminent. The talk will cover the science and engineering behind such materials innovations and argue for a more multidisciplinary approach to materials design./p>

23rd Oct 12: Theoretical Physics and String Theory - Dr David S. Berman, Queen Mary, University of London

The lecture will review the goal of theoretical physics as searching for a unified theory of fundamental physics and discuss how string theory tries to meet this goal.

20 Nov 12: Exploring the Diversity of Exoplanets - Dr Suzanne Aigrain, Department of Astrophysics, University of Oxford

Less than twenty years ago, the Solar System was the only planetary system we knew about. Since then, astronomers have discovered many hundreds of exoplanets - planets that orbit other stars than the Sun. We now know that exoplanets are common , perhaps even outnumbering the stars in our Galaxy. Some of them are so utterly unlike the Solar System planets that they challenge both our imagination, and our theories of how planets form and evolve.

In this talk, some of the highlights and challenges of exoplanet exploration in the past decade will be described, and outline how we are working to detect and characterize an ever wider range of planets, including some which may harbour life.

Christmas Lectures - Tickets £1 per person. Booking essential Tel: 01227 769075

Monday 26th Nov 12: 11am and repeated at 2.30pm, Gulbenkian Theatre


(The importance of polarization in optical measurements and observations)

Professor David Pye, Queen Mary, University of London

Just because we cannot see whether light is polarised or not, we often think of it as a rather obscure phenomenon. Yet most natural light is partially polarised. Its properties are widely important in physics, geology and natural history, and they have many technical applications. All four ways in which light can become polarised will be demonstrated and their various practical applications will be explored.
The results are not only important, but are often extremely beautiful. They touch upon such diverse topics as how the Vikings navigated, how to make the most amazing kaleidoscope, how to take a photograph in a millionth of a second, how a flying water bug checks that it is really water before diving in , and the sunset at the Taj Mahal. And then there is the Cheshire Cat......

( A book derived from his lecture was published by the Institute of Physics Publishing in 2001 under the title ‘Polarised Light in Science and Nature’. )

Tuesday 27th Nov 12: 11am and repeated at 2.30pm, Gulbenkian Theatre


Dr Cyril Isenberg, School of Engineering and Digital Arts, University of Kent

Many atmospheric phenomena can be explained by the laws of reflection and refraction of light. This was appreciated by Decartes who gave the first detailed explanation of the rainbow. The lecture-demonstration will consider the physical explanation of rainbows and haloes plus other common natural optical phenomena.

Spring Lectures

22nd Jan 13: Why do social networks perform so well ?

Answer: correcting errors in digital information - Professor Paddy Farrell, Emeritus Professor of Communication, Lancaster University (Joint with the School of Engineering and Digital Arts)

There are now more mobile phones (cell phones, smart phones, I-pads, etc ) in the world than fixed phones; the plain old telephone system (POTS) is being replaced by the still rapidly growing mobile-radio system (MOBS). Users can now transmit and receive not just audio, but also video and data signals, which in turn has led to the creation of a large number of social networks (Facebook, You-tube, Twitter, Linkedin, etc ). Amazingly this huge complex system performs very well most of the time. One crucial reason is that the information transmitted and stored in the system is protected against mistakes by powerful error-correcting codes. The talk will describe how these codes work, and will highlight their error- correcting power with a practical demonstration.

5th Feb 13: Radiation And Reason; A Fresh Look At The Effect Of Radiation On Life

Professor Wade Allison, University of Oxford

Ever since the cold war, with its threat of nuclear holocaust, radiation has been held in awe. But very few, if any, die in nuclear accidents, and both the scientific basis of radiation safety and popular perceptions need complete re-examination.

Professor Allison is a nuclear and medical physicist. He is the author of Radiation and Reason: the impact of science on a culture of fear.


5th Mar 13: The Higgs’ Boson And Beyond

Professor John Ellis CBE, FRS, CERN, Geneva, Switzerland, and King’s College London

Professor Ellis has spent most of his career at CERN involved in the phenomenological aspects of particle physics. He has also made important contributions to astrophysics, cosmology and quantum gravity.

19th Mar 13: Smoke Signals From The Distant Universe

Professor Seb Oliver, University of Sussex (Joint meeting with SEKAS

The cosmic history of star formation in galaxies had a profound role, not just in the origin of celestial bodies but in the origin of the chemicals, like carbon, that are required for life. The growth of mass concentrations in the universe under the action of gravity is now reasonably understood . However, our knowledge of more complex process of star formation is frustrated by enshrouding , smoke-like dust, obscuring the view of the conventional telescopes.

In this lecture Professor Oliver will demonstrate how infrared cameras on telescopes in space can detect the signals from this ‘smoke’ and probe the underlying star formation in distant galaxies. He will show how maps of the sky with the European Space Agency mission, Herschel, have uncovered hundreds of thousands of distant galaxies. Seen as they were 10 billion years ago, these galaxies were forming stars at hundreds or a thousand times the current rate of our own Galaxy, The Milky Way. He will discuss what we have learnt from these studies about when and where stars were formed.

28th May 13: The State of Education: What makes a good education?

Rt Hon Valerie Vaz MP, Member of Parliament for Walsall South

BSc Biochemistry, 1978 Bedford College, Royal Holloway.

Valerie is Vice Chair of the Parliamentary Labour Party and has been the MP for Walsall South since 2010. She has spoken widely about health issues and is a Labour member of the Health Select Committee. Previously, a Treasury solicitor, Valerie was a lawyer in the Government Legal Service. She has been Deputy Leader of Ealing Council and was the first Asian woman counsellor to be elected there in 1986. Valerie was also well-known as a presenter and interviewer for the BBC programme Network East.

This talk has been re-scheduled from 4th June 2013



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Last Updated: 03/07/2014